Chicago’s New “L” Cars Built With Child Labor

Is anyone surprised? Chicago is corrupt on a good day; on a bad day you can add stupid into the mix. L Cars made in China? Another decision made by short-sighted idiots.

CTA officials have asked the Chinese manufacturer of new L cars coming to Chicago for answers about the materials it’s using after NBC News reported children as young as 4 are mining minerals in Africa that might be used in their production.

Now partly this is the way mica is sourced.

It’s funny how very few people take Apple or Tesla to task for the way Lithum or Cobalt is mined. But then it is easy to pick on the CTA, and they deserve it. (No one in America builds subway cars?)

But hey, public transportation is good for the environment. (As long as you don’t look at the effects of lithium mining.)

What’s the Cost of Ignoring Infrastructure?

If bridges can’t support fire trucks, you better hope you don’t have a fire. Unsafe Bridges Impact Lansing Emergency Response.

Lansing, New York Fire Chief Scott Purcell is concerned because the load-limit on a bunch of bridges in his town have been reduced. Because basically they have been ignore for so long, they can no longer support the weight of a fire truck. The town doesn’t actually do maintenance of the bridges, as that falls to either the state or the county. The town is just stuck dealing with the consequences.

What I am asking is that the Town Board use whatever power it has to reach out to other government officials such as members of the State Assembly and State Senate to find the funding to fix these bridges and make them capable of supporting large fire apparatus again. I know there will not be an overnight solution to the problem, but it needs to be addressed and a plan put in motion to fix this problem before there is a large loss of property, or, even worse, the loss of human life.”

So when did we decide that government had so many other things to do? Roads and bridges. Basic services like fire and police. I know that there are a lot of other things people think government should do, but are any of them more important than making sure firetrucks can get to the scene of a house fire in time to do some good?

Your Tax Dollars at Work: The $600K Shipping Container Edition

Facepalm X 2Government sucks, and California government sucks like a Dyson vacuum cleaner, but this is insane. L.A.’s New Project Housing Homeless In Shipping Containers Costs $600k Per Home.

That 600K is higher than the median price of condos in L.A.

The containers will be arranged into towers, then connected by walkways to create a single, unified building topped with rooftop terraces and gardens. They have been specifically manufactured as modular, prefabricated homes because building codes prevent the developer from using recycled containers.

So right off the bat, L.A. is lying to everyone because they are not shipping containers. They just look that way.

“We aren’t actually building housing cheaply; we are just simulating building cheap housing as expensively as possible,” [J.F.] Mailander [a retired banker who has been a vocal critic of Garcetti’s housing policies] said.

But government is “doing something” even if it is insane. Bets on how long it takes for those “rooftop gardens” to be overrun by drug addicts? “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” That is still the most frightening sentence in the English language.

Higher Education

A case of life imitating art. Breaking Bad: College Edition: Two Professors Charged With Making Meth.

Two chemistry professors at Henderson State University in Arkansas were arrested for allegedly manufacturing methamphetamine on campus. Authorities began investigating Terry Bateman, 45, and Bradley Rowland, 40, after a chemical spill forced the evacuation of the Reynolds Science Center on October 8. The school had to hire an environmental service company to clean the air and ventilate the building.

Not the sharpest tools in the shed

So, I wonder if the folks at Henderson State knew what was going on before the chemical spill.

New Infrastructure Isn’t Being Built Very Well

My continuing dive into the state of our infrastructure keeps making me want to scream. It isn’t just that we are ignoring our existing infrastructure, (we are ignoring it) we are doing a poor job of building new. While we are apparently building (or maybe rebuilding in this case) roads, we are doing a fairly poor job of it.

So this story from Animal Magnetism: Goodbye, Blue Monday. Which is about the sorry state of Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT). (Normally I would reference the main article, and give Animal a Hat Tip, but the “media organization” in question is really annoying me, so, “No soup link for you!”)

One example cited is the collapse of a highway bridge, 5 years after it was built. Colorado’s Highway 36. It seems that in 2013 Colorado changed the law for building roads from “lowest bid” to “best value.” So how is that working out?

