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Fenty Takes Ax to Earmarks: Loose Lips Daily

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Morning all. On Friday, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's office released more details on his plan to close budget gaps for this fiscal year and next. Among his ideas, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner are 'eliminating 250 jobs, hiking the Emergency 911 fee from 76 cents to $1.15 per D.C. phone line [again!], charging up to $100 for the expedited filing of business license applications, cutting subsidy programs and cancelling numerous capital projects'—and, surprise surprise, slashing about $12M in earmarks. That plan has community groups worried, Nikita Stewart reports in WaPo: 'Major nonprofit organizations and smaller community groups have become more dependent on government dollars as private donors stop writing checks.'

AFTER THE JUMP—MPD says low violent crime rate is due to 'go-go report'; D.C. police official implicated in blockbuster gambling ring; Kris Baumann gets his badge back; District lawyers won't pay $13 legal bill; and why the District's statues won't be in Statuary Hall anytime soon.

OTHER GAP-CLOSING NUGGETS—From Neibauer: 'A provision to turn over the shuttered Bertie Backus Middle School in Northeast to the University of the District of Columbia was nixed...as was the council's plan to empower the State Board of Education with budget independence and oversight of the public school ombudsman. And the mayor is seeking council permission to spend $85 million on the outright purchase of 225 Virginia Ave. SE, an empty, 421,000-square-foot warehouse that the city has leased for $546,000 a month since mid-2007.' From Stewart: 'In fiscal 2009, Fenty has proposed using more than $23 million from a Community Benefit Fund to help pay for the Summer Youth Employment Program, a jobs program for teens. The revenue fund, created when the city approved the construction of Nationals Park, is supposed to be used for recreation centers, libraries, small-business development, job training and readiness programs and other "community benefits," according to the law. Fenty, however, has proposed diverting an estimated $13.3 million in fiscal 2010 and $12.9 million in fiscal 2011 to the general fund.'

BLOCKBUSTER—Big WaPo A1 scoop by Aaron C. Davis: Feds are investigating several local cops—including 'five veterans in Prince George's County, a District police official and a former D.C. Housing Authority officer'—for protecting a 'high-stakes' gambling ring patronized by big-time drug dealers and connected to several murders. Writes Davis, '[T]he breadth and depth of this investigation are rare. It involves more officers than any in recent years and a potentially flagrant abuse of police power. The corruption probe has also gone on longer than any that has come to light since a sting operation nearly two decades ago related to the case of notorious drug dealer Rayful Edmond III culminated in the indictment of 12 District police officers.' The story is based on 'internal police documents' and 'law enforcement sources,' one of whom says: 'It's right out of the movies.'

D.C. CONNECTIONS—The city cop is ID'd only as a 'veteran police official'; District officials say they have 'no knowledge of a federal probe concerning an officer.' As for the former housing cop, he is ID'd as Kenneth Shelley. Shelley left the force after he 'received a suspended sentence of probation before judgment last year for carrying a loaded .40-caliber handgun outside a game held in a Waldorf warehouse in May 2007, court records show. A 16-year veteran of the District's corrections system and Housing Authority police, Shelley said in court records that he had lost his job, wife and family because of a "poor decision."'

Here's an awfully nice mystery to have to solve: Why has violent crime dropped so precipitously in the Washington area and other cities as of late? Allison Klein examines the question for WaPo, calling the trend 'baffling and unexpected.' Naturally, 'police across the region are taking credit for the drop. "Everybody wants to beat us up when it goes up, so we'll take credit for it when it goes down," D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. She said police are able to target specific locations or types of crime and policing is so high-tech that investigators are analyzing crime minute-by-minute and have greater ability to attack crime before it happens....She pointed to a better relationship between the department and the community as a factor, saying it has helped get more violent repeat offenders off the streets. She said tips from the community have been flowing faster than ever, due in part to patrol officers knowing their beats and developing connections in the community.'

THE 'GO-GO REPORT—'In the District, the department creates a weekly "Go-Go report," which details where and when home-grown bands are playing, because go-go concerts often bring together rival gangs, causing violence, Lanier said. There is also a weekly gang report that tells officers which gangs or crews are feuding that week. Armed with that information, police can better predict where crimes might happen and take measures to prevent them.'

