News Releases

Implications of Pro-War Susan Rice as VP Nominee

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Various media outlets are reporting that former Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice is on Joe Biden’s “short list” to be his running mate.

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He said today: “Should Susan Rice be chosen as Biden’s running mate, it would serve as yet another signal that the likely next Democratic administration would embrace a foreign policy similar to that of Bush and Cheney. Rice’s decision to repeat the lies of the Bush administration regarding the supposed threat from Iraq in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of that oil-rich country in order to undermine the anti-war movement, her support for autocratic Middle Eastern and African leaders, her attacks against the United Nations, her support for the Israeli occupation, and her defense of Israeli violations of international humanitarian law will result in further alienating the progressive Democratic base from the national ticket. Already troubled over Biden’s hawkish foreign policy views, his lies about Iraq, and his successful insistence on including center-right foreign policy planks in the Democratic platform, his possible choice of a vice-president with a record of stating demonstrable falsehoods to defend actions by the United States and its allies that violate international norms could end up suppressing turnout and enhance the appeal of leftist third parties.”

In 2013, Zunes wrote the piece “Troubling Implications of Susan Rice’s Appointment as National Security Adviser,” noting that during the buildup to the Iraq invasion, she rose to the Bush administration’s “defense by insisting that, ‘It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat.’ This claim came despite the fact that Iraq had disarmed itself of its chemical and biological weapons and eliminated its nuclear program at least eight years earlier. Moreover, despite the success of the UN’s disarmament program, Rice asserted that Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on.'” [Audio and video clips of Rice’s statements cited by Zunes are here and here.]

Billionaires Promised to Give Away Half Their Wealth, Instead, They Doubled it

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Aug 4, 2020 is the 10th anniversary of the “Giving Pledge,” started by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. (See New York Times piece from Aug. 4, 2010.)

CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk at ips-dc.org

Collins is director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report “Gilded Giving 2020: How Wealth Inequality Distorts Philanthropy and Imperils Democracy” and “The Giving Pledge at 10: A Case Study in Top Heavy Philanthropy.”

He said today: “Private philanthropy has always been a form of power for wealthy donors. But as wealth inequality has exploded in recent decades, it has concentrated that private power in even fewer hands — and all subsidized by private taxpayers.”

The findings include: “Of the 62 living U.S. Pledgers who were billionaires in 2010, their combined wealth has increased from $376 billion in 2010 to $734 billion as of July 18, 2020, an increase of 95 percent, in 2020 dollars.

“Of these 62, 11 have seen their wealth go down either because of aggressive charitable giving or market changes. But the remaining 51 have seen significant increases in their net worth. Nine of the billionaires have seen their wealth increase over 200 percent over the decade, adjusted for inflation. These include Mark Zuckerberg (1783 percent), John Doerr (416 percent), Marc Benioff (400 percent), Bernie and Billie Marcus (311 percent), Ken Langone (288 percent), Ray Dalio (280 percent) Arthur Blank (277 percent) Stephen Schwarzman (245 percent), Scott Cook and Signe Ostby (221 percent).

“The 100 living U.S. Pledgers who were billionaires on March 18, 2020 had a combined wealth of $758.3 billion at that time. This is the date of both the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in the U.S. and the publication of Forbes‘ annual global billionaire survey. By July 17, 2020, their assets had surged to $971.9 billion. This means that over the four worst months of the pandemic in the United States to date, their collective wealth increased by $213.6 billion — an increase of 28 percent.”
Collins also just wrote the piece “In a pandemic, billionaires are richer than ever. Why aren’t they giving more?” in The Guardian. 

Said Collins: “Philanthropy should not become a taxpayer-subsidized extension of private wealth, power, and influence for the richest 0.1 percent. … Congress needs to update the rules governing philanthropy to prevent abuses to the tax code and protect our democracy and nonprofit sector.”

The “Gilded Giving 2020” report finds that top-heavy philanthropy poses considerable risks to “the independence of the nonprofit sector, the integrity of the tax system, and to democracy itself.” It also suggests that the 2017 tax cut and the COVID-19 pandemic will worsen this drift toward inequality in philanthropy.

Collins and his fellow analysts found: “Small donor giving has been steadily declining for two decades. Between 2000 and 2016 (most recent data), the percentage of households giving to charity has dropped from 66 percent to 53 percent. Wage stagnation, unemployment, declining homeownership all contribute to economic insecurity and declines in giving.

