The Wires

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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.


The Commentariat -- September 15, 2019

Late Morning Update:

David Edwards of the Raw Story: “White House aide Kellyanne Conway on Sunday insisted that Democrats do not have a 'constitutional basis' to embarrass ... Donald Trump by conducting an impeachment inquiry. 'Stop the nonsense of harassing and embarrassing this president and the people around him when you have no constitutional or legal basis to do so,' she said." Mrs. McC: Maybe KellyAnne should ask her husband the lawyer about that.

I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached. -- Kamala Harris, in a tweet today

It's more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He should be impeached. And Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter. -- Julian Castro, in a tweet Saturday night

Horse Bites Veep. Or Not. Lesley Clark of McClatchy News in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer (Sept. 13): "Vice President Mike Pence says Triple Crown winner American Pharoah bit him hard enough on the arm during a 2018 visit to Kentucky that he nearly collapsed. But farm manager Dermot Ryan, who was there as Pence was presented with an American Pharoah halter, said Friday it would be out of character for a horse he described as 'sweet.'"

Margot Sanger-Katz, et al., of the New York Times: "Early this summer, Congress appeared on its way to eradicating the large medical bills that have shocked many patients after emergency care. The legislation to end out-of-network charges was popular and had support from both sides of the aisle. President Trump promised his support. Then, in late July, a mysterious group called Doctor Patient Unity showed up. It poured vast sums of money -- now more than $28 million -- into ads opposing the legislation, without disclosing its staff or its funders. Trying to guess who was behind the ads became something of a parlor game in some Beltway circles. Now, the mystery is solved. The two largest financial backers of Doctor Patient Unity are TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare, private-equity-backed companies that own physician practices and staff emergency rooms around the country, according to Greg Blair, a spokesman for the group.... TeamHealth was acquired in 2016 by the private-equity firm Blackstone Group in a deal valued at $6.1 billion. And last fall, in one of the largest takeovers of the year, the private-equity giant KKR spent $9.9 billion to acquire Envision Healthcare.... The proposed legislation, which may advance to floor votes this year, is potentially bad for business for TeamHealth and Envision." Thanks to Patrick for the link. See also Patrick's commentary below.


Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times on "Margaret Atwood's dystopia, and ours." Atwood's new novel The Testaments is a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. "'The Testaments' ... would be a literary event in any period; in ours, it's a cultural phenomenon.... 'Writing dystopias and utopias is a way of asking the reader the question, "Where do you want to live?"' Atwood said when I talked to her last year. 'And where you end up living is going to depend partly on what you do now.' 'The Testaments,' it turns out, isn't a dystopian work at all. It's utopian. By the time it's over..., the rigidly patriarchal Republic of ... Gilead is a relic, and scholars in a more enlightened time are studying the women who subverted it. Praise be! Our descendants should be so lucky."

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "Donald Trump keeps winning. He is waging war against government and expertise -- two of the constant targets of his campaign rage -- and both American and international institutions are the losers. Consider two recent, unrelated events: the Supreme Court order that cleared the way for extreme restrictions on the right to seek asylum, and the appointment of a thirty-year-old administrative assistant as the United States' new envoy to the Middle East.... Contempt for expertise and disdain for the ways of government are integral to the Trumpian worldview, in which procedure exists only to thwart the President and experts only complicate things, solely in order to keep plain folk out. During his campaign, Trump claimed to keep only his own counsel on foreign policy -- a commitment to ignorance and impulsiveness that he apparently demonstrated by ousting his third national-security adviser this week."

