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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 27th April 2013

I was wrong and I thought I should take almost the first opportunity to say ‘I was wrong’. I say ‘almost’ because I’ve waited a couple of days to see what developed and my waiting has been rewarded.

A week ago, I wrote about the developments in the ‘ricin letters’ affair in the USA and said the arrest of a suspect ‘suggests that this particular storm in a teacup will quickly abate’. Since then, however, the story has taken a surprising twist and become of much more interest to the media.

What was being written about as a potential terror attack on a US Senator and the President is looking more like something from a soap opera with talk of personal vendettas or attempts to disguise motives.

Ricinus communis, castor bean plant

Ricinus communis, castor bean plant

The FBI did say that full laboratory tests had shown the presence of ricin but, on Thursday, Reuters reported FBI evidence given in court that ‘the ricin found in the letters was in a crude form and looked like castor beans ground up in a blender’ and said that the FBI was waiting further tests to determine how potent the granular material was.

Because there continue to be hysterical pieces, like this from The Daily Reveille in Louisiana claiming that ricin is more worrying than bomb attacks, I feel I should repeat that crushed castor beans are not a serious threat of any poisoning never mind fatal and certainly not by inhalation the method suggested even by some of the more rational articles.

Having released the original suspect, the FBI turned its attention to a second man. I’ve tried to stay away from speculation about this whole affair but I’m going to do one bit of it now.

Early reports said the new ‘person of interest’ was co-operating with the authorities and allowing them to search various premises without objection.

On Friday, however, many news sources reported that the man concerned had disappeared. The Washington Post chose to say that ‘The FBI temporarily lost track Thursday of a former martial arts instructor…’ but other outlets wrote it up as if this demonstrated that a guilty man had gone on the run and that there was the chance of further ricin ‘attacks’ while the fugitive remained at large.

Here’s the speculation. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this individual had gone into hiding to avoid the attentions of a sensation driven media. 

Update

The FBI has now arrested James Everett Dutschke. He has been charged with “knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon.”

He is due to appear in court on Monday at which time it may be clear whether the FBI has found anything during its searches or was rushed into making the arrest because Dutschke went into hiding to avoid the media.

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