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May 8, 2005

Full Disclosure

Dear Celebrants:

Howard Bray, below, announces a rare victory for citizens and neighborhood groups — a successful Freedom of Information request in which the District government was compelled to come clean and release documents that it had previously kept hidden.

Here’s the background, if you don’t remember the case ( The DC government was involved in negotiations with the Casey Mansion Foundation and the National Park Service over plans to build a mayoral mansion, and it wanted to keep its plans secret from concerned citizens, community groups, and neighborhood associations. When Howard Bray and others in the neighboring Foxhall Community Citizens Association asked to see the government documents involving the negotiations, they were refused, and when they filed a Freedom of Information request for the documents, the mayor’s office denied that any documents existed. This kind of secrecy and stonewalling will be familiar to anyone who tries to get public information from what the mayor ironically refers to as an open, transparent, and accessible government, but the outcome of the case is a surprise.

Bray had the resoluteness and resources to file a lawsuit to require the mayor’s office to follow the DC Freedom of Information Act, and after many months he has prevailed. The government has released the documents, paid Bray’s substantial attorney costs, and issued an apology acknowledging its error ( It’s a case to celebrate and to emulate.

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill


Freedom of Information Lawsuit Victory
Howard Bray, no E-mail

In a victory for the DC public’s right to know more about its government’s actions, the District has settled an eighteen-month-old freedom of information lawsuit. I filed the lawsuit on October 15, 2003, after DC officials told me they found no records involving the proposed building of a mayor’s mansion on Foxhall Road and the proposed taking of adjacent federal park land to expand the grounds. I was among many who opposed that expansion onto park land.

The government admitted that its search of public records related to the proposed mayor’s mansion failed to comply with the DC Freedom of Information law. Under the settlement, I have received 47 documents related to the mansion project that District officials had tried to keep secret. The District will also pay my $10,000 attorney fees. The mansion project ended unexpectedly on December 12, 2003, when philanthropist Betty Brown Casey withdrew her February 2001 offer to build an official mayor’s residence.

In the settlement letter (, Leonard Becker, General Counsel for the Executive Office of the Mayor, wrote: “On behalf of the Mayor and the government of the District of Columbia, we acknowledge that the EOM should have conducted a broader search for responsive documents in response to Mr. Bray’s initial FOIA request. We regret any inconvenience or delay that the oversight in the EOM has caused Mr. Bray. We acknowledge that Mr. Bray and his fellow community members devoted time and energy in the pursuit of public documentation and may have been impeded in presenting fully informed views in addressing the merits of the Casey Mansion issue.”


Mayor Contemplates Dangerous Foray into Employment Protectionism
Edward Cowan, Friendship Heights,

In a radical lurch towards more regulation of business, Mayor Williams proposes to expand the number of employers who are required to fill more than half of new jobs with residents of the District. What about letting employers hire the best qualified applicant, wherever she lives? This further foray into employment "protectionism," making District residence more important than job qualifications, is a dangerous sign that Mr. Williams seems to be intoxicated by the powers of office and has lost any sensible perspective on the limits to government regulation of the private sector. Indeed, this proposed meddling with hiring — the most important decision that most employers make -- causes one to think that hizzoner has decided against seeking a third term. Business opposition came swiftly, and will persist. Not a way to get reelected.

The Post’s May 6 story on the Williams proposal, which he seeks to slip through Council on a budget fast-track, reports the mayor would expand an existing residence requirement for hiring that pertains now only to contractors and developers. It would also reach banks that hold city funds, “tenants of publicly financed malls, hotels and office buildings, and nonprofit groups that receive city grants.” Hizzoner would require covered employers to pay at least $10.50 an hour, or $9.25 for jobs with benefits, far more than the statutory minimum wage of $6.60.

Would these new requirements, which the city council would have to approve — it could strip this provision out of the budget for slower, more careful evaluation — encourage or discourage new business investment in the District? Will the next step be a list from the mayor’s office of persons eligible to be hired? Let Council members know what you think of this attempted extension of executive power into the private sector.


Metro’s Expenses
Ann Van Aken,

I know where the leak is in Metro’s bulging budget. I recently requested a fare adjustment card, and it came by certified mail. The replacement card is $12.35, but it cost Metro $4.42 to send it to me!


