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more of the same

Trump Isn’t Teflon
Five things to keep in mind as the latest accusations against him shake up the race.

by Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight

October 13, 2016

A series of women have accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting them. Trump has denied the claims. But given the number of accusers and the release of a tape last week that showed Trump bragging about actions similar to the ones the women described, the stories are likely to be a problem for his campaign.

We’re 26 days away from the election, so I wanted to advance a series of simple propositions about how the allegations might affect Trump’s prospects. If this stuff sounds familiar, it probably should, since it’s similar to the analysis I did after the release of the tape last week.

Proposition No. 1: Trump isn’t “Teflon.” Stories like these have hurt him. The conventional wisdom from the primaries—that Trump was unaffected by scandals or other negative storylines—hasn’t held up in the general election. Trump is the most unpopular presidential nominee of the modern era, and furthermore, downswings in his polling correlate well with specific incidents, such as his criticism of Judge Gonzalo Curiel and Khizr and Ghazala Khan. He’s also lost further ground to Hillary Clinton since the tape was released last week.

Proposition No. 2: These events may affect Trump’s “ceiling” more than his “floor.” At some point, though, one wonders how much lower Trump can go. He’s getting only 39% of the vote in national polls, a low figure for such a partisan era. Even if Trump gets embroiled in further scandals, each one may drive away fewer voters than the one before, as he’s already been involved in so many. And Trump’s response to the accusations—such lashing out at The New York Times and other media organizations that reported his accusers’ stories—could play well with his base.

But 39% of the vote won’t be enough for Trump to win the election or come anywhere close to it. At a minimum, he’ll need around 46% on Nov. 8, assuming that about 8% of the vote goes to third-party candidates. Where he’ll get those votes from is hard to say. Based on recent polls, I’d estimate that about 35% of Trump’s current voters are white men without a college degree, by far Trump’s best demographic group. But only around 10% of voters who don’t currently support Trump fall into that category. Trump will have to win over women, college-educated white men or people of color to win the election, and the events of the past week are unlikely to help him with any of those groups.

Proposition No. 3: It’s plausible that the effect on the polls could be temporary rather than permanent. There’s a complicated debate about whether election polls are essentially mean-reverting or instead resemble a random walk. In other words, if Trump goes from being (for instance) 5 percentage points behind to 7 points behind as a result of some news event, is he more likely than not to rebound to 5 points after a couple of weeks? Or is the 7-point deficit the new normal? There’s even a third possibility—that polls are momentum-driven, so that if a candidate loses ground in a poll, he’s likely to continue losing further ground.

Without getting too deep into the weeds, I’d just remind you to be open to the possibility that the accusations could have an effect that will last for between a few days and a couple of weeks, but that could fade once other issues displace them in the news cycle. Of course, with less than four weeks to go until the election and people already voting in many states, even a temporary change in the polling numbers could still be reflected in the outcome on Nov. 8.

Proposition No. 4: We probably haven’t seen the end of this. If Trump turns out to be a serial sexual abuser, there’s a good chance that other women will come forward with stories like the ones we’ve heard already. And the women who have come forward so far may yet share additional details about Trump’s alleged conduct. In the past, Trump has also shown a tendency to extend news cycles by refusing to admit wrongdoing and attacking his accusers, even when faced with accusations far less serious than these. We’re already starting to see Trump repeat that pattern here.

Furthermore, opposition researchers have begun releasing information at a prodigious rate, with major new stories about Trump dropping every few days. Many political operatives and campaign reporters believe that there’s more damaging information about Trump that has yet to be made public. While sometimes those guesses can turn out to be wrong, Trump has lived in the public spotlight for decades, leaving a long paper and video trail, and crossing paths—and swords—with many people along the way. The probability of additional leaks is high, so Trump is likely to be off-balance for the stretch run of the campaign.

Proposition No. 5: This probably won’t cost him the election—because Trump was already losing. It’s important to remember that Trump has been running behind Clinton for almost the whole campaign, and he had fallen into roughly a 5-percentage-point deficit after his poor performance in the first presidential debate—and before the latest round of scandals. That deficit is fairly hard to come back from even under the best of circumstances. To make it to the Oval Office now, Trump would have to make one of the greatest comebacks in political history while navigating a minefield of scandals and leaks, making his task even harder. But as far as FiveThirtyEight’s forecasts are concerned, the first debate still looks like the turning point in the race.


