TRUTH

By George Smith

Truth.

What is it?

“Truth” used to be verifiable information, but in the age  of dysfunctional politics, “truth” is as elusive as a will ‘o the wisp; it is what people say it is, what people want to believe, or hope, it is. Or, perhaps, truths are no longer truths, only perceptions.

President Donald Trump has turned the social media application Twitter into his own personal polygraph, a device that spews his pronouncements into the ether, words that his followers can embrace and acclaim to be the gospel according to the self-proclaimed “Chosen One.”

An enigma wrapped in a puzzle…that is the president. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Flimflam,  a master’s in the Philosophy of Audacity and a PhD. in Comparative 

BS, Trump, with his gladiator approach to life in general, is an oversized cartoon figure, an egomaniac with a hankering for only two things: Money and power. Anything else needed, he figures, he can attain it with money and/or power.

The president is one of those rare individuals who can never be satisfied: There can never be enough people to sing his praises, enough women to please his desires, enough followers to buy his MAGA merchandise snd shout his praises, enough money to fill his coffers, enough important peole to kowtow to him or seek his blessing.

Enough. Never enough.

It was not enough for this long shot for his party’s nomination to get the nomination and, then, knock off the Dem Queen on the way to the Royal Coronation.

It was not enough to win, to pull off the biggest upset in political history since Harry Truman edged Thomas Dewey.

Donald Trump had to pull a Frank Sinatra and pull a full-blown monty of .”I Did It My Way.” 

And by doing so, by making THE presidency HIS presidency, he had to —no, was compelled to— create a presidency in the Trump image: out-sized, raucous, chaotic,  domineering, outrageous. His presidency started off with an oath of lies; the initial lies grew exponentially as the human peacock started posturing for his base in more intricate ways, popping off promises via his daily upchuck of tweets, pronouncements at rallies and throwaway lines in impromptu calls to friendly talking heads and media scrums.

His base rejoiced in the absurdity posing as policy; his detractors were forever askance at behavior they deemed coarse, gross and decidedly unpresidential.

What to do? What to do?

As a wise woman once said about life in general: “It is what it is.”

That’s where we are as a nation: It is what it is…until it is not.


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Marshall Needs A Better Early Alert System

By Ron Munden – 1/6/2020

On the morning of December 19, at 11:30 am, I was scheduled to have coffee with a friend at Central Perks. When I arrived, he was sitting outside and told me there had been a major water break in Marshall and the entire city was under a “boil order”.   He went on to say that Central Perks had prepared all its food for the day before they learned of the “boil order”.  Since they had used water that morning in preparing all their food, they were forced to throw out all the food they had prepared and closed for the day. 

That night I was able to confirm the details with Central Perk’s owners.  They said that neither were contacted by phone or email that morning and they were not aware of the water problem until after 10:30 am that morning.  They said neither directly received any notification of the problem.

On Friday, December 20, I stopped by the Blue Frog for lunch.  I found that they were closed.  The owner said that the City had not cancelled the “boil order” until mid-morning Friday so she had decided to remain closed that day.

I asked her when she was notified of the water break.  She said that she had never been notified about the problem, but she had seen something on Facebook on Thursday morning.  She also said that she was in a meeting at a restaurant located on Highway 59 on Thursday morning.  At about 10:30 am a waitress came around and took up the water glasses and told the group that the City was under a “boil order.”

Based on a very small sampling it appears that the City needs to rethink its alert system.  Based on what I know now the City’s alert is a “pull” system – the City puts out information on their website and social media.  This is a common approach.  My office used “pull” techniques when we first started designing alert systems for the Navy.

About 30 years ago the office began doing work for the nuclear side of the shipyard.  They insisted that any alert system had to be a “push” system.  The difference in the two systems is that a “pull” system posts data on a variety of platforms and people are expected to check those systems for the information.  “Push” systems are proactive and send information directly to people who need the information.  Normally those systems don’t automatically do mass information pushes but are more targeted and focused on people who need to know.

