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Daily Archives: March 9th, 2020

TOTUS is taking a page from China’s book of propagandizing a problem rather than solving it. MA

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — As the rest of the world grapples with a burgeoning virus outbreak, China’s ruling Communist Party has deployed its propaganda playbook to portray its leader as firmly in charge, leading an army of health workers in a “people’s war” against the disease.

The main evening news on state TV regularly shows President Xi Jinping and his underlings giving instructions on the outbreak or touring related facilities. Coverage then segues to doctors and nurses on the front lines, drawing on a tradition of upholding model workers and the importance of sacrifice on behalf of the people and the party.

For the Communist Party, the epidemic is both a risk and an opportunity. It seeks to avoid blame for any mishandling of the outbreak, notably a slow initial response that allowed the virus to take hold. Conversely, it seeks credit for overcoming the crisis, enhancing the legitimacy of its rule.

State media, a tightly controlled internet and mass mobilization campaigns have all been harnessed for the effort.

“Upbeat, if emotional, state messaging leaves the impression that self-sacrificing citizens, national unity, and enlightened leadership will inevitably triumph in China, as the fight against the virus shifts beyond the country’s borders,” said Ashley Esarey, a specialist on the Chinese media at the University of Alberta.

The tried and true formula appears to remain effective at promulgating the party’s version of events, though the rise of social media is an ever-present challenge. A growing minority has long questioned the party line, but even many of them accept it out of habit or a lack of alternatives.

Most passively embrace a narrative that is repeated over and over, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Li Desheng, a 22-year-old student who said news webcasts are his main source of information, commended the response of the party and the government, saying they had proven effective at stopping the spread of the virus.

“There is a Chinese idiom that says, ‘Point to a deer, call it a horse,’” the philosophy major said in an interview conducted via instant message. “If you say a deer is a horse, then that is a distortion of fact. When watching a news webcast … at least at present, I think a deer is still called a deer, and a horse is called a horse, so I believe the report.”

It’s not just a matter of what’s shown, though — it’s also what’s omitted. State media trumpeted the throwing up of new medical facilities in a fortnight without reporting on the woes of people unable to find a hospital bed that necessitated the Herculean effort.

It touted crackdowns on wild animal markets and plans to shut them down, without questioning why they hadn’t been sufficiently regulated since SARS, a similar virus outbreak in 2002-03.

June Teufel Dreyer, a China expert at the University of Miami, said the party may have lost credibility with what she called “engaged public opinion,” but that it’s difficult to know what portion of China’s 1.4 billion people that represents.

Zhou Songyi, another 22-year-old student, said she doesn’t find any useful information on the epidemic from the official People’s Daily newspaper or state broadcaster CCTV, citing stories that, even if true, have a PR agenda rather than seeking to inform the public.

Social media has given her digital-savvy generation almost instant feedback on some state-media reports, though critical comments are often removed by the country’s internet censorship.

“The battle for truth-telling on the internet is another sign that people do not simply trust in the government,” said Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She added, though, that the propaganda works on those who believe in the party and want to be comforted and persuaded.

The core of the approach is to stifle any criticism while providing positive role models and showing the party as China’s only real hope.

China has barred citizen journalists from popular social media platforms after they reported on overcrowded hospitals and other problems. Non-state media outlets such as the magazine Caixin have done some independent reporting but stopped short of criticizing the leadership.

“The medics are portrayed as heroes not because of their dedication as health professionals, but because they are party members,” said Anthony Saich, a China expert at Harvard University. He believes the crisis has damaged confidence in Xi’s leadership to a degree but won’t have a lasting impact.

The health workers form the basis of the people’s war, a term adopted early on by Xi. A recent CCTV evening news broadcast showed him visiting military health units. Everyone maintained a safe distance from each other, following the government-ordered protocol, their mouths and noses covered by protective masks.

“Wars invite people to cast aside their squabbles and dissent and to come together,” said David Bandurski of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong. “Wars make heroes — and heroes are the stuff propaganda thrives upon.”

Nationalist campaigns have worked before, channeling anger away from the party in the SARS outbreak, territorial disputes with Japan, last year’s Hong Kong protests and the ongoing trade war with the U.S.

This time, the official coverage of the virus may help blunt any lasting political damage to Xi and the party’s authority, even as the social and economic costs of the outbreak exact a rising toll. More than 3,000 people have died in China from the virus.

“The leadership has been very eager to write the happy ending to this story before anyone really knows what the world is dealing with,” Bandurski said.


Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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A reminder of how poorly thus Administration is functioning under TOTUS. MA

Adriana BelmonteAssociate Editor
Yahoo Finance

Homelessness is a national issue that has become part of the 2020 election landscape.

And according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there were roughly 553,000 people experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018. This was a 0.3% increase from the year before.

In the State of Homelessness Report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the administration released a list of issues and solutions surrounding homelessness in the U.S. The proposal was met with scathing criticism from several housing advocates, including the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).

“This administration, President Trump and [HUD Secretary Ben] Carson, have repeatedly proposed policy changes that would worsen homelessness in our country,” NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel told Yahoo Finance. “But in almost all, if not all, cases we’ve been able to defeat those proposals.”

US President Donald Trump takes part in a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 19, 2019 as Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development looks on. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump takes part in a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 19, 2019 as Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development looks on. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A ‘legacy’ of harmful proposals

Yentel has been especially critical of Carson’s time as HUD Secretary, particularly in regards to how he’s addressed homelessness.

“He’s put forward a number of really harmful proposals that could exacerbate the housing crisis and increase homelessness,” she said. “Since he’s been HUD secretary, every year he’s been there, he and the administration have proposed severe cuts to HUD’s budget … which would result in dramatically cutting or even eliminating several programs that provide affordable, accessible homes to the lowest income people.”

Yentel cited Carson’s proposals “to triple rents for the lowest-income subsidized renters and to raise rents for all other residents of HUD-subsidized homes… to force so-called mixed-status immigrant families to separate or be evicted from federally-assisted housing… allowing shelters to refuse to serve transgender and other LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness, and … to discourage immigrants from accessing housing programs.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a news conference after touring the Hollins House, a high rise building housing seniors and persons with disabilities. (Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
HUD Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a news conference after touring the Hollins House, a high rise building housing seniors and persons with disabilities. (Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Consequently, she argued that Carson’s legacy “has been one of proposing changes that could do real harm to some of the lowest-income and most vulnerable renters in our country.”

A HUD spokesman refuted these assertions in a statement to Yahoo Finance.

“These claims are a complete distortion of the real work our Department is doing to preserve the rights of all Americans, uphold our laws, and house our country’s most vulnerable population,” the spokesman said. “We remain committed to working with whomever is willing to improve the lives of all Americans.”

There is some evidence to back up Yentel’s claims. After Carson assumed control of HUD in 2017, the organization’s website “removed links to documents that guided emergency shelters on how best to comply with agency regulations and serve transgender people facing homelessness,” according to the Washington Post, and “it also withdrew proposals that would have required HUD-funded emergency shelters to post notices informing people of LGBTQ rights and protections.”

A RV vehicle is parked next to a tent on the streets in an industrial area of Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A RV vehicle is parked next to a tent on the streets in an industrial area of Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The Post reported that Carson told staff that “our society is in danger when we pick one issue (such as gender identity) and say it does not matter how it impacts others because this one issue should override every other common-sense consideration.”

The White House CEA report states that “policies intended solely to arrest or jail homeless people simply because they are homeless are inhumane and wrong. At the same time, when paired with effective services, policing may be an important tool to help move people off the street and into shelter or housing where they can get the services they need, as well as to ensure the health and safety of homeless and non-homeless people alike.”

A CEA spokesman explained to Yahoo Finance that “the CEA report states that arresting or jailing homeless people simply because they are homeless is ‘inhumane and wrong.’ Additionally, the report explains that police should work together with social service providers with the goal of getting people into shelter or housing. It should not be controversial to want to get extremely vulnerable people off the streets so they can receive the help they desperately need.”

San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings in San Francisco in 2016. (Photo: AP/Ben Margot)
San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings in San Francisco in 2016. (Photo: AP/Ben Margot)

‘Criminalization would certainly do real harm’

Yentel argued that the administration’s proposals are “about hiding homelessness” and not about solving it.

“It’s about attempting to move people who are sleeping on the streets or in cars or in RVs to jails or prisons or other inappropriate, unsafe, and harmful places as a way to lessen visible homelessness,” she said, stressing that the “underlying cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable, accessible homes for the people who need them.”

Consequently, according to Yantel, approaches involving criminalization “would certainly do real harm to low-income people who are on the cusp of or experiencing homelessness. Not only is the criminalization of homelessness unconstitutional and cruel, it also wastes public resources that should otherwise be spent on solutions.”

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.


