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Gays Against Guns: LGBTQ Activists Take a Stand Against Gun Violence

A group of LGBTQ activists are taking a stand against gun violence, with hundreds participating in direct actions against gun companies and their allies around the country.

Gays Against Guns (GAG) formed following the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this past June, in which a gunman murdered 49 people at the popular gay bar. The activist collective has chapters in 9 cities and boasts more than 300 members in New York City. The group plans to target gun manufacturers including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co – the two largest in the United States – as well as the National Rifle Association.

The group’s Facebook page states: “Queer complacency is over. We call for a ban on assault weapons and sensible gun regulation. We will not let our 49 siblings’ death be in vain.”

The direct actions – slated to kick off Monday – are partly inspired by older activists in the group who participated in the Act Up gay rights campaign of the 1980s, which offered advocacy for people in the gay community affected by AIDS and broadcasted their plight. Act Up’s direct action approach is credited with successfully bringing AIDS into the public spotlight.

GAG seeks to not only elevate the discussion around gun violence and rail against the cynical lobbying of the NRA that persistently blocks meaningful gun laws, but to target companies and individuals with financial stakes in weapons manufacturing.

On Monday, activists staged a “die in” outside of BlackRock, an investment firm with large investments in Smith & Wesson.

Cathy Marino-Thomas – a campaigner for GAG – discussed the rationale for protesting BlackRock:

Here is a company whose CEO, Laurence Fink, prides himself on their socially conscious investment yet comes right out and tells clients that mass shootings worked to their financial advantage,” said campaigner Cathy Marino-Thomas. “They’re smart enough to acknowledge they profit from massacres but can’t find a way to unload those stocks? That’s amoral.

GAG also looks to call attention to firms that vie benefits to NRA members, including car rental companies and Visa.

The nascent organization may just be getting off the ground, but its moral vision and willingness to act are inspiring qualities. With more organizations representing a greater diversity of US citizens forming a loose coalition fighting for sensible gun laws, the tide may slowly turn in favor of sanity in a political arena dominated by Second Amendment extremists.

Undocumented Immigrants in Holding Hunger Strike

(The Berks County Residential Center located in Leesport, Pennsylvania.)

Women at a Pennsylvania residential center housing undocumented immigrants are on hunger strike to call attention to the slow mechanisms of government authorities in dealing with their cases.

The Berks County Residential Center is home to three families that have been housed at the facility for over a year. The maximum amount of time suggested by law that undocumented immigrants can be housed before transferral is 20 days – a timeframe that the Obama Administration claims is upheld by US Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As evidenced by the cases in Pennsylvania, however, this norm is obviously broken with some regularity.

The center houses dozens of women and their children – many from Central America – who claim to have fled violence in their home countries in the hopes of securing a better life.

In a letter signed by 22 women held at the Berks County Residential Center, the psychological toll on their children is thrown into sharp relief:

Our children, who range in age from 2 to 16, have been deprived of a normal life. We are already traumatized from our countries of origin. We risked our own lives and those of our children so we could arrive on safe ground. While here our children have considered committing suicide, made desperate from confinement. The teenagers say that being here, life makes no sense. One of our children said he wanted to break the window to jump out and end this nightmare.

Advocates working on behalf of the undocumented immigrants believe as many as 26 women are participating in the hunger strike, which is now entering its second week. You can read the full letter signed by the strikers here.

US authorities have received criticism in the past for brutal detention centers and questionable practices that infringe on undocumented immigrants’ human rights.

The Tap will have more as the strike in Pennsylvania continues.

AnalyticsIQ Connects Nonprofits With Big Data

There is a common saying in the nonprofit sector that philanthropic institutions lag at least ten years behind private industry counterparts when it comes to implementing new technologies.

Donor retention, for example, is often treated as an art rather than a science. When nonprofits lack the resources to assemble and analyze the hard data necessary for concrete solutions to demographic issues in their donor support base, they necessarily rely on the gut feelings of experienced professionals.

And while there are plenty of stewards out there who get results through skill and experience alone, there are tools available that not only make their lives easier, but that result in game-changing improvements to their nonprofits’ organizational capacity as well.

One firm based in Atlanta, Georgia is working to help nonprofits utilize these tools.

AnalyticsIQ offers comprehensive data analytics services, helping organizations discover important data and make better use of the donor information they already possess.

“One nonprofit client approached us with major issues concerning lapsed donors,” explains Mike Hattub, Chief Operating Officer at AnalyticsIQ. “During our initial discussions we uncovered a number of additional areas where we could also make a big impact on the group’s operations and fundraising.”

