Island Obliteration

This is simply a horrible story and I have no comment. . . .

from Business Insider

F-35s and F-15s just obliterated an entire Iraqi island to root out ISIS fighters

by Ellen Ioanes        Sep. 10, 2019, 12:55 PM

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US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-35 Lightning II aircraft dropped 80,000 pounds of bombs on an island in Iraq’s Salah al-Din province believed to be used as a transit point for ISIS fighters between Syrian and Iraqi cities.

“We’re denying Daesh the ability to hide on Qanus Island,” Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve’s Special Operations Joint Task Force, said in a press release, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Although President Donald Trump said earlier this year that ISIS was defeated, the militant group has been resurgent in Iraq and Syria, at least partly because of Trump’s decisions to pull troops out of Syria, create a diplomatic vacuum in Iraq, and focus attention in the region on Iranian activity.

On Tuesday, US and Iraqi forces dropped 80,000 pounds of munitions on Qanus Island, in Iraq’s Salah-al-Din province, to destroy what Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) called a “safe haven” for ISIS fighters traveling from Syria into Iraq.

“We’re denying Daesh the ability to hide on Qanus Island,” Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, the commander of OIR’s Special Operations Joint Task Force, said in a press release, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Myles Caggins tweeted a video of the operation on Tuesday morning that shows bombs carpeting the tree-lined island from end to end, saying the island was “Daesh infested.”

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Airstrikes on Qanus Island, Iraq, on September 10.
—OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) September 10, 2019

Air Force Central Command tweeted an additional statement, saying that the strikes come at the “behest of the Iraqi government” and that Qanus Island is believed to be “a major transit hub and safe haven for Daesh.”

A spokesperson for OIR told Insider that ISIS casualties were still being assessed but that there were no casualties for the coalition or the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services. A small cache of abandoned weapons was found on the island, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the number of ISIS militants on the island at the time of the strike was unknown.

After the group’s supposed defeat in March, the Islamic State regrouped in Syria and Iraq, partly as a result of troop withdrawal in Syria and a diplomatic vacuum in Iraq, according to a Pentagon Inspector General’s report. The report also blamed Trump’s focus on Iran for the resurgence, saying that the administration’s insufficient attention to Iraq and Syria also contributed to ISIS’s ability to regroup, even though it has lost its caliphate.

While ISIS is not nearly as powerful as it once was — the Pentagon estimates the group has only 14,000 to 18,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria at present, compared with the CIA estimate of between 20,000 and 31,500 in 2014 — it is still carrying out assassinations, crop burnings, ambushes, and suicide attacks.

OIR said that it targeted the area because ISIS militants were using the tiny island to transit from Syria and the Jazeera desert into the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Makhmour, and the Kirkuk region. The dense vegetation there allowed militants to hide easily, according to OIR.

The airstrikes, carried out by US Air Force F-35 Lightning II and F15 Strike Eagles, came in the midst of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s new policy to consider flights in Iraqi airspace hostile unless they are preapproved or a medical emergency. That policy took effect on August 15. These aircraft typically carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are precision-guided air-to-surface munitions.

According to the release, Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services are carrying out additional ground operations on the island to “destroy any remaining Fallul Daesh on the island.”

Posted in Governance, Small Island

Barbuda Two Years After Hurricane Irma — Same ol’, same ol’

Not, we all hope, a model for the reconstruction of the northern Bahamas after Dorian.

from the on-line Antigua Newsroom, as linked for us by Kevel Lindsay <https://antiguanewsroom.com/barbuda-two-years-after-hurricane-irma/ >

Barbuda Two Years After Hurricane Irma

September 5, 2019

(PRESS RELEASE)

Barbudans await proactive action by decision makers in the regional judicial system to commit to hearing four high profile court cases that remain unresolved. Four legal actions have been filed over the same amount of years, ‘challenging’ the government’s changes to centuries old land tenure system and introducing unsustainable and speculative development to the island, without consulting with the people of Barbuda.

