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The case for more — many more — Americans, explained
Times Square, New York City | Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images A conversation with Matthew Yglesias on families, the economy, global competition, and One Billion Americans I want six kids. It is this, of all my various eccentricities, in which I feel most utterly alone when I listen to conversations about public policy. Progressive America no longer has much of a social script for people who want big families. Wanting lots of children is called selfish, stupid, fanatical. Religious conservatives seem to be America’s only interest group that reliably comes out in favor of people choosing to have big families — but I’m a polyamorous atheist lesbian co-raising my two kids with three other committed co-parents, and religious conservatives have no interest in building an America withfamilies that look like mine. It’s into this void that my colleague Matt Yglesias’s new book, One Billion Americans, most powerfully steps. It’s a book that asserts that it’s good, actually, when there are lots of people in the United States. It’s good for those people, who will be richer and live deeper, more diverse, more interesting lives. It’s good for our country, which, Yglesias argues, benefits from its large population when it tries to provide economic and political incentives for freedom and democracy. It will mean we don’t cede the future of the world to China, which is currently engaged in brutal ethnic repression and which has shredded earlier hopes that itmight politically liberalize. If you survey Americans about how many children they want, on average they say about 2.5. That includes the ones like me who want six and the ones who want zero. But while people want 2.5 kids on average, in practice they have fewer — about 1.72 in 2018, the book says. Increasing America’s population needn’t involve regression from modern liberal ideas. It would just require making it possible for people to get the thing that they already want. The book’s proposed policy changes are mostly nudges at the margins — more immigration but not open borders, an expansion of public education to also provide free preschool and day care, subsidies and tax credits for parents, fixes to our housing and transportation policy so the cost of living isn’t intolerable. Despite its simplicity — maybe because of its simplicity — it’s compelling. Matt Yglesias thinks America is good and it’d be good if everyone who’d benefit the country was allowed to live hereand everyone who lived herewas able to have their ideal family size. And while that simple vision elides a lot of challenges — some of which are beyond its scope — its vision of America is at least worth rooting for. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity. Kelsey Piper Why should we have a billion Americans? Matt Yglesias We should have a billion Americans for two big reasons. One is that in a globe of international competition, it’s good to be a big country as well as a wealthy country. And the United States has historically benefited from having a large population relative to a lot of its competitors. And then the other reason we should have a billion Americans is that it will make this country a better place. The steps we need to take to get there will improve the country and make us richer as well as larger. Kelsey Piper You talk a lot about international competition in this book. What can we expect from US/China relations for the next like 20 years? Matt Yglesias I think 20 years ago, there was a lot of optimism that economic growth and economic integration would naturally lead to a liberalization of their political system. We’ve now seen that that’s really not true. They have become, if anything, more repressive domestically, more aggressive in their relationship with other powers around the world. And they’ve also started aggressively using economic interconnection to sort of export their values, censor western movies, andput pressure on American celebrities and athletes to stay silent about human rights abuses there. I’m not a militaristic person or fan of international conflict, but I think that we want to clearly put distance between ourselves and them as the world’s number one economic powerso that decisions we make about free speech and other things carry the most weight in the world if companies need to pick between the American market and the Chinese market. We want America to stay number one, as it has been for a long time, because this country, for all its flaws — there’s a world of difference between the American constitutional system and human rights practices over there. Kelsey Piper I totally agree with that. I’m curious if you’ve gotten pushback on it, or there are people who respond to this by saying “Oh, you know, we have shortcomings as a country, China has shortcomings in the country, American greatness isn’t something I feel unconflicted about pushing for.” Matt Yglesias You know, what’s interesting is that there’s very few people who actually say that the problems or the systems are equivalent. What is true, is that there’s some people who just don’t like the idea of politics that