Taste of DC? Distasteful!
Anne McCormick,

Wanting to put it on my calendar, I “Googled” “taste of dc” and discovered that the web sites ( and gave absolutely no information. For thirteen years, it has been in October (Columbus Day weekend), but now has changed. This year, it is to be held on Memorial Day weekend (all three days). Didn’t some “planners” consider this an inappropriate weekend to hold this event? Did anyone consider that on Memorial Day weekend there are and should be considerations other than a food and music festival? I’m all for food and fun, and I’ve enjoyed this event and other food fests in the past, and I’m sure the crowds and tourists downtown would enjoy better food than cart vending to eat, but a food festival on a weekend when we are remembering those who died for our country just doesn’t feel right to me. All three days of Memorial Day Weekend? Does anyone else think that this is inappropriate? I feel it is a slap in the face to those who have died for our country and for our freedom and to those who wish to remember them on that weekend. Did anyone consider traffic? It’s hard enough to get around DC as it is with all the “security” barriers, gridlock, road closures, road and other construction, etc., without adding this to the mix on Memorial Day weekend. Did anyone even think or consider Rolling Thunder? I hope Rolling Thunder’s energy and loudness make the “planners” reconsider this ill conceived and disrespectful change in dates.

I made a phone call to 789-7002. This number was not even listed on the web site; I got it from another listing from the Google search. The recording said it was “an outgoing message only” and to get information from the web site. But as I stated above, the web site gives no other information. All links (to sponsors, vendors, restaurants, etc.) take you to a form to fill out and E-mail to them. No other information is given on the site, not a phone number, not even the Memorial Day weekend date. One write-up says: “Besides sampling specialties from over forty diverse restaurants, there is wine tasting, live entertainment, music, and arts and crafts.” The phone recording says it is the “largest east coast outdoor food and music festival” and is produced in partnership by the American Experience Foundation, Washington DC Convention and Tourism Corporation, Downtown DC Business Improvement District, DC Chamber of Commerce, and Government of the District of Columbia. This leads me to believe that none of the people in any of these organizations raised any objections to holding this event on all three days of Memorial Day weekend.

I told my husband, a Marine, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, and he just sighed, shook his head, and said (regarding the disrespect to all veterans), “We’re used to it.” He feels that the program organizers are just expanding the accepted purpose of Memorial Day: the first day of summer, a long weekend at the beach, the pools are open; etc., and now we have food, music, wine tasting, arts and crafts, exhibitions and vendors on Pennsylvania Avenue for a three-day festival. Instead of saying “thank you” to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, the organizers now have the freedom our veterans fought for to profit from our veterans’ day of remembrance. I think this is a disgusting, distasteful, disrespectful disgrace.


Better Schools or Tax Cuts?
Marc Borbely,

On Tuesday, the City Council will decide what to do with the city’s surplus: improve schools and other human services, or reduce spending and cut taxes (or some combination of the two). While our public schools (and many other social services) are in such desperate need of more money, cutting taxes would be criminal. At the very least, I will be looking to Councilmembers to vote for a capital budget increase of $100 million (financed by a bond backed by $10 million), and for an operating budget increase of $20 million, so more than 300 teachers won’t have to be laid off, and so more “frills” like art, music, and foreign language programs, and more counselors, aren’t lost. Some of the money spent will be wasted. Most of it will not be. In any case, decent schools are a human right. After being neglected for decades, kids can’t be made to suffer for yet another year, while we work to reduce the costs.

The mayor’s proposed budget would cut spending for school buildings (repairs and modernizations) next year by $28 million (16 percent), reducing facilities spending to its lowest level in six years. The school board has said the proposed amounts “will not address the substantial unmet needs” of the schools, and it has asked the Council for additional funds “to address the immediate needs of DCPS school facilities to ensure that all schools are at least appropriate, safe and healthy educational environments.” If anyone wants to see some of the physical conditions kids and teachers endure every day, or wants to read the 27,620 service orders that haven’t been completed according to the DCPS facilities management database, visit

Kids don’t vote, and kids don’t make campaign contributions. Those of us who do, though, have an opportunity (before Tuesday) to let councilmembers know that we care deeply about our schools, and that we’ll be watching Tuesday’s budget votes closely. For a useful lobbying tool, visit There will also be a rally on Monday (May 9) at 4, outside the Wilson building.


