Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.

The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.


“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.

But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.

“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.

And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.

“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Baseball legend and World War II vet honored with new medal

Seaman Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby’s first realistic thought that they might give him a chance happened on the remote Pacific atoll of Ulithi, the Navy‘s staging base for the invasion of Okinawa during World War II.

A report on Armed Forces Radio announced that the Brooklyn Dodgers were going to sign UCLA football star and former Army lieutenant Jackie Robinson to a contract to play baseball in 1946.


If Robinson proved himself on Brooklyn’s Montreal farm team, if he could withstand the vicious taunts and shunning, he could make history as the first black major leaguer.

Brooklyn’s front office boss, Branch Rickey, believed Robinson would be ready to be called up to the big team in 1947 to break baseball’s unofficial color line, which relegated black ballplayers to the Negro Leagues.

Doby let himself think the door might open for him too. “All I wanted to do was play,” he later recalled.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Statue of Larry Doby outside of Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Navy, like everything else then, was segregated, but Doby was stunned to find that the color line extended to sports within the service, where he had to play on an all-black squad for base teams.

Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina, in 1923 but moved to be with his mother in Paterson, New Jersey, at age 14. Race was also a factor in New Jersey, but less so than in the South. At Paterson’s Eastside High School, Doby was a four-sport athlete.

When the Eastside football team won the state championship, Doby and his teammates were invited to play a school in Florida, but there was a condition: They couldn’t come with Doby. In solidarity with Doby, the team voted to reject the offer, and the game was never played.

Doby, 17, accepted a basketball scholarship to play at Long Island University in Brooklyn, but first, he played baseball that summer for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League under the assumed name “Larry Walker” to keep his amateur status.

It was there that he had a gruff introduction to playing baseball for money from the legendary Josh Gibson, the catcher for Pittsburgh’s Homestead Grays. Gibson was so legendary that within the Negro Leagues, the fans sometimes referred to Babe Ruth as the “white Josh Gibson.”

As Doby recalled, “My first time up, Josh said, ‘We’re going to find out if you can hit a fastball.’ I singled. Next time up, Josh said, ‘We’re going to find out if you can hit a curveball.’ I singled. Third time up, Josh said, ‘We’re going to find out how you do after you’re knocked down.’ I popped up the first time after they knocked me down. The second time, I singled.”

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Larry Doby in 1951.

Following his Navy stint, Doby rejoined the Newark Eagles in 1946 and had a stellar season, leading the team to the league championship. He attracted the attention of Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck, who had his own plan for breaking baseball’s color line.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played his first game in the National League at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. On July 5, 1947, in Chicago against the White Sox, Doby pinch-hit to become the first black player in the American League.

Doby played little his first year but had a breakout in 1948, leading Cleveland to its second (and most recent) World Series championship. Over 13 seasons, he was a seven-time All Star, hit 253 home runs and had a batting average of .283.

In 1998, Doby was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He died in 2003 at age 79.

Recently, the Senate passed a joint bill to award Doby with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award alongside the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The citation directed “the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to arrange for the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of Larry Doby, in recognition of his achievements and contributions to American major league athletics, civil rights, and the Armed Forces during World War II.”

“For too long, Larry Doby’s courageous contributions to American civil rights have been overlooked,” New Jersey Republican Rep. Bill Pascrell said. “Awarding him this medal from our national legislature will give his family and his legacy more well-deserved recognition for his heroism.”

The silent treatment, except for ‘Yogi’

Jackie Robinson had warned Doby that it was going to be tough, but the first game was still a shock to him.

He went around the clubhouse to say hello and shake hands with his Cleveland teammates. He later recalled that he mostly received “cold fish” handshakes, and four of his teammates refused to take his hand. Two of those turned their backs on him, he said.

He went on the field to warm up, but nobody would play catch with him until veteran second baseman Joe Gordon came over to toss a ball.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Larry Doby.

Doby also was a second baseman, but later in the season, again against Chicago, he was told he would start at first base. He was humiliated when Cleveland’s regular first baseman wouldn’t loan him a first baseman’s mitt. Gordon went into the Chicago clubhouse to borrow one for him.

In the off-season, Doby was told to work on outfield play. He became Cleveland’s centerfielder for his breakout season in 1948 and remained one for the rest of his career.

In addition to the opposition he faced within his own team, opposing players also would not talk to or associate with him — at first. But then came former Navy Gunner’s Mate Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra — the man, the catcher, for all seasons.

