The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press."

New York Times: "Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home." ...

... AFP: "An Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday justified an air strike on Gaza that killed the wife and child of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, saying he was a legitimate target. 'Mohammed Deif deserves to die just like (the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden. He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him'" Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio."

New York Times: "After nearly a week of inaction, a Russian aid convoy destined for the besieged, rebel-controlled Ukrainian city of Luhansk rumbled to life on Wednesday, with 16 of its trucks passing through a Russian border checkpoint. Before heading to Luhansk, though, the trucks still have to be checked by the Russian border service, Ukrainian border guards and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sergei Karavaytsev, an officer in Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said in a telephone interview."

Guardian: "Russia has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations in a move critics said was the latest blow in its tit-for-tat sanctions tussle with the west." CW: Now that could make Putin unpopular.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 20

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Contact the Constant Weader

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Saturday
Jul212012

The Commentariat -- July 22, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "The Meaning of Tragedy." The NYTX front page is here.

Jordy Yager & Mike Lillis of The Hill: "A handful of Democrats are pressing for tougher gun laws in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shootings that left 12 people dead." ...

... "Blood on Their Hands." New York Daily News Editors: "Through their inaction and their silence, Obama and Romney have fallen into line with all those who enabled Holmes to take hold of that AR-15 and will enable others to do so in the future unless America's political leaders develop the courage to fight to save lives."

... The Onion: "Americans across the nation confirmed today that, unfortunately, due to their extreme familiarity with the type of tragedy that occurred in a Colorado movie theater last night, they sadly know exactly how the events following the horrific shooting of 12 people will unfold. While admitting they 'absolutely hate' the fact they have this knowledge, the nation's 300 million citizens told reporters they can pinpoint down to the hour when the first candlelight vigil will be held, roughly how many people will attend, how many times the county sheriff will address the media in the coming weeks, and when the town-wide memorial service will be held."

James Asher of McClatchy News: "... reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview. To be clear, it is the bureau's policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews."

New York Times Editors: "A health care system owned and managed by Alaska's native people has achieved astonishing results in improving the health of its enrollees while cutting the costs of treating them."

Pam Martens of AlterNet: "As the U.S. grapples with intractable wealth disparity and the related ills of unemployment and recession, we need to understand that [the LIBOR scandal] was not merely a few rascals rigging some esoteric index in London. This was an institutionalized wealth transfer system on an almost unimaginable scale." CW: what's important about Martens' piece -- which I found a bit difficult to follow -- is not how they did it but to whom they did it.

Matt Taibbi writes favorably about "a plan to allow local governments to take on the problem of neighborhoods blighted by toxic home loans and foreclosures through the use of eminent domain." CW: when Joe Nocera wrote a column backing the plan, I was immediately skeptical. Taibbi raises the same questions I had, but ultimately decides that since Barack Obama is no FDR, the plan at hand might be the best solution available.

Jeremy Roebuck of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "The iconic statue of late Pennsylvania State University head football coach Joe Paterno will be removed from its spot outside of the campus' football stadium, university president Rodney Erickson said in a statement Sunday." AP story here. ...

... CW: Erickson showed no sensitivity whatsoever to the advice of Maureen Dowd, who writes in today's Times, "... I’d leave it up. But I'd put up another darkly alluring statue behind Paterno, whispering in his ear: Mephistopheles."

Andrew Goldman of the New York Times interviews Terry Gross. Short & funny. Includes penis joke.

Presidential Race

Who's "Un-American" Now? Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "... the patriotism party nominated a man who has for a quarter-century practiced a brand of capitalism that respects no known flag or borders. He ran a company that created some jobs but sent others overseas, he finagled himself a way to get paid a lot of money for doing (by his own admission) no work for a few years, and he appears to have retained a battery of lawyers to help ensure that he pays a far lower tax rate than the working people he's trying to whip into a state of fear about Obama. And there's only one reason people have Swiss bank accounts, and it's to avoid making their otherwise mandated contributions to the national treasury." ...

