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Briefs (left)

Business Prepares
For the Possibility of Avian Flu

By Melanie Warner

The deadly strain of avian flu has not been found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, but Mark Holden, a chicken grower for Tyson Foods in Ellijay, Ga., is not taking any chances.

Every seven weeks a group of his chickens is tested before the birds are sent to be slaughtered. All people who enter or leave the chicken houses must walk through disinfecting baths. And visitors and workers must wear plastic booties over their shoes.

“Even though we don’t have any outbreak now, we want to take all the precautions we can to protect our product,” said Holden, who has been in the chicken business for 10 years and lives across the street from one of his chicken houses.

Poultry producers and restaurants doubt that their chickens will be infected by avian flu or that people would catch the virus even if there were contamination. But they are concerned that if the virus gets to the United States, people will eat less chicken, simply out of fear. And they are revving up big plans to be prepared.

In Senate testimony earlier this month, Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, declared that it was “just a matter of time” before birds infected with the virus found their way to the United States.

FBI Agent Testifies Superiors
Didn’t Pursue Moussaoui Case

By Neil A. Lewis


The FBI agent who arrested and interrogated Zacarias Moussaoui just weeks before the Sept.11, 2001, attacks told a jury on Monday how he tried repeatedly to get his superiors in Washington to help confirm his certainty that Moussaoui was involved in some imminent terrorist airline hijacking plot.

But the agent, Harry Samit, testified that he was regularly thwarted by senior bureau officials whose obstructionism he later described to Justice Department investigators as “criminally negligent” and who were, he believed, motivated principally by a need to protect their careers.

Samit’s testimony added a wealth of detail to the notion that officials at the FBI played down, ignored and purposely mischaracterized the increasingly dire warnings from field agents in the Minneapolis office that they had a terrorist on their hands in Moussaoui.

For Airline Employees, Free Flights Are in Free Fall

By Jeff Bailey

Through deep pay cuts, shrunken pensions and longer hours, airline employees who survived the endless rounds of layoffs knew they could still count on one thing: free flights. But that perk, a touch of jet-setting glamour in an increasingly dreary line of work, is now much harder to use because so many flights are full.

“This system is now just ripping at the seams,” said Patricia Haddon, an American Airlines flight attendant for 29 years who often enjoyed flying in first class. “We all came to work here because we value the benefit. We are middle-class people, but this allows us to have upper-class experiences.”

Airline employees and many of their family members can fly standby, taking unsold seats. But after post-Sept. 11 problems prompted airlines to reduce their fleets, a strong economy has revived demand for business and leisure travel. Planes now fly on average with only about 22 percent of seats unsold. While that still sounds like a lot, quite a few are on unpopular routes or at inconvenient times. Many popular routes in prime hours are packed.