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Army Suspends Discharges of Immigrant Recruits

The U.S. Army has stopped discharging immigrant recruits who enlisted seeking a path to citizenship, at least temporarily.

A memo shared with The Associated Press Wednesday and dated July 20 spells out orders to high-ranking Army officials to stop processing discharges of men and women who enlisted in the special immigrant program, effective immediately.

It was not clear how many recruits were affected by the action, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the memo.

“Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions,” read the memo signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams.

Dozens of discharges 

The disclosure comes one month after the AP reported that dozens of immigrant enlistees were being discharged or their contracts were canceled. Some said they were given no reason for their discharge. Others said the Army informed them they’d been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.

Early last month, the Pentagon said there had been no specific policy change and that background checks were ongoing. And in mid-July, the Army reversed one discharge, for Brazilian reservist Lucas Calixto, 28, who had sued. Nonetheless, discharges of other immigrant enlistees continued. Attorneys sought to bring a class action lawsuit last week to offer protections to a broader group of reservists and recruits in the program, demanding that prior discharges be revoked and that further separations be halted.

A judge’s order references the July 20 memo, and asks the Army to clarify how it impacts the discharge status of Calixto and other plaintiffs. As part of the memo, Williams also instructed Army officials to recommend whether the military should issue further guidance related to the program.

Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, said Wednesday the memo proves there was a policy.

“It’s an admission by the Army that they’ve improperly discharged hundreds of soldiers,” she said. “The next step should be go back and rescind the people who were improperly discharged.”

Discharged recruits and reservists reached Wednesday said their discharges were still in place as far as they knew.

One Pakistani man caught by surprise by his discharge said he was filing for asylum. He asked that his name be withheld because he fears he might be forced to return to Pakistan, where he could face danger as a former U.S. Army enlistee.

Security requirements

The reversal comes as the Defense Department has attempted to strengthen security requirements for the program, through which historically immigrants vowed to risk their lives for the promise of U.S. citizenship.

President George W. Bush ordered “expedited naturalization” for immigrant soldiers after 9/11 in an effort to swell military ranks. Seven years later the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, known as MAVNI, became an official recruiting program.

It came under fire from conservatives when President Barack Obama added DACA recipients — young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — to the list of eligible enlistees. In response, the military layered on additional security clearances for recruits to pass before heading to boot camp.

The Trump administration added even more hurdles, creating a backlog within the Defense Department. Last fall, hundreds of recruits still in the enlistment process saw their contracts canceled.

Government attorneys called the recruitment program an “elevated security risk” in another case involving 17 foreign-born military recruits who enlisted through the program but have not been able to clear additional security requirements. Some recruits had falsified their background records and were connected to state-sponsored intelligence agencies, the court filing said.

Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving. Nearly 110,000 members of the Armed Forces have gained citizenship by serving in the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Defense Department.

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Army Suspends Discharges of Immigrant Recruits

The U.S. Army has stopped discharging immigrant recruits who enlisted seeking a path to citizenship, at least temporarily.

A memo shared with The Associated Press Wednesday and dated July 20 spells out orders to high-ranking Army officials to stop processing discharges of men and women who enlisted in the special immigrant program, effective immediately.

It was not clear how many recruits were affected by the action, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the memo.

“Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions,” read the memo signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams.

Dozens of discharges 

The disclosure comes one month after the AP reported that dozens of immigrant enlistees were being discharged or their contracts were canceled. Some said they were given no reason for their discharge. Others said the Army informed them they’d been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.

Early last month, the Pentagon said there had been no specific policy change and that background checks were ongoing. And in mid-July, the Army reversed one discharge, for Brazilian reservist Lucas Calixto, 28, who had sued. Nonetheless, discharges of other immigrant enlistees continued. Attorneys sought to bring a class action lawsuit last week to offer protections to a broader group of reservists and recruits in the program, demanding that prior discharges be revoked and that further separations be halted.

A judge’s order references the July 20 memo, and asks the Army to clarify how it impacts the discharge status of Calixto and other plaintiffs. As part of the memo, Williams also instructed Army officials to recommend whether the military should issue further guidance related to the program.

Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, said Wednesday the memo proves there was a policy.

