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Monitor Daily Podcast

May 20, 2022
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TODAY’S INTRO

Compassion and social justice, rink-side

Ali Martin
Desk Editor, National News

I have a tween who thinks deeply about justice and compassion, and the world’s uneven distribution of both.

She’s also an ice skater. 

When her skating coach filled me in recently on the costume we needed to buy for her spring performance, my heart stopped. My daughter would be skating to a rousing song from the film “Harriet,” which tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s heroic work to free enslaved people through the Underground Railroad. She would be skating as Harriet Tubman, that is.

We are not Black. 

I gently but immediately ixnayed the idea. Instead of skating as Tubman, my daughter skated in tribute to her. But for a moment, I panicked. She finds solace and encouragement in stories about oppressed people not only surviving but also changing the world. I didn’t want to quash her interest in social justice or the inspiration she takes from lessons about civil rights. 

Lessons that society is still learning, as we see in today’s Monitor. Patrik Jonsson and Noah Robertson examine the fear behind “replacement theory,” which evidently fueled last weekend’s racism-driven shooting in Buffalo, New York.  

And Ken Makin shows us how that community is coming together to fill a void left by the shuttered grocery store where the shooting happened – coming together to feed and mend shattered hearts. 

The stakes in those stories are certainly higher than a 12-year-old’s ice skating performance. But they’re all connected by a need to counter fear with understanding, to value the differentness that makes humanity beautiful, and to take a leap toward hope.

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How pro-Ukraine alliance’s success explains why Biden is in Asia

Whatever President Joe Biden’s foreign policy missteps, he consistently has extolled the value of alliances. His rallying of European allies in the Ukraine crisis suggests his trip to Asia sends a timely signal.

Ali
Kim Min-Hee/Reuters
President Joe Biden speaks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during a press conference after visiting a Samsung facility in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, May 20, 2022.

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As Joe Biden arrived in South Korea Friday for his first trip to Asia as president, he left behind rumblings in Washington questioning the timing. For some, this is not the moment to distract the United States from the biggest international crisis of the day, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The criticism is the inverse of the so-called Asia-firsters who say the Biden administration’s focus on Europe was at the expense of America’s bigger long-term geopolitical challenge, China.

But in many respects, some experts say, now is actually the right time for President Biden’s Asia visit. His rallying of European allies and steadfast support for Ukraine have restored faith in America’s unique leadership capabilities, they say. China, which has been ramping up pressure on Taiwan, can’t help but notice how much of the international community has signed on to the U.S.-led defense of an independent country, they add.

Moreover, with European allies in tune with the U.S. on the war after months of full-court-press diplomacy, Ukraine is now a reminder that tending allies benefits America in the long run.

Stacie Goddard, a specialist in international security at Wellesley College, says “far from undercutting support for Ukraine or taking attention away from the war, this trip can pay dividends by sending a signal to our Asian allies and partners that America’s actions in Europe underscore a broader rededication to alliances.”

How pro-Ukraine alliance’s success explains why Biden is in Asia

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As Joe Biden arrived in South Korea Friday for his first trip to Asia as president, he left behind rumblings in Washington questioning the timing of the trip.

For some, this is not the moment to distract the United States from the biggest international crisis of the day, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The criticism is the inverse of the so-called “Asia-firsters” who for months have taken Mr. Biden and the administration to task for lavishing time and resources on Europe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – at the expense, they say, of America’s focus on the bigger long-term geopolitical challenge, China.

But in many respects, some regional and foreign policy experts say, now is actually the right time for President Biden’s five-day Asia visit, which will also take him to Japan and include a summit of the so-called “Quad” of four Indo-Pacific democracies: the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India.

After the doubts sowed by last summer’s calamitous Afghanistan withdrawal, Mr. Biden’s effective rallying of European allies and steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s aggression have restored faith in America’s unique leadership capabilities, these experts say.

China, which has been ramping up pressure on Taiwan, can’t help but notice how much of the international community has signed on to the U.S.-led defense of an independent country, they add. Of particular interest to Beijing will be how quickly and decisively European powers have moved to sever economic ties to a revanchist Russia.

Moreover, with European allies in tune with the U.S. on the war – to a degree considered impossible before months of full-court-press diplomacy – Ukraine is now a reminder to the leader of the world’s democracies that tending allies benefits America in the long run.

“I’d say this is a very good time for Biden to be going to Asia, because far from undercutting support for Ukraine or taking attention away from the war, this trip can pay dividends by sending a signal to our Asian allies and partners that America’s actions in Europe underscore a broader rededication to alliances,” says Stacie Goddard, a specialist in international security and faculty director of the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Ben Blanchard/Reuters
Head of European Economic and Trade Office Filip Grzegorzewski, holds EU and Ukrainian flags next to Taiwan Parliament speaker You Si-kun, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, and other European diplomats at a Europe Day event in Taipei, Taiwan, May 7, 2022.

“From what I’ve seen, our actions in Europe have led to a renewed sense of confidence in American leadership,” she adds. “And at the same time we are reminded that when a crisis like the war in Ukraine pops up, having these alliances and partnerships on hand turns out to be pretty valuable.”

More colloquially, she says Mr. Biden’s Asia trip highlights the old adage that “part of the role of the president is to walk and chew gum at the same time.” Going to Asia “doesn’t detract from our Ukraine effort,” she adds. “If anything, it underpins it.”

In South Korea, Mr. Biden will meet with the country’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office less than two weeks ago after a campaign in which he advocated strengthened ties with the U.S.

Mr. Yoon also calls for his country – the 10th largest economy in the world – to play a larger role in global affairs, an aspiration Washington wants to encourage.

North Korean reminder?

