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Sept. 1, 2009 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

Obama: H1N1 preparedness is going well

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama repeated his goal of preparedness, not panic, if an expected second wave of H1N1 flu moves through the United States this fall.

"As I said when we saw the first cases of this virus back in the spring, I don't want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everybody to be prepared," Obama said after a meeting on the 2009 H1N1 national preparedness and response. "We know that we usually get a second, larger wave of these flu viruses in the fall, and so response plans have been put in place across all levels of government."

Obama also told reporters that "steady progress" was being made on developing a safe and effective vaccine for the H1N1 flu, formerly known as swine flu, and a flu shot program would begin soon.

Federal, state and local governments, hospitals and healthcare providers, and family and businesses all have a role to play in responding to the virus.

"And most importantly we need everyone to get informed about individual risk factors, and we need everyone to take the common-sense steps that we know can make a difference," he said. "Stay home if you're sick. Wash your hands frequently. Cover your sneezes with your sleeve, not your hands. And take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy. I know it sounds simple, but it's important and it works."

People wanting to learn more about the H1N1 virus, can visit www.flu.gov, or talk to their doctor, he said.


Full in-box awaits President Obama

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Healthcare, climate change, U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan and the situation in the Middle East await President Barack Obama after his vacation ends.

But healthcare reform is the key issue because Republicans used the August recess to rally opposition to the Democrats' proposals during numerous town hall meetings, Politico reported.

The White House addressed what observers say is the fading hope for a bipartisan Senate healthcare bill after two of three GOP senators involved in Senate Finance Committee negotiations signaled their displeasure with Obama's proposals, the Washington publication said.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, in a letter published Monday, appealed to supporters to "help me defeat 'Obamacare'" while Mike Enzi of Wyoming used a radio address on healthcare to repeat Republican arguments against the plan. Spokesmen for both Republican senators said they're committed to the bipartisan talks.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, however, criticized Enzi's comments during a media briefing Monday.

Gibbs said the radio commentary indicates Enzi "doesn't believe there's a pathway to get bipartisan support, and the president thinks that's wrong."

Most analysts in Washington told Politico they think Obama missed the chance to get a bill passed before the break so he must use all power of the presidency to get his proposal back on track, Politico said.

"He still has time -- but not much time," Republican strategist Mary Matalin said. "Those cement shoes are starting to harden around him."

To regain control and change momentum, analysts said, Obama must dominate in three areas: messaging, media and muscle.

"If there's a way to refocus attention on the overarching goals, that's what he's got to do," said Ken Thorpe, co-director of the Center on Health Outcomes and Quality at Emory University in Atlanta.


Sensenbrenner says he has prostate cancer

MILWAUKEE, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., has early-stage prostate cancer but says that it won't stop him from keeping a hectic schedule.

The 66-year-old congressman discovered he had prostate cancer in July during a routine check-up and will undergo radiation therapy over the next several months at a Washington hospital, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday.

Sensenbrenner said in an announcement that the cancer has not spread and wouldn't keep him from maintaining a schedule of 21 upcoming town hall meetings on healthcare reform.

"It was caught very early," he told the newspaper. "The message that needs to get out is all men should have regular screenings on this. Early-stage prostate cancer is treatable. Both Rudy Giuliani and John Kerry ran for president after being diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer."


Same-sex couples begin marrying in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt., Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Two men married a minute after midnight Tuesday, becoming the first same-sex couple to be legally wed in the state of Vermont, officials said.

Bob Sullivan and Bill Slimback were pronounced husband and husband at 12:01 a.m. EDT, a minute after Vermont's same-sex marriage law took effect, WCAX-TV, Burlington, Vt., reported.

Sullivan and Slimback were married in Waterbury by Justice of the Peace Greg Trulson. "I feel like we've been in line for 17 years," Sullivan said.

The newlyweds met in 1992 in their native Philadelphia, both having suffered discrimination, even violence, for being gay, they said.

Monday night, more than 400 people gathered at Burlington's First Congregational Church to affirm support for the law and oppose a group of protesters from Kansas, the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press reported Tuesday.

The protesters, from Fred Phelp's Westboro Baptist Church, in Topeka, had vowed to picket throughout what they said was the most gay friendly state in America, the Free Press reported.


GOP convention giving $7M to charities

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., had a $7 million surplus, which party officials said will be donated to local charities.

An accounting released by the host committee Monday indicated the Twin Cities did well by the national convention, economically speaking, with the event coming in under budget, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday.

The RNC's economic benefits met projections: $153 million, which was in line with pre-convention expectations, the host committee said.

"This report is a clear illustration that our community benefited significantly from hosting the 2008 Republican National Convention," said Jeff Larson, chief executive officer of the Minneapolis-St. Paul 2008 Host Committee.

The review included roughly $7 million organizers plan to donate to the St. Paul Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation, the Pioneer Press reported.

"It's extremely generous that they decided to do that with the proceeds," said Carleen Rhodes, president and chief executive of the St. Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation.

She said the groups would use the money to partner with other non-profits in "hunger relief, housing stability and financial counseling."


Pittsburgh, county disagree on G20 costs

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Allegheny County officials say there's a funding shortfall to pay for the upcoming Group of 20 summit, but Pittsburgh's mayor denies it, observers say.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato says the Sept. 24-25 G20 summit will cost $25 million, but Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says $16 million is the more relevant figure, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday.

"There's not an $8 million (funding) gap in my mind," Ravenstahl said. "The county suggests that there is."

The newspaper said Pittsburgh City Council officials left a meeting with Onorato under the impression that the city and county will face a combined $5 million to $8 million shortfall, rather than a more manageable $1.7 million funding gap that was discussed earlier.

"I think (City Council members) had an epiphany this morning," said Kevin Evanto, Onorato's spokesman. "They didn't know what the county had in costs and spending, and this meeting was about discussing that."

But Ravenstahl told the Post-Gazette the $25 million figure included many costs not related to public safety that federal and state officials have declined to cover, such as street paving and beautification.

Topics: H1N1
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