... Why Those Offshore Accounts of Mitt's Matter. John McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal: "The Tax Justice Network's report estimates that unreported offshore wealth held in tax havens has reached at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32 trillion. [CW: as far as I can tell, the estimate represents wealth from all countries, not just the U.S.] That wealth means that the problem of inequality in wealth and income is actually worse than suspected, the group says. It also means that many countries are losing out on tax revenue that could go a long way toward alleviating their national fiscal problems, the report's authors suggest. The largest previous estimate of the problem -- also by Tax Justice Network, in 2005 -- was about $11.5 trillion, the report says."

Matea Gold & Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama's sharp turn to the offensive against GOP challenger Mitt Romney last month came at a steep cost: nearly $58 million."

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: Although the Romney campaign denies it, it appears it is buying Twitter followers. At any rate, the graph of followers for his feed "looks like a hockey stick," with a huge uptick over the past few days. "If you look at all these [new] followers, they seem to have major trouble with spelling simple English words, have names that sometimes seem to be random assortments of syllables, and have no (or very few) followers themselves. At the current rate, he's adding about 10,000 followers every hour." Some fairly hilarious commentary @ #MoreFakeMitt

Right Wing World

Godless Thugs! Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Fred Jackson, the American Family Association's news director, while discussing the Colorado movie theater shooting today said that liberal Christian churches and liberal media helped contribute to violent incidents by supposedly deemphasizing the fear of God and the Bible."

News Ledes

Washington Post: 'Herbert Vogel, a retired New York postal worker who, with his wife, Dorothy, created one of the world's most unlikely -- and most significant -- collections of modern art, then bequeathed much of it to the National Gallery of Art, died July 22 at a nursing home in New York City. He was 89." CW: a remarkable story.

CBS News: "CBS News has learned that the NCAA will announce what a high-ranking association source called 'unprecedented' penalties against both the Penn State University football team and the school.... NCAA President Mark Emmert will make the announcement Monday morning at 9 a.m. at the organization's headquarters in Indianapolis."

Denver Post: "Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper [D] Sunday expressed skepticism that tougher gun laws would have stopped suspected gunman James Eagan Holmes from unleashing 'terrorist' acts against 70 people in an Aurora movie-theater."

AP: "A federal law enforcement official says the semi-automatic assault rifle used in the deadly Colorado movie theater shooting jammed during the attack." ...

... AP: "The shooting suspect accused in a deadly rampage inside a Colorado theater planned the attack with 'calculation and deliberation,' police said Saturday, receiving deliveries by mail that authorities believe armed him for battle and were used to rig his apartment with dozens of bombs. Meanwhile, new details about 24-year-old James Holmes emerged, including summer jobs the suspect held in Southern California as a camp counselor and as an intern at a prominent research institute." ...

... AP: "... President Barack Obama will travel Sunday to Colorado to comfort distraught families of those gunned down in a minute and a half of real-life horror at a midnight movie showing."

Washington Post: "Heavy clashes rocked Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial capital, for a second day on Saturday as thousands streamed across the border into neighboring Lebanon to escape widespread fighting in the country." ...

... Guardian: "An activist group claims that more than 2,750 people have been killed in Syria so far this month, bringing the death toll since the conflict began to more than 19,000."

Reader Comments (12)

Marie, your NYTX article on the Colorado shootings was the best description of the reality I have read. Your assessment of our minds tells it all. We have an incredible capacity for hiding. An article in the Sunday Times (We’re All Climate-Change Idiots) tells a very similar story. The best proof of this is the comments from Fred Jackson of the American Family Association that says this is his god's retribution. Apparently the same god who spends his time watching Tim Tebow play football rather than save the 6 million children who starve to death every year. If the lawyer representing the killer cannot make an insanity defense maybe he can claim he was doing god's work. You know the god who gets a kick out of murdering a six year old child.
The end really is coming and we can thank our minds for making it happen.

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Marie, your latest essay in the NYTimes Examiner is a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

In it you quoted Romney as saying "“When it comes to protecting the Second Amendment, I do not support any new gun laws including any new ban on semi-automatic firearms,” he said in late December 2007. Today he opposes “adding more laws and regulations that do nothing more than burden law-abiding citizens….”"

At no time have I read of or listened to a person who has stated his/her opposition to banning weapons made solely for killing the most people/animals in the least amount of time asked of the person 'Why?'

