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Robert Parker, Jim Budd, and The Disappointing Silence of Other Wine Writers

2011 December 5
by Mike

Robert Parker announced last night that Jay Miller is leaving The Wine Advocate. Miller’s departure comes after a month of damaging revelations concerning his trips to Spain and the role that wine impresario Pancho Campo had played in organizing them. Last week, Jim Budd, the journalist who has driven this story, published emails, obtained by Associated Press reporter Harold Heckle, in which Campo and a colleague of his at The Wine Academy of Spain leaned on officials in the Madrid appellation to cough up 20,000 euros in exchange for a visit by Miller. This was on top of an email in which producers in the Murcia region were told that they would have to pay a fee in order to have their wines reviewed by Miller.

Miller, a longtime friend of Parker’s, leaves The Wine Advocate after five tumultuous years. Parker, in the announcement he posted last night on eBob, made no mention of the controversies that have dogged Miller. But Miller, in a statement released alongside Parker’s, alluded to them. “Finally, some may believe my stepping down is in response to my critics,” he wrote. “Nothing could be further from the truth…I leave The Wine Advocate with a clear conscience. I have never accepted (or requested) fees for visiting wine regions or wineries.” Miller said that he will now work part-time as a retailer in Baltimore. He also plans to write a book about Spanish and South American wines, and may even start a blog. Additionally, he hopes to study Spanish. Neal Martin will take over coverage of Spain and South America, while David Schildknecht will assume responsibility for Oregon and Washington.

Before this latest, and presumably final, Miller flap slides down the memory hole, two quick points. Last week, in response to the Madrid emails that Budd published, Parker posted a message on his site in which he said there was no truth to the allegations concerning Miller and Campo and that his lawyers had asked him to refrain from commenting on the matter “given the potential lawsuits by Jay, by Pancho, and possibly by TWA [the Wine Advocate] against these bloggers.” He also said that his lawyers had enlisted the services of an attorney in Madrid. It seemed clear at the time, and it is obvious now, that this was bluster meant to intimidate Budd and to scare others away from the story. Parker owes Budd an apology, and he should also be held accountable for trying to squelch an investigation into a legitimate scandal. Miller has been tossed aside, but if I were a Wine Advocate subscriber, I would demand to know if the claims that Parker made last week had any basis in fact or were simply intended to deceive and deflect.

While I’m in high dudgeon here, I will also say that it was disappointing that there was hardly a murmur from other wine writers about Parker’s effort to intimidate Budd.  I’m sure that Budd received plenty of emails expressing solidarity and encouragement. But as far as I know, only W. Blake Gray openly addressed Parker’s threat of litigation and called on him to disclose how he knew that the allegations about Miller and Campo were false. Budd did tremendous investigative work—the kind rarely seen in wine journalism—to bring this story to light; the fact that Parker’s attempt to bully him into silence elicited almost no public reaction from other wine writers does not speak well of our field.

UPDATE: David Schildknecht emailed me to say that Robert Parker told him last January that Jay Miller would be leaving The Wine Advocate at the end of this year. David says that he was formally assigned coverage of the Pacific Northwest, pending Miller’s departure, in August.

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  13. December 20, 2011

    Mr Park,

    There is no smear campaign against Mr Campo.
    There are only precise questions raised by Mr Budd and others, which never get an answer.
    Mr Campo issues statements which contradict one another, and never address the real questions.
    Why? Especially when nobody has accused Mr Campo of anything illegal in this particular case.

    And why was it exactly the same 3 years ago when Mr Campo, having been sentenced in Dubai for fraud, was subject to an Interpol Warrant? Why did he never answer the simple questions about what he did in Dubai, how he got out of the country when he had to surrender his passport and where he got the money to found the Wine Academy of Spain?
    If this sets people wondering, it is mainly because Mr Campo does not seem to want to clear his name. It looks to me as if Mr Campo were Mr Campo’s worst enemy. I don’t know him personally and I don’t want to be influenced by rumours or hearsay, but his own defense lines are so elastic you can’t make out anything out of it. I am talking about the things he writes and publishes, not about reviews of them. Mr Campo seems to be always reinventing himself and the facts.

