Anthrax-Free Hart Senate Building to Reopen

The Hart Senate Building is anthrax-free and will reopen Friday. Tighter baggage security may cause airport delays. Firefighters are protesting a "politically correct" memorial. Punxsutawney Phil gets a security overhaul. Sept. 11 families find sympathy online.

Senate Building Safe From Anthrax

W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 16 — The Hart Senate Office Building has been declared free of anthrax and will reopen Friday for the first time since October, when an anthrax-tainted letter was opened in Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office, The Associated Press learned today. An e-mail memo being circulated in the Senate says the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency have certified that the building is safe after weeks of decontamination procedures. "We expect the Hart building to reopen at noon on Friday, Jan. 18, 2002," said the e-mail memo, which was addressed to all senators and Senate staff. The memo was confirmed by two Senate staff sources and by an electronic message from the Senate sergeant-at-arms. "The cleanup achieved the goal of eliminating viable anthrax spores detected in the Hart building, and that it is now safe and clean to release to the Architect of the Capitol for rehabilitation and subsequent re-occupancy," the message says. A Daschle spokeswoman referred questions to Capitol Police spokesman Dan Nichols, who did not immediately return telephone calls. A letter opened in Daschle's office on Oct. 15 exposed more than two dozen people to anthrax spores and led to the closure of the Hart Senate Office Building. Cleanup and testing efforts included floor vacuuming, wiping of desks, tables, walls and other surfaces, sample swabs taken from monitor screens and air conditioning grills, air sampling and the use of chlorine dioxide liquid, chlorine dioxide gas and anti-bacterial foam. "Senator Daschle's suite where the anthrax spill occurred was fumigated successfully with chlorine dioxide gas," a second memo from the Senate sergeant-at-arms office says. The chlorine gas has been removed and rendered nontoxic, the second memo said. Senators will be briefed Thursday on the reopening, the memo said.

—The Associated Press

More Delays From Baggage Screening Law?

D E N V E R, Jan. 16 — Across the country, more airline passengers could find themselves standing in line or sitting on planes delayed at the gate when a federal law requiring the screening of all checked baggage for bombs takes effect Friday.

The law requires airlines to use any of four methods: hand searches, bomb detection machines, bomb-sniffing dogs or the matching of every piece of luggage to a passenger on board a plane.

Currently, less than 10 percent of the 1.4 billion bags flown in domestic airliners' holds annually are screened for explosives by such methods.

For security reasons, airline officials declined to comment on how they plan to comply on Friday. But airport officials around the country said most airlines apparently will use bag-matching.

The technique is designed to prevent someone from checking a bag with a bomb and never boarding the aircraft. The approach already is used on international flights.

The precaution means that if a passenger fails to board a plane, or gets off just before takeoff, airline workers will have to climb into the hold to remove his or her luggage. That could create delays in pulling away from the gate.

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