New York Times Lies About City's Murder Rate, NYPD's Clearance Rate To Sell Fear To Its Readers

from the don't-be-shitty dept

There’s no reason for the New York Times to be this bad at reporting. It has plenty of resources and a slew of editors, and yet we get headlines like this one, which says something completely false:

If you can’t read/see the screenshot, this is the original headline attached to an article that says nothing of the sort:

After Murders ‘Doubled Overnight,’ the N.Y.P.D. Is Solving Fewer Cases

Murders did not “double overnight.” The murder rate in New York City hasn’t doubled at all. Here’s what the murder rate looks like according to the NYPD’s own stats:

Want another look at the “doubling” the NYT falsely asserts in its headline? This comes via David Menschel, one of dozens challenging the Times’ embrace of “bleeds/leads” rather than the truth:

So, where does this “murders doubled” quote come from? Who knows. The article doesn’t provide a source for this supposed direct quote (remember, there are quotes around “Doubled Overnight”). At best, one can extrapolate the statement in the headline from a very different statement provided by a former Baltimore PD officer who is now the director of, um, something called the “John Jay College’s NYPD Executive Master’s Program.”

Here’s the NYT pull quote:

“The increase in shootings, that’s got to have a negative impact on clearance rates,” said Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Their caseload literally doubled overnight. The odds are never great. That’s the unfortunate truth.”

The first part (“that’s got to have…”) is pure speculation. So is the rest of it. Someone asked a cop to offer a statement on cop stuff and received something exonerative from someone who used to be a cop but now teaches a masters program aimed at NYPD officers.

At best, it’s maybe “caseloads doubled overnight.” But it’s unlikely this has happened either. And, if we’re going to examine year-to-year crime rates, whatever increases officers in the Bronx (the article occasionally focuses on the family of a Bronx murder victim) have seen in caseloads and reported crimes still cruises along at historic lows for the city that never sleeps.

The headline and the article to a disservice to the purported subject: the survivors of an unsolved murder. Cops have never been great at solving murders and the NYPD is no exception. Unfortunately, the article also lies about clearance rates, which have historically been nowhere near what is claimed by the reporter.

In the years before the pandemic, the New York Police Department was solving nearly 90 percent of the murder cases in the city. But in 2020, as shootings and homicides increased, the percentage of homicides the police solved, a statistic known as the clearance rate, plummeted to around 60 percent, according to the department’s records.

This is just inexcusable. Anyone can pull up these records. The article is (deliberately?) vague about how many “years before the pandemic” it’s talking about, but nothing in the NYPD’s own records suggests it has maintained a 90% clearance rate for murders.

People cherry-picking data may find a quarter from the last three years that shows something approaching 90% clearance, but the NYPD as a whole has never consistently approached the number stated in this article. And the published numbers have their own problems. Every so often, precincts report clearance rates above 100%, which suggests these are rolling averages that simply add solved cases to the total, no matter how long it has been since the crime was reported.

I would normally use the phrase “to its credit” before reporting that the NYT altered its headline less than a day later to have at least one less lie in it. Instead of “murders doubled,” it simply says “murders increased.” But “credit where it’s due” applies, and the NYT is so far in arrears in the credibility department that no credit will be issued. The NYT added quotation marks to quote something no one actually said and turned a NYPD-oriented professor’s speculation into an eye-grabbing “fact.”

Its extremely casual relationship with the truth does no favors for the purported subjects of its article: a tortured family hoping for some justice and closure following the senseless murder of their son in a local bodega. Instead of focusing attention on historically low clearance rates, the paper decided to sell fear to its readers. It irresponsibly claimed readers were surrounded by murderers and the police were powerless to stop them.

What the NYT should have asked is why clearance rates were so low, given the NYPD’s considerable resources. And it should have asked why it takes a pretty white woman dying to motivate law enforcement to put those considerable resources to use. In the grand scheme of all things policing, nothing means less than the death of a young black man. And that’s the real story — one that the Times chose to ignore in favor of misrepresentations and law enforcement-friendly extrapolation.