    Re the emails Mr Budd posted: no, they were not pasted or altered – let me remind you that the author of the first email Jim Budd obtained confirmed its authenticity, even if he said it was confidential. And it was not first posted by Mr Budd, but by Vincent Pousson, on his Facebook page, then on the site of Jacques Berthomeau in France. So Mr Budd did not start anything, no smear, no campaign.

    And re the investigation methods of Mr Budd, I don’t see why he should go to Spain himself since he has formed a team with Harold Heckle who lives in Spain, a team which has obtained a lot of results indeed, even without Mr Campo’s and his staff’s cooperation.

    Lastly, your pointing at 2000’s smear campaign against Mr Budd is irrelevant: you know, as any sane reader of the article you refer to, that the charges against Mr Budd were fictional, and that there can’t be any connection with his change of career.

    So I find your veiled attacks at Mr Budd pathetic, not to say, suspect. You are not curious. You are just insulting. May be you don’t like investigative journalism. Maybe you just don’t” like Jim Budd. This has nothing to do with the matter here. And to me, as I said, Mr Campo is not guilty of anything illegal in this case.

  14. December 20, 2011

    When Peter Park posted on Jim’s Loire he used the name ‘James Bond’.

    The facts are as reported in the article by Tim Atkin MW. I have never been arrested by the police in the UK or any other country. Nor incidentally have I ever been to Los Angeles except on the occasion in 2007 of a flight to and from New Zealand. Spending a few hours in a transit lounge while the plane refueled.

    I launched in 2000 and in 2001 a smear site was set up as described by Tim Atkin. All the allegations are entirely false. Once I discovered the site I went to the police in South London and took measures successfully to close the two versions of the sites down.

    I suspect that Peter Park/James Bond may well be connected to someone whose company is listed on my investdrinks blog as one of the companies I would not buy wine from. If I’m correct this individual once accused me of stalking his girl friend. Pure fantasy as a) I had no idea whether he had a girl friend or not, b) if so, no idea of her name, c) no idea where she lived. Furthermore I have never harassed or stalked anyone.

    For a number of years I worked an English teacher in South London where I ran a department. I ceased to work regularly in the classroom in 1983 when I was seconded to a joint assessment project that involved The University of London Schools Examinations Board, and the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and Kent and Essex education authorities.

    This project continued until 1988 when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher abolished the ILEA. Although I had enjoyed my time teaching, this gave me the opportunity to make a career change and I started to write about wine.

  15. December 20, 2011

    I have been following Mr. Budd´s “thorough” investigation of Mr Campo. I have also wondered about the time he has been spending on this journalistic research. Either someone is funding this investigation or he is a very rich man. Which brings me to the following; has he actually been doing this investigation himself or is he relying on third parties. It is my understanding that a proper investigative “journalist” would actually travel to the places in question, in this case Spain, ask for proper documentation on the spot (not emails that could have been cut, pasted) and perhaps even show up at The Wine Academy and question staff. Why has this not been done?

    I posted a question on his blog the other day of whether this was not perhaps a smear campaign against Mr. Campo, similar to the one he was victim of back in 2000, but of course, he withdrew the post immediately.

    Another issue that I find strange is why Mr. Budd, an English teacher in London give up teaching in his forties, to write about wine? Although a teacher’s pay may not be massive, at least you get a pension once you retire after a number of years. Was his leaving his career related to the accusations made against him back in 2000? Does he have a degree in journalism? Is he an actual investigator? I am curious…

  16. John S. permalink
    December 15, 2011

    This Ryan Opaz guy seems to have a pretty high opinion of himself, his value and importance to the trade and his facial hair.

  17. December 9, 2011

    Oui le premier post parlant de l’affaire a été posté sur mon blog et j’ai reçu le soir même une lettre du directeur de la D.O de Jumilla. Bien sûr un blog écrit en français n’est pas un blog intéressant. Il n’empêche que la moindre des choses serait de reconnaître l’antériorité de Vincent Pousson et de mon petit blog dans la découverte des agissements du couple infernal.
    Jacques Berthomeau

  18. December 7, 2011

    Tish, great post, and thanks for it. I don’t think Miller is going to find much of an audience for his work, regardless of whether or not he candidly addresses this controversy. Miller didn’t enjoy much credibility while working for the Wine Advocate, and I doubt that’s going to change once he’s on his own.

