America's history wars get serious: Texas GOP wants to dump MLK -- and whitewash the KKK

In the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney proclaimed that Black people have "no rights that the white man is bound to respect." Today's Jim Crow Republican Party, and the white right more broadly, have taken the spirit of those words and updated them for the 21st century, effectively by arguing that "white people are not bound to respect historical truth or established facts — at least not as they pertain to Black and brown people in America".

As the next step in their war against multiracial democracy, the Republican Party and its allies have launched a moral panic about "critical race theory." Of course, their version of "critical race theory" is a type of racial bogeyman or psychological projection, a function of white racial paranoia about the "browning of America" and the threat of "white genocide."

Facts do not matter in the right-wing echo chamber. It is of no importance that the white right's version of "critical race theory" has nothing to do with the scholarly paradigm of the same name.

As the truism holds, history is written by the victors. To that end, in dozens of states across the country, the white right is engaging in an Orwellian campaign of rewriting school curricula to prevent the teaching of "critical race theory" -- which in practice means stopping any serious engagement with America's real and often uncomfortable history of racism and white supremacy.

The white right's campaign against the teaching of real American history involves actual thoughtcrimes.

For example, in Florida, a law was recently passed mandating a survey of students and faculty in public colleges and universities to determine their political beliefs. Of course, Florida has also banned the teaching of "critical race theory."

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, perhaps the single most influential voice on the white right, recently suggested that cameras should be placed in classrooms to ensure that no teachers will deploy "critical race theory" or other facts and arguments deemed to be "unpatriotic."

The Republican-controlled Texas Senate recently passed a bill eliminating a requirement that the history of the civil rights movement and other human rights struggles be taught in public schools. The bill also removed a condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan from course requirements as well.

As Yahoo News reports, the requirements removed from the state's curriculum include two speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., any mention of Latino labor organizers Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and any mention of Thomas Jefferson's long-term relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved teenage child who bore six of his children. The bill bars any use of the New York Times' 1619 Project and "prohibits teaching that slavery was part of the 'true' founding of the United States" and removes the requirement to study the "history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."

This Republican legislation has been met with widespread outrage. But that reaction should just be the beginning. The next step involves doing the harder work of understanding why so many other (mostly white) Americans actually believe that "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history should be banned. Understanding these beliefs and motivations is essential to defeating American neofascism and its white supremacist social and political project.

Many Americans have been propagandized by their schools, news media, the internet, churches and other social institutions to believe in a large set of interlocking lies and myths about the country's past and present. To intervene against these lies often causes emotional pain and/or narcissistic injury to those who hold such beliefs.

This dynamic is especially powerful for those who are emotionally, psychologically, financially and politically invested in defending and protecting white privilege and white people's control over almost every aspect of American life. In that context, the personal truly is political: Whiteness, as a concept and a social force, has become linked at an individual level to the maintenance of white power.

How does this right-wing fantasy machine work? The Root has exhaustively documented how some of America's most widely used history textbooks misrepresent the real history of the color line and distort such topics as chattel slavery, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and social injustice more generally, through the use of what sociologist Joe Feagin has called the "white racial frame."

Michael Harriot offers this analysis:

So when Mitch McConnell and 38 Republican senators sent a letter to the secretary of education decrying the ghastly prospect of white students having to learn actual facts about slavery, it was not unexpected. For centuries, this country's schools have perpetuated a whitewashed version of history that either erases or reduces the story of Black America down to a B-plot in the American script. It's why they hate Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Project and anything factual — because the white-centric interpretation of our national past is so commonly accepted, white people have convinced themselves that anything that varies from the Caucasian interpretation must be a lie. …
This is why they oppose expanding the historiography of our national story. American schools have never taught a version of history that wasn't racialized. But, apparently, it's perfectly fine if the racial narrative skews toward whiteness. They can't be opposed to learning a different historical perspective because they never learned history; they were spoonfed fiction in bite-sized morsels.
To be fair, it's understandable why they are so adamant about what they believe in.
Imagine you are a white man. Now imagine what it's like going through 12 years of school, four years of college, graduate school and an entire career that made you one of the most powerful people on the planet. Now imagine a group of Black journalists, led by a Black woman, told you that you don't know shit.

To that point, the right-wing echo chamber consistently repeats neo-Confederate "Lost Cause" myths, such as the oft-repeated lie that the Civil War was fought over "states' rights" rather than white-on-Black chattel slavery.

The right obsessively depicts the Democrats as "the party of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and slavery". This is a deliberate distortion of history because the pro-slavery, pro-segregation faction of the Democratic Party became solid Republicans after the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Right-wing propagandists also love to claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was a "Republican," or at least espoused Republican values. This is a ludicrous allegation: In contemporary terms King was a democratic socialist or progressive who opposed racism, poverty, military adventurism and injustice of all kinds. King would have viewed the modern-day conservative movement as a great force for evil in American society and the world.

Black conservative propagandists play an important role in the right-wing echo chamber, validating racist fantasies that slavery was a "gift" to Black people because it brought them to America. In this twisted perception of history, chattel slavery is understood as a "necessary evil" because it gave Black people Christianity and taught them the value of "hard work".

These same Black conservatives love to repeat the vicious lie that the Democratic Party is a type of "plantation." In reality, the plantations of the antebellum South were prison camps, charnel houses and places of torture, rape, suffering and death. Black conservative propagandists frequently announce that they are special and uniquely capable of "thinking for themselves," as compared to the vast majority of Black people who support the Democratic Party and are therefore deemed to be ignorant or uninformed.

The campaign against "critical race theory" — and against teaching America's real history — must be understood as part of a larger fascist strategy of attacking public schools and other institutions of learning with the aim of creating compliant followers and a public that is not equipped to participate in democracy — or to defend it.

This plan involves placing white supremacists, QAnon conspiracists, Trump supporters and other right-wing extremists — to the degree those categories of people can be separated — on local school boards and library advisory councils, banning "controversial" books, and the surveillance or intimidation of teachers deemed too "liberal" or suspected of "politicizing" the classroom, i.e., by refusing to teach right-wing dogma and other lies.

The fascist assault on education and critical thinking also involves think tanks, right-wing activists and advocacy groups, along with a network of wealthy funders committed to remaking American society to fit their racist, theocratic and plutocratic vision.

The Texas Republicans' attempt to literally whitewash the Ku Klux Klan out of American history is so ridiculous that it approaches parody. That doesn't make such historical erasure and distortion any less dangerous. Those dangers are further amplified by the crisis of democracy caused by the Jim Crow Republicans and ascendant neofascist movement.

As historian Timothy Snyder warned in a recent essay in the New York Times:

Democracy requires individual responsibility, which is impossible without critical history. It thrives in a spirit of self-awareness and self-correction. Authoritarianism, on the other hand, is infantilizing: We should not have to feel any negative emotions; difficult subjects should be kept from us. Our memory laws amount to therapy, a talking cure. In the laws' portrayal of the world, the words of white people have the magic power to dissolve the historical consequences of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression. Racism is over when white people say so.
We start by saying we are not racists. Yes, that felt nice. And now we should make sure that no one says anything that might upset us. The fight against racism becomes the search for a language that makes white people feel good. The laws themselves model the desired rhetoric. We are just trying to be fair. We behave neutrally. We are innocent.

When viewed in the aggregate, these attacks on "critical race theory" and the teaching of America's real history echo some of the worst aspects of the country's past. In his book "Trouble in Mind", historian Leon Litwack details how history was taught during the Jim Crow reign of terror:

The history to which Black children were exposed in the classroom and the primers made a virtual gospel of the superiority of Anglo-Saxon institutions and ways of thinking and acting…. What little they learned of their own history consisted often of disparaging caricatures of Black people as the least civilized of the races — irresponsible, thoughtless, foolish, childlike people, satisfied with their lowly place in American life, incapable of self-control and self-direction. The history of Black people was a history of submission gladly endured and of services faithfully rendered. Transported from the darkness of heathen Africa to the civilized and Christian New World, grateful slaves found contentment and happiness…. The treatment of emancipation depicted Blacks passively waiting for Massa' Lincoln to strike off their shackles. And Reconstruction saw the enthronement of Black ignorance and inexperience, with the Ku Klux Klan in some account redeeming Anglo-Saxon civilization from alien rule. The history lessons taught in public schools were calculated to produce patriotic citizens, albeit with a distinctive southern bias.

The Jim Crow Republicans and the white right view this approach to American history as admirable, something to be resuscitated from the dustbin of the country's past.

In the self-serving stories told by the Ku Klux Klan, that terrorist organization had noble origins, represented "Christian values," did charity work and helped the poor, served the community by dealing with drunks and other miscreants, and protected "white families" as well as the "good Blacks". This is the fake history that the Jim Crow Republicans want to see taught to America's young people.

The neofascist movement understands that if it wins the battle over the teaching of the past, it can in turn control the future. In total, the right wing's moral panic over "critical race theory" resembles the kind of hearts-and-minds indoctrination favored by the great villains of history. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler and Goebbels would be proud to see their legacy continued.

