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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The sad but true case of Dr. Ketcham, missionary child molester

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This is not a gossip column, and The White Man certainly does not take any delight in the misfortunes of others. So it is with some trepidation that I now open up a can of worms regarding the charges of paedophilia against Donn Ketcham, M.D.

Before I start, I should say that I don't personally know any of the Ketcham family, or any of the alleged victims. While I'm certainly less than six degrees of separation removed from the persons and situations of which I now report, I'm far enough out to--I trust--render an impartial account. All the information that follows is from publicly available sources.

First, a bit of background. When Donn was born in June of 1930, his father was the pastor of a Baptist Church and a leader in the movement to purge the American Baptist Conference of modernism--an attempt that was ever met with failure. As Donn grew, his father rose to the forefront of the movement and, as pastor of Baptist churches in Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana, became the President of the separatist General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. An arch-rival for control of the separatist Baptists was J. Frank Norris of Dallas, TX, whose modus operandi was rumor, insinuation, and inflammatory rhetoric. He attacked, for example, Donn's half-sister Lois for having "left the mission field" when she departed Brazil on the verge of death from vitamin deficiency and remained in the States for an extended recovery.

Little Donn was not yet ten at the time, but the event surely had an effect on him. His father, a founder of the Baptist Mid Missions agency under which Lois and her husband served, put out the call for missionary doctors, so that a tragedy like this could be averted. And in fact, when he was only twelve, Donn is reported to have set his sights on becoming a missionary doctor. After biblical training that resulted in his ordination as a preacher of the gospel, he went on to receive top-notch medical training from the University Of Illinois. By 1960 he and his wife Kitty were ready for appointment to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to serve at a new mission hospital being started by Viggo Olsen of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism.

But there was one problem. Beneath the ideal-missionary exterior, Donn Ketcham kept a hidden secret: he was a serial adulterer, and he preferred virgins. He'd gotten his start while attending public high school in Waterloo, defrauding quite a number of coeds all while planning a missionary career. His father, often on the road and busy with the demands of leading the GARBC, paid little attention to any reports that may have come his way. As for Donn? Well, he was doing nothing illegal--nothing that any hot-blooded young man in his peer group wouldn't want to do anyway--right? And thus commenced a double life that was to continue for some fifty years.

By the time Donn met Viggo Olsen, he had already secretly cheated on Kitty several times--but still had his sights set on being a missionary doctor. With all his theological training, he had no problem passing the mission's rigourous examinations for acceptance. And as a developing surgeon, his skills would remain in top demand on the mission field. Donn and Kitty Ketcham were the first members of Wyoming's Newhall Baptist Church to be appointed as foreign missionaries. Off to East Pakistan they went.

There's something rather unique about being a doctor. Normally a woman would not think of taking off her clothes for anyone else, but will doff everything at a doctor's request. No part of her body is safe from his invasive reach--in fact, her most private parts are his special concern. And a doctor gets to touch, in his profession, parts of a young girl's body that her father will never see. Furthermore, at a mission hospital we have the additional element that the patients know their doctor first of all as a friend, or the father of their friends. So it takes a special kind of a man to be able to do all this without giving in to lust--and, to their eternal discredit, the fundamental Baptists at ABWE who so rigorously grilled their candidates on theology and ecclesiastical separation never took the trouble to find out whether or not Donn Ketcham was that kind of man. The truth is, he was exactly the opposite.

It's not that there weren't signs. No doubt Donn had a reputation as a Lothario from way back in high school. He was well known even at Bible school as a womanizer, and this did not stop when he married Kitty. Yet Don Ketcham seemed to have some sort of Teflon coating that kept him from ever getting in trouble for his picadillos, even when they resented in his sexual partners being expelled for immorality. This pattern was to continue right up into the 1980's, until Donn's proclivity for virgins finally got him in the kind of trouble that no one could overlook. Cover up, yes. But not overlook.

By 1989 Donn had been on the mission field for decades. His children were all grown, but his services were as much in need as ever. There was no reason, professionally, why he couldn't have continued to serve for decades more. But his long string of adulteries finally caught up with him when a 14-year-old girl with whom he'd been involved sexually for two years finally confessed her moral shortcomings to a youth counselor back in the States. When word of this confession made it back to ABWE headquarters, mission leaders realised that something would need to be done.

After interrogating the girl to determine that she wasn't making it all up, they flew her back to Bangladesh to confront Dr. Ketcham. To their relief, he confessed to everything--in writing. Now all they had to do was to implement the standard mission procedure for dealing with moral failure--something they were all too familiar with by then:

1. Send The Missionary Home. This was done as soon as bags could be packed and tickets bought. The sooner he was out of the Situation, the better. And the family of the Victim got the same treatment as that of the Offender.

2. Terminate His Membership in the Mission. This was done more slowly and methodically, to allow time for the Ketchams to find and settle into a new home and job before cutting off their financial support. As ironic as it may seem, no thought was taken of the possible danger to girls Back Home with Donn Ketcham now released from any direct accountability to the mission. They even left it up to him how to explain his release from the mission, using the vague term "moral failure" whenever the topic did come up. No attempt was made to notify the State Medical Board or Child Protective Services that a sexual predator had been turned loose in their state and was now their problem.

3. Damage Control. Missionaries in Bangladesh were told of the offense in similarly worded general terms, and cautioned, "for the good of the work," not to discuss it with anyone. Anyone who asked was just to be told that "the Ketchams had to leave the field." No attempt was made to discover or enumerate his many other victims.

This damage control continued unabated for over a decade. It wasn't until 2002 that anyone thought the matter worth looking into again, but after a few half-hearted attempts it was concluded that there was no sense in digging up the past, and it was put to rest once again, with a little more sugar coating over the rottenness.

It wasn't until this very year, 2011, that a group of rebuffed victims got together and started a blog, in which they identified Dr. Donn Ketcham by name as a paedophile. A few weeks into that, ABWE management were finally roused to life and started the long-neglected Phase II of damage control--actually doing something about the problem. It was too late to hold Donn accountable for his actions, though--by that time the statute of limitations had run out. Even the Michigan State Medical Board wasn't interested in hearing about alleged abuses that had taken place a world away, and in a previous century.

But as more and more people went to the blog, and reports started to air in the local media, there was a rising furor over ABWE's longtime mishandling of the affair. In the aftermath, president Michael Loftis was asked to resign, and ABWE leadership hired another lawyer to guide them through the minefield of liability that was filling up around them.

This brings us to the present. Donn Ketcham, age 81, is still practicing medicine part-time in Allendale, MI. He still receives a monthly pension check from ABWE. That much is known. What hasn't yet come to light are how many girls he's molested in the 22 years since ABWE sent him home; and how much liability ABWE may face for having turned him loose.

Will this case change how mission agencies screen prospective members, or who they deal with moral failures on the field? Probably. Will it be enough to keep any of this from ever happening again? Probably not. The reasons why will be enough to fill up another post.


Donn William Ketcham, M.D.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2012
It has come to my attention that there is an anthropological distinction between paedophilia and pederasty, with the age of the victim being the deciding factor. Unfortunately for our purposes, pedaresty is used strictly in a homosexual context, so it does not apply to Donn Ketcham's case. But for purposes of distinction, it should be noted that paedophilia refers only to prepubescent victims, and Dr. Ketcham clearly preferred his victims to be at least pubescent. He may have molested younger children, but did not exhibit the preference for prepubescence that is the hallmark of a paedophile (literally, one who 'loves' children).  So charges of paedophilia may be legally, but not anthropologically, correct.
[The term in vogue now is hebephilia--sexual attraction to children going through puberty]

Update April 2012
Many of my readers will be interested in this update:
http://bangladeshmksspeak.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/donn-ketcham-surrenders-michigan-medical-license/ 

Update May 2012
ABWE can't wait for the full GRACE report, goes ahead and apologises, investigates further reports of abuse
http://www.abwe.org/news/article/may-2012-g.r.a.c.e.-investigation-report

Update May 2015
There are more posts on this topic here.

Update August 2016
The investigative news report which has been driving traffic to this post is here. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A review of Benjamin Titus Robert's book "Ordaining Women"

When a book released in 1891 is still in print almost 120 years later, one would expect it to offer timeless truths on the topic. Indeed, in the preface he states,
I have purposely avoided all appeals to sentiment and to "the spirit of the age," and based my arguments mainly on the Word of God.
But on the very next page, he starts out the first chapter by making a comparison between the philosophy that relegated entire classes of humans to a state of subjection in slavery, and the philosophy that relegates the entire class of womankind into a state of subjection in which she is not allowed to lead the church of Christ. In short, he makes the whole issue of the Biblical Role of Women one of prejudice. As for appeals to sentiment, he asks (all punctuation as in the original),
. . . is it not possible that the current sentiment as to the position which WOMAN should be permitted to occupy in the Church of Christ may also be wrong? Reader, will you admit this possibility?
The book is also rather dated by the dire picture it paints in Chapter 2 of the legal state of woman's domestic situation--a situation that has been greatly ameliorated since then--without regard, I would propose, to the availability of ordination to women, and not one that has any direct bearing on what the Bible teaches on the subject.

The book is dated in other ways, which Bishop Roberts perhaps cannot be expected to have foreseen. He writes, for instance, "The mother who brings up her children to obey her is sometimes obliged to use the switch upon the refractory child." But as women have attained more and more influence, 'switching' refractory children has gone from being an obligation of dutiful parents to being grounds for removing a refractory child from the home, and landing the offending parent in jail. How ironic that the very women that Bishop Roberts lauded as being equal to the task of moulding the laws and customs of this country should be at the forefront in making the switch.

I really should quote the entire section in which this sentence appears, as it shows how far Bishop Roberts had yet to come in removing sexist language from his vocabulary:
Words are arbitrary signs of ideas. And often the same word represents things which have no relation to each other. The mother who brings up her children to obey her is sometimes obliged to use the switch upon the refractory child. The railroad man, by turning the switch wrong, wrecked the train. The fashionable woman when she buys a switch is careful to have it match her own hair. The farmer cuts his wheat with a cradle. His wife rocks the baby in a cradle.
Note that although he sees child discipline to be an equal prerogative of the female parent, he doesn't envision a farmer having a husband who rocks their baby, nor a woman guiding a train.

We finally encounter in Chapter Four the eponymous topic of the book. While he earlier expressed an appreciation for the Quakers' acceptance of woman preachers, he here makes objection to their stopping short of ordaining their preachers, which practice he sees as clearly taught in the Scriptures. While he's at it, he takes the Quakers to task for every other area of theology in which he perceives them to be deficient. Clearly, he is not suggesting we emulate the Quakers any farther than their view on the Equal Role of Women. Chapter Four continues with a similar critique of the Roman view of ordination. Ironically, Bishop Roberts undercuts the doctrine of the very denomination which he founded--the Free Methodists--by pointing out that there is no biblical support for the supervisory office of ordained Bishop! And finally, by equating Ordination with any commissioning service for someone called to serve God in a specific way, he undercuts the whole thesis of his book, as women in this sense have been no doubt been ordained from the earliest days of the church. Whether they were ever ordained to the Bishopric, however, is another question entirely.

In Chapter Six, Bishop Roberts gives away his approach. Speaking of Gal. 3:28, he writes,
If this gives to men of all nations the right to become ministers of the gospel, it gives to women exactly the same right. Make this the KEY TEXT upon this subject, and give to other passages such a construction as will make them agree with it, and all is harmony. . . Why should not this be done?
Well, it should not be done for the simple reason that this is eisegesis, not exegesis. We need an understanding that will fit ALL passages on the subject, without hammering square pegs into round holes so that they, too, will fit the round hammer.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A rare candid pose shows a woman in a head covering

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Thanks to Roger Pearse for this image of a cast in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. It's called Butcher and Wife, and it's from the second century. I note two things:

1. The butcher is just in his tunic, but his wife is fully dressed to the toes. They both appear to be wearing slippers of some sort.
2. The wife is wearing a turban or hat that covers her bound hair.





Friday, 12 August 2011

The New Feminist People's Collective

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Who died in Afghanistan on August 12th, 2011? According to most news reports, it was "Eight NATO troops." A few news services referred to "8 service members" or even the "7 U.S. soldiers" who, along with a single unidentified European, made up the day's casualty list.

As recently as the mid-1980's, the U.S. Marines stationed in Lebanon were popularly referred to as "our boys in Beirut." At the time it was still common to speak of a nation's military by the number of "men in uniform." But times have changed, and one can no longer assume the sex of any military service member. Thus, the emergence of the strangely plural collective "troops." One never speaks of a single "troop," although such a military designation has existed at least since the thirtieth chapter of Genesis. But the awkward term "military service member," a more politically correct way of speaking of a soldier, is most often pluralized by "troops--" although clearly eight soldiers constitute a single troop at most.

It's an axiom of linguistics that the meanings of words change over time. How it works is that the connotation of a given word changes in frequency to the point that its old usage is subsumed into its new one. Inasmuch as soldiers have long since ceased to operate in troops, the old meaning lay pretty much unused. Whenever this happens, a new meaning typically attaches to the old word, and it goes on to a new life as a component in an ever-so-slightly evolved language. It's also axiomatic that some people resist such changes, yet they happen nonetheless.

Given that English has become so standardised in the past century, I guess I'm a little surprised that it continues to change nonetheless. But it's this sort of change that is the most common and the most widespread: the recycling of an old word whose primary meaning has yielded to a newer, more politically correct usage.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Musings on war

Counter Two thoughts have come to mind: first of all, the implications of the recent downing of a Chinook carrying members of Seal Team Six; secondly, the effect of misinformation on decision-making in the heat of the battle.

First of all, as most of my readers know by now, the Taliban managed to shoot down a troop transport helicopter carrying a unit of Seal Team Six into battle. Sending commandos in as infantry reinforcements seems to me an unwise decision (even Commander-in-Chief David recognised this in 2 Samuel 11:25): commandos do what they do best when they control every aspect of the battle. Sending troops into an already ongoing firefight means that most of their special training and tactics are of no particular use to them. Even if their chopper hadn't been shot down, it was still stupid to use crack troops as cannon fodder in an infantry battle. Nonetheless, these Seals were soldiers under command, and the motto, "Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do and die" fit them exactly. And so they died.

Often decisions are made in the heat of the battle that are regretted later. And often, they are based on information that turns out not to be true ( a good example of this is Hitler's reluctance to assign troops to repulse the Normandy invasion, upon his successful persuasion that the attack was only a feint). This is why the US war doctrine, at least in recent decades, has been to make nuclear weapons strictly strategic, rather than tactical. A tactical nuclear weapon could be fired by a commander on the ground in the heat of the battle; a strategic weapon, however, could only be fired on orders from the Commander in Chief himself.

But this only relocates the chance of deadly misinformation to a more reliable source. The President only gives the orders; he doesn't actually launch the missile. That job is done by the nuclear officers at the launch sites. Given that these men have moral codes of their own, what would it probably take to get them to actually pull the trigger? Probably news that an enemy had already launched a preemptive strike and that this launch would be in retaliation. It's a foregone conclusion, therefore, that any president ordering a first strike would lie and put out the word that the US was already under attack, in order to forestall any hesitancy on the part of the nuclear officers to instantly carry out his launch order.

UPDATE JUNE 2013
The father of one of the SEALS killed in the above mentioned downing has filed suit in federal court over the government's attempts to shut him up when he "asked too many questions" about his son's death.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Just War--a Christian theory?

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It's not exactly front-page news, but the US Air Force has dropped an ethics course that's required for officers whose fingers will be on the nuclear trigger, due to a lawsuit brought by atheists secularists (ETA: the MRFF claims to be made up of 95% Christians, with most of the rest being Jews).
The Air Force has suspended a course that was taught by chaplains for more than 20 years because the material included Bible passages.

The course, called “Christian Just War Theory” was taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and used Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments to show missile launch officers that it can be moral to go to war.

But the watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the course violated the constitutional separation of church and state and filed a complaint last Wednesday on behalf of 31 missile launch officers – both instructors and students.

David Smith, the spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, said the main purpose of the class was to help missile launch officers understand that “what they are embarking on is very difficult and you have to have a certain amount of ethics about what you are doing to do that job.”

He said the class was suspended the same day the complaint was filed.

The class is currently under review by Air Force officials who will determine whether or not to revise the material or end the class.

Apparently one the the big bugaboos was that the officers' class time was being wasted being taught how God ordered Israel to carry out genocide on the Canaanites.

There are several factors to consider here:

1) There are no just wars. All wars include killing nonbelligerent civilians, destroying public infrastructure, damaging the economy, and--even for the winning side--running a public deficit. At best, a war can have a just cause and a just conclusion. But in between there's a whole lot of just plain savagery.

2) These were nuclear officers, who therefore represent a special subset of soldiers. Nuclear weapons, by their very nature, are so horrible that they are only used as a last resort. Therefore a nuclear officer has to be, at the same time, both reluctant to resort to the nuclear option, yet decisive in exercising it the second it is truly required. He has to have settled in his own mind under what circumstances he would be willing to pull the trigger.

3) As unjust as war is in its nature, and as horrible as nuclear weapons are in their use, we are all better off if those in charge of wars--and especially the nuclear weapons that may be used in those wars--have strict moral guidelines to keep them from inflicting the full level of harm of which they are capable. Denying nuclear officers this training could only make the world a more dangerous place to be.

On the other hand, one unexpected consequence of banning chaplains from indoctrinating nuclear officers to kill can be seen in the case of the Navy, which apparently doesn't have such a course for its nuclear officers--just a questionnaire:
The question that changed Michael Izbicki’s life appeared on a psychological exam he took not long after graduating in 2008 near the top of his class at the United States Naval Academy: If given the order, would he launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?

Ensign Izbicki said he would not — and his reply set in motion a two-year personal journey and legal battle that ended on Tuesday, when the Navy confirmed that he had been discharged from the service as a conscientious objector.
Without an official chaplain to tell them that God approves of them launching a warhead that is guaranteed to kill thousands of civilians--men, women, and children--more nuclear officers can be expected to read the Bible for themselves--and come to a different conclusion.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Definition of Niggerhood

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Inasmuch as I have used a certain word a few times in this blog, I though I should stop and define it for the benefit of my readers who have most likely never encountered it the way I use it.

As a boy, I could have gotten my mouth washed out for using the word 'nigger'. During the era of Race Riots and forced desegregation, it was a word so charged with emotion that just using it could incite a riot. I myself thought of it as a pretty demeaning appellation, so I saw no reason to use it for several decades.

In recent years, however, especially after reading the series of biohistorical novels by Mildred D. Taylor, I've come to realise that the word 'nigger' best encapsulates the experience of someone who is discriminated against because he belongs to a suppressed class. The word itself comes from the Southern English pronunciation of the pidgin word for black-skinned person, nigga. It has also been pronounced nigra, and originates in the Latin word for black. All of this goes back to the fact that black-skinned people have throughout recorded history been taken as slaves in battle, and that this custom persisted centuries after the custom died out among the other races. In fact, it persists to this day, with the black slave trade curtailed but still active in the geographically diminished country of Sudan (which name, by the way, means 'black person' in the language of those who continue to take them as slaves--Arabic).

But being a nigger doesn't necessarily have anything to do with slavery. Niggerhood persisted by custom in the American South for many decades after slavery was abolished, and wherever the Police State raises its ugly head, niggerhood inevitably will be found as well. Niggerhood is simply the state of belonging to a class, the members of which are considered to be not worthy of the rights and privileges enjoyed by members of the ruling class. The recent rhetoric in Washington, for example, to the effect that members of the Tea Party ought to be "taken out and shot" for opposing Obama's debt-raising scheme, indicates that in the mind of the ruling class, even legally elected members of this newest class of Niggers don't really deserve to belong--nor, apparently, even to live. It is typical of the suppressing class to seek to kill members of the suppressed class who 'get uppity' and try to find a legal way to express their human rights--in fact, the whole notion of lynching is based on this characteristic.

So, my dear readers, be advised that I use the word "nigger" not in any specific racial sense whatsoever, but merely as shorthand for "member of a suppressed class" whether that suppression be political, economic, or social in nature. In fact, niggers will invariably encounter suppression in all of those forms, should their identity become known.

Monday, 8 August 2011

How to run afoul of the Patriot Act by doing absolutely nothing for 20 years

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — According to the federal government, two sisters in rural Kentucky do not exist.

Raechel Colleen Schultz and her sister, Stephanie Marie Schultz, were born at home in Kentucky and Alabama respectively. They were home-schooled and their parents never sought birth certificates, vaccination records or Social Security numbers for them.

Now, 29-year-old Raechel and 23-year-old Stephanie have sued the Social Security Administration in an effort to get Social Security numbers and cards, which will allow them to work legally. The suit, filed July 29 in U.S. District Court in London, Ky., is the latest legal battle for the women as they attempt to obtain legal recognition of their existence.

"No one has ever heard of anything like this before," said their attorney, Douglas Benge. "When the girls first came to see me, it's one of those things of, 'What do I do now?'"
Notice first of all that these women ('girls' seems to be unintentionally demeaning here) are not accused or even suspected of any crime. If anything, it was their parents who offended the law by failing to get them registered, but it is the girls who are now being punished for it. Without the ability to be recognized by the government, they have absolutely no rights as citizens--even though they have lived their entire lives in the United States. Furthermore, without being able to legally identify themselves, they are deprived of even basic civil rights, like the ability to use public transportation, drive, or even get out of jail on bail if unjustly arrested. In short, they are no better off than the niggers of 50 years ago--maybe worse. They not only can't sit in the front of the bus--they aren't even allowed on at all.

Monday, 1 August 2011

More misinformation from the vaccination front

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Parents who do not allow their children to be vaccinated against polio now risk jail time for defying a government order aimed at ensuring that the disease is eradicated from Africa's most populous nation, authorities said Friday.

Tajuddeen Gambo, the permanent secretary of the Kano state health ministry, told The Associated Press that Nigeria has a law that punishes parents who refuse their children access to health care.

"Polio immunization is part of health care," Gambo said.
Let's see if we can make sense of this. Giving a child drops of live but attenuated polio virus--something that can actually cause people to contract a crippling or fatal case of polio--is heath care. How, we wonder, would one define heath assault?

Alas, there appears to be no such legally defined category of crime or trespass. In fact, in the USA, medical malpractice laws specifically exempt inoculators. You can sue a doctor for giving you any treatment that turns out to be ineffective or harmful--unless it's a vaccination. In that case, he's immune from litigation. Why is that?

Let's continue the story:
Tommi Laulajainen, the UNICEF chief of communications for polio efforts in Nigeria, explains that it takes four rounds of drops for children to be completely out of danger.
Completely out of danger from what? Contracting polio, we suppose--although no one will guarantee in writing that an inoculation being given is 100% effective. But what about the first three rounds--what dangers might they hold?
We have to make sure we capture every single child," he said. "Because if one child is not protected against polio, he or she can get the virus and spread it very quickly to other children in the community."
This statement flies in the face of the previous quote. What possible danger could children who've received all four drops be in from their immunized fellows? Well, remember the four drops: children who've only received one, two, or three could contract polio from those who've received none at all--or from each other!

If you think about it, this argument falls short on its very claims. Polio could continue to be spread, indefinitely, among children who have not yet received the full round of shots, could it not?
He said a collaboration with religious leaders has been particularly fruitful over the years and that health workers have used a variety of communication tools such as drama, radio, street theater, town criers and strong visuals to remind parents that polio will keep lurking until it's wiped out.
But it will never be wiped out to the point that it's not lurking. Governments of the world will continued to hang on to the active virus as a potential biological weapon, while they continue to vaccinate their own troops against the possibility of the other side doing the same. No virus, under such circumstances, can ever be wiped out.

Nigeria's needle-wielding vaccinators are living in a dreamland.