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(en) DA* #24 II. (2/2) - http://www.directa.force9.co.uk/current%20issue/content.htm

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 3 Oct 2002 15:50:28 -0400 (EDT)


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Incineration

"Where there?s Muck there?s Brass ? plus ... Dioxins, Cancer,
Heart Disease, etc."
    Onyx/Sarp/Vivendi, the global corporate monster has
stretched its tentacles as far as Sheffield. The multi-national,
which is the first (so-far) in Europe to be investigated for
corporate irresponsibility along with other globalisers such as
Enron and Xerox has bought rights to Sheffield?s waste.
    Sheffield?s citizens have put up with the Bernard Road
rubbish incinerator for over twenty years, despite its appalling
pollution record and incredible cost. By 1998, Sheffield City
Council had wasted £28 million on trying to upgrade the
incinerator, but have now given up and announced its closure in
2005 (the bill now stands at £36 million). Unfortunately, the
Council seems determined to make the same mistake again and
is planning, along with the French multinational
Onyx/Sarp/Vivendi, to build a new rubbish burner in Sheffield.
     The company intends to more than double existing waste
incineration in the city by building a 225,000 tonnes per year
mega-regional burner. The company signed a contract to
manage Sheffield?s waste in 2001, which locked the city into
feeding their burner and coffers for the next thirty years. It
intends to supplement those profits by importing waste from
councils throughout the region.
    The current incinerator produces 5,000 tonnes of dangerous
and highly toxic ash per year, and the planned one will produce
more. Incineration is a threat to human health and the
environment as well as a waste of valuable resources. Air
pollution has been linked to cancer, birth defects and breathing
problems. The rubbish that the Council/Onyx chucks into the
incinerator could be recycled or composted and provide jobs and
income for Sheffield?s people.
    The residue from the incineration process is graded on its
toxicity (or how hazardous it is to human health) and taken to
Parkwood Landfill Site. On its journey, it travels past local
homes, schools, offices and leisure facilities.
   Not surprisingly, the people who live near the incinerator and
the landfill site are up in arms against the way the facilities are
run and how their health is being affected. From this opposition,
local groups have been set up, such as RABID (Residents
against Bernard Road Incinerator Damage) and Sheffield against
Incineration (SAI). They are vehemently opposed to the planned
new incinerator and are actively fighting them, as well as
pointing out the sane alternatives.



