themcglynn.com

16 Feb

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

The Guardian>>

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

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Activists aim to raise awareness of sustainable design and the need to reduce emissions from flights

Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Store X on the Strand, London.

Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Store X on the Strand, London. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA

Activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) blocked traffic outside a London fashion week venue on Saturday and also staged a protest at Gatwick airport.

Dozens of demonstrators prevented traffic from passing through a busy intersection leading to the Strand in Westminster, where the fashion trade show was being held.

Protesters carried placards reading: “No more false fashion” and “No fashion on a dead planet,” while others wore dresses made from chains.

Last week, XR members delivered a letter to the British Fashion Council, calling for it to cancel the next London fashion week, due to be held in September.

Sara Arnold, who helped coordinate the protest, said: “London is home to the cutting edge of sustainable and ethical design and yet London fashion week lags behind.

“And despite having an active political engagement programme, you have done almost nothing to lobby for environmental policies, without which a transition with the urgency we need is simply impossible.

“We have all failed, but now radical leadership is required. We need you, the British Fashion Council, as appointed industry administrators, to find the power and courage to centre a visionary process and protocol, without delay.”

A handful of activists held a peaceful demo at Gatwick in Sussex, including one man dressed in a tiger onesie, to raise awareness of aircraft pollution.

XR activists in disguise gathered in the airport’s south terminal at about 9.30am before revealing themselves.

Protesters were instructed to arrive incognito and pretend to be waiting to meet someone amid fears they would not be allowed in the airport.

The group of about 10 activists unveiled their full complement of XR banners, shirts and badges, and began mingling with the public.

Passengers landing on flights from Salzburg, Madrid and Kingston were greeted by the protesters.

Dan Burke, 16, a youth activist, said: ”We are already in climate crisis. We need to act now and, as we have seen in history, one of the best ways to bring forward actual legislation is to be in nonviolent disobedience.”

Leaflets handed out apologised for the disruption but said: “We need your help.”

A post on Facebook for the Gatwick Action event said: “Let’s get the message out – change can happen – and those who fly have the opportunity to make a big contribution by cutting their flights.”

World Politics

United States

After Watergate, we worked for impartiality. Trump, Roger Stone and William Barr have dragged us back to the swamp

Richard Nixon in 1973, Donald Trump in 2019.

‘If a president can punish enemies and reward friends through the administration of justice, there can be no justice.’ Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said.

My first job after law school was as an attorney at the Department of Justice (DoJ). I reported for work September 1974, weeks after Richard Nixon resigned.

In the years leading up to his resignation, Nixon turned the justice department and FBI into his personal fiefdom, enlisting his appointees to reward his friends and penalize his enemies. He brought conspiracy charges against critics of the Vietnam war, for example, and ordered the department to drop an antitrust case against ITT after the conglomerate donated money for the 1972 Republican convention.

During the Senate Watergate investigation, Nixon’s stooges kept him informed. Reports about how compromised the justice department had become generated enough public outrage to force the appointment of the first Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox.

Before Nixon’s mayhem was over, his first two attorneys general were deep in legal trouble – John Mitchell eventually served 19 months in prison – and his third resigned rather than carry out the demand to fire Cox.

Trump seems determined to finish Nixon’s agenda, making the justice department a cesspool of partisanship

Watergate also ushered into politics a young man named Roger Stone – who, as it happens, also graduated from my small rural high school in Lewisboro, New York, although I didn’t know him. Stone’s first job was on Nixon’s 1972 campaign, working for the Committee to Re-elect the President, known then, and forevermore, as Creep. Stone joined some two dozen dirty tricksters hired to lie about, harass and dig up dirt on Democrats

After Nixon resigned, the entire slimy mess of Watergate spawned a series of reforms designed to insulate the administration of justice from politics.

During the years I worked at the justice department, officials teamed up with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders with the goal of making justice the most independent part of the executive branch.

“Our law is not an instrument of partisan purpose,” said Edward Levi, Gerald Ford’s attorney general.

Griffin Bell, appointed by Jimmy Carter, described the department as “a neutral zone in the government, because the law has to be neutral”.

Regulations were put into place to insulate the FBI and DoJ from political interference. The FBI director was given a 10-year term. A protocol allowed for the appointment of outside prosecutors. US attorneys were to be independent.

White House officials and justice department lawyers weren’t supposed to exchange information about ongoing criminal investigations or civil enforcement actions. A 2007 memorandum allowed the department to advise the White House of criminal or civil enforcement matters “only where it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective”.

