Buhari's First Challenge: Military Mass Killings

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

NIGERIA - Amongst the feeling of hope and a fresh start in the air from President Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration, Nigeria was slammed this week with a report from Amnesty International that claims the Nigerian military is tied to over 8,000 deaths in the country.

The research for the report has been conducted since 2009, in alignment with the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency. While the rise in violence by the military was driven by Boko Haram, the report finds that the majority of those 8,000 deaths have nothing to do with Boko Haram members.

This process was started through widespread rounding up of boys and young men, over 20,000 of them, based on often unreliable informants and poor intelligence. The report states that one could be arrested based on the word of a single unidentified informant. Upon arrest, the thousands of prisoners were placed in detention centers where they were commonly cramped into overcrowded cells in abysmal condition.

Many died from starvation, dehydration, suffocation and preventable diseases, as the prisoners were kept from adequate water, food and basic hygiene and sanitation. In one case, a detention center survivor told Amnesty, they were denied water for two days and 300 inmates died. In these dire situations, they were often forced to drink urine.

Those who were able to survive these terrifying living standards were still at risk of the brutal treatment by the military commanders, which included extrajudicial killings, torture, electrocution, and a myriad of other horrifying tactics. On March 14, 2014, after a Boko Haram attack on the Giwa barracks (and detention center), the military killed at least 640 men and boys who were imprisoned there. Satellite analysis has confirmed the presence of multiple mass graves in the area shortly after this date.

More worrisome is that this system of detainment and mass murder was widely known through all levels of the Nigerian military, including senior officials, Chief of Army staff and Chief of Defense Staff who regularly received reports of military activity in these regions of war-torn Northern Nigeria.

As stated in Amnesty's report, "A high ranking military officer...further said: '...people were not strong enough to stand...They keep them to die. They are deliberately starved. The effect is devastating. You have massive deaths. I believe close to 5,000 [in total] have died like that. It increased after the state of emergency.'" This behavior indicates that the Nigerian military's strategy to fight Boko Haram included murdering thousands of boys and young men without giving them fair trials or even the slightest confirmation that they were tied to the terrorist organization. Through this tactic, they managed to make the Boko Haram insurgency more detrimental to their country and its citizens.

Since the report has surfaced, the Nigerian military has rejected the findings as "concocted and biased," and even called Amnesty International an "irritant" in a Premium Times' article. Regardless of their response, the international community is up in arms over the findings and it is increasingly evident that new President Muhammadu Buhari must address these atrocities as soon as possible. If he wants to keep his promises of tackling human rights violations, it is imperative that he holds those who are guilty accountable and pave a new, morally upright pathway forward. The future of the country depends on it.

The entire report can be found here. 

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
LinkedIn: Jessamy Nichols

ISIS Continues to Exterminate Yezidis, Yet Mainstream Media Muted in Coverage of Atrocities

no to terror protests against isis genocide of yzides, photo by kurdistan photos

no to terror protests against isis genocide of yzides, photo by kurdistan photos

IRAQ, Nineveh Province - Charlie Hebdo, a weekly magazine based in Paris, France which pilloried religion (Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism), the racist rants of extreme right entities like the nationalist National Front Party (NF), among other topics, and professed to be both secular, atheist, and left-wing in its political stance was the target of two terrorist attacks, the first in November 2011 and subsequently in February 2015.

The presumed motive for the attacks was terrorists’ response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including former editor Stéphane Charbonnier and several contributors. (Source: Wikipedia)

The savagery of the latest attack coupled with the seemingly incomprehensible response by terrorists to what those in the West would consider ‘freedom of expression,’ garnered worldwide attention. The result was that news outlets around the world reported on, dissected, discussed, and speculated about this horrific event for months after the attack.

As an online media publication we understand and accept the nature of news gathering and publishing; however, as journalists and editors we should also be sensitive to appearing partisan to the point of ignoring other equally compelling news stories. Such is the case with atrocities being committed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against Iraqi citizens, most notably against the Yezidis.

News outlets from Turkey, Bugun and Internet Haber, both reported on an Anatolian Agency and Anadolu Ajansi (AA) story about a two-day panel “Ethnical extermination against Yezidis and Christians in Iraq” hosted on 8 February 2015 in Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional capital Erbil at Saad Abdullah Conference Hall. It was a chilling story of several Yezidi women who escaped ISIS captivity. Although the story was widely reported on across the Middle East, the same could not be said of mainstream Western media.

