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News story: Local courts and tribunals help to raise the bar on provision of refreshments

first_imgCourts and tribunals vary a lot in the refreshments they provide. Some have a selection of hot and cold food; others offer drinks; and some offer very little. This can depend on where the building is, and how many people use it; but new guidance has been issued that will help courts to be more ambitious and provide better refreshment options.For the first time, the guidance sets a minimum standard – saying that, at the very least, all visitors to our buildings should be able to access a broad selection of good quality hot and cold drinks, even in our smallest buildings.In most places, we are keen to offer more than this. The new guidance and sources of information we’ve introduced will help operational teams to explore and introduce the best approach possible for their buildings and the people who use them. This includes both best practice in getting the right catering provision in place through conventional contracts; and advice on how to source and support sustainable small-scale initiatives with local businesses or charities in buildings where a commercial arrangement with a caterer may not work.There are lots of good examples taking place across the estate that others can learn from. For example, one small court uses local sandwich shop menus to provide a delivery service to jurors; and in other courts local catering firms bring baskets of sandwiches round at busy times, for staff and those waiting for hearings.In one court, we’ve encouraged a charity which supports children coming out of the care system to set up a snack bar which both provides great food, and helps to train young people in kitchen and service skills.By encouraging and supporting a wider range of approaches to providing refreshments on site, we expect to raise the bar on court and tribunal catering.Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HMCTS commented: Since joining HMCTS, I’ve heard a lot about court refreshments – and seen a lot too, in the visits I make every week. At the moment, what we do is inconsistent; we have too many sites with no refreshments, and what others provide is very basic. But there are also some great examples of excellent catering – and of people doing things in really innovative ways where a conventional big contract wouldn’t work. The guidance will help us bring the rest to the standard of the best, by giving people advice, help and support to put good arrangements in place. HMCTS refreshment guidance (PDF, 571KB, 9 pages)For further information, email us at: [email protected]last_img read more

Chris Wood Shows Off His Fancy Footwork In The Wood Brothers’ “Happiness Jones” Video [Watch]

first_imgThe Wood Brothers released their sixth studio album, One Drop Of Truth, on February 2nd via Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers. Buzz around the trio’s latest effort started growing following the release of the album’s lead single, “River Take The Town”, back in November of 2017. Today, brothers Oliver and Chris Wood and Jano Rix keep their new album’s momentum building with the release of the second single off of One Drop Of Truth, “Happiness Jones”, and the song’s subsequent music video.Premiered on Rolling Stone, “Happiness Jones” features The Wood Brothers’ traditional rollicking, upbeat, and nostalgic Americana sound. However, the song and the music video both rely on contrasts—with the lyrics undermining the song’s happy-go-lucky melody and the black-and-white music video directed by Daniel Long further pushing these binaries. The best moments of the music video for The Wood Brothers’ “Happiness Jones” are found as  Chris Wood shows off his beloved dance skills, which seem particularly exuberant with their juxtaposition against Oliver Wood’s stoic presence.As Chris Wood told Rolling Stone, “Someone suggested I do some ‘interpretive dancing’ for the video, along the lines of the little improvised dance I do for the live show.” He continued, “I enjoy moving to music so we tried to capture that in the video.” You can watch the video below:The Wood Brothers – “Happiness Jones” [Official Video][Video: The Wood Brothers]You can listen to The Wood Brothers’ One Drop of Truth in full below via Spotify:The Wood Brothers – One Drop of Truth – Full Album The Wood Brothers – One Drop Of Truth – Tracklisting1.River Takes the Town2. Happiness Jones3. Laughin’ or Crying4. Strange as it Seems5. Sky High6. Seasick Emotions7. This Is It8. Sparkling Wine10. Can’t Look AwayView ‘One Drop of Truth’ Tracklistinglast_img read more