Consider that the Brooklyn Bridge (which currently carries 6 lanes of traffic) openend May of 1883, and the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937. Or there is Anji Bridge, which is 1400 years old. (Reference. And the entry in the Wiki.)

Then to fix the problems in CDOT, the governor appointed a new head of the agency, 35-year-old Shoshana Lew. Her greatest qualification seems to be that she was on Michelle Obama’s staff. Ms Obama apparently called in a favor with the governor. Ms. Lew replaces a 56-year-old man with an extensive background in civil engineering. Lew has a master’s degree in history.

So, in other words, Governor Polis has appointed an inexperienced, unqualified political crony of Michelle Obama to oversee Colorado’s collapsing road network.

And while she apparently – as stated on an interview with NPR – is all in favor of bike lanes, and electric vehicles, actually addressing the gridlock that is the state of Colorado’s highway system, not to mention that it’s crumbling around the edges, doesn’t seem to be on her radar. There are a large number of vacancies for snowplow drivers as winter storms are already hitting the high country, so that probably isn’t good either.

The Oroville Dam Near-disaster: The Cost of Ignoring Infrastructure

When I started looking into the dam failures called out in the post, Our Aging Infrastructure, I never dreamed I would find so much information of bureaucratic ineptitude putting people at serious risk, because reasons. Mostly the reasons are around “We don’t want to ask those people for more money,” or “We don’t want to spend money on what the engineers say we should spend money on.” Case in point, the Oroville Dam spillway (near) disaster of February 2017.

Why is all this important? Forget about building new infrastructure, we are not even maintaining the infrastructure we inherited. Members of previous generations now seem like giants — When did we become so small?

When the Oroville Dam spillway failed in early 2017, I didn’t hear too much about it, or I didn’t pay too much attention. The media was mostly in a frenzy about the 2016 election, and the early part of the “Russia, Russia, Russia!” insanity. But it was a bigger deal than I knew at the time. Like the Space Shuttle disasters, it was an engineering problem, compounded by management’s unwillingness to listen to reason. It was also a failure in multiple modes, and the root causes of the failures were known to management. They just didn’t want to believe the engineers.

Bob Bea Takes Us on a Deep Dive Through His Dire Oroville Report.

Bob Bea was a professor of engineering at Cal Berkley. Before he retired he was part of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management. As outside experts, not hired by or associated with California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) or The Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD), he and Tony Johnson examined all of the publicly available documents on the incident in Oroville from February of 2017.

A Review: On 7 February 2017 a portion of the main spillway at Oroville Dam failed. Specifically station 3300 failed. The spillway gates were closed. This being in the middle of the wettest winter on record for northern California, the lake levels rose to 900 ft above sea-level, and then the water began to pour over the emergency spillway. It was the first time that had ever happened. Within 24 hours erosion of the emergency spillway threatened to undermine the 30 foot weir, threatening folks living downstream. 180,000 people were ordered to evacuate, and the main spillway was reopened. The resulting destruction of the main spillway and erosion of the surrounding land dumped 1.7 million cubic yards (or so) of debris into the tailrace of the hydroelectric plant at Oroville Dam, The Hyatt Power Station, threatening to flood and destroy the power station.

There is way too much information on the initial emergency to include here. There are hours of video from DWR, and more from Blancliro. Even the link at the top, barely scratches the surface of the report. The main report, can be found at the following link. Root Causes Analyses of the Oroville Dam: Gated Spillway Failures and Other Developments.

That report details several problems going back to the construction of the dam in the 1960s.

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Alcohol Breath Tests Are NOT Reliable

What a surprise! Bureaucrats ignoring the truth to make themselves look better. And if it puts people in jail? Well, no one cares about the little people. These Machines Can Put You in Jail. Don’t Trust Them..

But those tests — a bedrock of the criminal justice system — are often unreliable, a New York Times investigation found. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place.

Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight. Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years.

The manufacturers are covering their assets. The people in the states responsible for the machines are just lying through their teeth. And DAs are only interested in winning, not in Justice.

