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The Falwells, the pool attendant and the double life that brought them all down

By Michael E. Miller and Sarah Pulliam Bailey
The Falwells, the pool attendant and the double life that brought them all down
Giancarlo Granda, the former Miami hotel pool attendant whose accusations of an affair helped lead to Jerry Falwell's resignation from Liberty University last month, now lives in the Washington area. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Toni L. Sandys.

For 2 1/2 years, Giancarlo Granda had been telling his family about the generosity of his business partners. The wealthy couple from out of town had taken him under their wing, he said, rewarding the Miami pool attendant's ambition with a stake in a multimillion-dollar real estate project. Now he wanted them to meet.

In a trendy Italian restaurant inside the South Beach property where he'd become a part owner, Granda introduced his parents and sister to his unlikely benefactors: Jerry and Becki Falwell.

Over wine and pasta, the president of Liberty University and his wife praised the square-jawed 22-year-old, saying he was like an adopted son, Granda and his sister recalled.

"Oh my God. They're so nice," Granda's mother said of the Falwells afterward. "They're so charming."

"You see?" Granda recalled replying. "They just want to help me out."

But the dinner in 2014 was about more than making an introduction, Granda now claims, and he was far more than the Falwells' friend.

Instead, Granda alleges he was in the middle of a years-long relationship with the Falwells in which he would have sex with Becki while Jerry watched and sometimes recorded. Becki acknowledges the affair with Granda, but she and Jerry both deny he was involved in any way.

"I never participated in this affair as he now falsely claims," Jerry Falwell said in a statement. "Obviously, it was a very painful period of our lives, but we reconciled and love each other."

Granda maintains that the intimate dinner - a photo of which Granda posted on Instagram on Nov. 14, 2014 - was part of an attempt to provide a cover story, as people began questioning the ties between the middle-aged evangelical couple and the handsome young college student.

Granda's claims about the affair, which were first reported in detail by Reuters, were made the same day Falwell stepped down last month as president of Liberty, the prominent Christian university his televangelist father founded a half-century ago in Lynchburg, Va.

And the relationship may have played a role in the political fortunes of President Donald Trump. Falwell endorsed Trump in 2016, not long after his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said he helped the Falwells cover up compromising photos.

In interviews with The Washington Post, Falwell said his wife had a one- or two-year affair with Granda, who then tried to blackmail them.

"He is a liar and he's an extortionist," Falwell, 58, said of Granda.

"It's been a nightmare," Becki, 53, said.

But Granda, now 29, says the relationship went on for nearly seven years. Photos, emails, text messages and other documents he provided to The Post support that timeline. In a 2019 recording, Granda and the Falwells can be heard discussing a weekend they shared at a resort seven years earlier, and their fears that the getaway would become public. And screen grabs of a FaceTime conversation in early 2019 appear to show Becki topless and drinking wine while Jerry watched her talk to Granda.

Granda said it was the Falwells who preyed on him.

"I was groomed," he said. "And before I knew it, I was trapped."

Granda, who now lives in the Washington area and recently earned a graduate degree from Georgetown, said his involvement with the Falwells ruined relationships with girlfriends and led him to contemplate suicide.

"I've been living with this hell for so long," he said. "I just want to get out."

- - -

Granda was flitting between pool chairs and umbrellas in March 2012 when the 20-year-old noticed something unusual, even in the anything-goes atmosphere of Miami Beach.

A bikini-clad woman in her 40s was snapping cellphone photos - not of the glamorous Fontainebleau hotel where Granda worked, but of him. A few minutes later, Becki Falwell approached and propositioned him, Granda said.

At the time, he was a struggling college student while Jerry Falwell Jr. was leading the transformation of Liberty University into a billion-dollar Goliath with more than 100,000 students, most of them online. The nearly 15,000 residential students are forbidden from drinking or having sex.

Born in Miami to middle-class parents from Mexico and Cuba, Granda grew up a few miles away from the glitzy wealth of the Fontainebleau.

"We were regular Miami kids," said Thomas Prescott, who played baseball alongside Granda at St. Brendan High School. "We'd go to parties, play poker . . . chase girls."

But Granda's athletics and academics began to suffer when he became fixated on video games. The obsession got so bad that he quit the baseball team halfway through his senior year.

"He developed an unhealthy relationship, an addiction," recalled his sister. "Our parents didn't really know how to handle that."

Eventually, Granda traded video games for martial arts, and began taking college courses part-time. By the time he met the Falwells, he had bulked up but described himself as lacking in confidence. Granda now believes the Falwells spotted that insecurity, and exploited it.

After his shift that day at the Fontainebleau, he received a call from a blocked number. It was Becki, inviting him to a nearby hotel, Granda said. He was initially eager, dialing his sister on the way to tell her what was going on.

"I told him it sounded kind of crazy, but he said, 'It'll be fun,' " his sister recalled.

Granda hesitated, he said, when he got to the room and saw Jerry lying on the bed, looking drunk and with his pants unzipped.

Becki poured Granda a glass of whiskey and told him to relax, he said.

"Just go for it," Jerry said, according to Granda.

Falwell gave a completely different account of how he met Granda. It was at least a month after Becki met him, he told The Post, and it was entirely innocent.

"I just ordered quesadillas from him at the pool," he said. "That was about it."

Falwell later stopped answering texts, calls and emails seeking further comment.

But Granda provided The Post with an email from Jerry containing photos from a second rendezvous the day after the first one. In one photo, Granda is standing next to Becki with his arm around her. In another, Granda is standing next to Jerry.

"Hey Gian! Hope all is well with you," the March 22, 2012, email from Jerry began. "Becki asked me to send you these pictures. Have a good night."

- - -

In the fall of 2012, Donald Trump delivered one of the more unorthodox convocation speeches Liberty University had ever seen. After accepting an honorary degree from Falwell, Trump advised the thousands of evangelical students in attendance to sign prenuptial agreements and always "get even."

Sitting in the front row next to the Falwell children, Granda was shocked - less by the speech than by the crowd's adulation for his hosts.

