American Elephants


Senate Democrats Block Zika Virus Funding by The Elephant's Child

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Most of the news about the Zika Virus is bad. Babies are born with malformed brains, adults who suffer the progressive paralysis of Guillaine-Barré syndrome, Americans diagnosed after travel to the topics, active transmission of the disease in U.S. territories, but primarily because of regulatory requirements no vaccine is likely to become available before the end of the decade.

The FDA is “blocking real progress on a vital tool to control the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry and transmit Zika and the viruses that cause dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever.”

Using genetic engineering techniques, the British company Oxitec (a subsidiary of American-owned Intrexon) has created male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with a specific mutation that causes them to need a certain chemical (the antibiotic tetracycline) to survive. Without it, they die—and their offspring die before reaching maturity. Releasing the males over several months causes a marked reduction in the mosquito population. Because male mosquitoes don’t bite, they present no health risk, and, because their progeny die, no genetically engineered mosquitoes persist in the environment.

Turf battle: the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which has the authority and expertise to oversee genetically engineered insects vs. the USDA (budgetary concerns and anti-genetic engineering among senior USDA people) who sent it over to the FDA which is unqualified to review the mosquito and unwilling to move it along. If all this sounds nuts, it is.

Brain damage in Zika babies is far worse than doctors expected. The virus attacks lobes of the fetal brain that control thought, vision and movement.

The Senate voted to approve a $1.1 billion bill to fight Zika by a 52 to 48 margin, with funds to go to help develop a vaccine. (Not enough to get the bill to the floor). It was slightly less than what Obama requested, but his budget request earmarked over half a billion for Zika programs in other countries and shortchanged public health here at home. (ObamaCare has a 2 billion slush fund for public health).

Harry Reid called the bill “nothing more than a goodie bag for the fringes of the Republican Party” and said they had no choice but to block it. Their real complaint was that Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be able to get a portion of the funds directed to public health departments and hospitals that are reimbursed by public health. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) claimed that the Republican bill “limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects.”

The Democrat’s idea was that the mainstream press would blame the GOP for the bill’s demise, but even the liberal media wouldn’t buy this mess of pottage. The headlines for CNN, NBC, CBS and even the NY Times were uniformly something in the line of “Senate Democrats block Zika funding.”

Scientists are getting closer to understanding how Zika causes Microcephaly, but they’re not there yet. The Senate’s stupid move makes it impossible for Congress to send legislation to the president before July 4. This means the bill is dead, and a new bill will have to be written and submitted. Both chambers are back in session for just one week before leaving for summer vacation July 15 and not returning till after Sept 5.


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