Hostage Crisis – Day 32: Federal Hostages Are Still Hostages #EndThisMitch

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Pompeo Talks Up Saudi “Investment” in Yemen, and USG’s “Additional” $131M Assistance #ExcludingArms

 

On November 28, the Secretary of State told the world that “Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relive suffering in Yemen.” Pretty soon,  Saudi Arabia’s spokesman would not have a job anymore.

The Guardian reported that in 2017, the Yemen appeal for $2.5bn was only 73% funded, but that the needs have intensified in a country battered since 2015 by a Saudi-led military offensive aimed at repelling Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital. In April this year, during a UN donor conference for people affected by war in Yemen – labelled as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” – has received pledges of more than $2bn, close to half of which is promised by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key protagonists in the conflict, according to the same report. Click here for the OCHA page for pledges and paid contributions for Yemen.

On October 24, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller re-issued a disaster declaration for the ongoing complex emergency in Yemen for FY 2018 due to “continued humanitarian needs resulting from the complex emergency and the impact of the country’s political and economic crises on vulnerable populations.”  USAID’s November 9, 2018 Factsheet on Yemen Disaster Assistance indicates that the United States humanitarian funding for the Yemen response in FY2018 is $566,273,269 (includes funding through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM)).  Secretary Pompeo’s tweet on November 28 says that the United States is providing an “additional” $131 million in food assistance to Yemen.

According to the CRS, since March 2015, the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence in support of military operations in Yemen. Excerpt:

In May 2017, President Trump signaled a continuation and deepening of bilateral defense cooperation, announcing completed and proposed defense sales during his visit to Riyadh with a potential value of more than $110 billion. The sales include cases that the Obama Administration had proposed and notified to Congress, cases developed under the Obama Administration on which Congress had been preliminarily consulted, and new sales that remain under development.
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The United States’ role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen has evolved over time. 65 At present, it consists of some intelligence sharing, aerial refueling, and the deployment of advisers to Saudi Arabia for border security and anti-ballistic missile purposes.66 In his latest biannual War Powers letters to Congress on the deployment of U.S. forces abroad in combat operations (P.L. 93-148), President Trump informed Congress about ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and stated that U.S. forces in noncombat roles were providing “military advice and limited information, logistics, and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency.”

So, on one hand, we’re supporting the side that’s indiscriminately bombing hospitals, school buses and children, and on the other hand, we’re spending millions of dollars for food and humanitarian assistance to help those who are bombed and starved.  Also, our Secretary of Swagger did not just announced the additional millions in food assistance but also cited “our generous example” in “galvanizing humanitarian assistance.” When is this going up on Instagram, people?

By the way, the most recent USAID/OFDA official said “no amount of aid money can prevent this famine” and that absent massive political pressure on the Saudi, this is just “window dressing.” 

Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | Updated September 21, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).

ALSO THIS:

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USG-Funded Radio Televisión Martí Targets American Philanthropist George Soros

 

On October 26, Mother Jones reported that Radio Televisión Martí went after George Soros in a two-part piece that aired in May 2018. The hit piece called the philanthropist a “multimillionaire Jew” and “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.” The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) oversees Radio and Television Martí at its headquarters in Miami.  The U.S. Agency for Global Media (formerly BBG), a U.S. taxpayer-funded entity oversees OCB.  The videos have been taken down but are still available on YouTube here and here.  The State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs serves as the Secretary of State’s representative on the Board.  Heather Nauert became Acting Under Secretary on March 13, 2018 until October 10. 2018. As of this writing, we have not seen anything out of the State Department regarding these segments targeting a private American citizen.

On October 29, CEO John Lansing who joined BBG in 2015 released a statement that says in part the following:

“It was brought to my attention this weekend that the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), earlier this year aired a video segment about George Soros that is inconsistent with our professional standards and ethics. USAGM networks’ content is required to adhere to the highest standards of professional journalism.

Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct. Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.

Via MJ:

Tomás P. Regalado, the director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, told Mother Jones in an email, “Judicial Watch is a good source, but having said that, it should not have been the only source. The two part series was not precise and did not have on the record sources to balance the story.” Regalado noted that he became OCB director on June 6, several weeks after the segment aired, and three days later he appointed a new news director and assignment editor.

