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Nigeria’s Pre-Olympic Basketball Progress Inspires Amateurs

The success of Nigeria’s national basketball team, D’Tigers, in pre-Olympic games this month is inspiring amateur players back home. The Nigerians beat the top ranked U.S. team at a friendly match and are currently the only African team competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja.

 Camera: Emeka Gibson  Produced by: Mary Cieslak
 

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Cameroon Asks People Who Fled Boko Haram to Return

Cameroon’s government has sent ministers to its northern border with Nigeria to convince villagers who fled Boko Haram militants to return. Cameroon invested $10 million on reconstruction efforts after damage caused by the Islamist terrorist group in some villages. But, in northern Cameroon, many villagers are reluctant to go home, and authorities acknowledge the militants are still a threat.

Bulldozers of Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Works fill destroyed portions of the 30-kilometer road linking Cameroon’s northern town of Mora to Banki, a town in northeast Nigeria.

Celestine Ketcha Courtes, Cameroon’s minister of housing and urban development, and Talba Malla Ibrahim, minister of public contracts, traveled to the site this week.

Courtes said they went to find out the effectiveness of reconstruction work on infrastructure damaged during fighting by Cameroonian troops and Boko Haram combatants.

She said Cameroonian President Paul Biya instructed her and the minister of public contracts to visit markets rebuilt to facilitate the purchase and sale of goats, cattle, table birds and food. She said they also saw roads built to ease travel between Cameroon and Nigeria and to facilitate trade between the two neighbors. She said Cameroon’s government is planning to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the jihadist militant group Boko Haram.

Cameroon said the $10 million was invested this year for reconstruction of schools, hospitals and markets destroyed by Boko Haram. Alamine Ousman Mey is the minister of economy. He said civilians who fled can return and occupy infrastructure that has been reconstructed.

“It started with the reconstruction be it [of] the police as well as custom administrative facilities [buildings]. It has gone further to train those involved in protecting the population and also the community to be part of the stabilization process. It is about bringing back economic life,” he said. 

Mey acknowledged Boko Haram is still a threat. He said civilians should return as the military will protect people to help in the development of their towns and villages.

But this week, Cameroon reported two Boko Haram deadly attacks that claimed the lives of 13 troops and civilians in the border villages of Sagme and Zigi. The latest attack was in Zigi on Tuesday. Authorities say five troops and six civilians were killed. 

Cameroon said several hundred civilians fled the two villages.

There has been no comment from Nigeria, but a Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), established by Lake Chad Basin countries to combat Boko Haram, consists of troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Niger and Chad. The troops, which have a base in Mora, are posted along Cameroon’s border with Nigeria.  

Gregory Bonglam is a teacher. He said on Tuesday, he fled Mozogo, a northern administrative unit on the border with Nigeria after yet another Boko Haram attack.

“You never can identify who is Boko Haram and who is not. We were sitting outside and discussing. Little did we know that Boko Haram was around and before we knew it, there were already explosives. Luckily, we were a little far from the incident otherwise we would have been killed. Going back there is really very dangerous,” he said.

Philemon Ndula, conflict resolution specialist with the Cameroon NGO Trauma Center, said Cameroon should ensure there is peace before reconstruction.

“What I will suggest is for the government to talk about recovery. In recovery, there is the physical aspect of building the schools, building the houses, building the hospitals and so on. So that is why I am saying that reconstruction is just a starting point. The psychological aspect is actually the heart of the matter. People can only go out to do their businesses, to go to their farms when they have that minimum security,” said Ndula.

Cameroon says security will improve if civilians collaborate with authorities and report to authorities if they see suspicious activities in towns and villages. The government is also asking for the creation of militias to assist the military fight Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has been fighting for 11 years to create an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin.

The violence has cost the lives of 30,000 people and displaced about 2 million civilians, according to the United Nations. 

 

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Haitians Displaced by Gang Violence Face Bleak Future

Haitians displaced by gang incursions into swaths of the capital now live on the sharpest edge of insecurity in the Caribbean country, which is reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise earlier this month. 

Officials say thousands of people have lost their homes to encroachment by violent gangs into central and southern parts of the city, where urban sprawl envelops more than 2.5 million people.   

