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[l] at 10/1/22 12:31pm
By Jim HightowerLet me say one word to you: Nuts.Now, let me say one name to you: Ted Cruz.Fiddle-faddles like Cruz and Scott have turned the once-proud U.S. Senate into The Little Nut Shoppe on the Hill.They've become synonymous, with the Texas lawmaker perennially topping national lists of goofy, right-wing political goobers. Only, Ted can't rightly be called a lawmaker, for he's not a serious participant in that process, instead devoting his senatorship to political stunts and picking silly PR fights with a growing list of enemies.Running out of people to attack, Ted has found another species for his vitriol: Fictional icons. He's been padding his right-wing credentials by going after Mr. Potato Head, Mickey and Pluto, and, believe it or not, the Muppets.This U.S. senator has dedicated the power and public resources of his office to demonizing popular creatures on "Sesame Street," specifically Big Bird and loveable little Elmo. Ted rants he has proof that Muppets are covert tools of "government propaganda." So, this ridiculous excuse of a senator is saving America from… Muppets.But for a whole bag of assorted nuttiness, you can't beat Senator Rick Scott's 11-point plan to "Rescue America." A disgraced former healthcare mogul, Cruz's mega-millionaire colleague reinvented himself as a wingnut Florida senator, and he now chairs a policy arm of the Republican Party.In February, Scott set forth a stunning agenda of far-out right-wing extremism that he says his party will push if they retake the Senate this November, including: Implementing new federal taxes on the poorest half of Americans. So—as Scott puts it—they'll "have skin in the game." "Stopping socialism" by terminating Social Security and Medicare. Spending unlimited billions to build Donald Trump's folly of a border wall (and, ironically, naming the scam after The Donald).Fiddle-faddles like Cruz and Scott have turned the once-proud U.S. Senate into The Little Nut Shoppe on the Hill.
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[l] at 10/1/22 12:09pm
As any dog owner will attest, dogs can seem eerily attuned to human behavior. When humans yell or pick a fight, dogs often respond with anger and fear. Similarly, people with a sedentary lifestyle may have seemingly sedentary pets: a 2021 study found a correlation between dog obesity and human obesity. This article first appeared in Salon.Now, a new study sheds light on the peculiar ways that dogs seem to be able to pick up on human vibes. Specifically, researchers found that when you are stressed, your body produces a distinct odor — and our canine friends can smell it.This likely is not a surprise for dog owners. Scientists have already demonstrated that dogs feel love for their owners, lead rich interior lives and can even cry tears of joy. Yet even though scientists know that dogs feel complex emotions, the research is still murky on whether they can literally smell a person's emotions. A research team including scientists from Queen's University Belfast and Newcastle University set out to shed light on the subject."While we as humans are very visual, this finding reminds us that there may be things that dogs are able to pick up on that we aren't even consciously aware of.""Dogs possess an incredible sense of smell, which enables them to detect diseases and health conditions from odor alone," Dr. Clara Wilson from Queen's University Belfast told Salon by email. "Whether these capabilities extend to detecting odors associated with psychological states has been explored far less."To test their hypothesis, the researchers found pet dogs who had no previous scent training so they could teach them scent discrimination using odors that had known differences with each other. After 16 of the dogs displayed indifference to the "scent games," the team narrowed their pool down to four individual dogs. Those dogs were then exposed to combined breath and sweat samples from humans — first when those people were in a relaxed state, and then when they were in a state of stress from doing difficult arithmetic problems. Each person acted as their own control.The results spoke for themselves."From the very first time the dogs were exposed to the baseline and stress samples, they communicated that these samples smelled different," Wilson told Salon. "In 94% of 720 trials they correctly chose the stress sample." Want more health and science stories in your inbox? Subscribe to Salon's weekly newsletter The Vulgar Scientist. This study has significant implications, but there are limitations to its effectiveness. As Wilson noted, the study does not provide any indication as to whether the dogs connected the difference in the stress samples with actual negative emotional states; all it establishes is that they could detect the odor differences. In fact, while dogs are uniquely attuned to human stress, it is almost certain that they use a number of cues to ascertain their companions' emotional states.The significance of the study, however, rests in how it underscores the deep connection between humans and dogs — as well as the different ways in which they process reality."Establishing that dogs can detect an odor associated with human stress provides deeper knowledge of the human-dog relationship and how they interact with the world around them," Wilson told Salon. "While we as humans are very visual, this finding reminds us that there may be things that dogs are able to pick up on that we aren't even consciously aware of, and I think that gives us a really great snippet of insight into how dogs' may be perceiving the world around them through their noses."Salon also reached out to Dr. James A. Serpell, Professor of Ethics & Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who was not involved in the study. Serpell began by pointing out that because the study took place in a strictly controlled environment, it is unclear whether the results would hold when applied in the real world. At the same time, Serpell argued that the study has potential value."It might also argue for the use of dogs in airports, etc., to detect potential terrorists just on the basis of their odor—the so-called 'scent of fear.'""The findings tend to reinforce anecdotal evidence that some dogs are sensitive to people's moods and mental states, and might support the use of dogs therapeutically for people with conditions such as PTSD, etc.," Serpell wrote to Salon. "It might also argue for the use of dogs in airports, etc., to detect potential terrorists just on the basis of their odor—the so-called 'scent of fear.'"More research will be needed to dig into these details — a fact that Wilson pointed out to Salon."As a within-subject design, we are confident that the odor change that the dogs detected was caused by the onset of stress," Wilson explained, adding that this means odor is obviously important to how humans and dogs interact, perhaps even more so than scientists previously believed. "We can move forward with future studies that may want to address this more naturalistic setting with confidence that odor is likely an important component that we might not have prioritized when considering this interaction beforehand."In a previous interview with Salon about dogs, Dr. Catherine Reeve of Queen's University Belfast's School of Psychology (who also participated in the study) noted that dogs use their incredibly strong sense of smell to understand and communicate with each other."When sniffing one another, dogs are getting all the information they need about other dogs' sexual status, health status, age, etc.," Reeve told Salon.
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[l] at 10/1/22 11:51am
Reacting to a Department of Justice appeal to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday that seeks to overturn yet another ruling by Judge Aileen Cannon, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman claimed a win for the DOJ would be a huge blow to the Donald Trump-appointed jurist. Pushing back at Cannon's decision to allow Trump's lawyers to ignore demands and deadlines set down by special master Raymond Dearie, the DOJ asked for an expedited ruling.According to Politico, the DOJ insisted, "The government is … unable to examine records that were commingled with materials bearing classification markings, including records that may shed light on, for example, how the materials bearing classification markings were transferred to Plaintiff’s residence, how they were stored, and who may have accessed them,” in a 15-page filing.Politico's Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney added, "The filing also hints at prosecutors’ irritation with Cannon, a Trump appointee confirmed days after his defeat in the 2020 election. The Justice Department noted that she has repeatedly overruled decisions made by the special master she appointed at Trump’s suggestion, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie."RELATED: Trump lawyer privately trashing his colleagues for making the former president's legal woes worse: report According to Litman, after the 11th Circuit already rebuked Cannon, an additional notation in the latest filing could be used to undercut her even further."DOJ appeals Cannon's order on the merits, and proposes expedited schedule. Also adds new argument - that needs there rest of the 11,000+ docs to ascertain what happened to the classified ones. If they win, it's Goodnight, Aileen...," he tweeted.Litman's suggestion comes at the same time as former prosecutor Robert Katzberg suggested that the DOJ could petition the 11th Circuit to take the Trump case away from her "... arguing that her opinions have demonstrated a level of bias that cannot be tolerated—and further, that her continued oversight of the matter is a threat to national security."
