Nation briefs 02/17/03

Monday, February 17, 2003

Anthrax scare closes New Jersey post office

LONG HILL TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Authorities in New Jersey, where at least five anthrax-laden letters were mailed in 2001, closed another post office after brown powder fell from a package containing a threatening letter.

An initial test was negative for anthrax, but a secondary test was inconclusive, Postal Service spokesman Tony Esposito said Sunday.

One employee came in contact with the powder but didn't appear to have symptoms, and five workers in the building were given prescriptions for the antibiotic Cipro, Esposito said. He said the post office was closed, pending test results expected Tuesday from the state health department.

The substance was discovered Friday night when a postmark machine stamped a padded envelope addressed to an eastern Pennsylvania residence and the powder spilled out, Esposito said. He wouldn't say what town the letter was destined for.

More than 250 arrested in anti-war demonstration

NEW YORK -- More than 250 people were arrested during a massive demonstration against possible war in Iraq as tens of thousands of protesters packed a 20-block area north of U.N. headquarters, New York police said Sunday.

Most of the 257 arrests were for disorderly conduct and other minor violations that mostly resulted in tickets to appear in court, police said. Five people were arrested on felony charges and 53 on misdemeanors.

The New York protest was just one of scores that brought out millions of people across the nation and around the world Saturday. Rome claimed the biggest turnout -- 1 million according to police, and London reported more than 750,000 in what police called the city's largest protest ever.

Police in New York said the crowd that chanted and listened to speakers in the city's bitter cold was about 100,000-strong, while organizers estimated it at three to five times that size.

Research: False memories may easily be planted

DENVER -- Remember that wonderful day when Bugs Bunny hugged you at Disneyland? A study presented Sunday shows just how easy it can be to induce false memories in the minds of some people.

More than a third of subjects in the study recalled that theme-park moment -- impossible because Bugs is not a Disney character -- after a researcher planted the false memory.

Other research, of people who believed they were abducted by space aliens, shows that even false memories can be as intensely felt as those of real-life victims of war and other violence.

The research demonstrates that police interrogators and people investigating sexual-abuse allegations must be careful not to plant suggestions into their subjects, said University of California-Irvine psychologist Elizabeth Loftus. She presented preliminary results of recent false memory experiments Sunday at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Loftus said some people may be so suggestible that they could be convinced they were responsible for crimes they didn't commit. In interviews, "much of what goes on -- unwittingly -- is contamination," she said.

The news media's power of suggestion also can leave a false impression, Loftus said.

-- From wire reports

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