they see as stoking nationalism orappealing to patriotism. Aggressive militarism, I think, is quite bad, and has been a problem for American foreign policy in the fairly recent past. But a healthy sense of pride in what’s good about one’s country and the desire to see it succeed doesn’t have to be that. One thing that makes America different from some of the other countries that I find right now admirable is that America has built into its national story and its national identity a certain kind of expansiveness. People from all around the world have moved here historically and become American. Kelsey Piper I’m curious from what directions you’ve gotten pushback about this book. What arethe main lines of disagreement you’ve run into? Matt Yglesias So one school of thought — Felix Salmon said this — he thought the whole pot was unnecessary, but the specific policy ideas mostly seemed really good to him. He didn’t get why you’d frame them around one billion Americans. And some people are harsher — they say, “No, this is bad. That this kind of national vision is pernicious, and masks neoliberal machinations.” The specific ideas here are mostly straight out of the progressive toolkit. Yet a number of people on the right have said, “I like this idea. A lot. I have some disagreements about the particulars.” And that’s great. That’s what you have politics for, to some extent. I feel like we could have a much healthier American politics built around a consensus that we are not going to engage in military adventurism, but we’re also not going to just accept national decline. We need more people, we need more growth. And now we’re going to talk about the details: How should immigration work? How should a welfare state be designed to support that? How should we adjust our housing and infrastructure policies? That to me feels very hopeful and optimistic. And I hope more people on the left will read some of the coverage on the right, and see that there’s something to the idea of speaking the language of national greatness, as an aspect of one’s political practice. Kelsey Piper Another direction from which I’ve seen some pushback is that it seems like a lot of progressives just don’t totally believe that there being more people is good, for environmental reasons or the ways it’s tied to American hegemony. Matt Yglesias I think there are two big disagreements. One is just philosophically, is more people better, or not? And I think it is right, butI don’t have a prolonged defense of this in the book. It’s a big issue people talk about in the in the moral philosophy world. But I think a universe of seven really happy people all being treated really fairly, is worse than a thriving planet of 7 billion, even if some of those 7 billion people are living in worse conditions than what existed in the seven. The other [disagreement] is the extreme of eco-pessimism. If you look at what is the actual public policy of the United States of America, climate change is a much more serious problem than our current policy makes it seem. We should be doing a lot more than we actually are. It is a much bigger deal than it’s treated as. At the same time, if you ignore actual policy, and you just look at takes written ... it’s not as bad as they say. I don’t want to “both sides” it — actual public policy is really important here. But we’re not teetering on the brink of human extinction. We should do a lot to address climate change. But we shouldn’t prevent poor countries from becoming richer, we shouldn’t prevent poor people from moving to opportunity, and we shouldn’t prevent people from having children. We should try to develop and deploy cleaner ways of making electricity. The United States is actually one of the countries that is best situated to weather a change in the climate. I don’t want to downplay the sort of costs and problems that we face. But compared to a tropical country or more agricultural country, we are better situated to withstand changes. So us being open to people moving here from around the world is actually a major contribution that we make to the adaptation side of climate change. Kelsey Piper So one doubt I had about a bunch of the prescriptions in One Billion Americans is that a lot of countries in Europe have kind of desperately tried various stuff at this rate to get their birth rates up. But it mostly hasn’t worked. Their birth rates are mostly still well below two. Why doyou think we could make that work here? Matt Yglesias I think the evidence is that pronatalist policies do work, that they elevate birth rates above what they would otherwise be. If you look at the Nordic countries, people have more children there than the people in the sort of Southern European, Latin Europe countries. And that’s because of the sort of, you know, welfare state stuff that they’re famous for them there. At the same time, obviously, religion is a dominant factor here. We have more children than Europeans, because we are a more religious country. If you look in the United States, religious people have more children than non-religious people. We’re talking about change at the margin, not a giant change. And I think the evidence supports the idea that, you know, if we paid a child