    I agree that Miller should account for his role in this controversy, but the greater burden, it seems to me, is with Parker and Campo. If I were a Wine Advocate subscriber, I would demand to know why the publication essentially put its Spain coverage in the hands of Campo, and only Parker can answer that one. As for Campo–well, I think it’s fair to say that he has a lot of explaining to do. I suspect that there are quite a few people in Spain right now who are not happy with Pancho.

  19. December 7, 2011

    Great, Tish, excellent. Gracias.

    You might want to have a look at Ryan Opaz on Catavino: “to Pancho Campo: “You just helped us all see how dirty it makes us feel.”

    And my post of “My hat is off to you Mr. Pancho Campo.” A translastion of a post by Andrés Arévalo on

  20. December 6, 2011

    Mike, I would not be so alarmed by the lack of other writers jumping on this story. For one thing, the story is only a week or so old, in terms of smoking-gunlike revelations. Jim Budd’s posts have been fantastic, but the real story has yet to be told. To me, the flood of traffic to Jim’s Loire site speaks to the importance of the story, and to the interest among wine watchers both in and outside the wine trade.

    It does not surprise me that the reaction-stories so far have been by bloggers (Blake Gray’s is especially pointed), not other wine publications; every publication that rates/reviews wine stands to be tainted by TWA’s situation, because while the Jay Miller scandal has very specific circumstances, issues of integrity, favoritism and favor-currying are hardly uncommon in the world of wine media.

    Stuff will continue to seep out of this mess, and eventually all wine writers and serious drinkers will be compelled to give it a real think-through. As the story develops, mainstream media (more serious than will take notice. It is not often that the self-proclaimed most ethical publication in a niche field is confronted with an apparent scandal that could taint much of its already accepted work.

    To me, the even bigger story rests in Robert Parker’s and Jay Miller’s rather ignorant exit statements. The failure to even acknowledge the controversy on RP’s part smacks of hubris, ignorance and a serious disconnect with the wine scene. If RP were to go ahead and actually sue anyone over this, that would just be one more sign he has no clue. It sounds like bluster coming from RP.

    As for Jay Miller’s promise to continue lecturing and possibly to start blogging, he deserves 99 points for irony. If he does indeed try to continue to cover wine without directly addressing the current body of work implicating Pancho Campo in an apparent payola scam, then he should not be surprised to find himself shunned by wine media and trade alike. There is simply too much crap and unanswered questions for him to believe he can merrily go on his wine-writing way.

    And while the stakes and prominence of the players in this scandal are huge, the whole scenario should serve as a humbling reminder to all wine media that ethics remain something people care about, even if the discussion thereof tends to spring up when ethics are lacking, more so than when firmly in place.

  21. December 6, 2011

    Herve, thanks for the message, and yes, Vincent Pousson got this whole thing started.

    In light of what David Schildknecht said yesterday, regarding Miller’s departure from the Wine Advocate, I wouldn’t be so quick to let Miller and Parker off the hook here. And, yes, although I believe David, the timing of Parker’s announcement just looks really suspicious.

  22. December 6, 2011

    My two reactions are, first, that Robert Parker simply cannot handle criticism and lashes out at anyone who questions him or his people without regard to the validity of the criticism. I say that as a long-time subscriber, and it has from time-to-time made me question whether I should continue supporting TWA.

    Second, whatever the impetus, TWA is well rid of Jay Miller, whose reviews and taste I found quite unhelpful. As a wine consumer, I am very happy with the rise of Galloni and Schildknecht and Neal Martin at TWA. I have regularly found each of their writing to be quite informative and helpful.

  23. December 6, 2011

    Mike Dunne, thanks for stopping by. Lucky you, a trip to Thailand: I haven’t been there in years. I, of course, wasn’t singling out anyone for criticism, and I certainly didn’t intend to come across as a scold. I just found it disappointing that the community of wine writers didn’t make a stink over Parker’s comments. Parker may well have been at a loss as to how to respond; as we’ve seen over the years, damage control is not his specialty. But I felt he crossed the line with the threat of litigation. I agree with you: I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this issue.