Getting away with murder
     On 3rd August, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games,
there was a demonstration in Manchester (see inset), protesting
against sweatshops and casualisation, with a march through the
streets (stopping for a while outside Gap), followed by a meeting
with speakers from No Sweat and the Simon Jones Memorial
Campaign (SJMC). They described the horrific working
conditions, bordering on slavery, in the sweatshops where many
of our designer clothes are made. Workers are subjected to
degrading treatment, and some who have tried to organise trade
unions have been threatened, tortured and murdered; one case
involved a woman bound with barbed wire and impaled on a
stake. Many of the most popular brands of sportswear, including
Nike and Adidas, use sweatshop labour.
     Most of the American flags sold in the last year, along with a
vast range of American branded goods, were made in
sweatshops in China ? ironically part of Bush?s Axis Of Evil.
The British and American economies rely on sweatshops in
countries such as China and Indonesia, and would see profits
drop if these sources of virtually free labour were outlawed.
Some directors might have to scrape by on £9 million instead of
£10 million, so to avoid this, it is tacitly deemed acceptable to
use slavery by proxy, with all its associated brutality. Should we
really be surprised that Blair?s government turns a blind eye to
sweatshops, when it does nothing to protect workers in this
country from being killed?
     Simon was 24 years old, taking a year out from Sussex
University, and getting hassle from the Job Centre, when a job
agency, Personnel Selection, sent him to his death. Despite his
complete lack of experience of working inside a ship, Euromin
sent him, untrained, to work in the hold, unloading bags of
stones. Euromin had modified an excavator for this job, with
chains hanging from hooks welded to a grab. Euromin had the
right tool, a plain hook, but they chose not to use it to save the
time it took changing from one attachment to the other. Simon,
along with Sean Currey, had to reach inside the open grab to
fasten the bags onto the chains. The driver unintentionally
nudged a lever that closed the two-tonne steel grab on Simon?s
head and neck, killing him. Thus, a young man with much to
live for was killed for the sake of saving time for Euromin. Quite
simply, using inexperienced agency workers saves them money.
On the day, they were also using a migrant who spoke no
English to communicate between the workers in the hold and
the excavator driver on the dockside, since they could not see
each other.
    The police recommended prosecuting Euromin?s manager,
Richard James Martell, for manslaughter, and Euromin for
corporate manslaughter, but the Crown Prosecution Service
(CPS) refused to act. One of their excuses was that few
corporate manslaughter prosecutions have been successful. Few
have been unsuccessful either; there have been less than ten
attempted prosecutions for corporate manslaughter since the
charge was introduced. The Legal Aid Board were equally
stubborn in their opposition to justice. They refused legal aid,
saying on the telephone that I had "no reasonable prospect of
success" (disproved when we won the judicial review), but
adding in a subsequent letter that I had insufficient grounds for
being party to the prosecution, i.e. it was only my brother that
was killed, so I had no reason to take legal action. Maybe the
person who wrote this lacked the balls to let such an offensive lie
pass his lips, or maybe he made it up as an afterthought. Louise
Christian (our solicitor) and I convinced a panel of independent
lawyers that the refusal was wrong, so they had to pay my legal
aid, but kept failing to answer their telephones and denying
receipt of recorded delivery letters for which they had signed.
     At judicial review, the CPS? barrister said "Anyone can
appeal against a decision." What he meant was: "Anyone with
£50,000 to spare can appeal against a decision." At the second
judicial review hearing, two judges decided in our favour, saying
the CPS? reasoning "beggars belief" and was "irrational," and
ordered the CPS to reconsider. After months of "reconsidering,"
they decided they had been right all along, and would still not
prosecute. It took personal involvement from the DPP for the
prosecution to go ahead. During the three and a half year delay
between Simon?s death and the trial, the excavator driver, who
would have been a useful witness, died of cancer.
     The defence barrister?s summing up sent at least one juror to
sleep, but the judge did the defence?s job in his summing up,
emphasising defence arguments and giving scant mention of the
prosecution?s case. Had I not heard it with my own ears, I could
not have believed a judge could get away with such blatant bias.
Until then, the trial seemed to be going our way. He stressed
that Martell was a "good character," with no previous
convictions. Neither had Harold Shipman when he was in the
dock. Bin Laden has not been caught ? does this make him a
good character in Judge Stokes? eyes? The judge?s desire to see
Martell walk free was so obvious that it was virtually a formality
that the jury would clear him of manslaughter, making a
corporate manslaughter conviction against Euromin impossible
(a company?s "controlling mind" has to be found guilty of
manslaughter for corporate manslaughter to be possible).
Euromin were fined £50,000 for two health and safety offences
and ordered to pay £20,000 costs.
     When the SJMC wrote to every MP in the UK, few showed
any concern. George Galloway was an exception, raising the
subject in Parliament and setting up an early day motion which a
few dozen MPs signed. Only when campaigners blocked a
bridge over the Thames outside the Health and Safety
Executive?s Head Office did people in power start taking our
case seriously. Last time the issue was debated in the
Commons, only two MPs turned up, apart from those who had
to be there, in contrast to the hundreds who turned out when the
Queen Mother died.
     Since the last cabinet reshuffle, there is no minister with clear
responsibility for the HSE. New Labour, who pledged in 1998 to
be "Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime," openly
tolerate killing, whilst concentrating police resources on easy
targets that do not endanger life, in the sick joke that they call
Zero Tolerance. Blair & Co promised a new offence of Corporate
Killing way back in 1997, and recently slipped out a quiet
announcement that now it will not happen until at least 2004.
This may eventually make it easier to prosecute companies that
kill their employees, but it could only work if company directors
face prison sentences, which they probably won?t, as the
government is now under CBI pressure to emasculate the
proposed new law. Even Ruth Lea of the Institute of Directors
criticised the climb-down.
   In any case, reforming the law is irrelevant if nobody will
enforce it. When Simon was killed, the HSE only had enough
inspectors to investigate 5% of deaths and serious injuries at
work. Imagine the outcry if the police only investigated one in
twenty suspicious deaths outside the workplace. Still, today, one
inspector is responsible for all building sites in Scotland. The
final insult is that the average fine for killing an employee (in the
few cases when anyone has been prosecuted) is £8,000; in short,
a risk that many companies are willing to take.
    Simon?s death was by no means an isolated incident. Even
the most conservative official figures (with endless exceptions
which are deemed not to count) reckon on hundreds of people
killed at work in Britain each year, and some calculations put the
figure at over 100 each week. When one 101-year-old woman
passed away peacefully in her sleep, Tony Blair recalled
Parliament to discuss the urgent political implications. When 80
Britons were killed in the World Trade Centre, Blair spent
millions of pounds risking the lives of British service-people and
Afghan civilians. When hundreds of his countrymen and women
are killed at work, Blair does not raise a finger.
    Now the state has decided to crackdown on ?criminals?: five
SJMC campaigners were arrested for "besetting" ? defined as
persistent harassment - at a peaceful protest at Euromin.
Charges against two of Simon?s friends have been dropped, but
the other three potentially face up to six months in prison. This
is six months longer than any of the directors and managers who
have killed their workers in recent years. At the time of writing,
the trial is set and it remains to be seen whether the CPS will go
through with it and thus prolong the farce by throwing extra egg
on their own faces.


