The World and Everything in It: September 18, 2023
On Legal Docket, a deep dive into “lawfare” and how it is affecting politics and law in America; on the Monday Moneybeat, what’s behind the United Auto Workers strike; and on the WORLD History Book, 200 years ago, Joseph Smith and the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. Plus, the Monday morning news
PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us. My name is Spencer White, and I live in Hutchinson, Kansas where I help make, sell, and deliver pew cushions to churches all over the country. I hope you enjoy the program.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! Using the law to damage rather than find justice hinders its purpose. And “lawfare” seems more prevalent these days.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.
Also today, the Monday Moneybeat: an aggressive labor strike on Detroit’s big-three carmakers. We’ll talk with economist David Bahnsen.
And the WORLD History Book: 200 years ago this week, the beginning of Mormonism.
JOSEPH SMITH: Not only was his robe exceedingly white but his whole person was glorious beyond description.
REICHARD: It’s Monday, September 18th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Time now for news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: NATO meeting » Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit the White House this week where he’ll sit down with President Biden. Then on to Capitol Hill to meet with key lawmakers as he hopes to reinforce support for his country’s fight against Russian invaders.
GOP Congressman Mike Turner:
TURNER: The last time we had votes on the House floor on the issue of aid for Ukraine, nearly 300 members voted in the affirmative out of 435. A majority of Republicans voted in the affirmative, and I think that will continue.
Some Republican members say the United States can’t afford to keep helping Ukraine. Others argue that we can’t afford not to ensure that Vladimir Putin’s conquest fails.
The White House is asking Congress to green-light another $24 billion dollars in aid to Ukraine.
NoKo weapons to Russia » Moscow, meanwhile, is turning to North Korea for help. But America’s America’s top general says he is not terribly worried. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher reports.
JOSH SCHUMACHER: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s armored train departed southern Russia on Sunday after possibly sealing an arms deal with Vladimir Putin.
But U.S. General Mark Milley told NATO allies in Norway over the weekend … that Pyongyang’s help is unlikely to tip the sales in Russia’s favor.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman said North Korea will likely give Soviet-era 152 millimeter artillery rounds to Moscow.
But will that make a huge difference? Milley said he’s “skeptical of that.” He added that he does not believe it would be decisive.
In exchange for ammunition, the Kremlin could share advanced weapons technology with Pyongyang.
For WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
Libya update » Libyan authorities have opened an investigation into the collapse of two dams that sent walls of water crashing into a coastal city.
The floodwaters killed more than 11,000 people and thousands more remain missing.
Western countries are pitching in where they can. But British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly says it’s challenging.
CLEVERLY: Just at the tail end of last week, I was speaking with the Turkish Foreign Minister and Defense minister about what more we could do to support them. But the governance situation in Libya makes it incredibly difficult.
He explained that the the civil war in the country has "broken the infrastructure" the UK would otherwise use to deliver aid to those in neeed.
Biden impeachment inquiry » Republicans and Democrats clashed on Sunday talk shows over the new impeachment inquiry against President Biden.
House Republicans have been probing Biden family business dealings for months. And Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the inquiry gives House investigators new powers to access information.
MCCARTHY: That’s going to be bank statements. That’s going to be credit card statements. That’s going to be family members coming in and so the American public can know.
GOP Congressman Michael McCaul said they’ll also be able to subpoena grand jury material adding that executive privilege doesn’t apply in an impeachment inquiry.
But House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told ABC’s This Week:
JEFFRIES: There are no facts on the record that show President Biden broke the law in any way, shape, or form.
He again called the inquiry “illegitimate.”
Paxton acquitted in impeachment trial » Meantime, in Texas, the impeachment trial of state Attorney General Ken Paxton is over.
PATRICK: This judgment will be filed with the secretary of state, and Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton hereby, at this moment, reinstated to office.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick heard there, presiding over the trial’s final moments.
