November 2012 Archives

US birth rate falls to a record low since 1920

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The U.S. birth rate has reached a record low due to immigrant women hit hard by the economic recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, the BBC News said.

The current birth rate at 63.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age has decreased by 8 percent between 2007 and 2010 and has decreased 14 percent among foreign-born women, the Washington Post said.

This decrease among immigrant women has occurred due to a change in their behavior, author of the report D'Vera Cohn said to the Washington Post.

This decrease could also be contributed to the increased access to contraception for Latino women, according to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the BBC News said.

Since 2007, foreign and U.S. born Hispanic women has suffered the largest decrease in household wealth, the BBC News said.

"We've been assuming that when the baby-boomer population gets most expensive, that there are going to be immigrants and their children who are going to be paying into [programs for the elderly]," professor of public policy at the University of Southern California Roberto Suro said to the Washington Post. "But in the wake of what's happened in the last five years, we have to reexamine those assumptions."

New numbers come out on sea level rise

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Melting polar ice sheets have raised sea levels by 11mm in the last two decades, according to a report released Thursday, the BBC News said.

The study, published in the Science Magazine, also showed that the pofalar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at rates three times faster than 1990s, the Washington Post said.

Since 1992, polar melting contributed around one-fifth of the overall global sea level rise, the BBC News said. This rise in sea level and cause huge impacts to coastal cities around the world, the BBC News said.

More than 20 polar research teams who worked together to create a single estimate produced the study, the BBC News said.

"Understanding how and why the ice sheets are changing today better equips us for understanding and predicting how much and in what ways they will change in the future," NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati said to the Washington Post.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scheduled to release their next report in September 2013 that will expand on this issue, the BBC News said.

I interviewed Abdul Mohamed, the Public Relations leader of Ka Joog, on Friday to ask about the Minnesota Public Radio's news feature about their group and how that reflected the cultural identity of the group.

Mohamed said that the reporter represented the group "pretty well" and that it gave a "positive representation of the culture." While it reflected the cultural identity of the group, he also said that the story focused a lot on the group getting the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award and what the group has done more than about the culture.

He also said that the story effectively focused on how the community would regard his organization getting the award and worked as an "eye opener for the community" about this group.

While many other organizations, such as the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune, wrote a feature about his group, Mohamed said that all the stories were pretty similar. He said that the stories shed light on the origins of the organization, the role of the organization in the community, and how the award affects their aims and goals.

"We want things to be felt by the community," Mohamed said and said that he would not have changed anything about the story. While there were other things that were going on with the group that were not mentioned in the story, he said that they would have been unnecessary and would of detracted from the story.

Analysis: Covering culture at the MPR News

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In the article by the Minnesota Public Radio, the reporter Lolla Mohammed Nur features the Somali group Ka Joog and the recent award from the FBI they achieved.

In the story, the reporter mentions the negative stereotypes that surround Somali youth and how that influences the young Somalis. It specifically focuses on the stereotypes that exist in the local Twin Cities community. Rather than focusing on these negative stereotypes, the reporter moves on from this and focuses on one of the members of Ka Joog and how the group moves beyond these stereotypes.

The article uses a good balance of acknowledging the stereotypes yet still moving past them to talk further. It features how the group helps out in the community and how they received the prestigious FBI Director's Community Leadership Award, showing that they have moved forward past the stereotypes. The article therefore takes goes into detail over the group's goals, initiatives, accomplishments, and moves past the stereotypes that may surround the cultural group.

The article's focus is on the Somali group and the members of the group and therefore mostly uses the members as sources. It does, however, also use a member of the FBI to provide a different perspective to the article. It also references many other events that have recently occurred, such as the Somali American man who was convicted of helping recruit men to join the terrorist group al Shabaab.

The Israeli government announced on Sunday that more than 44 million hacking attempts have been made on the Israeli government websites since Wednesday, Reuters said.

These hacking were done by a group called Anonymous in their campaign "OpIsrael" and have occurred after the air assault on Gaza, the Examiner said.

In a statement by the group, they said that they launched the campaign after threats by the Israeli government to cut off all of Gaza's telecommunication links, BBC News said.

"We are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch," the Anonymous' statement said according the BBC News.

The group has warned the Israeli government not to cut off the telecommunication links and has threatened the government that if the military attacks in Gaza continue, the group will unleash their "full and unbridled wrath," BBC News said.

While most of the attacks have come from Israel and the Palestinian territories, there have been attacks from around the world, Reuters said.

"The ministry's computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said to Reuters.