Administration officials were bracing for the president’s three days in South Korea to be punctuated by a party spoiler from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after satellite images this week suggested Pyongyang was preparing for either an ICBM launch or some type of nuclear test. Mr. Kim is no stranger to marking himself “present” whenever the U.S. president is in the region.

Apparently not to be outdone, Beijing announced this week that it would hold military exercises in the disputed South China Sea for five days through next Monday – timing that almost perfectly dovetails with President Biden’s visit.

In Japan, Mr. Biden will meet one-on-one with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, as well as with Emperor Naruhito. But the main event of the Tokyo sojourn will be the summit of Quad leaders – a key venue for White House officials to underscore what they see to be the trip’s theme: the power of America’s alliances and their role in securing vital international interests.

“President Biden has rallied the free world in defense of Ukraine and in opposition to Russian aggression. He remains focused on ensuring that our efforts in those missions are successful,” Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday. “But he also intends to seize this … pivotal moment to assert bold and confident American leadership in another vital region of the world: the Indo-Pacific.”

For some, a key goal of Mr. Biden’s Asia trip must be to demonstrate the interconnected nature of America’s alliances at a time of heightened global challenges – from the rise of autocratic regimes and undermining of the Western-led international order, to the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

“The days of chopping up our alliances and partnerships into separate unconnected spheres have to be over when the problems we face are so global,” says Michael Green, senior vice-president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We are a global power and … what challenges us on one side of the world is connected to what confronts us on the other side.”

With the authoritarian challenge the U.S. faces coming from both China in Asia and Russia in Europe, he says, the Ukraine invasion had to be addressed in a manner that would resonate in Asia as well.

Hu Shanmin/Xinhua/AP/File
In this undated photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a J-15 fighter jet prepares to land on China's Liaoning aircraft carrier. China is holding military exercises in the disputed South China Sea, coinciding with President Joe Biden's visits to South Korea and Japan that are largely focused on countering the perceived threat from China.

“If the U.S. hadn’t moved on all the fronts it did to rescue an independent Ukraine, you would’ve had a quick Russian victory with probably a puppet government installed in Kyiv – and that would have been a big problem for our strategy in Asia,” says Dr. Green, who served as senior director for Asia on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff.

The Biden White House is clearly on board with this vision of interconnected approaches to China and Russia. “For us, there is a certain level of integration and a symbiosis in the strategy we are pursuing in Europe and the strategy we’re pursuing in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Sullivan said in the Wednesday briefing.

Taiwanese concerns

Still, the steadfast U.S. support for Ukraine hasn’t come without some costs in Asia, Dr. Green says. For one thing, he says the tremendous support in military assistance for Ukraine – just this week the Senate overwhelmingly approved an additional $40 billion in aid – has raised questions about America’s ability to effectively address two major security challenges at the same time.

“Across the region, people are heartened by the U.S. support for Ukraine and how it has rallied Europe and many other countries,” Dr. Green says. “But if you listen to the Taiwanese government and look at opinion polls in Taiwan and editorials across the region including in Japan, you see this worry about the ability of the U.S. to take on two contingencies simultaneously.”

In Taiwan, he says, the jitters are fed by reports that delivery of defense materials have fallen two years behind schedule as the U.S. has shifted to fill urgent demand in Ukraine.

“You have these nagging doubts across the region about the U.S. bandwidth, and it’s something China is watching very closely,” Dr. Green says, noting that he expects President Biden to specifically address the two-front question during his visit.

On the lighter side, Dr. Green notes that Korean President Yoon is expected to have three dogs running around the Blue House when President Biden stops in. The Asia scholar says Mr. Yoon “and known dog lover Joe Biden” will have “lots to bond over.”

Still, the major takeaway from Mr. Biden’s Asia trip is likely to be that America’s alliances are back – and, if anything, appreciation for them is on the upswing, some experts say.

“The key example of this from Biden’s trip may well be South Korea, one critical ally where for many different reasons it has been difficult to build a sense of the value and interest of multilateralist coalitions,” Wellesley’s Dr. Stoddard says. But she adds that mounting evidence suggests that reluctance is changing.

Adding together things like President Yoon’s campaign emphasizing Korea’s interests in becoming both a closer U.S. ally and a larger global player, and Korean appreciation for the coalition the U.S. assembled to support Ukraine, she says, “What we see is this growing sense of not just an ability but a vital interest in working together.”

‘Replacement theory’: The view from an immigration-wary Georgia district

The mass shooting in Buffalo last weekend has focused attention on ideas termed the “great replacement theory” – that there’s a conspiracy to disempower white Americans. To historians, the spread of nativism today is not surprising.

Ali

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Justin Walis, a 26-year truck driver, doesn’t see his beliefs in the Buffalo, New York, shooting last weekend. 

Mr. Walis wears his fourth-generation German immigrant status like a name tag, praises foreign-born colleagues, and says he supports more legal immigration. 

But at the same time, Mr. Walis voted for one of the country’s most ardent anti-immigrant politicians in recent memory – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has spread the so-called great replacement theory that there’s a plot to diminish the power or population share of white Americans.  

According to authorities, that idea is one of the motives Payton Gendron listed in his 180-page screed before driving 200 miles to a Buffalo supermarket and shooting 13 people – 11 of whom were Black and 10 of whom died. 

In the week since Saturday, public attention is also focusing on how strains of replacement theory – often in subtle forms – have taken root in America. Polling suggests millions of Americans believe some, albeit less extreme, version of it.

And the spectrum of views can become blurry: To what degree are old debates over immigration and cultural change synonymous with “replacement” rhetoric? What’s clear is that all of these have a long history.

“It boils over because of the crisis we’re living in,” says Pam Nadell, a historian at American University. “It’s a manifestation of the crisis.”