“The increase in charitable giving has been driven by donations by wealthy donors and mega gifts over $300 million.”

August 4, 2020

Kamala Harris Fought to Keep Nonviolent Prisoners Locked Up

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ALEXANDER SAMMON, asammon at prospect.org, @alex_sammon, Sammon just wrote the piece “How Kamala Harris Fought to Keep Nonviolent Prisoners Locked Up” for The American Prospect: “Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a leading candidate to be Joe Biden’s running mate, repeatedly and openly defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to reduce overcrowding in California prisons while serving as the state’s attorney general, according to legal documents reviewed by the Prospect. Working in tandem with Gov. Jerry Brown, Harris and her legal team filed motions that were condemned by judges and legal experts as obstructionist, bad-faith, and nonsensical, at one point even suggesting that the Supreme Court lacked the jurisdiction to order a reduction in California’s prison population.

“The intransigence of this legal work resulted in the presiding judges in the case giving serious consideration to holding the state in contempt of court. Observers worried that the behavior of Harris’s office had undermined the very ability of federal judges to enforce their legal orders at the state level, pushing the federal court system to the brink of a constitutional crisis. This extreme resistance to a Supreme Court ruling was done to prevent the release of fewer than 5,000 nonviolent offenders, whom multiple courts had cleared as presenting next to no risk of recidivism or threat to public safety.

“Despite a straightforward directive from the Supreme Court to identify prisoners for release over a two-year period, upholding a 2009 ruling that mandated the same action over the same timeline, the state spent the majority of that period seesawing back and forth between dubious legal filings and flagrant disregard. By early 2013, it became clear that the state had no intention to comply, leading to a series of surprisingly combative exchanges.

“While Harris’s ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign saw questions raised about her criminalization of truancy and her tough-on-crime reputation during her time as San Francisco’s district attorney, her role in California’s prison reduction case largely flew under the radar, though it was decried at the time. As concerns grow about Donald Trump’s subversion of the law — he, along with his attorney general, William Barr, is currently defying a Supreme Court ruling by refusing to restart the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the potential Democratic vice-presidential nominee engaging in relatively similar obstinacy is jarring.

“Sen. Harris’s office has yet to respond to a set of questions from the Prospect.”

The Decisions to Bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Several leading scholars are available for interviews on the decisions to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago (on Aug. 6 and 9).

Barbara Cochran, former news executive at NPR, NBC, and CBS and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri recently moderated a discussion with the analysts and historians, available online.

They will also be featured in a media briefing on Wednesday, July 29 at 9 a.m. (Tokyo time), July 28 at 8 p.m. (New York time) — click here.

Gar Alperovitz, formerly a Fellow of Kings College Cambridge, the Institute of Politics at Harvard, and Lionel Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, is the author of Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. He is currently a Principal of The Democracy Collaborative, an independent research institution in Washington, D.C.

Martin Sherwin, University Professor of History, George Mason University, is author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies, winner of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relation’s Bernath Book Prize, co-author with Kai Bird of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for biography, and author of Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, forthcoming in September 2020.

Kai Bird, Executive Director, CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography, co-author (with Martin Sherwin) of Pulitzer Prize-winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, co-editor (with Lawrence Lifschultz) Hiroshima’s Shadow, and author The Chairman: John J. McCloy and the Making of the American Establishment.

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University, co-author (with Akira Kimura), Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Japanese and American Perspectives, co-author (with Oliver Stone) of the New York Times best-selling The Untold History of the United States (books and documentary film series), and author “The Decision to Risk the Future: Harry Truman, the Atomic Bomb and the Apocalyptic Narrative.”

The historians are also available for individual interviews:
Gar Alperovitz, garalper at gmail.com
Kai Bird, kaibird at mac.com
Martin Sherwin, martysherwin at gmail.com
Peter Kuznick, pkuznick at aol.com

For more information, contact Glenn Marcus, dcguy614 at aol.com

Also, the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee is organizing a number of talks and vigils in the Washington, D.C. area — see schedule.

Note to producers: You may want to use the song “Enola Gay” by OMD as a musical lead-in; this version by Elisa Salasin includes audio clips of President Harry Truman claiming that Hiroshima was “a military base” and J. Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” See video.