Both sides in the Gaza conflict are using social media as a method of warfare, Reuters said.

"The war is taking place on three fronts. The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber," Israel's chief information officer Carmela Avner said to Reuters.

The Minnesota fourth annual Give the Max Day has raised over $16 million dollars, according to the GiveMN website at midnight Thursday, the Pioneer Press said.

This record breaks last year's record, when 47,000 donors raised $13.4 million for nearly 4,000 Minnesota nonprofits, the Pioneer Press said.

This year, more than 53,000 donors contributed $16.4 million to more than 4,300 nonprofits, the Pioneer Press said.

Give to the Max Day is a 24-hour fundraising marathon that supports Minnesota nonprofit organizations and schools, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

The increase in fundraising may be attributed to the addition of several public schools to the pool of participating organizations, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

The huge amount of donors visiting the website caused the website to have technical problems and many donors received error messages when they tried to donate, the Pioneer Press said.

"We appreciate the patience of donors who are doing so much to benefit nonprofits and schools today and encourage them to try to make a donation again if they had difficulties," GiveMN spokeswoman Courtney Reigh said.

Minnesota identifies 13th case of illness from steroids

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The Minnesota Department of Health identified the 13th case of fungal infection linked to contaminated steroid medications on Thursday, the Pioneer Press said.

The latest patient who was infected was a woman in her 20s who developed a bone infection, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

While most of the fungal cases of Minnesota have resulted in meningitis, the latest patient has not been afflicted with meningitis, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

Dr. Aaron DeVries, medical director of the Infectious Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health, said that people still need to be careful of infections near the injection site, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

"We had one prior case and now with the second one we felt it was important to alert folks to this finding that while the numbers of meningitis may be coming down, we still need to be very vigilant about not only meningitis but infectors in other places," DeVries said to the Minnesota Public Radio.

The outbreak seems to be linked to contaminated steroid medications from the New England Compounding Center, the Pioneer Press said.

This outbreak has included 461 cases across 19 states, the Pioneer Press said. According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 cases have resulted in deaths, the Pioneer Press said.

Xi Jinping becomes new leader of China

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The Chinese Communist Party announced the new leadership headed by Xi Jinping, the son of a revolutionary leader and economic reformer, on Thursday, the NY Times said.

Xi will take over as the country's president from Hu Jintao in March, the Washington Post said.

Xi was confirmed as the leader for the next decade and let the new Politburo Standing Committee onto the state at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the BBC News said.

Facing calls from Chinese elites to support more openness in China's economic and political systems, Xi comes at a time of pressing reform, the NY Times said.

"The people's desire for a better life is what we shall fight for," Xi said to the Washington Post. His main job is to "steadfastly take the road of prosperity for all."

China has gone through a decade of rapid development and has become the world's second-largest economy, the BBC News said.

Yet, the development has also led to a widening wealth gap, environmental challenges and social discontent over this inequality and corruption, the BBC News said.

"The party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption," Xi said, according to the BBC News.

Obama defends John Allen in the Petraeus fallout

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President Barack Obama defended Gen John Allen on Tuesday despite reports of Allen exchanging flirtatious e-mails with socialite Jill Kelley, the BBC News said.

Spokesperson Jay Carney said that Obama was "very happy" with Allen's service and has "faith" in Allen, who is set to be the next NATO commander in Europe, the BBC News said.

"I can tell you that the president thinks very highly of Gen Allen and his service to his country, as well as the job he has done in Afghanistan," Carney said, according to the BBC News.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced earlier of the investigation of Allen and the examination of Allen's e-mails and messages to Kelley, the BBC News said.

This examination follows the scandal of CIA chief David Petraeus who resigned because of an extramarital affair he was involved in with Paula Broadwell, the BBC News said. Kelley was a family friend of Petraeus and received threatening e-mails from Broadwell, the BBC News said.

Jim Walsh, research associate for the MIT Security Studies Program, has said that this scandal will not last much longer, the Boston Herald said.

"I don't think it's something that has a ton of legs. There may be other revelations or other shoes to drop, but in a month I think we'll be talking a lot more about the fiscal cliff and other stories," Walsh said to the Boston Herald.

Honors: Interview with Doug Belden about including polls

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Doug Belden, a politics reporter at the Pioneer Press, frequently includes information from polls into his articles and recently covered the marriage amendment issue.

Belden said that he finds new polls to mention in stories every five or six weeks and that he tends to mention the poll in a story if it has new figures and shows a change from the last poll on the topic. When he includes a poll in the story, he mentions how the poll has changed from previous polls, the margin of error, when the poll was conducted, who conducted the poll, and anything he knows about the bias of the poll.