“It’s an admission by the Army that they’ve improperly discharged hundreds of soldiers,” she said. “The next step should be go back and rescind the people who were improperly discharged.”

Discharged recruits and reservists reached Wednesday said their discharges were still in place as far as they knew.

One Pakistani man caught by surprise by his discharge said he was filing for asylum. He asked that his name be withheld because he fears he might be forced to return to Pakistan, where he could face danger as a former U.S. Army enlistee.

Security requirements

The reversal comes as the Defense Department has attempted to strengthen security requirements for the program, through which historically immigrants vowed to risk their lives for the promise of U.S. citizenship.

President George W. Bush ordered “expedited naturalization” for immigrant soldiers after 9/11 in an effort to swell military ranks. Seven years later the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, known as MAVNI, became an official recruiting program.

It came under fire from conservatives when President Barack Obama added DACA recipients — young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — to the list of eligible enlistees. In response, the military layered on additional security clearances for recruits to pass before heading to boot camp.

The Trump administration added even more hurdles, creating a backlog within the Defense Department. Last fall, hundreds of recruits still in the enlistment process saw their contracts canceled.

Government attorneys called the recruitment program an “elevated security risk” in another case involving 17 foreign-born military recruits who enlisted through the program but have not been able to clear additional security requirements. Some recruits had falsified their background records and were connected to state-sponsored intelligence agencies, the court filing said.

Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving. Nearly 110,000 members of the Armed Forces have gained citizenship by serving in the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Defense Department.

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Chinese Media Say US Tariff Moves Reflect ‘Mobster Mentality’

Chinese state media on Thursday accused the United States of a “mobster mentality” in its move to implement additional tariffs on Chinese goods and warned that Beijing had all the necessary means to fight back.

The comments marked a ratcheting up in tensions between the world’s two largest economies over a trade dispute, which is already affecting industries including steel and autos and is causing unease about which products could be targeted next.

Beijing late on Wednesday said it would slap additional tariffs of 25 percent on $16 billion worth of U.S. imports, in retaliation against news the United States plans to begin collecting 25 percent extra in tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods beginning August 23.

“The two countries’ trade conflict, which is merely push and shove at the moment, is likely to escalate into more than just a scuffle if the U.S. administration cannot marshal its mobster mentality,” state newspaper China Daily said in an editorial.

“China continues to do its utmost to avoid a trade war, but in the face of the U.S.’s ever greater demand for protection money, China has no choice but to fight back,” it said.

So far, China has now either imposed or proposed tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. goods, representing the vast majority of its annual imports of American products. Big-ticket U.S. items that are still not on any list are crude oil and large aircraft.

“China has confidence in protecting its own interests [and] has many means,” state broadcaster CCTV said on its early-morning news show.

Another commentary, written by China Institute of International Studies research fellow Jia Xiudong and published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily newspaper, said the United States was trying to “suppress China’s development.”

China should consider “unconventional methods” such as the stimulus plan used by Beijing during the global financial crisis if needed to sustain economic growth, the Global Times newspaper, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said in a commentary.

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Chinese Media Say US Tariff Moves Reflect ‘Mobster Mentality’

Chinese state media on Thursday accused the United States of a “mobster mentality” in its move to implement additional tariffs on Chinese goods and warned that Beijing had all the necessary means to fight back.

The comments marked a ratcheting up in tensions between the world’s two largest economies over a trade dispute, which is already affecting industries including steel and autos and is causing unease about which products could be targeted next.

Beijing late on Wednesday said it would slap additional tariffs of 25 percent on $16 billion worth of U.S. imports, in retaliation against news the United States plans to begin collecting 25 percent extra in tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods beginning August 23.

“The two countries’ trade conflict, which is merely push and shove at the moment, is likely to escalate into more than just a scuffle if the U.S. administration cannot marshal its mobster mentality,” state newspaper China Daily said in an editorial.

“China continues to do its utmost to avoid a trade war, but in the face of the U.S.’s ever greater demand for protection money, China has no choice but to fight back,” it said.

So far, China has now either imposed or proposed tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. goods, representing the vast majority of its annual imports of American products. Big-ticket U.S. items that are still not on any list are crude oil and large aircraft.

