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Politics & Law

Woman Scares Off Intruder, No Shots Fired

Writes Jeff Jacoby in his newsletter Arguable on “Guns keep Americans safer”:

…Now comes a new survey of gun owners , one of the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted. Supervised by Georgetown University professor William English and published on the Social Science Research Network, it surveyed 16,708 gun owners, drawn from an overall population sample of 54,000. Among its findings: roughly 32 percent of American adults, 42 percent of them female, own guns. Handguns remain the most common type of firearm owned, with 171 million in private hands, but Americans also own 146 million rifles and 98 million shotguns.

…According to English, “approximately a third of gun owners have used a firearm to defend themselves or their property, often on more than one occasion, and guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year. A majority of gun owners, 56.2 percent, indicate that they carry a handgun for self-defense in at least some circumstances.”

Using a gun in this context generally does not mean firing a gun. More than 80 percent of the time, respondents said that when they “used” their weapon to respond to a threat, it was sufficient to simply show their gun, or merely mention that they had one. It is not surprising that most defensive gun uses never rise to the level of a news story. “Woman Scares Off Intruder, No Shots Fired,” isn’t a very gripping headline.

See also Andrew Bernstein’s article, Defense of Innocent Lives Requires Gun Ownership By Honest Persons.

Big-Tech “Little Brothers”

“The FBI, I think, basically came to us – some folks on our team – and was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, like, you should be on high alert… We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that, basically, there’s about to be some kind of dump of that’s similar to that. So just be vigilant.’” – Mark Zuckerberg, The Joe Rogan Experience

Writes Jonathan Turley in “Zuckerberg Reveals the FBI Told His Company to be Wary of ‘Russian Disinformation’“:

[Facebook’s parent company Meta] only recently allowed customers to discuss the lab theory of the origins of Covid after years of biased censorship. Facebook’s decision to allow people to discuss the theory followed the company’s Oversight Board upholding a ban on any postings of Trump, a move that even figures like Germany’s Angela Merkel and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have criticized as a danger to free speech.  Even Trump’s voice has been banned by Facebook. Trump remains too harmful for Facebook users to hear . . . at least until the company decides that they are ready for such exposure. Facebook has tried to get customers to embrace censorship in a commercial campaign despite its long record of abusive and biased “content modification.”

Note such actions by private companies are not censorship – unless pressure, no matter how light, was imposed upon by the government.

From “Evolving With Big Tech: Facebook’s New Campaign Should Have Free Speech Advocates Nervous“:

Politicians know that the First Amendment only deals with government censorship, but who needs “Big Brother” when a slew of “Little Brothers” can do the work more efficiently and comprehensively?

When Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking the Hunter Biden story before the election, he was met by demands from Democratic leaders for more censorship. Senator Chris Coons (D., Md.) pressed Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing any views that he considers “climate denialism.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) chastised the companies for shying away from censorship and told them that he was “concerned that both of your companies are, in fact, backsliding or retrenching, that you are failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” Accordingly, he demanded that they “commit to the same kind of robust content modification playbook in this coming election.”

Republicans have been acting in the opposite direction, seeking to force companies to not block information (which is also censorship). Though in practice, the Democrat variant of banning speech at this time is a far greater danger, than bills that call for the equal promulgation of opposing viewpoints according to “free speech principles,” the proper response is to ban government interference in all speech that does not violate the rights of others.

President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan May Exceed $1 Trillion

Wharton Business School budget model crunches the numbers on Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan:

  • We estimate that President Biden’s proposed student loan debt cancellation alone will cost between $469 billion to $519 billion over the 10-year budget window, depending on whether existing and new students are included. About 75% of the benefit falls to households making $88,000 or less per year.
  • Loan forbearance for 2022 will cost an additional $16 billion.
  • Under strict “static” assumptions about student borrowing behavior and using take-up rates within existing income-based repayment programs, the proposed new IDR program will cost an additional $70 billion, increasing total package costs to $605 billion.
  • However, depending on future details of the actual IDR program and concomitant behavioral changes, the IDR program could add another $450 billion or more, thereby raising total plan costs to over $1 trillion.

