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Surprisingly Sustainable: Oktoberfest’s Green Side

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Some celebrations are almost synonymous with waste. Picture the plastic-bead-strewn streets of New Orleans after Mardi Gras, or the mountains of plastic packaging and wrapping paper after Christmas. For the environmentally conscious, the incredible wastefulness of these occasions is enough to make a Scrooge out of even the most festive individual.

Surprisingly, an environmental hero has arisen from a most unlikely holiday. A celebration that seems to have no other purpose than excessive drinking. No, not St. Patty’s Day (although there are ways to go green then, too!). Friends, we’re talking about Oktoberfest.

Yes. Really.

The Environmental Oscars

Here’s a tidbit that might shock you — it certainly surprised us. Oktoberfest — the real one, that is, held in Munich, Germany, each autumn — is one of the most environmentally friendly events out there. So much so, in fact, that it was awarded the Environmental Oscar in 1997 for its efforts to be as minimally wasteful as possible.

How have Oktoberfest organizers achieved this? Three main aspects contribute to their environmental success:

Disposing of Disposables

In 1991, the city of Munich banned disposable servingware. No more paper plates, no more plastic forks. Instead, food was served on real plates, with real silverware. Drinks were served in glasses, rather than plastic tumblers. This one change reduced waste at the annual festival by over 90 percent. It’s an encouraging statistic for festivals worldwide, especially those that think that waste-free celebrations are beyond their capabilities. After all, Oktoberfest is hardly a small-time operation; it hosts six million visitors each year. If they can go without one-time-use tableware, surely your next backyard barbecue can too!

Organics & Recycling

Gray water from washing all these dishes doesn’t just go down the drain, either. In almost half the festival tents, gray water is reused to flush the toilets (I’ve always wondered why we don’t do this everywhere). Reusing water like this drastically reduces the need for fresh water, and ensures that Oktoberfest gets the most use out of every drop. Much of the food served at Oktoberfest — including the meat — is also organically sourced. And while we could definitely make a strong case for reducing the amount of meat eaten at the bacchanalian beer fest (each year, attendees devour tons of sausages and almost 500,000 chickens), choosing poultry that’s been organically raised does make a huge difference.

Renewable Rejoicing

Since the year 2000, streetlights, toilets and all other public areas of the festival have been powered by renewable energy, making the festival one of the greenest in terms of how it powers its raucous celebrations. This attitude of environmental awareness has filtered through to its vendors, too — approximately 60 percent of them have followed suit and also chosen renewable power sources.

Oktoberfest is one of the purest festivals out there when you look at pure intent. It was originally celebrated to mark the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese on Oct. 12, 1810. These days, it’s a chance to celebrate good beer, great brats and dudes in lederhosen. But the way Munich has focused on creating sustainable Oktoberfest celebrations is an example to all of us that life needn’t be dour and stark to be eco-friendly. In fact, quite the opposite.

Your Own Green Event

So, how can you bring a little of Munich’s environmental sensibilities to your own Oktoberfest celebrations — or any other party, for that matter? It is possible, even if you can’t use gray water to flush your toilet or suddenly switch to renewable energy:

Use e-vite sites like Green Envelope or Paperless Post to create online invites instead of mailing paper ones.
Follow Oktoberfest’s lead and ditch the disposable plates, cups and silverware. If you’re worried about tipsy guests breaking your good dishes, pick up an inexpensive set at Goodwill or Value Village. It’ll likely be the same price as (or cheaper than) disposable stuff, and you can reuse for many parties down the road. Just remember to wash well before use.
Provide bins for compost, recycling and garbage. Often just providing guests options for eco-friendly waste disposal is all you need to do to decrease the amount of waste your party produces.
If you’re going all out for the celebration, rent a costume instead of buying one. Good lederhosen don’t come cheap, and cheap ones won’t last long. Get into the spirit by renting a costume that’ll help you dress the part without taking up space in your closet the rest of the year.
If it’s in your budget, offer your guests organic refreshments and food — organic and/or local chickens, sausage and even beer if you can find it!

We hope you have a fantastic time celebrating good beer, great friends and the crisp arrival of fall. Happy Oktoberfest!