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[l] at 10/1/22 11:11am
During an appearance on MSNBC on Saturday afternoon, civil rights attorney Charles Coleman suggested that Donald Trump's demand that his attorneys aggressively push back at the Department of Justice investigation into stolen documents at Mar-a-Lago could do substantial damage to their careers.Reacting to a report in the Washington Post that the Trump legal team is battling amongst themselves other over strategy as their client faces possible Espionage Act and obstruction charges, MSNBC host Alex Witt wondered if the lawyers could be putting themselves in legal jeopardy by doing his bidding."Should Donald Trump be concerned about the legal culpability of his attorneys in this Mar-a-Lago case?" she prompted"Alex, this comes as very little surprise," Coleman replied. "To answer your question, he should, but he does not. We have seen from Donald Trump repeatedly that he has no regard for the professional ethics of the attorneys that are supposed to be representing him."RELATED: Trump lawyer privately trashing his colleagues for making the former president's legal woes worse: report "He does not care any much about whether they end up facing disciplinary action for what it is that he asked them to do as his representative and his proxy in the court," he added."So, while Donald Trump normally should be concerned about the positions that he's putting his attorneys in, ultimately, this is their responsibility," he elaborated. "When they neglect that responsibility as [Trump attorney] Mr. Kise warned them of, they face disciplinary action by different bar admissions boards and entities that are able to sanction them and impact their professional licensure.""So, ultimately, this is something that they need to be paying attention to and, if Donald Trump is asking them to do things or putting them in positions that they should not be as attorneys, it's up to them to say 'no' and push back," he added.Watch below or at the link: MSNBC 10 01 2022 12 22 42 youtu.be
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[l] at 10/1/22 10:11am
The Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade sent shockwaves through the American electorate. But as shocking as the destruction of a fundamental right may be, more radical changes may lie ahead, as Andrew Seidel warns in his new book, "American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom." As I have argued repeatedly over the past several years, the religious right has mounted a sustained struggle to pervert the meaning of religious freedom, transforming it from a shield to protect the rights of all to worship freely into a sword wielded by the most powerful. This article first appeared on Salon.There are many facets to this struggle, but there's no doubt that the most consequential field of battle is the Supreme Court. Seidel's book does a masterful job of laying bare the full scope of that struggle and the stakes involved — which could ultimately mean a de facto end to the rule of law as we normally understand it. As Seidel notes, 150 years ago the Supreme Court warned that weaponized religious freedom would "permit every citizen to become a law unto himself," so there's much more at stake here than "just" the First Amendment. As Seidel explains, his book is not meant to be a comprehensive account of this entire complicated history. Instead, he focuses on a handful of key cases, including a few that predate the modern "religious freedom" crusade that are nonetheless crucial to the story. He doesn't discuss these as lawyers normally do, in terms of court decisions and written and oral arguments. Instead, he tells the nitty-gritty story of what really happened in each of the cases, because official accounts often badly misconstrue the actual events. For example, in the famous "wedding cake" case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Seidel interviewed the gay couple as well as two members of the Colorado civil rights commission that the Supreme Court majority slandered as anti-religious bigots. The result is closer to a living history of our time than any other book about the Supreme Court you're ever likely to read.I recently interviewed Andrew Seidel by Zoom. This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.The title of your book is "American Crusade." So how would you characterize this crusade? What are the crusaders trying to accomplish?Religious freedom has long been a shield. It is this right that all Americans possess, and the words etched into the edifice of the Supreme Court tell us, "Equal justice under law." This right applies equally to all of us. It was supported by a strong separation of church and state, but not anymore. There is a well-funded powerful network of Christian nationalist organizations and judges that are working to weaponize the First Amendment, to turn the protection of religious freedom enjoyed by all of us into a weapon of Christian privilege for the few. The crusaders' religious freedom challenges are superficially about things like Christian crosses and veterans or playgrounds or private school vouchers or bakeries and gay weddings, but really they're about religious privilege, often literally about privileging religion over non-religion, Christianity over other religions and the right kind of conservative Christians over other Christians. At its most basic level, they are trying to turn religious freedom into a weapon to reclaim and entrench their lost status as the dominant caste in American society. You write that to understand religious freedom, you must understand three basic lines of argument. I'd like you to explain each of them and why they matter. The first one is "action versus belief." What I try to do in the book is really simplify what has become — I want to say it's become a complicated issue, but that's not true: It's an issue that was deliberately complicated, and where so much disinformation has been pumped into this debate that the waters have been muddied. Because questions of religious freedom are not hard. Sometimes they're emotionally fraught, but in their push to weaponize religious freedom, the crusaders have misled and confounded so many Americans about where we draw the legal lines on this founding principle. So, historically and legally they're not hard questions, and I try to boil it down simply into these three lines.The first one is that we distinguish between belief and action. So your right to believe is absolute. It's probably the only absolute right we have under our Constitution. But your right to act on that belief is not. There are a number of examples you could use. I open the book with the "Jesus take the wheel" example that's pretty popular, but the one that really drives it home for a lot of people is to think about all those parents — there are far too many of them — who hear God telling them that they have to kill their children. They're free to believe that, but I think everybody agrees that the civil law can step in and prevent them from acting on that belief. So the belief is unlimited, but the action is limited and can be limited by our laws. That brings us to the second line.Right. Where is it permissible for the government or the law to step in and stop that action, religiously motivated or otherwise? The answer here is pretty simple as well: where the rights of others begin. Your right to swing your fist, as the old legal adage says, ends where the other person's nose begins. It's the same thing with your religion: Your right to swing your religion or your rosary or whatever it is ends where the rights of others begin. Put another way, religious freedom is not a license to infringe on any other person's rights. And then finally line three: church and state. I think line three is pretty easy too. This line has been under assault for longer than the crusade has been in existence. I think the example here that's useful is a citizen who wants to pray. Citizens are free to pray all they want, that's line one. They're free to pray all they want, so long as that prayer doesn't infringe on somebody else's rights. Perhaps praying on someone else's property might not be OK, but they can even pray on public property, that's religious freedom too. But they don't get to broadcast that prayer over a government PA system, for instance, because then they are using the power of the state to impose their religion on everybody else. Similarly, they don't get to use an office of the government, a position as governor or president, for instance, to impose that prayer on everybody else. I think the thing that is really important is that this line protects religious freedom. Mr. Johnson might pray every night, but Sheriff Johnson can't lead prayers at staff meetings or with prisoners. That's an abuse of power and sadly, the abuses of power in this context are pretty common. Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course. We will decry the similar abuses of power when a politician uses their official power to line their pockets or sexually harass staff or benefit partisan political campaigns. But when the abuse of power promotes Christianity, people tend to be silent, and I think it's really crucial that people understand this: Every American has a right to a secular government as a matter of personal religious liberty. In Chapter 4, you take the case of the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue a marriage license to David Emerald and David Moore. What do the different lines tell us about that case? First, I think it's obvious that Kim Davis can believe whatever bigoted beliefs she wants about marriage, be they biblicaly accurate or otherwise. But when she is acting as a county clerk — and that is the only way that she has the power to issue these licenses —she is bound by other rules, including line number three. She doesn't get to use the power of that secular office to impose her personal religious beliefs on other people. That's not a question of religious liberty. It's a question of line number three. It's a question of the separation of church and state. This is actually, in my opinion, a pretty basic and easy case, and it was complicated or blown up, we might say, turned into a circus by one of the crusaders in that case, Liberty Counsel. So again, line No. 1 says she's free to believe whatever she wants. Line No. 2 says that belief is not a license to act, and in that case she was denying other people their rights. That couple had a right under the law to be married, and Davis was violating that right using her official power. So she trespassed on line No. 2 and she trespassed on line No. 3. The next case you take is Masterpiece Cakeshop. You note that the widespread unfamiliarity with civil rights was read into thousands of bad gotcha analogies. That's critical because the crusaders want to use religious freedom to undermine civil rights. So what basics are involved in making it an easy case to decide, as opposed to all the bad analogies?So with Masterpiece Cakeshop, it's really crucial for people to understand how our civil rights laws function, because a lot of these religious freedom cases seek a license to trespass on those civil rights laws. It's a measure of how far this crusade has come, because those arguments have been around since the Civil Rights Act was passed in the '60s. One of the first challenges to the Civil Rights Act at the Supreme Court tried to argue that it contravenes the will of God and the religious freedom of business owners, and the Supreme Court laughed that argument off in a footnote. That is where we were and now we have the Supreme Court seriously entertaining these arguments and possibly in the future deciding one of these in favor of business owners. But the way public accommodation civil rights laws often work is that they list classes of people that are protected under the law, and often these are minorities that have faced discrimination in the past. So we often are protecting people on the basis of race or creed or color or sexual orientation or national origin. Different states in different civil rights laws protect different groups of people. But what they all do is to establish clear rights for those particular people, which is important because when you're talking about line No. 2, you don't have a license to violate somebody else's rights. So you have three clear things for