‘Replacement theory’: The view from an immigration-wary Georgia district

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Gina M Randazzo/ZUMA Press Wire/Newscom
A protester holds a sign outside Fox News headquarters on May 17, 2022, in New York. After 10 Black people were killed and more people injured in a racist hate crime May 14, the activist organization Rise & Resist held a protest against Fox News and host Tucker Carlson, alleging the network has fueled white supremacy.

Justin Walis, a 26-year truck driver, doesn’t see his beliefs in the Buffalo, New York, shooting last weekend. 

Mr. Walis wears his fourth-generation German immigrant status like a name tag, praises foreign-born colleagues, and says he supports more legal immigration. 

But at the same time, Mr. Walis voted for one of the country’s most ardent anti-immigrant politicians in recent memory – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has spread the so-called great replacement theory that there’s a plot to diminish the power or population share of white Americans. Many might say Mr. Walis believes a version of it himself. 

According to authorities, that idea is one of the motives Payton Gendron listed in his 180-page screed before driving 200 miles to a Buffalo supermarket and shooting 13 people – 11 of whom were Black and 10 of whom died. 

To Mr. Walis, fault rests with the individual. “If some whack job dreams up a manifesto and decides to go out and kill people, that’s on him – no one else,” he says.

But the 18-year-old Mr. Gendron listed outside influences in his document, alluding to other mass shooters apparently driven by racial or ethnic hatred in Charleston, South Carolina; Pittsburgh; and El Paso, Texas. 

In the week since Saturday, the country is asking how another racially motivated mass shooting could happen. Much of the media attention has turned to replacement theory’s role as a motive and, by extension, to the elites who voice it. In the process, public attention is also focusing on how strains of this thought – often in subtle forms – have taken root in America. Polling suggests millions of Americans believe some, albeit less extreme, version of replacement theory as well.

And the range of views can be confusing: To what degree are old debates over immigration and cultural change synonymous with “replacement” rhetoric? 

Racist conspiracy theories tend to change temperature over time, says Pam Nadell, a historian at American University. And they’re heating up now due to decaying institutions, political violence, economic displacement, and online radicalization. In that way, she says, replacement theory’s recent change from a simmer to a boil is a sign of how Americans influence and are influenced by the political context around them.

“It boils over because of the crisis we’re living in,” says Dr. Nadell. “It’s a manifestation of the crisis.”

A spectrum of views – and rhetoric

And it manifests in different ways. Replacement theory is used to refer to a wide spectrum of beliefs, including at the extreme the strident white nationalism of Mr. Gendron, but also general fears of white Americans’ approaching minority status.

That variety plays out among elites. Fox News host Tucker Carlson invoked replacement theory last year in saying, “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate ... with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.”  

Meanwhile Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House, ran a Facebook ad last year claiming Democrats wanted to use “amnesty” to “overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

“It’s almost like there’s a hardcore version and a softcore version,” says Dr. Nadell. 

According to an Associated Press-NORC poll last December, 32% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” Compared with Democrats, Republicans were almost twice as likely to agree with the statement.

Some of those Republicans are like Mr. Walis.

He started believing there was an organized effort to stifle free-thinking Americans while his oldest son finished high school. In his view, Democratic-tilting coalitions like teacher unions and academics create a system where young people become obedient and close-minded.

At 18, his graduating son “hung his head and basically held onto the tail of the elephant in front of him.” 

Meanwhile Mr. Walis’ youngest, at 5 years old, “still believed he could be whatever he wanted,” he says. “The difference between the two broke my heart.” 

As interviews in this Georgia congressional district reveal, concerns tied to changing demographics vary and are often hard to pin down in political labels or easy cause-effect relationships.

Dave Shaw, a retiree doing some business at the Paulding County Courthouse, makes emphatically clear that he did not vote for Ms. Greene, and he scoffs at the use of replacement theory to fire up conservative voters. “We stole this land from the Native Americans, so I’m not sure we can say much about replacement.”

Yet he also echoes a theme voiced by some replacement theory proponents – the worry that America’s political culture is straying from its Judeo-Christian roots. He believes there’s a concerted behind-the-scenes effort to remove religious values from public life in order to better control the population.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia departs the House chamber at the end of votes, at the Capitol in Washington May 12, 2022. Ms. Greene railed against what she often calls a corrupt and leftist media for suggesting that Republicans have mainstreamed "replacement theory."

Mr. Walis, for his part, quotes Thomas Jefferson, who once wrote about Shays’ Rebellion that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.” The quote is often used by extremist groups to imply that Democrats and globalists are part of a cabal against that liberty, justifying a violent response.

Replacement theory’s long history 

Today is far from the first time that concerns about immigration and cultural change have taken on forms of replacement theory. 

In the mid-1800s, the concern of American replacement theorists was Irish and German immigrants. After the Civil War, it was freed African Americans. By the end of that century, it was the Chinese, Eastern Europeans, and southern Europeans. 

Responses to the fear took on the characteristics of each era. Following Reconstruction, Southern states enacted Jim Crow laws excluding Black Americans from politics. With the rise in nativism during the Gilded Age and the eugenics movement of the early 1900s, Washington passed strict immigration laws, culminating in the quota-based Immigration Act of 1924.

Especially since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, which itself followed decades of failure to reform the country’s immigration system, such concerns have again started to rise, says Michael Barkun, a political scientist and professor emeritus at Syracuse University in New York.

“It’s not simply white supremacists who are pushing this,” he says. “It’s one of the cycles of nativism that appear periodically in America whenever you have an upswing in immigration.”

And just like before, the current version of replacement theory resembles today’s politics – polarized and bitter. That political situation was much of what first led Mr. Walis to support Mr. Trump and Ms. Greene.

The 14th District, where he lives, stretches from the northwest corner of the metro Atlanta area, to the Alabama border, and all the way up to the Chattanooga, Tennessee, television market. It’s 90% white, and 75% of voters there picked both Mr. Trump and Ms. Greene in 2020. Mr. Walis was one of them. 

