April 29, 2014

Bill Gates is best known as the founder of Microsoft, but he's been making waves in the last year or so as a blogger writing about his philanthropic work on third-world economic development and public health challenges.

Gates' latest post highlights the challenges to global public health posed by the mosquito. It is the deadliest animal, at least in terms of how many people are killed by an animal every year, and it's way, way, way ahead of other deadlier-looking and more widely feared candidates like sharks, snakes, lions, and wolves. Even humans — who have some of the most powerful killing technologies, like guns, bombs, and chemical weapons — are below the mosquito:

[Gates Foundation/World Health Organization]

Why the mosquito? They carry devastating diseases — mainly, malaria. Each year, malaria kills more than 600,000 people and sickens 200 million. Other deadly diseases carried by mosquitoes include dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.

And their spread is very, very global. There are upwards of 3,500 species of mosquito, and they exist on every continent other than Antarctica. During mosquito season, the deadly insects are estimated to outnumber every other animal on Earth, except termites (250 trillion) and ants (1 quadrillion).

Given that mosquitoes are so deadly, it's unsurprising that there are scientists working on wiping them out of existence entirely. But would that really be desirable? The science journal Nature surveyed prominent ecologists in 2010 on the matter, and concluded: "Scientists acknowledge that the ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms. Life would continue as before — or even better." John Aziz

2:17 p.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

You never know where Bill Murray is going to pop up. There is as good a chance as any you'll run into him at your favorite bar, your karaoke night, or, you know, while shooting your engagement photos.

Indeed, where Murray may wander has no limits. On Friday, decked in Chicago Cubs gear, the actor popped into the briefing room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue just after White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest had finished his daily briefing. When asked for an explanation by The Hill, a spokesperson confirmed Murray will be receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday from President Obama, which is why he was lurking around the White House in the first place.

Joe Biden, Michelle Obama — stay on your toes. Jeva Lange

1:59 p.m. ET

Oprah Winfrey thinks it's totally irrelevant whether voters actually like Hillary Clinton. "She's not coming over to your house! You don't have to like her," Winfrey, who endorsed Clinton in June, said in a clip from an interview with Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes that's set to air next Thursday.

Winfrey admitted she is totally fed up with undecided voters saying, "I just don't know if I like her." That, Winfrey argued, isn't at all what matters in this election — not when so much is at stake. "There really is no choice, people," Winfrey said.

Winfrey encouraged people to consider their feelings for America instead their affection for Clinton. "Do you like freedom and liberty?" she said. "Do you like this country? Okay. Do you like democracy or do you want a demagogue? Okay, there you go."

Watch Winfrey make her case, below. Becca Stanek

1:26 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton during the final presidential debate to blurt that she was a "nasty woman," many liberals took up the designation with pride. Not everyone agrees the words are something to rally around, though. After being asked if Trump's comment was "appropriate" on The Alan Colmes Show on Thursday, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) insisted the line was entirely called for:

COLMES: You think it's appropriate to call her a nasty woman?

REP. BABIN: Well I'm a genteel Southern gentleman, Alan.

COLMES: So does that mean no?

REP. BABIN: No, I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she's being nasty. [Fox News]

Counterpoint: Sometimes a man needs to be told when he's misused the word "gentleman." Jeva Lange

12:57 p.m. ET

A major cyberattack brought down numerous major American websites Friday, including The New York Times, Twitter, Etsy, Tumblr, Spotify, Comcast, and more. The pages were down for at least two hours Friday morning before being downed again in the afternoon.

How was it possible to take down all those sites at once?

Someone attacked the architecture that held them together — the domain-name system, or DNS, the technical network that redirects users from easy-to-remember addresses like to a company's actual web servers. The assault took the form of a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) on one of the major companies that provides other companies access to DNS. A DDoS attack is one in which an attacker floods sites "with so much junk traffic that it can no longer serve legitimate visitors," as the security researcher Brian Krebs put it in a blog post Friday morning. [The Atlantic]

Such attacks are on the rise in the United States, though it's not yet clear who was behind Friday's. "These attacks are significantly larger than the ones [companies are] used to seeing," security technologist Bruce Schneier said. "They last longer. They're more sophisticated. And they look like probing." Jeva Lange

12:46 p.m. ET

The father of Captain Humayun Khan, a 27-year-old Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq in 2004, is the voice of Hillary Clinton's powerful new campaign ad. Donald Trump was widely criticized for attacking the soldier's parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, over the speech they delivered at the Democratic National Convention in July, when they challenged Trump to re-read the American constitution before proposing his infamous Muslim ban — with Khizr even going so far as to offer Trump his pocket-sized version from the convention stage.

In the minute-long spot, Khan's father Khizr recalled the sacrifice his son made in 2004. "He saw a suicide bomber approaching his camp," he said. "My son moved forward to stop the bomber when the bomb exploded. He saved everyone in his unit."

With tears in his eyes, Khizr asked Trump: "Would my son have a place in your America?" Watch it, below. Becca Stanek

12:34 p.m. ET
Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton will meet with Black Lives Matter activists in Cleveland on Friday, including DeRay Mckesson and Brittany Packnett. An aide told The Associated Press that Clinton and the activists will discuss how to "advance equity and opportunity in the African-American community."

Clinton sat with Black Lives Matter protesters around this same time last year for a conversation that Mckesson described as "tough," but "in the end I felt heard." Clinton has been met with suspicion by critics of former President Bill Clinton's 1994 crime bill, which contributed to high incarceration rates of black people for nonviolent crimes. Jeva Lange

12:18 p.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has earned enough support in the Louisiana Senate race to make it onto the debate stage, The Acadiana Advocate reports. The debate is to be held at Dillard University, a historically black university, on Nov. 2.

When Duke, 66, learned he would be invited to participate, he said it was "amazing" but that he is concerned about his safety: "Dillard is pretty supportive of Black Lives Matter, and I've been pretty critical of them," Duke said.

The debate cutoff was 5 percent in the polls; Duke eked in with 5.1 percent. Leading the race are Republican state treasurer John Kennedy with 24.2 percent and Democrat Foster Campbell, with 18.9 percent. In Louisiana, the top two candidates in the Nov. 8 primary will advance to a Dec. 10 runoff, regardless of their party affiliation.

Duke identifies as a Republican, and has endorsed Donald Trump — who has repeatedly disavowed him. Jeva Lange

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