“To be fair and to show that we in the new administration are committed to journalistic integrity, the stories have been pulled out of the digital page, not because we want to hide anything, but because we want to be transparent if we say that the story did not have the required balance, then it should not be on the air,” he said.

Holy guacamole! Senator Flake tweeted “TV Marti director says its program on George Soros lacked “balance.” Sorry, there is no balance that makes anti-Semitism right. BBG must investigate how such programming was produced and and why it aired.”

OCB has an annual budget of $28.1 million, it has 117 employees, and an audience estimated at 1 million.

AND NOW THIS —

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Ex-State/FSI Employee Gets 26 Years in Prison for Child Pornography Production

Last July, we blogged briefly about State/FSI’s digital media administrator who pleaded guilty of child pornography production. On Friday, USDOJ announced that  Skydance MacMahon, 45, was sentenced to 26 years in prison for production of child pornography. Excerpt below:

Former State Department Employee Sentenced for Producing Child Pornography

An Alexandria man was sentenced today to 26 years in prison for production of child pornography.

According to court documents, over at least a two year period, Skydance MacMahon, 45, conspired with an adult in Canada to produce over a thousand sexually explicit images and videos of minor children in Canada. These images and videos were produced at the direction of MacMahon using Skype and hidden cameras as well as overt recording. MacMahon distributed these image and video files to other users and consumers of child pornography by providing access to the files on his cloud storage services and also by directly sending the files to other users.  In addition to the child pornography images and videos MacMahon himself created, he also received and possessed thousands of images and videos of child pornography.

During the time he committed these offenses, MacMahon was a Digital Media Administrator at the Foreign Services Institute of the U.S. Department of State in Arlington.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

This is a case that originated in Ohio when local police interviewed of an individual who admitted to sexually assaulting a five year old minor victim and producing pornographic images. That individual’s phone led to Dropbox links, which then led to a State Department IP address. The Affidavit executed in support of this criminal case notes that MacMahon, a GS-14 employee also used his USG-issued Iphone7 in the conduct of this crime. Excerpt below from the FBI agent’s affidavit:

9. The reponse from Dropbox included, in part, information pertaining to the kvlesil007@protonmail.com User ID: 663651981. This paid account was created on April 15, 2017. A usemame of “Kyle Silvyr” was provided by the registrant. A recurring payment of 99.99 was established using a Mastercard Debit card (521992XXXXXX0894). Multiple IP addresses used for authentification were also provided (IP address 2601:140:8000:61af:2d75:7fef:f243:6dfd on 08/09/2017 at 13:18:19 GMT; IP address 12.28.184.116 on 09/14/2017 at 18:24:55 GMT).

10. An open source search identified IP address 12.28.184.116 as being associated with the US Department of State , 4020 Arlington Blvd, Arlington VA.

13. Database queries identified J.M. as an individual associated with the Menokin Drive, Alexandria, VA address. An open source search located a social networking profile associated with J.M. that contains publicly viewable images of the account holder who visually matches the likeness of J.M.’s Virginia driver’s license photograph. Additional publicly viewable photographs on J.M.’s Facebook profile include those of a Caucasian male identified as “SKYDANCE MACMAHON”. SKYDANCE MACMAHON visually matches the individual appearing in the two (2) non-pornographic images in the material in the kvlesil007@protonmail.com User ID 663651981 Dropbox.com account.

15. An open source search identified a Linkedln.com profile for SKYDANCE MACMAHON who self-identified as a Digital Media Administrator at the Foreign Services Institute (which is associated with the Department of State) in Arlington, VA, and a 1995 graduate of James Madison University. Database queries fully identified SKYDANCE MACMAHON. SKYDANCE MACMAHON’s Virginia driver’s license photograph visually matches the likeness of the male depicted in the images contained in the kvlesil007@Drotonmail.com User ID 663651981 Dropbox.com account and the SKYDANCE MACMAHON Facebook account.