As an example, during this period my office ran a small data center for the Navy.  This was a 24/7 operation and “system downtime” was a big negative.  The office developed a software system that monitored the various computers that were operating throughout the country.  When the system detected a computer/application that had gone down the alert system pulled up a “call list” for that computer/application.  At the one-minute mark the alert system sent a message to the text beeper of the systems person responsible for that computer.  At the 5-minute point if the system was not back online the alert system sent a second beep to the systems person and a first beep to the supervisor of the systems person.  At the 10-minute mark these people were beeped again, and the director of the data center received his first beep.

We ran a “mission critical” application so the timeframe for alerts was shorter than might be used for non-critical applications.  Also, thirty years ago, our office had to write all the software to operate that alert system.

Today technology is much better, and I am sure that there is off-the-shelf software that will do all of this and much more.  Today cell phones, text messaging, and email make it easy to “push” information to targeted lists.  These alert systems can be used for any purposes not just support of computer systems.

I wrote this article based on input from end-users, not the people who are responsible for pushing the information out to the end-user.  Therefore, maybe the City has push alert system in place to accomplish what is outlined above. If so then they should investigate why the system broke down this time.  If not, they should investigate implementing a system.

If the situation that prompted this article was a rare occurrence, the City should not spend any time or money addressing this problem.  Unfortunately, I fear that Marshall’s antiquated infrastructure ensures that this situation will be repeated many times for years to come.

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OPINION: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

By Ron Munden – 1/5/2020

On Friday I posted a video on EastTexasExposed.com titled, “Marshall’s Downtown Is Dying.”  It documents the status of empty buildings in the downtown area.

Last month OS2 Pub closed.  Jan Black, the owner, had battled to keep the business open for the past five years.  In one of my last conversations with her before the closing she said that during that period she had hoped that the City would take actions to revitalize the downtown, but she had given up hope.

In my opinion if the City does not effectively address this problem soon the decline will continue, and the rate of decline will increase.

A little over a month ago City Manager Mark Rohr presented a downtown redevelopment plan to the City Commission.  That night the Commissioners voiced support for the plan.  Since that time almost every comment I have received about the plan has been negative. 

On December 22 the Marshall News Messenger wrote an article titled, “Our View:  Downtown plan not transparent.”  While I do not agree with everything in the article, I do agree with most of it.  For years I have written articles calling for the city to be more open and transparent.  I also have been critical of the Memorial City Hall renovation for its lack of effective design reviews.  I do think downtown redevelopment must be open, transparent and have design reviews.

During the past 15 years I have written hundreds of articles that have been critical of City government and a handful of articles that praised the City.  Many people have pointed out that I have been overly critical of Marshall.  Those people are partly correct.  I have been critical but not overly critical.  In my opinion my criticisms have been well deserved.

For the first time in 15 years I find myself more positive on a City project than the general public.  Let me explain why.

My only direct involvement with the City was my work on the ill-fated Tourism Plan.  I served as the Tourism Task Force Manager for 18 months.

Prior to returning to Marshall I worked for the Department of Defense as an engineer and project manager for 32 years. That was followed by three years of working for Booz Allen and Hamilton as a consultant to DoD.  During that time, I worked on managing projects that ranged from $100,000 to $350 million in value.  Those experiences taught me a lot about management and the value of using strong project management techniques. During those years I learned that when good project management techniques were applied to a project the chance for success was high and when little or no project management was used projects always failed.

I also learned that good leadership always starts at the top.  Regardless how good your workforce is, if the organization lacks strong effective leadership at the top – the organization’s performance will be subpar.

During my 18 months working closely with the city in 2006 and 2007, I discovered that the City had a City Manager who either had a complete lack of knowledge about project management or chose not to use project management techniques by design.  When I developed a prototype for managing the Tourism Plan implementation and explained it to the City, I was told “that is not the way we do things in Marshall.”

Predictably, Marshall’s implementation of the Tourism Plan was a complete failure.  The City spent over $3 million dollars with nothing to show for that effort.  I must take partial blame for this.  I should have pushed my demand for effective project management and been fired as task force manager. Instead I rolled over and played dead.

Marshall has not had an effective City Manager for most of the 18 years I have been back in Marshall.  Therefore, Marshall has experienced a string of failures.  The renovation of Memorial City Hall being the latest in the string.

So, with this history why would I be optimistic now?

