Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans brace for coronavirus as thousands return from Iran

HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.


The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.

That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.

Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

Map of the risk of the virus’s spread in Tehran.

Wikimedia Commons

Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.

Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.

Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.

Bracing For Worse

Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.

“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.

Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.

But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.

Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.

Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.

The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

Low Public Awareness

Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.

Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.

Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.

Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.

The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.

One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.

Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USS John S. McCain leaves drydock after crash damage

USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) achieved a major milestone this week as it successfully launched from dry dock and moored pierside at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Nov. 27.

This milestone is an important step in the ongoing effort to repair and restore one of the U.S. Navy’s most capable platforms, and reflects nearly a year’s worth of wide-reaching and successful coordination across multiple organizations. The ship entered dry dock at the Navy’s Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) Yokosuka in February.


Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to depart from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyra Watson)

“After the initial repair assessments were conducted, we had to quickly mobilize and determine the most critical steps to develop an executable repair and modernization plan,” explained Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare and Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC), Rear Adm. Jim Downey. “As we began the restoration process, we assembled cohesive teams capable of delivering both materially ready and more modernized ships to the fleet.”

To begin the repair and restoration effort, the Navy immediately reached out to personnel at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath, Maine. BIW is the company that originally constructed the ship and currently serves as the planning yard for work on in-service Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The BIW employees worked alongside representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Shipbuilding, also in Bath, Maine, to conduct a material assessment of the ship. That information was then used by SRF-JRMC and the local Japanese repair contractor, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, to plan and swiftly execute the work ahead.

The McCain crew has been involved in every aspect of the availability.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is pulled towards a pier after departing from a dry dock at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

“I’m proud of and thankful for every person who has worked together to move USS John S. McCain another step closer to both normalcy and sailing again with U.S. 7th Fleet,” said Cmdr. Micah Murphy, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but I remain impressed by the incredible teamwork, determination and flexibility shown daily by this crew as well as the SRF Project Team to return a better, more lethal warship to the fleet.”

Today, McCain has a fully restored hull, a new port thrust shaft, and newly constructed berthing spaces.

The ongoing availability also includes completing maintenance work that had previously been deferred, which reflects the Navy’s commitment to ensuring that required maintenance on ships is no longer deferred. Additionally, the U.S. Pacific Fleet implemented a new force generation model to protect maintenance, training, and certification requirements prior to operational tasking for ships forward-deployed to Japan, like John S. McCain.

The ship’s crew worked alongside personnel from NAVSEA’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Philadelphia and Port Hueneme divisions who were challenged to develop a test plan concurrent with repair efforts.

“All key players and industry partners continue to execute the McCain effort with maximum intensity in an environment built on trust and shared goals,” said Capt. Garrett Farman, SRF-JRMC commanding officer. “Our mission is to keep the 7th Fleet operationally ready, and everyone on the team recognizes the immense value that this mission brings to U.S. and Japan mutual interests in keeping our waters safe.”

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) prepares to undock as a dry dock is flooded in order to test the ship’s integrity. McCain is departing the dock after an extensive maintenance period in order to sustain the ship’s ability to serve as a forward-deployed asset in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

The complex repair and restoration required support and collaboration from all aspects of the U.S. Navy maintenance enterprise, including NSWC Philadelphia and NSWC Port Hueneme; Engineering Directorate (SEA 05); Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare (SEA 21); Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC); Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC); Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC); Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC); Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS); and Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center (FDRMC) Naples and Rota detachment.

Over the next few months, efforts will focus on testing the repaired ship’s systems in preparation for a return to operational tasking.

The Navy’s enterprise leadership continues to make improvements with routine, close oversight provided by the fleet commanders and the Navy staff to generate ready ships and aircraft on-time and on-plan. Improved ship-class maintenance plans are capturing a more robust understanding of fleet maintenance requirements, and the elimination of work deferrals are improving the material condition of the fleet.

This summer, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer inducted Sen. John S. McCain III into the ship’s official namesake alongside his father and grandfather in a ceremony on board, July 12. The crew’s messdecks, known as the Maverick Café, re-opened for business on Nov. 19, the late Senator’s birthday.

John S. McCain is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan as part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The ship is expected to complete repairs in late 2019.

