Report: The Poor People’s Campaign, 50 Years Later

In 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders launched a Poor People’s Campaign to organize towards transformative actions to end poverty, racism, and militarism in America.

While this effort was undercut by King’s assassination, two prominent faith leaders — the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II — are launching a new multi-issue, multi-racial Poor People’s Campaign to recapture the spirit of that 1968 campaign.

To support this modern-day Poor People’s Campaign, the Institute for Policy Studies has produced an analysis of the campaign’s four core issues: racism, poverty, the war economy/militarism, and ecological destruction. The report finds that by many measures, these problems are worse today than they were five decades ago.  

For example, the report documents the increased number of Americans below the poverty line; the acceleration of economic inequality; the emergence of new forms of voter suppression laws and mass incarceration that further entrench systemic racism in America; the growing imbalance in federal discretionary spending on the military relative to social programs; and the intensification of racial and income disparities in access to clean air and water and exposure to environmental hazards.

This report is a preliminary analysis for release at the launch of the new Poor People’s Campaign on December 4, 2017. A more in-depth “audit” of these issues, including testimonials from many of the leading activists and thinkers of the past 50 years, will be released in 2018.

Key initial findings:

  • Compared to 1968, 60% more Americans are living below the official poverty line today — a total of 41 million people. And while the percentage of families in poverty has merely inched up and down, the top 1 percent’s share of national income has nearly doubled.
  • More than 50 years after the Voting Rights Act, people of color still face a broad range of barriers to democracy. According to the Brennan Center, 23 states have adopted voter suppression laws since 2010.
  • The criminalization of poverty and racially biased sentencing and policing practices have driven the number of prison inmates up eightfold since 1968, with the share who are people of color increasing from less than half to 66%. Federal spending on prisons has increased tenfold in real terms since 1976.
  • Spending trends also reflect increased scapegoating of immigrants. Between 1976 and 2015, federal expenditures on border control and immigration enforcement rose eightfold while the number of deportees grew tenfold.
  • The gap between our government’s discretionary spending on the military versus anti-poverty programs has grown from two-to-one at the height of the Vietnam War to four-to-one today. In the meantime, millions of lives have been lost in wars that have made us no safer, while “real security” in the form of good jobs, health care, and quality education remains beyond the reach of millions of Americans.
  • Since 1968, the environment has become less polluted, but the poor and people of color are bearing the brunt of climate change and suffering the most from environmental hazards. According to the CDC, for example, at least four million families with children are being exposed to high levels of lead, with low-income and people of color at greatest risk. And low-income families and people of color tend to be more likely to have living conditions and jobs that increase the health risks of extreme heat.

Find the full preliminary analysis here [PDF].

The post Report: The Poor People’s Campaign, 50 Years Later appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


VIDEO: The U.S. War in Afghanistan Is Now 16 Years Old. Trump Has No Plans to End It.

On October 7, 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The war is now 16 years old — and that’s not even counting the decade of U.S. intervention in the country during the Cold War.

Donald Trump once advocated the “speedy withdrawal” of U.S. troops from that country. As president, however, he’s gone in the opposite direction, demanding the U.S. must now “fight to win.” 

As Phyllis Bennis, director of the IPS New Internationalism project, explains in this short video, Trump’s plans to extend the war he once supported ending are even more worrisome for their lack of transparency. He’s not said how many new troops he’ll send or how long they’ll be deployed. Worse still, civilian casualties in multiple U.S. wars have been on the rise since he took office — by 67 percent in just six months.

It’s clear by now that the solution to terrorism won’t come from using military power, Bennis explains. That can only be achieved by diplomacy. “It’s harder, it takes longer, it’s not as sexy, it’s not sexy on CNN, it’s not any of those things,” she concludes. “But it’s the only thing that will work.” 

Video by Victoria Borneman and Peter Certo.


We’ve Been Calling Out the Overpaid Oil Execs Trump’s Considering for Secretary of State for Years

(Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr)

(Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr)

Reuters is reporting that Donald Trump is considering ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond for the post of Secretary of State.

