THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 18th May 2012

Two different stories illustrating problems with press reporting caught my attention, today. I’ve said before that there is little point in trying to point out every error on the Internet but these two struck me as particular examples of newspapers happily passing on incorrect information and perpetuating myths as a result.

On Monday, I speculated that the CIA created ‘underpants bomb plot’1 would find its way into the library of alleged terror plots trotted out to fill out any new story about alleged terrorists.

It didn’t take long. According to Reuters2, US homeland security averages 55 ‘encounters’ with ‘known or suspected terrorists’ every day. These are people who appear on various watchlists held by the US authorities. The lists started after the September 11th attacks but the number of people recorded on them increased substantial after the December 2009 failed underpants bomb attack on a flight inbound to the USA.

Such lists may be useful but the danger is that the longer they become the less useful they are. Clearly, at the extreme end, any adult could be a threat but security agencies would have no hope of detecting potential attacks if they included everyone on their lists.

There is now a mechanism to appeal one’s inclusion if you find you are having trouble flying following cases where high profile individuals have found themselves unable to fly and used their PR connections to get themselves de-listed. I don’t believe it is possible to check if one is on such a list in advance of making a trip.

The other problem with such lists, of course, is that they remove discretion from officers in the field. This has a ludicrous side as when an 18-month old baby is refused permission to fly because their name matches one on the ‘no-fly’ list. But it also has a serious side because an officer in the field may assume the centre knows better and ignore suspicions about an individual simply because that individual is not listed.

But, discussing the problems with these lists is not my purpose. That is, as above, to point out how myths become facts. The Reuters report says;

‘A new threat to aviation security surfaced earlier this month, in the form of a foiled plot by al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate to deploy a more sophisticated "underwear" bomb.’

Given that the ‘bomber’ concerned was a CIA agent, there was never a ‘threat to aviation security’ because there was no ‘plot’ and, therefore, nothing to be ‘foiled’.

The second story concerned arrests in the USA over alleged dealing in Catha edulis, khat. It is not a new story but @radleybalko on Twitter drew my attention to it. Last October police and the ‘Drug Task Force’ in Brown County, Wisconsin, arrested three men, of Somali extraction, in connection with a package thought to contain khat.3

I found three things of interest and I’ll go through them in increasing order of wrongness. The first is that the item ends with a link to the federal Justice Department guide to khat. If, as I did, you follow the link you will be taken to a two page leaflet that is over-printed ‘ARCHIVED’ and has a warning that it may be out of date. It seems that the WTAQ reporter didn’t do very extensive research because it is quite easy to find current documents on the DoJ website.

The second item is a quote from Brown County Sheriff John Gossage who says "It's actually pre-pubescent that they're using it". Now given that, earlier in the piece, a member of the Drug Task Force is quoted as saying it was their first ever seizure of khat it is fair to assume that Sheriff Gossage has not studied khat in the same detail as all those people who report that, in general, it is not of interest to young people. Still, suggesting children are at risk is always the easy option for justifying draconian action against substances.

But, it is the third item that is jaw droppingly stupid and caused Radley Balko to tweet. This is the statement, not attributed to anybody other than the unnamed author of the piece, that;

‘If chewed, it has similar effects of LSD and is addictive like heroin.’


1.CIA derails new al-Qaeda underwear bomb plot The Telegraph 8th May 2012
2.U.S. has 55 daily encounters with "suspected terrorists" Reuters carried by Yahoo! News 15th May 2012
3.Khat bust in Green Bay leads to education about new drug WTAQ.COM 18th October 2011

Follow @thepoisongarden on Twitter

Full Entries


Saturday 20th August 2016 Sunday 6th March 2016 Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015 Friday 27th November 2015 Monday 17th August 2015 Wednesday 15th July 2015 Friday 26th June 2015 Thursday 25th June 2015 Thursday 30th April 2015 Wednesday 29th April 2015 Wednesday 11th March 2015 Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Saturday 28th February 2015 Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014 Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014 Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014 Saturday 16th August 2014 Tuesday 5th August 2014 Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014 Wednesday 23rd July 2014 Sunday 13th July 2014 Sunday 6th July 2014 Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014 Tuesday 24th June 2014 Sunday 22nd June 2014 Monday 9th June 2014 Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014 Sunday 18th May 2014 Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014 Saturday 5th April 2014 Thursday 3rd April 2014 Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014 Tuesday 25th March 2014 Friday 21st March 2014 Monday 17th March 2014 Sunday 16th March 2014 Tuesday 11th March 2014 Thursday 6th March 2014 Wednesday 5th March 2014 Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014 Monday 24th February 2014 Wednesday 19th February 2014 Monday 17th February 2014 Thursday 13th February 2014 Monday 4th February 2014 Monday 3rd February 2014 Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014 Thursday 23rd January 2014 Friday 17th January 2014 Wednesday 15th January 2014 Monday 13th January 2014 Thursday 9th January 2014 Tuesday 7th January 2014 Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013 Friday 20th December 2013 Tuesday 17th December 2013 Friday 14th December 2013 Thursday 12th December 2013 Sunday 8th December 2013 Wednesday 4th December 2013 Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013 Wednesday 27th November 2013 Tuesday 26th November 2013 Friday 22nd November 2013 Monday 18th November 2013 Friday 15th November 2013 Thursday 14th November 2013 Sunday 10th November 2013 Thursday 7th November 2013 Wednesday 6th November 2013 Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013 Sunday 27th October 2013 Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Monday 21st October 2013 Friday 18th October 2013 Friday 11th October 2013 Wednesday 9th October 2013 Tuesday 8th October 2013 Monday 7th October 2013 Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013 Saturday 28th September 2013 Friday 27th September 2013 Monday 23rd September 2013 Sunday 15th September 2013 Monday 9th September 2013 Sunday 8th September 2013 Tuesday 3rd September 2013 Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013 Sunday 25th August 2013 Monday 19th August 2013 Friday 16th August 2013 Tuesday 13th August 2013 Friday 9th August 2013 Friday 2nd August 2013 Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013 Sunday 21st July 2013 Wednesday 17th July 2013 Monday 15th July 2013 Saturday 13th July 2013 Friday 12th July 2013 Thursday 11th July 2013 Wednesday 10th July 2013 Tuesday 9th July 2013 Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013 Tuesday 25th June 2013 Friday 21st June 2013 Thursday 20th June 2013 Wednesday 19th June 2013 Saturday 15th June 2013 Sunday 9th June 2013 Saturday 8th June 2013 Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 blog June 2012 blog May 2012 blog April 2012 blog March 2012 blog February 2012 blog January 2012 blog December 2011 blog November 2011 blog October 2011 blog September 2011 blog August 2011 blog July 2011 blog June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.