there to be a good analogy under any of the civil rights laws. There has to be a protected class that's actually protected. It has to involve a business — usually referred to as a "place of public accommodation" — and then you have to have a service that business provides generally, but is denying to people in the protected class. A lot of the gotcha analogies that we saw just completely missed those things. One of my favorites was forcing a kosher deli to serve bacon. That's never going to happen, because that's not a question of discrimination. Kosher delis don't serve bacon in the first place. No law is going to turn around and force them to. But if a kosher deli serves sandwiches to folks, then it has to serve them to everybody equally under those protected classes. In this case, you wrote: "The Supreme Court should have reiterated Line #2 in this case. Sorry, bakery, your owner's religion does not trump the rights of others. Done." But that's not what happened, because Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote an opinion about the alleged "hostility toward religion." You later say that there's a trio of cases that shows the evolution of this idea of hostility in religious freedom cases, of which this was one. Describe that evolution and what it shows.It's really important to understand that there was no hostility in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. That was completely manufactured by Kennedy and the Supreme Court. A really good example of genuine hostility occurs in Chapter 6 of the book, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. You have what can only be described as a mob scene in the town in an effort to shut down a Santería church that was trying to open there. I tell the story of this city council meeting where you have the police chaplain — which is a whole other thing — and members of the city council saying, "What can we do to prevent this church from opening?" and members of the public talking about how the city needs to shut the church down. So you have very clear hostility from government officials acting in their official capacity toward a minority religion, and then the city council goes on to pass all of these laws that effectively outlaw the practice of Santería in the city. They did what the Supreme Court at the time — they got this case right — called a religious gerrymander. Animal sacrifice was one of the sacred rites of Santería and the city outlawed it, just as a religious practice, but still allowed, for instance, exterminators to kill animals and vets to euthanize animals, still allowed kosher slaughterhouses to exist. So it was very clear that the laws they were passing targeted this one particular religion for suppression. So where did it go from there in terms of the next cases? So that case lay dormant for quite a while. Actually Justice Kennedy wrote the decision in that Santería case, and then the next time it crops up, that I mention, is in the case of Donald Trump's Muslim ban. So you have Kennedy writing a concurring opinion in that case too, and there's a difference. Religious liberty in the Santería case is clearly this shield to protect a hated and stigmatized religious minority from the hostility of the majority. And then, in the case of the Muslim ban, you have the court using it as a cudgel to advance conservative Christianity. I don't think it could be any clearer that that opinion permitted hostility against Muslims across the world, and actually favored immigration for Christians, which a lot of people tend to forget. Even though that hostility was very clear, very openly stated, the Supreme Court essentially ignored it. I think it's a nearly perfect analogy to the Santería case. But for this court, for the modern Supreme Court under John Roberts, they didn't care when it came to hostility against minorities. But with just a few weeks' difference in time we get the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, where the Supreme Court allows a business to discriminate in the name of Christianity, at the same time as it is allowing the government to ban immigration of Muslims. To me it is one of the most striking examples of how this court is trying to favor Christianity and use religious freedom to enshrine Christian privilege into our Constitution. Employment Division v. Smith was a major case that led Congress to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. What happened in that case, and what happened as a result?This is such a complicated history. There's been so much misinformation piled up over the years. I think the simplest way to tell the Smith case is that counselors employed at a private drug counseling organization were fired for using drugs. The question in the case is: Does religious freedom require the state to pay unemployment benefits to private drug counselors who took drugs and were therefore fired for cause?Now that's a pretty easy question to answer. I think it's pretty uncontroversial that it is perfectly acceptable for private organizations to say that drug counselors can't do drugs and keep their jobs. But it got complicated so much along the way, and up to this day, in part because Justice Scalia wrote a couple of paragraphs in the opinion that were far out of balance. He had a venomous pen and loved to use it, and here he essentially dared Congress to act. There were so many other explosive factors that went into this case, although the fact is that it was drug counselors who took drugs and were then fired for doing that led us to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Congress passed.So what's the arc from that response to its problems becoming apparent with the Hobby Lobby case? Congress responded by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is essentially a constitutional amendment. It certainly oversteps its authority; it's been called a super-statute. It cuts through every other law, and that is also known as a constitutional amendment, which should have gone through the proper amendment procedures in Article VII, but didn't. Since then we have seen the crusaders abusing RFRA, as it's known, to advance their crusade. The idea was that, first, we'll get our weaponized understanding of religious freedom into this federal law, and once we've done that we'll graft it onto the First Amendment of the Constitution, and we will no longer need RFRA. There are so many problems with that, too. RFRA restores — that's the key phrase — it restores religious discrimination and Christian supremacy. So how does that lead to the Hobby Lobby case?After RFRA passed, there were a whole bunch of state versions. As with the federal RFRA a lot of people agreed that they were necessary, but when you start getting into the 2010s people start to wake up to the dangers these laws pose, especially to things like the Affordable Care Act, to public accommodation laws, to all sorts of civil rights laws. By the early 2010s you have this divide where conservatives are pushing for RFRAs as a way to weaponize religious freedom, and liberals, progressives and other activists are fighting against those RFRAs. That divide comes to a head in 2014 with the Hobby Lobby case, which was brought under RFRA and really begins the onslaught of this crusade. There were a flurry of COVID-related cases with the court ignoring precedents that go back 100 years. What happened there, and how did that break with precedent come about? There's so many problems with the COVID cases, from how they were brought in this expedited shadow docket to how they were decided to the utter ignorance and denigration of medical expertise and science. Unfortunately, we saw a lot of American churches, especially the more conservative churches, attacking public health measures. The coronavirus seems to haunt churches; worship services are almost designed to be super-spreader events. I go over a number of these haunting examples in the book, where you get primary spread, secondary spread and even tertiary spread among people who go to church, then bring the virus home to their family members, who spread it at their workplaces. If you look at the evolution of the cases, two things become clear. One is that labeling some businesses, such as grocery stores, "essential" and labeling medical care "essential," while labeling others as "nonessential," was taken as an affront by a lot of the crusaders, including the crusaders on the Supreme Court. And they took not extending the "essential" label to churches as an affront, as did Trump. I wonder in the book whether, if we had chosen a different label, we would have seen such a backlash against these public health measures. The second thing that becomes clear is that Amy Coney Barrett proved absolutely pivotal to the crusade here. There is a very clear inflection point in this area of law, where Chief Justice Roberts, though he is a crusader himself, was not willing to allow the crusade to help spread a pandemic, at least not right away, and Justice Barrett absolutely was. Because once she gets on the court, all of a sudden our 100 years of precedent in this area is overturned. And the precedent here, I should say, is absolutely clear. Your religious belief, your right to go to church, your right to exercise a religious belief does not include the right to spread a lethal pandemic. That's line No. 2. Your rights don't include the right to infect others with a lethal pandemic and possibly kill them. But once Amy Coney Barrett was put on the court — jammed onto the court, shotgunned onto the court — all of that changed. Not because the law changed, but because the personnel on the Supreme Court changed. In chapter 15, on religious freedom and "segregation academies," you trace the modern concept of school vouchers back to their origins in the "massive resistance" to school desegregation. How do the current legal battles relate to those earlier ones? What do we need to know about them to clearly see what's going on now? I think there's a couple of important things. I think this is absolutely crucial, especially when you look back at things like Masterpiece Cakeshop and some of the other cases the Supreme Court has decided recently. The court has said that hostility toward religion, at any point in any law, means that law should be struck down. That's where the court is evolving. Yet in the context of school vouchers or school choice or any of these newly created neo-voucher systems that we're seeing crop up all over the country — which all trace back directly to clear attempts to maintain segregation — the Supreme Court has no problem with upholding those policies and practices. They're more than willing to allow the privatization of education to continue even if the privatization actually furthers segregation, which we know for a fact happens. This is to me one of the more appalling aspects of this crusade. There is a deliberate assault on public education in this country, and it is being aided by the crusaders and the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the quotes I share in the book makes a point that I think a lot of people don't realize. It's not just an attempt to push for vouchers. It's not just an attempt to privatize education. It's also an attempt to destroy public education, and Jerry Falwell was explicit on this point when he said he hoped "to see the day when . . . we don't have public schools. The churches will have taken them over and Christians will be running them." Kyle Olson, who created National School Choice Week, said that he thought "Jesus would destroy the public education temple." So this is part of a deliberate push to destroy our public schools, and it's rooted in the value of equality that the Supreme Court upheld in Brown vs Board of Education.In Chapter 6 you write about Fulton v. Philadelphia, the same-sex foster parents case where the court reached a unanimous decision. Explain what that case was about and what you think the liberals missed in going along with it?I think it's kind of a sleeper case, or rather a sleeper opinion. in a way a lot of people don't understand, part;y because of John Roberts' trick here and partly because of how bad this case could be for the future. Philadelphia wanted to ensure that its citizens were treated equally. The city itself did not want to discriminate and did not want to ask its taxpayer funds to fund discrimination. It also has the duty to care for