First, after almost 30 years Marshall has hired an outsider as City Manager.  This is good.  Cities need new blood and new blood with lots of experience in other cities is exactly what Marshall has needed for years.

I have only talked to Mr. Rohr four or five times.  Some of those conversations have only been five to ten minutes but I have liked what I heard from Mr. Rohr.  I think he has the skill set that is required to turn Marshall around.

One leading indicator – I have talked to several people in City Hall and based on those conversations I would rate the city’s workforce morale as high.  This is the first time I have observed this since I began monitoring City Hall some 10 years ago.  An organization fighting together is much more effective that an organization fighting with each other.

Also, Failure is no option – Marshall is in bad shape due to years of neglect and a string of failures.  Marshall needs a win.

Yes, Marshall has had some wins over the past 15 years, but those successes have been led by heroic individuals not associated with the City.  It’s time for the City to take the lead and get a win,

While I am disappointed with the lack of transparency associated with the Downtown Redevelopment to date, I am still optimistic the project can be successful.

First, if you view the work to date as producing a conceptual plan generated by a group of stakeholders, there is time to add transparency to the process and ensure that frequent design reviews are a part of the process.  Stakeholders for elements of the plan like Lady Bird Garden which has been in the planning by the Andersons for years can and must be added to the planning team.  Taking these steps can strengthen the process.

Second, there is nothing wrong with starting with a conceptual design instead of a blank sheet of paper.  This can speed the planning work by providing a general direction for the project.

Third, the initial work was based in part in the Tourism Plan developed by Destination Development.  Their plan was based on hundreds of interviews with Marshall residents and two status briefings which attracted over 100 Marshall citizens to each briefing.  In my opinion there was nothing wrong with the DD plan.  The problem was Marshall failed to execute the plan as discussed above.

Fourth, the scope of the redevelopment plan is correct.  It focuses on a single block.  This is achievable.  This can serve as a proof-of-concept for an expanded effort.  It is much better to complete a small project than to complete 25% of a large project.  With Marshall’s limited available resources, we must start small.

Fifth, people must recognize that everyone will not get everything they want.  Marshall does not have the resources available to meet everyone’s needs. 

I encourage the City to provide a process to collect input from many stakeholders and I encourage those stakeholders to fully participate.  I do not encourage taking a long time to do this.  Often the most effective planning is achieved when there is an urgency to complete the planning.

Finally, I urge Marshall’s citizens to not give up on Downtown Redevelopment before the project starts.

Editor’s note:
I wrote the draft of this article before I was aware that City Manager Mark Rohr was scheduled to address the Citizen’s Advisory Council on Monday.  I hope this meeting can be the first step in adding transparency to the Downtown Redevelopment project.

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The Early Horror Show

Odd hissing sounds emanated from an otherwise silent Chieftain.

* * * 

By Lad Moore

The deliverymen muttered unintelligible sounds to each other as they strained to position the huge walnut box onto the floor next to the fireplace. It was our first television—a hulking mountain called a Philco; bigger than our wringer washing machine. As if summoned to audience by the Wizard of Oz, our family sat in rigid formation on the sofa, like crows upon a telephone line.

“Wait!” Shouted my mother, leaping up to dash over to the TV and place carpet-covered floor protector disks under its cabinet legs. The deliverymen grimaced, obviously irritated by having to hold the dead weight a foot off the floor for what must have seemed like an eternity. Disks now in place, they set the giant down with a grunt. 

The store’s technician plugged the set in, and we waited as a green light glowed from the center of the tube, eventually radiating out to fill the screen with shimmering and snowy images. The black and white picture was fuzzy and the sound seemed to be coming from a train tunnel. A sudden panic seized our family. Is this all there is to television?

“Turn the antenna a bit to the east and a little more angled,” one man said. “Ears should be pointing about ten o’clock and two o’clock.” The picture began to crystallize. We could see people in a living room setting. It was a program called “The Guiding Light”—something my mother was familiar with called a “soap opera.” The show was a clone of the long-popular radio program of the same name. I remember how Mom cried after the first fifteen-minute episode. She said that the actors did not “look” like her minds-eye portraits from the radio days. Her sadness soon passed and she accepted that Bill Bauer didn’t have to have blond hair, or that Trudy could have actually been that skinny. We were so thrilled over the advent of television that even soap operas had value. We all watched them religiously—even us kids, when not in school. 