The client – a blue chip nonprofit active across the nation – was initially hesitant at delving into compiled data. They opted to move ahead, however, and AnalyticsIQ created a data model that the client used to create a specially tailored mailing that targeted 50,000 households.

The ROI on the mailing was double the client’s initial projection.

From there, AnalyticsIQ developed more models targeting specific age and ethnic groups that resulted in further successes. Eventually, AnalyticsIQ would be responsible for the majority of new donor mailings for the organization, providing invaluable demographic and consumer data that helped maximize the returns on fundraising mailings that ranged from 1-2 million individuals.

“Through our services – including Dynabase, our proprietary database – we help nonprofits achieve maximum scalability for donor mailings in order to meet their goals,” Hattub tells Key Elements Group. “We compile and analyze thousands of consumer characteristics and attributes that help development professionals craft the right language and appeal strategy for the job.”

In an era where information translates into profits and fundraising, nonprofits can’t afford to overlook the competitive benefits offered by data analytics. The world’s biggest brands and most cutting edge companies use analytics to determine consumer profiles and digital behavior in order to optimize user experience and convert interest into revenue. Nonprofits – both big and small – should follow suit.

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and content from AnalyticsIQ. Key Elements Group LLC did not receive monetary compensation for writing this article or affiliated links.)

Camp Century: Abandoned US Base in Greenland Poses Radioactive Threat

(The Greenland Ice Sheet, home to Camp Century, an abandoned US base that could leak radioactive waste)

While certain political parties and public figures (here’s looking at you, Donald Trump) may dismiss the reality of climate change as a politically expedient ploy, the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion not only confirms its existence but has also furnished a sobering look at its longterm effects. From decreased water reserves threatening vulnerable populations to rising sea levels putting coastal cities underwater, climate change poses a number of threats to the social good across the globe.

In addition to the aforementioned macro-level threats, there are also regional particularities that tie directly to climate change. Take, for example, an abandoned US military base in Greenland that has recently garnered headlines for the cataclysmic danger it may pose in the future.

The base, named Camp Century, was built into the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1959 and deserted in 1967. Ostensibly a research station, the camp was additionally used as a potential nuclear launch site, chosen for its striking distance to the Soviet Union.

Camp Century Greenland Climate Change Key Elements Group
(The entrance to Camp Century, US Military Archives)

When the camp was decommissioned, the 200 US military personnel stationed there up and left, with official opinion holding that the encroaching ice would effectively seal off residual pollutants. While this policy may have worked out until now, shrinking glaciers in Greenland may release a host of dangerous materials that could result in an environmental catastrophe.

In a statement, climate scientist William Colgan described the situation:

When we looked at the climate simulations, they suggested that rather than perpetual snowfall, it seems that as early as 2090, the site could transition from net snowfall to net melt. Once the site transitions from net snowfall to net melt, it’s only a matter of time before the wastes melt out; it becomes irreversible.

The secret nuclear program at Camp Century – called Project Iceworm – also featured a nuclear reactor that powered the base and that has most certainly resulted in radioactive waste. Other harmful materials – including biological and chemical waste – also factor into the pollutants that could escape through melting ice.

Camp Century Climate Change Greendland Key Elements Group
(Image of Camp Century, US Military Archives)

To further complicate the situation, the responsibility for cleaning up this gargantuan mess is up in the air. The base was created and funded by the United States, but was approved by Denmark, then the colonial power in possession of Greenland. Nowadays, Greenland is an autonomous country.

The case of Camp Century, while high-profile, may not be entirely unique, as Colgan explains: ”Two generations ago, people were interring waste in different areas of the world, and now climate change is modifying those sites.”

As climate change progresses without a meaningful, united response from governments, agencies, and institutions around the world, threats like the one posed by Camp Century will proliferate. And, regardless of how effectively the world turns the tide on climate change, we now live in a reality where Camp Century and other toxic relics will inevitably require herculean efforts to control.

It’s just a matter of time.

Violence in Europe: Knife Attack in London

After a spate of unnerving public attacks in Europe, citizens across the continent are on edge. Germany has experienced three separate incidents – including a mass stabbing, a mass shooting, and a failed bomb attack – in recent weeks that have resulted in a heavier security presence. For a culture that has prided itself on civil order and peace since the trials of World War II, armed patrols are an alien and traumatizing sight.

In France, a man claiming allegiance to ISIS drove a truck into crowds gathered in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day, killing 84. And, on July 26, a parish priest in Normandy was murdered by two men also claiming allegiance to ISIS before the assailants were shot dead by authorities.