By then, Granda said, his relationship with the Falwells was in its sixth month. As the Liberty University president and his wife entered the auditorium, students broke into rapturous applause.

The pressure of maintaining this double life would eventually overwhelm Granda as a lawsuit stemming from a real estate deal with the Falwells threatened to reveal their relationship. According to Cohen, that same lawsuit would play a part in powering Trump to the presidency.

The ill-fated deal had begun five months earlier, during a weekend Granda spent with the Falwells in New York City. The former video game addict pitched Jerry on investing in a website to help people recover from the affliction, Granda recalled. But Falwell - who'd long been a real estate developer - said he had a better idea. If Granda found a good property to buy in Miami Beach, Falwell would give him a 25% ownership.

Granda turned to someone he knew from high school, Jesus Fernandez Jr., whose father had experience in local real estate.

The Fernandezes helped steer the Falwells to a South Beach building that contained a youth hostel, a liquor store and the Italian restaurant. But Granda said his friend asked him repeatedly about his relationship with the Falwells.

"He kept saying, 'What's going on here?' " Granda recalled. "He suspected something."

Efforts to reach Jesus Fernandez Sr. were unsuccessful, and his son declined to answer questions about their business relationship with Granda and the Falwells.

The deal was completed in early 2013 for $4.65 million, real estate and court records show, with the Falwells loaning $1 million to a newly created limited liability corporation, in which Granda was a part owner with Becki and the Falwells' elder son, Jerry "Trey" Falwell III.

For two years, Granda said he managed the hostel while occasionally meeting the Falwells in Miami Beach or at their Virginia farm.

Becki sent him romantic songs and inspirational quotes, and Granda posted benign pictures of himself with the Falwells on social media: emerging from their private jet, celebrating at their sons' weddings.

If anyone ever asked about their relationship, Jerry told Granda to say the Falwells were mentoring him, Granda recalled.

Then in mid-2014, Granda received a phone call from someone representing the Fernandezes. The father and son would later claim in court that they had been promised a stake in the South Beach property deal by Granda and Jerry Falwell. But, according to Granda, the call focused less on the deal than his relationship with the Falwells.

Granda said he called Jerry, who told him they needed to "normalize" the relationship by posting photos of the two families together. As they sat in the Italian restaurant across from the Falwells in 2014, Granda's parents still didn't know how their son had actually come to be a part owner of the lucrative property, he recalled.

"Dinner with the family," Granda wrote on Instagram under a picture of the six of them.

With the Fernandezes threatening to sue, Granda said he met with the Falwells in May of 2015 at the pool of another South Beach hotel. Trump was going to announce his campaign for president, Jerry said. Then he offered to buy Granda out of the real estate project, Granda recalled.

Granda had recently started dating someone and wanted to cut ties - sexual and professional - with the Falwells, he said. But Jerry told him he had to wait until the legal threat was over, Granda recalled.

A few weeks later, the Fernandezes sued the Falwells and Granda over the real estate deal, claiming fraud and breach of contract and seeking unspecified damages. The complaint alluded to the co-defendants' "friendly relationship."

"The lawsuit was basically insinuating that there was a strange relationship," Granda recalled. "So in my mind, I'm like, people are going to find out. This is terrible."

It was around that time that Michael Cohen got involved.

The Falwells had met Cohen during Trump's visit to Liberty University in 2012. In his new book, "Disloyal," Cohen claims that Jerry called him and asked for help in dealing with an unnamed young man who was suing the Falwells and had photos of Becki "half-naked" atop a tractor.

Cohen called the man's attorney and threatened to go to the FBI if the photos became public, he wrote, adding that Falwell would later repay the favor by shocking his fellow evangelicals and endorsing Trump in 2016.

Falwell confirmed to The Post that Cohen helped keep the photos quiet, but said he didn't ask Cohen to get involved, wasn't aware of his role until after Trump was elected and always planned to endorse Trump.

Last month, Falwell claimed someone stole the photos of Becki from his phone. In a later interview, he accused Granda of selling the photos to the Fernandezes - something Granda denies.

Jesus Fernandez Jr., who has changed his name to Gordon Bello because of the case, declined to answer questions about the lawsuit or the alleged photos.

"The Falwell, Granda and Cohen families must be going through very distressful times," he said in a text message. "It's not easy when the chickens come home to roost."

The lawsuit dragged on 4.5 years.

On July 14, 2016, four days before the Republican National Convention, Jerry texted Granda suggesting they sign a letter of intent to sell the South Beach property, promising him a sizable payout.

"Trey says there is enough for you and he to net $600,000 each after taxes," Jerry wrote, according to a copy of the message Granda shared with The Post.

Granda agreed, the text messages show, but the sale never occurred, leaving Granda increasingly frustrated.

Still, Granda and Becki continued to exchange affectionate texts.

"I miss you so much my heart hurts," she wrote after seeing him in May 2017. "I couldn't take my eyes off of you."

"Good morning beautiful," he replied the next day.

"Good morning gorgeous," she texted back.

And when he applied to a graduate real estate program at Georgetown in 2018, Granda asked Jerry for a letter of recommendation.

"I became acquainted with Mr. Granda in early 2012 when he was working his way through college in Miami Beach," Falwell wrote, adding that Granda was a "quick study."

A month later, however, a reporter from BuzzFeed began calling Granda.

"We just need everyone to go silent and avoid creating a story where one does not exist," Falwell texted Granda. The article came out three weeks later, with the headline: "Jerry Falwell Jr. And A Young Pool Attendant Launched A Business That Sparked A Bitter Dispute."

Granda tried to restart his life in D.C., but the "pool boy" stories kept coming.

"My life is absolutely ruined," he texted Becki in December of 2018 along with a photo of the coverage. He threatened suicide.

"When they find my lifeless body hanging in the woods, please make sure Logan is returned to my family," he wrote, referring to his dog. "Goodbye."

"Stay off social media," Becki replied. "It's all left wing nut jobs. That's from Jerry."