The pending cases were filed against the Government of Antigua and Barbuda from 2015 going through to 2018 as follows:

  • 2015 Mackenzie Frank v Attorney General, Barbuda Council and Paradise Found (Robert De Niro).
  • 2016 Trevor Walker MP, Mackenzie Frank and 110 Petitioners v Attorney General and Paradise Found (Robert De Niro).
  • 2018 Trevor Walker MP, Mackenzie Frank, Wayde Burton and Barbuda Council v Attorney General.
  • 2018 John Mussington and Jackie Frank v Development Control Authority (DCA), Antigua and Barbuda Airports Authority (ABAA), The Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda and the Barbuda Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs.

Two of the cases are pending in the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and two still are pending at High Court level on Barbuda’s ‘sister isle’, Antigua.

John Mussington a Barbudan living in Barbuda stated, “The extensive delay and lack of progress with our recovery feels like a deliberate ploy by the government to punish Barbudans for rejecting its version of ‘development’ plans, and to discourage return and re-establishment of the community. We as a people are dedicated to tackling these issues head on; we will not give up.”

As Barbudans at home and around the world reflect on the lack of consistent progress with the rebuilding and revitalisation of the island post Irma, sustainable development planning and ethical government conduct is still very much a critical area of global public interest.

Since Hurricane Irma impacted Barbuda on September 5 2017, islanders of Barbuda have faced a bitter battle between speculative development and traditional land tenure. More recently concerns have been raised that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda have been brokering deals and allowing the lease of lands, under the new Barbuda Land Act of 2018 by allowing land to be bought and sold converting leases into freehold.

An example of such a deal involves the Coco Point Lodge lease. Coco Point Lodge is the first hotel in Barbuda, and it was built in 1959. The lease was purportedly purchased by John Paul DeJoria, a global entrepreneur and billionaire, with his partners John B. Turbidy and Steve Adelson joined together through The Peace Love and Happiness Partnership (PLH) as the leaseholders and financial sponsors of Barbuda Ocean Club. They, in conjunction with the Discovery Land Company, an Arizona, USA based group, are developing the Barbuda Ocean Club, a community advertised as a private residential resort community. Through this deal and one previously brokered with the collective by the Government of Antigua of Barbuda, DeJoria-Turbidy-Adelson group was granted a whopping 834 acres of land, including land that has been designated in 2005 as protected wetland sites under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

Natasha Lightfoot, Associate Professor in the Columbia University Department of History noted, “Small islands in the region bear the brunt of industrialized nations’ cavalier approach to the environment. The images of the Bahamas recall Barbuda, the US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St Martin, Anguilla and Puerto Rico 2 years ago. A category 5 + hurricane arrival produces more than a repeating island – it’s the recurrence in nature of the violence of extractive capitalism in colonial contexts.”

Lawyer Beverly George, of Antiguan and Barbudan descendent now based in New York recalled, “The centuries’ old maxim, that justice delayed is justice denied is clearly apparent here. While Barbudans wait for their cases to be heard, and for their government to deliver essential services, their lands are being traded for the modern-day equivalent of beads and trinkets, without their input. Unless real action is taken by the Council, the government and the courts, justice for Barbudans’ will most certainly be denied and small victories, if any, will be rendered pyrrhic. “

Mussington added, “I will say this again, we as Barbudans need to be consulted and kept abreast of the government’s intentions. We will defend our right to participate in the planning and to direct our own development. Given the continued dire situation in Barbuda post Irma, forced evacuation and prolonged exclusion from returning we must ask: Wealth and jobs for whom, at what cost and what consequences? The elimination of Barbudans as a people with a unique culture and history? The abolition of our communal land system and redundancy of our local government system and our Council? Destruction of our Lagoon National Park, designated RAMSAR Convention site and home to our magnificent Frigate Bird? Menial, transient jobs for some? Not on our watch, we deserve better.”

There is continued collective concern among the island’s population about what the impact will be of the selling of leases for approximately 100 residences at Coco Point and a further 450 residences at Palmetto, whilst pristine protected coastline and mangroves are being destroyed daily as building work continues.

