The incidence of people receiving envelopes containing suspicious substances has increased in late 2009 and continues into 2010, according to reports posted and distributed by the Security Industry Association Email News Service. Security Magazine readers can sign up free to one or up to 15 topic-specific email news alerts, which include full text articles from national and local newspapers and wire services. Go to: and then to Press Room and click on the Email News Service to sign up.

Concerning white powder threats, just days ago, political offices throughout Alabama — including Foley and Mobile — shut down after receiving nine envelopes containing white powder and threatening letters. The letters claimed the powder was anthrax, but tests revealed the substance was not harmful, said the special agent in charge of the Mobile office of the FBI. An FBI agent in Birmingham said it was, in fact, an artificial sweetener. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for sending the letters. In California, suspicious powder was sent to two UC Irvine professors. More tests were expected to be carried out Tuesday on white powder sent to two UC Irvine professors in envelopes that contained messages bearing the words “black death.” Neither one of the targets appeared to have been harmed by the substance, whose discovery prompted the evacuation of parts of two buildings on campus.

By the way, if the nation ever faces a large-scale attack by a biological weapon like anthrax, the U.S. Postal Service will be in charge of delivering whatever drugs and other medical aid Americans would need to survive. In an executive order released last week, the President put the Postal Service in charge of dispensing ‘‘medical countermeasures’’ to biological weapons because of its ‘‘capacity for rapid residential delivery.’’ Under the new order, federal agencies must develop a response plan that includes possible law enforcement escorts for Postal Service workers and gives anthrax ‘‘primary threat consideration.’’ The President says his decision to give the Postal Service a role in responding to a widespread biological attack will not supersede the authorities of other agencies.

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