Articles

It’s time for the F-35 to start blowing up old F-16s

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19
The first QF-16 target aircraft seen at Tyndall Air Force Base in 2012. | US Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing


Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle of the US Air Force recently declared a squadron of 15 unmanned F-16s operationally capable, IHS Jane’s reports.

These drone versions of the F-16, called QF-16s, will provide targets for the Air Force as it tests out new weapons capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“The QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target will provide the next generation of combat training and testing for US warfighters,” a Boeing statement on the drones said.

While the old F-16s may seem like costly targets, the Air Force is touting them as a more realistic opponent than what was previously available, and they are economical to some extent because they’re made from older, retired F-16 airframes.

“The QF-16 will replace the existing QF-4 fleet and provide a higher-capability, fourth-generation aerial target that is more representative of today’s targets and threats,” the Boeing statement continued.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19
Having realistic targets to train against will help the F-35 pilots. F-35 Joint Program Office

“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, the commander of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, told C4ISRNET in an email.

In fact, an F-35 already participated in a test in which a QF-16 drone was shot down, though it did so with an SM-6 missile fired from a land-based silo.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea really is starting to dismantle a key nuclear site

North Korea has reportedly started dismantling rocket launching and testing facilities that President Donald Trump has said it agreed to in an off-the-books deal, and it’s a major US victory in what have been fraught, slow-moving talks.

Following the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two sides released a joint statement that contained weak and vague language around denuclearization, much to the dismay of North Korea watchers hoping for concrete action.


But in a press conference after the summit, Trump announced two bombshells: The US would halt military drills with South Korea, and North Korea had agreed to dismantle a missile test site.

More than a month since the summit, the US has kept its end of the agreement, but only on July 23, 2018, did the West get any indication that North Korea was holding its end.

Satellite imagery reviewed by 38 North, a website that covers North Korea, suggests North Korea is dismantling key parts of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, where Kim has presided over the launch of rockets meant to put satellites in orbit.

So far, a rail-based site for transporting the rockets and a vertical engine testing stand have been dismantled, 38 North reports.

In absolute terms, this represents only a tiny fraction of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure. But the action there has key components that may give cause for hope.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Sohae Space Center for the testing of a new engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA photo)

These sites are vital

North Korea, in past negotiations with the US, has proved extremely lawyerly and adept at finding loopholes in its agreements.

In 2012, when Kim had just taken power, the US under President Barack Obama negotiated a freeze on North Korean missile testing. Later, North Korea announced it would instead launch a rocket intended to carry a satellite into orbit.

Satellite launch vehicles are not missiles. They deliver a satellite into orbit, rather than an explosive payload to a target.

But both satellite launch vehicles and long-range missiles use rocket engines to propel themselves into space, meaning that working on one is much the same as working on the other.

The US, troubled by this obvious betrayal of the spirit of the agreement, then exited the deal.

By removing the rail infrastructure to set up satellite vehicle launches, North Korea may have signaled it won’t look to exploit the same loopholes that have wrecked past deals.

At Sohae, where cranes have been spotted tearing down an engine testing stand, the North Koreans have previously worked to develop engines for their intercontinental ballistic missiles.

ICBMs threaten the US homeland in a way that could fray US alliances in Asia and eventually even unseat the US as a dominant power in the region. As Business Insider previously reported, freezing North Korea’s ICBM program has been a key focus of the Pentagon for years.

Only a small amount of actual work has taken place in dismantling the sites, but the significance of the sites, and their place in Trump and Kim’s budding relationship, gives reason for hope.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump.

(White House photo)

Confidence-building

So far, North Korea has dragged its feet even on simple tasks, like returning some remains of US troops killed in the Korean War, despite promising immediate action.

Since the Singapore summit, satellite imagery has picked up signs that North Korea may actually have advanced its nuclear and missile programs. When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea recently, Kim didn’t meet him and instead toured a potato farm.

Kim sent Trump a nice letter in mid-July 2018, but it contained no specifics on the US’s declared goal of denuclearization.

Trump said he negotiated the closing of these facilities with Kim after the joint declaration was signed, but North Korea waited over a month before delivering.