As someone who’s been analyzing CEO pay for more than 20 years, I feel like I know these guys.  So I couldn’t resist pulling out excerpts from two of our annual Executive Excess reports in which Raymond and Tillerson played starring roles. First, in 2006, our report zeroed in on the CEOs who were profiting from the war in Iraq. Lee Raymond, as the outgoing CEO of ExxonMobil, was cashing in big-time on war-related oil price volatility, something he readily admitted he had no control over. While ordinary Americans were feeling “pain at the pump,” high oil prices had sent the value of his pay package soaring. Here’s the timely excerpt:

Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil CEO, 1999-2005:

In 2005, ExxonMobil collected $ 36 billion in profit, the grandest annual profit total ever recorded anywhere. Last November, called before Congress to explain the rising gas prices that appear to have fueled these record profits, ExxonMobil’s Lee Raymond explained that rising prices reflect global supply and demand, nothing more.

“We are all,” Raymond assured Congress, “in this together, everywhere in the world.”

We’re all in this together, except Raymond. As ExxonMobil CEO in 2005, his basic salary alone ran 63 times the average paycheck in the oil industry. Raymond’s $ 4 million salary last year amounted to a weekly take-home of $ 83,333.

But Raymond hardly had to content himself with just salary in 2005. His overall pay for the year totaled $ 69,684,030.

Raymond retired from ExxonMobil at the end of 2005, and his near $ 70 million in compensation for the year seemed, at the time, a more than ample reward for his career of service to company shareholders. Company directors disagreed. This past April, news reports revealed that Raymond walked off into the retirement sunset with a going-away pay package that sets a staggeringly new golden parachute standard.

This retirement package — a grab-bag of stock options, restricted stock awards from previous years, retirement-independent salary, and bonuses, plus a $ 1 million consulting contract, security services, a car and driver, access to the company corporate jet, and $ 210,800 in country club fees — would add up to nearly $ 400 million.

“He is a porker of the first order,” executive pay expert Graef Crystal told Bloomberg after the news of Raymond’s good fortune broke. “Those CEOs out there who are doing better at the trough must be thrilled he’s flying fighter cover for them.”

Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO, 2006-present:

And now on to ExxonMobil’s current CEO, Rex Tillerson. In 2015, our Executive Excess report was the first to analyze how CEO pay practices are rewarding corporate leaders for accelerating climate change. The report documented, for example, how oil executive bonuses encourage behaviors that further lock their companies into fossil fuel dependency instead of diversifying into renewables.

At ExxonMobil, the company’s proxy statement cited successful drilling in “the first ExxonMobil-Rosneft Joint Venture Kara Sea exploration well in the Russian Arctic” among the reasons for awarding high executive payouts in 2014. The Russian government-owned Rosneft has a dismal environmental, safety, and transparency record, according to Greenpeace. Within months of the ExxonMobil bonus awards, international sanctions against Russia led to the scrapping of this controversial joint venture.

Here’s more from that report about Tillerson:

A regular on lists of America’s highest-paid corporate executives, Rex Tillerson pocketed $ 33 million in 2014, raising his total compensation over the past five years to $ 165 million. His gargantuan reward package doesn’t just reflect the massive size of his firm, the nation’s second-largest. As detailed later in this report, ExxonMobil aggressively uses stock repurchases to boost share prices, a move that in turn inflates Tillerson’s equity-based pay. Between 2003 and 2013, buybacks accounted for an estimated 51 percent of ExxonMobil earnings per share growth. As of year-end 2014, Tillerson, who became ExxonMobil chair and CEO in 2006, was sitting on more than $ 166 million worth of unvested stock grants.ExxonMobil stock buybacks3

In the midst of all this share repurchasing, ExxonMobil has also been spending generously to support climate deniers. In the 2014 election cycle, ExxonMobil’s PAC dished out $ 715,000 in campaign contributions to candidates who have either denied or raised questions about climate science. ExxonMobil, adds the Union of Concerned Scientists, also continues to quietly fund climate denial organizations.

