Overheard on CNN.com: Does money in politics amount to conflict of interest?
George Clooney, right, talks with Chris Wallace on April 28. Clooney's fundraiser for Obama raised $15 million in one night.
May 15th, 2012
08:40 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Does money in politics amount to conflict of interest?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

LZ Granderson's latest column asserts that politics on both sides of the aisle are fueled by large amounts of money. He takes a look at President Barack Obama's pricey campaign, as well as Mitt Romney's. Many of our readers agreed, and asked if it's even possible for a regular person to get elected to office nowadays. Should we do something about the potential influences of money? What?

In election, 'a seat at the table' costs $5,000

Should politicians just go ahead and wear their donors on their sleeve, literally?

IcObamafail: "Politicians should be forced to wear uniforms like in NASCAR so we know who owns them."

Is there a difference between the parties? Some say no.

hman1234: "Excellent article, LZ. Going back to what George Carlin said, 'You have the illusion of choice.' You may vote the D or the R, but you're getting the same old status quo."

If you're a regular person, do you stand a chance?

thggr: "LZ you should be really complaining that you have to be in the 1% to even consider running and campaigning for any office in DC. We will not ever have a true representative that can speak for the average person until an average person can afford to even run for office. How stupid we are, we listen to a 1%'er complain about another 1%'er being rich and out of touch with the 99%. All of them are out of touch on both sides of the aisle."

Or, conversely, is politics a self-selecting field? FULL POST

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Elections • Mitt Romney • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
Mystery gifts from Paris stump New Zealanders
Mysterious packages sent to a few New Zealanders included cash, a friendly note and hair clippers or hair dryers like this one.
May 15th, 2012
08:23 PM ET

Mystery gifts from Paris stump New Zealanders

Perhaps some benevolent hair-care elves are looking out for a few folks in New Zealand’s South Island.

Or, as police are wondering, maybe a would-be criminal is just testing what he or she can get past customs agents.

Four surprise packages containing up to 300 New Zealand dollars ($231), friendly handwritten notes and either a hair dryer or a pair of hair clippers were sent recently from Paris to three people on a remote portion of South Island, the Guardian and the Greymouth (New Zealand) Star reported Tuesday.

Two of the notes said “thank you for being a true friend” in a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, the Guardian reported. But the recipients told police they didn’t know who sent the packages or why they received them, according to the Star.

It could be a prank, and it’s probably not a marketing stunt, police Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam said at a news conference in Greymouth, the papers reported.

However, Interpol and New Zealand Customs Service agents are checking the return addresses and investigating whether this was part of a test run to ship drugs or launder money, she said, according to both media outlets.

“(The recipients) did the right thing by contacting police about their surprise parcels,” Ealam said, according to the Star. “Maybe they have come from someone who won the lottery over there - or it could be that it’s a nice prank.”

arizona lottery

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Filed under: France • New Zealand
24 hours through the lens
May 15th, 2012
05:03 PM ET

The CNN Daily Mash-up

The CNN Daily Mash-up is a roundup of some of the most interesting, surprising, curious, poignant or significant items to appear on CNN.com in the past 24 hours. We'll top it with a collection of the day's most striking photographs.

Eat something. You'll feel better.

Michael Anthony is the chef-partner at New York City's Gramercy Tavern. Last week, he received the James Beard Award for Best Chef NYC,  but he almost didn't live to see that day. Here's what he said about food's role in healing after his open heart surgery:

With the help of these restaurant folk and their deliveries, I eased my way back in to being myself again by tasting each expression: barley and basil brought solidarity in tough times, kale and beet salad reconnected me with the garden, chicken fricassee invoked nostalgia, parsnip soup acted like a familiar handshake, poached lemon char sparked dreams, chocolate chip cookies felt just like a pat on the back.

No help for dying eagle?

People in a Cape Coral, Florida, neighborhood are distraught after watching a bald eagle die before their very eyes, CNN affiliate WFTX reports. The young bird came out on the losing end of a fight, landing in a vacant lot in the neighborhood. "I came up to it. It didn't move. It was frightened, and it was obviously injured," Ray Christensen told WFTX. Neighbors called police for help and are not satisfied with the response.

Coach saved by line drive

An accident on the diamond may have saved the life of a baseball coach in suburban Chicago. CNN affiliate WLS reports that Elk Grove High School coach Steve Lesniak was hit by a line drive at practice. When he went to the hospital, a much bigger problem was discovered.