In the case of a polarized issue, Belden said that he usually tries to pass over the internal polls created by the campaigns and instead find polls that were done independently. He said that it is important to give less weight to these internal campaigns as the polls are biased and could be trying to sway the voters. For example, he mentioned that an internal poll that was released close to election day concerning the voter ID amendment. In this case, he said he would not use it because it is an internal poll and since it was so close to the election day, it could be trying to sway people.

Belden said that polls were important to use in a story because it gives people a sense of how popular the issue is. He also said, however, that they are frequently wrong and that it is hard to decide how important a poll is to the story. The hardest part in including a poll is to answer for people how much weight they should attach to the poll when he isn't sure himself, Belden said.

"The most important thing to consider is the organization," Belden said. He emphasized the importance of researching the organization behind the polling in order to use it effectively as a source. He said that it is important to read up on what other people have said about the organization and to get a feel for how the organization is regarded to the public.

Analysis: The use of numbers in a BBC News feature

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In a feature about the dangers of cycling in Britain, the BBC News utilizes numbers in many ways to strengthen the story.

Using a document from the Department of Transport, the article uses concrete numbers to tell the readers about cyclist crashes in Britain. In addition to using data from the document in the story, the article also includes a graphic on the side that highlights the cyclist road deaths between 2004 and 2011. While this data comes from the same document, the writer highlights the key points and makes it a side graphic to make the information more accessible and readable to the readers. The excel spreadsheet from the Department of Transport is also linked in the story that allows the reader to open it up to get more details.

The article also uses data from other sources to strengthen the story. In addition to the Department of Transport data, the article cites a study done by the Times UK, a poll done by the Institute of Advanced Motorists and a study by the CTC, the national cycling charity. These numbers from other sources supports the article and emphasizes the importance of the numbers.

While the article includes numbers from several sources, the numbers are not overwhelming in the story. The article does not use more than two numbers in one paragraph and does not list too much data. To make the data readable, it uses a side graphic that presents the numbers of deaths in recent years in an easy to read format. While the reporter does use math for the numbers, the numbers could have been presented to show the relationship more. For example, the reporter says that 107 cyclists were killed in 2011 while in 2010, 111 were killed. Instead of listing those numbers, the reporter could of calculated the percent difference to show the difference.

Florida confirms Obama's win in election

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The official results in Florida came in Saturday after days of counting absentee ballots and President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 74,000 votes, the New York Times said.

With the new results in, Obama has won 332 electoral college votes while Romney got 206 votes, the BBC News said.

Florida officials are trying to figure out Florida can improve the election process, the New York Times said.

"We could have done better; we will do better," Ken Detzner, the secretary of state of Florida, said about the election process, the New York Times said.

Some voters in cities in Florida waited more than seven hours to vote on Election Day, the New York Times said. In Miami-Dade, the last people to vote cast their ballots in Wednesday morning, which was after Obama was declared the winner, the New York Times said.

In one county, an automated phone system told more than 12,500 voters that the election was on Wednesday and not Tuesday, the BBC News said.

Other states, such as Virginia, New York and Washington DC also had reports of long voting lines, the BBC News said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his rationing plan for fuel on Thursday and said that only a fourth of the city's gas stations have gas, the BBC News said.

Fuel shortenings have occurred in New York after Storm Sandy, leading to long lines at the fuel stations and traffic chaos to commuters, the BBC News said.

With the rationing system, cars with license plates ending in odd numbers are allowed to buy fuel on odd-numbered days of the month, the BBC News said. Similarly, cars with license plates ending in even numbers are allowed to fill up their cars on even-numbered days of the month, the BBC News said.

By Friday, Bloomberg said that a third of the gas stations were open, the Wall Street Journal said.

"There's no guarantee that odd-even is going to make a big difference," Bloomberg said about the rationing to the Wall Street Journal .

The Energy Department, however, has said that more than 70 percent of the city's gas station had gas, the Wall Street Journal said.

The taxis and emergency vehicles of New York City are exempt from the rationing rules, the BBC News said.

Protests in Argentina start against government

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Thousands of protesters marched in the streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday evening to protest the government under President Cristina Kirchner, the BBC News said.

Gathering at the obelisk at the Plaza de Mayo Square in downtown Buenos Aires, people waved Argentine flags and sang the national anthem, the Wall Street Journal said. The top concerns of the protestors included crime, high inflation, and the rumors that Kirchner may seek a third term, the Wall Street Journal said.