Paxton faced 16 counts of alleged corruption.
The trial centered on allegations that he improperly used the powers of his office to protect a real estate developer, who was indicted in June on alleged financial crimes.
Two Republicans joined Democrats in voting to convict Paxton on at least some of those counts. But in the end, the GOP majority voted to absolve him on all counts.
UAW strike» Thousands of autoworkers are still picketing outside the plants of Ford, GM and Stelantis, demanding bigger paychecks, among other things.
United Autoworkers Union President Shawn Fain says, in his vew, Detroit’s big-3 automakers waited too long to get serious about labor talks.
FAIN: They chose not to negotiate for the 8 weeks we had. We started this back in July, and we told them then, don’t wait till the last minute or you’re going to find yourself in a bad position.
The union wants a 36% pay raise over the next four years with most of that starting immediately.
Chrysler owner Stellantis over the weekend said it had offered workers a roughly 20 percent pay raise with a 10% immediate pay raise.
I'm Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: A deep dive into “lawfare” on Legal Docket. Plus, the Monday Moneybeat.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Monday morning, September 18th and you’re listening to The World and Everything in It from listener supported WORLD Radio. Good morning! I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. It’s time for Legal Docket.
AUDIO: “For the fourth time this year, Former President Donald Trump is defendant Donald Trump.” “For the third time this year Donald Trump was arraigned in a courtroom, this time he’s facing four criminal charges.” “We’re now witnessing a former president being indicted on federal charges. The federal level. He can still run for president. Nothing stops him.” “Ah. This is a case of political persecution. Had he not been running for the presidency, he would not have been indicted.” “Today, an indictment was unsealed charging Donald J. Trump with felony violations of our national security laws as well as participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.”
REICHARD: For many people, the successive indictments against President Trump are evidence of misuse of the justice system. The term you might hear to describe that is “lawfare,” or legal warfare.
EICHER: And so we called up a legal expert to understand more fully the use of that second meaning.
Hans von Spakovsky is an attorney and an authority on the rule of law, government reform, civil rights, and election law.
We should note that President Trump appointed von Spakovsky to an advisory commission on election integrity in 2017. Now he’s with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
REICHARD: Let's just get right to it. What is lawfare?
HANS VON SPAKOVSKY: Lawfare is the use of the courts not for legitimate legal reasons to right a wrong or enforce a contract, to criminally prosecute someone who's actually violated the law. Lawfare is the use of the courts for political reasons. Everything from political targeting, to go after political opponents, to trying to achieve in the courts what you have been unable to achieve through the democratic process, through state legislatures. And it is frankly a real threat to I think the stability of the country and it is anti-democratic.
REICHARD: Do we have examples of that going on today?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Unfortunately, we have numerous examples, and it's really today that the use of lawfare has really accelerated. One of the examples of it is we have people who are concerned about climate change who, because they are unable to get Congress or state legislatures to pass laws that they think are necessary to deal with this issue, they have seized on a legal cause called public nuisance. You know, public nuisance lawsuits are things like, you know if people live close to a factory that's putting out noxious fumes, they have the ability to file a what's called a public nuisance lawsuit against the factory for doing that. But what is now going on is you have public nuisance being used to try to target everything from oil companies to other companies because the individuals filing the suits claim, oh, you know, their products and what they're doing is the major cause of climate change and therefore they should pay up and owe us billions and billions of dollars. That is an absolute abuse of public nuisance laws. Most of these lawsuits have been thrown out. The judges have recognized that, but they are persistent with this.
Another example of lawfare is the fact that a number of cities recently have sued a number of car companies claiming that they design or build their cars so that they are theft prone. In other words, these cities, instead of dealing with their chief responsibility which is to prevent crime, to find the people who violate the law and for example steal cars, instead of doing that, they go after the car companies and claim that they're responsible for this. That is lawfare. There are numerous other examples of this, but like I said, it's really a threat to our system because on the one hand it's anti- democratic. People trying to achieve through the courts what they can't convince legislators to do. And on the other hand, it's cities and other officials trying to... escape their responsibility by blaming this on someone else.
