Today's Developments, 10/19

Military Action:

• At least 100 U.S. special operations soldiers engaged in a ground battle in Afghanistan, the first in the Afghanistan campaign. All soldiers returned safely, according to soldiers.

• Two U.S. service members died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan.

• Pentagon officials are refusing to publicly discuss the U.S. special forces troops who've reportedly begun operations on the ground in Afghanistan. An official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff says any forces on the ground would be the "most vulnerable" of the U.S. campaign there.

• A general fighting with the Northern Alliance to rid his country of the ruling Taliban said today his forces spent the last week with American military officials.

• Afghanistan's Taliban regime challenged Washington to send in 100,000 more troops. "Then it can be a fight between our soldiers and theirs," a Taliban official said. 

• A Pakistan-based news agency reported one of Usama bid Laden's comrades was killed by a grenade that accidentally exploded in his hands — and not by a U.S. bomb.

The Anthrax Scare:

•  A New York Post employee tested positive for anthrax but is recovering well and has returned to work. The source of the anthrax hasn't been identified. More tests are being done at the newspaper's Manhattan offices. 

• The Bush administration's homeland security chief, Tom Ridge, says the FBI has identified the mailbox where anthrax-laden letters were sent to Tom Brokaw and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The letters were postmarked in the Trenton, N.J. area.

• FBI agents have been combing the postal route that a New Jersey mail carrier who tested positive for skin anthrax took each day. Officials believe she may have handled the anthrax-tainted letter sent to NBC.

• Investigators tracking letters containing anthrax offered a $1 million reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who sent the bacteria. 

• One Boston scientist said it's easy to kill anthrax spores on paper. Sterilization companies are looking into ways to use chemicals, steam and even radiation to kill germs on mail. 

 • Federal health officials warned doctors nationwide to watch for possible cases of smallpox, food poisoning and viruses like Ebola.

• Early tests found traces of anthrax in two postal buildings that handled mail for a Florida tabloid company.

• Canada decided to ignore Bayer's patent on the anthrax-fighting drug Cipro and will allow a Canadian company make it. 


• Canadian officials said they have seized almost $100,000 in assets allegedly belonging to terrorists. They also said they are checking out some 5,400 tips from a hotline set up after the attacks.   


•   Wall Steet investors at first troubled by earnings reports reconsidered their concerns and decided the results were good enough to warrant a modest late-session advance.

• Social Security recipients will be getting more benefit money next year, but not as much of an increase as they got this year. Recipients will get a 2.6 percent cost-of-living increase in the monthly checks.

• The government reports that the Consumer Price Index went up four-tenths of a percent in September. But the so-called "core" rate of inflation, everything except food and energy, went up only two-tenths of a percent. 

• Airplane engine-maker Rolls-Royce said it is cutting 5,000 jobs, some 3,800 of the jobs affected are in Britain. 

The Home Front:

• Cautioned by China to spare innocent civilians in the attacks on Afghanistan, President Bush is urging wavering Asian nations to stand up to terrorists. Bush faces resistance from Malaysia, whose leader wants the United States to stop bombing Afghanistan. 

• National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said Chinese officials are being "very helpful" in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

• An Arizona-based airline said it will begin training its pilots to use stun guns in the cockpit.

• Northwest Airlines is pulling powdered sweeteners and coffee creamers off of its planes because fears about anthrax have delayed two flights.

• World Trade Center: 4,515 missing; 458 bodies recovered, including 408 identified. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.