Some of his concerns are over immigration, from illegal entry to cities like New York allowing noncitizens to vote. But more important to him was that Ms. Greene and Mr. Trump are fighters who seemed to recognize the same system that he thinks stifled his son’s dreams.

This week, Ms. Greene railed against what she often calls a corrupt and leftist media for suggesting that Republicans have mainstreamed replacement theory, and now bear responsibility for the violence in Buffalo. Before last Saturday, Mr. Walis had never even heard the term “replacement theory.” He now thinks Republicans like him should “flood the polls” to protect conservative values. 

Pushing back on prejudice

But the 14th District isn’t a monolith, and to some residents replacement theory isn’t new. Nor are its consequences. 

Jasmine Dixon, a young Black woman, was raised in Paulding County and feels tension around race throughout the area.

As of last week, a group of Black parents and students is suing a local high school after it suspended students for protesting in Black Lives Matter T-shirts. White students who wore Confederate symbols were spared. It reminds Ms. Dixon of the time school officials asked her to change her Afro hairstyle during high school sports. To some, she says, equality is treated like a threat. 

Hence, the shooting in Buffalo last weekend doesn’t feel so distant from the 14th District, its politics, or even the idea that motivated Mr. Gendron. 

“My sense of replacement theory is that it’s driven by a sense that if minorities ever get the upper political hand, they will turn on white people – do to white people what white people have done to us,” says Ms. Dixon.

“And that is so messed up,” she says. “All we’re doing is fighting for things that we have all along been told are, in fact, ours.”

Noah Robertson reported from Alexandria, Virginia.

In Georgia primary, a test of Trump’s influence

Primaries are by nature forward-facing, a time to select candidates for upcoming elections. But this year, some primaries seem stuck in 2020. That may be nowhere more true than in Georgia.

Ali
Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal Constitution/Reuters
Gov. Brian Kemp (left) had to defend himself from constant attacks from former Sen. David Perdue during the first debate of the Republican primary for governor on April 24, 2022. For months, however, Mr. Kemp has been comfortably ahead in the polls.

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David Perdue smiles into the camera as he tries to explain to Republicans in Georgia why he’s challenging their party’s sitting governor, Brian Kemp.

“Look, I like Brian. This isn’t personal,” the former GOP senator says in a campaign video.

It may or may not be personal for Mr. Perdue. But for Donald Trump, his main backer, it almost certainly is. Since losing Georgia in the 2020 election – and then failing to convince Governor Kemp and others to overturn the results – Mr. Trump has made it a top priority to see those Republicans voted out of office.

Yet in one of the starkest tests of the former president’s ability to exercise his will over his own party, the effort appears to be coming up notably short. Going into Tuesday’s primary, Mr. Kemp is way ahead in the polls and has raised far more money than his rivals.

To many, Mr. Perdue’s lackluster campaign says something about Republican voters’ desire to move on – despite the suspicions many still hold about the 2020 election.

Eric Tanenblatt, who was chief of staff to Sonny Perdue, a former two-term GOP governor and cousin of David Perdue, agrees. “People are ready to look ahead to the future,” he says. 

In Georgia primary, a test of Trump’s influence

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David Perdue smiles reassuringly into the camera as he tries to explain to Republican voters in Georgia why he’s challenging their party’s sitting governor, Brian Kemp.

“Look, I like Brian. This isn’t personal,” the former GOP senator says in a campaign video. “It’s simple. He’s failed all of us and cannot win in November.”

It may or may not be personal for Mr. Perdue. But for Donald Trump, his main backer, it almost certainly is. Since the former president lost Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes in the 2020 election – and then tried unsuccessfully to convince Governor Kemp and other state officials to overturn the results – Mr. Trump has made it a top priority to see those Republicans voted out of office.

He’s endorsed candidates up and down Georgia’s ballot for the May 24 primary, including a challenger to GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who resisted Mr. Trump’s demand to “find” more votes for him in 2020. The biggest target, however, is Mr. Kemp, whose primary opponent was directly recruited by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perdue has centered his campaign almost entirely on the former president’s disproved allegations of widespread voter fraud. In a televised May 1 debate, he said he got into the race because Governor Kemp had “sold us out” in 2020 and wouldn’t be able to unite the party to defeat Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Yet if Georgia represents one of the starkest tests of Mr. Trump’s ability to exercise his will over his own party, the former president’s efforts here appear to be coming up notably short.

For months, Mr. Kemp has been comfortably ahead of his rivals in the polls and raising far more money. Indeed, many GOP operatives are baffled that Mr. Perdue ever agreed to try to unseat a popular conservative governor at the behest of a defeated president. The wealthy businessman now faces potential humiliation at the polls, a year or so after losing his Senate seat in a runoff.

“When you have an incumbent governor who’s been very successful, it’s just unfathomable to me why you’d get in the race,” says Eric Tanenblatt, who was chief of staff for Sonny Perdue, a former two-term Republican governor and cousin of David Perdue.

Mr. Perdue’s lackluster campaign also may say something about Republican voters’ desire to move on – despite the widespread suspicions many still hold about the 2020 election. While Governor Kemp is running on his record, Mr. Perdue seems stuck on 2020, says Mr. Tanenblatt, who raised money for a pro-Perdue PAC in that electoral cycle.

“Elections are about the future and people are ready to look ahead to the future,” he says. “David Perdue’s campaign seems to be based on the past.”

A mixed endorsement record 

Governor Kemp has defended his handling of the 2020 election by emphasizing his lawful duty to certify the results after Mr. Trump’s legal challenges had failed. He also talks up Georgia’s sweeping 2021 election law that restricts absentee voting and drop boxes, among other changes. Democrats say the law erects barriers to voting and could suppress minority turnout.