Police union chief Kristopher Baumann has his badge and gun back, WAMU-FM reports, after them taken away by police brass last week amid allegations he didn't complete training. 'The training would have included routine items like CPR re-certification. But Baumann says the decision to revoke his powers was linked to his complaints over the city's handling of a barricade situation in May. The police union chief says says no other officer has ever had a badge revoked for failing to perform training in the history of the department.'

FROM THEMAIL—Gary Imhoff on the Baumann affair: 'Baumann has been an outstanding spokesman, not just for police officers, but for the police force and the citizens. His problem is that he represents his officers energetically and enthusiastically, even when their interests conflict with the police brass....Baumann is the one who has earned credibility and believability and Nickles is the one who has a history of personal retaliation and pettiness. It's obvious who's full of baloney.' Imhoff deems the move whistleblower retaliation.

Jonetta Rose Barras takes a look at that questionable forensics lab contract—the one handed to Baltimore's Whiting-Turner Construction when local Tompkins Builders came in at a price $4.8M less. A letter from OPM's Robin Eve-Jasperand OCP's Dave Gragan] indicates that W-T outscored Tompkins on 'technical experience'; but 'Tony Reed, the OCP contracting officer, was troubled by agency officials' actions and refused to sign off on the award to Whiting-Turner. Sources said he and Wilbur Giles, OCP's chief of staff, squabbled....Interestingly, [Giles] once worked in Baltimore, where Whiting-Turner is headquartered. Giles was head of capital projects for Baltimore public schools. While there, he was suspended for his role in a no-bid contracting scandal. In 2007, he told me he "did nothing wrong" and "was up against time constraints."'

Not just special-ed lawyers who can't get paid: AG's office refuses to pay litigant's $13.86 legal costs, Mike Scarcella reports for Legal Times. Peter Atherton represented himself against the District government after being, he says, improperly dismissed him from a Superior Court grand jury. A federal appeals panel recently accepted part of his argument, but '[i]n the eyes of the District's lawyers, Atherton should not be given a dime because the court ruled only in part for him. "Given that Mr. Atherton did not prevail on most of the issues he raised on appeal, he should bear his own costs," Senior Assistant Attorney General Richard Love wrote in a motion, filed June 25, opposing the bill of costs.'

Is there a homeless shelter crisis? That was the subject of a Friday D.C. Council hearing held by Tommy Wells prompted by these facts, related by Daryl Fears in WaPo. 'Advocates said it is troubling to see shelters filled to capacity in midsummer, which raises concern about how the homeless and the District will cope when the weather turns cold. The District's rising unemployment rate, nearing 11 percent, also might worsen the situation.' DHS chief Clarence Carter 'said the shelters are at capacity but not in crisis. Wells disagreed, and asked what was being done to track families on the waiting list.' Also GGW.

NTSB on Saturday ran sight-distance tests at the site of the Red Line crash. Reports WaPo: 'For a little more than an hour, investigators ran trains in the same positions and sequence as those involved in the crash and took measurements, photos and notes. They did not discuss results.' Also NC8. WTOP says Red Line delays will continue through at least Thursday.

SCENE—'A shrine erected after the crash remains [on the New Hampshire Avenue bridge]. A bouquet of a dozen white roses wilted long ago but remained tucked into the black fence on the bridge's south side. D.C. resident Carolyn Jenkins goes out every day to tend the memorial she built for her daughter who died in the crash. She makes sure the picture of her daughter, 29-year-old Veronica DuBose, is there and that the red, black and lavender ribbons she put up, her daughter's favorite colors, are tidy.'

Metro oversight commission posted letter worrying about the safety of 1000-series rail cars prior to last month's crash, Kytja Weir reports in Examiner. That letter, dating to last fall, is referenced in a follow-up letter sent last week by the Tri-State Oversight Committee. 'The committee's letter says it had "continually requested" that Metro develop a plan to address the NTSB's concerns. The group also said it requested Nov. 24 that Metro consider an interim solution and analyze options such as running the 1000 Series cars in the "bellies" of trains, meaning not the lead or rear cars of the trains. The committee says Metro did not respond.'

