Tag Archives: Amy Alkon

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/17: (Part One) The Frankenmedia

Wait, how does that go again? What is it that “dies in darkness”?

Good morning (or, as I first typed it, “good monging”), everyone!

1 CNN’s walking, talking, “mistake…CNN’s alleged ethics watchdog, Brian Stelter, is really an embarrassment. He sees his job as defending the news media, not making its conduct better through objective criticism. He especially works up a sweat defending CNN, perhaps the most rooutinely unethical of all…but then, CNN pays his salary, the fools. He’s useless.

In a podcast,, both he and CNN token conservative S.E. Cupp blamed the mean conservative media and commentators unfairly dwelling on “mistakes” to undermine public trust in journalism.  See Rationalization #19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

This is a legitimate defense if, in fact, an individual has been accused of not being perfect.  Usually, however, it is an attempt to minimize the significance of genuine misconduct. When an act suggests that more than an honest mistake or single instance of bad judgment was involved, and that an individual’s conduct indicates a broader lack of character or ethical sensitivity, “Nobody’s perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” are not only inappropriate and irrelevant, but are presumptively efforts to change the subject. The fact that nobody is perfect does not mean that it isn’t necessary and appropriate to point out unethical conduct when it occurs. It also does not argue for failing to make reasonable assumptions about the ethical instincts of the actor if and when the unethical nature of conduct strongly suggests that it is not an aberration, but a symptom.

Though nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, we are all still accountable for the mistakes we make.

It’s not a mistake when CNN shows itself to be blatantly biased, it’s dishonest and a breach of integrity. It’s not a mistake when CBS, ABC and NBC refuse to report a Democratic Senator’s trial for bribery  until  it ends in a mistrial, its deliberate refusal to report the news. (CBS recently devoted 45 second to the President drinking from a water bottle.) It’s not a mistake when NBC reinstated a news anchor (Brian Williams) who was shown to have lied repeatedly, its contempt for journalism, and irresponsible. It’s not a mistake when ABC ignores basic conflict of interest principles to allow former Clinton staffer and current Clinton Foundation donor George Stephanopoulos to interview both Hillary Clinton (nice, easy interview)and the author of a book criticizing her (hostile interview), it’s incompetent journalism. Etc, meaning I could go on for, oh, 50,000 words or so without having to check my notes.

The fact that CNN lets an unqualified dolt like Stelter talk about ethics isn’t a mistake either.

When mistakes—and fake news, the description of misconceptions as facts, and bias-driven choices regarding which stories to cover and which to bury are not mistakes—by professionals reach a critical mass, they implicate trust.

2. Like THIS mistake, for example…Here, courtesy of Newsbusters, is veteran CNN journalist Gloria Borger spinning for Al Franken:

Borger …immediately went into spin mode by downplaying the fallout, stating that KABC radio host Leann Tweeden “did not call for him to step down or say he ought to step down” and didn’t render an opinion upon being told an investigation had been launched.

Gloria really needs to 1) read Ethics Alarms and 2) take Ethics 101. What a victim chooses to say about an unethical act that harmed her doesn’t alter the seriousness of the act in any way.

From there, Borger continued proving this segment as one of political tribalism, declaring that what matters most is “the context in which all of this occurring, which is Moore — Judge Moore — and that has been, you know, brewing and percolating, whatever you want to say, for days and days and days.” 

In other words, “Look over there!” This is also Ethics 1o1 stuff: Whether the conduct of individual A is better or worse, the unrelated conduct of individual B must be judged on its own ethics breaches. Borgia is appealing to Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” (This is also the current favorite of my Facebook friends, who are embarrassing themselves. At least they aren’t posing as journalists.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/31/2017: A Hate Outbreak, A Bigoted Judge, A Lost Post, And More Halloween Ethics

Good Morning!

1 On Facebook, many of my progressive friends literally expressed glee at yesterday’s indictments, especially at the charge that Paul Manafort had engaged in “conspiracy against the United States.” Lots of social media users were expressing similar sentiments, the thrust being that they were excited that two individuals who worked for the Trump campaign were facing criminal charges…simply because they worked for the Trump campaign. This cackling mob hadn’t read the indictment, or if they did, they didn’t understand it. They just were engaging in free-standing hate by association.

The reaction is not sort of like, but exactly like, what I called  the “Ugliest moment of election night”: Trump’s crowd chanting “Lock her up!” as the upset electoral victory approached. Criminalizing the political process is not the way of democracy, and rooting for people’s lives to be ruined because of their partisan alliances is disgusting. Who among the people so thrilled to see Manafort and former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos being prosecuted know anything about them other than the fact that they worked for the President’s campaign? What do they think justifies cheering their indictment? Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about when he tried to meet with Russians claiming to have damning Hillary Clinton e-mails—which, I hope you know (and I bet the Facebook mob doesn’t) isn’t a crime.