The spirituality of Africa

first_imgOne of Jacob Olupona’s earliest memories in Massachusetts is of nearly freezing in his apartment as a graduate student at Boston University during the great snowstorm of 1978. “I had it. I told my father that I was coming home,” he recalled. But after braving that first blizzard in a land far from his native Nigeria, Olupona stuck it out and earned his Ph.D. He went on to conduct some of the most significant research on African religions in decades. Olupona, professor of indigenous African religions at Harvard Divinity School and professor of African and African-American studies in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, recently sat down for an interview about his lifelong research on indigenous African religions. Olupona earned his bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1975. He later earned both an M.A. (1981) and Ph.D. (1983) in the history of religions from Boston University.Authoring or editing more than half a dozen books on religion and African culture (including the recent “African Religions: A Very Short Introduction,” Oxford University Press), Olupona has researched topics ranging from the indigenous religions of Africa to the religious practices of Africans who have settled in America. His research has helped to introduce and popularize new concepts in religious studies, such as the term “reverse missionaries,” referring to African prelates sent to Europe and the United States.The recipient of many prestigious academic honors and research fellowships, Olupona also received the 2015–2016 Reimar Lust Award for International and Cultural Exchange, considered one of Germany’s most prestigious academic honors. The award allows Olupona a year of study and research in Germany; he is on leave this year (2015–16).Much of Olupona’s work is an attempt to provide a fuller understanding of the complexity and richness of African indigenous thought and practice by viewing it not as a foil or as a useful comparative to better understand Western religions, but as a system of thought and belief that should be valued and understood for its own ideas and contribution to global religions.GAZETTE: How would you define indigenous African religions?OLUPONA: Indigenous African religions refer to the indigenous or native religious beliefs of the African people before the Christian and Islamic colonization of Africa. Indigenous African religions are by nature plural, varied, and usually informed by one’s ethnic identity, where one’s family came from in Africa. For instance, the Yoruba religion has historically been centered in southwestern Nigeria, the Zulu religion in southern Africa, and the Igbo religion in southeastern Nigeria.“African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane.”For starters, the word “religion” is problematic for many Africans, because it suggests that religion is separate from the other aspects of one’s culture, society, or environment. But for many Africans, religion can never be separated from all these. It is a way of life, and it can never be separated from the public sphere. Religion informs everything in traditional African society, including political art, marriage, health, diet, dress, economics, and death.This is not to say that indigenous African spirituality represents a form of theocracy or religious totalitarianism — not at all. African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. African spirituality is truly holistic. For example, sickness in the indigenous African worldview is not only an imbalance of the body, but also an imbalance in one’s social life, which can be linked to a breakdown in one’s kinship and family relations or even to one’s relationship with one’s ancestors.GAZETTE: How have ancestors played a role in traditional societies?OLUPONA: The role of ancestors in the African cosmology has always been significant. Ancestors can offer advice and bestow good fortune and honor to their living dependents, but they can also make demands, such as insisting that their shrines be properly maintained and propitiated. And if these shrines are not properly cared for by the designated descendant, then misfortune in the form of illness might befall the caretaker. A belief in ancestors also testifies to the inclusive nature of traditional African spirituality by positing that deceased progenitors still play a role in the lives of their living descendants.GAZETTE: Are ancestors considered deities in the traditional African cosmology?OLUPONA: Your question underscores an important facet about African spirituality: It is not a closed theological system. It doesn’t have a fixed creed, like in some forms of Christianity or Islam. Consequently, traditional Africans have different ideas on what role the ancestors play in the lives of living descendants. Some Africans believe that the ancestors are equal in power to deities, while others believe they are not. The defining line between deities and ancestors is often contested, but overall, ancestors are believed to occupy a higher level of existence than living human beings and are believed to be able to bestow either blessings or illness upon their living descendants.GAZETTE: In trying to understand African spirituality, is it helpful to refer to it as polytheistic or monotheistic?OLUPONA: No, this type of binary thinking is simplistic. Again, it doesn’t reflect the multiplicity of ways that traditional African spirituality has conceived of deities, gods, and spirit beings. While some African cosmologies have a clear idea of