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Johnson Marr-ed – repeated lies lead to live-on-TV humiliation and fact-check crucifixion

That’s awkward – perhaps Boris Johnson thought he’d have the usual easy time on the BBC’s flagship politics programme, The Andrew Marr Show.

But it seems that the Establishment has already started shifting (prematurely) towards Keir Starmer.

So we all got to enjoy this:

(I’m not saying Marr had to point out the huge, ONS-shaped, hole in Johnson’s wage lie because This Site had already done so, but it’s nice to put it out there.)

Here are some more Johnson lies defeated by facts, courtesy of Peter Stefanovic:

He was tackled over the fuel crisis:

And then the Mirror fact-checked the whole interview:

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: “What you’re seeing is finally growth in wages after more than 10 years of flatlining. What you’re seeing is people on low incomes being paid more.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: The ONS has warned it is “clearly misleading” to use these “distorted” figures to make claims about the health of Britain’s economy.

Inflation is soaring this Autumn, and is already sitting at a nine-year high of 3%. That means any rises in wages could soon be outstripped once again by rising prices.

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: “What you’re certainly seeing is the stresses and strains caused in a UK economy that is now the fastest growing in the G7.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: That’s only if you compare to the period January-March 2021, when the UK was stuck in lockdown. According to the House of Commons Library, UK “real” GDP fell by 4.4% between October-December 2019 and April-June 2021 – the steepest drop of any G7 country. The US grew 0.8%, while Japan fell 1.5%, Canada 2%, the Eurozone 2.5%, Germany 3.3%, France 3.3% and Italy 3.8%, the Commons Library said.

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: Asked about justice funding after Sarah Everard’s murder, he said: “We’re almost certainly putting record sums into all parts of government.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: There are three problems with this. First of all, it ignores previous sweeping cuts to budgets under austerity. According to the House of Commons Library, the Ministry of Justice budget was around 25% lower in 2019-20 than in 2010-11.

Secondly, Mr Johnson’s boast appears likely to be in cash terms rather than real terms (factoring in inflation). The MOJ budget did rise between 2020-21 and 2021-22 – but only from £10bn to £10.1bn.

Thirdly, the Spending Review is coming at the end of this month which could put a financial squeeze on “unprotected” departments like the MOJ. The independent IFS think tank has warned unprotected services face a £4bn cut, and those areas – “including perennially squeezed budgets like justice and local government – are now facing real-terms cuts in 2022–23”.

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: On fuel shortages, Mr Johnson said: “It has been abating. What you’re hearing now from the Petrol Retailers’ Association is that supplies are getting on to the forecourts.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: On Saturday, the PRA said that while the fuel situation was easing in Scotland, the North of England and the Midlands, elsewhere it was deteriorating.

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: “We’ve had to look after the British people with £407 billion of a protection for their jobs, for people’s livelihoods. And I’ll tell you something about that package, it was most beneficial to the poorest and the neediest in society.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: Not all of this related directly to “jobs and livelihoods”. 32% has been for households – that vast majority of that the furlough scheme and self-employment grants.

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: “You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: The IFS think tank has said the UK tax burden is set to reach “the highest-ever sustained level” due to the PM’s National Insurance hike in April – with various estimates putting it at the highest since the war, since 1950 or since 1969, depending how you count.

WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID: “The people who are paying the most for the NHS, the people who are paying the most to fund the NHS bounce back, the £36 billion that we’re putting in, are the richest, the wealthiest people in society. And that’s entirely right. That’s what’s happening.”

WHAT THE FACTS SAY: This appears to be a reference to health and social care funding, which is being raised through a National Insurance hike from 12% to 13.25%. You start paying NICs if your salary hits just £9,568 per year – a much lower threshold than Income Tax. It’s charged at a much lower rate once your earnings get beyond £50,270 per year. And it’s focused on workers – who are hardly all the richest people in society. The tax will charge nothing to the unearned wealth of landlords, for example.

All in all, it seems we finally have reason to be grateful to Andrew Marr for actually doing his job – and at a critical moment.

It means that, going into the Conservative Party Conference, we can all see the extent of Johnson’s failures.

And we can use this information as a yardstick against which we can judge what the Tories try to tell us over the next few days.

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Are people turning on Boris Johnson because they’re tired of lies like this?

Boris Johnson: He’s all ‘blood and thunder’ in Parliament but analyse what he says and it turns out to be ‘bull**** and bluster’ instead [not This Writer’s words].