children who are in dangerous situations. There are something like 6,000 foster children in Philadelphia who need help and need homes. So the city doesn't want to discriminate, but Catholic Social Services does, and Catholic Social Services had contracted with the city to do some administrative duties of the foster care system, including vetting children for foster care. Catholic Social Services told Philadelphia, "We are not going to vet any caregivers who are LGBTQ. Our God says we don't have to do that." Just to be clear, Catholic Social Services refused to do the job it was contracted and paid to do, and the city then terminated its contract for foster care vetting. It still contracted with CSS to do a bunch of other stuff where it wasn't going to engage in that kind of discrimination or bigotry, but at bottom CSS refused to do the job it was paid to do, and it sued. It claimed a religious-freedom right to contract with the city to take that taxpayer money and then to discriminate in the name of its God. And the Supreme Court decided — as you pointed out, unanimously — people need to grasp that in this case all nine members of the Supreme Court sanctioned discrimination against a minority in the name of God, taxpayer-funded discrimination, and that really ought to shock us all. You call it a sleeper case. Why?It's a sleeper case in that a lot of people think it had a minor impact, and that was probably why the liberals on the court joined. Roberts based his opinion, basically, on a technicality. It reads like the court was looking for a loophole or a technical formality, to avoid making the big decision in the case. But what Roberts effectively said was that unless a law applies to everyone all the time, anybody who claims religious freedom is exempt from that law. This is really hard for the average person to understand, but every law we have has some exemptions and exceptions and deliberate loopholes, because we don't necessarily want the law to apply to absolutely every single person. What Roberts has said, then, is effectively that every single law in the country now must exempt people who make a religious-freedom claim against it. So if you take it back to the Smith case, that unemployment law was riddled with exceptions, meaning that that case would have come out the other way under Roberts' reading. And that's essentially what the court did in one of the COVID decisions early on. But I don't think people really grasp how big a deal that is, and how much that torpedoes the rule of law and puts the rule of conservative Christianity in its place. Can you elaborate on that? You argue that by allowing religious exceptions, you're essentially destroying the rule of law. You're erasing at least the second of the three lines, and possibly even the first. A question I ask throughout the book is: What is the worst that could happen in this case? For instance, in the Kim Davis case, she still gets to go to church, she still gets to pray, she still gets to issue marriage licenses, she still gets to keep her job. She just doesn't get to use the power of her office to impose her religion on other people. What's the worst that would have happened in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case? A business that is incorporated and has all kinds of liability shields under the state law of Colorado would be required to follow other state laws of Colorado. These cases rarely involve a real violation of religious freedom. But let's ask a different question: What's the worst that could happen with weaponized religious freedom? Because that's what the Crusaders are seeking, and that's what we're getting in a lot of these cases, and the answer really is alarming. Because the rule of law does disappear. The Supreme Court actually wrote about this 150 years ago. They asked what would happen if we allowed everybody to follow the rule of their God instead of the rule of law, and essentially what they said was that everyone would become "a law unto himself," and government could exist only in name in such circumstances. In a system that values one individual's right to act on any belief, there is no law. There is only what the individual believes their God commands. So we will have traded the rule of law for the rule of each conservative Christian's personal God. I don't think people quite realize how dangerous that is. So what needs to be done in response?I do get into some solutions to this problem in the book, and I hope the window is still open for those possible solutions. But I think it's very clear that our Supreme Court has been hijacked by the crusaders. The crusade depends on Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump and Leonard Leo cheating and stealing and packing the courts to put their collaborators in place and that requires an immediate fix. We need to expand and rebalance the Supreme Court. Finally, what's the most important question I didn't ask, and what's the answer?I think the most important question is why? Why is there a crusade to weaponize religious freedom? A lot of people may recognize that there's this attempt to pervert the meaning of religious freedom, to turn this hallowed protection into a sword. But I don't think a lot of people understand why. This is a question that I really try to get at in the book. I think it's pretty clear that the goal here is to elevate conservative Christianity above the law, while disfavoring nonreligious and non-Christian citizens. This is a weapon to codify privilege and supremacy. But the answer to the "why" question is that it's largely a backlash against equality realized. Conservative Christianity was once able to discriminate on the basis of race, and now that's largely unthinkable. Conservative Christianity was once able to legally subjugate half the population, and that's not really possible now. Conservative Christianity was once able to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but now it isn't. As more people realize the rights that are due them by virtue of being human, the sphere of religious imposition shrinks, and the crusade is seeking to reclaim that lost ground. Really, when you get down to it, this is about a dominant caste that is waning in cultural status and is desperately trying to cling to that privilege and supremacy. They are using the First Amendment and religious freedom to try and do that.
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[l] at 10/1/22 9:38am
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), was deeply offended when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — during an event in Kentucky in August — told a crowd that he considers control of the U.S. Senate a toss-up in the 2024 midterms and cited “candidate quality” as a factor. McConnell expressed confidence that Republicans will “flip” the U.S. House of Representatives, but wasn’t nearly as bullish on the Senate. And his “candidate quality” comment was taken as a criticism of the MAGA candidates Trump has pushed.McConnell, however, isn’t the only Republican who is concerned about the quality of U.S. Senate candidates who former President Donald Trump has been pushing. In an article published by CNBC’s website on September 30, reporter Brian Schwartz takes a look at Republican donors who are reluctant to get out their wallets for Trump-backed Senate hopefuls who have been underperforming in polls.“Republican megadonors want the GOP to take back the Senate, but they don’t have confidence that some of former President Donald Trump’s top picks can catapult their party to a victory in November,” Schwartz explains. “Billionaire financiers Paul Singer, Dan Loeb and Larry Ellison have so far avoided donating directly to some or all of Trump’s staunchest allies running for Senate in the midterms: J.D. Vance in Ohio, Blake Masters in Arizona, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Adam Laxalt in Nevada and Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, according to Federal Election Commission records and people familiar with the billionaires’ donations.”READ MORE: 'A harsh reality': Dr. Oz bombards Republican voters with panicked fundraising pleasThe CNBC reporter adds, “All of those candidates have been endorsed by Trump. And many of them have previously sided with the former president on the false claims that the 2020 presidential election had widespread voter fraud — an accusation that’s been debunked by Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, federal courts and several other top Republicans who served in Trump’s administration.”A Republican strategist, quoted anonymously, told CNBC that those megadonors would “would be lighting their money on fire if they got totally swayed by these candidates.” And that strategist is advising donors to give their money to the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee run by McConnell’s former chief of staff Steven Law. That strategist said of the Senate Leadership Fund, “They have the best polls, and they won’t sink money into races they know they can’t win.”Schwartz notes, “The campaign poll tracking website FiveThirtyEight shows Masters trailing (incumbent Sen. Mark) Kelly by more than seven percentage points…. FiveThirtyEight shows Oz trailing his Democratic rival John Fetterman by more than six percentage points and Walker trailing his competitor, (Sen. Raphael) Warnock, by more than two percentage points. Vance and Laxalt are both in statistical dead heats with their Democratic rivals; both GOP candidates are down by an average of less than a percentage point.”Schwartz points out that megadonor and real estate mogul Stephen Ross “hasn’t given a penny yet to Vance, Walker, Masters, Laxalt or Oz, according to FEC filings.”READ MORE: GOP Nominee Blake Masters scrubs website of core positions and shifts blame to LGBTQ and Black people“Ross was criticized for hosting a fundraiser for Trump and the Republican National Committee at his Hamptons home in 2019, but has distanced himself from some of Trump’s favorite candidates this election cycle,” Schwartz observes. “He’s donated over $685,000 to a mix of Republicans, Democrats and their affiliated outside groups this cycle. His biggest checks so far have gone to GOP organizations tied to Republican leadership, such as House GOP campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee and a joint fundraising committee called Take Back the House 2022, federal election records show.”
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[l] at 10/1/22 9:29am
Deep in a report on the turmoil among Donald Trump's lawyers battling over legal strategy, with the former president possibly facing Espionage Act and obstructions charges, the Washington Post is reporting that one Trump attorney is privately complaining to associates about his colleagues whom he believes are exacerbating the president's precarious legal position.The report notes that high-priced Trump attorney Christopher Kise -- who landed a $3 million retainer to join the legal team -- has been battling with the rest of the team over strategy and was so dissatisfied with a legal filing they submitted that he reportedly refused to sign it.The report adds that Kise, who has been described as being4 "sidelined" by the rest of the team, has expressed dismay over the rest of the team's lack of experience for the task at hand.RELATED: The door to remove Judge Aileen Cannon from the Trump case is now 'wide open': former prosecutor According to the Post, "Even as Kise has urged moderation, his rivals have pushed Trump to maintain an aggressive stance — in part because they believe combativeness plays well with supporters and could force welcome delays. Some of Trump’s other lawyers also have badmouthed Kise to the former president, saying he is not a team player."'In private, those familiar with the conversations say, Kise has questioned the wisdom and experience of some of his colleagues, arguing that they do not have extensive experience with this type of litigation — and could face legal trouble themselves," the report states before adding, "He [Kise] also argued privately that their counsel had deepened Trump’s problems and that they would have had fewer problems had he started representing Trump earlier in the summer.""Whether those lawyers were, in fact, acting on specific instructions from their client, the former president, is not yet clear," the Post cautioned.You can read more here.