Nate Silver is the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight.



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lost cause


“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”

~ Clarence Darrow



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billy the kid


The only authenticated photo of Billy the Kid, now colorized for TV. All of the people who knew the Kid said this picture didn’t do his good looks justice.

It wasn’t the only justice Billy didn’t get.


It is difficult to understand why Billy the Kid—born William Henry McCarty in 1859, and killed as William H. Bonney in 1881—has achieved such legendary status in the history of Old West crime.

As a criminal, he was in many respects “small potatoes.” He never committed armed robbery of a bank, train, or stagecoach as did more famous desperadoes; he never committed rape or assault on women; he was never accused of drunk or disorderly conduct.

He was charged with petty theft on two occasions: in 1875 (at the age of 16, two years after his mother died and he was alone in the world) in Silver City NM Territory, where he stole several pounds of butter and which he sold to a merchant, and a few months later, when he was named an “accomplice” in the theft of laundry from a Chinese laundry, which was meant as more of a practical joke by a character named “Sombrero Jack.” Jack had stolen the clothes and asked the Kid to “hold them” for him at his lodgings. As it turned out, the stolen goods were found by the Kid’s landlady and given to the sheriff, who then arrested the Kid and held him in jail (but allowed him to walk freely through the corridors rather than being confined to a cell). On the next day, when he was left unguarded, the Kid managed to escape the jail by shimmying up the chimney. He then fled New Mexico for Arizona. This was the beginning of the Kid’s “life of crime.”

On one or two occasions, the Kid was later busted for running an illegal card table—again, pretty minor stuff.

The Kid was accused of cattle rustling/horse stealing, but only on a small scale with a handful of his friends. Most of his rustling was against John Chisum for supposedly owing him wages in the Lincoln County War (1878), a conflict of warring business interests between Chisum and two others (the Tunstall-McSween-Chisum Faction) and the Murphy-Dolan-Riley Faction over the control of dry goods and cattle interests in the county.  Neither faction was particularly ethical. The Kid rode for the losing Chisum Faction as one of the so-called “Regulators.” His thievery was greatly exaggerated by the newspapers, which of course turned public opinion against him.

Due to the Kid’s participation in the Lincoln County War, he was involved in some gunfights, assassinations, and killings. For example, the Kid was one of six men to gun down Sheriff William Brady and a Deputy named George Hindman. He was also part of a posse that killed Bill Morton, Frank Baker, and William McCloskey execution style. However, Billy the Kid was solely responsible for the deaths of just four men. Two deaths were strictly self-defense (Windy Cahill and Joe Grant) and  the other two happened as a result of the Kid’s escaping jail (Jim Bell and Bob Olinger). According to one website I consulted, the Kid was “tough but not mean. He would kill, but he wasn’t a killer.”

This is, I think, the most important aspect to the Kid’s enduring fame: he was a truly charismatic and likeable personality. He had an outgoing and fun-loving way, a “stay-and-fight” rebellious attitude. He wanted to be a “good guy.” He was a skillful gunfighter and was courageous to the point of recklessness. He was loyal to his friends and appointed himself protector of the helpless.

Several websites I consulted said that Billy the Kid would have been a forgotten person of the West, a drifter and insignificant saddle-rat, were it not for the Lincoln County War. But I say that his winning personality appears to merit him more memory than that.

Here is a contemporaneous description of the Kid by a reporter of the Las Vegas NM Gazette: “He is about five feet eight or nine inches tall, slightly built and lithe, weighing about 140; a frank, open countenance, looking like a school boy, with the traditional silky fuzz on his upper lip; clear blue eyes, with a roguish snap about them; light hair and complexion. He is, in all, quite a handsome looking fellow, the only imperfection being two prominent front teeth protruding like squirrel’s teeth, and he has agreeable and winning ways.” (Las Vegas Gazette, December 27, 1881)

