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How the United States can Solve its Gun Violence Problem

What the U.S. can learn from firearm laws in individual states and across the globe

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Jasmeet Sidhu knew worshippers inside a Wisconsin Gurdwara when a white supremacist entered and began firing.

He shot ten congregants, killing six.

Sidhu’s loved ones survived the 2012 attack, but she was never the same. Sidhu, who’s now a senior researcher at Amnesty International USA, felt afraid whenever she took her kids to the Gurdwara after that.

Later that year, a gunman shot and killed twenty-six people, including twenty children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“I felt just shaken to my core that we can live in a country where you can send your kids to school or you go to pray or you go to a mall or you go to a movie theatre, or you send your kid to college and you never know if they’re going to come back,” Sidhu said.

The recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have reignited debate about gun control  in the United States. In the aftermath of the shootings, the country took conflicting steps – the House of Representatives set a process in motion to raise the minimum age to buy some firearms, while the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that individuals can carry handguns in public. 

Where countries across the globe have tightened their laws after mass shootings, the U.S. has long been stuck in deadlock. While no gun policy is bullet-proof, experts like Sidhu say there are several models both within the United States and beyond which have proven they work.

Raising the age to buy a gun

Currently, federal U.S. law allows federally licensed dealers to sell shotguns and rifles, as well as ammunition for both, to individuals eighteen and up. Other firearms, such as handguns, and the relevant ammunition can only be sold to individuals twenty-one and older. 

That changes when the seller isn’t licensed; in other words, in private person-to-person sales. In those cases, handguns and handgun ammunition can be sold to individuals eighteen and older. As for long guns and long gun ammunition, individuals of any age can purchase them from unlicensed sellers.

In early June, after the recent mass shootings, New York also upped the minimum age for buying a semi-automatic rifle to twenty-one, joining other states including Florida, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont and Washington in doing so. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal bill to raise the minimum age to buy an assault rifle from eighteen to twenty-one, though the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. 

“As we saw from the recent shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, and then the Uvalde shooting in Texas, these are individuals who waited until they were 18 and then legally went out and purchased a gun,” Sidhu said. “The problem there is that they were able to go buy a gun legally.”

“In a country where you can’t drink until you’re 21, and there’s so many restrictions on other aspects of life until you’re 21, it seems odd that you would have access to… weapons,” she added. 

Sidhu noted that the U.S. had a lot of drunk driving accidents when the drinking age was eighteen. Once the government raised the national drinking age to twenty-one, studies showed a direct reduction in drunk driving accidents by youth, according to the United States Department of Transportation. 

On the flip side, one rebuke to gun control is the argument that people who aren’t allowed to have guns will find a way to get one, says Kerri Raissian, director of the Center for Advancing Research, Methods, and Scholarship (ARMS) at the University of Connecticut.

“The fact that most of these very recent mass shooters have waited until they were 18 and actually waited until the time that they were legal, provides us some of the preliminary evidence that gun laws do work,” she said.

Raissian noted that young men are particularly at risk of homicide and of arrest for homicide, a risk that declines with age. 

After a 2002 shooting where a nineteen-year-old gunman killed sixteen people, Germany raised the age for carrying sports weapons to twenty-one, instead of eighteen. Following another shooting in 2009, the country introduced random police checks for gun owners.

Germany already had relatively low rates of gun violence in 2002, with 1.29 gun deaths per 100,000 population, according to GunPolicy.org. But after the new rules were introduced, that number dropped to 1.01 gun deaths per 100,000 population by 2018, twelve times lower than the U.S. for the same year.

Assault Weapons Ban

From 1994 to 2004, the United States had an assault weapons ban which reduced the number of mass shootings in the country, Sidhu said. The ban expired under President George W. Bush.

Though handguns are behind most gun violence, She notes that assault weapons are particularly dangerous because of their ability to do a lot of damage in a short time.

In 1987, after a gunman with two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun killed sixteen people and wounded fifteen others before killing himself in Hungerford, Britain, England banned certain semi-automatic rifles, among other restrictions. Later, after a gunman killed sixteen children and their teacher in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996, England effectively banned civilians from owning handguns. 

The rate of gun violence in Britain is quite low – in 2016, England and Wales had an annual rate of 0.15 gun deaths per 100,000 population, according to GunPolicy.org. 