  24. December 6, 2011

    Alder, I think that in general, you are right–mainstream journalists do look down on blogging. And to be honest, I can’t really blame them. In the political sphere, for instance, there are some very good bloggers, but how many do any original reporting? They mostly just pontificate. The same is true of most financial/business blogs. But I do think that things are different in the wine universe. At this point, there aren’t many people working the wine beat who have positions with mainstream publications; by choice and/or necessity, some of the most interesting and influential wine writers are now writing about wine via blogs. And consider this: in the past several years, we have seen three really significant examples of investigative wine journalism, two of which (the latest Miller flap and the previous Miller flap) emanated from blogs (Jim Budd, Tyler Colman; the third example–no false modesty here–was my piece for Slate about Rodenstock, Royal Wine Merchants, and Parker). I agree with Jim: in wine journalism, at least, I don’t think the distinction between writers and bloggers is still valid.

  25. December 6, 2011

    ‘Budd says that his site had 6000 page views ‘

    Jim’s Loire has a sitemeter on the right hand side that has all this information. It is open to all.

    I don’t think the distinction between bloggers and writers is valid now. Blogs are a medium that writers use, just as they use other media.

  26. December 5, 2011


    Regarding #1, I’d certainly be curious about how many really knew about this. But perhaps you’re right.

    Regarding #2, two points — 1. that making private comments in a closed community that don’t name specific individuals seems to me to be different than making a direct, public threat to someone specifically. While I personally think Parker should be taken to task for both, I’m suggesting that for some people this may not have constituted enough of an egregious act to write about.

    Regarding #3, Indeed, as I said, I know Jim Budd’s CV. I’m suggesting that people, and “traditional journalists” in particular treat stuff that appears on blogs differently than writing for established media outlets. I think that’s ridiculous, but I don’t think that I’m wrong.

    And of course, I think that what I write should be taken as seriously as what career wine journalists write. But that doesn’t meant that career wine journalists think so. In fact I’m fairly clear that many of them don’t. That pisses me off, but it’s the truth. That’s my point.

  27. December 5, 2011

    Alder, as I said, I don’t want to make a huge issue of this, and you may be right–perhaps it was unrealistic to expect a big outcry from wine writers. But in response to your various points:

    1. Jim Budd published Parker’s comment on his site last Thursday, and numerous people tweeted the link. Budd says that his site had 6000 page views between Thursday and Friday of last week. I suspect that very American or British wine writers were unaware of what was going on.

    2. I don’t get your point here. So if Parker sends Jim Budd an email threatening to sue it should be taken seriously, but if he threatens a lawsuit on eBob, he’s just blowing off steam and should be ignored?

    3. Jim Budd is a veteran journalist, and the emails he published last week were obtained by Harold Heckle of the Associated Press. I don’t think Jim has a credential problem, and I certainly think that most wine writers/journalists consider the Associated Press to be a legitimate news organization.

    You are a longtime wine blogger. Do you think that what you write should be taken as seriously as what career wine journalists write?

  28. December 5, 2011


    A couple of points that should temper your disappointment:

    1. I’m sure a bunch of journalists don’t subscribe to Parker’s site, or if they do, they’re not checking it regularly enough to catch Parker’s threats to “these bloggers.”

    2. That web site in question is a private bulletin board. It strikes me that thinly veiled threats of suing “these bloggers” on a private BB (which he’s done before, and never been called to task by the wine media) is a little different than sending an e-mail saying “Hey Jim Budd, I’m going to sue your butt off.”

    3. Many (I almost wrote most) career wine writers or journalists don’t consider bloggers to be fellow journalists so even if they were aware of the allegations, I don’t think they’d treat them the same as if the writer in question were Eric Asimov, for instance. Yes, I’m aware that Jim writes for Decanter, etc. etc.

    All this by way of saying I think it’s a little much to have expected a major outcry by your fellow wine writers.

  29. December 5, 2011

    Jim, Thanks for stopping by, and again, hats off for all the great work in recent weeks. I very much doubt that you will be hearing from Campo or Juan-Stop Solutions.

    So now that Campo appears to have lost his connection to the Wine Advocate, where does he go from here? That will be interesting to see.

  30. December 5, 2011

    Mike and others here. Thanks you for your kind words and support. I was saddened and disappointed by Robert Parker’s response but not cowed as I knew I had copies of the crucial emails. I have enjoyed the support of many people and am grateful for this.

    Pancho Campo continues to threaten legal action at second or third hand as he has done on some previous occasions. To date I have yet to hear from Campo or his lawyers.

