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So…how about that Shell lawsuit thingy eh?

September 3, 2011
tags: , ,

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Well I wouldn’t be surprised. At the beginning of August a landmark case in the British courts provided some light in the otherwise dark night sky that is Shell’s presence in Nigeria.

In brief, Shell has accepted responsibility for a series of oil spills during 2008 and 2009 in parts of Ogoniland. To be more specific, the Bodo region. The article on the Al Jazeera English website goes on to say:

“SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria) has always acknowledged that the two spills which affected the Bodo community, and which are the subject of this legal action, were operational,” a statement from Shell said.

Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers representing the Bodo communities, who live in the snaking, oil-rich creeks and waterways, said the case was the first of its kind because it would be handled under British jurisdiction.

“SPDC has agreed to formally accept liability and concede to the jurisdiction of the UK,” a statement on the law firm’s website said.

“This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in this country.”

Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of SPDC, insisted most spills in Nigeria were caused by sabotage and illegal refining, but said the firm would help with the clean-up.

He was responding to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which said decades of oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of southern Nigeria may require the world’s biggest ever clean-up.

“This report makes a valuable contribution towards improving understanding of the issue of oil spills in Ogoniland,” Sunmonu said.

Despite the fact that most media orgs did not pick up on this story, we cannot underestimate its significance.

Number One, there have been virtually zero successful claims in Nigeria or any foreign courts where Shell either accepts liability or is proven to be liable for the decades of environmental destruction, economic sabotage and violence in the Delta region of Nigeria.

Secondly, Shell accepted liability!!! Now in the wake of the active lobbying, corruption and underhanded tactics being used by Shell executives (especially Anne Pickard while she was top exec of Shell in Nigeria), and exposed in the Wikileaks cable gate earlier this year, we know that Shell will do anything to avoid culpability. Why did they accept this time? Surely there must be more cases, where short of changing history, they would not be able to quietly buy their way out of responsibility.

Despite the fact that they continue to blame sabotage (rightly in some cases) for the majority of spills, much of the damage in the area began pretty much when Shell and other companies (including Chevron & BP) first entered Nigeria, and not in the recent 15 year period of violent activism on the part of local groups. The spills mentioned above alone equal 20% of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and they were just a few years ago.

Who can quantify the damage of 50+ years? And lest I come across as naive, our politicians are actively complicit in this situation.

The blog Remember Sarowiwa regularly publishes updates on legal cases and political activity around Shell and oil in Nigeria. A recent article discusses the potential concessions being made by a parliamentary bill which will tax oil companies less than they currently pay for operating in Nigeria. Less, not more. Even less money coming in, that will never be used to support the affected families and communities.

What I find dissapointing (if only because my nature can’t help but expect more), is that Nigeria is running scared from being uncompetetive. Despite the immense profits being recorded by these companies, Nigeria is counting money coming in before considering the cost to it’s people.

The USA is forcing BP to compensate every individual, company and community affected by the spill over there, has our government done even 1% of what the US is doing to BP? No. And still, they bend over backwards to accomodate them. We know that our politicians will always fill their pockets first.

Now, in light of the court case above, if this window can really provide applicable case law, I say lets jump on it! I’m no lawyer, but I would hope that there is a chance that we can finally start making Shell pay. It’s not like they don’t have the cash. We cannot be scared that they will take their business elsewhere, quite frankly, there just isn’t enough oil in the world for that.

What we should be scared of, is the obvious fact that the lives of every Nigerian affected by the situation in Delta is obviously worth less than the $112 price tag of Brent crude oil today.

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This post was also published on NigeriansTalk.org as “Can we now start making Shell Pay?”

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De vez en cuando….en La Paz

June 14, 2011

Why in the hell Bolivia? Well, why not. When I did my round the world jollies three years ago now (how time flies), I managed to get to Ecuador, Peru and Brazil but missed out all the countries in between. So a few weeks ago, accompanied by a close friend who used to live there, I ventured deep into South America and up into the fabled capital city of Bolivia; Nuestra Senora de La Paz.

Firstly can I just debunk a real myth here; it ain’t always summer in South America. The place was f**cking freezing. Not just cold cold, it was the swearing kind of cold. Let me qualify this.

