Thursday, February 02, 2006

DemocracyNOW Interview with Robert O'Harrow, Jr. | The Progressive Blog Alliance HQ

Following is an interview from DemocracyNOW with Robert O'Harrow, Jr. who is author of the frightening new book about the security/industrial complex No Place to Hide. Once again, a must see interview from Amy Goodman. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Did Pun Plamondon bring down Richard Nixon?

Discussion Community: Did Pun Plamondon bring down Richard Nixon?

U.S. Supreme Court

1. Section 2511 (3) is merely a disclaimer of congressional intent to define presidential powers in matters affecting national security, and is not a grant of authority to conduct warrantless national security surveillances. Pp. 301-308. [407 U.S. 297, 298]
2. The Fourth Amendment (which shields private speech from unreasonable surveillance) requires prior judicial approval for the type of domestic security surveillance involved in this case. Pp. 314-321; 323-324.
(a) The Government's duty to safeguard domestic security must be weighed against the potential danger that unreasonable surveillances pose to individual privacy and free expression. Pp. 314-315.
(b) The freedoms of the Fourth Amendment cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances are conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive Branch without the detached judgment of a neutral magistrate. Pp. 316-318.
(c) Resort to appropriate warrant procedure would not frustrate the legitimate purposes of domestic security searches. Pp. 318-321.

New York Review Volume 53, Number 2 · February 9, 2006
ON NSA SPYING: A LETTER TO CONGRESS: "Dear Members of Congress: We are scholars of constitutional law and former government officials. We write in our individual capacities as citizens concerned by the Bush administration's National Security Agency domestic spying program, as reported in The New York Times, and in particular to respond to the Justice Department's December 22, 2005, letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees setting forth the administration's defense of the program.[1] Although the program's secrecy prevents us from being privy to all of its details, the Justice Department's defense of what it concedes was secret and warrantless electronic surveillance of persons within the United States fails to identify any plausible legal authority for such surveillance. Accordingly the program appears on its face to violate existing law."


U.S. troops shoot at Canadian diplomats in Iraq
WASHINGTON (CP) — Four Canadian diplomats, including the charge d’affaires to Iraq, escaped injury Tuesday when their vehicle was shot at in Baghdad by U.S. soldiers.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

No Child Left Behind

Ted Koppel Pens First Piece as 'NY Times' Columnist--Comes Out Swinging

E&P: "NEW YORK In his first contribution after being named a New York Times columnist, former ABC newsman Ted Koppel declares, 'I cannot help but see that the industry in which I have spent my entire adult life is in decline and in distress.'"

Attention GAY Senators!!! Vote WIsely

BlogActive: Real Truth, Direct Action

Bush administration domestic spying provokes lawsuits, calls for impeachment

wswsThe Bush administration’s open defiance of federal law and the US Constitution, in proclaiming its right to conduct unlimited warrantless surveillance of telephone and email traffic, has begun to produce a political reaction within US ruling circles.

Two civil liberties groups filed lawsuits against the Bush administration Tuesday, seeking a court order to end the domestic spying by the National Security Agency (NSA). Several senators discussed the possibility of impeachment on television interview programs Sunday, and former vice president Al Gore, in a speech Monday, called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The lawsuits were filed in Detroit and New York City, the first by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of plaintiffs who frequently communicate by phone and email with the Middle East, and the second by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), on behalf of attorneys for prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Both suits charge that the eavesdropping program is illegal and unconstitutional and seek court injunctions to bar further spying.

The day the suits were filed, the New York Times followed up its initial report on NSA spying with a front-page article revealing that the surveillance had involved far more than monitoring a relative handful of telephone numbers of suspected terrorists, as the Bush administration has claimed. The list of phone numbers, email addresses and names sent by the NSA to the FBI “soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.” The surveillance effort was so massive and indiscriminate that even FBI Director Robert Mueller questioned its legality, the Times said.

The ACLU suit was joined by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Greenpeace and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest US Muslim organization, as well as journalists James Bamford, Christopher Hitchens and Tara McKelvey, and academics Barnett Rubin of New York University, and Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution. The group includes both critics of the Iraq war, like McKelvey of the American Prospect, and those like Hitchens and Diamond who strongly supported the US invasion and occupation.