Politico's Anne Schroeder asks, what ever happened to the effort to get the District some statuary in the Capitol's Statuary Hall?
Not much: 'The bill hasn't moved an inch. Those familiar with [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] tell Shenanigans she still supports this bill, but she won't make a move until Norton's office does something. Those close to Norton explain she's been distracted by other things.' The statues of Frederick Douglass and Pierre L'Enfant are sitting in the lobby of One Judiciary Square. Says Mark Plotkin: 'She's emulating President Obama with her disregard for the District of Columbia. She only wants to postpone things — [not] legislate. She's a graduate of Yale Law School, can't she do both things? She stalls rather than acts.'

SIX MORE YEARS! SIX MORE YEARS!—Harry Jaffe gives Michelle Rhee a pep talk: 'Rhee is here for the long haul. She's counting on Adrian Fenty getting elected to another term, which would give her six more years to remake the schools. "At the end of the second term," she tells me, "there's a good chance the achievement gap between white and black students will be closed."...For 50 years the system had been crushing the souls of youngsters. Principals ran fiefdoms of favorite teachers; buildings collapsed on students; teachers abandoned their classrooms; nepotism ruled the downtown administration. Still, Rhee's critics demand she prove results—now!...[M]ake no mistake about it: school reform is succeeding. It is not a stretch to say that reform efforts here are more radical than in any other city; if successful, they could become a blueprint for all urban school systems.'

WAMU-FM's Kavitha Cardoza compares test scores for DCPS and charters. The charters hold a significant advantage at the high-school level; but DCPS schools score higher at the elementary level for the first time in three years, according to preliminary figures. PCSB chair Tom Nida says 'last year a dozen schools found errors in the data reported. Also he says last year several Catholic schools converted into charter schools and those students were taking the tests for the first time. Nida says once they get acclimated to their schools and then the "trends move upward."'

Fewer D.C. foster children are being adopted, Henri Cauvin reports in WaPo, leading to accusations that CFSA 'is not doing enough to find permanent homes for hundreds of children who are unlikely to be returned to their parents.' By the numbers: 'Only 68 children were adopted in the first nine months of the District's current fiscal year, leaving the city unlikely to reach even last year's total of 119, which was less than a quarter of the roughly 500 children eligible for adoption. Just four years ago, during a major reform push, 314 children—almost half of those the city sought to place—were adopted.'

Colby King is pharmaceutically inclined this week, tackling an oft-abused antipsychotic drug called Seroquel, which, naturally, has a DYRS connection: 'Seroquel, the source said, was being prescribed as a sleep aid [at Oak Hill], and young inmates have been stealing and selling it for snacks or trading it for favors.' DYRS denies prescribing sleeps aids, but says King's sources, 'it was common knowledge that all a youth has to say is "I can't sleep " and ask for Seroquel, and the psychiatrist writes the prescription.' And said psychiatrist has a record. But: 'Short of intervention by the D.C. inspector general or by the federal Government Accountability Office, which is empowered to subpoena records and obtain sworn testimony regarding overprescribed antipsychotics for off-label uses, don't expect much—except possibly the expenditure of energy by DYRS to track down and punish my sources.'

Michelle D. Bernard of the Independent Women's Forum argues in Examiner piece that the District 'has become a model of what not to do' in the child-welfare realm. 'Obviously, it will never be possible to prevent all abuse and neglect. However, government has no higher calling than protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Yet the District has responded with indifferent, overworked, ill-trained, and incompetent bureaucracies.'

WaPo ed board gets behind COG's rapid bus plan: 'Anything to speed service by giving buses priority will lure passengers, ease traffic and cut pollution. That's just the sort of prudent mass transit strategy that's been lacking in too many American cities.'

GOOD LEDE—From Paul Schwartzman's Saturday WaPo piece on Nats fans: 'On a night when he could have seen, say, a production of "King Lear," or watched "Wheel of Fortune," or even stared at his living room walls, Brian Smith chose to spend $135 and suffer through yet another nine innings with America's worst baseball team.'

