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Nevada letter tests positive for anthrax
October 14 2001

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn announced Saturday that a suspicious letter mailed to a Microsoft subsidiary in Reno, Nevada, tested positive for anthrax.

He said six people have been identified who may have had contact with the envelope.

Guin said health officials believed there was a low risk of exposure to the bacteria, even though it had tested positive.

A Sony spokeswoman dismissed Saturday the likelihood that a Sony Pictures employee who was taken to a hospital after he opened a package containing a powder was exposed to anthrax.

The employee was admitted to Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, for blood tests but was sent home shortly thereafter, the Sony spokeswoman said. (Full story)

The man's name was not released.

The Culver City Fire Department showed up at Sony's Culver City studios to test the substance but could find no powder, the spokeswoman said. Authorities anticipate the blood test will prove negative, she added.

Culver City Police Lt. Dave Tankenson said the man opened an envelope at the studios Friday evening. "When he opened it, he took an item out and got a white powdery substance on his hands," Tankenson said.

Concerned, the man went to the studio's medical clinic. Officials there contacted the police and fire departments, Tankenson said. Authorities could not explain what happened to the powder.

Meanwhile, a business-size envelope containing a suspicious white powder and addressed to NBC "Nightly News" anchorman Tom Brokaw was opened by a woman staff member who later tested positive for cutaneous (skin) anthrax infection, authorities said Friday.

The FBI immediately launched a criminal investigation. NBC said the woman is in good condition and is expected to recover. The suspicious substance has been tested three times and found negative for anthrax. Officials are looking for a different source of the infection.

Health officials tested more NBC employees for anthrax Saturday. (Full story)

A suspicious substance was also found Friday in a letter to a New York Times reporter, but a spokeswoman for the company said preliminary tests of the substance were negative for anthrax.

Anthrax is not contagious among humans, and skin anthrax is more treatable and not as serious as the inhaled form of the disease, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Latest developments

Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview on PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," noted that the terrorist manuals associated with Osama bin Laden instruct his followers on "how to deploy these kinds of substances." "When you start to piece it all together, and again we haven't finished the investigation and maybe it is coincidence, but I must say I'm a skeptic," Cheney said. "I think the only responsible thing for us to do is to proceed on the basis they could be linked." (Full story)

A source close to the NBC investigation said the letter threatened attacks against several American cities. The nature of the attacks threatened could not be learned.

The FBI said the envelope sent to The New York Times (Full story) was postmarked from St. Petersburg, Florida, and had similar handwriting. Earlier, the bureau said there was no evidence linking the case to another case in Florida in which three people were exposed and one died. In that case, the FBI's interviews with employees of American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, continue through the weekend.

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 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 dispatched to the State Department's Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday to investigate a suspicious substance, a State Department official told CNN. The official said that State Department security officers, the FBI counterterrorism team and the Arlington Fire Department were called after a white powdery substance was found.

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.

© 2001
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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