Granda said he believes he missed out on internships because of the notoriety. Even when the lawsuit was finally settled in October, the scandal still clung to him.

Granda began demanding the Falwells buy him out last year. When they wouldn't, he decided the only thing left was to go public.

"Since you're okay with ruining my life, I am going to take the kamikaze route," he wrote Jerry in June. "It really is a shame because I wanted to reach a peaceful resolution and just move on with our lives but if conflict is what you want, then so be it."

Granda texted a photo of himself in front of a microphone, recording a podcast.

"You should by now understand that I will not be extorted," Falwell replied. "I have always treated you fairly and been restrained in response to your threats because I did not wish to ruin your life. Going forward stop contacting me and my family."

- - -

Granda collapsed into a chair on the rooftop of his apartment building in the D.C. suburbs, rubbing his eyes with one hand while nursing a can of iced coffee in the other.

It had been four days since Jerry Falwell stepped down as president of Liberty University, a move that will earn him $10.5 million in severance.

After years of hiding his relationship with the Falwells, Granda was now in the middle of a media blitz. He had woken up before dawn to go on "Good Morning America," had an interview with the Associated Press in the afternoon and had a trip that evening to CNN to talk to Anderson Cooper.

The interviews were being arranged pro bono by Kurt Bardella, a former Republican congressional aide whose ties to the Lincoln Project have led to accusations that Granda is getting paid by the anti-Trump outfit.

But Granda insisted he hadn't been paid to go public. Instead, he said his decision to step forward now was because of Falwell's increasingly erratic behavior.

In early August, Falwell took an indefinite leave from Liberty after apologizing for a photo he posted on Instagram showing him with his pants unzipped, stomach exposed and his arm around a young woman.

"That's what allowed me to be like, OK. I think if I come forward, people are going to believe me," Granda said.

He had tried to prepare his parents and girlfriend. But now there were news vans outside his parents' house in Miami and his girlfriend would begin getting Instagram messages from Becki, warning her not to trust Granda.

In the days before the Reuters article was published, Granda said the Falwells' attorneys produced his texts mentioning suicide as proof of his instability, and a letter he'd once written at Jerry's behest denying anything inappropriate as evidence he was lying.

"The Falwells are trying to say I preyed upon them," he said. "But they're the ones that approached me. . . . They're the ones that sucked me in."

He hoped speaking up would help him find a job and move on with his life. But he remains tied to the Falwells through the South Beach property.

On Aug. 14, he texted Becki a photo of his Georgetown diploma as a reminder, he said, that he was no longer the 20-year-old she'd approached at the side of the pool.

"Congratulations," she wrote back. "So proud of you!"

Her tone changed 10 days later, when the Reuters article came out.

"I hope you're happy and that you were paid very well," she wrote that night. "Jerry just resigned."

A baker's tale: A Beirut landmark struggles to survive unending crises

By Siobhán O'Grady and Nader Durgham
A baker's tale: A Beirut landmark struggles to survive unending crises
Robert Ghattas in the Catholic Church of St. Anthony, located in front of his bakery in the Gemmayzeh district of Beirut. MUST CREDIT: photo for The Washington Post by Karine Pierre / Hans Lucas.

BEIRUT - The way Robert Ghattas sees it, he owes his life to the humble manousheh.

Since 1982, the artisanal baker has spent his days serving up dozens of varieties of the traditional doughy flatbread - as ubiquitous on Lebanese breakfast tables as a croissant in Paris or a bagel in New York. The earnings from his tiny Beirut bakery helped carry his family through wars and economic downturns and paved the way for his two sons to study and ultimately settle abroad. The bakery, he said, was like his third child.

But in the past year, a devastating economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic have converged in Lebanon, pushing many businesses close to ruin. When an enormous explosion struck the beleaguered capital in August, killing nearly 200 people and devastating entire neighborhoods, it unleashed a new wave of suffering for business owners.

More than half of the roughly 2,100 bars and eateries in greater Beirut, including the Ghattas Bakery, were damaged in the blast, according to a survey carried out by the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs and Pastries in Lebanon. The damage to such establishments is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars - an enormous sum of money in a country where the local currency has lost 80 percent of its value in the past year.

Lebanon's tourism sector, which includes restaurants, has lost about $500 million a month this year, according to the syndicate. Tens of thousands of restaurant workers have lost their jobs.

"I knew Lebanon had its ups and downs, but the explosion tore us apart," Ghattas said through tears this month on the sidewalk outside his once-bustling shop, surrounded by piles of debris. "It tossed us away."

He and other small-business owners were essentially left with two options: abandon their life's work or scramble to put together the money to rebuild - without any help from a cash-strapped government.

Ghattas surveyed what was left of his 225-square-foot shop in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood, where for decades he had proudly presided over the creation of hundreds of pastries each day.

The ceiling had crashed to the floor, burying his oven and refrigerator in rubble. His aluminum door was destroyed. The sign that hung above the shop, embellished with a picture of his late father, was torn off. In all, Ghattas estimated that the repairs would cost around $10,000 and that it could take five years to make up for his losses.

- - -

Ghattas learned at a young age that running a business in Lebanon comes with its fair share of complications.

He was born to a family of bakers. His grandfather, he said, opened the first family bakery in 1920 and mainly sold bread. Ghattas's father followed in the family business. But when he died young, Ghattas had to drop out of school to take over and provide for his younger siblings.

His landlord's plans to renovate forced Ghattas to leave the original bakery behind, but he soon opened his own shop near his grandparents' old house. And he turned his focus away from bread, mastering the art of the manousheh, a pizza-like delicacy often topped with spices, ground meat or cheese.

His first menu was slim, but Ghattas thrived behind the counter, where he charmed his customers, often serving his creations with a side of chitchat. His success allowed him to eventually expand the menu to around 35 items and feature ingredients such as imported Bulgarian cheese.

His sons grew up visiting the bakery, where they learned their father's secret recipes. The family stood by the business through the unpredictability of life in Lebanon, even after a bomb fell nearby during the Lebanese civil war and some regular customers began migrating abroad.