'Where Should Sonia Sotomayor Live?' asks WaPo. Tom Sherwood, homer, answers: 'Pack your bags and move to Southwest Washington, just blocks from the Mall. And as we say on TV . . . but that's not all!' To make his case, Sherwood cites Nats, Arena Stage, Waterside Mall redevelopment, and...Cantina Marina? Meanwhile, DCist's Sommer Mathis argues that David Souter's choice of Southwest 'may well have contributed to his abhorrence of the city.' She picks U Street, which has 'everything a girl from the Bronx might want...but not too much of what a grown woman might like to avoid.' Also weighing in: Dan Silverman, the Prince of Petworth.

Michael Brown to ask National Conference of State Legislators to pass pro-statehood resolution at Philadelphia conference this week, Afro American reports. 'Brown will ask his colleagues to pass a resolution supporting statehood for the District and to actively participate in "National D.C. Statehood Day" on April 16, 2010 by asking their respective states to pass a resolution supporting D.C. statehood....[Brown] will have a booth in the exhibition hall talking about the quest of District citizens to become the state of New Columbia. In addition, Brown will co-host a reception, with his colleagues, to educate conference participants on what the statehood movement is about.'

District unemployment rate in June: 10.9 percent. That's up 0.2 percent from May, and 'above the national average of 9.5 percent. Maryland's rate rose to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent, and Virginia's grew to 7.2 percent from 7.1 percent,' according to WaPo's Dion Haynes. That includes 3,400 jobs lost in education and health care, FYI. Also Examiner, Biz Journal.

Engine 4 firehouse, at 2531 Sherman Ave. NW, named after Burton W. Johnson, the D.C.'s first black fire chief. Emma Brown covers for WaPo: 'Under a billowing 40-foot American flag, more than 100 people [including Fenty and Dennis Rubin] remembered the contributions of a man who joined the city's fire department 19 years before it was integrated....Johnson joined the department in 1943 and was assigned to Engine Company 4, then an all-black company. He rose through the ranks of an agency known for racial tension, serving as the city's first black fire marshal before becoming chief in 1973, a promotion that prompted a white competitor to file discrimination charges.' Also WAMU-FM.

ALSO—John Kelly investigates the fate of Tom, D.C. last fire horse. Actually, the memorial erected in his honor. 'Lt. T. "Cosgrove" Jones is obsessed with finding it....To understand his fascination with Tom, it is useful to understand firefighters. They are perhaps the most nostalgic of our public servants, gripped by a brass-buttoned sense of tradition. They honor their history and their fellow "smoke-eaters"—both two-legged and four-legged ones.' It's somewhere near Blue Plains—but where?

BANITA JACKS TRIAL—The boyfriend speaks: Leepoy Kelly, who had been dating daughter Brittany Jacks, testifies, in a 'steady and calm voice,' that he last time he saw her, 'Brittany didn't seem like herself. "She looked a little sad," he said, shaking his shoulder-length dreads out of his face,' Keith Alexander reports in WaPo. 'In the days and weeks after, Kelly testified, he tried calling Brittany on her cellphone. It was off. He tried contacting her through Brittany's MySpace account. No response.' Neighbors testify, too, about the foul odor they smelled. They thought it might have been a dead rat. Also AP, WAMU-FM, NC8, WTTG-TV.

Fort Lincoln man dies Saturday in suspected kitchen fire: 'D.C. firefighters, responding to a call from a neighbor who noticed signs of the fire, discovered the man lying on the living room floor of his home....Water was running in the kitchen sink, and the victim, who lived alone and had a sight impairment, had probably been trying to put the fire out when he succumbed to his injuries, fire officials said.'

WTTG-TV on the Robert Hannah plea. 'Chris Farris is the co-chair of GLOV, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence. He says, "The message it sends us this, if you murder somebody and they're not here to defend themselves, just say that they groped and you reacted." He added, "I'm disgusted. I feel very sad for my city."'

Man stabbed in face by mugger Friday afternoon in Walter Pierce Park.

Friday-evening fire in apartment building on 5300 block of Colorado Avenue NW injures several and displaces some two dozen.