a supreme being, other cosmologies do not. The Yoruba, however, do have a concept of a supreme being, called Olorun or Olodumare, and this creator god of the universe is empowered by the various orisa [deities] to create the earth and carry out all its related functions, including receiving the prayers and supplications of the Yoruba people.GAZETTE: What is the state of indigenous African religions today?OLUPONA: That’s a mixed bag. Indigenous African spirituality today is increasingly falling out of favor. The amount of devotees to indigenous practices has dwindled as Islam and Christianity have both spread and gained influence throughout the continent.According to all the major surveys, Christianity and Islam each represent approximately 40 percent of the African population. Christianity is more dominant in the south, while Islam is more dominant in the north. Indigenous African practices tend to be strongest in the central states of Africa, but some form of their practices and beliefs can be found almost anywhere in Africa.Nevertheless, since 1900, Christians in Africa have grown from approximately 7 million to over 450 million today. Islam has experienced a similar rapid growth.Yet consider that in 1900 most Africans in sub-Saharan Africa practiced a form of indigenous African religions.The bottom line then is that Africans who still wholly practice African indigenous religions are only about 10 percent of the African population, a fraction of what it used to be only a century ago, when indigenous religions dominated most of the continent. I should add that without claiming to be full members of indigenous traditions, there are many professed Christians and Muslims who participate in one form of indigenous religious rituals and practices or another. That testifies to the enduring power of indigenous religion and its ability to domesticate Christianity and Islam in modern Africa.The success of Christianity and Islam on the African continent in the last 100 years has been extraordinary, but it has been, unfortunately, at the expense of African indigenous religions.A native of Nigeria, Jacob Olupona was a graduate student when he endured the blizzard of 1978. “I had it. I told my father that I was coming home,” he recalled. Instead, Olupona stayed and earned his Ph.D. Photo by Kehinde OjoGAZETTE: But yet you said it’s a mixed bag?OLUPONA: Yes, it’s a mixed bag because in the African diaspora — mostly due to the slave trade starting in the 15th century — indigenous African religions have spread and taken root all over the world, including in the United States and Europe. Some of these African diaspora religions include Cuban Regla de Ocha, Haitian Vodou, and Brazilian Candomble. There is even a community deep in the American Bible Belt in Beaufort County, S.C., called Oyotunji Village that practices a type of African indigenous religion, which is a mixture of Yoruba and Ewe-Fon spiritual practices.One of the things these diaspora African religions testify to is the beauty of African religions to engage a devotee on many spiritual levels. A follower of African diaspora religions has many choices in terms of seeking spiritual help or succor. For example, followers can seek spiritual direction and relief from healers, medicine men and women, charms [adornments often worn to incur good luck], amulets [adornments often used to ward off evil], and diviners [spiritual advisers].I should also state that there are signs of the revival of African indigenous practices in many parts of Africa. Modernity has not put a total stop to its influence. Ritual sacrifices and witchcraft beliefs are still common. Moreover, the religions developed in the Americas impact Africa in that devotees of the African diaspora have significant influence on practices in Africa. Some African diasporans are returning to the continent to reconnect with their ancestral traditions, and they are encouraging and organizing the local African communities to reclaim this heritage.GAZETTE: It sounds like African indigenous religions are dynamic, inclusive, and flexible.OLUPONA: Yes, and the pluralistic nature of African-tradition religion is one of the reasons for its success in the diaspora. African spirituality has always been able to adapt to change and allow itself to absorb the wisdom and views of other religions, much more than, for example, Christianity and Islam. While Islam and Christianity tend to be overtly resistant to adopting traditional African religious ideas or practices, indigenous African religions have always accommodated other beliefs. For example, an African amulet might have inside of it a written verse from either the Koran or Christian Bible. The idea is that the traditional African practitioner who constructed that amulet believes in the efficacy of other faiths and religions; there is no conflict in his mind between his traditional African spirituality and another faith. They are not mutually exclusive. He sees the “other faith” as complementing and even adding spiritual potency to his own spiritual practice of constructing effective amulets. Indigenous African religions are pragmatic. It’s about getting tangible results.GAZETTE: What allows African indigenous religions to be so accommodating?OLUPONA: One of the basic reasons is that indigenous African spiritual beliefs are not bound by a written text, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Indigenous African religion is primarily an oral tradition and has never been fully codified; thus, it allows itself to more easily be amended