- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
Federal Reserve Board that sets U.S. interest rates and guides the world's
most powerful economy, announced on Thursday that mail possibly
with anthrax had been found at its off-site postal facility set up to head
off suspect mail.
- The discovery in a batch of 100 to 150 letters forced
the Fed to cancel an open public board meeting on Friday that was scheduled
to discuss banking measures.
- However, Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said there were
no plans at this stage to cancel a more important private meeting next
Tuesday when many economists expect the Fed, led by its chairman Alan
to decide again to lower interest rates. The Fed has so far lowered rates
10 times this year.
- There were no details available on whether Greenspan
was working at the Fed when the discovery was made.
- "At this point the Fed has no plans to cancel or
to postpone a scheduled December 11 meeting of its policy-setting Federal
Open Market Committee that sets U.S. interest rates," Smith
- The Fed was open for business but all public events have
been canceled until further notice.
- Since a mysterious wave of anthrax contaminations
in the United States last month, five people have died and 13 infected
by a bacterium that can be used as a germ warfare agent.
- Two lethal letters containing anthrax were sent to U.S.
senators on Capitol Hill in October, and media organizations in Florida
and New York have also been targets of anthrax attacks.
- There have also been a number of other cases in other
locations which law enforcement officials believe are more likely linked
to cross-contamination from the key letters.
- LATEST ANTHRAX SCARE
- The officials have not ruled out a connection to Osama
bin Laden's al Qaeda network, chief suspect in Sept. 11's hijacked plane
attacks on the United States.
- In the latest scare, a preliminary test of mail delivered
to a secure mail-handling facility where Federal Reserve Board mail is
examined before being delivered, tested positive for anthrax exposure late
Thursday afternoon, Smith said.
- "The contamination was found in a bin of about 100
to 150 letters," Smith said. "We had something in that batch
that gave us a positive result. Now we are testing everything."
- She said that since first reports of anthrax-contaminated
mail surfaced, the Fed has processed all mail through the secure
facility set up in its headquarters courtyard.
- Mail is not distributed inside the Federal Reserve
until it has been cleared of contamination.
- "The anthrax was detected through a routine swab
test,' Smith said.
- There were six workers -- three Fed employees and three
contract workers -- at the mail facility when the discovery was made. They
were all wearing environmental protective gear and respirators.
- "No one was in any danger at any time during the
period that the contaminant was detected or afterward," Smith
- Since the anthrax wave started, hundreds of postal
throughout the United States have been given antibiotics as a precaution
when it was determined they may have come in contact with suspect
- Smith said it had not been possible to determine so far
where the suspect mail was posted.
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