In Ecuador, Move to Keep Former President off Ballot Denounced

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More than 20 former presidents and high-level government officials in Latin America are “denounc[ing] and reject[ing] the decision made by the National Election Council of Ecuador to eliminate the electoral registration of the party Fuerza Compromiso Social, which is partly formed by the members of the Revolución Ciudadana [Citizens’ Revolution] movement, led by former President Rafael Correa,” saying “This act of political bias calls into question the legitimacy of the election that will take place on February 7, 2021 in Ecuador. …”

GUILLAUME LONG, via Dan Beeton, beeton@cepr.net@Dan_Beeton@ceprdc
Guillaume Long is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining CEPR, he held several cabinet positions in the government of Ecuador, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Culture, and Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent. Most recently, he served as Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Long is one of the signers of the Puebla Group statement condemning the CNE’s actions barring Correa’s party from the ballot. He said today: “In an outrageously antidemocratic move, on July 19, Ecuador’s CNE [National Electoral Council] suspended former president Rafael Correa’s party, FCS [Fuerza Compromiso Social], from the register of political parties. This decision followed pressure by the central government, the Attorney General’s Office, and the State Comptroller’s Office.

“This means that, as things currently stand, candidates from FCS, and thereby from Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution, will not be able to run in February 2021’s presidential and legislative elections.

“The CNE’s move went back on eight previous decisions ratifying FCS’s legitimacy and legal status as a political party. FCS was already an established party, which had competed in three national elections.

“The FCS’s suspension follows a series of legally questionable efforts to slap Correa with dubious criminal charges, which, if upheld, could see Correa barred from the ballot as a candidate in the upcoming elections, even aside from the FCS party suspension. Correa had been planning a run for vice president, and had been leading in polls. The prosecution’s case against Correa relies mostly on testimony from former Correa advisor Pamela Martinez, who claimed to have accepted bribes in 2013 and 2014, with Correa’s knowledge, from several people. Martinez presented a notebook detailing these transactions down to the dollar and the exact date — all written, incredibly, from memory during a 45-minute plane trip from Quito to Guayaquil years later, in 2018.

“Unsurprisingly, few people familiar with the facts of the case, and who are not aligned with the prosecution or the current government, headed by President Lenín Moreno, have found this evidence credible.

“The Moreno government, meanwhile, has become increasingly unpopular due to its notorious mismanagement of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which led to bodies piling up on the streets of Guayaquil earlier this year, and due to its commitment to IMF-supported austerity policies that prioritize the interests of foreign creditors over health spending and other social needs — even in the midst of the pandemic.

“Moreno had been Correa’s vice president, but turned to the right once in office, reversing many policies of the Correa administration that had prioritized the needs of Ecuadorian citizens over foreign investors, and which had fostered Latin American unity over U.S.-Ecuadorian relations. Moreno has pursued a series of IMF agreements, Washington-backed cuts in spending programs, and foreign policy maneuvers aimed at pleasing the Trump administration (including the hand-over of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to British authorities).”

Move to Trim Military Budget by Ten Percent Thwarted

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ASHIK SIDDIQUE, asiddique at nationalpriorites.org, @natpriorities
Siddique is a researcher focused on the federal budget and military spending with the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. He recently wrote the piece “Americans Want to Reinvest Ten Percent of the Military Budget Against Coronavirus.”

CommonDreams reports: “Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, two leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nomination, voted opposite ways Wednesday on an amendment” to reduce the Pentagon budget by 10 percent and “invest the savings in healthcare, housing, and education in impoverished U.S. communities. The amendment, led by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), was defeated by a margin of 23-77, with 24 Democratic senators voting no.” A similar vote in the House was defeated 93-324. See piece in Sludge noting that Democrats who voted against the Pentagon cuts got 3.4 times more money from military contractors than those who didn’t.

Siddique said today: “It’s disappointing that majorities of the House and Senate voted this week against something as sensible as redirecting 10 percent of the bloated $740 billion Pentagon budget, which is unaccountably wasteful and enables the harmful and reckless use of U.S. military force in ways that make the whole world less safe. A new poll shows that a majority of Americans support this shift, including half of Republican voters.

“74 billion dollars could disappear from the Pentagon budget and barely be noticed by most current military operations, but would make a massive difference to any number of social priorities that currently receive fractions of military funding — especially during an ongoing pandemic and intensifying economic crisis.