REICHARD: Mm-hmm. Do you think the use of lawfare is more pernicious now than it was in the past?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Yes, this is really a relatively new phenomena. I don't think if you go past 10 years, you don't really see cases like that. Another prime example of this obviously are the criminal prosecutions that have been launched against, for example, political opponents of the current administration. Many of the prosecutions that have been filed are prosecutions that are going after individuals for exercising protected First Amendment rights. And that also is extremely dangerous.
REICHARD: What would be an example of that? Are you talking about people who had legitimate concerns about whether the election was conducted with integrity? Is that what you mean?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Yeah, look, what folks need to understand is many people have raised questions about and said they thought there was cheating or that an election didn't come out the way it should. Not just Donald Trump. Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Hillary Clinton talking about the 2016 election. Whether they're wrong or right is irrelevant. They have a First Amendment right to speak out, even if they are wrong. And to criminally prosecute individuals for doing that is a violation of the First Amendment. Not only that, but keep in mind that, for example, in the criminal prosecution going on down in Georgia, the prosecutor there has taken the lawyers who were working for Trump and doing what they're supposed to do, vigorously represent their client, and has listed them as criminal co-conspirators. That is a threat to our entire justice system and the way defendants, when they are being targeted by the government for prosecution, have a right to legal representation and due process and their lawyers... cannot be criminally prosecuted because somewhere down the road, for example, a jury says, you know what, that particular defendant, yeah, he was guilty. Well therefore, obviously also his lawyer was guilty too because he was claiming that his defendant was innocent. This is taking us down a road that will frankly destroy... the rule of law in this country.
REICHARD: Odd question here, but it's not actually illegal to use lawfare, or is it?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, it should be, but the courts aren't policing this enough. Most court systems have a rule on what's called frivolous lawsuits. That if you file a lawsuit that you know is frivolous, you can be sanctioned for doing that. But unfortunately, judges are often too reluctant to use that rule to go against lawyers and others who do that. There is also disciplinary proceedings that can be used against lawyers when they really do something wrong. And the best example that I can give you is about 10 years ago, remember, a local prosecutor in North Carolina. attempted to criminally prosecute members of the Duke lacrosse team over supposedly a gang rape of a local woman. That turned out to be a total hoax. The woman had made this story up, it was completely false, and the prosecutor knew that, knew that, and yet continued with the prosecution because he was politically ambitious, district attorney, and again, he thought this was his ticket to fame. And fortunately, the bar association in North Carolina figured out what was going on, and he was not only disciplined, but he eventually lost his bar license. But unfortunately, too many bars are reluctant to take the actions needed to properly police the legal system.
REICHARD: Not to mention ruining the lives of those young men in the process. So aside from courts doing a better job policing this and the public reigning in the power of local prosecutors, what else? What else could we do to prevent the use of lawfare?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well you know there's always public pressure. Public pressure is very important and the ballot box is very important. In cities for example the city officials are refusing to do something about rising crime rates, rising car thefts and instead try to sue their way out of that by evading their responsibilities? People should take note of that and when those individuals come up for reelection, they should vote them out of office and get individuals into these kind of local elected positions they're actually going to do something about these kind of problems.
REICHARD: Do you think there's ever a legitimate use of lawfare? I'm thinking of people who believe a particular politician is going to bring down the Republic. In their mind, taking that person out of the playing field is legitimate in their minds for their greater good.
VON SPAKOVSKY: No, because that brings us down to the way the so-called legal systems worked, for example, in the Soviet Union under communist control or work today in Red China. There, the legal systems were used to go after individuals not because they broke the law, but because they were considered political adversaries of the administration, they were considered political adversaries of the whole system there. And that's just wrong. You know, if you don't like a particular candidate, fine. Defeat him at the ballot box. But don't use the legal system to criminally prosecute him or go after him through the court system.