Australia also banned all semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns after a mass shooting in 1996 which killed thirty-five people and injured eighteen. People surrendered guns in droves under an amnesty program. It’s estimated that the buyback cut down the number of gun-owning households by almost half, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

Similarly, after the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand where a gunman killed fifty-one people in 2019, the country banned assault weapons, as well as most semi-automatics, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatics, magazines over a certain capacity and certain shotguns. The country had 1.24 annual gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, the latest data available at GunPolicy.org.

gun control

Universal background check system

In the U.S., the Gun Control Act bans felons, individuals who’ve been dishonourably discharged from the Armed Forces and those without baseline mental capacity from owning guns, among others. Following the assassination attempt of former President Ronald Reagan in 1981, the country mandated background checks for individuals who purchased guns from federally licensed dealers.

But not much has changed since, Sidhu says.

Background checks don’t apply to non-licensed (i.e; person to person) sales or to inherited firearms. 

Raissian points to other inadequacies in the current system, noting that juvenile criminal records in some states are sealed once the offender turns eighteen, preventing adequate background checks from being performed in some cases for those who purchase a gun shortly after their 18th birthday. 

The new Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed at the end of June, introduces a more thorough review process for gun buyers under twenty-one years, including a juvenile record check.

Besides background checks, many scholars say gun owners should also be licensed, Raissian adds. Some states have introduced licensing systems, like Connecticut where gun owners must apply for a permit. In Massachusetts, police also interview applicants for a gun license.

Japan has almost no gun violence, with tight restrictions on who gets a gun. Handguns are banned, so residents can only buy limited firearms, such as shotguns and air rifles, but they have to pass multiple tests, including a mental health evaluation and background check to own a gun. In 2018, the country had 0.01 gun deaths per 100,000 people.

Red flag laws 

These laws give family and law enforcement the ability to petition a court to take an individual’s guns away for a period, if they’re seen as a threat to themselves or others.

While some states already have some version of red flag laws in place, the new Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in the U.S. offers financial incentives to states to introduce them, though it doesn’t require states to create those laws.

In May, Canada introduced a bill which would give courts the power to require individuals seen as a danger to themselves or others, to surrender their guns among other changes including a national handgun freeze and revoking firearms licenses from people involved in domestic violence or criminal harassment.

“Most mass shooters have had some violence against women in their history,” said Raissian. “We need to learn more about that connection, but it is possible that interrupting the cycle of violence (and) holding domestic abusers accountable can not only make women safer, it could make all of us safer.”

Research has shown that keeping guns away from people convicted of domestic violence reduced the number of gun homicides. It didn’t lead to an increase of homicides committed by other weapons.

“This is important to the argument that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ If that were true, we would see an increase in non-gun homicides,” Raissian added.

“But again, because guns are so effective at killing people, even if you try to kill someone with another weapon – and I don’t know if that happens or not, that’s not in the data – but even if you try, you’re just so much less likely to be successful in a homicide because guns are just very good at what they’re designed to do.”

‘Human rights begin at home’ 

There is also work to be done enforcing existing laws.

Beyond background checks at the point of sale, Raissian says there is a weakness in seizing guns from prohibited people found to be in possession of firearms.

“We could go a long way by enforcing… laws that we already have to enhance public safety,” she said. “That requires no votes in Congress.”

At the heart, experts agree that no policy will eliminate gun violence in the United States.

Raissian points to the nuances in individual states, where some have more suicide-related gun deaths compared to others where homicide plays a major role.

“America has a gun death problem, absolutely, but each state has its own version of that gun death problem,” she said.

For Sidhu, the push toward promoting gun rights is not an actual reflection of the United States constitution, but a stretch of what the Second Amendment was actually intended for. It reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” which Sidhu interprets as being primarily concerned with the right of the militia to keep and bear arms. 

But over time, it has been interpreted to mean that any individual has the right to have a gun, she says. 

school zone sign

With Ohio recently passing a law allowing teachers and other staff to carry guns at school, Sidhu adds that the mentality that the public can be better protected with more good guys with guns is “incredibly flawed.” In the Uvalde shooting, armed officers arrived at the school but were late to act, she noted.

People with inadequate gun training (the law drops training requirements from more than 700 hours to a maximum of 24) and high stress environments are likely to do more harm than good, Sidhu continues, adding that it’s not fair to expect teachers to now carry a weapon to protect their students on top of their regular jobs.