Competitive caffeine: Inside the wild world of professional coffee tasting

"Three, two, one, go! Taste, taste, taste!!" I am watching a coffee tasting competition unfold on screen, but as competitors spring into action not a single mouth touches a cup. Rounded spoons frantically plunge into what looks like small soup bowls. A hand juts forward, placing a single bowl beyond a line marked on the table, then returns to the task of spooning coffee from bowl to nose to mouth.

As the scene plays out, techno music pulses in the background and a crowd cheers the tasters on from just a few feet away.

This is the World Cup Tasters Competition where competitors sniff, examine, and slurp eight sets of three cups in order to identify the "odd cup out" in each set as quickly and accurately as possible. It's a challenge known to those with sensory training as a "triangle test."

"It's about accuracy first, then speed," says Jen Apodaca, who represented the United States at the 2019 Worlds competition in Berlin. "If one competitor finishes in under two minutes, but they only get seven cups correct, they would place behind someone that took five minutes but got all eight cups."

The 2019 World Champion, Daniel Horbat of Ireland won with seven correct cups in just two minutes 33 seconds.

"It was very intense," Apodaca says of the atmosphere at the competition."There were competitors that ate essentially chicken and rice for 6 months to prepare for it." This was done to protect their taste buds and, a full year before wearing a mask in public became the norm, competitors were wearing them to protect their highly calibrated sniffers from offending smells.

Ken Selby, who represented the US in the 2018 World Coffee Tasters competition says there is good reason for that rigorous preparation. "At Worlds you're in the position to instantly advance your career, if you do well," he says.

Selby thinks taste is essential to success in the coffee industry. "I firmly believe that palate development is the heart and soul of your career in coffee," he says. "Whether you're a producer, a barista, a director of coffee, a buyer, or a sourcer or a roaster — all of those roles, they're contingent on knowing what is happening with the coffee and how that impacts taste."

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The focused enhancement of sensory skills begins with a ritualistic method of tasting coffee called "cupping." It's an intricate multi-step process which is made somewhat ceremonial by the exacting execution of each step.

Coffee is weighed and ground (but only after the grinder has been pointedly purged). Notes are recorded on the dry fragrance of each sample before they are covered in chemically-balanced water heated to exactly 200°F. A timer is then set as the tasters wait exactly four minutes to "break" the layer of grounds and oils on the cup with a spoon held at a specific angle. This releases "wet aroma" and more notes are scribbled. This breaking must be done in the same order in which the cups were filled. Steps continue on like this with precisely timed pauses and methods all in complete silence.

"There is no talking," says Shannon Cheney, Lab Director at Coffee Lab International. Watching professional cuppers at work is like watching a silent ballet with tasters swirling around the table in choreographed moves.

Several steps in, each person will slurp coffee from the spoon rather than drink it. "We're trying to suck it in," says Cheney. This helps release more volatile aromas into the nasal passageway to help the taster get the best impression of the coffee's characteristics.

"It's all about the smell," she says. "Once you get to tasting, you're basically just double-checking everything you already think about the coffee."

Once that aroma and taste is assessed, the taster spits out the coffee to avoid massive caffeine intake — an action that is so practiced and methodical, it could be described as elegant.

Take that ceremonious method, speed it up, add a jubilant audience, an enthusiastic emcee and a timer clock and that's roughly what is happening on the stage at Cup Tasting competitions.

At the final table of the US Championships, Apodaca remembers music roaring through the speakers. "It starts to play [Toto's] 'Africa' and the audience is getting all excited and I can see them dancing," she says. She was trying to focus, to identify the correct cup. After going around all the cups once, then twice, she still couldn't even hear her own thoughts, "I totally old lady screamed, 'Can you turn that music down?' and he did."

And she won that competition.

Of course, Apodaca was accustomed to cupping in silence, a skill she had to master to earn a title even more difficult to achieve than US Cup Tasting Champion: Q Grader.

To achieve Q Grader designation, coffee professionals must pass a total of 22 tests to prove that they have the sensory prowess and coffee knowledge to definitively grade coffee on the most impartial scale possible.

Candidates have to be top tasters at perceiving everything, not just coffee. For example, one small part of the test consists of nine identical glasses of what looks like water. Candidates have to identify which three are sweet, which three are sour, and which three are salty. And then, within those three sets, they have to determine which is the "most" sweet, sour, or salty, and which is the least.

Even though Apodaca was already a decorated taster, "I wanted to prove to myself that I could pass the test," she says.

Cheney says becoming a Q Grader is all about calibrating yourself to other coffee professionals and adding objectivity to tasting: "You learn to take out the subjectivity, even though it's sensory, so there's always a little bit of subjectivity."

Once certified, Q Graders evaluate the quality of a coffee in order to assign it a grade. These evaluations allow farmers to earn more money for their crops, or to learn where there are flaws and how they can improve to eventually achieve a higher rating and a higher price point.

There is a completely different kind of cupping competition in which Q Graders can flex their tasting skills, though this time as judges. Cheney once participated in the Cup of Excellence competition, where she was one of the judges to help crown the best coffees in the world.

"For the farmer to potentially get a better premium for their crop. I think that kind of cupping competition is very rewarding to everyone involved," she says.

Cheney has spent her career honing her palate in order to be able to effectively judge coffees and therefore improve the quality of coffee in the overall market. After years of cupping and teaching other professionals to prepare them for the Q Grader exam, she sees 'Speed Cupping' as a novelty.

"It's more like, 'I'm going to test my ability on how fast I can come up with an outlier,' but they aren't meant for quality purposes or to support a particular producer or coffee quality in general," says Shannon. "That kind of competition is just fun for people. The purpose of cupping is it is silent work, there is no sound."

Apodaca also says her competitive cup tasting days are over, especially after founding her own coffee company, Mother Tongue Coffee. "I learned so much at Worlds so I definitely have advice for people who want to go for it," she says.

People like Selby, who has qualified to take the Cup Tasters stage at the U.S. Championships in New Orleans this fall.

He says that making it back to Worlds would already be a great opportunity to meet people from all over the industry, but to take that top spot on the global stage would take intense preparation.

"I talked to someone who did really well there [at Worlds] that cut out all sugar and excess salt for four months so there were no flavor distractions," he says, "I'm not sure if I would do that, it would be a big decision."

But sacrificing flavor to train your palate is just the kind of decision a world champion coffee taster might have to make.

Read More from Salon's Coffee Week

'The Daily Show' launched 25 years ago to tackle the news: 'We didn't lampoon it, we became it'

Twenty-five years ago, the best news show on television debuted — on Comedy Central.

From its beginning, "The Daily Show" distinguished itself with its combination of brutally funny cynicism and furious hope, a balance refined when Jon Stewart became host in early 1999, and maintained today with Trevor Noah behind the desk. And from its beginning, it's been a show much about the news media as the news itself.

The endurance of "The Daily Show" remains a testament to its creators, Madeline Smithberg and Lizz Winstead, who helped set the show's meticulously crafted tone. Salon spoke to Winstead recently via phone about the show's genesis, the grueling, pre-Google days of newsgathering and the "Daily Show" reunion benefit livestreaming this week.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

It's not like there'd never been satire. It's not like there'd never been parody of the news. What made "The Daily Show" unique?

I think what made this different is that we didn't lampoon it; we became it. We really gave the audience credit. We didn't want to be cartoons. We wanted to, by being as realistic as possible, by looking like and having their same tone, by using the same bullsh*t that the media focused on, really shine a light on what it was that wrong with the media.

A lot of times, in previous iterations where there was a news desk, it was snarky commentary about the news. For us, we felt like the media itself needed to be a character. Back in 1996 when we launched, there was only CNN. We launched in mid-July. MSNBC launched a couple weeks later. [Note: MSNBC launched July 15, 1996]. Fox News launched in October. All of that happened in 1996.

When we started, we were really satirizing the whole if "If bleeds, it leads" local news stories, and also the fear-based news magazines. There were 17 news magazines on network television when we launched. They would all do,"Will your pasta kill you?" You know, everything was about terrifying the viewer and then finding obscure ways to tie it into a think piece and then put it out there in this supposition language. That was happening all over. You would look at the cover of a magazine and it would say, "Do you have AIDS?" Then there would be an article and it was just, "Of course you don't have AIDS." But they would just try to scare you. We really followed that trajectory. The show, when we launched it, was actually more like Colbert in the sense that every single person on the show was in character. We just took the audience on this newscast full of people who were utterly reprehensible on some level. You could see the essence of what you knew and what you saw every night in real news.

One of the reasons "The Daily Show" is 25 years old and has been going strong is because Brian Unger came from news, and trained every correspondent. He was the first correspondent we hired. He was a producer and he was an on-camera person. He trained everybody on how to light a shot, how to shoot to create a mood, how to deliver your lines. He really helped all of us learn how to go straight with the ridiculousness, so it sounded like you were delivering the news.

Was the show a hard sell to the public, as female creators?

To create a news show back in the day, and to do good satire, you had to satirize the existing thing. And the existing thing was full of white men. So as two women, the one thing we did know was that if we wanted to blow the lid off the news, it had to look like the news. That meant that the spaces that needed to get occupied needed to be white dudes, right? To this day — and this part is frustrating —I don't think a lot of people know that two women created that show.