These attacks are threats to the social good. First, they stoke fear and insecurity. As daily life becomes less secure through persistent attacks on the public’s trust, citizens simply cannot enjoy public activities without concern for their own wellbeing. This fear greatly detracts from the quality of life.


Additionally, the attacks create windows of confusion, where facts blur, accusations fly, and the worst impulses in politics emerge in full view. Last night’s knife attack in London was horrifying, yet serves a solid example of sober management from the authorities.

A 19 year-old Norwegian national of Somali origin stabbed six people, killing one – a US citizen in her 60s. Police on the scene successfully tasered the assailant – who had emigrated to England in 2002 – and took him into police custody.

The incident had the hallmarks of recent terrorist attacks, but authorities took a measured approach and concluded that the attack was spontaneous. Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police told reporters:

Whilst the investigation is not yet complete, all of the work that we have done so far increasingly points to this tragic incident as having been triggered by mental health issues, At this time we believe this was a spontaneous attack and the victims were selected at random.

“So far we have found no evidence of radicalization or anything that would suggest the man in our custody was motivated by terrorism,” Mr. Rowley concluded.

The press and the authorities should be lauded for refraining from hasty allegations. But while the violence was unattached to a terror motive, the randomness is reminiscent of the all-too-common gun violence endemic to the United States. Random acts of violence still create insecurity and fear. Indeed, yesterday London’s Metropolitan Police deployed 600 specially trained arm units to patrol London. While not connected to any specific intelligence, the move is likely a response to the public’s concern and to recent incidents in Europe, and is a huge step for a country famous for its unarmed police officers.

These acts of violence are a reminder of the importance of a strong and responsive security apparatus. And while they may test the public’s resolve, strong and pro-social responses will ultimately pay off more than sowing fear and distrust.

Trump Feuds with Fallen Soldier’s Parents

(Arlington Cemetery)

In his latest indiscretion, Donald Trump has committed a cardinal sin of public life – denigrating soldiers and their families. Following the DNC, the erstwhile reality star and Republican presidential candidate has gotten himself into hot water over his aggressive response to the parents of a fallen US solider.

In unscripted remarks in Philadelphia, Khizr Khan – father of Humayun S.M. Khan, a captain killed in Iraq protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers – lambasted Trump, who he said was ignorant of the US constitution. He further explained that Trump’s divisive rhetoric is an insult to those who have sacrificed so much for the country. In his speech, Khan rhetorically asked Trump:

Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.


(Watch Khan’s powerful speech at the DNC in Philadelphia.)

Trump, known for is incautious language and offensive remarks, disparaged Khan and his wife, Ghazala Khan, in an interview with ABC. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say,’ Trump said, describing Ms. Khan, a grieving mother. “She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

When the candidate had an opportunity to pay homage to a deceased solider and his family, he instead felt compelled to analyze Ghazala Khan’s behavior in a baffling display of narcissism and condescension. Ms. Khan, in turn, wrote an op-ed, explaining that she could not speak because merely looking at photos of her son is such an intolerable act that it brings her to tears.

Trump’s lack of empathy has brought widespread condemnation, including from his fellow Republicans. John McCain – a US prisoner of war, Senator, and one-time GOP presidential candidate – released a statement condemning Trump:

In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States – to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.

Sally Bradshaw – a Republican strategist and co-author of the Republican Party’s “autopsy report” following the 2012 elections – has officially left the GOP over Trump’s response to Khan’s speech, stating that:

Donald Trump belittled a woman who gave birth to a son who died fighting for the United States. If anything, that reinforced my decision to become an independent voter. I’ve been considering the switch for months. Ultimately, I could not abide the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and his complete lack of principles and conservative philosophy,

As the gaffes pile up, Trump’s ability to safely navigate alliances within the GOP establishment seems increasingly limited. His sheer disdain for political norms – while endearing to his fringe base – has officially steered into hitherto unknown territory. As John Oliver expressed well on his show Last Week Tonight, when he discussed the dumbfounding quality of Trump’s injudicious remarks:

Honestly, the main takeaway from these two weeks is that, incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist, that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities – and I genuinely did not think that was a part of the job that someone could be bad at.


(John Oliver discussed Trump’s dumbfounding comments to the Khan family.)

Sobering and serious words from a comedian more prone to using sarcasm and ridicule to make his points. The haunting prospect of a Trump presidency appears to weigh heavily on Oliver, as it has begun to do so for so many others in the public arena.

Donald Trump Incites Russia to Hack Hillary Clinton’s Emails

It what Donald Trump is now describing as a sarcastic remark, the Republican presidential nominee prodded the Russian government to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from her private server at a press conference in Doral, Florida.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in front of reporters.

