Inspirational News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on inspiration
Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard, has been known to take provocative positions. He has argued that women are intrinsically different from men, that we are more driven by our genes than academics like to acknowledge, and that society is getting less violent over time — despite the mass shootings and other atrocities we hear about daily. The thesis of his latest book, “Enlightenment Now,” is that life on Earth is improving. By every major measure of human well-being, from personal safety to longevity to economic security to happiness, people everywhere are far better off today than they were before the start of the Enlightenment in the 17th century. "I stumbled across data showing that violence had declined over the course of history. The homicide rate in England was 50 times higher in the 14th century than it is today," [said Pinker]. "Like any other news reader, I just assumed that there was as much mayhem as ever. It’s only when you plot it over time ... that you can see the trends. It’s not just in violence that one sees progress, but in poverty, in illiteracy, in access to small luxuries. The percentage of the world getting an education, in gender parity in education - girls are going to school all over the world. Even in ... the world’s most retrograde countries, the rate of female education has increased. It was an epiphany from seeing graphs of human improvement that changed my view of the overall course of history: that progress is a demonstrable fact.
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Since 1980, [former engineer Kailash Satyarthi] has spent his life campaigning against child labor, ultimately winning the Nobel Peace Prize ... in 2014. Satyarthi launched the 100 Million campaign in late 2016. The initiative ... seeks to engage 100 million young people around the world to speak out for the world's more than 100 million child workers. The International Labor Organization charts the total of child laborers globally at 152 million, with 73 million of those in hazardous labor conditions. 10 million children are victims of abject slavery. The number of children working has fallen sharply in the last two decades, from as many as 246 million in the year 2000. With more global awareness and effort, it could fall further. Satyarthi's organization and Participant Media collaborated on a letter-writing campaign, in which ... people wrote letters to the top 100 US retailers asking them to take steps to ensure the products they sell are not connected with child labor. So far more than a million letters have been sent. "The world is capable to end child labor," Satyarthi said. "We have the technology. We have the resources. We have laws and international treaties. We have everything. The only thing is that we have to feel compassion for others. "My struggle is for the globalization of compassion." Satyarthi's ambitions have long been focused on global policy, but the root of it all still remains back home in India. The original organization he founded [has] directly rescued more than 88,000 children.
Note: Why have so few ever heard of this most amazing, courageous man who has risked his life countless times to rescue tens of thousands of children from slave labor? After surviving numerous beatings and the murder of two of his colleagues, Satyathi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for creating a global network focused on fighting for the rights of over 100 million child workers worldwide and rescuing the many millions still held as slave labor in almost every country in the world. Don't miss the moving documentary on Saryahi and his work titled "The Price of Free."
With the world’s population at 7 billion and still growing we often look at the future with dread. In Don’t Panic - The Truth About Population, world famous Swedish statistical showman Professor Hans Rosling presents a different view. We face huge challenges in terms of food, resources and climate change but at the heart of Rosling’s statistical tour-de-force is the message that the world of tomorrow is a much better place than we might imagine. Professor Rosling reveals that the global challenge of rapid population growth, the so-called population explosion, has already been overcome. In just 50 years the average number of children born per woman has plummeted from 5 to just 2.5 and is still falling fast. This means that in a few generations’ time, world population growth will level off completely. In Bangladesh ... families of two children are now the norm. We meet Taslima Khan who travels through rural villages dispensing contraceptives and advice on how to deal with difficult husbands. Deep in rural Mozambique – one of the poorest countries in the world – we meet subsistence farmers Andre and Olivia who’ve been saving for two years to buy a piece of life-transforming technology – a bicycle. Even in these countries, economic growth, investment in healthcare and infrastructure are paving the way to huge improvements in living standards. Globally, the proportion of people in extreme poverty is at its lowest ever, and now the United Nations is setting itself the goal of eradicating extreme poverty completely.