The lead counsel for the ACLU in this suit, Ann Beeson, said, “The prohibition against government eavesdropping on American citizens is well-established and crystal clear. President Bush’s claim that he is not bound by the law is simply astounding.” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero added, “The current surveillance of Americans is a chilling assertion of presidential power that has not been seen since the days of Richard Nixon.”

In the suit filed in New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights declared that its own work was directly affected by the spying because CCR lawyers represented hundreds of Muslim US residents detained after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as many of the Guantánamo Bay prisoners. Their defense necessarily required extensive telephone conversations and email exchanges with individuals in the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia, which CCR said were likely monitored by the NSA.

In a statement released as the suit was filed, CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said, “On this, the day following Martin Luther King Day, we are saddened that the illegal electronic surveillance that once targeted that great American has again become characteristic of our present government. As was the case with Dr. King, this illegal activity is cloaked in the guise of national security. In reality, it reflects an attempt by the Bush Administration to exercise unchecked power without the inconvenient interference of the other co-equal branches of government.”

The suits were filed after a weekend in which there was, for the first time in US official circles, open discussion of whether impeachment proceedings were warranted against Bush. Republican Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the ABC television program “This Week” that he would go ahead with hearings on the NSA spying, with the principal witness to be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who earlier this month issued an opinion defending the legality of the program.

If the spy program is in fact illegal, Specter said, “The remedy could be a variety of things, including impeachment or criminal prosecution.” He hastened to add that he did not believe impeachment was justified or likely, but nonetheless, he became the first prominent Republican to raise the possibility.

Former vice president Gore delivered his sharply worded attack on Bush in a speech in Washington on Martin Luther King Day at Constitution Hall on the Mall, an appearance which was sponsored, not by the Democratic Party, but by a coalition of civil liberties and right-wing libertarian groups, including the National Taxpayers Union, the Free Congress Foundation and the American Conservative Union. He called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate whether the White House committed crimes in authorizing the extensive NSA spying.

While Gore did not use the word impeachment, he gave a scathing description of the Bush administration’s disregard for legal procedure and the constitutional limitations on executive power. He warned that Bush had “brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution” through his conduct of the war in Iraq and the “anti-terror” campaign at home.

Gore condemned the Bush administration’s indefinite detention of American citizens, torture at CIA-run prisons, and massive domestic spying. He compared these policies to similar attacks on democratic rights during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War, noting that “in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.”

Given the open-ended character of Bush’s “war on terror,” however, “There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself.” In somewhat roundabout language, Gore was suggesting that the Bush administration was on the road to dictatorship.

This speech raises serious political issues before American working people. The police-state measures introduced by the Bush administration, with the full support of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, have gone so far that even a leading bourgeois politician—the man who, after all, received more votes than Bush in the 2000 presidential election—is compelled to protest.

Gore, however, downplays the extent of the danger and covers up its origins. The right-wing onslaught against democratic rights and constitutional norms did not begin with 9/11. It is not an exaggerated response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, as the former vice president suggested.

The breakdown of American democracy was already visible in the impeachment of Clinton, in which a right-wing cabal of lawyers, judges and congressmen sought to overturn the results of two presidential elections using the bogus investigation headed by independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

This process came to a head in the 2000 election, stolen by the Republican Party through the intervention of the US Supreme Court. A bare 5-4 majority of the highest court halted vote-counting in Florida, awarding the state’s electoral votes and the White House to George W. Bush. Al Gore, although he had won the popular vote by half a million votes nationwide, and would have won Florida as well had all votes been counted, bowed to the court’s intervention and conceded the election.

At the time, the World Socialist Web Site wrote that the outcome of the 2000 elections would determine whether there existed any significant constituency in the American ruling elite for the defense of democratic rights. The capitulation of the Democratic Party to the theft of the 2000 election represented a political watershed. And it was followed by a similar surrender in 2004, when the Democratic Party decided to run a pro-war presidential candidate and spurn the antiwar sentiments of a majority of Democratic voters.

The impeachment of Bush and Cheney would be, of course, thoroughly justified. There are ample grounds for convicting them of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” They are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Iraq, of both Iraqis and Americans, in an illegal war whose purpose was to seize control of the world’s third largest oil reserves.

