Science  09 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5621, pp. 879

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  1. Summer School Sans SARS

    Foreign students and scholars traveling to study in the U.S. now face a new obstacle: SARS. The University of California, Berkeley, last week became the first major American university to temporarily bar new students arriving from areas hard-hit by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

    Chancellor Robert Berdahl announced that the school will not enroll several hundred summer students who planned to come from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore—all places deemed SARS hot spots by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Next fall, students from SARS regions will be allowed on campus, but they will be monitored for 10 days and be required to fill out health questionnaires. The university may lift the restrictions once CDC ends warnings against travel to and from the hot spots. “Our principal concern … is that we would not be able to provide adequate medical care should any of these students become symptomatic” within 10 days of arrival, Associate Chancellor John Cummins told Science.

    It's not clear if other campuses will follow suit. For instance, Stanford University says it won't, and the University of Washington, Seattle, is studying the issue.

  2. A CDC for Hong Kong?

    Spurred by the SARS threat, Hong Kong hopes to harness horse racing revenues to fight infectious diseases. Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa last week said the Hong Kong Jockey Club—which manages the region's tracks—has pledged $65 million to create a new health organization modeled after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He is asking the Hong Kong Legislative Council to match that funding and is also trying to enlist the participation of neighboring Guangdong Province, where scientists believe SARS and some other emerging diseases originated. “If we are going to win this battle, we need to work closely with Guangdong,” Tung told reporters.

    Details of the new organization are still being worked out, Hong Kong officials told Science, but some of the funding would go to universities. The new agency could also take on a range of education, prevention, and monitoring activities.

    The idea is getting good reviews from outsiders. Public health specialist Edward Halloran of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who has worked in Hong Kong, says that “having something equivalent to CDC seems long overdue and highly desirable.”

  3. France Cancels Mars Mission

    PARIS—A cash crunch has prompted the French space agency, CNES, to pull the plug on its troubled $350 million NetLander mission to study martian weather and geology. It is also axing its $9.3 million contribution to the U.S.-led Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope and scaling back other projects in a bid to balance its budget.

    NetLander had looked vulnerable ever since NASA's decision last month not to provide a launcher and stop funding for the mission (Science, 2 May, p. 719). CNES also said it will do its future Mars exploration through the European Space Agency.

    Other missions facing downsizing include Pléïades, a small Earth-observing satellite, and Megha-Tropiques, a Franco-Indian mission to study the water cycle in the tropical atmosphere. In all, 10 missions will be scrapped or frozen, saving the agency $450 million between now and 2008. Nevertheless, CNES officials say the agency will need its $760 million annual budget to be increased by 1% in 2004 and 2005 if it is to maintain even a slimmed-down program.

  4. House Vote Gives Hope for Bigger Global AIDS Fund

    Health experts are applauding the U.S. House of Representatives' approval of legislation that could steer more money to a global health fund. Now they're waiting to see what the Senate will do.

    In January, President George W. Bush unveiled a plan to put $15 billion—$10 billion of it new money—over 5 years into preventing and treating AIDS in 12 African and two Caribbean countries. But some AIDS advocates were disappointed that the plan allotted only $200 million a year for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Science, 7 February, p. 800). The year-old multinational group funds peer-reviewed proposals submitted by broad national coalitions. Some experts believe that approach is more effective than giving money directly to specific countries.

    The House last week approved the $15 billion package and adopted language that would allow the United States to pump up to $1 billion into the Global Fund in 2004.

    That's “very promising … [but] it's premature to declare victory,” says Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs. The Senate still has to weigh in, he notes, and appropriators and the Administration would have to agree to send the $1 billion to the fund. Backers are hoping to send a final bill to Bush by the end of May.