Even the BBC is criticising Boris Johnson. Well, at least it’s sitting on the right side of the fence.

The Corporation fact-checked Johnson’s comments about the delta variant of Covid-19, made during Prime Minister’s Questions on June 16.

Criticised for failing to close the UK’s borders to travellers from India after delta was discovered, Johnson said: “We put India on the red list on April 23 and the Delta variant was not so identified until April 28.”

But the BBC fact-checkers pointed out:

It had been identified through genetic sequencing as being in the UK in the week beginning 8 March.

And it had been designated as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 4 April.

While health bodies are constantly monitoring large numbers of emerging mutations, they are given these designations only if they seem to be making the virus spread faster, making people sicker or escaping the defences put up by vaccines or prior infection.

At a meeting on 21 January, the government’s scientific advisers, Sage, said: “No intervention, other than a complete, pre-emptive closure of borders, or the mandatory quarantine of all visitors upon arrival in designated facilities, irrespective of testing history, can get close to fully preventing the importation of cases or new variants.”

And in its weekly update on 30 March, the WHO pointed out India had the third highest number of new cases in the world, with a 55% increase on the previous week.

So we see that Johnson allowed the delta variant into the UK from India for a month and a half before actually doing anything about it at all.

It is lies like this that undermine trust in the Conservative government – rightly. And this is likely to be what is motivating Tories (and former Tories) to speak up against him.

Source: Delta variant: Fact-checking claims about Covid and borders – BBC News

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Tories are denying Covid-19 test-and-trace system to disadvantaged people

Test and trace: if you’re credit’s not good, you don’t get to be part of it. The Tories are using Covid-19 to attack the poor again.

Typical Tories: if your credit isn’t good, you don’t get to take part in their new online test-and-trace system.

It doesn’t work anyway, so the penalty isn’t as bad as it may at first appear.

But it still represents an attempt to harm the poor – many of whom, amazingly, would still vote for their persecutors.

Disadvantaged groups may be excluded from the government’s online coronavirus test and trace system because it requires a credit reference database check to decide whether to deliver a home test, HSJ can reveal.

Source: Revealed: online covid tests refused to those not on credit check database | News | Health Service Journal

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Fact checkers have supported Vox Political’s claims about £70/week pension cut

Less cash for senior citizens: this story was about the removal of an allowance for dependent adults from nearly 11,000 people’s pensions. There is no guarantee that they will receive top-ups of the same value from other benefits, despite assurances from the Conservative government.

Independent fact checkers have confirmed much of what This Site has said about the end of ADI – the adult dependency increase – on thousands of UK pensions.

But this has done nothing to allay This Writer’s fears about the use of so-called independent “fact check” services.

I stated that the Tories will be cutting £70 a week from around 11,000 people’s pensions – and this is confirmed by Full Fact.

I also expressed doubts about the government’s claim that people who are set to lose around £3,500 a year as a result of the cut will be able to get a top-up from other benefits – and this is supported by a comment in the Full Fact article.

There are reasons to believe that at least some pensioners who were in receipt of ADI payments may struggle to claim the money in other ways once the payments end.

From 15 May 2019, couples who aren’t both over the State Pension age cannot make a new claim for pension credit, unless one is receiving housing benefit for pensioners.

Changes to Universal Credit mean a couple where one person is below the State Pension age are considered working-age and will share a standard monthly allowance of £498.89. It can only be claimed if the younger partner is eligible.

Steve Webb, who was minister for pensions in the Coalition government from 2010 to 2015  and is a former Liberal Democrat MP, told Full Fact he was “deeply sceptical” that the loss of ADI payments would be offset with other benefits.

He said recent changes to pension credit mean any mixed-age couples who were not already receiving the payment “have little chance of claiming it when their income drops £70 a week”, while the Universal Credit rate is “so low” that that they may not “get much even if they qualified”.

I’m not convinced about the criticisms of other reports in the Full Fact site, though.

The fact was that “It is not right to suggest all pensioners will be £70 per week worse off, given how few receive this benefit.”

But the infographic on the Wear Red – Stand up and Be counted Facebook page (for example) correctly stated that “The £70 per week allowance for adult dependents is being scrapped from April”.

It could have been better-phrased, to make it clear that not all pensioners receive that allowance – but then, why should any reader assume that they all do?

Some of us have concerns about the use of so-called “fact check” facilities, because it is possible that they could be used to reinforce particular political viewpoints.