Warring gangs in South Africa are working together in an unprecedented truce to deliver much-needed food to people under lockdown. The country has seen a 75% decrease in violent crime since it imposed strict restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic, and normally dangerous streets in Cape Town now see sworn enemies meeting up to collect essential goods to distribute throughout hungry communities. "What we're seeing happen here is literally a miracle," Pastor Andie Steele-Smith said. Steel-Smith works with gang members in his community, many of whom are convicted killers. "They are the best distributors in the country," he said. "They are used to distributing other white powders, but still they are distributing things and then, they know everybody." Preston Jacobs, a member of the "Americans" gang, told CBS News' Debora Patta it "feels nice" to take on a new role and communicate with those in need. "Now I see there are nice people also, and people want to love what we're doing now," Jacobs said. Sansi Hassan of the "Clever Kids" gang expressed hope that this current ceasefire in gang violence could be permanent in the post-lockdown future. "If it can stay like this, then there will be no gang fight," he said. "And every gang will agree with us." Pastor Steel-Smith remains optimistic for his community. "I am proud of you guys," he said to two gang members working to distribute essential goods. "If I died today and went to heaven, I would die a happy man."
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Finland’s much-lauded “housing first” approach ... has been in place for more than a decade. The idea is simple. To solve homelessness you start by giving someone a home, a permanent one with no strings attached. If they want to drink, they can; if they want to take drugs, that’s fine too. Support services are made available to treat addiction, mental health and other problems, and to help people get back on their feet, from assisting with welfare paperwork to securing a job. The housing in Finland is a mix of designated standard apartments sprinkled through the community, and supported housing: apartment blocks with on-site services, built or renovated specifically for chronically homeless people. Formerly homeless residents ... pay rent from their own pockets or through the benefits afforded by Finland’s relatively generous welfare state. The approach is working. As homelessness rises across Europe, Finland’s numbers are falling. In 1987, there were around 18,000 homeless people. In 2017, there were 7,112 homeless people, of which only 415 were living on the streets or in emergency shelters. The vast majority (84 percent) were staying temporarily with friends or relatives. Between 2008 and 2015, the number of people experiencing long-term homelessness dropped by 35 percent. While it’s expensive to build, buy and rent housing for homeless people, as well as provide the vital support services, the architects of the policy say it pays for itself. Studies have found housing one long-term homeless person saves society around €15,000 ($17,000) a year ... due to a reduction in their use of services such as hospital emergency rooms, police and the criminal justice system.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi wants consumers to ask more questions. Satyarthi stars in the new documentary, "The Price of Free," in which he rescues child slaves in India who work in factories, some of which supply U.S. stores. He told CBS News, "For every product, consumers can ask this question to the brand or shopkeepers, 'How can you guarantee that they are truly made without child labor?' That can be the starting point ... When consumers star asking questions, then [stores] have to find answers." Satyarthi said consumers have the power to hold businesses accountable for their practices. "It would not be too difficult to write to president of a company and ask, 'How will you ensure that your products are made without child labor?'" he said. "This is their moral and legal responsibility to ensure that no child exploit or labor is engaged. Brands cannot just escape." Satyarthi began his work freeing child slaves in India in 1981 and says he has saved more than 85,000 children since then. He has expanded his work to reach children around the world who are touched by not just slavery, but also trafficking, sexual abuse and other types of violence. The children come from poor families who are told they will be paid and taken care of; instead, they become enslaved under poor working conditions. He said that beyond the rescues, his organizations make sure the children have the social and educational support they need through government services before they are released.
Note: Why have so few ever heard of this most amazing, courageous man who has risked his life countless times to rescue tens of thousands of children from slave labor? After surviving numerous beatings and the murder of two of his colleagues, Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for creating a global network focused on fighting for the rights of over 100 million child workers worldwide and rescuing the many millions still held as slave labor in almost every country in the world. Don't miss the moving documentary on Sartyarthi and his work titled "The Price of Free."
