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Gingrich Battles Santorum in historic Alabama Theater

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

In a major victory for the Alabama Republican Party, almost 2000 likely Republican voters and media crowded into the historic Alabama Theater in Birmingham to witness the first ever Alabama Republican Party Presidential Forum.  Former Pennsylvania Senator Richard John “Rick” Santorum and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich both addressed the assembled crowd and the television audience watching on C-Span and local television.  Both candidates explained in detail why the Republican Party should pick them to represent the party in its November 6th challenge of Democratic incumbent Barack H. Obama.

Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party Bill Armistead said that “People all over Alabama are excited” about this election and that “all four presidential candidates were invited to speak hear tonight.”  Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum both “accepted our invitations.”  Chairman Armistead said that “All eyes are on Alabama,” and predicted a record turnout for today’s Republican Primary. “Go out and vote for the candidates of your choice tomorrow.”  “Let’s replace Barack Obama in the White House.”  Armistead urged everyone to “get behind our (the eventual Republican) nominee and work like your life depended on it because it does.”

Former Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania said, “In every speech I give I say that this is the most important election in your lifetime no matter how old you are.”  Santorum said that President Obama favored “regulating every aspect of your life.”

Sen. Santorum said that the President had said NO to more offshore drilling, NO to opening up energy exploration in more of Alaska, NO to opening up federal lands to energy exploration and that, “Even with private lands we have a President who is putting that at risk by threating to pass regulations over something called hydraulic fracturing which we have been doing since World War II.”

‘We need a President who understands what this economy needs to get going.”   Sen. Santorum said that he supports increasing the number of manufacturing jobs because the opportunity to get a job no matter what your skill level is and the pride of going to work every day is how America works and a big part of that is manufacturing. Santorum said that he was the only person in this race with a plan for bringing manufacturing jobs back to America.

Sen. Santorum said, “I am serious about shrinking the size of government.” He said that his administration would make $5 trillion in cuts to federal spending, would balance the budget in five years, and would spend less each year than he did before.  Santorum said that would reform entitlements and would send entitlement programs back to the states

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Sen. Santorum said the Obamacare was why he got in this race.  Once fully implemented “every single American will be dependent on the federal government,” for their health benefits. When government says we will give you a right, be careful.  When government says they give you a right, they can take it away.  “You will do what you are told with this new right you have.”  “We believe that Obamacare is a game changer for America.”

Sen. Santorum said, “The problem is government is not the source of rights in this country.” “Where do rights come from is the most important issue in this race.”  “Liberty is at stake in this election.  We have a President who believes in ruling you from the top down, that he knows best how to run America.”  “President Obama said America is a better country because of all these entitlement programs.  I will go one step further and say that America was not a great country until these entitlement programs.  That is how President Obama views America.”  Sen. Santorum said that his grandfather came to this country for freedom not for entitlement that we did not even have in 1925.

Sen. Santorum said, “I want to thank the tea party for”…….. “resurrecting what people in Washington called a dead document and this is the Constitution.” Santorum stressed that the “Constitution is anchored and tethered to the Declaration of Independence.”  “The Constitution does not give us rights. That is wrong.  Rights are written on our hearts because we are creatures of God.”  “Our Constitution was created to protect those rights.”

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Presidential candidate said, “After four years of looking at what putting your faith in government would do, we need to do something different.  Instead of looking to Washington for a leader we can believe in

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich represented Georgia’s Sixth district for 20 years in the United States Congress until 1999.  Speaker Gingrich said, “Thank you for that very warm welcome.”  “I am Delighted to be here.  Callista and I are very delighted by the warm welcome.”

Speaker Gingrich said, “The President’s press secretary basically attacked me because I have been talking about the need for an American energy policy to develop our energy capacity so no American President will ever need to bow to a Saudi King. If we developed our energy capacity to the degree we could then the price of gas would drop.  This is supply and demand.” Gingrich said that Secretary Carney said “Any politician who does that (says that there is a plan to drop gas prices to $2.50 a gallon) is lying (Jay Carney) there is no such plan.  I want to take this moment to respond to the President and to his press secretary first of all Mr. President I would be happy to debate you anywhere in the country at any time.”  The Ga. Congressman said that President Obama’s speeches on energy “are so patently indefensible that they are incoherent.”