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Comments on “New York Times Lies About City's Murder Rate, NYPD's Clearance Rate To Sell Fear To Its Readers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: NYT is Fake News.

i guess we’re supposed to be surprised that the prestigious NYT would behave this way, but NYT has been subjectively manipulating its news reporting for over a century.

NYT and corporate media have a strong political agenda, dominating their alleged professional journalism.
People who share that agenda don’t notice, or dismiss hard evidence of it as merely a rare aberration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Murders Are Kinda On The Rise, Tho

instead of believing sensationalist newspaper story writers.

At least most of us here not named Koby can use our critical thinking skills and realize what is and is not verifiably accurate news.

Also, surprised you showed back up here after the beat down you took last week claiming you have enough savvy to understand things.

Especially when I have pointed out time and time again that you have zero understanding of section 230 if you think Facebook can get a lawsuit dismissed using §230 when it’s Facebooks own speech.

So how can you seriously claim that you have any savvy at all?

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Murders Are Kinda On The Rise, Tho

It was said in My Early days.
read the newspaper, Watch the news, but believe <10% of any of it.
Papers and TV all need advertising. And can/will do anything they can to get MORE people reading it.
And Why the front page isnt the best page to read. I got more info out of Doonesbury then most of the rest of the papers OR TV.

AND as with most of TV anymore. with Judges, and cop shows and special cop shows. Barney Miller was Much better.

Ninja says:

It is obviously a very sensitive issue but I’d argue we need media regulation. I mean, a huge outfit like NYT flat out lies (I’m not going to mention Fox because it’s like mentioning water is wet) or distorts data and nothing happens. No punishment, no real consequence. So they can keep doing it and in the process undermine the very democracy they depend on to exist. I’m not sure how regulations could be enacted without leaving openings to abuse but we should start discussing this to come with feasible ways.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So you’d rather the government (read: the cops) get to decide what counts as truth? Free speech isn’t a guarantee that all speech (or even most of it) is good. It is simply the allowance of good speech to exist when those with power would rather it not.

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s why I said it’s a complex issue. As Mike has already said, you can’t prevent someone from yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater where there’s no fire, cause panic and injuries and expect not to face the consequences for this. That’s why we need to start having a serious debate about it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"We should start discussing this" and "we need media regulation" is the same line of thinking that gets us "if those nerds would just need harder we could safely backdoor all encryption". The problem is fundamental to the premise: when you put someone in control of a system you necessarily enforce corruption of the system. The corruption doesn’t become a possibility, it becomes a command as certain as gravity. For better or for worse, government is the corruption we do together. It is the freedoms we choose to give up and the rights we give away to enforce some (supposedly) acceptable level of corruption so that the caveman from the next cave over doesn’t do us even worse. Speech should be left free because the caveman next door cannot hurt you with his words, whatever they may be. If the NYT says something wrong, they should be called out on it. We need free speech to ensure that people always can, because if/when the powers are allowed to choose who can speak who do you think they will choose? You, or the NYT?

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You are right. But there are consequences for some types of speech. You can’t spew death threats and call it a day, you will answer for that. You can’t accuse somebody of something without evidence to back up your claims or you’ll have to answer for your speech. That’s what I mean. Your reply is perfect, I agree 100%. So I’ll go back to my original post. What are the consequences of the speech? How can the ones responsible for this speech be held accountable to dissuade them from lying or distorting again while avoiding giving censorship tools to authoritarian pricks? Do we wait until anti-vax bs cause large, deadly pandemics that could be avoided? Do we wait right-wing hate speech cause deaths and lead to Capitol invasions? And when that happens because their speech have no consequence do we wait the next pandemic/capitol invasion? I don’t know what the solution is but I do think we need to talk about it and pursue viable solutions.
You see, it is a very, very, VERY delicate and complex issue

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

If you enable charges to be brought over speech, you give the government, or for private action, the rich, censorship tools, especially in the US, where the winner cannot usually recoup their costs. You have seen how rarely DMCA notices are challenged, because it is too expensive to win a case through all the levels of appeal, and the same would apply to legal threats over new stories.