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[l] at 10/1/22 8:46am
In a column for MSNBC, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Filiuzzi called out an assortment of Republican Party lawmakers who have run to defend FBI agents who are balking at investigating and arresting those who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection.At issue is the FBI suspending Special Agent Steve Friend of the FBI’s Daytona Beach office who refused to take part in the arrest of a rioter which then led to Friend to reach out to Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who fired off a letter to the FBI complaining about how Friend was being treated.According to Figliuzzi, Friend and other law enforcement officials who refuse to do their jobs are out of line, and Grassley and Johnson should know better."In late August, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo to all Justice Department employees, including those at the FBI, reminding them that are legitimate processes in place to report concerns — but back channel communications with law makers isn’t one of them," he wrote. "It’s a sad sign of our times that the institutions responsible for identifying those among us who reject the rule of law must also determine whether such people walk the halls of those same institutions."IN OTHER NEWS: Former prosecutor pours cold water on Trump's high-priced lawyer's latest legal strategy He then added, "The people who claim they’re concerned about the FBI becoming political sure have taken a partisan path to raise those concerns. Throughout every FBI field office, from employee break rooms to the agency’s internal intranet, there are well-posted options to reporting misconduct, ethical or integrity concerns."Writing, "Deeply flawed assertions, and the politically tinged way they’ve been raised, unfortunately cast a shadow on any more substantive claims made by the agents," he then explained, "There’s something even more disturbing about this small group of FBI agents who refuse to respect the rule of law and decide which parts of long-established criminal justice processes they will or won’t follow in that they’re exhibiting the same radicalized mindset of Jan. 6 defendants they’re supposed to be investigating and arresting.""Law enforcement agents who mirror that behavior aren’t 'heroes' or patriots — they’re dangerous dupes who’ve lost their compass, and, I believe, ought to lose their jobs," he concluded.You can read more here.
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[l] at 10/1/22 8:09am
The Louisville chapter of the NAACP called Friday for the resignation or impeachment of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron over his failure to bring charges against officers in connection with the death of Breonna Taylor.Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first Black statewide official, did not bring charges against officers who killed Taylor while she slept in her Louisville apartment – where they fired 32 shots -- on March 13, 2020. Her death sparked national outrage and protests.The officers were accused of having used a fraudulently obtained no-knock warrant in a drug investigation for which Taylor was not a suspect. The U.S. Justice Department indicted four of those officers on August 4 for violating Taylor’s civil rights and conspiracy, obstruction and unconstitutional use of force.“The recent federal indictments of four Louisville Metro Police officers involved in the Breonna Taylor killing has highlighted, demonstrated, and proven the insufficiency of the state investigation led by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth and an absence of an understanding of the Commonwealth’s criminal laws,” the NAACP said in a press release.“The NAACP wrote ‘the insufficiency of the investigation and the lack of understanding of Kentucky criminal statutes were the results of the current Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in his own words ‘backing the blue,’ not justice,’’ the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.NAACP President Raoul Cunningham said at a press conference that calling on the first Black man to hold the AG's office to resign was "not the easiest decision," the newspaper reported."Although he is the first African American to be elected to a statewide office, that does not exclude him from his responsibility to the entire community," Cunningham said. "Nor does it exclude him from fairness and equality. And we do not think that he possessed that in his decision."Cameron, a Republican running for governor in 2023, has received national criticism for more than two years over his handling of the Taylor case. Cameron is a protégé of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, having been hired as his general counsel at the age of 29 in 2015.Cameron also has been a fervent supporter of Donald Trump and earned his endorsement in 2020 in part because of his own “back the blue” rhetoric.“He is tough on Crime, Strong on Borders, and will fight for our Second Amendment,” Trump tweeted in his endorsement,” Vox reported. “Daniel will never let you down.” On Friday, Trump launched a threatening and racist attack on McConnell.
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[l] at 10/1/22 7:52am
Venus, often called Earth’s “evil twin” planet, formed closer to the Sun and has since evolved quite differently from our own planet. It has a “runaway” greenhouse effect (meaning heat is completely trapped), a thick carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere, no magnetic field and a surface hot enough to melt lead. Several uncrewed scientific missions will study how and why that happened in the next decade. But now some scientists want to send a crewed mission there as well for a flyby. Is that a good idea?With a slightly smaller diameter than Earth, Venus orbits closer to the Sun. This means that any water on the surface would have evaporated shortly after its formation, starting its greenhouse effect. Early and sustained volcanic eruptions created lava plains and increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – starting the runaway greenhouse effect, which increased the temperature from just a little higher than Earth’s to its current high value of 475°C. While the Venus year is shorter than ours (225 days), its rotation is very slow (243 days) and “retrograde” – the other way round to Earth. The slow rotation is related to a lack of magnetic field, resulting in a continuing loss of atmosphere. Venus’ atmosphere “super-rotates” faster than the planet itself. Images from many missions show V-shaped patterns of clouds, composed of sulphuric acid droplets. Despite the harsh conditions, some scientists have speculated that Venus’ clouds might at some altitudes harbor habitable conditions. Recent measurements apparently showing phosphine – a potential sign of life as it is continuously produced by microbes on Earth – in Venus’ clouds have been strongly debated. Clearly, we need more measurements and exploration to work out where it comes from.Future missionsWhat we know about Venus so far has been gathered from several past probes. In 1970-82, for example, the Soviet Venera 7-14 probes were able to land on Venus’ harsh surface, survive for up to two hours and send back images and data. But there are remaining questions about how Venus evolved so differently from Earth, which are also relevant for understanding which planets orbiting other stars may harbor life.The next decade promises to be a bonanza for Venus scientists. In 2021, Nasa selected two missions, Veritas and DaVinci+, due for launch in 2028-30. The European Space Agency selected EnVision for launch in the early 2030s. These are complementary, uncrewed missions which will give us deeper understanding of Venus’ environment and evolution. Craters on Venus seen by Venus Nasa’s Magellan probe.NASA/JPLVeritas will map Venus’ surface to determine the geological history, rock composition and the importance of early water. DaVinci+ includes an orbiter and a small probe that will descend through the atmosphere and measure its composition, study the planet’s formation and evolution and determine whether it ever had an ocean. EnVision will study the planet’s surface, subsurface and atmospheric trace gases. It will use radar to map the surface with better resolution than ever before.India also plans an uncrewed mission, Shukrayaan-1, and Russia has proposed Venera-D.Do we need crewed flybys?The idea of a crewed flyby of Venus was suggested in the late 1960s, and involved using an Apollo capsule to fly people around the planet. But this idea ended when Apollo finished. Now, the Artemis project to fly around the Moon, and other ideas of crewed missions, have led to the idea being floated again, most recently in journal papers and at a recent meeting of the International Astronautical Federation, an advocacy organization, in September 2022. The idea would be to fly a crewed spacecraft around Venus and return to Earth. This would allow scientists to test deep-space techniques such as how to operate a crewed mission with significant time delays when communicating with Earth. It could therefore prepare us for a more complex, crewed mission to Mars. However, the crew wouldn’t do any landing or actual atmosphere investigation at Venus – the conditions are way too harsh.The researchers who back this idea argue that you could also use Venus’ gravity to alter the spacecraft’s course for Mars, which could save time and energy compared with going directly from Earth to Mars. That’s because the latter option would require the orbits of the two planets to be aligned, meaning you’d have to wait for the right moment both on the way there and back. However, as a crewed mission to Mars would be highly complex, going directly from Earth to Mars would keep designs simpler.Sending humans to a planet that may harbor living organisms also won’t make it easier to find them. It is risky – we may end up contaminating the atmosphere before we discover any life. The best way to look for biochemical signs of life is with uncrewed probes. There would also be significant thermal challenges and higher radiation from solar flares due to closer proximity to the Sun.And, unfortunately, with a flyby mission like this, only a few hours of data would be possible on the inbound and outbound trajectories. It would be a highly expensive venture, which would no doubt produce some amazing imagery and useful additional data. However, this would add little to the detailed and much longer bespoke studies currently planned. I, therefore, believe the likelihood of a crewed mission to Venus is very unlikely. There have also been conceptual, more far-fetched studies – including sending crewed airships to hover in Venus’ atmosphere, rather than just flying by. This is a nice idea, which may achieve more science than a flyby, but it remains a distant and unrealistic concept for now. For the moment, we only carry out crewed exploration in low-Earth orbit. The Artemis project, however, aims to fly people around the Moon and build a station, called Gateway, in lunar orbit. This is being designed to do science, enable crewed landings on the Moon and crucially to test deep space techniques such as refueling and operating in a remote environment that could in the long run help get us to Mars without doing training at Venus.Andrew Coates, Professor of Physics, Deputy Director (Solar System) at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCLThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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[l] at 10/1/22 7:20am