“I’ve got no future in this country as a young man. I’m in an unstable situation, I can’t build a home, the situation is really critical,” said one youth, staying at a shelter in the Delmas 5 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. 

Like others who spoke to Reuters at the center, which gives refuge to about 1,800 people, he declined to give his name for fear of reprisals from gangs. 

Gang violence in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, increasingly marred Moise’s rule before he was shot dead in his official residence on July 7. The government says the attack was carried out by a group of largely Colombian mercenaries, though many questions about who was behind his killing remain. 

Ariel Henry was formally appointed as prime minister of Haiti last week, calling for unity, stability, and international support. 

But the gangs are powerful and security institutions are weak. Georges Michel, a Haitian historian, said the gangs can muster a firepower superior to official security forces and are highly mobile, used to deploying guerrillalike tactics to prey on the population and do battle with rival outfits.   

“I hope that (the government) finds a way to destroy them because they create terror in all the neighborhood,” he said. 

Gangs have threatened to occupy the streets to protest the assassination of Moise. One of the most prominent bosses, Jimmy Cherizier, a former cop known as Barbecue, on Monday led hundreds of followers to a commemoration of the dead president.   

“We never knew this situation before,” said another youth at the shelter. “This stems from the political crisis.” 

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US-sanctioned Militia Leader Killed in East Libya, Officials Say

A Libyan militia leader sanctioned by the United States for allegedly killing civilians was shot dead Tuesday in an exchange of fire with forces attempting to arrest him in an eastern city, officials said. 

Libyan officials said security forces raided Mohamed al-Kani’s house in Benghazi to carry out an arrest warrant on charges of killing civilians. Libyan officials and the U.S. allege al-Kani was responsible for the deaths of people found in mass graves last year in the western town of Tarhuna. 

Tarhuna, a strategic town about 65 kilometers (41 miles) southeast of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, was under control of the al-Kaniyat militia, which gained a reputation for its brutal tactics. Led by al-Kani, the militia had initially sworn allegiance to a former government in Tripoli. But it switched sides in the civil war and aligned with the east-based forces of military commander Khalifa Hifter in 2019. 

The officials said al-Kani was killed in an exchange of gunfire along with one of his associates. A third man was arrested, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. 

Mohamed al-Tarhuni, a spokesman for the militia, confirmed al-Kani’s death. 

The mass graves in Tarhuna were found last year after the militia’s withdrawal following the collapse of Hifter’s 14-month campaign to wrest control of Tripoli from an array of militias allied with the former U.N.-recognized government. 

The U.S. Treasury placed al-Kani and his militia under sanctions in November after finding them responsible for killing the civilians. They also alleged the militia had committed acts of torture, forced disappearances and displacement of civilians.  

Fatou Bensouda, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told the U.N. Security Council in November that her office was working with the Tripoli government “in relation to these mass graves,” where many bodies were found blindfolded and with hands tied. 

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments. 

Hifter’s 2019 offensive, supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, collapsed in June 2020 when militias backing the Tripoli government, with support from Turkey and Qatar, gained the upper hand. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire was reached in October that stopped hostilities. 

Oil-rich Libya is now ruled by a transitional government tasked with preparing the nation for elections in December. 

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‘Just Proud’: Ledecky Wins Gold at Tokyo Olympics

 Finally, a gold medal in Tokyo for Katie Ledecky. 

The American star bounced back from the worst finish of her brilliant Olympic career to take the first-ever gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle Wednesday. 

It wasn’t quite the breeze that everyone expected in the metric mile. Ledecky built a big lead right from the start, then worked hard to hold off American teammate Erica Sullivan’s blazing finish. 

But it was Ledecky touching first in 15 minutes, 37.39 seconds. Sullivan claimed the silver (15:41.41), while the bronze went to Germany’s Sarah Kohler (15:42.91). 

“I think people maybe feel bad for that I’m not winning everything and whatever, but I want people to be more concerned about other things going on in the world, people that are truly suffering,” Ledecky said. “I’m just proud to bring home a gold medal to Team USA.” 

It was quite a morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre for Ledecky, who seemed a bit overcome by the ups and downs she experienced in a little over an hour. 