The opposition activists used social media to assemble the protestors and the march was one of the biggest anti-government protests in a decade, the BBC News said.

Middle class Argentines had a similar protest almost two months over out of frustration over the government's control over the economy, the Wall Street Journal said.

Kirchner won the re-election in October 2011 but her popularity has dropped since then, the Wall Street Journal said.

According to a poll by Management & Fit last month, only nearly 31 percent of the respondents approved of Kirchner's way of running the government, which is down from 64 percent a year ago, the Wall Street Journal said.

Minnesota became the first state to reject a voter ID amendment that would require a photo identification to vote, Reuters said.

With 99 percent of the votes, the measure only gathered 46.3 percent of the vote and therefore did not gain a majority to pass, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

While voter ID supporters emphasizes that the measure would decrease voter fraud, opponents of the measure worried about the right to vote and that the measure would make it harder for certain groups to vote, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

Earlier polls for the measure had shown strong support for the amendment, but that decreased as it got closer to the election, the Pioneer Press said.

In September, a poll by Survey USA had shown a 61 percent in favor to 31 percent against the measure. A later survey in November by the Public Policy Polling, however, showed 51 percent in favor to 46 percent in opposition, the Pioneer Press said.

Dan McGrath, leader of Protect My Vote, said that the opposition used a "campaign of lies and deception" to bring the amendment down, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

Voter id measures have been introduced to 46 states and 33 states have passed voter ID laws, the Pioneer Press said.

Minnesota votes no on marriage amendment

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The Minnesota marriage amendment, which proposed to amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman, only gained 48 percent of the vote Tuesday night and did not pass, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

The Associated Press stated that the marriage amendment was defeated around 1:45 a.m., the Pioneer Press said. Minnesota is the second state that defeated a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and woman, the Pioneer Press said.

"Tonight Minnesota proved that love is bigger than government," Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, said to the Pioneer Press.

Gay marriage is banned in Minnesota but the amendment would of made it harder for judges and lawmakers to overturn the law, the Pioneer Press said.

The election results showed a difference between rural and urban areas, where support was high in rural areas, the Minnesota Public Radio said.

The campaigns for the amendment had 17 months and became the most expensive amendment campaign in state history, the Pioneer Press said. The Minnesotans United for All Families group raised more than $11 million from nearly 700 groups and businesses by the end of October, the Pioneer Press said.

"This conversation does not end tonight," Carlbom said to the Minnesota Public Radio, "it's only just begun."

I interviewed Pamela Miller, the assistant metro night editor at the Star Tribune, to ask her about the process of writing obituaries. When I called, she was just working on the obituary of Robert Anderson that I used for my analysis post.

At the Star Tribune, Miller explained that there is no longer a regular obituary writer and that the obituaries rotate through the reporters. Miller said that the average obituary is written around a week after the person's death and the reporter on average gets 2-3 hours to write it. When the paper had a regular obituary writer, she said that obituaries were often written the day after the person's death.

"The hardest part is taking a person's life and condensing it to 16 to 18 inches," Miller said. She explained that you have so much information to consider and that it can be difficult to find what to focus on. The most important thing to consider, however, when writing an obituary is "how does this person's personal life parallel the period that they lived in?" Miller said. She discussed how it is important to see how their life reflects the broader history and to look for someone's character and not just accomplishments.

While obituaries generally take a positive tone and focus on the person's accomplishments, Miller said some events, such as the person being in jail, are still important to the story. Even if a family member asks her to exclude that part, she said that she tells the family member that they put in what is most newsworthy. Therefore, if the event is relevant and is an important aspect of the person's life, she said she would put it in.

Another decision the Star Tribune makes is whether or not to mention the cause of death when it is a suicide. Miller said this spurs a big discussion but that in most cases, the suicide is mentioned. One reason she said that she would exclude it is if the story is likely to create copycat suicides. In most cases, Miller said that the suicide is mentioned but the reporter treats it carefully and moves on to the person's accomplishments.

Miller also said that to avoid fact errors, reporters should always talk to somebody who has worked with the person in their profession so you can verify what they did in their business life. She mentioned one obituary where she had just talked to the family, who told her that the person had created the idea for the Hamm's Beer Bear advertisement. She received a call later, however, that corrected her and told her that the person had been exaggerating this to his family for years and that in reality, multiple people created the idea. Therefore, she said it was vital to talk to at least one family member and one professional colleague in an obituary.

Analysis: Obituary structure in the Star Tribune

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In the obituary written by Pamela Miller in the Star Tribune, she describes the life of Robert Anderson, a veterinarian who invented gentle head collars that reduced the strain of collars on dogs.