During that time, Trump repeatedly stressed that he believed North Korea would follow through based on his personal read of Kim’s personality.

In that way, North Korea has kept its direct promise to Trump and demonstrated, for perhaps the first time, a real willingness to scale back the key parts of its missile system.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This is China’s next-generation destroyer

China’s increasingly powerful navy launched its most advanced domestically produced destroyer on June 28, at a time of rising competition with other naval powers such as the United States, Japan, and India.


The first 10,000-ton Type 055 entered the water at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard on June 28, the navy said in a news release.

It said the ship is equipped with the latest air, missile, ship, and submarine defense systems. China is believed to be planning to launch four of the ships.

“The launch of this ship signifies that our nation’s development of destroyers has reached a new stage,” the release said.

A photo on the Chinese Navy’s website showed multicolored streamers being shot out of tubes while sailors and shipyard workers stood dockside next to a massive Chinese flag. It said chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Armaments Department Zhang Youxia presided over the ceremony, in which a bottle of champagne was broken over the ship’s bow.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19
People’s Liberation Army Navy guided missile destroyer Shenzhen. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Type 055 is significantly larger than China’s other modern destroyer, the Type 052, representing the rising sophistication of China’s defense industries. Once heavily dependent on foreign technology, China in April launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, based on an earlier Ukrainian model.

In terms of displacement, it is roughly equivalent to the Arleigh Burke class of destroyer.

China’s navy is undergoing an ambitious expansion and is projected to have a total of 265-273 warships, submarines, and logistics vessels by 2020, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Naval Analysis. That compares with 275 deployable battle force ships presently in the US Navy, China’s primary rival in the Asia Pacific, although the once-yawning gap between the two is narrowing rapidly.

China says it needs a powerful navy to defend its 14,500 kilometers (9,010 miles) of coastline, as well as its crucial maritime shipping routes.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19
Chinese navy multirole ship Hengshui. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

However, it also appears increasingly willing to challenge actions by the US — long the region’s pre-eminent military power — especially in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

Beijing has also long nurtured resentment against Japan over its past invasion of China, and their dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea has at times threatened to break out into open confrontation.

India, meanwhile, also shares a disputed border with China and has grown increasingly concerned over the Chinese navy’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, facilitated in part by Beijing’s close alliance with New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Congress demands the US be ready to fight in the Arctic

Lawmakers want Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to submit a report to Congress on whether the U.S. military services have the equipment and training they need to survive in cold-weather combat.

The proposal appeared in the House Armed Services Committee’s latest version of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.”


Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Conferees want Mattis to submit a report to the congressional defense committees “not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act on current cold weather capabilities and readiness of the United States Armed Forces,” the document states.

The report should include:

  • A description of current cold weather capabilities and training to support United States military operations in cold climates across the joint force;
  • A description of anticipated requirements for United States military operations in cold and extreme cold weather in the Arctic, Northeast Asia, and Northern and Eastern Europe;
  • A description of the current cold weather readiness of the joint force, the ability to increase cold weather training across the joint force, and any equipment, infrastructure, personnel, or resource limitations or gaps that may exist;
  • An analysis of potential opportunities to expand cold weather training for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps and the resources or infrastructure required for such expansion;
  • An analysis of potential partnerships with state, local, tribal, and private entities to maximize training potential and to utilize local expertise, including traditional indigenous knowledge.

If the proposal makes it to President Donald Trump for approval, it could lead to improvements in cold-weather equipment and training U.S. troops receive.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.K. charges 2 alleged spies with infamous nerve poisonings

Britain is charging two Russian men over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, early 2018.

Prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to charge two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the attack.


Prime Minister Theresa May on Sept. 5, 2018, added that the two men were officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.

“Security and intelligence agencies have carried out their own investigations,” May told Parliament on Sept. 5, 2018. “I can today tell the House … that the government has concluded that the two individuals named are officers from the Russian intelligence services.”

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

Surveillance footage shows the two suspects leaving London for Moscow at Heathrow Airport hours after Skripal collapsed on March 4, 2018.