But the Democratic Party, even if it won control of Congress in the 2006 elections, has no stomach for the type of fight that would be required to remove Bush from office. This is not merely the product of the personal cowardice of the Democratic leaders. It is because the Democrats, whatever their tactical disagreements, are fundamentally in agreement with Bush’s policies. The same Democrats who admit that the war in Iraq was launched on the basis of lies nonetheless insist that the United States must maintain its occupation of the oil-rich country.

That is because the Democratic Party upholds the same social interests as the Republican Party. Both parties represent and defend the American ruling elite, the top 1 percent which controls the vast bulk of the wealth of society. The struggle against the Bush administration and its policies of war, attacks on democratic rights and destruction of jobs and living standards requires the building of a new, independent political party of the working class, based on a socialist program.

While it finds virtually no expression in official Washington, there is growing popular hostility to the Bush administration, as measured by a poll commissioned by the antiwar group, and conducted by the Zogby International polling organization. The poll conducted January 9-12 found that a majority of the American people want Congress to impeach Bush if he ordered wiretapping without a judge’s approval. The margin was 52 percent to 43 percent, with majorities for impeachment in every region of the country, including the South, and an astonishing 74 percent of young people, aged 18-29, supporting the president’s removal. Even 23 percent of Republicans favored impeachment.

Zogby, Gallup and other established polls have refused requests to include an impeachment question in their regular polling for news organizations, claiming that there was no support for impeachment in Congress and no significant discussion of it in the media. raised money over the Internet to pay Zogby to conduct the poll, with results that underscore the enormous gulf between official Washington and the American public.

As the group noted in the press release, “The strong support for impeachment found in this poll is especially surprising because the views of impeachment supporters are entirely absent from the broadcast and print media, and can only be found on the Internet and in street protests. The lack of coverage of impeachment support is due in part to the fact that not a single Democrat in Congress has called for impeachment...”

The furthest the congressional Democrats have gone is to suggest an inquiry into the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war, leaving open the possibility of impeachment, and even this step is limited to a handful. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia has suggested that the Bush surveillance program may be grounds for impeachment.

A total of seven House Democrats have announced their support for legislation introduced last month by John Conyers, a Detroit Democrat, seeking an impeachment inquiry into Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq. HR 635 calls for creating a select committee “to investigate the administration’s intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture [and] retaliating against critics.” The seven co-signers include four members of the Congressional Black Caucus (Sheila Jackson-Lee, Donald Payne, Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters), and three liberals from California (Lois Capps, Zoe Lofgren and Lynn Woolsey). Not a single figure in the Democratic leadership has signed on.

See Also:
More revelations of illegal spying by US government
[7 January 2006]
Bush employs “Big Lie” technique to defend illegal spying on Americans
[24 December 2005]

Monday, January 30, 2006

During Confederate Meeting Bush looks for a script he can schtick to - World - days before his State of the Union speech, George Bush did a warm-up gig at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner in Washington.

You haven't heard of the Alfalfa Club? Well, neither have most Americans. Founded in 1913 by a group of wealthy locals, it apparently exists for the sole purpose of holding a yearly banquet to honour the Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee.
Over the decades it has become a highlight date on the Washington social calendar, an event where the president polishes his oratorical skills on the eve of the State of the Union address.

Although the dinner, attended by Washington movers and shakers and what passes for celebrities in Washington - Martha Stewart was there - was closed to the media, copies of the Bush speech are circulating in the nation's capital.

In it he raised all the issues that will be covered in his State of the Union address today and a few that most probably won't make it. Like his take on the gay cowboy movie, Brokeback Mountain.

"It's always good to see Vice-President Dick Cheney," he told the revellers.

"Lynne Cheney and Laura were out of town recently so I called up Dick and said 'Why don't we go to a movie'? He said 'Great idea, let's go to a cowboy movie'.

"Yep, finally went to see Brokeback Mountain. Let me tell you, whooo-eee.

"Dick sat through the movie, didn't say a word. We came out, after a while he says 'nice horses'. I say 'yep'. Then he becomes real quiet again and kind of serious. I knew something was on his mind. Finally he turned to me and said: 'You don't suppose the Lone Ranger and Tonto …"'

On the controversy involving domestic eavesdropping without court approval, Mr Bush was both defiant and puzzled.