David Malakoff, the former NPR producer charged with child porn possession, avoids jail time. Writes Scott McCabe in Examiner: 'Cheers, tears and claps erupted in the packed courtroom when U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle announced she was going to spare David Malakoff from the six to eight years in prison that he was facing based on federal guidelines....In explaining the exceptional step of sentencing below the guidelines, the judge said Malakoff had already thrown away a successful career and has to live with the stigma of being a sex offender for most of the rest of his life. But the strongest argument for the lesser sentence, Huvelle said, was that Malakoff had been raped as a 9-year-old boy and he had looked at the child pornography over five hours last year to relive his own rape.'

Hill-stationed Marine charged with animal cruelty in MoCo, Examiner reports. 'Lance Cpl. Jordan Darbyshire told Gaithersburg police that he had a drinking problem and killed a 13-week-old cockapoo named Tippy during a "drinking episode," court records show. Darbyshire said he "picked up the dog, squeezed her hard, threw her across the room and kicked her," according to police.'

WRC-TV: Bikes are getting stolen!

Northeast activist Kathy Henderson has an idea to keep Trinidad and its environs safe: Limit the number of ex-offenders allowed to live there. Writes Martin Ricard in WaPo: 'Henderson can't say for certain that ex-offenders are responsible for all of the violence, but she said she believes that the 937 ex-offenders who live nearby play a disproportionate role.' Uh, yeah. Says Peacoholic: 'Are we going to have like an Indian reservation?'

The umpteenth Obama-man-about-town story, this one from WaPo's Steve Hendrix. This one does have an S.S. quote: '"He hasn't been over here yet," said Sandra Seegars, a Ward 8 activist and periodic candidate for D.C. Council. Actually, Obama has been to Southeast Washington at least twice (to hit a Five Guys near the ballpark and sign a national service bill at the SEED charter school). He also planted a tree at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Northeast. But Seegars is still waiting for the motorcade to swing through her ward, the city's poorest.' And Jack Evans says that Bill Clinton was 'far more deeply engaged with the local political scene than Obama has been..."I'm unaware of his reaching out to any local politicians," said Evans. "But I'm not giving up on him. The president lives in my ward. Maybe I'll send him a letter inviting him to come visit city hall and meet the local government."'

ALSO—Tom Sietsema has a few first-fam dining tips; Maryland whines about not getting any Obama love. Oh, and, FLOTUS was spotted Thursday night at Oyamel.

WaPo letter writer: 'Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee have taken credit for what they call "steady gains" by students. But pumping up test scores by artificial means tells us nothing about whether children are learning. It's too bad The Post relied on a euphemism—"improved statistical housekeeping"—to characterize these deceptive tactics. A more accurate description would be "gaming the system."' More reax from bloggers.

ALSO—This blogger in Houston really doesn't like Rhee. NPR still loves her, though.

Candi Peterson with more on the changes at Luke C. Moore Academy.

'How Are Black Kids Faring In DC Public Schools?' asks Poverty & Policy blog. Answer: 'dismal.'

From Housing Complex: What the reopened Champlain Street NW will look like.

Richard Layman sees Ward 5 Business Council funding questions as evidence 'that the community benefits process is under-structured, which is something I have been concerned about for many years. It's a system that is designed to be messy and unstructured and fraught with peril.'

WAMU-FM covers Watergate Hotel auction. The auctioneer is finding plenty of interest.

CRAZY WEATHER—Martin Weil in WaPo: 'At Dulles International Airport, Tuesday's low of 53 at 5:25 a.m. was one degree below the record low for the date, set in 1980. It was 11 degrees below the normal low for the date. Baltimore's 58 matched a low reached first in 1895. Within two days, the Dulles temperature had climbed 42 degrees, reaching 95 on Thursday.'

UPCOMING—Today, President Obama will be visiting Children's National Medical Center for a roundtable discussuon on health care. Public meeting to be held tomorrow on potential WASA water tower to be built at St. Elizabeths; 6:30 p.m. at the UPO Petey Greene Center, 2907 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE. And on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., WMATA will host a meeting at the Jackson Graham Building on bicycle access policies.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—1 p.m.: Committee of the Whole public briefing on the FY 2009/FY 2010 budget gap-closing plan, JAWB 500.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—No public events scheduled.

