Why are some Media Houses dismissing Steaming as a remedy for Coronavirus without showing scientific evidence of it’s lack of efficacy?

So some Media houses are this morning trying to denigrate and dismiss Steaming (which some ethnic minorities have been doing to try and protect themselves from coronavirus). They say it is a fake remedy, but critically do not provide any evidence as to its lack of efficacy…?

And yet there’s been at least one small study which shows steaming as a “promising” remedy?

So here’s my question, shouldn’t Scientists first undertake controlled studies and clinical trials regarding whether Steaming has an effect on the virus or not, and if it has to what extent, before the media rushes off to bully, denigrate and dismiss anybody who recommends steaming as a remedy? Just asking…🧐

Listening to all the attacks, it seems to me that anything that’s not a Vaccine is being quickly dismissed and attacked without even first checking carefully, in a scientific study, whether it could have some efficacy or not. Which is concerning, to say the least.

Isn’t it the case that if you don’t try and check alternatives to the Vaccine, then you can’t possibly conclude whether something else works or not?!

Surely, if Pharmaceuticals go through the trouble of checking Vaccines (which are important and have a good history of effectiveness), then surely it shouldn’t be such a big deal to trial out simpler and cheaper home remedies? Especially when Vaccine supplies are in high demand, and some people unfortunately won’t be able to get them in time.

And steaming is by no means the only home remedy. There are claims that Blue gum leaves, ginger, garlic and other foods with anti-inflammatory properties are also effective, at least in preventing the build-up of mucus in the lungs.

I think at such a difficult time we should all be open-minded as to what other remedies could be effective against COVID-19. Which means it should be procedural for certain herbal or home remedies to be trialed for conclusive evidence as to their efficacy, before dismissing them.

This is important for poor countries which need alternatives until a time that they have procured enough Vaccine supplies, since they may not get all the Vaccine supplies they need in time, especially in light of the Vaccine shortages.

Finally, let me be clear that I’m not referring to absurd and ridiculous or otherwise scientifically illiterate herbal or home remedies which have been suggested in the past, like chlorine or disinfectant, which are dangerous to human health and could put people’s lives in danger.

Malawi: Giving the smallest babies the best chance at life

Malawi has one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the world. Nearly 1 in 5 babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation. Globally, complications of prematurity, such as difficulty in feeding, breathing and regulating body temperature, are the single largest cause of neonatal death. In order to survive, these babies need specialized care and equipment—resources most developing countries do not have.

Malawi is no exception.

When Dr Elizabeth Molyneux started treating preterm babies at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi more than 40 years ago, she did not have incubators to keep babies warm. Nor did she have phototherapy lights to prevent jaundice or specialized equipment to ensure their tiny airways stayed open.

“It’s been clear over the years that the smallest babies in Malawi were the most neglected,” explains Dr Molyneux.

Determined to help, Dr Molyneux helped to set up the hospital’s neonatal care unit, which today admits more than 3 000 babies a year. At first, she introduced warm cots and kangaroo mother care, a method which encourages skin-to-skin contact, but found she also needed a way to help babies whose lungs were not fully developed to breathe.

A low-cost solution

Engineering students at Rice University in Texas, USA, were able to design the solution—a low-cost bubble continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device called Pumani, which means “breathe” in the Malawian language of Chichewa. And it’s working. Since 2006, more than 1000 babies’ lives have been saved.

“Before CPAP we found that, if we couldn’t give any breathing support, mortality was high. By giving CPAP to babies who needed the support, survival rates improved in premature babies with breathing difficulties from 24% to 67%,” says Norman Lufesi, Head of the Acute Respiratory Infection Unit, Malawi Ministry of Health.

This is good news in a country where 1 out of 43 newborns die within the first 4 weeks of life.

“While CPAP has made a big difference for babies with respiratory distress syndrome, we still have a long way to go to reduce neonatal mortality,” says Dr Molyneux. “We still need a package of care that can be sustained in all of our hospitals.”

Preterm birth guidelines

Worldwide, complications of prematurity are the leading cause of deaths among children under the age of 5. In order to reduce neonatal and child mortality, WHO recommends evidence-based interventions be given to women at imminent risk for preterm birth or to preterm babies after birth.

CPAP, kangaroo mother care, surfactant and oxygen therapy are all newborn interventions outlined in, “WHO recommendations on interventions to improve preterm birth outcomes,” a new guideline published this month. Recommended maternal interventions to improve preterm babies’ chances of survival include antenatal corticosteroids, when gestation is confirmed to be between 24 and 34 weeks, antibiotics when the fetal membranes are ruptured, and magnesium sulfate for protecting the infant against serious neurological complications.