Iraqi President Fuad Masum attended the panel and spoke about the violence of ISIS militants. “The ISIS violence in Iraq is a crime against humanity and it is no different than what Nazis did in Germany. So far, ISIS killed 5,000 Yezidis, captured 5,000, and forcibly displaced 350,000 people of the Yezidi community including their children. The crimes against Christians are similar. The cruelty that Yezidis and Christians underwent is rarely seen in the history,” he said.

According to an AA report on Internet Haber, the women who escaped ISIS captivity spoke on safeguarding their identity to prevent retaliation by background hiding their identity for their safety by using code names. 17-year-old “Vaha” who was kidnapped along with her family by ISIS while they were trying to escape from the Tel Azer village in Sinjar in Northern Iraq told of how the militants beat her for long periods and tortured everyone without distinction of age.

The militants then separated them in three groups - men, women and young girls, and children. “They brutally killed 17 men in an open field before us. Those who were killed took their last breathe looking at their families,” Vaha said.

She said among those who were killed were her brother and her uncle. The 23 women abducted were taken to Mosul, where they joined other captives which eventually grew to 500 captives.

“We did not have food for 10 days. They were rude to people and they attacked women. We were very afraid and we did not know what to do,” she said.

A group of 20 women including Vaha were sold to a man named Abu Layd. At the place they were taken, each were given to an ISIS militant.

“I wanted to resist the man who wanted to take me. I did not want to be separated from my friends. But he beat me and took me away. I was raped and beaten every day,” she said in tears. ISIS militants bought and sold women like a piece of merchandise, or even gave them to each other as a gift.

“I have seen a 50-year-old man taking away a 5-year-old girl. They took the little girls, but none of us know what they did to them. Because they were adding something to our food, so, affecting our consciousness. Nevertheless, they were doing whatever they wanted to us,” Vaha said. “One day, the area around Mosul was under airstrikes, and the guard at our door left. We were able to escape late that night.”

21-year-old Hezal Mirzo who also talked at the panel said she witnessed many Yezidi men being executed by firing squad.

“Throughout the three month of captivity I was raped numerous times. They gave medicines to pregnant women to abort their children. They liked it when we suffered,” she said.

After staying in Mosul for a while she was taken to a school in Tel Afar. “At every different place we were taken, a different man raped us. If we resisted, they added some medicine to our food making us lose consciousness,” she said. “I had the hardest and filthiest days of my life there. We ask United Nations, Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to rescue our people from ISIS captivity. We continue our lives here, while ISIS continues to persecute more people.”

The human rights abuses perpetrated against the Yezidis, also befalls Christians and Muslims who refuse to acquiesce to ISIS, and yet this violence slips quietly unnoticed and under reported in mainstream media. In fairness, there are a few news outlets such as PBS News Hour and the Daily Mail that choose to cover the severe conditions in Iraq under the tyranny of ISIS; and the Voice of America (VOA) has recently produced a story covering the human rights abuses in Iraq, especially of the persecution of the Yezidi community, but it is not enough.

The kidnapping of the school girls by the violent, radical Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria received greater attention than the inhuman and reprehensible treatment of the Yezidis women and girls.

Though people were rightfully outraged and reacted strongly to the Paris terrorist attack, these atrocities that are occurring across the Middle East, like those the Yezidi community are experiencing, have not receive the same amount of coverage.

Yes, terrorist attacks and killings in Middle East have become routine occurrences, and perhaps because of this have lost their media cache; but just because an atrocity happens repeatedly or on a large scale, does not absolve us in the West of the responsibility to be more vociferous in our denouncements.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer

War Porn: The Death of James Foley

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ALEPPO, Syria -- We have become a world of sensates, who require more and more input only to receive less and less gratification. We live in a world, and in fact this website and the millions of others like it, inhabit a sphere dedicated to satisfying the immediate need for any information or misinformation that we may seek.

Today, we awoke to the news that another journalist had fallen in the line of duty while trying to expose gross injustices in war-torn Syria. His death was as brutal as, or more so than, the hundreds of murders captured by video and being circulated through the web depicting the torturous final moments of people chosen by radicals to demonstrate the nature of their resolve.

The radical 'du jour' was ISIS, a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, but yesterday it was Boko Haram, tomorrow it may be Hamas, the next, The Ayran Brotherhood, perhaps the KKK,  Al-Qeda may rattle a saber or two, but in the end, the name of tyranny is less important than the fact that "all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke.

It is easy for us to blame the evil perpetrators for their reprehensible behavior, and indeed, we should feel outraged, but in so doing we must examine ourselves for our role in this dance of the macabre. ISIS would be just another group of religious zealots killing, maiming, and torturing people in the name of their version of "god," but for social media.