The Star Tribune format does not follow the structure of a standard New York Times obituary. Rather than stating the death of the person in the first paragraph, this obituary waits until the fourth paragraph. In the first few paragraphs, it establishes the person's character and importance.

For quotes about Anderson and for information on his character, the reporter mostly uses information from his colleagues. In addition to the two colleagues, the reporter also uses his companion for the past few years as a source. The reporter also used quotes from Anderson himself from past interviews.

This obituary is of news value to the community because of his contributions to the veterinary science field and his work as a professor at the University of Minnesota. Therefore, his life both represents the proximity and impact of the news values.

While the obituary goes through his life in chronological order and lists his accomplishments, it is different from a resume. Not only does the obituary list these accomplishments, it goes further and explains how these accomplishments have affected others. By featuring quotes from others that explain his impact and his personality, the reporter creates an obituary that features that man's life rather than a list of his accomplishments.

U.S. employers added 171,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent, according to Friday's report by the Labor Department, the Reuters said.

The unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent but this is mainly due to more people looking for work, as the unemployment rate is calculated by the number of people who are looking for a job, the Star Tribune said. The work force increased by 578,000 in October, the Star Tribune said.

This report will be the last major snapshot of the economy before Tuesday's elections, the Star Tribune said.

"This report is consistent with the emerging picture of an economic recovery that is continuing to regain traction after grinding to a halt earlier this year," Millan Mulraine, senior U.S. strategist, said to Reuters.

While the rise in the unemployment rate was expected, the increase in jobs beat the expectations by a Reuters poll, Reuters said.

Romney's economic advisor Glenn Hubbard took a less optimistic view on the job raise, Reuters said.

"Really vigorous is a number like 250,000 to 300,000 jobs a month. This is simply not good enough," Hubbard said according to Reuters.

The October job report was assembled before Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast and shattered many businesses, the Star Tribune said.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra cancels 2012 concerts

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The musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has refused the new contract offer, making the management cancel all further concerts on Thursday through Dec. 31, the Twin Cities Business said.

The management locked out the musicians on Oct. 21 when the musicians did not accept their contract and initially canceled concerts through Nov. 4, the Twin Cities Business said.

This leads many key concerts to be canceled, including the Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" conducted by Ruggero Allifranchini and the Haydn and Stravinsky conducted by Roberto Abbado, the Star Tribune said.

While the musicians have requested to keep playing during negotiations, the management has said it cannot afford to keep continuing, the Star Tribune said. The musicians and management are bargaining again next Thursday, the Star Tribune said. The SPCO has reduced its annual expenses by $1.5 million and faces a deficit of about $1 million, the Star Tribune said.

The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra also held a rally on Thursday to mark the one-month since they have been locked out since Oct. 1, the Star Tribune said.

Russia's Internet censorship law takes into effect

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A law in Russia that allows the government to blacklist and block websites that contain harmful content without any trial took effect on Thursday, the BBC News said.

This legislation was passed by the Russian Parliament and signed off by President Vladimir Putin in July, the Huffington Post said. The Russian government has said that this law is aimed to protect children from harmful Internet content, the Huffington Post said.

The banned websites will be managed by Roskomnadzor, Russia's Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications, the BBC News said. These contents will not be available to the public, the BBC News said.

Many human rights group have said that this legislation, however, will increase censorship in the country, the BBC News said.

"It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet," Yuri Vdovin, vice president of Citizens' Watch, said, the Huffington Post said.

A survey by the Levada Center in July showed, however, that 62% of the people supported the idea of a blacklist while 16% opposed it, the BBC News said.

Disney announced its plans to buy Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas on Tuesday and has said that they are planning a new Star Wars film to be released in 2015, the BBC News said.

Disney is acquiring Lucas film for over $4 billion and currently plans to produce three Star Wars movies, episodes seven through nine, the BBC News said. George Lucas, who started the Star Wars franchise and directed the past Star Wars films, will continue as the creative consultant for the movies, the BBC News said.

Josh Dickey, the film editor at Variety magazine in Los Angeles, supports this sale and has high hopes for the new movies, the BBC News said,

Disney is "so good at working with existing intellectual property and making it resonate with fans and marketing it very well," Dickey said.

Lucas launched Lucas film in 1971 and it has been 36 years since the release of the first Star Wars film, the BBC News said.

With the money that he will get with the sale, Lucas has said that much of the money will go towards a foundation supporting education, the Chicago Tribune said.

"As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy," Lucas said.

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