Monday, November 20, 2017
News Roundup

Ricin in letters called easy to make

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OXFORD, Miss. — The ricin mailed to the president and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is relatively easy to make but generally can't be used to target a large number of people, experts say.

A Mississippi man, Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, has been charged with mailing letters laced with the naturally occurring toxin to President Barack Obama and Wicker. Curtis has denied making the ricin and mailing the letters.

The FBI has not revealed details about how the ricin was made or how lethal it may have been. It was in a powdered form inside the envelopes. A Senate official said Thursday that the ricin was not weaponized, meaning it wasn't in a form that could easily enter the body.

Law enforcement agents should be able to test the toxin found in the letters to determine its potency, as well as learn what chemicals may have been used to extract it from castor beans, said Murray Cohen, the founder of the Atlanta-based Frontline Foundation, which trains workers on preparedness and response to bioterrorism and epidemics.

Cohen said ricin was once known as "the poor man's bioterrorism" because the seeds are easy to obtain and the extraction process is relatively simple.

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