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

We could use a "losers pay" so anybody could challenge DMCA requests in equal footing with the studios? I do agree that you need to be careful. As I said in another raply you could create a regulatory body or a committee composed of several players, from govt to citizens, to address those issues. It’s an idea. That’s my point. The status quo is clearly harmful so why don’t we start discussing ways to improve it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Losers pays doesn’t help at all. In it’s very best incarnation it simply does nothing unless you have the funds to fight an endless trial against an army of lawyers who will drag out the case until you bankrupt. At it’s worst it allows the larger party to bully the smaller party into settling because of the risk that the smaller party will be forced to pay for said army of lawyers to destroy them.

Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The problem is fundamental to the premise: when you put someone in control of a system you necessarily enforce corruption of the system. The corruption doesn’t become a possibility, it becomes a command as certain as gravity.

Or, put another way:

"Anarchy is no guarantee that some people won’t kill, injure, kidnap, defraud or steal from others. Government is a guarantee that some will." — Gustave de Molinari

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: consequences needed

yeah, the government regulates everything else — why not erroneous corporate news output ?
The public must be protected from misinformation.

we’ve already firmly established here that the federal government has authority to implement some exceptions to the 1st Amendment for exigent circumstances that did not exist in year 1789. (?)

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:2 consequences needed

I think that at the very least the most egregious examples can be dealt with like this. I mean, anti-vax material based on refuted academic articles? Boom, have a fine. There are things that are scientific consensus like vaccines. Even covid vaccines already have a wealth of data showing they work wonders with very little collateral effects, we shouldn’t be tolerating some garbage I keep seeing circulating out there anymore.

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:4 consequences needed

One egregious example: vaccines and autism. Someone suggesting this outside of a scientific article with proper evidence and methodology is spreading misinformation plain and simple. There’s no space for doubt here and if some news outfit is reporting on it and not mentioning the articles linking vaccines and autism have been debunked thoroughly by the scientific community then they are open for enforcement. I do agree that the crucial point is not letting a single entity run this show, it must be a combination of various parties. But again it is just one rough idea. My point is: we should be discussing it given the damage this misinformation cause.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 consequences needed

"One egregious example: vaccines and autism. Someone suggesting this outside of a scientific article with proper evidence and methodology is spreading misinformation plain and simple. "

The problem being that the gibberish linking autism to vaccines was proposed in a scientific article created by a person with the proper credentials. It’s just that said scientist was a crook manufacturing false evidence in the hope of making a lot of gainful work for his little side project.

"There’s no space for doubt here…"

…under a government still relatively benevolent, sure. This is not a tool we want.

"…if some news outfit is reporting on it and not mentioning the articles linking vaccines and autism have been debunked thoroughly by the scientific community then they are open for enforcement."

Here’s a better way; find some way to remove or dilute the sheer competitive leverage of clickbait. Educate people better and to higher standards.

Shit like this doesn’t fly in Europe – or anywhere else, really. It takes a citizenry beholden to magical thinking, already steeped in the idea that science is a religion, before a nation can become held hostage to grift like we keep seeing in the US.

Legislative measures won’t help. You need to change the fundamental mindset. Until americans én másse stop being gullible morons eager to fall for any good-sounding con affirming their personal articles of faith, there is no cure to be found.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 consequences needed

Again, while I generally agree with the sentiment, there’s plenty of morons everywhere, and they’re being infected by the same misinformation available online. A great anecdotal example I noticed myself is that when US anti-socialised healthcare misinformation reached a peak during the ACA implementation, I saw some UK and European friends unironically sharing and agreeing with it, apparently blissfully unaware that the hellscapes they were told to be afraid of were the NHS and other local systems they vigorously defended elsewhere.