and influenced by other religious ideas, religious wisdom, and by modern development. Holding or maintaining to a uniform doctrine is not the essence of indigenous African religions.GAZETTE: What will Africa lose if it loses its African indigenous worldview?OLUPONA: We would lose a worldview that has collectively sustained, enriched, and given meaning to a continent and numerous other societies for centuries through its epistemology, metaphysics, history, and practices.For instance, if we were to lose indigenous African religions in Africa, then diviners would disappear, and if diviners disappeared, we would not only lose an important spiritual specialist for many Africans, but also an institution that for centuries has been the repository of African history, wisdom, and knowledge. Diviners — who go through a long educational and apprenticeship program — hold the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of the African people. The Yoruba diviners, for example, draw on this extensive indigenous knowledge every day by consulting Ifa, an extensive literary corpus of information covering science, medicine, cosmology, and metaphysics. Ifa is an indispensable treasure trove of knowledge that can’t be duplicated elsewhere; much of its knowledge has been handed down from babalawo [Ifa priest/diviner] to babalawo for centuries. (I myself have consulted with several diviners for my research on specific academic topics regarding African culture and history; consequently, if we were to lose Africa’s diviners, we would also lose one of Africa’s best keepers and sources of African history and culture. That would be a serious loss not only for Africans, but also for academics, researchers, writers, and general seekers of wisdom the world over.GAZETTE: What else would we lose if we lost traditional African Religions?OLUPONA: If we lose traditional African religions, we would also lose or continue to seriously undermine the African practice of rites of passage such as the much cherished age-grade initiations, which have for so long integrated and bought Africans together under a common understanding, or worldview. These initiation rituals are already not as common in Africa as they were only 50 years ago, yet age-grade initiations have always helped young Africans feel connected to their community and their past. They have also fostered a greater feeling of individual self-worth by acknowledging important milestones in one’s life, including becoming an adult or an elder.In lieu of these traditional African ways of defining oneself, Christianity and Islam are gradually creating a social identity in Africa that cuts across these indigenous African religious and social identities. They do this by having Africans increasingly identify themselves as either Muslim or Christian, thus denying their unique African worldview that has always viewed — as evidenced in their creation myths — everything as unified and connected to the land, the place were one’s clan, lineage, and people were cosmically birthed. Foreign religions simply don’t have that same connection to the African continent.GAZETTE: How do you balance your Christian and indigenous African identity?OLUPONA: I was raised in Africa during the 1960s, when the Yoruba community never asked you to chose between your personal faith and your collective African identity. But today that is not the case due to more exclusive-minded types of Christianity and Islam that see patronizing indigenous African beliefs and practices as violating the integrity of their Christian or Muslim principles, but I believe that one can maintain one’s religious integrity and also embrace an African worldview.GAZETTE: How can you do that?OLUPONA: My father, a faithful Anglican priest, was a good example. Everywhere he went in southwestern Nigeria, he never opposed or spoke out against African culture — including initiation rites, festivals, and traditional Yoruba dress — as long as it didn’t directly conflict with Christianity.For myself, I negotiate between my Yoruba and Christian identity by, for example, affirming those aspects of African culture that promote good life and communal human welfare. For instance, in a few years time, I pray that I will be participating in an age-grade festival — for men around 70 years of age — called Ero in my native Nigerian community in Ute, in Ondo state. I won’t pray to an orisa, but I will affirm the importance of my connection with members of my age group. In respect and honor of my culture, I also dress in my traditional Nigerian attire when I’m in my country. I also celebrate and honor the king’s festivals and ceremonies in my hometown and other places where I live and do research. Additionally, I will not discourage, disparage, or try and convert those who practice their form of African indigenous religions. Maybe this is why I am not an Anglican priest.In the end, I believe that Africans can make room for a plurality of religious points of view without one religious point of view excluding or compromising the other. An old African adage says: “The sky is large enough for birds to fly around without one having to bump into the other.”Anthony Chiorazzi, who has an M.Phil. in social anthropology from Oxford University, is studying for a master of theological studies (M.T.S.) degree at Harvard Divinity School. He has researched and written about such diverse religious cultures as the Hare Krishnas, Zoroastrians, Shakers, and the Old Order Amish.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.last_img read more