(London Metropolitan Police)

Skripal previously worked as a military-intelligence colonel at the GRU but was recruited by British spies to pass on state secrets. He was later arrested and imprisoned but was pardoned and released to the UK by the Russian government in 2010.

May said authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from the senior levels of the Russian government. She added that she would push for more European Union sanctions against Russia over the poisoning.

The two men are now believed to be in Russia. Authorities plan to formally request via Interpol that the Russian police arrest them.

The British police also released a detailed description of the suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the attack as well as a series of images taken from surveillance footage of the two men in London and Salisbury.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day the Skripals were poisoned.

(London Metropolitan Police)

Neil Basu, a senior officer with the London Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that the two men most likely traveled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov might not be their real names. Both suspects are estimated to be 40 years old.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in Salisbury in March 2018 after being exposed to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The poison had been applied on Skripal’s front door, police said.

Both father and daughter were eventually discharged from the hospital.

Poison in a perfume bottle

A British couple in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury, was exposed to the poison after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing it in late June 2018.

It resulted in the death of Dawn Sturgess, who fell ill after applying the substance to her wrists. The other victim, Charlie Rowley, was discharged from a hospital about two weeks after collapsing.

Rowley told the police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin in late June 2018, more than three months after the Skripals collapsed.

The box contained a bottle, purported to be from the designer brand Nina Ricci, and an applicator, and Rowley got some of the poison on himself when he tried to put the two parts together at home.

Tests run by the Ministry of Defense found that the bottle contained a “significant amount” of Novichok, the police said.

“The manner in which the bottle was modified leaves no doubt it was a cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and for the delivery method for the attack against the Skripals’ front door,” May said.

The police on Sept. 4, 2018, said they thought the two incidents were linked.

Authorities said they believed the couple were not deliberately targeted but “became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”

Britain’s diplomatic relationship with Russia suffered after London accused Moscow of being behind the Skripals’ poisoning. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied knowing about the attack.

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Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov at a Salisbury train station the day before Skripal collapsed.

(London Metropolitan Police)

The suspects’ whereabouts

The police believe the two suspects were in the UK for just three days to carry out the attack. On Sept. 5, 2018, the force outlined the two suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018:

  • March 2, 3 p.m.: The suspects arrive at London’s Gatwick Airport after flying from Moscow on Aeroflot Flight SU2588.
  • 5 p.m. (approx): They travel by train into Victoria station, central London. They then travel on London public transport.
  • 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: They spend about an hour in Waterloo before going on to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, east London, where they stay for the next two nights.
  • March 3, 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at Waterloo station from their hotel, where they take a train to Salisbury, where Skripal lives.
  • 2:25 p.m.: They arrive at Salisbury. The police believe this trip was for a reconnaissance of the area and do not believe they posed a risk to the public at this point.
  • 4:10 p.m.: They leave Salisbury and arrive at their hotel four hours later.
  • March 4, 8:05 a.m.: The two men arrive at Waterloo station again to go to Salisbury.
  • 4:45 p.m.: They return to London from Salisbury.
  • 10:30 p.m.: They leave London for Moscow from Heathrow Airport on Aeroflot Flight SU2585.

Skripal and his daughter collapsed on a bench at a Salisbury shopping center at about 4:15 p.m. on March 4, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

All Coast Guard National Security Cutters should have ScanEagle drones aboard and available for launch to boost high seas surveillance and aid in drug interdictions and arrests, according to Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Commanders who have used the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, have told him, ” ‘I don’t ever want to sail without ScanEagle again,’ ” Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018, at the National Press Club. “I’d like to see every national security cutter have one on the back.”


For the past 17 years, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center has experimented with various types of UAS, including a helicopter drone and MQ-1 Predator, for cutters but found them unsuited for the Coast Guard‘s dual mission of national security and law enforcement.

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A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle from ScanEagle Guardian Eight Site sits ready for launch.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs)

In 2017, the Coast Guard tested a ScanEagle aboard the cutter Stratton on a six-week deployment to the Eastern Pacific. By the end of the deployment, the drone had flown 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours and assisted the crew in seizing 1,676 kilograms of contraband, valued at million. It also aided in the arrests of 10 alleged drug traffickers, according to the service.

