- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Newsroom and mailroom workers locally and across the nation are taking extra care in handling letters and packages amid reports of anthrax-laced mail and cases of exposure.
Suspicious packages were reported yesterday at USA Today's headquarters in Arlington, The Washington Post and ABC News' Washington bureau.
Meanwhile, anthrax reports kept local authorities bustling and workers on edge yesterday:
U.S. Capitol Police shut down a wing of the Hart Senate Office Building after a letter in Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office tested positive for anthrax. None of the senator's staff members has been found to have the disease. Several have been tested with nasal swabs and given antibiotics.
Secret Service agents turned over to the FBI a suspicious envelope found at the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Northwest. Someone at the embassy opened the envelope and found dust, an embassy employee said.
FBI agents and Arlington County fire officials responded to USA Today, in the 1000 block of Wilson Boulevard, after a suspicious letter with powder inside was found in the newsroom of the paper's Life section, said Tara Connell, a spokeswoman for the Gannett Corp., which owns the newspaper.
A female employee, whose name was not divulged, "opened it and saw a powdery substance inside the letter," Miss Connell said. "A letter is a letter, and it made it up the stairs to where she opened it."
The Washington Post, in the 1100 block of 15th Street NW, released a statement yesterday saying: "Late this morning security called law enforcement to look at a powdery substance that was found on a desk after some mail was opened."
"A female employee who came into contact was sent to a hospital and released," said a spokesman for The Post.
The powder is believed to have originated in mail that is routine business correspondence and not suspicious looking, the spokesman said. "Security is always a priority in our mailroom and newsroom. Lately it has been business as usual, but we are being more vigilant."
Nearby, D.C. firefighters and FBI agents swarmed outside ABC News in the 1700 block of DeSales Street NW, putting employees on edge about an anthrax scare. It became clear that ABC's management had contacted authorities to request proper disposal of a pile of mail collected during the past week that arrived without return addresses on it, said ABC spokeswoman Su-lin Nichols.
Other local news outlets also are increasing mail and newsroom security. At WTOP Radio, in the 3400 block of Idaho Avenue NW, senior management "commandeered a conference room and turned it into a mailroom to give necessary precautions in opening mail," said Jim Farley, vice president of news and programming.
Mailroom workers at The Washington Times are "on heightened alert," said facilities director Richard Oben. "We can't stop a letter from coming to us, so the most important precaution is education. We've taken steps to educate employees about using latex gloves and how to determine what is suspicious mail."
Anthrax scares continued nationwide yesterday:
In New York, authorities were trying to learn the source of an anthrax infection contracted by the 7-year-old son of an ABC News producer. The youngster's is the second anthrax case involving the media in New York. Earlier, an aide to NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw was tested positive for the bacteria.
Also in New York, health officials tested Newsweek's photo department and mailroom for anthrax, and some of the magazine's Manhattan offices were sealed after a photo staffer reported flulike symptoms.
Throughout the Southeast, 150 abortion clinics reported receiving letters with anthrax threats. All so far have proven to be hoaxes, said Beth Raboin, spokeswoman for the Feminist Majority, one of three abortion rights groups that monitor security at clinics.
In Birmingham, Ala., a chemical decontamination unit swarmed into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center to investigate a suspicious envelope on the ninth floor. A woman had noticed the letter stuck in the crack of a door with a white powder on the envelope. The FBI took the letter to test for contaminants.
In Texas, 81 passengers and crew members on a US Airways flight from Pittsburgh were held at the gate at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for two hours as airport police and hazardous materials crews investigated a passenger's complaint of a powdery substance in the plane. Investigators determined the substance on board the Airbus was potato chips.
Matthew Cella and Jerry Seper contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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