While Malawi has implemented CPAP, kangaroo mother care and oxygen therapy at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, which is the country’s largest health facility, the designated neonatal rooms in most of the district hospitals are without specialized equipment or trained staff. Over the past 2 years CPAP has been introduced into 28 district hospitals and will soon be in 8 non-profit hospitals.

Focused on every newborn

Through early adoption of global policies and programmes to increase access to life-saving newborn and child health interventions, Malawi is one of a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4, which aims to reduce under-5 mortality by two-thirds by the end of this year. In 1990, 1 in 4 Malawian children died before the age of five. Today, the rate is 1 in 14.

“We have done a good job at reducing under-5 child mortality in Malawi, but 44% of the deaths continue to be babies within their first month of life,” says Fannie Kachale, Director of Reproductive Health, Malawi Ministry of Health. “We realize we could have done even better if we had focused more on newborn health.”

To improve the situation, the country recently launched an adaptation of WHO and UNICEF’s Every Newborn Action Plan, with the goal of reducing neonatal mortality to 17 per 1 000 births by 2030. As part of the plan, Malawi is increasing the number of skilled birth attendants, giving antenatal corticosteroids and antibiotics to women with preterm labour using stringent criteria as defined by WHO, and strengthening newborn care during the first 4 weeks of life.

The country is also renovating 10 neonatal care units in the district hospitals and expanding Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital’s kangaroo mother care unit to 40 beds. “Through CPAP, babies who wouldn’t otherwise have survived are now surviving,” says Lufesi. “Hopefully by adding good neonatal care units in our hospitals we’ll be able to save even more babies and reduce our neonatal mortality rates.”

source: WHO

First sub-Saharan Starbucks to open in South Africa

Other coffee chains already on the ground are unlikely to be singing with joy about this (unless the arrival of the newcomer brings fresh business otherwise unaccounted for – which is a possibility), but Starbucks is coming to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite the controversies the company has courted in the US and in other parts of the western world over the years (most recently here with the #RACETOGETHER campaign), one would hope that if they create jobs and help contribute to the economy of South Africa, then their presence will be a very positive thing.

It goes without saying that being a business trading for profit, they are going to South Africa to make money. But looking at their previous record elsewhere on the use of tax efficiency vehicles (which in plain english can translate to ‘tax evasion’), you’d hope their tax affairs in South Africa are going to be transparent, and the taxes they will pay will be proportionate to the profits they generate. Having said that, if there is an agreement with the Authorities for tax breaks, the story we’ll hear may not be that different to their controversies in Europe.

For me, its fitting to join the chorus of many esteemed writers and activists and say it again on this blog, that if big companies operating in Africa paid their dues, African governments would not face the critical cash shortages most of them face. And if such was done while anti-corruption bodies upped their endeavours to curb corruption, our economies on the continent would likely improve. Minimally, there would be more money to spend on the basic services.

Jeremy Corbyn – Socialism DOES Work

Jeremy Corbyn could become leader of the Labour Party, the main opposition party in the House of Commons (UK Parliament), after he received the most nominations from Constituency Labour Parties and unions.

If Corbyn does emerge as winner, after a final ballot that will begin on August 14, then it could represent a fundamental shift towards the left of the political spectrum for the Labour Party.

Listening to Corbyn’s address to the Oxford Union (video below), I get the sense that he talks a lot of sense.

And yet many people (including senior members of his own party) don’t want him to become leader. They say he is ‘too left-wing’ and that such can ‘scare-off voters’.

Lately politicians have been saying some very insensitive things in the media, and it’s not surprising that some are being alarmist about Corbyn.

But how can a person who says there is too much inequality in the UK (and in the world in general), and that something needs to be done to address it (not just empty rhetoric) possibly be wrong by stating what is clearly a fact?

How can someone who calls for workers rights, an end to poverty, re-nationalisation of key industries, increased taxes on the very wealthy, and the scrapping of Britain’s Trident be the devil?

Are you saying you really want corporations to continue evading tax? For utilities to be controlled by profit-driven corporations? For £100 billion to be spent on a nuclear deterrent which will never be used? For the likes of Rupert Murdoch to continue hijacking the media agenda, influencing politics to the detriment of state power? Is that what you want?