Media Contact:

Barbuda Silent No More

www.facebook.com/barbudasilentnomore

Email: barbudasilentnomore

Posted in Fun

The Unbreakable Virgin Islanders — 2017 was REALLY TOUGH.

Article from the St. John Tradewinds < https://www.stjohntradewinds.com/filmmaker-focuses-on-unbreakable-virgin-islanders/ >

Filmmaker Focuses on ‘Unbreakable Virgin Islanders’
By Tradewinds Staff – September 3, 2019

Photo Caption: Peter Bailey introduces his documentary to a group of Virgin Islanders at the Helen Mills Theater in Manhattan. (Source photo by Shaun Pennington)

Journalist Peter Bailey’s anger at the failure of national media outlets to acknowledge the fortitude of Virgin Islanders after the historic hurricanes of 2017 spurred him to document the story himself.

On Saturday, Bailey screened his film, “Paradise Discovered: The Unbreakable Virgin Islanders,” for a small gathering of mostly Virgin Islanders at the Helen Mills Theater in Manhattan.

“We were the only place in modern history to survive two Cat 5 storms in two weeks,” Bailey said, speaking of the U.S. Virgin Islands as he introduced the film. “That makes us legendary people.”

Bailey was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

During the 81-minute documentary that he began filming in March 2018 Bailey interviewed friends, family members and government officials about their experience of epic hurricanes Irma and Maria, which slammed the Virgin Islands two weeks apart in September 2017, and the long, drawn-out aftermath that continues.

One of the featured officials, then-education commissioner Sharon McCollum, spoke of immigrating to the Virgin Islands from Louisiana in the early ’80s, driven by the Civil Rights Movement of her youth and her experience as a person of color in the South and partly because of the lure of the physical beauty of the U.S. Virgin Islands. She also outlined the plan she developed to get Virgin Islands children back into makeshift classrooms after the devastation of the storms.
The other reality that McCollum addressed along with others in the film, was the massive exodus that occurred. Thousands of people left by any means possible in the wake of “Irmaria,” as the two back-to-back super storms were dubbed.

For those who didn’t or couldn’t leave, Bailey poignantly depicted the particular hardships faced by families with elderly and ill members by openly revealing his own story.

Bailey, who has lived in Miami for 14 years, happened to be at home on St. Thomas when Irma struck. He made the decision to stay through Maria as well. His father, a former pastor, had been suffering from Alzheimers, leaving his then 74-year-old mother along with his brother as primary care givers for the nearly 80-year-old Stephen Bailey.

Bailey’s mother and brother, Marcus, figure prominently in the film along with some friends in his Frydenhoj neighborhood.

Along with his love of family and friend’s Bailey’s deepest commitment is to young people, who are also featured in “Unbreakable Virgin Islanders.” At the Miami Herald, he wrote a series titled “On the Margins,” that won the 2007 award for best education reporting throughout Florida from the Society of Professional Journalists. On his NiteCap show, Bailey interviews entertainers and news makers before a live audience of young people, and discusses social issues that are pertinent to his young followers.

Saturday’s showing was the 16th for the film Bailey intends to enter into several film festivals. Many of the prior screenings have occurred at universities and colleges, including the University of Southern California; Bailey’s alma mater, the University of Delaware; and Brown University. Bailey’s interest in education and young people is foremost in his drive to create meaningful arenas where young people can be heard and also informed, he said, which makes showing the film at schools a natural choice.

The film is dedicated to Bailey’s father, who died in September 2018.

Original Source: https://stjohnsource.com/2019/09/03/filmmaker-focuses-on-unbreakable-virgin-islanders/

Posted in Fun

At Last! An Understandable ICE Policy

News in Brief from The Onion

ICE Opens Interdimensional Detention Center To Indefinitely Imprison Immigrants Across Infinite Number Of Multiverses

Today 11:36am

BRANE MULTIVERSE 378-C—In an effort to better comply with recent moves to abolish limits on migrant detention, ICE officials announced Thursday that they planned to open an interdimensional detention center to indefinitely imprison migrants across an infinite number of multiverses.

