Afra Raymond targeted by CL Financial big-ups?
Barbados Free Press understands from an internal source that journalist Afra Raymond has resigned from writing for the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian after learning that the paper sends unpublished articles to politicians: apparently seeking to have the politicians pre-approve or vet opinion pieces before publication.
Afra Raymond is a T&T journalist whose effective work on the CL Financial scandal has continually exposed the unethical and illegal actions of many of the main players in the financial debacle. Much of Afra Raymond’s work is jointly published here at Barbados Free Press, at the Guardian, and at Mr. Raymond’s own website.
We have sent Mr. Raymond an email asking for confirmation and to clarify what we are hearing.
If it is true that the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian is sending unpublished articles to politicians for pre-approval, this would seriously undermine the credibility of the Guardian news organization. It would be a serious affront to journalistic integrity and independence.
We’ll update this story as we learn more.
35 responses to “Afra Raymond resigns from Trinidad & Tobago Guardian: Paper wants politicians to preview articles”
Trinidad is a mess !!!
Trinidad might be a mess but it is no worse than the Barbados Government protecting Leroy Parris and then putting him in charge of the CBC so he could control the news about the Clico pyramid fraud that he was part of.
The Barbados Government fought against judicial management of Clico because then the DLP would lose control of the situation and not be able to protect their friends who supported their political party.
How much Clico money did the Democratic Labour Party receive through Leroy Parris? Criminals. All of them.
Under the Barbados Labour Party government this was also a feature. News articles and editorials from newspapers and news stories on CBC had to be sent to a certain short Minister Of State in the PM’s office for vetting on behalf of the Barbados Labour Party Government before they could be published.
Dear Blog Master,
This blog entry contains a number of inaccuracies and possibly defamatory statements, which I feel obliged to clarify:
1) Afra Raymond is NOT a journalist. His profession is surveyor. He is a former columnist and a blogger but he is NOT a journalist;
2) The generally accepted definition of the word “resign” is to give up one’s job or office. Mr Raymond had neither job nor office with the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian;
3) The phrase “Barbados Free Press understands from an internal source,” is deliberately misleading. The information about Mr Raymond’s “resignation” could only have come from Mr Raymond himself, given his long-standing relationship with Barbados Free Press and the fact that the e-mail in which he announced his “resignation” was sent to me and copied to three other Guardian employees—none of whom have a relationship with the Barbados Free Press.
4) It is incorrect and defames me as the Guardian’s chief editor to state that “the paper sends unpublished articles to politicians: apparently seeking to have the politicians pre-approve or vet opinion pieces before publication.”
As Mr Raymond knows, he submitted a column for publication in the Business Guardian on Friday. Because of its content, that column was submitted to the Guardian’s attorneys for legal vetting on Friday. The advice that I received from our lawyers on Saturday was that the column was “prima facie defamatory” of former Minister of Finance, Karen Tesheira.
The advice from our attorneys was that Ms Tesheira should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations made by Mr Raymond against her. That is the context in which his commentary was sent to Ms Tesheira.
I am placing this blog on notice that the suggestion that the Guardian “sends unpublished articles to politicians: apparently seeking to have the politicians pre-approve or vet opinion pieces before publication” is incorrect and a blatant defamation of me personally and of the newspaper.
I am confirming that it is NOT true that the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian “is sending unpublished articles to politicians for pre-approval,” and as you point out, if it were true, “this would seriously undermine the credibility of the Guardian news organization. It would be a serious affront to journalistic integrity and independence.”
Those words certainly show that you have a clear understanding of the gravity of the defamation, and mischief, contained in the allegation.
Having alerted you to the defamation on your blog space, I would expect you would take the prudent action of removing the defamatory content immediately.
While you consider your legal options (and we consider ours) please ensure that my contribution is posted in its entirety.
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian
Extremely glad to read the above comment ^
Well the discussion begins here…BFP, please note that I was a Columnist with the Guardian, having never been, or claimed to be, a Journalist.
The writer of that last post, Anthony Wilson, sent my entire column to the former Minister of Finance for her comments. The attorneys’ advice was to give Karen Nunez-Tesheira the opportunity to respond to the allegations I made against her, but that does not justify in any way his decision to send the entire article to her for comment. Everyone reading this knows that the two things are worlds apart.