Note to Third Ward Readers of themail
Henry Townsend,

Your councilmember, Kathy Patterson, spoke against tax cuts. See themail, May 4, first item under Classifieds — Events.


Sports and Entertainment Commission “Runs Afoul of Federal Law”
Ed Delaney,

From the Washington City Paper: “Paying day-labor janitors at RFK in the $7 range runs afoul of federal law. The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, which oversees events at RFK Stadium and the nearby DC Armory, acknowledged on May 3 that at least one of the companies supervising workers at RFK seems to be in violation of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA). The act guarantees the federally determined prevailing wage for all employees of federal and District government agencies and contractors.”

This of course comes from the organization rife with enough fiscal and ethical issues and irregularities to prompt six federal and city investigations in recent years during its rabid pursuit of the Olympics and especially MLB. The overspending that the DCSEC and mayor’s office lavished on its employees (remember Bobby Goldwater?) and myriad consultants (remember Bavasi Partners?) totaling tens of millions of dollars of public funds which led to the DCSEC’s finances “deteriorat[ing] over the last three years to near-insolvency,” according to the Washington Post in 2003, apparently stops when it comes to jobs that have trickled down as supposed benefits and opportunities brought on by MLB’s obscenely over-financed return to the District.

It’s telling that an organization that reportedly paid $10,000 a month plus untold expenses for 22 months to Bavasi Partners for services that duplicated the work of DCSEC’s executive director Bobby Goldwater as point man for DC’s MLB effort until an investigative report shed light on the issue was reportedly paying for work at a wage levels that apparently “runs afoul of federal law” until an investigative report shed light on the issue. Credit the City Paper for again showing more investigative skill and initiative on this issue than the Post, Times, and broadcast media put together.


Noise Abatement in the District
Joan Eisenstodt,

The District is not what it was. More people live downtown and in neighborhoods that are mixed residential and commercial. Case in point: we sold our house on the Hill and, while we look for a condo downtown, we are living in an apartment that backs up to Coyote Ugly (it is on 6th between G and H Streets, NW). The bar is normally a nightmare. With the outside roof deck open it is more than that — it is keeping us up, not even allowing us to have a quiet dinner conversation. It is a blight and needs to go or at least to have the roof deck closed. It is disturbing to residents and unfair to we who are paying high rent and DC taxes. What can be done? Can’t policies be changed to close it down? Or to restrict what is done? I’ve written to the mayor and a few councilmembers. Any other ideas?


What List?
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

The recycling mini-dumpsters were distributed on our block last Tuesday. The truck came by and left one at every house on the block except for my next door neighbor’s and mine. I queried the folks dropping off the blue dumpsters and asked why I did not get one. I was told that I was not on the list. I asked if my critical comments about the mayor caused me not to be on the list and was told that I was on another list and another truck would come by. Yeah, my check’s in the mail. To make things, worse the recycling folks have also taken my little recycling bin away. I guess if I want to recycle I’ll have to dump the stuff loosely at the curb and hope for the best. I know what list I’m on and it begins with an “S.”

The folks at Dulles airport must be using the same contractor as the DC Metro for their escalators and moving walkways. When we arrived this week at Dulles terminal B from our trip through the Panama Canal (a technological wonder working flawlessly after 91 years of operation) we were lucky to avoid those dreadful up and down buses. A new passenger walkway goes to the main terminal from terminal B with down and up escalators and moving walkways. Of the total of eight devices, two escalators and two moving walkways were inoperative. Hey, batting 500 will get you into the Hall of Fame.


What’s Next for the Libraries?
Phil Shapiro,

One of my hobbies is spending time thinking about the next logical steps in the unfolding of our times. Since public libraries form the core of so much of our life in this information age, I think a lot about public libraries. In this regard, I’ve been thinking what is the next logical step proceeding from the group reading activity the DC public libraries have been doing — where a book is chosen and people throughout the city read it. The next logical step is a group collaborative activity where hundreds of people participate in the creation of some group creative work — such as a film. Not a scripted film, mind you. But a made-in-one-afternoon film where large numbers of people gather at MLK library to each say something short to a camcorder on a given topic or theme.