  31. December 5, 2011

    Alder and Joe, thanks for the comments. I agree that there isn’t much interest in this kind of insider baseball, and certainly, the Miller/Parker thing was pretty well exhausted before this latest controversy even erupted. However, what made this more than just another Jay Miller scandal was Parker’s outrageous attempt to silence Budd by threatening him with a lawsuit. Forgive the cliche, but that crossed the line, and I think it demanded a response from other wine writers. Parker needed to know that pulling this kind of crap is just not acceptable in the eyes of his peers. Would this have caused Parker to recant, or even apologize? Surely not, but that’s not the point.

    Alder, wine writing suffers from no shortage of navel-gazing these days. There seems to be a bottomless appetite for discussions about the Future of Wine Journalism. But here was an instance in which one of our colleagues did some great journalism and was threatened with legal harassment on account of his work, and hardly anyone among us said a thing. Whether your readers or my readers or Joe’s readers are interested in this topic is not really the issue; this was a case in which people needed to step up and not only express support for Budd, but also for basic journalistic values. I don’t want to make a huge issue of this, but I think it was a failure on the part of the wine writing community.

  32. December 5, 2011

    Jill, you make a great point, and the lack of language skills underscores just how unqualified Miller was for this role. It’s worth recalling that he had little if any experience of Spain when Parker gave him responsibility for the country. Jay seems like a decent enough person, but he was clearly not the man for the job.

  33. December 5, 2011

    Tim, thanks for the kind words. I did see the piece on your site, and thought it was very good. But as I said on Twitter, what I’m talking about here was the failure of wine writers to speak up about Parker’s attempt to silence Budd with the threat of a lawsuit. As for Neal Martin and his lack of experience in South America, this seems to be a pattern with the Wine Advocate. I think Antonio Galloni had visited Burgundy and Champagne maybe once or two when he was given responsibility for those regions. And as you may recall, when Parker took part in the Wine Future event in Rioja two years ago, it was apparently the first time that he’d been in Spain since the 1970s. Jay Miller knew nothing about Spain when he was assigned to cover it five years ago, and we now see how that turned out. I guess if the Wine Advocate ever posted job listings, they could say, “On-the-ground experience not necessary.”

  34. December 5, 2011

    I’d like to add a little note in favour of the original “up-digger” of the story, Frenchman Vincent Pousson, see here:

    I also published several posts on the subject on my blog Chroniques Vineuses. And like you, Mr Steinberger, I bitterly regret the deafening silence of many wine media – was it fear, was it publishers’ solidarity, was it because Mr Campo has built himself a nice little network of obligees? Was it laziness? I don’t know.
    I only saw that in spite of these revelations, the attendance at Pancho Campo’s Wine Future in Honk Kong was impressive enough.

    But like Jim Budd, I must insist on one point: we never questioned Mr Parker’s or Mr Miller’s integrity. Rather the fact that the WA could not live up to the high ethical standards it set itself, even involuntarily.

    PS. Even if Mr Miller intended to resign long ago, like Mr Schildknecht says, he chose the worst moment to do so and I am not sure many people will believe it has nothing to do with the Jumillagate, Murciagate or whatever you call it.

  35. December 5, 2011

    Interesting article. Great scoop by Jim Budd. Well done!

  36. December 5, 2011

    I agree with Alder, most of the wine world doesn’t even care about it because likely it will not impact them. Consumers have been shows, for example, to respond more to the score displayed for a wine on a retail shelf than to the name giving that score, so it doesn’t matter to most people beyond “an expert” has reviewed and rated the wine favorably. The names, by and large, can be interchanged.

    The finest wines is another story I suppose – but that is not exactly an enormous market.

    Doesn’t mean this shouldn’t be written about – it should – but doesn’t mean it warrants coverage by the entire wine world, either.

    Where *mad* kudos are due, I think, is to the blogosphere in general since it essentially broke this story and is very likely at least partially responsible for the outcome of Miller leaving the way he has. To me, what’s more significant & maybe news-worthy than the alleged scandal itself is that the wine review biz has further succumbed to the power of that medium in some way – and let’s not forget that avid consumers make up a portion of that blogosphere.