allowance, if we made more provision for preschool, if we did more to help out with summer programming and other things like that, people would go from one to two kids, to two to three kids. We’re talking on the margin. But margins matter when you’re talking about population growth, compounding. Kelsey Piper Another hesitation I had about thebook was that, in some ways, it felt like it was assuming a 21st century that would look a lot like the 20th century in terms of nation states as the big drivers of policy and change, and in terms of where people physically live mattering a lot. And as you know, I’m a little bit more inclined to think this century will see transformative technological change. Matt Yglesias Onething I think is that the less we know about exactly what’s going to be important in the future, the more we can say that being a big, prosperous country is a kind of general purpose toolkit right now. For one example [of a specific vision of how the 21st century will play out], I think the conventional wisdom among military people is that aircraft carriers are really important. And even though the US and Chinese economies are pretty close, we have a huge lead in aircraft carriers. So if you think aircraft carriers will be all that matters forever, you might say, “Look, this is fine. We’ve got a big lead and naval aviation, we can double down on that. We have allies who we can share aircraft carrier technology with, like, we can just like ride naval aviation until the end.” If we’re not confident [that we know what we’re going to need to survive the 21st century], we can still say that having more scientists and more people, and having kids who are healthy and stuff like that, that’s probably going to matter, probably going to be useful for whatever comes next. So, you know, I think we should take uncertainty about the future in some ways more seriously than the foreign policy specialists do. And think more about the underlying wellsprings of national strength and a little less about the specific modalities of diplomacy and military. The fundamentals of national health — a large and growing population, people coming there and integrating — if you can’t say for sure what’s going to happen, you want to sort of boil down to the most generic attribute of national strength that you can think of, and make sure you’re paying attention to it. Kelsey Piper And that’s how many people we have. Matt Yglesias Yeah, I think that’s about it. How many people you have, how advanced your technology is. How happy people are is of course also important. Kelsey Piper Something that spoke to me about your book was that I’ve mostly only encountered pro-natalism from the conservative side of the aisle. And that’s often religious conservatives — and I’m gay, and they are not interested in supporting the formation or thriving of families like mine at all. So this book is sort of great as a progressive vision of a good future where lots of kids are growing up. Matt Yglesias Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, we want that Secular minded people have children. Lots of gay people have children. I mean, there are also gay people who are religious. When you look at the policy detail, progressives generally want to be more supportive of families with children — they have a raft of bills, sitting around in congressional Democrats’ offices about parental leave and prenatal care and pre-K and child allowances and things like that. But then there’s a reluctance to say that one of the reasons all this is a good idea is because it’s nice to see people having happy, thriving families. You have to keep saying, “I’m not talking about Handmaid’s Tale or crazy programs to pressure people into having more children.” People mostly want to have two or three children. And it’s really difficult. It’s, of course ,most difficult for poor people. But we shouldn’t treat it strictly as a poverty issue. Because, you know, people would like to have children, but they also don’t want to have their standard of living completely on the table when they do that. When we think about preschool, I think we should think about it not as a sharply means-tested program for the people who absolutely couldn’t afford it, but as something that is good and important, because we want to support a society in which people have kids. Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, you’ll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and — to put it simply — getting better at doing good.11
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How Donald Trump is losing Republicans the Colorado Senate race