Antarctic cold is -26 degrees or something, snowing constantly, things freeze bla bla and you compensate by wearing seven layers of clothing as well as untold types of specialist gear (I’ve never been anywhere that cold, so please allow some poetic licence).

La Paz cold is between 5-10 degrees celcius. Not so bad, you wear a few layers, a scarf, boots ye kno. But the thing is, step out of shade into sunshine during the day (and the sun is a real bitch that high up) and you’ll find yourself feeling like its 23 degrees and getting a bad case of prickly heat. Don’t think about disrobing too much though, the oxygen is so thin at that altitude that the heat only exists when you stand directly in sunlight.

Add to that the fact that I suffered altitude sickness from day one and basically was breathing like I had a pulmonary disease after taking 3 steps and what you get is a lil black chick who proved that black folk don’t belong at altitude!

(As a sidebar, I’ll add that I only saw my first Afro-Bolivian when we took a daytrip to warmer and lower climes to a town called Coroico. Much more civilised temperatures.)

We were fortunate enough to get free accommodation with friends for our ten day stay; the apartment had the most beautiful views of the city, facing away from the sun, meaning it was colder inside than outside. They don’t really do central heating, the old school adobe houses that capture and retain heat don’t seem to have competition in modern high rises like the one our apartment was in…its cold outside, cold inside, cold everywhere.

Aside from the cold, La Paz is one of the weirdest and most amazing places I’ve ever been to. As a city, I don’t know anywhere that has views the way La Paz has.

Imagine a flat plane, totally flat, the kind where you see things hundreds of miles away (the Altiplano) and then imagine a valley within that plane (surrounded by a growing area called El Alto), with hills and crazy cliff drops, inclines and peaks with a pretty modern city built right into the heart of it and you have La Paz.

Everywhere you look there is a view, either of Illimani, the most popular local mountain or houses built at what the heck angles or bits of uninhabitable rock that look like the moon. Needless to say, my camera had much to consume.

Foodwise (gotta mention the eating), I wasn’t particularly blown away, BUT, (its a big but) I discovered one snack that my heart will long for forever. Saltenas. Beautiful little pastries filled with chicken, meat or veg and the sweetest savoury sauce ever. The mouth dribbles in memory….

Another interesting bit about this place has to be the return of the indigenous people to places of prominence and power. Like most of South America there is a large Indian population (although not as large as it possibly should be) as well as the natural mix occurring with the white population.

Five years ago, they gained their first indigenous president Evo Morales and he is now into his second term. The economic and cultural change that followed Evo’s rise resulted in an increase in the Aymaran population living in La Paz, as well as an increase in people choosing to wear supposedly traditional dress, known as Cholos (the men) or Cholitas (the women).

They’re everywhere, old, young, in shops, as street vendors, bus conductors you name it. Because of the traditional nature of their clothes, you might be inclined to think them poor….do not be fooled. They’re just as likely as anyone else to be affluent, sometimes deceptively so.

One thing that’s clear is the obvious contrast between Cholos/Cholitas and everyone else. They are all generally Aymara people (although in Coroico there were black Cholitas), most Bolivians I found were friendly, but the Cholos and Cholitas basically are practicing active prejudice towards anyone non Aymaran…even other Bolivians.  It’s not outright outspoken prejudice, just that quiet, weird lack of acknowledgement…quite odd.

Anyhoo, enough of the cultural lecture, I laughed, I clubbed, I drank, I danced to salsa, bought an awful lot of leather bags and whatnot. I also ate Llama for the first time, pretty decent meat I tell ya.

Would I go back? Yes, but I probably wouldn’t stay in La Paz too long, the weirdness of the place eventually gets to you, but I’ve got an itch to explore the rest of that pretty awesome country, so watch this space!

On the way home, we spent five days back in Rio (I LOVE Brazil), the only thing is, those five days coincided with the ten days of crap weather Rio has a year. Go figure, this time, clearly the beach wasn’t ready for me!

In the name of the Artist

May 11, 2011

Hey folks, for the first time evar, I have a guest blogger! I feel like I’m growing.

