The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 16, 2013

Letter to Miss. senator tests for ricin

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Mail from a broad swath of northern Mississippi, including the Memphis suburbs of DeSoto County, Miss., Tupelo, Oxford and the northern part of the Mississippi Delta region is processed and postmarked in Memphis, according to a Postal Service map. The Memphis center also processes mail for residents of western parts of Tennessee and eastern Arkansas.

Gainer said there was “no indication that there are other suspect mailings.” Yet he urged caution, and also said the Senate off-site mail facility where the initial tests were performed on the letter will be closed for a few days while the investigation continues.

The letter was discovered at a mail processing plant in Prince George’s County in suburban Maryland, according to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Wicker, 61, was appointed to the Senate in 2007 and won election to a full term last year. He previously served a dozen years in the House.

He has a solidly conservative voting record, so much so that he drew notice last week when he voted to allow debate to begin on controversial gun legislation in the Senate. “I cast this vote at the request of the National Rifle Association, of which I am a member,” he said in a statement at the time that added he has a 100 percent voting record in favor of Second Amendment rights.

Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters of the letter. Other lawmakers said they had been provided information by Gainer’s office.

Milt Leitenberg, a University of Maryland bioterrorism expert, said ricin is a poison derived from the same bean that makes castor oil. According to a Homeland Security Department handbook, ricin is deadliest when inhaled. It is not contagious, but there is no antidote.

“Luckily, this was discovered at the processing center off premises,” Durbin said. He said all mail to senators is “roasted, toasted, sliced and opened” before it ever gets to them.

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