Shareholders have pushed hard for change at ExxonMobil. They’ve introduced 62 climate-related resolutions over the past 25 years. Management has opposed every one. CEO Tillerson, ironically, has little tolerance for environment-threatening behavior in his own backyard. Last year, his efforts to block a fracking project in his posh Dallas suburb made the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

In a follow-up article in AlterNet, I noted that when a Catholic priest and shareholder activist urged investment in renewables at the company’s annual meeting in 2015, Tillerson openly mocked him.

I know I should add something thoughtful here about how Tillerson or Raymond might perform as our nation’s top diplomat, including in global climate negotiations and international efforts to fight global poverty. Sorry, I’ve got nothing to say.

The post We’ve Been Calling Out the Overpaid Oil Execs Trump’s Considering for Secretary of State for Years appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project for the Institute for Policy Studies.


After Seven Years and Millions of Dollars, Decision Announced in Pac Rim Mining Company vs. El Salvador

International Allies against Mining in El SalvadorFor Release October 14, 2016

Cabañas, El Salvador / Washington DC / Ottawa / Melbourne – Civil society groups worldwide that have allied with Salvadoran communities and organizations working on mining and environmental issues reacted to today’s decision by the controversial International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on the seven-year old case of Pac Rim Cayman vs. El Salvador, stating that “there are no winners” in this case.  On Friday, October 14, the tribunal announced their decision that Pac Rim’s lawsuit was without merit and hence that El Salvador will not have to pay the company the $ 250 million that it sought.

In 2009, Pac Rim Cayman LLC brought an “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) case against El Salvador at the World Bank Group’s arbitration venue, ICSID.  The company, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian-Australian company OceanaGold, sued El Salvador for alleged losses of potential profits as a result of not being granted a mining concession for a gold project. The government of El Salvador did not issue the concession because the company failed to meet key regulatory requirements.

“The fact that Pac Rim – now OceanaGold – could sue El Salvador when it has never had a license to operate, is an abuse of process,” says Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies. “That these suits take place far from any transparent, independent court system demonstrates why we are opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other so called free trade agreements.”

This case is part of what led the Government of El Salvador to decide not to issue new mining permits.  That decision has widespread support in El Salvador; a recent poll of the University of Central America (UCA) indicates that 79.5% of Salvadorans are against any gold mining.

The civil society groups from the four countries, which came together in 2009 as International Allies, praised the communities in El Salvador that have opposed the mining company and have rallied the Salvadoran public and government to oppose new mining projects despite heavy pressure from the mining company.  They expressed disgust that El Salvador had to pay over $ 12 million to fund its defense in a case where the mining company never fulfilled all the legal or environmental requirements for a mining license.

“Irrevocable damage has already been done to communities in El Salvador,” says the Salvadoran Roundtable against Metallic Mining (La Mesa).  “Pac Rim’s presence in El Salvador has fomented local conflict, which has led to threats, attacks, and assassinations. We want OceanaGold, and all the misery it has caused, out of El Salvador, and for the government to enact a prohibition on any metal mining.”

“By allowing transnational companies to blackmail governments to try to force them to adopt policies that favor corporations, investor-state arbitration undermines democracy in El Salvador and around the world,” says Marcos Orellana of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Regardless of the outcome, the arbitration has had a chilling effect on the development and implementation of public policy necessary to protect the environment and the human right to water.”

“This is one of now far too many examples of Canadian mining companies making use of international arbitration to bully governments when their mine projects lack community consent and have not met legal or regulatory requirements. In contrast, communities have no effective means to hold these same companies to account for the systematic and serious harms resulting from their operations”, says Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada.

“What we have now is a clear example of what is wrong with investor-state-dispute-settlement clauses, whether they are inserted in domestic laws or bilateral or multilateral investment agreements. El Salvador’s experience confirms the threats to human rights and the environment that occur when corporations bring a suit to tribunals like ICSID,” explained Robin Broad, professor at the American University.

