- Hundreds of Americans are receiving mysterious packages of seeds they never ordered, many of which are seemingly being sent from countries like China and Taiwan.
- Because of that, many are worried about whether the seeds are some sort of prank, scam, or even a bio weapon.
- So far, 28 states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have issued warnings not to plant the seeds, with the USDA also launching a federal investigation.
- The USDA said Tuesday that, at this point, there is nothing to suggest that these seeds are anything more than a “brushing” scam, which is a disingenuous tactic used by some companies to boost their online reviews.
Mysterious Seeds Being Delivered to U.S. Homes
In a mysterious event that has confused and concerned hundreds of Americans, people are receiving unsolicited packages of seeds from different countries.
In many cases, those seeds are being delivered in white packages (sometimes also yellow envelopes) that appear to be postmarked from countries such as China, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, or Kyrgyzstan. When recipients open those packages, they find the seeds in a sealed bag but find no indication as to what type of seeds they are.
To complicate matters, these recipients seem to be receiving different types of seeds that vary from package to package.
In several documented instances, the packages aren’t even labeled as having seeds; rather, they’re labeled as containing different items. For example, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, some packages have been labeled as jewelry. In a similar situation, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has reported that other packages were labeled as containing earbuds or toys.
It appears that other packages labeled as jewelry or tools did, in fact, contain another inexpensive item, but those items were still accompanied by a package of seeds.
In Iowa, officials have said that some of the seeds have been treated and may also contain an unknown insecticide or fungicide.
So far, at least 28 state agriculture departments have issued warnings about these unsolicited shipments of seeds.
It follows reports from several states, such as in Virginia, where agriculture officials said they’ve received over 900 emails and several hundred telephone calls from people who’ve received these types of packages. In Louisiana, officials have confirmed that about 100 packages have been sent to people across the state. Florida officials have confirmed that about 160 people have received packages.
Because of that, on Tuesday, the United States Department of Agriculture stepped in, announcing that it is now investigating these shipments. According to a press release, it is working with Customs and Border Protection, as well as other federal agencies.
These mysterious packages aren’t only being received in the United States. Officials in Canada have also begun warning residents to be wary of unsolicited shipments.
What Should I Do if I Receive These Seeds?
If you receive seeds you did not order, do not throw them away — even if your first instinct is to get rid of them as quickly as possible. On a similar note, do not throw away the mailing label or the outer package those seeds came in.
Instead, state agriculture officials are asking you to contact them. They will then come and pick up the seeds for testing.
“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,” Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock or threaten our environment.”
Because of that, officials have also asked people not to plant the seeds as they could introduce foreign pathogens or overwhelm native species; however, in states like Iowa, local outlets reported that some people have already planted those seeds after mistaking them for other seeds they had ordered. In response, Iowa’s agriculture department has now asked people to pull up and destroy those plants.
In reality, agriculture officials aren’t yet certain if the packages actually originated from China or another country. It could also take time to reach such a conclusion, as the USDA is likely going to have to go through thousands of different seeds.
Meanwhile, China has explicitly denied shipping the packages, saying its postal service strictly abides by restrictions on sending seeds.
“After verification with China Post, those address labels turned out to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. “China Post has contacted USPS, asking it to send those fake packages to China for investigation.”
Many States Now Believe this Could be a “Brushing Scam”
In its press release, the USDA said it believes the mysterious packages could be tied to review scams.
“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the release states.
A “brushing scam” can work a little like this: A seller of a product creates a fake customer account online—for example, a fake account on Amazon. That seller then places an order for their own product before sending it to an address in another country. Thus, while the account is fake, the address is very much real.
Using a real address then gives the seller the ability to post positive reviews of their own products, thereby improving their ranking on the site.
Because it is still unclear if this is a brushing scam, it is also unclear whether the sellers potentially running the scam sell seeds or another product.
Still, even if this does prove to be a scam, that doesn’t mean officials aren’t still concerned about the contents being shipped. For example, in Washington, agriculture officials believe some of the packages received in the state contained citrus seeds, which could transmit disease among other citrus.
See what others are saying: (Iowa Central Dispatch) (NBC News) (Reuters)
Derek Chauvin and 3 Others Ex-Officers Indicted on Civil Rights Charges Over George Floyd’s Death
- The Justice Department filed federal criminal charges Friday against Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers after a grand jury indicted them for violating the civil rights of George Floyd.
- The indictment charges Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao for violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force. All three, as well as Thomas Lane, were also charged with failing to provide medical care to Floyd.
- Chauvin was additionally hit with two counts in a separate indictment, which claims he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy who he allegedly held by the neck and repeatedly beat with a flashlight during a 2017 arrest.
- Chauvin was already convicted last month of murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death, which Kueng, Lane, and Thao were previously charged for allegedly aiding and abetting.