“With our new hyperspace-based detention center, we’ll be able to adhere to new White House policies by confining migrants in an endless number of variations of possible universes where earthly concepts such as ‘time’ and ‘eternity’ cease to have any meaning,” said ICE acting director Matthew Albence from the newly built detention center, adding that bending spacetime upon itself would expand the agency’s capacity to 700 vigintillion detainment cells while allowing them to hold asylum-seekers without trial in relativistic stasis for expanses of time eclipsing any experienced in the known universe.

“The important thing is that we use tools such as hyperdimensional chambers to ease crowding in a humane way, such as by causing unlawful immigrants to simply vanish into an ultra-dense black hole from which no matter or light can ever return.”

At press time, Albence confirmed that the agency was also exploring using quantum entanglement to allow for them to simultaneous reunite and separate immigrant families an endless number of times along parallel timelines.

[Admittedly, it’s still not humane, but now it’s understandable because it’s so obviously Klingon.    bp]

Posted in Fun, Governance

US Set to Produce Most Oil Next Decade

The reputable Global Witness web site (based in the UK) has an excellent analysis of projected oil and gas production for the next ten years which predicts that 60% of the new global oil and gas production for that period will come from the United States.

Future global oil and gas production - Pie chart

This remarkable state of affairs has massive implications for US global energy policy, especially as our oil and gas production is used (or NOT) to support actions that affect global climate change.

The link below will download a short factsheet that summarizes the Global Witness analysis,and the URL for the Global Witness web site above provides additional links:

US_oil_and_gas_Factsheet_GlobalWitness

Finally, it needs to be emphasized that projections of large scale oil and gas production are notoriously unreliable because of commercial and international political manipulation (or hiding) of the source data. Nonetheless, the Global Witness data are important because they imply a range of US policy drivers that may be new to many policy managers.

Posted in Climate Change, energy, Fracking

Knee-Capping Core Responsibilities of Critical Federal Agencies (yet again)

From Catherine Rampell’s column in the on-line Washington Post <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-draining-the-swamp–of-needed-experts/2019/08/08/7ec457e4-ba12-11e9-a091-6a96e67d9cce_story.html> , print edition on August 9th, 2019.

Opinions

For Trump and his cronies, draining the swamp means ousting experts

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Mick Mulvaney at the Justice Department in Washington on July 11, 2018.
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

By Catherine Rampell
Columnist
August 8 at 5:42 PM

Once upon a time, President Trump pledged to “drain the swamp.”

This resonated with lots of Americans, who resented the ecosystem of interest groups rigging government in their favor: corrupt officials, revolving-door lobbyists, palm-greasing executives and the network of pseudo-think tanks and analysts funded by industries trying to pass off propaganda as impartial research.

In other words, those who use money and access to accumulate more money and access.

It’s been hard to square these promises with Trump’s recent interest in commuting the prison sentence of pay-for-play poster child Rod Blagojevich, the corrupt former Illinois governor who tried to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Or Trump’s appointment of so many industry executives and lobbyists to senior government positions.

Or why so many people seeking favors from this administration — a Federal Reserve Board appointment, a merger approval, forbearance of murder — conspicuously stay at Trump-owned properties.

At last, the mystery of this apparent broken swamp-drainage promise has been solved. Turn outs what Trump and his cronies meant by “the swamp” wasn’t regulatory parasites or crooked officials, but experts.

When the Forgotten Man expressed rage at “swamp creatures,” he probably wasn’t envisioning civil servants with subject-matter expertise — career diplomats who speak Persian, say, or scientists who evaluate water quality. And yet the Trump administration has celebrated brain drains at the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other agencies and advisory councils.

The latest, most egregious example involves the Economic Research Service, an independent statistical agency at the Agriculture Department.

The small-but-mighty ERS is arguably the world’s premier agricultural economics agency. It produces critical numbers that farmers rely on when deciding what to plant and how much, how to price, how to manage risk; and that other stakeholders and public officials use to evaluate agricultural policy.