The response from across the political spectrum was one of astonishment. How could a presidential candidate incite a foreign power to commit espionage against the United States government? Critics decried the remarks as ignorant at best, treason at worse.


(Weekly Standard writer and conservative analyst Jay Cost contemplates Trump’s Russia remarks)

To contextualize the reality star’ comments, Wikileaks disclosed thousands of private emails from DNC officials last week that indicate a strong bias toward Hillary Clinton over rival Bernie Sanders in the nominating contest for the Democratic party. One email even appears to show insiders discussing how to use Sanders’ Jewish background against him in conservative regions.

The fallout from the disclosure led to the ouster of DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a formal apology to Sanders supporters from the Democratic establishment. These emails were beyond inappropriate, and indicate a party structure in dire need of reform in order to more fairly represent its electorate

Interestingly, the emails were strategically disclosed in the run-up the DNC in Philadelphia. A cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic party has traced the origin of the breach to two shadowy organizations named Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, hacking groups likely sponsored by the Russian state.

Putin’s government spends lavishly on its internet espionage operations, as detailed in a lengthy report by the New York Times that explores the labyrinthine underworld of state-employed trolls and hackers tasked with disseminating pro-Russian propaganda throughout the web.

Writing for Vice, King’s College Profressor Thomas Rid explains that the

forensic evidence linking the DNC breach to known Russian operations is very strong. The forensic evidence that links network breaches to known groups is solid: used and reused tools, methods, infrastructure, even unique encryption keys.

In other words, the Russian government appears to be actively meddling with the US presidential election. The revelations about the DNC’s anti-Sanders collusion is repugnant, but the manipulations of the United States’ democratic processes by a foreign power is unsettling to say the least.

And this is where we return to Trump. The candidate’s unprecedented campaign has strung together a number of unorthodox policies that are objectively pro-Russian. Even if Trump isn’t actively courting Russian assistance, and even if his remarks were truly a joke, the fact remains that Russia’s autocratic leadership would love to see a Trump presidency.

Take Trump’s stance on NATO. In recent weeks, Trump has suggested that the US refrain from assisting NATO allies should they come under attack. Like many of his other scattershot opinions, these comments drew considerable condemnation from members of his own party. The NATO alliance has long been considered a central component to the United States geo-political strategy, enjoying broad support on both sides of the aisle. The Republican presidential nominee, however, views the organization like he does all other institutions, asking: hey, what can I get out of this?

As Zack Beauchamp explains at Vox, a US pivot away from NATO would be a massive boon for Putin:

[Trump’s NATO remark is] music to Putin’s ears. He sees the NATO alliance (correctly!) as a major bulwark against Russian expansionism in eastern Europe, and would be thrilled if it fractured. That would make it far easier to install friendly dictators in small nearby countries, like Estonia, or even annex them entirely.

While open collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is unlikely, the fact remains that many in Trump’s coterie possess interests in Russia. Trump himself has been positively gushing in his support for Putin personally: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an ‘A,’” Trump explained of the Russian dictator, “and our president is not doing so well.”

That Trump would praise a murderous dictator and call on another nation to breach the cybersecurity of one of the United States’ major parties is beyond the pale. One is tempted yet again to see Trump’s antics as the result of the devil-may-care attitude of a performer who doesn’t really want to be president.

But then the reality that a Trump presidency is a distinct possibility sets in, and things get scary – fast.

Inspiring: 102-Year-Old Partakes in Clinton Nomination

While the DNC got off to a rough start for Democrats – with supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders offering protests throughout the first day of proceedings – a number of keynote speeches have buoyed the political party as it moves toward the general election. Michelle Obama gave a stunning and legacy-defining speech, with other well-received speeches presented by Bill Clinton (potentially the first-ever “First Gent”), Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders.

The shift in energy stems partly from the over-looked fact that Democrats officially made history last night with the formal nomination of Hillary Clinton, the first-ever woman to top a party’s ticket for the presidency. This milestone is often lost amidst the vitriol and acrimony of this year’s election, but for women still fighting for gender equality it amounts to a massive victory.

No one felt the weight of this moment more, perhaps, than Jerry Emmett, the 102 year-old Arizona state delegate. The Prescott, Arizona native was born before women had the right to vote, and she remembers the first time her mother voted after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Emmett – who founded a fan club for Hillary Clinton in Arizona – was selected by Democratic officials to read off their state’s delegate allotment during the floor roll call at the convention. When it came to the Arizona delegation to cast its votes last night, a smiling Emmett announced: “51 votes for the next president of the United States of America, Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Watch the moment below:

The viciousness and inflated rhetoric of today’s partisan politics obscure the great emotional weight behind such social progress. For Emmett – and for women across the country – last night was more than a milestone, it was a product of women’s unflagging commitment to the pursuit of equality.