So, we have one case of the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian sending a full article to its subject for comment before publication. When I learned of that and made the challenge that it was an unprecedented move, the reply from the Guardian was the statement that ‘It is by no means unprecedented territory’.
Can you imagine that?
Again I ask, what did Mr. Wilson mean by that? Is it that there are other examples of full columns being sent to the subjects before publication within the Guardian or are there examples from other newspapers he is citing? What did he mean?
I am not aware of any precedent for this type of behaviour. If I am wrong please point it out to me.
We are witnessing a new low in political control of the media.
Readers who want a bit of perspective on all this could take a look at the T&T Guardian editorial of 28th March 2009 – which is the day after Karen Nunez-Tesheira attempted her second defence in our Parliament – http://test.guardian.co.tt/index.php?q=commentary/editorial/2009/03/28/minister-tesheira-not-convincing.
A reasonable person would wonder what happened to change those views.
Interesting post and comments…I await the eventual outcome
Anthony, take a hike. I dont believe a word that you are saying.
Dear “what will they think of next,”
You are, of course, entitled to your opinion.
But may I enquire on what basis you are saying that you don’t believe a word that I wrote?
Do you know me to be someone who is accustomed to writing things that are untrustworthy?
Note as well that I do NOT believe in posting blogs anonymously.
In small societies, if you send something to a lawyer for vetting then the likelihood of that matter being kept a secret is infinitesimal as they will have their partners vet their opinions and !hen maybe check with a few “friends”.
What conflicts of interest do these “attorney’s” have with politicians who butter their bread?
The tendency to use libel chill after basic questions of transparency have been asked is only a conditioned reflex to having no opposition and no free press.
If the editor-in-chief of The Guardian is not leading the attack every day against those that illegally stole many millions of Dollars from the citizens of the Caribbean, then he is part of the problem enabling the obscenity that is Clico.
I agree with the previous blogger. Methinks though protest too much!
I most certainly have led the attack on those who stole millions of dollars from the citizens of the Caribbean.
Since September 16, 2010, I have written about 50 columns, under my name, on the issue of the Clico matter in general, and specifically on the matter of the dispossession of the Clico policyholders in T&T.
There is no other commentator in the world who has written as much or as consistently on this issue, as I am sure even Mr Raymond would admit.
My record is there for all to see if you only take the time to go to the Guardian’s website and look for the BG View columns.
For the benefit of Caribbean readers, I am pasting my most recent column on the issue underneath. The $ refers to TT dollars unless otherwise specified:
Should T&T taxpayers fund the Clico bailout?
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Two Thursdays ago, financial analyst and Business Guardian columnist, Ian Narine, wrote a commentary in which he compared and contrasted the situation involving MF Global, the bankrupt American futures brokerage firm, and Clico, the financially distressed T&T insurance company. Among the other point that Mr Narine made was that at the time of its bankruptcy MF Global had assets of US$41 billion and liabilities of US$39.7 billion.
He then wrote: “The assets exceeded the liabilities yet the company filed for bankruptcy. Hopefully, this will serve as a point of reflection for those who continue to mislead the local population as to the status of the CL Financial Group and Clico back in January 2009.” I don’t know of anybody who has written on the financial status of CL Financial and Clico who is in much doubt about the financial status of those companies in January 2009.
At the news conference on January 30, 2009, Central Bank Governor, Ewart Williams said that Clico had a “sizeable statutory fund deficit,” which he estimated to be of the order of $5 billion and which, at a news conference in March 2009, he revised upward to a notional deficit of $10 billion. No one is in any doubt that Clico was insolvent in January 2009, which Mr Narine defines as: “when a company is unable to meet its obligations when due, it is insolvent from a cashflow perspective. The assets on the balance sheet are irrelevant in that context.” If Clico was unable to meet the requests of policyholders for the payment of their maturing Executive Flexible Premium Annuities (EFPAs) when they became due, Clico was “insolvent from a cashflow perspective.”
Everyone understands that. But that is not the issue.
