Tag Archive for: air travel


Over half of Mississippians struggling to pay household bills, the most in the nation.

FAA seeks to address string of near-collisions at US airports.

Poland, Slovakia to send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine.



Over half of Mississippians struggling to pay household bills, the most in the nation

A recent Household Pulse Survey by the Census Bureau found that more than half of Mississippians (52.9%) are struggling to pay typical household bills. This is the highest percentage in the nation and the only one over 50%. Mississippi narrowly edges out neighboring Alabama which came in second at 49.7% and far exceeds the national average of 39.7%. 

Over that same period (the week of Feb. 4-13), Mississippi was 5th in the nation at 48.6% among states whose residents fear eviction or foreclosure in the next two months. Mississippians also led in the category of householders that were unable to pay an energy bill in full in the last 12 months with 30.5%.

Median household income is the lowest in the nation at $46,637, far below the national average of $70,784. Recent data shows that Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation with 19.07%.

State Republicans suddenly remember this is an election year

During the pandemic, states received millions in federal dollars to help people get through the economic downturn. Despite the great need, average Mississippians received far less help than people in other states. Instead, the state government decided to use this windfall to push for income tax cuts.

While income tax reduction is popular in the state (62%), the suspension of the state’s 7% grocery tax is far more popular (74%). Mississippi is one of the few states to tax groceries and has the highest rate of any of them. Grocery taxes disproportionately burden the poor while income tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy. But the state’s Republican leadership hasn’t considered using the state’s surplus to cut grocery taxes, despite rising food costs. 

State legislators recently narrowly rejected proposals that would have eliminated income taxes in the state. This means the stalled bills likely won’t move forward in this year’s legislative session. However, House Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar said the bills’ failure was “more of a timing issue with some of these representatives as opposed to any real opposition to income tax elimination. Coming off the heels of last year’s income tax bill, and this being an election year, there are a few that would just prefer to wait a little longer before making further cuts”.

Reeves believes life begins at conception, but when does it end?

In a rare win for public welfare in the state, Gov. Reeves has just signed a bill to extend Medicaid coverage to new mothers and babies from 60 days after birth to 12 months.

Mississippi has some of the worst rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the country. Until Reeves signed this latest bill, Mississippi was the only state in the nation that had neither extended Medicaid coverage for new mothers nor expanded Medicaid eligibility overall. 

Reeves touted expanding Medicaid coverage for new moms and babies to 12 months as being in line with the state’s pro-life stance. However, Reeves was quick to remind us he still opposes expanding eligibility for Medicaid for low-income families under Obamacare. Maybe Reeves thinks life ends at 12 months?


FAA seeks to address string of near-collisions at US airports

So far in 2023, there have been at least nine near-collisions of commercial airplanes at eight US airports. That number may seems small in light of the fact that there are about 45,000 flights taking off each day. But when you consider the hundreds of lives put at risk each time, even one near-miss is unacceptable.

The circumstances vary in each case, but in some instances, the near-miss was the result of air traffic control clearing two planes to use the same runway. This was the case in the most dramatic near-collision in Austin, TX, in which a FedEx cargo plane came within 100 feet of a Southwest Airlines passenger plane. Controllers had cleared the FedEx plane to land on the same runway where the Southwest Airlines flight was taking off. In this case, it was the quick thinking of the FedEx pilot that averted disaster, rather than any action by air traffic control.  

On Wednesday, FAA held an emergency summit this week, its first in 14 years, to discuss the issue. The panel of aviation experts cited low staffing numbers at the FAA and a lack of experience among new hires as a major factor. The staffing issues come at the same time that US demand for air travel is surging, making accidents and near-accidents more likely.

It may also be significant that 8 of the 9 incidents took place after an outage of the FAA’s automated NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) system which notifies pilots of potential hazards they may encounter during their flights. The NOTAM system went dark late in the night of Jan. 10 and grounded all flights in the US for two hours the following morning. An investigation found that the outage was the result of FAA contractors deleting files.

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Poland, Slovakia send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

After nearly a year of requests from Kiev, Poland yesterday agreed to send about a dozen Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Today, Slovakia followed suit, promising 13 MiG-29s. At the time of Russia’s invasion last year, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s that it had retained following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s not clear how many of these remain in service over a year later.

According to Slovakia’s Defense Minister, the European Union is offering Slovakia 200 million euros ($213 million) in compensation for giving the jets to Ukraine. Slovakia will also receive $745 million in unspecified arms from the US, the minister said. There’s no reporting on whether Poland is receiving similar compensation for its pledge. However, Poland’s Defense Minister did mention that they would be replacing their MiGs with South Korean and American-made fighter jets.