“The answer is not to give everybody in the country a gun so they can protect themselves, the answer is we need to put some common sense regulations in place to restrict the access of guns from individuals who are likely to misuse them,” she says.

“Human rights begin at home.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Crime

US Operations in Afghanistan and Beyond: A threat to locals

The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows the US has still not given up on its operations in Afghanistan.

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US operations in Afghanistan and beyond: a threat to locals

The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows that US operation in Afghanistan have still not ended. 

The Al- Qaeda leader, wanted for his role in various terrorist attacks around the world and in the US, has not only left an empty place for a future successor but has also opened a place for the Taliban to calculate their moves against the US and the groups within the country. 

The Twitter feeds of Afghan journalists are filled with various videos of clashes between Taliban militants and the Islamic States sympathizers of Khorasan Province (ISKP). The clashes have resulted from the former group’s attack on Shia gatherings and busses that has caused numerous casualties. These videos containing several graphic scenes of blood and bodies are just an insight into the state of Afghanistan after a year of America abandoning it in the hands of the Afghan Taliban. 

            Since the United States removed its forces from Afghanistan after 2 decades of controlling the country’s borders and shifting the political and social dynamics of the region, the country has been struggling to regain its identity and strength. While the Taliban forces are trying to imitate governance with an Islamic rule in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, extremist groups from the inside of the country are becoming a challenge for them. ISKP has already claimed the lives of more than 300 people between January 2020 and July 2021. The casualties from the Kabul airport attack and the recent attacks on Shia groups in the Holy month of Muharram hike the number up to around 600.

            The recent killing of Al- Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a drone attack orchestrated by the US in Kabul has further fueled the unrest. Zawahiri, who was leading Al-Qaeda’s operations since the killing of Osama Bin Laden, had been on the United State’s wanted list for years. His involvement in the infamous 9/11 plans had put a bounty of 25 million dollars on his head. The attack through which according to the US “justice has been delivered,”, has been called a violation of the Doha pact signed between the Taliban and US officials in 2020. While Al-Qaeda is deciding on a new leader, the group is also being prompted to respond to this loss. Several statements from ISKP’s telegram have been made to frame the Taliban for assistance in the attack, mocking the apparent alliance between Al-Qaeda and The Taliban forces. 

            The situation in Afghanistan keeps getting worse but it appears that America is using the savior narrative, to explain the US operations in Afghanistan, for its people to distract from the bigger changes that are taking place in the dynamics of foreign affairs, seeming to be a threat to locals. The narrative that aided its involvement in Iraq, sanctions on Iran, and 20 years long control over Afghanistan have not bore any fruitful results, but rather have overturned the sociological and international stature of the region. 

US President Biden, in his remarks on the attack, assured the people of America of their safety and security, “We will always remain vigilant, and we will act.  And we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.”

In the meantime, the US continues aid to Ukraine against Russia, and its visit to Taiwan amid growing tensions between China and Taiwan is signaling a threat that is potentially greater than Al-Qaeda. 

As Biden pledges to “continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond”, it remains unclear how the US plans to address the impact of these operations on the lives of the people in Afghanistan and beyond where people are already living under a threat of a humanitarian crisis. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

The Horrifying Abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China  

The horrifying abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China

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The Horrifying Abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China  

On a recent visit to the Xinjiang region, China’s President Xi Jinping said, ‘Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation.’ There he spoke to officials and said religions should adapt to ‘the socialist society.’  

With the tightened grip on society that the President has, his government has been repeatedly accused of oppressing Muslims and detaining them in “re-education camps.”  Ever since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) implemented its five-year plan to “sinicize” Islam, there have been countless Mosques across China that have been deconstructed or repressed. However, it does not stop there, an estimated ‘three million Uyghur Muslims have been unjustly detained in Chinese concentration camps.’ China has proclaimed that these facilities are so called ‘re-education camps’ however survivors have confirmed it to be ‘worse than prisons.’ 

The Human Rights Watch has said that Uyghurs – the largest minority ethnic group in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang – are subjected to intense surveillance and forced to provide DNA and biometric samples. Anyone who has relatives residing in at least twenty-six “sensitive” countries have been reportedly rounded up and swept into detainments. From there, they are made to learn Mandarin Chinese, and to criticise or renounce their faith. 