  37. December 5, 2011

    Some of us, including you, Mike, have been anything but silent on this controversy. The Spanish wine press, except for a couple of exceptions seems to have been callado, shut up and quiet.

    Another Brouhaha Involving Pancho Campo, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and Parker’s Spain Correspondent Dr. Jay Miller

    12/04/2011 Spain’s Top Writer José Peñin on the Pancho Campo-Wine Advocate-Robert M. Parker Jr., Jay Miller “Pay for Play” So-called “Murciagate” Controversy

    12/05/2011 No Way!! Under Pressure Over the Mounting Pancho Campo Murciagate Scandal in Spain, Jay Miller Resigns as Critic for Spanish Wines for Robert M. Parker, Jr.’s

    The Wine Advocate Jay Miller leaves the Wine Advocate, Dr. Vino

    TRAS LA POLÉMICA POR EL CASO ‘MURCIA-GATE’ Cesa Jay Miller, el hombre de Parker

    The piece begins with:

    “The world of Spanish wine has been like a stone, which had closed piously its eyes and ears in the face of growing controversy surrounding the presence in Spain of Jay Miller, the taster of ‘The Wine Advocate’, the publication of Robert Parker, but the news is this: Miller has ceased December 4 in that function, and will be replaced by the British writer Neal Martin, until now a collaborator, although not responsible for any country, of TWA. It is not known even if The Wine Academy of Spain, the company of Pancho Campo, will continue to organize visits to Spain by Martin.”

    And in the last paragraph of the article: “Martin arrives accompanied by his own controversy. In 2006 he wrote that he did not understand Spanish wines nor did they interest him.”
    Stay tuned.

    Monday, 5 December 2011 Jay Miller leaves The Wine Advocate Jim Budd’s “Jim’s Loire”

  38. December 5, 2011


    I can think of a couple of justifications for what you deem as “silence” from other wine writers, most of which center around the fact that this sort of kerfuffle isn’t of interest to most readerships, and therefore not likely to be assigned by most editors nor pursued by most journalists as a subject matter. I personally, after making one post on the matter when it came up, didn’t feel l could justify “continuing” coverage with each new nugget of news from the story surfacing. So when Parker posted his thinly veiled threat of lawsuits (which he has done on several other occasions, most notably in the first instance of Miller’s travel issues surfaced by Dr. Vino), it didn’t seem to warrant another post.

    To most readers, all this is a bunch of navel-gazing soap opera stuff that has nothing to do with wine. Of course, I find it riveting stuff, personally, and celebrate Jim Budd’s persistence and bravery. And I think the Wine Advocate is much better without Jay Miller.


  39. December 5, 2011

    You are correct, Jim Budd deserves credit for digging into this story and pursuing it thoroughly and fairly. And kudos to W. Blake Gray for also sinking his teeth into the matter. I can’t speak for other wine writers, but while I’ve followed the issue I haven’t written of it because I’ve given priority to other matters, including preparations for pending trips to Thailand and Mexico, and looming deadlines. I also have to wonder whether Robert Parker’s reaction to the breaking story was intended to intimidate Jim Budd and other reporters or whether Parker truly was at a loss about how to manage this brouhaha, at least until this weekend. This isn’t the first time that controversy and questions have arisen concerning the Parker team, which seems to speak to a rather light control he’s exercised over his colleagues. Parker just may be an overly trusting sort, if, indeed, the alleged improprieties concerning Jay Miller ultimately are verified. I suspect we haven’t yet heard the last of this matter.

  40. December 5, 2011

    Nice piece Mike. I must confess complete ignorance to this until this morning, I wonder how many wine journalists even knew about this — I find everyone gets involved in their own regions and issues going on there and sometimes develop blinders to what is going on beyond that.

    Maybe this is a wake up call for win writers to be more aware of the global picture.

  41. December 5, 2011

    It’s pretty sad. To my knowledge, Neal Martin has never been to Chile. Not sure about Argentina. Not sure if he speaks Spanish, but he can taste.

  42. December 5, 2011

    This is slightly off topic, but there is a line about Miller “possibly studying Spanish”. I find it odd that a person wouldn’t know the primary language of a region whose wines he reviews. Is this common? It certainly paves the way for one’s “handlers” – presumably fluent in the region’s language – to gain greater influence…

  43. December 5, 2011

    See this: Good blog by the way.

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