In my view, if we had more politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, more leaders like Elizabeth Warren, conscientious politicians like Bernie Sanders  … who are capable of identifying the real issues, communicating effectively how those issues need to be addressed; issues such as corporate tax evasion, unnecessary foreign wars, inequality and poverty… if we had more leaders who are incorruptible and not part of some revolving door,  I think the world would be a better place. Minimally, there would be enough oversight to ensure that corporations pay their fair dues and behave responsibly even when conducting their affairs abroad. Public institutions would be protected, developing countries would not be preyed upon, and there would probably be greater respect for human life.

These are the kinds of  Leaders Abraham Lincoln if he were alive today would count as true friends. And it’s because there are many leaders who are out of touch with ordinary people, whereas a few can see what is happening on the ground, how actions of corporations are affecting ordinary people, how actions of leaders are endangering people, and are rightly concerned.

Why do I say this?

Giving a few examples, since when has it been known that inequality is the real cause of poverty across the world? Since when has it been known that the actions of corporations, including in paying bribes to officials, deprive developing countries of resources which they desperately need to effect development? Since when has it been known that the structural adjustment policies of the likes of IMF and World Bank are counterproductive against the narrative of poverty eradication? Since when has it been known that tax havens and secret accounts facilitate if not encourage corruption?

When all these have been known, why is it easier to start wars, than to fix these things which would do so much towards helping the poorest countries?

WS-pigsReferring to a point Corbyn made about the IMF in the above video, many people underestimate the damage structural adjustment programs (SAP’s) do to developing countries. They take for granted that the conditions the likes of the IMF prescribe put countries in a very difficult position – with no money to spend on the weakest in their societies.

And as you would expect, most of these people who attack socialist policies have never lived or spent any considerable length of time in developing countries, let alone had personal hardship that threatened their existence. They don’t know what poverty is, or what it means to have no money. It’s a bit like Ian Duncan Smith (British Conservative Party Politician who is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions ) calling for people to live on £53 a week, when he’s never had to live on £53 a week, and flatly refusing to do so when challenged.

They just talk because they think they know, when the truth it they don’t really know.

For once, I must say it is refreshing to hear a prospective political party leader of a big economy describe the likes of the IMF for who they really are. Architects of destruction.

On a practical note, it would be helpful if some of the people advocating for SAP’s spent some time period in the countries which borrow from the IMF/ World Bank. Let them go and  spend say 3 – 4 years (not just a couple of days where they pretend to blend into the culture) in Malawi , or in Cameroon, or in Senegal, not living in expensive hotels or exclusive suburbs where all the rich expats are having a dip in their swimming pools. No, but living amongst the people, ku ma line kwenikweni, in the districts where working people such as bus drivers, nurses, teachers and civil servants live. There they will begin to see the effects of SAP’s. There they will find the hatched eggs of the serpent.

This week, a lot has happened. There was the story of Cecil the Lion, then a few days ago,  David Cameron used an animate term (‘swarm’), to describe migrants; describing humans who are fleeing terrible living conditions, using a term which he couldn’t possibly use to describe Europeans, or Americans.

No wonder in the past some activists have hit back with images such as these:-

nhs

Being left-wing is not a bad thing. Being left-wing amidst other things means you care about other human beings, and you are not so narrow-minded, so self-absorbed and selfish, so brainwashed by individualistic ideas (‘trickle down economics’ , ‘survival of the fittest’ and other nonsense) which are senseless, do more damage than good to society, and do not have practical application in the real world. I’m not saying that those who do not identify as being left-wing are these things, but in my view, on the bare minimum, on the surface, thats what being left-wing must be.

I’d like to think many left wingers have a greater appreciation of inequality than their detractors;  that they get it when circumstances beyond people’s control push them to the brink. And these circumstances vary from corrupt African politicians (who receive bribes from unscrupulous investors, in exchange for favourable investment agreements which do nothing for the people of that African country) to selling off a public hospital to a private company (which then lays off staff as a cost-cutting exercise – leaving vulnerable families with no income – purely for profit).

I’ll end with a story I once read of a South African woman. Her parent’s two storey house was confiscated during the apartheid regime, when she was just a little girl. Subsequently her parents couldn’t pay for her education, so she was forced to work as a cleaner. Today she’s still unable to rebuild her life, with no qualifications, living in a country where she can’t earn enough to put herself through school, as well as look after her own family. With little prospects to advance in life other than to continue working, she is stuck in poverty.

And the house? She still remembers it, it’s still there, but up until now her family has not been able to get it back.

