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Terror fight affects plants like IP, Thompson says

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., right, talks Monday with Pete Thompson, left, and Dennis Taylor at International Paper Vicksburg Mill.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[8/10/04]The war on terror has a direct effect on plants such as International Paper Company’s mill near Vicksburg, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson said Monday.

The effect isn’t related to specific threats, but to the commercial aspects of operations, Thompson said.

Back in Washington, the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, of which Thompson is a member, was to start its hearings today on the 9/11 Commission Report on Terrorism.

“A lot of the things in that report will indirectly affect a lot of what you do,” he said.

Much relates to transportation of raw materials and manufactured goods, such as the heavy-duty paper made at the mill near Redwood. Inspections are costly, Thompson said.

“We’ve got to come up with a way of doing it smarter. You can’t put a body on every barge and tractor-trailer,” Thompson said.

Otherwise, the Bolton native said he was visiting the mill to listen to managers and workers.

Thompson, a Democrat, has represented Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District since in 1993. He is running for re-election in the general election Nov. 2. He is opposed by Republican nominee Clinton B. LeSueur and Reform candidate Shawn O’Hara.

“We came to the IP plant to tour and listen to the employees on what’s on their mind,” Thompson said as he wrapped up his visit. “They shared the challenges they face.”

Thompson said the Homeland Security Committee will be encouraging intelligence agencies to collaborate more and to remember that there are ripe targets for terror outside bigger cities.

“One of the real challenges for areas like ours is how to get people to start focusing on rural areas or not so populated areas versus the New Yorks, the San Franciscos and the Miamis,” he said, indicating less populated areas can be terrorist targets as well.

The IP plant could be a target, Thompson said, as well as Grand Gulf Nuclear Station near Port Gibson. “We have to come up with plans to secure all our facilities,” he said.

Responding to a question about what could be done to help industry with rising energy and transportation costs, Thompson said in the long term, Congress needs to do something to encourage exploration for petroleum and other energy sources within the United States and then foster the building and operation of plants to process it.

“Right now we are too dependent on foreign energy sources,” he said.

Responding to another question about how taxes are imposed, Thompson said the federal tax code is basically unfair and for every provision for income there is a matching exemption.

The unfortunate part is most people in Mississippi’s Second District don’t make enough money to take advantages of the big exemptions, he said.

Thompson also said the Congress must find a way to shield American business and to keep jobs in this country, rather than sending them overseas. Some of the solutions, he said, could be tariffs to protect American goods from unfair foreign competition and incentives to build and operate industries here.