Last night, Stephen Colbert, the full-time attack jester of “the resistance,” said of the indictments, “I know it’s almost Halloween, but it really feels more like Christmas!” What an idiotic and hateful thing to say, as well as a statement that is misleading to his audience, who naturally would think that the action implicates the President and the White House in something. (It doesn’t.)

2. Colbert also engaged in gratuitous race-baiting, because dividing the country along racial lines and promoting racial distrust is apparently what progressives think is funny and cool. Noting that the charges against Paul Manafort were filed on Friday but that he didn’t have to turn himself in until Monday Colbert smirked,  “Wow, we white people really do get arrested differently.” The “joke” is untrue, and racist in its own implications, suggesting that only whites commit white collar crimes and are regarded as low flight risks, while blacks commit the violent crimes and robberies that lead to immediate arrests.

These are ugly, mean-spirited people, poisoned by ugly, mean-spirited thoughts.

You can quote me.

3. Judge W. Mitchell Nance, a Kentucky judge, resigned after judicial ethics charges were filed against him as a result of his refusing to preside over any same-sex couple adoption cases. Nance announced that he would not  participate in  gay adoption matters in April, when he issued an order saying he was recusing himself from such case, arguing that adoption by a gay couple would never be in the best interest of a child.

The judicial misconduct complaint filed last month argued that Nance’s order violated the judicial ethics canons requiring judges to promote confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, to be faithful to the law, and to refrain from showing bias or prejudice.

It does. Good riddance. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week, And A Few Related Diversions

My son is named after this President, incidentally.

The quote itself is by Ron Chernow, the historian who authored the recent well-reviewed biography of out 18th President, “Grant,”  “Hamilton,” the biography that inspired, we are told, the mega-hit musical. and “Washington” (won’t somebody send a copy to the fools at Christ Church?) was given to an interviewer as his description of another book, the Philip Roth’s historical novel  “The Plot Against America”:

[A] democracy can be corrupted, not by big, blaring events, but by a slow, insidious, almost imperceptible process, like carbon monoxide seeping in under the door.

Some random thoughts on this statement, which I believe is exactly right, and a lot more interesting than the more frequently used analogy about boiling a frog slowly:

  • Grant, as Chernow’s book (among others of recent vintage) documents, was present at one of those points when democracy seemed to be in the process of being poisoned, and acted forcefully.

By 1868, when Grant was elected to succeed Andrew Johnson, who had done everything he could to allow the South to resist extending civil rights to the newly freed slaves, the KKK had evolved into a powerful terrorist organization that referred to itself as  “The Invisible Empire of the South.” Under the  Klan’s first  “Grand Wizard,” the brilliant former Confederate cavalry general  Nathan Bedford Forrest, whites from all classes of Southern society joined the Klan’s ranks. They attacked and punished newly freed blacks for crimes like  behaving in an “impudent manner” toward whites, brutalized the teachers of  schools for black children, and burned schoolhouses. It also terrorized and often murdered Republican party leaders those who voted for Reconstruction policies.  In Kansas over 2,000 murders were committed as the 1868 election approached; in Louisiana, a thousand blacks were killed in the same period.

Grant entered office knowing that the Civil War victory could come apart. He made some bad appointments–Grant was naive about politics and trusted too easily—but his choice as Attorney General, Amos T. Akerman, was masterful. With Grant’s support, and the with the help of the newly created Justice Department under Grant, he vigorously worked to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed tough restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new state governments. Between 1870 and 1871, the Republican Congress passed and Grant signed into law the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, officeholding, or jury service by blacks. Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations.

  • When I was growing up and becoming interested in the Presidents, a life-long passion that led me to both law and ethics, Grant was routinely listed as one of the worst in the line. All one heard from historians was about the financial scandals that rocked his administration. Grant’s great success in subduing the Klan was literally never mentioned. The main Presidential historian then was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a member of Jack Kennedy’s inner circle. His job as he saw it was to minimize the contributions of any Republican President, like Teddy Roosevelt (“near great” in his rankings), Eisenhower (“below average”) and Grant (“failure’). Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson, who dragged the U.S, into the first World War, botched the Versailles Treaty and who actively revived the Klan, being a stone-cold racist, was “great.” Naturally, I believed all of his distortions, which were largely those of the historians at the time, then, as now, often partisans and propagandists. It took me a while to realize that this had been my first encounter with the Left attempting to alter present perception by controlling the past.