Presidential election winner can’t yet be declared as vote counting continues in key states

first_imgOf course we hoped that Joe Biden would win in such a landslide that the evening would end with the outcome clear, even as counting continued. That is not the case. But as stressful as this is, continued vote counting is not a sign that anything is wrong. The waiting sucks, though. Election night is ending without a clear winner in the presidential race—an outcome we’d hoped to avoid, but knew was a strong possibility. The massive increase in mail ballots combined with laws in some states that prevented those mail ballots being processed ahead of time means that some key states are—as predicted—still counting, and may be counting for days.Arizona’s vote counting has slowed to a crawl. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan all have large numbers of mail ballots to count, a process that could take days in some cases. Atlanta and its suburbs have significant numbers of votes to be counted, again, not until later Wednesday morning at the earliest. – Advertisement – (COMBO) This combination of pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. (Photos by JIM WATSON and Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON,BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)center_img – Advertisement –last_img read more

Women’s hockey: No. 2 Badgers roll St. Cloud State, focus on No. 6 Bemidji State

first_imgThe Wisconsin women’s hockey team bested St. Cloud State in both Friday and Saturday’s meetings last weekend, sweeping the series.The No. 2 Badgers (6-0-0, 4-0-0 WCHA) remain perfect in the season as they tallied two more wins on their record, elevating them to a total of six wins and zero losses.Sophomore Annie Pankowski has scored in every game this season. The Badgers are out-scoring opponents 35-2 on the year.But the most pleasant surprise this season has been UW’s stellar defense throughout their almost-perfect start, having only allowed two goals the entire year. At his weekly news conference Monday, head coach Mark Johnson said the returning pieces to his defensive scheme and the team’s overall attitude has led to the unit’s success.“Keeping the puck out of our net is certainly something we are going to be confident in,” Johnson said.Johnson is still skeptical of the idea that these near-flawless numbers would continue to be so strong as the season progressed, especially against UW’s next opponent in No. 6 Bemidji State (6-0-2, 3-0-1).“In the next month we will get to know more about our team,” Johnson said. “And it [playing Bemidji State] will certainly be the biggest test we have up to this point in our season.”Johnson said if the team is going to get better, they need to follow a system.“It’s a process of everyday — you have to come to practice, and you have to give it your best and practice hard,” Johnson said. “And then on the weekends, it’s like a test.”A true “test” awaits the Badgers this weekend, as they prepare for this Top 10 matchup. Puck-drop is at 7 p.m. Friday night and 3 p.m. Saturday at LaBahn Arena.last_img read more

Men’s Soccer: Badgers avoid another loss with 1-1 tie at Spartans

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team battled the No. 21 University of Michigan State Spartans to a 1-1 tie Sunday afternoon.Both the Badgers (6-2-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) and Spartans (8-2-1, 3-1-1 Big Ten) had been on three game winning streaks when they met in East Lansing this weekend. The two were also both playing to take solo ownership of second place in the Big Ten standings, with perennial powerhouse Maryland sitting in first place.With two teams playing consistently dominant defense behind two goal keepers playing at high levels, the game was expected to be a defensive battle, and it lived up to the hype.Without reigning NSCAA National Player of the Week sophomore defender Sam Brotherton, as he was the playing for the New Zealand national team, the Badgers had to look for other players to step up in his place. Senior Matej Radonic did just that in the 21st minute when he took an assist from Noah Leibold and scored his first goal of the season. The goal put Wisconsin up early in the game, but it was the last the Badgers could post in the game.Brotherton will return next week and should be a big addition to a UW team already gathering tremendous depth.The Badgers defense held until the 36th minute when Michigan State sophomore Dejuan Jones sent a shot past Wisconsin goalie Phillip Schilling off an assist from Michael Pimlott.In the second half of the game, both teams struggled to get any good runs or shots on goal which resulted in the defensive battle that everyone expected to see. Badger duo Chris Mueller and Tom Barlow had chances at various points at the end but couldn’t find the back of the net. In the final few minutes, Michigan State had a chance of their own when Jones had a chance to score his second goal of the game but missed the net.In the end, the stats matched what the final score stated about the game. Both teams matched or nearly matched each other in every category. Wisconsin had 8 shots with 3 on goal while the Spartans had 7 total with 3 on goal. On the defensive side, Badger keeper Schilling had two saves.The Badgers play again Tuesday at home in Madison against in state rival UW-Green Bay at 7 p.m.last_img read more

Three and fourball play to re-commence from 1 June

first_img England Golf is today pleased to confirm that threeball and fourball play can re-commence from Monday 1 JuneIt remains our recommendation for a minimum 10-minute interval between tee times.Clubs may choose to run competitions provided social distancing and safety regulations can be strictly observed at all times. Tags: Coronavirus Full statement from UK golf bodiesTHE latest UK government adjustment of lockdown conditions now permits golf clubs in England to re-introduce the fourball format from Monday 1 June.As part of a phased return to play, up to four golfers from four separate households may now play together in one single group from the above date.For coaching in England, the impact of these changes remains unclear. The PGA are working in collaboration with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf to seek confirmation. Further guidance will be communicated once clarity can be provided.Please note it is essential that golfers continue to strictly observe social distancing and safety regulations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.All other industry guidelines pertaining to the playing of the game remain unchanged from those issued ahead golf’s phase one return on 13 May.While COVID-19 remains a live threat in our communities, we would ask everyone involved in the game to act responsibly, show respect and protect the wellbeing of golfers, staff and volunteers. **The following organisations have come together to help golf in the UK during the COVID-19 crisis and, through the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, to work with Government to promote safe golf:American Golf; The Belfry; the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association; the British Golf Industry Association; England Golf; the Golf Club Managers’ Association; Golf Ireland; the Golfing Union of Ireland; the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union; IMG; The Professional Golfers’ Association; PING; The R&A; Scottish Golf; Syngenta; the UK Golf Federation; Wales Golf. 29 May 2020 Three and fourball play to re-commence from 1 June last_img read more