When Berra’s New York Yankees came to town to take on the surging Indians in 1948, the first chat between Berra and Doby made the front pages. Berra talked to everybody but on the field, the chatter had a dual purpose for Berra: he also wanted to distract the hitter. It didn’t take Doby long to catch on.

Doby told the umpire to tell Berra to shut up. Berra told the umpire that he was just trying to be friendly. The umpire told them both to shut up.

The next day’s papers showed photos of what appeared to be a dustup between the first black player in the American League and the famous Yankee. They would become best friends and laugh about it in later years.

“I felt very alone” in the first two years in the major leagues,” Doby later told The New York Daily News. “Nobody really talked to me. The guy who probably talked to me most back then was Yogi, every time I’d go to bat against the Yankees.”

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Statue of Hall of Famer Larry Doby in Cleveland.

He continued, “I thought that was real nice but, after a while, I got tired of him asking me how my family was when I was trying to concentrate up there.”

Berra later recalled with a laugh: “I know at least one time I didn’t interrupt his concentration. The time he hit that homer to center field in the old Yankee Stadium,” he said of Doby’s prodigious shot in the spacious ballpark.

When Doby died of cancer in 2003 at age 79, Berra said, “I lost my pal. I knew this was coming, but even so, you’re never ready for it. I’d call him, and he’d say he didn’t feel like talking, so I knew then it was bad.”

Things only veterans can share

Following his playing, managing and coaching days, Berra opened the Yogi Berra Museum Learning Center in Montclair, New Jersey, where Berra and Doby were neighbors.

After Doby’s death, Berra dedicated a wing of the museum to Larry Doby featuring memorabilia from his career and the Negro Leagues.

When Berra died at age 90 in 2015, then-President Barack Obama called him “an American original — a Hall of Famer and humble veteran, prolific jokester, and jovial prophet.”

“He epitomized what it meant to be a sportsman and a citizen, with a big heart, competitive spirit, and a selfless desire to open baseball to everyone, no matter their background,” Obama said.

No one knew that better than Doby. He also knew there were things that still haunted Berra from World War II that he could speak of only to another veteran.

At an American Veterans Center conference in Washington, D.C., in 2010, Berra hinted at what those things were.

He had been assigned as a gunner’s mate to what he called a “rocket boat,” a gunboat launched at the beachhead for the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy in World War II.

Berra recalled the big mistake his ship made as the invasion boats rumbled ashore.

“We had orders to shoot at anything that came below the clouds,” he said. They fired and downed the first plane they saw, which turned out to be an American aircraft. However, they managed to rescue the pilot.

“I never heard a man cuss so much,” Berra said. “We got him out of the plane but, boy, was he mad.”

He said, “It was like the 4th of July to see all them planes and ships out there. I stood up there on the deck of our boat” to watch. The officer told him to get down “before you get your head blown off.”

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Statue of Hall of Famer Larry Doby in Cleveland.

Berra was slightly wounded on D-Day but later declined being put in for a Purple Heart. He said he didn’t want his mother in St. Louis to find out and become upset.

Then, while speaking before the crowd of veterans, he grew emotional. “We picked up some of the people who got drowned,” he said. Then Berra, the non-stop talker, stopped talking.

Later, he told a reporter there were some things he would talk about only to his friend, Doby, and, as they both aged, they spoke nearly daily, either on the phone or in person. They hung out together at Berra’s house, or messed around in his garage, until Berra’s wife, Carmen, started finding things for them to do.

Then they headed to Doby’s house, until Doby’s wife, Helyn, also started finding things for them to do.Their last escape would be the local American Legion post to talk about baseball and the Navy, Berra recalled.

In the newest museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, a photo of Doby is prominently displayed: it’s from the 1948 World Series when Cleveland beat the Boston Braves for the championship.

The photo shows Doby hugging Cleveland pitcher Steve Gromek. Doby had just hit a homer to give Gromek and Cleveland the winning margin in Game Three.

Doby told The New York Times, ”I hit a home run off Johnny Sain to help Steve Gromek win, and in the clubhouse, the photographers took a picture of Gromek and me hugging. That picture went all over the country. I think it was one of the first, if not the first, of a black guy and a white guy hugging, just happy because they won a ballgame.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard is outnumbered 20-to-1 in the Arctic

Receding ice in the Arctic and Antarctic has drawn the attention of the world’s ocean-going powers, and the U.S. military, led by the Coast Guard, has been pushing for more resources to catch up to other countries operating in those regions.


The Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet is the backbone of its operations around the North and South Poles, but that fleet is comparatively small. Of the three it has, only two are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and medium icebreaker Healy, which mainly does scientific work.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
A U.S. Coast Guard HH-52A Seaguard helicopter landing on the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Polar Star is charged with keeping navigation lanes open in the Arctic and Antarctic, but it was built in the mid-1970s and is already beyond its 30-year service life.

Crew members have had to shop online for replacement parts for the ship’s aging computers, and it sails with a year’s supply of food in case it gets stuck, according to CBS News. Considerable repair work is needed to keep the ship afloat. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”

The Coast Guard is grappling these difficulties amid what has been called an “icebreaker gap” with Russia. (Though some have said Russian naval expansion, not icebreakers, is the real concern.)

As of May, Russia — which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline — had more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational nuclear-powered heavy polar icebreakers and 16 medium polar icebreakers.

The Coast Guard’s Pacific Area chief, Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, whose command ranges from the U.S. West Coast to Asia and from the Arctic to the Antarctic, told CBS News this week that Russia is still outspending the U.S.

“If you look at what Russia is doing, there’s almost a mini arms buildup going on in the Arctic,” he said.

Not all of Russia’s more than 40 icebreakers are of the same type, but Moscow is not the only country with an advantage over the U.S.

Finland has seven medium polar icebreakers, though four are designated for Baltic use. China has three, but all of them are light polar icebreakers. Canada has two operational medium polar icebreakers and two under construction, while Sweden has seven, though three are medium icebreakers designed for Baltic use.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
The Russian nuclear icebreaker ’50 let Pobedy’ in the Arctic. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

‘The Coast Guard must be funded as a military service’

Zukunft and the Coast Guard are pushing for more icebreakers. The Homeland Security Department has said the Coast Guard may need up to six new icebreakers — three heavy ones and three medium ones — to meet mission demands at high latitudes.

This fall, the Coast Guard and Navy released a joint draft request for proposal for the construction of a heavy icebreaker, with an option to build two more. The acquisition cost of a new polar icebreaker has been put at $1 billion, though the Coast Guard and Navy believe it could cost less than that.

But Zukunft told Defense Aerospace Report last week that there was still doubt about the service’s funding going forward, saying that the Coast Guard needed to be on the same footing as the other service branches and that it “cannot continue to operate on the margins” of the defense budget.

The Coast Guard draws the vast majority of its funding from non-defense discretionary spending, Zukunft said, and the potential for a reduction in that pool of money in order to expand defense discretionary spending threatens to further hinder Coast Guard finances after five years of funding below floors set in the Budget Control Act.

“Our funding mechanism has got to change,” he said. “The Coast Guard must be funded as a military service.”

Also Read: These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Zukunft said he was proposing was a 5% annualized increase in the service’s operating expenditures, which “gets us out of the basement” and provides “parity with the four armed services.”

The commandant also suggested a floor of $2 billion for the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget.

“That would allow me to put icebreakers on budget within the United States Coast Guard,” he said. “That 5% and $2 billion floor allows me to grow my workforce by 5,000 active-duty and 1,100 reserves, and at the same time I don’t have to cut my equally valued civilian workforce. It’s not a big ask.”

‘Is it to create chaos in the Arctic?’

As ice around the North and South Poles recedes, icebreakers are gaining importance beyond maintaining sea lanes and assisting other ships.

Their ability to navigate in harsh conditions makes them useful for projecting power. And a number of countries already outstripped the U.S. when it comes to the icebreakers that can be deployed.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th district — which encompasses Alaska and the Arctic — has said the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the area, including Russia and China, with whom the U.S. cooperates on waterway management, search and rescue, and law-enforcement matters.

But Washington has eyed Russian plans for its icebreakers warily.

“In 2020 — and we’re monitoring this very closely — Russia plans to launch two icebreaking corvettes,” Zukunft told Defense Aerospace Report.

“So these are designed warships that can break ice and that can carry cruise missiles. To what end is opaque,” he added. “Is it to create chaos in the Arctic? Is it to make this an area that the United States would be denied access? We have to assume the answer to that question … is yes.”

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy’s crew poses in front of the cutter after reaching the North Pole Sept. 6. The Healy became only the second U.S. surface ship to reach the North Pole. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Zukunft said he was encouraged by the both President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy as well as the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the latter of which includes a provision for the construction of at least one heavy icebreaker, which he said could be in the water by 2023.

But the Coast Guard commandant said there needed to be flexibility in how that icebreaker, and any that follow it into service, would be outfitted and deployed over its 30- to 40-year service life.