Claims that articles are presenting fake news, that are not correctly explained (such as the Full Fact piece), do not instil any confidence at all.

Source: Some pensioners will lose £70 a week, but Boris Johnson didn’t introduce the change – Full Fact

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If Johnson thinks he can renege on his Brexit deal, he’s about to get a big wake-up call

Thumb up: but if Boris Johnson goes through with his stated intention to renege on his Brexit deal, the EU will probably tell him what to stick his thumb up.

Boris Johnson seems to think he’s the naughty boy of international politics.

You can just hear him: “Bah! I said we’d impose a border in the middle of the Irish Sea – but I didn’t mean it! What a jape! And what are they going to do? Don’t they know we’re British?”

That is precisely the point, of course.

Being British, he is in no position to go disregarding conditions of his Brexit deal.

If he does, he’ll lose something he wants – like… I don’t know… favourable terms on the continent for City financiers?

We were talking about that only last week, when it seemed likely he would sacrifice the UK’s fishing waters for a nibble at EU financial markets.

Now, it seems Johnson will throw the lot up in the air, just to pretend he told the Eurocrats where to go.

Even though he’ll be dumping himself – and all the rest of us – out in the cold.

Of course, there is another aspect to this – that Johnson wants to anger the EU.

Isn’t that the quickest way to the “no deal” Brexit that will (allegedly) pay back certain dodgy funders for their support in getting him installed as Tory leader – and PM?

Source: Brexit: EU threatens Boris Johnson with ‘sanctions’ if he fails to implement controversial Irish sea goods checks | The Independent

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Is this ‘signature check’ an attempt to cut the number of disabled people who can vote?

What do Vox Political readers think of this comment received on This Site’s Facebook page?

“We had a letter from the council this week for my wife to re-register for postal voting, with the reason being they need to confirm her signature regularly.

“Can we say something about this?

“We think they are trying to reduce the amount of disabled people allowed to vote. They are saying your signature may change over time.”

Has anyone else received this kind of contact from their council? If so, what happened and what is your impression?


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Voter ID harms democracy so the Conservatives WILL roll it out, never mind the £20 million cost


It doesn’t matter how many organisations make common-sense arguments to stop the roll-out of voter ID checks.

The Conservatives are in trouble at the ballot box; they’re losing votes badly and need to stop Labour voters having a chance to exercise what should be their democratic right.

That is the reason the Tories have been claiming the voter ID pilot tests during the local elections in May were a glorious success, despite the fact that thousands of legitimate voters were denied access to democracy.

At just five constituencies, 3,981 voters were turned away. The total number of allegations of voter fraud in 2017 – out of a total of 45 million votes cast – was just 28.

There is no way of proving that there was anything wrong with the 3,981 voters who were turned away, so we can only accept that 28 possible instances of voter fraud are known to us.

This means that, at £20 million to roll it out across the UK, the cost to the taxpayer is £700,000 per allegation.

Considering the cost, and the effect on democracy, it’s no wonder the details were released right before Parliament went into summer recess, in a (failed, as usual) bid to hide the plan from the general public.

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Cat Smith, made the situation perfectly clear: “Wasting tens of millions of pounds on trying to make it harder for people to vote has got to be one of the most stupid ideas ever.”

It is stupid, but only because the Tories have been caught red-handed. But they are unlikely to care because it is unlikely that anybody else will be able to do anything about it.

… I wonder how this would affect the DUP’s vote, if rolled out in Northern Ireland? If it isn’t, of course, the corruption should be obvious to everybody.

Back to Ms Smith: “At a time when our public services are in crisis and thousands of families are having to rely on foodbanks to stave off hunger, it is staggering that the Tories think that they can justify these undemocratic and unaffordable plans,” she added.

“Local authority election teams are already facing huge financial pressures after eight years of extreme Tory cuts and the government has no plans to address these concerns.”

All true.

Back in May, when I wrote about this following the local elections, I stated: “If the Conservatives go ahead with this, based on the evidence we’ve seen, we’ll know they are trying to nobble democracy.”

And we do know, don’t we?

Ministers are facing calls to ditch plans for nationwide voter ID checks as it emerged introducing them at a general election could cost up to £20m – even though there were only 28 cases of polling station impersonations alleged in 2017.

The government has been urged to abandon the contentious proposals, with the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) pointing out that at this rate, the cost could equate to £700,000 per fraud allegation.

Labour has claimed the moves are in danger of locking people out of the democratic process, and critics fear it could disproportionately affect ethnic minorities and the poorest.