Read the details here.

In July 2021, Nancy Pelosi stated the President has no power to forgive such loans: “People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress…And I don’t even like to call it forgiveness because that implies a transgression. It’s not to be forgiven, just freeing people from those obligations.”

(She has recently flip-flopped on her position).

“National emergencies” grant the President extra-ordinary powers, whether student loans or climate change.

Immigration is the United States’ “Secret Sauce” to American Greatness

Writes Graham Allison and Eric Schmidt on why “The U.S. Needs a Million Talents Program to Retain Technology Leadership”:

What is the single most significant step the United States can take to sustain the technological predominance it has enjoyed since World War II? The answer should be obvious: to actively recruit the most talented minds in the world and welcome them into a society where they have the opportunity to realize their dreams. From physicist Albert Einstein and the other European scientists who helped the United States win World War II and land on the moon to the founders of Intel, Google, eBay, Uber, and the many technology companies that have powered economic growth, smart and ambitious immigrants have been the country’s secret sauce.

They recount the case of a foreign scientist who help invent 5G, and how the U.S. failure to retain him, benefited China:

It’s not just a matter of enticing new immigrants but of retaining bright minds already in the country. In 2009, a Turkish graduate of the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Erdal Arikan, published a paper that solved a fundamental problem in information theory, allowing for much faster and more accurate data transfers. Unable to get an academic appointment or funding to work on this seemingly esoteric problem in the United States, he returned to his home country. As a foreign citizen, he would have had to find a U.S. employer interested in his project to be able to stay.

Back in Turkey, Arikan turned to China. It turned out that Arikan’s insight was the breakthrough needed to leap from 4G telecommunications networks to much faster 5G mobile internet services. Four years later, China’s national telecommunications champion, Huawei, was using Arikan’s discovery to invent some of the first 5G technologies. Today, Huawei holds over two-thirds of the patents related to Arikan’s solution—10 times more than its nearest competitor. And while Huawei has produced one-third of the 5G infrastructure now operating around the world, the United States does not have a single major company competing in this race. Had the United States been able to retain Arikan—simply by allowing him to stay in the country instead of making his visa contingent on immediately finding a sponsor for his work—this history might well have been different.

Similar stories are far too common. The founders of China’s leading companies in semiconductors, smartphones, and app-based deliveries—the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, Xiaomi, and Meituan—were all educated at U.S. universities.

They recommend:

To this end, the U.S. Congress should streamline the country’s immigration rules and establish programs to recruit and retain established tech superstars and the world’s best students researching advanced technologies. And if Congress will not act, then Biden should use his ample executive authority to create a million talents program and promote the United States’ leadership in the technology of the future.

[…]

It’s time for the United States to poach with purpose. To start, Washington should grant an additional 250,000 green cards each year. The current backlog of green cards—which entitle their holders to permanent residency and unrestricted work—is well over 1 million for high-skilled immigrants and is projected to grow to nearly 2.5 million by 2030. Right now, the U.S. government is hopelessly behind, approving two applications for every green card it actually issues. The United States also requires that no more than 7 percent of employment- and family-based green cards be issued to citizens from any single country, disadvantaging scientists and engineers from India and China. Congress should eliminate this cap and create new green card categories for experts in frontier technologies.

We might add an easier, less micro-managed, pro-freedom solution: the entire removal of immigration quotas: if you are a peaceful, loving, rights-respecting productive person, America welcomes you to her shores.

Jan 6 Show Hearings: An Unbalanced Caricature of a Justice

Jonathan Turley writes about how truth-finding took a second seat to a Democrat political narrative, in “Poll: The J6 Hearings Had Virtually No Impact on Changing the Public Views.