In the early 2000s, Ghattas briefly moved to Texas, he recounted, and tried opening a Lebanese restaurant with his brother. His wife, Theodora, stayed behind to manage the shop and continue her day job as a banker. But Lebanon called Ghattas back, and eventually his hole-in-the-wall shop emerged as a manousheh landmark in a historic district frequented by tourists and Lebanese alike.

"We are a family of fighters, and we fought hard to keep this business open," said his son Elie, interviewed in Canada, where he now lives.

- - -

Last year, as anti-government protesters took to the streets, the prime minister resigned and the currency was tanking, customers kept showing up to buy their breakfasts.

Ghattas reluctantly increased his prices, but what money he made was only enough for him to scrape by.

"I stuck to my personal principle: Sustain yourself, but don't be a thief," he said.

When the coronavirus hit and the government called for a lockdown in March, Ghattas told his workers that he would keep them as long as he could but that some should also look for work elsewhere. Still, he hoped that the economy would recover and the bakery would soon be up and running at full capacity.

Then came the Aug. 4 explosion. He rushed to his beloved shop - and, he said, had trouble finding it under the rubble.

He said he knew he couldn't abandon the bakery, but the costs seemed insurmountable.

Soon, donations started to roll in. A neighboring business gave him its oven. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $5,000 to help with repairs.

Ghattas was able to pay to fix the ceiling and start cleaning up the mess. The floor is still damaged and he's short on cash - but suddenly it seemed like reopening might be possible after all.

Many of his customers have temporarily moved away - their apartments and offices still damaged from the blast. Others, traumatized by the experience, are unwilling to return.

But Ghattas said he hopes that if he fires up his new oven at the end of the month, his faithful clients will show up to support him or place orders by phone.

When the first one appears at his door, he will carefully sprinkle whichever ingredients they choose - za'atar or cheese, bacon or turkey - on top of his rolled-out dough, before sliding it into the oven to bake until golden brown.

He hopes that when he hands over the warm pastry, wrapped in paper and steaming with the smells of his grandfather's kitchen, his displaced customers will get a small taste of home.

There's no relationship quite like that between "a man and his manousheh guy," he said. For Ghattas, that's what gives him joy. "When you love your job this much, you can't go wrong."

Beneath a Virginia parking lot rest the bones of an old Black church and, perhaps, its worshipers

By Michael E. Ruane
Beneath a Virginia parking lot rest the bones of an old Black church and, perhaps, its worshipers
James Ingram Jr. portrays the Rev. Gowan Pamphlet at Colonial Williamsburg. Pamphlet was the first African American ordained as a minister in America and a founder of the First Baptist Church, which still survives. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Timothy C. Wright

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - The earth where Deshondra Dandridge was digging with her pick and trowel was packed hard and filled with stones where she knelt, searching for the bones of the old church.

Buried here in the orange clay of a former parking lot on Nassau Street are the remains of a vanished history - the story of a Black congregation that didn't fit the Williamsburg narrative, whose people once worshiped, and may be buried, on this spot, and whose roots are as old as those of the United States.

Dandridge and other archaeologists from Colonial Williamsburg last week began excavating the site of the old First Baptist Church, one of the oldest such churches in the country, which had buildings there in 1856, though perhaps as early as 1818, and was organized in 1776.

The 1856 church - whose bell was used to dedicate the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington four years ago - was torn down in the 1950s. But its foundation and that of two earlier structures, one possibly a privy, have been detected underground.

It is the earliest African American church in Williamsburg, experts said.

Oral tradition holds that the site may also contain the remains of past church members.

As the archaeologists began to dig on a warm morning last week and the cicadas droned in the trees, members of Williamsburg's descendant First Baptist Church gathered to watch, to voice pride in their forebears and dismay that recognition has taken so long.

"There's a noticeable absence of the story of early African Americans in Williamsburg," said Connie Matthews Harshaw, president of the church's Let Freedom Ring Foundation.

Those who re-created the quaint Colonial attraction in the early and mid-1900s "basically erased everything that has to do with African Americans," she said. "It's a blank canvas."

During the entrenched racial segregation of the time, the story of a post-Colonial Black church did not fit the Williamsburg narrative, she said. A plaque was placed at the site in 1983.

But with this project, Colonial Williamsburg has "come full circle," she said. "I am just overwhelmed with joy. Weeping may last for a night, but there's joy in the morning. This is the morning."

"If they don't find one thing, the fact that [Colonial Williamsburg] acknowledged that we were here" is gratifying, she said. "But they're going to find something."

The Rev. Dr. Reginald Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, said, "There are a lot of things . . . about Black history that have either been covered up or shoved aside due to White supremacy."

Dennis Gardner, 85, was born two blocks from the site. He had attended the old church "since I was like 6 years old, following my mom and dad," until it was sold, he said. "So I've been here a long time."

"Our side of the history of Williamsburg has not been told," he said.

The dig is expected to last about seven weeks.

"I'm just surprised the work had never been done before," Cliff Fleet, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's new president, said as he watched. "I'm surprised but I'm not surprised. . . . It's a story that needs to be told. And more people need to know it."

According to the congregation's tradition, enslaved and free Black people began meeting secretly in the woods to pray and listen to a minister named Moses, and later to an enslaved tavern worker and preacher named Gowan Pamphlet.

When Pamphlet, a Baptist, was ordained in 1772, he was the "only ordained black preacher of any denomination in the country," according to Colonial Williamsburg.

And it was perhaps around that time that he began to lead meetings of the rural Black congregation outside town.

Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780, and by 1775 more than half of its 1,880 residents were Black, most of them enslaved, according to historian Linda Rowe.

The church congregants had to meet in remote locales outdoors. It was dangerous for Black people to gather in numbers anywhere, for fear of arousing White suspicions of revolt.

Moses, the original preacher, was regularly whipped for holding religious meetings, Rowe wrote.