During an appearance on MSNBC's "The Katie Phang Show," former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade laughed off a report that one of Donald Trump's high-priced lawyers is trying to rein him in from attacking the Department of Justice in an effort to get them to back off.Late Friday, the Washington Post reported that Trump's lawyers are battling each other over legal strategy, with some wanting to present a more "aggressive " defense while attorney Christopher Kise, who scored a $3 million retainer to defend Trump against possible Espionage Act and obstruction charges wants to dial things down. According to the Post, "Kise was brought aboard, he finds himself in a battle, trying to persuade Trump to go along with his legal strategy and fighting with some other advisers who have counseled a more aggressive posture. The dispute has raged for at least a week, Trump advisers say, with the former president listening as various lawyers make their best arguments."Asked about Kise's efforts by MSNBC host Phang, McQuade smirked before wishing him good luck.RELATED: The door to remove Judge Aileen Cannon from the Trump case is now 'wide open': former prosecutor "Some Trump lawyers are saying to turn down the temperature the DOJ," the MSNBC host prompted. "What do you make of this recorded divide in terms of what is supposed to be a single front legal team?""I say, Katie, to those lawyers who joined in good faith and think they're going to change Donald Trump: bless you and good luck, here we go again," she replied. "Donald Trump has one mode and it is all offense all the time.""Anyone who thinks he is going to change, you know, it's like the woman who marries the man and says 'I'm going to change him.' No. People are who they are," she explained. "At this point in life, shame on him for not knowing who Donald Trump is."Watch below or at the link. MSNBC 10 01 2022 The Katie Phang Show youtu.be
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[l] at 10/1/22 6:46am
I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods, but here in our small town on the edge of the Poconos, fall is finally here. It's nippy in the mornings and doesn't get above 60 on some days, and only rarely brushes against 70. The sun is a little lower in the sky every day; people are wearing their quilted Carhartts and fleece Patagonias, and lined boots can't be far away.This article first appeared in Salon.Everyone is still going maskless inside and out. It's been this way all summer. You go into the Turkey Hill quick-stop, or the Key Food, or even to one of the small shops on Main Street, and nobody is wearing a mask. I did see one at an art opening last week for "Andy in Nature," an exhibit of photographs of Andy Warhol by Christopher Makos and ethereal flowers by Paul Solberg. There were probably 200 people packed into the soaring space atop Forest Hall, built in 1904 to house the Yale University Forestry School summer program. (The American conservation movement was born in this town, incidentally.) The mask at the opening wasn't worn by yours truly; I've been as accepting as everyone else of the fiction that the COVID pandemic is over. It only seems that way. The average weekly case count here in Pennsylvania is about 2,500; that number has hovered between 2,500 and 3,500 daily since early in the summer. On Thursday, the number of new cases nationally was 100,524, with a weekly average of 50,000, down from a high of about 126,000 at midsummer. While the case count has gone down since spring, the national death count has stayed more or less steady, at about 400 a day.You have to Google to find those numbers, because deaths from COVID have gone the same way news about Hurricane Ian will go when all the hoopla is over and shots of splintered homes and flipped-over cars and pleasure boats perched on people's front porches have left our TV screens.COVID numbers are as hard to find as people wearing masks in the supermarket, even though health care experts say the current statistics are likely a "massive underestimate," according to U.S. News, "as many relied on at-home tests that aren't reported to health departments."Even if the death count stays around 400 a day — and it's likely to get much higher, given a likely new surge — more than 145,000 Americans will die from COVID this year.The White House and the Centers for Disease Control are on the case, however. They predicted in the spring that as many as 100 million American citizens could become infected with COVID over the fall and winter. That is nearly one-third of our population, folks, a whole lot of people by anyone's count. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was interviewed for that U.S. News report and said the 100 million new infections predicted by the CDC are possible because hundreds of thousands of cases are never reported to local health departments, meaning the CDC never gets the full picture."I don't think it's unreasonable to think that we've had about 100 million infections the past three months, so why couldn't that happen again in winter?" Dowdy said. If the death count stays at 400 a day — and it's likely to get much higher given the predictions of a new surge in infections — more than 145,000 of our fellow citizens will die from COVID this year. That's well below the 2021 total of 415,000, but it's still a lot higher than the number of deaths from influenza every year. So is COVID turning into just another form of the flu? You get a booster shot every fall and go about your life as usual? Not really, especially when you consider the effects of what has become known, for want of a better term, as "long COVID." The stats on this mysterious chronic form of the disease are eye-popping. According to information gathered by the Census Bureau gleaned by adding new questions about COVID to its Household Pulse Survey, about 16 million Americans suffer from long COVID today, with as many as 4 million out of the workforce due to the long-term disease. Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course. A study by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank backed up the findings of the Census Bureau. It found that 21 percent of people who have contracted COVID still suffer from symptoms three months later, which the Minneapolis Fed defined as long COVID. About 70 percent of Americans have come down with the disease. Taking 21 percent of that figure yields a total of 34 million people of working-age who have or have had long COVID. The Fed survey found that 50 percent of people with long COVID eventually beat the disease, yielding a figure of 17 million, unnervingly close to the Census Bureau estimate of 16 million.What does all this mean? Well, the Census Bureau survey estimated that lost wages from long COVID could be as high as $230 million. If you look at that very dry statistic more closely, you find that hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers are out of work, suffering from what the New York Times recently described as "a constellation of debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, neurologic symptoms and more that can occur even after mild infection … [and] racing hearts and brain fog so devastating that they were unable to work." Those mothers and fathers are probably passing the disease along to their kids, and at the least aren't there for them in the same way they were when they were healthy. The effects of the disease creep through the population in all kinds of ways and end up affecting us all, young and old.Many long COVID patients seeking help at a recovery clinic in Boston, according to the Times, "were white and just over 70 percent were female." But the disproportionate number of white female patients in the Boston clinic may be an anomaly caused by the economic status of those who got it together to present themselves for follow-up care. A study done in Los Angeles found that many of the patients who were infected with COVID and hospitalized "in the first pandemic wave, were disproportionately Black and Hispanic men…[and] Black and Hispanic patients had lingering symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath at similar rates as their white peers."Although long COVID doesn't appear to discriminate, the Times reported that "at every turn, Covid-19 has revealed the fault lines in our health care system and society. It should come as little surprise that the care delivered in the wake of this virus threatens to further entrench pre-existing disparities." That means people who can't afford medical care, or those who can't access it because they live in rural communities distant from clinics and hospitals, are not receiving adequate care to treat the symptoms of long COVID. They fall between the cracks in the health care system and end up as one of the 4 million people out of work due to the long-term effects of the disease.Data suggests that the U.K. is heading into "the beginning of the next wave," and the CDC expects a steep increase in the U.S. during the fall and winter.It gets worse: CNN reported this week that British data confirms the CDC estimates of a steep increase in COVID over the fall and winter. The study found that the U.K. could be heading toward a fall wave of new infections, "and experts say the United States may not be far behind." The Zoe Health Study, by following COVID since the earliest days of the pandemic in 2020, "has accurately captured the start of each wave, and its numbers run about one to two weeks ahead of official government statistics," according to CNN. About 500,000 people in Britain use an app on their phones to report their daily symptoms and the results of home COVID tests. "After seeing a downward trend for the past few weeks, the Zoe study saw a 30% increase in reported Covid-19 cases within the past week," CNN reported. "Our current data is definitely showing this is the beginning of the next wave," Dr. Tim Spector told the network. He is a professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London.On the home front, "We are seeing the increase in many respiratory viruses right now in the U.S., so it's not a stretch to think that a new COVID wave (or ripple) will be coming soon," Nathan Grubaugh, who studies the epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health, said in an email to CNN.We got our boosters earlier in the week, and researching this piece has made me think again about following the crowd and going about life as usual when it comes to COVID. Starting this weekend, when we grab our jackets and scarves to walk up the street to our local deli or stop by Lowe's to pick up some mums and potting soil, I think we'll be grabbing our KN-95 face masks too. Who wants to be a silent statistic, either in the hospital or the grave?
