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REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

Anti-anthrax drug
'a waste of money'?

Pentagon officials stock up on 'Cipro' despite cost, side effects

WASHINGTON – Though the threat of bioterrorism is small, some Pentagon officials are not taking any chances.

They’re stocking up on Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that’s considered to be the most effective drug against anthrax – if you take it long before the hemorrhagic disease’s early flu-like symptoms appear, that is.

“Cipro,” as it’s commonly known, is expensive and not
covered under most medical-insurance plans if
prescribed as a prophylactic. A two-week supply of the
drug for a family of four costs about $400.

“Maybe it’s paranoid of me,” said one Pentagon official, “but as they taught us many years ago, ‘Be prepared.’”

However, a Washington-area pharmacist, who has only 30 tablets of Cipro left in stock, said individual stockpiling of the anti-anthrax drug is “a waste of money.” It also could deplete supplies for those who may really need it.

“How will you even know if you have it? It’s
odorless,” he said of the potentially fatal pulmonary
anthrax spores. “By the time you know, it could be too
late.”

“You have to take it in advance of symptoms,” he explained. “That could get very expensive.”

And your body could build up a resistance to the drug,
which has many side effects, he says. One of the more
serious contraindications is seizures and comas in
diabetics.

What’s needed is a home-test kit to detect antibodies fighting infection from anthrax, botulism or small pox. Unfortunately, no such test is available on the market right now.

Related story:

Experts debunk bioterrorism myths

INS inspectors want to be deputized

In the war on terrorism, the United States Marshals Service is deputizing agents with the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs Service to give them broader authority in making arrests at airports.

Left out: Immigration and Naturalization Service inspection officers – even though the roughly 8,000 immigration inspection officers, who carry guns and have federal law-enforcement academy training, are already stationed at international airports throughout the country.

“We’re watching U.S. Customs and Border Patrol get deputized, but not INS inspectors,” complained one gung-ho officer.

Mosques apply for tolerance grants

At least one area mosque has applied for a grant to start a one-year program to raise tolerance among Christians for Muslims in the community.

Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center of Falls Church, Va., is asking for a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region to help “minimize problems” with other ethnic and religious groups, the large mosque’s imam, Samir Aboissa, told WorldNetDaily. He says other mosques also are applying for such grants.

Dar Al-Hijrah asked a neighboring church for a letter of recommendation but was turned down. Seems it wanted the pastor and his flock to accept Islam.

Terrorism good for security biz

As a recession looms larger, at least one business is booming – private security.

“Our business is exploding,” said a security consultant in Houston. “I’m having trouble just getting out proposals, much less actually doing the assessments.”

The former Compaq Computer Corp. security officer says clients are clamoring to defend themselves, their homes and their offices from terrorist attacks.

Know your turbans and facial hair

Do not be alarmed by the turban-wearing man in the information booth at Washington Dulles International Airport. He’s not an Arab Muslim. He’s an Indian Sikh.

So are all those cabbies with the colorful headdresses.

Sikhs, who are members of a Hindu religious sect found in northern India, are upset that Americans identify them with Arab Muslims because of their turbans, as well as dark skin. Sikhs are not fond of neighboring Muslims in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Several Sikh cabbies lectured this reporter during a recent business trip on the finer points of distinguishing a Sikh from a Muslim, going by just their headdresses and facial hair.

Here’s what I learned:

One Sikh cabby told me that Indians – and even Pakistanis – are petrified of the Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, who he says are known to kill indiscriminately.

“They are crazy. They will kill anyone just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.

Hijackers not slowed by food carts

Flight attendants for United Airlines, the carrier from which Islamic terrorists hijacked two jets Sept. 11, doubt the hijackers were slowed by food-service carts, which are normally deployed down aisles within the first hour of nonstop, cross-country flights.

“I think these guys did practice runs the week before” to know when to avoid the breakfast service, said United flight attendant Joao Silva. Radar shows the planes veered off course on all the flights within the first 30 minutes or so, meaning hijackers more than likely took over the planes before the flight attendants broke out the food and beverage carts.

Boeing 767-300s equipped with seat-back radar

Speaking of radar, if doomed passengers had flown on Boeing 767-300s instead of 767-200s (United Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston), they would have been able to see their planes veering sharply off course in the roughly 6-inch-by-5-inch seat-back video screens in front of them.

Normally used for movie-viewing, the screens also can be switched over by passengers, using a button on the armrest, to a topographical map showing real-time flight paths, including close-ups of mountain ranges, rivers, cities and other landmarks. Other data, such as ground speed and altitude, also are displayed.

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