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Keep in mind that all global actions affect us all and Russia is still trying to out influence the United States. This is an important economic development.MA


Putin Dumps MBS to Start a War on America’s Shale Oil Industry
Putin Dumps MBS to Start a War on America’s Shale Oil Industry

(Bloomberg) — At 10:16 a.m. on a wet and dreary Friday morning, Russia’s energy minister walked into OPEC’s headquarters in central Vienna knowing his boss was ready to turn the global oil market upside down.Alexander Novak told his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman that Russia was unwilling to cut oil production further. The Kremlin had decided that propping up prices as the coronavirus ravaged energy demand would be a gift to the U.S. shale industry. The frackers had added millions of barrels of oil to the global market while Russian companies kept wells idle. Now it was time to squeeze the Americans.After five hours of polite but fruitless negotiation, in which Russia clearly laid out its strategy, the talks broke down. Oil prices fell more than 10%. It wasn’t just traders who were caught out: Ministers were so shocked, they didn’t know what to say, according to a person in the room. The gathering suddenly had the atmosphere of a wake, said another.

For over three years, President Vladimir Putin had kept Russia inside the OPEC+ coalition, allying with Saudi Arabia and the other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb oil production and support prices. On top of helping Russia’s treasury – energy exports are the largest source of state revenue – the alliance brought foreign policy gains, creating a bond with Saudi Arabia’s new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But the OPEC+ deal also aided America’s shale industry and Russia was increasingly angry with the Trump administration’s willingness to employ energy as a political and economic tool. It was especially irked by the U.S.’s use of sanctions to prevent the completion of a pipeline linking Siberia’s gas fields with Germany, known as Nord Stream 2. The White House has also targeted the Venezuelan business of Russia’s state-oil producer Rosneft.“The Kremlin has decided to sacrifice OPEC+ to stop U.S. shale producers and punish the U.S. for messing with Nord Stream 2,” said Alexander Dynkin, president of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow, a state-run think tank. “Of course, to upset Saudi Arabia could be a risky thing, but this is Russia’s strategy at the moment – flexible geometry of interests.”

The First No

The OPEC+ deal had never been popular with many in the Russian oil industry, who resented having to hold back investments in new and potentially profitable projects. In particular, Igor Sechin, the powerful boss of Rosneft and a long-time Putin ally, lobbied against the curbs, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private conversations.The Kremlin was also disappointed the alliance with Riyadh hadn’t yielded major Saudi investments in Russia.For several months, Novak and his team had been telling Saudi officials they liked being in the OPEC+ alliance but were reluctant to deepen production cuts, according to people familiar with the relationship. At the last OPEC meeting in December, Russia negotiated a position that allowed it to keep production fairly steady while Saudi Arabia shouldered big reductions.

When the coronavirus started devastating Chinese economic activity in early February – cutting oil demand in Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer by 20% — Prince Abdulaziz tried to convince Novak that they should call an early OPEC+ meeting in response to cutback supply. Novak said no. The Saudi king and Putin spoke by phone ­­– it didn’t help.As the virus spread and analysts forecast the worst year for oil demand since the global financial crisis, the Saudi camp was hopeful Moscow could be won round at the next scheduled OPEC meeting in early March. The Russians didn’t rule out deepening cuts, but kept making the point that shale producers should be made to share the pain. Putin, who has been the final arbiter of Russia’s OPEC+ policy since the alliance started in 2016, met oil Russian producers and key ministers last Sunday.

Bad Chemistry

As ministers gathered in Vienna this week, Saudi Arabia made a final effort to force Russia’s hand. They persuaded the core OPEC group to support a deep production cut of 1.5 million barrels a day, but made it contingent on Russia and the other OPEC+ countries joining in. Novak turned up last at the Vienna headquarters where his nervous counterparts were waiting for him, and refused to budge.

The crown prince even considered calling Putin on Friday, according to a person familiar with the situation. But Putin’s spokesman made clear to reporters he had no plans to get involved. As for the two countries’ oil ministers, there was no personal chemistry between them, according to a person in the room. They didn’t exchange a single smile, said another.

With every leak from the meeting the price of oil twitched, as traders slowly came to realize a deal was going to be impossible.

Priming the Pump

Rosneft is delighted with the breakup. It can now move to boost its market share, said spokesman Mikhail Leontiev.

“If you always give in to partners, you are no longer partners. It’s called something else,” he told Bloomberg. “Let’s see how American shale exploration feels under these conditions.”

But the decision to take on shale could backfire. While many drillers in Texas and other shale regions look vulnerable, as they’re overly indebted and already battered by rock-bottom natural gas prices, significant declines in U.S. production may take time. The largest American oil companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., now control many shale wells and have the balance sheets to withstand lower prices. Some smaller drillers may go out of business, but many will have bought financial hedges against the drop in crude.In the short run, Russia is in a good position to withstand an oil price slump. The budget breaks even at a price of $42 a barrel and the finance ministry has squirreled away billions in a rainy-day fund. Nonetheless, the coronavirus’s impact on the global economy is still unclear and with millions more barrels poised to flood the market, Wall Street analysts are warning oil could test recent lows of $26 a barrel.