“A mining company that calls itself responsible should not be using mechanisms like ICSID to force governments to do its bidding.  Countries like El Salvador have a right to say no to mining without fear of a massive lawsuit”, said Keith Slack of Oxfam America.

“At a time of water scarcity, it is unconscionable for the global trade and investment regime to deny governments of water-stressed countries like El Salvador the policy space to protect local watersheds and ensure the realization of the human right to water,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

“It was morally reprehensible for Oceana Gold to demand $ 250 million USD from the Salvadoran people. This is a staggering amount for a cash-strapped country that could be much better used for education, health care, or other social services. This amount would fund the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador for more than one decade. The legal costs alone are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people,” says Emeritus Catholic Bishop Hilton Deakin of Melbourne, Australia.

“Let us be clear: El Salvador has lost a lot during all this arbitration. El Salvador had to pay more than $ 12 million, just to defend itself. These legal costs are enough to pay for over 2 years of adult literacy classes for 140,000 people. At a minimum, OceanaGold should reimburse El Salvador for the costs of this suit, which never should have taken place. And it should also be responsible for the social and environmental damage left in its wake,” says Alexis Stoumbelis of CISPES.

“This is a yet another case of corporate power being exercised against a democratic Government decision. If Australia ratifies the TTP there will be more of this to come” said Ged Kearney President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

“ISDS is part of a trade model that puts the needs of corporations before the needs of workers and the planet. The Salvadoran government did what a responsive democratic system is supposed to do: it listened to the desires and priorities of its constituents and acted accordingly” said Cathy Feingold, International Director of the AFL-CIO.

Media Contacts:
Manuel Perez Rocha, IPS –, + 1 240 838 6623
John Cavanagh, IPS –, +1 202 234 9382
Amanda Kistler, CIEL –, +1 202 742-5832
Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada –, +1 613 569 3439
Laura Rusu, Oxfam America –, +1 202 459 3739
Robin Broad, American University –, + 1 202 885 1478
Kevin Bracken, Maritime Union of Australia –
Sean Cleary, Edmund Rice Centre –, +  07-3376-8448


The International Allies against Mining in El Salvador are made up of organizations from Australia, Canada and the United States that support the Salvadoran people as they demand sovereignty, the right to water, healthy communities and a clean environment. Each of the organizations that make up the Allies has a history of solidarity work with El Salvador. More information is available at:

The post After Seven Years and Millions of Dollars, Decision Announced in Pac Rim Mining Company vs. El Salvador appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


Over 40 Years, Measures of Justice

On September 10, 1976, Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet revoked the citizenship of Orlando Letelier, who had served as Chile’s ambassador to the United States and as a cabinet minister in the government of Dr. Salvador Allende before the 1973 coup. That night, Letelier filled the seats at Madison Square Garden for an anti-Pinochet rally, telling the crowd: “I was born a Chilean, I am a Chilean, and I will die a Chilean. They were born traitors, they live as traitors, and they will be known forever as fascist traitors.”

Eleven days later, on September 21, 1976, agents of Pinochet assassinated Letelier as he drove to work at the Institute for Policy Studies with his colleague Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a 25-year-old American development associate. The car bombing on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC, was a devastating blow to their families, their friends, their colleagues, and to the global crusade for human rights. But over these past 40 years, there have been measures of justice.


Between 1978 and 1991, U.S. authorities prosecuted seven people in connection with the crime. Michael Townley, a U.S. citizen working for the Chilean secret police, pled guilty in 1978 to organizing the assassination, and received a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against five Cuban exiles involved in the bombing. A Chilean Army captain also pled guilty for his role. An independent IPS investigation into the crime, led by Saul Landau, resulted in a book, “Assassination on Embassy Row,” (co-authored with John Dinges) and helped keep up the pressure for justice.