Wilma Rudolph outran poverty, polio, scarlet fever and the limits placed on black women by societal convention to win three gold medals in sprint events at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. By the time brain cancer caught Rudolph, leading to her death Saturday at age 54, she had achieved a stature that made her legend and her sport greater in the long run. The 20th of 22 children of a porter and a cleaning lady, Rudolph lost the use of her left leg after contracting polio and scarlet fever at age 4. Doctors told her parents she never would walk again without braces, but she refused to accept that prognosis and began to walk unassisted at age 9. It wasn't long before she was outrunning all the girls and boys in her neighborhood. At 16, already under the tutelage of Tennessee State University coach Ed Temple, Rudolph won a bronze medal on the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Four years later, when she was the mother of a 2-year-old, Rudolph won the three golds despite running all three events with a sprained ankle. After being voted Associated Press female athlete of the year in 1960 and 1961 and the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete in 1961, Rudolph retired at 21, a decision that reflects an era in which lack of financial incentives kept most Olympic careers short. She turned to a variety of humanitarian projects, including goodwill ambassador to West Africa, coaching at DePauw University and working for underprivileged children through the Wilma Rudolph Foundation.
Note: The remarkable woman once commented, "My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother."
Dr Abhay Bang does not look like a pioneer. And yet ... this is the man who has revolutionised healthcare for the poorest people in India and who has overseen a programme that has sent infant mortality rates plummeting in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the world. Medical experts now believe that Dr Bang's radical beliefs hold the key to tackling the myriad endemic health problems that blight the developing word. Instead of accepting the traditional hospital-based treatment model, Dr Bang has spent the last 26 years training up local volunteers in Gadchiroli, one of the most deprived districts in the Indian state of Maharashtra, to treat simple maladies at home. The World Health Organisation and Unicef have recently endorsed his approach to treating newborn babies and the programme is currently being rolled out to parts of Africa. In 1988, 121 newborn babies were dying out of every 1,000 births in the area. The newborn death rate in Gadchiroli has now fallen to 30 per 1,000 live births. Dr Bang's solution was simple: he trained a group of local women in the basics of neonatal care. They were taught how to diagnose pneumonia (using an abacus to count breaths), how to resuscitate children and how to administer some basic antibiotics. Instead of villagers having to walk for miles to get to the nearest hospital, these health visitors (called arogyadoots, which means "health messengers") went to where they were most needed.
Dogs have such exquisitely sensitive noses that they can detect bombs, drugs, citrus and other contraband in luggage or pockets. Is it possible that they can sniff out even malaria? And when might that be useful? A small pilot study has shown that dogs can accurately identify socks worn overnight by children infected with malaria parasites — even when the children had cases so mild that they were not feverish. In itself, such canine prowess is not surprising. Since 2004, dogs have shown that they can detect bladder cancer in urine samples, lung cancer in breath samples and ovarian cancer in blood samples. Trained dogs now warn owners with diabetes when their blood sugar has dropped dangerously low and owners with epilepsy when they are on the verge of a seizure. Other dogs are being taught to detect Parkinson’s disease years before symptoms appear. The new study ... does not mean that dogs will replace laboratories. But for sorting through crowds, malaria-sniffing dogs could potentially be very useful. Some countries and regions that have eliminated the disease share heavily trafficked borders with others that have not. For example, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the island of Zanzibar have no cases but get streams of visitors from Mozambique, India and mainland Tanzania. And when a region is close to eliminating malaria, dogs could sweep through villages, nosing out silent carriers — people who are not ill but have parasites in their blood that mosquitoes could pass on to others.