"You know, you can't please some people no matter what you do," he said. "Half the time they say I'm isolated and don't listen. Then when I do listen, they say I need a warrant."

Mr Bush acknowledged members of his family in the room, including his brothers Jeb and Marvin and his father, George, the 41st president.

"My Dad, Ole '41, is with us," he said. "A little earlier as we were getting ready, Dad was talking to Jeb, Marvin and me. Surrounded by his sons, he got a little choked up. Amidst the tears, he said: 'Boys, this evening would be perfect if only your new brother, Bill Clinton, could've been here'.

"Mom's here. Mom, you got in any trouble lately?"

Mr Bush finished by making it clear he was impressed with the performance of Samuel Alito, his nominee for the Supreme Court.

And he explained why Mr Alito's wife burst out crying at one stage and had to leave the committee room. "Martha Alito won America's heart," he said. "What a warm and wonderful woman. I talked to her. You wanna know what really caused her to cry at those hearings? Boredom."

It remains to be seen just how close to this speech the State of the Union address will be. It depends, according to Administration officials, how the Alfalfa Club address does in hastily organised focus group research.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Alito - It's the Constitution That's At Stake

by Thom Hartmann
Published on Sunday, January 29, 2006 by

Samuel Alito is a big booster of presidential power. Other "constitutional scholars" have been less sanguine.

On April 20, 1795, James Madison, who had just helped shepherd through the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and would become President of the United States in the following decade, wrote:

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few."

Reflecting on the ability of a president to use war as an excuse to become a virtual dictator, Madison continued his letter:

"In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive [President] is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war...and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both.

"No nation," our fourth President and the Father of the Constitution concluded, "could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

Since Madison's warning, "continual warfare" has been used both in fiction and in the real world.

In the novel "1984" by George Orwell, the way a seemingly democratic president kept his nation in a continual state of repression was by having a continuous war.

Cynics suggest the lesson wasn't lost on Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, who both, they say, extended the Vietnam war so it coincidentally ran over election cycles, knowing that a wartime President's party is more likely to be reelected and has more power than a President in peacetime.

And, as George W. Bush told his biographer in 1999:

"One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as commander in chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."

Similarly, Adolf Hitler used the 1933 burning of the Reichstag (Parliament) building by a deranged Dutchman to declare a "war on terrorism," establish his legitimacy as a leader (even though he hadn't won a majority in the previous election).

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their "evil" deeds in their religion.

Two weeks later, the first prison for terrorists was built in Oranianberg, holding the first suspected allies of the infamous terrorist.

Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation, in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it, that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones without warrants; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.

To get his patriotic "Decree on the Protection of People and State" passed over the objections of concerned legislators and civil libertarians, he agreed to put a 4-year sunset provision on it: if the national emergency provoked by the terrorist attack on the Reichstag building was over by then, the freedoms and rights would be returned to the people, and the police agencies would be re-restrained.

He then expanded his personal security service (the Stosstrupp) into a nationwide police force (the SchutzStaffel), answerable only to him, and thus with virtually unlimited powers of arrest and imprisonment.

Now George W. Bush is the most recent "leader" to claim vast and wide powers during time of war, that those powers trump the constitution, and that the war he has started will go on "for generations" to come.

To this end, has attached more than one hundred "presidential signing statements" to legislation passed by Congress, with the goal of inflating presidential power and inserting himself into the lawmaking process - a strategy developed in part by Samuel Alito himself.

And in the new reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act - a piece of legislation almost certain to eventually come before the Supreme Court - Section 3605 expands the Secret Service (SS) from a Presidential protection detail to a national police force with the power to designate anyplace where people are meeting in the USA as a SENS (Special Event of National Significance).

Once a SENS is established - anywhere, anytime, at the sole discretion of the SS (and it's not even necessary that the President or any other Executive Branch member be present) - the SS shall have the power to (quoting the new PATRIOT Act provisions) "carry firearms" and "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony."

Samuel Alito not only would support such expansions of Presidential power on the Supreme Court, he was the author and/or principle proponent of several of the devices used today by Bush to secure such power (including the argument that the power of the Presidency is "unitary").

The vote this week about Samuel Alito is not a vote about Republicans versus Democrats. It's a vote about the future of democracy in the United States of America.