If this kind of project is something you’d like to work on, send me an E-mail and I’ll arrange some group Skype phone conferences to plan what next steps could be. The resulting video could be distributed over the Internet for free using If collaborative creativity is an interest of yours, you might enjoy this book I found at MLK library: The new edition of this book goes by the awful name of No More Teams. Yes, there are times when book publishers have less common sense than a boulder. I’ve corresponded via E-mail with Michael Schrage, the author of this book, and he recoiled at the new name in the exact way that I did. But what do we know? We’re just the author and a reader of the book.


MPD Invasions of Privacy
Art Spitzer,

I appreciate Gary’s invitation [themail, May 4] to comment about Allan Lengel’s article in last Monday’s Washington Post, “Safety Stops Draw Doubts: DC Police Gather Nonviolators’ Data,”

That article quoted me as saying that the police are “not entitled to force you to cooperate with them to gather personal information without probable cause.” While Chief Ramsey disagrees, the ACLU may well be willing to ask the courts to decide which of us is right. But the way our legal system works, not every person has “standing” to seek a court ruling. If there are readers of themail who have been stopped at these “traffic safety checkpoints” and been required to wait while the police take down their personal information for entry into the database, and who’d like to have their information removed from the database, I’d welcome an E-mail at the address above.


Sooners in the City
Clyde E. Howard, Jr.,

[Re: Dorothy Brizill, “Insulting DC’s Neighborhoods and Activists,” May 4]: Nothing has changed. You would think that there were persons in DC qualified to fill many of the positions opened in the DC government, but as usual they hire sooners from other cities to fill the positions and then have on the job training to qualify. When that happens, you have no continuity of knowledge about the city, thus it becomes one more black mark against the government for not being in tune with the city or the people that they must govern.


Neighborhoods and DC Politics
Richard Wolf,

Dorothy Brizill and I have attended many hearings before the Council on matters affecting neighborhoods as well as a gaggle of various commissions and advisory groups. Neighborhoods are lost in a sea of special interests that are organized, funded — in some cases by the DC government itself. Neighborhoods’ interests are treated with disdain and their representatives are called various names, of which NIMBY is the least pejorative. As DC changes, this attitude will reflect itself in increasingly smaller numbers of families, even worse schools, less citizen involvement in civic affairs, etc. There is still time to change this, although no politician willing to run on a platform in which neighborhoods play an important role. Some cities like Seattle even have a department of neighborhoods; DC simply makes a rude gesture to neighborhoods, and cries crocodile tears over shootings of students and low achieving schools. Give me a break!


Broken Parking Meters
Henry Thomas,

I asked in a posting last week [themail, May 1]: “Is it true that, in DC, it is illegal to park in a space where the parking meter is broken?” I received the following helpful reply from a representative of DPW:

"In answer to your question in themail, it is perfectly legal to park at a broken meter. Motorists may park at a broken meter for the time posted. When that time has elapsed, the vehicle must be moved -- just as if the motorist was paying the meter for the time. (Yes, feeding the meter and staying longer than the posted time is illegal.) To avoid getting a ticket or having to pay a ticket at a broken meter, a motorist should call the number posted on the meter and report that it is broken. In this way, if a meter is broken, you will be able to refer to the date, time, and ticket number on your citation. The ticket and a brief explanation should then be mailed to the address on the back of the ticket."

Good news for the cell phone business.


Race in Public Debate
Bryce A. Suderow,

This is in reply to Isabella Bashin’s E-mail to themail [May 4]. Ms. Bashin objected to my using “black” and “white” to identify groups moving in and out of the city. I mentioned that low income blacks were moving out and middle class whites were moving in because it’s an historically significant fact that will change the composition of DC. And I mentioned it because I’m tired of not being able to mention the race of people when it’s significant

This reminds me of when I put up flyers a few years ago pointing out that in a series of robberies all the victims were white and the robbers were knife-wielding black teenagers. One of the victims had his throat cut and died and at least one other was stabbed and wounded. The flyer was intended to warn whites that they ought to be on the qui vive. On that occasion Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy brought the flyers to the attention of citizens at a Ward 6 city council race debate. Courtland accused the authors of the flyers of racism while waving the offending flyers around to emphasize his point. I hope we haven’t come to the point where all mention of race as one of several identifying factors is banned in public discourse by skittish black and white people.