“We’ve laid out some incredible trade-offs for $74 billion, including ending homelessness, deploying enough renewable energy to power almost every household in the country, closing the racial funding gap for public schools, or giving every American six free COVID tests to help contain the pandemic over the next year.

“But this is the first time in decades that Congress has seriously considered reinvesting away from the Pentagon budget, and it’s important to note how quickly the political landscape is shifting around this issue. Just a few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine getting even 93 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate — or nearly 40 to 50 percent of the Democratic Caucus — to cut military spending by 10 percent, as they did this time.

“That sets up a much stronger baseline to work from next year — especially since the budget caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will expire, giving Americans the chance to more deeply transform this country’s militarized agenda in a way that has not been on the table for decades.”

The Coronavirus-Air Conditioning Nexus

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STAN COX, cox at landinstitute.org, @CoxStan
Cox is lead scientist at The Land Institute and just wrote the piece “The coronavirus-climate-air conditioning nexus” for The Hill.

He is author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World and the recently released The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can.

He said today: “With heat waves like the one that much of the country is getting hit with this week, we gather almost entirely in enclosed, air-conditioned spaces, and that’s going to further raise the risk of coronavirus infection. A recent article signed by more than 240 scientists warned that in spaces that aren’t ventilated with outside air, airborne ‘microdroplets’ exhaled by a person infected with coronavirus can easily travel the full length of a room and be inhaled by another person. In that case, the six-foot social distancing rule doesn’t help. The scientists wrote that there’s an easy remedy for this: keep windows and doors open, to let the indoor air out and let in fresh air. Of course, open windows aren’t compatible with air conditioning, so groups of people gathering in air-conditioned spaces may be at higher risk.”

Cox writes: “Home air conditioning should be turned off on those many summer days when shade and fans can provide sufficient comfort. Offices should never be so frigid that workers resort to wearing sweaters or keeping space heaters under their desks in July. Every building should have windows that can be opened and that stay open as much as possible.

“And, at least for the rest of this summer, let’s all get together outdoors.”

Ten Years After Dodd-Frank, Another Crisis, Same Pattern: Big Banks First

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Dodd-Frank was signed into law ten years ago today. Edward Kane, a leading expert on banking, argues that contrary to the praise heaped upon it, it’s an “example of counterfeit reform” that was “designed principally to benefit very big banks and it has helped these banks to increase their market share greatly during the last ten years” — and that it set a dangerous, elitist precedent that is operating today with government action since the pandemic.

EDWARD KANE, edward.kane at bc.edu
Professor of finance at Boston College, Kane has held a number of notable positions including past president of the American Finance Association. He just wrote the paper “Immaculate Deception: How and Why Bankers Still Enjoy a Global Rescue Network” for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Kane writes: “Today, as during the Great Financial Crisis, the Fed’s policy strategy has been to prevent open insolvencies at U.S. megabanks by making subsidized loans to U.S. megabanks’ insolvent foreign counterparties (and to the foreign taxpayers that would otherwise have been asked to rescue them). At the same time, Fed leaders have resisted a broad-based bailout of insolvent U.S. homeowners and landlords. During the GFC, they stood by as U.S. banks foreclosed on all but a few privileged categories of distressed mortgage borrowers. Although households are receiving some help in the current go-around, forbearance is not forgiveness. Unpaid rents and mortgage payments are still mounting up.

“The overwrought praise that Wall Street and the media subsequently heaped on Treasury and Federal Reserve leaders for being willing to punish lower-income households to get the rich through the Great Financial Crisis established a nasty precedent that is guiding monetary policy today. This unspoken precedent is ‘Bankers and Brokers first.’ …

“The 2008 troika of [Ben] Bernanke, [Timothy] Geithner, and [Henry] Paulson congratulated themselves for having the ‘courage’ to put the interests of foreign bankers and major U.S. financial institutions (including a few of its automobile makers — think the airlines and tourism industry today) ahead of ordinary U.S. citizens. The victory laps that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are taking this week for passing Dodd-Frank not only celebrate this approach, but provide opportunities for them to claim that they rescued rich and poor alike from complete and utter ruin.

“This portrait of distributional neutrality is propaganda of a high order. Current and former Fed and Treasury officials cannot fail to understand that, in accepting so much adulation, they have cemented a series of dangerous precedents. …

“Aggressively devising creative, nontransparent, and arguably extralegal ways to transfer massive amounts of U.S. taxpayer resources to wealthy stakeholders in zombie megabanks around the world is a dangerously elitist strategy.