While Americans can be louder and more obviously deluded on some of these problems, you’re kidding yourself if you think nobody around you on this side of the pond is vulnerable to the same things.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 consequences needed

"While Americans can be louder and more obviously deluded on some of these problems, you’re kidding yourself if you think nobody around you on this side of the pond is vulnerable to the same things."

Idiots are everywhere. However, there’s a massive difference between "5% of the population are morons" and "25% of the population are morons".

The UK in particular, however, is a bit weird in the regard that it, like the US, has a political system far more tolerant to the utterly inept and performers than is the norm in many other countries. Boris Johnson built his entire career around playing clown, for example. I blame first past the post here – it drastically lowers the bar of required public competency in the body politic.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 consequences needed

The US is an interesting issue on par with China and Russia.
90-some percent of the population lives under A or B.
Fully rural or fully urban.
The mass majority live in cities. The tiny rest live on most of the land in fully rural open areas.

The buffer/commuter “suburbs” are a tiny fraction of what’s left; the rest being empty land.

What works for a large tight area like a city rarely works in a ”town” of farms across 100 square miles.

Sometimes I feel it’s not even compromise we need but directed location based legislation.

Theres a rather large difference between —I earn 200,000 per year and spend 150,000 on business expenses for this year and next and walk away with 10,000 in savings come Dec 31.
Vs
I drive my $250,000 bmw to my office where I type letters and make phone calls and earn 250,000 per year with 25,000 in business loss and walk away with $225,000 in the bank.

It’s a very real difference.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 consequences needed

we’ve already firmly established here that the federal government has authority to implement some exceptions to the 1st Amendment for exigent circumstances that did not exist in year 1789. (?)

You’re confusing the 1st and 4th Amendments. There is no “exigent circumstances” exception to the 1st Amendment.

There are some exceptions to the 1A (such as knowingly false defamatory statements of fact, true threats, and knowing, direct incitement to imminent lawless action), but the Supreme Court has made it crystal clear on multiple occasions, including fairly recently, that they will not create any new exceptions to the 1st Amendment beyond what they already have.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

where should those discussions begin: who gets to control the press, what punishment the press should get for "disobeying orders", or which outlets get an exemption from "the rules" for whatever arbitrary reason? go ahead, start discussing who should control the press, let’s see you go down those roads without considering the consequences – I mean, you’ve already got one foot on the path as it is

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It’s not about who should control the press and there shouldn’t be exemptions in my point of view. But we can think about a regulatory body consisted by members of the press, the govt, citizens, scientists etc that analyzes such cases? Distribute that power so no single entity has the complete control? That’s one idea that came to my mind while pondering on this issue. Is it feasible? Would it be enough to mitigate censorship possibilities? How would you choose the members of such body to make it as diverse as possible, via vote? See where I’m going?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I see where you’re going, and it’s still about who gets to control the press

so who should get to control the press?

don’t act like people haven’t had these kinds of conversations and ideas before – they have, and it didn’t go any better for people who thought like you

or did the current lack of press regulations like you want enacted not tip you off?

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Well, at the very least we are discussing about it. Do you think that letting this shit go uncontested causing all sorts of problems (hundreds of thousands of deaths in case of covid-19 for instance) is fine? I don’t. I also agree we need to be very careful with letting the govt run this show alone. But what can we do about it? Are there ways to mitigate it without giving the govt tools for censorship?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

even if what you want was citizen-run, it would still result in censorship

the Hays Code and the Comics Code weren’t government rules, but they were used as the tools of censors all the same

stop thinking this isn’t about censorship – it is and you’re on the side of the censors, even if you don’t think that is or want that to be the case

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"It is obviously a very sensitive issue but I’d argue we need media regulation. I mean, a huge outfit like NYT flat out lies (I’m not going to mention Fox because it’s like mentioning water is wet) or distorts data and nothing happens."

