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APEC Summit Changed by Events of September 11; In Washington, Contaminated Letter Shuts Down Capitol Hill

Aired October 18, 2001 - 05:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: With Afghanistan's air defenses effectively leveled, the mission begins to target Taliban troops. We'll have the latest on this morning's military actions.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Anthrax fear grips the nation, but is it justified? The statisticians will offer us a reality check.

PHILLIPS: And a different kind of a list of drug trade develops on the U.S.-Mexican border. Nervous Americans head south looking for antibiotics.

Good morning. It's Thursday, October 18, 2001. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips.

HARRIS: And I am Leon Harris and we thank you for joining us this morning.

We are going to begin, as we always have been, with the latest developments in America's fight against terrorism.

PHILLIPS: In just about an hour from now, President Bush is expected to arrive in Shanghai, China for the annual Asia Pacific Economic Forum. The president says he will use this trip to bolster the coalition against terrorism.

HARRIS: U.S.-led air strikes are focusing on Taliban troops across Afghanistan. The Pentagon says the bombings have effectively taken out the Taliban air defenses. Mission pilots are now being directed to hit targets like Taliban military convoys.

PHILLIPS: On the anthrax front, authorities swept Capitol Hill for traces of bacteria. Most of the chambers and adjoining office complexes are closed today. The Senate will be conducting some business in the Capitol building today, but the House has recessed until Tuesday.

Normally, it would just be a conference on trade, but the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit has been changed by the events of September 11. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell will be appealing to the 21 nation group to stand firmly with the global anti-terror coalition.

HARRIS: Well, there's already some developing news coming from that APEC summit and it's a development that the U.S. may have some mixed feelings about.

For that story let's go now to our correspondent in Shanghai, China, Jaime Florcruz -- good morning, Jaime.


Well, Leon, President Bush will arrive in a few hours and on top of his agenda when he joins the APEC meeting will be the coalition building for the anti-terrorism campaign. Secretary Colin Powell, who arrived yesterday, began that coalition building in his meetings with his foreign ministers' counterparts. In a speech to business leaders in Shanghai today, he explained the U.S. position to rally wider support. This is what he had to say.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I had the opportunity to explain to my colleagues that military campaign was just only one part of a much, much broader effort that includes financial controls, intelligence activity, legal activity, political and diplomatic activity. The military campaign is necessary to root out the terrorists in Afghanistan and also to separate them from the regime and punish the regime for harboring terrorism.

I found understanding among my colleagues. There was a hope that the military campaign would be ended quickly on a note of success. But I cannot say that concerns were expressed, just the hope that it would achieve its purpose soon.


FLORCRUZ: Leon, President Bush will need as much diplomatic finesse as he can muster to convince the other 20 members of the Asia- Pacific region. Not all of them are converts to the U.S. campaign. In fact, countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, which are predominantly Muslim countries, have reservations in endorsing the current U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan. They are afraid that this could prompt a backlash in the Muslim world and they don't want to incite any racial strifes in their own backyard -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, it's a very complicated picture there.

Jaime Florcruz, thank you very much. We'll be talking with you quite a bit throughout the day so make sure you don't go too far away -- Kyra, over to you now.

PHILLIPS: Well, the latest now on the investigation into anthrax exposures around the nation. We have extensive coverage this morning beginning in Washington where a contaminated letter has effectively shut down Capitol Hill. The New York office of Governor George Pataki are also closed after the bacterium turned up there. And in Florida, investigators reveal more about the type of anthrax that infected two workers at a newspaper publishing company.

But we begin with the investigation in the chambers of Congress.

CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has this report.



UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: ... across this country to serve the people of this nation. And, quite frankly, we owe it to the members of this country, the people who elect us.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But in the Senate, the only place where anthrax has been detected, the work goes on.

SEN. THOMAS DASCHLE (D-SD), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: And we will not let this stop the work of the Senate. There will be a vote this afternoon. We will be in session and have a vote or votes tomorrow.

KARL: In session sort of. The Senate side of the Capitol building will be open, but the Senate's three office buildings, where most of the work is done, are closed until Monday. Senate leaders said the anthrax problem was contained, the offending substance detected in only two places -- the office where the letter to Daschle was opened in the Hart Senate Office Building and in the Senate mailroom in the adjacent Durkson Building (ph).

DR. KEN MORITSUGU, DEPUTY SURGEON GENERAL: At this time there has been no evidence of spores in the ventilation system.

KARL: About 2,000 Senate staffers have taken nose swab tests. So far, just over 30 have tested positive, three of them in the office of Senator Russ Feingold, which is adjacent to Daschle's. The rest, staffers and police who had been inside Daschle's office. Some of those may have exposed each other with a simple act of compassion after the initial discovery of the anthrax letter.

DASCHLE: There were some hugs that were, you would expect and people were hugging each other and I think maybe in that effort there could have been the transfer from one person to the next, as well.