Not everyone who is poor is poor because they are lazy and don’t want to work. Someone please ask Jeremy Corbyn ‘s detractors to go and witness with their own eyes these types of scenarios.

Supreme Court: Institutional Racism Is Real

First, racists are usually not dumb enough to leave records of their prejudice. They find some other reason to fire the employee, or keep the family out of the neighborhood.

Second, and more importantly, discrimination is often systemic and structural, not individual. Often, not only is there no smoking gun, but there’s often no individual “bad actor.” Even neutral requirements—a high-school diploma for employment, a family-size limit for housing—can have huge de facto discriminatory effects, which may or may not be intentional.

For example, why is it that, even today, there is a 33 percent economic differential between blacks and whites? Is it because corporations are racist and won’t hire African Americans for higher paying jobs?

Mostly, no. Over 80 percent of the time, as Harvard economist Roland Fryer has shown, it’s because black applicants lack the very specific skills to get the better job—and that’s because communities of color are woefully undereducated in underperforming schools. Indeed, the best predictor of one’s subsequent economic success is one’s skill level in eighth grade.

That’s the kind of structural racism that disparate impact reasoning addresses. You might not find any individual racist, but the system is stacked against people of color. That’s how privilege and oppression are maintained—not by villains like Dylann Roof, but by silent, macroeconomic factors that are structural in nature.

More here (Daily Beast)

Stop #Xenophobia WE ARE #AFRICA

image

Found this image by someone known as olubanker911 on instagram

Update from a friend via WhatsApp (I’ve not verified them yet) :

🇿🇦SOUTH AFRICA IS ISOLATED 🇿🇦

In Mozambique, all trucks and cars with South African registration are being stoned. Four Sasol South African tracks have been set on fire.

In Zimbabwe , there is more than 5000 people marching at the South African Embassy in both Harare and Bulawayo.
In Malawi all South African shops and South African Embassy were forced to closed my marchers.

In China , the government has given South African President one week to reply before it calls all Chinese companies come stop operations.

In USA , they have promised strong sanctions against South Africa if they dont stop xenophobia.

Boko Haram has given five days to SA before it bombs SA Embassy in Nigeria.

In Namibia they have writing a human rights violations to World Human Rights Commission to stop SA flights worldwide.
In DRC four SA companies mining in that country have been requested to stop operations until xenophobia is stopped.

SA economy is now at risk. Pls send to all your contacts to stop XENOPHOBIA ATTACKS.
Mandela once said ” it is in your hands”

Wall Street isn’t happy with us

This article, a blog post by Senator Elizabeth Warren titled Wall Street isn’t happy with us is interesting and reveals the kind of greedy system the free world is up against. These people care only for profit…and sadly they have too much influence and control over the financial markets and capital that their decisions can affect things.

I’m very much inclined to replicate Senator Warren’s words on this blog:-

In 2008, the financial sector collapsed and nearly brought down our whole economy. What were the ingredients behind that crash? Recklessness on Wall Street and a willingness in Washington to play along with whatever the big banks wanted.  

Years have passed since the crisis and the bailout, but the big banks still swagger around town. And when Citigroup and the others don’t quite get their way or Washington doesn’t feel quite cozy enough, they quickly move to loud, public threats. Their latest move is a stunner. According to Reuters:

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters.

JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a friendlier attitude toward the banks, a source familiar with JPMorgan’s donations said.

That’s right, the biggest banks on Wall Street have made it clear that they expect a return on their investment in Washington. Forget making the markets safer (where they can still make plenty of money) and forget the $700 billion taxpayer bailout that saved them and forget the need to build a strong economy for all Americans. Forget it all. The big banks want a Washington that works only for them and that puts their interests first – and they would like to get a little public fanny-kissing for their money too.

Well forget it. They can threaten or bully or say whatever they want, but we aren’t going to change our game plan. We do, however, need to respond.

According to this breaking news, our 2016 Democratic Senate candidates could lose at least $30,000 because of this decision. Can you help us raise $30,000 to match Wall Street’s money right now – and keep fighting for a Democratic Senate that will work for people instead of big banks?

Now let’s be clear: $30,000 is a drop in the bucket to JPMorgan and Citigroup. Heck, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon makes more than $30,000 in just a few hours.

The big banks have thrown around money for years, spending more than a $1 million a day to hold off Dodd-Frank and the consumer agency. But they are moving out of the shadows. They have reached a new level of brazenness, demanding that Senate Democrats grovel before them.  