Introducing Theophilus Scribe. Please give him a lot of love, this is his first post (hopefully not the last), and possibly the genesis of a new blogger on blogville…watch this space!

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“The aesthetic must serve a moral purpose, its called artistic responsibility” – Some smart dude.

I am a shameless proponent of the statement above, existentialist as it may be, I feel it should be one of those guiding principles that all artists should abide by no matter their specialism.

I am getting tired of the double standards displayed by entertainers when they find themselves in hot water with the populous at large and in their defence they seek to invoke what they see as their ‘get out of jail free’ card by calling themselves an ‘Artist’. It comes across as though they actually think that being an artist means that they can do as they please and their actions should be exempt from judgment, as though they have diplomatic immunity.

The ironic things is, that by actually declaring themselves as artists, it places them in a position where anyone with a mind at work will hold them to a higher standard than that of a run of the mill entertainer. Now this is where entertainers fall into a trap, they react to having done something that rubs a vocal group up the wrong way by trying to justify it by proclaiming themselves artists. As if they cannot be criticised by the public, or as if they only answer to a higher power that only artists have in common.

Problem is, that’s bollocks. You can be criticised by your audience. You do answer to them, you asked for their attention and so now you have it. You cant ask them to support you when you feel you are doing something they will approve of and then tell them they cant judge when you do something they don’t approve of – those double standards cant run.

This brings me onto the latest entertainer to jump into this trap, Mr Vybz Kartel. In a recent lecture he gave at UWI in Kingston, he decided to invoke his ‘get out of jail free’ card, in retaliation to a host of criticisms that have been levelled at him recently.

Where it got interesting for me was how he drew parallels with the criticism that reggae received when it was first making waves, and more importantly how the late, great, Sir Robert Nesta Marley was viewed as ‘dutty-head rasta’ when he first came out and how he is celebrated now.

This is where I fundamentally disagree with the point Vybz is trying to make, yes reggae music and certain artists back in the day were criticised by the establishment, but there is no confusing reggae with what Vybz is doing.

Bob Marley was a Rastafarian and as such the principles he decided to live his life by became the inspiration and subject of his music. As an ARTIST he chose to express what he lived and that expression took all the forms it could from the songs he sang, to the way he dressed, to the causes he dedicated himself to. In other words, Bob Marley the artist and Bob Marley the person were inseparable because he lived his art.

The result of this is that his aesthetic reflected his purpose, any audience will have an idea of what he represents without explanation.

Now this I feel is the often overlooked piece of the puzzle; as an artist you want/require an engaged audience, therefore how you engage them is how you want them to perceive you and your art.

This means that the audience becomes judge, jury and executioner; they see what you do and judge you in relation to the perception that you, as an artist, have portrayed. This is ok when the two are in sync, but when they are not, thats when the audience calls your integrity into question – which they have a right to do.

Now Vybz Kartel has landed himself in hot water because he’s done things that have led his audience to call into question his judgement and his message. He’s not the only entertainer guilty of this, there are many of them. The bottom line is, some cats just want to get paid, which I fully understand, they’re not here to provide any type of message or really engage anyone beyond a superficial level, they’re just trying to eat.

In that case they’re entertainers and not artists. Mr Vybz Kartel, I find you guilty of being an entertainer and not guilty of being an artist. Don’t front, just be cool.

If you have a spare ten minutes you can watch the video.

5 Reasons to love New York City

May 4, 2011

Your lovable galavanter extraordinaire has just returned from the most awesomest trip to NYC ever. Like seriously, this kind of fun and excitement should be tagged with warnings explaining the risk of spontaneous combustion.

This trip was all the sweeter because it had none of the hallmarks of my first trip to the fabled land. In short, I was staying with a dear aunt and uncle in Maryland in the indian summer of 2003. As part of our fun filled two weeks (yes, they gave me and my lil bro a full two week schedule on arrival), they decided we would drive the 4 hours to New York and spend a day there. Thing is, it was so hot, my uncle decided it was best we didn’t get out of the car, so we drove around looking at the city through the car window. My dissapointment and distress was almost impossible to hide. My aunt did manage to bag a stop at a service station off the New Jersey Turnpike but seriously, by that point I was too mortified to speak.