The issue for most of the commentators who have followed this issue closely is what is the financial status of Clico now—following the $5 billion in assistance that the previous administration made available to Clico because it was perceived as being too big to fail. Neither the previous administration nor the present one has done what is the normal, traditionally accepted practice in all instances in which taxpayers’ funds are used to bail out private institutions: Account for the use of taxpayers’ funds by publishing the accounts of the companies that have been bailed out. It is beyond scandalous that the PNM and PP administrations have deployed at least $6.5 billion in taxpayers’ funds—$5 billion that was pumped into Clico to acquire a 49 per cent stake in the company plus the $1.5 billion that has been used to pay each policyholder $75,000 in cash—but have failed to account to the taxpayers for that money.
With one month to go before the third anniversary of the collapse of Clico, the financial condition of the insurance company is T&T’s most closely guarded secret—impervious even to Wikileaks. What is known, or can be safely deduced is the following:
• Clico has saved hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the decision by Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran, to stop the payment of interest on the EFPAs from the announcement to that effect in the 2011 budget.
• Clico’s 51.7 million Republic Bank shares (equal to 32.3 per cent of the bank’s equity) is worth close to $5 billion today. For the 2011 financial year, Clico earned $207 million from the $4 a share in dividends paid out by Republic Bank ;
• Clico’s 56 per cent of Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Ltd is worth upwards of $8 billion (US$1.25 billion) by any reasonable valuation method. According to the testimony of MHTL’s chief executive Rampersad Motilal at the Colman Commission of Enquiry, MHTL’s net income ranges between US$300 million and US$350 million based on revenue of about US$2 billion and from assets of US$3.2 billion. If MHTL pays 40 per cent of its net income as a dividend, that is equal to US$120 to US$140 million a year, of which 56 per cent goes to Clico.
In other words, there would be no need for any further assistance by the State in this matter, if the Government sold Clico’s shares in Republic Bank and MHTL—as was agreed by both the Government and former CL Financial chairman, Lawrence Duprey in the January 30, 2009 Memorandum of Understand—as well as CL Financial’s 86 per cent stake in Lascelles deMercado, its 100 per cent stake of HCL and other Clico/CL
Or if the Government bundled Republic, MHTL, Lascelles deMercado, HCL and other Clico/CL Financial assets into an investment holding company and then distributed shares in that company to policyholders and other creditors, there would be no need for any further Government bailout of Clico. It can safely be argued, then, that there are at least two methods by which the Government can limit its bailout of Clico to what has already been contributed AND provide the Government with the likelihood of receiving a return on its investment.
In commenting on this matter, Mr Narine wrote as follows:
“If the taxpayer provides the liquidity to support the cashflow shortfall then the taxpayer should be entitled to some measure of compensation for such an outlay. Yet, three years on, and the local taxpayer is the bearer of a significant portion of CL Financial bill without any hint of a return. “What is shocking to me is that there are investors and shareholders expecting that they emerge from such a scenario without penalty and a view that they are entitled to 100 per cent of their money.” What the financial analyst fails to appreciate is that the reason that the Clico policyholders expect that they would emerge from this scenario “without penalty and a view that they are entitled to 100 per cent of their money” is that they understand that Clico is worth much more today than it was three years ago. The fact that the Government continues to suppress the Clico accounts and the valuations of Clico’s assets—and has created new legislation to prevent policyholders from suing the insurance company or the Central Bank—is a clear indication that there are those in the Government who understand that Clico today is worth much more than three years ago. I am perfectly clear in my own mind that there is absolutely no need for more taxpayers’ funds to bailout the Clico policyholders. If the Government chooses to expend more taxpayers’ money on resolving this Clico issue, when it does not need to, it can only be because it has ulterior motives for the Clico assets. May I wish all Business Guardian readers prosperity and health in 2012.
I am a more than a little surprised to see Mr. Wilson come on like gang busters about ‘defamation’ to try and intimidate BFP. I thought he’d be a little more gentle or professionally respectful of BFP as some of the Bajan journalists will begrudgingly admit that the blogs have an important place in ensuring freedom of the press. Some of the Bajan professional journalists publish stories under their own bylines at BFP and BU when their own papers shut them out or censored stories. Some publish anonymously at BFP at least two and one at BU that I figured out.