Approximately nearly half a million Muslim children have been torn and separated from their families and placed in boarding schools. The detainees have been subjected to forced labour, medicine is forcibly administered to women to stop their menstrual period and several women survivors – even during their teenage years – have reported being gang-raped by guards at their facilities.  

A recent article was released by the BBC revealing all the human lives that had been torn apart by China’s Uyghur concentration camps. These leaked secret CCP documents known as Xinjiang Police Files were obtained by unidentified hackers and exposed the prison-like nature of the concentration camps that officials insisted to be “Vocational Training Centres.”  

Amongst files upon files of rules and regulations, there were police manuals describing shoot-to-kill policies on any Uyghurs attempting to escape and the document also provided a solid amount of evidence towards a policy which was targeted to any expression of Uyghur identity, culture, or the Islamic faith – with a chain of command that ran all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.  

Many have been detained just for ordinary, apparent signs of their Islamic faith or for visiting countries with majority Muslim populations. Offences such as “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism” have led people to become interments for more than sixteen years and the Chinese state have then determined their expression of Uyghur identity to be illegal.  

This ongoing rights issue has led to questions of consent and whether it has been applied to this situation. In Tumxuk, Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to create an image of a person’s face using a DNA sample. This facial recognition technology is advancing and being used to sort people by ethnicity and the usage of DNA is to tell if an individual is Uyghur.  

Ethics of science have been pushed beyond the barriers of privacy, China has been accused of creating “technologies used for hunting people.” 

Religious indoctrination is being forced upon Muslim Uyghurs; they are made to chant “Communist Party Akbar” instead of the traditional “Allah Akbar” (God is Great) that Muslims say to praise and glorify God. 

These “re-education camps” have led to slow, painful deaths for many Uyghurs. Physical and mental torture, beatings, crowded cells, no toilets, and forced medication. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Four People Shot near Vancouver by Gunman

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  • Four people were shot near Vancouver, Canada at a casino, homeless center, bus stop, and highway before the gunman was found and killed by the police.
  • Two people were shot fatally, and the gunman is suspected to have been targeting homeless people, with the motive still unclear.
  • The shooting began at midnight and ended early in the morning. Residents in the area received public service alerts about the shooting at 6:15am.
  • Mayor Val van den Broek commented on the tragedy and spoke about the problem of homelessness in the British Columbia province, calling on officials to work harder to address it.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Britain First: a violent far-right group still active in the UK

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britain first

A report by the organisation Hope Not Hate on the British First group was released last month. It delved into the violent tendencies of the group members due to their anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, and racist views.

The group was founded in 2011 by current and former British National Party (BNP) members. It was formed by Jim Dowson and initially targeted Muslim communities. They received much attention at one point with over nine million likes on Facebook and former President Donald Trump even retweeting the group’s Islamophobic videos.

In September of 2021, Britain First registered as a political party after its application was approved by the Electoral Commissioner.

While assassinating Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, far-right extremist Thomas Mair shouted “Britain first” before committing the murder.

The report by anti-hate charity Hope not Hate talks about the violent tendencies of the group members as they are described as “criminals, racists and those with violent pasts” by the report. It says the group is one of the most “active” far-right groups in the UK and is “dysfunctional, dangerous and in our communities”. Its chairman Paul Golding has been convicted many times. The most recent one was in 2020 under the Terrorism Act because he refused to show his mobile to the police after his political trip to Moscow. The group is known for its pro-Putin stance.

It is not just the chairman with a violent past; others have also been convicted.

Marek Zakrocki

Zakrocki was a Britain First fan who told a police officer: “I’m going to kill a Muslim. I’m doing it for Britain. This is how I’m going to help the country. You people cannot do anything.”

Right after this, he drove into Kamal Ahmed outside Spicy Night restaurant in Harrow, northwest London in 2018. He did not serve time in jail although he was sentenced to 33 weeks in jail. The man was also accused of drunk driving and beating his wife.

Darren Osborne

A violent man who drove his van into a London Mosque killing one person and injuring 12 others in 2018. He was sentenced to life in prison for this horrific act.

He wanted to attack a pro-Palestinian march and kill socialist opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan but due to road blockage, he couldn’t. Shortly after midnight, he rammed his van into Muslims leaving after prayer in Ramadan, and killed Makram Ali. He told the court he tried murdering as many people as he could.

