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Frailty of Libya Accord on Display In Merkel-Erdogan Squabble

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(Bloomberg) — Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted a five-day-old agreement to halt fighting in Libya as he squabbled with Chancellor Angela Merkel in public over the viability of the accord.One of the two main Libyan combatants, Khalifa Haftar has failed to commit to a truce and should be shunned by leaders who gathered in Berlin last Sunday to work toward a more durable cease-fire in the North African country’s civil war, Erdogan said.“It’s hard to understand how some countries recognize Haftar,” the Turkish leader told journalists in Istanbul on Friday alongside Merkel, who came for talks.The frailty of the Berlin commitment was also on display as the two leaders bickered over Haftar’s refusal to officially sign an ceasefire agreement.Merkel acknowledged there had been “individual” violations of the truce in recent days, but said violence overall “has significantly dropped.”Erdogan chimed in, saying Haftar hadn’t signed anything, but only verbally accepted a truce, which isn’t “full acceptance.” Merkel rebutted, citing the verbal commitment and an agreement to put forward five names for a committee to hash out the terms of a more permanent cease-fire.“Madame Chancellor, it’s accepted but not signed, I want to make that clear,” Erdogan responded.“I think we misunderstand each other a bit,” Merkel said, agreeing that there was no signing. “You’re right.”Read More:Erdogan’s Libya Gamble Turns Mediterranean Into Sea of TroublesEurope Mulls Military Mission in Libya, Amid Oil Disruption (1)Warring Libya Factions Agree to Set Up Cease-Fire Committee (3)The parrying between the two leaders illustrates the difficulty of resolving the proxy war, which has seen Turkey and Russia back opposing parties in the struggle and outside nations squabble over energy interests. The Libya conflict has raged for years, killing thousands and disrupting the country’s oil output.Haftar, who has led a months-long march on the capital Tripoli, and Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, backed by Erdogan, variously agreed to a truce and pledged to put forward names to secure a more lasting cease-fire.“We won’t leave Sarraj alone,” Erdogan said.\–With assistance from Arne Delfs.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Istanbul at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Firat Kozok in Istanbul at fkozok@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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President Trump Signs Bill Approving Sanctions on China Over Hong Kong Crackdown

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed legislation and an executive order that he said will hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong, then quickly shifted his speech in the Rose Garden into a campaign rally-style broadside against Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The legislation and order are part of the Trump administration’s offensive against China for what he calls unfair treatment by the rising Asian superpower, which hid details about the human-to-human transition of the cornoavirus. The almost daily administration broadsides against China come as Trump is defending his response to the virus, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, in the United States and as he works to portray Biden, his expected presidential challenger, as weak on China.

“So Joe Biden and President Obama freely allowed China to pillage our factories, plunder our communities and steal our most precious secrets,” Trump said, adding, “I’ve stopped it largely.”

Trump added: “As vice president, Biden was a leading advocate of the Paris Climate accord, which was unbelievably expensive to our country. It would have crushed American manufacturers while allowing China to pollute the atmosphere with impunity, yet one more gift from Biden to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Trump didn’t limit his criticism of Biden to China. He delivered broadside after broadside against Biden on issues from energy to the economy, education to immigration. Aides have pushed the president to go more negative on Biden, whom Trump has largely spared from attacks — save for the “Sleepy Joe” nickname. Trump has gone after Biden far less aggressively than he did against his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump, once more, talked up his own tough approach to Beijing, though he spent the early weeks of the pandemic praising Chinese President Xi Jinping, in hopes of securing a new trade deal. But since the two nations signed phase one of a deal, the talks have stalled with virtually no hope of restarting before the November election.

The legislation Trump signed into law targets police units that have cracked down on Hong Kong protesters as well as Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing a new, strict national security law widely seen as chipping away at Hong Kong’s autonomy. The mandatory sanctions are also required to be imposed on banks that conduct business with the officials.

Lawmakers from both parties have urged Trump to take strong action in response to China’s new national security law that erodes the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. Hong Kong is considered a special administrative region within China and has its own governing and economic systems.

“This law gives my administration powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals and the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom,” Trump said. “Their freedom has been taken away. Their rights have been taken away, and with it goes Hong Kong in my opinion because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets. A lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong, I suspect.”

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.