South Africa
     Literally around the corner from the wealthy Johannesburg
suburb of Sandton, home to the latest World Summit on
Sustainable Development, a human and environmental tragedy
is being played out that has nothing to do with sustainability and
everything to do with big business? push for profits.
     Alexandra is more shanty town than wealthy suburb, it has
hardly changed since the apartheid era, and unemployment and
AIDS are rife. Some homes have mains water, but since the
city?s water services were sold off to French-based multinational
Suez, the bills have tripled and many people can no longer afford
to keep the water flowing. Instead, they are drinking untreated
river water, making it hardly surprising that in February 2001,
Alexandra fell victim to a cholera outbreak which claimed four
lives. The government?s response? Start evicting the squatters.
In an ironic shift, former anti-apartheid activists in Alexandra
and Soweto have turned to resisting water privatisation as the
new threat to life and dignity.


Russia
     The public response to the Russian government?s decision to
import 20,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste has been
unequivocal; a series of protest actions, including an action
camp, near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. The camp, which began on
June 30, took place near the prohibited zone around
Krasnoyarsk-26, home to both Russia?s largest high-level
radioactive waste storage facility and a plutonium-producing
reactor. Krasnoyarsk is where the imported radioactive waste
will be temporarily stored, and probably ?permanently? dumped.
The import will make Russia an international nuclear waste
dump, causing further environmental and social degradation in
the country.
     Earlier this year, local citizens and environmental groups
collected nearly 100,000 residents? signatures calling for a
region-wide vote on whether or not to ban nuclear waste imports
into the region. According to the Russian constitution, this is the
only way the public can make a decision that cannot be
overruled by any authority. Local authorities refused to accept
these signatures, even though only 40,000 votes are needed
according to referendum law. Environmental groups are taking
the local authorities to court in hope of restoring justice. The
organisers of this action are Ecodefense, Socio-Ecological Union
and Greenpeace-Russia.
     For more info and/or to make donations, contact the
organisers;
Tel. 7 095 7766281 (Moscow); 7 3952 653345 (Krasnoyarsk)
Email: ecodefense@online.ru or alni@online.ru


France
    In actions spanning ten days (19-28 July), people from all
over Europe hooked up with migrants without papers (sans
papiers) to reclaim the city of Strasbourg (on the
French/German border) for a No Border action camp. The focus
was resistance to Europe?s draconian policy of treating refugees
as criminals.
     The camp was based on self-organisation. People sorted out
kitchens, showers and toilets as well as going on daily skipping
runs to feed the camp. Everyone got together in their immediate
areas to form barrios, which centred around a kitchen/meeting
area. Someone from each barrio could then go to an inter-barrio
meeting to make more general decisions about the camp,
actions and broader political aims.
   On the negative side, demonstrations were banned from the
streets of the city, which was coloured blue by the uniforms of
the police guarding every corner, ready to use their sticks and
teargas. Several arrests took place.
    The unduly severe state repression clearly exposed
establishment fear of the issues raised by the Camp ? such as
freedom of movement and settlement in Europe, and the
rejection of State social control and security laws. Nevertheless,
around 2000 on the camp from all around the world, adults and
children, gathered and successfully carried out several actions
and demonstrations. Highlights included a protest in front of the
European Court of Human Rights against anti-immigration laws
in Germany (Residenzpflicht), an anti surveillance samba, street
theatre, and actions against Accor and its complicity in the
deportation of sans papiers.


