Tag Archives: personal

Half of all rides on Uber and Lyft didn’t have to happen.

Those trips — 49 to 61 percent of all rides in metro areas — would otherwise have been made on foot, bike, or public transit, according to new analysis from UC Davis.

Sustainability-inclined urbanists — including us — often credit car- and ride-sharing services for reducing the overall number of cars in cities. After all, if people know they can get a ride when they need one, they will presumably be less likely to invest in a car of their own.

But the UC Davis study shows that the vast majority of ride-sharing users — 91 percent — have not made a change in their personal vehicle ownership as a result of Uber or Lyft. Meanwhile, these ride-share users took public transit 6 percent less.

That means that ride-hailing services aren’t necessarily taking people out of their cars — they’re taking them off of buses and subways.

There’s still lots of evidence that shows car ownership is an increasingly unappealing prospect for young people in America’s cities (after all, a big chunk of that 91 percent may not own a car in the first place).

Taxi apps may help kill the private car, but they won’t fix all our traffic and transit problems, either. That will take more work.

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Half of all rides on Uber and Lyft didn’t have to happen.

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How to Make Ocean-Friendly Choices for Your Saltwater Aquarium

Nearly all fish living in saltwater aquarium tanks began their lives thousands of miles away on warm tropical reefs, according to For the Fishes?(FTF), a nonprofit working to protect the future of reefs and wildlife. Many of these fragile fish die before reaching aquariums from poisoning, the stress of captivity or the inhumane practices used in handling and transport to the pet store.

?Most people have no idea that the saltwater fish they are buying for their aquarium were captured in the wild,? said Rene Umberger founder and executive director of FTF and a consultant to the HSUS and Humane Society International on coral reef wildlife issues. ?Aquarium hobbyists automatically assume that they are buying fish that were bred in captivity.?

According to FTF, only 2 percent of fish species kept in saltwater tanks can be bred in captivity. The other 98 percent are among the most trafficked animals in the world. They are captured on reefs depleted and degraded from overfishing and cyanide use and exposed to ill treatment leading to prolonged suffering and premature death. On many tropical reefs, methods of wild capture include the illegal use of cyanide as a stunning agent, puncturing of organs, spine cutting and starvation prior to transport.

?It?s almost impossible to breed saltwater fish, which is why there are fewer than 60 species that are commercially available out of the 2,500 marine fish species that the U.S. currently imports for the aquarium industry,? Umberger said.

There are simple actions that environmentally-minded aquarium hobbyists can take to help stop the exploitation of marine life. The first, Umberger said, is to purchase only captive-bred fish for aquariums. She also recommends that those who are thinking about owning marine fish consider a virtual aquarium instead. It provides a low-cost and humane way to enjoy coral reefs.

Thinking of adding fish to your saltwater aquarium? Here?s a list of five captive-bred fish that do not contribute to the exploitation of wildlife and the destruction of coral reefs:

Royal Dottyback. This is a good novice fish with blue eyes and a body that?s one half purple/violet and the other half yellow. An aggressive defender of its territory, this fish requires suitable tank?and plenty of hiding spaces.

Allard?s Clownfish. These fish are suitable for intermediate hobbyists. The young have white tail saddles while adults have translucent to solid white tails that are sometimes lined in yellow. Their bodies have two white bars and range in color from deep yellow to dark brown. With proper care, these fish can live for 20 to 30 years.
Cinnamon Clownfish. A good fish for novice aquariums. Young cinnamon clownfish have two to three white bars while the adults have one white bar or one pale blue. Their body colors range from deep orange to red and black. They can live for 20 to 30 years when cared for properly.

Spine-cheeked Anemone fish. This species is suitable for intermediate hobbyists. The young and male fish are bright orange or red darkening to maroon or mahogany red with age. All of the fish have three narrow white to gray/gold bars.
Combtooth Blenny. A good novice fish, this species is mottled tan, white and dark brown with large eyes and fringe-like appendages on the nape of its neck. This fish is a bottom dweller who needs plenty of hiding spaces.

A complete list of good fish for saltwater aquariums can be found on Tank Watch, a free mobile app created by For the Fishes that helps saltwater fish hobbyists keep a 100 percent ocean-friendly aquarium.?

Find out thirty of the most threatened marine fish?exploited in the wild to supply the personal aquarium hobby industry in the U.S. ??