Now we’re back to where we were 50 years ago. Trump seems determined to finish Nixon’s agenda of rigging elections and making the justice department a cesspool of partisanship. In Trump’s 2016 campaign, even Stone was back to his old dirty tricks of issuing lies and conspiracy theories, and seeking dirt on a Democratic opponent.

Trump has out-Nixoned Nixon: firing FBI director James Comey after asking him to “let go” of an inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interactions with Russian officials; repeatedly calling the Russian inquiry a politically motivated “witch-hunt”; urging the firing of the FBI’s No 2 official because of alleged Democratic allegiances; launching an assault on special counsel Robert Mueller’s own investigation; and appointing a lapdog attorney general, William Barr, to do whatever the president wishes.

Barr has out-Nixoned Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell: whitewashing Mueller’s conclusions; defending Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine seeking dirt on Joe Biden; defending Trump during the House impeachment; refusing to enforce congressional subpoenas; opening an “intake process” for dirt Rudy Giuliani dredges up on Trump’s political opponents; and continuing to respond to Trump’s every whim including, this week, suggesting Stone should get a milder sentence than the one career prosecutors recommended.

In November, Stone was convicted of obstructing Congress and seeking to intimidate witnesses. This week, prosecutors recommended Stone be sentenced to between seven and nine years in prison. Applying federal sentencing guidelines, they reasoned that Stone deserved it because he had threatened to harm a witness – to whom he sent the message “prepare to die” – and his conduct had resulted in “substantial interference in the administration of justice”.

“This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” Trump tweeted, early the next morning. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

Hours later, Barr decided to seek a more lenient sentence.

“The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses,” a spokesman said.

In response, the career prosecutors filed notices in court of their intention to leave the case. One wrote that he was resigning as an assistant US attorney and leaving government altogether.

The incident caused such an uproar that on Thursday Barr was forced to declare in a TV interview that he wouldn’t be “bullied” and that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job”.

But anyone who has watched Barr repeatedly roll over for Trump saw this as a minimal face-saving gesture. As if to underscore Barr’s subordinate role, on Friday Trump tweeted that he has the “legal right” to meddle in cases handled by the DoJ.

Trump’s view is that he has ultimate power – an “absolute right” – to control the justice department.

That’s as wrongheaded now as it was when Nixon held the same view. If a president can punish enemies and reward friends through the administration of justice, there can be no justice. Justice requires impartial and equal treatment under the law. Partiality or inequality in deciding whom to prosecute and how to punish invites tyranny.

A half-century ago, I witnessed the near dissolution of justice under Nixon and the enablers then drawn to him, such as Roger Stone. I served in the justice department when it and Congress resolved that what had occurred would never happen again.

But what occurred under Nixon is happening again. Trump neither understands nor cares about justice. He cares about nothing but himself. Like Nixon, he has usurped the independence of the Department of Justice for his own ends.

Unlike Nixon, Trump won’t resign. He has too many enablers – not just a shameful attorney general but also shameless congressional Republicans – who place a lower priority on justice than on satisfying the most vindictive and paranoid occupant of the White House since Richard Milhous Nixon.

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14 Feb

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

The Guardian>>

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

View All>>

If a company that made its name in oil wants us to believe it can be part of the climate solution, it needs to stop drilling

Bernard Looney

‘BP’s new boss, Bernard Looney, seems to be banking on the “net” in net zero doing a lot of heavy lifting.’ Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

BP’s got a new boss, Bernard Looney. He doesn’t wear a tie, he’s on Instagram and he’s going to shrink its carbon footprint to “net zero” by 2050. Is this for real?

It’s a sign the tide is turning. Maybe not enough to save us from catastrophic sea-level rises, but a turn nonetheless. The oil industry is incredibly savvy when it comes to public opinion, and can see the steady erosion of its “social licence to operate” (a company’s ability to go about its business without too much challenge). It has been struggling to recruit young people for years, well before the school climate strikes started.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and National Galleries Scotland have both turned their back on BP sponsorship in recent months, and last weekend more than a thousand people turned up at the British Museum to protest at the firm’s involvement there.

BP is not the first oil company to give itself a lick of green paint to appear more acceptable in this era of increasing climate concern. We’ve seen Statoil dropping the word “oil” with the refreshed identity of Equinor, and Dong (Danish Oil and Natural Gas) relaunched as the renewable energy company Ørsted. It’s hard to see Equinor as anything more than greenwash while it’s still drilling the Arctic, but Ørsted may yet become the world’s first green energy supermajor, betting on the power of offshore wind to eventually see off natural gas. Shell is also keen to show off its green credentials, as anyone who has seen its multimillion pound advertising campaign can tell. It’s scared, or it wouldn’t bother.

BP has been here before, with a £100m “Beyond Petroleum” rebrand in the early noughties. Alongside a new sunflower logo, this emphasised the company’s commitment to wind, solar and biofuels alongside oil and gas, but renewables remained a small part of its portfolio. Clean energy is good for press photos, but not really central to BP’s core business model. Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt originally tried to engage in its initiatives, but turned away in disgust, declaring it was impossible for today’s oil majors to change at the radical speed required.

If BP is serious about rising to the challenge of the climate crisis, it will have to go the extra mile to convince us. It’s one thing for a computer company to make bold claims on climate action (as Microsoft did last month, announcing it would be “carbon negative” by 2030), but it’s another for an oil major. And yet, so far, Looney’s new vision is light on specifics. Apparently we have to wait until September for the details, but it does seem clear that BP will still be selling oil and gas.

BP seems to be banking on the “net” in net zero doing a lot of heavy lifting. Which leaves the rather basic question: how does it plan to balance out carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels? Trees are great for helping us mop up some of the damage we’ve already caused, and various other technological options might turn out to be useful on a small scale. Capturing carbon from the air and using it to make plastic; adding iron to the ocean to speed up its ability to absorb carbon; or genetically modifying trees so they have larger, carbon-sucking roots, for example. But a lot of this is still a bit sci-fi, and none of it is ever likely to soak up the quantities of oil and gas BP plans to keep selling.

Looney says he wants to help the world to get to net zero, not just BP. It is, apparently, shutting down the “Possibilities Everywhere” ad campaign that showcased its (relatively small-scale) work on clean energy, instead funnelling resources into campaigns that foster “the right kind of change”.

This is the part of the project we should perhaps be most wary of. It’s worth remembering that with the Beyond Petroleum push in the noughties, BP popularised the idea of a “carbon footprint”. The approach seemed to mean well but was effective at individualising the causes of climate crisis, pulling attention away from the sorts of large-scale change that would really challenge the fossil fuel companies.

Beware oil execs in environmentalists’ clothing. They may simply wish to seize the growing energy for change and steer it towards their own ends: the continued burning of fossil fuels.

The most offensively disingenuous idea at the heart of this flashy new strategy is that BP finally “gets” the climate crisis. Oil runs off many things, and one of them is strong science. Fossil fuel companies have long known their business was dangerous and yet they chose to keep profiting off it. Indeed, new data shows quite how much they profited ($332bn in the last three decades in the case of BP). BP hasn’t suddenly got a dose of the climate heebie-jeebies, it’s just worried that, finally, you have.

The Instagramming, tie-free Looney might reflect a new phase in the oil business, but is it still business as usual underneath? It’s hard not to see the rhetorical use of the “net” in net zero as a bit of smoke and mirrors, a way of making it sound as if it is taking the crisis seriously while avoiding the simple truth: we need to stop burning fossil fuels.

If BP really wants us to believe that a company that made its name in oil can be part of the solution, it needs to stop drilling. It’s as simple as that. Hold retirement parties for refineries and retrain workers for a zero-carbon future, and do it fast. That might actually be something worth Instagramming about.

Alice Bell is co-director at the climate change charity Possible

World Politics

United States

The administration’s anti-immigrant agenda has made people fearful of accepting help they are legally entitled to

Volunteers with Second Harvest Food Bank hand out supplies at a school in Menlo Park, California.

Volunteers with Second Harvest Food Bank hand out supplies at a school in Menlo Park, California. Photograph: Talia Herman/The Guardian

On a recent Tuesday morning, Patricia walked into the Salvation Army in Redwood City, a community south of San Francisco, because a friend told her they could help her feed her family without fear of reprisal from US immigration officials.

But Patricia, an undocumented migrant from Guatemala, whose last name the Guardian has agreed to withhold, still had questions.

“Can I still get food stamps even though I don’t have papers?” she asked in Spanish. “If I do, will they take my kids away?”

Vicky Avila Medrano, an outreach worker for Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley, which distributes food at 1,000 sites across the Bay Area including the Salvation Army, reassured Patricia that accepting food assistance for her US-born children would not invite the scrutiny of immigration officials. “Your children still have a right to food. This is nothing that immigration can hold against you,” she said.

The Trump administration’s relentless anti-immigrant agenda has made a growing number of immigrants like Patricia fearful of accepting assistance and benefits they or their children are legally entitled to.

Their fears are compounded by a US supreme court ruling late last month that allows the administration to expand the “public charge” criteria, which officials have used for more than a century to determine which immigrants were likely to become dependent on the government, and thus ineligible to enter the US or obtain a green card.

“Public charge” has historically been reserved for immigrants receiving cash assistance or who are likely to become institutionalized and dependent on long-term care.Now, though, immigration officials will consider public benefits, including food stamps, housing vouchers and medical care. Public charge will be applied to anyone who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months during the 36-month period.

Because receiving two benefits in one month will count as two months worth of benefits, a relatively small amount of assistance could put people over the threshold. A person’s savings, credit score and ability to speak English will also be considered.

Officials are still required to look at the totality of a person’s circumstances, but advocates say receiving assistance will weigh more heavily against them and result in greater scrutiny of applications.

Policy experts and immigrant rights advocates say the changes will directly apply to a relatively small group of people, primarily those applying for a visa or green card. The changes won’t apply to US citizens, refugees, asylees and other protected groups, as well as those who already have green cards.

But they warn that a much larger chilling effect will ripple through communities, keeping eligible immigrants from seeking assistance for food or medical care to which they, or their children, are duly entitled.

In fact, they say it’s already happening.

After Medrano explained to Patricia that while Patricia is undocumented and not entitled to CalFresh aid, California’s food assistance program, her US-born children ar

What else has she heard about the public charge rule, Medrano wanted to know.

“I heard they’re going to take away your food, take away everything. And you have to pay it back,” Patricia said.

The fears are familiar to Medrano, who has done outreach work for Second Harvest for the past six years.

“This isn’t really new,” Medrano said. “What is new is a president who talks about it in order to scare people.”

‘People are scared’

Medrano estimates that about half of the 20 new clients she speaks with on a typical day ask about the public charge rule.

One woman who arrived at the Salvation Army minutes after Patricia and declined to give her name was a lawful resident. She has two children, but was reluctant to enroll in CalFresh fearing it could affect her application for a green card.

She eventually applied, but had second thoughts. “Now I just wait and hope it doesn’t affect my case,” she said.

Jennery Jazmin Gonzalez Martinez, who works with Medrano as an outreach specialist, said the current political climate has made it more difficult to get people to sign up.

You try to convince people that it won’t affect them, but they’re so scared that they can’t hear it

Jennery Jazmin Gonzalez Martinez

“You try to convince people that it won’t affect them, but they’re so scared that they can’t hear it.” Gonzalez said. Recently, she met a family that planned to disenroll their child from medical benefits out of caution.

Gonzalez and other advocates on the ground attribute much of the confusion to fast-moving changes to an already byzantine system. But they also point to attorneys who, either out of an abundance of caution, or because they themselves don’t understand the rules, have advised clients to drop benefit applications so it doesn’t affect their immigration cases.

Johnathan Garcia, an immigration attorney with Legal Aid Society of San Mateo county, said he often meets people who have been misinformed by attorneys who may not specialize or have proper understanding of immigration law.

“Usually clients don’t approach with a question. It’s more like, ‘I’m afraid, and I’m getting off [public benefits],’” Garcia said.

“It’s been tough to give very clear guidance because we haven’t seen how this is going to be applied. It’s hard to say how this is actually going to impact people until we see it in practice,” Garcia said.

Hungry children

Advocates say the potential impact on families and communities can hardly be overstated in California, home to 3.3 million green card holders, more than anywhere else in the country. More than a quarter of the 9.7 million US citizen children in California have at least one parent who isn’t a citizen.

“California has more immigrants than any other state – and hence much at stake,” reads a brief on the potential impact of the public charge rule, done by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Measurable data showing disenrollment in public benefit programs is hard to come by.

But in nearby Santa Clara county, CalMatters reported, the number of households getting food stamps, in families where at least one members was not a citizen, decreased by 20% from October 2018 – when the proposed rule changes were first announced – to May 2019. Meanwhile food stamp enrollment in citizen households remained consistent.

The news of the new rules stirred concerns among California’s biggest school districts, with school officials from Los Angeles to San Francisco publishing information to help dissuade parents from disenrolling children from the subsidized lunches all low-income students qualify for, regardless of immigration status.

“The policy will make Los Angeles county children hungrier, less healthy and more likely to become homeless,” said Debra Duardo, the Los Angeles county superintendent of schools, in a statement to EdSource.

But Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district, is unable to say whether parental concerns were appearing in data.

A request for public records from Los Angeles Unified on how many families have disenrolled from the free lunch program, as well as how many students may qualify for free lunch but are not receiving it, turned up no information.

“It’s hard to articulate how much of an impact this is having,” said Almas Sayeed, deputy director of programs at the California Immigrant Policy Center, adding that safety systems typically don’t disaggregate data by immigration status.

“Advocates are reluctant to say how many people are disenrolling [from benefits] out of fear it would sort of cement the trend. But [immigrants] are scared. They’re going to disenroll. It’s going to happen,” she said.

Studies of the impacts of 1996 welfare reform may offer clues as to how the new changes will play out.

Drawing from the results of the studies, experts from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimated that 15-35% of immigrants may disenroll from public benefits even when qualified due to confusion and fear.

If the same numbers held true in California, 860,000 recipients of CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program, could be affected by the chilling effect, at a loss to the state of up to $488m in federal funding, depending on how many disenroll.

Even greater would be the impact on the Medi-Cal program, free or low-cost health care coverage for children and families with low income. UCLA’s health policy research team estimates the change could affect 2.1m people, at a loss of up to $1.19bn a year in federal funding.

For Sayeed of the California Immigrant Policy Center, aside from the sweeping impact the reforms may have, at stake is a fundamental question about opportunity and nationhood.

“At the heart of this debate is who belongs and who gets to build and participate in the American dream,” she said.

‘Barking clown’: Bloomberg fires back on Twitter after Trump taunts

 

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11 Feb

U.S. Foreign Policy And Wars

The number of troops injured has steadily increased since the Jan. 8 attack.

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

More than 100 American service members have traumatic brain injuries from Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq in January, the Defense Department said, a number that was more than 50 percent higher than previously disclosed.

Of the 109 troops who have been diagnosed with brain injuries, 76 had returned to duty, officials said Monday.

“We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty,” said Alyssa Farah, the Pentagon press secretary.

The latest tally, which has steadily grown since the Jan. 8 strike, drew a sharp contrast with the assertion by the Trump administration in the hours after the attack that no Americans were hurt. The number also underscored the unseen effects of traumatic brain injuries, which sometimes do not manifest symptoms for days or weeks but can have long-term physical or mental effects.

And as the injury toll has mounted, veterans groups and others have levied criticism at the White House, in part because, in January, President Trump dismissed the injuries as “not very serious.”

“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference Jan. 22 in Davos, Switzerland. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen.”

At least a dozen missiles were fired during the attack, which was a retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. The Trump administration at first said there were no injuries, but a week later said several service members were evaluated for possible concussions.

Then, days after Mr. Trump’s statements in Davos, the Defense Department said that 34 people had suffered brain injuries. The number was later increased to 50 and then to 64, with military officials saying that the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries could take weeks to appear.

The repeated revisions have drawn outrage from some veterans and senators.

“The number just keeps going up,” Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said on Twitter on Monday. “It’s time for Congress to demand a full investigation. The public and our military families deserve the truth.”

Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican strategist, said on Twitter on Monday that a traumatic brain injury “can have debilitating lifelong effects.”

“We shouldn’t hide our veterans’ injuries just to pretend like we’re invincible,” he said.

Traumatic brain injuries can result from the powerful changes in atmospheric pressure that accompany an explosion like that from a missile warhead. Only in the last several years has the Pentagon made a considerable effort to understand the injuries.

Mr. Trump’s statements appeared to echo sentiments common in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where troops rattled by explosions were visibly uninjured and ushered back to duty, only to have long-term effects from the blasts manifest weeks and months later.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said at a news conference in January that the Pentagon took those types of injuries “very seriously.”

The White House did not immediately respond to questions on Monday afternoon.

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10 Feb

Rush Limbaugh in His Own Words

Rush Limbaugh in His Own Words

A collection of comments from the latest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The McGlynn: Limbaugh certainly does not deserve the nation’s highest civilian honor. His career reflects the worst brand of destructive hate. Limbaugh receiving the Medal of Freedom contaminates the honor for all past and future recipients and the many honorees of the past.

To Trump and Limbaugh: In plain Irish: Téigh go hIfreann

By

Lettering by Lynne Yun

Mr. Smith is on the editorial staff of the Opinion section.

During his third State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Trump presented the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to the longtime conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has late-stage lung cancer. Past recipients of the award include Elie Wiesel, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. Mr. Trump told Mr. Limbaugh he was being recognized for “the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire.” Millions more have perhaps never listened to his popular radio program. For those who haven’t, here is a selection of his comments on various issues:

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