I think that they also don't know that our two co-creators, executive producer, head writer, executive in charge of production, senior producer, all of field producers except for one, were all women. It was a bummer because we got over 150 writing submissions, and only two from women, when we launched.

It was a lot of fun, but it was also really challenging. Madeleine and I had to fight a lot of battles with the network because they didn't want this to be a news show. I think they wanted it to be wackier, and more pop culturey. I'm not sure that "The Daily Show" would have lasted 25 years if Madeleine and I would have acquiesced to turn it into some kind of "Entertainment Tonight" kind of comedy show.

When did you know that this was something? That this was a thing that people were paying attention to and that it was having an impact?

The second the show went on the air, I had a feeling. Then we got flooded with fan mail. Then there were so many requests that it was almost a year in advance to get tickets. That happened within like the first week. And that audience wanting to be part of it thing was really cool.

There was nothing else really quite like that out there to pin your conversations around, that was reflecting the way that we were talking about the news.

What gave us a great boost was broadcast news had just really done a disservice around real news. CNN was like "the trial of the century of the week." A lot of people were really wondering what the hell was going on in the world and not seeing it, and then watching the news. They knew the conventions.They knew the local news guy. They knew that scary story. They knew Stone Phillips. They had a working knowledge of the conventions. Within the subtleties of how we did our characters, we still made sure that the audience was with us on how we satirized the people and the genres and the type of stories that we did. So we didn't try to be too inside baseball. And you know, print journalists were so excited that we were sh*tting all over television journalism. They were writing glowing, glowing stories.

Was there a moment early on in it, where you had a story where you thought, "We're doing this story in a way that nobody else has looked at it?"

I think everything we did was sort of that. I mean, even "Weekend Update" never used footage. There was never a lot of designing over-the-shoulder graphics that looked like how they did on the news. We were the first to do that. Taking the trends of news genres, like, "When animals attack," then we did "When the elderly attack."

We really just satirized how they did the coverage, the terms, and how many times they're just throwing to somebody to say, "Over to you," when there was nothing going on there. Car chases. Storm watch. We were the first people to really take it to the next level and out into the field, and bring it back into the studio. Instead of it being skits, it was actually a fully formed show that had to operate like a newsroom, because we were making a news show, but we were satirizing it.

And remember, without Google. I think we stole a LexisNexis login. We had like 45 newspapers delivered to the office. People split up the country in regions, and they would just find stories. I think we had the AP wire. But it was digging around, and then just watching, and observing what the trends were, and then satirizing it.

The show came at a moment in the midst of the Clinton administration and post O.J., all these media circuses. Do you think that that was part of what made us ripe for the show, or was the show ripe for America?

I think it's what made the show ripe for America. The media had set the agenda for the circus. We didn't have to point out there was a circus; the circus was self-evident. The circus started after the first Gulf War. People forget that right when it was winding down, and everybody was panicking about how they were going to keep ratings going, Rodney King happened. So they were able to keep their media jones going, and then that just keeps perpetuating itself.They didn't even really learn good lessons in that. They just amplified the furious nature of the rage, instead of examining the rage. That should have been our reckoning.

Instead of what it's become, which is the model.

Then you had the baby-shaking nanny, and then the Menendez brothers, and then Anna Nicole Smith. It just became this furious churn factory. We just followed it. It was like, that's how you're going to help people? That's insanity to me. Part of what was fun was by holding a light up and becoming them, without having to hit somebody over the head to say, "Careful who you trust when you get information."

You've got a reunion event with Madeline Smithberg, Brian Unger and other "The Daily Show" originals. Tell me about the show.

The good news is, I really want to promote this special, because it's also benefiting Abortion Access Front, which is really cool. All these people are getting together to support us.

I really would love to make sure that people know that they can watch all these cool people get back together and tell the original story with stories they've never heard before. I'm really excited that this fall, we are launching a YouTube talk show — a 30-minute weekly hilarious feminist comedy talk show that's going to talk about all the issues that don't get talked about, and that is really doing deep dives into all these laws that are happening around reproductive access, and just patriarchy, and white supremacy, and with comedy and fun. That's called Feminist Buzzkills Live, and that's launching in October. That's one of the projects that we're working on with Abortion Access Front as well. I'm also going back out on the road to do a bunch of touring. People really need a catharsis and to gather. We need a 12-step program to get off Nextdoor. Just stop going online and getting weird information from your vaguely racist neighbors. Like, we need to regroup.

So, all eyes on the prize and in Washington, D.C. in the fall, on the Supreme Court, when they're going to decide the fate of abortion access as we know it in the United States. And that is pretty intense.

The War of 1812 vs. Jan. 6: Which was the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol?

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley calls himself a history "aficionado," and we've had several conversations about the relationship between history and current events. Recently we found ourselves discussing the War of 1812 because of a major similarity with the coup attempt of Jan. 6, 2021 — namely, a direct attack on the U.S. Capitol.

As O'Malley reflected on the events of Jan. 6, he became emotional. He was thinking about his mother, who worked for former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who was the longest-serving woman in congressional history, and knew, he said, "every nook and cranny" of the Capitol. She had instilled in her son a deep love of American history and America's democratic institutions.

"As I was hearing reports about members of Congress barricading doors, huddling under desks and trying to be quiet — so the people outside in the mob wouldn't know they were there and attack them or take their lives — I was reminded of the story of the Virginia militia who found themselves inside the Capitol building in 1814," O'Malley said.

He was referring to Aug. 22, 1814, the infamous day during the War of 1812 when British troops tried to break America's will to fight by capturing Washington and burning the White House, the Capitol and other key buildings. O'Malley described how Americans in his home state of Maryland could see the orange glow from their homes.

Some, like the Virginia militia he mentioned, had a closer view. Barricaded inside a stairwell, they waited while British troops tried to break down an intervening door. After that failed, the troops set the Capitol on fire and left the frightened Virginians to burn to death. Believing they were about to die, the militiamen carved their names and other details about themselves into the stones. O'Malley contrasted it with the desecration committed by Trump supporters in the Capitol on Jan. 6 and said of his mother: "I'm glad she didn't have to witness that."

One person who did witness it up close was Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, coincidentally one of O'Malley's few congressional supporters when the then-governor briefly ran for president in 2016. Like O'Malley, Swalwell is a history buff who knows a lot about the War of 1812. In an earlier interview, Swalwell told me about the "uncertainty and terror" that he and his colleagues felt on Jan. 6. He had sent a text message to his wife asking her to kiss their young children, fearing he might never see them again. More recently, Swalwell shared another memory from that day, one brought on when he saw pro-Trump rioters brandishing the Confederate flag.

At the time, Swalwell said, his chief of staff was a Black man he identified to me as Michael. A woman on his staff kept checking in with Michael because she was worried about him. "She was watching everybody descend upon the Capitol with their Confederate flags," Swalwell said. "The person she was most worried about was not me, but our Black chief of staff because she saw all these racists with their flags, their insignia and then with their weapons." The staff member was concerned that if Michael encountered the rioters he might be in danger. "When she said that, it really elevated my concern for him and his safety as well."

Swalwell also had some choice words about Donald Trump's leadership, contrasting him to James Madison, who was president during the War of 1812. Swalwell observed that Madison made numerous errors leading into that conflict, but was a great scholar and patriot, who helped draft the Constitution and wrote many of the Federalist Papers. "Madison loved his country, he was just woefully unprepared for what the British were willing to do," Swalwell said.

In a similar situation, Swalwell speculated, Donald Trump "would have been been beholden at the time to God knows what foreign power. If you read the Federalist Papers, because we had aligned with the French during the Revolutionary War, [the founders] were worried that future leaders would entangle themselves with foreign governments. That's why the emoluments clause was put in the Constitution. ... Whoever would have had the biggest emolument, essentially, would have been in Donald Trump's ear."

There are of course many other differences between the events of August 1814 and January 2021. The former occurred during a war in which the U.S. faced a conflict with British Empire over economic and trade disputes that essentially revolved around the question of whether America was truly independent. The burning of Washington was, in that sense, the last British middle finger stuck in the young nation's face.

Also, most obviously, it was foreign troops who burned the Capitol in 1814, not American citizens. On Jan. 6, we saw a defeated political faction lashing out because their leader was being a historic sore loser, quite literally. An angry mob, egged on by the first president in American history to lose an election and reject the results, stormed the Capitol in the false belief they could somehow overturn the 2020 election. It doesn't matter whether they sincerely thought Trump had been robbed or, as Salon's Amanda Marcotte has suggested, felt they were in on Trump's con.

Here's another difference: While politicians and the public learned important lessons from the War of 1812 about protecting America's democratic institutions, Republicans have gone out of their way not to face the truth about Jan. 6, or learn anything from it. Swalwell remembered seeing the faces of his Republican colleagues' faces as they fled for their lives.