Wenzell Taylor,

“Racism.” Isn’t that a product of white America? Didn’t it begin on this continent when white European settlers arrive here with their prejudices and determined that Native Americans were savages? Was it not cultivated and perpetuated by the kidnapping and enslavement of black Africans who were treated as animals? How about the Asians who had the early railroads beaten out of their hides, and the Mexicans whose land was pillaged? What your grandfather was doing was instilling racism in you just as it had been done to him. Racism is not subtle at all. Racism is taught in this country every day. It has grown and evolved in its complexity and is the result of greed of all the ethnic groups.


Previews from the May issue of the Hill Rag
Andrew Lightman,

“Old Naval Hospital ‘Recovery’ Plans Rejected.” Last December, the office of Mayor Anthony Williams was hinting that victory was just around the corner for community activists working to win renovation of the crumbling Old Naval Hospital, located at 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. Two years earlier, those activists had succeeded in convincing the government to solicit development proposals, resulting in two viable bids that appealed to many Hill residents. Good thing they weren’t holding their breath. After four months of silence, the Mayor now breaks the news: he is rejecting both proposals, even the one recommended by his hand-picked committee.

“Lincoln Park, Pulse of Hill Life.” How do you take back a neighborhood park from pimps and prostitutes? Dog-walking, of course. Capital Community News celebrates the histories and mysteries of Lincoln Park, including the dog-walkers that reclaimed the park, the new battle between dogs and families with children and the continuing controversy about the emancipation statue.

And much more community news, including reports on the Ward 6 April ANC meetings; the 22nd Annual Capitol Hill Community Achievement Awards; the return of baseball brings a parking headache; how last year’s MPD redistricting has affected community policing on the Hill, Part II; neighbors turn to a new strategy to stop the violence at Hill East restaurant New Dragon: eating there; and residents speak out about RFK parking, Hill East crime and the power of the ANCs. Available today, free of charge, at Metro stops, street corners, and fine establishments across the city. Or check out our web site at



Smart Growth, May 11
Brie Hensold,

Wednesday, May 11, 12:30-1:30 p.m. The reasons for smart growth are compelling, but implementation remains challenging. A team from the Smart Growth Leadership Institute (SGLI) has been working with communities that are grappling with specific local challenges to creating smart growth. The team has drawn from experience in 13 communities to create a Smart Growth Implementation Kit for national distribution. Harriet Tregoning, SGLI executive director, will describe the tools developed in this project, including a policy and code and zoning audit, smart sites template, and a smart growth design checklist. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Free. Registration not required.


Adams Morgan Transportation Study Meeting, May 17
Corinna J. Moebius, Bordercross Communications,

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) invites you to the second public meeting for a transportation and parking study of Adams Morgan and a portion of Woodley Park. At this meeting, find out about the latest data that has been collected related to streets, crosswalks, traffic levels, parking, etc., and discuss possible solutions to transportation, parking, and urban design challenges. 18th St./Adams Morgan Transportation and Parking Study Public Meeting #2, Tuesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m., Marie Reed Community Learning Center Auditorium, 2200 Champlain Street (enter on 18th Street between Champlain and Kalorama). Bilingual (Spanish/English) representatives will be available for assistance, and Spanish-language handouts will be available.

Visit for more information or to share your comments via an online form. Please encourage local residents, business owners, and other stakeholders to attend this important event.


A “Warm, Rich,” and “Powerfully Moving” Play About Jazz, June 4
David Sobelsohn, dsobelso -at- capaccess -dot- org

Warren Leight’s Tony Award-winning “Side Man” (1998) dramatizes the price a musician’s family pays for his obsession with jazz. It’s “warm, rich, funny” (New York Post), and “powerfully moving” (Washington Post), even “heartbreaking.” On Saturday, June 4, at 8 p.m., Arts-DC founder Bob Greene and Footlights founder David Sobelsohn will lead a group to the Church Street Theater, 1742 Church Street, NW (between P and Q; Dupont Metro), for the Keegan Theater production of “Side Man.” We have group discount tickets for $20, which includes a post-show discussion with the cast. We’ll have dinner beforehand at an inexpensive Dupont Circle restaurant (to be determined) and provide a preview of the play. Make checks payable to “Keegan Theater” and mail, in time to arrive by Wednesday, May 25, to Bob Greene, 111 Lee Ave. #406, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Tickets are limited! Only receipt of your check will guarantee your ticket. For any questions, E-mail or call 301-270-3114.



