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TBR News December 14, 2018

Dec 14 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. December 14, 2018: “The negative activities of Donald Trump have one positive aspect: they are creating a polarization of public opinion in the United States and many organizations, and individuals, are ignoring previous prejudices and beginning to band together in a perceived conflict with a common enemy. More women, black people and political activists are getting elected to public office so that soon enough, Congress will be far more representative of the public than the current membership is. Some negative attitudes product highly positive effects.”

The Table of Contents 

  • Mueller inquiry a ‘field day’ for white-collar lawyers as they rake in millions
  • Cohen says Trump knew of hush payments, ‘doesn’t tell the truth’
  • Big Washington clean-up bill leads House Democrats’ list
  • Round five: Yellow Vests prepare for massive ‘Macron resign’ protest on Saturday
  • Paris braces for fifth weekend of protests by gilets jaunes
  • Facebook ‘sorry’ after new bug exposes millions of photos
  • Migrant caravan: Girl dies after being taken into custody at Mexico-US border
  • Courts likely to strike down Republican lame-duck power grabs, experts say
  • North Carolina governor vetoes photo ID bill
  • November 2018 Disapproval Rating of Trump’s Presidency
  • A new Washington Post Fact Checker poll
  • The MERS Fraud
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

 Mueller inquiry a ‘field day’ for white-collar lawyers as they rake in millions

Republican donors likely to be frustrated as they shell out for legal assistance, insiders say

December 13, 2018

by Peter Stone

The Guardian

As special counsel Robert Mueller has investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin, the inquiry has sucked in dozens of witnesses and targets ranging from obscure conspiracy theorists to top White House aides, members of the Trump family and key campaign figures.

But as a political battle royale rages over the implications of the Mueller inquiry as it has moved closer to Trump, his inner circle and family, there is one group of people who have emerged as clear winners: the lawyers raking in millions of dollars in fees. And one group of potential losers: the GOP donors and others paying for them.

Welcome to the wild sprawling legal battlefield spawned by the 18-month Mueller investigation, and related congressional inquiries, and the huge costs associated with getting caught up in them. A few highlights so far:

Donald Trump’s campaign paid just over $275,000 in legal bills for Michael Cohen, Trump’s newly sentenced longtime fixer and lawyer, before he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations involving hush monies for women who alleged affairs with the billionaire.

Meanwhile, a Washington DC law firm received almost $550,000 from the Republican National Committee to pay legal bills for Trump’s ex-communications director Hope Hicks, who was interviewed by Mueller’s office.

And the grandson of Trump’s confidant Roger Stone, who is in Mueller’s sights as a possible conduit to WikiLeaks, which released thousands of stolen Democratic emails, has a GoFundMe page to assist in paying legal bills for his “dirty trickster” relative.

To foot the bills, Republican political committees and legal defense funds have written six-figure checks and Trump has shelled out huge sums for his own defense. Others have resorted to internet appeals to raise cash for themselves or their friends and relatives.

Cohen and Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who had a plea deal with Mueller but allegedly reneged on it by lying to prosecutors, have used multiple attorneys in lengthy negotiations with prosecutors which analysts predict mean seven-figure bills.

Nick Akerman, a former assistant Watergate prosecutor who is a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, said: “I would totally expect that’s what their legal bills would be [in the seven-figure range], given the complexity of the cases and the amount of time needed” for representation

The Washington lawyer Robert Bennett, who represented Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, said some of the more eye-popping legal bills must rankle donors. “Donors are sensitive to payments of this kind and magnitude. I’m sure it doesn’t sit well.”

A prominent Republican operative and fundraiser with White House ties concurs with Bennett. “Donors hate checks going for legal bills. I’d be surprised if there isn’t some blowback.”

The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have picked up a number of six-figure legal tabs related to Mueller’s inquiry and congressional inquiries into Russian meddling.

Some lawyers, such as Alan Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr, have received fees from both the Trump campaign and the RNC, according to data from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The two committees combined have paid Futerfas almost $454,000 to assist Trump Jr, whom Mueller has been investigating given his key role in arranging a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

Trump has been paying most of his own legal fees, his former attorney John Dowd told the Guardian. The RNC in August 2017 paid Dowd $100,000 and about $131,000 to the attorney Jay Sekulow, but subsequently the president himself paid both men. Dowd, who left the Trump legal team this year, declined to say how much Trump paid him. Rudy Giuliani, who joined Trump’s legal squad in 2018, has said he’s working pro bono.

Some lawyers have been lucky enough to land multiple clients who have been interviewed by Mueller. William Burck, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, has snared three big-name clients: the former White House counsel Don McGahn, the ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon, and Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Meanwhile, key figures such as Manafort, Cohen and Stone have scrambled to raise funds from friends and the public to pay their hefty legal bills.

One of Cohen’s lawyers, Lanny Davis, helped set up the “Michael Cohen Truth Fund” last August to pay legal bills. In its first day, when Cohen flipped and pleaded guilty to paying hush monies to two women who alleged affairs with Trump to avoid embarrassment right before the election, the fund raised over $130,000 from some 2,000 donors. The fund, which had an initial goal of $500,000, by 6 December had roped in almost $179,000.

Old friends of Manafort, who was convicted on eight counts including bank and tax fraud and pleaded guilty to two other conspiracy charges, set up the Paul Manafort Defense Fund to corral small and big donations earlier this year but it’s unclear how much it has raised. The website touts Manafort’s “Life Time of Service” and says that the more resources he and his lawyers have, “the better chance of bringing out the truth”. A spokesman for Manafort declined to provide any details on how much the fund has raised.