"As I bumped into people who were at the [Trump] rally or who had also propagated the Big Lie, I thought, 'How strange is it that we both are running for our lives?'" he said. "It made me think, maybe this is an opening. Maybe this will be what it takes for us to come together, that we find ourselves running for our lives, and we're going to the same secure location. Maybe this will bring us together and maybe this will be an inflection point for them to break away from Trump." Trump hadn't just targeted Democrats, after all, but "squishy" Republicans who weren't helping him win no matter what.

But now, Swalwell thinks his initial thoughts were "naive and Pollyanna-ish." When he "saw the fear" on the faces of Republican colleagues, he said, "I thought this would bring us all together to condemn Donald Trump ... we'd finally recognize that unity would be the antidote to make sure it never happened again."

The problem, Swalwell thinks, is political courage. "I serve with people who don't have the imagination to see themselves doing any other job besides Congress," he said. "They don't have the confidence to believe that they could get a job other than Congress, so they do anything they can to stay in their jobs, which right now means you have to support Donald Trump and anything he says."

How the Biden administration's foot-dragging is killing the arts

Few organizations suffered more than nonprofit performing arts venues in the past 16 months of the pandemic. Continued uncertainty surrounds reopenings, in part because of the achingly slow government response in delivering money needed to resume performances.

Unlike restaurants and bars, which have minimal costs to resume operations if they held onto their space and inventory, many performing arts venues say they can't just open up because they need money to rehearse, build sets, advertise, and produce events.

Live performance charities big and small are in deep financial holes. The Metropolitan Opera in New York faces a colossal shortfall of $150 million, Operawire reported. The Opera projected to bring in $49 million in box office revenue this fall, $88 million less than its earnings from the 2019-2020 season that was halted by COVID-19.

Live entertainment venues were among the first businesses to close, and they will almost certainly be among the last to reopen. Sen. Amy Klobuchar

This estimation last year came alongside Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb's prediction that it would take years for the company to rake in its usual totals again due to the bleak outlook for tourism, according to Operawire.

The Bootleg Theater, a staple of Los Angeles' arts and cultural scene for over two decades, was not as lucky. It was forced to close its doors just as the city began to reopen.

"We are in a public health and economic crisis, and the live entertainment industry has been particularly hard-hit during the coronavirus pandemic," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on the Senate floor in December. "These live entertainment venues were among the first businesses to close, and they will almost certainly be among the last to reopen."

Half Closed

Almost half of the nonprofit arts and cultural organizations with in-person programming remain closed, and roughly half of those have no scheduled return date, Americans for the Arts found in a June 28 survey.

Many of those nonprofits said they lack funds to reopen. More than two-thirds of these lightly financed arts organizations said they expect that raising enough money to open the doors again will take three months or more, according to the survey.

In an updated report two weeks later, Americans for the Arts reported 39% of organizations with in-person programming still remained closed to the public. Most of these groups aim to resume in-person activities this year.

Many nonprofit theaters have no working capital. Like millions of cash-strapped Americans, they struggle from performance to performance, not unlike those who live paycheck to paycheck with no savings.

"When you produce a show, you're banking money to produce the next show," said Chris Serface, President of the American Association of Community Theaters.

Serface is also managing artistic director for Tacoma (Wash.) Little Theatre. "We've been dark for a long time, so we don't have that capital to just go ahead and produce a show again," Serface told me.

As if financial instability was not enough to endure, even though Congress appropriated money for live performance venues, so far only a trickle of cash flows to them, Serface and others said.

The Save Our Stages Act — a bipartisan bill spearheaded by Klobuchar and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) — was included in the $900 billion stimulus bill last December. It allocated $15 billion for struggling arts and cultural locales through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

Slowdown at the SBA

The arts and similar grants, administered by the Small Business Administration, were supposed to be easier to apply for than the Paycheck Protection Program loans.

The rollout was shaky at best. Weeks after the early April start date, the SBA blamed "technical difficulties" for not approving requests and sending funds. SBA reported on June 9 it had issued grants to less than 1% of more than 14,000 applicants.

Christopher Mannelli, executive director of the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, N.Y., applied for a grant in April. It took two months for SBA to notify him that the agency had reviewed his paperwork.

"It's supposed to be emergency funding, and it certainly has not arrived in a timely manner at all — and all of us have emergency needs," Mannelli said.

The SBA's latest report detailed a significant improvement in the distribution of grants because the program got off to such an atrocious start.

The agency has distributed almost 4,000 grants since the earlier debacle at the beginning of June, according to its July 6 report. That's less than a third of the grants sought.

And aside from the bipartisan criticism voiced by Cornyn and Klobuchar of SBA for its botched implementation, there is no indication of more federal help soon.

"I fully expect the performing arts field to feel this is a two-to-three-year pandemic," said Tamara Keshecki, a research associate at UMass Amherst School of Public Policy. She is also on the New York Independent Venue Association board, which represents independent performing arts groups and organizations based in the state.

"It's not going to be like 'we got some grant money, we reopen, and everything goes back to business as normal,'" Keshecki said.

In June, Washington state lifted most COVID-19 restrictions, joining virtually all other state governments in allowing enterprises to function at full capacity. But Serface said that doesn't guarantee audiences will resume buying tickets.

His theater welcomed some people to its summer youth program at the beginning of July, but Serface said there's no way to predict how willing audiences will be to return.

Still, the Tacoma theater plans somehow to resume shows in the fall, when the production season usually begins.

"That's the big question none of us really know the answer to because it's different all across the country," Serface said. "There's a lot of variables that are making a lot of people nervous, and those are some of the struggles we're all going to face going forward."

What the cult classic 'Point Break' can teach us about capitalism

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the cult classic Point Break follows Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), an FBI agent who infiltrates a band of bank-robbing surfers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). Though Johnny is undercover, he gets romantically entangled with Tyler Endicott (Lori Petty) and comes to see the spiritual side of the group's lifestyle—beyond surfing, partying and chasing an endless summer. But when Johnny's cover is blown, the situation spirals out of control leading to the demise of the Ex-Presidents, the death of Johnny's partner (Gary Busey) and Johnny throwing away his badge.

As a child in the 90s, Point Break was an exciting procedural drama. The surfing, bank-robbery, sky-diving, explosions, romance and betrayal made it one of my favorite films of all time. What I found the most endearing was the relationship between Johnny and Bodhi. They are opposites but both contain bits of the other—Johnny a hotshot who craves more freedom and Bodhi a free-spirit guru who provides the structure for his group. Tyler tells Johnny that he and Bodhi share the same "kamikaze" look.

My adult-eyes see the political commentary of the film—specifically the tensions of toeing the line between anti-state and anti-capitalist critiques, and its reasserting of these things.

Though "young, dumb and full of cum" Johnny is more clean-cut, he and Bodhi share an Icarus complex. Bodhi chases the high through surfing, Johnny chases it through playing the hero and catching bad guys. I enjoyed how Point Break highlighted the yin and yang, push and pull, between Johnny and Bodhi, even down to ostensibly small details (for example, in the final scene at the beach, we see that Johnny has grow his hair surfer-long while Bodhi cut his short to a more "professional" length).

Watching Point Break during the Covid-19 pandemic adds renewed intensity to the film's messages. Millions of Covid-19-related deaths around the world have forced us to wrestle with our mortality. Being stuck at home, we've slowed down enough to collectively ponder what we want to do with our lives. Even in the midst of economic hardship, people are leaving their jobs or refusing to take positions they don't truly enjoy. It's hard to watch Point Break without thinking that we should be more like Bodhi—living free and searching for what truly inspires us sans the bank-robbery.

But 30 years later, my adult-eyes also see the political and philosophical commentary of the film—specifically the tensions Point Break has in toeing the line between anti-establishment, anti-state and anti-capitalist critiques, and its reasserting of these things. In some ways, these surfers reject one cage for another—the mundane, often unfulfilling and sedentary, life of the worker for the adrenaline-filled endless run.

Bodhi and his friends rob banks dressed as the ex-presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jim Carter. The business suits and rubber masks are satirical—the contrast between their carefree surfer lifestyle and the oppression of politicians and their corporate partners. In one scene, Bodhi, wearing the Reagan mask, jumps on the counter to introduce the Ex-Presidents, yelling "We've been screwing you for years, so a few more seconds shouldn't matter, now should it?"

It's interesting to see Bodhi take the lead as Ronald Reagan, who in many ways is the antithesis of everything he and his crew stand for. Though it was released in 1991, the film's development started in 1986 while President Reagan, a key figure in adopting neoliberalism as the dominant social and economic reality of the United States, was in office. Free market reforms, hyper-individualism and the defunding of public institutions placed all the ills of society and the burden to correct them on the individual. The Ex-Presidents see this theft of life and liberty as a non-partisan pursuit, as the four presidents are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) says that its "us against the system, the system that kills the human spirit" while becoming a part of the system. Bank-robbery could be seen as subversive on its face, but it further justifies the force of the state.

Bodhi's crew are resentful of politicians whose greed, corruption and fealty to capital flatten the worth of humans down to their economic worth. By robbing banks, they are punching back against the parasitic overlords of Washington and Wall Street controlling the lives of the commoners, who are confined to work their life away doing a job they don't like while someone else enjoys the fruit of their labor. Bank-robbery and their surfer lifestyle reinforce each other as a rejection of the status quo.