Speaker Gingrich defended his plan saying that in 2008 the U.S. Geological survey estimated that there were four billion barrels of oil in North Dakota.  After drilling began, that estimate changed to eight billion barrels.  With the discovery of a second seam of oil underneath the first seam they announced that there was actually 24 billion barrels of oil in North Dakota.  As technology advances more and more oil will be recoverable.  The North Dakota oil field alone has doubled the previous estimates of our petroleum reserves.  Newt Gingrich said that there was also a large new field in West Texas and that the Monterrey formation in California might contain up to 80 billion barrels by itself.  “The idea of peak energy is a stupid idea.  It is wrong.”

Speaker Gingrich said that President Obama’s Department of Energy Secretary, Dr. Chu is committed to the idea that Americans should pay the same price as Europeans, $9 or 10 a gallon, “Dr. Chu said, he is not in the business of lowering the price of gasoline. He is in the business of developing replacements for gasoline” then went on about battery research “which I suspect may be some good in 15 or 20 years.”

Speaker Gingrich said we “should abolish the Department of Energy.  No more Solyndras, no more boondoggles.  The President said there are no silver bullets.  He is right but there is a presidential pen and he could change the price of gas by signing three documents:” Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline is 700,000 barrels of Canadian oil a day and improves the delivery of North Dakota, Kansas and Arkansas oil, thus lowers the cost of delivery.  He could open up areas off Texas and Louisiana as the Governor’s requested and that would yield another 400,000 barrels of oil a day.  Open up ANWAR in Alaska and that is another $1.2 million barrels of oil a day.  Those three changes alone would produce an additional 2.3 million barrels of oil a day. “And we Kept that amount of money to create jobs instead of sending it to Saudi Arabia.”  The President said drilling is not the answer the President’s answer was algae.  “I believe in science.  In some place down the road the algae could be useful. It won’t help this summer.”

“I am the one candidate who designed a big choice campaign.”  Speaker Gingrich said he wanted to run President Algae and $10 a gallon gas versus President Drilling and $2.50 gas.  “You can’t buy enough ads to convince Americans that they aren’t paying enough for gas.”

“I will Challenge him to seven Lincoln Douglas style three hour debates.  He believes in the writings of Saul Alinsky.  I believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Speaker Gingrich said, that he has the most experience in running campaigns to be the best candidate and “You also need somebody who can work with Congress to get something done in Washington.  That requires understanding the Constitution and understanding how to influence 435 House members and 100 Senators.  To change Washington you have to be active as citizens.  Washington will never voluntarily change itself.

Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich sad that he will ask Congress to stay in session before the inauguration.  They will repeal Obamacare, will repeal Dodd-Frank, and will repeal Sarbanes-Oxley.  “Two hours after the inauguration, I will sign all three of those bills.”  “On the first day I will sign a series of executive orders.  The First will abolish all the white house czars as of that moment.  We will on that very first day move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  We will reinstate Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy” preventing international organization from using American funds to pay for abortions in other countries.  “I will issue an executive order repealing every anti-religious act by this administration.  We will sign an executive order approving Keystone pipeline.  I can only do all of those things with your help.”  The primary tomorrow really matter and your vote really matters I hope that you decide that having an experienced leader who has done these things before is what we needs as a party and what we need as a country.”

In response to the question, ‘How will you lead the nation back to God?’  Speaker Gingrich said, “You have to have a President who believes that is part of his responsibility. You have to have a President who believes in praying.”  Gingrich said that we need to “re-center the country.” “Part of it frankly is bringing the federal judges back to enforcing the constitution not changing it.”  Gingrich said that he had written “a 54 page document on how you bring the judiciary back in line and end this lawless imposition of anti-religious bigots.” Gingrich said that the media and the elites have made anti-Christian bigotry fashionable.  He said it was “reprehensible and this type of behavior should not be tolerated in polite society.”