Stone has used a few lawyers in recent months who apparently have dealt mainly with congressional investigators seeking documents or his testimony.

In a 6 December email appeal for funds for the Roger Stone Legal Defense Fund, Stone estimated his legal expenses could run as high as $2m. In a marketing twist, Stone touted a recent tweet from Trump thanking him for his “guts” for stating that he would never testify against the president. Stone’s eponymous fund also boasts a GoFundMe Page to bring in more money.

Some close Stone allies facing Mueller’s scrutiny have also made pleas for financial help and are pushing legal challenges against the special counsel – which do not come cheap.

Jerome Corsi, a Stone associate and fellow conspiracy theorist who told the Guardian he had spent about 40 hours talking to Mueller’s team and expected to be charged, estimates he’s already racked up a “couple hundred thousand dollars” in legal fees to his attorney David Gray. If he’s indicted and tried, Corsi said he might wind up with about $2m in legal bills. Those big bills are part of the reason he recently established his own website, Corsi Nation, which he has employed to raise funds.

Corsi has also been beefing up his legal team to go on the offense. Last month, Corsi recruited the veteran legal firebrand Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, to launch a legal attack on Mueller that accuses the prosecutor of criminal wrongdoing.

Similarly, Stone’s associate Andrew Miller, who has defied a grand jury subpoena, is getting outside legal help from the conservative National Legal and Policy Center and the attorney Paul Kamenar, who has filed a lawsuit with the US court of appeals in Washington arguing that Mueller’s appointment required congressional approval.

Kamenar told the Guardian that he expected to take the case to the supreme court. Peter Flaherty, who runs the center, said it had mailed about 2,000 of its supporters to help pay for the court challenges.

Another Stone associate, Michael Caputo, who has been interviewed by Mueller’s team, has helped raise funds to pay some legal expenses for Miller, say sources. Caputo, who compared his interview with Mueller prosecutors to a rectal exam by a “doctor with very large hands”, recently launched another GoFundMe venture to help Stone with a special “Guts Fund”, in a nod to Trump’s praise for his old friend.

Veteran attorneys and former justice department prosecutors say that the legal challenge to Mueller’s appointment is weak.

Bennett, now a senior counsel at Schertler & Onorato, agrees that both challenges seem without merit. Still, he adds that the legal fray sparked by the Mueller investigation has been a boon for many lawyers.

“These are field days for white-collar criminal lawyers.”

 

Cohen says Trump knew of hush payments, ‘doesn’t tell the truth’

December 14, 2018

by Susan Heavey

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump directed the payment of hush money to two women shortly before the 2016 U.S. presidential election and knew that doing so was wrong, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said in a television interview aired on Friday.

“He directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters,” Cohen told the ABC program “Good Morning America,” referring to the $150,000 paid to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the $130,000 paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Both women have said they had sexual relationships more than a decade ago with Trump, which the president and his representatives have denied.

Cohen, a former member of Trump’s inner circle who in the past called himself the president’s “fixer,” was sentenced on Wednesday in federal court in New York to three years in prison for campaign finance law violations related to the payments and other crimes to which he pleaded guilty.

Asked if Trump knew that payments were wrong, Cohen said, “Of course.”

Cohen bristled at Trump’s accusation that he was trying to embarrass the president and protect his own family.

“Here is the truth: The people of the United States of America, the people of the world don’t believe what he’s saying. The man doesn’t tell the truth, and it’s sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds,” Cohen said.

“I gave loyalty to someone who truthfully does not deserve loyalty,” Cohen added.

Trump has lashed out at Cohen as “weak” and accused him of lying. The Republican president told Fox News on Thursday Cohen did only “low-level work” for him, mostly in public relations.

Cohen, in his first televised interview since he was sentenced, said Trump was worried about the potential impact on the election if voters learned about the two women’s account of the alleged affairs. Cohen said Trump told him to pay them to keep quiet.

The payments were made “about two weeks or so before the election” following the release of a recording of Trump boasting to celebrity interviewer Billy Bush years earlier about grabbing the genitals of women, Cohen said. “So yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election,” Cohen said in the interview taped on Thursday, adding that the payments were intended “to help him and the campaign.”

Trump’s explanations of the payments have shifted over time. After earlier saying he knew nothing of the payments, Trump on Thursday said he never told Cohen to break the law.

LEGAL PRESSURE

The Cohen criminal cases have intensified the legal pressure on Trump, whose presidency has been clouded by multiple investigations and lawsuits including a U.S. special counsel probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and whether the president’s team conspired with Moscow to help him win. Trump has denied collusion. Russia has denied meddling in the election.

Trump previously acknowledged repaying Cohen for the $130,000 paid to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

In a deal with prosecutors, American Media Inc (AMI) [AMRCM.UL], the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper, said on Wednesday it paid the $150,000 in hush money to McDougal “in concert” with Trump’s campaign. AMI’s Chief Executive David Pecker was a long-time friend of Trump.

Trump told Fox News he did not think a payment was made to the National Enquirer.

Federal law requires the disclosure of contributions of “anything of value” to a campaign, and limits individual donations to no more than $2,700.

“This all suggests Trump could become a target of a very serious criminal campaign finance investigation,” a bipartisan group of lawyers, including George Conway, whose wife Kellyanne Conway works as a top Trump adviser, wrote in the Washington Post on Friday.