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Make Ocean-Friendly Choices for Your Saltwater Aquarium

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Donald Trump Is the World’s Biggest Asshole

Mother Jones

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in London, our president decided the best thing to do was revive his personal feud with the mayor of London:

Here’s what Sadiq Khan actually said:

Khan was obviously telling Londoners not to be alarmed about the increased police presence they would see today. Fox News carried it, so I’m sure Trump heard the whole statement.

Five years ago Dick Cheney set a new world record for being an asshole. Donald Trump now holds that record.

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Donald Trump Is the World’s Biggest Asshole

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Less Liberal Contempt, Please

Mother Jones

Michael Tomasky writes today that elite liberals need to make peace with middle America. We need to be willing to welcome folks to our side of the aisle even if they don’t agree with every single liberal piety:

There are plenty of liberals out there in middle America, and plenty of liberalish moderates, and plenty of people who lean conservative but who aren’t consumed by rage and who think Barack Obama is a pretty cool guy and who might even have voted for him. These people are potential allies. But before the alliance can be struck, elite liberals need to recognize a fundamental truth: All of these people in middle America, even the actual liberals, have very different sensibilities than elite liberals who live on the coasts.

First of all, middle Americans go to church….Second, politics simply doesn’t consume middle Americans the way it does elites on the coasts….They talk kids, and local gossip, and pop culture, and sports….Third, their daily lives are pretty different from the lives of elite liberals. Few of them buy fair trade coffee or organic almond milk. Some of them served in the armed forces. Some of them own guns, and like to shoot them….Fourth, they’re patriotic in the way that most Americans are patriotic. They don’t feel self-conscious saluting the flag.

….We need to recognize that in vast stretches of this country, hewing to these positions doesn’t make someone a conservative.

There’s nothing especially new here. It’s basically the old problem of Reagan Democrats, which liberals have been wrestling with for a couple of generations. I’d argue that it has two fundamental origins.

First, the great sort. A century ago, hardly anyone had more than a high school education. Both of my grandfathers were plenty smart enough to go to college, but neither one did because they couldn’t afford it. (I don’t need to bother telling you about my grandmothers, do I?) Because of this, people of widely different intelligence mixed together all the time. There wasn’t really much choice.

After the war, that changed. College became widely available, and nearly everyone who was smart enough to go, did so. Thirty years later, their kids mostly went to college too. But among the postwar generation that didn’t go to college, their kids mostly didn’t either. Since then, there’s been yet another generation, and we’re now pretty solidly sorted out. Those of us with college degrees marry people who also have degrees. Our kids all go to college. Our friends all went to college. And we live in neighborhoods full of college grads because no one else can afford to live there.

On the other side, it’s just the opposite. Your average high school grad marries someone who’s also a high school grad. (If they get married at all.) Their kids are high school grads. Their friends are high school grads. And their neighborhoods are full of high school grads.

The two groups barely interact anymore. They don’t really want to, and they’re physically separated anyway. (More and more, they’re also geographically separated, as liberals cluster in cities and conservatives live everywhere else.)

Second, there’s the decline of unions. Fifty years ago, the working class commanded plenty of political respect simply because they had a lot of political power. No liberal in her right mind would think of condescending to them. They were a constituency to be courted, no matter what your personal feelings might be.

But young liberals in the 60s and 70s broke with the unions over the Vietnam War, and the unions broke with them over their counterculture lifestyle. This turned out to be a disaster for both sides, as Democrats lost votes and workers saw their unions decimated by their newfound allies in the Republican Party. By the time it was all over, liberals had little political reason to care about the working class and the working class still hated the hippies. Without the political imperative to stay in touch, liberals increasingly viewed middle America as a foreign culture: hostile, insular, vaguely racist/sexist/homophobic, and in thrall to charlatans.

By the early 90s this transformation was complete. On the liberal side, elites rarely interacted with working-class folks at all and had no political motivation to respect them. Republicans swooped in and paid at least lip service to working-class concerns, and that was enough. It didn’t put any more money in their pockets, but at least the Republicans didn’t sneer at their guns and their churches and their fatigue with rapid cultural change.

I don’t think there’s any good answer to the great sort. Certainly not anytime in the near future. But this affects Republicans too, so it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. The bigger problem, I think, is the decline of unions, which broke the political ties between working-class and middle-class liberals. There’s no realistic way that unions are going to make a comeback, which means that liberals need to come up with some other kind of working-class mass movement that can repair those ties. But what? This has been a pet topic of mine for years, but I’m no closer to an answer than I was when Reagan took office.

