Mar 12, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – In passing a huge spending bill this week to cover the next 6 months, Congress approved pandemic preparedness funds that had been proposed by former President Bush and increased appropriations for food safety, according to a health advocacy group.The $410 billion bill was passed by the Senate Feb 10, following earlier House approval, and signed by President Barack Obama yesterday. It funds numerous government agencies for the rest of fiscal year 2009, which ends Sep 30.The measure includes more than $700 million in pandemic spending that Bush had sought for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but none of that is for state and local public health agencies, according to Richard Hamburg, government affairs director for the nonprofit group Trust for America’s Health.The bill also includes $648.7 million for food safety efforts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which represents a $141 million increase from the 2008 level, Hamburg reported. In addition, Congress approved $971.5 million for the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an increase of $41 million over the 2008 amount, he said.The HHS pandemic funding includes $425 million for vaccine production capacity, $42 million for production of egg-based vaccines, and $40 million for medical countermeasures for HHS staff members and contractors, according to Hamburg.Also included is $156 million for ongoing pandemic-related activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is $1.4 million more than the agency received in 2008, he said. In addition, the office of the HHS secretary is to receive $78 million for pandemic activities, up from $75 million in 2008, he said.Hamburg said he hadn’t seen the breakdown of amounts for other agencies, but he expects that the FDA and the National Institutes of Health will get about the same amounts of pandemic-related funding as in 2008—$38 million and $34 million, respectively.Also included in the legislation is $3 million for research by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on flu transmission and respiratory protection from flu viruses, Hamburg reported. The bill calls for NIOSH to evaluate filtering facepiece respirators and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and to work on designing the next generation of PPE, he said.He noted that the allocation follows an Institute of Medicine report in 2008 that cited a critical need for more information on airborne transmission of flu. He didn’t think the money was part of the Bush administration’s 2009 budget proposal.On the food safety front, the $141 million increase for the FDA goes mainly to the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), according to Hamburg. Overall, the FDA is getting a $325 million budget increase from 2008, which raises its total funding for 2009 to nearly $2 billion, he said.A CFSAN spokesman said today he had no information yet on how the increased funding for food safety will be spent.As for the proposed 2010 budget, the Obama administration has released only a general outline so far; said Hamburg: “We expect to see more detailed information on pandemic [funding] in early April.”Pandemic preparedness advocates had hoped Congress would include pandemic funds for state and local health departments in the economic stimulus bill passed in February. The House approved $900 million for that purpose, but it was stripped from the final bill.See also:Feb 13 CIDRAP News story “Stimulus bill headed for passage minus pandemic funds”
– GSA President says squad is well preparedTHE national senior squash team that will represent Guyana this week in the Caribbean Senior Squash Championships (CASA) slated for Trinidad and Tobago is expected to depart Guyana today for the twin- island republic. The championships are scheduled to run from 8 – 16 of August, and will see the participation of top players from all across the Caribbean.The Guyana men’s team is led by world-ranked player Sunil Seth, and also includes 2010 men’s champion Richard Chin as well as Alex Arjoon, Kristian Jeffrey, Jason Ray Khalil, and Benjamin Mekdeci. On the women’s side is current Caribbean junior girls’ Under-19 champion Larissa Wiltshire, and finalist Taylor Fernandes, as well as former junior Caribbean champions Akeila Wiltshire, Mary Fung-a-Fat, and Victoria Arjoon.The female team of course will continue to go without the leading skills of world-ranked Nicollette Fernandes.Fernandes has been unable to represent Guyana for some time now due to her professional commitments on the international stage, where she continues to excel.The veterans’ team will be made up of Raman Chan-A-Sue in the over-40 category, Joe Mekdeci in the over-50 and Alwyn Calledar in the over-60 category.President of the Guyana Squash Association, David Fernandes, is of the opinion that the team is very well prepared for this year’s championships and he expects some good performances.“Both the men and women’s teams are very balanced. The seniors that have been in Guyana they have been training very hard for the past few weeks, I would even say they are better prepared than last year and I think that they have good team spirit and I believe they will do very well,” Fernandes said.The Guyana ladies’ team are currently the defending champions in that category, a title they have held for the past three years. The men’s team on the other hand relinquished the title to Jamaica last year. Overall, Guyana has not held the team title since 2013, when the competition was held on home turf.
(REUTERS) – Former Australia Test player Adam Gilchrist can relate to the ongoing pay dispute between the board and the cricketers and is optimistic of a timely resolution of the row which has cast a shadow of doubt over this year’s Ashes series.Australia faces a possible player strike or lockout if the protracted negotiation over a new pay deal for the country’s international and state cricketers cannot be resolved by the June 30 deadline, when current contracts expire.Gilchrist’s career was in the nascent stage when the current revenue-sharing model came into effect in 1997 and the former stumper-batsman could see the similarities.“The players are sticking together with that unity, and that was certainly the case back then and I was a young player having my very first contract with Cricket Australia dangled in front of me, and here were my senior peers saying: ‘Don’t sign it, don’t break, don’t crumble’,” he told Fox Sports.“And we didn’t, and 20 years later conditions are fantastic for players now. There’s no doubt about that. So that end result has been terrific. There’ll be an end; there will be an end to it.“We’re nearly at June 30, so that’s approaching quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been meeting in the last few days, the players’ association and the board. I think both sides are going to have to compromise,” added Gilchrist.Vice-captain David Warner has revealed the threat of Australian cricketers skipping the Ashes series, starting in November, against England was a reality.“If we are unemployed we have no contracts, we can’t play,” he told reporters in England, where the side are playing the Champions Trophy.At the heart of the dispute is the arrangement whereby the players share a fixed percentage of up to 26 percent of CA revenue, a model the board said was “starving” the grassroots of the game of funding.The players’ union has criticised CA for acting like a “heavy monopoly” and demanded the negotiation continues.“So while the players feel CA has gone about this all wrong, they are still prepared to offer good faith and solutions,” Alistair Nicholson, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, wrote in column for the Herald Sun.“What needs to happen is that CA move somewhere towards the middle, because the players are already there. Ready and waiting for common sense to prevail.”Gilchrist said he had spoken to both parties and believed the CA had made a fair offer to the players.“I think Cricket Australia is offering a very, very fair deal for players. No one is going to go without and everyone is growing and increasing.”