I quickly noticed that soap operas were devious. Unexplained things happened, like a cast member being killed but showing up a few months later like it didn’t happen. Such fiddling around with a character was just one of many examples of “script shifts.” Shifts were wildlyconcocted events that writers dreamed up to lengthen a cast member’s life-expectancy, or to exchange set-props made obsolete by changing times. We never saw the crank telephone being removed from the wall, but suddenly there appeared a bakelite dial phone on the coffee table. I guess we weren’t supposed to notice that the men suddenly quit wearing spats, or that ladies’ hemlines had shifted skyward. Thus while the scenes were being subtly altered, the players seemed to stay eternally young. Unlike we the audience, the passage of soap opera time occurred at a trickle. 

Other shows soon made the trip to television. I suppose we all went through some degree of Mom’s character-image agony as each new program emerged from radio’s darkness. Each family member soon had his or her favorite, and we scrawled the channels and show times beside our names on a tablet. Treaties emerged so that one person gave deference to another’s favorite show when conflicts arose. I endured The Guiding Light and Ted Mack so I could watch Gangbusters and the Lone Ranger; but we all had to stand down for Dad’s Gillette Friday Night Fights.

New and totally original programs were developed. Now there was something to watch from breakfast until the midnight Air Force fly-over and National Anthem signaled the end of the TV day. Our family spent almost all its evening hours in front of the hypnotic screen, soaking in all it offered. Saturday mornings at the downtown theatres no longer held me captive. I had serials to watch right at home. Indeed, even the popcorn made in our own pan rivaled what the Paramount lobby offered. And maybe best of all, I no longer had to endure sweltering nights clogged with swarming insects so my parents could enjoy the outdoor screen at the Capri Drive-In. The films they preferred were syrupy love stories where we were led to believe married couples only had single beds separated by lamp tables.

It is written that all good things must end. Out of nowhere there emerged a rumor more threatening than the scariest scenes in Flash Gordon’s battles with the villain Ming. Someone was proposing a terrifying possibility. The very words made our family cringe: 

Pay Television!  

I don’t know who first uttered those words, but suddenly everyone began talking about it. We heard that the practice had been invented by something called the “BBC” in England, which charged the public a “viewer license fee.” To us, it seemed completely unnatural for the two words to even be hooked together. “Pay” and “Television” was the world’s most obvious oxymoron, and completely un-American. Would we also be forced into afternoon tea, cricket, and funny pronunciations of our words? Would we have to fire Ike and hire a queen? 

The concept became increasingly ominous as we began to hear more detailed rumors. It was said that a uniformed bobby would come to the house and install a little meter, like cab drivers used. Another version was that a metal coin box would be welded to the television like a newspaper rack, to be emptied once a month by armored car guards. Handfuls of quarters would need to be deposited into the slot before Roy Rogers would be permitted to mount Trigger. A month’s allowance might be required to find out if Superman would fall victim to stolen Kryptonite. 

Then came the most frightful possibility of all: What if Dad, who controlled all family finances, decided that our budget could only afford The Friday Night Fights?  He who held the purse would have command of the tuner. 

The newspapers wrote about Pay TV being inevitable. Kids at school talked about it in cataclysmic terms. When we practiced duck and cover drills in the cafeteria, it seemed to me that the frenzied cold war risk of a  Russian atom bomb should yield to the real threat—a condition of national urgency where basic TV freedoms were suddenly being held hostage to Cockney Channel Annihilation. How could our country have its priorities so misplaced? We should have the Brits ducking for cover because they thought of the dumb idea to start with. 

The stress had risen to stellar heights when suddenly the rumors stopped. As if an earthen dam had been installed across a river, there was no more discussion about the looming catastrophe. The mystery of what happened was never clear. It just ended. Free TV would continue.

I never knew for sure, but I figured that Ike arranged for the Brits to just shut up. After all, they still owed us a bunch of ships from the war.

