Boston bombing. Ricin in D.C. Texas inferno. Any links?
Boston bombing case has no suspect or suspects, which has opened the door to speculation. But the fire in Texas appears to be happenstance, and an arrest has been made in connection with the poison-laced letters.
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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Bad news has piled up fast in recent days. It’s tempting to look for clues that link the events together. As Politico’s chief political columnist Roger Simon tweeted on Wednesday night, “Conspiracy theorists gonna have a field day tomorrow.”
But it’s worth pointing out that at this point, there is no evidence that Boston, ricin, and West, Texas, are related in any way.
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Beginning with the latest development: To all appearances, the Texas tragedy was happenstance. A fire started in one part of the West Fertilizer Co., and local firefighters responded to try to put it out. A few minutes later, the fire lit some of the large quantities of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that's produced and stored at the plant. At high temperatures, this common substance becomes a powerful explosive.
Unintended ammonium nitrate explosions are uncommon but not unknown. Since 1921, at least 17 such explosions have produced casualties, according to The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.
Six of those were in the United States. The worst occurred in 1947, when a fire aboard a ship docked in the port of Texas City blew up 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate cargo. Five hundred eighty one people died, including most of the town’s fire department.
“It still ranks as the deadliest industrial accident the country has ever seen,” Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer writes.