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Surprisingly Sustainable: Oktoberfest’s Green Side

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Succulents Simplified – Debra Lee Baldwin

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Succulents Simplified

Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties

Debra Lee Baldwin

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 21, 2013

Publisher: Timber Press

Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.


Succulents are hot. And Debra Lee Baldwin, the bestselling author of Designing with Succulents and Succulent Container Gardens , is the ideal guide for gardeners, crafters, and DIYers looking for an introduction to these trendy, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. Along with gorgeous photos packed with design ideas, Debra offers her top 100 plant picks and explains how to grow and care for succulents no matter where you live. Step-by-step projects, including a cake-stand centerpiece, special-occasion bouquets, a vertical garden, and a succulent topiary sphere, will inspire you to express your individual style. Whether you’re a novice or veteran, have an acre to fill or a few pots, live in Calexico or Canada, Succulents Simplified is a dazzling primer for success with succulents wherever you live!

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Succulents Simplified – Debra Lee Baldwin

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Florida’s best defense against natural disasters is nature

The highest point in all of Florida is a hill that tops out at 345 feet above sea level, just south of the Alabama border. Much of the rest of the state lies far, far below that — like, 340 feet below — a peninsula jutting into the Caribbean around the same height as the Caribbean. It’s the last place you’d pick to ride out a hurricane, given the choice.

But that’s the choice Florida’s 20 million residents had to reckon with last week, as Hurricane Irma barrelled toward the state, breaking records and flattening towns across the Caribbean. Many expected it to be the costliest disaster in U.S. history — not just because of the Irma’s towering strength.

Florida is seemingly made for disaster. Its sprawling cities have been built up quickly and extensively, at the expense of the ecosystems that act as a natural defense against the worst of a hurricane’s blow. There’s nothing to stop a hurricane like Irma from wreaking havoc wherever it goes, but dunes, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs can all play an important role in absorbing some of the destructive energy of a storm. Unfortunately, over the past century, the Sunshine State has lost the majority of all these natural shock absorbers, trading them for arable land and new developments.

As Florida and Texas start to rebuild from the blows dealt by Irma and Harvey, many are weighing how best to fortify vulnerable coastal cities, even as rising sea level brings the threat of flooding closer and closer.

“If you live near the water, the difference between a crashing wave and a slowly moving chop against the walls of your home can be everything,” says Rob Nowicki, a post-doctoral researcher at Florida’s Mote Marine Lab.

Houston’s mayor made a plea for funding to construct a massive sea wall, or “coastal spine,” to protect the region from dangerous storm surges in the future. “We cannot talk about rebuilding” he said, “if we do not build the coastal spine.”

This bunker-building approach to natural disaster — which Nathanael Johnson wrote about in Houston’s struggle to control floodwater — is prone to occasional, catastrophic failure, especially as climate change continues to shift the baseline on our expectations of what a storm can do. The problem is, for Florida, these kinds of concrete-heavy projects aren’t really an option.

“What distinguishes all of South Florida is that it’s got this porous limestone base,” says Ashley Dawson, author of Extreme Cities. No matter what barriers you put between yourself and the sea, water will be able to seep around it. In Miami Beach, king tides regularly flood up through the city’s storm drains, hurricane or no. At the most dire moments before Irma made landfall, Miami — with an average elevation of 6 feet above sea level — was predicted to see as much as 10 feet of storm surge.

When Irma made a last minute swerve inland, pushing the storm surge away from populated coastal cities, much of the predicted damage was avoided. Still, Miami and Jacksonville saw several feet of flooding, power outages, and overwhelmed infrastructure.

Other cities, like Tampa and Sarasota, remain especially vulnerable because they sit on the on the edge of very shallow seas, Dawson says. That means when storms sweep in from deeper ocean they pile up some extremely high, extremely powerful waves ahead of them. Although Tampa only ended up with a couple of feet of storm surge from Irma, initial forecasts were chilling; if the storm had veered a different way, nine to 15 feet of surge might have slammed into the city.

Shoreline habitats like dunes and wetlands can block storm surge, usually the deadliest part of a major hurricane, because they slow down dangerous waves and prevent water from moving as far inland as it would without them.

A recent study in Nature’s online journal calculated that wetlands saved New York $625 million in flooding damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, by absorbing both storm surge and rain.