What on earth is their reasoning for allowing these WMD to be made for any purpose other than armed conflict at the government level much less allowing them to be sold to anyone with the means to pay for them or the wherewithal to steal them.

As an aside, I find in this case the use of the word 'burdened' by new laws cynical.

Maggy Holman

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaggy Holman

Any attempt to control firearms in any way is a lose, lose, The power of the NRA is absolute and will remain so for a long time. The NRA destroys all opposition and most politicians are justly afraid of it. As Gail Collins said yesterday, there will come a time when the public will change attitudes. As Gail pointed out, it took a long time to get women the power to vote. It was inevitable as is the change of attitudes and the failure of the NRA.
Unfortunately, many people may die in the interim.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Re: Marie's excellent piece in NYTX this morning: Using the classical definition of the word "tragedy" perhaps the real fallen hero of this tale is the country itself. Once portrayed in black and white films as the proud symbol of high standards and patriotic zeal, one got teary eyed knowing how strong and good a country can be. One dared not look too deeply into the underbelly.

If more than half of the populace is against any kind of gun control then our politicians aren't going to risk pushing for it––kind of like a kiss of death for them––only when your seat is safe , evidently, can you stick your neck out and do what's good for the country rather than what's good for you.

In 2005 there was a cable series called "Commander in Chief" starring Gena Davis as the first female president of the U.S. It depicted this woman as a president who, wonder of wonders, actually ran the country the way it should be run––for the people even though her decisions would hurt her chances for reelection. It only ran for two seasons which is a shame. It gave us a glimpse of what it could be like. My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing–––sadly and quietly.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

P.S. But what a lift to read Matt Taibbi's article––innovative ideas in the making to deal with the housing debacle. This is good news!

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I bought my first gun, a Smith & Wesson .38 , at the age of 14 (perfectly legal in 1950's Oregon). So I'm not totally against gun ownersip. That said, can anyone rationally tell me why anyone ouside the military or law enforcement needs an assault rifle? Or a 100 round magazine for it? I read apologists who say it wasn't an assaualt rifle since it couldn't be fired full automatic. As a combat veteran, I can tell you that firing one shot at a time can do a lot of damage. Besides, the M16/AR15 is almost impossible to fire accuately on full auto. As to the argument that if some people in the crowd had been armed-- Obviously, Holmes had thought of that, a gas cloud, wearing black and body armor, a gas mask. People who fantasize about taking on a shooter forget that bullets go both ways. It's hard enough to coordinate trained soldiers without having a bunch of untrained civilians firing wildly in the dark. All the NRA wants to do is sell more guns. That's one of the reasons I disassociated from the NR A many years ago. We need stricter gun control and we need it now!

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbarossa

I've been following your blog for several years now (it's usually the first thing I look at every day), but this is my first time commenting. Thanks for your excellent piece in NYTX on our ongoing gun violence "tragedy". I thought I might add to your mention of Aristotle's calling the tragic flaw hamartia that the New Testament, composed in Greek several hundred years after the time of Aristotle, uses the same word to mean "sin". In regards to gun control, there seems to be plenty of sin to go around.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavidD

It is difficult to get exact comparison data but the following numbers from 2005 get the picture. EU population 500 million, number of murders 4743. US population 310 million, number of murders about 17,000. Of the 17,000 more than 12,000 were done by guns.
In a study quoted by a PolitiFact evaluation, "Researchers determined that the rate of homicides with guns in the U.S. was 4.1 per 100,000 people; the same rate combining the 22 other countries was 0.2 per 100,000 in 2003. The rate of homicides using guns in the U.S. was 19.5 times the rate of the other countries".

In summary, we are truly exceptional!

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

The idea, floated regularly by NRA boot lickers and Fox semi-literates, that if we all had guns mass killings would not be possible, is back once again. Had that been the case in Aurora, everyone in the audience would have whipped out their peacemakers and made Swiss cheese out of the shooter. A few dead, maybe, no big deal, but no mass murder.

Pure, unadulterated puerile fantasy.