Why?

We don’t have this issue in most places in Europe, despite the US and us having more or less the same publishing laws in this regard.

Over in our neck of the woods when a newspaper gets caught lying – not just dropping their own pov, but deceiving – the readership tends to be quick on noticing, criticizing, and the other newspapers catch on to it quickly and the result is noticed in dropping subscription rates.

All you need is a well educated and highly critical readership unwilling to accept all their news from one and the same source and able to exercize critical thinking.

Oh, wait…this is america we’re talking about. You in trouble, people…

"I’m not sure how regulations could be enacted without leaving openings to abuse but we should start discussing this to come with feasible ways."

It literally can not be done. And that’s not for a lack of trying – various versions of regulating the press has been tried for millennia, ever since the first time some roman senator grew irate of the pundits gossiping about him in the forum romanum.

What you can do is make sure the population is less inclined to believe everything they read. And that’s a tall order to make of a nation which is the eldorado of grift and conmanship, where magical thinking is on par with that of the aforementioned roman empire…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Over in our neck of the woods when a newspaper gets caught lying – not just dropping their own pov, but deceiving – the readership tends to be quick on noticing, criticizing, and the other newspapers catch on to it quickly and the result is noticed in dropping subscription rates."

As someone originally from the UK, where outlets like the Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail are famous for lying to their readers but still managed to hold enough influence to help sway the Brexit vote (and then continue to lie about its repercussions), I respectfully disagree. Sure, when the News Of The World participated in actual criminal behaviour to help manufacture stories to the point where they were influencing active police investigations, they were shut down. But, it took decades for the Sun to get any real comeback from their lies about the Hillsborough disaster apart from having an entire city boycott them, and that boycott was sadly mitigated in its effects by people buying it for underage boobs, bingo games and cheap holidays.

But, it’s hard to see what a real solution to this is. I hate those tabloids with a passion, but I think I’d rather live in a world where they are known liars and I can help educate people about the methods they use to do so, than live in a world where the Tories could have any active influence on what their competitors can print.

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Your comment summarizes the way I feel as well. What I think we should do though is to lean over the subject and try to find ways to punish this kind of speech while avoiding the "power to the Tories" part. Ignoring the problems is not a good solution as Brexit has shown us. I’m not arrogant to say what must or must not be done and I’m fully aware that regulations on this front can become censorship tools. That’s why we need many heads working on this.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"What I think we should do though is to lean over the subject and try to find ways to punish this kind of speech while avoiding the "power to the Tories" part"

Yes, but the issue is how you achieve that. I can’t think of any solution that’s not vulnerable to widespread misuse, and the history of the Tories suggests they’ll be first in line to abuse any system where such abuse is possible.

I’m always open to ideas, but my personal imagination is lacking in terms of coming up with something that has teeth and would not be used to create an even worse situation than the one we find ourselves in now.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Like I said – I don’t have any ideas as to how to fix the problem of known liars pushing fictional narratives disguised as news without giving ammunition to the people already known to be manipulating the situation as it exists now.

For the moment, it’s good that I know that the Mail, Express, Sun, etc. are propagandists and liars and I can educate people as to how they are fooling them (although getting the rubes to listen is another matter). Stopping them from being able to lie in the first place unless they literally go into illegal activity that got News Of The World shut down is another matter, and I don’t know if there is a solution. Censorship is bad, but so is an environment in which people weaponise the right to free speech to enable the worst people to act uninhibited.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I would suggest that stories, such as this one written by Tim, are the punishment. When you criticize corporate news with data and reasoned arguments, the corporate media loses credibility. They lose trust, lose subscribers, and lose influence. Numerous local and regional newspapers have done a very poor job in recent years, and have been replaced by new media outlets on the internet. Certain larger cable outlets are suffering from low viewership, and may eventually face the same fate. The Amazon Post also had the same problem a few years back. The same could happen to the NYT as well unless they shape up.