Man explains why he made video that went viral

Shane Bitney Crone's touching video has been viewed on YouTube more than 2 million times. He tells CNN the story behind the story.

iReporter, 89, has had it up to here with nasty politics

World War II U.S. Army veteran Andrea Bacigalupa is disgusted with the state of American politics and feels that he isn't represented by either major political party. Here's what he said on his iReport post:

I hold little hope that this country will regain a sense of civility, at least, among politicians and big business. I presume that there will always be isolated individual citizens who practice civility.

Sleepwalking comments: Watch your step

A study finds almost one-third of people have experienced an episode of sleepwalking, and 1% somnambulate two or more times a month. That news was an eye-opener for many readers, some serious, some not so much.

caroline

Sleep walking can be associated with bad sleep apnea. In my case I was a chronic sleepwalker since childhood. When I was finally studied in a sleep lab, they said I had no REM sleep at all. During REM sleep the muscles are frozen and dreams occur harmlessly. Without REM sleep, the person may act out their dreams, as I did. When I got a dental device and began side sleeping, my sleepwalking also stopped. I had the good fortune to own a house 500 feet from the road. I never sleep walked further than halfway. It is a frightening thing, another reason why sleep disorders should be diagnosed and treated.

lizng

Apparently I go stand in the bathroom and shuffle things on the counter around loudly enough to wake up my husband. Good stuff, I tell ya. This is not the 1% I'd like to belong to.

Artist's renderingLook! Up in the sky!

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... a fish? Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute on Monday unveiled the world's largest king salmon. A Boeing 737-800 is being painted to look like a 129-foot-long king salmon, CNN affiliat KCPQ reports. The new "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon II" features fish scales on the winglets and a salmon-pink "Alaska" script across the fuselage. KCPQ has a picture.

On the horizon: Medal of Honor, Cannes Film Festival

President Barack Obama will award Army Spec. Leslie H. Sabo Jr. the Medal of Honor on Wednesday for conspicuous gallantry.  Sabo will receive the honor posthumously for his heroic actions in combat with the 101st Airborne Division on May 10, 1970, in Se San, Cambodia.

The Cannes Film Festival gets under way Wednesday in France and will run through May 27. Among the hot tickets will be director Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly," starring Brad Pitt; Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," starring Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey; and "Lawless" with Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf.

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Filed under: CNN Daily Mash-up
May 15th, 2012
02:09 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate Greece's financial savvy, role in Eurozone

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

The office of President Karolos Papoulias said Tuesday that debt-wracked Greece will hold new elections. The country is in a political stalemate, and some might now call it the "sick man in Europe." Readers are debating what would happen if the country left the Eurozone, and if Greece is doing enough to help itself out.

Greece to hold new elections after stalemate

Some readers said they believe the Greek people are making too much of austerity measures.

URSilly: "Let the Greeks suffer in their own stupidity. They will find out what real austerity is when their government has NO money to pay pensions and the like. Good luck with the drachma and its spiraling devaluation."

Does the situation compare to the U.S.?

turtle995: "The U.S. is the biggest debtor nation in the history of the world. The only difference between us and them is that we have the world's reserve currency and can print at will. This privilege will end soon because the Fed is abusing it. What is happening to Greece will be coming to the U.S. soon."

In responding to this comment, readers talked about Greece's sacrifices, and whether enough are being made. FULL POST

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Filed under: Economy • Greece • Overheard on CNN.com • World
Queen Elizabeth II gets 23rd wax figure
The new Queen Elizabeth II figure, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Philip, is at Madame Tussauds in London.
May 15th, 2012
02:09 PM ET

Queen Elizabeth II gets 23rd wax figure

Anyone wanting to wish Queen Elizabeth II a happy Diamond Jubilee can do so in person, at least to the newest wax model of the British monarch at Madame Tussauds in London.

The 23rd and latest lifelike model of the queen Madame Tussauds has made more wax figures of her than of anyone else, by far was released to honor her 60th year on the throne. Replicating the official jubilee portrait photograph, the figure wears a re-created white and silver lace dress covered in 53,000 Swarovski crystals and a blue silk sash.

"Our guests come from all over the world, and she is the most photographed wax figure. She is the person that people come and see," Madame Tussauds spokeswoman Liz Edwards told Reuters.