Your Tax Dollars At Work – New York City Edition

Because actually paying for transport would be expensive, and cops don’t have anything better to do, right? Mayor Bill de Blasio repeatedly ordered his NYPD security detail to drive his 22-year-old son Dante 75 miles to and from Yale University.

Executive Protection Unit detectives escorted Dante back and forth between New York City and New Haven, Connecticut, seven or eight times during his first year at the Ivy League – even though the mayor’s son didn’t face any security risks at the time, insiders told the New York Daily News.

Do I expect anything to come of this? Of course not. A politician making fast and loose with taxpayer funds and taxpayer services isn’t anything that anyone (in politics) will get upset about.

First Login to ARPANET – Oct. 29, 1969

50 years ago today, the Internet was born. Sort of. I think that says it all.

On October 29, 1969, at 10:30pm Pacific Time, the first two letters were transmitted over ARPANET. And then it crashed. About an hour later, after some debugging, the first actual remote connection between two computers was established over what would someday evolve into the modern Internet.

Funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (the predecessor of DARPA), ARPANET was built to explore technologies related to building a military command and control network that could survive a nuclear attack

Our Aging Infrastructure

So when does this constitute a crisis? I’m only going to cover dams today. Not the California power outages (plural). I am going to limit myself to dams. For today, anyway.

In my post, The Coming Dark Age, I reference an article by Victor Davis Hanson: Members of previous generations now seem like giants — When did we become so small? One of the things he talks about is dams, and how we don’t build any. Of course it appears we aren’t even maintaining any that we have inherited. Then I ran across a gif of a dam failure, and I went looking for more data. And found more than I could have realized.

On May 14th of this year, part of the spillway of a Texas dam failed. Aging steel suspected in dam failure at Lake Dunlap.

The lake is both a source of fresh water and an economic driver through recreation. Boating seems to have been (past tense) a particular driver of the economy.

What caused the failure is still under investigation, but the river authority released a statement Thursday evening saying it believes that “aging structural steel” played a role.

A similar spill gate collapse occurred in 2016 at Lake Wood, 4 miles west of Gonzales, after structural steel inside that gate failed.

This is video from May, showing the exact moment of the dam failure. You can spare the 30 seconds involved.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) owns several dams, most over 90 years old, and apparently all in need of repair. And two have failed. Unsafe zones identified in study. These dams are 90 years old. That they would eventually need repair/replacement is NOT a secret. That fact was known the day they were built. So why no plans, no savings, no action? Because as Hanson describes in the link at the top, we are a generation of social-media addicts, who can only castigate previous generations, generations who built all of our infrastructure, for their perceived failings. As if we were perfect.

The river authority has said the aging dams — all upwards of 90 years old — need their spill gates replaced at an astounding cost. Officials have said the authority has no funds to make the necessary upgrades, which has led to safety concerns with the prospect of injury should someone be on a lake or near a dam when the next spill gate fails.

So what has the authority been doing for the past 90 years? All their dams need repair at once, after 2 have failed.

And of course it isn’t just Texas that has an issue.

Warning unheeded: 2010 dam collapse in Hopkinton was destructive, and predictable

At about 5 p.m. on March 30, 2010, as record rainfall pounded Rhode Island, Blue Pond Dam collapsed, releasing 179 million gallons of water that raced through nearby woods before tearing into a road and washing out a bridge over Canonchet Brook.
[SNIP]
Dam failures are almost never expected, but in the case of Blue Pond Dam the warnings were clear.

And it isn’t only one dam in Rhode Island. Dozens of dams across R.I. are considered unsafe or potentially unsafe. ‘We are literally one storm away from loss of life,’ says one expert.

The state does not know who owns 32 unsafe dams. Actions against 60 dams were pursued, but only 3 were fixed.

The State of Oregon is going to finally pony up some money to fix a dam that has been operating at 72% of capacity since 1994. Planning underway to replace Wallowa Dam. If you click thru and look at the image, it looks like the dam has failed, but apparently they reduced levels before it became a disaster.