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[l] at 10/1/22 6:35am
A 24-hour walkout by railway staff in Britain on Saturday was set to create severe disruption as strikes resumed following the mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II.Members of four trade unions kicked off the action after workers halted work stoppages following the death of the queen on September 8.It is the latest industrial action by rail workers demanding wage increases to keep pace with decades-high inflation amid a cost-of-living crisis.Tens of thousands of staff in various industries — from the postal and legal systems to ports and telecommunications — have also gone on strike across Britain since the summer.Workers at Britain's largest container port, Felixstowe in eastern England, are currently conducting a second eight-day walkout over pay and conditions that is only set to end on Wednesday.But it is the rail sector that has been spearheading the industrial unrest, carrying out its biggest stoppages in decades.The latest had been planned for the week after the queen's death, but was then postponed. Many rail workers are also set to strike again on Wednesday, and on other potential dates later in the month.This weekend's walkout coincides with preparations for Sunday's London Marathon, leaving participants struggling to reach the capital, as well as the ruling Conservatives' annual conference in Birmingham also starting Sunday.Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, apologized to people impacted but blamed the government."The government has brought this dispute on," he told the BBC, as he joined other striking staff on picket lines across the country."They (put) the challenges down to us, to cut our jobs, to cut our pensions and to cut our wages against inflation."But Tim Shoveller of Network Rail, which owns and manages Britain's railway infrastructure, described the strikes as a "huge own goal" leading to "less money to spend improving the railway".(AFP)
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[l] at 10/1/22 6:31am
Responding to an excerpt from Maggie Haberman's "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America," a former senior White House aide under Trump stated that reporting that Jared Kushner inflated Trump's poll numbers to his face during the 2020 presidential election in an effort to quell his tantrums sounds about right.As Rolling Stone reports, Trump's son-in-law was skeptical of polling that showed his father-in-law losing to Joe Biden, and tried to soften the blow when giving updates.The Rolling Stone report states Haberman wrote, "Kushner, who oversaw reelection strategy from his post as a White House senior adviser, advised a …campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, to inflate Trump’s standing in surveys that would be shown to the candidate by adding percentage points to his position in the horse race.”Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone adds, "...'the “ostensible reason' for this was Kushner and others’ contention that polling firms 'always missed Trump voters.' However, to various Trump 2020 officials, it was obvious that the 'real reason' for Kushner’s advice to Fabrizio was to 'avoid upsetting Trump.'"IN RELATED NEWS: The door to remove Judge Aileen Cannon from the Trump case is now 'wide open': former prosecutor Asked about Haberman's claim, a former Trump aide said it was highly likely that Kushner was trying to avoid Trump's wrath based on the president's general demeanor during the 2020 campaign.“There is no doubt in my mind that that was the reason,” they explained. “There were discussions among other members of the Trump campaign about hiding or softening bad news like that, if only so that fewer [strategy] meetings [with Trump] would go off the rails because he was pissed off about people saying he was losing to Biden.”The report adds, "At the time, a variety of Trump’s closest confidants were similarly happy to indulge the then-president’s claims that the public polling had to be rigged against him, and the delusion that there was simply no way he could be trailing his Democratic foe. For instance, Haberman writes, Fox News host and frequent Trump adviser Sean Hannity 'told Trump aides he did not trust the polling he was seeing and would commission his own.'" You can read more here.
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:55am
Republican legislators are starting to suggest defunding the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the office founded in 1989 to assist with veteran needs. The VA assists with getting veterans mental and physical healthcare, educational opportunities, community support, and other everyday housing and living needs.An Arizona legislator, captured on video participating in a mock congressional hearing, said he supported shutting down the department."That's sort of what I'm thinking because ... I hear no good stories. I had zero in my district," the legislator said in a video posted by the far-right watchdog group Patriot Takes. "So I guess it's a matter of us leading the fight to defund it."https://twitter.com/patriottakes/status/1575915243695673345A second video, posted by the same account, showed Republican Florida Representative Matt Gaetz advocating for defunding the VA while speaking at an event held by FreedomWorks, a conservative and libertarian advocacy group."This is my question to the group. Is it savable? Why not abolish the VA, take all of the money that we are otherwise spending and go to an any willing provider system inside of our communities?" Gaetz says in the video. "And then, if people get bad care, they can vote with their feet and you don't have a two-tier system of healthcare in this country with our veterans and then with everyone else."Generally speaking, Republican policies favor the privatization of all government functions, thinking that a "small government," "free-market," "for-profit" privatization provided by a corporation can solve any market ill.In reality, if entire communities are deprived of VA access, U.S. military veterans will be left largely on their own to get their life needs met after militaries service. Those who lack money or transportation won't be able to "vote with their feet" and find a local care provider to handle their specific issues... they'll either have to spend massive amounts to get such essential care or just go without.https://twitter.com/BillPascrell/status/1575907581632995328In late July, 41 Senate Republicans voted against a bill aimed at protecting veterans exposed to toxic materials during their military service. The legislation would have expanded care to 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. It would have also added 23 toxic and burn pit exposure-related illnesses to the VA database, Newsweek reported.After massive blowback, Senate Republicans re-voted on the bill and helped it pass.Patriot Takes posted the video hoping that it would encourage veterans and military members to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections.
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:55am
Six red states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina — are suing the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden over Biden's plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000 a year.The Biden administration based its plan on a 2003 law. According to the Justice Department, the law, initially meant to help military members, says that Biden can reduce or erase student loan debts during times of national emergency.The red states' lawsuit, filed Thursday in Missouri, said that Biden's plan was “not remotely tailored to address the effects of the pandemic on federal student loan borrowers.” The lawsuit adds that, since Biden recently declared the COVID-19 pandemic as over, he can't use it as a justification for his wide-scale debt relief plan, ABC News reported.“It’s patently unfair to saddle hard-working Americans with the loan debt of those who chose to go to college,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said of her state's lawsuit. “The Department of Education is required, under the law, to collect the balance due on loans. And President Biden does not have the authority to override that.”The states argued that Biden's plan inflicted a “number of ongoing financial harms” to student loan providers and also "will ultimately disrupt revenue to state coffers." They also argued that Biden's plan violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a law regulating how federal agencies ensure that presidential policies are well-reasoned and explained, the aforementioned publication reported.Despite these claims, the White House has said it will continue with its plan, confident it can survive a court challenge.“Republican officials from these six states are standing with special interests, and fighting to stop relief for borrowers buried under mountains of debt,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said Thursday. “The president and his administration are lawfully giving working and middle class families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January.”
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:48am
The Russian Consulate in New York was vandalized with red spray paint early Friday, in an apparent protest as President Vladimir Putin pursues his bloody invasion of Ukraine.Officers said they responded to an emergency call just after 1:30 am that reported paint sprayed across the facade of the consulate on Manhattan's Upper East Side.A police spokeperson said the investigation was ongoing into the potential "bias incident" and no arrests had been made.The bright red paint appeared hours before Putin announced he was annexing four parts of Ukraine occupied by his army.Shelling also killed at least 30 people in Ukraine's southern region of Zaporizhzhia -- one of the worst attacks against civilians in months.President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the US-led military alliance NATO to grant Ukraine expedited membership, as international leaders including Joe Biden condemned Moscow's annexations.Rosie Morse, a retiree who lives in the neighborhood near the consulate, said the spray paint "looks like art work.""But the meaning is to express our feeling about Putin, and I can't say that I don't agree," she told AFP. "It's vandalism but it is the expression of how people in New York are realizing Putin is killing people," said another bystander, Romen Baulin, 34. "This is a historical building and we are in the middle of New York, but I totally agree with the artist who did it."© Agence France-Presse
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:48am
A'ja Wilson poured in 19 points as the all-conquering United States crushed China 83-61 to win their fourth straight women's basketball World Cup and 11th overall in Sydney on Saturday.Kelsey Plum added 17 points and Jewell Loyd 11 as the Chinese were overpowered by a formidable team that stretched their unbeaten streak in the competition to 30 games.The US went to half-time with a 43-33 lead and there was no stopping them in front of 15,895 fans at Sydney SuperDome -- the biggest-ever crowd for a women's basketball match in Australia.In front of the watching Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, the odds were heavily stacked against China, who were led by Li Yueru with 19 points and took home their first medal since 1994.On top of being 10-time champions, the USA were coming off a record-breaking 83-43 semi-final victory against Canada, the biggest win ever in a World Cup last four, and they had beaten China 77-66 in the group phase.The Chinese had also lost all seven previous World Cup clashes with the American juggernaut, and by an average 22 points.They were again without star player and leading points scorer Li Meng, who has a fever, but Li Yueru and Wang Siyu both scored early buckets as China started strongly.But the USA soon found their stride to close out the first quarter with an 18-13 advantage, although it was scrappy with the Americans only shooting at 44 percent.They began finding the hoop as they lifted the tempo and pulled out to a 13-point lead, before Jin Weina netted outside the arc on the siren to pull it back to 43-33 at the break.Refreshed, the relentless USA shifted up a gear in the third frame with aggressive defense and built it into a 68-47 lead heading into the home stretch, where a ragged China had nothing left in the tank.Earlier, Lauren Jackson produced a vintage performance to end her international career on a high, 25 years after making her debut, as Australia swept past Canada 95-65 to win bronze.Jackson, 41, turned back the clock with a huge all-round effort, ending with a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds and one assist.The seven-time WNBA all-star ended her fifth World Cup -- and first in 12 years -- tied as the all-time leader in games played, on 43 with Brazil's Janeth Arcain.© 2022 AFP