“We do need to look at potential militarization in the Arctic, so we need to reserve space, weight, power, if we have to put what I would call modules on an icebreaker to include an offensive weapon capability,” Zukunft said. “We’ve had great interactions with the Navy as part of this integrated program office to look at all potential requirements for an icebreaker well into the 21st century to include something more than just point-defense weapons systems.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oh snap – this general was just held in contempt at Guantanamo

A military judge at the Guantanamo Bay detention center ruled Nov. 1 that a senior legal official in charge of the defense for terrorism suspects should be held in contempt of court in a dispute that has disrupted court proceedings at the base.


Air Force Col. Vance Spath issued the ruling against Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker at a hearing at the US base in Cuba.

Spath said Baker should be confined to his quarters for 21 days and fined $1,000 for releasing three defense lawyers in a terrorism case without the judge’s authorization. A senior Pentagon legal official known as the convening authority must uphold the ruling before it becomes official and Baker is expected to challenge it.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
USAF Photo by Donna L. Burnett

Baker was led out of the courtroom to the shock of colleagues.

“It’s incredibly outrageous. It’s disgusting,” said Michel Paradis, a lawyer with the Pentagon’s Military Commission Defense Organization. “This Air Force colonel without any legal authority is arresting the chief defense counsel and sending him to the brig over what is, in essence, an administration authority dispute.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said that the judge acted under rules allowing him to ensure military commission proceedings are “conducted in a fair and orderly manner” and that the convening authority was expected to decide on the sentence in the coming days.

The dispute arose during the pretrial phase in the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi and alleged senior member of al-Qaeda who is accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 crew members. He could get the death penalty if convicted.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole—a Navy Destroyer—as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Photo form FBI.

Baker excused three defense attorneys assigned by the Pentagon to defend al-Nashiri on ethical issues that arose out of what they said was a breach of the attorney-client privilege. Officials have not disclosed the details of the allege breach, saying the information is classified.

The decision by the Marine general disrupted proceedings at the base scheduled for this week because the remaining defense lawyer said he lacked the experience necessary to carry on. Spath had declined to postpone the hearing.

Lawyers for the Military Commission Defense Organization have asked a judge in Washington to issue an emergency order halting the hearing this week until the issue is resolved.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Video from inside a Russian bomber being intercepted by F-22s

On May 12, 2018, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.


According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported in 2017.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
Alaska ADIZ detail

What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.

On May 12, 2018 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.

“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.

While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Iran says it’s willing to exchange ‘all’ prisoners with U.S.

Iran is prepared for a full exchange of prisoners with the United States, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a virtual address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

In response to a question about whether Tehran would free Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Zarif said on September 21 that the only way for him to have influence on the courts is through a swap for Iranians he claimed the United States is holding unjustly.


“Let’s not put one person in front of another. Let’s do a universal deal. I repeat, we can exchange all prisoners, period,” he said.

Washington has long demanded that Iran release U.S. citizens including Baquer and Siamak Namazi, who were jailed in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Baquer Namazi, the former governor of Khuzestan Province under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was arrested during a trip to Iran to see his imprisoned son.

The United States has exchanged prisoners with Iran before. Navy veteran Michael White, detained in 2018, returned home in June as part of a deal in which the United States allowed an Iranian-American physician Majid Taheri to leave to Iran.

In December 2019, Tehran freed U.S. citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been held for three years on spying charges, in a swap for Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who faced charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Tehran denies it holds people on political grounds, and has mostly accused its foreign prisoners of espionage.

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

Military Life

8 normal civilian things that make you weird in the military

The military is its own beast. Many of the things we do while enlisted would seem weird to civilians. Well, the door swings both ways.


The following things seem perfectly normal before you join up, but might net you a few odd looks when you join the service.

Related: 7 military things that somehow get you fired in the civilian world

8. Not embracing the silly

Deployments quickly turn into the movie Groundhog Day. You see the same people, do the same missions, and eat the same chow. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. As you might imagine, things get real weird real fast.

At about month six, you’ll see things like troops singing Disney songs to each other or guys starting fights with traffic cones as arms. If you don’t join in, you’d better be filming it.

Our deployment videos always kill on YouTube because people think we’re super serious all the time. 

7. Wanting personal space

One unexpected advantage of Big Military cramming as many troops into as small of a space as possible is that we get close to one another. There’s nowhere to go, especially on a deployment, so you might as well get to know everyone who shares your space.