Fast forward 8 years and this time I did it right! 6.5 spectacular days in this awesome city that’s not that different to London, but I gotta say it’s got that edge…

So, Rather than just randomly ramble, I thought I’d mention 5 things I loved about this trip, if you’re already a yankee then this may be preaching to the converted. If you’ve never been, may this inspire you to go make the most of this awesome metropolis.

Disclaimer: I still consider myself to be anti-US, but my San Fran trip a couple of years ago and this trip are chipping away at the rock….but I’m still anti-US so there!

1. Revive the Live Jazz concerts – G.U.R.U. Dedication

It helps to have a local on tap, fortunately for me, my local is a friend I met only once, up a mountain in Peru (Machu Pichu to be exact). Born and bred in Manhattan, this lady had her finger on the pulse, and first thing she invited us to was an event where jazz greats are reunited with contemporaries who are influenced by them. On this occassion, it was a dedication to G.U.R.U. who passed away last year. IT WAS AWESOME! Live performances from a lot of hip hop dudes (many whom I didn’t recognise), including the guy who sang “Uptown baby, uptown baby, I gets down baby…” and an appearance by DJ Premier himself (G.U.R.U.’s Gangstarr partner). The live jazz band was serious and the icing on the cake had to be the four tap acts who came on to tap to hip hop….go figure! All Revive the Live events are meant to be serious so look them up!

2. Greenwich Village – Bleecker St

It is much hyped, but this area is a goldmine. Small specialist shops, cafe’s, galleries, restaurants basically anything. I even ended my 6 month hunt for a new pair of glasses in an optician on the corner of Broadway and Bleecker. I made a personal promise to go back and visit the shop where they make bespoke leather handbags….(not quite in my budget just yet). And it’s not just commercial lifestyle stuff, this place apparently also rocks for accomodation as well. The quintessential Manhattan lifestyle.

3. The Meatball Shop – Lower East Side

I have no words. First time I went to this place was at 1am in the morning. Second time was at 3pm in the afternoon. Both times it was busy, both times my meatballs rocked the ocean and the world. They do every kind, and everything is delicious. You know it’s good when a vegetarian takes you to a meatball restaurant and both the meat and veggie options make your mouth water. Plus it’s extremely reasonable. Making me hungry just thinking about it…

4. Studio Museum – Harlem

Ofcourse we had to do Harlem, on Easter Sunday no less. Wish I took as many photos as I should have done of the gentry folk in their Sunday best. Those pimp suits serve as well for Church as they do for Friday nights. Best thing about this area is the hustle, everyone is selling and people watching has to be the name of the game. On our wanders, we came across the Studio museum which features art from African-American artists. And when I say art, I use that broadly, they had performance pieces, video, sculptures, letters anything. A small, inspiring corner on the busiest street in town. It’s also free, def worth a visit.

5. Chez Ozkar & Cake Man Raven – Brooklyn

We wouldn’t have done New York if we didn’t go to Brooklyn. I have to say if I ever live in that city, Brooklyn will be my home. We went for brunch (seems popular over there) at Chez Ozkar. Lovely atmosphere, brilliant food (damn near licked the sauce from my mussels off my plate) and some pretty interesting art on the walls too. We finished off brunch by getting desert at the Cake Man Raven shop. It only sells Red Velvet Cake. Nothing else. They really don’t need to, the cake was so good, it nearly make my eyes water. I want some right now. Probably the best cake I ever put in my mouth.

Other notable activities, obviously the general tourist things, Times Square, Empire State Building (do not pay the extra $15 for the 102 floor, it’s a bump), horse ride in Central Park, High Line in Chelsea, Rooftop bar at 230Fifth, shopping in Soho….I think I’ve left out a lot, but I think you get the drift; I love this city!

Will I go back? Heck yeah! If only to make the most of the gazillion free concerts going on in the summer. I tell ya that place is so ripe for Lolobloggs….just don’t be surprised if I make movements….serendipity, do your thing.

Bringing home the chicken

May 2, 2011

I was going to call this post bringing home the bacon but as the subject is really not interested in and would not appreciate any references to the swine I figured I’d give it a twist to my favourite meat so there.