That is one of the major sources of Chernow’s carbon monoxide today, except that the disinformation now emanates from the schools, colleges, and the news media. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: David Brooks, Channeling Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter

First, a bit of a disclaimer:

In his Monday column for the New York Times, David Brooks evoked Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter‘s 1998 book “Civility” to recommend how reasonable people should engage with “fanatics.” I like the quote a lot, with this caveat: Brooks makes it clear, as almost all Times op-eds do now, that by “fanatic” he means all those strange, nasty, stupid, hateful people who don’t subscribe to the New York Times world view and progressive cant. As a result, I have to take Brooks’ words with several grains of sea salt, and indeed try to forget that they are coming from a pundit who has at other times implied that President Trump should be removed from office regardless of whether he actually does anything that would meet the standards required by the impeachment clause or the 25th Amendment.

That and other opinions he has put into print–always in the measured words of the intellectual he styles himself to be—marks him as a fanatic in my book, just one operating under the cover of gentility and intellectual rhetoric. Now, it would have been easy for Brooks to dispel my suspicions and also to have a larger audience for his wisdom had he chosen, as his example of a fanatic, a member of the antifa, or a college student who believes that conservatives should be censored, or any number of leftist nut cases who are as plentiful now as the autumn leaves. But no. Brooks knows that wouldn’t endear himself to his colleagues like Paul Krugman and Charles M. Blow, so his first example of a fanatic, and his only American one, was “a Trump supporter” who threatened him at a baseball game.

Thus Brooks’ column manages to be condescending and arrogant, as well as partisan, because of his failure to harness his biases. The substance of his quote, however, comes via Terry Teachout, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, the critic-at-large of Commentary and a thoughtful moderate for an arts guy, and through Amy Alkon, a moderate conservative feminist Trump-hating blogger and author, and Professor Carter, who seems like a reasonable and not especially political sort. This is enough, I think, to cleanse Brooks’ words of their inherent hypocrisy. Deciding that those who disagree with you must be the fanatic in the conversation is, after all, a poor starting point for a productive discussion.

With those reservations and qualifications, here is the quote: Continue reading

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Now THIS Is A Witch Hunt…The Bitter Actress’s Old Score

 

Cross and Yi

Actress Charlyne Yi ( you may remember her on “House”—well, maybe not)  tweeted last week :

“I think about the first time I met David Cross 10 years ago & he made fun of my pants (that were tattered because I was poor). Dumbfounded I stared at him speechless and he said to me ‘what’s a matter? You don’t speak English?? Ching-chong-ching-chong.’

“I will say this: I can tell the difference between this man making a joke vs condescending me,” Yi wrote later. “This happened 10 years ago and I sure as hell hope he’s changed (or at the very least, he’s scared enough to not be his racist self).”

Now Cross, a very funny improvisational comic and actor best known for “Arrested Development” (he was also in the first two “Men in Black” films) is being attacked on social media as a a racist. He purports to be flummoxed.

“I don’t remember this at all!” he said in a tweet this week. Cross later tweeted to Yi,

“Charlene, i dont remember this at all! It’s bonkers to me and WAY, way out of character. DM me so I can understand all of this.”

Mark this down as one more way social media allows people to be worse human beings, and makes the world a meaner, nastier place.

Yi, who has obviously held a grudge for a long, long time (Career just didn’t work out the way you hoped, eh?) exploited social media to get some media buzz by accusing a colleague of being a jerk ten years ago. This, in turn, calls down on Cross’s head the Web Furies, harms his reputation, and there isn’t a thing he can do to defend himself, whether he said what she claims, or not.

This is a blinding Golden Rule breach by Yi. Who among us would like to have this happen—a bad moment in a single personal interaction suddenly made public just to cause us humiliation and embarrassment? It seems as if Yi, lacking a salacious story of being propositioned, assaulted or raped by Harvey Weinstein, decided to see if recounting the time David Cross was a jerk to her could get some cheap publicity. And it worked! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/23/2017: Special “Love Him, Hate Him Or Tolerate Him, Ya Gotta Admit President Trump Isn’t Boring” Edition

I don’t know about you, but I was getting mighty sick of those “morning” shots…

GOOD MORNING!