Cohen on Wednesday was sentenced to prison for the payments to the women as well as separate crimes of tax evasion, misleading banks and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Friday faulted the news media for “giving credence to a convicted criminal,” and called Cohen “a self-admitted liar.”

Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Makini Brice; Editing by Will Dunham and Kevin Drawbaugh

 

Big Washington clean-up bill leads House Democrats’ list

December 14, 2018

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When the Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives in three weeks, their first order of business is expected to be a wide-ranging bill about political corruption, voter disenfranchisement and cleaning up campaign finance.

Winning control of investigative committees, House Democrats are preparing to probe Trump’s businesses, his taxes and allegations of corruption among top administration officials.

House committees involved in crafting H.R. 1 are expected to examine oversight themes in the early weeks of 2019.

While the bill addresses long-standing problems in Washington, House Democrats say that Trump’s presidency has increased the need to strengthen democratic institutions.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry

 

Round five: Yellow Vests prepare for massive ‘Macron resign’ protest on Saturday

December 14, 2018

RT

Paris is bracing for yet another round of Yellow Vest protests, with demonstrators planning to take to the streets on Saturday. More than 10,000 people have already RSVP’d on Facebook to the ‘Acte 5: Macron Démission’ march.

The demonstration is scheduled to take place in the French capital on the Champs-Élysées.

The organizers, consisting of some 15 groups, have outlined their list of demands on Facebook, saying they will continue their action against Macron until all their demands are met.

“Our organizations support the demands of tax and social justice brought by the movement of yellow vests. They call for demonstrations Saturday, December 15, for social justice and tax, for a real democracy, for equal rights, for a true ecological transition…” the planners said in a statement, as quoted by Le Parisien.

Similar demonstrations are also expected to take place in other cities across the country.

Security officials are gearing up for the protests, with Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech stating that tens of thousands of cops will be deployed across France, and some 8,000 in Paris.

“We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” he said.

Delpuech told RTL that authorities are aiming to be in “better control” of the situation than they were last weekend, when more than 125,000 people hit the streets of France, 10,000 of whom protested in Paris.

Those demonstrations saw clashes between protesters and police, with officers deploying tear gas and water cannon on people who threw Molotov cocktails, burned cars, and vandalized stores. Over 260 people were injured and 1,700 detained across the country.

Ahead of the demonstrations planned for Saturday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was time for the Yellow Vest protesters to scale down their demonstrations and accept that they had achieved their aims, as Macron has granted concessions as a result of the rallies.

I’d rather have the police force doing their real job, chasing criminals and combating the terrorism threat, instead of securing roundabouts where a few thousand people keep a lot of police busy,” he said, just days after an attack at a Christmas market in Strasbourg killed four people and injured around a dozen others.

Earlier this week, Macron spoke to the nation in a televised address, saying he understood the concerns of protesters. In addition to canceling fuel tax increases that were scheduled to kick in next month, he said he would increase the minimum wage by 100 euros a month from January and reduce taxes for poorer pensioners, among other measures.

Even despite those concessions, Macron’s critics are still demanding that he resign, continuing to refer to him as “President of the Rich.”

 

Paris braces for fifth weekend of protests by gilets jaunes

Demonstrations to continue despite demands to call off action after Strasbourg attack

December 14, 2018

by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

The Guardian

Thousands of riot police and armoured vehicles will be deployed in Paris on Saturday as France anticipates a fifth weekend of anti-government protests in the capital and other cities.

Despite government pleas for the gilets jaunes protesters to call off street demonstrations in the wake of this week’s terror  attack in Strasbourg, many vowed to continue their struggle. The grassroots protest movement has continued all week on roundabouts and tollbooths, and authorities believe Saturday’s street marches will go ahead.

The gilets jaunes – named after the high-visibility yellow jackets worn by protesters – began as a revolt over an environmental fuel tax a month ago and has morphed into an anti-government movement against low incomes and tax inequality, with daily barricades on roads around the country. Weekly demonstrations in Paris each Saturday have been accompanied by rioting, arson and looting of shops on the edge of the protests.

Emmanuel Macron this week made concessions aimed at chipping away at the high level of public support for the movement. The president promised an effective rise in the minimum wage and tax-free overtime, and said he would exempt many pensioners from a highly unpopular tax he had imposed on them. The government had earlier rolled back the green fuel tax that sparked the protests.

But the movement shows no sign of stopping.

“It’s really the time to keep going,” Eric Drouet, a senior figure in the movement, said in a video posted on Facebook. “What Macron did on Monday was a call to carry on because he has started to give ground, which is unusual for him.”

After four people were killed, one was left in a coma and 11 others were injured in a gun attack in Strasbourg this week, the government appealed for Saturday’s marches to be called off, saying security forces would be too stretched.

“I find it inadmissible that today we are applauding our police and then tomorrow some people think it’s OK to go and throw stones at them,” the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Friday from Strasbourg.

The government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said: “It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again.”

Laetitia Dewalle, a protester from the Val-d’Oise, said: “We’re continuing – always in a peaceful spirit.” She said she understood that there had been rioting on the edges of demonstrations, but she added: “This movement itself is not violent. That’s not our way of doing things.”

Some other gilets jaunes have called for protests to remain local – at roundabouts and tollbooths, rather than in big cities.