“China has confidence in protecting its own interests [and] has many means,” state broadcaster CCTV said on its early-morning news show.

Another commentary, written by China Institute of International Studies research fellow Jia Xiudong and published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily newspaper, said the United States was trying to “suppress China’s development.”

China should consider “unconventional methods” such as the stimulus plan used by Beijing during the global financial crisis if needed to sustain economic growth, the Global Times newspaper, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said in a commentary.

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New York Moves to Cap Uber, App-Ride Vehicles

New York’s city council on Wednesday dealt a blow to Uber and other car-for-hire companies, passing a bill to cap the number of vehicles they operate and impose minimum pay standards on drivers.

The city of 8.5 million is the biggest app-ride market in the United States, where public transport woes and astronomical parking costs have helped fuel years of untamed growth by the likes of Lyft, Uber and Via.

But that growth has brought New York’s iconic yellow cabs to their knees. Since December, six yellow cab drivers have committed suicide. Those deaths have been linked, at least in part, to desperation over plummeting income.

The bill stipulates a 12-month cap on all new for-hire-vehicle licenses, unless they are wheelchair accessible, as well as minimum pay requirements for app drivers — regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).

It makes New York the first major city in the United States to limit the number of app-based rides and to impose pay rules for drivers.

A recent TLC-commissioned study recommended a guaranteed income of $17.22 an hour for drivers — $15, plus a supplement to mitigate against rest time.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive Democrat, vowed to sign the bill into law, proclaiming that it would “stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt.”

“More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation,” de Blasio said.

Around 80,000 drivers work for at least one of the big four app-based companies in New York, compared to 13,500 yellow cab drivers, according to the recent TLC-commissioned study.

The increased competition has slashed the value of yellow cab taxi licenses, from more than $1 million in 2014 to and less than $200,000 today.

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New York Moves to Cap Uber, App-Ride Vehicles

New York’s city council on Wednesday dealt a blow to Uber and other car-for-hire companies, passing a bill to cap the number of vehicles they operate and impose minimum pay standards on drivers.

The city of 8.5 million is the biggest app-ride market in the United States, where public transport woes and astronomical parking costs have helped fuel years of untamed growth by the likes of Lyft, Uber and Via.

But that growth has brought New York’s iconic yellow cabs to their knees. Since December, six yellow cab drivers have committed suicide. Those deaths have been linked, at least in part, to desperation over plummeting income.

The bill stipulates a 12-month cap on all new for-hire-vehicle licenses, unless they are wheelchair accessible, as well as minimum pay requirements for app drivers — regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).

It makes New York the first major city in the United States to limit the number of app-based rides and to impose pay rules for drivers.

A recent TLC-commissioned study recommended a guaranteed income of $17.22 an hour for drivers — $15, plus a supplement to mitigate against rest time.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive Democrat, vowed to sign the bill into law, proclaiming that it would “stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt.”

“More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation,” de Blasio said.

Around 80,000 drivers work for at least one of the big four app-based companies in New York, compared to 13,500 yellow cab drivers, according to the recent TLC-commissioned study.

The increased competition has slashed the value of yellow cab taxi licenses, from more than $1 million in 2014 to and less than $200,000 today.

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China, Germany Defend Iran Business Ties as US Sanctions Grip

China and Germany defended their business ties with Iran on Wednesday in the face of President Donald Trump’s warning that any companies trading with the Islamic Republic would be barred from the United States.

The comments from Beijing and Berlin signaled growing anger from partners of the United States, which reimposed strict sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, over its threat to penalize businesses from third countries that continue to operate there.

“China has consistently opposed unilateral sanctions and long-armed jurisdiction,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“China’s commercial cooperation with Iran is open and transparent, reasonable, fair and lawful, not violating any United Nations Security Council resolutions,” it added in a faxed statement to Reuters.

“China’s lawful rights should be protected.”

The German government said U.S. sanctions against Iran that have an extra-territorial effect violate international law, and Germany expects Washington to consider European interests when coming up with such sanctions.

The reimposition of U.S. sanctions followed Trump’s decision earlier this year to pull out of a 2015 deal to lift the punitive measures in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program designed to prevent it from building an atomic bomb.

Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said meanwhile the country had nothing to be concerned about, a report on his official website said in an apparent reference to the imposition of the U.S. sanctions

“With regard to our situation do not be worried at all. Nobody can do anything,” Khamenei said recently, the website reported. “There is no doubt about this.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in a meeting with North Korea’s foreign minister, said that America could not be trusted, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

“Today, America is identified as an unreliable and untrustworthy country in the world which does not adhere to any of its obligations,” Rouhani said.

Tuesday’s sanctions target Iran’s purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and the auto sector.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”

Europeans withdraw

European countries, hoping to persuade Tehran to continue to respect the deal, have promised to try to lessen the blow of sanctions and to urge their firms not to pull out. But that has proved difficult: European companies have quit Iran, arguing that they cannot risk their U.S. business.

Among those that have suspended plans to invest in Iran are France’s oil major Total, its big carmakers PSA and Renault, and their German rival Daimler.

Danish engineering company Haldor Topsoe, one of the world’s leading industrial catalyst producers, said on Wednesday it would cut around 200 jobs from its workforce of 2,700 due to the new U.S sanctions on Iran, which made it very hard for its customers there to finance new projects.

The chief executive of reinsurance group Munich Re said it may abandon its Iran business under pressure from the United States, but described the operation as very small.

Turkey, however, said it would continue to buy natural gas from Iran.

“Simplistic idea”

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by an Iranian newspaper as saying that a U.S. plan to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero would not succeed.

U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that they aim to pressure countries to stop buying oil from Iran in a bid to force Tehran to halt its nuclear and missile programs and involvement in regional conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

“If the Americans want to keep this simplistic and impossible idea in their minds they should also know its consequences,” Zarif told the Iran newspaper. “They can’t think that Iran won’t export oil and others will export.”

Rouhani hinted last month that Iran could block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, if the U.S. attempted to stop the Islamic Republic’s oil exports.

Trump responded by noting that Iran could face serious consequences if it threatened the United States.

“The Americans have assembled a war room against Iran,” Zarif said. “We can’t get drawn into a confrontation with America by falling into this war room trap and playing on a battlefield.”

Iran has dismissed a last-minute offer from the Trump administration for talks, saying it could not negotiate while Washington had reneged on the 2015 deal to lift sanctions.

In a speech hours before the sanctions were due to take effect on Tuesday, Rouhani rejected negotiations as long as Washington was no longer complying with the deal.

“If you stab someone with a knife and then you say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

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China, Germany Defend Iran Business Ties as US Sanctions Grip

China and Germany defended their business ties with Iran on Wednesday in the face of President Donald Trump’s warning that any companies trading with the Islamic Republic would be barred from the United States.

The comments from Beijing and Berlin signaled growing anger from partners of the United States, which reimposed strict sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, over its threat to penalize businesses from third countries that continue to operate there.

“China has consistently opposed unilateral sanctions and long-armed jurisdiction,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“China’s commercial cooperation with Iran is open and transparent, reasonable, fair and lawful, not violating any United Nations Security Council resolutions,” it added in a faxed statement to Reuters.

“China’s lawful rights should be protected.”

The German government said U.S. sanctions against Iran that have an extra-territorial effect violate international law, and Germany expects Washington to consider European interests when coming up with such sanctions.

The reimposition of U.S. sanctions followed Trump’s decision earlier this year to pull out of a 2015 deal to lift the punitive measures in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program designed to prevent it from building an atomic bomb.

Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said meanwhile the country had nothing to be concerned about, a report on his official website said in an apparent reference to the imposition of the U.S. sanctions

“With regard to our situation do not be worried at all. Nobody can do anything,” Khamenei said recently, the website reported. “There is no doubt about this.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in a meeting with North Korea’s foreign minister, said that America could not be trusted, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

“Today, America is identified as an unreliable and untrustworthy country in the world which does not adhere to any of its obligations,” Rouhani said.

Tuesday’s sanctions target Iran’s purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and the auto sector.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”

Europeans withdraw

European countries, hoping to persuade Tehran to continue to respect the deal, have promised to try to lessen the blow of sanctions and to urge their firms not to pull out. But that has proved difficult: European companies have quit Iran, arguing that they cannot risk their U.S. business.