BFP say they found out about the ‘resignation’ from a internal source and I won’t disbelieve them if they say so because I know ’nuff journalists hang around the blogs and tip on all kinds of things to the blogs and steal their stories too.
I am not surprised to see Mr. Wilson #1 on his list about Afra Raymond not being a journalist. “Professional” journalists jealously guard their title and I can understand that reluctance to allow the title to be awarded to someone they don’t believe is a ‘professional’. The blogs and self publishing have blurred those lines between ‘professional’, ‘part-time’, ‘amateur’. Professional journalists must hate that.
The other thing that blurred the lines between ‘professional’ journalists is that independent journalists or bloggers in all manners of news stories regularly break news before the ‘pros’ and often research and publish stories with far more credibility and integrity than ‘professional’ journalists do especially on ‘sensitive’ topics. BFP and BU published stories that the ‘professional’ Bajan journalists would not or could not: the flyover scandal, when a Nation News editor was wanted for rape, the dropping of bribery charges against police in a secret court session, when a Cabinet Minister built a home on land his government expropriated for public housing etc etc etc.
Professional journalists would have more respect from the public if they didn’t hide stories from the public like those above.
IS AFRA RAYMOND A PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST?
I have the impression that of all the Trini journalists, Afra Raymond has been the hardest-hitting and most accurate and courageous in pursuing the truth in the CL Financial collapse story. His TV appearances and news articles are excellent.
Is Afra Raymond a ‘professional’ journalist? To my eye the quality of his work is excellent in the papers and on television.
If the Guardian paid him, I accept him as a professional journalist. If he did it for free, then as good as he is, it is a hobby like writing letters to the editor.
Mr. Wilson: Did the Guardian pay Mr. Raymond for his stories? Did the Guardian ever assign him a story to do or pre-approve one of his story ideas prior to Mr. Raymond writing the story?
1) Afra Raymond is NOT a journalist. His profession is surveyor. He is a former columnist and a blogger but he is NOT a journalist.
The term journalist may include various types of editors, editorial writers, columnists, and visual journalists; why can’t you consider him a journalist?
What’s the point of such a comment anyway?
2) “The generally accepted definition of the word “resign” is to give up one’s job or office. Mr Raymond had neither job nor office with the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian.”
But he wrote columns for the Guardian, that’s called a job!
3)”The phrase “Barbados Free Press understands from an internal source,” is deliberately misleading”
How is it misleading? If the source proves to be Mr. Raymond himself, I’d consider that an internal source.
4) After reading the first 3 bullets, I figured number 4 would be the same, a nit picking attack.
Just a couple of additions to the discussion here –
Firstly, I was paid for my Guardian columns over since August 2010.
Secondly, Wilson is citing his 50 or so columns on the CL Financial bailout, but check at http://www.afraraymond.com, you will see that I have 98 posts (articles and media clips, mostly TV) on ‘CL Financial’ and 19 on ‘The Colman Commission’. On the question of quality of analysis, BFP’s own records show that my column was re-published from this site to the well-respected http://www.Forbes.com in October 2010 – see https://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/forbes-picks-up-barbados-free-press-news-feed/. That was the first time BFP articles had been posted to such a globally-recognised website.
The quantity and quality of my work is there, but the question remains unanswered…that question is –
“Mr. Wilson, you stated that the practice of sending entire columns to their subjects for prior comments is not without precedent and I am asking, once again, what are the precedents for that action?”
I am maintaining that your decision to send my column to Karen Nunez-Tesheira for prior comment is without precedent or justification. We already can see that it could not have been based on the attorney’s advice you cited, so that is out. If you maintain your position that your decision was based on precedent, please know that a direct consequence would be to place your and the T&T Guardian’s reputation in jeopardy.
I am absolutely serious in wanting this decision subject to serious scrutiny and am prepared to open my records if called for.
something isnt right….ive read mr wilson’s work in the guardian and he’s normally very hard hitting….so this throw me off
Just an aside. Journalist and others in the media are too stuck up! Mr Raymond is a Part-time Journalist. He researches and writes articles that are published. Get over yourselves. He is indeed a journalist albeit considered part-time.
I want to know how many other times Mr. Wilson and the Guardian provided columns to politicians ahead of publication.
