The U.S. journal Science on Thursday published the results of a controversial study in which researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands “identified five mutations apparently necessary to make the [H5N1] bird flu virus spread easily among ferrets, which catch the same flus that humans do,” the New York Times reports (McNeil, 6/21). “The publication of [the] research had been delayed by several months after the U.S. government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) warned that the information should be censored to avoid being misused, for example by terrorists,” the Guardian writes, noting, “Last month, Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison published details of another form of the bird flu virus that can pass between people, which was created by merging a mutated strain with the swine flu virus that sparked a human pandemic in 2009” (Jha, 6/21).
US Global Health Policy
In an effort to “raise awareness around the U.S. global response to HIV/AIDS,” the AIDS.gov blog has republished a post by U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby in which he discusses the XIX International AIDS Conference, taking place in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years from July 22-27. He notes, “The conference theme, Turning the Tide Together, underscores the pivotal moment in which AIDS 2012 is taking place,” and discusses the role that the U.S. has played in achieving scientific progress in the fight against AIDS since it was identified 30 years ago (6/21).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog summarizes an event held Thursday, titled “AIDS-free Generation? Not Without Women,” that was sponsored by the National Council of Women’s Organizations. The session aimed “to draw attention to pivotal issues surrounding the impact of AIDS on women worldwide” ahead of the International AIDS Conference, the blog states. Speakers at the event included Katherine Fritz, global health director at the International Center for Research on Women, and Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health And Gender Equity (CHANGE), according to the blog, which notes “CHANGE recently released two reports on the implementation of the Global Health Initiative and reproduction health care in Guatemala and Ethiopia, concluding that GHI principles could be used to enhance services and conditions in both countries” (Barton, 6/22).
U.S. Secretary Of State Clinton Defends Women's Reproductive Rights At Conclusion Of Rio+20 Conference
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “took a stand for women’s reproductive rights during the Rio+20 United Nations conference on Friday, saying ‘women must be empowered to make decisions on whether and when to have children’ if the world is to attain agreed-upon sustainable development goals,” the Associated Press/ABC News reports. Clinton “spoke during the conference’s last day, applauding the final document’s endorsement of women’s sexual and reproductive health but making it clear that she objected to the omission of specific language on reproductive rights,” the news service writes. “‘While I am very pleased that this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights,’ Clinton said,” according to the AP (Barbassa, 6/22).
“The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia will in collaboration with UNICEF convene the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C.,” a two-day event beginning Thursday, which “brings together 700 leaders and global experts to launch a sustained effort to save children’s lives,” a UNICEF press release reports. The initiative “challenges the world” to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, the press release states, adding, “Reaching this historic target will have saved an estimated additional 45 million children’s lives between 2010 and 2035, bringing the world closer to the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths” (6/12).
The Center for Global Health and Development (CGHD) at Boston University on Thursday delivered its report (.pdf) on the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), released in February, to the U.S. Congress, IIP Digital reports, noting the “independent evaluation team finds that the [PMI] has been ‘very successful’ in reducing children’s deaths from the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, but also warns that the program must gear up if those gains are to be sustained.” The news service adds, “The CGHD report recommends a re-evaluation of malaria prevention methods, including insecticide use, which, the researchers find, covers a fraction of the at-risk population at a high cost” (6/6).
Politico examines the implications of the Senate’s draft farm bill on the maritime industry, noting the industry “makes much of its money on foreign-aid shipments, courtesy of the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development,” and writing, “The Senate’s farm bill extends [Food for Peace, the largest international food-aid program] for the next five years but pulls $40 million a year from shipments to go toward cash grants and the purchase of food in local markets.” The news service adds, “The success of the industry lies in the continued authorization of these programs with the farm bill looming before the Senate this week.”
“[T]he House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) [on Wednesday] approved the FY 2013 Foreign Relations Authorization Act [.pdf] that it hopes will be the first authorizing bill to pass Congress in a decade,” Casey Dunning of the Center for Global Development (CGD) writes in this post in the center’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog. “The bill aims to provide direction and guidance to appropriators and the administration as they fund and execute U.S. foreign affairs,” however, “[i]n an effort to pass an authorizing bill, the committee decided to completely excise the assistance part of its portfolio — 65 percent of the international affairs budget! — and authorize only State Department operations (aka, the other 35 percent),” she notes. Dunning concludes, “In keeping the focus solely on State Department mechanics and FY 2012 funding levels this year, they were able to avoid contentious debates on issues like aid to Pakistan and funding family planning, muster bipartisan support, and move the bill forward, sans a foreign assistance section. But it means they also avoid an opportunity to influence U.S. foreign aid” (6/28).
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent the Water for the World Act (S 641) to the Senate for a floor vote, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is set to vote on a companion bill, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2012 (HR 3658), PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog notes, adding that “a coalition of CEOs of NGOs have published an open letter [.pdf] encouraging the House Foreign Affairs Committee to allow the bill to be voted upon in the House floor” (6/28). The letter states, “HR 3658, like its companion S 641, has strong bipartisan support, does not seek new funds, and builds on decades of successful USâ€led programs to make even better use of existing resources. This is the year to ensure that the bill becomes law,” and continues, “Because it builds on the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, the Water for the World Act of 2012 is a costâ€free approach to benefiting families, communities, and even the global economy.” The letter concludes by asking members of Congress to co-sponsor the House bill and urge the House committee to pass it (6/20).
“The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a $16.2 billion State Department authorization bill [.pdf] after reaching bipartisan consensus,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports, adding, “The bill passed by voice vote in under a minute, in stark contrast with last year’s record 30-hour markup where Democrats and Republicans battled on everything from funding for abortion providers to aid to Pakistan” (Pecquet, 6/27). The FY13 Foreign Relations Authorization Act (HR 6018) “authorizes FY13 appropriations for the State Department and a few other International Affairs programs at largely current (FY12) funding levels, a very positive development in the current budget environment,” according to a U.S. Global Leadership Coalition budget update (Lester, 6/27). The hearing’s opening statement from Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and a summary of the bill are available online (6/27).