J6 show hearings emphasized a scripted conclusion over an open and balanced inquiry

Writes Turley on how “the Committee would focus on reinforcing “a narrative” rather than follow prior investigatory commissions with an open and balanced inquiry”:

After bringing in a television producer, the hearings showed members reading off teleprompters and witnesses confined in limited roles of reaffirming what members were declaring about the riot. There was no effort to present alternative interpretations or viewpoints. It played into criticism of a “show trial” environment–an image that was magnified by Cheney declaring in the last hearing that Trump family and associates had come forward to “confess” and encouraging others to do the same.

Many of us supported the effort to bring greater transparency to what occurred on Jan. 6th and these hearings have offered a great deal of important new information. Indeed, it has proven gut-wrenching in the accounts of lawyers and staff trying to combat baseless theories and to protect the constitutional process.

Yet, the heavy-handed approach to framing the evidence has been both unnecessary and at times counterproductive. The strength of some of this evidence would not have been diminished by a more balanced committee or investigation. The unquestioning media coverage likely added to the feeling of many that these hearings lacked objective analysis and full accounts of what occurred, including the exclusion of any discussion of why the Capitol was left poorly protected on that day despite prior warnings of potential violence.

J6 show hearings provided no smoking gun evidence to criminally punish Trump

Second, the Committee over promised the public. At the start of the hearings, committee members promised they had the long-sought smoking-gun evidence — new material that would close the circle on Trump. Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) indicated he thought there was now “credible evidence” to support a variety of criminal charges. His colleague, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said the committee would show that Trump organized a “coup” on Jan. 6, 2021. That framing has led to glaring omissions. The Committee has routinely edited videotapes and crafted presentations to eliminate alternative explanations or opposing viewpoints like repeatedly editing out Trump telling his supporters to go to the Capitol peacefully.

Offering a more balanced account, including allowing the Republicans to appoint their own members (in accordance with long-standing tradition), would not have lessened much of the dramatic testimony. Yet, allowing Republicans to pick their members (yes, including Rep. Jim Jordan) would have prevented allegations of a highly choreographed show trial. It would have added credibility to the process. Indeed, much of this evidence would have been hard to refute like the deposition of former Attorney General Bill Barr on the election fraud allegations.

Concludes Turley, “Presented with one-sided, tightly choreographed hearings, most citizens were left precisely where they began. The hearings were meant to enrage the base rather than add allies. It may have succeeded in that limited objective, but it could have been so much more.”

Jan 6 Committee Has So Far Failed To Make a Criminal Case Against Trump

Writes Jonathan Turley, “Jan. 6 committee has yet to establish a criminal case against Trump“:

[…] It is difficult to make a criminal case over what an official failed to do. Yet the last hearing seemed to focus on a number of things that did not occur, from a draft tweet that was not sent to an executive order that was never signed. There were discussions of appointing Trump attorney Sidney Powell as a special counsel, seizing voting machines or replacing the Justice Department’s leadership. As unnerving as these proposals were, they also were not carried out.

It is the type of evidence used to show mens rea — “guilty mind.” However, crimes generally require both guilty minds and guilty acts. Building a criminal case on the failure to act to stop the violence is a notoriously difficult case to make.

[…] It is even more difficult when the House committee has blocked any serious investigation into the potentially contributing failure of Congress to take better precautions before the riot, another costly act of omission.

[…] Looking objectively at the evidence, the committee never supplied “credible” proof of crimes. That is not to say the evidence is not shocking; indeed, it is like a series of “jump scares” involving Trump and others raising unfounded or unconstitutional courses of conduct.

[…] The Jan. 6 committee has made a case against Trump personally and politically. It has not done so criminally.

Read the full article.

Brian Simpson: Is US Constitution in Danger?

James Valliant interviews Professor Brian Simpson to discuss threats to America’s constitution from calls to end the filibuster, pack the court, release decisions, and how your economic liberties are protected by the constitution.

 

Also by Brian Simpson:

Ayn Rand Institute on The End of the Federal Protection of Abortion Rights

The philosophers at the Ayn Rand Institute – Onkar Ghate, Ben Bayer, and Yaron Brook – have a thought-provoking discussion on abortion rights with the over-turning of Roe v. Wade, which now allows for state-level bans on abortion.