Pamphlet's enslaver, Jane Vobe, ran the King's Arms Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street, across from the Raleigh Tavern, a popular venue for auctions of enslaved people, Rowe wrote in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

Pamphlet's congregation grew anyhow, to as many as 500 by 1791, Rowe wrote.

And church tradition has it that a local White businessman, Jesse Cole, while walking his lands one day, came upon the congregation meeting and singing in an outdoor shelter made of tree limbs and underbrush.

Moved by the scene, he offered them a carriage house he owned on Nassau Street, according to Rowe.

At that point, the record becomes cloudy.

In 1818, there is a reference to a "Baptist meeting house" on the spot, according to the project's research. "It is unclear what this building looked like or how long it had been standing on the lot by 1818," researchers wrote.

Further mention came in 1834, when a tornado tore through Williamsburg and a Norfolk newspaper reported that the "colored people's meeting house" was blown down.

In 1855, a stately new brick church was built with a steeple and palladian windows.

The church housed a school for Black students in the 1860s. It survived a Civil War battle in 1862 that killed and wounded thousands of men, and filled the town with injured soldiers.

It served its members through the end of slavery, the eras of Reconstruction, Jim Crow racial oppression, segregation and the dawn of the civil rights movement.

The church shows up on a 1921 insurance map labeled "Baptist Church (Colored.)" The map notes that it was heated with "stoves" and illuminated with "lamps."

It was "hot as blazes in the summer," and cold in the winter, remembers Vernon Ross, who was baptized there in 1939. It had a pump organ, a choir, and on Sundays "you could hear the singing all over that end of town," he said in a recent interview.

In 1953, the researchers wrote, when the church planned to build an adjacent annex, a member of the congregation, "Sister Epps (Most likely Mrs. Fannie Epps)," said her great-grandfather was buried where the annex was supposed to go.

That raised the "very real possibility that congregation members have been buried on this property, though any grave markers that they may have erected are long-since removed," the research report said.

The church agreed to commemorate Epps's great-grandfather and started the annex but never finished it. The archaeologists have found what may be the annex foundation, and thus the possible location of the graves.

Colonial Williamsburg subsequently bought the church and tore the old building down in 1955. The site was paved over in 1965. A new church funded by the sale - the First Baptist Church - was built about eight blocks away in 1956.

After the old church was torn down, a limited archaeological dig was conducted in 1957, Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg's director of archaeology, said last week. Results were modest, he said.

Since then, aside from the former parking lot, the site has been undisturbed. "Nothing else has been on the lot," he said. "No one has lived here. So any artifacts we find, even if they're jumbled up, they have to be associated with the church."

"Which is really cool," he said.

Care will be used if a grave is found.

"We're looking for the top of the grave," he said. "As soon as we see that, and outline it, that's it, we stop. We have no intention of going down to human remains. The [descendants] of the people buried here are still in our community."

"They should have some say in what happens with these graves," he said. "We want to be able to find them, so that we can protect them."

If the community wanted an examination of the remains, "we would partner with a biological anthropologist," he said. "We would excavate down to the remains. We would make sure that everything is closed off."

The anthropologist could then study them, and possibly remove them for laboratory examination, he said.

"But we wouldn't do it without the consent of the community," he said. "This is their project."

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

We don'tneed no reeducation

By kathleen parker
We don'tneed no reeducation


Advance for release Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU: Removes 3rd graf from the end ("Meanwhile,...")

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- The words "patriotic education," recently introduced by President Trump, bear an unfortunate similarity to patriotic (BEG ITAL)reeducation(END ITAL), a term not generally associated with liberty.

Authoritarian rulers with genocidal tendencies have often used patriotic education -- otherwise known as brainwashing -- to turn children into little tattle-taling implants of the state. This isn't what Trump intends, even if some on the left prefer to see it that way. And there are some other forms of American reeducation taking root around the country that merit examination.

Trump announced his intention to create a commission to study a pro-America curriculum during a speech Thursday, Constitution Day, from the National Archives. He said he wanted to "restore patriotic education to our schools," largely in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the New York Times Magazine's "1619 Project," a series of essays that reframed American history as beginning with the arrival of the first slaves in the Virginia colony. The project, now being embraced by some colleges and already headed for grades K-12, places "the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

While this would have been an interesting idea for a doctoral dissertation, I'm not sure the country is quite ready to rebrand the Founding Fathers as little more than cruel, greedy bigots. Trump, while hardly the best narrator for this story, is not alone in worrying that the Black Lives Matter movement, for all the awareness of police brutality that it has created, has become a cudgel for those who want to deconstruct America, monument by monument.

Equally concerning are efforts underway to educate some federal employees about "white privilege," "systemic racism" and "white fragility."

In July, a whistleblower at the Treasury Department leaked documents about a diversity training course titled "Difficult Conversations about Race in Troubling Times." According to Christopher F. Rufo, who received the documents and wrote about them in the Manhattan Institute's "City Journal," the course is based upon the "premise that 'virtually all White people contribute to racism' and have internalized 'fairly consistent narratives about race' that 'don't support the dismantling of racist institutions.'"

Let's just say, not really. At least not consciously, which is the conversation we're not having but should: how the unconscious mind harbors racist attitudes. In his 2010 book, "The Hidden Brain," former Post writer Shankar Vedantam argues that all people -- Blacks, Whites and everyone else -- are 100% racist in their subconscious minds. These biases form at early ages, and we basically spend the rest of our mature lives trying to tamp them down or eradicate them. Sometimes we fail, usually when stressed, afraid, angry or just plain tired.

This is also the underlying premise of the "diversity consultant" Howard Ross, who happens to be White, and who has led at least 17 training courses across federal departments, including at Treasury, since Trump's inauguration. The problem, however, is that telling people they're unconsciously racist, which requires about five minutes of explanation, doesn't mean that all Whites are standby racists.

While I don't worry much about adults being inconvenienced at work by a relatively innocuous time-waster, I do worry about programming young children to feel good or bad about their history. Ross tells his conferees to go home and talk to their children about race, which is fine to a point. The extent to which schools incorporate critical race theory into their curricula is bound to vary widely by state and district. Learning about the realities of slavery, Jim Crow, the ongoing fight for equality and other historical facts is justified and necessary, but the age-appropriateness of material should be scrupulously overseen by parents and pediatric psychologists, not agenda-driven ideologues.