Qandeel Baloch’s Death Spotlights Honor Killings

(Qandeel Baloch)

Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch – a 25 year-old from the Punjabi town of Kot Addu – achieved immense fame as a controversial and provocative internet figure who flaunted social norms of her home country. Her flirtatious and sexualized online postings may seem innocuous to many, especially when compared to the even more outlandish acts of US pop stars. But for Baloch it amounted to a cultural protest in a region known for social conservatism and opposition to women’s rights.

Her digital protest, according to authorities, is the reason her brother gave for strangling her to death on July 15.

In what has been labeled an honor killing – or a murder justified by one family member through a perceived social dishonor committed by another member – Baloch’s death has shined a spotlight on a cultural phenomenon that threatens the most basic human rights of women across the globe.

In 2015, Pakistan ranked second-to-last on a World Economic Forum list of countries for gender equality. Pakistan is listed among the nations with the highest rate of honor killings, with as many as 1,000 per year. While honor-based killings can stem from feuds between families and relate to a variety of issues, they very frequently affect women, and arise from sex-related justifications. Women in countries including Afghanistan even face the threat of honor killings if they are victim to rape.

Baloch’s brother discussed his own justification for his act to police: “Girls are born to stay at home and follow traditions. My sister never did that.”

Having referred to herself as a “modern day feminist,” Baloch adopted a political mantle on behalf of a younger generation of urbanized Pakistanis who see a more open future. While her death is beyond tragic, it won’t stop the social progress of younger generations.

As Pakistani columnist Rafia Zakaria argues,

They’ve silenced her in a very public way to function as a deterrent. But when you consider the fact that there are millions of Qandeels out there sitting on their computers at night, in Karachi and Lahore and Multan, it’s only a matter of time before there’s going to be more and more of this.

Indeed, Baloch’s social media persona won’t just go away, and neither will the open minds of many of her followers.

Terror in Munich: Live Updates on Multiple Shootings

(Karlsplatz, Munich)

Update: 9:10PM ET
Germany authorities have confirmed that there was one assailant in today’s shootings, an 18 year old man with dual Iranian and German citizenship.

As of now, authorities are uncertain of the shooter’s motives, though there have been reports that the individual shouted anti-foreigner epithets. In total the individual killed 9 people and injured at least 21 before taking his own life.

That’s it for today’s rolling coverage. The Tap will have more as details emerge in Munich over the coming days.
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Update: 5:45PM ET

A witness has told a local media outlet that one gunman shouted anti-foreigner slurs before opening fire.

Authorities have updated the number of fatalities to 9, which may include one of the attack’s perpetrators who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Additionally, authorities are requesting that individuals with relevant photos and videos of the attack should send them to the police instead of posting them online,
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Update: 4:34PM ET
Authorities have revised the number of fatalities to 8.

Appearing at the United Nations in New York City, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson provided the following statement:

Everybody is shocked and saddened by what has taken place. Our thoughts are very much with the victims, their families, with the people of Munich, and the people of Germany more widely.

If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon now and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the middle east – and also of course around the world.

Authorities are yet to identify the motive or background of the perpetrator(s) of today’s shooting.

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Update: 3:24PM ET
Local media outlets are now reporting that at least one of the shooters has died from self-inflicted gun shot wounds.

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Update: 3:09PM ET
US President Barack Obama has issued a pledge of support for Germany:

We don’t yet know exactly what’s happening there, but obviously our hearts go out to those who may have been injured. We are going to pledge all the support they may need.

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Update: 2:32PM ET
Authorities are requesting that social media users refrain from posting video/photo of police operations so as to not help the perpetrator(s). The US consulate in Munich has issued an emergency message to US citizens advising them to seek shelter. The city of Munich has declared a state of emergency and has urged citizens to remain indoors.

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Update: 2:18PM ET
Unconfirmed witness reports indicate three gunmen active in the area near the Olympia shopping centre in Munich. Authorities now confirm at least 6 dead.

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Reports are coming in from Munich, Germany, where an undisclosed number of gunmen have opened fire at multiple locations.

Authorities have confirmed three dead so far. Current unconfirmed reports indicate the locations of the shootings to be Karlsplatz, Stachus, and Odeonplatz.

A police spokesperson has said issued the following statement:

We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 pm, the shooting apparently began at a McDonald’s in the shopping centre. There are still people in the shopping centre. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them.

Authorities have informed Munich residents to avoid public areas.

The Tap will issue updates as further details emerge.

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