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Living-Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International   |   Feb. 22, 2002 at 4:45 AM   |   Comments

AIRPORT SECURITY

Three of the nation's four largest airlines say they don't anticipate any immediate change in their security check-in procedures in the wake of a federal edict to eliminate priority lanes for frequent flyers and first class ticket-holders.

United and Northwest airlines said what the Transportation Security Administration is concerned about are X-ray machines and magnetometers sitting idle while most travelers stand in long lines waiting to pass through security checkpoints. A spokesman for Delta said the carrier would continue operating its express and elite security lines until it receives something in writing from the TSA.

American Airlines did not return phone calls.

Security checks stretched to more than an hour at some airports shortly after Sept. 11 as security personnel began giving travelers greater scrutiny before allowing them to enter gate areas. As the airlines struggled financially, the major carriers introduced the express lines to lure top-dollar-paying business travelers by easing the travel hassle.

Cathy Keefe, a spokeswoman for the Travel Industry Association in Washington, characterized the TSA action as just the latest effort to restore confidence in travel for the consumer. "We have to do everything to ensure travel is safe and secure," she said. "We totally support their efforts. ... For travelers who are road warriors, it's going to take a bit of adjustment."

The TSA officially took over responsibility for airport security last Sunday.

(Thanks to UPI's Marcella S. Kreiter in Chicago)


RENT GRANTS

In an effort to lure people to live near where the World Trade Center once stood, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. approved Thursday grants of up to $12,000 to live for two years in the area.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. -- charged with the rebuilding of the 16-acre site at the World Trade Center -- tentatively approved up to $225 million in the residential grants for current and prospective residents of Lower Manhattan. The money comes from a $2 billion aid package from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for rebuilding Lower Manhattan in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The plan is still subject to the approval by the federal government.

The grants would provide up to $500 a month or 30 percent of a rent or mortgage payment for tenants who sign a two-year lease. Those living closest to Ground Zero would receive the largest grants. Low-income residents will receive minimum grants of $4,000 for those nearest to Ground Zero and $2,000 for those further away.

Tenants who lived in their apartment before Sept. 11 and stay can also receive a $1,000 bonus.

More than half of the approximately 20,000 people who lived in Lower Manhattan have returned to their homes, after being evacuated for a minimum of two weeks following Sept. 11.

However, people still don't know whether or not it is safe to live and work in the area, according to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan. "The Environmental Protection Agency has failed in its mission to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment by not exercising its full authority to test and clean all indoor spaces where people live and work," he told a hearing last week of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands and Climate.

(Thanks to UPI's Alex Cukan in Albany, N.Y.)


IRRADIATION

Zapping all 200 billion-plus pieces of mail received by Americans each year with high-dose radiation is not enough to guarantee the mail is safe.

That's according to a research engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who studies bioterrorism. In addition, H. Keith Florig said irradiating all the mail will drive up postal rates and delay mail delivery. And he added that it won't kill chemical toxins that "are familiar to terrorists" and offers no protection against radioactive contaminants.

In an essay in the current issue of Science, Florig warned there is no one-stop-shopping option when it comes to sanitizing the mail. "Mail sanitation" is likely to be so expensive and so intrusive that Americans may not be willing to pay the price, he said.

In an interview with UPI, Florig said the 56 kiloGray dose of ionizing radiation currently used to sanitize can ruin film -- even color prints can be dulled. He said it can "fry the microchips in computers or cell phones" and is likely to have a negative effect on medicines and foods. Moreover, high-dose irradiation will make paper more brittle so saving love letters or even old credit card bills may become impossible.

He added, however, that the events of Sept. 11 and the threat posed by the anthrax letters last fall have "changed the definitions of reasonable public policy so it may be that it is now reasonable for the public to pay a high cost for sanitized mail."

Twenty-two people became sick and five people died after being exposed to anthrax spores sent through the mail. Since then, mail sent to federal offices in Washington, D.C. with zip codes ending in 202 through 205 is first shipped to Lima, Ohio, and Bridgewater, N.J., for irradiation.

But Florig said irradiation by itself cannot do the job. To really make the mail safe the United States probably is going to have to institute other steps -- such as inspection of packages, coded stamps that can link a specific mailed item to its exact point of origin, fingerprinting anyone sending mail or videotaping people who are mailing items.


ONLINE SHOPPING

The end of 2001 saw a significant boost in online spending, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The agency said online sales -- excluding travel and food services -- hit $10 billion in the fourth quarter, a 13.1 percent jump over the same period in 2000. That total is still only a fraction of overall retail sales, which were estimated at $860.8 billion, according to the bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department.

Total online sales for 2001 were approximately $32.6 billion, an increase of 19.3 percent over 2000.

(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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