It comes after ministers vowed to press ahead with plans to extend trials of the scheme, despite hundreds of people being turned away from the ballot box during tests in several locations during May’s local elections.

Details of the potential cost, which includes the price of hiring and training extra staff to carry out the identification checks, were set out with little fanfare in a Cabinet Office paper released ahead of the summer recess.

Source: Ministers urged to abandon Voter ID as rollout at general election estimated to cost up to £20m | The Independent

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The ‘grubby little idea’ that will tarnish Theresa May

Theresa May. At present, all under-16s have the right to a school place, even if their parents entered the country illegally [Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA].

Theresa May. At present, all under-16s have the right to a school place, even if their parents entered the country illegally [Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA].

We can all agree that illegal immigrants should be rooted out, wherever they have hidden themselves, before being made to face justice and punished accordingly.

But Theresa May’s idea had nothing to do with any of that.

She wanted to punish children for the sins of their parents.

Perhaps she allowed herself to be guided by her religion in this, as she says she is over Brexit. But “visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” is an Old Testament punishment (Exodus 34:7) and This Writer thought she said she was a Christian.

Either way, her plan to push the children of illegal immigrants to the back of the queue for school places is unacceptable according to the law of this land: Children aged under 16 have a right to an education, regardless of their parents’ actions.

And the plan to turn teachers into border guards, demanding to see pupils’ passports, is beyond the pale.

Teachers are already overworked. They don’t have time for an extra burden, passed onto them because Mrs May simply wasn’t capable of doing her job and protecting our borders when she was Home Secretary.

In addition, This Writer did not have a passport until long after leaving school. In fact I was in my early 20s when I left the UK for the first time, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. What was planned for people like me? It is a hare-brained idea.

Even the language used is worrying. Apparently Mrs May wanted every Whitehall department to be involved in mitigating her failure to reduce immigration – both legal and illegal.

Or, as the BBC suggests it was put, they were all to have their hands “dipped in blood”.

That doesn’t seem very Christian of Mrs May.

“Satanic” would be a better word.

Claims that Theresa May wanted to put the children of illegal migrants to the back of the queue for school places show the “nasty party never really went away”, Angela Rayner has said today.

Rayner spoke out after the BBC published part of a leaked memo which suggested the Home Office wanted schools to withdraw offers of school places for children whose parents had been found living in Britain illegally.

The shadow education secretary joined a chorus of teachers and education leaders who criticised the measure as draconian. Local authorities have an obligation to provide education to children regardless of the status of their parents.

May was “trying to offload the failings of her department”, which failed to meet a net migration target, Rayner told the BBC.

She said May, the former home secretary, sought to blame “innocent children” and “bring our teachers into border control”, a measure Rayner describes as “impractical”. Rayner described the now prime minister’s actions as running contrary to British values.

By law, children under the age of 16 have a right to an education, regardless of their parent’s circumstances.

Source: Rayner: May’s plan to put children of illegal immigrants at bottom of school places list shows nasty party is back | LabourList

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DVLA website lets visitors check on neighbours benefits

jobmatch#

From Benefits and Work:

A new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).  The system is likely to be in breach of data protection laws and will be of enormous concern to many disabled claimants.

Unhappy member
The issue was brought to our attention yesterday by a very unhappy member who emailed us to say:

“My neighbour was able to tell me that I was on the higher rate of disability living allowance.

“She found out that people on the higher rate of disability living allowance and other similar high rate benefits get free road tax.

“The DVLA vehicle check system has been revamped and is now displaying taxation class as DISABLED on every vehicle where the registered taxation class is disabled.

“ It never used to be like this it was just blank .

“Anyone can put your car registration number into the system and do a vehicle check just like my neighbour did and find out you are on benefits and what type as a result of the taxation class DISABLED being on display

“What is the purpose of this system being open to the public to do a vehicle check on any vehicle they want?

The rest of this article is available here.

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Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?

Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?

The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.

Under the headline, ‘No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims’, the paper today (April 20) published a story claiming that Trussell Trust food banks are breaking their own rules by allowing people to take food bank parcels without presenting a voucher from an approved referrer, and that they are allowing many times more than the maximum permissible number of repeat visits.

Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.

The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.

It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.

What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.

You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.

If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.

It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.

The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”

It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.

“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”

No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.

Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.

This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.

It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.

Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.

And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.

The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.

Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.

The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.

Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.

UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.

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