“As a rule of thumb, you can expect larger and more prominent ecosystems to provide more protection,” says Nowicki.

The same swamps and mangroves that would help protect Florida from storms are also what helped keep people and development out of the sparsely populated state until the 20th century.

To make South Florida habitable, the Army Corps of Engineers dug 2,000 miles of canals and levees starting in the 1930s. Beaches were bulwarked, channels were dredged, subdivisions snaked their way into former marshland, and Disney World appeared in a puff of pink smoke (I assume). Along the way, Florida’s natural wetlands receded and its once-stunning coral reefs all but disappeared. Florida is now the third most populous state, behind California and Texas.

In the last few years, Florida Governor Rick Scott has overseen large budget cuts to the department in charge of researching and preserving these ecosystems, enabling the kind of risky coastal development that puts people too close to dangerous storms. And President Donald Trump recently reversed an Obama-era mandate that federally funded construction projects abide by a higher flooding standard to take sea level rise into consideration. All of this leaves Florida in a poor position to weather future storms.

Then there’s the question of Florida’s coral reefs. Offshore reefs can’t stop surge from coming inland the way dunes and wetlands can, but they sap energy from the waves washing over them. Coral cover in the Caribbean, including in Florida, has decreased by 80 percent, leaving low-lying shorelines less protected than ever.

Mote Marine Laboratory, where Robert Nowicki works, is focused on research into how to restore Florida’s degraded reefs by growing and planting new coral colonies onto former reef sites.

“While much of our living coral is gone, the skeletons remain,” Nowicki explains. The structure of a reef, even a dead one, will continue to act as a brake on waves for a while, but over time the skeletons break down and, without live coral to rebuild them, turn into rubble.

This kind of outplanting project is based on the way foresters restore damaged forests by raising trees in nurseries and then distributing them into the wild. It’s labor-intensive and slow, yet Nowicki says it’s the best bet for rebuilding these damaged reefs, and their storm-buffering services, before they’re gone for good.

“Getting living coral back on the old skeletons,” he says, “is a kind of race against time.”

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Florida’s best defense against natural disasters is nature

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Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

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Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

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Tesla has a big new competitor vying to build the batteries of the future.

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Tesla has a big new competitor vying to build the batteries of the future.

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Stop scaring people about climate change. It doesn’t work.

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Stop scaring people about climate change. It doesn’t work.

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What has Elon Musk been up to since ditching Trump’s advisory councils?

There’s been much high-profile gushing over the spaceship-in-Eden–themed campus that Apple spent six years and $5 billion building in Silicon Valley, but it turns out techno-utopias don’t make great neighbors.

“Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general,” writes Adam Rogers at Wired, in an indictment of the company’s approach to transportation, housing, and economics in the Bay Area.

The Ring — well, they can’t call it The Circle — is a solar-powered, passively cooled marvel of engineering, sure. But when it opens, it will house 12,000 Apple employees, 90 percent of whom will be making lengthy commutes to Cupertino and back every day. (San Francisco is 45 miles away.)

To accommodate that, Apple Park features a whopping 9,000 parking spots (presumably the other 3,000 employees will use the private shuttle bus instead). Those 9,000 cars will be an added burden on the region’s traffic problems, as Wired reports, not to mention that whole global carbon pollution thing.

You can read Roger’s full piece here, but the takeaway is simple: With so much money, Apple could have made meaningful improvements to the community — building state-of-the-art mass transit, for example — but chose to make a sparkly, exclusionary statement instead.

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What has Elon Musk been up to since ditching Trump’s advisory councils?

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5 Appliances You Should Be Cleaning (& Helpful Tips for Cleaning Them Efficiently)

Clean my appliances? you may ask. I thought they were supposed to make life easier, not harder!! Well, yes. But occasionally cleaning appliances will not only keep them fresher and cleaner, it will also help them work more efficientlyandlast longer. And its a simple procedure once you know how. Here are a few appliances that are likely getting ignored during spring cleaning chores, but shouldn’t be.

1. Washing Machines

Does your washing machine have a weird, moldy smell?Then it needs a little TLC. Over time,mold and bacteriado tend to collect in washing machines, especially front loaders.