In the meantime, we can still try to do better. Rhetorically, the big issue dividing liberal elites and middle America is less the existence of different lifestyles, and more the feeling that lefties are implicitly lecturing them all the time. You are bad for eating factory-farmed meat. You are bad for enjoying football. You are bad for owning a gun. You are bad for driving an SUV. You are bad for not speaking the language of microaggressions and patriarchy and cultural appropriation. Liberals could go a long way toward solving this by being more positive about these things, rather than trying to make everyone feel guilty about all the things they enjoy.

Substantively, liberals might have to shift a little bit, but not by a lot. We don’t have to become pro-life, but we need to be more tolerant of folks who are a little uneasy about the whole subject. We don’t need to become Second Amendment zealots, but we should be more tolerant of folks who don’t want to be sneered at for keeping a gun around the house for self defense. We don’t need to tolerate racism, but we should stop badgering folks for not being able to express themselves in the currently approved language of wokeness.

It goes without saying—which is why I need to make sure to say it—that the whole point here is to broaden our appeal to people who are just a little bit on the conservative side of center. That is, persuadable, low-information folks who agree with us on some things but not on others. The hard-right conservatives are out of reach, and there’s no reason to try to appeal more to them.

In the same way that right-wing Republicans need to learn how to talk about women’s issues (see Akin, Todd), Democrats need to learn how to talk about middle America. No more deplorables. No more clinging to guns and religion. Less swarming over every tin-eared comment on race.

In general, just less contempt. Does it matter that working-class folks often display the same contempt toward us? Nope. As any good lefty knows, contempt from the powerful is a whole different thing than contempt from the powerless. We need to do better regardless of what anyone else does.

Can we do it? It’s worth a try.

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Less Liberal Contempt, Please

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Trump Advisor Accidentally Raises Middle-Class Taxes

Mother Jones

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Here is Gary Cohn—supposedly one of the “smart ones” in the Trump administration—explaining the president’s tax plan:

The median income in the United States today is … about $56,000. You take the $24,000 away from the $56,000, you’ve got taxable income of $32,000. At a 10% rate that’s $3,000 of tax. If you have one or two or three children and we give you $1,000 tax credit, you could end up with a—you know, very marginal, single-digit tax rate to no taxes whatsoever. That, to me, is a middle-income tax cut because you’re going to owe no taxes potentially.

“Potentially” is doing a lot of work here, as David Kamin explains:

Cohn forgot to mention the fact that our tax system, as it is currently written, provides what are called “personal exemptions” to families….The plan Trump presented on the campaign trail would eliminate these personal exemptions….So when you take into account the elimination of personal exemptions, families aren’t actually getting much tax relief after all. In fact, if that family has two or more kids, they’d actually face a tax increase under the Trump plan described by Cohn.

Here this is in chart form:

This should come as no surprise. The problem is that the average family pays most of its taxes at the state and local level, and via payroll taxes. Their federal income tax rate is already “very marginal, single-digit tax rate to no taxes whatsoever,” so it’s all but impossible to cut it. This is from the Tax Policy Center:

The bottom 40 percent pays no federal income tax at all and the average middle-class person pays 6.4 percent of their earnings in federal income taxes. If you focus solely on the federal income tax—as Republicans always do—you can’t help the middle class much. Even in theory, the only people who really benefit are high earners.

Of course, you can still do a little to help middle-class workers—but only if you’re careful. Cohn wasn’t careful, so he ended up increasing middle class taxes. It’s an easy mistake to make.

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Trump Advisor Accidentally Raises Middle-Class Taxes

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Jimmy Kimmel Makes Impassioned Plea to Save Obamacare After Son’s Heart Surgery

Mother Jones

In an emotional plea to protect the Affordable Care Act, Jimmy Kimmel opened his show on Monday by sharing the news of his newborn baby’s open-heart surgery just 10 days before. The late-night host prefaced the monologue by saying the story had a “happy ending”—both the baby and mother were now home and in good health—but revealed that the heart-wrenching experience had moved him to speak out against President Donald Trump’s desire to repeal his predecessor’s signature health care law.

“We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all,” Kimmel said visibly shaken. “You know, before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there’s a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance, because you had a preexisting condition.”

“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

The impassioned monologue was roundly praised by audience members and Democratic officials online. Barack Obama even weighed in to thank Kimmel for sharing his personal story:

Kimmel’s powerful address comes amid the Trump administration’s second harried attempt to dismantle Obamacare, after Republicans pulled their repeal bill in March.

