The Centers for Disease Control says there's very little chance of becoming infected with anthrax through the mail.
"The mail is by in large very safe," CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan told reporters Thursday. "The risk for cross contamination is very low, but there are some elements that we can't explain well," which he added raises the possibility cross contamination could infect some people.
For those who are really concerned about it, Koplan suggested they take common-sense steps when handling mail, such as keeping it away from the face, not blowing into an envelope to open it and not doing anything that would cause the contents to spread into the air.
"We don't have all the answers to this," Koplan said. "There are large parts of this that are unknown that we're trying to get answers to. In the process of that we're trying to balance protecting people in as absolute a way as we can from any illness, by the same token not creating undue alarm and fear where it's unwarranted."
Koplan said billions of pieces of mail in the past few weeks have passed through the postal facilities that handled the anthrax-contaminated letters sent to Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Patrick Leahy, as well as the media, "and we've got a grand total of 18 confirmed and four suspected cases in the course of this."
"If there is a risk, it is very, very low," he said.
Suburban Chicago officials are suing to block a deal worked out by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Illinois Gov. George Ryan that would reconfigure and vastly expand O'Hare International Airport and open the way for a third Chicago-area airport southwest of the city.
Daley and Ryan worked out the deal to avert federal intervention to ease delays at one of the world's busiest airports. "I believe this is one of the most significant agreements ever reached between a Chicago mayor and an Illinois governor. We all agree that an efficient, high-capacity airport system is absolutely vital to the continued economic vitality, not just of Chicago, but of the suburbs and the entire state of Illinois," Daley said.
The agreement would reconfigure O'Hare's runways to a more east-west pattern and provide an eighth runway on the southern end of the airport. The more than $6 billion plan entails demolishing about 500 homes and businesses in suburban Bensenville. Construction of the south runway is expected to begin in 2011.
In exchange, Daley agreed to support construction of a new airport in rural Peotone, Ill., 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, and to keep the city's lakefront airport, Meigs Field, open until 2026. Daley had wanted to turn Meigs into a park.
John Geils, chairman of the Suburban O'Hare Commission, denounced Ryan for agreeing to the deal. "He stood before the general public (when he was seeking election) ... and said, 'No more runways at O'Hare.' He betrayed us," said Geils, the mayor of Bensenville, Ill.
The commission hopes to at least stall implementation of the agreement through its lawsuit, filed Thursday in Chicago.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the fact remains something has to be done about congestion around O'Hare -- both in the air and on the ground. "We need a safer more efficient airport and we have to do something about the traffic mess," he said. "I certainly sympathize with the families affected by this ... but it will be 10 years before construction starts. They have time to decide what they want to do."
No hearing date has been set for the suit.
Professional baseball lost -- all told -- about $519 million last year, with only five clubs earning a profit and 25 losing money, according to baseball commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig. He also told the House Judiciary Committee Thursday that a proposal to lift baseball's anti-trust exemption would lead to more teams abandoning smaller cities for large.
Congress is considering legislation to partially lift baseball's anti-trust exemption -- and Selig's announcement several weeks ago that "contracting," or reducing, the league by two teams is under consideration -- has heightened the interest by lawmakers and the public in baseball's finances.
According to Selig, the numbers do not look good.
One of the teams under consideration for contraction is the Minnesota Twins franchise, and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, I, testified in defense of keeping his state's franchise intact. "Commissioner Selig has said that the Minnesota Twins cannot be competitive without a new stadium and therefore they should be eliminated," Venture said. "But without more fundamental economic reforms, many teams cannot be competitive. I cannot understand how eliminating the Minnesota Twins -- or any team -- will help the Arizona Diamondbacks draw more fans or resist the temptation to pay their players more than they can afford."
The Diamondbacks lost money in 2001, according to documents released by Selig, but also won the World Series.
The answers, or the revenue figures released by Selig, did little to assuage the concerns of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who sponsored the legislation lifting the anti-trust exemption, which allows baseball's owners to decide on franchise ownership, franchise locations, or the number of actual franchises. However, Conyer's bill is not given much of chance at enactment by observers -- since it would have to pass the Republican-controlled House, pass the Senate and be signed by President Bush, a former major league baseball owner.
DUMB AND DUMBER
Wired News notes that the anti-virus industry sometimes has to over-hype the threat of not-so-clever computer viruses, largely because many computer users still can't recognize them in time.
This week's most notorious rogue program, the "Goner" e-mail virus, "is far from being the brightest pixel in the antiviral jungle. But it still got as much attention as more serious threats to computer users' sanity," writes Wired's Michelle Delio.
Unlike the infamous LoveBug virus, Goner "employs no compelling psychological appeal to convince recipients that they ought to click on the virus-laden attachment," Delio writes. And unlike the recent Nimda and BadTrans viruses, Goner cannot spring to life on its own, without the aid of an unsuspecting user. The activated Goner virus does, however, disable a computer's anti-virus software.
For that reason -- plus the ineptitude of many e-mail users -- security experts said Goner deserves the attention, even if it's not exactly the work of an evil genius. Mike Beasly, an administrator with a Wall Street investment firm, told Wired News: "I could understand people falling for BadTrans and Code Red. But this worm is just plain stupid and still it's spreading. This is a perfect example of why systems (administrators) often refer to their users as 'losers' behind their backs."
(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)