Juliet Bruce,

Reasonably priced, new or used, minimum 76 keys.



Peace and Student Movements Organizing Coordinator
Robin Weiss-Castro,

The Institute for Policy Studies is the nation’s oldest multi-issue progressive think tank. Since 1963, the Institute has worked with social movements to forge viable and sustainable policies to promote peace, democracy, justice, human rights, and diversity. IPS is seeking a full-time Peace and Student Movements Organizing Coordinator to join its staff. The Peace and Student Movements Organizing Coordinator will work to integrate IPS’ scholarship, writing, and strategy with the grassroots peace and justice movement and the student global justice movement. Responsibilities: 1) serve on Steering Committee of the largest national coalition, United for Peace and Justice. Assist in building coalition’s financial and operational infrastructure, represent IPS ! at organizing meetings, and help shape IPS’s contribution to the coalition’s organizational planning process. 2) Represent IPS projects on various UFPJ working groups including the Education Working Group, Elected Officials Working Group, and National Guard Campaign Group. Help shape and execute peace movement strategy and IPS’s contribution to stopping US unilateralism and aggressive war and fostering a new internationalism. 3) Keep abreast of and coordinate with other organization and coalitions’ activities including Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Code Pink, Win Without War, US Labor Against the War, and others. 4) Conduct research, writing, and/or distribution as needed for IPS studies, UFPJ action alerts, talking points and other peace movement support materials. Assist with producing downloadable materials for use in Congressional education strategies. Continue to shape an evolving rapid response network combining! IPS scholarship and UFPJ grassroots muscle. This may include research assistance on key issues, coordinating quick political discussions between key UFPJ Coordinating members and IPS projects. 5) Assist with fund raising for IPS peace working group initiatives and help to fund the UFPJ/ IPS partnership. 6) Organize occasional IPS sponsored events around new internationalism and peace. This may include teach-ins, capitol hill events, town hall meetings with local allies, speaking tours etc. 7) Work with IPS media team and UFPJ media team to generate national media attention on IPS/UFPJ events and actions and shape the messaging and story about peace movement growth and sustainability.

Student organizing responsibilities: 1) serve on Steering Committee of the Generation FAIR Network, a loose network of 14 of the largest student organizations in the U.S. that campaign on international issues. Track and support catalytic grants awarded to student/youth activist groups starting collaborative campaigns after the Generation FAIR conference in April 2005. 2) Represent FPIF and IPS in student activist communities, as a resource for research and analysis; contribute to long-term youth movement strategy in the struggle for global justice. 3) Keep abreast of and coordinate with other organization and coalitions’ activities including United States Student Association, Student Global AIDS Campaign, United Students Against Sweatshops, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Sierra Student Coalition, American Friends Service Committee, Nuclear Peace Age Foundation, and others. 4) Create campaign friendly materials from FPIF reports and policy briefs for popular education. Coordinate and execute their strategic distribution to campus and youth communities domestically and internationally (where applicable). 5) Organize occasional youth-based events in DC and campuses/communities across the country . This includes supervising an intern who organizes a summer foreign policy film series screened at IPS each year and may include teach-ins, brownbag discussions, panels, speaker tours, and campus visits to student groups.

Qualifications: at least three years experience in advocacy, organizing and/or public policy. Experience coordinating grassroots campaigns (event organizing, media, grassroots mobilization, etc.). Working knowledge of basic research and the federal legislative process Good research, writing and public speaking skills. Salary: $32,000-$36,000 (based on experience) plus excellent benefits. Qualified applicants should fax or E-mail a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and salary requirements by June 1, to Robin Weiss-Castro, Institute for Policy Studies, or fax 387-7915.


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