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Comments

  1. #1

    Regarding the cops and the gambling ring, read "Gang Leader For a Day." The DC story makes total and complete sense after having read that book. I'm not surprised or shocked.

  2. #2

    Rhee gets the job done. Haters have nothing to say- you can't address all the damage done over the past 3 decades in two years, but progress has been made. That much is clear. You can disagree with the way she's gone about it, but she's gotten results. In the ends, that's all that matters.

  3. #3

    RT, the question is how *valid* are the results? If you're gaming the system, as the WaPo letter writer defines it, the results can then just be classified as Disraeli's statistics.

    The point is that the increase (which is not "significant" as everyone is reporting) came not from pure gains in achievement but a manipulation of the numbers.

    In the end, that doesn't matter.

  4. #4

    @RT & Kelly, I think you both are missing the point here. Rhee is only going after the low hanging fruit and instituting something that MOST teachers know from the classroom. In the Bell Curve of student achievement, of COURSE you put more of your focus on those on the cusp. Saturday school isn't so much novel as it is something that used to happen in the past. It also doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that you must aggressively look at the student rolls to eliminate inelligible kids who are dragging the score down.

    Statistical maniuplation...you better believe it. But as it was said before, "Are the children LEARNING?" Are they getting the academic life skills to contribute to society, to get a job? A test score doesn't say that.

  5. #5

    It's not statistical manipulation so much as it is recognizing the rules of the game, and directing a portion of your efforts toward making sure that a portion of your overall strategy accounts for those rules.
    That's not dishonest, it's smart.

  6. #6

    Juicing the stats are juicing the stats, I am more interested in DC student acceptance rates at 4-year and 2-year colleges. I then would like to see the retention rate of those finishing their 1st year and going into the 2nd. I want to see spelling bee, science fair, and every other academic achievement possible.

    As a former DCPS

  7. #7

    Rhee is also closing the gap, which she perceives as a racial gap in student acheivement, I see as an economic gap, by removing services and making unwanted changes to schools in Ward 3 (of course her children's school isn't touched). The classroom she had her picture taken in for TIME magazine with a broom was a ward three school. There were 33 students in that classroom. That school, Eaton, still pays for its own art and music teacher. Rhee, on a visit to the school cut the space for the after care program, a program totally funded by parents. The parks and recs aftercare program nearby may close this fall so where are the students going to go? Additionally many good teachers and a principal left due to Rhee. So the gap may be closed by reducing the production in the highter achieving schools. Ironically, this school has a large out of bounds population, one child coming from southeast to attend, many from Ward 4.

  8. #8

    33 Kids in the same class, now that's reform. Seriously though, the scary thing is that much like Fenty, evidence piles up of "slight of hand" deceptive progress, yet nothing is really done about it. Is this the future of DC Government? What is worse, being totally ignored by the DC Govt., or being led to believe that things are being done when they aren't.

  9. #9

    Did the test scores at Eaton fall? If not, how could this contribute to closing the gap? What was the afterschool space repurposed as?

  10. #10

    It appears that earmarks are usually set aside for the pet projects of highly connected DC government officials. Is it a bad thing that they might go the way of the dodo bird? Maybe not, given the ethically tenuous ground that DC officials walk on when earmarks are awarded to business associates, relatives, or romantic partners. The term "influence peddling" comes to mind when contracts for goods or services end up in the hands of inexperienced or ill-equipped providers whose only qualifications stem from a legacy of contract awards, making the right contribution, or having the correct bloodline/romantic partner/college alum.

    When written policies come into practice, qualified providers are allowed to compete for lucrative contracts--thus creating the pool of quality goods and services that a free market economy is supposed to produce. When egos get in the way of this competition, we have more government inefficiency and waste at the taxpayers' expense. In addition, some of the city's most vulnerable residents experience shortfalls in care--sometimes leading to tragic consequences.

    If the earmark recipients are providing quality goods and services to the District, they should not fear other providers vying for the same funds. If the earmark recipients are relevant to the needs of District residents, they have a market for their goods and services. If the earmark recipients cannot operate without life support from DC government, then these organizations need to form collaboratives, find other funders, create new revenue streams, or close their doors.

    Earmark recipients need to take a lesson from Darwin: adapt or die.

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