Here are some additional descriptions of the Kid from people who knew him:
“Even though Henry possessed incredible physical strength and endurance for a boy, he still retained the grace of a cat, according to friend Lily Casey. On horseback he would ride at full gallop, dodging behind the side of his mount to fire his Winchester 73, the same way the Apaches did. He could even retrieve a handkerchief from the ground at full gallop. But she also indicated that you were far more likely to find him reading a book, than getting into trouble.  She remembered that Henry was 16 when he came back from Arizona in 1877. “The Kid had a great personality, and could ingratiate himself in peoples good graces very quickly. He had laughing blue eyes always smiling or laughing, quick and more accommodating very good hearted, had an innocent timid look all of this took with the girls at once.” ~ Lily Casey, the girlfriend of one of Billy’s greatest enemies, Bob Olinger
Lincoln resident and rancher George Coe would later say, even when he was armed, Henry seemed as gentlemanly, friendly and polite as any college-bred youth from proper society.  Everyone always commented how different Henry was. He was incredibly smart, well-read and even-tempered, while most cowboys were reckless, uneducated, and drunk. As he went from town to town in his travels and flights, the Kid made friends easily, becoming known for his easy going, friendly and generous ways. Almost everybody liked him.  He always made many more friends than enemies.
Coe would describe the Kid this way:  “He was about seventeen, but looked 14, 5′ 8″, weight 138 lbs. and stood straight as an Indian, as fine looking a lad as ever I met. He was a lady’s man and the Mexican girls were all crazy about him. He spoke Spanish quite well.” He was also a fine dancer, he could do all of the currently popular steps, especially the Irish Jig and the Spanish Fandango, at which the Kid excelled. He had a beautiful tenor voice and loved to sing, too. “He was a wonder, you would have been proud to know him.” ~ Frank Coe
To Hispanics, wherever he went, he was immediately welcomed into their homes and communities because he spoke Spanish flawlessly, always treated  them as equals, and showed the proper respect to their parents and young girls, as dictated by their culture. He dressed the part too, normally wearing a Mexican sombrero and moccasins. To them, he wasn’t just Irish, he was also one of them as well. Henry McCarty wasn’t just a hyphenated Irish-American, he was, by word and deed, a tri-hyphenated Irish-Hispanic-American.
“Billy was an expert at most Western sport, with the exception of drinking. He was a handsome youth with a smooth face, wavy brown hair, an athletic and symmetrical figure, and clear blue eyes that could look one through and through. Unless angry, he always seemed to have a pleasant expression with a ready smile. His head was well shaped, his features regular, his nose aquiline, his most noticeable characteristic a slight projection of his upper front teeth. He spoke Spanish like a native, and although only a beardless boy, was nevertheless a natural leader of men. With his poise, iron nerve, and all-round efficiency properly applied, the Kid could have made a success anywhere.”  ~ Dr. Henry Hoyt   
Again and again, ordinary people protected the Kid because they liked him.
Even Lew Wallace, the governor of the territory and author of Ben-Hur, had this to say about him: ”A precious specimen named ‘The Kid,’ whom the sheriff is holding here in the Plaza, as it is called, is an object of tender regard. I heard singing and music the other night; going to the door, I found the minstrels of the village actually serenading the fellow in his prison.” ~ Gov. Lew Wallace, in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz, March 31, 1879
In fact, Wallace offered to pardon the Kid if he testified against others in his gang, and then (as historical records show), he failed to follow through after the Kid apparently held up his end of the deal. Billy was known as a murderer, a horse thief and a cattle rustler, all equally deserving of disapprobation by Old West standards, yet his testimony helped prosecutors charge 50 others with murder and other crimes. No evidence has ever surfaced to explain why the Kid never got his pardon.
And this is, I believe, the final reason the legend of Billy the Kid holds such fascination for us—real justice for the Kid was always elusive. He was screwed and betrayed time and again. His life, so full of promise, was a series of dead ends. The myths and faux notoriety concocted after his death were always more appealing than the reality.

pat-garrettPat Garrett, the man who eventually killed the Kid, was elected Sheriff of Lincoln County in 1880 on a reform ticket with the expectation that he would reinstate justice in the area. One of his first acts was to capture Billy the Kid, sending him to trial for the murder of the Lincoln sheriff and his deputy. Garrett was away from Lincoln on county business when the Kid made his second escape, using his chimney trick for egress. Rather than chase after the fugitive, Garrett kept to his ranch mending fences and tending to his cattle. Garrett then received word that the Kid was hiding out at the abandoned Fort Sumner about 140 miles away. Rounding up two deputies, Garrett set off in pursuit.