Mr. Trump has held campaign rallies and mobilized money for Mr. Perdue, while repeating his claim that Governor Kemp is “too weak” to win in November. But he has also hedged on Mr. Perdue’s chances, possibly with an eye on his endorsement score card.

“David is a good man. I hope he’s going to win it,” he told a conservative radio show in April. But he added, it’s “not easy to beat a sitting governor. Just remember that.”

Mr. Trump’s record in GOP primaries has been mixed so far. In the open-seat Ohio Senate race, his backing appeared to boost “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance enough to win the nomination in a crowded field. Likewise, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who won the GOP Senate nomination there this week, called Mr. Trump’s endorsement of him a “huge” factor. In Pennsylvania, however, the Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz is now in a too-close-to-call Senate race that’s likely headed for a recount. And against popular incumbents, Mr. Trump’s endorsements haven’t seemed to carry much weight at all. In Idaho last week, the sitting GOP governor cruised to renomination by more than 20 points, even though the former president had backed his opponent.

Despite Mr. Trump’s enduring popularity among Republicans, voters can hold two things to be true at the same time, says Mr. Tanenblatt. “People know Donald Trump has an issue with Governor Kemp. But they also know that Governor Kemp is doing a good job in Georgia,” he says.  

Analysts say Mr. Trump’s dislike of Mr. Kemp stems partly from his belief that the governor owed him for his support in 2018, when Mr. Kemp faced a runoff primary against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. After the president tweeted a surprise endorsement for him, Mr. Kemp handily won that election and went on to defeat Ms. Adams, the Democratic nominee, in November. (Mr. Trump later told the Daily Caller he had endorsed Mr. Kemp on the advice of Sonny Perdue; Mr. Trump also reportedly liked Mr. Kemp’s macho campaign ads.)

Personal loyalty – along with vocal support for Mr. Trump’s election fraud claims – seems to be the common denominator in Mr. Trump’s primary endorsements, says Tammy Greer, assistant professor of political science at Clark Atlanta University. Otherwise, it’s hard to categorize the candidates he’s backed in Georgia, which include Herschel Walker, the football legend who seems certain to be the GOP nominee to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock – although Mr. Walker probably didn’t need the former president’s endorsement to win the primary in football-mad Georgia. 

Evan Vucci/AP/File
Former Sen. David Perdue of Georgia speaks, as then-President Donald Trump looks on, at a Senate campaign rally at Valdosta Regional Airport, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Georgia. Mr. Perdue is building his current campaign for governor around Mr. Trump's defeat in 2020.

In-your-face politics

Mr. Kemp has doled out plenty of fare to please his base, from transgender sports bans to allowing Georgians to carry a concealed gun in public without a permit (at that bill signing, the governor bought his daughter, Lucy, her first firearm). He’s worked with Georgia’s GOP-run legislature to cut income taxes and raise pay for teachers and state employees, policies that have commanded the media spotlight.

“He’s taken a lot of positions that [Republicans] like, and he’s emphasizing it in his campaigning. The only thing Perdue is running on is that Kemp should have somehow stopped Biden from winning Georgia,” says Alan Abramowitz, a politics professor at Emory University.

Last month, Mr. Kemp’s political offensive brought him here to central Georgia, where the governor held a mobile bill-signing ceremony at the White Diamond Grill, a barbecue joint. Employees cleared tables from the checkerboard floor to make room for reporters to witness the signing of the tax-cut bill – a made-for-TV moment that just happened to be at the very same restaurant Mr. Perdue famously used as a backdrop for ads during his 2014 Senate campaign.

It was “gangster politics,” marvels Professor Greer. “It’s like going into someone’s home and taking their things. He intentionally went to David Perdue’s home county, and David Perdue’s favorite restaurant.”

Servers at the restaurant, which first opened in 1949, say the former senator, who now lives in coastal Georgia, isn’t a regular. (His cousin Sonny, who served as Mr. Trump’s agriculture secretary and owns farmland in the county, is more likely to stop by.) 

After the bill-signing ceremony, TV cameras followed Mr. Kemp to the groundbreaking of a new food processing factory. On hand to introduce him was Sonny Perdue. Earlier this year, he was named as chancellor of the University System of Georgia, a prestigious appointment with an annual salary of $523,900 that the governor had all but sealed for him.

Asked by reporters which candidate he was supporting in the primary, Sonny Perdue declined to say.

The turnout question

One question for Republicans is what happens if, as seems likely, David Perdue loses on May 24. Having failed to oust Mr. Kemp, will Mr. Trump fall in line behind the governor in November’s midterms when Georgia has a critical Senate seat in play? Or will Republican voters, convinced by his “stolen election” claims, decide to stay home rather than vote for establishment candidates?

At a campaign stop last week, Mr. Perdue told supporters that the party comes first. He pledged to support whoever becomes the GOP nominee for governor.

“I got in here to keep Stacey Abrams from being governor,” he told a small group in a county seat in northern Georgia. “If you want a Republican in the White House in ’24, and you want to get the majority back this year in the Senate, you got to win this governor’s race.”

Mr. Perdue knows well the risks of campaigning with a disunited party.

In the messy aftermath of the 2020 election, the former senator faced a runoff election against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Many analysts believe Mr. Perdue’s campaign was undercut by Mr. Trump’s complaints about Georgia’s electoral system, which may have convinced some Republican voters there was no point in casting a ballot. 

Both he and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler lost their runoff races on Jan. 5, 2021 – handing control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats. GOP turnout was down, with the biggest drops in counties where Mr. Trump had held rallies.