Ninja says:

Re: Re: Re:

I honestly don’t think it works this way for everybody. Local outfits have less money and less influence so it could be true but let’s say Fox News. Decades of lies and it’s going strong and well. No punishment whatsoever. Same here with big media outfits. Sure a lot of people are waking up for this but it’s just a matter of the old foxes putting their money behind the new media outlets that are born smelling of old, decrepit, rotten. Rinse and repeat.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Problem here is Lie.
And if they changed the wording it would be a question or opinion.
HAS NY murders doubled?

And IMO, a blatant lie is NOT freedom of speech.
There are more people going to read the Front page, as they walk by and NOT buy the paper, and believe what is on the front page TITLE, then read the full article and find out its BS.

IF someone screams FIRE, in a theater, Most should start sniffing for smoke, and looking for Flames, AND listening for an announcement To LEAVE the auditorium. But if you run out, you are safe, and NOW you have to PAY to get back in, which is 1 joke to many.
And it should teach us the problem with the 1st thought/reading. Do you believe what you can sense, or the title/screaming fire.

In a capitalist system, if the boss and Top wage earners ARNT getting enough money, they will do anything to get it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Crime statistics are notoriously bad and abused to begin with.

I used to work for a city that hired a new chief the same year that I walked in the door. Murders dropped on his arrival, from single-digits, to lower single-digits. Anyways, at the end of his first year he highlighted his success with the murder rate.

I didn’t care that he did it, I cared that people started quoting it. At that point I started pointing out that I walked in the door at the same time he did, maybe I scared the murderers away? People always laughed but they never realized I was serious.

The point I was trying to make was, the murder rate did what it did and most likely nothing he, or I did, caused fewer murders to happen. But bad analysis is just gonna happen.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Well on the one hand they never investigate themselves so there is no way it doubled…

On the other hand this is how Rupert Murdoch is kicking their asses at every turn with bullshit headlines & misleading reporting.
Good to see they have decided to destroy their reputation rather that look for other ways to stay relevant.

Perhaps they can hire BatBoy from the World Weekly News to be their new reporter.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Your bar graph shows the murder "count", not the murder "rate".

The bar for year 2018 shows a "count" of under 300, quite good for a large city with a population over 8 million. Murder "rates" are usually computed per 100,000 people, eg for the USA as a whole, the murder rate dropped from 9.4 (per 100,000) in 1993 to 4.5 in 2014.
https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/murder-homicide-rate

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Your bar graph shows the murder "count", not the murder "rat

You’ve engaged in a bit of creative statistics of your own here. The population of NYC has increased from 17.75m to 18.75m between 2000 and 2020 (notably remaining almost entirely flat or even declining slightly since 2018). A homicide rate rising from just above 300 to just below 500 since 2019 isn’t an "overnight" doubling, but it’s a significant increase. If it’s an outlier, which it might be, it’s a startling one. It’s nowhere near what it was in 2000 and that’s worth lauding, but to write it off such an increase as due to population changes during a time when city population was actually completely flat isn’t clearing the waters.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Re: Re: Your bar graph shows the murder "count", not the murder

You’re wrong about the population. For metro NYC (which includes parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and even a little bit of Pennsylvania), it is about 18 million as you say. But the bar graph is for the incorporated city of NYC (the five boroughs), which has recently been between 8 and 9 million.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let us also not conflate and confuse "clearance" with "prosecuted", "convicted", or "actually put an unquestionabley guilty person in prison".

In short, "clearance" != "solved". Especially with lying, evidence-faking cops, prosecutors only interested in their personal score, and their attendant evidence-mishandlers and manufacturers ("forensics", coroners, other labs, Fed "experts"…)

Curious to know what you’ve actually got once you stick to strict definitions and account for the liars club.

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