(Though this is not the end of abortion in America, it is an ominous stepping stone to it, as those seeking abortions in states where abortion is/will be banned will have to travel out of state to obtain a legal abortion).

 

Issues covered include:

  • How the majority opinion empties the right to liberty of its content;
  • Justice Clarence Thomas’s opposition to substantive due process;
  • Why the Ninth Amendment has not been used in Supreme Court rulings on abortion;
  • The incrementalism behind Chief Justice John Roberts’s concurrence;
  • Why Roe v. Wade was a good decision despite its imperfect reasoning;
  • The dissent’s defense of individual liberty against majority will;
  • The dissent’s forceful protest against the unprincipled, anti-individualist majority opinion;
  • Why the dissent is right that the majority is inconsistent with its own reasoning in claiming that abortion is different from other rights;
  • Questions about whether the court typically tailors its reasoning to fit a predecided outcome;
  • The problem with the viability standard and the idea of balancing rights with a “state interest” in the fetus;
  • How the dissent undermines its own case by citing Lochner v. New York as a case that was rightly overturned;
  • How the morality of self-sacrifice contributed to the Dobbs ruling and the dissent’s failure to cite the right to the pursuit of happiness;
  • Why the widespread acceptance of collectivist premises have contributed to the abridgment of abortion rights;
  • Why the concept of “states’ rights” is an expression of collectivism;
  • How the fight over abortion rights will continue at the state and federal level.

 

Ben Bayer, Agustina Vergara Cid, and Don Watkins at the Ayn Rand Institute analyze the implications of Roe vs. Wade being overturned.

The Right to Abortion and the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Writes Ira Stoll in Abortion Right Not in Constitution, Doesn’t Mean It Doesn’t Exist:

“The Supreme Court’s opinion in Roe v. Wade,410 U.S. 113 (1973) discovered a right to abortion in the Constitution within the “right to privacy.” That privacy right itself had been discovered in a case about birth control, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). Griswold’s declaration that the “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations,” has been widely mocked.

To my mind, the gem within Griswold is Justice Arthur Goldberg’s concurrence. Goldberg, joined by Justice Brennan and Chief Justice Warren, focused not on penumbras or emanations but on the plain text of the Ninth Amendment.”

Stoll goes on to quote Justice Arthur Goldberg:

“The [Ninth] Amendment is almost entirely the work of James Madison. It was introduced in Congress by him, and passed the House and Senate with little or no debate and virtually no change in language. It was proffered to quiet expressed fears that a bill of specifically enumerated rights could not be sufficiently broad to cover all essential rights, and that the specific mention of certain rights would be interpreted as a denial that others were protected….the Ninth Amendment shows a belief of the Constitution’s authors that fundamental rights exist that are not expressly enumerated in the first eight amendments, and an intent that the list of rights included there not be deemed exhaustive. …the fact that no particular provision of the Constitution explicitly forbids the State from disrupting the traditional relation of the family — a relation as old and as fundamental as our entire civilization — surely does not show that the Government was meant to have the power to do so. Rather, as the Ninth Amendment expressly recognizes, there are fundamental personal rights such as this one [abortion], which are protected from abridgment by the Government, though not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.”

Stoll concludes correctly:

The mere fact that an abortion right isn’t mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The rights don’t come from the Constitution. The Constitution exists to protect the rights, including those it doesn’t explicitly mention.

Then why explicitly mention and enumerate rights?

“A problem with rights not written into law is that people may have widely varying views of them. Without legislative language, for example, one person’s idea of a right to an abortion may collide with another person’s view of a fetus or embryo having a ‘right to life.’

Read the whole article.

Jordan McGillis: Climate McCarthyism

Jordan McGillis, deputy director for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, on Climate McCarthyism:

In 2020, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Brian Schatz, Tom Carper, and Sheldon Whitehouse penned an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on the company to toe the Democratic Party line. “If Facebook is truly ‘committed to fighting the spread of false news on Facebook and Instagram,’” the senators wrote, “the company must immediately acknowledge in its fact-checking process that the climate crisis is not a matter of opinion and act to close loopholes that allow climate disinformation to spread on its platform.”