Asked by the Monitor about Mr. Trump’s impact on the runoffs, Mr. Perdue says the president never told anyone not to vote. But he believes all the talk of “vote rigging” was a factor. “I heard from ordinary people around the state during that runoff that [they’d] just lost confidence, and ‘why should I vote?’” he says.

This time, he says, Republicans need to be crystal clear in their messaging: “I tell people if you don’t vote now, it is in effect a vote for the other side.”   

Q&A

How one ‘neighborhood hero’ is nourishing Buffalo after the shooting

For Dakarai Singletary, being a hero means meeting the needs of his Buffalo, New York, community. This week, that involved responding to the aftermath of a mass shooting. 

Ali
Courtesy of Denzel Kirkland
Dakarai Singletary, founder of Candles in the S.U.N., distributes food and supplies donated by local farms and a market in Buffalo, New York, on May 18, 2022. "Supplies are completely depleted, so we’re ensuring that people have everything accessible to them, with no hesitation or quantity limits," he says.

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Dakarai Singletary, founder and president of Candles in the S.U.N., a nonprofit based in Buffalo, New York, is used to standing in the gap for his community. At the height of the pandemic, the organization distributed thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to people in need. And the group regularly conducts development camps and donation drives.

Still, when 13 people were shot (10 fatally) at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo last weekend, the need to act was urgent. Mr. Singletary and his team sprang into action, quickly organizing the distribution of free fresh produce and supplies donated by local farms and another market. His goal? To “limit further trauma of returning to the location,” he says.

For Mr. Singletary, everyone involved in serving the community is a hero. “I never refer to people as ‘volunteers.’ They’re always ‘neighborhood heroes,’” he says. “It’s not you being perfect – it’s just being a better version of yourself, working every day to improve and make your neighborhood better. Because when you’re a better you, you make your neighborhood better.”

“Our communities are seen as cold,” he adds. “We aren’t what we’ve been painted out to be – we are far from it.”

How one ‘neighborhood hero’ is nourishing Buffalo after the shooting

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When 13 people were shot (10 fatally) at a Buffalo, New York, Tops Friendly Markets store last weekend, Dakarai Singletary did what came naturally to him – the work of a hero.

As the founder and president of Candles in the S.U.N., a nonprofit based in Buffalo, Mr. Singletary and his team sprang into action. The group quickly organized the distribution of free fresh produce and supplies donated by local farms and another market. His goal? To “limit further trauma of returning to the location,” he says.

“Buffalo is a ‘my cousin’ type of city,” Mr. Singletary explains. “Everybody knows each other, so when [something like this] happens here, it hits a little bit harder.”

Standing in the gap for his community is nothing new for Mr. Singletary. At the height of the pandemic, the organization distributed thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to people in need. And the group regularly conducts development camps and donation drives.

Mr. Singletary spoke with the Monitor recently about the organization’s current efforts and Buffalo’s reemergence from an unspeakable tragedy. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Where were you when you first heard about the shooting?

Actually, I was at home asleep. Every Saturday, we do a free youth basketball clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then we play baseball from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. … [Afterward] I fell asleep. When I awoke, I saw that my brother had called me 15 times. … And a few of my contacts within the organization [had been] calling. … [Then] my lawyer’s wife called and she was like, “Hey, are you home? Are you OK?” She said there was a “racist mass shooter over on Jefferson.” … I heard her, but I didn’t really process it. Then I got on Twitter, and that’s when I really started seeing what was going on.

I consider myself a neighborhood hero, so I put out a memo which said if you were in contact with the families or knew anyone affected, put me in contact with them immediately. People in my network started doing exactly that.

Courtesy of Denzel Kirkland
Candles in the S.U.N. heroes distribute food in Buffalo, New York, on May 18, 2022. "I never refer to people as 'volunteers,'" Mr. Singletary says. "They’re always 'neighborhood heroes.'"

When you say “neighborhood hero,” what does that mean?

I never refer to people as “volunteers.” They’re always “neighborhood heroes,” because what you do for us is beyond a two-to-three- or a two-to-four-hour frame. When these kids see you out in the neighborhood, they’re excited. They’re ecstatic, actually, because you’re a neighborhood hero. So you have to take pride in that. It’s not you being perfect – it’s just being a better version of yourself, working every day to improve and make your neighborhood better. Because when you’re a better you, you make your neighborhood better.

Why did you choose this particular response in terms of free food?

[Tops is] the only grocery store accessible to 50 neighborhoods east of Main Street, which is where 87% of Black residents live in Buffalo. So that one store being closed is an issue for our community. …

You don’t just go to the grocery store for groceries. You go for baby formula, you go for Pampers, you go for everything. That’s what we’re doing. We’re providing all the baby supplies, because people are missing everything right now. Supplies are completely depleted, so we’re ensuring that people have everything accessible to them, with no hesitation or quantity limits.

What’s been the community response, in terms of the sense of morale juxtaposed with the actions of the shooter?

Honestly, I refuse to even give him any light. I’m a person that says, ‘How are we gonna prevent this from happening next time?’ I’m all about proactiveness. We can look back on 400-plus years of history, but we can also use our history to ensure that what’s happened to us doesn’t continue to happen to us. 

We’re working on providing new food options for that neighborhood, and not just a one-time thing for one week, two weeks, three weeks, … not just when the news cameras are there, when it’s cool, when it looks good, but staying there consistently.

Talk about the level of commitment and investment it takes to be there perpetually.

People are always asking me, “Where do you work? What do you do?” This is my job, 24/7, being a neighborhood hero. That’s not something where you just take your hat off at night. I get calls at 3, 4 a.m. from my kids [I work with] at the schools checking up on me, parents asking me for things. 

It’s not even just me. There are other heroes that … have taken time off [fully or partially to help]. You have jobs that understand what we provide to the community that are giving their workers time off with respect to what we’re doing for our community. 