In 1995, 19 years after the Letelier-Moffitt murders, former Chilean Secret Police Chief Manuel Contreras and Brig. Gen. Pedro Espinoza were sent to prison in Chile for their roles in the crime.


In 1978, U.S. lawyers Michael Tigar and Sam Buffone filed a civil suit on behalf of family members of Letelier and Moffitt against the assassins and the Republic of Chile. It was the first wrongful-death suit filed in the United States against a foreign nation. After the 1990 transition to democracy, the Chilean government settled the suit.


On October 16, 1998, London police arrested Pinochet on an order from the Spanish courts. The Spanish case had been filed by lawyer Juan Garcés, on behalf of victims. While a British magistrate ruled that Spain could extradite Pinochet for torture, in March 2000, the British Home Secretary released the former dictator on humanitarian grounds.


In 1999, the Clinton Administration responded to pressure from the National Security Archive and other human rights groups by declassifying more than 16,000 secret government documents related to Chile and the relationship between the U.S. government and the Pinochet dictatorship. The declassified documents helped clarify the history of U.S. intervention in Chile and have served as evidence in legal cases against human rights violators.


In March 2000, a team of U.S. law enforcement officials traveled to Chile for court proceedings involving 42 potential witnesses subpoenaed by Chile’s Supreme Court on behalf of the U.S. government. The Washington Post reported that “Federal investigators have uncovered evidence that some of them believe is sufficient to indict General Augusto Pinochet for conspiracy to commit murder in the 1976 car bombing.” While a draft indictment of Pinochet was reportedly prepared by Clinton administration officials, no action appears to have been taken after President George W. Bush took power.


Within 72 hours of Pinochet’s return to Chile from London in March 2000, Chilean Judge Juan Guzman moved to strip his immunity from prosecution, initiating a series of prosecutions that continue today. Twice—in 2000 and again in 2004—Guzman succeeded in indicting Pinochet. In both cases superior courts declared Pinochet mentally unfit for trial. Since Pinochet’s London arrest, over 300 other Chilean military officers have faced legal proceedings for human rights violations. Armando Fernandez Larios, who admitted his role in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination to U.S. authorities, was also held liable by a U.S. jury for crimes against humanity.


In 2002, a human rights litigation clinic founded by Michael Tigar at American University brought a suit against Letelier-Moffitt assassin Michael Townley for his role in aiding and abetting the torture and assassination of Carmelo Soria and won a default judgment of $ 7.2 million. This clinic still continues its work to enforce the judgment against Townley, who is in the U.S. federal witness protection program.


In February 2005, Riggs Bank agreed to settle a case brought by lawyers Juan Garcés and Sam Buffone by paying $ 9 million to victims of Pinochet for the bank’s role in concealing and spiriting Pinochet’s money out of Great Britain in 1999. In November 2005, Pinochet was arrested and placed under house arrest for charges related to tax evasion, passport forgery and other crimes associated with his possession of hundreds of illegal bank accounts, many of them in the United States. In August 2006, the Chilean Supreme Court stripped Pinochet’s immunity from prosecution, opening the way for additional charges related to these multi-million dollar accounts.  Pinochet died on December 10, 2006. At that time, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement.


In 2012, the Appeals Court in Santiago revoked a judge’s order to close the Moffitt case, arguing that the investigation should be reopened because those behind the attack were Chilean citizens. Previous Chilean prosecutions related to the bombing had focused on Letelier’s death. In 2016, a Chilean court indicted three former agents of Pinochet’s regime for Moffitt’s murder: retired Chilean army officers Pedro Espinoza Bravo and Armando Fernandez Larios and American Michael Townley. In May 2016, Chile’s Supreme Court asked the U.S. government to extradite Townley, Fernandez Larios, and Cuban American assassin Virgilio Paz in connection with another case involving the murder of United Nations diplomat Carmelo Soria in Chile in 1976.

These milestones stand as a testament to the power of persistence. As Martin Luther King once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

-? Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies, September 2016.