“Experience teaches us that corporate-level reforms do not and cannot hold their effectiveness over time. Rules beget regulation-induced innovations and these burden-reducing innovations become more and more successful over time. The difficulty governments face in devising and enforcing appropriate punishments for individual bankers that knowingly exploit safety-net protections converts national and regional safety nets into what amounts to a global Protection Racket operated by — and for the benefit of — thieving megabankers.”

Kane concludes: “Genuine reform will require changes in fraud laws and an effort to post on a continuing basis the value of the safety-net subsidies individual megabanks enjoy.” See PDF of the paper.

Trump’s “Illegal Use of Paramilitary Force” in Portland

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MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com

Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law recently wrote “Trump’s Illegal Use of Military Against Anti-Racist Uprisings Portends Battles Ahead” and “Protesters Attacked by Police Are Suing to Vindicate Their Constitutional Rights.”

She said today: “In a continuation of his cynical abuse of power in the run-up to the presidential election, Donald Trump’s secret paramilitary force is illegally terrorizing the people of Portland. One man who was holding a speaker was shot in the head with an impact munition that fractured his skull and shattered his face. Unidentified federal agents in unmarked vehicles are snatching peaceful protesters off the streets, transporting them to unknown locations, without informing them of why they’re being arrested, and later releasing them with no record of their arrest. These actions are reminiscent of dictatorships’ secret police who kidnap and ‘disappear’ opponents of the regime. They are calculated to deter people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest” against racism and white supremacy.

Cohn added: “The seizures and detentions without probable cause violate the Fourth Amendment. Trump targeted Portland, which has seen 53 straight nights of demonstrations since the public lynching of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Trump is reportedly planning to take his illegal tactics nationwide. Fortunately, lawsuits are being filed to stop these egregious constitutional violations.”

Cohn is former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her other recent pieces include “Trump Is Trying to Hide U.S. and Israeli War Crimes by Attacking the International Criminal Court.” She is author of several books and editor of Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues and The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.

“Epidemic” of Uniform Violence at Home

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Harvard Health reports: “When lockdown is not actually safer: Intimate partner violence during COVID-19.”

STACY BANNERMAN, stacy at stacybannerman.com, @StacyBannerman
Bannerman is author of HOMEFRONT 911: How Families of Veterans Are Wounded by Our Wars. She is able to speak to issues of domestic violence by both police and military personnel. [See recent piece by retired colonel Ann Wright “Fort Hood a Dangerous Place for Women in the Military.”]

Bannerman said today: “Police violence does not stop on the streets. There is a black-and-blue line of domestic violence in the households of policemen. Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population. and some 40 percent of police have reported having participated in domestic violence in the previous year.

“The uniform has protected police abuse at the expense of the spouse and family. It is the same Code of Silence that ensures the women and children who are victims of veteran domestic violence are invisible collateral damage that America refuses to acknowledge or discuss.

“According to the National Center for Women and Policing, The reality is that even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution, raising concern that those who are tasked with enforcing the law cannot effectively police themselves.”

The socially sanctioned horror of domestic violence by uniformed personnel is also suffered by the wives of combat veterans with PTSD, said Bannerman, who has written about it extensively and experienced it first-hand. Once married to a two-time Iraq War combat vet with severe PTSD, Bannerman said, “Domestic violence and sexual assault by military, particularly combat veterans with PTSD, is a serious problem, but these are problems among police, too. It is a hidden issue that, were it extrapolated to the general population, the epidemic of potentially lethal domestic violence in the homes of those who’ve worn the uniform would be a public health crisis.

“Research has found that veterans diagnosed with PTSD were significantly more likely to perpetrate violence toward their partners, with over 80 percent committing at least one act of violence in the previous year, and almost half at least one severe act, including strangulation, stabbing and shooting.

“Taxpayer dollars provide funds for training of police and military in use of force. It is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to constrain the use of force after the fact. Our collective failure to identify and address human-made and intergenerational trauma is especially egregious with far reaching negative ramifications.

“The issues involved are toxic masculinity, a culture centered on domination by brute force, and a process of dehumanizing and defining difference as deviance; rendering certain people ‘the other’ — typically people of color and/or women.”

Bannerman’s past articles include “High risk of military domestic violence on the home front.”

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