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Date Posted: 02:59:52 02/17/04 Tue
Author: arie brand
Subject: Re: Mark Worth obituary - Ben Bohane
In reply to:
's message, "Re: Mark Worth obituary - Ben Bohane" on 21:35:51 02/03/04 Tue
I read with great interest Ben Bohane’s obituary of Mark Worth.I only knew Mark superficially from the few times he interviewed me on my work as a ‘kiap’, and later District Officer,in the Dutch period of West Papua and I was glad (and sad) to read this portrait by a close friend. I noted that Ben too mentions that the ‘official’ cause of death was pneumonia (this was earlier reported by Kel in West Papua News of 24th January). This information leads to the following questions:
1.How come that a relatively young man passed away so soon from an illness like pneumonia?
2. How come that there happened to be a doctor in that hotel in Sentani and why did he apparently not make any attempt to have Mark transported to a hospital in Jayapura which is less than one hour’s drive away from Sentani and at the end of a road presumably well served by bemos
and taxis? His only function seems to have been to testify to the cause of death.
It has been said that pneumonia cannot be a symptom of poisoning. This is incorrect. The poison ricin (recently sent to the American Senate) has as its main symptom pneumonia which can occur within 24 - 72 hours
and can be lethal. This is clear from the attached interview on "Jim Lehrer's Newshour" (PBS Febr.3) with a biological weapons expert. Ricin can be made from castor beans which are both ubiquitous and cheap.
THE POISON RICIN AND PNEUMONIA
From:Edited version of an interview on "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" PBS =
February 3 2004
GWEN IFILL: For more on ricin and what we can understand about it, I'm joined by Julie Fischer. She studies biological and chemical weapons for the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonprofit research center dedicated =
to issues of national and international security. Welcome, Ms. Fischer.
JULIE FISCHER: Thank you.
GWEN IFILL: We just heard Dr. -- Senator Frist tell us a little bit about what ricin is. Give us an understanding. This is not anthrax. What is ricin?
JULIE FISCHER: Ricin, unlike anthrax, is not a live agent. Anthrax is the spore of a bacteria that is alive and replicates and it's not contagious but is infectious. Ricin instead is a toxin. That means it's a chemical that's produced by a live being -- in this case a plant. It
comes from the castor bean...the ricin comes from the mashed up castor bean. In this case when castor beans are processed to make oil what's left over is a big mush of water and solids. The water, the aqueous part, contains ricin which is a very, very small molecule that has the =
ability to bind to cells in the body of an organism -- a human or an animal that is exposed...the difficult thing about ricin is that it comes from a plant that's very common. In fact, castor bean oil is still made throughout the world and castor plants are used as ornamentals in the U.S., so unlike anthrax or other agents that should be in the hands of only a very few people, castor beans are fairly ubiquitous...
GWEN IFILL: And what are symptoms?
JULIE FISCHER: In the case of inhaled ricin, it would be problems with breathing that would eventually progress probably if it were severe enough to a pneumonia which would make it very difficult to breathe and perhaps even be lethal.
GWEN IFILL: So you could have pneumonia and it could be brought on by the ricin but there is no way to look at that and say these are the symptoms -- this is ricin poisoning?
JULIE FISCHER: Unfortunately there's no biological test for ricin, there's no blood test that you could take. And in the case of a covert attack,that's an attack that no one noticed, it would be a matter of ruling out other symptoms, other causes.
GWEN IFILL: We just heard Senator Frist say there is no antidote for it.Does that mean there is no cure?
JULIE FISCHER: That does mean there is no cure. The only treatment for ricin exposure, whether it's ingestion, that is eating or drinking, or inhalation is supportive care, helping the person who is exposed continue to breathe, keeping them hydrated with fluids, to try and get them past the worst part of the cell damage but there is no specific treatment...There are a few small cases of intentional poisonings with ricin. They usually fall into the class of biocrimes, that is, a husband poisoning a wife is a case that you'd recognize as a simple crime,
simple assault. But there has been a fear that ricin would be used as a biological weapon. There have been rumors it was used in the Iran-Iraq War in the early '80s. There have been stories that it was found in Afghanistan. And really the threat of ricin is that it's fairly easy to
make from a source that is fairly common in nature, and it's also heat stable which makes a difference...
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