1 Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter who writes powerfully and is not afraid to take unpopular positions, has been as critical of Trump as any rational pundit. She writes in her latest column, that the news media has misrepresented Trump’s U.N. speech, which, she says further,  was what the U.N. “needed to hear clearly and unequivocally.” She adds,

A great line—because it spoke a great truth—was this: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” Mr. Trump then paused and looked at the audience. It struck some as a “please clap” moment. It struck me as a stare-down: I’m saying something a lot of you need to hear. You’re not going to like it, and I’m going to watch you not like it.

… Mr. Trump is on a roll, a sustained one the past few weeks, and this is new. All levels of government performed well in the hurricanes. Mr. Trump showed competence, focus and warmth. His bipartisan outreach, however it ends, went over well with core supporters and others. He had a strong speech at the U.N., in fact a successful U.N. week, beginning to end. His poll numbers are inching toward 40%.

Noonan meets the ethical standard that the mainstream news media, critical pundits and “the resistance” have relentlessly breached: give the President credit when it’s due, and subdue bias to engage in objective analysis for the public;s enlightenment.

2. Ann Althouse, also noting that the President’s poll numbers have been creeping up (a. Not that much b. Who trusts polls? c. So what?), polled her readers regarding why they thought this was happening. Her options were mostly the right ones, though Peggy’s “bi-partisan outreach” was conspicuously missing…

“Hurricanes”—these sorts of natural disasters are usually opportunities for Presidents to play President, and that seldom is anything but enhancing to a POTUS’s image. Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster was a perfect example. Trump gets less credit than he deserves because the news media works hard to represent anything he does in a negative light.

“Kim Jong Un”—Since so many progressives believe that we should keep allowing North Korea to extort the West by endlessly appeasing it, it is hard to see Trump’s hard-line stance moving the needle.

“U.N. Speech”—unless American read it, which few have, I assume the (false) mainstream narrative that it was a disaster prevails.

“Normalization happened”—THAT’s certainly wrong. If it means that General Kelly has made a big and positive difference, then OK. The Wite House is certainly more normal than it was, but far from normal.

“Russia collusion story fading”: “The resistance” is still certain that Trump bartered to win the election and will be impeached for it. Facts, evidence and reality are irrelevant to them.

“Successful policies have been implemented”—In fact this is true, but again, the only ones who know it are pro-Trump partisans,  the small number of citizens who dig through the static and fog of mainstream media Trump Hate, and those who don’t think any retreat from the inexorable progression to open borders, socialism and Big Brother is a tragedy.

“Nothing’s gone horribly wrong (yet)”: The Trump Deranged think that everything has already gone horribly wrong, and that we’re all going to die. Here is a typical Facebook post from a good friend this week:

Trump IS deranged. And we’re all going to pay for it. Am I surpised that a hermetic totalitarian proto-monarchy has created a Kim Jong Un? No, it’s completely predictable and logical. That the US of A has elected someone who is NO better whatsoever than Kim, and in some ways quite worse, is the unforgivable aspect of this whole equation.

“Bad things like The Wall and repealing Obamacare seem to have been merely campaign bluster”Nah. Lots of other things were bluster; these were just impossible.

But I voted for this one, also supported by my friend’s crazy post: “Trump haters are tiresome.” “Tiresome” is professorial nice-speak for “So vile, un-American and unhinged that if they want one thing, sane and fair and rational citizens will increasingly prefer the opposite.”  The category includes “tiresome” public figures like the Late night “comedy” show hosts, Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, Hollywood, MSNBC, Maxine Waters, the New York Times, CNN, Black Lives Matter, Tom Perez, Elizabeth Warren, and, of course, Hillary Clinton. It’s pure cognitive dissonance.

Naturally that choice is also leading in votes, followed by hurricanes, North Korea, and the UN speech.

3. As always, when the President is feeling cocky, he lets loose with dumb tweets and inflammatory comments just to remind us that he’s not going to change. This morning he reacted to San Francisco Warriors super-star Steph Curry saying that he “didn’t want to go” to the White House when the President hosts the traditional visit from championship sports teams, tweeting,

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

Stipulated: this is petty, and beneath the President’s office, like 99% of his tweets. It shows thin skin and vindictiveness, and is punching down in the sense that any attack on a citizen from the White House is punching down.

And yet, and yet…I have to say I smiled when I read it. It is damaging for athletes and cultural role models to be disrespectful to the President, the Office, and the country. Curry was gratuitously rude, and deserves a rebuke…just not from the President of the United States.

(I still hope Trump retracts the invitation to the whole team.)

The other outburst, also involving sports, is indefensible.

At a Huntsville, Alabama rally for Republican Senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special GOP primary election to remain in the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump went off script and said,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country…But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”

Ugh. Owners have a right to discipline players for bringing politics onto the field. When a President tells them to, that  edges too close to government action, chilling speech, and a First Amendment violation.