* * * 

The author’s three collections of short stories, Tailwind, Odie Dodie, and Riders of the Seven Hills are available at all traditional booksellers. Copies signed by the author  may be obtained by contacting him directly via  pogo@shreve.net or by  accessing his web page at:  http://laddiemoore.blogspot.com/

~~~

The story featured here holds © Copyright 2010 by the author, Lad Moore. All rights reserved.

Test Pattern image from the Public Domain

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Open Letter: To my Trump-supporting family

Taken from — My Daughters Army website

To my Trump-supporting family,

To my Trump-supporting family, On the morning of November 9, 2016, the America I knew and loved died.  Or rather, I woke that day to discover that it never really existed in the first place. 

Let me explain. 

I grew up in the Deep South.  I was a flag-waving, gun-shooting, red-blooded American boy.  I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school, got tingles when I heard the national anthem, and fervently accepted that no other country on the planet could ever come close to the grandeur, freedom, and inspiration that the United States of America offered.  We were that City Upon the Hill that was promised to the world – a shining beacon of participatory democracy that everyone else desperately wanted to emulate but could never achieve.  We were tough on our allies, but only because we needed to push them to excel and improve.  Of course, they’d never quite catch up to us economically, politically, or militarily, but hey, that’s the price of not being the USA.  The chants of “USA! USA! USA!” weren’t taunts, but merely celebrations of our preeminence.  And anyone’s detractions were just signs of their jealousy.  Because everybody wanted to be American, right?

I was sold the American dream just like the hundreds of millions of my compatriots.  Work hard, pay your dues, and you’ll succeed.  No child left behind.  All in this together.  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  I joined the Navy and proudly served my country because that’s just what a Southern boy did.  There simply was no higher honor than being part of the vanguard protecting democracy from those who would do us harm.

Even after traveling the world with the Navy and learning that, actually, America didn’t hold a monopoly on freedom, I still wasn’t swayed from my categorical resolution that no country was better. No people could be better.  America resulted from the failures and lessons learned from every other country’s trials and errors.  Mostly errors.  But we corrected them all.  Where other countries had endured the restrictions of authoritarianism or the unfettered chaos of direct democracy, America perfected the balance with our Constitution and its representative democracy.  Sure, we had our own fits-and-starts, which our schools taught – seizure of land and the treatment of Native Americans, the slave trade and oppression of black people, relegation of women to the home – but the America in which I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s had moved past those missteps.  Right?  Wasn’t America now that happy melting pot teeming with opportunity for all, if only you tried hard enough?Of course not.  But that was how I viewed it.  And I’m sure that’s how you still think of America.  What we did to the Native Americans?  They just need to accept that we civilized them and they should be thankful.  Slavery, Jim Crow, systemic racism?  Nah, African Americans need to get over slavery, stop being ghetto thugs, and start accepting responsibility for their own communities.  And women certainly have come a long way – just don’t get too uppity or think you’re entitled to too much of a political view, otherwise you risk losing your innate genteelness.  (If reading this part makes you feel uncomfortable – and it probably does – stop for a second and think about why.  Your discomfort is what’s left of your conscience.)

After I left the Navy and joined the real world, I saw more and more of what this country truly was.  The mistreatment of people of color, the judgment and chastisement of the LGBT community, and the everyday sexism.  Unlike the America taught in schools, this place had a lot of scars, scratches, and quita few gaping wounds.  But still I thought none of them were terminal.  Surely Bill Clinton (for all his flaws) had it right when he said there was nothing wrong with America that couldn’t be cured by what was right in America.  Surely.

Up until November 8, 2016, I genuinely believed that, despite its myriad shortcomings, America was still the country that stood up to bullies.  It valued intellect and scientific discovery.  Americans may have disagreed on specific policies, but still had faith that public servants genuinely had the country’s best interests at heart.  Immigration built this country.  And we should always, always protect the innocent and welcome those fleeing poverty, war, or famine with open arms.

