Archive for February 29, 2008

Ricin Found in Las Vegas Motel Room; Man in Hospital

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) — Las Vegas police found vials of the deadly toxin ricin and its key ingredient yesterday in a local hotel room, two weeks after its occupant was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

“We don’t know if the guy was manufacturing the ricin or not, and that’s our concern,” Captain Joseph Lombardo said in a televised press conference today. “He’s not a suspect at this point.”

Authorities declined to identify the patient, other than to say he was middle-aged.

Police and the FBI, which is aiding the inquiry, said they don’t suspect terrorism. Ricin is also used in experimental cancer treatments. Castor beans, the key ingredient of the toxin, were found in the Extended StayAmerica hotel room, police said.

Federal officials have warned police departments since the Sept. 11 attacks to look out for ricin, which could be deadly in the hands of terrorists. It may be used to contaminate air- conditioning systems, drinking water or lakes, the FBI has said.

Las Vegas Deputy Police Chief Kathy Suey told the press conference that ricin was found in the hotel room after a friend or relative of the man came to clean it. It had been vacant since he called an ambulance Feb. 14, complaining of breathing trouble, and was hospitalized, she said.

Several Vials

Police took custody of several vials containing the poison, which is thousands of times more lethal than cyanide. Six people were taken to a hospital as a precaution, but none fell ill, Suey said.

“This is the just the beginning of what is obviously going to be a complex investigation,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Detective Bill Cassell said in a telephone interview today.

In 2004, ricin was found in a U.S. Senate mailroom, shortly after letters were sent to the White House and a South Carolina post office threatening to spread the poison. No one was injured.

Traces of ricin were also found five years ago in a London apartment during a British-based counterterrorism raid.

Ricin is part of the waste “mash” left after processing castor beans, the source of castor oil. The toxin often takes the form of a powder, and can be inhaled or mixed with water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lethal Dose

Once in the body, ricin halts the production of vital proteins in the cells, which eventually die. Used in cancer patients, the poison has shown promise in reducing tumors.

A lethal dose for an adult would be about twice the size of a pinhead. Symptoms could include breathing difficulty, vomiting and liver and kidney failure within a few days. There is no antidote.

Some reports suggest ricin was used in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, according to the CDC.

In 1978, Bulgarian defector and journalist Georgi Markov died in London after a man attacked him with an umbrella tip that injected a poisonous dart into his skin, the CDC said.

While the castor bean is rarely grown as a U.S. crop, about 1 million tons are produced yearly worldwide, mostly by India and South America.

“Given the beans’ abundance, it wouldn’t be that difficult to obtain relatively pure ricin, and it wouldn’t take a lot of sophisticated biochemical equipment,” said Robert Brey, chief scientific officer at DOR Biopharma Inc.

The Ewing, New Jersey-based company is working to develop a vaccine for ricin exposure that could be stockpiled by the U.S. government.


CDC: Facts about Ricin.

How interesting that it isn’t terrorism. Obviously somebody wants us to think that this unfortunate gentleman was merely making homemade cancer treatments that went terribly wrong. Yeah, that’s it. Or maybe he had a really bad rodent infestation.Something tells me that if I were found to have vials of ricin in my possession, I would have already had my rights read while in the hospital.

Hat Tip:  Ed Mahmoud at GCP.

Updated report from Fox News courteously supplied by Robert D who was following this story while I was sleeping.  More on ricin at Popular Science.

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Murder Suspect Tries to Flee on Jacksonville Cruise Ship

JACKSONVILLE, FL — Investigators say a murder suspect wanted in Atlanta tried to escape the U.S. on a cruise ship out of Jacksonville.

Derron Williams, 29, is accused of murder.

Police say he deliberately ran over a person during an argument at a party earlier this month in Atlanta.

U.S. Marshals say Williams tried to flee the U.S. on board the Carnival Cruise Ship Celebration bound for the Bahamas.

It pulled out of port Thursday night.

The cruise ship made it five miles out to sea before getting stopped by the Coast Guard and U.S. Marshals.

Williams is being held at the Duval County Jail pending extradition to Georgia.


So if you need to get outta Dodge in a hurry, the cruise ship route is probably not your best choice.

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Companion Horses

Daughter sent me an E-Mail concerning a horse that she just KNEW I would want to rush out and buy to keep her old mare company.  She was a thoroughbred/Arabian filly for sale at an extremely low price (way less than the stud fee would have been).  With land prices ranging from “How much did you say that was again?”  to “You have got to be f***ing kidding me!”, I suppose that there just aren’t enough places available to board horses.

Why daughter thought that I would want a hot-blooded mount that would likely attempt to evolve wings every time she saw a real or imaginery booger, I could not say.  There are sooooo many reasons not to take on another horse or horses.  My knees can’t take posting anymore.  I don’t believe I bounce quite as well as I used to.  Hay and feed prices are pretty steep.  I’ve consequently turned down several offers of free horses lately.

What did catch my eye yesterday was a picture on the feed store bulletin board advertising an 18 and 1/2 hands draft mule, 6 years old, who allegedly loves people (the ad did not specify whether he eats them raw or tenderizes them with his hooves first).   He was *beautiful*.   I would love to have another mule.  Perhaps I better look for a light duty economy model instead of an industrial strength mule as I’m not planning on logging any forests or transporting freight by wagon anytime soon.

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Dummy and Teenage Ewe Mom Released into General Population

I released “Dummy” aka “Al” and his 9-month-old mother from their secluded lamb pen to join the other ewes-in-waiting and new mommas in the general sheep population. 

As soon as I released “Al”, he enthusiastically bounded off to play with the other lambs that were his size.  Meanwhile, his mother was frantically screaming “HELP!  My lamb has been LAMBNAPPED!  Ohmygawd, where’s my precious BABY ooooh, look, food!” and then ran off to eat with her twin sister seemingly forgetting about motherhood for the time being.    

I better check on them again after dark and around midnight.

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Florida Blackout Blamed on Human Error

MIAMI (AP) — Florida Power & Light says a power outage that affected more than half a million customers earlier this week was the result of human error.

The electric company released a 2-page preliminary report on the incident on Friday. It says that a field engineer investigating a switch that malfunctioned at one of the power company’s substations in west Miami was to blame.

The company says ultimately two nuclear generation units and a natural gas unit at the Turkey Point facility south of Miami shut down. Two other FPL plants were also affected.



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