Seriously? This is the sort of NRA wanking material passed along by imbeciles who have never had to fire a weapon at another human being. Professionally trained men and women in the armed forces and police departments routinely report difficulty doing this, especially the first time. It's one thing to shoot at a stationary target, but as Barbarossa points out, quite another when that target is moving and shooting back at you.

Gun crazed states like Arizona should be an excellent test for such a crackpot theory. Arizona boasts the most permissive gun laws (none even worth mentioning, actually) in the country. You can carry concealed weapons pretty much anywhere and no one can say boo.

But when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and other innocent bystanders slaughtered by a gunman last year at a public gathering, how many Arizonans drew down on the killer? How many did a Keanu Reeves and slung back their black dusters to pull out their own semi-automatic killing machines to let the bastard have it right between the eyes, blowing away the gunsmoke before holstering their weapon?

You all know the answer.

I don't know if anyone in that crowd actually was armed, but if that nusto theory didn't work in Arizona, where most everyone is already armed, where will it work. But Arizona is just like it was in the Old West, right?

Uhhh....not really.

You see, in the 19th century in places like Arizona, where most EVERYONE was armed--just like that NRA wet dream--municipal officials, and most citizens, realized just how crazy nuts dangerous it was and most towns had "No Carry" laws (unlike the current drive for a "Must Carry" law). Weapons were checked at the sheriff's office in many towns. The idea of people having ready access to deadly weapons, especially drunk people in bars, with which to settle the smallest disputes, was considered insane.

But not today.

Today, the NRA and their running dog lackeys in congress, smirk at mass killings and laugh at anyone who thinks they can point to such public horrors and as a way to challenge hurt complete control.

I'd like to believe that Gail Collins is right.

But without someone to at least start that struggle, the dead and injured in Colorado will just be 70 or so more notches on the NRA bed post. Plenty more to come.

Gunsmoke hovering over American cities is their most fervent dream.

And if a few (thousand) people have to die, well, they just use the same excuse George Zimmerman did.

It was god's will that those people died.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus

I find it interesting that the NY Daily News opines (linked above) that "Obama, Mitt and the NRA" have "blood on their hands." Oh really? The NRA certainly does have blood on its hands and every other inch of its corporate body (is it feeling pain over the horrific event?). After all, this lobby group for the gun industry has done more than anyone else to assure that America has the weakest gun regulation in the advanced world.
Romney? Well, as the article points out, he enthusiastically got in line and joined the NRA at the beginning ofl his run for the presidency. He not only joined it, but has made it a point to highlight his agreement with the NRA positions. In April of this year, Romney addressed their national convention. Accordiing to a contemporaneous article in the Yahoo news, "He delivered a speech broadly attacking President Obama for failing to protect Americans' economic, religious and personal freedoms-- highlighting gun owners in that final attack.
'We need a President who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and those who seek to protect their home and family," Romney said. "President Obama has not; I will.' "
Meanwhile, the NRA has caused millions of guns and rounds of ammo to be sold just on the strength of the argument that it "knows" that in his heart Obama will tighten gun laws in the future. Heck, thousands of people have obtained carry permits just as a reaction to the NRA scare tactics. So the President assuredly was aware that ANY statement he made encouraging tighter regulation would just be used to further the sales of weaponry. That truly put him in an untenable position.
On the other hand, it is a sign of progress that a conservative rag like the News is at least recognizing the need for stricter gun laws. One would hope it is a harbinger of things to come on that score.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

Conspsirecy: (sp) Sorry, can't remember the correct
spelling--sixty years out of school. Anyway, I'm waiting for the
gun lobby to come up with the reason we have all of these shootings
every few months. I have a theory that they will say this is being
done by the left (Obama and CIA operatives) to make the NRA
look bad (worse?) Read some blogs today (too many to recall)
claiming that there are training camps in Arizona, Colorado
and Texas where these mass murderers are trained by the CIA.
On call by the opponents of NRA to make then look bad in the
eyes of all of us little people who have no say or no guns.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

@JJG. Thanks for your input on this. It's Florida. We gotsa lotsa windows, especially in houses like mine, which was built before A/C. (I didn't count the 4 in the attic, which I had replaced at another time, nor the ones in the basement, which are still the same ole same ole).

July 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader
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