What inspired the name Candles in the S.U.N.? [S.U.N. stands for Save Ur Neighborhood]

If you look at the logo, people are passing [each other holding candles]. People are helping one another to light their candles and to light one another’s candles. And that’s my whole thought with knowledge and information. 

If I can pass my knowledge to you, help you light your candle, you pass it to somebody else. You light their candle, and we can light a neighborhood. You light up a neighborhood into a sun, and a sun is a very hot thing. 

Our communities are seen as cold, … and we’re always trying to really change that. We aren’t what we’ve been painted out to be – we are far from it. I don’t care how others view us. We need to change how we view ourselves. So that’s what I’m really here to do.

Film

‘Downton Abbey’: Is a Crawley road trip the diversion filmgoers need?

The stories of “Downton Abbey” have been told for more than a decade on TV and film. With the release of a second movie, how is the popular franchise about aristocrats and the people who serve them staying relevant?

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Ben Blackall/Focus Features/AP
Actors Hugh Bonneville (left) and Elizabeth McGovern star in “Downton Abbey: A New Era.”

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When viewer favorite “Downton Abbey” was made into a 2019 film, it was a hit – ultimately grossing more than $190 million worldwide. 

But prior to that, some of the cast had their doubts. “Certainly in Britain, I don’t think there’s ever been any great precedent of TV shows transferring successfully to the big screen. So I was a little nervous,” says Kevin Doyle, who plays footman-turned-teacher Joseph Molesley.

Now that a second film, “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” is being released, the hope is that fans will return to the theater to see the Crawleys venture to the south of France while a silent film crew takes up residence in their grand home. 

By focusing on travel and the movies, two things that were missing during the pandemic, the film’s writer “gives viewers what they have been craving,” says Katherine Byrne, a lecturer in English at Ulster University.

What has really helped set “Downton Abbey” apart from other historical dramas is how its romantic plots aren’t just restricted to its younger characters, says Dr. Byrne. “‘Downton Abbey’ shows that lives do not end at 40. ... No character is too old or too quirky to be denied love, marriage, and a new beginning in the show.”

‘Downton Abbey’: Is a Crawley road trip the diversion filmgoers need?

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When it was announced that the sixth and final season of “Downton Abbey” would be followed-up by a film, there was much skepticism from critics and fans alike. 

They were unsure if its large ensemble of characters and storylines would be suited to the big screen. Even some cast members were doubtful about the transition. Before its release, the show’s Dowager Countess of Grantham, Dame Maggie Smith, voiced her concerns. Kevin Doyle, who plays footman-turned-teacher Joseph Molesley, recently shared with the Monitor that he had similar qualms. 

“When we were filming the last season they mentioned the idea of making a movie and I was always a little trepidatious,” Mr. Doyle recalls. “Because certainly in Britain, I don’t think there’s ever been any great precedent of TV shows transferring successfully to the big screen. So I was a little nervous.”

The first film’s monumental box-office success upon its release in September 2019 – ultimately grossing more than $190 million worldwide from a budget of $20 million – immediately proved the doubters wrong. 

Phyllis Logan, who plays head housekeeper Elsie Hughes, says that following the triumphant release of the original film, a sequel was always going to be inevitable. “The fact that fans loved the first one so much almost dictated that we had to do another one,” she says in an interview.

“Downton Abbey: A New Era,” which opens May 20 in U.S. theaters, is basically split into two separate storylines. After the dowager countess learns that she has inherited a villa in the south of France from a man she briefly knew in the 1860s, a group of the family travels down to inspect it. Meanwhile, back at Downton, a film crew wishes to use the estate as a location for a new silent movie, meaning that the staff has to look after the expectant cast. 

Katherine Byrne, a lecturer in English at Ulster University in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, who has taught extensively about the show, suspects that Julian Fellowes – “Downton Abbey” creator and the writer behind both films – specifically picked these plots as he had determined two aspects of life that people have missed the most during the pandemic: “holidays abroad and the movies … hence the scenes filmed in the south of France look more like a James Bond film than anything from Downton,” she says. “But it gives viewers what they have been craving.”  

“A mystery ingredient”

Going into production on the latest film, Mr. Doyle was once again concerned. This time around, he was worried that they wouldn’t be able to “top the storyline from the first movie.” That’s despite the fact that Mr. Fellowes, who previously won the best original screenplay Oscar for “Gosford Park,” has repeatedly shown that he knows exactly what “Downton Abbey” fans want to see.

“It takes an extraordinary person to create something which touches so many people across the world,” says Ms. Logan. “There are so many elements that make him such a great storyteller, especially since he has to integrate so many wonderful characters. Plus, there’s a mystery ingredient to his writing that you just can’t put your finger on.”

What makes the writing all the more impressive is just how seamlessly “Downton Abbey” has evolved from television to film. Not only does it look “lusher and grander,” according to Ms. Logan, but it allows Mr. Fellowes to tell a “bigger story that still has intimate moments.”

Ben Blackall/Focus Features/AP
Phyllis Logan and Jim Carter reprise their roles as staff members and spouses in “Downton Abbey: A New Era.”

Viewers continue to see “Downton Abbey” in droves because it’s “an opportunity to reunite with old friends,” explains Dr. Byrne. “It also allows audiences to immerse themselves in the sumptuous costumes and sets. Even the Abbey itself looks like it was built to be enjoyed on the big screen.”

When it’s at its best, “Downton Abbey” has the “unique ability to provide viewers with an escape from hard times,” adds Dr. Byrne, who notes that the show immediately rose to prominence in September 2010, just a few years after the 2008 banking crash. “It offered the luxury of aristocratic wealth to viewers who in real life were dealing with a global recession.” 