Six people have died – mostly in road accidents – since the protests began, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

 

Facebook ‘sorry’ after new bug exposes millions of photos

Millions of Facebook users may have had their photos exposed to third-party applications due to a bug, the company managers said. The latest issue caps a year of embarrassing privacy breaches for the social media giant.

December 14, 2018

DW

Facebook’s chief engineer apologized on Friday after a new bug allowed app developers to “potentially” access photos of up to 6.8 million Facebook users.

The privacy breach lasted for 12 days, ending on September 25. During that time, around 1,500 third-party applications had access to photos shared on Facebook Marketplace or Facebook Stories, but also to pictures that user uploaded to their accounts but did not post.

“We’re sorry this happened,” engineering director Tomer Bar said in a message to developers, adding that the company has fixed the issue.

Early next week we will be rolling out tools for app developers that will allow them to determine which people using their app might be impacted by this bug,” Bar said. “We will be working with those developers to delete the photos from impacted users.”

Ireland to investigate

Facebook said it would send an alert through its social media platform to inform users who may have been affected. The notification would take them to a link that would list any apps they have used which could have accessed their photos.

Following the statement, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said it opened a probe into the company to see if Facebook complied with EU’s toughened privacy rules which took effect in May.

Friday’s announcement comes at the end of the year of scandals targeting the world’s largest social media platform.

Beyond Cambridge Analytica breach

In April, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before the US Senate over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, after the political consulting firm harvested private data of up to 87 million Facebook users for the 2016 election.

In June, Facebook confirmed sharing data with at least four large Chinese tech companies, including cell phone maker Huawei, which US intelligence agencies consider a national security threat. According to The New York Times, Facebook officials said the agreements with the Chinese companies gave them access similar to a deal offered to BlackBerry, which included detailed info on users and all of their friends, such as religious and political leanings, work, education history and relationship status.

Also in June, Facebook confirmed that some 14 million users had their default sharing settings changed to public for four days in May. In October, hackers obtained private data of around 29 million Facebook accounts.

The company also struggled to respond to reports on Facebook’s questionable lobbying practices, as well as claims that it had used a consulting company, Definers Public Affairs, to undermine critical US senators and attack companies such as Google and Apple through its affiliates.

 

Migrant caravan: Girl dies after being taken into custody at Mexico-US border

December 14, 2018

BBC News

A seven-year-old girl who US officials say tried to cross the Mexico-US border illegally with her family has died hours after being taken into custody.

The Guatemalan girl, who authorities there have named as Jackeline Caal, died of dehydration and shock, the Washington Post reports.

AP news agency quotes border officials as saying she had not had food or water for several days.

Thousands of migrants have travelled from Central America to the US border.

The migrants say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Many of them say their goal is to settle in the US despite warnings by US officials that anyone found entering the country illegally will face arrest, prosecution and deportation.

What do the US authorities say?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the girl was “apprehended with her father for illegal entry with a group of 163 illegal aliens” on Thursday of last week.

The US Border Patrol confirmed the girl started experiencing fever and seizures while in its custody.

She was flown to hospital in El Paso where she suffered cardiac arrest and died.

DHS head Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News: “It’s heart-wrenching. This is a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally.”

A department statement earlier said: “Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child.

“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathise with the loss of any child.”

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton tweeted that the incident reflected a “humanitarian crisis” on the border:

Last month, US border agents used tear gas on a crowd of migrants, including children, trying to cross the border.

The agents said that personnel had been assaulted and hit by stones.

However, critics accused the Trump administration of a draconian response, while Mexico demanded an investigation into the incident.

The migrants have travelled in large groups, dubbed “caravans”, for more than 4,000km (2,500 miles) from Central America.

Among them are many families with young children.

Donald Trump has vowed to keep each migrant on the Mexican side of the border until courts have decided their cases, meaning some face a long wait.

They have been spending time in temporary shelters in the Mexican border city of Tijuana and in Mexicali, 180km to the east.

Courts likely to strike down Republican lame-duck power grabs, experts say

After Democrats won governor’s races in Wisconsin and Michigan, GOP-controlled legislatures have tried to limit executive power

December 11, 2018

by Tom Perkins in Detroit, Michigan

The Guardian

Republicans in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina suffered stinging losses in November, but the parties aren’t transferring power quietly, or at all in some cases. On the way out the door, “lame-duck” state legislatures are bringing in last-minute laws that will strip power from incoming Democrats, gut voter-approved ballot initiatives, or otherwise undermine the election results.

But some legal experts say the most alarming legislation the Republicans have passed is unconstitutional and unlikely to survive outraged Democrats’ legal challenges.

Among other issues, they contend many of the Republican laws blur the constitutionally mandated separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

“One of the fundamental principles of the American constitutional system is that the legislature is not the whole government,” said Richard Primus, a professor of law at the University of Michigan. “The point of the constitutional system is that no decision-making system gets to act for the whole political community – the powers are separated.”

Still, Michigan Republicans are pushing through a bill that would strip authority over campaign finance from the Democratic secretary of state-elect. (The state previously hit the bill’s Republican author with multiple campaign finance violations.) The Michigan and Wisconsin legislatures are also granting themselves power to intervene in lawsuits over their unpopular laws, weakening incoming Democratic attorneys general. And last week the Wisconsin legislature passed laws that take power from the incoming Democratic governor, Tony Evers.

In response, Michigan Democrats are pointing to the state’s separation-of-powers clause, which reads in part: “No person exercising powers of one branch shall exercise powers properly belonging to another branch, except as expressly provided in this constitution.”

