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Texas woman charged with mailing explosives to former U.S. President Barack Obama

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The person behind a plot to harm and possibly kill Barack Obama was identified, authorities said, when tiny cat hairs found on an explosive package were matched to cats owned by a 46-year-old Texas woman.

Legal documents United States of America vs Julia Poff  was filed in a Houston court this week detail the case against Julia Poff, who is accused of mailing homemade packages to the then president and to the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, in October 2016.

Neither device detonated and the package intended for Obama was intercepted by the secret service. The court papers say, however, that Abbott may only have escaped “severe burns and death” because “he did not open [the package] as intended”.

Poff, who is also alleged to have sent a third package to the commissioner of the Social Security Administration, was charged with six counts, including mailing injurious articles and transporting explosives with the intent to kill and injure.

She is also charged with more than $5,000 of food stamp fraud and false bankruptcy declaration.

According to the court documents, FBI investigators traced the packages to Poff through their components, which included a box of Pall Mall cigarettes purchased at a Flying J Truck Stop near her home in Brookshire, Texas, 30 miles west of Houston.

Evidence also included the top of a bottle of salad dressing of a brand Poff was known to have bought for an “anniversary dinner” and a damaged shipping label Poff had originally had received through a purchase on eBay.

The indictment also revealed that fireworks were found in Poff’s garage. Among the government’s central pieces of evidence, however, were the hairs from her pets. “Cat hair was found under the address label,” the indictment states. “The cat hair on the Obama package was microscopically consistent with the hair of one of Poff’s cats.”

Investigators say the defendant “stated that she did not like the president” and was “upset with Greg Abbott” because “she had not received support from her ex-husband”.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Poff claimed in October “trash had been taken from her family’s home that ‘had our fingerprints on it’ and was ‘used in some serious crimes that we did not commit and know nothing about’”.

The government is seeking Poff’s continued detention ahead of trial, alleging a “high risk” that she will attempt to interfere with witnesses if released on bail.

 

 

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Veterans Affairs Gives 1,300 Vets Unproven COVID-19 Drug Touted By Trump

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The federal Department of Veterans Affairs has been giving 1,300 veterans hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus since late March — even though the drug has not been proven to be effective against the illness and may even trigger fatal heart problems.

In a study of 100,000 patients with COVID-19 published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet, patients who received hydroxychloroquine had a “significantly higher risk of death” compared to those who were not given the drug. “We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine” on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19, the researchers concluded.

An April study of veterans who were given the drug — relentlessly hawked by President Donald Trump — produced similar findings.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a letter Friday to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that despite mounting concerns about the drug, the VA will continue to use hydroxychloroquine for veterans.

Revelations of the use of the controversial antimalarial drug have sparked concerns about the effects it may have on veterans, many of whom are older and have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to a fatal side effect of the drug: heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats.

“Veterans’ groups remain deeply concerned that the VA has made large purchases of this drug and appears to have administered it to veterans despite the well-known, and in some cases, fatal risks,” Schumer wrote Wilkie earlier this month.

After Wilkie’s letter on Friday, Schumer responded in a statement later that day, saying, “This drug may be useless or even harmful for COVID-19 patients, but the VA continues to administer it to hundreds of vets. Why are we just learning this?”

“We need to know what the basis was for using this drug against the consensus of science, which called into question its effectiveness in treating COVID-19,” he continued. “We also need to know who is authorizing these new trials, what facilities are participating and what families are being told.”

Trump has been aggressively pitching hydroxychloroquine since March, even though the drug had not yet undergone clinical trials examining its effectiveness against COVID-19.

“What do we have to lose?” he asked during a briefing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have both warned against using the drug to treat COVID-19.

Last Monday, the president attacked a study of veterans treated with the drug that showed no benefits against the coronavirus. He called the findings a “Trump enemy statement,” insisting they were politically motivated. He then claimed that he had been taking the drug for weeks, though he stopped on Friday.

The Trump administration ordered 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine before it underwent trials for COVID-19 treatment. The VA also bulk-ordered some 6.3 million doses, according to Wilkie’s letter.

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Prince Harry and Prince William Are Back on Speaking Terms, A Royal Friend Revealed

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It’s been a tough few years for Prince Harry and Prince William‘s relationship, with rumors of a royal feud cropping up long before Harry, in ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, acknowledged all wasn’t well between the brothers.

“Part of this role and part of this job and this family, being under the pressure that it’s under, stuff happens but we’re brothers,” Harry said in the doc. “We’ll always be brothers, and we’re certainly on different paths at the moment, but I’ll always be there for him, and he’ll always be there for me. We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy, but I love him dearly, and the majority of the stuff is created out of nothing, but you know, as brothers you have good days, you have bad days.”

Well, it sounds like things are finally on the up between the princes. Speaking to royal correspondent Katie Nicholl of the Sunday Times, an unnamed friend said the brothers started talking more after father Prince Charles was diagnosed with coronavirus, from which he has since recovered. “I don’t think it’s returned to everything being rosy, but it is better,” the friend explained. “Hearing their father wasn’t well helped bring them back together and there is now more regular communication.” Happy to hear it!

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Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Changes Name on Grubhub to Pasqually’s Pizza

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Children’s restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese is making its Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings premium offering available through Grubhub, which confused some customers.

Pasqually’s is a product of Chuck E. Cheese parent CEC Entertainment and represents an upgrade from the children’s pizza the chain is known for.

“CEC Entertainment, Inc. recently launched Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings nationwide. The inspiration was rooted in the desire to create a premium pizza while staying true to the CEC brand,” a Chuck E. Cheese spokesperson told Food & Wine.

Pasqually’s shares kitchen space with Chuck E. Cheese, which the company says will help ensure “high quality, fresh ingredients.”

CEC Entertainment responded after potential customers noticed that Pasqually’s and Chuck E. Cheese shared the same landing page on the online food delivery app GrubHub.

“While Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings recipes are currently only available for delivery, select items might be added to the Chuck E. Cheese menu in the future,” the company said.

In April, Chuck E. Cheese said that venue sales for the first quarter were down nearly 22% year over year. The company reiterated that it expected all 550 of its company-operated venues to sustain a loss for as long as the coronavirus is an issue.

The company has operated 520 of its 550 restaurants in a third-party and delivery capacity while furloughing most of its hourly employees and 65% of its support center personnel.

Chuck E. Cheese said in an April 7 regulatory filing that it was not currently paying rent, which approximates to about $7 million a month.

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