Among those that have suspended plans to invest in Iran are France’s oil major Total, its big carmakers PSA and Renault, and their German rival Daimler.

Danish engineering company Haldor Topsoe, one of the world’s leading industrial catalyst producers, said on Wednesday it would cut around 200 jobs from its workforce of 2,700 due to the new U.S sanctions on Iran, which made it very hard for its customers there to finance new projects.

The chief executive of reinsurance group Munich Re said it may abandon its Iran business under pressure from the United States, but described the operation as very small.

Turkey, however, said it would continue to buy natural gas from Iran.

“Simplistic idea”

In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by an Iranian newspaper as saying that a U.S. plan to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero would not succeed.

U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that they aim to pressure countries to stop buying oil from Iran in a bid to force Tehran to halt its nuclear and missile programs and involvement in regional conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

“If the Americans want to keep this simplistic and impossible idea in their minds they should also know its consequences,” Zarif told the Iran newspaper. “They can’t think that Iran won’t export oil and others will export.”

Rouhani hinted last month that Iran could block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, if the U.S. attempted to stop the Islamic Republic’s oil exports.

Trump responded by noting that Iran could face serious consequences if it threatened the United States.

“The Americans have assembled a war room against Iran,” Zarif said. “We can’t get drawn into a confrontation with America by falling into this war room trap and playing on a battlefield.”

Iran has dismissed a last-minute offer from the Trump administration for talks, saying it could not negotiate while Washington had reneged on the 2015 deal to lift sanctions.

In a speech hours before the sanctions were due to take effect on Tuesday, Rouhani rejected negotiations as long as Washington was no longer complying with the deal.

“If you stab someone with a knife and then you say you want talks, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

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Record Number of Women Seeking Seats in US Congress

A record number of women are running for the US Congress in November, a surge that follows a year marked by the #MeToo movement and defiance of President Donald Trump.

After another round of primary voting in several states on Tuesday, 183 women will fight for a seat in the House of Representatives in November’s midterm election.

“It’s official,” the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) said after the voting in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri. “We’ve broken the record for women major party nominees for US House in any year.”

Until now the record was 167.

In another record, at least 11 women are running for state governor, the advocacy group said on Twitter. Until now that number had peaked at 10, in 1994.

In June, women also set a record for how many are running for the Senate. It is 42 — 24 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The previous record was 40, set in 2016, said the CAWP.

Several women candidates in races that they have a good chance of winning are from minorities with little or no representation in Congress.

They include Rashida Tlaib, who won a Democratic primary Tuesday in Michigan and is now poised to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

Several Native American women are also running for seats.

“A Native American woman has never been elected to the US Congress,” CAWP said.

The strong number of female candidates comes midway through the term of Trump, whose inauguration in January 2017 was met the next day with a huge march in Washington favor of women’s rights.

It also comes as the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment of women by men in powerful positions has marked a watershed moment in US society.

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Record Number of Women Seeking Seats in US Congress

A record number of women are running for the US Congress in November, a surge that follows a year marked by the #MeToo movement and defiance of President Donald Trump.

After another round of primary voting in several states on Tuesday, 183 women will fight for a seat in the House of Representatives in November’s midterm election.

“It’s official,” the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) said after the voting in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri. “We’ve broken the record for women major party nominees for US House in any year.”

Until now the record was 167.

In another record, at least 11 women are running for state governor, the advocacy group said on Twitter. Until now that number had peaked at 10, in 1994.

In June, women also set a record for how many are running for the Senate. It is 42 — 24 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The previous record was 40, set in 2016, said the CAWP.

Several women candidates in races that they have a good chance of winning are from minorities with little or no representation in Congress.

They include Rashida Tlaib, who won a Democratic primary Tuesday in Michigan and is now poised to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

Several Native American women are also running for seats.

“A Native American woman has never been elected to the US Congress,” CAWP said.

The strong number of female candidates comes midway through the term of Trump, whose inauguration in January 2017 was met the next day with a huge march in Washington favor of women’s rights.

It also comes as the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment of women by men in powerful positions has marked a watershed moment in US society.

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