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Jimmy Kimmel Makes Impassioned Plea to Save Obamacare After Son’s Heart Surgery

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Trump Tax Plan Unveiled!

Mother Jones

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Last night I wrote that the Trump tax plan would be little more a than a rewrite of his campaign document. I was wrong. Here it is:

It’s not worth the 60 seconds it would take to check this, but I’m pretty sure this is less detailed than Trump’s campaign document. What a fucking embarrassment. It’s like something a high school class would put together. Even with only five days to work with, you’d think the Treasury Department of the United States of America could produce a little more than this.

But let’s go through the whole thing. There’s a little more than you see in the tweet above:

Three tax brackets instead of seven. However, there’s no telling how this affects taxes until Steve Mnuchin tells us where the cutoff points are.

Doubles the personal exemption from $12,000 to $24,000. This will help middle-class families, but it’s a little hard to know how much it will help them until we get details on….

Elimination of itemized deductions. Which ones? All of them? Good luck with that. But you can be sure that one of the targets will be the deduction for state income taxes, since that mostly benefits the hated blue states of California and New York.

Elimination of the estate tax. A huge boon for the super-duper rich.

Elimination of the AMT. A huge boon for the rich.

Elimination of Obamacare’s 3.8 percent tax on investment. A huge boon for the rich.

Reduce business tax rate to 15 percent. A huge boon for corporations and the rich, especially those with income from pass-through businesses. Apparently Mnuchin doesn’t care that Senate rules make this almost literally unpassable.

Tax repatriation holiday. A huge boon for corporations and the rich.

Territorial taxation system for corporations. There’s no telling what effect this would have. There are good territorial systems and bad ones. It’s all in the details—though it’s a pretty good guess that Trump will opt for one of the bad ones.

The driving force behind this appears to be Trump’s desire to call this the biggest tax cut in American history. The previous champ was Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which cost 3.9 percent of GDP. That means Trump is gunning for 4 percent of GDP.

The Congressional Budget Office pegs GDP over the next ten years at $239 trillion. To get to 4 percent, Trump’s tax plan will need to cut taxes by $9.5 trillion. This is obviously ridiculous. Maybe Trump isn’t accounting for inflation or something. That would get him down to $4.3 trillion.

Really, who knows? I suppose Trump will call it the biggest tax cut in history regardless of how big it is. He doesn’t care. The one thing we can be sure of is that the rich will swoon. At a guess, something like 90 percent of that $9.5 (or $4.3 or whatever) trillion will go to the top 10 percent. The rest of us get a few crumbs.

Of course, this whole thing is DOA in Congress anyway, which will pretty much ignore Trump and create its own tax plan for the rich. This one-page “plan” is really just a publicity stunt so Trump can say he introduced it during his first hundred days. What a doofus.

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Trump Tax Plan Unveiled!

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4 Ways Trump’s Tax Plan Will Make the Trumps Even Richer

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump revealed an outline of his big tax reform plan on Wednesday. It’s light on specifics and even lighter on details about how the administration might pay for what it describes as the “biggest tax cut” in US history. But one thing is perfectly clear: Trump and his family could save billions of dollars. Here are four ways Trump’s tax proposals would help people named Trump.

1. Eliminating the Estate Tax

The estate tax, which applies to wealth that deceased people pass on to their heirs, only affects the richest of the richest—roughly 0.2 percent of Americans. Individuals worth at least $5.45 million (or married couples worth at least $10.9 million) will owe estate taxes after their deaths. Currently, assets in excess of this $5.45 million exemption are taxed at 40 percent. President Donald Trump claims to be worth $10 billion, so his heirs could save billions if the estate tax disappears.

2. Eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax

The alternative minimum tax requires certain taxpayers to calculate how much tax they owe twice—once using the regular income tax rules and again under AMT rules. Originally, the AMT was structured to prevent wealthy people from abusing the system by avoiding paying their fair share of taxes. We don’t know much about Trump’s taxes, but his 2005 returns, which were obtained by MSNBC, indicate the he earned $153 million that year. Without the AMT, Trump apparently would have paid just $7 million in taxes, according to the New York Times—a tax rate less than 5 percent. But the AMT forced him to pony up an additional $31 million that year, raising his tax rate to about 25 percent. Asked at a Wednesday press briefing how eliminating the AMT would impact Trump’s tax liability, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin dodged the question and abruptly ended the briefing.