FULL POST

May 15th, 2012
01:20 PM ET

Killings lead to question: Can you wait before pulling over for a cop?

Two Mississippi killings that may have been committed by someone posing as a police officer have prompted police to give some unusual advice to drivers.

Authorities are asking citizens to be careful if they are pulled over and feel uneasy. They advise drivers to call 911 and verify that a legitimate officer is pulling them over or drive to a well-lit, crowded place before stopping, actions permitted under Mississippi state law.

In the Mississippi killings, police believe the suspect may have tricked drivers into pulling over on the highway.

The issue is obviously different from choosing not to pull over just to challenge police. But it begs the question: What can you as a citizen do if you have concerns or suspicions that someone might be impersonating a police officer?

Bill Johnson, executive director at the National Association of Police Organizations, said there are no standard nationwide laws or rules on the issue and every situation is different.

Johnson said that generally, if citizens have concerns, he believes they should try to pull over to a lighted area, or the most populated area they can, to feel more comfortable. But they can also be their own detective. Johnson said that generally, someone impersonating a police officer doesn't have a true marked car.

An impostor is more likely to be using a car that is similar to the look of patrol cars: Ford Crown Victorias or Chevrolet Impalas, for example. Often they will be legitimate police tucked away on a highway to catch speeders, but you're less likely to find an impostor with an actual stolen police car.

FULL POST

Iranian rapper faces death threats, bounty over song
The bounty for the killing of rapper Shahin Najafi appear on the website shia-online.ir.
May 15th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

Iranian rapper faces death threats, bounty over song

An Iranian rapper is facing death threats and has a $100,000 bounty on his head for a song that some say insults an Islamic Shiite imam.

Shahin Najafi, who sings in Farsi and lives in Germany, told the German website Qantara that the song "Naghi" is not about a religious figure but about the state of society in Iran.

"The story with 'Naghi' was just a pretext," Najafi said in an interview with Qantara, which the German Foreign Office funds to promote dialogue with the Islamic world.

"For me it is more of an excuse to talk about completely different things. I criticize Iranian society in the song. It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word 'imam,' " Najafi is quoted as saying.

Religious figures in Iran see it differently.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Germany • Iran
May 15th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Zimmerman prosecutors release evidence list

Prosecutors released a summary of evidence Tuesday in the case against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who is accused of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.

The eight-page document released to the public contains a list of possible witnesses and law enforcement reports that could be used in the prosecution's case against Zimmerman.

But it doesn't include details from those statements or reports, and contains no new revelations about the case, which sparked nationwide protests and reflection on race relations and gun laws in the United States.

The document is part of the routine exchange of information between prosecutors and defense attorneys that occurs before trials.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Florida • Justice • Trayvon Martin
Gotta Watch: Best commencement speeches
Conan O'Brien delivers advice to Dartmouth graduates in 2011.
May 15th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Best commencement speeches

It’s graduation time, which means high-profile celebrities and politicians are delivering commencement speeches at some of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities. First lady Michelle Obama cheered the Hokies at Virginia Tech’s 2012 graduation, while President Obama encouraged the 2012 graduating class of all-female Barnard College in New York to shape their destiny.

Graduation time reminds us at CNN.com of some of the funnier commencement speeches that we’ve seen over the years. Here are some of our favorites.

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Conan leaves speech writing to late night

TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth speech from last year has been called “The Greatest Commencement Speech Ever”. Watch and see if you agree.

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Cooper sheds his serious persona

Listen for Anderson Cooper’s rare risqué advice to Tulane graduates back in 2010.

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Harvard could learn from Will Ferrell

Watch ‘SNL’ alum Will Ferrell get emotional at 1:00 in his commencement address to Harvard graduates in 2003.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Gotta Watch • Michelle Obama
May 15th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Hang glider pilot apologizes for deadly flight

The pilot of a tandem hang glider from which a British Columbia woman fell to her death last month has apologized to the woman's family and said he won't return to the skies again.

"I failed in such a major way," William Jonathan Orders said in a statement he read Monday. "I want so much to relive that day and have it turn out differently."

Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, was on her first flight on a hang glider on April 28, when she fell 1,000 feet to her death in a forest clearing near Agassiz, British Columbia.

