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Poison found in U.S. Senate

Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
Poison found in U.S. Senate
Associated Press

Washington — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Tuesday that a white powder found in his office tested positive for the deadly poison ricin, forcing the closing of Senate office buildings and close scrutiny of congressional mail.

It was the second such scare from a lethal toxin to hit the U.S. capital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, said officials were reassured because none of the 16 people who went through a decontamination process had turned up sick from exposure to ricin. Between 40 and 50 people were quarantined after the discovery.

“As each minute ticks by, we are less and less concerned about the health effects,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC director. If the ricin were pure, she said, “We would expect very early onset. The fact that we haven't seen that is reassuring.”

U.S. President George W. Bush was briefed on the situation, and the administration established an interagency team to investigate what Mr. Frist told colleagues was a chilling crime.

Dr. Gerberding said that although several tests have indicated that the substance is ricin, laboratories at the CDC in Atlanta and in Washington are conducting “gold standard” tests that involve inoculating lab animals to confirm initial results.

The discovery of the suspicious powder came Monday, in the mail room of Mr. Frist's office in the Dirksen office building. Sixteen people underwent decontamination, but no one became sick, Senate sources said.

The Senate mounted a show of business as usual, turning to a highway spending bill. But Senate hearings were cancelled and all three Senate office buildings were closed. Capitol police suspended tours in the Capitol itself and advised lawmakers not to open any mail.

As the Senate convened Tuesday for regular business, Mr. Frist told his colleagues that tests confirmed “that this was ricin.”

“Somebody in all likelihood manufactured this with intent to harm,” Mr. Frist said.

Charles Dasey, a spokesman at Fort Detrick, Md., said scientists there were doing a “confirmatory” test on the substance. The test is “higher reliability” but will take longer, he said.

Mr. Frist said that “all air sampling and all environmental studies today are negative, with the exception of what was found in that single office at that site,” which he said “was ultimately determined to be ricin.”

In 2001, an anthrax-laced letter shut down Congress briefly and closed the Hart Senate Office Building for months of expensive cleaning. Five people were killed and 17 sickened nationwide after coming into contact with letters containing anthrax.

Dirksen and the other two main Senate office buildings were closed as authorities were to remove and test all mail that has been delivered there. The closings forced the cancellation of scheduled committee meetings.

The decontamination procedure was not explained, but witnesses saw some people emerging into the cold from a van outside the Dirksen building clad only in T-shirts and pants. One wore a white jumpsuit.

In Connecticut, meanwhile, a postal worker found an unidentified powder leaking out of an envelope addressed to the Republican National Committee, and inspectors were trying to identify it. The powder was found late Monday at the Wallingford postal sorting centre, the same facility where anthrax spores were found in 2001.

A clue to ricin poisoning is a sudden fever, cough and excess fluid in the lungs, a fact sheet from CDC says. These symptoms could be followed by severe breathing problems and possibly death, the CDC said. There is no known antidote.

Twice as deadly as cobra venom, ricin, which is derived from the castor bean plant, is relatively easily made and can be inhaled, ingested or injected.

Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room

Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
and when I put my conspiracy hat on and look at his resume I see books or papers he's written include:

-When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senates Only Doctor

-The Political Perspective of the Bioterrorism Threat, Biological Threads and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities

-A time for preparedness: with funding on its way, hospitals need to get read for a bioterrorist attack.

Reminds me of the good old anthrax days when microbiologists were dying off. ;)

But HOW did Stephen Hatfill get into a Senators office? :p

[/tinfoil hat]