16. On March 16,2018, an administrative subpoena to Kik for usemame kylesilOOT yielded a confirmed email address associated with the account as kvlesil007@protonmail.com. Review of the IP logs provided by Kik yielded a mixture of the IP address (12.28.184.116) resolving to the Department of State facility, Verizon Wireless IP addresses, and a Comcast Communications IP address (73.87.155.249) which resolves to the same address in the 2400 block of Menokin Drive, Alexandria VA 22302, as recently as of March 15, 2018. The Menokin address is the address of J.M., who investigation has revealed is an associate and girlfnend of SKYDANCE MACMAHON.

19. On March 15, 2018, Department of State, Office of Inspector General (OIG) was contacted regarding the employment of SKYDANCE MACMAHON. OIG confirmed SKYDANCE MACMAHON was currently employed as a Federal Grade 14 employee at the US State Department, as a Digital Media Administrator at the Foreign Services Institute in Arlington, VA.

22. SKYDANCE MACMAHON advised that minutes prior to the investigators arriving at his work, he received a telephone call from his wife telling him the FBI/police were at their daughter’s school and they asked that she come over the to the school to talk. Upon hanging up the phone with his wife, SKYDANCE MACMAHON deleted items off of his Iphone 7 cellular telephone, such as the applications “kik”, “Wire”, “Dropbox”, “Box” and inappropriate photographs that consisted of child pornography. SKYDANCE MACMAHON’s Iphone 7 was his Department of State issued cellular telephone that he used to communicate with K.C., and other individuals using apps such as Kik and Dropbox.

The case is USA v. Macmahon; Case Number: 1:18-mj-00218-IDD. Warning, abhorrent and horrifying details.

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Senate Passes 98-0 Resolution Against Making Available Current/Ex-Diplomats For Russia Questioning

 

A follow-up to Trump-Putin Summit Fallout: POTUS Entertains Proposal For Russia to Question Ex-US Amb Mike McFaul. The Senate has just passed a 98-0 resolution against making available for Russian questioning  current or former diplomats as well as other officials of the United States Government. The White House has now released a statement about Putin’s proposal that the President of the United States purportedly disagreed with but had previously called “an incredible offer.”

See July 19 update below via VOA with Secretary Pompeo saying “It’s not going to happen,” then added that “”President Trump was very clear – we’re not gonna force Americans to go to Russia to be interrogated by the Russians.”  

The notion that this proposal was made in “sincerity” by President Putin, and that President Trump disagreed with it is actually laughable. Were that true, the Press Secretary could have said immediately that the president pushed back hard against that proposal. This White House must really think we’re all dumb as rocks.

This was a no brainer. Ambassador McFaul, and the other officials that Russia wanted to question may not have been employees of this president, but they were employees and representatives of the United States of America, not of the Democratic Party (despite what this president might think or believe). The fact that this was even offered as a proposal tells us just what Putin think of this President. And the fact this President Trump did not push back and even appeared to consider it is horrifying.

So instead, the Press Secretary announced from the podium that the president “would work with his team” — excuse me, to do what exactly? And now the Press Secretary is saying that while President Trump disagreed with Putin’s proposal, “hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”  That proposal was supposedly in exchange for the questioning of USG individuals. And now all they have left is “hoping” that Putin will go ahead with the proposal anyway?

Holy caramba! No wonder Putin is laughing his head off; he’s playing chess against our White House playing find the shortest toothpick.

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UPDATE:

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Trump-Putin Summit Fallout: POTUS Entertains Proposal For Russia to Question Ex-US Amb Mike McFaul

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Ex-FSO William Syring Charged With Hate Crime and Threats to Arab American Institute Employees

Posted: 4:09 am ET

 

On February 21, USDOJ indicted former FSO William Patrick Syring for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute. Below is the DOJ statement:

The Justice Department today charged William Patrick Syring, 60, from Arlington, Virginia, to four counts of threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin, three counts of threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States, and seven counts of transmitting threats to AAI employees in interstate commerce. A summons was issued for Syring to appear in federal court in Washington, D.C. AAI is a Washington D.C. based private non-profit organization whose purpose is to encourage the direct participation of Arab Americans in political and civic life in the United States.

