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World Briefs II

U.S. Concerned Over Delayed Shipment of Russian-Made Anthrax

Newsday
Russia

The United States thought it had an agreement within the last three months to get samples of a Russian-made form of a deadly anthrax bacteria that is reportedly resistant to penicillin and all current vaccines. But despite a U.S. payment for the samples, they remain in Russia and probably won't be sent soon, U.S. government sources said.

There is concern within the U.S. military that this untreatable strain, if it exists, could surface in Iraq, among other places, said sources at the U.S. Army's Medical Research Institute on Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md.

Though there is no direct evidence that Iraq has the new anthrax, the sources said this week that the U.S. military wants samples as quickly as possible specifically because experts want to know what they're dealing with should the biological agent appear during any attack in the Persian Gulf.

The development of "genetically engineered new organisms using anthrax and other [biological warfare] agents is a potential threat which must be carefully evaluated," the memo added.

Plan Restricts Arlington Interment

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Some of Washington's political elite would lose their claim to a final political perk under bipartisan draft legislation to clarify and tighten eligibility standards for burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The vice president, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officers and ambassadors with honorable military backgrounds no longer would automatically qualify for an Arlington burial, according to the bill proposed by the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The measure also would allow certain close family members of eligible veterans to be buried in the same graves as the veterans themselves, without the need for special permission from Army officials. Furthermore, it would write into law existing regulations that allow the cremated remains of any veteran with an honorable discharge to be placed in a special complex on the cemetery's grounds.

Illinois Rep. Lane Evans, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called the measure an "even-handed and sensible proposal that will bring continued honor to our nation's most hallowed military cemetery." In keeping with past practice, any former presidents, members of the armed forces who die on active duty, were retired from the military, were prisoners of war, or held the nation's highest military decorations would remain eligible for Arlington burials. The burial rules were swept up in controversy last year following allegations that President Clinton rewarded campaign contributors with plots at Arlington.

Two Arrested in Anthrax Plot

The Washington Post
LAS VEGAS

FBI agents charged two men with possessing the deadly biological agent anthrax Thursday and said one of the suspects, a well-known white supremacist, boasted he had enough of the substance to "wipe out the city."

The suspects included Larry Wayne Harris, 46, of Lancaster, Ohio, who the FBI said was a member of the Aryan Nation white supremacist group. Arrested with him was William Leavitt Jr., 47, who owns a microbiology lab in rural Logandale, about 60 miles north of Las Vegas.

FBI spokesman Aurelio Flores said the two men, who were being held at the Clark County Detention Center awaiting a bail hearing scheduled in federal court on Monday, were "involved in the construction of a weapon." But authorities awaited testing by military specialists to determine whether the substance is really anthrax.

Harris was arrested in May 1995 after a Rockville, Md., laboratory sent him three vials of freeze-dried bubonic plague bacteria through the mail. After pleading guilty to one count of fraud in connection with possessing the inactive bacteria, which he claimed he wanted for a book he wrote on bacteriological warfare, Harris was sentenced to 18 months' probation.