Primus, who is part of the left-leaning American Constitution Society, noted that the Michigan legislature wants authority to litigate, “but that’s not a legislative function – that’s enforcement of the law”.

In short, some experts see the moves as a dramatic overreach by one branch of government to grab powers in the domain of others: one probably doomed to fail when it is legally challenged.

In Wisconsin, the Madison-based attorney Lester Pines said the state’s constitution clearly spells out each branch’s duties, and the legislature “does not have the power to supervise the governor and attorney general in the manner in which they’re trying to do it”.

“They’re [power] grabs because the legislature should have known better than to become the supervisors of the governor and attorney general,” Pines said. “The legislators are not supervisors. They do not have executive authority.”

This has happened before. The Michigan and Wisconsin cases have a precedent in North Carolina, where the state supreme court ruled that most of the Republican lame-duck power grabs in 2016 were unconstitutional, pointing to that state’s separation-of-powers clause.

Billy Corriher, a senior researcher at the Institute for Southern Studies, a North Carolina-based progressive research and media group, noted that the clause was written into the state’s 1776 constitution.

Beyond the power grabs, Michigan Republicans are also in constitutionally questionable territory in their attempt to gut or dilute five popular citizen-led ballot initiatives or laws.

A Michigan attorney, Mark Brewer, is representing two citizen-led groups that each collected nearly 400,000 signatures to put on the November ballot proposals to raise the state’s minimum wage and mandate paid sick time. The GOP made the proposals law, then gutted them before the Democratic gove

Brewer said there were “very strong arguments that the Republican changes are unconstitutional” because the state constitution prohibits changes to citizen-initiated laws in the same legislative session. The GOP contends its changes do not affect “the spirit of the law”, but Brewer said that’s “plainly false”.

Voters approved three other initiatives – marijuana decriminalization, voting access expansion and the establishment of an independent redistricting commission to address gerrymandering – by wide margins in November. Brewer notes that proposed alterations could end up “in court through various routes” and there was a strong case to be made that they are unconstitutional.

Courts have also overturned Wisconsin and North Carolina’s attempts at voter suppression that many experts believe are aimed at discouraging minorities from voting. Still, in North Carolina, the legislature is currently rushing to enact a law that voters approved that would require official photo identification at the polling place. It’s similar to a law that federal courts twice shot down, but with a minor tweak – college identification cards and a new identification card that counties will issue can be used to vote.

Similarly, a 2011 lawsuit filed by the liberal issue advocacy group One Wisconsin Now resulted in a federal judge striking down Wisconsin Republicans’ attempts to suppress the vote by severely limiting early voting, among other measures. The lawsuit remains ongoing, but Republicans are again attempting to cut down on early voting. The new set of restrictions could represent a contempt of court, or be grounds for a new lawsuit, said Mike Browne, One Wisconsin’s deputy director.

Democrats’ chances in the state supreme courts are usually much better when they have a favorable partisan makeup. In North Carolina, liberals hold a 4-3 advantage, but in Michigan and Wisconsin conservatives hold 4-3 majorities. However, conservative judges have ruled against the party’s wishes in Michigan, and in Wisconsin Pines said Republicans were “sorely mistaken” if they believe “the supreme court is in its back pocket”.

“The court will be very cautious on separation of powers issues,” he added.

Regardless of the likely failure of their moves, some see the Republican tactics as having other political consequences.

Dan Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, said the North Carolina party’s moves in 2016 “in some sense energized the opposition”, which he said was partly why Republicans in 2018 lost supermajorities in both chambers despite the way the state had been gerrymandered.

“On the level of pure politics, I sometimes scratch my head over what they’re doing,” Weiner said. “In some ways, it’s very shortsighted.”

North Carolina governor vetoes photo ID bill

December 14, 2018

Reuters –

North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper on Friday vetoed a Republican-authored bill requiring voters to present photo identification, saying it would disenfranchise poor, minority and elderly voters.

Republicans have a large enough majority in the state legislature to override Cooper’s veto until January, when several Democrats who won seats in November will take office.

Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Chris Reese

 

November 2018 Disapproval Rating of Trump’s Presidency

December 10,2018

Morning Consult

On a daily basis, Morning Consult asks registered voters across the country what they think about President Donald Trump.

Every month we release those numbers to provide a detailed understanding of how Trump is viewed in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The data is estimated for each state using a statistical technique called multilevel regression with post-stratification. See the disapproval results below

 

AK      41%

AL       62%

AR      41%

AZ      49%

CA      61%

CO      53%

CT       58%

DC      78%

DE      55%

FL       47%

GA      46%

HI       58%

IA       52%

ID       40%

IL       58%

IN       45%

KS      46%

KY       40%

LA       37%

MA      60%

MD      60%

ME      53%

MI       52%

MN      53%

MO      43%

MS      39%

MT      43%

NC      47%

ND      46%

NE      45%

NH      55%

NJ       55%

NM      56%

NV      50%

NY      59%

OH      48%

OK      39%

OR      58%

PA       51%

RI       56%

SC      42%

SD      40%

TN      36%

TX       44%

UT      46%

VA      50%

VT       61%

WA     59%

WI      53%

WV     33%

WY      30%

A new Washington Post Fact Checker poll

December 14, 2018

by Glenn Kessler and Scott Clement

Analysis and fact-checking by Emily Guskin, Meg Kelly and Salvador Rizzo

The Washington Post

Trump routinely says things that aren’t true. Few Americans believe him.

