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New situation ushers in new concerns

By By Sonny Callahan
U.S. Rep.
Just a mere two months ago, some of the questions that Americans everywhere have been grappling with recently would have seemed unrealistic and, quite frankly, somewhat ridiculous. Let me give you a quick example.
A member of my staff recently took a call from a lady who had received a letter from my office addressed to her husband. Because of the circumstances surrounding the recent incidents of anthrax exposure through the U.S. mail, she was not sure whether she should open it, pick it up or throw it in the trash.
She asked numerous questions about the source of the letter, and whether it was routed through the mail distribution center in Washington or Mobile. Even after a great deal of reassurance that it was safe and that the likelihood that it came into contact with a contaminated letter was extremely slight, she would not budge.
How many times in our collective memory do we recall losing faith in such a dependable and time-honored service as the delivery of the U.S. mail?
A new situation
Obviously, no one has all the answers to this or many other questions. This is a completely new situation for all of us a 21st century war fought on our soil against an enemy unlike any we have ever seen.
Nothing would make me happier than to be able to say that we have a plan in place for every situation that arises. Sadly, no one, including the administration, the Pentagon, and even the postal service, has all the answers.
Post office precautions
The postal service is certainly doing all they can to reassure the public and restore our confidence in good old-fashioned mail service.
Several measures have been announced and will be implemented during the next several weeks. These include:
The use of irradiation machinery to neutralize any anthrax spores that may be moving through the mail;
Improved and more thorough methods of cleaning mail sorting equipment, including vacuum equipment specially designed to absorb dust and other particles;
The use of stronger antibacterial cleaning chemicals; and, most importantly
Mandatory personal safety procedures for postal employees to keep them in their workplace.
Certainly, this will not address every concern, and there is some criticism that these measures should have been implemented much sooner.
However, it is important that we remember just how safe the mail has been. Since September 11th, nearly 20 billion pieces of mail have been delivered, and it is believed that fewer than 10 pieces thus far have contained anthrax spores.
Jack Potter, the Postmaster General, is faced with a daunting task. I am confident he will work as hard as he possibly can to ensure the safety of every employee and every customer of the postal service.
Strong support continues in D.C.
I was very concerned recently to hear remarks made by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee along the lines that the United States, with its continuous bombing of targets in Afghanistan, looks like a high tech bully.
I was also pleased to see the remarks made in response to this by the Senate Majority Leader, who stated simply, I think the president is doing exactly the right thing.
Overall, members of both houses of Congress are continuing their strong support of the administrations efforts to combat terrorism and to root out Osama Bin Laden.
With the increasing difficulties we are facing here in America with the ongoing threat of chemical and biological warfare, and the growing concern among John Q. Public that the anthrax contamination is spreading, now is not the time for our unity and support to waver.
President Bush is facing a situation unlike any other faced by any president in history.
The cohesiveness of spirit we are offering as citizens of this great country is providing him and his advisers with the support they need to guide us through this difficult period.
The spirit of national unity must never be allowed to diminish. When it does, so too will the flame of freedom.
May God bless each of you and your families, our armed forces here and abroad, the president, and may God bless America.
U.S. Representative Sonny Callahan represents Alabama's First District which includes Escambia County.