The United States and European Union have been squeezing Russia with sanctions since it annexed Crimea, a territory that previously belonged to Ukraine, in March 2014. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin established a ban on U.S. and EU foodstuffs a few months later as a snub to the West.
On Thursday, Russia commemorated a tightening of that year-old ban on Western agricultural products by bulldozing bright yellow blocks of cheese. The country also streamrolled fruit and set piles of bacon ablaze. By midday, 28 metric tons of apples and tomatoes from Poland had been demolished, as well as 40 tons of apricots from an unknown country, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Western sanctions and a plunging ruble have caused Russian food prices to spike this year. Some politicians, religious leaders and other Russian citizens denounced the destruction of the food, noting that millions of Russians are living in poverty. More than 285,000 people signed an online petition that asked Putin to distribute the food rather than destroy it.
The Kremlin has promised to help develop Russia’s own agricultural industries and to promote domestic food products that the middle-class generally ignore in supermarkets in favor of status symbols like French cheese and Italian meat. In addition, the Kremlin announced that any contraband foodstuffs found would be destroyed. Russia’s Agricultural Minister Alexander Tkachyov said on state TV that the quality of Western food products could no longer be guaranteed.
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The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.
The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”
Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.
The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”
That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”