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White powder at Super Bowl hotels stirs fear, appears to be hoax

NEW YORK -- Envelopes containing a white powder were sent Friday to several hotels near Sunday’s Super Bowl in New Jersey and to the office of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, but appear not be dangerous and at least one turned out to contain cornstarch.

The FBI said further testing is being done, but there are no indications that the envelopes contain hazardous substances, the Associated Press reported. Another envelope tested positive for baking soda.

The arrival of the envelopes sparked fear in the days leading up to the nation’s premier sporting event, which is being held just across the Hudson River from New York, the city regarded as perhaps nation's No. 1 terrorist  target. Security has been stepped up in New York and in East Rutherford, N.J., where the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will face off Sunday  at MetLife Stadium.

Jeanne Baratta, chief of staff at the Bergen County executive’s office, said concern was heightened because the discovery of the suspicious envelopes occurred about the same time the Department of Defense staged a scheduled flyover of the stadium by several helicopters.

“A lot of people got concerned because there were a number of what looked like Black Hawk  helicopters at the same time this was going down,” she said.

Baratta said five to seven hotels within miles of the stadium had received unidentified powder in envelopes. County hazardous material units responding to one of the locations confirmed that the powder was cornstarch, Baratta said.

In a brief statement, the FBI said federal agents, police, and hazardous material units had responded “to several locations that have received a suspicious letter and substance.”

“There are no reported injuries at this time, and the locations are being secured,” the statement said.

People who came near or touched the powders were taken to hospitals to be examined. “Right now we have no illness or injuries,” Baratta said.

In New York City, employees in the mail room of Giuliani’s consulting firm opened an envelope with powder in it.  Police said the substance was being tested.

John Huvane, the chief executive of Giuliani Security & Safety, said Giuliani remained in his office in midtown Manhattan. 

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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