Details of flu pandemic strategy released

first_imgWASHINGTON (AP) – A flu pandemic that hits the United States would force cities to ration scarce drugs and vaccine and house the sick in hotels or schools when hospitals overflow, unprecedented federal plans say. The Bush administration’s long-awaited report Wednesday on battling a worldwide super-flu outbreak makes clear that old-fashioned infection-control will be key. Signs that a super-flu is spreading among people anywhere in the world could prompt U.S. travel restrictions or other steps to contain the illness before it hits America’s shores. If that fails, the Pandemic Influenza Plan offers specific instructions to local health officials: The sick or the people caring for them should wear masks. People coughing must stay three feet away from others in doctors’ waiting rooms. People should cancel nonessential doctor appointments and limit visits to the hospital. A day after President Bush outlined his $7.1 billion strategy to prepare for the next pandemic, the details released Wednesday stress major steps that state and local authorities must begin taking now: Update quarantine laws. Work with utilities to keep the phones working and grocers to keep supplying food amid the certain panic. Determine when to close schools and limit public gatherings such as movies or religious services. “This is a critical part of the plan,” because states will be at the forefront of a battle that could have “5,000 fronts,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who will work with governors in coming weeks to push local preparations. “Every community is different and requires a different approach.” Also Wednesday, the government for the first time told Americans not to hoard the anti-flu drug Tamiflu, because doing so will hurt federal efforts to stockpile enough to treat the sick who really need it. Tamiflu’s maker recently suspended shipments of the drug to U.S. pharmacies because of concern about hoarding. A key question is how much of the financial burden of preparing must be shouldered by cash-strapped states. Bush’s plan provides $100 million to update state pandemic plans, but also requires states to spend about $510 million of their own money to buy enough Tamiflu for 31 million people to supplement the federal stockpile. Some states might not be able to buy the drug, said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. “This is a national emergency. I believe very strongly it should not depend upon where you live as to what sort of protection you get,” Lowey told Leavitt on Wednesday. Lawmakers also grilled Leavitt – who appeared before House and Senate health appropriations panels _ on why it took the administration more than a year to issue its plan. “Could we have acted sooner to avoid the situation we are in now, in effect running for cover?” asked Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. Pandemics strike when the easy-to-mutate influenza virus shifts to a strain that people have never experienced before, something that happened three times in the last century. It’s impossible to predict when the next pandemic will strike, or its toll. But concern is rising that the Asian bird flu, called the H5N1 strain, might trigger one if it eventually starts spreading easily from person-to-person. The new HHS pandemic plan outlines the worst-case scenario: If the next super-flu resembles the 1918 pandemic, up to a third of the population could get sick and 1.9 million Americans die. The illness will spread fastest among school-aged children, infecting about 40 percent of them. At the outbreak’s peak, about 10 percent of the work force will be absent because they’re sick or caring for an ill loved one, wreaking economic chaos. Health costs alone could reach $181 billion. A cornerstone of Bush’s preparations is to modernize the vaccine industry, so that one day scientists could spot a novel influenza strain and quickly produce enough vaccine for everybody. That, however, will take years. So the administration is also beefing up attempts to detect and contain a brewing pandemic wherever it starts in the world – with restrictions on international travelers attempting to enter the country as one potential step. Here, HHS has the legal authority to order quarantines, if health officials think they would help stem infections. It’s unclear how much quarantines would help fight influenza, as people can spread the virus a day before they experience symptoms, but the federal plan orders communities to get their own quarantine procedures in order just in case. Also in the plan: Telling states how to prioritize who will get limited stockpiled doses of medication and vaccine. The government wants to stockpile enough vaccine against today’s version of the bird flu to treat 20 million people, with vaccine manufacturers, health workers and the medically frail first in line for shots. It also plans to stockpile enough of the anti-flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza for 81 million people, provided states come up with their share – enough for 31 million. Most of the drugs will be reserved for the sickest patients. Associated Press Writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want 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