Witness Nicole McLearn told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that when the glider was in the air, Godinez-Avila appeared to be wearing her harness, but it wasn’t attached to the glider.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Canada • Crime
Open Thread: Does JPMorgan CEO Dimon deserve $23 million?
Jamie Dimon is the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase.
May 15th, 2012
10:03 AM ET

Open Thread: Does JPMorgan CEO Dimon deserve $23 million?

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of the nation's largest bank, JPMorgan, went before before shareholders at the company's annual meeting Tuesday and had his $23 million pay package approved, CNNMoney.com reports.

The meeting came  just days after the bank disclosed a $2 billion trading loss, an event that led to the departure of its chief investment officer and forced its CEO to apologize for what he called "a terrible mistake."

Dimon, who also serves as the bank's chairman, faced shareholders who have seen the company's stock decline by more than 14% over the previous five trading sessions.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, shareholders have looked upon the nation's largest banks with increased scrutiny, and have often used shareholder meetings to push an agenda of reform.

Read about how JPMorgan made its multi-billion dollar blunder, and how Dimon gets $23 million for 2011 and bragging rights and then let us know in the comments section how you feel about the CEO's $23 million compensation package.

Do you think Dimon should get that kind of compensation? Does he deserve the pay considering how much his company profits or does a message need to be sent to major bank executives? Let us know below and we may feature your comments on CNN.com

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Filed under: Business • Economy • Finance
Five found dead in Florida home, officials say
The Brevard County SWAT team was called to the home after a report of a shooting.
May 15th, 2012
09:51 AM ET

Five found dead in Florida home, officials say

[Updated at 9:55 a.m. ET] Authorities found five people dead Tuesday at a Florida home following a SWAT team standoff with a suspected gunman.

Four people were found dead inside the home and one female was found dead in the yard, officials said. The gunman or gunmen appear to be among the dead, Brevard County Sheriff's Office Lt. Tod Goodyear said.

"We have no idea on motive right now," Goodyear said.

A SWAT team was called to the neighborhood after a report of a shooting at the home, the sheriff's office told CNN affiliate WFTV.  The SWAT team entered the home just before 7 a.m. ET, Sheriff's Office spokesman John Mellicksaid. CNN affiliate CNF13 reported police were in a standoff until 8 a.m.

Residents in the area told CNN affiliate WKMG that officers in camouflage and carrying assault rifles arrived. Some were allowed to evacuate the area, WKMG reported.

"If we've made contact with you, then you are free to leave," Mellick told residents, according to WKMG.

This story is developing. We'll bring you the latest details as soon as we get them.

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Filed under: Florida
May 15th, 2012
09:17 AM ET

Greek talks end with no deal on government

Greek politicians ended a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias without any sign of agreement Tuesday, increasing the chances the country would have to hold new elections as its debt crisis threatens the stability of the European Union's single currency.

Greece has been in a political stalemate since elections nine days ago left no party with a majority. The leaders of three different parties have tried to cobble together a workable coalition, but all have failed.

The politicians have until Thursday to come up with a government or call new elections.

The political instability has raised the possibility that Greece will fail to make debt payments as early as next month, potentially forcing the country out of the euro, the currency used by 17 European Union countries.

The European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have been pumping money into Greece to keep that from happening, but they have demanded that the Greek government slash spending to get the funds.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: European Union • Greece
May 15th, 2012
08:35 AM ET

Norway: Man sets himself alight outside Breivik trial

A man set himself on fire Tuesday outside the court in Norway's capital, Oslo, where Anders Behring Breivik is on trial over terror attacks last summer that killed 77 people.

"We don't know much about his motives, but he set himself alight outside the courthouse. Police were quick to put the fire out and he has now been taken to hospital," Unni Groendal, head of press for Oslo police, told CNN.

The man is still alive, according to police. He did not try to force his way through the cordon as some reports have suggested, police said.

Norwegian daily newspaper VG reported that several court house employees ran out with water bottles to pour water over the man.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Norway
May 15th, 2012
07:39 AM ET

Tuesday's live events

The race to the presidency now turns toward the general election in November.  CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit - Former president Bill Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, House Speaker John Boehner and others participate in a fiscal summit.

FULL POST


Filed under: Elections • On CNN.com today • Politics
Potomac tops list of endangered rivers in U.S., group says
The Washington Monument can be seen along the shore of the Potomac River that runs through Washington D.C.
May 15th, 2012
07:23 AM ET

Potomac tops list of endangered rivers in U.S., group says

The river that provides much of the drinking water to our nation’s capital, the Potomac, tops the annual list of most endangered American waterways, according to a national conservation group.