REICHARD: Okay. We've talked about the definition of lawfare, we've given examples, we've talked about solutions, anything else?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, the bottom line here is that people need to understand what really makes us different, America different, is that this country really was founded on and is based on the rule of law. And the rule of law is supposed to be evenly and objectively applied to everyone. We are not supposed to be the type of third world country, the type of dictatorship. where the law is used not for justice, but as a political weapon. And unfortunately, those who are engaging in lawfare are taking us down that route.
REICHARD: Hans von Spakovsky is with the Heritage Foundation. Thank you so much, appreciate your time.
VON SPAKOVSKY: Thanks for having me.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: The Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s time to talk business, markets, and the economy with financial analyst and adviser David Bahnsen. He’s head of the wealth management firm The Bahnsen Group and he’s here now. David, good morning!
DAVID BAHNSEN: Well, good morning Nick. Good to be with you.
EICHER: Alright David, let’s begin with the labor strike, the UAW. It’s the biggest in the history of the union. They’re going after three companies at once.
Now these things can move very fast, and I’d like to get your sense of why it broke out in the first place.
Let’s listen to the president of the UAW, Shawn Fain has to say.
SHAWN FAIN: We will show our strength and unity on the first day of this historic action. This is our generation's defining moment. The money is there. The cause is righteous. The world is watching. And the UAW is ready to stand up. This is our defining moment.
Now, David, The Wall Street Journal on Friday called this a made in Washington labor strike. And I'd like to read a few lines from the Journal editorial on Friday when the strike started. Says,
“The UAW knows that EVs require fewer workers to make and will jeopardize union jobs making gas-powered cars. But the companies already lose money on EVs and worry about making too many concessions to the UAW that will cause them to lose even more as they are forced to build more EVs.
It’s hard to overstate the costs of this coerced EV transition.”
How do you see it?
BAHNSEN: Well, that is a major factor here. And it isn't the only one. And I think any analysis that seeks to only focus on one cause will be short sighted. But there's no question that some attempted Washington interference at accelerating a migration to EV is a part of what has not only the UAW concerned about being in less need for their labor force in the future, but it has the automakers in accelerated anxiety about margins and about the economic reality of the state of affairs. The thing I would say is that if we were talking about a natural migration within the economy within consumer habits, within business conditions, the notion that companies are supposed to accommodate labor unions when something is just organically changing, would have made for a very strange accommodation for horse and buggy labor unions 115 years ago. But see, that isn't what is happening. We're talking about EV interference out of government mandates, out of government subsidies, out of government interference, and it is by no means a good rationale for the UAW to turn down 20% pay increases to demand a four day work week, and what amounts to $300,000 annual salary expense in many situations. However, the general lay of the land between automotive interest and Auto Union auto worker union interest is absolutely accelerated by the government putting their thumb on the scale of what ought to be a negotiation. When it comes to Eevee versus combustion engine, it ought to be a matter of consumer choice. And when it comes to compensation, and terms that ought to be a matter of management and workers figuring it out on their own.
EICHER: Does this have any genesis at all in the bailouts during the Obama administration? Or is that unrelated to this?
BAHNSEN: Well, no. The bailouts of the Obama administration, which I don't know who was bailed out, right? I mean, the bondholders are wiped out. The stockholders were wiped out. The people who were bailed out were the pensioners. And the entire reason there was ever a need for that bailout or a need for the bankruptcies why those companies were insolvent was what the labor unions had negotiated in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, onward for 40 - 50 years, They negotiated an untenable position. And my friend Amity Shlaes pointed out that, as I believe Amity to be one of the preeminent economic historians of our day, that this was out of a byproduct post World War II, when the U.S. automakers did not have foreign competition. There was no Toyota. There were no automobiles being imported from Germany. And when the imports were able to represent competition to the big three, providing consumers with far more choice and a lot of cases better quality, certainly price competition. At that point, the union demanded forced concessions, forced increases that were untenable and that helped to put the automakers into bankruptcy in 2008. And then out of that moment, what happened was the bankruptcies. And so I'm always hesitant to call them bailouts when they were bankrupt, right? I mean, the bondholders were wiped and the stockholders are wiped. The issue was that now here we are, again, with auto worker unions demanding things that much like the airlines over the years, you can demand it all you want. All it does is put these companies that already work off a very cyclical business realities, and very thin margins. All it does is put them back on a path towards insolvency.