But ironically, the Ex-Presidents accept the free-market, dog-eat-dog logic of the system they purportedly oppose. Phrases like, "Why be a servant to the law when you can be its master?" from Bodhi give up the game. Instead of fighting against forms of hierarchy, Bodhi merely means to reconstruct it for himself. The audience is told the Ex-Presidents are a group with no leaders, yet Bodhi is clearly the figurehead in their mini-corporate structure. What he says goes, no more or no less than a governor or CEO. Bodhi asserts that its "us against the system, the system that kills the human spirit" while, in a sense, becoming a part of the system. Bank-robbery could be seen as subversive on its face, but it further justifies the force of the state. The Ex-Presidents are merely replacing greed that oppresses with greed that liberates, which ultimately accepts the logic of the system. Ultimately, they reject the means, but not the ends.

This reminds me of Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism in which capitalism has become so ingrained in culture we can't imagine alternatives. Bodhi and the Ex-Presidents fail to recognize the paradox, where, to borrow Fisher's words, "even success meant failure, since to succeed would only mean that you were the new meat on which the system could feed." In this sense, the importance of money is not dismissed, but rather, recouped from the onset. The crew reject the expectations of society (working a nine-to-five, settling into suburban life, starting a nuclear family), and yet accept (more fully than the average worker) the power money has in providing them the life they want.

To reference Slavoj Žižek, the Ex-Presidents maintain a cynical distance between their beliefs and actions—the world has made them justifiably cynical yet their misdeeds aim to reflect it back at the world, not dismantle the system producing cynicism. They aren't Robin Hoods. They're in it for themselves. Their aim is not redistribution, but accumulation. To repurpose Fisher's paraphrase of Žižek, the group, like so many of us in a capitalist society, disavows the idea that money is worth more than humans, yet they treat money as if it "has a holy value. Moreover, this behavior precisely depends upon the prior disavowal—we are able to fetishize money in our actions only because we have already taken an ironic distance towards money in our heads."

Point Break's ending is tragic for literal and metaphorical reasons: Bodhi (short for Bodhisattva, or someone walking the path toward enlightenment) dies riding a massive, un-rideable wave. But for him, purpose and money become synonymous. It's comedic that the guru never stopped to ponder this disconnect. Johnny realizes he no longer wants to be an agent of the state (which he only became because his NFL dreams were shattered) after seeing or taking part in the deaths of several people.

Point Break sets up a binary, two sides of a never-ending game.

But Bodhi was right about one thing: in this game, we all lose.

Anthony Bourdain 'Roadrunner' documentary filmmaker: 'His flaws were also his superpowers'

Anthony Bourdain knew himself a little too well. The late beloved chef, author and world traveler was often quoted toward the end of his life talking about how he might die — sometimes laughing while he did so. Some found his sentiments macabre, but others may have chalked them up to Bourdain's big personality and penchant for getting laughs and making his companions feel intimately like family.

Academy Award-winning documentarian Morgan Neville shows both sides of Bourdain in his new film, "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain," which chronicles how he went from being chef at an obscure New York restaurant to one of the most notorious and beloved figures in the food world and beyond. The film is the culmination of a long and challenging project, one in which quite a few of the interview subjects said they would never speak about Bourdain again publicly.

Neville pored through hundreds of hours of collected footage from years of Bourdain's television work, carefully homing in on the pathos and emotional unrest that Bourdain wrestled with, even as he had tremendous success. The result is a loving portrait of a complicated, troubled and admirable man, who his longtime creative partner Lydia Tenaglia described as an "unmuscled James Bond'' on camera.

Neville appeared on "Salon Talks" to discuss making the film, one he hoped that "Tony" would've seen himself reflected honestly in. You can read a transcript of the Q&A below.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You've profiled so many beloved and iconic figures in your career. Bourdain is described in the film as a control freak, a physically irrepressible, wild, impetuous, sometimes cruel, but also very loving father and having had that experience later in life. So what got you interested in chronicling his life?

I think really in the beginning it was that, I always felt like in a way, he was a bit of a fellow traveler to what I was doing. Looking at my films over my career, I've realized I've made films about culture. I'm interested in the people and the things that help us to find other people and define ourselves. So that can be food or it can be music or art or film. Those are things that I've always been really attracted to.

And I feel like, what he was doing with his show was basically helping us understand and dimensionalize people on the far side of the planet. And kind of understanding that they sit around the dinner table and talk about their hopes and dreams and all those kinds of things, which sounds very lofty and I'm sure Tony would have cringed at some of it, but that's exactly what he was trying to do. That's what I think he was doing with the show at its best. So there was that part of it that I always just thought he was somebody fighting the good fight.

And the other part of it was I just had questions. He's a complicated person, deeply complicated person who was slightly different in different situations and had many different facets to him. And then of course the suicide just was inexplicable to me. And so when the idea came up to make this film, I just in my gut, I was like, yeah, I feel like that's a journey I want to go on. It was not an easy journey. I learned a lot making the film. I also got to spend a lot of time with Tony making the film if you can imagine how much footage we got to go through, thousands and thousands of hours. There's a lot that was great and pleasurable about making the film too. And a lot that was challenging and painful about making the film, but in a way I feel like that's what I signed up for when I became a documentarian.

The story is told really artfully and you made an interesting choice to begin with the end, right? You said the hardest part of the film was talking to people from his life, many of whom hadn't processed what had happened. And these interviews were hands down the most difficult ones you've ever done for a film. Why was that?

Well, we started doing these interviews probably a year and a half after he had died, and a lot of people in his life literally hadn't talked to other people about their real feelings about it. And even the husband and wife team, Chris [Collins] and Lydia [Tenaglia], who were his partners in all television for 20 years, they had never talked to each other in a deep way about their own feelings. And they told me that they were talking to me before they talked to their husband or wife about it because it's a lot to burden somebody with. "Let me just emotionally unload –" particularly in the wake of a suicide where there are so many complicated emotions of not only grief and sorrow, but shame and guilt, all of these things that suicide brings out that are totally unfair, but they're always there too.

So yeah, it was hard. And I think even as I was making the film, even sometimes during the interviews, I could see people changing and coming to terms with things or thinking about things. And certainly up into the conversations I'm having this week with people in the film, just seeing how people are processing and growing and working through the stages of whatever they need to work through to deal with it.

What was your first impression of Anthony? Though you never met him, but from watching all this footage?

I mean, I knew him like the public knew him, I had read "Kitchen Confidential" and "Medium Raw." I'd watch the show in the Middle East. I liked him as a person and as a character and I liked what he was doing, but then really trying to kind of unpack, who, what was making him tick. I mean, part of it is this part of me going in to making any film. I go in with as little agenda as possible. My only agenda in the beginning is to understand. "Tell me what you think. I'll read everything. I'll talk to everybody." And then I can start to formulate what I think are the ideas and what the story is.

And I think with Tony, I mean, he was so complicated, but one of the things I came to realize was in many ways, his flaws were also his superpowers. He was a recovering heroin addict and cocaine addict, and had written about all that in "Kitchen Confidential." I mean, that was on the table from before he was famous. And so everybody knew that, but so often he would talk about his own mistakes or foibles or preconceptions, or going to a place and being like, "God, I thought this and I was totally wrong." I think that's part of why people trusted him. And he also had this boyish enthusiasm about everything, and that was something many of his friends talked about. They talk about what a romantic he was or that he could be like a little boy.

And so when you fall in love, it's like the first time and when you eat something, that's like the first time you tasted it, or when you traveled the first time, there's something that's just kind of, full of, "aah," and excitement. But the flip side of that is when you're 60, maybe being a little jaded is a good thing, that maybe it helps you actually understand what's emotionally important in your life and prioritizing them in a way.

He got this tattoo in his, maybe he was 59 when he got it, that said in ancient Greek, on his arm, "I am certain of nothing." And that sounds great to be open-minded, to be non-judgemental. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that was kind of sad that, if you're 60 and you're certain of nothing, then that means you're doubting things that you shouldn't be doubting. Like the love of the people around you, or the love of a family, or things that are very important. And I think that Tony was always kind of stuck with this idea that him being the seeker and him being curious and being non-judgemental, these are all good things, but there's a certain point where if you do them too much, they become bad things. And I don't think he could ever find a boundary between any of these things, his creative work, his personal life, anything, they were always in a big soup together that he could never parse in any way.

I feel like Anthony might've been described as neurodiverse, that hyperfocus common to ADD and the restlessness and the perfectionism and the lack of patience with the way things are. And about an hour and 18 minutes into your film, once he speaks to a therapist, right? And yet nobody else you interviewed seemed to touch on this idea as an explanation that might have given him some comfort about, understanding who he was and finding a place for that. But even he knew he was manic. Did this stick out to you at all?