Contact:, tel: 202 234 9382 x 5227.

The post Over 40 Years, Measures of Justice appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


Seventy years of exploitation: The enduring plight of California’s farm workers – Salon

Seventy years of exploitation: The enduring plight of California's farm workers
Yet even when the legislature debated the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, the nation's first law guaranteeing union rights for farm workers, the votes in favor came from urban Democrats, while rural Republicans maintained a solid front


Dozens of Worker Deaths and Six Years Later, Coal Exec Sentenced to Just One Year in Prison


(Photo: Wikipedia)

Don Blankenship might finally see the inside of a prison cell. Six years after the tragic explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 workers, former Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship, has been found guilty of conspiring to violate mine safety laws.

The misdemeanor charge came with a one-year prison sentence, far less than the 30 years he could have faced had Blankenship been found guilty of the multiple felony charges brought against him. And far less than many think he deserves.

My colleague, Sam Pizzigati, wrote about Blankenship in a piece titled, “America’s Greediest: The 2011 Top Ten Edition.” He noted that Blankenship “pocketed $ 38.2 million from 2007 through 2009, after $ 34 million in 2005, and retired this past December with a $ 5.7 million pension, $ 12 million in severance, another $ 27.2 million in deferred pay, and a lush consulting agreement.”

He also noted that Massey Energy, the nation’s fourth largest coal producer, was found “directly to blame” for the deadly 2010 explosion. “Under Blankenship, Massey managers kept two sets of books, one accurate for internal use and another fake for regulators.”

Safety was a far second priority to maximizing profit for Blankenship and the workers that trusted him paid the ultimate price. In a searing interview following Blankenship’s sentencing, former Massey employee, Tommy Davis, recounts losing his brother, his nephew, and his son in the blast. Choking back tears, Davis recounts how Blankenship never once tried to contact him in the six years since their deaths.

“I miss my family. He hugged his. And all he gets is a year…There needs to be much stricter penalties for people like that who put greed and money over human life.”

It is rare that corporate executives are forced to take a perp walk. Remember all the Wall Street bankers brought out in handcuffs for tanking the global economy? Me neither.

According to federal regulators, Blankenship is the first high-ranking executive to be convicted of a workplace safety violation. His lawyer has vowed he will appeal the one-year prison sentence, the maximum allowable for the crime.

Don Blankenship will remain an exceptionally wealthy man and might still wiggle his way out of spending time behind bars. The judge that sentenced him denied requests for restitution both from the miners’ families and from the company Blankenship left behind, now in bankruptcy.

Tommy Davis is right; we need much stricter penalties for those who value profit over people. It shouldn’t take another tragedy like the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion to bring about this change.

The post Dozens of Worker Deaths and Six Years Later, Coal Exec Sentenced to Just One Year in Prison appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Sweet: Nine years later, Obama still seeking antidote to ‘poisonous political climate’ – Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times
Sweet: Nine years later, Obama still seeking antidote to 'poisonous political climate'
Chicago Sun-Times
Bruce Rauner, who can't see beyond his hate of labor unions and the Democratic bosses insulated with their supermajorities, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, that state government is paralyzed. …. Under Emanuel

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New Year’s first baby was an early arrival – The Salem News

The Salem News
New Year's first baby was an early arrival
The Salem News
Jennifer was admitted not long before midnight, and the baby — measuring 18 inches and weighing in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces — was born at 12:54 a.m., after less than a half-hour of hard labor. The Ahrens, who just moved to Beverly from the South Shore, …


Five Years After First Bailout, Greece Back on the Brink – Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Five Years After First Bailout, Greece Back on the Brink
Wall Street Journal
ATHENS—Five years into the biggest bailout of a debtor in history, Greece is closer to the brink than ever, with time running out to avert a bankruptcy that could destabilize not only the eurozone, but the global economy as well. When Europe and the …
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Varoufakis has achieved one thing – uniting resentment from poorer nationsThe Guardian
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