Today, an ongoing pandemic and worldwide cost-of-living increases offer a somewhat similar backdrop. “Downton Abbey: A New Era” topped the U.K.-Ireland box office when it opened the weekend of April 29, though its initial showing was less strong than the first film’s. 

Ben Blackall /Courtesy of Focus Features
Characters played by Hugh Dancy (seated left), Kevin Doyle (standing at center), Alex Macqueen (seated right), and Michelle Dockery (standing at microphone) help with the making of a film in “Downton Abbey: A New Era.”

“Lives do not end at 40”

“Downton Abbey” has managed to stay relevant with audiences over the past 12 years thanks to its exploration of change, says Mr. Doyle. “Julian originally planned for the show to just be three seasons. He wanted to explore how the Great War [World War I] impacted the people who lived and worked in these great houses, and how their experiences made them want more from life. Over the seasons and films, Julian showed that all of the characters’ hopes and expectations changed.”

What has really helped set “Downton Abbey” apart from other historical dramas is how its romantic plots aren’t just restricted to its younger characters, says Dr. Byrne. “From Jane Austen adaptations to ‘Bridgerton,’ period dramas still too often focus on romance plots of the young and beautiful. But ‘Downton Abbey’ shows that lives do not end at 40. Interesting and often romantic plots do not have to end there either. No character is too old or too quirky to be denied love, marriage, and a new beginning in the show.”

Clearly those involved in “Downton Abbey” aren’t ready to say goodbye yet. Ms. Logan says that even though nothing has been discussed regarding a third film, “I’m sure all of us would love to do it.” She then teases, “The ending of the film lives up to the title of ‘A New Era’ and I think that gives hope that there could be something else around the corner.”

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” is rated PG for some suggestive references, language, and thematic elements. It is available in theaters. 

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A glimpse of Ukraine-Russia ties to come

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Cheek by jowl as neighbors, Russia and Ukraine will someday need to live peacefully with each other again. In a courtroom this week, during the first war crimes trial held by Ukraine of a Russian soldier, the world caught a glimpse of how the two peoples might get to that point.

At the trial, a young Russian tank commander, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed older civilian during the early days of the invasion. He then asked Kateryna Shelipova, the widow of the man killed, for forgiveness.

“But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he added.

His apparent repentance was enough to encourage the widow to engage the perpetrator. She asked about his motives but held off forgiving him. She later said she was sorry for him.

Ukrainian officials have lined up dozens of other captured Russian service members for trial. If all the trials go like this first one – with its intimacy of justice and personal graspings for reconciliation – the ground may be laid for possible healing between the two countries.

A glimpse of Ukraine-Russia ties to come

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Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin stands in court during a hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 19.

Cheek by jowl as neighbors, Russia and Ukraine will someday need to live peacefully with each other again, perhaps even reconcile. In a courtroom this week, during the first war crimes trial held by Ukraine of a Russian soldier, the world caught a glimpse of how the two peoples might get to that point.

At the trial, a young Russian tank commander, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed older civilian during the early days of the invasion. He then asked Kateryna Shelipova, the widow of the man killed, for forgiveness.

“But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he added.

His apparent repentance was enough to encourage the widow to engage the perpetrator. She asked about his motives but held off forgiving him. She later said she was sorry for him and endorsed the prosecutor’s request for a life sentence.

The dialogue was almost as if the two planned to live side by side – eventually. Ukrainian officials have lined up dozens of other captured Russian service members for trial. So far, they have tallied more than 11,000 war crimes by Russian forces. If all the trials go like this first one – with its intimacy of justice and personal graspings for reconciliation – the ground may be laid for possible healing between the two countries.

Justice that assigns guilt, bestows accountability, and restores social harmony is best served up individual by individual and in local settings for the public to witness. Few Russians may read or see images of these trials. But since the war began, enough Russians who oppose the invasion have come forward to offer a collective confession of responsibility – even if they were not sent to Ukraine to kill civilians.

“We Russians must openly and courageously acknowledge our guilt and ask for forgiveness,” wrote novelist Mikhail Shishkin in The Guardian.

Harvard University Professor Martha Minow describes forgiveness as the “human efforts to follow divine example.” That helps explain a statement from nearly 300 priests within the Russian Orthodox Church who oppose the church’s official endorsement of the war. The priests wondered how future generations in each country will again “be friends with each other, respect and love each other.”

“There is no other way but forgiveness and mutual reconciliation,” according to the statement.

Sergeant Shishimarin had asked for forgiveness but didn’t expect it. Yet the widow did say she wouldn’t mind if he were exchanged for Ukrainian fighters who surrendered in Mariupol at the Azovstal steel plant. At some level, the two connected. Perhaps Russia and Ukraine will do the same someday.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

The promise of ‘a bright tomorrow’

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Even in the face of difficulties, God’s love is a constant – here to heal, protect, and save – as this hymn highlights.

The promise of ‘a bright tomorrow’

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Through the love of God our Saviour
All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favor;
All must be well;
Precious is the Love that healed us,
Perfect is the grace that sealed us,
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us;
All, all is well.

Though we pass through tribulation,
All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation,
All must be well;
Happy still, in God confiding,
Fruitful, when in Christ abiding,
Holy, through the Spirit’s guiding;
All, all is well.

We expect a bright tomorrow,
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All must be well;
While His truth we are applying,
And upon His love relying,
God is every need supplying,
All, all is well.

– Mary Peters, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 350, adapt. © CSBD

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Slaking thirst

Manish Swarup/AP
A squirrel drinks water from an earthen pot on a hot day in New Delhi, May 20, 2022. The Indian capital and surrounding areas are facing an extreme heat wave.

A look ahead

Ali Martin
Desk Editor, National News

Thanks for joining us, and come back Monday. We’ll visit some Southern communities that are paying people to move there. And we go to New York to examine whether citizenship should be required for voting. Have a great weekend.   

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