Yeah. We talk about addiction a lot and a lot of people do talk about that in the film. Which is more a by-product of a lot of these other kind of personality traits he had, which was definitely a kind of an OCD-ness, anxiety, depression. I mean, he had a range of things, and he was never diagnosed as bipolar, but he certainly was exhibiting bipolar-type traits. And he even talks about it, "I'm manic, I'm really up, and then I'm really down." Chris says in our documentary that the kind of ups and downs of Tony became much higher and much lower. Somebody who [dies by] suicide, often has underlying mental health issues. And Tony, as we mentioned in the film, just started going to therapy for the first time as an adult, just weeks before he died. And I don't think really got to do any of the heavy work, but I think it meant that he was starting to realize that he actually had to do something, that some things were not going right and that he had to make a change.

But as other people say, here's somebody who was a heroin addict and never went to rehab and still drank. It's somebody who, in many ways kind of papered over a lot of the problems by substituting new structures for himself. I think part of why he was such a good chef and I think it was even, I would say he was even more of a good chef at running a kitchen in terms of being efficient.

He was the most on-time person anybody has ever met. He was always 15 minutes early for anything ever. The crew said he was always 15 minutes early. That's why in the beginning we had this clip of him waiting for the fish man, and he said, "that's why chefs are all drunks, because the world doesn't work like our kitchens." And I feel like in the kitchen, he created this regimen. He was able to through his sense of responsibility and his kind of workaholism to make this his new addiction. It's like, "Okay, I'm just going to work incredibly hard." And that'll be the regimen that will keep me from all these other bad habits, but still that doesn't really address the underlying problems there all along. And I think those were always kind of waiting in the wings for him. And I think he felt that in a way too.

It's clear that Anthony had a great sense of irony, which came through to me. And I wonder what he would have made of your take on him and his life?

I think when I started the film, one of the first things I was thinking is, I wanted to make a film like he would like, and certainly that he recognized himself in. And I spent a lot of time searching out every song he ever mentioned and watching all the movies he loved and reading or rereading the books that influenced him. Really trying to get into his head in terms of his taste and everything else.

But I realized pretty early on that there's part of the story that Tony had no insight on. There's part of the story that he wouldn't have liked necessarily which is his blindness to both the love that people were giving him and his inability to feel it. And the grief that he left by the decision to kill himself. I mean, these are very uncomfortable things. And I think at a certain point I was thinking, I had to honor the people I came to know in making the film who were all there picking up the pieces in the wake of his death. And so the film I think tries to do both. I like to think that at the end of the day, Tony loved brutal honesty and as uncomfortable as it would have been for him, I think he would have respected how honest we were about it.

What would you like people to come away with from your film?

One thing is when I started making the film and I'd say to somebody I was working on a film about Anthony Bourdain, often the reaction I would get was just a heavy sigh, of like "aah." "I haven't been able to watch his show since he died." And these kinds of feelings of just people not knowing how to think about him because there's no way to make sense of kind of how he killed himself. And so it's just a lot easier to not think about it or not think about him. I hope this film helps people get to the other side of that, or start to get to the other side of that, which is remembering him as a whole person. Thinking about him, that he could be dark and funny and smart, and brilliant. And that those are worth remembering too, like trying to get to put things into context, so people can at least start to process what he meant and get beyond. Get beyond that place where I think people are, a lot of people are just stuck. And I think the film, hopefully it's cathartic in that way.

I know you're out promoting the film. It's coming out July 16th in theaters. Will it be on digital anywhere?

Yeah, I think eventually in the fall, I think it's on CNN and some point thereafter, it will be on HBO Max. Which is where "Parts Unknown" lives. So it felt appropriate that the documentary and his show would be on the same platform, but it's going to be over a period of months. And it opens on July 16th and then a few weeks later it'll be available on things like iTunes and Amazon and other play platforms.

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain" premieres in theaters on July 16 and will be available on CNN and HBO Max later in 2021.

The US has a history of reparations -- but not for those who were enslaved

In the United States, reparations have long been discussed although substantial compensation has never been granted to the descendants of slaves. However, there is one group of people that has been compensated and it's not who many people would expect.

Ironically, white enslavers were actually compensated for the "inconvenience" of slavery ending. The Daily Beast recently explored former President Abraham Lincoln's Compensated Emancipation Act, which was a provision included with the abolition of slavery.

The publication reports that the bill "abolished slavery in Washington, D.C., and gave enslavers $300 (or more than $8,000 in 2021 dollars) for the inconvenience of having the people they kept in bondage taken away."

However, no compensation was provided for those who had spent endless years of their lives enslaved and working for free; an "inconvenience" that has had generational impacts on descendants of slaves for endless generations.

Per The Daily Mail:

"The Black people who had been enslaved were offered no recompense for the years they spent laboring for free—though the legislation did offer them a bribe of just $100 to leave the country they had built on their backs for "the republics of Hayti or Liberia, or such other country beyond the limits of the United States as the President may determine." There were few takers, but most of the 960 enslavers who applied for the reparations program got paid."

Speaking about the U.S. reparations policy, historian and author Carroll Gibbs highlighted key points about it during a previous conversation with the publication. She noted that although slavery was abolished, it did not lead to as many financial setbacks as some would have expected. In fact, some who invested in slavery still made substantial income after it was abolished.

"Let's look at the fortunes of the larger holders of enslaved people—for example, George Washington Young, the largest slaveholder in the district, or Margaret Barber, the second largest," Gibbs said. "Barber's farm, North View, is now the site of the US vice president's house and the Naval Observatory. She was able to use the money [from the act] and parlay it and invest it." Another, Ann Biscoe, "had an employment bureau, essentially. She made good money leasing out the enslaved people who were under her control. When compensated emancipation came, she still made out fairly well."

Let's think about 'thinking' before we teach 'critical thinking'

Advocates for the liberal arts often emphasize their role in fostering critical thinking. But how often do we think critically about how we hope to achieve that? Certain subjects obviously emphasize critical thinking very explicitly, but in other courses instructors often count on critical thinking to develop somewhat organically. And critical thinking does emerge fairly naturally in courses that are not about logic or statistics. However, many faculty can do more to consider the relationship between methods of teaching and the development of critical thinking.

The liberal arts tradition has drawn on critical thinking since its start. Socrates has long been an animating influence. But apart from the Socratic method, liberal arts professors sometimes struggle to explain the connections between their approach to teaching and the outcome of critical thinking. The paucity of terminology and explicit method does not mean that nothing is happening, but it does mean that it can be hard to identify what specifically needs improvement and very difficult to instruct others well in the arts of instruction.

A whole host of recent findings and books from psychology offer an opportunity to expand our vocabulary and approach to thinking about thinking in the classroom. In particular, the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, which has done so much to shake up economics, can also knock some dust off approaches to education. In particular, Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow identifies ways that humans think and the shortcuts we use in thinking (heuristics), which sometimes get us into trouble. Having a better sense of these heuristics and how judgment can be deceived can be very useful in the classroom. Thinking explicitly about the anchoring effect, which reflects our use of even irrelevant reference points, can make instructors more aware of what reference points we're providing and also give us the opportunity to teach students about other biases. Teaching students how to reason and judge well is enhanced by having a better understanding of how human judgment works.

Together Kahneman and Tversky have contributed a great deal to our understanding of human understanding. Professors from many different fields should be reading their work, because all of our fields involve understanding. Another introduction to their work and their working relationship is available in Michael Lewis' The Undoing Project, which offers a more narrative approach and also highlights the role of collaboration in the advancement of knowledge. Kahneman and Tversky's continuous experimentation and reflection is a helpful example.

Another recent work that has insights for the liberal arts project is Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by performance expert David Epstein. The book itself is a strong argument for the liberal arts. The "general education" of a liberal arts degree is, in a sense, the broad sampling period that so many high performers benefit from having and helps create the kind of generalists that can succeed in various fields. Range explicitly takes on the subject of thinking, emphasizing the importance of thinking with analogies and the ability to think outside of a single discipline. It also explicitly takes on the subject of student learning, drawing on various studies to emphasize the importance of student struggle in comprehension and the ways that teachers can accidently circumvent that struggle. A book like Range is not about teaching, but it can help us reinvigorate our approaches to sharing material in the classroom by reminding us what leads to excellence in outcomes.

Another way that new insights from psychology and performance studies can enhance our approach to education is through making us reconsider the contexts for learning that we create. Are our classrooms settings that truly encourage critical thinking or do they reward simple recall? Do our syllabi and assignments point people toward the outcomes we hope to achieve? A book like Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, can help us think through these things. Nudge borrows from the insights of Kahneman and Tversky to recommend use of heuristics and patterns in human judgment, like the availability bias, to "nudge" people in the right direction. The authors argue that things can be structured in such a way as to make people more likely to default to better choices. Professors already do some things like this—like requiring a first draft so that people turn in better final work—and we can all be encouraged to think more about how our coursework and classrooms already "nudge" people in certain directions. Once we identify more of what we are doing, we can make more conscious choices about where we want to go.

A very tangible way to integrate some of these insights from psychology and other fields is to consider something we almost all work with: learning outcomes. Learning outcomes help tell students what courses are about and they help satisfy accreditation requirements. They are also often quite dry. Students will learn how to "assess" something or "identify" or "distinguish" or "demonstrate competence," etc., and these outcomes will be measured through "quizzes, tests, written assignments, a presentation," etc. But learning outcomes are also an opportunity for us to engage and require critical thinking in more direct ways.