Sen. Cory Gardner speaks during a campaign rally for President Trump on February 20. | Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images Sen. Cory Gardner wanted to be “a new kind of Republican” in a state turning blue. Along came Trump. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was already in trouble this November.But with a looming Supreme Court confirmation battle expected to wrap up right before November 3, Gardner may have sealed his own fate. The first-term Republican senator from Colorado has long been viewed as one of Republicans’ most vulnerable incumbents. Gardner beat a Democratic incumbent in 2014 in part by promising to be “a new kind of Republican” — one who would work with Democrats and support clean energy. Now, President Donald Trump looks to be Gardner’s biggest liability in an increasingly blue state. “Gardner is one of the best incumbents [Republicans] have running, it’s just that he’s running in one of the toughest states for them,” said Cook Political Report Senate editor Jessica Taylor, who recently moved Cook’s Colorado Senate race rating from a toss-up to Lean Democratic.Colorado used to be solidly Republican, but an influx of young, liberal voters has turned the state blue. Trump is trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by more than 11 points in FiveThirtyEight’s average of Colorado polls, and polling averages show Gardner running more than 7 points behind Democrat John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, former mayor of Denver, and, briefly, a 2020 presidential candidate. Hickenlooper hasn’t run a perfect campaign, and Republican attacks on him have narrowed the polls slightly. But so far, it hasn’t been enough to overcome the steep odds Gardner faces. Charlie Neibergall/AP Former governor of Colorado, former mayor of Denver, and former 2020 presidential candidate John Hickenlooper in 2019. “I think there will be a slice of the electorate who will vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump but will vote for Cory Gardner as well if they can be convinced he’s been an effective senator for Colorado,” said Dick Wadhams, a Colorado Republican strategist and former chair of the state GOP. “That’s Cory’s only path for victory.” An otherwise middle-of-the-road Republican before Trump came along, Gardner has tried to straddle two sides of many issues. He recently ran an ad that showed him sitting next to his mother — a cancer survivor — and touting a health care bill of his that would protect those with preexisting conditions. The ad failed to mention Gardner’s preexisting conditions bill has no co-sponsors, or that he voted for a GOP bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, which would have eliminated those protections. And after refusing to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in spring of 2016 on the grounds that it was an election year, Gardner and other Republicans jumped at the chance to confirm a Trump replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just six weeks before a presidential election. (Gardner’s campaign did not respond to Vox’s request for comment.) “He’s twisting himself in knots,” Colorado Republican pollster Dave Flaherty told Vox. “Justice Ginsburg’s death is an example. l think that is going to be hard to get away from; that is going to hurt him.” Gardner struggles to articulate where he actually stands By the standards of a normally gridlocked Senate, Cory Gardner notched a notable bipartisan achievement in 2020. He was the main Senate sponsor of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act — a bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and give the National Parks Service nearly $2 billion per year for the next five years for it to take care of much-needed maintenance. The bill passed the Senate and was signed into law by Trump this summer. “Those two things together make it easily one of the most significant conservation wins in decades,” said Mike Saccone, adviser to the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. “The funny thing about Washington these days is the parties can’t agree on anything except conservation issues.” “Gardner is one of the best incumbents [Republicans] have running, it’s just that he’s running in one of the toughest states for them” Conservation is a broadly popular issue in Colorado, a state with more than 8 million acres of public lands. According to the 2020 Conservation in the West poll, nearly 70 percent of Coloradans consider themselves conservationists, and 81 percent say that clean water, clean air, wildlife, and public lands are important issues to them when considering political candidates to support. Climate change is also a major issue for the state, which saw its largest wildfire in state history this summer. The Pine Gulch Fire burned about 139,000 acres in two different counties, spurred by drought, dry vegetation, and hot summer temperatures. “[Gardner] works really hard on this public lands piece because it’s the only thing Republicans can stomach,” said Jeff Navin, the former deputy chief of staff at the US Department of Energy under the Obama administration. “Will that help him? Yeah, but there’s a huge difference between protecting public lands and climate change.” Climate is an issue where Gardner has a decidedly mixed record. He has openly said he believes in climate change, something that sets him apart from many Republicans, and he ran on promoting renewable energy in his first Senate race in 2014. One of his ads showed him standing next to massive windmills, touting his support for the state’s renewable energy market and natural gas alike. “What’s a Republican like me doing at a wind farm?” Gardner asked in the 2014 ad. “Supporting the next generation, that’s what.” But as senator,Gardner’s record isn’t as clear-cut. Though he’s supported bills promoting renewable energy and has fought to increase funding for the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado,he also opposed former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Gardner has opposed federal attempts to regulate methane and CO2 emissions, including one methane standard implemented under Hickenlooper’s leadership as governor, according to the Colorado Sun. He voted to confirm two Trump-appointed Environmental Protection Agency heads who were formerly fossil fuel lobbyists. Under Trump, the EPA has overseen a dramatic unwinding of numerous environmental protections. The president has frequently called climate change a “hoax,” pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, and installed oil and gas executives in key federal environmental positions. Trump also seems to have a particular vendetta against wind power, which he once stated without evidence causes cancer. In response to California state officials who recently urged him to listen to climate science when combating worsening fires, Trump said, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” Experts who work at climate-focused think-tanks have a range of opinions about Gardner’s environmental record. Some say he’s in a forward-thinking minority of Senate Republicans who actually want to do something about renewable energy. “I think Sen. Gardner is a bellwether for how the Republican Party is evolving on climate right now, particularly in Congress,” said Sasha Mackler, director of the Energy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “He seems not afraid to use the term climate change, and I think he’s been evolving in his position on the issue.” Others are less forgiving. “Cory Gardner, unfortunately he is the example of a Republican Party that has fallen in lockstep behind a maniac,” said Josh Freed, the founder of the Climate and Energy Program at center-left think tank Third Way. “Gardner is saying to Coloradans, ‘Don’t pay attention to my entire record; pay attention to this one thing.’ Gardner is the neighbor whose willful negligence caused your house to burn down, and he knocks on the door to apologize by bringing you a potted plant.” Those in Colorado who have worked with Gardner in the past say the senator twisting himself in knots is not unusual. “I know Cory and I served with him,” said former Colorado House Majority Leader Alice Madden, a Democrat. “He has been the king of trying to make everybody happy without doing a lot.” Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images Colorado residents gather outside Sen. Cory Gardner’s office to call for Gardner to oppose a vote on filling the US Supreme Court vacancy until after the election and inauguration. Even with Gardner’s work on the Great American Outdoors Act, he hasn’t supported the CORE Act, a Colorado-focused public lands bill sponsored by his Democratic colleague Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). Rather than opposing it outright, Gardner has instead left the bill hanging without taking a position, according to multiple sources. “I’ve often had a more difficult time nailing down where his position actually is,” said Jonathan Houck, a commissioner in Colorado’s Gunnison County. “He doesn’t seem to engage at a level that’s easy to discern off the bat, it takes some digging to get there.” As a county commissioner, Houck has worked with politicians from both parties. He plans to support Hickenlooper’s Senate bid, citing Hickenlooper’s partnership as governor to help protect a rare species of sage grouse in the local area. “I’m also supporting him because he’s done the work here,” Houck said. “The western and eastern parts of the state are sparsely populated. When John Hickenlooper was governor, he was governor of the whole state and he didn’t forget about rural folks out here.” Hickenlooper is putting bipartisanship at the forefront of his 2020 pitch to voters John Hickenlooper gave national Democrats a brief scare last year when he first demurred on a Senate run to instead pursue a bid for president (one of a whopping field of 27 candidates). Hickenlooper cuts a distinctly Colorado profile, as a former geologist who started a craft brewery with friends in the 1980s. He entered politics, becoming mayor of Denver and then governor. After a combined 16 years of executive experience, Hickenlooper initially was hesitant to run for Senate, where he’d be just one of 50 senators in a body where leadership makes the bulk of the decisions on what bills make it to the floor. “This is one of the things that a couple of my neighbors and an old friend Ken Salazar [a former US Senator from Colorado], this was how they persuaded me and got me excited about running,” he told Vox in a recent interview. “The skills that you need to be successful in the Senate are exactly the skills you need to be successful as a mayor, as a governor, and as a small business owner ... You’ve got to get people to work together. There’s no other choice!” This is Hickenlooper’s main political message — one that has largely stayed consistent throughout his political tenure. He’s a moderate, and he’s running on his history of bringing opposite political sides in Colorado together on multiple issues, from Medicaid expansion to environmental regulations to capture methane emissions. Despite scant evidence that Senate Republicans are willing to work with the other side, Hickenlooper is stubbornly optimistic that he’ll be able to make bipartisanship happen if he’s elected to the Senate. “Maybe I’m going to be cruelly disappointed. But I don’t think so,” he told Vox. “I think this is that moment in time where the American people have had enough, that they’ve been pushed into these two tribal camps that won’t speak to each other. If Steve Bullock wins in Montana, and Mark Kelly wins in Arizona, and I win — we’re going to have 10 Democratic senators from the Rocky Mountain West. We are pragmatic. We are problem solvers, by nature.” Drew Angerer/Getty Images Former Democratic presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters on June 26, 2019, in Miami, Florida. I pressed Hickenlooper on whether he’d consider curtailing or eliminating the Senate filibuster should Republicans in the minority use the 60-vote threshold to block legislation. While Hickenlooper emphasized he wants to find bipartisan pathways first, “If push comes to shove, I have to look at everything. There’s no question.” “I’m not naive, and don’t think that I don’t recognize that Mitch McConnell is an immovable barrier to collaboration in the Senate,” he added. “For the last long period of time, he has staked his reputation on making sure that nobody ever works with anybody else.” Trump’s unpopularity may be too much for Gardner to overcome Even though Hickenlooper is running on his affable image as governor, Republicans have still landed some punches during this campaign. They’ve homed in on the Colorado state Independent Ethics Commission’s $2,750 worth of fines on two charges that Hickenlooper had accepted illegal gifts as governor. Hickenlooper did not appeal the decision, and a campaign spokesperson told Vox this summer that he “accepts the Commission’s findings and takes responsibility.” Political analysts say the fallout has narrowed the race from double digits to high single digits. But the overall political situation in Colorado is still far more dire for Gardner. Even though he’s the incumbent, Gardner has lately been left looking more and more like the challenger in a race where he’s behind — hitting Hickenlooper with a spate of negative ads coming from his own campaign. Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images Sen. Cory Gardner introduces President Trump during a rally on February 20 in Colorado Springs. “The fact Gardner has to spend hard-earned dollars to do the negative on his own is an interesting observation [of] where outside money is in a very long list of Republicans that need to be defended by Mitch,” said Flaherty, the Colorado-based Republican pollster. Even if Gardner has a notable conservation bill in the Great American Outdoors Act, it’s getting lost in the day-to-day news about the Supreme Court confirmation battle and whatever Trump says. This week, the president refused to say whether he’d accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the presidential election. Gardner needs Trump voters to win, but he also can’t win without pulling in some Biden crossover voters as well. “If Trump moves toward losing the state by 10 points, it makes it virtually impossible for Cory to win,” said Wadhams, the former Colorado GOP chair. “He’s got to keep it close enough so Cory can move some of those Biden voters to him in the general.” Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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One of India's most renowned film singers, SP Balasubrahmanyam, has died following hospitalization for Covid-19 and weeks spent on life support, the hospital treating him said in a bulletin Friday.
SP Balasubrahmanyam, famed Indian film musician, dies from Covid 19 aged 74
One of India's most renowned film singers, SP Balasubrahmanyam, has died following hospitalization for Covid-19 and weeks spent on life support, the hospital treating him said in a bulletin Friday.
Debate expectations: Did Trump unwittingly lower the bar for Biden?
Is a move by the Trump campaign to raise debate expectations for Biden coming too late in the game, after six months of the president, the Trump campaign, and allied groups and surrogates repeatedly questioning the 77-year old Biden’s mental acuity
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What you need to know about coronavirus on Friday, September 25
It's up to Europeans to prevent the deaths and economically ruinous lockdowns seen this spring, says the European Union
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UFC 253 weigh-in results and live video stream (9 a.m. ET)
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In FX’s A Wilderness of Error, Errol Morris Investigates a Notoriously Tough Murder Case
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Don't say 'Happy Yom Kippur': How to greet someone observing the Jewish Day of Atonement
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Column One: Discovering the life story of Dr. Good, who survived the Nazis
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