On dealing with government employee unions Speaker Gingrich said, “We need a whole new generation of appointees.”  And that we “need to eliminate 130 year civil service laws and replace it with a modern management system.”  “Public employee unions have become very destructive.”

On national security Speaker Gingrich said, “My dad spent 27 years in the infantry.”  “Obama fully believes in appeasement, apologies, and weakness as a national strategy.”  Gingrich also said that the administration was refusing to acknowledge the religious motivations that were responsible for fanatical behavior.

Speaker Gingrich said, “The President’s defense cuts proposals are absolute suicidal.”  “Leon Panetta should resign as secretary of defense.  He is not the United Nations Secretary of Defense he is the United States Secretary of Defense.”

Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul did not campaign in Alabama.  Frontrunner, Gov. Mitt Romney, held several events in Alabama and did several radio interviews but elected not to participate in this forum.

To see the event in its entirety go to C-Span’s website:

http://www.c-span.org/Events/Republican-Candidates-Campaign-in-Birmingham-Alabama/10737428947/

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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CDC confirmed expanded “close contact” definition to Alabama officials in August

It is unclear why the CDC waited until late October to update or clarify its public-facing guidance on its website.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

New federal guidance on how a person is determined to have been in close contact with someone infected by COVID-19 won’t impact how Alabama works to mitigate the disease, said the state’s top health official. That’s because the state was already aware of the expanded definition in August before the change was made public last week.

It is unclear why the CDC waited until late October to update or clarify its public-facing guidance on its website when it was giving more precise definitions to at least one state health department and receiving questions from public health officials about the definition.

The delay in announcing the change is raising questions about how state health officials nationwide have been determining the public’s possible exposure to the deadly disease and if contact tracing and mitigation efforts will be made more time- and resource-intensive with the more inclusive definition in place.

The CDC on Wednesday expanded the definition of “close contact” to mean a person can be at risk of contracting COVID-19 if that person is within six feet of an infected person for a period of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The previous definition stated a person should quarantine if they were within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Alternately, in other areas of the CDC’s website, the language stated “a total of 15 minutes” in the definition of close contact.

“What they changed their definition to is something they had verbally confirmed to us months ago, and we have always been using that definition,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR on Friday.

Harris said a support team from the CDC was in Alabama in July as the Alabama Department of Public Health was preparing plans to reopen schools. Harris said the question was asked of CDC staff because his department was getting questions on the definition of close contact from school officials.

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APDH staff took the definition then of “a total of 15 minutes” to mean that there could be several exposures over a period of time equaling that 15 minute threshold, so they asked CDC to clarify that assertion.

“When those folks were here we asked the CDC people directly. Can you confirm for us what that means, and they said, it adds up to a total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period,” Harris said. “And we even got somebody to commit to that in an email somewhere.”

Melissa Morrison, CDC’s career epidemiology field officer working at the ADPH in Montgomery, in an Aug. 13 email to ADPH’s director of the office of governmental affairs, quotes a statement Morrison attributes to her CDC colleague, CDC public health advisor Kelly Bishop. Harris shared the email with APR.

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“Yes, I did get a response from the contact tracing team. The 15 minutes for a close contact is cumulative, and they said ‘The time period for the cumulative exposure should start from 2 days before the cases’ illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection date) until the time the patient is isolated,” Morrison quotes Bishop in the email.

In the August email, Bishop goes on to say, as attributed by Morrison, that “as of now there is no established upper limit on the time period (i.e. 48, 72 hours etc).”

The CDC’s expanded definition was reflected in an Aug. 20 statement from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“The 15-minute time is a cumulative period of time. For example, a close contact might be within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 5 minutes each at 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. This is a standard based on guidance from the CDC,” the statement reads.

In an email to APR on Friday, Harris said he’d discussed the matter with Morrison on Friday who “emphasized that the guidance this week from CDC was NOT a change but rather a clarification. They simply used the MMWR corrections story as a convenient time to make the point.”

