No Nerve Gas Found in JFK Airport Scare

Connor Simpson, The Atlantic Wire
See more stories about...
Connor Simpson, The Atlantic Wire
Aug. 12, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

NEW YORK — There was a brief scare Sunday af­ter­noon after two work­ers be­came sick after open­ing a pack­age in a mail­room at New York’s John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port. Ini­tial re­ports said the two men were ex­posed to a dan­ger­ous nerve gas, but thank­fully that wasn’t ac­tu­ally the case.

Two Cus­toms agents were forced to seek med­ic­al treat­ment and the air­port’s cent­ral mail fa­cil­ity was locked down by the Port Au­thor­ity of­fi­cials, with an as­sist from the FBI “out of an abund­ance of cau­tion,” Sunday after open­ing a pack­age from China. There was an ini­tial scare after ABC News and the New York Daily News re­por­ted the pack­age that caused two work­ers to get sick ini­tially tested pos­it­ive for a dan­ger­ous po­ten­tial weapon. “The pack­age from China tent­at­ively tested pos­it­ive for VX nerve gas, which can be used as a weapon of mass de­struc­tion, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment source,” the Daily News re­por­ted, while ABC News was much more cau­tious: “Field tests showed an ini­tial find­ing of nerve gas, though au­thor­it­ies be­lieve it’s a low like­li­hood that it’s ac­tu­ally nerve gas,” they said. Ter­ri­fy­ing, right? Every­one’s still on edge be­cause of the ter­ror threat situ­ation, and this played right those fears.

But after the FBI per­formed more tests on the pack­age, ten­sion sub­sided when it was re­vealed there was no nerve gas at all. “There were ini­tial re­ports that the pack­age con­tained nerve gas, but of­fi­cials have said it’s un­likely that the sub­stance is the chem­ic­al weapon,” CBS New York re­ports. It turns out what made the two men sick was ac­tu­ally or­gan­o­phos­phate, an in­gredi­ent in soda pop. “Phos­phor­ic acid is a col­or­less li­quid with a syr­upy con­sist­ency used as an acid­i­fy­ing agent to give colas their fla­vor,” CNN ex­plains. News­day re­ports Port Au­thor­ity of­fi­cials dropped the pack­age in­to a 55 gal­lon drum, just to be safe.

The two men are fine and re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at Frank­lin Gen­er­al Hos­pit­al. The oth­er mail area em­ploy­ees are still be­ing screened by the au­thor­it­ies to make sure they wer­en’t in­fec­ted, too. Soda pop is still de­li­cious, nerve gas is still scary, and everything is al­right with the world. And the good news: the scare didn’t delay any flights.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from the At­lantic Wire. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

What We're Following See More »
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
7 hours ago

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
9 hours ago

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

GOP Could Double Number of Early Primaries
10 hours ago

"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."

Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
12 hours ago

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
14 hours ago

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.