Two envelopes Friday test positive for Anthrax
Cheney: Terrorism 'reasonable' assumption
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two new cases of anthrax exposure involving suspicious envelopes sent through the mail were reported at a Microsoft subsidiary office in Reno, Nevada, and at NBC headquarters in New York.
The latest letter showed up Friday afternoon at a Microsoft office in Reno, and officials said it "tested presumptively positive for anthrax." Further test results were expected at 9:30 p.m. EDT.
In New York, what was described as a "threatening" letter containing a white powdery substance was addressed to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and was handled by a woman who later tested positive for a skin-based anthrax infection.
The Nevada Division of Emergency Management said Microsoft Licensing Inc., which handles licensing of Microsoft software, received a letter that had originally been sent from the company in Reno to Malaysia -- a country where there are known cells of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network -- and then was returned to the Reno office.
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn told CNN the letter included a check. When it was returned, it contained the check and pornographic materials, Guinn said. He said there was no powder in the letter when it was returned, but that it looked like it had been damp and then dried out.
In New York, another envelope containing a powdery substance, sent to The New York Times, is still being tested. It and the NBC letter were postmarked from St. Petersburg, Florida, and had similar handwriting, the FBI said Friday.
U.S. House gets closed-door briefing
"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a separate criminal investigation ... in the New York City case," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "The bureau is working closely with the CDC, the New York City Health Department and with postal inspectors. The source of the anthrax is being investigated but has not has not been located."
There is "no proof whatsoever" that this latest case is connected to terrorist activity, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said. But Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday it is reasonable to assume the recent anthrax cases in the United States are linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, because Osama bin Laden's terrorist training manuals teach "how to deploy these kinds of substances."
"If I received a letter that I didn't know where it came from, didn't recognize the sender, ... then I'd be suspicious of it. I'd have it checked," Cheney said in an interview on PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives received a closed-door briefing Friday to address concerns about bioterrorism. The briefing was requested after members heard reports about the additional anthrax cases in New York, according to congressional aides.
New York cases
Investigators said they had no evidence that the NBC case had any connection to anthrax found at the Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters of tabloid publisher American Media Inc. One employee of AMI died last Friday of inhalation anthrax, and two others have tested positive for exposure but are exhibiting no symptoms.
The infected woman was not identified beyond her affiliation with "NBC Nightly News." She handled an envelope September 25 containing a white powder, and she reported it to authorities, NBC Chairman Bob Wright said. The small amount of powder tested negative for anthrax. Her positive results became known Friday morning, but she has been taking antibiotics since October 1.
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the woman had a low-grade fever and a bad rash. NBC officials said she was in no danger and "should recover fully and completely. The Department of Health is coordinating her ongoing care."
Brokaw noted the incident in closing his Friday newscast.
"This is so unfair, so outrageous and so maddening it's beyond my ability to express it in socially acceptable terms," he said. "So just reserve our thoughts and our prayers for our friend and our family."
Brokaw and most of the 200 newsroom employees are being tested for anthrax exposure and be put on a regimen of antibiotics as a precaution, a network spokeswoman said.
Giuliani said all employees who may have been exposed will be tested, and some will likely be given antibiotics. Investigators will conduct environmental tests on several areas of the NBC building, he added.
"We don't have any additional numbers of people reporting symptoms," Giuliani said. "The chances that this is contained are very good."
A government source told CNN the source of the bacteria was "undetermined" and that state and local public health officials have been in contact with federal health and law enforcement authorities. Cutaneous anthrax is not as serious as inhalation anthrax, which brings bacteria spores directly into the lungs.
Times reporter gets envelope
The New York Times also received a suspicious envelope containing a substance the newspaper said "smelled like talcum power."
Police temporarily closed 43rd Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway -- in the heart of the usually congested theater district where the Times building is located -- to vehicle and pedestrian traffic and shut down the elevators in the Times building while investigators in protective suits were present.
The suspicious envelope was received by Times reporter Judith Miller. Police were called and employees were moved from the newsroom on the third floor of the building to other floors while the air in the newsroom was tested for radioactive and chemical substances, a spokeswoman for the newspaper said. The tests were negative.
The substance also was being tested, but no results were expected for 12 hours. Newsroom operations continued as normal, but several media outlets -- CBS News and ABC in New York, and Atlanta-based CNN -- closed their mailrooms as a precaution. CBS also said all buildings of Viacom, which owns CBS, closed their mailrooms.
Other suspicious reports spark concern
Other incidents prompted fears of other anthrax cases around the country Friday:
--- In Washington, the State Department told employees there appeared to be no cause for concern after a white powder was found in an office that deals with congressional correspondence. A State Department official told CNN the area had been secured and no evacuations were considered necessary.
--- FBI and hazardous materials squads were also dispatched to the State Department's Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday to investigate another suspicious substance, a State Department official told CNN. This official said that State Department security, the FBI counter-terrorism team and the Arlington Fire Department were called after a white powdery substance was found.
--- In Colorado, a suburban Denver hospital reopened Friday afternoon when officials determined four postal workers who were exposed to a powder posed no threat to others.
--- In an apparently unrelated case, a senior state department official told CNN that Defense Department teams found evidence of anthrax on a routine search of Soviet-era scientific research facilities in Kazakhstan. The search was part of an ongoing program to help reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction in regions of the former Soviet Union.
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