That’s what the initial tests say, anyway; as I recall, false positives aren’t unheard of during preliminary examinations. When I first heard about this today, I thought maybe jihadis were shipping bomb components to operatives in the U.S. for assembly here. (Remember that Abdulmutallab’s bomb on Flight 253 required him to mix a liquid with a powder to form the combustible.) Not so. Sounds like these things were ready to pop, which makes terrible sense given their destination — two Jewish synagogues in Chicago. More from NBC:

Sources told NBC News that both packages contained toner cartridges with wires and white powder. The devices were found in Britain and Dubai last night…

The devices were “in a form that was designed to try to carry out some kind of attack,” added White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. “Clearly, from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the material that was found … was intended to do harm.”

Brennan said the two packages were addressed to two Chicago synagogues, adding that they had “been made inert.”

If you’re looking for a silver lining in this otherwise very dark cloud, consider that AQ may be resorting to mail bombs now simply because it’s too difficult to get people in place onboard passenger planes or inside the U.S. The Unabomber route might actually be their most effective means of detonation, at least for the moment. What I’m most curious about at the moment is figuring out how the feds uncovered all this. Does UPS typically screen packages for explosives, or did they get a tip-off from someone inside Yemen? If the latter, then our intelligence there is much better than I thought.

As for Obama’s announcement, needless to say, it’s smart politics. Always a good idea right before an election to remind voters that you’re on the case against the bad guys. Especially after he took a beating in the press for not saying much publicly for days after Abdulmutallab’s plot was busted.