Harris was referring to a CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Wednesday that detailed findings by Vermont health officials showing that a prison worker contracted COVID-19 during an eight-hour shift in which the worker had 22 close contacts with an infected inmate totaling 17 minutes.

The CDC in statements to numerous news outlets, and to APR, cite that Vermont study in connection to Wednesday’s definition change.

“That’s kind of why they said it out loud,” Harris said of the study and the Wednesday announcement. “But I have to say, when I saw that updated guidance I thought, ‘I can’t believe anybody ever thought otherwise.’”

Different pages on the CDC’s website on Saturday defined close contact as both being “a total of 15 minutes or more” and “a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period,” confusing the matter further, and numerous other state health departments had not yet updated their websites Saturday to reflect the CDC’s expanded definition.

A CDC spokesman in an email to APR on Wednesday noted the Vermont study on the prison worker and said “CDC clarified the amount of time it would take for someone to be considered a close contact exposed to a person with COVID-19.”

“The CDC website now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told APR by email Wednesday.

Pauley didn’t respond to APR’s question on Friday asking why the CDC waited until Wednesday to update its guidance online, given that ADPH had confirmed the definition of close contact in August. He also didn’t respond to a request to verify the statement Morrison attributed to her CDC colleague in the August email.

“To us, we thought if it says a total, that means you must be adding up smaller amounts to get to 15 minutes, or you wouldn’t use the word total,” Harris said. “When they changed it this week, I don’t know the details of why that happened, but I think, obviously, everybody didn’t have the same message everywhere.”

Dr. Bertha Hidalgo, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at UAB’s Department of Epidemiology, told APR on Friday that her understanding prior to Wednesday’s expanded definition was that a contact was defined as someone who was exposed to the COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 min or more at a time and explained that the updated guidance complicates how public health officials will engage in contact tracing.

“This means significant efforts for contact tracing moving forward, in effect needing to identify every person that person came into contact with during the possible exposure timeframe,” she said.

It was unclear Monday how the definition change impacts Alabama’s Guidesafe COVID-19 exposure notification app, which notifies a user if they come into close contact with an infected person. The app was developed by ADPH and University of Alabama at Birmingham, thanks to a partnership between Apple and Google’s combined development of the technology, and alerts users to possible exposure while keeping all users’ identities anonymous.

Sue Feldman, professor of health informatics, UAB School of Health Professions, in a message to APR on Friday said that due to the anonymity of the app, it would be difficult, but not impossible, to update the app to take into consideration the CDC’s expanded guidance.

“We are taking this into consideration for our next update,” Feldman said in the message.

Also unclear is how many other states that have similar exposure notification apps, also using Google and Apple’s technology, aren’t yet using the expanded definition of a “close contact.” Colorado is to roll out that state’s app on Sunday, and according to Colorado Public Radio News the app will notify a user that they’ve been exposed if they come “within six feet of the phone of someone who tested positive for at least ten minutes.”

New York’s exposure notification app also appears to use the old CDC guidance, and will alert users if they come “within 6 feet of your phone for longer than 10 minutes,” according to the state’s website.

The updated definition, which health departments refer to when conducting contact tracing, is likely to have a serious impact on schools, workplaces and other group settings where personal contact may stretch over longer periods of time including multiple interactions.

It greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk of transmission. “It’s easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told The Washington Post. “I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts.”

The clarification comes as cases and hospitalizations are rising both in Alabama and nationwide. Alabama’s 14-day average of cases has increased 41.2 percent over the past two weeks. The percentage of tests that are positive has increased from roughly 13 percent to more than 20 percent over the past 14 days. The U.S. average of new daily infections is now at its highest point of the pandemic, with 481,372 cases reported in a week, according to CNN and Johns Hopkins University.

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Alabama women to Ivey: Support fair processes

Last week, Ivey co-authored a letter of support for Barrett and released it to media outlets.

Josh Moon

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Gov. Kay Ivey held a Coronavirus update Press Conference. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

A letter signed by a bipartisan group of about a thousand Alabama women takes issue with Gov. Kay Ivey’s recent support of Republican Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and it encourages Ivey and other state officials to instead support fair processes.

