NEWS SCAN: Avian flu outbreaks, pandemic funding, biodefense lab lapses, Listeria

first_imgFeb 9, 2009Vietnam and Egypt report H5N1 poultry outbreaksVietnam today confirmed H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in another province, Hau Giang in the Mekong Delta, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported. The outbreak involved about 400 unvaccinated ducks and brings the number of provinces recently reporting the virus to five. Meanwhile, Egyptian veterinary officials reported that the virus struck more locations, according to a Feb 5 report posted on the Web site of Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR), including Behera, Helwan, and Fayoum governorates. In addition, laboratory officials are testing samples from a Sharkiya governorate location where several suspicious bird deaths were reported.[Feb 9 DPA story]Hong Kong finds H5N1 in more dead birdsMore dead birds found around Hong Kong have tested positive for the H5N1 virus, according to a Feb 7 statement from Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD). They include a grey heron from Mai Po Nature Reserve, a peregrine falcon found near Long Beach Gardens, a chicken found on Butterfly Beach, and three chickens and a duck collected on Lantau Island.[Feb 7 AFCD press release]Senate negotiators strip pandemic funding from stimulus billBipartisan work on the Senate’s version of the economic stimulus bill on Feb 6 cut $870 million in pandemic planning provisions from the list of spending proposals, according to a report yesterday from Congressional Quarterly (CQ) Today. Critics questioned whether or not increasing the nation’s pandemic vaccine stockpile would crease more jobs. The House stimulus bill allocates $900 for pandemic flu funding. After the Senate passes its version, a conference will meet to resolve differences between the two bills.Security lapses reportedly sideline select agent work at Army’s biodefense labFederal officials suspended work on biological select agents at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Md., on Feb 6 after identifying problems with the system the lab uses to monitor its inventories of high-risk biological materials, Wired reported today. The lab housed the work of the late Bruce E. Ivins, whom federal officials believe played a role in the 2001 anthrax attacks. The Wired report is based on an internal memo obtained by ScienceInsider blog.[Feb 9 Wired story]Listeria concerns prompt recallsTwo companies recently issued recall notices because of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination, though no illnesses were reported. Alaska Sausage Company recalled 872 pounds of sausage links with reindeer meat and bratwurst, according to a Feb 6 press release from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meanwhile, agriculture officials in New York warned consumers not to eat 14-oz packages of Queso Fresco made by Peregrina Cheese Corp, based in Brooklyn, NY, according to a Feb 4 press release from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company is holding most of the cheese, but a small quantity was released for retail sale.[Feb 6 USDA press release][Feb 4 FDA press release]last_img read more

UK pension funds uneasy with enlargement of quantitative easing

first_imgThe Bank of England has cut interest rates by 0.25 basis points and re-launched its quantitative easing (QE) programme in a move set to cause further pain for the underfunded UK pension sector.While markets were widely expecting the UK central bank to cut interest rates to 0.25% after initial data showed the economy slowing in the wake of the decision to leave the European Union, the monetary policy committee’s decision to expand QE by £70bn (€81.9bn) – split between £10bn in corporate bonds and £60bn in Gilts – surprised many.In his letter to UK chancellor Philip Hammond, bank governor Mark Carney argued that the purchase of corporate bonds was required to lower borrowing costs, and that the Gilt purchase, which will see the overall QE programme grow to £435bn, would boost the prices of other assets.Dan Mikulskis, managing director at consultancy Redington, noted the bank’s announcement had seen long-dated Gilt yields decline by 10 basis points, in addition to a longer-term decline of 1% over the last 12 months. “Many pension schemes undertaking actuarial valuations at the June or September quarter ends are likely to show stressed positions – with higher deficits despite reasonable asset growth,” he said.Mikulskis also predicted sponsors would need to increase contributions to address expanding deficits, or the Pensions Regulator would be required to extend funding plans to allow schemes more time to close the gap.His calls for greater leniency were echoed by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association.Antony Barker, director of pensions at the Santander UK Group Pension Scheme, also warned about the impact of QE on deficits and questioned whether the asset purchase programme would always translate to banks increasing lending.Discussing the drop in Gilt yields, Barker told IPE: “This potentially feeds through, at least for banks, into bigger IAS 19 deficits, against which capital has to be held, and if capital is being held for pension risk, it can’t be used to support lending.”He added that each £100m used by banks to underpin pension deficits equated to £3bn-4bn of loans they were no longer able to offer.“Hence, £10bn of QE could be very quickly offset, given the collective liabilities of bank pension schemes,” he said. JP Morgan Asset Management (JPMAM) also questioned the overall impact of the QE programme and asked what the renewed purchase of Gilts by the BoE would do to the bond market’s depth.The manager’s head of pension advisory and solutions, Sorca Kelly-Scholte, noted that pension funds’ ability to access Gilts for hedging purposes was important where exposure could not be hedged through derivatives but would be curtailed by the bank’s £60bn purchase.“As UK pension funds become cashflow negative, they will increasingly need physical assets rather than leverage to service those cashflows,” she added.Kelly-Scholte speculated that the decision by the new UK government to abandon former chancellor George Osborne’s 2020 surplus target would potentially allow increased Gilt issuance, although there were no guarantees they would be of the long-dated and inflation-linked nature desired by the pensions industry. Barker also advocated greater Gilt issuance, suggesting they should be issued in place of QE, while the proceeds should be directed towards infrastructure – including new nuclear power capacity for the UK and other projects.last_img read more

Reward offered in death of 92-year-old

first_imgMISSION HILLS – Just before dawn Feb. 2, as she had nearly every morning for a decade, Mama Sofie shuffled her 92-year-old frame around her Panorama City block, trying her best to stay young. Sofia Gomez, a Guatemalan immigrant with a penchant for Las Vegas’ nickel slots, dyed her hair red, polished her nails and pointed out all the “old” people in the neighborhood – many of them 20 years her junior. “She always thought of herself as young, and worked hard to look that way, too,” said Sonia Salgado, one of Gomez’s 10 grandchildren. Gomez was also a loving and gentle woman, which makes it impossible for her family to understand why she was killed Feb. 2, fatally beaten as she returned home from her early morning walk. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “It’s a horrible person who would do that,” said Gina Hernandez, another granddaughter. “You live there for 10 years, you think it’s safe. Everybody liked her. Everybody knew her. She was defenseless.” On Monday, relatives, politicians and police offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution in the slaying. “We refuse to accept that nobody saw anything,” said City Councilman Alex Padilla, who secured the reward from the council. “It doesn’t make sense to us, at this time of day in a working-class neighborhood, that nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything and nobody knows anything. It’s clearly a cold-blooded person that would attack a 92-year-old woman.” Gomez came to the United States in 1973 from Guatemala, where she turned her love of children into a full-time job, working as a baby sitter. She also served as the matriarch of a huge family, including three children, 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson. She organized family gatherings and cooked for everyone, often making Chinese food, especially barbecued chicken. She played with the children, ruffling their hair and making sure they had enough to eat. “She took care of every one of us,” Salgado said. “She loved to see all of her grandchildren.” Police have no idea why she was attacked that Thursday morning. A neighbor found her lying on the sidewalk and, thinking she’d fallen, called 911. It wasn’t until she arrived at a hospital that doctors discovered she’d suffered blunt-force trauma to the head and realized she had been beaten. Police have no witnesses, even though it happened at a time when people are often leaving for work. They don’t believe Gomez was robbed or that her death was gang-related. “This was a tragic and brutal murder,” LAPD Detective Jim Freund said. Anyone with information on the case can call Mission Area homicide detectives at (818) 838-9810 during business hours, or (818) 838-9800 after hours. Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more