In Saudi Arabia, where the government is almost entirely dependent on oil to fund government spending, the economic impact will be immediate. Prince Abdulaziz and his half-brother Crown Prince Mohammed will have every incentive to boost production to maximize revenue as prices fall.

“Prices will fall until either Moscow or Riyadh call off the endurance contest” or North American production is massively curtailed, said Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Advisors and a former National Security Council staffer.Relations between the two energy ministries remain cordial and the diplomatic mechanisms of the OPEC+ group are still in place, keeping the door open in case the two sides do decide to reunite. Novak told his peers on Friday that OPEC+ isn’t over.

But a photo of the conference room after the delegates had left hinted at a different story: The small Russian flag by Novak’s seat had been knocked over. And Prince Abdulaziz left his counterparts with a grave warning: Trust me, he told them, according to a person in the room. This will be a regrettable day for us all.

–With assistance from Dina Khrennikova, Henry Meyer, Irina Reznik and Javier Blas.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at;Will Kennedy in London at;Olga Tanas in Moscow at;Grant Smith in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at

For more articles like this, please visit us at

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Keep in mind that all global actions affect us all and Russia is still trying to out influence the United States. This is an important economic development.MA


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Agent Orange -anyone? MA

Jeremy Kryt
The Daily Beast

CALI, Colombia—During a meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque at the White House early last week, Donald Trump more or less ordered Colombia to wipe out coca plants—the main ingredient in cocaine—by spraying the controversial herbicide glyphosate from the air.

No, it’s not the infamous chemical Agent Orange used in Vietnam, but it’s bad enough, and likely to poison the people and the land beneath the toxic clouds.

The Last Battle of the Vietnam War: Agent Orange and Its ‘Presumed Diseases’

“You’re going to have to spray,” Trump said in front of reporters. “If you don’t spray you’re not going to get rid of [the coca plants]. So you have to spray with regard to the drugs in Colombia.”

Duque, long under pressure from the Trump administration, has now agreed to an ambitious “bilateral” plan to eradicate half of Colombia’s 212,000 hectares (523,863 acres) of coca by 2023. But Colombia remains the world’s leading exporter of processed cocaine, with about 90 percent of the finished product flowing north to the United State.

That doesn’t sit well with Trump, who has vacillated passive-aggressively between insulting Duque and threatening ominous repercussions for Colombia if cocaine production isn’t curbed.

In 2017, Trump threatened to decertify Colombia as a good-faith partner in the U.S. ”drug war”—a move that would lead to a cutoff of most foreign assistance to the nation. At the time, other leaders in Washington rushed to assure Duque that his country remained one of Washington’s most valued allies in the region. But Trump doubled down on his coercive threat again in 2018, and this time he made it personal:

“He [Duque] said how he was going to stop drugs. More drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before he was president—so he has done nothing for us,” Trump said.

This cocaine quid pro quo—eradication at all costs or risk losing humanitarian and military aid—has led directly to Bogotá’s decision to resume aerial spraying with glyphosate. Colombia had curtailed the practice back in 2015 due to health risks, including cancer.

“The president’s attempts at bullying Colombia go way beyond the context of the larger drug war,” said Robert Bunker, an international security analyst at the University of Southern California.

But other critics point out that Colombian politicians—who have a long history of cozying up to Washington at the expense of their constituents—are also to blame.

memo issued by the State Department after Trump’s meeting with Duque stated that “U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Colombia is one of our most effective investments. [Eradication] efforts have already demonstrated results as coca cultivation and cocaine production levels finally stabilized in 2018 and 2019 for the first time since 2012.”

Which begs the question: If new coca plantings had already been reduced and production “stabilized” without the use of glyphosate, why return to it now? Apparently because Trump wants it, and Duque can’t or won’t stand up to him.

“Our government is a puppet that has sold us out,” said Leyder Valencia, the spokesman for Colombia’s National Coordination for Cultivators of Coca, Poppies, and Marijuana [COCCAM], in an interview with The Daily Beast.

“Our leaders care nothing for what happens to us,” Valencia said. “They have put U.S. interests ahead of their own people.”