The ScanEagle, made by Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, was developed from a commercial version designed to collect weather data and scan the ocean for schools of fish. The Coast Guard version is about 8 feet long, with a wingspan of 16 feet. The drone is sent aloft by a pneumatic launcher and recovered using a hook and arresting wire.

In June 2018, Insitu announced the signing of a 7 million contract with the Coast Guard for the installation of ScanEagles aboard cutters. In a statement, Don Williamson, vice president and general manager of Insitu Defense, said when ScanEagle initially deployed with the Stratton, “We recognized what an incredible opportunity we had to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring dynamic improvements to mission effectiveness and change aviation history.”

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ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle conducts flight operation over the USNS Spearhead.

The contract was “an incredibly important first step in realizing the Coast Guard’s vision of fleet-wide UAS implementation,” said Cmdr. Daniel Broadhurst, who has served as unmanned aircraft systems division chief in the Coast Guard’s Office of Aviation Forces.

The fate of the UAS plan and other Coast Guard projects largely will depend on the outcome of the upcoming budget battles in the new Congress, Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018.

Currently, “we’re faced with more demands for Coast Guard services than fiscal resources,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Kurds just launched their ‘endgame battle’ against ISIS

The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.

It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.


In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.

No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.

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Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.

Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.

Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.

At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.

Articles

This is how military working dogs see the dentist in the combat zone

In a deployed environment, adequate medical care is crucial to ensuring that people can execute the mission. Our airmen need to be physically and mentally healthy or the mission could suffer. The 386th Expeditionary Medical Group boasts a medical clinic, physical therapist, mental health team, and dental clinic as just some of the available services paramount to keeping our airmen mission ready, and in the fight.


But what do you do when an airman needs medical attention and isn’t a person?

This was a riddle that Army Capt. Margot Boucher, Officer-in-Charge of the base Veterinary Treatment Facility had to solve recently when military working dog Arthur, a military asset valued at almost $200K, was brought to her clinic with a fractured tooth.

“Arthur was doing bite training, bit the wrong way and tore part of his canine tooth off, so he had a fracture to the gum line on one of his strong biting teeth,” explained Boucher, a doctor of veterinary medicine with the 358th Medical Detachment here. “The big concern with that, in addition to being a painful condition, is that they can become infected if bacteria were to travel down the tooth canal.”

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Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf

Boucher, a reservist deployed from the 993rd Medical Detachment of Fitzsimons Army Reserve Center in Aroura, Colorado, is employed as an emergency room veterinarian as a civilian. While she is well-versed in the medical side of veterinary medicine, she knew she wasn’t an expert in veterinary dentistry. In order to get Arthur the care he needed, Boucher reached out to her Air Force counterparts here at the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group for help.

“In this environment, I’m kind of all they’ve got,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman, the 386th Medical Operations Flight Commander and dentist here. “I’ve done four or five of these on dogs, but I don’t do these often. I felt very comfortable doing it, because dentistry on a human tooth versus a dog tooth is kind of the same, if you know the internal anatomy of the tooth.”

Waldman performed a root canal on Arthur, a Belgian Malinois. This procedure involved drilling into the tooth and removing soft tissues, such as nerves and blood vessels, to hollow the tooth out, according to Waldman. After the tooth was hollowed out, and a canal was created, it was filled and sealed with a silver filling. The procedure for Arthur was the same that Waldman would do on a human patient.

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Army Capt. Margot Boucher (left), the 358th Medical Detachment officer-in-charge of the base Veterinary Treatment Facility, observes Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman (center), the 386th Expeditionary Medical Operations flight commander and dentist, as he performs a root canal on a military working dog. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly.

“The reason why you do a root canal is because the likelihood of there being an infection or other issue with that tooth is significantly decreased,” said Waldman, who is deployed from the 21st Medical Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “This is crucial for a military working dog because without his teeth, Arthur may be removed from duty.”

Military working dogs are trained to detect and perform patrol missions. The patrol missions can involve biting a suspect to detain them or protect their handler. This is why dental health is crucial to a military working dog.

“Those canine teeth are their main defensive and offensive tools,” said Waldman. “A dog with bad teeth…It’s like a sniper having a broken trigger finger.”