Tao Porchon-Lynch is 99 years old, and she’s still practices – and teaches! – yoga regularly. So what’s her secret to staying happy and active? “Every morning I wake up and say this is going to be the best day of my life – and it is,” Porchon-Lynch tells Well and Good. “My life is my meditation.” Porchon-Lynch abides by three simple tips to stay upbeat. The first is to not get fixated on bad things that may or may not happen. “Your mind gets in the way. It plagues you with all of the things that can go wrong,” she says. “I don’t let it get in my way.” Secondly, she says to stop judging others. “Don’t look down on anyone,” she says. “Know that you can learn from everyone.” Finally, Porchon-Lynch says to begin each day feeling happy. “Wake up with a smile on your face!” Porchon-Lynch has been practicing yoga for over 70 years, and has been teaching it for 45. She encourages people of all ages to try yoga, and says it’s never too late to start. “Don’t give up and think, ‘I’ve done it. Now I can sit back,’ ” she [said]. “You haven’t seen enough of this earth and there is a lot more to see that is beautiful.“
Note: For more on this amazing woman, see this Newsweek article.
A friendly smile. A food pantry donation. Such acts of kindness have a self-serving upside ... as science has conclusively shown they also make you healthier. UCLA is poised to advance that science with the ... launch of the world’s first interdisciplinary research institute on kindness, which will explore, for instance, how and why being nice to others reduces depression and the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research by UCLA scientists already has shown that mindfulness and kindness actually alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers, and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections. But the ultimate goal of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is to spread kindness and promote a more humane world. It will develop training tools to help practice kindness and spread them through online programs, public lectures, media outreach and a free app called UCLA Mindful. When it comes to kindness, the intention, rather than the outcome, is key. In other words, it’s the thought that counts, as the adage goes. “Cultivating kind thoughts increases the frequency of kind actions, and both the thoughts and the experience of engaging in the actions have positive effects on the well-being of the individual,” said Daniel Fessler ... the institute’s inaugural director. The institute’s work ... will focus on three themes: the roots of kindness, how to promote it, and how to use it as a therapeutic intervention to improve mental and physical health.
Increasingly, scientists are finding that having a sense of purpose, whatever yours may be, is key to well-being. Now, a study published on May 24 in JAMA Current Open adds to the growing body of knowledge on the link between health and a driving force, finding that purposefulness is tied to longer lives. Researchers ... analyzed data from nearly 7,000 individuals over 50 years old and concluded that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” They believe that “purposeful living may have health benefits.” The new analysis found that those whose psychological questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.” In fact, people without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an aim and goals. Purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly. Notably, the research indicates that any purpose is better than none, as the reason people felt purposeful didn’t figure into the analysis. So it doesn’t seem to matter what it is that drives an individual, whether it’s a passion for growing peonies, say, or wanting to see their children develop, or loving the work they do. The important thing is simply having something that makes them excited about life and drives them. But those who feel no sense of purpose now shouldn’t despair because that drive can be cultivated.
Note: Read an excellent, short essay on how to find and develop your life purpose. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
For most Americans, these feel like bleak times. But ... under the radar, some aspects of life on Earth are getting dramatically better. Extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, and life expectancy is increasing in poor countries — and there are many more indices of improvement like that everywhere you turn. But many of us aren’t aware of ways the world is getting better because the press — and humans in general — have a strong negativity bias. Bad economic news gets more coverage than good news. Negative experiences affect people more, and for longer, than positive ones. Survey evidence consistently indicates that few people in rich countries have any clue that the world has taken a happier turn in recent decades — one poll in 2016 found that only 8 percent of US residents knew that global poverty had fallen since 1996. It’s worth paying some attention to this huge progress. Nothing’s permanent, and big challenges ... remain, but the world is getting much, much better on a variety of important, underappreciated dimensions. Probably the most important [is] a huge decline in the share of the world population living on less than $1.90 a day, from nearly 35 percent in 1987 to under 11 percent in 2013.