On the other hand, one does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to detect an uncoordinated but pervasive effort in the news media, academia, the tech sector, show business and Hollywood, and now sports, to flood the culture with so much progressive propaganda and anti-Trump bile that government becomes impossible. The effort has to be countered, but the President is not the proper one to counter it. Still, the integrity and functioning of our democracy is at stake.

4. In Ann’s “Successful policies have been implemented” category, except I would call it “essential polices,” was the expected withdrawal of the Obama Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter that prompted universities to dispense with due process and fair standards when finding male students guilty of sexual assault and rape. Blogger Amy Alkon, another rational Trump critic, nonetheless enthusiastically and definitively slapped down an awful, ethics-devoid Times op-ed that, as the Left is wont to do these days, argued that the innocent until proven guilty standards and equal justice should be re-calibrated for the greater good, which is to say, for the benefit of favored groups. Alkon writes of the feminist authors,

[T]hey clearly aren’t looking for justice for all, but just justice for some: typically, the woman. They continue:

The preponderance of evidence standard is also survivor-centered. When judging whether someone has been raped, it’s almost impossible to assert that a sex act constituted violence “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Our justice system in this country involves erring on the side of freeing a possibly guilty person in hopes of seeing that innocent people are not imprisoned. The fact that it is sometimes hard to judge a “he said”/”she said” case does not change that.

On the other side, and in Althouse’s  “Trump haters are tiresome” ( “tiresome”= frequently biased, ignorant, dishonest, undemocratic, unfair, vicious and hypocritical, as well as dumb as bricks) category, we have this tweet from snarky female comic Chelsea Handler:

“Thank you @betsydevos for making it easier for rapists going to college to get away with raping innocent women. What a role model…”

Anyone who thinks that is clever or true needs to—quickly— read the Constitution, perhaps with a literate translator, maybe a U.S. history book or two, and get at least a rudimentary understanding of the principles underlying the United States and its values.

_____________________________

Graphic: heartist

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/13/17: Mansplaining, More Climate Change Hype, And Shut Up And Sing, Stevie…

Good Morning!

1 Keep it up, you ignorant exaggerators, liars and hypers. Keep it up. Eventually people of good will and functioning brains will figure out that you and whatever movements you crave lack integrity and decency, and rely on manipulation and fake news from a news media that decries fake news.

2. Yesterday, Stevie Wonder began yesterday’s Hand In Hand Telethon to raise money for hurricane recovery by  by saying, “Anyone who believes that there’s no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.”

Good-bye, Hand In Hand Telethon! In fact, good-bye all such telethons, forever. The last one featured professional asshole Kanye West announcing that President Bush was deliberately leaving blacks unrescued, while weenie Mike Myers stood there next to the rapper like gutless tool he is. I switched off Stevie and his ignorant pals and watched the Red Sox slaughter the Oakland As and reruns of “Criminal Minds.”

I know you aren’t especially educated or astute beyond your musical genius, Stevie, but that means that you should keep your half-baked opinions off national live TV and out of the ears of people who admire you and are as ignorant as you are (See here). Since global warming cannot credibly or definitively be blamed for any single weather event, Stevie’s inappropriate outburst was a complete non sequitur. The existence of two big hurricanes isn’t evidence of climate change. We could have experienced two hurricanes of the same or greater power if there were no climate change, or if the world were cooling. We know this because we have experienced stronger hurricanes long, long before anyone was arguing about global warming. Thus it would have been equally appropriate for Stevie to declare, “Anyone who doesn’t think Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame is an idiot,” or “Anyone who doesn’t think Brussels sprouts are yummy is an idiot.” Thanks for sharing, but what exactly does it have to do with helping hurricane victims?

Sensing an opportunity, many celebrities, elected officials and pundits have been  acting like blind, under-educated pop singers. The proper analogy would be the periodic attempts to use mass shootings by unstable people who obtained guns in ways that wouldn’t be blocked in any way by proposed gun policy changes to create a wave of emotion, polls and blind (sorry, Stevie, but you started it) anger that would force new restrictions on individual rights.

When this happens, my personal reaction, as it was to gun control mania after the Sandy Hook shooting, is to say, “OK, that’s it. I was generally in favor of some reasonable policy measures to respond to this problem, but since you advocates for them keep lying, spinning, and using misleading statistics and false arguments, I’m out. I don’t trust you to draft or implement such policies, and as long as liars, cheaters and fools like you are on that side, I’m on the other. Get back to me when you stop lying.” Continue reading

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