Last week, Ivey co-authored a letter of support for Barrett and released it to media outlets. In response, the letter from Alabama women calls the process to nominate Barrett, which is occurring after more than 50 million votes have been cast and in a Senate that is predicted to change from Republican to Democratic control, unfair and “anti-democratic.”

The letter, which doesn’t criticize Ivey or request that she rescind her endorsement of Barrett, asks instead that Ivey and other state leaders honor women by implementing and following fair processes that provide women with equal opportunities.

The full letter is below:

Dear Governor Ivey,

We are a group of women. We are current and future mothers, grandmothers, caregivers, leaders and champions of all citizens of our great state. We are moderates, progressives and conservatives. When we agree with our leaders, we say so, as we have in your support for education, workforce development, and sensible mask policies.  

We also speak up when we do not agree. Thus, we want to respond to your letter in support of Amy Coney Barrett because it does not represent our views. 

Like you and Judge Barrett’s father, we want to tell all young girls that they can do anything their male counterparts can do and they can be anything and everything they want to be. We want it to be a truth, not just a signal “that the most qualified individual will get the job”.  In addition to those things, we want them to know and believe that the process will be fair, because no matter the job, the process should be fair. And our children and young people (boys or girls) should be able to trust that democracy works and can be counted on. How can we assure them when this process has been so rushed and undemocratic?

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We are women who oppose Judge Barrett’s confirmation, because confirming her at this time, when 50 million Americans have already cast their votes, is anti-democratic. Regardless of what ways she does or does not think or talk like us, what matters is that a confirmation should not take place after the election is underway. 

We do not expect you to rescind your support of Judge Barrett. However, we urge you and the other women leaders who have advanced to top positions in our government to stand with us in asking for a fair process that takes place after the election. A process that helps us to believe that our voices and our votes matter because the American people should have the right to choose who nominates the next Supreme Court Justice.

Respectfully, 

Emily Hess Levine
Lindsey Chitwood
Megan Cheek
Kira Fonteneau
Ronne M. Hess
Cindi Cassis Branham
Anna Brantley Fry
Joellyn M. Beckham
Kristen Berthiaume
Alexandra Ruthann Bullock McElroy
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The letter is signed by more than 800 women. The full list of signatures was sent to APR with the letter. We have chosen to list only the first 10 for the sake of brevity.

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Study: COVID-19 infection rates more than double without lockdowns

Infection and fatality rates would have been higher without stay-at-home orders, a new UAB study found.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that if there had been no stay-at-home orders issued in the U.S. in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country would have experienced a 220 percent higher rate of infection and a 22 percent higher fatality rate than if such orders were implemented nationwide.

Seven states never imposed stay-at-home orders, or SAHOs. The study analyzed daily positive case rates by state against the presence or absence of statewide SAHOs between March 1 and May 4, the period when such orders began to be implemented. Twelve states lifted their SAHOs before May 4.

The researchers defined SAHOs as being in effect when a state’s governor issued an order for residents of the entire state to leave home only for essential activities and when schools and nonessential businesses were closed.

“During March and April, most states in the United States imposed shutdowns and enacted SAHOs in an effort to control the disease,” said Bisakha Sen, the study’s senior author. “However, mixed messages from political authorities on the usefulness of SAHOs, popular pressure and concerns about the economic fallout led some states to lift the restrictions before public health experts considered it advisable.”

The research also sought to determine if the proportion of a state’s Black residents was associated with its number of positive cases. It found that there was.

“This finding adds to evidence from existing studies using county-level data on racial disparities in COVID-19 infection rates and underlines the urgency of better understanding and addressing these disparities,” said study co-author Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu. 

The research can help advance a greater understanding of racial disparities in the health care system as a whole, and help leaders make future decisions about shutdowns as the virus continues to spread, Sen said.

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“While the high economic cost makes SAHOs unsustainable as a long-term policy, our findings could help inform federal, state and local policymakers in weighing the costs and benefits of different short-term options to combat the pandemic,” she said.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

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Elections

Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.

“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization  was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.

Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.

“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.

Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.

Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.

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Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.

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