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Suspicious Powder Found At N.Y. Times

A suspicious powdery substance found Friday in an envelope in the mailroom at The New York Times likely is cornstarch, the newspaper said.

Police were called to the newspaper's West 43rd Street offices around 12:30 p.m. after an employee in the mailroom opened a business-sized envelope containing a suspicious-looking beige powder.

The Department of Environmental Protection, through field tests, preliminarily identified the substance as cornstarch, said Catherine Mathis, a Times spokeswoman.

The envelope also contained an editorial about reports on secret government anti-terrorism programs with a red "X" through it.

The letter, handwritten to The New York Times, had no return address but had a Philadelphia postmark.

The employee, identified in a Times story as a 54-year-old Brooklyn man, put the envelope in a plastic bag and called police.

The employee was examined at a hospital, but showed no symptoms or injuries, Mathis said.

The building's eighth floor was evacuated and sealed off for about four and a half hours as the police hazardous materials unit conducted tests, Mathis said. The mailroom and the Travel and Style sections, among other departments, occupy the eighth floor, Mathis said. She did not know how many people work on the floor.

The worker who opened the envelope was isolated, although he appeared to be unharmed, police said.

Anthrax-tainted letters were sent to numerous media outlets and offices in 2001, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Five people died — and since then, officials have been cautious when suspicious powders are detected.

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