Less than a year later, Zuckerberg’s company seemingly tightened its review process to adhere to the Democrats’ wishes. In May 2021, Facebook applied the dodgy new standard against Manhattan Institute senior fellow Mark Mills’s review of a book by Steven Koonin, former undersecretary in the Department of Energy under President Barack Obama. As Koonin described the incident in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Facebook labeled postings of the Mills review as having “very low scientific credibility” and linked to a critique on the website ClimateFeedback.org, thus discouraging users from engaging with Mills and Koonin’s work—exactly as the Senate Democrats demanded. In these cases, it is easy to blame the companies that acquiesce—perhaps one large rival to Meta in the midst of an ownership change will buck this trend—but the politicians and bureaucrats doing the jawboning deserve ire, too.

Read the full article.

Brian Simpson: Is US Constitution in Danger?

James Valliant interviews economist Brian Simpson on the threats to America’s constitution: from calls to end the filibuster, pack the court, release decisions, and how the constitution protects your economic liberties.

The Banality of Putin and Xi

Yaron Brook and Elan Journo have written an insightful analysis on why tyrants like China’s Xi and Russia’s Putin appear “charismatic” & “successful”: the intellectual’s hatred of freedom and western appeasement.
They make four important points:

Freedom fuels human progress and prosperity.

For individuals to live, think, produce, and thrive, the role of a proper government is to protect their freedom. It is freedom that fuels human progress and prosperity. No one who values human flourishing can look at Putin, Xi or any other dictator as anything but a lethal aberration….They dominate, brutalize and exploit those who think, teach, invent, produce, run businesses, create value at whatever scale. By violating the rights of their citizens, Putin, Xi and other dictatorial leaders defy the objective conditions necessary for individuals to live and prosper. They are destroyers. “To deal with men by force,” observed philosopher Ayn Rand, “is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.”

Putin & Xi’s regimes are geared toward parasitism and exploitation.

Putin-aligned oligarchs have ransacked the country. China’s caste of party-aligned operatives have raked in billions, amid the country’s impressive economic rise. That rise, now seemingly slowing, occurred despite not because of China’s dictatorial leadership. It was a consequence of the slight degree of economic freedom the Party condescended to permit — and which it is now undoing….Such dictators and their hangers-on are thugs, gangsters and murderers who operate under the state’s (ostensible) moral authority. Human parasitism is an expression of not of efficacy, but of impotence.

Western intellectuals & policymakers have a prejudice against freedom, especially markets.

You can see it in the bias against markets, deemed messily inefficient, and in favor of central planning….many in the West are afflicted by what you might call Central-Planner Envy, and this leads them into warped thinking. It picks out supposed accomplishments  — “Behold the highspeed trains in Xi’s China!” — while evading the full reality of the uncountable individuals whose rights are trashed in the course of maintaining the regimes system’s pervasive repression.

Western appeasement, investment, and whitewashing embolden Russia and China.

…Russia and China are afforded the undeserved moral status of civilized countries. By agreeing to sit down with them at summits and multilateral meetings, our heads of state perpetuate the fiction that Putin and Xi as efficacious and benevolent leaders that belong in the company of rights-respecting nations.

The United Nations is a major culprit in whitewashing these regimes. Both have permanent seats on the UN’s powerful Security Council(!), despite violating the organization’s stated principles — flagrantly, repeatedly, and on a vast scale. What about the massacring of pro-democracy student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989? Dousing the last embers of intellectual freedom? Interning thousands of Uighurs in concentration camps? Wiping out the last vestiges of freedom in Hong Kong? Ongoing piracy of foreign-owned intellectual property? The dishonest handling of the COVID pandemic? No, China has learned that it is effectively untouchable.

This official whitewashing encourages, and is reinforced by, the willingness of American and European companies to invest in China and Russia as if they were basically free, civilized, moral regimes….Putin’s regime, for example, has benefited handsomely from the inflow of foreign capital and joint-ventures with BP, Shell and Exxon. But, since the war in Ukraine, all three of these companies are frantically departing the Russian market, suffering losses in the tens of billions of dollars.