But America didn’t elect a leader who represents any of those principles.  America didn’t elect a leader with any principles.  And you did that.  You can say you held your nose and voted for the “lesser of two evils,” or that you only voted for Trump because you knew he’d further the policies with which you agreed, even if you found him personally detestable.  But when you and all of the other Trump voters pulled that lever, you weren’t just selecting your preferred presidential candidate.  You were selecting what America was.  And it is nothing like the America I grew up believing in.  To say that your choice and the result it brought about triggered an existential crisis would be an understatement.  My whole life, I’d been an unquestioning, patriotic servant of America because of what I’d believed it stood for.  But in a single night, everything it stood for was revealed as a fraud.  Everything I stood for was a fraud.

So now, two and half years into the alternative reality, I’ve come to grips that this isn’t some insane nightmare.  This is reality.  And seeing how Trump supporters (yourselves included) have behaved since then, I really was a fool for ever believing America stood for anything else. 

I won’t bore you with my journey to “wokeness” or why the things you tolerate literally sicken me.  Sexual predator? “They’re not hot enough to sexually assault.” Racist bully?  “Fake news.”  Uncompassionate bigot?  “They should stay in their own damn countries.”  Even if I had the capacity and patience to expound on every deviation from the America I thought existed, you wouldn’t care.  Why?  Because you’ve stopped listening.  The rise of Fox News means you’ve stopped reading the papers.  And even if you did, you wouldn’t be intrigued or inquisitive about what they say because you’ve bought into the idea that the press is the enemy of the people (except for Fox News and the National Review, which get passes because, well, why?). 

You’ve stopped paying attention to anyone who doesn’t agree with your crystallized view of the world.  You’re the mosquito of the Reagan era, completely unaware the sap has long hardened around you into amber.  And frankly, it’s not even particularly pretty amber.  It’s dull, opaque, muffled.  You can’t see or hear through it and you don’t want to.

But to be honest with you, I’ve lost all interest in trying to break you free.  At first, I really wanted to.  I wanted you to understand how the promise of America was broken.  I wanted you to see so we could find some way to fix it.  But every time I tried, you trotted out some line you heard Trump spew (none of which make any sense whatsoever, by the way) or that some Fox News commentator has conned you into thinking reflects reality.  So I’m done.

The America I believed in doesn’t exist.  Instead, it’s a different country now, irretrievably.  I get a bit melancholy about it sometimes, because promise and hope and opportunity are like political endorphins, and I miss them.  And I miss you.  I miss having conversations about our lives as though you hadn’t abandoned everything we ever believed in.  I miss seeing your smiling faces without having to hold back a political tirade.  I miss spending time with you without constantly wondering how you sleep at night knowing what this country is doing to the defenseless.

Surely by now you’ve seen the AP’s recent photo of an El Salvadoran man and his two and a half year-old daughter who drowned as they fled the violence in their home country, hoping to seek asylum in America.  They drowned because Trump won’t let them claim asylum at the border entry points.  He’s denying them the safety and promise that America used to stand for.  Many observers who haven’t yet fully recognized their prior delusions are saying, “This isn’t what we stand for.”  But it is.  It’s exactly what America stands for.

And that is why I’m done with you and your ilk.  We’re still family; you raised me; we share the same blood.  But we come from and live in two different countries. 

Sincerely,

Matthew

Bjarne will be going to Jenny's Dream Rescue

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

The following is a facebook post by Mzvicki Brooks

December 27 at 9:15 AM

I have Great news for everyone🐾Bjarne will be going to Jenny’s Dream Rescue in Pennsylvania🐾💜

I was on the phone all night and early this morning talking with Kate from Rolling Thunder Farms!!! They are connected and they save fighting pits and poor dogs like Bjarne!!! This is their passion!! They are working really hard to put together a private transport!! 

Looks like he will be leaving the weekend of the 4th of January.  If anyone wants to donate for his journey, I would send to Jenny’s Dream Rescue. They take many used fighting dogs and sick pits from Texas and Louisiana!!

Bjarne just had a warm breakfast and his meds!!!  He was wagging his tail so fast and let me doctor his sores!!! I’m So happy Happy for him!!! Him and I are both blessed this morning for the good news of his rescue!!!

It takes a village to save these baby’s for sure, and I will keep everyone posted of his progress!! Thank you for ALL who have helped to save him🐾💜

Editor’s Note: Thank you Vicki Brooks for your tireless effort to save animals in Harrison County. Let’s hope that after years of non-productive talking and arguing the officials of Marshall and Harrison County decide to get serious and take action to replace the 50-year old animal shelter!

Concern citizens, particularly voters, of the Marshall and Harrison County DEMAND that they replace our animal shelter in 2020!

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