It doesn't take a degree in politics to see that, with Election Day six weeks away, Trump is creating a cultural conflict he thinks will get him reelected. Plainly, "patriotic education" is a coded dog whistle at a time when self-proclaimed "patriots" tend to cluster on the far-right fringes, bearing arms and waving battle flags. It's the kind of tactic Republicans have employed for years, usually late in close campaigns. What a coincidence.

This much is certain: Trump isn't the only one calling for a new curriculum in America. But he won't be the one instructing children to go home and quiz their parents about their racism and white privilege. No, that job falls to the authorities from the Diversity Educational Complex, who are busy rewriting history as we speak.

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Kathleen Parker's email address is

Trump has made Americans' lives worse. Here's the proof.

By dana milbank
Trump has made Americans' lives worse. Here's the proof.


Advance for release Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, and thereafter

(For Milbank clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Dana Milbank

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's America is one sad place.

We, as a nation, have fallen into a great depression, though not necessarily an economic one. By one highly respected gauge, self-reported levels of happiness are at their lowest since social scientists began asking such questions half a century ago.

Much of this is because of the pandemic, and the economic fallout, but the troubles predate the virus. Overall mental well-being dropped noticeably after President Trump's election in 2016, in red and blue states alike. Happiness became decoupled from financial security, and evidence points to a "Trump Effect" -- an American public depressed because of extraordinary vitriol in politics, chaos in the news and a government out of control.

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which has conducted an annual survey of the national mood since 1972, found this summer that the proportion of people describing themselves as "very happy" had plummeted to 14% -- compared with the survey's previous record low of 29%, recorded after the 2008 financial crisis. But NORC researchers were startled to find that, despite this year's economic shutdown, 36% declared themselves "satisfied" with their financial situation, the highest in the study's history, and the fewest ever expressed dissatisfaction. (This was when generous unemployment support was in effect.)

For the first time, "there's a disconnect between financial satisfaction and overall happiness," says David Sterrett, senior researcher for the NORC study. "With everything going on socially and politically, those have become more of a driver."

Other research, by Gallup, gives an idea of the cause. There's typically a partisan effect after elections. After 2008, for example, Democrats and Democratic constituencies (minorities, women, low-income Americans) felt better about their lives, while Republicans and their constituencies felt worse. But something very different happened after 2016: Well-being measures dropped substantially for Democratic constituencies, as expected, but independents' happiness also dropped, and there was no corresponding jump in the sense of well-being among Republicans or among Whites. Actually, they declined, though within the margin of error.

In sum, well-being among all American adults declined "substantially" with Trump's election -- even though the economy was expanding. Meanwhile, the population in 21 states (many in Trump country) had a significant decline in well-being in 2017 -- a huge shift in one year -- and not one state experienced an increase. More Americans complained of worry, lost pleasure in activities and less positive energy from friends, family and leaders. Those had all been stable from 2014 to 2016. After Trump's election, they all worsened -- and stayed worse.

Dan Witters, research director of Gallup's well-being studies, tells me the nonpartisan polling group concluded it could objectively state that there's "a rather obvious Trump effect."

Republicans' sense of well-being didn't improve, Witters says, "because of the way the social fabric has been strained in the Trump era." Elevated anxiety "disproportionately affected Democrats, but it threw enough sand in the gears of Republicans and supporters of Trump that it prevented their well-being from getting much of a lift."

There's abundant support for this. In 2019, pre-pandemic, University of Nebraska researchers found that 4 in 10 said politics had made them stressed, 3 in 10 said it caused them to lose their temper and 2 in 10 said it caused problems sleeping and damaged friendships.

The American Psychological Association in 2017 found two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, were stressed about the future of the nation. That jumped to 83% this year, with 66% saying government's handling of the pandemic causes significant stress.

"Things weren't great before the pandemic," says Rachel Garfield, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. And now the national mood has fallen off a cliff. An August Kaiser poll found that 53% of adults say the pandemic has hurt their mental health. Many cite problems with sleeping, eating, alcohol and drugs. Those reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders nearly quadrupled during the pandemic, to 40%.

All this means, sadly, that the American psyche won't bounce back fully when the economy recovers, nor when the virus is beaten. The depression wouldn't necessarily lift if Trump were defeated, particularly if he continued to stoke rage among supporters.

But if Trump returns to office, I fear, the national despair will deepen as we resume lurching from crisis to crisis with the same destabilizing chaos. This week alone we've seen Trump attacking his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Attorney General Bill Barr attacking his own Justice Department, and the administration hurling charges of "sedition" at government scientists and demonstrators.

After delivering a paranoid rant about armed insurrection, senior Trump administration official Michael Caputo this week blamed his high "stress level" and took a leave of absence. He said "every American" fighting the pandemic "has been under enormous pressure. I am just one of them."

He's right about that. After four years, we are barely holding it together. Surely four more years would cause the losing of the American mind.

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

From now on, Trump is the Park Avenue Plutocrat

By e.j. dionne jr.
From now on, Trump is the Park Avenue Plutocrat


Advance for release Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, and thereafter

(For Dionne clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

WASHINGTON -- It should have happened four years ago, but thank God that Democrats have finally found their way to the decisive argument against Donald Trump: He is a rich, selfish, spoiled upper-class twit who had everything given to him and holds the working-class people who vote for him in contempt.

"Guys like Trump who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited are the people that I've always had a problem with, not the people who are busting their neck," Joe Biden told a CNN town hall held Thursday near his blue-collar hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

"I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue," the Democratic presidential nominee added. "All he thinks about is the stock market."

Biden's move no doubt came naturally to a man for whom Scranton has long been a touchstone of self-definition. But it also reflected a decisive strategic move: The former vice president, having already built a lead by rallying Black voters and well-educated Whites, is now encroaching on Trump's last bastion.