Try one of these fixes (or all of them if the appliance is really smelly):

  1. Wipe around and under the rubber door seals.
  2. Pull out the detergent drawer and give it a good scour.
  3. Pour 1 cup of vinegar into the detergent dispenser. Follow up with a hot water or sanitary wash cycle.

To help prevent odor build-up in a front-loading machine, leave the detergent drawer, as well as the door, open between uses. Make sure small children and pets wont be able to get inside.

2. Dryers

Yes, it’s important to remove the flint from the dryer after every load — but that’s not enough. If you use fabric softener in your wash, you will need to remove the lint screen occasionally and wash it with soap and water. This will remove softener build-up that tends to interfere with the dryers functionality. Let the screen dry completely before replacing it. In addition, once a year, you should have ahandymanclean the lint out of your dryers ductwork to eliminate a potential fire hazard.

3. Stainless Steel Appliances

Don’t let the name fool you. Stainless steel items still need to be cleaned. Heres how to do thatwithout scratching their elegant surface:

  1. Wipe down with warm soapy water, using a soft cloth or a sponge.
  2. Rinse off with clean water. This is especially important for your stainless steel range, which might otherwise develop a permanent soap stain when you heat it.
  3. Buff with a soft, dry cloth.
  4. Never use abrasive cleansers or pads on stainless steel.

DID YOU KNOW? An environmentally safe stainless steel conditioner is great for quick touchups, and prevention of annoying fingermarks and grease stains. It also leaves your appliances nice and shiny. Use a soft cloth and always apply in the direction of the grain.

4. Ovens

Have you ever made a lasagna that overflowed and landed on the oven floor? When that happens, make life easier on yourself; deal with it ASAP. Sprinkle the overflow with salt immediately (it will help loosen the residue) and finish your cooking process. After turning off the oven, take out the casserole dish. Scrub the floor with a damp sponge; be careful to avoid contact with the oven racks, which will still be very hot. Enjoy your dinner!

HELPFUL HINT: The salt trick also works miracles with burned food in the bottom of non-coated metal cooking pans.

5. Dishwashers

Yes, your dishwasher is regularlyexposed to soap and water, but italso dealswith leftover food, grease and soap scum. (Yuck!) Giving it a good cleanse will increase its efficiency. Remove the bottom rack and clear particles out of the drain. Next, place a dishwasher-safe container full of white vinegar (about 1 cup) on the upper rack and run a hot-water cycle to remove grease and odors. If the interior is stained, sprinkle 1 cup ofbaking sodaover the bottom surface. Once again, run a hot-water cycle a short one will be fine this time.

Laura Firszt writes fornetworx.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Appliances You Should Be Cleaning (& Helpful Tips for Cleaning Them Efficiently)

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The (Possibly Illegal) Art of a $100 Billion Saudi Arms Deal

Mother Jones

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As Donald Trump heads to Riyadh today on his first international trip as president, he brings with him a gift: a massive arms deal reportedly worth more than $100 billion for Saudi Arabia. According to Reuters, the deal is specifically being developed to coincide with the visit, where he will meet with Saudi leaders and discuss the war in Yemen. And its success seems to be crucial to the president, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has personally intervened in the deal’s development. According to the New York Times, earlier this month, in the middle of a meeting with high-level Saudi delegates, Kushner greased the gears by calling Lockheed Martin chief Marilyn A. Hewson and asking her to cut the price on a sophisticated missile defense system. Other details of the package, though, have been somewhat shrouded in mystery—Congress, which will have to approve any new arms deal, has to yet to be notified of specific offerings—but it is said to include planes, armored vehicles, warships, and, perhaps most notably, precision-guided bombs.

It’s that last detail in particular that is making many in Washington sweat. The Obama administration inked arms deals with the kingdom worth more than $100 billion over two terms, but it changed course in its last months. As Mother Jones has regularly reported, the Saudi-led war against the Houthi armed group in Yemen has been fueled in part by American weapons, intelligence, and aerial refueling, and it has repeatedly hit civilian targets, including schools, marketplaces, weddings, hospitals, and places of worship. Civilian deaths are estimated to have reached 10,000, with 40,000 injured. In response, the Obama White House suspended a sale of precision-guided bombs to the country in December.

But now, despite the kingdom’s track record, President Trump is aiming to revive the deal. “Lifting the suspension on precision-guided munitions is a big deal,” says William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “It’s a huge impact if it reinforces the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, and also the signal that it’s okay with us. It’s saying, ‘Have at it. Do what you want.'”

Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow at the DC-based Arms Control Association adds, “Obama’s record on arms sales wasn’t stellar in any way, but in this instance on precision-guided munitions he finally got a bit of spine and said we need to put a pause on this, because the United States is functionally contributing to this humanitarian disaster. Trump is ready to jettison any human rights concerns,” he says, noting that the administration has all but explicitly stated as much. Of course the White House has already excised “human rights” from the top of its agenda; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced plans to cut 2,300 diplomatic and civil service jobs and, in a speech to State Department employees outlining the administration’s “America First” strategy, Tillerson argued that pushing US values on other countries, such as protecting human rights, “creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

Following that logic, this arms package might just exemplify the elusive “America First” doctrine. “It’s good for the American economy,” a White House official told Reuters of the deal, suggesting that it would result in jobs in the defense sector. According to analysis by Abramson, Trump’s first 100 days in office resulted in $6 billion worth of notified arms sales—eight times that of Obama’s, whose first 100 days totaled $713 million.

But Trump may come against more opposition to the deal than he anticipates. Last year, expressing outrage over Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) won the support of 27 legislators to vote against a billion-dollar deal to supply Saudi Arabia with Abrams tanks. The deal still went through, but their opposition marked a shift in how lawmakers viewed arms deals to the kingdom and was the first time that Congress publicly debated the wisdom of the United States’ role in the war in Yemen. At the time Murphy said, “There is a US imprint on every civilian death inside Yemen, which is radicalizing the people of Yemen against the United States.” The two senators also drafted legislation that would suspend certain types of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until the country could demonstrate that it would protect civilians. This April, they reintroduced a similar bill, this one aimed specifically at air-to-ground munitions. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn), a co-sponsor, said the bill “would help protect innocent civilians and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions… We need to stand up for our values and ensure that the U.S. no longer turns a blind eye to the indiscriminate killing of children, women, and men in Yemen.” Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have continued to highlight the need to address the Yemen war through humanitarian means, as well as limiting US support.

Even if Congress doesn’t put up a fight, which seems unlikely, Trump’s new deal may fall prey to other obstacles. Earlier this week, the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights released their expert opinion on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and concluded that future sales may not pass legal muster. “In the face of persistent reports of wrongdoing, Saudi Arabia has failed to rebut allegations or provide detailed evidence of compliance with binding obligations arising from international humanitarian law,” the report states. “Under these circumstances, further sales under both the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act are prohibited until the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes effective measures to ensure compliance with international law and the president submits relevant certifications to the Congress.”

Furthermore, Hartung isn’t convinced a deal of such tremendous proportions can realistically come to fruition unless it incorporates deals previously made under the Obama administration—especially considering that it won’t include big ticket items like the F-35 fighter jet, an offer that would make Israel deeply uncomfortable. “Where are they gonna get $100 billion worth of stuff to sell?” Hartung asks. “I don’t see where it is going to come from—are we going to ship our whole Navy over there? Under Obama, under Foreign Military Sales, they offered $115 billion in weapons over his two terms. This would be a one-shot deal that would be almost equal to that, and the Obama numbers were a record,” he says. “It seems like part of this is: Trump just likes big numbers. It’s like when he claims credit for jobs he didn’t really help create.”

If it’s for optics, there’s one clear benefit. “Even if it doesn’t happen, it’s got the short-term benefit of Trump showing that he cares about the Saudis,” says Hartung, suggesting that it possibly could be political theater as the two countries mend ties and as the US tries to project hard power in the region.

Of course, what Trump often fails to realize is that optics go both ways. In addition to what human rights groups have called indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, on multiple occasions, the Saudi coalition has blocked humanitarian aid from entering Yemen, contributing to the growing catastrophe that’s left millions on the brink of starvation and millions more who have been forced to flee their homes. “It appears that war crimes are being committed in Yemen, and if the United States is supporting that war, in a way it is also culpable for those war crimes,” says Abramson. “Most Americans don’t want their country to be engaged in war crimes. That’s another reason why we really need to pay attention to this.”

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The (Possibly Illegal) Art of a $100 Billion Saudi Arms Deal

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