Civilians might be surprised at the level of closeness between troops in a platoon, especially when it’s snowing outside and everyone is wearing summer PTs.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
“Here, we see a bunch of soldiers waiting for morning PT…” (Screengrab via BBC’s Planet Earth)

6. Mentioning it’s your birthday

For better or worse, hazing is highly frowned upon in the military. Any type of initiation or harassment directed toward fellow troops is a major offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No commander would dare allow their troops to partake in any form of hazing — unless it’s someone’s birthday, of course!

If the unit finds out on their own, you’re in for a terrible surprise. If you’re the idiot who brings it up, don’t expect cake and ice cream from the guys.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

5. Being gentle

To the normal person, this would contradict the earlier rules of “embrace silliness” and “forget personal space,” but this is different in its own weird way.

We tell ourselves that we’re hardened, ass-kicking, life-taking, warfighting machines. The truth is, we just don’t have the time or desire for little things, like talking about our feelings or establishing emotional safe spaces. If you just really need a hug, you’ll have to either disguise it as a joke or go and see the chaplain — and even they probably won’t give you a hug, wimp.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

4. Asking questions

Normal people would try to figure out the little things, like “why are we doing this exact same, mundane task for the ninth time this month?” Troops, on the other hand, just give up hope after a while and do it.

This is so ingrained that when someone does ask a question, it’s treated like a joke.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
And don’t you dare ask a question in a group setting. You’ll get death glares. (Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett)

3. Taking care of your body

Troops work out constantly. Once for morning PT and probably again when they go to the gym.

All that effort totally negates all of the coffee, energy drinks, beer, pounds of bacon, burgers, pizza, and cartons of cigarettes that an average troop goes through… right?

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
It’s the breakfast of champions! (Photo by Sgt. Anthony Ortiz)

2. Turning down a chance to do dumb things

If a troop gets a call and the person on the other end says, “we need you out here quick. Don’t let Sergeant Jones find out about it,” context doesn’t matter. They’re there and are probably three beers in before anyone can explain what’s happening.

Best case scenario: It’s an epic night. Worst case: It ends up being a “no sh*t, there I was…” story.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
Don’t worry if you don’t go. Everyone who was there will share the story at least three times that week. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Barbour)

1. Showering without flip-flops on

Only two types of people clean off in a community shower without “shower shoes:” Idiots and people trying to catch gangrene.

You have no idea what the person before you did in that shower nor how often that shower has been cleaned. Why on Earth would you dare put your feet on that same spot?

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
That and you don’t want to walk between the shower and your hut without them. (Photo by Sgt. Randall Clinton)

Articles

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed 129 people was killed in a massive police raid north of Paris Wednesday.


Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
Photo: Dabiq

The raid was conducted by over 100 police officers and soldiers who rushed into an apartment building in Saint-Denis and attacked the apartment at 4:16 a.m., according to the Washington Post. The reinforced door stayed close, triggering a seven-hour siege.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
French police in Paris in 2005. Photo: Wikipedia/BrokenSphere

Abdelhamid Abaaoud had previously bragged that he could not be caught by Western intelligence agencies and police after he evaded Belgian police.

“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave… despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he told Dabiq, an ISIS magazine.

“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”

Apparently, Abaaoud’s luck ran out. Abaaoud’s cousin also died in the raid when she detonated a suicide device, according to Fox News.

The raid came after French police received a tip from a waiter. The raid was part of a larger effort to prevent a potential follow-up attack aimed at Paris’s financial district, French officials told The Washington Post.

One police dog was killed in the raid, a 7-year-old named Diesel.

France’s military and police forces were already fighting the international terror organization before Friday’s Paris attacks, but have launched an increased number of police raids and military airstrikes since they suffered the worst attack on their territory since World War II.

Articles

Army fielding new magazine optimized for M4/M4A1 Carbine and M855A1

The Army is issuing Soldiers a new small arms 5.56 ammunition magazine designed expressly for the M4/M4A1 carbine and M16 family of weapons.


The 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, was the first unit to receive the new “Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), as free issue In July,” said Anthony Cautero, Assistant Product Manager for the M4/M4A1 Carbine.

Also read: Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

Other units are acquiring smaller quantities through the standard supply system.

Cautero said the regiment received 6,800 magazines in July.

More than 49,000 of the new magazines will be issued to other units at JBLM before the end of the year, he said.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
The Army’s new magazine, dubbed the Enhanced Performance Magazine , is currently being issued to units through the supply system. It is optimized for use with the Army’s steel tipped 5.56mm small arms cartridge, the M855A1, in the M4/M4A1 and M16. The EPM recognizable by its blue-grey follower. | U.S. Army Photo by Rob Hovsepian

Army engineers and scientists optimized the EPM to work with the M4/M4A1, M16 rifle, and standard military 5.56mm small arms round, the M855A1.