American Rivers said Tuesday that thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Potomac is in much better shape than it was 40 years ago, but the river still is threatened by pollution.

“When members of Congress fill a glass of water or drink their morning coffee, that water comes from the Potomac River,” said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, in a news release. “It’s time to draw the clear connections between healthy rivers, drinking water, and public health in Washington, D.C., and in communities nationwide.”

Read the report

FULL POST

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Filed under: U.S.
European Union forces attack pirate targets on Somali shore
An armed pirate keeps watch along the coastline at Hobyo town, northeastern Somalia, in 2010.
May 15th, 2012
07:01 AM ET

European Union forces attack pirate targets on Somali shore

European Union naval forces on Tuesday struck Somali pirate targets on the coast of the country in the first raids by the European force on the Somali mainland.

“We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on, and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows," Rear Adm. Duncan Potts, operational commander of the force, said in a statement.

Several pirate attack skiffs, the small boats pirates use to attack merchant vessels in the open ocean, were destroyed in the raid, said Timo Lange, media officer at the naval force's headquarters in England.

No Somalis were injured in the raid, which was conducted entirely by air, the force's statement said.

"The local Somali people and fishermen – many of whom have suffered so much because of piracy in the region, can be reassured that our focus was on known pirate supplies and will remain so in the future," Potts said in the statement.

On March 23, the Council of the European Union said the naval force would be permitted to attack pirate installations on shore.

The force currently has nine warships and five maritime patrol aircraft operating off Somalia under Operation ATALANTA, which began in December 2008.

In April, the International Maritime Bureau reported that pirate attacks off Somalia had decreased dramatically during the first quarter of the year as compared to a year earlier.

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Filed under: Pirates • Somalia
Murdoch executive Brooks to be charged in UK hacking case
Rebekah Brooks resigned last summer as chief executive of News of the World's publisher.
May 15th, 2012
05:19 AM ET

Murdoch executive Brooks to be charged in UK hacking case

British prosecutors said Tuesday they would charge Rebekah Brooks with trying to obstruct a police investigation into phone hacking at newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World, is accused of plotting to remove boxes of documents from News International offices and hide computers and documents from police.

Her husband, personal assistant and driver will also be charged, along with one of her security guards and the head of security for News International, the News Corp. subsidiary that publishes Murdoch's British newspapers.

Brooks faces three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Her husband Charles and the other suspects face two counts each of the same charge.

A spokesman for Brooks said she and her husband "deplore this weak and unjust decision," and accused prosecutors of "unprecedented posturing." Spokesman David Wilson said there would be a fuller statement later.

Brooks and the others named Tuesday are the first people to be charged in connection with the British police investigation into phone hacking and police bribery, which has been going on for more than a year.

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Filed under: Crime • News of the World • United Kingdom
May 15th, 2012
04:41 AM ET

Dougherty siblings to face charges in Georgia

A trio of siblings, who have already been convicted for part of an alleged multistate crime spree, are scheduled to be in a south Georgia courtroom Tuesday.

The three are accused of robbing a bank in Valdosta, Georgia, during their well-publicized 2011 cross-country flight from the law that started in Florida and ended in Colorado.

Lee Grace and Ryan Dougherty and half-brother Dylan Stanley-Dougherty were captured in Colorado after a shootout with police in August. They pleaded guilty and in April were sentenced there.

In Colorado, Stanley-Dougherty received a 32-year prison term, Lee Grace Dougherty was sentenced to 24 years and Ryan Dougherty got 18.

On Tuesday, the trio go before a judge in Georgia for charges they face in the bank robbery.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Politics • U.S.
May 15th, 2012
04:36 AM ET

Obama talks same-sex marriage on "The View"

Last week, Barack Obama went on record as the first American president to support same-sex marriage, but he doesn't appear ready to take his commitment beyond the endorsement stage.

In an interview scheduled to air Tuesday on ABC's "The View," Obama wouldn't commit to fighting for the the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - a federal law that defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman.

"My justice department has said to the courts, we don't think the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional," the president said in advance excerpts released by the network. "This is something that historically had been determined at the state level and part of my believing ultimately that civil unions weren't sufficient."

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Politics • U.S.
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