** Supreme Perjurer. New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin & Kate Kelly in a NYT op-ed: Brett Kavanaugh has "adamantly denied" allegations that he sexually assaulted fellow Yale student Deborah Ramirez at a party when they were both students. "During his Senate testimony, Mr. Kavanaugh said that if the incident Ms. Ramirez described had occurred, it would have been 'the talk of campus.' Our reporting suggests that it was. At least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez's mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge. Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred.... A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier ... notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate.... Ms. Ramirez's legal team gave the F.B.I. a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence. But the bureau -- in its supplemental background investigation -- interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the F.B.I. on their own. Two F.B.I. agents interviewed Ms. Ramirez, telling her that they found her 'credible.' But the Republican-controlled Senate had imposed strict limits on the investigation." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Remember this from way back yesterday? New York Times: "The Justice Department will present one of its most prestigious awards to the lawyers who worked on the highly contentious Supreme Court nomination process of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Nex month, Attorney General William P. Barr will present the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service to those who worked 'to support the nomination' of the judge...." That's right; Bill Barr will give you a "prestigious award" for aiding & abetting a perjurer seeking a Supreme Court gig. Oh, and a special shout-out to rabid feminist activist Sen. Susan Collins, who made it all possible & still does not regret her deciding vote for the liar & repeat sexual offender. Extra thanks to Joe Biden, who so enjoys "working with the other side" that he ensured we had another sexual assaulter & perjurer on the highest court. ~~~

(Sniff) I love coaching [girls' basketball] more than anything I've ever done in my whole life. (sniff) But thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee [i.e., Democrats] have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again. -- Brett Kavanaugh, during a confirmation hearing ~~~

~~~ Tom Scotta of Slate: "In addition to taking his lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, by the fall of last year, Kavanaugh had returned to coaching girls' basketball." ~~~

>~~~ John Bowden of the Hill: "Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro said Saturday that ... nonprofit owner Max Stier's allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a party before other students pressed him against a female student, forcing his genitals to come in contact with her hand, should be investigated. 'Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation is a shame to the Supreme Court. This latest allegation of assault must be investigated,' he tweeted." ~~~

~~~ Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "President Trump in an early morning tweet on Sunday said 'Radical left Democrats' and the 'LameStream Media' want to scare Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh into 'turning Liberal.' 'Now the Radical Left Democrats and their Partner, the LameStream Media, are after Brett Kavanaugh again, talking loudly of their favorite word, impeachment,' he tweeted. 'He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY. Such lies about him. They want to scare him into turning Liberal!'... Trump in a follow-up tweet early Sunday said Kavanaugh should 'start suing people for liable,' suggesting that the Justice Department should 'come to his rescue.' 'The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop?' he asked. 'They are trying to influence his opinions. Can';t let that happen!'" ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: "Suing for liable"??? How about "suing for lie-able"? After all, no chance Brett would prevail in a suit for libel. Update: The spelling of "libel" in both the body of the story & Trump's tweet has been corrected. Daniel Politi of Slate reports on the original tweet.

Christian Vasquez of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday said he discussed a potential mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call just days before the Israeli election.... Netanyahu has been exploring a defense alliance with the U.S. for some months now, according to reports, and the issue is seen as a potential boost to his re-election bid. The Israeli elections are scheduled to take place Tuesday."

Alex Horton of the Washington Post: "Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden and once-possible heir to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, was killed in a U.S. counterterror operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, President Trump said Saturday -- more than a month after officials suggested he was killed. Osama bin Laden's son was 'responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups,' President Trump said in a statement released by the White House. His death is a blow to al-Qaeda's leadership acumen, Trump said, and symbolic given the connection to his slain father, who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid on his Pakistani refuge in 2011." The CNN story is here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Ted Hesson of Politico: "An internal memo prepared by a top Trump immigration official [-- USCIS Policy and Strategy Chief Kathy Nuebel Kovarik --] recommends that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services be stripped of its authority to delay deportations for undocumented immigrants receiving treatment for serious medical conditions. The Trump administration in August quietly halted its processing of such requests, which are known as 'deferred action.'... USCIS' authority to grant deportation relief through deferred action dates back to the creation of the Homeland Security Department in 2003."

Presidential Race 2020

Veronica Stracqualursi of CNN: "Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden committed to publicly releasing his medical records before the Iowa caucuses after questions of whether the 76-year-old former vice president is fit for the rigors of the presidency and to take on ... Donald Trump, aged 73, in a grueling 2020 campaign."

