USA

Anthrax spores mailed to congressional offices in September were identical to stocks of the deadly bacteria kept by the US Army since 1980, scientists told the Washington Post. Although many laboratories possess the Ames strain of anthrax, which was used in the mailings, only five have been found to have spores with perfect genetic matches to those in the Senate letters. Those labs reportedly trace their samples to the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease in Maryland. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle has suggested the anthrax-laced letter received by his office was mailed by someone with a military background. (Related story, page 1)

In a related development, the government will this week decide if the anthrax vaccine will be offered to more than 3,000 mail and congressional workers exposed to the bacteria. This follows a weekend symposium sponsored by the federal Centers for Disease Control at which medical experts said dormant spores in the body could become active. Health and Human Services Secretary Thompson is expected to decide within days.

Federal authorities raided the offices and froze the assets of two Chicago-area Muslim charities suspected of funding terrorist activities. But no arrests were made, and both organizations, the Global Relief Foundation and Benevolence International Foundation, denied any links to terrorism. Officials said the searches were conducted by the Treasury Department, the FBI, and the Customs Department, citing the Patriot Act, signed into law by President Bush Oct. 26, which gives federal agents broad new powers.

(Story, page 4)

San Francisco declared itself a safe haven for medical marijuana users, just months after a federal crackdown on clinics administering the drug to chronically ill patients. A city resolution, supported by District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, calls on federal authorities to refrain from harassing, arresting, or prosecuting physicians, dispensaries, patients, or caregivers involved with a city-sponsored program in which 3,200 people are registered.

New Jersey is scrapping a regulation passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks aimed at making it harder for legal immigrants who are not US citizens to obtain drivers licenses. The state last month started requiring such immigrants to apply at four regional service centers with computer links to the Immigration and Naturalization Service database. But only one of the centers is in an area where many immigrants live, and a state spokeswoman said the rule was dropped because most of the applicants were well-established residents.

The shuttle Endeavor began its journey home from the International Space Station with the three-man crew that occupied it since August. If Endeavor lands today as planned, the men would have spent 129 days in space. The shuttle spent eight days at the station, dropping off a new crew of three and thousands of pounds of supplies. Above, the shuttle's center-line camera captures a view of the space station shortly after departure.

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