EICHER: So David, I want to turn to kind of macroeconomics and we got a an inflation report, the consumer price index, we found out that in August, prices overall were 3.7% higher August versus August. That's up from the year over year in July, 3.2%. Core inflation was down. I don't know, how do you read the CPI this time around?
BAHNSEN: Yeah, basically, almost exactly in line with expectations, I mean, food price inflation has come way down. It was basically flat on the year. And so the headline number, which of course includes energy and food, and the core number excludes energy and food. And what you saw was that this ridiculous number of shelter, that which includes rents and owner equivalent rent, which is about a third of CPI, and it's been supposedly up about 8% for the last several months, when in real life, it might be up 2%. But this big lagging problem in the way that that is reported about rent increases. And the truth is that that is starting to come down a little bit, it's still reporting in the mid 7s. So that put downward pressure on core inflation. But as we know, energy prices moved a lot higher over the last six weeks. And so there's kind of a tug of war there. But what I find really interesting is it's for about the first time in several years, food and energy themselves are in a tug of war, where food prices have been coming down, energy prices have been going up. There was absolutely nothing about the report that changes what the Fed is on track to do. The Fed Funds Futures market went up to 97% implied probability that there will be no rate change, at the September meeting and it's up to 65% or so of no rate change at the November meeting. And so more and more I think the markets are pricing in the reality that the Fed may be completely done hiking rates. I'm well on record of believing that that time should have come quite some time ago that the Fed has far overdone this and that whatever inflationary issues persist around energy have absolutely nothing to do with the Fed at this point, and are unrelated to monetary conditions or trying to get a weaker economy trying to get more people unemployed as a means of combating inflation. At this point. We're really dealing with totally different circumstances.
EICHER: Ok, David Bahnsen is founder, managing partner, and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group. You can keep up with David at his personal website, Bahnsen.com. His weekly Dividend Cafe is at dividendcafe.com.
Thank you, David!
BAHNSEN: Thanks so much, Nick.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, September 18th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next, the WORLD History Book.
This week marks the 200th anniversary of a supposed angelic visitor to a young New Yorker, but not every angel of light is from above. Here’s WORLD Radio Executive Producer, Paul Butler.
PAUL BUTLER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: In the early 19th century, the 2nd Great Awakening is spreading like wildfire.
EVANGELIST: God gives us the power over temptation, but we are weak in the face of it.
In Central and Western New York, evangelists and itinerant preachers hold large, open air meetings. The services are well attended.
Historian Stephen Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College.
NICHOLS: Revivalist preachers are coming through and telling people they're not Christian, and they need to come forward. And then they'll come through the next year and say, “Well, you came forward last year, but it didn't take. So you need to come forward again.”
Evangelist Charles Finney refers to this region of New York as a “burnt district.” The fire of revival burns hot. People respond with great expressions of repentance, wailing, ecstatic utterances…but soon after return to the way things were. Until the next revival meeting.
A cynicism emerges about traditional Christianity as it seems inadequate to transform people’s lives. Nonconformist movements, folk religion, and personal spirituality fill the void.
In 1817 a boy named Joseph Smith moves into the region with his siblings and parents.
NICHOLS: His father was very spiritual, his mother was mystical. They never were members of a formal church.
Joseph’s father practices divination and often speaks of special visions from God. He raises his family to seek the same.