Sara Fischer of Axios: "More than 1,000 accounts across several different social media platforms with suspicious, bot-like characteristics helped push quote tweets, a tweet that is retweeted but additional text is added, from Donald Trump campaign accounts during the third primary debate, according to an analysis provided to Axios by social media intelligence company Storyful. Those tweets accounted for the top 3 most-shared links across several social media platforms, including Facebook, Reddit, etc., during the debate.... Despite attempts by social media companies to weed out malicious behavior online, automated accounts are still driving a large part of the social conversation around political events.

~~~ Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "... Saturday, the Sanders campaign said it had 'already reached out to a Nevada senate office for case work help.'"

Erik Ortiz
of NBC News: "'Saturday Night Live' remained silent Friday after the growing furor that one of its newest cast members has a history of racist and homophobic remarks. The controversial comments -- made by standup comedian Shane Gillis in a podcast video uploaded a year ago -- surfaced Thursday on social media, just hours after 'SNL' announced his hiring, and led some fans to demand the long-running sketch comedy show drop him ahead of the new season.... In clips from 'Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast,' which have been removed from its YouTube channel, Gillis and his co-host denigrate Chinatown and Chinese food, speak in caricature Asian accents and make sexist comments about Asian women. Gillis also uses an ethnic slur used to describe the Chinese. Gillis has taken part in other recorded conversations in which he mocks an Asian boy with Down syndrome and uses homophobic slurs about other comedians." Mrs. McC: Somehow, I don't think I'm going to find that guy funny. (Also linked yesterday.)

Blake Montgomery of the Daily Beast: "While MIT engages in damage control following revelations the university's Media Lab accepted millions of dollars in funding from Jeffrey Epstein, a renowned computer scientist at the university has fanned the flames by apparently going out of his way to defend the accused sex trafficker -- and child pornography in general. Richard Stallman has been hailed as one of the most influential computer scientists around today..., but his eminence in the academic computer science community came into question Friday afternoon when purportedly leaked email excerpts showed him suggesting one of Epstein's alleged victims was 'entirely willing.'... A deep dive into his writings shows this isn't the first time Stallman has expressed such questionable views.... He has written dozens of posts on his personal website in favor of legalizing pedophilia and child pornography for more than 15 years."

WNDU South Bend, Indiana: "Police say 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains were found on the property of Ulrich George Klopfer, a late abortion doctor who used to operate a South Bend clinic. Klopfer died on Sept. 3. On Sept. 12, the Will County (Illinois) Coroner's Office received a call from an attorney representing his family. They reported finding fetal remains among Klopfer's personal property and requested proper removal. Will County sheriff's detectives, crime scene investigators and representatives from the coroner's office went to the address and were directed to an area of the property where 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains were located. The coroner's office took possession of the remains. There is no evidence that any medical procedures were conducted at the property, according to the sheriff's office, and the family is cooperating fully with the investigation."

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board voted to suspend Klopfer's medical license indefinitely back in 2015. He operated the Women's Pavilion in South Bend, as well as abortion clinics in Fort Wayne and Gary.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Yemen, Saudi Arabia. Jon Gambrell of the AP: "Yemen's Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world's largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires at a vulnerable chokepoint for global energy supplies. It remained unclear hours later whether anyone was injured at the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field or what effect the assault would have on oil production. Rising smoke from the fires at the sites could be seen by satellites. The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis in the war against a Saudi-led coalition comes after weeks of similar drone assaults on the kingdom's oil infrastructure, but none of the earlier strikes appeared to have caused the same amount of damage. The attack likely will heighten tensions further across the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers."(Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Update. Ben Hubbard, et al., of the New York Times: "Drone attacks claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia on Saturday, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country's crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies. The attacks immediately escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a standoff between the United States and Iran, even as key questions remained unanswered -- where the drones were launched from, and how the Houthis could have managed to hit facilities deep in Saudi territory, some 500 miles from Yemeni soil. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being behind what he called 'an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply' and asserted that there was 'no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.' He did not, however, say where the attacks were launched from, and the Saudis themselves did not openly accuse Iran."

News Lede

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Reader Comments (6)