Anticipating funding would one day become available, the district hired McMillen to draw plans for a new dam. Because of the risk of a failure, he said the dam has been running at 72% of capacity since 1994. The rehabilitated dam would provide more water to irrigators and allow for more water to be released, increasing stream flows for fish.

Plattsburgh, a city in New York, has voted to just remove a dam. City votes to petition removal of dam. Because it isn’t worth “fixing something that is broken.” (Funny, I’ve had any number of cars towed to a mechanic over the years. I didn’t realize it wasn’t worth it, and I should just buy a new car – every time an alternator or water-pump failed.)

Problems in the VA? Color Me Shocked

Government run medical care. A Vietnam vet found covered in ant bites is forcing the Atlanta VA to finally reckon with years of dangerous practices.

Surgical instruments not properly sterilized. After-surgery care ignored. Malpractice. Oh, and bureaucratic ass-covering.

The answer lies in part in a system where complaints were buried, whistleblowers faced retaliation, and punishment of administrators for wrongdoing was rare, according to observers.

288 complaints filed with the Inspector General in just 2 years. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

What Sanctuary Really Means Is That They Don’t Care About You

They certainly didn’t care what this guy might do. Authorities Ignored Detainer On Illegal Alien Accused Of Bashing Teenager’s Head And Dismembering His Body, ICE Says.

A teenager who was brutally murdered and then chopped into pieces, allegedly by a suspected MS-13 gang member, could still be alive today if local authorities had honored an ICE detainer, the agency said.

But you know, actually enforcing the law wouldn’t be woke. Or something. (Hat tip to the Daley Gator.)

Chicago Keeping Gun Criminals on the Street

JusticeMore on Chicago’s recipe for more crime. Rapper “G Herbo” gets probation in gun case.

If you make something less expensive, you will see more of it. In this article, CWB Chicago looks at Cook County’s continuing efforts to make gun crime less expensive.

Rap star Herbert “G Herbo” Wright reached a plea deal with prosecutors who accused him of having a handgun in a limo near State and Roosevelt in February 2018. Two other men in the vehicle were also charged with having guns.

Wright and prosecutors struck a deal in which the rapper pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor carrying a firearm while prosecutors dropped four felony gun charges. Judge Matthew Coughlan sentenced him to two years probation, nine days time served, and levied a fine of $494.

Other incidents are handled in a similar fashion, and they are covered in the article linked at the top of this post.

How Many Times Do We Have to Pay for the Same Disaster?

So a few days ago, I had a rant about “Why won’t people prepare for emergencies?” And while I’m working on a longer rant, that may or may not see the light of day, one of the things I tripped over in wading through the morass that is FEMA documents, is a failure in the whole idea of planning and mitigation.

We are currently paying taxpayer money to some people for rebuilding homes and businesses in the path of a future hurricane. We are probably paying to assist the rebuilding of Paradise, California. I know FEMA was involved at some level, but I haven’t dived into that. In Russian River, California, one business has rebuilt 4 times due to flooding. With federally-subsidized flood insurance of course. When is it time to move? (Pay him his money on the condition that he not rebuild in a flood zone.) We know that another hurricane will hit Mexico Beach, Florida. We just don’t know when. Houses being constructed in Paradise, CA are exactly the kind of 2 X 4 stick construction that went up like candles. The next flood in Russian River will come. When, not if. Why are we not either paying to relocate these people or ensure that building methods are more sensible?

When do we say that we are going to stop subsidizing your bad decisions?

What’s the Cost of Being Stupid About Security?

If you’re working in the area of national security, the cost can be high. Exclusive: Russia carried out a ‘stunning’ breach of FBI communications system, escalating the spy game on U.S. soil.

This is a long article. And some of the conclusions differ from other reports in the media. But the conclusion is clear. The average person in the FBI (or CIA) is clueless about technology, and security, and incapable of making decisions about either. And the people who should have known better were delusional, about the “reset option” that Barack Obama had Hilary Clinton undertake. (They were sure to love us, once Bush was out of office. Or something.)

“It caused a really big rift within the [National Security Council] on how seriously they took analysis from the agency,” said the former CIA official. Senior administration leaders “went along with” some of the more optimistic analysis on the future of U.S.-Russia relations “in the hopes that this would work out,” the official continued.