However, because it is independent, the ERS produces research that the Trump administration sometimes finds inconvenient, such as who has really been helped by his tax cuts, how climate change might affect agriculture or how his trade wars hurt farmers.

The administration’s solution to these inconveniences? Blowing up the agency altogether.

In June, the Agriculture Department informed employees at the ERS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which manages $1.7 billion in scientific funding, that they were moving to “the Kansas City Region,” precise location TBD. Employees had 30 days to decide whether to uproot their families or lose their jobs.

As of July 26, only 116 employees agreed to relocate, according to a USDA spokesperson. That’s about 20 percent of those initially asked. Representatives from the employees’ union, the American Federation of Government Employees, told me they expect even fewer to ultimately move, since some employees who said they’d relocate are searching for other opportunities.

The Trump administration is celebrating.

“You’ve heard about ‘drain the swamp,’ ” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said to cheers at a Republican Party gala last week, while recounting the departures of scientists, statisticians and economists. “What you probably haven’t heard is what we are actually doing.”

Mulvaney’s comments, alas, have caused some problems for the USDA, which officially justified the abrupt move as a way to “attract and retain” talent, be closer to “stakeholders” and reduce costs by moving to a less expensive city.

That explanation was always laughable, of course. The union was told the relocation will require three separate moves (from D.C. to the current temporary office, then to another temporary one and finally to a permanent location). Right now, managers are being flown back and forth from Washington to Kansas City in 2½-day shifts to oversee a handful of new hires. None of this seems particularly cost-efficient or talent-friendly.

This purported “swamp draining” may cause legal problems, too.

Days after Mulvaney’s remarks, a new report from the USDA’s inspector general found the move might have violated budget law (since Congress never appropriated relocation funds) as well as internal department regulations.

The many departures also look likely to leave the ERS unable to produce reports required by statute. For example, this fall the ERS is slated to update its estimates for the input costs needed to grow wheat; Congress uses these estimates to determine how to help farmers become more competitive with counterparts overseas. But the entire existing team that produces such reports is either retiring or otherwise departing.

Again, maybe that’s the goal.

“We do research that’s apolitical, unbiased, comprehensive, good-quality,” an ERS employee told me, under condition of anonymity due to fears of retaliation. “When we’re not there, Congress relies on other sources of information — think tanks and lobbyists, whoever’s got the biggest donor. That’s who they listen to because there’s no authoritative source for them to go to.

In other words, who benefits from draining the fake “swamp”? The real one.

Read more:

Mitch Daniels: Get Washington out of Washington. Put it in Omaha.

The Post’s View: Moving USDA research agencies is part of Trump’s war on science and statistics

Catherine Rampell: The Trump administration’s war on statistics isn’t slowing down

Gale A. Buchanan and Catherine E. Woteki: At Trump’s Agriculture Department, science is being plowed under

Robert J. Samuelson: The rise and fall of America’s ‘policy entrepreneurs’

Posted in Governance

No-take marine areas help fishers (and fish) far more than we thought

[Good overview of current research in a fast changing theme, but neglects the importance of rigorously enforced MPAs as “seed stock” in post disaster recovery after massive events such as mega hurricanes — this effect is being observed in some of the Eastern Caribbean areas affected by the hurricanes of 2017.]

The Conversation < https://theconversation.com/no-take-marine-areas-help-fishers-and-fish-far-more-than-we-thought-119659 >
Academic rigor, journalistic flair (check URL above for pretty pictures)

No-take marine areas help fishers (and fish) far more than we thought

July 3, 2019 3.58pm EDT

Authors

Dustin Marshall, Professor, Marine Evolutionary Ecology, Monash University

Liz Morris, Administration Manager, Monash University

Disclosure statement:

Dustin Marshall receives funding from Australian Research Council.

Liz Morris does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

Monash University

Monash University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation AU.

One hectare of ocean in which fishing is not allowed (a marine protected area) produces at least five times the amount of fish as an equivalent unprotected hectare, according to new research published today.