The White House says it was informed of Poland’s decision before it was announced. Biden has long been under pressure to give Ukraine F-16s, a request the US has so far steadfastly refused. National Security advisor John Kirby neither endorsed nor condemned Poland and Slovakia’s decision, but said it would have no bearing on the US position on sending F-16s. 

Unlike F-16s, Ukraine’s fighter pilots require no additional training to fly MiG-29s. But maintaining them may pose a problem. Slovakia had previously grounded its MiG-29 fleet due to difficulties obtaining spare parts and the departure of Russian maintenance workers.

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Texas: Five women sue after abortion bans put their lives at risk.

DOJ moves to block merger between discount airlines JetBlue and Spirit.

Was Mexico kidnapping a case of mistaken identity?



Texas: Five women sue after abortion bans put their lives at risk

Five women from Texas have filed a lawsuit demanding greater clarity for medical exceptions in Texas’ various abortion bans. All of Texas’ anti-abortion laws contain exceptions for preserving the life of the mother. However, according to women’s health advocates, these exceptions are written in a way that is deliberately vague and that make it unclear when a medically-necessary abortion is permitted.

The laws have discouraged healthcare providers in the state from providing or even suggesting abortions to their patients, even when there is no viable alternative. That lack of clarity put the lives of these five women, and countless others, at risk. Two healthcare providers have also joined them in the suit. 

Click here to read the women’s stories

Women and healthcare providers in many states that have laws banning abortion have faced similar problems. Most healthcare providers have interpreted the laws to mean an abortion is only permissible once the mother is at the point of death. Even in situations where a fetus cannot survive, such as when the mother’s water breaks prematurely, medical practitioners won’t provide abortions until the fetus no longer has a detectable heartbeat.

Putting off abortions in these situations puts mothers at risk of sepsis and other deadly complications. If an infection becomes too advanced, it can also necessitate a hysterectomy, an outcome that can be avoided with early intervention.

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DOJ moves to block merger between discount airlines JetBlue and Spirit

In a rare move, the Department of Justice has sued to block a proposed merger between two discount airlines, JetBlue and Spirit. The DOJ argues that this merger will decrease competition and raise prices for travelers on all routes that these two airlines serve, whether or not they’re flying with one of the discount airlines.

According to Attorney General Merrick Garland, “Spirit’s own internal documents estimate that when it starts flying a route, average fares fall by 17%. And an internal JetBlue document estimates that when Spirit stops flying a route, average fares go up by 30%”.

The merger between JetBlue and Spirit would create the nation’s 5th largest airline. Thanks to decades of buyouts and consolidation in the airline industry, 80% of the US air travel market is controlled by just four airlines.

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Was Mexico kidnapping a case of mistaken identity?

After a four-day ordeal, two Americans kidnapped in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas last week were released yesterday. Two friends that were traveling with them did not survive injuries from an initial shooting. Now theories abound as to why these four Americans, one of whom was there for a medical procedure, fell victim to this attack in the first place, and why they were held captive for so many days.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in several Mexican states. Usually, people traveling alone on a remote road are grabbed, forced to withdraw a large amount of money from an ATM, and then let go unharmed. However, ransom does not appear to have been the motive in this case. 

Some have raised the possibility that members of the Gulf cartel, which has long dominated this area, mistook the four Black Americans for rival Haitian gang members. As the political and economic situation in Haiti has worsened in recent years, thousands of Haitians have relocated to Mexico. Some Haitian gangs that smuggle drugs or people have also gained a foothold in this part of Mexico. Officials have not commented on this theory, but have said they believe the kidnapping resulted from a “misunderstanding”.

Mexican drug war analyst Alejandro Hope also speculates that the Gulf cartel members soon realized their mistake. Fearing that the full force of both American and Mexican law enforcement would soon come down on them, Hope says the cartel likely tipped off their local law enforcement and government connections to the location of the safehouse where the captives were. 

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Computer system failure grounds all US air travel for hours.

Debt ceiling fight ahead in Congress, jeopardizing economy.

Peru under genocide investigation after deadly protests.




Computer system glitch grounds all US air travel for hours

An overnight malfunction in the system that notifies pilots of hazards grounded all US air travel for several hours up until 9am (ET) this morning. According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, over 8000 flights were delayed today and over 1000 were canceled. The numbers of delays continue climbing as a knock-on effect of delays or cancellations this morning.

The system that crashed was the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses this system to notify pilots of unusual hazards and conditions and to convey other vital safety information. 