For months, President Trump has claimed that U.S. Steel has announced plans to build more than six new plants. Throughout the midterm election, he repeatedly said that Democrats had signed onto an “open borders” bill. And he has long charged that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.

None of these claims is true. What’s more, most Americans don’t believe them, according to a new Washington Post Fact Checker poll.

Fewer than 3 in 10 Americans — including fewer than 4 in 10 Republicans — believe these or several other prominent claims by the president, according to the poll

The poll sought to determine what Americans believe — the truth or the president. The Post has never conducted this type of poll before and it serves as the most comprehensive examination of whether Trump’s false and misleading claims have taken root among the broader American public.

The survey included 18 pairs of opposing statements — one true, one false — without identifying who made the statement. Eleven questions gauging belief in false claims by Trump were mixed among four false claims by Democrats, a true claim by Trump and two probing other factual statements.

Only among a pool of strong Trump approvers — about 1 in 6 adults in the survey — did majorities accept several, though not all, of his falsehoods as true.

False claims commonly made by Democrats are more widely believed than those made by the president. For instance, 46 percent of adults incorrectly believe there are more people in prison for selling or possessing marijuana than for all violent crimes, an assertion made by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in June. That compares with 22 percent who correctly said violent criminals were more common in prison.

Where Americans get their information is a significant factor in determining what they believe.

Among adults who say Fox News is one of their top two sources for political news, 33 percent believe in Trump’s false claims tested in the poll, on average, compared with 21 percent of those who say Fox is not a main news source.

Americans who count MSNBC and CNN as one of their top two news sources are somewhat more likely to reject Trump’s falsehoods but are also more likely to believe false statements made by Democrats. On average, 44 percent of MSNBC viewers and 40 percent of CNN viewers believe false Democratic claims, compared with 30 percent of those who say MSNBC is not a primary news source and 28 percent who do not primarily watch CNN.

People who say NPR or newspapers are one of their top two news sources are among the least likely to believe false claims by Trump, averaging 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

The poll finds that Americans see Trump’s rhetoric as distinctly inaccurate compared with other politicians and the mainstream media, which Trump regularly derides as “fake news.” While majorities say each regularly makes misleading statements, nearly half say Trump makes claims that are “flat-out false,” compared with less than one-third who say the same of Republicans and Democrats in Congress or of the mainstream media.

More than 6 in 10 Americans say they believe fact-checking organizations when they conclude that Trump has made a false claim. Just about half are confident in similar assertions in newspapers and on cable news.

Since becoming president, Trump has made 6,420 false or misleading statements through Oct. 30, including more than 4,400 this year, according to a database maintained by the Fact Checker.

Unlike many politicians who will abandon an untrue claim when fact-checked, Trump generally repeats his falsehoods. To capture this phenomenon, the Fact Checker this week introduced the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new category awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation. Fourteen of the president’s statements qualify for the list.

One of those — Trump’s assertion that he has started building his long-promised wall along the southern border, which he has said nearly 100 times — found little support in the poll.

The survey finds that 26 percent of Americans believe the statement, “Construction has begun on a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.” About twice as many Americans, 51 percent, accurately selected the description that, “There is ongoing repair of fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico, but no wall is being built.” Roughly one-quarter said they were unsure.

Most of Trump’s base, however, believes that a wall is being built, with 56 percent of those who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance embracing that assertion.

Overall, 44 percent of Trump’s strongest supporters believe his false claims, while 35 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats believe them.

The Post poll also suggests Republicans have grown less concerned about presidents being honest than they were a decade ago. In 2007, an Associated Press-Yahoo poll found 71 percent of Republicans saying it is “extremely important” for presidential candidates to be honest, similar to 70 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents. The new Post poll shows identical shares of Democrats and independents prioritizing honesty in presidential candidates, but the share of Republicans who say honesty is extremely important has fallen to 49 percent, 22 points lower than in the AP-Yahoo poll.

A separate question in the Post poll finds that clear majorities across party lines say it is never acceptable for political leaders to make false statements. But 41 percent of Republicans say false claims are sometimes acceptable “in order to do what’s right for the country,” while 25 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents say the same.

While belief in false claims by Trump is generally low, the public’s ability to identify a true alternative varied widely depending on the question, with many saying they were unsure which of the two statements were true.

Americans are most unsure about the false claim that U.S. Steel has announced plans to build more than six steel plants in the United States. Just 12 percent of adults say Trump’s claim is true, though fewer than one-quarter correctly identify the true statement that U.S. Steel has announced plans to restart two blast furnaces at one existing plant. Nearly two-thirds say they are unsure which claim is true.

On climate change, the survey shows fairly little debate. President Trump has repeatedly suggested global warming is a hoax, only recently backtracking to say he thinks it is occurring but not caused by humans. But 65 percent of adults endorse the accurate statement that the global temperature has been increasing in recent decades mainly because of human activity. By contrast, 19 percent endorse a statement saying that temperatures have been rising because of natural causes, not human activity. Again, strong Trump approvers are the outliers on this question, with 51 percent siding with the inaccurate statement.

One result from the survey suggests doubts about Trump’s honesty may lead some to be skeptical of him when he says things that are true. Trump often accurately says that the U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest level in roughly 50 years, but less than half of adults, 47 percent, believe this is true.