Each charge of threatening AAI employees because of their race and national origin and because of their advocacy on behalf of AAI provides for a sentence of no greater than one year in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $100,000. Each charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

According to court documents, Syring previously pleaded guilty to threatening AAI employees through e-mails and voicemails sent in 2006. Syring was sentenced on July 11, 2008 to 12 months of imprisonment followed by three years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Following termination of his supervised release, Syring resumed communications with AAI employees, sending AAI employees over 350 e-mails from March 2012 to January 2018. Several of the e-mails Syring sent to AAI employees during this time period contained true threats using language similar to that which formed the basis of his prior conviction.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nick Reddick.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

As noted in the current indictment, Syring was previously charged in 2006 for similar threats in four emails and three voicemails. The current indictment alleged he sent 350 e-mails from March 2012 to January 2018.

He retired from the State Department in July 2007 and he pleaded guilty in that previous case in June 2008. See an excerpt from the 2008 DOJ statement:

W. Patrick Syring, a former foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Washington, D.C., to federal civil rights charges for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30, 2008.

During his guilty plea hearing, Syring admitted that he sent a series of threatening email and voicemail communications to six employees of AAI in July 2006, that he intended to interfere with his victims’ employment, and that he sought to intimidate the victims because of their race as Arab- Americans and their national origin as Lebanese-Americans. AAI is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes Arab-American participation in the U.S. electoral system. In addition to pleading guilty to violating a federal civil rights statute that prohibits race- or national origin-based interference with employment, Syring pleaded guilty to a felony count of sending threatening communications in interstate commerce. Syring faces a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment.

According to the indictment, Syring sent four emails and three voicemails to AAI employees from approximately July 17 to 29, 2006. An additional email condemned AAI for a fatal shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in July 2006 that was committed by a lone gunman who had no affiliation with AAI.

A career foreign service officer and a resident of Arlington, Va., Syring retired from the US Department of State in July 2007.

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@StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case

Posted: 3:40 am ET

 

For those attending the event, here are a few items to read though this is not an exhaustive list. Help us ask these presenters questions that State/PA and State/DS have long ignored:

While we are on the subject, let us revisit a classic case of sexual harassment, where the State Department, specifically one of the presenting offices in the January 11 session had determined that “the alleged acts of sexual harassment did not occur” only to be reversed by the EEOC.

On January 4, 2012, Complainant filed Complaint 24 alleging that the Agency discriminated against her based on her national origin (Arabic/Iraqi), sex (female), religion (Christian), color, and in reprisal for prior protected EEO activity under Title VII when:

3. Her teaching contract was not renewed after August 5, 2011;

4. She was subjected to a hostile work environment characterized by, but not limited to, name calling and sharing an office.  She specifically asserted that since her conversion to Christianity, she was taunted by her Iraqi colleagues, who called her a “peasant,” a “prostitute,” a “bitch,’ and a “daughter of a dog.” She asserted further that she had been told that she had “sold her religion” and had a shoe thrown at her.  Complainant further asserted that she had been the victim of an unsolicited sexual overture by a colleague; and

5. On September 23, 2011, she was not selected for a full time teaching position.

The Agency completed its initial investigation on Complaint 1 in November 2012.  It did not complete an investigation on Complaint 2.  On Complaint 2, according to the Agency, Complainant did not submit an affidavit for the investigation.  Around that time – on March 14, 2013 – Complainant signed forms withdrawing Complaints 1 and 2.5  The Agency ceased processing Complaint 2, but went ahead and issued a FAD on Complaint 1 on May 13, 2013.

In its FAD, the Agency found no discrimination on Complaint 1.  Complainant filed an appeal.  On appeal, the Agency did not note that Complainant previously withdrew her complaint.

In EEOC Appeal No. 0120132236 (May 16, 2014), we recounted that Complainant was provided the right to request a hearing before an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Administrative Judge, but there was no evidence she did so.  We reversed the FAD on the ground that the investigation was inadequate.  Unaware that that Complainant withdrew Complaints 1 and 2, we ordered the Agency to do a supplemental investigation and to consolidate Complaint 2 with Complaint 1 if the Agency was still processing Complaint 2 and had not yet issued a final decision thereon.

In its request for reconsider EEOC Appeal No. 0120132236, the Agency argued that it issued its FAD on Complaint 1 in error, and that Complainant previously withdrew Complaints 1 and 2.  It submitted a copy of its letter to the EEOC compliance officer about the withdrawal of Complaint 1, and Complainant’s signed withdrawals.  We denied the request on the ground that it was untimely filed, and repeated our order in EEOC Appeal No. 0120132236.