The M855A1, known also as the Enhanced Performance Round (EPR), has been in use since 2010.

Following the EPR’s release, engineering tests of M4/M16 rifles firing the M855A1 showed that the weapons were sensitive to the EPR’s steel tip.

A Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. engineering team subsequently made a design change to the magazine that corrected this issue.

The EPM eliminates weapon wear caused by the steel-tipped M855A1 at the upper receiver/barrel extension interface, a condition discovered during laboratory testing.

Soldiers insert the EPM into the magazine well of a carbine’s lower receiver that positions rounds for feeding.

The forward moving bolt and bolt carrier assembly strips the rounds from the magazine and feeds them smoothly into the chamber for firing.

Soldiers also can use the new magazine with the previous standard military 5.56mm round, the M855.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
Army 1st Lt. Michael White from South Kingstown R.I., platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1-182 Infantry Regiment of the Rhode Island National Guard, fires his M-4 rifle during a training mission. | U.S. Army photo

The EPM is tan-colored and has a blue-gray follower. The latter is the spring-loaded plastic component that positions each round up into the lower receiver of the weapon. Each magazine holds a maximum of 30 rounds.

Tests show that the EPM increases system reliability and durability.

It also ensures optimal performance in M4/M4A1 and M16 weapons when used with the EPM and EPR, Cautero said.

The Army expects to field more than 1.8 million of the new magazines over the next 12 months.

Center Industries of Wichita, Kansas, is the manufacturer.

Cautero said the Army has received more than 700,000 of the new magazines from the company to date.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to build the best bug-out bag, emergency kit, or go-bag for your family

We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.


One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.

Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.

“Throw away the thought that it can’t happen to you, because it can,” says Les Stroud, famed Canadian survival expert from the hit TV series Survivorman and author of such books as Will to Live and Survive! – Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere–Alive.

“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”

Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.

“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

images.pexels.com

So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.

Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag

What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag

There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.

All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.

Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

upload.wikimedia.org

“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”

In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies

  • Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
  • Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
  • Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
  • Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
  • Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
  • Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.

Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6

  • Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
  • Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
  • Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
  • Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
  • Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
  • Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+

  • Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
  • Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
  • Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
  • Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
  • Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
  • Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.

Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind

  • Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
  • Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
  • Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
  • N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
  • Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
  • Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.

This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

John Kelly is touted to be next VA Secretary

White House officials and sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as rumors and calls for his ouster circulated throughout political circles.

Sources familiar with the situation explained to Vanity Fair that consideration for Kelly as VA secretary gained traction after Trump’s previous nominee, US Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, decided to withdraw his candidacy on April 26, 2018.


“They’re looking for a place for Kelly to land that won’t be embarrassing for him,” one Republican source told Vanity Fair.

Military service is not a requirement to lead the VA, but Kelly’s background as a former Marine Corps four-star general may give him an head start. As the second largest agency in the US government, the VA serves over nine million veterans for their medical and educational needs every year.

The VA’s sheer complexity has previously led to calls for the agency to be privatized for the sake of efficiency.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them
Sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Kelly has some experience leading large institutions, like the Department of Homeland Security and US Southern Command, but the VA could prove to be his biggest challenge yet. Scandals related to accusations of inadequate care have plagued the department, and numerous secretaries have been forced out over the years.

A White House spokesperson denied that Kelly was being considered for VA secretary, according to Vanity Fair.

Rumors surrounding Kelly’s fate have intensified lately. And his role in the White House seemed to shrink as Trump reportedly takes more license to govern his own daily agenda.

Outside advisers to Trump have floated the idea of removing the chief of staff role completely, according to CNN.

Despite Trump’s initial praise for Kelly when he was brought on in July 2017, Kelly has reportedly fallen out of favor with Trump. Kelly was hired to establish order in Trump’s chaotic West Wing, which has shifted and buckled under multiple scandals and high-profile staff departures.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines are testing out a new ‘lethal’ grenade launcher

The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.

The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.

“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.


The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.

“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)

Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.

In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.

The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.

The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.

“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”

The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.

“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”

Mysterious Chinese seed packets are showing up all over the US, and the government is warning people not to plant them

M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.

Analyses supports sustainability

Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.

The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.

During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.

“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.

The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.

“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”

However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.

“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”

Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.

“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”

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