Canada police say six ricin-laced letters sent to U.S., including White House

By Christinne Muschi

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (Reuters) – Canadian police on Monday searched an apartment in a Montreal suburb linked to the woman arrested for sending a ricin-filled envelope to the White House and to five other addresses in Texas, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.

U.S. authorities arrested a woman at the U.S.-Canada border near Buffalo, New York, on Sunday on suspicion that she sent the deadly poison by mail, addressed to the White House. The woman has joint Canadian and French citizenship, two sources said on Monday.

She will appear on Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) in Buffalo before Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr., a spokeswoman for the federal court in the Western District of New York said.

“We believe a total of six letters were sent, one to the White House and five to Texas,” RCMP officer Charles Poirier said outside the modern brown and grey building where the search was taking place. “We can’t confirm that she lived in (the apartment), but it is connected to her.”

Poirier could not say where in Texas the envelopes were mailed, but the police department in Mission, Texas, received a suspicious letter within the last week, Art Flores, a spokesman for the department, said. The department did not open the envelope and turned it over to the FBI, he said.

Flores also said the Mission police had arrested the woman now believed to be held in Buffalo in early 2019, but said he did not have records related to the arrest and referred further inquiries to the FBI.

The FBI is investigating several suspected ricin letters sent to law enforcement and detention facilities in South Texas, a U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters.

So far they have not found any link to political or terrorist groups, but the investigation is ongoing, the source said.

The RCMP’s special Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives team is leading the operation, the RCMP said.

On Saturday, the RCMP confirmed the White House letter had apparently been sent from Canada and said the FBI had requested assistance.

The envelope was intercepted at a government mail center before it arrived at the White House.

Ricin is found naturally in castor beans but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.

(Reporting by Christinne Muschi in Longueuil, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Mark Hosenball in Washington, additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)

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Arrest in case of ricin letters sent to White House, Texas

WASHINGTON (AP) — A woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to the White House, has been arrested at the New York-Canada border and is also suspected of sending similar poisoned envelopes to law enforcement agencies in Texas, officials said Monday.

The letter had been intercepted earlier this week before it reached the White House. The woman was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Peace Bridge border crossing near Buffalo and is expected to face federal charges, three law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

Her name was not immediately released, but the woman was expected to appear in federal court on Monday.

The letter addressed to the White House appeared to have originated in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said. It was intercepted at a government facility that screens mail addressed to the White House and President Donald Trump and a preliminary investigation indicated it tested positive for ricin, according to the officials.

Envelopes containing ricin were also mailed to law enforcement agencies in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, according to another law enforcement official. The official did not say which agencies were sent the envelopes but said they are believed to have been mailed by the same person who sent one to the White House.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

There have been several prior instances in which U.S. officials have been targeted with ricin sent through the mail.

A Navy veteran was arrested in 2018 and confessed to sending envelopes to Trump and members of his administration that contained the substance from which ricin is derived. The letters were intercepted, and no one was hurt.

In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after sending letters dusted with ricin to President Barack Obama and other officials.

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Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.

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Letters reveal public distaste for booze in JFK White House

BOSTON (AP) — It was a tempest in a teapot — or, more accurately, a whiskey tumbler.

Presidential transitions are always at least a little tricky. Case in point: Researchers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum have found a cache of letters from Americans objecting to JFK’s embrace of cocktails at White House events.

The letters shed new insight into President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s handoff to Kennedy early in 1961, and the strikingly different attitudes that people held about alcohol at official functions.

“Liquor dulls the brain and loosens the tongue,” one disappointed citizen, Kenneth P. Kennedy of Sparta, Illinois — no relation to JFK — wrote to the nation’s newly minted 35th president. “Can we risk our national and international security on such potential incompetence?”

Eisenhower was no teetotaler, but historians say he presided over a largely cocktail-free White House. Enter Kennedy, who had already raised some eyebrows as the first Roman Catholic to be elected president.

JFK Library archivists say the letters of protest began arriving after newspapers reported on Kennedy’s first official event: a January 1961 reception honoring the new president’s appointees.

“For the first time, there was a bar in the State Dining Room, with waiters to stir up martinis or pour vodka, Scotch, bourbon, or champagne,” The Washington Post reported.

What followed was a sort of low-key Liquorgate. Letters — some typed, others handwritten — expressed shock and worry that the U.S. would lose its dignity and standing in the world.

“Dear Mr. President, I think many feel humiliation and disgrace over our nation today when we learn of our White House turned into shameful drunken all-night carousal and dancing,” reads one from Edith Fritz, of Idaho. “Dignity previously engendered — gone. May God have pity upon your poor soul.”

“Our nation was founded by men of Christian ideals. Let’s keep it that way,” reads another from Ruby Turner, of Dunkerton, Iowa.

At the time, scholars say, the Kennedy administration played down the public’s reaction to the change, noting it received far more letters about civil rights unrest and the Cuban missile crisis.

In a JFK Library blog post Wednesday, archivists Dana Bronson and Stacey Chandler noted that transitions from one president to another are closely watched for shifts in both style and substance.

And presidents have held wide-ranging attitudes toward alcohol. George Washington, the nation’s first, is said to have enjoyed whiskey; President Donald Trump, its 45th, doesn’t drink at all, though he has had wine served at state dinners and other functions.

Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent in November, doesn’t drink, either. Like Trump, the former vice president has pointed to alcoholism in his family in explaining why he abstains.

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Follow AP New England editor Bill Kole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billkole.

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