WASHINGTON

Flu pandemic discussed in report

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 yesterday 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.

 

Centrists may split on court nomination

The 14 centrists who averted a Senate breakdown over judicial nominees last spring are showing signs of splintering on President Bush’s latest nominee for the Supreme Court.

That is weakening the hand of Democrats opposed to conservative judge Samuel Alito and enhancing his prospects for confirmation.

The unity of the seven Democrats and the seven Republicans in the “Gang of 14” was all that halted a major filibuster fight between GOP leader Bill Frist and Democratic leader Harry Reid earlier this year over Bush’s nominees.

The early defection of two of the group’s Republicans, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, will give the GOP the upper hand if Democrats decide to attempt a filibuster of Alito, the New Jersey jurist nominated Monday to replace Sandra Day O’Connor.

If Democrats do filibuster, Frist wants to change the Senate rules to eliminate the delaying tactic – something the centrist group blocked in May.

 

TEHRAN, Iran

Iran’s government will fire 40 ambassadors

Iran’s government announced yesterday that 40 ambassadors and senior diplomats, including supporters of warmer ties with the West, will be fired, continuing a purge of reformers as the regime takes an increasingly tough stance at home and abroad.

The diplomatic changes are part of a government shake-up by ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that includes putting Islamic hard-liners in key posts at security agencies. Some Iranians worry the president will bring back strict social policies.

Ahmadinejad has steered the Persian state into a more confrontational stance in its dealings with other nations, particularly in facing suspicions about whether Iran’s nuclear program is illicitly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge the regime denies.

The president also raised a storm of international criticism last week by calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

 

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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