While Waldman had experience doing dental procedures on military working dogs, he still needed the expertise Boucher had in veterinary medicine.

“Typically when we collaborate with human providers, we’ll still manage the anesthesia and the medical side of the procedure,” said Boucher, who has four years of experience as a vet. “Usually if they are unfamiliar with the anatomical differences, we’ll talk them through that and familiarize them with the differences between animal and human anatomy, but in terms of dentistry, it’s very similar. The procedure is the same, but the tooth is shaped a little differently.”

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Army Pfc. Landon Kelsey (right), a 1st Armored Division military working dog handler, places his hand on his MWD, Arthur, as Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman (left), the 386th Expeditionary Medical Operations Flight commander, performs a root canal procedure. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly

Prior to the procedure, Boucher conducted pre-anesthetic blood tests to make sure 6-year-old Arthur didn’t have any pre-existing conditions that anesthesia would complicate. During the root canal, Boucher watched Arthur closely, and monitored his heart rate and blood oxygen saturation while making minor adjustments to his sedation as needed.

The procedure was successful, and Arthur returned to his deployed location with his handler a few days after. Were it not for the inter-service and inter-discipline teamwork of Boucher and Waldman, Arthur and his handler may have had to travel back to the United States to get the medical care needed.

“It’s a great service to be able to do,” said Waldman. “If we couldn’t do this, Arthur and his handler would have probably had to be taken out of theater, to a location where they had the capability to do this procedure. It saved a ton of time to be able to do this here, and get Arthur back to protecting our war fighters.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

Tony Wells’ journey from Marine to leading USAA’s brand wasn’t easy. But his diverse career after his service made him the perfect person for the job. 

“I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and obviously there is a very heavy military presence there,” Wells explained. His mother was a teacher and his father a pharmaceutical representative, both successful in their own right. “I was very fortunate to have a number of family members that either served or had connections.” 

Although he eventually became a proud Marine, it wasn’t always the plan.

Recruited by the Naval Academy to play basketball as a senior in high school, it was the first time Wells really considered a career in the military. His maternal grandfather served during World War II as a Steward and Driver for a Navy captain. As a Black American, it was one of the few jobs they were allowed to hold within the military during that time period. “For him, it was an absolute moment of pride when I graduated from the Naval Academy many years later,” Wells shared. “The idea that his grandson would be a Marine officer was just a dream come true.”

So, why did Wells choose becoming a Marine over a sailor? As a midshipman during his junior year, he was assigned to a Marine unit. “We went to Bridgeport, which is where Marines do mountain warfare training. I just had an unbelievable time and seeing the relationship between the staff NCOs and officers, for me it was just a different experience…It felt more like what I wanted to embody as a military leader,” Wells shared. 

In 1986, Wells commissioned as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer and headed to the fleet. Wells shared that being an “Officer of Marines” was the greatest job he’s ever had. “Being of service to country and for me, having those basic leadership philosophy foundation approaches ingrained early has served me well,” he said. 

Wells deployed with the 1st Battalion 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune to the Mediterranean. He was a rifle and weapons platoon commander during this time. He then had the opportunity to become a company commander. “It was a very unique opportunity for me as a 1st Lieutenant,” he said. Wells served under Michael Hagee, who would go on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

After PCSing to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Wells had the opportunity to take on a secondary MOS and was trained to be a Public Affairs Officer. When he returned to San Diego after completing his training, the first Gulf War began. Wells found himself on the evening news…Wells found himself on the evening news, briefing the nation on how recruits were handling training as they prepared to deploy. “It was a great leadership experience and a great practical opportunity for me to transition. That became how I ended up transitioning to civilian service,” he explained. 

Tony Wells
Tony Wells (LinkedIn)

Wells dove into his new civilian career with Nissan, working as their Corporate Communications Manager and eventually an Advertising Manager. After almost six years with Nissan, he moved on to other various marketing roles for different companies and industries. While working for one of them about 20 years later, he had a conversation with USAA.

“It was like coming home. I’ve been a USAA member since I was at the Naval Academy,” Wells shared. “It’s just been a tremendous experience around this idea of how important the mission is. I would say my whole business career I haven’t experienced the pull of the mission and alignment since the Marine Corps.”