Partisans do not always differ in their acceptance of inaccurate Trump statements. Thirty-nine percent of Democrats believe Trump’s oft-repeated statement that U.S. military spending is currently at a record high, narrowly higher than the 34 percent of Republicans who say this. Defense spending is currently lower than a recent peak in 2010, as well as during World War II in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Trump was particularly careless with the truth at his raucous 2018 campaign rallies. The Fact Checker evaluated two Trump campaign rallies in July and September and found at least 70 percent of Trump’s factual assertions were false or misleading.

The Post poll finds little connection between watching Trump’s rallies and believing his false claims. Americans who report watching rallies on TV or in-person are seven percentage points more likely than others to believe false claims made by Trump, but rally watchers are also six points more apt to accurately identify the true alternative claim to Trump’s falsehood.

About this story

This Washington Post Fact Checker poll was conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 10, 2018 among a sample of 1,025 adults interviewed through the AmeriSpeak Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Interviews were conducted online and by landline and cellular phones. The margin of error for overall results is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

 

The MERS Fraud

December 14, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Although only bankers are aware of it, there is a second wave of economic disaster starting to build up that will make the earlier one pale into insignificance. Let us start out with MERS, shall we?

MERS = Mortgage Electronic Registration Inc.holds approximately 60 million Amerrican mortgages and is a Delaware corporation whose sole shareholder is Mers Corp. MersCorp and its specified members have agreed to include the MERS corporate name on any mortgage that was executed in conjunction with any mortgage loan made by any member of MersCorp. Thus in place of the original lender being named as the mortgagee on the mortgage that is supposed to secure their loan, MERS is named as the “nominee” for the lender who actually loaned the money to the borrower. In other words MERS is really nothing more than a name that is used on the mortgage instrument in place of the actual lender. MERS’ primary function, therefore, is to act as a document custodian. MERS was created solely to simplify the process of transferring mortgages by avoiding the need to re-record liens – and pay county recorder filing fees – each time a loan is assigned. Instead, servicers record loans only once and MERS’ electronic system monitors transfers and facilitates the trading of notes. It has very conserbatively estimated that as of February, 2010, over half of all new residential mortgage loans in the United States are registered with MERS and recorded in county recording offices in MERS’ name

MersCorp was the created in the early 1990’s by the former C.E.O.’s of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Indy Mac, Countrywide, Stewart Title Insurance and the American Land Title Association. The executives of these companies lined their pockets with billions of dollars of unearned bonuses and free stock by creating so-called mortgage backed securities using bogus mortgage loans to unqualified borrowers thereby creating a huge false demand for residential homes and thereby falsely inflating the value of those homes. MERS marketing claims that its “paperless systems fit within the legal framework of the laws of all fifty states” are now being vetted by courts and legal commentators throughout the country.The MERS paperless system is the type of crooked rip-off scheme that is has been seen for generations past in the crooked financial world. In this present case, MERS was created in the boardrooms of the most powerful and controlling members of the American financial institutions. This gigantic scheme completely ignored long standing law of commerce relating to mortgage lending and did so for its own prsonal gain. That the inevitable collapse of the crooked mortgage swindles would lead to terrible national reprecussions was a matter of little or no interest to the upper levels of America’s banking and financial world because the only interest of these entities was to grab the money of suckers, keep it in the form of ficticious bonuses, real estate and very large accounts in foreign banks.. The effect of this system has led to catastrophic metldown on both the American and global economy.

MERS, it has clearly been proven in many civil cases, does not hold any promissory notes of any kind.. A party must have possession of a promissory note in order to have standing to enforce and/or otherwise collect a debt that is owed to another party. Given this clear-cut legal definition,  MERS does not have legal standing to enforce or collect on the over 60 million mortgages it controls and no member of MERS has any standing in an American civil court.

MERS has been taken to civil courts across the country and charged with a lack of standing in reprossion issues. When the mortgage debacle initially, and invevitably, began, MERS always rotinely broght actions against defauilting mortgage holders purporting to represent the owners of the defaulted mortgages but once the courts discovered that MERS was only a front organization that did not hold any deed nor was aware of who or what agencies might hold a deed, they have been routinely been denied in their attempts to force foreclosure.  In the past, persons alleging they were officials of MERS in foreclosure motions, purported to be the holders of the mortgage, when, in fact, they nor only were not the holder of the mortgage but, under a court order, could not produce the identity of the actual holder. These so-called MERS officers have usually been just employees of entities who are servicing the loan for the actual lender. MERS, it is now widely acknowledged by the courty, has no legal right to foreclose or otherwise collect debt which are evidenced by promissory notes held by someone else.

The American media routinely identifies MERS as a mortgage lender, creditor, and mortgage company, when in point of fact MERS has never loaned so much as a dollar to anyone, is not a creditor and is not a mortgage company. MERS is merely a name that is printed on mortgages, purporting to give MERS some sort of legal status, in the matter of a loan made by a completely different and almost always,a totally unknown enitity.

In essence, not only bad credit risks were used to create and sell mortgages on American homes that were essentially worthless. By grouping all of these together and selling them abroad, the banks all made huge profits. When the kissing had to stop, there were two major groups holding the financial bag. The first were the investors and the second were, not those with weak credit, but those who had excellent credit and who were able, and willing to pay off their mortgages.