Anthony Barraclough

This man was jailed for six years for sharing hate speech videos.

“Barraclough posted appalling racist material online, with the intention of encouraging others to adopt his extremist views and hatred of black people,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy.

Mason Yates

Yates was an active member of the group that took part in anti-migrant protests while downloading instructions on how to make fireballs and explosive devices.

The man was detained for 30 months in a young offenders institute with a one-month concurrent term for possession of an extreme pornographic image on his phone.

Desmond Lundy

Lundy was accused in 2016 for “possessing documents in preparation for an act of terrorism that included the UDA code of conduct”. Prior to this arrest the man was also accused by his ex-girlfriend of stomping on her head and choking her with the shower hose.

These are just some of the crimes by the group member that is also known for following conspiracy theories that believe that white Europeans are being replaced by immigrants. In fact, the group has been accused of scamming their own supporters and stealing from the elderly by making donation buttons confusing. The donor thinks they are making one-off donations while the banks think withdrawals are being made as a standing order.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Guantanamo Bay Still Open Despite International Condemnation

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Guantanamo Bay

The infamous U.S detention centre known as Guantanamo Bay is still open despite repeated international calls for its closure. Founded under the Bush administration in January 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the consequent U.S invasion of Afghanistan, Guantanamo bay was the intended prison for those suspected to be linked to the terrorist groups Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

However it soon gained notoriety for being a place where those of Afghan or Middle Eastern identity were held without trial for years, denied access to lawyers, humiliated, beaten and tortured – in direct contravention of international law.

According to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Further, the June 1987 UN Convention Against Torture declares that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”

To sidestep this legal small print, the Bush administration chose Cuba as the destination for Guantanamo Bay, arguing that it rendered the convention inapplicable and that prisoners belonging to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups were exempt from reprieve. This justification was rejected by the Supreme Court many years later.

Just two weeks ago, the last of two Afghan nationals held in Guantanamo without trial was released after talks between the U.S and the now-Taliban-headed Afghan government. Asadullah Haroon Gull was released from the facility after being held there for the last 15 years. He was first detained in Afghanistan, Jalalabad by American forces before being sent to Guantanamo bay.

According to the UK based rights group Reprieve, Gull’s family feared him dead for many years and he was blocked access to a lawyer for the first nine years of his captivity. Eventually in 2016 Reprieve worked with the law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss to obtain his release by citing habeus corpus – a writ aiming to dispute the legality of the defendant’s imprisonment before the court. In October 2021, the firm won its case and Gull’s was released after the District Court of Clumbia ruled that he was unlawfully imprisoned since he had not been a member of Al-Qaeda but Hezb-e-Islami (HIA) which had formally been at peace since 2016. Gull is the first detainee in Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade to win a habeus corpus case.

Former U.S President Barack Obama tried to have Guantanamo Bay closed down by signing an order for its closure when he took the presidential seat in 2009. However this was reversed by President Donald Trump in 2018 who signed an executive order to keep it open. Since its inception in the Bush era, around 800 Muslim men and boys have passed through the gates of Guantanamo Bay. Currently 36 prisoners remain, of which 27 have never been charged of any crimes, and it remains open despite its existence being ruled unlawful by the world’s ruling legal bodies.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sri Lankans Demand Change as President Rajapaksa Flees to Maldives

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Mahinda Rajapaksa 1
  • Sri Lanka’s Air Force has confirmed that President Rajapaksa has fled the country to Maldives with his wife and two security officials.
  • The President also announced that he will resign by Wednesday, but still hasn’t sent an official resignation letter; meanwhile, he has appointed Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as acting President. 
  • Rajapaksa’s leave officially ends his family’s control on politics after 20 years; he had been hiding in his residence, until protesters stormed him and forced him to pledge that he will resign. 
  • Acting President Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency and has ordered the military to do “whatever is necessary to restore order.” He stated, “We can’t tear up our constitution. We can’t allow fascists to take over. We must end this fascist threat to democracy.” 
  • Nevertheless, protestors are saying they won’t stop demonstrating until both leaders resign. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Columbo, rallying against the government and leaders through their fiery speeches on a makeshift stage. 
  • For months, Sri Lankans have been struggling with power shortages, fuel, food, and healthcare, and they blame the president for the worst economic crisis in decades.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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