KARL: So far, officials report only exposure to anthrax, not infection. And if anybody is infected, this strain of the bacteria responds to antibiotics.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: And that's good news. And that means this thing is imminently treatable.

KARL: All things considered, there was a remarkable calm on Capitol Hill. A press conference on an aviation security bill went forward even after the House announced a shutdown. And on the base of Capitol Hill rap star M.C. Hammer joined several members of Congress to film a music video. The video's proceeds will go to the victims of the September 11 attacks.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: Well, the number of people exposed to anthrax in New York City, or at least suspected to be exposed to it, may be going up. We know that two people there have already been diagnosed with the skin form of anthrax and tests have detected anthrax spores in the Manhattan building that houses the offices of Governor George Pataki. Those offices are going to be closed today. The governor says that he and his staff are taking antibiotic treatments right now only as a precaution.


GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: We had some people checked and the good news is that they, their tests came back negative. No one in the office has tested positive for anthrax or exposure to anthrax. The bad news is we did an environmental assessment and one place did turn up with positive indications of anthrax. Fortunately, it's a relatively confined area where the state police are. Visitors don't go to that part of my offices. The general staff doesn't go to that office.


HARRIS: The governor's offices are expected to be reopened on Monday. Stay tuned for that one.

Now, investigators are saying that lab tests are helping them zero in on whomever is behind these threats.

And CNN's Eileen O'Connor reports on the evidence that's surfacing now and the analysis.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators are relieved that the samples tested so far from letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw indicate it is a naturally occurring strain of anthrax that has not been genetically altered and is responsive to antibiotics, information helpful to investigators.

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: So when you find that it's actually responsive to all of those, it's more likely that it came out of some laboratory, that it was commercially available, as opposed to being manufactured for the express purpose of killing people.

O'CONNOR: Which points away from a strain manufactured in a state sponsored biological weapons lab. Experts say even with the size of spores found, of one to two microns, a college level biochemistry background is all that's required to figure out how to produce similar samples, lengthening the list of possible suspects.

JOHN ASHCROFT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: And we have similar delivery and there are a lot of things that are in common but we're not in a position to be able to make an announcement about responsibility. O'CONNOR: Another source of leads investigators will look at, what strain is involved. Tests indicate the same strain was used to produce the Florida and New York spores. Knowing the strain can lead to the source, the lab from where it was bought or stolen.

DR. LARRY BUSH, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: And just like I said that you can figure print humans, you can do genetic testing and other testing on the organisms to see if they're the same. That would suggest that it's an unlimited group.

O'CONNOR: And investigators are also having to rely on good old- fashioned police work.

JOHNSON: They're sitting down and they're analyzing the envelopes. If anybody licked those to seal them, you're going to get a DNA take, and the DNA is going to give you some clues. There's probably fingerprints on there. They're going to be looking at that. The other thing is, you know, going back through videotapes, you know, people walk in to post office.

O'CONNOR (on camera): Still, the fact that this anthrax scare comes right on the heels of the September 11 attacks means two possibilities -- a connection or an opportunist taking advantage of a vulnerable nation.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: Now, you may have been hearing in reports recently that people exposed to anthrax are being treated with the antibiotic Cipro, and, in fact, there has been a run on Cipro in certain pharmacies. Well, it turns out that this shouldn't happen because there are other antibiotics that work against this anthrax bacteria as well, two others specifically this morning, doxicycline and penicillin are also being used to treat anthrax.

And now the Food and Drug Administration is adding that information to the labels on those drugs. Health officials are warning that if you have them, you shouldn't take these drugs unless you've been directly exposed to anthrax.


DR. DAVID SATCHER, SURGEON GENERAL: There are real dangers in distributing these drugs to people for them to make a decision when to take them. They're dangerous to the individual patients but more so there's a danger to society in terms of the development of resistance and therefore losing the best weapon we have.


HARRIS: The company that makes Cipro says it is charging $1.87 a pill. That's the wholesale rate, not the $3.20 per pill figure claimed by Senator Charles Schumer's office. The Bayer Company adds that its production lines are running 24-7 to make sure there's no shortage of the drug.

PHILLIPS: The threat of more terrorist attacks has everyone on high alert. Federal officials say they received a threat against the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. It was serious enough to shut down Pennsylvania's Harrisburg International Airport. The air space and the airport were reopened around one o'clock this morning, though.

And passengers on a Greyhound business jumped into action when a man tried to overpower the driver. The man reportedly ran to the front of the bus and said, "This is a hijacking." Passengers wrestled the man away from the driver. The bus came to a stop on I80 near Salt Lake City. The would be hijacker and woman got off the bus and escaped in a car.

HARRIS: And the curious thing is they escaped in a car that was traveling right behind the bus. There may have been an accomplice in that.

PHILLIPS: All planned out.

HARRIS: Yes. All right.

As U.S. strikes in Afghanistan become more precise, tension in the Middle East is intensifying.

PHILLIPS: We'll have live reports from both of those fronts.




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