Unfortunately, as no one knows who owns the title to any home, when the legitimate mortgage holder finally pays off his mortgage, or tries to sell his house, a clear title to said house or property cannot ever be found so, in essence, the innocent mortgage payer can never own or sell his house. This is a terrible economic time bomb quietly ticking away under the feet of the Bank of America and if, and when, it explodes, another bank is but a fond memory.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

December 14, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

 

Conversation No. 51

Date: Saturday, November 30, 1996

Commenced: 11:30 AM CST

Concluded: 11; 45 AM CST

 

RTC: I was reading over your analysis of the present political and business status and I thought it was interesting. At least I thought your final conclusions were not at all outrageous. But I should caution you against sending such things to Kimmel or Bill. Kimmel would be outraged and Bill will pass this on to Langley because that’s what he does.

GD: None of that surprises me, Robert. I was just stating the obvious. At least it is obvious to me. I suppose if you read history, everything is so compressed and obvious but if you are living it, the end is not always clear. Distance is always important in making conclusions. People don’t like to do this because they want this or that kind of ending so they twist and distort the obvious to suit themselves. When I was writing such reports in the Army, I learned very quickly on not to express attitudes that were opposite of my superiors, no matter how obvious they might be.

RTC: A manifestation of early survival instinct, Gregory.

GD: Yes, why not? No one cares about inconvenient truths but they dearly love convenient lies. But the truth is still there, isn’t it?

RTC: Yes, but we never see it until it’s too late.

GD: The French Revolution was entirely predictable but only if you could stand back from it. Not a revolt of the masses but initially a perfectly reasonable desire for a burgeoning middle business class to gain parity with the great triumvirate: The Monarchy, the Nobility and the Church. Of course the latter trio did not want to share power and the ensuing struggle spilled over and the mob got it. Reasonable beginnings but terrible endings.

RTC: But could have anyone foreseen the end?

GD: Good point. A few but not the ones that mattered. A Polish writer, Bloch, very accurately foresaw the deadly trench warfare of the First World War but at the time he wrote, the great bulk of military theorists had more conventional views so no one heard him. Afterwards, of course, he became famous. At the time, not. The same with my views.

RTC: I must confess, Gregory, that I am a little conventional and predictions of social upheaval, anarchy and economic collapse are a bit alien to me.

GD: Yet you were accustomed to predict such things in other governments you wanted to either replace or destroy. Correct?

RTC: Well, we fomented more than one revolution and collapsed more than one economy but we didn’t predict these things, Gregory, we made them happen. You don’t plan to make a revolution or collapse our economy.

GD: No, I don’t. But if you see a man building a house on the beach, doesn’t it occur to him that a good storm might easily topple it? After all, Robert, the Bible says this but, of course, it’s only common sense.  No empire, and we have an empire now, ever lasted forever. Rome did not and England did not. They rise and they fall. It will be the same with us. After two major wars, we rule. Of course we contested with Russia but since we were better grounded economically, we survived. They may yet come back but it’s not for certain. I see China as our immediate rival but they have uncontrolled capitalism under the control of an aging dictatorship and I would predict that they will shoot up economically and this boom will frighten the leaders. Money creates the desire for power and an empowered mass is very dangerous. And we learned after 1929 that if our marketplace had no controls, it would indulge in peak or collapse on a regular and very destructive basis. Remove these controls would be like blowing up a dam and flooding all the countryside below it. Money for a few and disaster for the rest. Clinton has not encouraged this decontrol but God help us if the right wing ever gets into power. We have all kinds of fiscal dinosaurs waiting in the wings, mating with the lunatics of the religious right and they may yet have their day. Unfettered markets and Jesus in every home, no stores open on Sunday and the Ten Commandments in every classroom. Oh, and not to mention a stake through the heart of the evil Darwin. Nuts. The world is only 6,000 years old and the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s mythical flood. Action and reaction. If that dismal project comes to pass, there will be a reaction, believe me.

RTC: But your predictions of revolution?

GD: People get bored sometimes, Robert, get tired of taxes and dream of some kind of social paradise where everyone is equal. Who knows what monsters are waiting to be born? But the economy is based on credit and like a Ponzi scheme, credit has its limits. You can only use it so far and no further and if we go too far with our credit cards and loans, the end can be easily seen as the python said as he wrapped himself around the tree.

RTC: Well, it won’t happen during the rest of my lifetime, Gregory. Perhaps in yours.

GD: Probably. We need a Bismarck now but we won’t get him. Democracy is its own worst enemy, Robert. Greed, lack of coordination, corruption, and God alone knows what else. And our national education system is a horror. We are cranking out generations of the illiterate and ill-informed and these know-nothings will eventually get into power. Then we need all the help God can give us. Well, we always get what we pay for, don’t we? Political correctness is idiotic. We should teach our children to question, to evaluate and to analyze, not bleat in their pens like placid sheep. It’s like trying to stab someone with a pound of butter.

RTC: (Laughter) Well, a fat and comfortable public….

GD: Yes, a fat public. Well, it’s only a matter of conjecture, isn’t it? What is it the Bible says? While we are in the light, let us walk in the light for the darkness cometh. Something like that. Enough realistic pessimism for the day, Robert. I recall telling Kimmel, when I found out he taught Sunday school, that he ought to let his little charges read the Song of Solomon and he had a fit. But, I told him, it’s in the Bible so it can’t be wrong. He didn’t see it that way. One dimensional. Never ask questions because you might not like the answers. The truth will not make you free but cause spastic colon. Anyway, I like to speculate, Robert, that’s all. If a dam is leaking, is it wrong to predict a collapse?

RTC: The real estate people down below it would not approve of such sentiments.

GD: No, but they probably live on higher ground.

 

(Concluded at 11:45 CST)

 

 

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