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Congress begins reviewing Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Vietnam

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The U.S. Congress on Thursday began its review of a nuclear agreement with Vietnam which advocates say would create billions of dollars in trade but has triggered human rights concerns.

President Barack Obama sent to Congress the text of the agreement which would allow the United States to transfer reactors and know-how to Vietnam, which has ambitious plans to build a nuclear network from virtually scratch to meet rising energy demand and reignite economic growth.

The agreement will come into force after Congress is in session for 90 working days — likely meaning late 2014 — unless lawmakers approve a resolution that objects to the deal.

Vietnam’s relations have warmed markedly with former war foe Washington since they re-established relations in 1995. But the US Congress is a hotbed of criticism of the communist nation with lawmakers, often from districts with large Vietnamese American communities, concerned about human rights.

At a hearing on the agreement in January, several senators said that Congress should approve a separate bill on human rights in Vietnam to accompany the nuclear deal. Vietnam has detained at least 34 bloggers, more than any country except China, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the US industry, has said that the nuclear agreement would advance US interests unrelated to human rights. It said that the deal could result in $10 to $20 billion in new US exports to Vietnam and create more than 50,000 jobs in the United States.

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If Congress blocks the agreement, other nations “will readily fill this void” with Russia and Japan already having secured deals with Vietnam, it said.

But some lawmakers who may otherwise be supportive have charged that the Vietnam deal does not meet the “gold standard” of recent deals with the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan which barred them from sensitive enrichment or reprocessing that could be used in producing nuclear weapons.

“The absence of a consistent policy weakens our nuclear nonproliferation efforts and sends a mixed message to those nations we seek to prevent from gaining or enhancing such capability,” said Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama, in a letter accompanying the agreement, said that Vietnam made a “political commitment” to rely on international markets for nuclear material and not conduct sensitive work on its own.

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Vietnam’s promise is mentioned in the agreement but it is not legally binding, unlike for Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates — whose own nuclear energy aspirations are especially sensitive due to Western concerns over neighboring Iran.

Senator Robert Menendez, a member of Obama’s Democratic Party who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also raised concern over the timeframe of the agreement, which would run for 30 years and then be renewable for periods of five years, saying that it reduces congressional oversight.

In his letter, Obama said he would make a “strong recommendation” that future administrations consult with Congress on the agreement.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Progressive reformer claims victory in fiercely-contested Queens DA race

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Progressive reformer Tiffany Cabán has declared victory in her campaign versus Melinda Katz in the Queens District Attorney race.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Cabán held a lead of 1,090 votes, The New York Times reports.

Cabán was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Katz was backed by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who chairs the Queens Democratic Party, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)

https://twitter.com/CabanForQueens/status/1143721257353076737

https://twitter.com/CabanForQueens/status/1143721448168710151

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2020 Election

New 2020 poll shows Trump trailing all Democrats — some by double-digits

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President Donald Trump trails all of his Democratic rivals in hypothetical matchups of the 2020 presidential race, according to the result of a new poll released Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Salon.

The survey, conducted by Emerson Polling, found that the president lags behind former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by 10 points nationally — 45 percent to 55 percent. He also trails Sen. Elizabeth Warren by six points — 47 percent to 53 percent —and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg by four points — 48 percent to 52 percent.

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Beto O’Rourke’s ‘war tax’ policy proposal is straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

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Amid an overcrowded Democratic presidential candidate field, it's hard to distinguish yourself from the pack if you don't slot easily into the scale that runs from "pro-corporate centrist" to "left-populist." If you're former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke —  who falls somewhere in the middle, politically, and somewhere towards the top, looks-wise — you pull a militaristic policy proposal out of your hat that recalls some of the most campy pseudo-fascist sci-fi ever written.

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