3. Slashing Tax Rates for Pass-Through Corporations

Many businesses are structured as pass-through companies, meaning that rather than filing taxes as corporations, they “pay taxes through the personal income tax code,” as the Times explains. Trump wants to cut the rate for pass-throughs (as well as for corporations) to just 15 percent, which will certainly enrich anyone named Trump. Since the Trump Organization is a collection of pass-throughs, the organization itself isn’t subject to income tax. Instead, the owners are taxed individually. So Trump and his children would only have to pay 15 percent on their earnings from the family organization in taxes, much lower than the current top rate of 39.6 percent.

4. Lowering the Individual Income Tax Rate

Trump wants to eliminate several tax brackets and lower the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. Under the new plan, there will be three tax brackets: 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent. That could be a huge giveaway to the Trumps and other wealthy Americans who make millions of dollars each year.

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4 Ways Trump’s Tax Plan Will Make the Trumps Even Richer

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New York Times Updates Its 2015 Hillary Clinton FBI Investigation Story

Mother Jones

In July 2015 the New York Times reported that the Justice Department had opened a “criminal inquiry” into whether “Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information.” This was apparently a mistake, and the article was quickly rewritten to say only that DOJ had opened an “investigation” into whether sensitive information had been mishandled “in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.” A few days later the Times’ public editor wrote a scathing summary of the paper’s scoop:

Aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online….From Thursday night to Sunday morning — when a final correction appeared in print — the inaccuracies and changes in the story were handled as they came along, with little explanation to readers, other than routine corrections….Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way — in small notices on Page A2. But you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle — they ripple through the entire news system.

So it was, to put it mildly, a mess….“We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,” editor Matt Purdy told me. “That’s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.”

A few days later I wrote about this too, suggesting that the Times owed us a better explanation of what happened. This weekend they went some of the way there in an aside buried in their big story about James Comey, co-authored by two of the same reporters who wrote the original piece. Here’s what they say:

On July 10, 2015, the F.B.I. opened a criminal investigation, code-named “Midyear,” into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information….There was controversy almost immediately. Responding to questions from The Times, the Justice Department confirmed that it had received a criminal referral — the first step toward a criminal investigation — over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information.

But the next morning, the department revised its statement. “The department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information,” the new statement read. “It is not a criminal referral.”

At the F.B.I., this was a distinction without a difference: Despite what officials said in public, agents had been alerted to mishandled classified information and in response, records show, had opened a full criminal investigation.

If this is correct, it was a criminal investigation, and the Times didn’t get it wrong. Rather, the Justice Department put up a smoke screen after news of the investigation had been leaked.

The second part of this remains fuzzy. Was the investigation specifically aimed at Hillary Clinton or was it only “in connection with” Hillary Clinton? It’s pretty obvious that Clinton was, in fact, the primary target of the investigation, but the FBI also investigated many others in her orbit. So I’m not sure how to score this.

Overall, though, despite what I wrote and what the Times itself wrote, it appears that this wasn’t an enormous screwup at all. There might have been a minor detail or two that was slightly wrong, but nothing central to the story itself.

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New York Times Updates Its 2015 Hillary Clinton FBI Investigation Story

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How Many Republicans Are Atheists?

Mother Jones

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How many Americans are atheists? Many people don’t really like admitting it, but Brian Resnick points today to an attempt to get at the truth. In the cleverly titled “How many atheists are there?” a pair of researchers sent people surveys with a bunch of personal questions (Are you vegetarian? Do you work from home? Etc.). But they didn’t ask for answers to the questions. All they asked for was the number that were true for you.

The researchers don’t report the average number reported back. But let’s suppose it was 4.3 out of 9. This is important, because they sent out a second set of surveys that were identical but added one question: “Do you believe in God?” If the average number of questions that were reported true in the second survey stayed at 4.3 out of 10, we can figure that no one believes in God. If it went up to, say, 5.1 out of 10, a little arithmetic suggests that roughly 80 percent of the respondents believe in God and 20 percent don’t.

After grinding through all this, the paper concludes that about 26 percent of Americans are atheists. Maybe that’s a reliable number, maybe not. This needs to be replicated a few times before we believe it. However, I was pretty gobsmacked by this table:

Granted, the error bars are large, but their point estimate is that no Republicans are atheists. None! If this methodology is accurate, it not only suggests a truly enormous religion gap between Republicans and everyone else, but also that self-reporting isn’t worth a damn.

As it happens, the sample the researchers used was probably somewhat self-selected rather than being truly random, and that may have affected the results. There are other potential problems too. Still, it’s an interesting first crack at this, and I hope that others follow it up.

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How Many Republicans Are Atheists?

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