-- No More Airline Security Questions
W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 29 — Airline passengers, starting immediately, willno longer be asked the routine security questions about whetherthey have kept a close eye on their baggage.
Ticket agents have been required for the past 16 years to askpassengers two questions: "Has anyone unknown to you asked you tocarry an item on this flight?" and "Have any of the items you aretraveling with been out of your immediate control since the timeyou packed them?"
The questions are being phased out because they create a hassleand have never prevented a bombing or hijacking, said James Loy,head of the Transportation Security Administration.
"Over the years, they have lost whatever original value theycontributed and can now be safely eliminated," Loy said Wednesday.
The questions take about 20 seconds to ask and that adds up to alonger wait for someone standing in line behind 20 people, Loysaid.
The TSA, which was created after Sept. 11 to oversee aviationsecurity, has already begun to notify the airlines of the decision,Loy said. "They are delighted," he said.
David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, saidpassengers would be delighted, too.
"It's about time," Stempler said.
Loy, who took over last month, said last week the agency wasconsidering eliminating the questions as part of a larger review ofsafety regulations. He announced then that passengers will beallowed to carry drinks in paper or foam cups through metaldetectors.
Next on the agenda may be random screening of passengers atairport gates, he said.
"I think passengers would really like that," Stempler said."We never understood that. You either do it right the first timeor fix what you're doing at the security lane."
— The Associated Press
U.S. Backs Off Restricting Foreign Aircraft On Sept. 11
W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 29 — The Bush administration backed off a proposaltoday to restrict foreign air carriers from flying over thethree Sept. 11 crash sites during the anniversary of the attacks,administration officials said.
The Pentagon had proposed restricting foreign-owned commercialand cargo aircraft from flying into and from New York andWashington and over Somerset County, Pa., on the anniversary.
But amid protests from the carriers, top government officialsdecided to drop the idea, concluding that it was probably illegal,the official said. Foreign carriers will not be treated anydifferently than domestic carriers on that day, the official said,speaking on condition of anonymity.
A Transportation Department official, also speaking on conditionof anonymity, agreed with that assessment.
Intelligence officials pressured transportation regulators toconsider restrictions on foreign flights, and the regulators movedtoo quickly in discussing the plan with carriers, a governmentofficial said. But various international treaties bar singling outforeign carriers, the official said.
However, the government is still considering restrictions onprivate planes, known as general aviation, and charter flights.They would be legal, the official said.
Small private plane owners are especially concerned about aproposal to ban their aircraft from New York from Sept. 11-13, saidWarren Morningstar, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and PilotsAssociation.
The three-day flight ban over New York would prohibit newshelicopters, corporate jets and small planes carrying packages andhospital patients from flying from 17 airports, he said.
"We would hope that they would not forget the impact that thisproposal would put on general aviation and they would give us equalconsideration," Morningstar said.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which formally implementsfinal decisions on flight restrictions through a so-called "noticeto airmen," has yet to issue such a notice, FAA spokesman ScottBrenner said. A meeting will be held with government agenciesFriday to further hash out the issues but no timetable has beenset, he said.
The International Air Transport Association, which representsU.S. and foreign-owned airlines, had questioned why American-ownedairlines are not included.
"If there are no restrictions on the U.S. and foreign airlines,then we're obviously pleased that the FAA understood the importanceand significance of treating U.S. and foreign airlines equally,"spokeswoman Wanda Warner said.
David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, saidrestrictions on foreign-owned airlines for two days would have aripple effect throughout the week. "The proposed plan would wreakhavoc on the plans and schedules of airlines and passengers," hesaid.
Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the White House Office ofHomeland Security, said the government had no specific informationsuggesting events commemorating Sept. 11 at those sites are terrortargets. No firm decisions have been made on flight restrictions,he said.
The three attack sites will see temporary flight restrictionsbecause President Bush plans to visit each of them, and suchrestrictions follow him wherever he goes, the official said.
— Associated Press
Bone Fragments Found on Roof Near WTC Site
N E W Y O R K, Aug. 29 — Construction workers on the roof of a badlydamaged building near the World Trade Center site found three bonefragments, police said.
The fragments could not be immediately identified as humanremains, and they were taken to the city medical examiner's officeto be tested, according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Williams.
The workers were atop 130 Liberty Street, owned by the DeutscheBank, when they found the fragments at about 6:50 p.m. Wednesday,police said.
The Deutsche Bank building was heavily damaged in the Sept. 11attacks, when falling debris tore a gash in its facade.
Contaminated by mold and asbestos, the building was among thelast in the area to be searched by firefighters for human remains.
— The Associated Press
NYC Firefighters Still Have 'WTC Cough'
N E W Y O R K, Sept. 9 — Nearly a year after rushing to the World Trade Center, nearly 600 firefighters and paramedics remain on leave or limited duty because of respiratory problems or stress, department officials reported Monday.
Out of the 300-plus firefighters who developed a severe and persistent condition dubbed "World Trade Center cough," about half are still on medical leave or light duty, or are awaiting evaluations for disability retirement.
In all, some 500 firefighters might eventually retire on disability because of respiratory problems, said Dr. David Prezant, the department's deputy chief medical officer. That is about 4 percent of the city's 11,500 firefighters.
He spoke in a telephone briefing arranged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is publishing a report by him and colleagues in a special Sept. 11 issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In the publication, Prezant and colleagues said that as of Aug. 28, 358 firefighters and five department paramedics were on medical leave or light duty because of respiratory illness that appeared after the trade center tragedy. A total of 250 were on leave with stress-related problems. Those numbers include 37 workers with both respiratory and stress problems.
The "World Trade Center cough," which includes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, was defined for the study as requiring at least four straight weeks of medical leave. Within six months of the attack, it appeared in 332 firefighters and one paramedic; with treatment, about half have recovered and returned to full duty, Prezant said.
He said he expected a higher recovery rate based on previous experience with smoke inhalation, where the level is closer to 90 percent, he said.
Asked why the cough recovery rate is lower, he said it is not known what firefighters were exposed to last Sept. 11, but that tiny particles in the huge dust cloud could themselves be highly dangerous if inhaled. The sheer volume of particles and lengthy exposure over days probably sets the trade center experience apart from ordinary firefighter exposures, he said.
He said symptoms have improved to varying degrees even in the firefighters who have only partially recovered.
"Life is becoming a little more livable," he said. "But they're a long way off from (being) the physically active, athletic firefighter."
— The Associated Press