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The Business of Drugs: inside the economics of America's longest war

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A half-century into America’s ‘war on drugs’, a new Netflix series uses dollars, cents and economic incentives to ask: is prohibition worth it?As a CIA analyst in Shanghai and Pakistan during America’s “war on terror”, Amaryllis Fox was familiar with drawn-out, intractable conflict. She’d studied the compounding effects of redoubling on failed policies, of redundant good versus evil arguments peddled into a quagmire, costing billions and an incalculable loss of life. But the situation in America’s longest military war, now nearing two decades, paled in comparison to the subject of Fox’s post-CIA project for Netflix: America’s costly, decades-longer engagement known as the “war on drugs”.The Business of Drugs, a six-part series Fox hosts on Netflix, takes a clear-eyed approach to the futility of drug enforcement: what are the incentives, economic and personal, that keeps the market flow of narcotics churning despite a generational trail of violence and waste? Declared in 1971 by Richard Nixon, the “war on drugs” refers broadly to the federal government’s campaign to control psychoactive substances through draconian legislation, expansion of enforcement agencies, and military aid and intervention to other countries. Drug enforcement policies have long served as cudgels against minority groups – the first anti-opium laws, in the 1870s, targeted Chinese immigrants; anti-cannabis measures in the 1910s and 20s aimed for Mexican workers – and the current iteration grows from these roots; from mandatory minimum sentences to no-knock warrants, the “war on drugs” has fueled, in part, the mass incarceration of Americans, especially people of color. Nearly 50 years and $1tn in, the business of drug prohibition has “not only not worked, but the problem is worse than it was when the policy began”, Fox told the Guardian.The Business of Drugs plays like a condensed, updated version of the popular National Geographic series Drugs, Inc (also on Netflix), moving from America’s voracious consumption of illicit substances to the global network of supply evading, or dwarfing, interlocking attempts at enforcement. The series’ six segments are delineated by substance – cocaine, synthetics (such as MDMA, also known as ecstasy), heroin, meth, cannabis and opioids – and explore substances of wildly varying levels of addictiveness, use and geography. Together, the chapters form a loose condemnation of prohibition as both policy and moralistic stance.The series is not a matter of admitting defeat in the “war on drugs”, Fox said. Instead it demands “looking at the policies themselves rather than the fight to enforce them, and asking ourselves if in fact prohibition has any logical hope of working, or whether it’s a residue of a moralistic stance that I think is no longer relevant in our society”.Like its title, The Business of Drugs aims to be straightforward, or as clear as possible on the economics – dollars by gram, price increases by mile of transport – in shadowy systems for which transparency is a risk. Each episode visits a different “hotspot” epitomizing the challenges, market and opportunity for positive change for each substance. For cocaine, Fox traces the bloody trail of the west’s habit from the plant’s cultivation in Colombia (a no-brainer for farmers, given the yield and influence of cartels), through Mexican smuggling routes, over the border to America’s draconian incarceration system for possession. Synthetics presents the therapy potential of MDMA, particularly for PTSD, if declassification from schedule 1, the highest classification for drugs of allegedly no medical benefit, would permit serious research. For heroin, Fox visits the ports of Kenya, where the route for smuggling the drug produced largely from opium poppies in Afghanistan has proliferated into an economic boon for some and devastating addiction epidemic for others.In the installments on heroin (in Kenya) and meth (in Myanmar), Fox meets with government or military officials propagating the line of drugs as good versus evil, themselves firmly aligned with good, despite evidence to the contrary. The cost of prohibition inverts to the cost of unwieldy and haphazard legalization in the case of marijuana in some US states, especially California, where above-board business is cutthroat, onerously regulated, and ripe for consolidation by big business interests. And in an episode on opioids, Fox explores a familiar and devastating story of an American epidemic fueled by big pharmaceutical companies and the inertia of inadequate regulation.According to Fox, everyone from individual coca plant growers in Colombia to worldly United Nations economists agreed that there were two ways to stop the exhaustive and unending war on drugs: end demand, or legalize and regulate with fair competition. Demand, largely from the US and western Europe, won’t be going away, which leaves policy. “We think that we can go in and stop it at the point of supply,” said Fox, “but as long as that demand continues, the reward is high enough that the economic reality is that this is going to continue.”“The reality of those economics” – that for many, the choice to participate in the black market drug economy outweighs the cost of abstaining (if there is a choice to abstain at all) – “is critical in understanding how to bring an end to this war.”Fox and her team, including partner Zero Point Zero Productions, the company behind Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, worked for over a year in pre-production to establish sources willing to speak about participation in illicit, violent networks. The interviews, often anonymous – a man who swallowed heroin packets in Kenya to cross into Tanzania, the small-batch cocaine dealer following his father’s footsteps in California, the masked dealer who sees a spate of “zombie” overdoses on a bad batch of synthetic marijuana as a business opportunity – were built on both the desire to effect change through lived experience and, said Fox, “the human impulse to share your life, to be meaningful and have the data that you’ve learned and the expertise that you have spent your professional life gathering be relevant. Maybe it’s in a criminal industry, but each of the people we spoke to – from the smallest grower down the line – each of them is a substantive expert in their field.“There is the tendency in the media and in everyday life to think of the drug trade as being driven by the low-level growers and dealers and others who are caught up in it,” Fox said. But these testimonies revealed rational calculations of risk versus economic and social security. “Many of us, if we found ourselves in the same position, would make the same choices for our family and for our own economic wellbeing,” she said.That realization was, to her, hopeful – the continuance of a fight against controlled substances remains frustratingly futile, but an assessment of choices on the ground in favor of drug dealing, growing and trafficking – also known, for many, as economic survival – demonstrated that “it’s not a good versus evil battle that is going to go on forever, it’s actually a matter of economics and policy. If we make changes to those things, we can see a different outcome.“The only way for us to tackle this is to have a very logical, adult conversation as a nation about whether there’s any possibility of demand going away,” Fox said. “And if not, what do we need to do in terms of legalization and regulation to bring an end to the violence and mass incarceration that this policy has created?” * The Business of Drugs is now available on Netflix