It isn’t clear what caused the system to crash. Analysts have said it is unlikely to have been the result of a cyber attack because of the way the outage progressed. It’s possible that the system became overloaded or couldn’t cope with the complexity of tasks it had to perform. A former FAA official suggested that NOTAM may have encountered a capacity problem, similar to the problem that forced Southwest airlines to cancel thousands of flights between Christmas and the first week of January.

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Debt ceiling fight ahead in Congress, jeopardizing economy

The federal government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling will soon max out, possibly as soon as the end of this month. The Treasury Department can then implement some measures that may carry the country through until the summer. Before those measures run out, Congress will have to agree to raise the debt ceiling to pay debts the federal government has already incurred, not to allow for new spending. If this does not happen, the government will shut down and the country will default on its debts. This would be catastrophic for the national and global economy and for everyday Americans.

With Republicans now in control of the House, the stage is set for a showdown over the debt that could jeopardize the US economy. During the Obama administration in 2011, Republicans in Congress held the debt ceiling hostage in order to win major concessions on government spending, mostly by cutting government programs to support the poor. After months of brinksmanship, Congress finally hammered out an agreement. But the debt rating company Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating, citing the turmoil and delay in raising the debt ceiling. This downgrade in credit rating raised the borrowing costs for the US by billions of dollars.

The recent fight over the Speakership in the House resulted in the new Speaker Kevin McCarthy making concessions that could make it much harder for him to force through a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Some of those who blocked McCarthy from winning the Speakership through 14 ballots have vowed to challenge his leadership again if he tries to force a debt ceiling vote without massive spending cuts.

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Related: What happens if the US defaults on its debt? (opens in new tab).



Peru under genocide investigation after deadly protests

Back in December, Peru’s elected President Pedro Castillo attempted to break an impasse with Congress by dissolving the body and calling snap elections. This led to Castillo being deposed and arrested for rebellion. Castillo’s VP Dina Boluarte then became President, though it appears the Cabinet is really in charge of the country.

Castillo’s arrest angered many Peruvians, especially poor indigenous people in rural areas for whom Castillo had been a long-sought champion. Days of deadly protests followed, leading the Cabinet to impose martial law. The measures criminalized any public assembly, severely restricted people’s movements, and empowered the country’s police force to raid anyone’s home without a court order.

Since Castillo’s ouster in early December, at least 46 civilians have been killed most of them indigenous. On Monday alone, security forces killed at least 17 people. The country’s interior minister claimed the protesters were attempting to storm an airport and that the security forces acted appropriately. The office of Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator disagrees, calling Monday’s deaths “extrajudicial killings”. 

Peru’s Attorney General has announced that Boluarte and her Cabinet are under investigation for possible acts of genocide in connection with the deaths of these protesters.

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Air travel chaos likely to worsen this weekend. SCOTUS rulings: EPA can’t cap carbon emissions from power plants; Biden can end Remain in Mexico policy.




Passengers brace for July 4th weekend travel chaos

With millions of travelers flying over the weekend, industry experts are expecting many long delays and hundreds of flight cancellations. Yesterday, airlines cancelled over 450 flights. At the time of this writing, there have been over 250 cancellations today with more possible. The same is likely to be true over the weekend.

The reasons for these travel snarls are numerous, most having to do with airline staffing shortages. The airlines have received much criticism and scrutiny for the 21,000+ cancellations since Memorial Day, more than twice the number over the same period last year. Airline industry groups are attempting to shift the blame to the FAA, which is experience staffing shortages of its own.

At the start of the pandemic, the airline industry received $54 billion in federal funds from one of the CARES packages. The money was supposed to help the industry to maintain its staff and equipment as airline travel dipped sharply. Instead, airlines furloughed and laid off thousands of employees. Since travel started picking up again, airlines have yet to get their staff numbers up to pre-pandemic levels, despite the surge in demand and higher prices.

One key shortage is pilots. After taking the billions in federal funds, airlines offered pilots nearing retirement lucrative packages to entice them into retiring early. But flight schools were also closed during that time, so there aren’t enough new pilots in the pipeline to replace the ones who’ve left.

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Supreme Court guts EPA’s authority to cap carbon emissions

As one of its final acts before the summer recess, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority dealt a major blow to the federal government’s ability to set carbon emissions targets. During the Obama and Biden presidencies, the EPA set caps on carbon emissions for power plants by state. The court ruled that the EPA lacked the authority to do that without specific Congressional approval. This means that the states and even individual businesses will now be able to set their own caps regardless of federal guidelines.