To the extent that Trump is competitive in swing states, it is because he is holding on to the bulk of the support he won four years ago from Whites without college degrees. If Biden can peel away just 10% or 15% of these voters, he will win going away.

And the 2018 elections showed that this is entirely within Biden's reach. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Democrats won statewide races for governor and the U.S. Senate not only by boosting turnout among Trump critics but also, according to exit polls, by winning over a comparable share of Trump's 2016 electorate.

And we haven't yet gotten to Biden's most effective salvo: "When you guys started talking on television about, 'Biden if he wins, would become the first person without an Ivy League degree to be elected president,' " I'm thinking, 'Who the hell makes you think I have to have an Ivy League degree to be president.' "


Anti-elitism is a very American, small-d democratic disposition. For decades, conservative supporters of the economically privileged have cleverly shifted the grounds for deciding the "who is an elitist?" question.

It's a tactic that has worked in a lot of GOP presidential campaigns, notably 2004. Rather amazingly, the campaign of an incumbent who was a president's son, George W. Bush (Yale '68, Harvard Business School '75), sold a lot of the country on the idea that he was the anti-elitist and that John F. Kerry (Yale '66, Boston College Law School '76) was the elitist in the race. (Yeah, it sure looked like a draw to me, too.)

Pay no attention, the right-wing propagandists say, to the fact that contemporary conservatism is dedicated to enhancing the incomes of economic elites through policies such as Trump's investor-friendly $2 trillion tax cut. No, they insist, the real elitists are those snobby Ivy League do-gooders who look down their noses at mill hands and machinists, construction workers and coal miners.

Let's concede that, too often, educated liberals have played right into this propaganda by placing a far higher value on academic achievement than on other measures of human worth. As the philosopher -- ironically, perhaps, the Harvard philosopher -- Michael Sandelargues in his new book, "The Tyranny of Merit," credentialism is "the last acceptable prejudice."

Biden has never been guilty of this. I have heard him talk with real passion over the years about how Democrats just don't understand the people he grew up with and don't know how to talk with them. In his dialogue with the voters CNN gathered in Moosic, Pennsylvania, he got a chance to show how it's done.

Why did it take so long for Democrats to make clear that Trump is a Park Avenue Plutocrat, not a Paragon of Populism? Partly because they have been intimidated by Republicans who claimed that those who dare to criticize class inequality are engaged in some shameful sort of "class warfare" and a "politics of envy."

This, of course, ignores the fact that it's workers -- because of structural changes in the economy, tax laws advantaging the wealthy and union-wrecking government policies -- who have been the victims of a class war waged by the better-off and their political allies. And "envy" has always been a bit of verbal jujitsu deployed to push aside another word, "greed."

The state-school striver from Scranton has decided he doesn't have to worry about any of that. Biden needs only to concentrate on the facts about who Trump is: a pampered elitist and fortunate son who loves golf a whole lot more than he loves working people. I can't wait to see what lies Trump will tell to hide this truth.

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E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

Welcome to your first day of Patriotic Education!

By alexandra petri
Welcome to your first day of Patriotic Education!


Advance for release Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and thereafter

(For Petri clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Alexandra Petri

WASHINGTON -- Good morning, class! Welcome to Patriotic Education! We are going to learn only the things about America that are worth knowing, then stop. If we have any spare time before the AP exam, we will spend it in the singing of patriotic songs.

American history did not start in 1789; it did not even start in 1492; and it CERTAINLY did not start in 1619. The year 1619 is meaningless! Please efface it from your memory. America started 6,000 years ago (when the Earth was created) as an idea in the mind of God. God was very proud of himself for having such a good idea. He celebrated by hitting some dinosaurs with a rock and then making their bones appear much older than they were.

The country officially kicked off in 1775 (remember, subtract one, since the year 1619 no longer exists!), when a group of heroic men sent a letter to the manager of the establishment where they were, complaining about being charged too much for tea.

These men were perfect in every way. Even James Madison was two feet taller than he actually was. George Washington was the best of them, and he never lied, and all of his teeth were his own. He did not purchase nine teeth from enslaved people because there was no such thing as enslaved people or the number nine (it refused to leave the date 1619, so we got rid of it to show it we were not playing around). These giants easily defeated the British in the Revolutionary War without having to perform any raps whatsoever, no matter what your other history teachers try to tell you.

From then on, it was smooth sailing. Washington served two terms, which we used to think was the perfect number of terms to serve, but actually it might be okay to serve for life. In 1812, the British came back over to perform some much-needed remodeling on the White House, then left again.

Four score and five years after the founding, 11 states suddenly came up with a much better flag they thought we should use instead, and so they decided they had to leave the nation immediately. There was no other reason as far as we know, but we have not looked very hard. Some people still think they were right about the flag; you can see it today being flown as many places as possible, even on barns in states that won the war to take it down.

Abraham Lincoln was the president then, and he did something that was very important to do, and especially at that time, but not quite as much as Donald Trump. Then he sadly lost his life to an assassin's bullet. This was bittersweet because he knew, as all patriots do, that Second Amendment rights are the most important ones to exercise. Some amendments were passed after the war, including one ending slavery, which was weird because it, again, did not exist in the first place - hence why Mississippi only got around to ratifying the amendment in 2013.

America continued to be wonderful, as it never wasn't, until World War I, in which it did a great job under the keen eye of Woodrow Wilson, a man about whom no one need ever be ashamed. Then we had a Depression, which was Great and which we are trying to see if we can have again. Then we entered World War II, the much-awaited sequel to World War I, where we did everything right except electing Franklin D. Roosevelt, who tried his best to fill this nation with socialism. After winning the war, we continued to win, and we have not stopped winning to this day.

And . . . I guess that pretty much does it! Nothing further to tell. We have not had to work slowly and at great cost to realize the beautiful dream of the Founders, an ideal that millions of people never experienced but believed was worth fighting for. Flawed people have not worked steadily to make a world better than the one they lived in. It's just a constant progress from strength to even stronger strength!