I want to know which articles were involved, how they were changed after the politicians looked at them and if any were spiked (killed, not published) as a result of the politicians looking at them.
Did The Guardian publish the latest Afra Raymond article after the ex-finance minister looked at it? That is a big question.
Mr. Wilson, (or anybody): was Afra Raymond’s article published after Karen Nunez-Tesheira looked at it? What did she say about it?
Whether there is or is not a precedent to what Mr Wilson did, it does appear to me to be a bit of a low blow to Mr Raymond, who I believe to be acting in the best interest of the public with the publications that I have read. A principled journalist in my view would have sought to establish the truth without the forwarding of the said article to the Minister.
Mr Raymond in my view is more of a journalist than many of the so called recognised journalist whose names you see in national papers everyday. He seems prepared to put his thoughts on the CLICO affair in full view and allow everyone that cares to read them to judge for themselves (“If you are not outraged you haven’t been paying attention”). He is also prepared to say something is wrong when he thinks it is wrong and for those attributes he has my admiration (many mainstream journalist should follow suit and merit the right to call themselves journalist, because one may have the title does not make it so). It makes me wonder why someone like Mr Wilson who is witnessing the inefficiency of the Justice system across the Caribbean puts so much faith in the same Justice system when threatening
action with the defamation law. Maybe he has a friend or two in high places that seems to be the way it works for some people.
Setting aside all the earlier discussion about whether I was a Journalist or a Columnist or whether I actually resigned, let us get to the decisive matters –
• The attorney’s advice in relation to Karen Nunez-Tesheira was that the Guardian should seek a comment from her. There was no suggestion that the entire column should be sent for comment.
• Sending the entire column to Karen Nunez-Tesheira, which Wilson told me he did on Saturday 31st at about 1pm, after receiving legal advice, is the unacceptable part of this story. For two reasons. Firstly, the legal advice did not suggest that action. Secondly, the timeline contains an apparent contradiction, in that the email from the attorney was not received until 3.46pm on Saturday 31st December. But that is a secondary issue, in my view, since the matter under discussion is Wilson’s decision to send the entire column.
In a post on his own FaceBook page, Wilson attempts to negate the effect of his decision by saying –
“…The commentary in question was made public by Mr Raymond on the afternoon of Friday December 30 as a result of an arrangement that he has with Barbados Free Press.
My sending it to Ms Tesheira is moot as she might well have seen it for herself on the Barbados Free Press;…”
All of that is interesting, but ultimately irrelevant, since the first time Wilson knew that the column had been published by BFP was on Tuesday night, when we spoke. The BFP publication had no bearing on Wilson’s decision to send to KNT.
• Arching over all of this is Wilson’s statement, in response to my challenge that by sending the entire column he was taking this into unprecedented territory – “…It is by no means unprecedented territory…”.
• We now have to wonder what is the precedent to which Wilson is referring. Are we being told that this is a practice which he has engaged in before this, or are we being asked to accept that the practice exists in the wider Media profession?
• What did you mean, Anthony? Please explain.
• That is the question and it would be interesting to read Wilson’s response to that. Any readers who have experience in this area should also join-in.
That’s it for now.
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Anyone seen Anthony?
I’ve read some of Afra’s “Blogs.”
They look like “professional journalism” to me–in fact, much better than some of the dreck that does pass for jernelysm [sic!].
I fully understand why some of the amateurs object to Afra’s being called “professional.” Not having a journalism degree [Afra] does seem to be getting some folks knickers in a twist; especially those who have being claiming to be such….
oops, my typo “being.” Should read “been.”
So here we have it…Wilson is stating that he never before sent an entire column to any subject for comment prior to publication. Which is precisely the point I was making to him when I wrote that I was surprised that he had done that and further that he was taking this matter into unprecedented territory.
His reply was clear as a bell “It is by no means unprecedented territory.” And that is how this entire situation has arisen.
Even though we are now seeing a clear statement – does that count as an admission? – that his action was indeed unprecedented, there is no recognition of his error.
To compound the situation arising from that wrong-headed decision with immediate false justification, we have had to endure a series of irrelevant distracting tactics –
The attorney suggested Wilson do it…not true…
…erm, the BFP had it before I sent it to Karen Nunez-Tesheira…irrelevant, since Wilson did not know that at the time…We are questioning the decision to send the entire column to her.