MoDo is wondering whether Democrats are doomed. Trump. she tells us, has changed the whole political circus so profoundly that perhaps we will be unable to raise above the debris.

"It's a paradox wrapped in an oxymoron about a moron: Trump's faux-thenticity somehow makes the Democratic candidates seem more packaged, more stuck in politician speak."

If indeed that is the case how would she like to see it done differently; she doesn't say. She does cite Obama saying that there is no one like him running for president that most are going full monty over. And yet she spent a goodly amount of time dissing Barry for one thing after another while he was in office. Does she consider Beto's passion over gun control feeble? Does she believe Warren and Sander's "corporate gettchas" are drab and boring? I do agree with her as far as entertainment goes–-Trump certainly puts on a show but it's all show, no substance, as we know. I suggest the DNC hire Maureen for the next debate–-she may very well turn it around so that we are absolutely riveted and rived up.

The really good piece on Deborah Ramirez and the Kavanough debacle makes for sorry reading–-that Ms Ramirez was subjected to that kind of racist treatment at Yale is infuriating and then to top it off she had to fend off Brett's willy waving in front of her face. It's gratifying that she got so much support after this story came out at the time of his confirmation. And again––the question is: why was the FBI strangle-holed on this case? Who prevented more corroboration to come forth? Was it only the R's in the senate? and why was this allowed? Somehow I feel foolish even asking this question.

And by the way: Although Brett's confirmation dally was 50-48, Thomas's was just as tad higher: 52-48.

Praise be!

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@The way I understand it, based on the linked Roll Call report, is that the numbers would have gone like this: 49-49, if Collins had voted against Kavanaugh. BUT an unnamed male Senator (Flake??) suggested he and Collins make a pact that they both vote against Kavanaugh, which would have made the numbers 48-50.

What's unclear is how Murkowski would have voted. It appears she had planned to vote "no." But ended up voting "present" to cover for another "yea" vote senator who couldn't be there for the vote.

Anyway, Collins, by rejecting her colleague's offer, cast the deciding vote. On the upside, it's unlikely now that Brett will stick his dick in her face.

September 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

All who are concerned that our beautiful planet is in horrible jeopardy might consider demonstrating that concern later this week by participating in a Global Climate Strike near you. See this website for further information.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNJC

Dark money, medical insurance companies, big money private equity companies, emergency medical services, politicians -- this is a really interesting NYT story:

The bottom line is that two major PE firms, KKR and Blackstone, have created astroturf advocacy groups that have been running those ads you see where the EMTs rush you to the ER but, holy cow, it's closed! and now you're gonna die!!! (Actually, a sixteen year old girl on the gurney -- so "your daughter's gonna die?")

The faux firms are PO drop boxes, and it took a lot of sleuthing to determine who was funding them. Some of the mechanics involved are the same as the GOP dark money 501 orgs. KKR and Blackstone own a bunch of ER doctors etc. who routinely bill "out of network" and send surprise bills to patients, lotta bucks. Various legislators are moving to ban such gouging, which would crimp the vulture capitalists profits. Hence the dark money campaign to "protect against government rate setting", which of course is the glideslope to socialized medicine.

This is a really good example of how big money will kill you a/o impoverish you, if you can't rely on government to protect you.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

If there's one article that resonates today above all else, it's Masha Gessen's reality that Trump really is winning. On all fronts. He's got handlers holding back bursting dams left and right, but as long as they're willing to put dictator before country, he's somehow still standing tall.

It needs to be emphasized how far the GOP has gone to first neuter, then politicize, then weaponize nearly every single governmental institution of the US gov.

The DOJ doesn't even pretend at this point, the Supreme Court is packed with GOP loyalists, incompetent wing-nuts are infesting the court system, the FBI runs intereference behind a "concerned" bureaucratic façade, the DNI licks Trump's balls for breakfast, the CIA is maybe the only intelligence agency that hasn't yet gone belly up, but who really knows what's happening there.

And the media rails on Democrats for not acting while our Constitutional system lurches into crises mode.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Thanks safari, and she ends with this:

"If American institutions are unable to contain the ignoramus who is smashing the country’s laws and abrogating its commitments, foreign leaders and diplomats have to accept that which we have made normal, and put a good face on it."

May I add: remember the CIA has one boss and it's the president.

A word here about the Bernie video above: an important characteristic of a president is his/her ability to listen. Bernie has that hand jerking before the guy was finished––he did that with Hillary constantly. Recall what Barney Frank said: Bernie needs to be right all the time and he doesn't listen to others.
Of course again––we have someone in charge who not only doesn't listen but is steering his own ship into the ice burg.

And thanks Patrick for the NYT's report––chilling.

September 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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