Ukraine
     In July, twenty miners died in an eastern Ukraine coal mine
explosion. The latest tragedy at the Zasiadko mine in Donetsk
was the third fatal mining accident in Ukraine in the month. On
7 July, 35 coal workers were killed in a fire (as a result, the
Ukrainian authorities arrested three top managers - the
investigation of the case determined that mine officials had
committed gross violations of safety rules). On 21 July, a
methane blast killed six miners and injured 18. Funding cuts
since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 have made the
situation worse. An average 300 miners die each year in the
industry, and about 150 have died so far this year.


Canada
     World Youth Day at the end of July ended in the dramatic
take-over of an abandoned building on King Street West in
Toronto. Organised by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty,
the squat action highlighted the fact that 60,000 families are
waiting for up to ten years for subsidised housing. Meanwhile,
many of the emergency shelters fail to meet even the minimum
standards established by the United Nations for refugee camps,
and upwards of 500 economic evictions happen every week.
     Speaking over a megaphone from inside the building,
squatters demanded the restoration of rent controls, an end to
economic evictions, restoration of the 22% which was cut from
social assistance in 1995, and the construction of at least 2,000
units of new social housing per year in Toronto. Leaflets were
handed out to people with a schedule of planned events at the
site, and small groups began fanning out to forage for discarded
furniture in the surrounding neighbourhood.
     The action highlighted the growing political squatters?
movement in Canada, following similar actions in Montreal,
Ottawa, Quebec City, Vancouver and Toronto within the past
year, as it becomes increasingly apparent that the only way
people can obtain housing is by direct action.