Former Minneapolis Officers Hit With Federal Charges
A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that lead to his death last summer, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Chauvin, specifically, was charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were indicted for willfully failing to intervene in Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.
All three men, as well as former officer Thomas Lane, face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.
In a second, separate indictment, Chauvin was hit with two counts of civil rights violations related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017. During that incident, Chauvin allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.
The announcement, which follows a months-long investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, comes just over two weeks after Chauvin was found guilty of three state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
He is currently awaiting his June 25 sentencing in a maximum-security prison.
Kueng, Lane, and Thao all face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Kueng and Lane were the first officers to responded to a call from a convenience store employee who claimed that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. Body camera footage showed Floyd sitting in the car and Lane drawing his gun as the officers ordered him out and handcuffed him.
Floyd can be heard pleading with the officers not to shoot him.
Shortly after, Chauvin and Thao arrived, and the footage shows Chauvin joining the other officers in their attempt to put Floyd into the back of a police car. In the struggle, the officers forced Floyd to the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Kueng and Lane held his back and legs.
Meanwhile, in cellphone footage taken at the scene, Thao can be seen ordering bystanders to stay away, and later preventing a Minneapolis firefighter from giving Floyd medical aid.
Their trial is set to begin in late August, and all three are free on bond. The new federal charges, however, will likely be more difficult to prove.
According to legal experts, prosecutors will have to show beyond reasonable doubt that the officers knew that they were depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights but continued to do so anyway.
The high legal standard is also hard to establish, as officers can easily claim they acted out of fear or even poor judgment.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Caitlyn Jenner Says Her Friends Are Fleeing California Because of the Homeless Population
- California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage after an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday that was filmed from her Malibu airplane hangar.
- “My friends are leaving California,” she said. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
- Many criticized Jenner for sounding out of touch and unsympathetic to real issues in California and suggested that she prioritize helping the homeless population rather than incredibly wealthy state residents.
Caitlyn Jenner’s Remarks
California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage on Wednesday after suggesting that wealthy people are fleeing the state because of its homeless population.
Jenner sat down for an interview in her Malibu airplane hangar with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Jenner is one of the handful of Republicans aiming to unseat current Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election in the fall. While polls show that most Californians do not support recalling Newsom, the conservative-led movement to do so gained enough signatures to land on the ballot.
“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner claimed during the interview. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
“I don’t want to leave,” she continued. “Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”
Jenner’s Remarks Prompt Backlash
Her remarks were criticized online by people who thought Jenner sounded unsympathetic and out of touch to the real issues in the state. Many found it hypocritical that Jenner has slammed Newsom for being elite but was so concerned for wealthy people who don’t like having to see unhoused residents on the street.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.) called Jenner out on Twitter for seemingly fighting for a small percentage of Californians.
“Unlike you, Dems are focused on the 99% of people who don’t own planes or hangars,” he wrote. “And you know what’s going to help reduce homelessness? The #AmericanRescuePlan, which your party opposed.”
Others suggested she prioritize directly addressing the homeless situation.
“If you don’t like the homeless situation, instead of hiding in your PRIVATE PLANE HANGAR, your campaign should be about helping them,” actress Merrin Dungey said. “They don’t like their situation either. Your lifelong privilege is showing. It’s not a good color.”
Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and reality star, is one of the most prominent transgender Americans. Because homelessness is such a common issue within the trans community, some were frustrated she was not using her campaign to fix the situation, and rather used it to complain about how it impacted her wealthy friends.
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Politico) (Washington Post)
Derek Chauvin Seeks New Trial In George Floyd Murder Case
- A lawyer for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, filed a motion Tuesday for a new trial.
- Among other complaints about Chauvin’s conviction, the attorney cited “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
- He also claimed the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial, arguing that publicity before and during it threatened its fairness.
- John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”
Derek Chauvin’s Attorney Files Motion for New Trial
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is officially asking for a new trial, hoping to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd.
His attorney, Eric Nelson, filed court paperwork Tuesday laying out a number of errors he believes were made during Chauvin’s legal proceedings that violated his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. Nelson cited alleged issues, including, “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
The filing did not cite any specific examples of jury misconduct, but Nelson also argued that the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial.
The court proceedings took place in the same city where Floyd was killed and where protesters drew national attention by calling for justice in his name. As a result, Nelson claimed that publicity before and during the trial threatened its fairness. He also argued that a defense expert witness was intimidated after he testified, but before the jury deliberated.
His filing asks for a hearing to impeach the guilty verdict, in part, on the grounds that the 12 jurors “felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”
It’s unclear exactly what will come of this request, but John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”
For instance, a judge previously denied Chauvin’s request to move the trial in March, saying, “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”