ISIS has learned to harness the power of social media to promulgate its ideology, but more insidious, they understand that human nature will do the rest. Much like the style of horror movies known as "torture porn" for its gratuitous amount of screaming, nudity, and bondage; the industry continues to produce these movies because there is an appetite for it. It satisfies a certain type of voyeurism that requires sadism to complete the experience.

Hence, more and more violence, for less and less satisfaction, as proven by the plethora of disturbingly violent videos and graphic images that crisscross the web. Most cannot be authenticated, but lacking in provenance doesn't stop people from 'sharing' and circulating it. Thus is the case with the horrific beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who reported from conflict ridden areas of the world as a freelance photojournalist for the GlobalPost.

That we would wake up this morning to millions of shares of the images captured by an ISIS adherent of Foley's lasts moments, should make us all feel soiled. ISIS heinously, with malice aforethought, and in cold-blood staged the beheading of Foley for the sole purpose of having us, the audience, disseminate it. They are the bait trap, into which we have climbed, and thus poisoned, we leave believing we have escaped, when in fact, we have become the carrier of that which will kill not only us, but everyone with whom we come in contact.

Like pornography, once the image has been viewed it can never be removed nor unseen. There is no such thing as a degausser for our brains. That is what makes pornography so pernicious, it repels and attracts, the image horrific or seductive continues to gain strength and relief is only found in revisiting the image, thus trying to recapture the initial sensation, it becomes addictive.

ISIS knows this as well as any successful purveyor of illicit material. They know that they only have to put it out there, and if one person views it, and even if that person is appalled and simply wants to share their outrage with their social media network, ISIS has already accomplished the goal of proselytizing through the power of concentric exposure.

That Foley had to die under such tragic and inhumane circumstances is heartbreaking. That his mother had to hear about or read about the fact that the world was greedily consuming the last moments of the life of her child is unimaginable. That his family and friends were not even allowed the dignity and privacy to begin the mourning process without the vivisection of their tragedy is shameful. That news media outlets lacked both decorum and humanity in posting the graphic video and images of Foley's beheading is morally reprehensible.

That we have a choice to share or not share the video and images of Foley's murder is the greatest and most powerful choice we can make in this situation. That, and to remember that "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Boko Haram's Latest Attacks Target Boys

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DORON, BAGA, Nigeria -- Sunday, Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of boys from the Nigerian village of Doron Baga. During the raid on the village, suspected Boko Haram dressed in police and military uniforms burned several houses and terrorized citizens while forcing boys and men into awaiting trucks. When the terror ended, 97 people were unaccounted for.

Most were men and boys, although 20 women were also included in the missing.

Security forces from neighboring Chad were able to intercept the group, freeing some of the abducted. However, many were forced onto speed boats in Lake Chad, which is bordered by Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

During the initial attack, witnesses described confusion and sporadic shooting amongst yells of "Allah Akbar" or "God is greatest." Those that could fled to the city of Maiduguri, leaving their village and their boys almost 100 miles behind them. Other refugees through either choice or lack of transportation stayed closer to what was once home.

The attacks came four months after the abduction of 300 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok. In the recent gender-based attacks, women, girls, and the very young were mostly spared. The Boko Haram first came for brides and sex slaves, then came for fighters.

Boko Haram attacks have increased over the past year, stretching the Nigerian police force to its limit and proving that the terrorist group is not limited to only one area of the country.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski

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Posing as Nigerian Soldiers, Boko Haram Slaughters Hundreds

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BORNO, Nigeria -- Boko Haram militants continue to spill blood throughout Nigeria. Reports are now surfacing that on Monday, 2 June 2014, the terror group carried out their latest attack in three small villages in Borno State, located in northeast Nigeria.

The rural nature of northeast Nigeria coupled with changing numbers of displaced and missing persons makes an exact body count hard to tally. But officials estimate that as many as 500 Nigerians were murdered during the attacks.

The militants targeted Danjara, Agalpawa and Antagara villages on Monday, dressed as Nigerian military members. Their appearance provided residents with momentary relief. Village leaders had asked for help from the Nigerian military amidst rumors of an impending attack, and when armed men dressed in Nigerian fatigues entered the three communities, many mistakenly felt that their concerns had finally been heard and validated by President Goodluck Johnathan.

At least 200 Nigerians are dead according to conservative estimates, while other sources claim as many as 500 men, women and children were killed during Monday's attack.

The terrorist organization is a collection of unapologetic murderers that toggle between kidnapping and outright mass murder. Since the abduction of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, Boko Haram has targeted Christian and Muslim communities alike, pretending to be clergy members or Nigerian military service members.

