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Funders Should Follow Lead Of U.S. In Creating Policies For Scientific Research Oversight

“[T]he controversy over the research into the genetic modification of the H5N1 flu virus, finally approved for publication, should offer a reminder of the importance of debate” over dual-use technology, a Nature editorial states. “[D]ual-use basic research is a special case because its implications, for good and bad, are often viewed with the greatest clarity by only a small minority of people,” and often only “[t]he scientists involved (and they are increasingly specialists in very small fields) … can fully understand the risks posed by a line of research,” according to the editorial. “There are disadvantages to leaving it up to outsiders to initiate debate about risks, benefits and ethics,” the editorials states, noting three disadvantages, including the risk of misconceptions and a lack of knowledge about how to handle some research.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio Addresses Future Of U.S. Foreign Policy

“On April 25, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for a major address on the future of U.S. foreign policy,” according to an event summary on the organization’s website. “Senator Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, examined whether U.S. global leadership is sustainable and even necessary in the 21st century” and “explored what Americans need to do at this juncture, abroad and at home, to adapt and prepare for the changing international environment in the years ahead,” the summary states (4/26). “Millions of human beings are alive today because the United States, and others in the global community, are paying for their antiviral medication. … We need to continue this kind of foreign aid investment, not just in PEPFAR, but in malaria control and vaccine programs and in agriculture initiatives so that we can make similar strides in preventing hunger and establishing a healthy global community,” he said, according to a speech transcript (.pdf) (4/25).

U.S. Government ‘Catalyzing’ International Community To End Preventable Child Deaths

“When it comes to promoting global health, the American people have much to celebrate and be proud of. With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. government has not only committed many billions of dollars and saved many millions of lives, it has changed the way the world approaches foreign aid,” former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Mark Dybul writes in an opinion piece in The Hill. He highlights several U.S. initiatives, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation, PEPFAR, and the President’s Malaria Initiative, among others, “that definitively changed how the U.S. serves its global sisters and brothers,” and writes, “[T]hese solid investments in saving and lifting up lives have changed how people around the world view America and Americans.”

‘Global Pulse’ Summarizes Event Launching USAID Child Survival Social Media Campaign

At an event on Monday launching USAID’s “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday” social media campaign, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah described how $30 worth of materials contained in a backpack he carried onto stage, including zinc to prevent diarrhea and vaccines to prevent pneumococcal diseases, “can lead to a massive reduction in preventable child death in the developing world,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. Though the backpack and the campaign’s use of 5th birthday photographs from celebrities, lawmakers, and policymakers “made for powerful symbols,” the event “dug a little deeper” to “highligh[t] numerous challenges facing the major U.S. government advocacy effort on child survival, which includes a gathering of world health leaders in Washington in June to push a new plan aimed at reducing preventable child deaths to zero,” the blog says.

U.S. Government Must Be Prepared To Handle Dual Use Research Of Concern

“This week, a Senate panel is investigating biological security in the wake of” controversial “potentially dangerous research” on H5N1 avian influenza, “with good reason,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. He says “the U.S. government should not have been caught by surprise” by the two research papers describing how genetic mutations to the virus could make it transmissible between ferrets, because the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) “was created in 2004 and charged with the specific responsibility of reviewing this type of research and offering guidance to all federal agencies that conduct biological research.” Sensenbrenner says the NSABB’s initial recommendation against publishing the studies and its subsequent reversal of that decision has left him with “suspicions that the U.S. government is woefully unprepared for dealing with dual use research of concern — research that, while conducted for a legitimate scientific purpose, could be dangerous if misused.”

Draft Farm Bill Includes ‘Promising’ Fixes To U.S. Food Aid System

In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” Connie Veillette, director of CGD’s rethinking U.S. foreign assistance initiative, comments on a draft farm bill released by Congress last week, which she writes “includes some promising fixes to the notoriously inefficient U.S. food aid system.” She continues, “Kudos are definitely in order for a draft bill that advances ideas around improving food aid effectiveness,” including “the reauthorization of local and regional purchase (LRP) to buy food closer to emergencies.” Veillette writes, “I would prefer the nature of the food emergency to determine whether U.S. commodities or LRP is used rather than some formula that makes more sense for Washington politics than for global hunger,” and concludes, “I commend the [Senate Agriculture] Committee for taking a serious look at improving food aid efficiencies and hope that this marks the start of a productive process of policy reform” (4/24).

Allowing Countries To Use PEPFAR Funding For Voluntary Contraception For Women Aligns With GHI’s ‘Women-Centered’ Approach

“PEPFAR has said it will use” nearly $1.5 billion in unspent aid “to invest in commodities (condoms, HIV rapid test kits and voluntary medical male circumcision kits), systems and institutions, and program strengthening,” Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Here’s one idea that would offer a huge return on investment and save the lives of millions: voluntary contraception for women,” she continues, adding, “Voluntary contraception has been called ‘the best kept secret in HIV prevention’ and has a proven evidence base.”

USAID Administrator Shah Launches Social Media Campaign To Garner Support To Improve Child Health, Survival

Under the slogan “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday,” USAID on Monday launched a social media campaign featuring childhood photos of celebrities, global health leaders and lawmakers, with the aim of “build[ing] support to fight preventable deaths of children,” CQ HealthBeat reports. “‘By asking others to remember their own fifth birthdays, we want to remind people that more than seven million children each year never get the chance to celebrate that milestone,’ USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a statement,” the news service writes, noting, “Children who reach age five are much more likely to become adults, experts say.” The article notes, “The campaign is a different tack for USAID, engaging the public as well as congressional leaders who decide the agency’s funding.” “The trend follows an attempt by the Obama administration, through its Global Health Initiative (GHI), to broaden and better coordinate U.S. global health policies, … addressing systemic health care problems in developing countries, rather than focusing primarily on individual diseases like HIV/AIDS or malaria,” CQ writes, noting, “Many advocates say that while the president’s [global health] plan is the right approach in terms of long-term international development,” it has “attracted tepid support from some lawmakers and has been dogged by the anti-spending environment in Congress.”