Finally, in 2016 (such an important year that we added one back to the date), we at last became great again, which we never weren't. And then - would you look at the time! Let's sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee"!

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Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

Robert J. Samuelson column ADVISORY

By robert j. samuelson
Robert J. Samuelson column ADVISORY


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Yes, I was hired because I was Black. But that's not the only reason.

By michelle singletary
Yes, I was hired because I was Black. But that's not the only reason.


Advance for release Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)


(c) 2020, The Washington Post

(BEG ITAL)EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first column in a 10-part series, in which Michelle Singletary gets personal about misconceptions involving race. Here, she examines the notion that affirmative action gives unqualified Black people an unfair advantage.(END ITAL)

Dear Reader,

Let's start by talking about affirmative action.

When I was first hired at The Washington Post, I found I had to repeatedly explain my qualifications to colleagues. So after one staff meeting, I went to the business editor, David Vise, and asked him directly whether he hired me because I was Black.

"Yes, I hired you because you are Black," he said.

By then, I had eight years of full-time work experience, but I was still considered a young hire for the business section. Vise, who won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990, had recruited me after hearing me speak on a panel about business beat reporting at the annual summer convention for the National Association of Black Journalists. Five months later, I was at The Post.

Vise invited me into his office to continue the conversation in private.

He closed the door and gestured for me to take a seat on the couch.

This was in 1992, and I was 29 years old.

I heard Vise talking, but I couldn't focus on what he was saying. I was inside my own head.

"So, the newsroom colleagues probing how I came to get the job so fast were right after all," I told myself.

Fighting back tears, I eventually tuned in to Vise as he explained his answer.

"I also hired you because you're a woman," he said. "I hired you because you come from a low-income background and, most importantly, because you are a good reporter. I also hired you because you have enormous potential and I want to mentor you."

It wasn't a hasty decision. Before hiring me, Vise and other top Post editors interviewed me for many hours and thoroughly reviewed the stories I had written.

Vise also made reference to the master's degree in business I was earning from Johns Hopkins University.

He went on to talk about the expertise I had acquired covering bankruptcy proceedings for the Baltimore Evening Sun.

Vise's answer to my question was powerful and empowering.

The Post hired me, he said, because there had been a slew of Chapter 11 business filings and they needed a reporter with knowledge of how bankruptcies work.

Shortly after I arrived at The Post, I was assigned to cover the financial troubles plaguing the Baltimore Orioles. The owner eventually filed for bankruptcy protection. I broke the story.

Don Graham, the paper's publisher at the time, came into the newsroom the next morning and congratulated me for beating our local rival, the Baltimore Sun.

Still, professional doubts plagued me at the Sun and followed me to The Post.

I had started my journalism career at the Sun, which awarded me a full academic scholarship to the University of Maryland at College Park.

I was the first award winner in the scholarship program, which was created during a time the paper was being criticized for its unfair and racist coverage of the Black community. As a pledge to do better, the Sun promised to train and hire minority journalists. We were nicknamed the "Sun Scholars." The scholarship included four paid summer internships - two for the morning paper and two for the afternoon paper, the Evening Sun.

I dreaded the internships at the more prestigious morning paper. There were several reporters and editors whom I have no reservations calling racist. They made it clear in the treatment of the Black Sun Scholars -- harsher criticism, fewer assignments compared with the White interns -- that because we were brought in under a minority scholarship program, we weren't as qualified as the White interns.

I once overheard two White reporters talking disparagingly about the minority scholarship winners. They had no idea I was sitting at my desk on the other side of the partition.

It was unfair to create special slots for Black interns, they said.

No matter how well we performed, we were branded as inferior just because we were a part of the diversity scholarship program.

As minorities, we know that some people label us as affirmative-action hires, and that has a profound impact on our self-confidence. We might wonder whether we're good enough. We hear that White hires got their jobs because of a meritocracy, and we are made to feel as if we took unfair advantage of a system that was weighted in our favor.

But the reality is that favoritism for Whites is so familiar that we just take it for granted. Doors are opened to the children of people in the business. And of course, there is the practice of legacy admission to Ivy League colleges, which confers even more advantages, mainly for White families. But there's a price to pay when you are the so-called "Black" hire. People question your abilities from Day 1. They wonder whether you are truly competent.

This is the tough and unfair part of affirmative action -- the constant questioning of your qualifications to your face or more often behind your back -- or within earshot. The insinuations can be so unrelenting.

I once left my desk in a huff after a White male reporter remarked about the increasing number of Black hires at The Washington Post.

"No offense to you," he said.

At the time, I was one of only two Blacks in the business section, but I listened as my co-worker, someone I liked and admired, complained that perhaps one day soon White men would be an endangered species in the newsroom.

"Stand up," I told him. "Look around. Do you see a shortage of White men around here?"

In 1978, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, now called the News Leaders Association, put out a challenge to the industry: "The commitment to recruit, train and hire minorities needs urgently to be rekindled. This is simply the right thing to do. It is also in the newspaper industry's economic self-interest."

The organization began to survey diversity hires. By 2000, the goal was for newsroom personnel to represent the U.S. population.

Overall, people of color represent 21.9 percent of the salaried workforce among newsrooms, according to data collected for the 2019 Newsroom Diversity Survey. (Data collection has been hampered by lack of participation; only 17 percent of papers took part in the 2018 survey, a historical low.)

Racial and ethnic minorities made up 40 percent of the U.S. population in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.

In a 2018 report, Pew found that "newsroom employees are more likely to be white and male than U.S. workers overall."

In that closed-door meeting 28 years ago, Vise said that I was an asset to The Post. I earned the position because of the totality of who I was -- my race, gender, economic background, education and work experience. All of those aspects of my identity gave me a perspective on the news that Vise knew The Post needed.

I continued to weep, in part out of gratitude, in part from relief. Vise had validated what I knew to be true. I deserved to be here at least as much as anyone else.



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(BEG ITAL)Next Sunday: Education, and the misconception that Black people could earn more money if only they invested in going to college and acquiring qualifications. (END ITAL)

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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