Do we accept Madison's vision of a nation in search of peace and with personal privacy intact, or do we embrace Sam Alito's vision of questionable elections, concentration camps, spying on citizens to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, repression of women's and minority rights, and war without end?

As our legislators vote, we must carefully note their positions on this issue. Their oath of office is not to the President or even to "protect the people," but to the Constitution. And it is the Constitution - and the future of our democratic republic - that is at stake here.

Thom Hartmann [thom (at)] is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. His most recent book is "What Would Jefferson Do?" and he's participating this week with other progressive talk show hosts in a "filibuster for a filibuster" radio marathon on The Young Turks Show.

70 trapped in Saskatchewan potash mine "ESTERHAZY, Sask. (CP) A fire at a potash mine in southeastern Saskatchewan trapped about 70 miners underground on Sunday, but mine officials said the miners were believed to be safe."

Historic Outlet for our VOICE in DEMOCRACY Dismantled Just in Time for Bu$hCo to Install Judge Alito

Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage.

Pentagon Flim-Flam- "Stop-Loss" Tricks 50,000 Troops into Extended Service

Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called 'stop-loss,' but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.

The policy applies to soldiers in units due to deploy for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Army said stop-loss is vital to maintain units that are cohesive and ready to fight. But some experts said it shows how badly the Army is stretched and could further complicate efforts to attract new recruits.

As the war in Iraq drags on, the Army is accumulating a collection of problems that cumulatively could call into question the viability of an all-volunteer force," said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank.

"When a service has to repeatedly resort to compelling the retention of people who want to leave, you're edging away from the whole notion of volunteerism."

When soldiers enlist, they sign a contract to serve for a certain number of years, and know precisely when their service obligation ends so they can return to civilian life. But stop-loss allows the Army, mindful of having fully manned units, to keep soldiers on the verge of leaving the military.

Under the policy, soldiers who normally would leave when their commitments expire must remain in the Army, starting 90 days before their unit is scheduled to depart, through the end of their deployment and up to another 90 days after returning to their home base.

With yearlong tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, some soldiers can be forced to stay in the Army an extra 18 months.


Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said that "there is no plan to discontinue stop-loss."

"We understand that this is causing hardship for some individual soldiers, and we take individual situations into consideration," Hilferty said.

Hilferty said there are about 12,500 soldiers in the regular Army, as well as the part-time National Guard and Reserve, currently serving involuntarily under the policy, and that about 50,000 have had their service extended since the program began in 2002. An initial limited use of stop-loss was expanded in subsequent years to affect many more.

"While the policies relative to the stop-loss seem harsh, in terms of suspending scheduled separation dates (for leaving the Army), they are not absolute," Hilferty said. "And we take individual situations into consideration for compelling and compassionate reasons."

Hilferty noted the Army has given "exceptions" to 210 enlisted soldiers "due to personal hardship reasons" since October 2004, allowing them to leave as scheduled.

"The nation is at war and we are stop-lossing units deploying to a combat theater to ensure they mobilize, train, deploy, fight, redeploy and demobilize as a team," he said.


A few soldiers have gone to court to challenge stop-loss.

One such case fizzled last week, when U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington dismissed a suit filed in 2004 by two Army National Guard soldiers. The suit claimed the Army fraudulently induced soldiers to enlist without specifying that their service might be involuntarily extended.

Courts also have backed the policy's legality in Oregon and California cases.

Jules Lobel, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who represented the National Guard soldiers, said a successful challenge to stop-loss was still possible.

"I think the whole stop-loss program is a misrepresentation to people of how long they're going to actually serve. I think it's caused tremendous morale problems, tremendous psychological damage to people," Lobel said.

"When you sign up for the military, you're saying, 'I'll give you, say, six years and then after six years I get my life back.' And they're saying, 'No, really, we can extend you indefinitely."'

Congressional critics have assailed stop-loss, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry called it "a back-door draft." The United States abolished the draft in 1973, but the all-volunteer military never before has been tested by a protracted war.

A report commissioned by the Pentagon called stop-loss a "short-term fix" enabling the Army to meet ongoing troop deployment requirements, but said such policies "risk breaking the force as recruitment and retention problems mount." It was written by Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer.

Thompson added, "The persistent use of stop-loss underscores the fact that the war-fighting burden is being carried by a handful of soldiers while the vast majority of citizens incur no sacrifice at all."


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