On the night of July 14, Garrett and his two deputies approached the dusty old Fort now converted to living quarters. The residents were sympathetic to the Kid and the lawmen could extract little information. Garrett decided to seek out an old friend, Peter Maxwell, who might tell him the Kid’s whereabouts. But as chance would have it, the Kid stumbled right into Garrett’s hands. Garrett shot him in the dark when the Kid came calling for a piece of meat.

Since then, beginning with Garrett’s written account and continuing with the 1911 silent film “Billy the Kid,” the gun-toting outlaw’s story has appeared on the big screen more than 50 times, bigger with each retelling. Some of the most famous actors to play the Kid include Roy Rogers, Paul Newman, Val Kilmer and Emilio Estevez.

Today the Kid is known to many young people and is emblematic of a life of individualism and determination.




Wow, I just saw this commentary by Keith Olbermann about Donald Trump, and Olbermann really got worked up. I don’t know much about Olbermann’s politics or history, but I thought I’d share this rant with you—it is so remarkable.



With less than a month to go in this unprecidented election, it is hard to imagine that there will be more outrageous events than we have already seen. But this commentary leads me to believe that there is more to come. Stay tuned.


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proposition 57 in california

From Juvie to Juvenile Law: Frankie Guzman’s Unlikely Journey

by Lisa Weinzimer, The Chronicle of Social Change
October 4, 2016

In 1995, when Frankie Guzman was 15, living in the impoverished community of La Colonia in the city of Oxnard, California, his older friend came to his house to ask for a favor.

The friend needed cash. His request: Help me to rob a liquor store.

guzman-1-200x300“It was a terrible idea–something I wasn’t at all interested in doing,” Guzman said in a recent interview.

But as his friend was walking away, Guzman started feeling guilty. He worried about what would happen if his friend robbed the store alone. So they bought guns, stole ski masks and gloves from a store, and drove to the liquor store at noon on a Saturday, Guzman said.

Shortly after they got away with $300 from the store’s register, the young men were caught and arrested.

Because of their one-year age difference, Guzman and his friend were sent into different justice systems. Guzman’s friend, age 16, was charged as an adult. To this day, Guzman has no idea where life has taken him.

Guzman was charged as a juvenile. A judge handed him a 15-year sentence–the maximum allowed at the time–at the California Youth Authority (CYA), the state’s prison system for youth. Guzman was released early, and returned to his community at 19, but the time in prison had troubled him deeply.

“I’m out for three months with a whole lot more issues and baggage and trauma than I went in with, and really wasn’t able to function on the outside,” Guzman said.

Guzman did two more stints in juvenile prison until, at age 21, he started thinking differently.

“I was hopeless and desperate, and afraid of failure,” he said. “And in my mind, at that time, failure was prison or a grave, or leading a meaningless worker’s life. And so I went to community college and I tried to do something different.”

It was at Oxnard Community College, not in the juvenile justice system, where Guzman was rehabilitated, he said.

“At community college – not only was it not a prison state–it was a place of nurturing and education and rehabilitation,” he said.

Guzman went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley and then to law school at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A recipient of a Soros Justice Fellowship, Guzman now works with the National Center for Youth Law, helping youth who, like him, have become enmeshed in the state’s juvenile justice system.

By any measure, Guzman has overcome long odds on his way to becoming an attorney and juvenile justice advocate. But his story is especially important as Guzman works to keep today’s youth out of the criminal justice system on a California ballot measure that intends to prevent youth from being sentenced as adults.

Set to go before California voters in November, Prop. 57 would abolish district attorneys’ discretion to prosecute youth as adults and also enact sentencing reforms for adults.

Prop. 57 would reverse an initiative passed in 2000 that allowed district attorneys to file charges against youth as young as 14 in adult court and expanded the list of offenses for which youth could be charged as adults.