This outsized effect means marine protected areas, or MPAs, are more valuable than we previously thought for conservation and increasing fishing catches in nearby areas.

Previous research has found the number of offspring from a fish increases exponentially as they grow larger, a disparity that had not been taken into account in earlier modelling of fish populations. By revising this basic assumption, the true value of MPAs is clearer.

Read more: Protecting not-so-wild places helps biodiversity
Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas are ocean areas where human activity is restricted and at their best are “no take” zones, where removing animals and plants is banned. Fish populations within these areas can grow with limited human interference and potentially “spill-over” to replenish fished populations outside.

Obviously MPAs are designed to protect ecological communities, but scientists have long hoped they can play another role: contributing to the replenishment and maintenance of species that are targeted by fisheries.

Wild fisheries globally are under intense pressure and the size fish catches have levelled off or declined despite an ever-increasing fishing effort.

Yet fishers remain sceptical that any spillover will offset the loss of fishing grounds, and the role of MPAs in fisheries remains contentious. A key issue is the number of offspring that fish inside MPAs produce. If their fecundity is similar to that of fish outside the MPA, then obviously there will be no benefit and only costs to fishers.

Big fish have far more babies

Traditional models assume that fish reproductive output is proportional to mass, that is, doubling the mass of a fish doubles its reproductive output. Thus, the size of fish within a population is assumed to be less important than the total biomass when calculating population growth.

But a paper recently published in Science demonstrated this assumption is incorrect for 95% of fish species: larger fish actually have disproportionately higher reproductive outputs. That means doubling a fish’s mass more than doubles its reproductive output.

When we feed this newly revised assumption into models of fish reproduction, predictions about the value of MPAs change dramatically.
Author provided

Fish are, on average, 25% longer inside protected areas than outside. This doesn’t sound like much, but it translates into a big difference in reproductive output – an MPA fish produces almost 3 times more offspring on average. This, coupled with higher fish populations because of the no-take rule means MPAs produce between 5 and 200 times (depending on the species) more offspring per unit area than unprotected areas.

Put another way, one hectare of MPA is worth at least 5 hectares of unprotected area in terms of the number of offspring produced.

We have to remember though, just because MPAs produce disproportionately more offspring it doesn’t necessarily mean they enhance fisheries yields.

For protected areas to increase catch sizes, offspring need to move to fished areas. To calculate fisheries yields, we need to model – among other things – larval dispersal between protected and unprotected areas. This information is only available for a few species.

We explored the consequences of disproportionate reproduction for fisheries yields with and without MPAs for one iconic fish, the coral trout on the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the few species for which we had data for most of the key parameters, including decent estimates of larval dispersal and how connected different populations are.

No-take protected areas increased the amount of common coral trout caught in nearby areas by 12%. Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/Flickr, CC BY

We found MPAs do in fact enhance yields to fisheries when disproportionate reproduction is included in relatively realistic models of fish populations. For the coral trout, we saw a roughly 12% increase in tonnes of caught fish.

There are two lessons here. First, a fivefold increase in the production of eggs inside MPAs results in only modest increases in yield. This is because limited dispersal and higher death rates in the protected areas dampen the benefits.

However the exciting second lesson is these results suggest MPAs are not in conflict with the interests of fishers, as is often argued.

While MPAs restrict access to an entire population of fish, fishers still benefit from from their disproportionate affect on fish numbers. MPAs are a rare win-win strategy.

It’s unclear whether our results will hold for all species. What’s more, these effects rely on strict no-take rules being well-enforced, otherwise the essential differences in the sizes of fish will never be established.

We think that the value of MPAs as a fisheries management tool has been systematically underestimated. Including disproportionate reproduction in our assessments of MPAs should correct this view and partly resolve the debate about their value. Well-designed networks of MPAs could increase much-needed yields from wild-caught fish.

Before you go…

The Conversation aims to rebuild trust in experts and promote more informed public debate. Our independent fact-based journalism is essential for a healthy democracy. Your support enables us to keep our content free and accessible.

Beth Daley

Editor and General Manager
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Posted in Fun