Learning outcomes are tied explicitly to subject matter, but they can also be used to integrate critical thinking goals which are implicitly associated with the liberal arts subjects. As faculty formulate the assignments that are used to measure learning outcomes, they can keep in mind aspects of critical thinking or even specific heuristics. For example, history students already need to be aware of hindsight bias in order to succeed in the discipline, but professors can do more to make that an aspect of assignments. Again, these things are already happening, but not often enough in ways that faculty openly describe and discuss. If faculty are more conscious and communicative of how we integrate critical thinking, we can improve our approaches.

Those who love the liberal arts are fully aware of their benefits outside specific knowledge, but we are not often specific enough about how those benefits are achieved in explaining our disciplines to the rest of the world. We know that classrooms are somewhat organic spaces and that critical thinking is not achieved through a formulaic set of learning outcomes. But failure to talk about method can lead to failure to think enough about method. Thinking through these things not only helps us communicate better with others, it helps us consider what it is we may want to integrate.

Thinking about what will be implicit in our teaching approaches is not about forwarding agendas, but about educating the whole person. In a 2011 New York Times op-ed, David Brooks wrote that the "unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place." In that essay, Brooks advocated a healthy reunion of reason and emotion, arguing that society had become over reliant on reason and therefore was often at the mercy of undereducated emotions. Instead, he suggested that we educate our emotions and integrate them well into decision-making, emphasizing qualities like attunement, equipoise, metis, sympathy, and limerence. These are also things worth considering. How do our classrooms portray the relationship between reason and emotion?

In truth, whatever ways we are teaching are already encouraging certain ways of thinking and discouraging others. Investigating new research about thinking and making our own approaches more intentional can be of great benefit. Have we crafted assignments that reward critical thinking or those that reward mimesis and recall? Have we created a classroom environment that fosters reasoning or one which fosters shallow thinking? If the liberal arts is, in part, about critical thinking, having a conscious approach to it is essential. We can all benefit from new ways to think about thinking when we're teaching.

Elizabeth Stice is Associate Professor of History at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

'Summer of Soul' is a musical celebration of Black joy

Mavis Staples joins Mahalia Jackson to sing "Precious Lord" at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

The avidly awaited documentary Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) from Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson—which premiered and won major awards at the Sundance Film Festival—is now in theaters and streaming on Hulu.

There is literally too much music in the film to cover here in one #BlackMusicSunday story. However, it is important to note that the film, covering the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, represents a sweeping range of Black music genres, including gospel, R&B, jazz, salsa, blues, and African drumming, as well as pop and rock. More importantly, it is not simply a series of performances; The film is about music that is inextricably linked to the lived political, cultural, and historical experience of Black people, not only from Harlem, but in the Black diaspora.

I'm one of the people chosen to offer commentary in the film; I thank Questlove and his producers for pursuing this journey through to its fruition. Though 52 years have passed, this story is needed more than ever: In a time where the Black community is under siege, our voting rights are being attacked once again, and we face life and death issues at the hands of police and vigilantes, along with the depredations of unequal health care in the time of COVID-19, we need joy.

We need our music, which has carried us through darker times than we face now, and will continue to do so, no matter what we face.

If you've missed all the media excitement about the film and the thousands of enthusiastic posts on social media, here's the trailer.

Summer of Soul - Official Trailer (2021) Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder

This is how Searchlight Pictures describes Summer of Soul:

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.

In "Still Black, Still Proud: Unpacking the Untold Story of Harlem's 'Summer of Soul,'" The Root's Felice Leon reviews the film.

The Harlem Cultural Festival. Have you ever heard of it?
Better question: If I told you that approximately 300,000 Black people peacefully gathered at a park in Harlem (over six weekends in 1969) and watched performances from Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder, before Woodstock, would you believe me?
Prior to the news of Summer of Soul (...Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a documentary directed by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, I'd argue that many would say "No." Heck, I'd likely say no. But then I'd shake off that moment of naïveté and remind myself that within this racist American system, Black erasure is a pervasive. It's no secret that the contributions of Black people (across the globe) are erased from history books, an act which ultimately upholds white power and privilege.

The Root also devoted an episode of Unpack That to the documentary, helping give important societal context.

Still Black, Still Proud: Unpacking the Untold Story of Harlem's 'Summer of Soul'

Summer of Soul opens with an interview with Musa Jackson, who attended the festival. Next, we hear a voiceover from Cyril "Bullwhip" Innis, Jr., who was a beloved comrade of mine, a community organizer, and a member of the Black Panther Party in Harlem, as we see footage of a sea of Black faces. The opening music selected for the film is from a young Stevie Wonder.

I'm not going to play performances from the film today, since I hope that everyone will see it! I do, however, want to play songs from the wide range of musicians who appear, starting with Stevie Wonder.

Those of us who are old enough still remember when he was "Little" Stevie Wonder.

Still Black, Still Proud: Unpacking the Untold Story of Harlem's 'Summer of Soul'

Writing for UDiscoverMusic, Paul Sexton wrote "12-Year-Old Genius At Work: Stevie Wonder Debuts By His 'Fingertips'" in June.'s not widely remembered that "Fingertips" was a live version of an instrumental album track on which he only played percussion. Written by Hank Cosby and Clarence Paul, it was recorded for his debut album The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, released in September 1962. The studio "Fingertips" led off the disc, but although Stevie played bongos, the featured instrument was not harmonica at all. It was the flute playing of Funk Brothers member "Beans" Bowles.
By the time the Motown Revue hit the road, "Fingertips" had turned into a showcase for the frenetic harmonica playing of the 12-year-old genius, and an exciting finale to his live set. In March 1963, Berry Gordy arranged for a recording truck to capture the date in Chicago. Then, at the end of his set, with Mary Wells waiting to hit the stage as the next featured artist, Stevie was addressing the crowd.
'I want you to clap your hands'
"The name of the song is called, uh, 'Fingertips,'" he told them. "Now I want you to clap your hands. Come on, come on. Yeah, stomp your feet, jump up and down, and do anything that you wanna do." The track kicked in with a drum figure played by a young Motown house musician by the name of Marvin Gaye.

Little Stevie was beloved in Harlem, and appeared at the Apollo in 1963.

Next up, Summer of Soul brings us The Chambers Brothers, who hailed from Mississippi.

Unlike some acts billing themselves as such, The Chambers Brothers really were brothers. Growing up in a sharecropping family in one of the most impoverished parts of Mississippi, the four siblings, George, Joe, Lester and Willie, first started to sing at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Lee County. After his discharge from the U.S. Army in 1952, the oldest brother, George, moved to South Los Angeles and was soon joined by the other three. Here, the foursome began performing throughout Southern California, with George on bass guitar, Willie and Joe on guitar and Lester on harmonica. They toiled in obscurity for years before switching to a more Gospel/Folk sound in 1961.
In 1965 they added a drummer to the group, a White man named Brian Keenan, and moved more toward a Rock/Soul act. The group attracted national attention when they appeared at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and were soon booked into the psychedelic venues of Electric Circus and both Filmore East and West, as well as The Apollo Theatre. They recorded their own version of The Isley Brothers' hit, "Shout" for the Vault label, but it went largely unnoticed.
The band was signed by Columbia Records in 1966 and an early version of "Time Has Come Today" was hastily recorded late that year. Unfortunately, it was rejected by the label. Instead, a more orthodox single called "All Strung Out Over You" b/w "Falling In Love" was released on December 19th, and became a regional hit. The success of that initial single gave the band the opportunity to re-record "The Time Has Come Today" in 1967.This time it became title song of their first album, "Time Has Come", and reached #11 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the Fall of 1968. The L.P. featured an 11-minute, psychedelic version of the song.

In the film they sing "Uptown," which most Black New Yorkers would appreciate, given the difficulties of getting a cab to go there.

I'm going uptown to Harlem
Gonna let my hair down in Harlem
If a taxi won't take me, I'll catch a train
I'll go underground, I'll get there just the same

That song was actually written for them by a young Betty Mabry, hostess at the Cellar Club, who would later briefly be married to Miles Davis, and become known as Betty Davis.

This footage of The Chambers Brothers performing "Time Has Come Today" was recorded in Germany in 1969—the same year they appeared in Harlem.

Still Black, Still Proud: Unpacking the Untold Story of Harlem's 'Summer of Soul'

Gospel is up front and present in the film, represented by artists I've featured here in the past, like Mahalia Jackson and the Staples Singers. We get to see the enthusiastic Harlem reception of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, and learn that, as popular as the Edwin Hawkins Singers became with their hit "Oh Happy Day," they were heavily criticized by their own Pentecostal elders for their worldly fame.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers did a half-hour television special in 1971.

The Edwin Hawkins singers TV Special

I was especially pleased to see jazz artists Max Roach and Abby Lincoln featured at the festival and in the film footage—not just because of their superb artistry, but because of their commitment to social change and the struggle for Black rights, here and in Africa. As Marc Anthony Neal wrote of the We Insist—Freedom Now! Suite in 2019, it was "An Early Soundtrack to Black Lives Matter."