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:37am
The EU is set to take Malta to court over its scheme allowing wealthy foreigners to buy Maltese – and EU – citizenship for a costly fee. But buying citizenship and residence rights is a global trend among the super-wealthy that looks set to stay. The European Commission on Thursday took Malta to the European Union's highest court over its "golden passport" scheme that allows wealthy investors to buy Maltese – and therefore EU – citizenship, without having to live in the country. Despite repeated calls to end the scheme, Malta has raised €1.1 billion since 2013 through offering passports in exchange for investments, with most investors coming from the Gulf, Asia and Russia. Under pressure from the EU, Cyprus and Bulgaria have recently stopped offering similar schemes. Yet the only concession Malta has made is to suspend the scheme for Russian and Belarusian citizens following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While Malta is under pressure to ban investment citizenship, multiple countries around the world welcome the practice. “The [2008] global financial crisis also put pressure on governments to find ways to bring foreign investment into their economies, and this is seen as a relatively costless way of doing so,” says Lior Erez, departmental lecturer in theory of politics at Oxford University, UK. “Especially if it involves no actual migration.” Yet the EU views things differently, citing “ethical, legal and economic” concerns as well as “several serious security risks”, if the scheme continues. "By offering citizenship in exchange for pre-determined payments or investments, without a genuine link with the Member State concerned, Malta breaches EU law," tweeted EU Justice Affairs Commissioner Didier Reynders on Thursday. "European Union values are not for sale.” A security risk? There are no precise figures for how many individuals around the world make citizenship investments ­– or buy passports – each year. Data is often amalgamated with those making migration investments ­­(hefty payments in exchange for residence visas). Estimates put the combined annual figure in the tens of thousands, with the number of citizenship investors as the smaller part because the process is more expensive.“The numbers of people doing it are very marginal,” says Ayse Guveli, professor of sociology at the University of Essex, UK, “but they are extremely important because they are so rich. The aim [with golden passports] is to open up routes for them to invest in new countries.”In Cyprus, 1,400 approved applicants poured €2.15 million into the country between 2017 and 2019. Of these, 30 had been granted to people under criminal investigation and 40 to people holding political or state positions which meant they were considered a serious risk for bribery or money laundering under EU guidelines, an Al Jazeera investigation found. These cases pose a troubling security risk, as once citizenship is granted it is difficult to remove.Finding 'a workaround to the system'Yet of the total successful applicants in Cyprus, five percent were thought to be potentially questionable.For the vast majority, reasons for applying for foreign citizenship are “pretty mundane” says Dr Kristin Surak, associate professor of political sociology at London School of Economics, UK. “The number one reason is travel.” A wealthy businessman from the global south is likely to find it easier to attend meetings around the world if traveling with a widely accepted EU passport, for example. The same is true for foreign nationals – often from the global south ­– living in countries where their passports restrict them from getting mortgages or opening bank accounts, Surak says. “And they’re doctors or professionals so they have the money to find a workaround to the system.” Then, there are the super-wealthy who want to ensure emergency travel is possible. “You might get people in Hong Kong who are very worried about government crackdown,” Surak says. “Or very wealthy Americans who were used to going whatever they wanted around the world, then once Covid-19 hit they suddenly couldn't travel.” Demand for second passports among wealthy Americans increased by 300 percent between 2019 and 2021, Latitude, a company that guides individuals through the application process, reported. In many countries, the pandemic had driven unprecedented global demand for investment citizenship and migration. An estimated 110,000 high-net worth individuals bought the right to live abroad in 2019. In 2023, this figure is expected to reach 125,000, and could grow larger. In China, the country with the second highest number of billionaires in the world, Covid lockdowns are ongoing and quarantine restrictions before and after travel are still in place. “But once those Covid restrictions lift people are expecting demand from China to go through the roof,” Surak says. “People living there do not want to be locked down again.” 'Relatively democratic' Currently the greatest demand for foreign citizenship and or residency among wealthy citizens comes from Russia. Some 15,000 Russians are expected to purchase the right to live abroad in 2022, plus spouses and family members who would be granted associated rights. Following sanction measures, EU countries are not allowed to grant citizenship or residence rights to Russians. Yet there are many more options available outside of Europe. Turkey is proving popular “for Russians, also rich Ukrainians and very many people from Arabic and Middle East Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria and Iran”, says Guveli. One reason for this is Turkey’s location. Guveli adds, “it has a mixture of Western, Eastern and Islamic lifestyles, and nice weather. It’s relatively democratic. It’s relatively easy to live there, compared to its neighbors”. The application criteria are also relatively undemanding. To acquire full Turkish citizenship for an applicant and family members, investors must make a minimum contribution to the country of $400,000, such as buying a house of equivalent value. Approximately 120 days later, they can expect to be the owner of a Turkish passport. The arrangement also benefits the country’s leadership. In exchange for granting access to a small number of foreign nationals, “it gives the government money to invest in infrastructure and if Erdogan wants to win the elections next year he really needs [to do that]”, says Guveli. 'Skills and economic activity' If courts find that Malta’s golden passport scheme does contravene EU law, it is unlikely that wealthy foreign nationals will be shunned from the country altogether. As an alternative to golden passports, Portugal and Greece both offer highly popular residence permits, at a price.For €200,000, non-Europeans can buy the right to live, work and study in Portugal and have visa-free travel in the Schengen area for up to five years, as long as they spend five days of each year in the country. After five years, residents have the right to apply for Portuguese citizenship. With almost €6.5 billion invested in Portugal via residence visas since 2012, a similar scheme could be of interest in Malta. If not, the super wealthy will easily find other pathways to citizenship and residence investments elsewhere. Generally, this elite group is welcome around the world because they are always able to pay the right price. “They have money and education,” says Guveli. “So they are seen as are self-sufficient group who bring skills and economic activity, rather than problems.”
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:37am
The US suicide rate rose in 2021, particularly among young men, according to official data out Friday -- an increase that ends a two-year-decline.The number of suicides rose from around 46,000 in 2020 to 47,650 in 2021, according to preliminary figures released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 people grew from 13.5 in 2020 to 14 last year. The most significant increase was seen among young boys and men between the ages of 15 and 24, where the rate rose eight percent.In 2000, after a decade of decline, the United States recorded a recent low of 10 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people."One of the things that may have contributed to the decrease in the 1990s was the advent of medications that help reduce risk for suicide," Jill Harkavy-Friedman of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told AFP.The rate then started growing -- potentially because of new warning labels attached to antidepressants, according to Harkavy-Friedman -- until by 2018 it was 35 percent over 2000 levels.Then, it fell five percent from 2018 until 2020.According to Harkavy-Friedman, the recent fluctuations are difficult to interpret."We don't really know yet what the full implications of this kind of rise are," she said, adding it was necessary to look at patterns over the long term.The role of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, is complex.According to the AFSP, research has shown that "people tend to come together during traumatic events initially and this can serve as a protective factor against suicide, though this societal cohesion may not persist as time passes."Data from 2021 shows that the suicide rate for men is four times higher than for women, which is in line with past trends.Among the reasons put forward include the idea that men are more likely to use lethal means, and have more difficulty in seeking mental help.This preliminary data does not yet provide a breakdown by ethnicity or income of the deceased.According to the CDC, suicides are the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34.Recently, the United States introduced a simpler three-digit helpline (988) for people in distress, replacing the previous 10-digit number."We're very happy about 988, which is the new mental health crisis line, and the accompanying crisis services that goes with it, because this is going to bring options to people who feel so desperate and in such pain," said Harkavy-Friedman.© 2022 AFP
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[l] at 10/1/22 5:32am
In a column for Slate, former federal prosecutor Robert Katzberg made the case that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon's continued interference in the work being done by special master Raymond Dearie in the matter of government documents stolen by Donald Trump could lead to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stepping in and taking the case from her.Earlier in the week, the Trump-appointed Cannon gave Donald Trump's legal team an assist by ruling that they did not need to comply with an order from Dearie and reply in a filing whether they believe the FBI agents lied about documents recovered at the former president's Mar-a-Lago resort almost two months ago.As Katzberg sees it, the Department of Justice could appeal, which they did late Friday, and that they may have a compelling case to ask for Cannon's removal -- although such moves rarely occur.In his Slate column wrote, "Given the extreme and one-sided rulings Cannon has already made, DOJ need not fear making her more hostile than she has already shown herself to be, so the door to aggressive countermoves is wide open."ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump torched by legal experts for rejecting advice 'any competent lawyer' would give He explained, "One such choice would be to file a motion to remove Cannon from the matter entirely, arguing that her opinions have demonstrated a level of bias that cannot be tolerated—and further, that her continued oversight of the matter is a threat to national security."Adding that the 11th Circuit has already stepped in to curb some of Cannon's excesses, Katzberg claimed it might be open to stepping in in a more forceful way."The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already filed a stinging opinion that contains ample criticism of Cannon to quote in support," he wrote. "Appeals courts are hesitant to remove judges from a case, but here, there is a clear record of questionable decisions that have stymied an extremely significant criminal investigation and, per DOJ, undermined national security. Under these unusual circumstances, reassignment might well be an appropriate solution."You can read more here.

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