Following a supplemental investigation on Complaint 1, the Agency issued a new FAD finding no discrimination therein.  The Agency found that Complainant was not denied the opportunity to attend training and to proctor tests, and the alleged acts of sexual harassment did not occur.  The Agency recounted that it ceased processing Complaint 2 after she withdrew it.6

The EEOC’s decision says that the “Complainant was not subjected to discrimination regarding issue 2” but it determined that “Complainant was subjected to discrimination based on her sex regarding issue 1 – sexual harassment.”

This case which was filed in 2010 was decided by the EEOC on July 7, 2016. Six years. The State Department was ordered to take the following remedial actions within 150 days after the decision became final, and was directed to submit a report of compliance, as provided in the statement entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision.”  The report shall include supporting documentation of the agency’s calculation of back pay and other benefits due complainant, including evidence that the corrective action has been implemented.”

1. The Agency is directed to conduct training at FSI, School of Language Studies for all management and staff in the Arabic Section.  The training shall focus on how to identify and prevent sexual harassment connected with employment.14

2.  If S2 is still employed with the Agency, it shall consider taking disciplinary action against him.  The Agency shall report its decision.  If the Agency decides to take disciplinary action, it shall identify the action taken.  If the Agency decides not to take disciplinary action, it shall set forth the reason(s) for its decision not to impose discipline.

3.  The Agency shall gather evidence on compensatory damages, including providing Complainant an opportunity to submit evidence of her pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages regarding being sexually harassed.  For guidance on what evidence is necessary to prove pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, the parties are directed to EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Compensatory and Punitive Damages Available Under § 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (July 14, 1992) (available at eeoc.gov.)  Thereafter, the Agency shall calculate damages, pay Complainant any damages awarded, and issue a new FAD on damages appealable to the Commission.

The State Department was also directed to post the EEOC order:

The Agency is ordered to post at its Foreign Service Institute, School of Language Studies copies of the attached notice.  Copies of the notice, after being signed by the Agency’s duly authorized representative, shall be posted both in hard copy and electronic format by the Agency within 30 calendar days of the date this decision becomes final, and shall remain posted for 60 consecutive days, in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted.  The Agency shall take reasonable steps to ensure that said notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material.  The original signed notice is to be submitted to the Compliance Officer at the address cited in the paragraph entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision,” within 10 calendar days of the expiration of the posting period.

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Ex-FSO Michael Sestak Released From Prison on January 4, 2018

Posted: 2:33  am ET

 

In August 2015, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Michael T. Sestak, 44, was sentenced to 64 months in prison on federal charges in a scheme where he accepted more than $3 million in bribes to process visas for non-immigrants seeking entry to the United States. The Federal Bureau of Prisons locator indicates that he was scheduled to be released from prison on January 4, 2018. The 2015 USDOJ announcement notes that following his prison term, Sestak will be placed on three years of supervised release.

See this piece on the Sestak case. See below our posts on this case with some unanswered questions.

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House GOP to Use Holman Rule to Target Staff/Funds of the Congressional Budget Office #Bonkers

Posted: 2:06 pm ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

In early January, we blogged about the Holman Rule, which was removed from the standing rules in 1983 but reinstated by House Republicans early this year (see House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Cut Pay of Any Federal Employee. According to the Hill, the House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is trying to eliminate 89 positions from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s staff and require the office to aggregate think tank data instead of using its own professional expertise. The Hill says that Meadows would use the Holman Rule. “In an amendment to be offered to the security-related spending bill scheduled for a House vote this week, Meadows would cut $15 million of funding to CBO staff members responsible for estimating the budgetary costs of bills in Congress…”

This is bonkers.  They don’t like the Congressional Budget Office’s scores, so they’ll eliminate 89 positions and slash the agency’s funding. If they succeed in doing this, they could replicate this at any agency. It will hasten the death of expertise in federal agencies and we will be left with whatever desirable facts and fancy reports will be rolled out by the administration of the day based on aggregated reports from preferred think tanks.

The “Holman Rule” in the rules package passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 193. WaPo previously reported in January that a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program, but that its passage put agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

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