After fraudulently gaining the trust of local Nigerians, Boko Haram offensives follow a similar pattern. The terrorists assemble Nigerians together for a public service announcement or a religious sermon, and outside of the mosque, church or community building, Boko Haram members open fire.

President Goodluck Johnathan has pledged to put an end to the mounting violence, but that promise has proved difficult for the Johnathan administration and security forces. Allegations of corruption and negligence have poured out after last month's kidnapping of the young female students. The families of the missing girls have blamed the government for their non-interventionist response. When Boko Haram strikes, there is little to no return fire coming from military squads.

Often, locals are left to their own devices to ward off their attackers. When Boko Haram assailed a Christian church in Antagara last month, four insurgents were killed. Across the country, community members are learning that they themselves are the last, and often only, line of defense against the antagonistic terrorists. But the episode outside of the church in Antagara did not discourage Boko Haram extremism.

In fact, it appears that the opposite is true. The militants have increased the number and scale of assaults in the weeks since they stormed Christians in Antagara, as retaliation against the vigilantes. It seems that Nigerians are caught in a dangerous double jeopardy, where inaction enables the terror group to kill without repercussion, and defensive efforts only increase future Boko Haram strikes.

While Nigeria is the most powerful economy on the African continent, northern Nigeria is less oil-rich and more rural. Residents face a significantly higher incidence of poverty. Great distances separate many of the village communities, and as a result, the Nigerian military has been powerless against the premeditated and nefarious activities of Boko Haram. Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, is separated from the northeast targets both culturally and geographically, and this disconnect is exploited by the terrorists.

Operating under a deranged understanding of Islam, the Boko Haram militia has strengthened their available firepower in recent months, and continue to build media notoriety through suicide bombings.

As the wealth of Nigeria continues to grow, the understaffed and underfunded military programs become less and less excusable.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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Enough Already. Where are Nigeria's Stolen Daughters?

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:30 p.m. DST, 29 May 2014

"Female faces" Photo by: DFID - UK Department For International Development

BORNO, Nigeria -- Six very long weeks ago, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in northern Nigeria and abducted over 200 girls in the night. This terrifying incident, that lead a Boko Haram leader to announce they would “sell them [the girls] in the market,” sparked a massive social media campaign with the trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Thousands of social media posts and hundreds of minutes of news coverage later, almost the entirety of the group of these young, innocent girls is still being held captive without rescue or hope.

What’s the most frustrating aspect of this? The lack of willpower and resolve from Nigerian politicians.

Nigeria, a country with a booming economy (recently surpassing South Africa), recently hosted a World Economic Forum meeting, bringing together high-profile businessmen and political figureheads from across the world to showcase Nigeria’s newfound economic success. But wait. What does economic growth matter if a country is not even willing to defend itself from terrorists and humanitarian crises?

This miscalculation essentially equates to Nigerian politicians taking home big, fat checks while they wait weeks to fulfill their duties to even just respond to this abduction. Visiting the site of the attack and speaking with families there? That took even longer for President Goodluck Jonathan to do.

What good are democratic elections if the elected officials feel no responsibility to protect their own citizens and defend those who can’t defend themselves? A key factor that people are forgetting to talk about here is that Nigeria actually has an incredibly powerful, i.e. capable, military arm, ranked 47th in the world in Global Firepower’s Power Index score. The organization uses 50 factors to determine a nation's potential conventional military strength. Nigeria’s ranking puts it ahead of many developed or developing, stable nations, including Finland, Azerbaijan, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Hungary, Kenya, Kuwait, Jordan and Lithuania.

In summary, Nigeria’s leaders are not sitting there with their hands completely tied. Yes, now that they claim to have found the location of the girls (with international help, I might add), they want to avoid firefights and risk harming the girls, which is sensible. However, why did the issue ever get this far? Nigeria has several hundred thousand personnel in its armed forces, yet they are doing an atrociously feeble job of defending the nation against Boko Haram, which according to Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, makes up a “minuscule” proportion of the population.

Why did this internal mess get this far? If Nigeria has a robust, proficient military arm, coupled with a growing economy, how is a group of terrorists still wreaking such effective havoc across the nation?

The matter truly comes down to a matter of resolve, because while Boko Haram is well organized and has been successful in carrying out suicide bombings, they are not using high-tech, profound strategies that Nigeria is helpless against. Diverting some of this newfound economic wealth to the underdeveloped portions of the country, along with military postings and increased surveillance, could cripple Boko Haram’s capabilities and weaken them to a point where abductions and weekly bombings would be impossible.