The ballot measure would grant judges sole power to decide whether to move a minor’s case into the adult court system.

Guzman worked with other juvenile attorneys, advocates and community leaders to write the proposition, and Gov. Jerry Brown later agreed to sponsor it and provide funding to promote it, Guzman said.

Guzman also helped write a June report that analyzed data on youth in California who were prosecuted as adults. In “The Prosecution of Youth as Adults,” he and two co-authors found that while serious felony arrests have dropped 55 percent across the state since 2003, county district attorneys in the state charged youth as adults at a 23 percent higher rate per capita in 2014 than in 2003.

‘Direct file’–a process that allows prosecutors can originate a juvenile’s case in adult court for certain offenses–was originally meant to be used in extraordinary circumstances, but Guzman and his team found that in 2014, 80 percent of youth transferred to the state’s adult criminal justice system were placed there by prosecutors.

“Prosecutors don’t understand, in large measure, how much these kids have the cards stacked against them,” Guzman said. “By virtue of their role as prosecutors, they are extremely biased against defendants and their role is one of convicting. It is not increasing public safety through rehabilitation. It is incapacitation through a conviction.”

With the November vote drawing close, Guzman said he is optimistic that voters will approve Prop. 57, despite noting that some district attorneys are painting the ballot measure as being soft on crime.

“Currently the only thing that would in any way suggest that we might have a problem is the untruths that D.A.s are putting out there, which to me are not a problem,” Guzman said. “I don’t believe they are going to carry much weight or water.”

Guzman is now 36. His life has taken him from robbing that liquor store at age 15 to, earlier this year, getting summoned by Gov. Brown to discuss and finalize Prop. 57.

It has been an unlikely journey, and it has led him to what he is doing right now–in this unusual election season–fighting for the passage of a ballot measure that he hopes will keep young people out of the criminal justice system.

It is one of 18 propositions on the ballot. As November approaches, Guzman’s work is far from over.

“I’m very excited about it,” Guzman said. “But the big fight is still to get people to vote for it.”


Lisa Weinzimer wrote this story as part of the Journalism for Social Change massive online open course. Holden Slattery contributed to this story.



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Donald Trump couldn’t stop lurking behind Hillary Clinton, and it ruined his night

It was probably an unintentional error, but it was a big one.

by Todd VanDerWerff, Vox

October 10, 2016

Donald Trump was better in the second presidential debate than he was in the first, in that he didn’t let himself get distracted by Hillary Clinton’s attempts to bait him, and in that he mostly just spent the entire evening talking about whatever he wanted to talk about, instead of what he’d been asked about.

But I’m not sure any of that matters, whether you think he won on style, or lost on substance, or anything of the sort.

This was what mattered.

Trump’s lack of preparation when it comes to debates, which proved fatal in the first debate, was less in evidence during the town hall meeting. But it made itself most known whenever he wasn’t speaking. Instead of returning to his chair to sit (as Clinton usually did), he would stand up, wander around, lean against the back of his chair, and just generally loom.

Needless to say, for someone who is facing controversy over statements he made dealing with sexual assault, it wasn’t a great look. And for someone who built his success atop his comfort at being on camera, it was a reminder that his reality TV skills, which worked so well in a multi-candidate debate format, fail him when it comes to two-candidate showdowns.

Trump just didn’t know what he was doing, but it didn’t come off that way

It’s hard to say that Trump was trying to do this to rattle Clinton. When the debate feed cut to wide shots of the whole stage, it was obvious he was generally trying to stay near his chair, and she was moving to speak to whichever audience member had asked a question.

But there’s a reason you go back to your chair and sit facing away in the town hall setting. It’s more intimate. Its staging is designed to create a faux connection between candidates and voters. It pretends to bring America back to its imagined roots as a collection of small towns with deep civic involvement.

Trump’s natural inclination to turn toward the action and watch whatever’s happening is one that most of us would share. But because of the way the cameras were capturing the evening, it was rare for Clinton to have a shot where Trump wasn’t wandering about in the background, or seeming like he was going to reach out and tap her on the shoulder to unnerve her.

Sometimes, this resulted in his body sliding into frame without his head accompanying it, which is even more eerie.

