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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Monday 23rd January 2012

Today, I’ve been looking at more recent developments, if any, in some of the stories I’ve blogged about in recent weeks.

I’ve divided it up by topic and clicking the headline to each segment will take you to the original blog entry. 

Chinese Billionaire Dies from Poisoned Cat Stew

Though I haven’t found any more detail about the death of a Chinese tycoon, apparently after a poisonous vine was deliberately added to his meal of cat stew, I did come across another case of the same plant being used as a murder weapon.

The Thanh Nien news service, as English language service from Vietnam reported,  on Saturday, that a 31-year old woman had murdered her husband and two of his friends after soaking Gelsemium elegans in wine for over a month and then substituting the result for her husband’s favourite herbal tonic.

The three men died, on 29th December, within an hour of drinking the wine and the wife has now been charged with their murder. She is reported to have confessed to the crime claiming that her husband was violent and abusive to her and their children and admitting that she had an affair with another villager. 

Two Dead after Eating Death Cap Mushrooms

There appears to be no doubt about the cause of death of the Chinese chef, Liu Jun, and kitchen assistant, Tsou Hsiang, on New Year’s Eve and more recent news items have focussed on what can and should be done to increase awareness about the danger of harvesting the Amanita phalloides, death cap, mushroom in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

There have been only five deaths in the past ten years, so there is, clearly, no need to over-react but the ACT Chief Minister seems to have recognised that the existing warnings about the dangers of foraging in the area could be augmented by targeting new arrivals to the area, both Australians, moving from other parts of the country, and immigrants from non-English speaking countries.

It is also intended to contact all restaurants in the ACT to make sure they do not serve any wild mushrooms.

Illegal Alcohol Kills 170+ in West Bengal

The Jakarta Globe reports that a man who has been evading the police in West Bengal after being suspected of being the ‘kingpin’ behind the illegal alcohol production and distribution network that resulted in over 170 deaths, last month, has surrendered to the authorities and been taken into custody.

Though a death toll of 172 in a single incident is unusual, deaths from illegal alcohol in India are not. Less than two weeks after the West Bengal deaths media reports, including this from the BBC detailed 17 deaths in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Operation ‘Fast and Furious’  Loses 1,300 Weapons

As so often happens with scandals of all sorts, information about the Fast and Furious affair continues to be drip fed into the public domain. Most recently, there has been quite a bit of excitement after the chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, Patrick Cunningham, advised, via his lawyer, that he would refuse to testify to the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform because he intended to invoke his right not to incriminate himself.

His attorney’s letter repeatedly claims that Mr Cunningham is innocent of any wrongdoing but, it is in the nature of the beast that anyone ‘invoking the Fifth’ is assumed, by the press, to have something to hide.

Away from ‘Fast and Furious’ itself but still related to the supply of guns to drug cartels in Mexico, a federal judge has ruled that an ATF requirement to be notified of multiple purchases of assault weapons is lawful. This story calls it a ‘stinging defeat’ for the gun industry but, given that the gun industry took the matter to court because it sees no harm is supplying, say, ten assault weapons in one sale from a gun shop within walking distance of the Mexican border, you have to wonder how successful the requirement will be at reducing the flow of guns to the war in Mexico.

Home Affairs Select Committee to Examine Government Drug Policy

The Homes Affairs Select Committee has extended its deadline for written submissions to 7th February I’d been meaning to look at the terms for making a written submission but failed to do so before the previous deadline. Follow the link for full details on how to make a submission.

During the coming week, I shall be spending quite a lot of time on trains between here and Kent so I might find the time to look at this and see if there is anything I want to submit.