Environmentalists say that the ruling is a huge setback in the fight to slow down climate change. With, so far, no major legislation having passed to fund climate policies and actions, Biden’s running out of avenues to meet his professed climate goals. Not only has the federal government lost the ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, there is a possibility it will soon be unable to regulate emissions from coal, gas and oil.

Even if Congress were not currently deadlocked on climate policy, it’s a lot to ask of lawmakers to make the best scientifically-grounded decision. That’s why federal agencies have generally had broad authority to regulate in their respective fields.

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SCOTUS rules Biden can end controversial Remain in Mexico policy

Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberals in a ruling that will allow Biden to end a controversial immigration policy. The Remain in Mexico policy came into effect early in the Trump administration. The policy requires asylum seekers who attempt to cross the Southern border to await their US asylum hearings in Mexico rather than in the US.

At it’s high point during the Trump era, as many as 70,000 people were subject to the policy. Most had little choice but to wait in some of Mexico’s border towns in shelters or encampments. These are some of the most dangerous areas in Mexico and immigrants staying there were vulnerable to theft, abuse and violent crime.

Biden had lifted the policy in the early days of his presidency. However, after several conservative states brought lawsuits, a lower federal court ruled that the policy had to remain in place. In the majority opinion, Justice Roberts wrote that the lower courts had erred in its premise that Biden did not have the authority to lift the policy. Since the Remain in Mexico policy is also a matter of foreign policy, that places it squarely in the federal government’s purview.

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Archaeologists hope to get DNA from last slave ship in US. Fauci: Mandate vaccines for domestic air travel. Iran nuclear talks resume, again.



Archaeologists hope to get DNA from last slave ship in US

In 1860, Timothy Meaher, a wealthy lumber merchant from Mobile, AL, wagered another businessman that he could successfully import a cargo of slaves into the U.S., despite the practice having been outlawed in 1807. Meaher owned a two-masted schooner called the Clotilda, which he normally used to ship his lumber. The Clotilda’s captain William Foster sailed her to the Kingdom of Dahomey, modern-day Benin in West Africa, and took on a cargo of 108 slaves. Foster succeeded in transporting the slaves to Mobile Bay. There he ushered the slaves onto a steamboat, then set fire to the Clotilda to destroy the evidence of his crime.

The Clotilda only burned down to the water line, and the rest sank into the deep mud of the bay. And there it lay undiscovered for 160 years. Researchers have now located the ship and found that the mud has preserved much of the ship’s hull and its contents to an astonishing degree. Barrels containing food are remarkably intact, as is the cramped hold where the slaves endured the hellish trans-Atlantic journey.

A long shadow

After the Civil War, the slaves transported on the Clotilda established a settlement called Africatown, north of Mobile. Their descendants have kept the otherwise undocumented story of their journey alive for generations. Archaeologists hope that the ship’s remarkable preservation will enable them to answer some lingering questions about their ancestors.

Researchers believe that they may be able to extract DNA from the caulking between the planks of the slave hold, where feces and other bodily fluids would have been trapped. By doing so, they may be able to determine where in Africa the slaves hailed from. Some say they were from Ghana, but some think Nigeria is more likely. An answer to this question would allow the descendants of Clotilda’s survivors to reclaim links to their ancestral identities.

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Fauci: Mandate vaccines for domestic air travel

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday, but not for the first time, that President Biden should consider requiring proof of COVID vaccination for passengers on domestic flights. Although Fauci is one of the President’s leading science advisors, sources say he has not so far made a formal recommendation on the issue. The idea has been floated before, but so far, the White House has resisted implementing it, fearing that it may meet legal and logistical snags. 

But the spread the more transmissible omicron variant and the fear that hospitals may soon be overwhelmed, the idea may be gaining steam once again. When the hectic holiday travel season passes, there may be more room to test how a requirement would work.

Fauci touts the requirement as a further inducement for vaccine holdouts to finally get the jab. It would also have the benefit of making air travel safer. 

It’s difficult to know what support the mandate has from the airlines. From their point of view, it might create some problems but would also solve a few. Verifying vaccination status may cause delays and some friction for passengers. But airline workers are already dealing with headaches from passengers refusing to obey masking rules on board flights. Airlines have filed nearly 5000 reports of unruly passengers with the FAA this year. Most of these had to do with masking disputes and many have resulted in violence.  

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Iran nuclear talks resume, again

An eighth round of talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are underway in Vienna, Austria. Iranian delegates have refused to meet directly with U.S. negotiators, but are working with intermediaries from other countries. The West hopes to restore access for UN inspectors to Iran’s nuclear facilities and reduction in Iran’s uranium refinement. In exchange, Iran wants guarantees that the punishing sanctions that former President Trump unilaterally re-imposed in 2018 will be lifted.

