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News Wrap: Mississippi Man Charged for Sending Letters Laced With Ricin

April 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: A Mississippi man was charged today with threatening President Obama and a U.S. senator by allegedly sending them tainted letters. Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested yesterday, but maintains he is innocent. Lab tests confirmed a letter sent to Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker contained ricin. And the FBI confirmed the deadly poison was also in a letter mailed to the White House. Both were intercepted at off-site mailing facilities. If convicted — if convicted, Curtis could face up to 15 years in prison.

Flooding became a problem for people in the Upper Midwest today, as rivers overflowed their banks. At least nine states are experiencing flooding or will soon. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it’s closing part of the Mississippi River to commercial navigation starting tomorrow. Heavy rain fell across the region, making the flooding even worse. And in Chicago, a sinkhole opened up on a street on the city’s South Side and swallowed three cars.

A former justice of the peace has been charged in the killings of a North Texas district attorney, his wife, and an assistant prosecutor. Eric Williams has been in jail since Saturday for making terror threats related to the case. The murdered officials prosecuted Williams for computer theft last year. He was later convicted and lost his elected position. His wife, Kim Williams, was charged in the murders yesterday. She confessed to taking part, but insisted her husband was the gunman.

Experts gathered by the World Health Organization arrived in China today, ahead of a weeklong investigation into a new strain of bird flu there. So far, they are unsure how it is spreading to humans. The H7N9 virus was identified three weeks ago. Since then, it has killed 17 people and infected 70 others, including many who have never had any contact with birds.

In this country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working closely with China to figure out the strain.

DR. JOSEPH BRESEE, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The virus is still only found in six provinces or municipalities in China, so there’s no cases outside China. Right now, we think the risk to the U.S. is very low. We think that we might see a traveler come to the United States that is infected in China, but gets sick in the United States. And we’re preparing for that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The team of international experts plans to visit the most affected areas of the country, Shanghai and Beijing, as well as Chinese laboratories testing the virus.

The Portuguese government pushed ahead with new spending cuts today to the tune of one billion dollars this year. The new money-saving measures are deeply unpopular, but necessary in order to meet deficit targets Portugal’s creditors set out two years ago. The cuts will reduce spending on public sector staff, goods and services that have already been slashed in previous rounds of cuts. Portugal’s unemployment rate is already above 17 percent.

On Wall Street today, a slew of disappointing corporate earnings reports sent stocks slipping. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 81 points to close at 14,537. The Nasdaq fell 38 points to close at 3,166.

NASA scientists announced the discovery of two new planets that appear to be capable of supporting life. The distant planets are 1,200 light-years away, orbiting a star in the constellation Lyra. One light-year is almost six trillion miles. The discoveries mark a milestone in the search for life on other planets. The find was made possible by NASA’s Kepler telescope.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jeff.