That kind of swagger is a warning shot. They want a showy way to tell Democrats across the country to be scared of speaking out, to be timid about standing up, and to stay away from fighting for what’s right.

Ok, they have taken their shot, but it will not work.

I’m not going to stop talking about the unprecedented grasp that Citigroup has on our government’s economic policymaking apparatus. I’m not going to stop talking about the settlement agreements that JPMorgan makes with our Justice Department that are so weak, the bank celebrates by giving their executives a raise. And I’m not going to pretend the work of financial reform is done, when the so-called “too big to fail” banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008.

The big banks have issued a threat, and it’s up to us to fight back. It’s up to us to fight back against a financial system that allows those who broke our economy to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while ordinary Americans continue to struggle. It’s up to us to fight back against a regulatory system that is so besieged by lobbyists – and their friends in Congress – that our regulators forget who they’re working for.

Let’s send the biggest banks on Wall Street our own message: We’re going to keep fighting, and your swagger and your threats won’t stop us. Help us match their $30,000 right now.

They represent everything that is wrong with capitalism, their behaviour is contemptible…and the words of Senator Warren proves it.

Frankly, after the 2008 credit crisis which has affected economies across the world, and hurt those at the bottom of the economic pyramid – almost everywhere, the world doesn’t need charlatans like these banks. If you can, please support Elizabeth Warren’s campaign because she is one of only a few legislators who are genuinely working for the people.

Finally, if they have the brazeness to treat the American people with so much contempt, after receiving a $700 billion bailout package from them, how do you think they (and their institutions) will treat Africans, and African governments?

A High Court reporter who travels with important court documents

bgWhen it doesn’t rain, it pours. Almost everyday, a scandal emerges in Malawi that shows the level of incompetency and dysfunction that exists on all levels. Yesterday Zodiac online posted this on their Facebook page:

A high court reporter in Lilongwe says she has been robbed of recorders and other court documents containing various cases. The court reporter, has told this Zodiak online reporter that the thieves have made away with two recorders that contain court information on Cashgate cases and also the ongoing Paul Mphwiyo attempted-murder case.The robbery is said to have occurred Tuesday mid-day at the Crossroads Complex where her vehicle was forced open.
She has since reported the matter to Lilongwe police station where authorities have told Zodiak Online they need sometime before making a public comment on the matter.

What was she doing with the court recorders at the Crossroads Complex? Should classified court documents be carried around to public venues recklessly like that? When the case at hand is so important? And why should a court reporter have access to court documents anyway? Shouldn’t such information be kept within the court, each time a day’s deliberations had finished. Hidden away in a locked safe, and protected from any partisan interference? To be accessed only when it is necessary to do so.

I’m not convinced. Something smells funny. Also, in any case why should anyone believe this story? What if it’s a heist? Planned by some people with the sole aim of derailing the court process. What is the difference between this and the files of the trial of Muluzi, which are also said to have gone missing?

As the record stands, previous governments in Malawi have not been particularly good at concluding corruption investigations, and in some cases judges have been inefficient, if not negligent when it comes to getting to the bottom of cases. In almost all of such cases, missing evidence was one of the major limiting factors terminating the trials.

The stupid woman should be fired, and the alleged backups better be real (not imagined like the CCTV evidence of State House).

Otherwise all hell will break loose…

The people who stand accused in the Cashgate Scandal are answering charges of stealing millions of dollars at the expense of Malawians. This is a serious charge. Yet look now – you want to set them free without a trial. Just like you’ve done with Bakili Muluzi, and many others in the past. Grow up Malawians. Siutchale ayi, ndi uchitsiru.

How are foreigners supposed to take us seriously with such silliness?

Malawi bans child marriages, lifts minimum age to 18.

Malawi has passed a law banning child marriage, raising the minimum age to 18 in a country where half of girls end up as child brides.

Women rights campaigners hailed the move as “a great day for Malawian girls” and said the law would help boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

But they warned Malawi would not end child marriage without concerted efforts to tackle poverty and end harmful traditional practices like early sexual initiations.

“This law is extremely crucial because child marriage is a big, big problem in our country,” said parliamentarian Jessie Kabwila who helped push for the new legislation.

“The country will for the first time clearly articulate that we are saying ‘No’ to child marriage.”