Now, on my last post, one of the commenters (thanks for the prod Chichi) noted that I have not followed up on my relationship status. I realised that whilst I whined and complained about the state of men and dating over and over again on this blog, I have not been so forthcoming since my status has changed. Ahem, yes, for those who may have missed it, my status has changed to ….. not single.

Unlike the many movies where two strangers meet at a party/bar/library/airplane/street/supermarket/hostage scenario (I tried all but the last…trust me), I met my guy….lets call him Alan, via a mutual friend. I am not surprised. Many of my relationship successes (I still consider my past relationships a success) have been via introductions because let’s face it, a random dude scares the living daylights out of me and it’s all about the pre-vetting. Mad folk need not apply.

Some vital stats you may be interested in, he’s a geek (woohoo!), 5’9, size 9 feet and ……… he’s not Nigerian. This is where you may want to take a short break and catch up on the time my parent’s tried to pimp me out.

At the risk of sounding mildly smug, I think my emotional growth over the years I’ve been writing on this blog has rewarded me with being right about the kind of person I need to be with and the way I approach my relationships.

I’ll sum it up in one major affirmation…..don’t play games. It’s pretty simple, but it works. I’ve read so many things about what women want, what men want, what women should know about what men want, how to make sure you don’t give him too much, tease this, play with that etc etc etc. On my bookshelf alone I’ve got, He’s just not that into you, It’s called a break-up because it’s broken, Act like a lady, think like a man and more nonsense than I care to admit.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not my first serious relationship (but everyone please say a quick prayer that it could be my last…ahem…), but it’s the first time I have been strong enough, emotionally strong enough to not front about any little bit. I am who I am, I know exactly what I have to offer and I’m willing to uphold my side of the bargain; I’m woman enough to stand by the woman I am.

So when I look at….Alan, I’m pretty certain that he is seeing the best I have to offer. I’m pretty certain this mindset is mutual, and so far, this is relationship has been real easy. Drama does not live in my house!

Is he the one?….Well, like the post title say’s, I’ve brought home the chicken. Time will tell if he is willing to go get them cows for my daddy if ya get what I’m saying.

I’m an alien

April 11, 2011

In August last year I took the decision to leave the best job I’d ever had. Like evar! Crazy as it seemed then and still does now, I genuinely felt that it was time. I’d invested 3 years, been given a whole heap of opportunities, I loved the work environment and the people had become more than work colleagues.

All my friends were bored to death of me discussing how great it was and yes, there was an element of snobbery involved with knowing I worked for a company others would do anything to get an opportunity with.

But still I left. For two specific reasons which my darling been-at-the-same-job-for-27-years mama cannot really grasp.

Number one on my list, I’d been promoted too quickly. It happened easily because it was a very small company, but I still felt I wanted more time learning to be the best at my discipline and less time managing.

Number two, which is perhaps stranger for an ambitious person such as myself, vertical promotion does not interest me. My aim in life is not VP, CEO or managing anything of a company I didn’t start myself. Simples.

So, what did I do next, well I joined the world of contractors and started at a project in a bank. If you can imagine being a surfer living in Hawaii and then taking a job as an office teller in Moscow, then you may grasp somewhat how drastic a change I made in work environments. It’s a lot!!

Were it not for the specific project I’m on, you wouldn’t see me working in a bank. I’m thankful for the large numbers of creatives they have too cos if I had to be a lone soldier in this world, I would have long since gone AWOL!

How do you bankers do it? The crazy early starts are one thing, but add to that a culture of dick-waggling, foul mouths, unnecessary bureaucracy, outdated hierarchy, and the assumption that all time can be judged by how many trades could have been made (ok, so maybe not everyone is like that) and what you have is LoloBloggs feeling like an alien who has been kidnapped.

Is the project worth it? Maybe. They say all experience is good experience. A colleague often says to me, if you don’t like your reality, then change your perception of your reality. In other words, become delusional.

So, anyway, here I am, 7 months later amidst an economy where many have been make redundant and jobs are not exactly an abundant feature, I’ve handed in my notice and I’m about to have no job. There are options on the table, but I’ve chosen to be jobless for the next 6 weeks and I’ve booked a couple of trips overseas to occupy my time (if you read my blog, you know how I do.)

I’m interested in what others think of the world of work and the ‘career’ ideology, should you stay in a job you don’t like just because it’s more important to always have a job? Does promotion mean going up the career ladder or getting better at what you do? Is there even such a thing as a job for life anymore?

I’m having some mild guilt, I know there is potentially some arrogance in leaving a job without another to go to, but the other part of me says if you don’t capitalise on your abilities, it’s a waste…..

Albert and his demon

April 5, 2011

Hello blogworld. It’s been a while, and today I feel moved enough to share my thoughts on an issue that has been developing over the last year and came to conclusion just last week.

I’d like to talk about Pastor Albert Odulele of Glory House Church in London. Not one iota of my being is surprised that in the last year, the unfortunately familiar stories of the Catholic priests who can’t keep hands off vulnerable children is now being joined by those of pentecostal pastors. We were all shocked, and then floored with the obscene nonsense around the situation with Bishop Eddie Long. Well here is pastor Albert to add to the pile.

My first experience of Glory House is when my sister was a regular member there over a period of about 5 years (thankfully she left 3 years ago). From the second time I went there, I knew I hated it. It was bad enough I was already struggling with my ideas of religion and trying my hardest to define my personal spiritual identity, going to that church certainly didn’t help much.

I felt like I’d walked into a cross between a polo match, ladies day at Ascot, a celebrity wedding and the x-factor. The deity-like worship of the pastors (both the Odulele twins at the time), the level of glamour and expense in the outfits and cars, the scale of the church (thousands in the main hall, two overflow rooms, plus a TV feed), the brazen “I’m here to find me a wife/husband” attitude of the singletons (of which there were plenty), and probably most significantly, the out and out begging/guilt-tripping tithes and offerings collection strategy just plain got my gait way up.

Now the reason this issue with Pastor Albert is worth posting on my blog is two fold.

Number one, the dude is claiming to have “struggled with [his] sexuality for years”. Poor him. Whilst I accept that he is clearly a man with crisis issues, any inference that proports to align his struggle as primarily an issue with a desire for the same sex, needs to be put in check. The christian massive who wish to both condemn and defend him need to learn that homosexuality and peadophelia don’t live in the same village.

Secondly, and to be honest this is what boils my blood. This man is being SUPPORTED by his church and pockets of the christian community. Yes. Not only was there a consistent cover up and pressure applied to his victims (only 2 out of a known 10 followed through to testifying due to pressure from church elders), but idiotic, sycophantic, foolish, eeediyat people (yes, I had to go a bit street there), continue to support him.

People are quoting bible passages calling him a fallen man, saying the paths of the righteous are treacherous, bringing parodies with Paul & Silas. I’ve even heard people saying he was such a powerful prayer warrior that his actions are the result of spiritual attack.

If you are reading this and find yourself somewhat upset by my opinion, slap yourself twice and wake up.

THESE MEN ARE NOT GODS. No, we don’t need to turn our backs on everyone who falls, but you know what, if joe bloggs can be named, shamed and told to carry his own burden load when it comes to protecting our children, then this dude should suffer his punishment without proclamations from others about how holy he is because of the magnitude of his sin.

The rise and glamour of these churches is something that scares me rotten. Spiritual men should be humble men. All the prophets of any holy book you wish to pick up, you will always find men who led through humility in every action. See that humble. It is not about published prayer books, £100k a year salaries, glamorous clothes, first class travel to go pray for corrupt leaders, churches with thousands, TV stations or anything else. If anything in these modern times, humility should be even more important than ancient times.

Knowing that the church Pastor Albert founded supported his Michael Jackson-esque access to small boys by covering up his indescreditions and maintaining his position should make every single one of us shudder and run to protect our children.

If you ask me, a true man of God isn’t leading a mega-church right now. You cannot and should not commoditise spirituality.

People shouldn’t let themselves be fools for any man in the name of spirituality or a relationship with Christ. Wisdom in all things, all decisions, always.

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Search Facebook for Albert Odulele to find all sorts of nonsenese supporting him.

Read here for the Channel 4 news segment about him.

Read this for a sometimes confused, but ends on a good note outline of the case.

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