Those disagreements were part of a “reset hangover” that persisted, at least for some inside the administration, until the 2016 election meddling, according to a former senior national security official.

After the Obama Administration finally admitted to itself that Russia was still an adversary…

American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet.

As a result of all of this, we expelled a batch of Russians and seized two estates Russia owned.

The article is long, but if you are interested in the world of signals intelligence, you will find it interesting. (The NBC article – second link at the top – is much shorter.)

And it isn’t a new problem, that the FBI sucks when it comes to security.

We do know, from research Matt Blaze and others did almost ten years ago, that at least one FBI radio system was horribly insecure in practice — but not in a way that breaks the encryption. Its poor design just encourages users to turn off the encryption. [From Schneier on Security, who get’s the hat tip]

Because I don’t need security, or something and it’s inconvenient. And besides, I don’t understand it so the Russians can’t either, right?

Oh, and also consider…

It’s unclear whether the Russians were able to recover encrypted data or just perform traffic analysis. The Yahoo story implies the former; the NBC News story says otherwise. It’s hard to tell if the reporters truly understand the difference.

The FBI isn’t the only group ignorant of security.

School Officials Are Afraid of MAGA Hats and American Flags

This headline is a baldfaced lie. North Carolina school officials cancel football game after cheerleaders’ Trump 2020 banner.

They canceled the game because they didn’t want to be on the national news with a bunch of people telling them what idiots they are.

A week after authorities placed a North Carolina high school cheerleading squad on probation for displaying a pro-Trump banner before a football game, school officials abruptly canceled the school’s Friday night game due to safety concerns.

There is a school policy that bans kids from displaying political signs/banners and distributing political literature.

School officials said in a statement released the day after the photo appeared. “Stanly County Schools respects the rights of its students, staff, and visitors to express their opinions in a respectful manner on their own time; however, Stanly County Board of Education policy prohibits the display or distribution of political advertisements on campus or at school events.”

I’m no lawyer, but I don’t see how this is compatible with the First Amendment. Maybe it could be “while in an official school uniform” like cheerleader or athlete. And even then, as long as no official coercion was involved… wouldn’t this fall under the same laws as prayer. Teams can pray, as long as no one is forced, and no official leads the prayer. But hey, just because that’s what the Constitution calls for, doesn’t mean that’s how the courts have decided stuff.

Anyway, a bunch of patriots had decided to attend the game, wave American flags, and support the cheerleaders. There would probably have been more than a few MAGA hats in attendance as well. Being the spinless jellyfish they are, the school-board cancelled the game.

Politicians Acting Against a Whistle-blower, and Being Generally Corrupt?

JusticeThat would never happen. Would it? Judge: Cincinnati police captain’s federal lawsuit can proceed against city, police chief.

If you follow news about the sorry state of 911 centers around the country, the way I do, you will eventually see some jurisdiction somewhere congratulating themselves on being ready to handle these newfangled cellular telephones. Because even though they collect taxes or fees on every cellphone bill specifically to support 911 services, there was no provision in the law to say that those taxes had to be spent on 911 services. So, in large part, for generations, they weren’t.

Butler claims in his original lawsuit, filed in September 2017, he was retaliated against after he raised questions about how the city spent its 911 fees and grant dollars while he was overseeing the Emergency Communications Center from Jan. 3, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2017.

That’s when he says he was moved and stripped of his managerial duties with virtually no notice.

And it seems that the fix was in, and not just on 911 fees. A friend of the mayor had a company that was basically skimming 15 percent of all city purchases. (Hey, it was service fee. Or something.)

Grab some popcorn. This should be an interesting bit of depositions and discovery. Because even though I believe that the fix is in, I’m not sure that the politicians in Cincinnati can twist a federal judge’s arm. In Chicago, I would believe that City Hall had that kind of power, but I just don’t see that Cincinnati is that organized.

Chicago Schools Fail to Protect Students from Sexual Abuse

The Left is always screaming about protecting the kids, but they didn’t seem motivated to protect kids in this case. ‘Extraordinary and appalling’ handling of sexual violence cases in Chicago Public Schools leads to federal oversight.

