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Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

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December 5, 2001

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Washington, D.C.: Lawmakers pray for country

Members of Congress met privately Tuesday in the Capitol Building's Rotunda to pray for the country and observe a national day of reconciliation.

The two-hour assembly in the central chamber of the Capitol was closed to the press and congressional staff so that lawmakers would be able to express themselves freely, aides said.

A resolution passed by both the House and the Senate said that the purpose of the day was to allow lawmakers to "humbly seek the blessings of Providence for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, and charity for all people of the United States, thereby assisting the nation to realize its potential as the champion of hope, the vindicator of the defenseless and the guardian of freedom."

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who sponsored the resolution, said the day would "facilitate a platform for renewing our commitment to live as one nation under God."

Washington, D.C.: Capitol tours delayed

Citing security concerns, police on Tuesday delayed the scheduled resumption of guided tours of the Capitol, which have been suspended since mid-October.

The tours, which were to resume today, will remain suspended "in the interest of the security of the Capitol and the safety of visitors," the Capitol Police said in a statement

Lt. Dan Nichols, a Capitol Police spokesman, said a terrorist alert issued by the government Monday was a factor in the decision, but he would not say whether the Capitol had received specific threats.

"Our goal is to resume tours as soon as possible," Nichols said.

The House and Senate will remain open for legislative business, and the public galleries will also be open.

San Francisco: AMA suggests study for smallpox vaccinations

The American Medical Assn. on Tuesday refused to endorse smallpox vaccinations for all Americans, rejecting calls from doctors who say the disease could be used as a biological weapon.

Instead, the 538 delegates attending the AMA's annual winter meeting in San Francisco voted overwhelmingly to continue studying the possible repercussions of such a mass inoculation.

"We do not yet know that the bad guys have the smallpox virus," said Dr. Ron Davis, a public health expert from Detroit and a member of the AMA's 16-member board of trustees.

Some doctors said they worry the vaccine itself could kill as many as 300 people if the entire U.S. population were vaccinated. There's also disagreement about whether those already inoculated would need another vaccination to prevent a smallpox infection.

A nationwide smallpox vaccination program was discontinued in 1972, and the disease was eradicated worldwide by 1980.

Two smallpox virus samples remain one in the United States and the other in Russia. Concerns about security at the Russian lab have been exacerbated by the recent anthrax cases.

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