Alternatively, if President Jonathan truly felt helpless in leading this terrorist situation, he could have also asked for international help a long time ago, considering most Western countries are committed to fighting terrorism. His qualms about doing so, though, are likely influenced by the upcoming presidential election where he doesn’t want to look weak. Who’s paying the price for his political battles? These hundreds of abducted girls and their families, who are left to live under a government that sits in Abuja while a terrorist network continues to wreak havoc throughout the country.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

The Ways And Means Of Boko Haram

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 19:15 p.m. DST, 9 May 2014

"Combined force clears insurgent camp" Photo by: International Security Assistance ForceBORNO, Nigeria -- Modeled in the image of the Taliban and affiliated with the al Qaeda network, Boko Haram is not a newcomer to the industry of terror. Posing as a legitimate branch of Islam, the dangerous extremist group has orchestrated a campaign of heinous crimes against humanity for the past five years.

Operating in northern Nigeria and parts of Cameroon and Niger, the insurgents have recently stirred international attention after abducting more than 250 young women from an all-girls boarding school in Chibok last month. While the Borno-based kidnappings have rightfully triggered media outrage, Boko Haram's other efforts are equally disturbing.

On Monday, 5 May 2014, the guerrillas waged a 12-hour massacre on civilians in the small town of Gamboru Ngala, located in the northeast corner of Nigeria. Just miles from the Cameroon border, the assailants stormed a local market, firing upon patrons and later burning the bazaar. Boko Haram bombed the police headquarters and destroyed community buildings, burning many victims alive. Nigerian officials estimate the death toll at 300.

The mission of Boko Haram is fragmented at best. Outspoken leader Abubakar Shekau is an equal opportunity hate monger, whose agenda targets Christians, Muslims and state and local governments. Tenets of Boko Haram include the strict compliance of Sharia law, which codifies gender roles and regulations according to the Quran.

Boko Haram formed as a response to perceived issues in the Nigerian government, and they intend to oust President Goodluck Johnathan. In a sense, the continued existence of the extremists and the relative ease at which the group is able to operate is seeming confirmation that problems persist in the standing administration. As a whole, the police force in Nigeria is seen as impotent, and as a result many crimes are never reported to authorities.

The beginnings of Boko Haram indignation and hostility trace back to unresolved cultural clashes and a lack of security presence. Human Rights Watch documents the ongoing battle between Christians and Muslims in Plateau and Kaduna States. Many Nigerians are upset with President Johnathan's response to the murderous feud and expect government action to stop future attacks. The problem, of course, is that Boko Haram's solution to the nonintervention is further bloodletting.

In the past year, Boko Haram has waged three underreported onslaughts on various schools located in Yobe State. Each attack follows a similar plan--insurgents break into boarding schools during early morning hours, throwing explosives into dormitories and bombarding children with heavy gunfire.

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Published: 9 May 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

The July 2013 massacre at Yobe State School left 42 dead. 44 students perished at Gujba College in September 2013. And 59 boys were killed during the bombing and burning of the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi in February 2014. These tragedies eclipse any mass shooting in the United States in terms of scale, but receive significantly less media consideration.

It is no coincidence that Yobe and Borno States border one another. Together, they represent the cradle of Boko Haram activity. The geographic and political makeup of northern Nigeria help to explain the persistence of regional violence and extremism. Throughout rural and remote states, Boko Haram targets young men who live in severe poverty. The promise of resources, weapons and food provisions is enough to gather an increasing number of recruits.

But poor and powerless individuals are not the only ones buying into the warped ideology. Given the size and strength of the Boko Haram militia, numerous local governments and politicians pay the insurgents for protection. Extortion money remains the fiscal backbone of the organization. In some cases, local officials give Boko Haram leadership outright control. According to some estimates, these terrorists are the acting rulers in almost a third of all local governments in Borno.

While parts of northern Nigeria are dangerous, and the need for protection is an unfortunate reality in the region, certainly Boko Haram is the chief reason a village would need defense in the first place. Financing from local councils only serve to keep communities and leaders out of the firefight.

Nevertheless, this financial support keeps the dangerous rebel organization viable and keeps neighboring townships in a treacherous position. It seems that no person and no group is safe from the extremism embraced by Abubakar Shekau and his operation. As evident by the August 2011 assassination of Muslim leader Liman Bana, the Islamic establishment is as much a threat to Boko Haram as the Christian equivalent.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and also its largest economy. But the massive gap in wealth between the oil-endowed southern states of Nigeria and the agrarian north also plays into the tensions between the haves and the have-nots. Rooted in this inequity and growing stronger in the manure of hatred, Boko Haram continues to threaten peace and sensibility throughout the Continent.

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Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom