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It was not a “swarm of mosquitoes,” unless you believe that less than ten mosquitoes constitutes a “swarm.” And despite news reports to the contrary, the audience was not upset. They laughed loudly when Microsoft-founder Bill Gates released the bugs. On YouTube videos, the elite audience laughed and applauded when Gates declared about mosquitoes, “There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience.”

Yet news reports described the insects as a “swarm,” the audience as “shocked,” and the stunt as “a show stopper.” However, Gates’ speech on the dangers of malaria continued without a hitch, as did the conference itself.

The event was TED2009, the annual Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference in Long Beach, Calif. TED attracts technology and business leaders, politicians, and media stars.

Gates unleashed the mosquitoes to bring attention to the devastating toll mosquito-borne malaria takes each year in developing countries. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into malaria research and prevention, investing in everything from funding grants and education to purchasing mosquito nets.

Fighting malaria is such an important goal of the extremely well-endowed Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they were criticized last year by the World Health Organization as a cartel, dominating malaria research and stifling a free exchange of ideas. The Gates Foundation denied the charge.

A former employee of Microsoft from the company’s early days, John Clifford, said the mosquito stunt “was not characteristic of Gates, but is of TED.”

The mosquito release did invoke the inevitable jokes tying Microsoft to bugs. Chris Anderson of TED joked that the organization’s headline for their video of Gates’ speech would read, “Gates releases more bugs into the world.”

As The Feed web site joked, “If there’s one thing Microsoft rules at, it’s got to be the releasing of bugs.”

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