The civil rights office opened a systemic investigation concerning whether CPS had failed to promptly and accurately respond to complaints of sexual harassment and assault.

The civil rights office concluded that the district violated Title IX by failing to properly respond to such complaints, citing the two specific cases along with a broad statement that the district had systemically failed to respond properly to other complaints involving both adult-on-student and student-on-student sexual harassment.

“What we found was a system that was broken and in disarray,” Marcus said.

A Chicago bureaucracy in disarray? Color me shocked.

The original Tribune report can be found at the following link: Betrayed.

After the Tribune threatened to file a lawsuit to force public disclosure of basic CPS documents and data related to sexual misconduct, the district acknowledged that its Law Department had investigated 430 reports that school employees had sexually abused, assaulted or harassed students since 2011.

Administrators. Teachers. Coaches. And even the ones who weren’t actually attacking students, were subjecting victims to repeated interrogations, and inflicting emotional pain. But hey, they love kids; that’s why they’re in education.

Ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. And CPS failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment.

Because once they get rid of a bad-actor, it isn’t their problem anymore. And here I thought that all those cop-shows where the bad teachers went from district to district were over the top fabrications.

An LA .gov Agency “Failed Dramatically”

Color me shocked. (Not that I’m all that shocked.) Scathing new audit finds deep operational failures at L.A.’s top homeless outreach agency.

The .gov agency in LA that was supposed to…

move hundreds of people from the streets into housing, shelters or treatment for mental illness and substance abuse has failed dramatically to meet the goals.

When a .gov agency loses the LA Times…

The audit found that, despite having more than doubled its staff of outreach workers in the last two years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority missed seven of nine goals during the 2017-18 fiscal year and five of eight last fiscal year.

And the goals were not “land on the moon” caliber. They were “not unreasonable.”</P

When ever a government “declares war” on a social problem, you can be that the real issue is lining someone’s pockets. Did we win “The War on Poverty?” Are we winning The War on (Some) Drugs™? I didn’t think so.

And the following quote still applies.

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’
  – Ronald Reagan

“You Can Never Lose Money in Real Estate”

I used to hear that all the time, even though it was never true. (The first housing bubble in the US was in 1837.) You don’t hear that much since the implosion of 2007. However, we should be coming up on the limit of the collective memory anytime now, so I thought a refresher would be in order. And by some measures we’re already in another real estate bubble.

In a housing crisis that somehow hasn’t been blamed on President Trump, there are about 55,000 homes in Connecticut that have concrete foundations that are disintegrating. Replacement costs start at about $100,000 and go up, depending on the size of the house. Plumbing and electrical must be disconnected, The house jacked up on piers, the old foundation removed, and new basement walls poured. It is actually a fairly straight-forward process, but you expect to have to do things like this to 100-year-old structures, not homes built since 1980.

Pre-2007, people would talk to me about “the way real estate traditionally works,” and then give me a rundown on market conditions since Jimmy Carter was in office, which to my way of thinking isn’t indicative of the traditional real estate market. And real estate discussions from that era had all too much in common with the discussions I had during the dot com insanity of the mid-to-late 1990s, about how of course companies like Pets.com, which had the revenue stream of your average dry cleaner, could have a market capitalization approaching Ford. Or whatever the situation was. Because, this time, things were different. See the classic text, Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay. It was written in 1841. (I will dust off some of the quotes from that book in the future.)

But back to the topic at hand.

Homes on stilts in Vernon as crumbling foundation replacement gets underway.

Less than 10 minutes away, four homes are on stilts on Eliot Drive.

“Every piece of concrete that’s here is gone,” said General Contractor Don Childree.

Childree is replacing full foundations. Each home averages about eight weeks and more than $200,000. Childree has done about 80 foundations across the state.

And this is filed under “Your Tax Dollars at Work” because funds for low-interest loans have been made available, and the state is still trying to get federal dollars out of FEMA (or some part of disaster relief). And that is because insurance isn’t paying to cover shoddy construction.

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