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As anyone who has visited Europe recently can attest, the scourge of homelessness has reached epidemic proportions. The only exception to the trend is Finland. The number of homeless people in Finland has declined from a high of 18,000 30 years ago, to approximately 7,000: the latter figure includes some 5,000 persons who are temporarily lodging with friends or relatives. At the core of this was a move away from the so-called “staircase model,” whereby a homeless person moved from one social rehabilitation level to another, with an apartment waiting for him or her at the highest step. Instead, Finland opted to give housing to the homeless from the start. The concept behind the new approach was not original. What was different, and historic, about the Finnish Housing First model was a willingness to enact the model on a nationwide basis. In 2008 the Finnish National Program to reduce long-term homelessness was drafted and put into place. One [goal] was to cut the number of long-term homeless in half by producing ... supported housing units for tenants with their own leases. The extant network of homeless shelters was phased out. This also involved phasing out the “old way” of thinking about homelessness. The program pays for itself. A case study undertaken by the Tampere University of Technology in 2011 ... showed society saved $18,500 per homeless person per year who had received a rental apartment with support, due to the medical and emergency services no longer needed to assist and respond to them.
Your houseplant salutes the sun each morning. At night, it returns to center. You probably don’t think much of it. But what about all the signs of plant intelligence that have been observed? Under poor soil conditions, the pea seems to be able to assess risk. The sensitive plant can make memories and learn. And plants can communicate with one another and with caterpillars. Now, a study published recently in Annals of Botany has shown that plants can be frozen in place with a range of anesthetics, including the types that are used when you undergo surgery. Insights gleaned from the study may help doctors better understand the variety of anesthetics used in surgeries. But the research also highlights that plants are ... perhaps less different from animals than is often assumed. “Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices,” said [study co-author] Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist. Plants ... take in information from their environment and produce their own anesthetics like menthol, ethanol and cocaine, similar to how humans release chemicals that dull pain during trauma. Our anesthetics work on plants too, the study confirmed, although what exactly they’re working on is unclear. The electrical activity that moves across neurons is thought by some scientists to contribute to human consciousness. If electrical activity is being disrupted by anesthetic in plants, too, causing them to “lose consciousness,” does that mean, in some way, that they are conscious?
Note: Don't miss a time-lapse video of a pea plant responding to an anesthetic at the link above. And check out a fascinating video of plants making music. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
British designers are using the power of gravity to generate electricity, bringing safe and affordable light to people living off-grid. The kerosene that fuels most off-grid lamps is very expensive. Kerosene is also dirty and dangerous. In 2009 ... designers Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves were challenged to create a safe, affordable, and sustainable lamps for low-income families living off-grid. Looking beyond solar and battery power, they had a lightbulb moment about gravity. Lifting a weight creates a potential energy store which is turned into kinetic energy as the weight descends. Through the GravityLight’s innovative gear train, this kinetic energy spins a generator that produces enough electrical energy to power an LED bulb. When the light goes out, the weight is simply hoisted back up to begin again. GravityLight has been piloted in Kenya where kerosene lamps are used extensively, especially in rural areas. A 50-night roadshow, supported by International celebrities, saw GravityLight engage with communities and organizations across the country. The results were impressive, with 90% of people saying they were happy to switch from kerosene. Little wonder, as the benefits quickly stack up. The GravityLight pays for itself in just seven weeks, and delivers an immediate improvement in the air quality of the home. It is clean, robust, renewable, reliable, and safe—as well as being better for the environment, giving off no CO2 or black carbon emissions.
Note: Watch a great two-minute video on this ingenious invention.
Every two years, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), America’s official source for energy statistics, issues 10-year projections about how much solar, wind and conventional energy the future holds for the US. Every two years, since the mid-1990s, the EIA’s projections turn out to be wrong. Last year, they proved spectacularly wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Statista recently teamed up to analyze the EIA’s predictions for energy usage and production. They found that the EIA’s 10-year estimates between 2006 to 2016 systematically understated the share of wind, solar and gas. Solar capacity, in particular, was a whopping 4,813% [or 48 times] more in 2016 than the EIA had predicted in 2006 it would be. The EIA regularly underestimates the growth in renewables but overestimates US fossil-fuel consumption. These estimates matter because they form the basis for actions by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. The agency’s “projections bear little resemblance to market realities” because they ignore publicly available evidence, argues the clean-energy non-profit Advanced Energy Economy. Michael Grunwald at Politico reports the EIA seems to base its projections on the assumption that renewable energy costs won’t fall much, when in fact they keep plunging.