From a young age, Joseph knows he’s a sinner, but is confused by all the churches claiming to have the truth. So one day he heads into the woods alone to pray—pleading with God to show him the true way.
Smith claims God the Father and Jesus Christ appear to him—assuring him his sins are forgiven, but insist he should not join the church.
NICHOLS: That for the last 2000 years, everyone's been mistaken. And we’re now going to have a restoration, or the true church will be restored. And Joseph Smith is the chosen one, the prophet through whom all this is going to happen.
A couple years later Joseph Smith is in his room praying on September 21st, 1823. He later writes:
SMITH: While I was thus in the act of calling upon God I discovered a light appearing in the room which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noon-day.
A bright figure bathed in light stands before him.
SMITH: When I first looked upon him, I was afraid but the fear soon left me.
The angel says his name is Moroni…He tells Smith God has a special work for him to do: including the finding of a great spiritual treasure.
SMITH: He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates.
The golden plates contain the ancient history of people descended from Israelites who escaped to the Americas. Moroni also warns Smith of a coming tribulation and Christ’s soon return.
SMITH: He informed me of great judgments, which were coming upon the earth with great desolations by famine, sword and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation.
Over the next five years, Smith has many similar visitations from Moroni. With his help, Smith eventually finds the golden plates and brings them home. The language is a form of hieroglyphics. Using divination stones, Smith says he can read the text. He dictates the words to a scribe, and then returns the plates to the angel. Smith’s translation is known today as the Book of Mormon.
Unlike the Bible whose source texts are written in common languages and are supported by archeological and historical evidence—followers of Smith have to take his word on what he read and wrote as there is no way to verify it. There’s also no historical evidence for the fanciful histories included in the Book of Mormon.
Some think Smith just had a vivid imagination and made the whole thing up. Others believe that Smith really did have an angelic visitor.
The Apostle Paul warns of such deceptions in 2 Corinthians chapter 11:13 "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light."
In Augustine’s City of God he describes a similar thing happening in Rome:
“The devils first of all cunningly seduce them by revealing themselves under a friendly guise…and thus make a few of them their disciples, who become the instructors of the multitude.”
Deceive one, who will in turn teach the errors to many. Smith’s followers have grown to more than 16 million Latter Day Saints in the world today.
On this anniversary of Joseph Smith’s vision, Stephen Nichols says the temptation is as strong as ever to seek out secret knowledge and personal revelation, but history shows how often it leads to grave error.
NICHOLS: I think if I were to ask most evangelicals what would you rather have? Would you rather have your morning cup of coffee and your Bible? Or would you rather have your morning cup of coffee, and Jesus comes down and sits in the seat next to you and tells you everything you need to know for the day? And our impulse might be to say, “Oh, I want Jesus sitting in the seat next to me.” But I think we have to, as Christians, first of all have to push back against any of that impulse in us, and recognize that God's word alone is sufficient, that it is what we absolutely must have for life and godliness as Peter tells us, in the opening of his epistle. That this is God's gift to his church, to reveal to us, first and foremost, His Son and His plan of redemption. But then secondly, his plan for our lives and his will, his desire for creation and God's plan. And so this is given to us in the Word of God.
My thanks to WORLD Radio intern Noah Burgdorf for his assistance, and to voice actor Kim Rassmussen for reading the words of Joseph Smith from his biography published in 1853.
That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: The burgeoning partnership between North Korea and Russia. Both sides have what the other needs, weapons and technology, and we’ll talk about what the Putin/Kim relationship might mean for the U.S. and our allies.
And, family reunions are a way to pass on Christian values, but they are more rare these days. One family in Alabama is keeping that tradition alive. That and more tomorrow.
Would you rate and review us on Apple podcasts? That really does help make us more visible in a crowded marketplace!
I’m Nick Eicher.
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The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio. WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15, verses 1 and 2.
Go now in grace and peace.
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