When you reflect on how the U.S. and European nations dealt with Putin’s past aggression, his initiation of war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, is exposed as foreseeable, rather than strategically shrewd let alone “genius.” Passive appeasement by the U.S. and Europe emboldened Putin…

Required reading.

 

The Problem with the Umbrella approach to Libertarianism

Professor Phil Magness has a tweet thread on why Libertarians eventually turn away from freedom, to alt-right or marxism:

He remarks that this “originates from attempts to synthesize exogenous illiberal ideas into libertarian thought.” He identifies this as libertarian thinkers “dabbling in illiberal thought.” One example he uses is the case of Austrian, anarchist, “critical thinker” Hans Herman Hoppe:

Hoppe’s “argumentation ethics,” in turn, is explicitly lifted from the Discourse Ethics tradition in critical theory. Hoppe even directly sources the origin of his “argumentation ethics” claim to his old grad school advisors Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel.”

Again, having trained directly under Habermas, Hoppe was deeply versed in critical theory, approved of it, and used it in his work. He simply gave its traditionally far-left political disposition a far-right makeover.”

“Hoppe also imports an eclectic mix of reactionary racial theorists that originated wholly externally to the Austrian-liberal economic tradition. You see this in his book Democracy the God That Failed, where he describes Mises’s open immigration views as a relic of a bygone age.”

After rejecting Mises on immigration, Hoppe replaces them with appeals to far-right racial theorists such as J. Phillipe Rushton and the novelist Jean Raspail (of “Camp of the Saints” infamy). These figures populate the footnotes of his book whenever he talks about immigration.

Like Yarvin’s use of Carlyle, Hoppe’s main influences are EXTERNAL to classical liberalism/libertarianism, and indeed quite a few of them are traditional ADVERSARIES of libertarian economic philosophy – Marx, Habermas & the critical theory world.

Why do figures such as Yarvin, Hoppe, and their various followers veer down this illiberal path? In each case, it stems from them finding something dissatisfying with the traditional classical liberal status quo. So they search for external authors in other traditions.”

The problem with the “umbrella approach of libertarianism” is that the objective value and meaning of liberty—freedom from the initiation of physical force—is not a self-evident axiom, but a sophisticated conclusion from a long chain of observations and premises—a specific philosophy.

To the extent that the underlying philosophy is pro-reality (this-worldly, natural), pro-reason (logic and evidence of senses), or pro-egoism (individualism), it will have a proper conception of liberty; as it strays its conception of liberty will be corrupted. This is what happened to the “classical liberal” tradition.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of freedom, and the birth of America, historically occurred along with the Renaissance thru Enlightenment, with the cherishing of reason (vs faith), science (vs superstition), and individual rights (vs collectivism) to various degrees.

This view is best expressed by philosopher Ayn Rand:

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

If one wishes to be an advocate of liberty, one must first be an advocate of reason, then and only then, does “all the rest follow.”

Why Communism Fails in Practice

Economically, communism fails in practice because a society with no government (agency to protect rights), no money (no indirect trade, only barter), and no wage labor (no specialization under a division of labor) is a terrible idea.

Then why do people continue to support it?

“When, at the age of twelve, at the time of the Russian revolution, I first heard the Communist principle that Man must exist for the sake of the State, I perceived that this was the essential issue, that this principle was evil, and that it could lead to nothing but evil, regardless of any methods, details, decrees, policies, promises and pious platitudes. This was the reason for my opposition to Communism then—and it is my reason now. I am still a little astonished, at times, that too many adult Americans do not understand the nature of the fight against Communism as clearly as I understood it at the age of twelve: they continue to believe that only Communist methods are evil, while Communist ideals are noble. All the victories of Communism since the year 1917 are due to that particular belief among the men who are still free.” – Ayn Rand, quoted in the forward to her novel, We The Living.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQMDJPaGhzI