civil liberties

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fettuccine Forum: 'Discrimination is Discrimination'

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 9:28 AM

Dr. Steve Shaw spoke to 70 people at the Fettuccine Forum Thursday night. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Dr. Steve Shaw spoke to 70 people at the Fettuccine Forum Thursday night.

While many downtown shops and restaurants featured love-themed First Thursday events February 5th, the Fettuccine Forum discussion that took place inside Boise City Hall's city council chambers couldn't have been more of a contrast.

Northwest Nazarene University political science professor Steve Shaw spoke to a group of 60 people on a theme of "Hate, Harassment and Human Rights in Idaho."

His talk explored his research of Arian Nations and correlated it with today's human rights issues.  

Shaw said he began his studies of white supremacy groups in Idaho in the early '90s. He told the room he was reluctant to write on the topic because it would further the image of Idaho as a haven for hatred. But it couldn't be ignored.

As he delved into the research, he was invited to speak at the North Idaho College in 1995, the "epicenter" of the Arian Nation. 

"I walk into a symposium room and I get behind the podium and I see ten rows out, the elder statesman of hate himself—Richard Butler," Shaw told the audience. There sat Butler, with 20 to 25 of his "cronies," including several couples with their small children, all wearing swastikas. 

After his talk, during the question and answer time, "Guess whose hand went up first. There was no place to hide."

Shaw retold his conversation with Butler, who accused him of being wrong, telling him that the United States lost World War II, claiming President Bill Clinton was a Jew, and that Butler himself wasn't a hateful person at all. The back-and-forth ended, however, with Butler agreeing that Shaw was a "race traitor" and should be "exterminated" for having two adopted bi-racial daughters.

Shaw said he drove for two-and-a-half hours to get to his bed and breakfast that night, checking obsessively in the rear-view mirror for following headlights. 

After reliving that exchange, Shaw moved on to talk about why Richard Butler ever picked Idaho in the first place. 

"Why not Texas, or Louisiana?" 
  • Jessica Murri
he said. Idaho was deemed attractive because of its mostly white demographics, its cheap land and its live-and-let-live culture. And when Butler made his move here from Colorado, folks weren't too worried about it.

"People were thinking, 'Okay, he's got a few screws loose, but he's harmless.'"

Then the skinheads showed up. Butler would talk his talk and never do anything, but his followers took him seriously and wreaked havoc for several years. 

Shaw said this created an interesting problem for Idaho. It gave the outside world the perception that everyone in the state belonged to a white supremacist hate group, when—in reality—an Arian Nation parade would feature 70 members or so, and draw 4,000 or 5,000 counter protesters. But it also drew journalists from all over the world to experience what they believed was Idaho.

Yet it also gave the people of Idaho an opportunity, according to Shaw, to turn that perception around and form human rights coalitions to fight back. 

"Bigotry is nothing new in Idaho, though," Shaw said, harkening back to the Japanese internment camps in the 1940s and the laws forbidding mormons to hold public office before that. "We haven't fully overcome the temptation to harass or to hate. That's what we're still struggling with again today, in the case of Add the Words."

Shaw told his listeners that he believes the words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" should eventually be added to the Idaho Human Rights Act, protecting members of the LGBT community from discrimination in employment and housing. He said it will "help us write another chapter that will move us away from Richard Butler and white supremacy, and help others not see us as a backwards state."

His question-answer time at the Fettuccine Forum was certainly less nerve-racking than when he stood before Butler himself. He was confronted with questions about police brutality, religious extremism and world terrorism, immigration, and one particularly interesting question—"to what extent has Richard Butler's ideology not disappeared, but just gone underground?"

"Hate-filled language gets phrased differently today," Shaw said. "The Richard-Butler types, those kind of manifestations of discrimination or hate have largely disappeared. There's next to no Arian Nation organization in Idaho now. But in terms of language that's used, it's gotten more sophisticated, so our attention needs to be more diligent.

"Not to equate this with the Arian Nation, but if we're not going to recognize same-sex marriage, and give LGBT rights and recognize cultural change, but instead say 'no,' and claim religious freedom, and say we're not going to serve them—I'm not saying that's the same thing. But I heard that same language growing up in the south where people didn't want to serve blacks.

"Discrimination is discrimination, is discrimination," Shaw said. The lecture was powerful indeed.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Court Ruling: Warrants Required for Blood Tests of Reluctant DUI Suspects

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Rulings handed down from the Idaho Supreme Court will have a huge impact on how Idaho law enforcement moves forward with its DUI arrests.

The Spokesman Review reports that two decisions both stemmed from incidents in 2012 where police took blood samples from suspected drunk drivers.

Idaho statute has allowed blood draws because, Gem State laws says, by taking advantage of the privilege of driving in Idaho, a motorist concedes implied consent to a blood draw. But Idaho's high court says that Idaho statute contradicts a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that "prohibits categorical exceptions to the Fourth Amendment." Simply put, the Idaho Court says implied consent can't be used by Idaho law enforcement because it violates the U.S. Constitution's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The Spokesman Review reports that Idaho State Police had already changed its operating procedure by securing warrants for forced blood draws, but some local and county law enforcement agencies will now have to follow suit.
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Sunday, November 30, 2014

More Than 100 Boiseans Rally in Support of Ferguson Demonstrations

Posted By on Sun, Nov 30, 2014 at 12:09 PM

A speaker addresses demonstrators during Saturday evening's Ferguson solidarity rally. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • A speaker addresses demonstrators during Saturday evening's Ferguson solidarity rally.
It was 6 p.m. the evening of Saturday, Nov. 29, and the last sunlight was illuminating the clouds above the Anne Frank Memorial on the Greenbelt. A few demonstrators had gathered in groups and a few of them held signs with slogans scrawled on them like, "Black Lives Matter."

By the beginning of the demonstration, which would take them from the memorial to the Capitol steps, there were more than 100 people who'd come to show solidarity with mass demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., where Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot an unarmed man, Michael Brown, nearly four months ago. Nov. 24, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson, adding vigor to protests that have been ongoing since Brown's Aug. 4 shooting.

Following singing "We Shall Overcome," the demonstrators took leave of the Anne Frank Memorial and wound their way up Capitol Boulevard toward the Idaho State Capitol under police escort. Once there, a megaphone was passed around to anyone who wanted to speak. That included Louis Sheppard, who told the assembled crowd that events in Ferguson—which have included peaceful demonstrations, high-profile instances of police brutality and riots that have damaged local businesses and burned down buildings—are symptoms of the larger problem of racism in the United States.

"If you think this is about Michael Brown, you need to look a little harder," he told the crowd. 

Lesley Haddock - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Lesley Haddock
Lesley Haddock also took up the megaphone. Haddock recently returned from Ferguson, where they saw safe houses tear gassed by police and peaceful demonstrations confronted by heavily armed law enforcement in riot gear.

"The climate is very militant," they said.

Haddock said that though many of the demonstrations are peaceful, riots still take place, and that violence in the St. Louis, Mo., suburb is part of how people in that community are trying to win back agency from the ongoing police presence.

"I think the anger is a way to enact change," they said.

But Boise is far from Ferguson, as a few were keen to point out on Boise Weekly's Facebook page during its coverage of demonstrations in August.

"Figures that television propaganda is the basis behind any action. How about looking around your community in your neighborhoods and putting that action into play there. The weekly shouldn't even be writing about this. Bullshit news," wrote Facebook user Mellie Rad Clapper. 

"I'm so done with this story. Stop shitting where you eat and bringing that anger here," wrote user Jade Green.

Demonstrators disagreed vehemently with those sentiments, saying that Ferguson has shed light on issues of class and white privilege across the country.

"It should matter everywhere, no matter what," said Tim Scheve.

"It's not going to stop until everybody's made aware of it," said Kaylea Gardner, citing "extreme racism and corruption" as the underlying causes of unrest in the wake of events in Ferguson.

"All lives matter everywhere," said Kristina West. "When it comes down to it, we lost a life."
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Federal Judge Overturns Montana's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 4:26 PM

A federal judge has overturned Montana's ban on same-sex marriage, the Associated Press reports.

In an historic ruling, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled that the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman violated the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Morris' ruling comes after four Montana same-sex couples filed suit against the state in May. He said that his ruling was effective immediately. Two of the plaintiffs in the case were Angie and Tonya Rolando.

"Calling Tonya my partner, my significant other, my girlfriend, my perpetual fiancee has never done justice to our relationship," Angie Rolando told the AP. "Now I can look forward to the day when I can introduce her as my wife."

In September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed similar rulings in Idaho and Nevada. The first marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in the Gem State Oct. 15 after months of legal wrangling.
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Idaho Agribusiness Call for Immigration Reform From New GOP Majority

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo
This isn't the first time that Brent Olmstead, president of Milk Producers of Idaho and executive director of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Ivan Castillo have called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, but there's no denying that the most recent plea—a special section running in Nov. 19th's edition of the Washington Times and individual media events across the country—comes at a unique political moment.

Congressional Republicans retook the U.S. Senate during the Nov. 5 midterm elections; on the campaign trail, many of them indicated an interest in some kind of immigration reform.

"Republicans have control of the Senate. They need to live up to the promises they made in the election and fix [the U.S. immigration system]," Olmstead said.

But Congress may not have time to move on immigration reform on its own, and President Barack Obama has indicated that he will take executive action to provide temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants Thursday, Nov. 20. 

"Legislative action is always preferable, but we have waited for Congress to act and the Congress has not acted. The president has waited," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Washington Post.

Nevertheless, Olmstead and Castillo told reporters this morning at the Milk Producers of Idaho office in Boise that the people who have waited for immigration the longest are immigrants themselves, and that giving some kind of legal status to undocumented workers would be a boon for Idaho and the country as a whole. 

"When you give people the opportunity to come out of the shadows, you give people the opportunity to help this country," Castillo said. 

According to Olmstead, there are permits available for an additional 40,000 head of cattle across the state that aren't being used because of a labor shortage, and the dairy industry isn't the only sector of the economy that would benefit from a system that welcomes, rather than discourages, migrant labor. He suggested that reform might include a guest worker program, enhanced border security, work permits renewable in the United States through employers, English language learning and an increase in the number of visas available to highly educated or skilled immigrants, like those with specialized training of Ph.Ds. He cited a double standard within the current immigration system that privileges some applicants at the expense of others.

"There's a visa to bring a ballerina into this country, but there isn't a visa to work on agricultural supply," he said.

While immigration reform is a hot political topic with economic implications, the U.S. immigration system constitutes a human rights crisis. Castillo offered an anecdote about an acquaintance whom he encountered at WalMart shopping for his friends and family who were too frightened of immigration officials to appear in public. According to Castillo, that fear prevents even documented workers and citizens from fully participating in U.S. economic, political and social life.

"We all know someone who doesn't have papers," he said. "Political leaders need to know that Hispanics are here to stay."
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coalition Asks U.S. Court For Judgment in Challenge to Idaho Ag-Gag

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 3:11 PM

  • George Prentice
In April 2011, Boise Weekly visited a Jerome livestock auction as part of our award-winning investigation into Idaho dairies, where we discovered high levels of drugs found in cattle linked to Idaho dairies (BW, News, "Got Milk? Got Drugs? Got Both?" April 6, 2011).

But auction officials weren't too pleased with our presence—going so far as to manhandle our photographer and call us "terrorists." But if a 2014 measure pushed through the Idaho Legislature this year and signed into law by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter had been in effect at the time, we would have faced up to a year behind bars and fines of up to $5,000.

And on Tuesday, a coalition, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU), and Center for Food Safety (CFS), filed a motion for summary judgment in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Idaho’s “ag gag” statute.

The motion argues that the statute "violates their right to free speech and other rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. As a matter of law, this statute cannot withstand legal scrutiny."

"Under this law, journalists, workers, activists, and members of the public can be convicted for videotaping animal cruelty or life-threatening safety violations," said a statement from the coalition. In July, the court allowed the lawsuit to proceed and denied the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Coeur d'Alene Minister: LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance is 'Involuntary Servitude'

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 10:05 AM

In an opinion published in this morning's Coeur d'Alene Press, a local minister has equated the city's LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance with slavery.

"Can there be any doubt that this ordinance provides an avenue for coerced labor—involuntary servitude?" wrote Christian Candlelight Christian Fellowship Pastor Paul Van Noy.

According to Van Noy, the city's ordinance, which makes discrimination in housing, public accommodations or employment based on gender identity or sexual orientation a misdemeanor, violates the First, 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits involuntary servitude and slavery, and Van Noy wrote that the ordinance forces business owners to serve people against their personal religious beliefs. 

Coeur d'Alene's nondiscrimination ordinance recently came under fire from religious groups after a local wedding chapel, The Hitching Post, sued the city for violating its First Amendment-protected freedom of religious practice. The city attorney has said, however, that The Wedding Chapel is not covered under the ordinance. 

Though the ordinance explicitly prohibits certain forms of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Van Noy wrote that it forces business owners to provide goods and services to anyone regardless of whether the business owner supports or doesn't support the aims of the patron or client.

"For example, should a Jewish carpenter in Coeur d’Alene be unwilling to make wooden swastikas for an Aryan Nation group – the carpenter would be in violation. If a local pro-choice printer should be unwilling to produce pro-life materials for a pro-life rally they would be in violation. If a Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Atheist, or Humanist et al. were sought out to provide any service, housing, employment, or public accommodation to any group or person with whom they are unsupportive they would be in violation of this ordinance," he wrote.

Van Noy went on to write that he does not believe that LGBT discrimination is a problem in the north Idaho city, and that the nondiscrimination ordinance creates a protected class out of LGBT people in the city. 

"As we knew before the ordinance was passed, it is now evident that the ordinance protects the rights of one people group at the expense of others. I stated in my arguments of May-June 2013 that our city did not need this ordinance because we did not have a problem with discrimination toward the LGBT community," he wrote.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coeur d'Alene Responds to Chapel Lawsuit Over Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 9:03 AM

The city of Coeur d'Alene has responded to a lawsuit filed by an iconic North Idaho chapel and a Christian legal defense fund over the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel has been in operation since 1919, but after U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled that Idaho's same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution in May, the chapel's owners told KXLY that they would rather close their chapel than wed a same-sex couple.

"I think the Bible is pretty clear that homosexuality is not his way, and therefore I cannot unite people in a way that I believe would conflict with what the Bible teaches," Hitching Post owner Donald Knapp said at the time.

Oct. 17, days after the last legal barriers to same-sex marriage were removed, Knapp and Alliance Defending Freedom—a religious freedom legal defense group—filed suit against the city over its ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity within city limits. Knapp et al said that the city ordinance would force the Hitching Post to wed same-sex couples, violating its owners' religious beliefs, or face up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

But according to Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Michael Gridley, the suit filed against the city has no grounds, since Hitching Post filed for religious corporation status with the secretary of state as a religious institution Oct. 6, exempting it from the nondiscrimination standard to which for-profit companies are held. is a for-profit entity and not a nonprofit religious corporation that would have its religious expression protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"I want to be clear that absent a change in the city's anti-discrimination ordinance or other applicable state or federal law, the city will not prosecute legitimate, nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion," wrote Gridley in a memo to David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom.

"I believe that given the current facts, your clients' lawsuit is premature and not ripe for adjudication. As such, I would ask that you review this letter with your clients and urge them to dismiss their Iawsuit before any more time and resources are expended," he wrote.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

City Council, With ACHD Commissioners, Hears From Bike Lane Stakeholders, Passes Anti-Camping Ordinance Amendment

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 3:05 PM

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group.

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners heard from a group of stakeholders for Boise's bike lane project at a meeting the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 23. The stakeholder group proposed an ambitious plan for lanes along Capitol Boulevard that would be part of a still more ambitious plan to connect existing bicycle arteries in the downtown core to Boise State University, West Boise and beyond.

The proposal may eventually place buffered (painted) or protected (with vertical physical barriers between bikes and car traffic) lanes along Americana and Capitol boulevards, on the Broadway Bridge and Front Street, as well as dedicated lanes on other streets and "sharrows"—painted indications that motorists must share the road with cyclists.

But the aspect of the proposal that the stakeholders had most fleshed out was for Capitol Boulevard that includes a mixture of painted bike lanes or physically buffered lanes from Boise State all the way to the Capitol Building.

Though hashing over the Capitol Boulevard plan took up the bulk of the city council and ACHD's time, the achievement of the meeting was a consensus between ACHD and the City of Boise on enforcement of bike lane rules and the necessity for bicycle and motorist education to reduce frictions between the two primary users of Boise's roadways.

"We all need education for how to use any new structure we put in place," said ACHD Deputy Director of Planning and Projects Dave Wallace.

Referring to an ACHD poll that generated massive participation from motorists and cyclists alike during the controversial bike lane pilot project and found that many cyclists were using the lanes incorrectly or preferring to ride on city sidewalks, ACHD Commissioner Sarah Baker said that if the commissioners were going to sign off on a permanent set of bike lanes for downtown Boise, Boiseans would have to use those lanes correctly, and the city would have to create and enforce rules governing cyclists' lane use.

"What we got out of those comments is the unpredictability of bike riders. The rules need to come in as well," Baker said.

But city officials have long worried that the bike lane pilot project didn't last long enough for cyclists to learn and accustom themselves to bike lane rules. Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg countered Baker, saying that better bike lane use will come when bike lanes are installed.

"I think we're seeing a lot of bad behavior because there aren't a lot of good choices," she said.

City Council member Lauren McLean agreed.

"Once you paint and stripe an area, it won't be hard to get people to change their patterns," she said.

The Boise City Council also briefly discussed a proposed amendment to its anti-camping ordinance, which critics say targets the homeless. The ordinance was passed in a 5-1 vote, with the dissenting vote coming from Lauren McLean. It will prohibit police from enforcing the existing anti-camping law in the event that there is no room in an overnight shelter and the person sleeping or camping in a public space. Police may enforce the anti-camping ordinance if there is room in a shelter but has been removed because of unruly behavior, or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

"[The homeless who are mentally ill or on drugs] are truly the most vulnerable," McLean said. "I have deep concerns."

Elaine Clegg and T.J. Thompson both said that the conversation about homelessness in Boise is ongoing, but that the amendment was a step in the right direction.

"There are solutions, but in our situation, we do need to re-engage this conversation on a very deep level. We're trying," Clegg said.

"It's not changing what we're doing now. We have a lot to do," Thompson said of the amendment. 
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

International Women's Day Speaker Wows Boise Egyptian Theatre Audience

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Ruchira Gupta - APNEAAP.ORG
  • Ruchira Gupta

On stage, Ruchira Gupta looks nothing like she does in the press materials. In a publicity photo, Gupta wears a tough but convivial smile and a red scarf wound around her neck. Her arms are crossed. At the International Women's Day Celebration held at the Egyptian Theatre the evening of March 19, she leaned against the podium and wore glasses with thick black rims, the red scarf draped over her shoulders. Instead of a rugged woman of action, she came off as a wizened woman driven to action by circumstance.

Those circumstances—the subject of her talk Wednesday evening at a packed Egyptian Theatre—are harrowing: In the 1990s, Gupta was a journalist pursuing a story in the border villages of Nepal, where, she said, she saw no young girls. The locals were reluctant to answer when she asked where they'd gone, but one villager finally gave her an answer.

"All the girls are in Bombay," he told her. 

Bombay is more than 1,000 miles from India's border with Nepal: The girls had been sold into sexual slavery and transported across the border—across India—then forced into prostitution. In Gupta's native India, there are an estimated 3 million sex slaves. Worldwide there may be as many as 27 million. They're predominantly poor, members of ethnic minorities, low-caste and young. The youngest prostitute Gupta saw was 7 years old.

"[Seeing the sex trade in India] changed my life and I could not walk away from the issue," she said.

Gupta abandoned a career in journalism, and for 25 years she has worked to fight sex trafficking, filming an Emmy-winning documentary, The Selling of Innocents, and serving as president of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which organizes sex workers into semi-empowered groups and providing their children with access to education. It has removed some 15,000 women from prostitution since its foundation in 2002.

"Over the years we realized that what we were doing was first aid. What we were facing was a tsunami," she said.

Her remarks were presented by the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence and the Boise State University Department of Criminal Justice and Women's Center, and Gupta told the audience that many of the forces that drive prostitution in India are the same as those that drive it in the United States and around the world, and that the problems of forced prostitution and human trafficking are both local and global because they are fueled by fundamental principles of economics.

"Prostitution is based on supply and demand," she said. "What is driving the demand is a certain kind of masculinity."

In the United States the average age at which a girl enters prostitution is 13-15. As in India, prostitutes are largely people of color, poor and young. And it's a problem that strikes closer to home than many Idahoans probably think.

"Because you have tourism you must have sex tourism, because I have never seen a situation in which you do not have both," Gupta said.

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