She tumbled over the lane rope to give Sullivan a hug, let out an uncharacteristic scream toward the American cheering section in the mostly empty arena and seemed to be holding back tears as she pulled her goggles back down over her eyes before exiting the pool. 

In her first final of the day, Ledecky was blown away by her Australian rival, Ariarne Titmus, who made it 2-for-2 over the American with a victory in the 200 free. 

Ledecky didn’t even win a medal — the first time that’s happened to her in an Olympic race. She was far behind all the way, never getting any higher than her fifth-place finish. 

“After the 200, I knew I had to turn the page very quickly,” Ledecky said. “In the warm down pool, I was thinking of my family. Kind of each stroke I was thinking of my grandparents.” 

Her voice choked with emotion. She crunched her eyes trying not to cry. 

“They’re the toughest four people I know,” Ledecky said, “and that’s what helped me get through that.” 

The Australian known as the Terminator gave the Australian women their third individual swimming gold with an Olympic record of 1:53.50 in the 200 freestyle, adding to her thrilling victory in the 400 free.

In the longer race, Titmus conserved her energy over the first half, then rallied to pass Ledecky with the second-fastest performance in history. 

Where was Ledecky in the 200? 

Nowhere to be found. 

The defending Olympic champion made the first flip in seventh place and finished in 1:55.21, nearly 2 seconds behind the winner. 

Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong led much of the race before hanging on to take the silver in 1:53.92. The bronze went to Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in 1:54.70. 

“Obviously having a great swim in the 400 gives me confidence coming into the 200,” Titmus said. “I thought my back end was definitely my strength in the 400. I knew I could have that on the way home in the 200.” 

Titmus wasn’t all that pleased with her time, but it was good enough for another gold. 

“Honestly, it’s not the time that I thought I could do this morning, but it’s the Olympics and there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” she said. “So it’s just about winning here. I’m very happy.”  

Italy’s Federica Pellegrini of Italy finished seventh in her fifth and final Olympics. She won the gold in 2008 and is still the world-record holder. 

The Americans also picked up a couple of medals in the women’s 200 individual medley — but not the one they wanted. 

Japan’s Yui Ohashi completed her IM sweep by beating Americans Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, adding to her victory in the 400. 

The winning time was 2:08.52. Walsh claimed the silver in 2:08.65, while the bronze went to Douglass in 2:09.04. 

Defending Olympic champion and world record-holder Katinka Hosszu of Hungary finished seventh. She was the oldest swimmer in the final at age 32. 

There were no surprises in the men’s 200 butterfly, with Kristof Milak of Hungary romping to a dominating — but rather nerve-wracking — victory.  

Milak won the gold by about two body lengths despite having to hastily change suits before the race, which cost him a chance to break his own world record. 

Milak said that he realized about 10 minutes before walking on deck that his suit was damaged. He told Hungarian reporters that he totally lost focus, though it was hard to tell from his performance in the pool.  

He held up the suit in the mixed zone, putting a finger through the tear before tossing it on a table in disgust. 

Milak still touched in an Olympic record of 1:51.25 — more than a half-second off his 2019 world record (1:50.73) but some 2 ½ seconds ahead of the silver medalist. 

Japan’s Tomoru Honda finished in 1:53.73, while the bronze went to Italy’s Federico Burdisso (1:54.45). 

South African star Chad le Clos finished fifth. He won the 200 butterfly at the 2012 London Olympics, upsetting Michael Phelps, but was no match for the Hungarian star. 

Caeleb Dressel breezed through the semifinals of the 100 free, his first of three individual events. The American star posted the second-fastest time (47.23), just behind Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov (47.11). 

“That’s about what I expected,” Dressel said. “It’s going to be a fast final.” 

He shook off the view that he’s a lock for the gold. 

“I’ve never been a fan of favorites,” Dressel said. “It’s going to be a really fun race. Really looking forward to it. I mean, there’s quite honestly eight guys in contention, so it’s going to be exciting for everyone to watch. You guys (in the media) should be jealous I get to take part in it.” 

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First Person Charged Under Hong Kong Security Law Found Guilty

The first person charged under Hong Kong’s national security law was found guilty on Tuesday of terrorism and inciting secession in a landmark case with long-term implications for how the legislation reshapes the city’s common law traditions. 

An alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm was not considered. The High Court will hear mitigation arguments on Thursday and sentencing will be announced at a later date. 