 

More here (Reuters)

10 Reasons to Love Uruguay’s President José Mujica

The following article was originally printed on Counterpunch here

José MujicaPresident José Mujica of Uruguay, a 78-year-old former Marxist guerrilla who spent 14 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, recently visited the United States to meet with President Obama and speak at a variety of venues. He told Obama that Americans should smoke less and learn more languages. He lectured a roomful of businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce about the benefits of redistributing wealth and raising workers’ salaries. He told students at American University that there are no “just wars.” Whatever the audience, he spoke extemporaneously and with such brutal honesty that it was hard not to love the guy. Here are 10 reasons you, too, should love President Mujica.

1. He lives simply and rejects the perks of the presidency. Mujica has refused to live at the Presidential Palace or have a motorcade. He lives in a one-bedroom house on his wife’s farm and drives a 1987 Volkswagen. “There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress,” said Mujica, referring to his time in prison. He donates over 90% of his $12,000/month salary to charity so he makes the same as the average citizen in Uruguay. When called “the poorest president in the world,” Mujica says he is not poor. “A poor person is not someone who has little but one who needs infinitely more, and more and more. I don’t live in poverty, I live in simplicity. There’s very little that I need to live.”

2. He supported the nation’s groundbreaking legalization of marijuana. “In no part of the world has repression of drug consumption brought results. It’s time to try something different,” Mujica said. So this year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to regulate the legal production, sale, and consumption of marijuana. The law allows individuals to grow a certain amount each year and the government controls the price of marijuana sold at pharmacies. The law requires consumers, sellers, and distributors to be licensed by the government. Uruguay’s experience aims to take the market away from the ruthless drug traffickers and treat drug addiction as a public health issue. Their experiment will have reverberations worldwide.

3. In August 2013, Mujica signed the bill making Uruguay the second nation in Latin America (after Argentina) to legalize gay marriage. He said that legalizing gay marriage is simply recognizing reality. “Not to legalize it would be unnecessary torture for some people,” he said. In recent years, Uruguay has also moved to allow adoption by gay couples and openly gay people to serve in the armed forces.

4. He’s not afraid to confront corporate abuses, as evidenced by the epic struggle his government is waging against the American tobacco giant Philip Morris. A former smoker, Mujica says that tobacco is a killer that needs to be brought under control. But Philip Morris is suing Uruguay for $25 million at the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes because of the country’s tough smoking laws that prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces and require warning labels, including graphic images of the health effects. Uruguay is the first Latin American country and the fifth nation worldwide to implement a ban on smoking in enclosed public places. Philip Morris, the largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States, has huge global business interests (and a well-paid army of lawyers). Uruguay’s battle against the tobacco Goliath will also have global repercussions.

5. He supported the legalization of abortion in Uruguay (his predecessor had vetoed the bill). The law is very limited, compared to laws in the US and Europe. It allows abortions within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy and requires women to meet with a panel of doctors and social workers on the risks and possible effects of an abortion. But this law is the most liberal abortion law in socially conservative, Catholic Latin America and is clearly a step in the right direction for women’s reproductive rights.

6. He’s an environmentalist trying to limit needless consumption. At the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, he criticized the model of development pushed by affluent societies. “We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means – by being prudent – the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction,” he said. He also recently rejected a joint energy project with Brazil that would have provided his country with cheap coal energy because of his concern for the environment.

7. He has focusing on redistributing his nation’s wealth, claiming that his administration has reduced poverty from 37% to 11%. “Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce,” he told businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce. “It’s no mystery–the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.” His government’s redistributive policies include setting prices for essential commodities such as milk and providing free computers and education for every child.

8. He has offered to take detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo. Mujica has called the detention center at Guantanamo Bay a “disgrace” and insisted that Uruguay take responsibility to help close the facility. The proposal is unpopular in Uruguay, but Mujica, who was a political prisoner for 14 years, said he is “doing this for humanity.”

9. He is opposed to war and militarism. “The world spends $2 billion a minute on military spending,” he exclaimed in horror to the students at American University. “I used to think there were just, noble wars, but I don’t think that anymore,” said the former armed guerrilla. “Now I think the only solution is negotiations. The worst negotiation is better than the best war, and the only way to insure peace is to cultivate tolerance.”

10. He has an adorable three-legged dog, Manuela! Manuela lost a foot when Mujica accidentally ran over it with a tractor. Since then, Mujica and Manuela have been almost inseparable.

Mujica’s influence goes far beyond that of the leader of a tiny country of only 3 million people. In a world hungry for alternatives, the innovations that he and his colleagues are championing have put Uruguay on the map as one of the world’s most exciting experiments in creative, progressive governance.