Talk Turns Grisly inTerror-Victim Recovery

Talk turns grisly in discussion of recovering 'vaporized' Trade Center victims, the federal cyber-security boss wants high-speed Internet providers to do more for Net security, doctors are preparing for a bioterror attack at the Salt Lake City Olympics, and the tabloid publisher hit by anthrax may leave Florida.

Talk of 'Vaporized' People in WTC Collapse

N E W Y O R K, Dec. 4 — Three months after the World Trade Center attack, victims' families are being forced to face the ghastly possibility that many of the dead were "vaporized," as the medical examiner put it, and may never be identified.

So far, fewer than 500 victims have been positively identified out of the roughly 3,000 feared dead. Sixty were identified solely through DNA.

The city and state have allowed victims' families to obtain death certificates without proof of a body, but many families place great importance on an ID based on actual remains.

"Until you have something tangible, you just keep hoping — maybe there'll be some sort of miracle," said Jeanne Maurer, whose 31-year-old daughter, Jill Campbell, is presumed dead. "You can't accept it until you have something.

"I still say, `My daughter's missing,"' Maurer said.

Many victims will undoubtedly be identified. Nearly 10,000 body parts have been pulled from the mountains of mangled metal and matchstick-size splinters at ground zero.

But Dr. Charles Hirsch, the chief medical examiner, triggered an angry response two weeks ago when he told grieving relatives that many bodies — no one is sure how many — had been "vaporized" and were beyond identification.

Hirsch declined to be interviewed. But spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said he meant that bodies were consumed by blazing fuel from the two crashed airliners, or "rendered into dust" when the 1,100-foot skyscrapers collapsed, one concrete slab floor onto another.

Dr. Michael Baden, the state's chief forensic pathologist and a top expert in the field, said in September that most bodies should be identifiable because the fires — while hot enough to melt steel — did not reach the 3,200-degree, 30-minute level necessary to incinerate a body.

Borakove said her office agrees with Baden's calculation — as applied to a full body. "But when the planes hit the buildings, the bodies that were in the planes as well as some of the bodies that were in the buildings were fragmented upon impact, and those fragments burn more quickly," she said.

The combination of fire and compression from tons of rubble could reduce a human body to a small amount of tissue and bone, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, a top forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh. And finding such small samples of DNA in 1.2 million tons of rubble spread over 16 acres is a difficult proposition.

"There are pieces," he said. "But how do you identify and extract it from other similarly appearing pieces at the site — bricks, mortar, rubble?"

—The Associated Press

Free Software to Fight Terror?

W A S H I N G T O N, Dec. 4 — The president's computer security adviser asked technology executives today for a shopping list of changes, including bundled security software for high-speed Internet users and a new way to get software updates on personal computers.

Richard Clarke told software companies that their responsibility doesn't end when they fix a hole in their products that could let hackers in.

"The problem is that people do not apply those patches," Clarke said, citing the virus-like Code Red and Nimda outbreaks earlier this year. Both took advantage of holes that had been publicized weeks or months in advance.

Clarke estimated 90 percent of virus attacks could be stopped if software firms did more than just placing the patch programs on their Web sites.

"It is not beyond the wit of this industry to force patches down" to users, Clarke said.

Home users can be a target of hackers as well as large companies and governments. Hackers sometimes target people who have high-speed Internet access, taking control of their computers and using them for further attacks.

Clarke, speaking at the Business Software Alliance's first Global Tech Summit, said high-speed Internet providers must protect their customers.

"People who sell cable modems and [digital subscriber line] modems should sell it packaged with firewalls," Clarke said. Home firewalls, as well as antivirus software, provide an extra layer of security against hacker attacks.

The Business Software Alliance includes top software companies such as Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec.

Software companies should ship their products with security levels set to their highest settings, Clarke said. Software firms try to strike a balance between security and usability, and say their customers want more features rather than stronger security.

"It will not be an afterthought anymore," Clarke said.

— The Associated Press

Salt Lake Prepares for Bioterror at Olympics

S A L T L A K E C I T Y, Dec. 4 —To prepare for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Dr. Scott Hansen brushed up the usual stuff, such as emergency communications and medical triage.

But since the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent anthrax exposures, another kind of training has become urgent for Hansen and other volunteer physicians for the games: quickly diagnosing biological and chemical exposures.

Terrorism "probably was not in our scope before 9-11," said Hansen, one of 350 doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other medical professionals who will staff 35 clinics at and near Olympic venues.

A Salt Lake medical team huddled with hospital officials in New York City and Washington to learn how they responded to the terror attacks, and how they were frustrated by disparate emergency communications. Utah has a unified communications network, so that shouldn't be a problem here.

Intermountain Health Care, a nonprofit organization that runs five hospitals in the Salt Lake City area, will add to its fleet of three rescue helicopters, leasing two more for the games.

IHC is the official medical provider for the games, in charge of taking care of 3,600 athletes and team officials, 75,000 spectators a day, 4,000 Olympic VIPs, 30,000 Olympic workers and volunteers and 9,000 members of the world's media.

In a Salt Lake warehouse, Olympic sponsor Cardinal Health Inc. is stockpiling $3.2 million worth of medical supplies and equipment, ranging from respirators to surgical gloves and medicines and antibiotics. Supplies include the same antidote for nerve agent used at Deseret Chemical Depot, where the U.S. Army is destroying the nation's largest supply of chemical warfare agents 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake medical team should be in a position to respond quickly to any mass casualty, said Ginny Borncamp, medical services director for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. It is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"We know that if something happens, if something goes wrong, we'll be taken care of," U.S. speedskater Derek Parra said Monday.

— The Associated Press

Tabloid Publisher May Quit Florida After Anthrax Attack

D E L R A Y B E A C H, Fla., Dec. 4 — American Media Inc.'s chief said Monday he may move the tabloid empire out of Florida because of lack of support from county and business leaders following his building's anthrax contamination.

It was the first time since anthrax showed up at AMI's Boca Raton headquarters two months ago that Chief Executive Officer David Pecker suggested his company may take its $40 million in annual revenues elsewhere.

The company publishes six supermarket tabloids including The National Enquirer, Globe and Weekly World News.

"If we're not being treated like a good corporate citizen, I think we should seriously consider moving," said Pecker, as he held a newspaper article in which local business leaders criticized the Palm Beach County Commission's decision last month to give AMI $390,000 as incentive to stay.

Employees, he added, will make the final decision.

Pecker also criticized what he said was the county's failure to rally behind AMI and show compassion after a photo editor died from breathing anthrax spores in a tainted letter.

"We were the company that was attacked. We're the company that had a fatality," Pecker said.

Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams said most officials want AMI to stay.

"We're reaching out to AMI so that they would reopen at their existing site or relocate somewhere else in Boca," Abrams said.

Since the anthrax attack, the circulation of AMI tabloids has been down 10 percent. The company has spent $10 million to hire cleanup experts, buy new equipment and rent facilities, and its 300 employees are working out of cramped temporary offices in Delray Beach and Miami, Pecker said.

He said the company already had looked for space in Palm Beach and Broward counties, and may even expand the search to other states.

— The Associated Press