Former waiter Tong Ying-kit, 24, was accused of driving his motorcycle into three riot police while carrying a flag with the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” which prosecutors said was secessionist. 

The widely anticipated ruling, much of which has hinged on the interpretation of the slogan, imposes new limits on free speech in the former British colony. Pro-democracy activists and human rights groups have also criticized the decision to deny Tong bail and a jury trial, which have been key features of Hong Kong’s rule of law. 

His trial was presided over by judges Esther Toh, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan, picked by city leader Carrie Lam to hear national security cases. 

Toh read out a summary of the ruling in court, saying “such display of the words was capable of inciting others to commit secession.” 

She added that Tong was aware of the slogan’s secessionist meaning, and that he intended to communicate this meaning to others. He also had a “political agenda” and his actions caused “grave harm to society.” 

Tong had pleaded not guilty to all charges, which stemmed from events on July 1, 2020, shortly after the law was enacted. 

Tong’s trial focused mostly on the meaning of the slogan, which was ubiquitous during Hong Kong’s mass 2019 protests. 

It was chanted on the streets, posted online, scrawled on walls and printed on everything from pamphlets, books, stickers and T-shirts to coffee mugs. 

The debates drew on a range of topics, including ancient Chinese history, the U.S. civil rights movement and Malcolm X, to ascertain whether the slogan was secessionist. 

Two expert witnesses called by the defense to analyze the slogan’s meaning, drawing upon sources including an examination of some 25 million online posts, found “no substantial link” between the slogan and Hong Kong independence. 

The governments in Beijing and Hong Kong have said repeatedly the security law was necessary to bring stability after the often-violent 2019 protests and that the rights and freedoms promised to the city upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997 remain intact. 

The law, imposed by Beijing in June 2020, punishes what China sees as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. 

The government has said that all prosecutions have been handled independently and according to law, and that legal enforcement action has nothing to do with the political stance, background or profession of those arrested. 

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Former US Senator Enzi of Wyoming Dies After Bicycle Accident

Retired U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican known as a consensus-builder in an increasingly polarized Washington, has died. He was 77. 

Enzi died Monday surrounded by family and friends, former spokesman Max D’Onofrio said. 

Enzi had been hospitalized with a broken neck and ribs after a bicycle accident near Gillette on Friday. He was stabilized before being flown to a hospital in Colorado but remained unconscious, D’Onofrio said. 

Enzi fell near his home about 8:30 p.m. Friday, family friend John Daly said, around the time Gillette police received a report of a man lying unresponsive in a road near a bike. 

Police have seen no indication that anybody else was nearby or involved in the accident, Lt. Brent Wasson told the newspaper. 

A former shoe salesman first elected to the Senate in 1996, Enzi became known for emphasizing compromise over grandstanding and confrontation to get bills passed. 

His “80-20 rule” called on colleagues to focus on the 80% of an issue where legislators tended to agree and discard the 20% where they didn’t. 

“Nothing gets done when we’re just telling each other how wrong we are,” Enzi said in his farewell address to the Senate in 2020. “Just ask yourself: Has anyone ever really changed your opinion by getting in your face and yelling at you or saying to you how wrong you are? Usually that doesn’t change hearts or minds.” 

Wyoming voters reelected Enzi by wide margins three times before he announced in 2019 that he would not seek a fifth term. Enzi was succeeded in the Senate in 2021 by Republican Cynthia Lummis, a former congresswoman and state treasurer. 

Enzi’s political career began at 30 when he was elected mayor of Gillette, a city at the heart of Wyoming’s then-booming coal mining industry. He was elected to the Wyoming House in 1986 and state Senate in 1991.  

The retirement of Republican Sen. Alan Simpson opened the way for Enzi’s election to the Senate. Enzi beat John Barrasso in a nine-way Republican primary and then Democratic former Wyoming Secretary of State Kathy Karpan in the general election; Barrasso would be appointed to the Senate in 2007 after the death of Sen. Craig Thomas.  

Enzi wielded quiet influence as the Senate slipped into partisan gridlock over the second half of his career there.  

His more recent accomplishments included advancing legislation to enable sales taxes to be collected on internet sales crossing state lines. He played a major role in reforming the No Child Left Behind law that set performance standards for elementary, middle and high school students.  