If Trump had sat down, he still would have been onscreen in some capacity. But we would have been looking at an unmoving target. He would have literally blended into the background. The handful of times Clinton turned up in the background of a shot where Trump was speaking, she was doing just that.

But by standing and swaying and moving in the background of shots, Trump drew more attention to himself than he really wanted to, and it was usually unwelcome. Particularly early on, when Clinton was obviously trying to rattle him by talking about how unfit he was to be president, he kept pacing, and I thought, for sure, he was going to walk right over to her and yell in her face—exactly the move that did in Clinton’s first Senate opponent, Rick Lazio.

Many of Trump’s errors are ones that are designed to draw him closer to his base, which is filled with angry voters who feel the government has failed them. The media’s chief failure has been to never understand how his lies are like laser-guided missiles designed to connect with the heart of his base. Whether this is a good overall electoral strategy seems dubious, but, say, the desire for the media to fact-check Trump and send him packing ignores that for most of his voters, the media isn’t to be trusted.

But you don’t win elections by appealing solely to your base. You need to either bring in a hefty percentage of Americans who wouldn’t normally vote, or you need to convince moderates, undecideds, and members of the other party who might be curious about your message. And when it comes to that sort of thing, presentation matters.

I don’t think Trump’s constant stepping into the background of Clinton’s shots was necessarily intentional, but his presence was constant and unnerving. I can’t imagine watching this, with the news of his Access Hollywood tape in mind, and not being a little uneasy about the whole thing. The post-debate spin might suggest the big stories of the night were in Clinton and Trump’s statements, but I’d bet within a few days, Trump’s lurking presence will be all we’re talking about.


Todd VanDerWerff is the critic-at-large at He was formerly at the AVclub, and was once contributor to the LA Times.








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more clowns






It will be interesting to see if Trump apologizes again at tonight’s debate.

He might even be persuasive.

But remember: Even unreformed wife-beaters sometimes cry when they apologize.


The man is a dyed-in-the-wool pig, and is not to be believed.


Creepy clown sightings set off hysteria across North America

by Julian Uzielli, Ines Colabrese and Jacqueline McKay, The Current

October 6, 2016

Creepy clown sightings across North America, from Nova Scotia to Texas, have included unsettling encounters and even evil clown attacks.

But Stacey Laureyssens, a professional clown who performs under the name Empress Cherry Sunday, tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti that these sightings are people who are not real clowns.

“I can tell you that these people who are pranking, they are not clowns.”

Laureyssens says a clown is an art form and hand/eye contact is actually extremely important when performing as a clown.

Clowns may be a delight to some but clowns can also be terrifying… even to adults.

“As soon as you put on a mask and you can no longer see your eyes, technically you cannot be considered a clown.”

Laureyssens says she’d prefer to think of these people as “costumed prankers,” separate from what professional clowns aim to do which is delight people—not scare them.

“If they were dressed as doctors covered in blood with knives, they’re still very scary, but you wouldn’t blame a doctor for that.”

The bizarre sightings have created some real-life repercussions: from a ban on clown costumes in one Connecticut school district; to an arrest in Georgia, where an 11-year-old girl took a knife with her to school to fend off clowns.

In Nova Scotia, police are investigating two clown-related threats to schools and individuals, including Halifax West High School.

What’s with the creepy clown sightings recently throughout North America?

Benjamin Radford has puzzled over the paradox of the delightful clown and the evil clown in his book, Bad Clowns.

He tells Tremonti the recent clown sightings are what he calls “stalker clowns”—people who dress like clowns but are hoaxers and get a thrill of walking around looking like a clown and pulling pranks.

In the 1980s, Radford says “phantom clowns” would menace children, lurking in school yards and parks and police would investigate these cases.

“No evidence of them is ever found,” says Radford, but it plays into the evil reputation that created the bad clown.

Radford defines bad clowns as “malicious or evil or unpleasant in some way.”

“So it’s not just a clown that’s trying to harm you or scare you … but also ones that might insult you … at a midway.”

“Often times you see in these trickster figures both good and bad and happiness and scaring people.”


Julian Uzielli, Ines Colabrese and Jacqueline McKay are staff members of The Current, at CBC Radio.



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