USDA warns against planting unsolicited mystery seeds mailed from China. Federal agents “leave Seattle”, “in talks” to depart Portland as well… That and more in National & International News.
USDA warns Americans against planting mystery seeds from China
Have you recently received an unsolicited seed packet in the mail? The USDA is raising the alarm after hundreds of residents in Kentucky, Florida, and North Carolina reported receiving seed packets in the mail which they did not order. Officials warn anyone who receives such a package to report it and not to plant the mystery seeds. The seeds appear to have been mailed from China, and the USDA is working with other federal agencies to investigate the matter.
The purpose behind mailing the seeds is currently unclear. Kentucky’s agricultural commissioner, Ryan Quarles, says, “At this point in time, we don’t have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a prank, an internet scam or an act of agricultural bio-terrorism.” Quarles added that “Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock or threaten our environment.”
Officials say it’s also possible this is part of a “brushing scam,” in which sellers send unasked for goods to random people and then generate false customer review to boost sales.
Federal agents “leave Seattle,” “in talks” to depart Portland as well
According to Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, federal agents who arrived in the city last week after attacks on a federal courthouse have departed the city. Durkan tweeted, that the Department of Homeland Security informed her of the withdrawal of Border Patrol Tactical Unit agents after a week of tense standoffs with protesters. Durkan says the presence of the agents further enraged citizens and escalated violence rather than preventing it.
Portland, OR, mayor Ted Wheeler has said the same of his city. An anonymous senior White House official has told the AP that the White House is now in talks with Oregon’s governor over possible withdrawal of the agents. The official said the federal agents may depart if the state steps up its own enforcement. There has, as yet, been no official confirmation of these talks from any of the involved parties. It would be a surprising turnaround, as the US Marshals and DHS was recently weighing whether to send 100 more agents to Portland.
Yemen: Saudi-backed coalition heals rift as COVID, cholera rage
For the last five years, a Saudi-backed coalition and UAE proxies have been nominal allies in the fight against Iran-backed Shia Houthi separatists in Yemen. The alliance has always been an uneasy one as each partner pursued their own agendas in the country. Several months ago, the picture was complicated further when a group UAE proxies seized the internationally-recognized capital of Aden. These proxies, who dubbed themselves the Southern Transitional Council (STC), hoped to take advantage of the chaos by creating a breakaway state in southern Yemen.
Today, the STC announced they were giving up their press for self-rule. This will, hopefully, lead to something approaching de-escalation in the region. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have signaled willingness to back away from the costly conflict in Yemen. This is, in part, due to the impact of a recent oil glut on their coffers. Additionally, from a military standpoint, the allies find themselves in a stalemate with the Houthis. The human cost of the conflict has been immense. More than 112,000 have died, and over 28 million are suffering from famine. In the meantime, COVID-19 has swept across Yemen unchecked. NGOs in the region also fear the impact of a possible cholera outbreak amid the devastation.
Countries fear second wave of COVID has arrived
In Australia, officials have enacted emergency measures to contain a rise in cases in Victoria and New South Wales. The country’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, seem to be at the center of the outbreak. Elderly care homes are particularly vulnerable, and officials have dispatched emergency response teams to help combat the crisis.
In Europe, both Spain and Germany are experiencing a significant resurgence in cases. The British government has set a 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from Spain, while Germany has advised against travel to certain regions of Spain. These moves have outraged the Spanish government, which considers the measures “unjust”. German officials are also concerned about a recent spike in cases at home. The country has recorded more than 3000 new infections in the past week. Officials say Germans have become lax about wearing masks and urged citizens to take greater precautions.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has warned of a recent spike in COVID cases, which she says could easily get out of control and overwhelm hospitals. The island’s government has enacted new regulations banning gatherings of more than two people. Officials have also tightened health checks for people arriving in the city. The new regulations will be in effect for at least seven days.
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