If the opening tracks "Driva-Man" and "Freedom Day" captured the spirit of Roach and Brown's original vision, the closing tracks "All Africa" and "Tears for Johannesburg", written after the Sharpsville Massacre of 1960 brought international attention to South African Apartheid, capture the increasing Global vision of African American artists and activists.
The literal centerpiece of the Freedom Now! Suite was the song "Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace" in which Lincoln's vocals and now iconic screeching was prominently featured. The song, originally intended as a ballet, sonically reproduced both the trauma and possibilities of Black life in an era overridingly defined by protest and threats of violence. As Roach would reflect decades later in the Boston Globe, on the occasion of the beating of motorist Rodney King, "I have pictures of black men hanging from trees, tarred and feathered, barbecued…This kind of thing, I'm afraid, is part of the fabric of this country, and I'm not sure when it's going to stop."

It's 37 minutes worth listening to.

We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite

I hope this little taste of music today whets your appetite to see the entire film. Trust that I've barely scratched the surface of the list of performers: Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Fifth Dimension, Sly and the Family Stone, Ray Barretto, Hugh Masekela, David Ruffin, Nina Simone, and more are featured in this stunning piece of history that somehow lay buried for 50 years.

Most importantly of all, for me, this film shows the soul of Harlem to the world—a Harlem that is filled with concertgoers who don't resemble the "scary" Black people too often demonized by those outside of the Black community.

Why the Jack the Ripper story endures

The message finally landed with my husband how much of a serial killer buff he had married after 12 years as we were watching "Mindhunter," the Netflix drama series based on the book by the same name about the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. I was able to call out the serial killers before they were named on screen, then give a summary of their crimes; the types of victims they pursued, where and when they operated. I can't be sure if he was impressed or petrified. Perhaps both.

I'm certainly not alone in harboring a fascination with murder. Over 70 million people downloaded the 2014 podcast "Serial," about the 1999 murder of 17-year-old Hae Min Lee. And true crime has been a thriving economy for years: books, documentaries, tours — not to mention the crime-inspired TV dramas, movies, novels and more. Harold Schechter, an American true crime writer, referred to the specific fascination with serial killers as "cultural hysteria," and it doesn't look to be fading anytime soon.

I can remember the exact moment my obsession began. I was around six or seven years old and at home with my mother. She specifically told me that I was under no circumstances to open a book she had brought home from the library, which she then left on the floor by her handbag. Of course, as soon as I had an opportunity I reached for the book, looked along the edge of the pages where it was darker which told me where the pictures were, and flicked open to see what it was I should never see. I opened the book on the mortuary photographs of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth canonical victim of Jack the Ripper. The grainy black and white photographs of a wretched woman with her nose cut off and her stomach sagging like a burst balloon from where she had been mutilated. A nightmarish picture was scarred on the back of my eyelids forever.

Jack was my "gateway drug" into serial killers. He hardly needs an introduction, but he committed the mutilation murders of five women assumed to be sex workers in and around Whitechapel, London, from August to November in 1888, at which point the murders stopped. By then he had, quite literally, etched his way into the zeitgeist. His name conjures up images of dark and misty alleyways and blood curdling screams, and is synonymous with the poverty of Victorian England — much to the embarrassment of the British Empire.

But what is it about Jack that has such enduring appeal? It wasn't as if violence in 1888 was rare. The life expectancy for a man from the East End of London was 26 years old, kept low by the diminished life expectancy of casual laborers, who took on unsecure and often deadly work. Infant mortality rates were high as well, and childhood diseases were rife. Simply being alive was risky enough, not taking murders — most of which were of the domestic violence variety or gang related — into account. It doesn't explain why this one murderer has lingered on. Personally, I think Jack endured because of a perfect storm of events — a combination of technology, social and political unrest, wealth inequality and public anger.

Today we are used to news traveling the world in a matter of seconds. There's an insatiable thirst for content and we expect it for free. Traditionally printed newspaper sales may have declined, but in 1888 the newspaper was king and the only source of information. Looking back is like looking at a dress rehearsal of how we are learning to cope with social media — drowning in notifications, clickbait and 24-hour news coverage, bewildered by the effects this technology is having on our world.

I propose that it's fair to compare the two eras. The telegraph was invented in the early 1800s. By the mid-1800s the laying of telegraph cables underground and across the seabed started, and this connected continents and led to the creation of news agencies. Before the telegraph, messages had to be sent the same way people and goods traveled — by road or water — but by 1888 news could be sent from nearly anywhere in the world and be printed in The Times the next day. Not only did the murders shock the people of London, they shocked the world. And as circulation increased, so did the appetite for more news — and this encouraged an increase in sensationalist reporting.

Victorian culture was notoriously class-ridden, and tensions were already high on Sunday, November 13, 1887, when Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of Police, banned all meetings in Trafalgar Square. Demonstrations by the unemployed had been taking place every day since the summer and homeless people slept in the square and washed in the fountain. The police were under pressure to end such an embarrassing situation. The resulting event, which became known as Bloody Sunday, saw around 150 people treated at local hospitals. Up to 300 rioters were arrested.

A common feature of the press coverage of these class tensions was the dramatization of Whitechapel itself — the cliché of the slum ghetto, a trap of misery and hunger. The truth, as it always is, was more nuanced. But that's not what people saw in the daily newspaper. It is worth mentioning that London was the richest city in the world at the time. Jack the Ripper, simply put, was an embarrassment. Jack unwittingly shone a light on a system rigged towards the upper classes and a government policy of conscious neglect. Jack brought age-old arguments to the surface. But this time, the world watched.

His ongoing anonymity remains a key part of his appeal. The monster in any horror movie is always scarier before you see it. Once his or her identity is revealed, the fear disappears. As with most serial killers, they're likely to be ordinary and underwhelming on the surface. It's almost disappointing, so perhaps it has a lot to do with the faceless figure in the dark who can exist as a bespoke monster. A shared concept, but entirely different in each person's imagination.

It's true that the murders didn't evoke much sympathy for victims. They were referred to in newspapers as "unfortunates," code for prostitute. But when Catherine Eddowes was murdered beyond Aldgate and within the boundary of the City it whipped up more hysteria. Jack was commuting, and that meant women of a higher class — respectable, less disposable — might become victims. If people gawked before, now they were frightened … and it was a thrill.

Put in simple terms, the brain doesn't differentiate much between fear or excitement, so anyone who has experienced terror at the thought of public speaking and been on any presentation course or sought therapy for social anxiety will have encountered the theory of reframing fear as nervous anticipation. We know the hysteria and news was lapped up by the general population, but especially young middle-class women. Imagine you were a cosseted Victorian woman stuck indoors with little or no mental stimulation or likelihood of any adventure. The fear the Ripper produced was as close to a thrill you were likely to get. And Jack was also making people angry — at the women, at the poor, at the police, at the government. Anger hits the amygdala and pumps chemicals around the brain. We can get hooked on these chemicals, with the brain looking for the next anger-stoking piece of news to get that luscious hit again.

Speaking for myself, it's clear the obsession started with my mother's questionable '80s parenting and seeing those autopsy photographs. I remember being shocked and unable to look away, like rubbernecking at a car accident. When I was older, I learned about the Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who buried their child victims on the Yorkshire moors. My mother came from Yorkshire, although we lived in London, and I'd overheard her tell people that her sister had worked as a cleaner in the coroners' office and somehow seen photographs of the children she never recovered from. The mugshots of their defiant faces eyeballing the camera still haunts most of the UK.

The same with the Yorkshire Ripper, who targeted women walking alone after dark. Again, the connection with Yorkshire and my mother's origins made it relatable. As in the case of the Ripper murders, the police conducted the investigation with a huge complimentary dose of sexism and ego, enabling Peter Sutcliffe to evade capture and go onto murder at least 13 women.

In 1994 came Fred and Rose West, the horror couple who abducted vulnerable girls, torturing them in their own private dungeon as their children played. They lived in Gloucester, which was miles away, but Fred West had worked on an industrial estate near where we lived. The police even searched the site looking for other victims. I was 16 at the time, a similar age to some of the victims, and we all talked about the murders. It spread fear through us — or was it a thrill? These were high-profile cases with a slither of intimacy that could penetrate my bubble and feed my fascination and intrigue.

This is why Jack the Ripper endures — he's the embodiment of anonymity, fear, anger and media hype. He's less of a person and more part of our culture. When I set out to write a story during the Whitechapel murders it was because I wanted to explore the hysteria of the time. What was it like to live during such uncertainty with an unseen monster holding everyone to ransom? I didn't expect to find myself living through something not altogether dissimilar with COVID-19.

The privileged of us will likely survive the pandemic. But we have still fed off the fear and devoured the sensationalized news. We've needed the emails, calls, notifications, podcasts, movies, Netflix, Facebook, trolls, Twitter, binary tribal choices about masks and vaccines. Humans can reduce complex fears to a single shot to the amygdala, and feed it daily. Be angry and be afraid: It's an economy and we are all at its mercy. A bit like a serial killer, waiting for the next strike so we can all get our fix.

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