Tabloid in Bio Warfare Shock!

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LONDON: Nothing like a good anthrax scare to sell a few newspapers. And that's exactly what British tabloid the Sun got Tuesday, with a report that Saddam Hussein was plotting to flood the U.K. with the deadly toxin -- hidden in duty-free bottles of alcohol, cosmetics, cigarette lighters and perfume sprays. Although it claims to have received word of the plot from "intelligence documents," the Sun is usually better known for its "Page 3" supermodels than for investigative journalism. Imagine Britain's surprise, then, when it woke up to discover that all its ports of entry had been put on biological warfare alert as a result of the story.

"Iraq may launch chemical and biological attack using material disguised as harmless fluids," read the advisory that went out to all customs officers. Baghdad's information ministry called it "a silly and baseless claim."Amazingly, Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien agreed: "I don't think there's any likelihood that Saddam's agents would put the anthrax in duty-frees in the vague hope that some British tourists would pick it up," he told the BBC. So why the all-points bulletin? To reassure potential duty-free shoppers that the matter is being handled by the highest authorities -- a very British method of crowd control.