One of Iran’s key demands is for the U.S. to lift the embargo on Iran’s crude oil exports. Much of Iran’s economy depends on oil exports, and the reinstatement of sanctions essentially shuttered their market. Iran wants these sanctions lifted and a set volume of transactions completed before returning to compliance with the agreed curbs to its nuclear program. This has previously been a sticking point with the U.S. position, which insisted on compliance before sanctions relief.

Israel’s stance has also been a wild card in the negotiations. Israel is not a direct party to the negotiations, but has reserved the right to carry out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities if they believe Iran is not complying with the deal to Israel’s satisfaction. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he would not oppose a “good” Iran deal, but insists that he would only accept a more hardline stance than the one the U.S. is currently pursuing.

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Air travel headaches abound this summer. Senate GOP refuses to even debate voting rights bill. Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper to shut down.


Air travel headaches abound this summer

Anyone who has taken the opportunity to travel by air recently will have seen that air travel is now even more of an ordeal than it was pre-pandemic. Every major airport and airline is suffering massive personnel and equipment shortages. This has led to longer than usual lines at check-in and security, flight delays and cancellations.

Tempers have also been running high over mask requirements on airplanes. Airlines have had to take action against hundreds of unruly passengers in recent months. One female passenger even punched an air hostess over a mask dispute, knocking out two of her teeth.

American Airlines to cancel 100s of flights

Blaming “unprecedented weather”, American Airlines cancelled 188 flights, and delayed 760 on Sunday. On Monday, the airline canceled 162 flights and delayed nearly 800. And the picture will not improve much over the rest of the summer. American Airlines has said it will be canceling about 1% (or 50 to 80) of its daily flights until the middle of July.

American has blamed the changes on staffing and maintenance issues. But Capt. Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines pilot and spokesman for the its pilots union, says the reality is very different. Tajer says that, despite receiving $billions in federal COVID bailouts to prop up the airline, American has failed to maintain pilot readiness. Furthermore, the airline rushed to get its booking numbers back to pre-pandemic levels and thus overpromised its customers.

To save money during the shutdown, American gave about 1000 pilots early retirement packages, and furloughed another 1600. Many of the furloughed pilots have been grounded for months. Without the opportunity keep in practice or to even train on flight simulators, their certifications have lapsed. Tajer says it will take months for American to recertify a sufficient number of pilots and hire and train new pilots to replace those that have retired or resigned.

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Senate GOP refuses to even debate voting rights bill

Republican Senators refused to even open debate on the For the People Act, a sweeping reform of election rules championed by Democrats. While all 50 Democrats voted in favor of beginning debate, not one GOP Senator supported it. Democratic Senators must overcome Republicans’ 60-vote filibuster to start debate or pass legislation. Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) claimed that Republicans refused to even debate the bill, “because they’re so afraid of what that debate will show”.

Both the White House and Congressional Democrats have signaled that new voting rights legislation is a top legislative priority. The urgency is rising as state after state passes restrictions which voter rights advocates say are calculated to make it more difficult for poor people, people of color and young people to vote. All of these are typically Democrat-voting demographics.

What’s next for filibuster?

With Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV) refusing to support an end to the filibuster, Democrats’ options are limited. Progressives have gone on the offensive, targeting Sinema in her home state with a $1 million ad buy. The ads refer to the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic”, which now being used to limit the voting rights of minorities.

Other procedural options to modify the filibuster may be feasible. While Sinema and Manchin oppose doing away with the filibuster, both have said they would not oppose changing it. One option is to require that 41 opposition Senators be present to invoke the filibuster. Another is to bring back “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”- style talking filibusters.

Lastly, Democrats could introduce narrow exemptions to the filibuster, in this case for legislation related to elections and voting. This is something even Republicans have done in the past, having eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations under Trump.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper to shut down

In yet another blow to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the island’s largest pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily has announced it will be shutting down indefinitely. Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government has already jailed the paper’s owner, billionaire Jimmy Lai on numerous anti-sedition charges. Supports fear that Lai will be in prison for at least a decade.

Last week, local security forces raided the newspaper’s offices, claiming that it had published content that breached the controversial national security law. Following that raid, the paper’s chief editor and five of its executives were detained and the company’s assets were frozen.

Now, the newspaper’s management has announced that “in view of staff members’ safety”, the paper would “cease operation immediately after midnight”. Thursday’s publication will be the final edition.

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