Warlords & Drug Barons
     The mere mention of Colombia conjures up images of the
cocaine trade. It also brings to mind guerrilla armies,
paramilitary death squads and a civil war which kills thousands
of people every year. Add the slate of US interests in Latin
American countries and the widespread social and economic
inequality and you?ve got the framework for the Pentagon?s
current policy on Colombia.
     Since the World Trade Centre attack, the so-called Plan
Colombia ?War on Drugs? has been increasingly portrayed as
part and parcel of the ?War on Terrorism?. This development
has exposed the US?s lack of credibility over both drugs and
terrorism ? at least it would have but for the lack of interest
shown by the western media machine. Plan Colombia is not
supposed to wipe out Colombian drug barons, but conveniently
allows the war lords in Washington to fund state and
paramilitary terrorism against guerrilla and other perceived
threats to US interests. As ever in war, it is the ordinary people
who suffer the disastrous effects.
     Despite almost forty years of war, the Colombian economy,
without setting the world alight, has performed pretty well. Aside
from being self sufficient in oil, Colombia supplies more oil to
the US than Kuwait; it is the world?s second largest coffee
exporter and it boasts Latin America?s largest coal reserves.
Such an economy should really have no difficulty in providing its
40 million people with a reasonable standard of living. So why is
Colombia still a society based on massive inbuilt inequality?
     Two reasons spring immediately to mind. Firstly Colombia is
dominated by an exclusively white and largely
Spanish-descended political, economic, religious and military
elite which has maintained a wealth distribution pattern that has
changed little since colonial times. Secondly, as Colombia has
become more integrated into the global economy, wealth has
increasingly been repatriated abroad, aided and abetted by a
whole raft of pan-American trade agreements chiefly for the
benefit of US investors.
     The political system in Colombia has long been carved up
between two parties, the Liberals (PL) and the (Social)
Conservatives (PC). Politics has often been conducted to the
sound of gunfire as the rival factions among the elite unleashed
armed gangs against their opponents. For instance, an
undeclared civil war between various factions of the two parties
killed around 200,000 people between the mid-1940s and
mid-1960s. This period also saw Colombia?s only military
government of the 20th century, which was then replaced by a
?National Front? coalition comprised of moderate factions of the
two main parties. The ?National Front? period, lasting into the
mid-1970s, ended inter-party violence since the two parties
voluntarily passed political control to and fro every four years
with no real electoral competition.
     Above all, no matter which flavour of political control was in
fashion among the elite, the economic and social realities facing
most Colombians remained bleak. Growing disenchantment
with a political system that delivered little in the way of reform
was reflected by a growing radicalism among both peasantry and
urban working class. Some of this has surfaced as agitation
around cost of living improvements, but there are as yet few
signs of the emergence of an organised labour movement
prepared to confront the ruling class politically as well as
economically.
     Instead, the real threat for the political elite is the various
guerrilla movements who have also fed off this radicalism. Like
other Latin American countries, marxist inspired guerrilla
movements of the 1960s found a fertile recruiting ground in
Colombia. Unlike these other countries, not only are Colombian
national liberation armies still with us, but they have actually
strengthened their positions in recent years, now controlling
significant chunks of the country. The two main guerrilla
groupings are the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de
Colombia) and the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional ?
National Liberation Army). Besides confronting the state armed
forces, guerrilla activities have included attacks on important
infrastructure targets such as oil pipelines and power
installations as well as kidnap, death threats and assassination
aimed especially at politicians, landowners and their supporters.
    Though the two events have no direct link, the civil war
period has coincided with the rise of the Colombian drug trade
fuelled by soaring US demand first for marijuana in the 1960s,
then for cocaine in the 1970s. By the end of the 1970s, Colombia
supplied about 70% of all marijuana reaching the US. By this
time, the Medellín Cartel had taken over the Latin American end
of cocaine smuggling and they went on to violently seize control
of wholesale distribution in the US. These activities brought US
demands for extraditions of the major players in the Cartel. At
first, the Colombian state co-operated but the Cartel responded
with death threats and assassinations against various politicians
and judicial figures. Eventually, the extradition treaty was
annulled in the Colombian courts. This is one illustration of how
far the influence of cocaine traffickers has now spread
throughout Colombian society. While some drug barons have
stood for and won political office, drugs money more usually
bankrolls the campaigns of ?traditional? politicians. Meanwhile,
the unofficial economy, dominated by drugs, is estimated to be
worth as much as 50% of the ?legitimate? economy, much of
which is, in any case, also controlled by the Cartel.
    Drug barons set up the first paramilitary groups to hit back at
guerrillas who, in 1981, had kidnapped members of the drug
community in a bid to raise finance. One way or another the
guerrillas pose a threat to the Cartel?s interests. The extent to
which FARC and ELN are involved in the drug trade has been
greatly overstated in US and Colombian government
propaganda. Nevertheless, they regularly tax the activities of
drugs traders in the areas under their control, but in some places
are also involved with non-governmental organisations in
programmes to encourage farmers to switch production away
from coca. Paramilitary death squads are now widespread,
financed not only by drug traffickers, but also by wealthy
landowners and senior military figures. They operate largely
without military interference and often with direct collusion,
including supplies of money, weapons and intelligence. Their
targets, besides guerrillas and their supporters, also include
union, student and human rights activists ? anyone, in fact, who
opposes the status quo.
    The paramilitaries provide the unofficial arm of Plan
Colombia, a strategy under which Colombia?s guerrillas are
dubbed ?narco-terrorists?. The ?War Against Terrorism? that
Bush and Blair declared after the events of September 11th
2001, has been extended to single out FARC as ?the most lethal
terrorist organisation in the western hemisphere?. This allows
the $7.5 billion of military aid for the ?War Against Drugs?
envisaged by Plan Colombia to be directed largely against FARC
and ELN. This, in addition to previous aid, has meant the
Colombian military has almost doubled over the last fifteen
years, a trend to be continued under new president, Alvaro
Uribe, who also plans a one million strong network of informers.
Already significant funds have found their way to paramilitary
groups, many directly controlled by the very drug barons the
?War Against Drugs? pretends to fight.
     The only real operations against drugs are the deployment of
crop dusting planes escorted by US-supplied helicopters and
US-trained troops. The fumigations actually have little effect on
the supply of cocaine. Coca can grow back on fumigated land
within a few months but other crops are completely devastated,
so farmers who previously grew a mixture of crops are forced to
rely more on coca. Others simply move on, clear some more
jungle and begin from scratch again. Another side effect is the
polluting of water supplies causing severe illnesses among
farming families.
    Clearly Plan Colombia, far from eradicating the cocaine
supply, is meant to protect US economic interests, interests
which not only include the oil and investments in Colombia
itself, but more importantly, those across the border in
Venezuela, the US?s largest oil supplier. The warlords in
Washington require regional ?stability? at any cost. That means
no regime change in Colombia and no challenge to the power of
the drug barons. For most Colombians, on the other hand, the
cost will be counted in terms of thousands more deaths; further
militarisation of their society; and continued poverty, injustice
and exploitation for the benefit of the wealthy elite and of foreign
investors.