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France, U.K. Move Toward Requiring Face Coverings in More Public Spaces Amid Reopening

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(LONDON) — Britain and France moved Tuesday to make face coverings compulsory in more places as both countries try to get their economies going while at the same time seeking to prevent further coronavirus outbreaks.

Following days of procrastination and mixed messages, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the wearing of face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24.

On the other side of the English Channel, amid signs of a slight virus resurgence in France, President Emmanuel Macron said he also wants to require masks inside all indoor public spaces by Aug. 1.

Britain and France previously took a more relaxed attitude to face coverings than many other European nations, recommending masks but not requiring them. Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece already require masks to be worn in enclosed spaces.

But with their economies reeling after months-long lockdowns, French and U.K. government leaders were anxious to try to persuade people to spend again — hopefully without spreading the virus. Weeks of indecision made way for new rules that came into view virtually overnight.

Britain’s Hancock told lawmakers in the House of Commons Tuesday that face covers can help workers and shoppers alike.

“In recent weeks, we have reopened retail and footfall is rising,” he said. “We want to give people more confidence to shop safely and enhance protection for those who work in shops.”

People in England already have to wear face coverings on public transport and in hospital settings.

Anyone not wearing a face covering in the additional environments outlined by the government could be fined 100 pounds ($125,) and shops can refuse entry to anyone failing to comply. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

The new requirement only applies to England. The other nations of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — can determine their own public health policies, and Scotland already requires masks in shops.

Hancock stressed that wearing a face covering complements other accepted strategies aimed at keeping a lid on the pandemic, such as washing hands and abiding by social distancing rules.

“We cannot let our progress today lead to complacency tomorrow,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who in April spent a week in the hospital being treated for COVID-19, began wearing a bright blue mask in public last week. The change in policy followed.

In an interview with French television networks marking Bastille Day, France’s Macron said “the best prevention” against the virus is masks, social distancing and hand washing.

Recent rave parties in France and widespread backsliding on social distancing — even within Macron’s presidential palace and other government facilities — have raised concern lately, so the government has been weighing tougher mask guidance.

“We have signs that (the virus) is picking up a bit,” Macron said, noting that France’s virus reproduction rate is inching past 1 again, meaning each infected person is infecting at least one other.

British authorities are hoping the public will comply with the new requirement. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC he believed that “Londoners by and large will follow the rules,” without too much need for the police.

“The problem is not the issue of enforcement, the problem is the mixed messages and the confused communications,” Khan said.

British Environment Secretary George Eustice also did not rule out the possibility that mandatory face coverings would become compulsory in offices and other workplaces in the future. He told the BBC that the government was taking “one step at a time and we’ve taken the view in this next step that we should make it mandatory in retail environments.”

A growing body of evidence suggests wearing face coverings brings some benefit in preventing the spread of the virus.

“Lack of strong evidence of their effectiveness should not be considered a problem but the evidence is accumulating that they have a part to play in reducing transmission and also in protecting the wearer,” said Keith Neal, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham.

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Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.





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