Fourteen Arrested in Anthrax Hoaxes

The Sept. 11 terror attacks had a profound impact on the United States, and the effects are still rippling across American society in large and small ways. Here is a periodic wrap-up of some of them.

Postal Inspectors Make Fourteen Arrests in Anthrax-Related Hoaxes

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 27 —

Postal inspectors have arrested 14 people in anthrax-related hoaxes and say they are actively pursuing other cases.

Inspectors are dealing with "an unbelievable amount of hoaxes and threats and suspicious letters" in the wake of the mailed cases in Florida, New York, Washington and New Jersey.

"The anthrax threats are not really something new for us," Postal Inspector Dan Mihalko said Saturday, citing a rash of 178 cases in 1999 and 2000 targeting abortion clinics.

There had been about 60 cases of anthrax, hoof and mouth and similar threats this year before Sept. 11, Mihalko said. In the last two weeks, he said, inspectors have investigated 6,305 incidents.

In many cases inspectors or local police are called because someone is suspicious of a letter, he said. It usually turns out to be nothing, but people are being encouraged to contact authorities if they find something suspicious. Post cards have been sent to every home describing what people should be wary of.

Turning to the hoaxes, Mihalko said there have been 14 arrests so far with prosecution authorized in nine other cases and two more pending.

"The message that we're trying to get out is this, if you're going to screw around with us, particularly at this time, we're going to do everything we can to get you prosecuted," he said.

Mihalko said the arrests have been scattered around the country and involved people in various age groups.

"It's not just juvenile type stuff," he added, "it's run a range of ages and backgrounds. Some people are using this as an opportunity to try to scare somebody or try to resolve past differences."

—The Associated Press

Funeral Held for Second Postal Worker Killed by Anthrax

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 27 —

Family, friends and colleagues gathered today to mourn the loss of Joseph P. Curseen, Jr., one of two postal workers who died earlier this week of inhalation anthrax.

The other, Thomas Morris Jr., was buried yesterday. Both worked at the now closed Brentwood mail facility in Washington. Two other workers from there are in hospitals with the disease, as is a State Department employee.

"All of us are struggling to make sense of this confusing and difficult time," Washington Mayor Anthony Williams said.

Fellow postal worker Joann Ratliff Allen said Curseen worked as a postman for 15 years and never missed a day. "He loved his job, and he loved the lord," Allen said.

The archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, presided over the funeral Mass.

"His death was a terrible waste of life and goodness," said McCarrick. "We can't let evil take charge. We have to keep going," he added.

—The Associated Press

Trade Center Fire Could Burn Another Month

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 26 —

Forty-five days after the World Trade Center was destroyed, the fires still burn.

The blazes that started after two jetliners struck the twin towers continue to smolder under the heap of debris, with thousand-degree heat in some spots.

"Until it runs out of fuel or until you can get to it to put water on it, it will continue to burn," said Arthur Cote, senior vice president and chief engineer with the National Fire Protection Association.

Almost everything inside the towers, from documents to office furniture, can serve as fuel for the fires, Cote said. And as debris is moved and air pockets shift, fresh oxygen can cause hot spots to flare up.

The fire department has equipment at the site to deal with flare-ups, said spokesman Dave Billig.

"They're ready to go if the need arises," he said.

If it was just a question of clearing debris, those toiling on the site could probably move the material faster and put out the fires sooner, Cote said. But since workers are trying to recover whatever they can, he said the digging is more deliberate, allowing the fire to linger.

Garry Briese, executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said he expected the pile to smolder for at least another month.

The debris removal operation is expected to be scaled back as winter arrives. Workers will likely still be at the site every day, but work will be suspended during the cold overnight hours, said Kenneth Holden, commissioner of the city's Department of Design and Construction.

However, officials of two of the major construction firms working on the cleanup shrugged off the coming winter. —The Associated Press

Report: Toxin Levels at Attack Site Often High

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 26 —

Toxic chemicals and metals are being released from fires and rubble in the ruins of the World Trade Center at levels sometimes exceeding U.S. government safety standards, the New York Daily News reported today.

The newspaper, quoting from Environmental Protection Agency documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, said benzene, chlorinated dioxins, chromium, copper, lead, polychlorinated dioxins and sulfur oxide had been found in the air and soil in lower Manhattan.

It said that while much attention has been focused on possible asbestos contamination from the complex destroyed when two hijacked passenger planes slammed into the twin 110-story towers Sept. 11, toxic chemical levels were more extensive at certain times than first believed.

"Yes, they are high," EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears told the Daily News. "But you get a little distance from the plume and they go dramatically down."

The New York Times reported separately today that most health experts were not alarmed about the effects on residents and office workers in lower Manhattan because the spikes in toxic levels do not last long and occur in the middle of the night.

But in the financial district today, office workers said they were concerned about the "toxic zone" and breathing in the gritty, acrid, smelly air daily that still hangs over them more than six weeks after the attacks.

"We work in a toxic zone. So when you ask what do people think down here, they certainly don't think of gold," said a precious metals broker at the COMEX metals division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, a stone's throw from the wreckage.

"That's all anyone is talking about," said the broker, who asked not to be identified. —Reuters

Postal Union Boss Wants Facilities Closed, Threatens Suit

M I A M I, Oct. 26 —

A Miami postal union official is calling for the closure of postal facilities in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Washington until they can be tested for anthrax contamination and retrofitted with new safety equipment.

Judy Johnson is president of the American Postal Workers' Union Miami local. She says central mail-sorting facilities and postal buildings that service government offices, large businesses, media organizations, wealthy neighborhoods and Jewish communities should be shut down until tested.

The local union says it will file a federal lawsuit Monday, asking a judge to force local postal service officials to discuss the union's concerns and implement new safety procedures. Johnson says one technician from a Miami mail-sorting facility has tested positive on an initial test for anthrax exposure, performed by his personal doctor. —The Associated Press