Although Wells said he’s worked for some truly great companies, purpose is inherent within USAA. So is perspective. “When I have a tough day or think it’s been rough. I know that somewhere there is a cold, wet and hungry Marine who is in danger while protecting our country and our way of life,” he said. 

As he looks back on his life, Wells is quick to recognize what he called deep blessings and great opportunities. “For me, Black History Month is about paying homage to the folks who have come before and the great sacrifice and accomplishments that Black Americans have had that may have gone unrecognized,” Wells explained. 

Not only did his grandfather serve in the Navy, his cousin was a Montford Point Marine, one of the first Black Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring fair employment practices and banning discrimination. 

“The last year has been a very interesting time in America. I think the murder of George Floyd really caused folks to reassess race relations. I think it’s very interesting that the military has such a long history of being the first to integrate but at the same time recognizes there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. Military leadership spanning across every branch of service was quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd and begin a deeper examination of their own houses for racism. 

USAA joined them, issuing their own statement and commitment to fighting racism.

“Despite the discord and division we often see in America right now, I still remain hopeful…there are many, many more people committed to being on that journey to get back to the Constitution, which is just this idea that all are men created equal,” he shared. “I just think that the best is yet to come and I continue to believe that the military will play an instrumental role in making that transition a reality.”

This Marine spent his life living and breathing a servant-leadership mentality, honoring all who came before him. Although Wells may have left the Corps behind years ago, he found his new home in USAA by serving them and all other service members. 

When Wells was asked if had any last words for readers, he smiled. “Semper Fi.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Iran banned this most American of hairstyles

Forget business in the front, party in the rear. Iran is all business. There’s no party around back. At least, not for the most American of all possible hairstyles: the mullet. The mullet is so American, in fact, that it’s banned in Iran for precisely that reason. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said goodbye to the haircut for being “un-Islamic.”

The haircut was on a list of “decadent Western haircuts” that were banned, alongside ponytails, spiked hairstyles, and long hair in general in 2010.


The year was a difficult one for Iran, coming on the heels of the Green Movement, which protested the 2009 Presidential election and pushed for the removal of the Iran’s much-reviled (but reelected anyway) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The countrywide protests were the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw Imperial Iran transformed into the Islamic Republic.

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“…from my cold, dead head.”

It’s fun to laugh at the idea of banning an American hairstyle that itself has been the butt of thousands of jokes for decades, but the reality is a little less funny. The hairstyle ban is part of a series of punishments from the anti-Western Cultural Ministry and part of the reprisals against the Iranian people for the Green Movement protests.

Raids, arrests, and human rights violations came immediately after the protests, but bans like the one on un-Islamic hairstyles are the enduring legacy of such knee-jerk reactions. Iranian police would start shutting down barber shops offering such hairstyles and fine the owners.

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Causing Achy Breaky Hearts.

It’s a strange notion that the mullet is considered a part of the Western cultural invasion of Iran, considering it’s a hairstyle that may have emerged in the ancient Middle East anyway. At first glance, the look that made Billy Ray Cyrus a cultural icon (for the brief time he was) should seem ridiculous to Iranian Morality policemen, but it’s not the only Western cultural trend to endure in the country.

Iranian men forego beards (even as beards are very much in back in the United States) while embracing neckties and European designer brands. These trends are hard to ignore, but the mullet should hardly seem comparable to the appeal of Prada and Givenchy.

“The proposed styles are inspired by Iranians’ complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law,” said Jaleh Khodayar, who is in charge of the Modesty and Veil Festival. It was there that acceptable hairstyles were revealed. Also out are things like eyebrow plucking for males and excessive hair gel.

Failure to comply with the new hair regulations for men would result in a forced, bad haircut, courtesy of Iran’s Morality Police. The clerics who run Iranian society believe the looks will ultimate cause their way of life to disappear. But they also believe that sexy, revealing clothing causes earthquakes.

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

Earthquakes are definitely because of Niloofar Behboudi and Shabnam Molav and not the 1,500-km long fault line running through Iran.

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