When Erika Dudra moved to Beacon Hill two years ago, she didn't know any of her neighbors. Dudra soon discovered a Facebook group called Buy Nothing Beacon Hill North. The premise of the group was simple: Offer up something that you don't need, or ask for something you do need. She joined to get rid of a couch, but then started asking for baby things. As a result, "I have a 2-year-old now who basically cost me nothing," she said. When Dudra remarried ... she threw a "Buy Nothing wedding" with a donated dress, cake, decor, flowers, an American Sign Language interpreter for deaf relatives and a wedding photographer. To participants, Buy Nothing is about more than just fighting consumer culture, though. Today, all of Dudra's best friends are people she met on Buy Nothing. Since this network was started in 2013 ... members and volunteers have spread the Buy Nothing gospel to more than half a million people in 20 countries. Buy Nothing co-founder Liesl Clark likes to say the project is one-half internet giveaway group and one-half prehistoric Himalayan economics. Inspiration comes from high up in the Himalayas, where Clark has filmed archaeology documentaries for National Geographic and the PBS series "NOVA." In 2007, Clark visited a village in the Upper Mustang area of Nepal that didn't operate on currency. Instead, the village of Samdzong operated on a "gift economy" when a villager needed something, she or he would simply ask. Residents kept communal goats and sheep and took turns watching each other's fields.
Note: Watch an inspiring video on this great project.
Scientists in the U.S. and India have found an inexpensive treatment that could possibly save hundreds of thousands of newborns each year. And it turns out, the secret weapon was sitting in Asian kitchens all along: probiotic bacteria that are common in kimchi, pickles and other fermented vegetables. Feeding babies the microbes dramatically reduces the risk newborns will develop sepsis, scientists report ... in the journal Nature. Sepsis is a top killer of newborns worldwide. Each year more than 600,000 babies die of the blood infections. "All the sudden the baby stops being active. It stops crying and breastfeeding," says Dr. Pinaki Panigrahi, a pediatrician ... who led the study. For the past 20 years, Panigrahi has been working on a way to prevent sepsis. The tricky part, Panigrahi says, was figuring out the best strain of bacteria to protect against sepsis. "We screened more than 280 strains," Panigrahi says. "So it was a very methodical process." In the end, the one that seemed the most promising was a strain of lactobacillus plantarum. So Panigrahi and his team decided to move forward with a large-scale study. They were shocked by how well the bacteria worked. Babies who ate the microbes for a week ... had a dramatic reduction in their risk of death and sepsis. They dropped by 40 percent, from 9 percent to 5.4 percent. But that's not all. The probiotic also warded off several other types of infections, including those in the lungs. Respiratory infections dropped by about 30 percent. A course of the probiotic costs about $1 per baby.
More than 120 countries approved the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons Friday at a UN meeting boycotted by all nuclear-armed nations. To loud applause, Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the UN conference that has been negotiating the legally binding treaty, announced the results of the “historic” vote — 122 nations in favour, the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining. “We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons,” Whyte Gomez said. “We (are) ... saying to our children that, yes, it is possible to inherit a world free from nuclear weapons. The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” since atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 at the end of World War II, she said. None of the nine countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — is supporting the treaty. The treaty will be opened for signatures in September and come into force when 50 countries have ratified it, [Whyte Gomez] said, and its language leaves the door open for nuclear weapon states to become parties to the agreement. The treaty requires of all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices - and the threat to use such weapons.
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