My jumping to the (wrong) conclusion and such stuff like maybe I don’t understand proper editorial procedure an ting an ting…when all the way thru, what I was protesting is an improper action by my editor to send my column to its subject, without my knowledge or consent.
Maybe one of you can tell me how Wilson’s actions conform to “…understanding of editorial process and responsibilities or the checks and balances in place…”.
More to the poijnt, we do not have a clear statement from Wilson as to why this degree of consideration – I am choosing my words carefully here, lawsuits are in the air – was extended to Karen Nunez-Tesheira. Wilson’s decision is bizarre, given that the attorney did not suggest it. Even worse, to quote Wilson, from his post on Judy Raymond’s FB page at about 1.00pm today – “…I sent the entire commentary to Ms Tesheira because I formed the view that the entire commentary, from its proposed headline to the last sentence, was defamatory…”. So why did Karen Nunez-Tesheira need to see the column, Tony? Why did you send it to her?
I am even less clear as to why Wilson took the action he did than before we started this discussion, which is telling.
I am taking this as a learning experience, so let’s go…
Mr Wilson truly has his nuts in a ringer when he has to get on his knees and ask for a politician to approve Afra’s factual questions and sends her the whole article.
The problem is the gold belongs to the taxpayer and the electorate and not Mr Wilson or those that have abused their power.
Someone desperately needs a backbone and accountability transplant!
For the record: Barbados Free Press heard about Afra’s situation and his quitting the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian from two other persons before we heard it from Afra himself. Caribbean journalism is a tiny community and they do talk!
I tink dat BFP shud find a lawyer plenty quick. Me hear dat de writ from T & T Guardian legal eagles on de way. If wunna tink dat you does write anonamous, wake up – it real easy today to find out who behind everyting.
T & T Guardian sue Barbados Free Press for waht? Asking embarrassing questions? All de power of two guvments Bees & Dees being searching for BFP for years. T & T Guardian gonna find them now? Who pay for that? Not Guardian Media fuh sur! Mischief afoot m’be!
BFP like many blogs, is based under Worldpress. Once Worldpress does business in the USA, it is easy to find a judge that will give jurisdiction in a civil case as anonymous blog defaming companies and/or persons abroad in not acceptable to us dutiful citizens.
After this, the lawyer then seeks discovery. Once discovery is given, a subpoena is issued to Worldpress to provide all information on BFP. In the event that Worldpress refuses to do so, it is then straightforward to stop their business in the US and/or place a lien on their bank accounts. No company can survive without money and history shows that it is easy to get them to fold when this is done.
If there is a company behind BFP, the lawyers in question might tell the court that the defamation caused by the owners of BFP is of such seriousness that the corporate veil be lifted and that they then be given permission to sue the owners personally. The usual sum in cases like this is USD 20 million.
The idea that some individual can pay the BFP bill to Worldpress and the owners remain anonymous is a joke. The only way BFP can elude the long hand of the US justice system is to place their site in a country where there is little justice or law.
WordPress is a free blogging system like Blogger. Free anonymous proxy services abound. I very much doubt that the rogues of Barbados Free Press would use a paid blogging or proxy service. They probably TOR or WARDRIVE. Don’t you think the dees and bees haven’t been hunting them for years? Chupse!
What a mess! I don’t think that the Guardian will be suing Barbados Free Press or Afra Raymond because by the look of it Mr. Raymond was 100% truthful in his comments, and the Guardian’s actions are unacceptable to any professional journalist.
Mr. Wilson’s action in sending what he describes as a “defamatory” column to the politician for comments is unprecedented and nothing to do with any journalistic procedures or ethics I’ve ever heard of. Poor show, Guardian!
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Let’s just settle this once and for all… Anthony Wilson and Karen Nunez-Tisheira – you both go and kneel down in the naughty corner with allyuh fingers on allyuh lips and stay that way until allyuh come to allyuh senses, and while allyuh there take Laurence Duprey with allyuh too!! Now everybody, fingers on lips and …
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Seriously, Anthony Wilson! Who really cares?? You sound like just another political puppet who wants to protect a certain lifestyle!