Sacco and Vanzetti: 75 Years Remembered
     August 23 2002 marked the 75th anniversary of the judicial
murders of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two
Italian-born anarchists, by the State of Massachusetts.
     Sacco and Vanzetti were framed for two murders in
Massachusetts because the United States ruling class was in the
grip of a hysterical witch-hunt against anarchists. Coming out of
the First World War - a war fought to enrich the capitalist class -
America was rounding up, imprisoning without trial, and
deporting hundreds of foreign-born workers on suspicion of
being "subversives."
     No other crime story of the 20th century has spawned so
many poems, plays, novels, and passionate works of history.
Woody Guthrie wrote a song about them. No other convicted
robbers and murderers have received favourable accounts in the
Dictionary of American Biography. No other case has defined an
era of American history, an era when anyone who merely
expressed the opinion that the state was not the best way to
organise a society was in danger of prison, torture, deportation
and death.
     Today, very little is different. The "war on terrorism" has
given the US government the pretext for a massive assault on
human and civil rights. Hundreds of foreign-born persons are
being held indefinitely, without trial, for the "crime" of being
Muslim. Hundreds more, mostly people of colour, sit on death
rows waiting to be made martyrs to the state?s relentless quest
to assert its authority over life and death. Meanwhile, the US
continues to fight its "war on terrorism" as a cover for extending
the power of the capitalist business elites who control the
government. Other governments, most notably the British, are
either enthusiastically supporting or silently going along with
America?s attempts to impose a single capitalist order over the
entire world.
    The nature of the state and of capitalism has not changed. But
neither has our opposition to them. In the 1920s, the framing of
Sacco and Vanzetti ignited protests all over the world.
Demonstrations took place in France, Italy, Switzerland,
Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Scandinavia. It took 10,000 police
and 18,000 soldiers to prevent a crowd from besieging the
American embassy in Paris. Today, opposition to global
capitalism?s attempts to dominate the developing countries and
destroy workers? rights in the industrialised nations continues to
grow, despite police repression and government?s refusal to
listen. The struggle, as Sacco and Vanzetti knew, is worldwide.


A long way from Home
Young refugees in Manchester write about their lives.
Ahmed Igbal Ullah
Race Relations Archive/Save the Children. ISBN 0954 287401
£2.50
   Refugees are stigmatised as criminals and parasites. Much of
this is due to vicious attacks by the right wing media, such as
the Daily Express, which in particular conducted a prolonged,
racist campaign against refugees and asylum seekers in the run
up to the May elections earlier this year.
     The right wing tactic is to ignore the inequality which causes
immigration, and to downplay the fact that refugees and asylum
seekers are inevitably fleeing war and deprivation, usually
caused directly or indirectly as a result of British imperialism
and/or arms sales. When the press does document appalling
human tragedies, they litter their coverage with terms like
?terrorists? and present the events as though they are inevitable
and necessary.
     This makes it all the more significant that ?A long way from
Home? exists. It is counter-mainstream, if only because it
provides space for a collection of personal stories of the young
people involved themselves. The act of giving voice is enough to
warrant the pamphlet, but it also manages to raise awareness
through the stories of issues facing refugees in Britain. Save the
Children have excelled themselves with this unusual and
creative project; the result is something which speaks
youth-to-youth, as well as crisply counteracting the cheap
prejudice that we have to put up with from the media.


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