Glyphosate was developed by the chemical giant Monsanto, a former U.S. company acquired in 2018 by Bayer—which acquired massive legal liabilities as part of the deal. The chemical is widely used in products like the weed killer Roundup. One recent meta study determined that exposure to the herbicide increases the risk of cancer—specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—by a factor of 41 percent. The World Health Organization also has stuck by its decision to label it a carcinogen, despite pressure from U.S. officials to change that ruling.

Over the last two years, a landmark series of court cases in California also have found glyphosate to be highly carcinogenic, with juries awarding a total of about $2.16 billion in damages to the plaintiffs. More than 13,000 claims have been leveled against Monsanto/Bayer. But the Trump administration likes glyphosate. Its Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr said in December that a federal appeals court should reverse a lower court ruling that Bayer was liable in the case of a man in California who claimed his cancer was caused by Roundup.

Colombia’s Drug-Funded Rebels Are Back in Action Big-Time

Bayer insists that its product is safe “when used as directed,” and isn’t likely to cause cancer if its residue is on the food you eat.

But in Colombia, remember, we are not talking about focused use of the chemical at ground level, we are talking about spraying anything and anyone caught in the toxic fog released by an airplane or helicopter.

The United Nations has criticized the use of aerial spraying in Colombia due to the chemical’s toxicity, as have ranking members of the Catholic Church in impacted areas.

“It is like a curse upon the land, destroying everything it touches” said COCCAM spokesman Valencia. “I have seen it with my own eyes. It kills all the farmer’s crops, not just coca, so that they have nothing to eat. It gets into the water and even kills their livestock.”

Valencia also insisted lymphoma isn’t the only disease caused by high levels of exposure.

“It also causes cancer of the skin,” he says. “The mothers miscarry, or their babies are born with terrible deformities. Our public officials know this, but they don’t care.”

Clinical proof for such claims is lacking, but their political and social impact is considerable. USC’s Bunker called aerial spraying an “indefensible ethical position… We are essentially strong-arming a U.S. ally to engage in its own environmental degradation.”

According to Valencia, most farmers would choose not to grow coca at all if there were other viable crops that would allow them to support their families. Armed groups often compete over coca plots for the sake of producing cocaine, meaning that coca growers “always live in a war zone.” And at any time Colombian government soldiers can come along and wipe out the crops, leaving growers with nothing to harvest, he said.

“We’ve been begging for crop substitution programs since the 1980s. The government makes promises to help us, but nothing ever comes of it.”


Deadly mutative properties aside, there’s another good reason not to return to aerial eradication with glyphosate. Namely that in the long run it doesn’t work, according to Adam Isacson, defense director for the Washington Office on Latin America.

“Fumigation can bring a short-term reduction in coca cultivation, but coca recovers pretty quickly in areas that are totally ungoverned,” Isacson told The Daily Beast. “In Colombia we saw that after a few years of spraying, heavily sprayed regions had modestly less coca and a population seething with anger toward their government.”

Coca farmers respond to aerial eradication by moving their plots, disguising the coca plants among other vegetation, and quickly cutting the plant after it’s been sprayed to avoid poisoning of the roots. Isacson, who recently authored a paper on the logistics of spraying coca, said that lack of state presence and economic infrastructure are the prime factors that force farmers to grow illicit crops because they “have no other option.”

“A government that sprays people from overhead is a government that doesn’t intend to be physically present on the ground,” he said. “Some of these areas are so ungoverned that people can’t even get their hands on the local currency easily; it’s easier to buy things by weighing coca paste on store-counter scales.”

Another new report by Brookings also calls forced eradication efforts in Colombia “ineffective” and labels results “short-lived and ephemeral.” Vanda Falbab-Brown, the author of “Detoxifying Colombia’s Drug Policy,” argues for “rural development centering on alternative livelihoods for coca growers and supported by well-designed interdiction efforts” as the best means for cutting back drug production.

Citing successful efforts in Thailand, she argues that “eradication should be delayed until these alternative livelihoods are generating sustainable income.”

But Trump, even as he demands a return to aerial spraying, has authorized a $36 million cut in aid to Colombia as part of his 2021 budget—denying funds that would have gone toward the kind of rural assistance programs Falbab-Brown advocates.

The 2016 peace treaty between Bogotá and the country’s largest guerrilla faction, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), also called for a development-first approach to eventual eradication. The armistice was engineered by former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, but the far-right Duque regime has walked back on his predecessor’s promises to provide support for rural regions.

“The accords include a step by step process [for eradication] that also comes with social investments,” said Valencia, of COCCAM. “That treaty was signed almost four years ago. How much longer will we have to wait?”

If Trump has his way, the wait is over, and so are the accords. Let the sprays begin.

Read more at The Daily Beast.


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