He fought for Wyoming as a top coal-mining state to receive payments through the federal Abandoned Mine Land program, which taxes coal operations to help reclaim abandoned mining properties.  

Enzi sought to encourage business innovation by hosting an annual inventors conference. He also backed bills involving the U.S. Mint but his proposal to do away with the penny was unsuccessful.  

Enzi was born Feb. 1, 1944, in Bremerton, Washington. His family moved to Thermopolis soon after.  

Enzi graduated from Sheridan High School in 1962 and from George Washington University with a degree in accounting in 1966. He received a master’s in retail marketing from the University of Denver in 1968.  

He married Diana Buckley in 1969 and the couple moved to Gillette where they started a shoe store, NZ Shoes. They later opened two more NZ Shoes stores, in Sheridan and Miles City, Montana.  

From 1985 to 1997, Enzi worked for Dunbar Well Service in Gillette, where he was an accounting manager, computer programmer and safety trainer.  

Enzi served two, four-year terms as mayor of Gillette. He served on the U.S. Department of Interior Coal Advisory Committee from 1976 to 1979. 

Enzi is survived by his wife; two daughters, Amy and Emily; a son, Brad; and several grandchildren. 

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Major Chinese Companies Caught in Squeeze Play Between Beijing, US

Chinese companies with shares traded on American stock exchanges are facing significant challenges from political leaders in both Washington and Beijing.

New regulations in both countries will make it much harder for other companies to follow in their footsteps, restricting access to billions of the dollars in funding that helped grow internet retail giant Alibaba, the online gaming firm Tencent, the ride-hailing service Didi, and until recently China Telecom.

In Beijing, regulators have signaled that they plan to scrutinize domestic firms that want to list their shares abroad, particularly when those businesses collect data on Chinese consumers. Experts say this is causing many Chinese firms to reconsider plans to sell their shares on exchanges outside of China.

At the same time, the Biden administration is moving forward with plans to implement a 2020 law that would force foreign companies to de-list from U.S. exchanges unless U.S. regulators are allowed to verify their financial audits at least once every three years — something the Chinese government has been highly reluctant to allow.

Many of these major, high profile Chinese companies that have straddled markets and funding sources in the U.S. and China are suddenly caught in a tug-of-war between western capital markets that require financial transparency from public companies and a Chinese government that jealously guards sensitive information.

How this tension gets resolved will determine whether or not Chinese firms have open access to the deepest and most liquid source of investment capital in the world — the U.S. stock markets. It will also determine how much transparency investors can expect from the Chinese companies that are playing an ever-larger role in the world economy.

Major funding source

It’s hard to overstate Chinese companies’ reliance on U.S. capital markets for funding.

In the first six months of 2021 alone, 34 Chinese firms began listing their shares on U.S. exchanges, raising some $12.4 billion in capital and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in fees for Wall Street investment banks. Another 20 companies have initial public offerings (IPOs) scheduled for later this year.

According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, as of May 5 this year, there were 248 Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges, with a combined market capitalization of $2.1 trillion.

Bumpy ride for Didi

Early this month, one of those firms, the ride-hailing company Didi, saw its share values plunge after Chinese regulators forced it to remove its app from Chinese markets, citing violations of data use and collection rules.  

In announcing an investigation into Didi, Chinese authorities were vague about what the company’s supposed violations were, but said that the move was part of a broader effort to “consolidate the information security responsibilities of overseas listed companies.”

The Chinese company ByteDance, which owns the hugely popular short-form video app TikTok, earlier this year announced that it would delay its planned IPO in New York. The announcement came after a meeting with Chinese government officials, with the company citing unspecified data security problems.

The result of these government investigations, experts say, has been to make Chinese firms reconsider pursuing an initial public offering in the U.S. or other foreign markets.

Bolstering domestic exchanges

At the same time that it is applying new scrutiny to Chinese firms that list abroad, the Chinese government has been making efforts to show domestic firms that Chinese exchanges are a viable option for raising capital.

After then-president Donald Trump forced China Telecom to de-list its shares in the U.S. early this year, the firm is turning to Chinese exchanges. Last week Chinese regulators agreed to a plan for the company to offer $8.4 billion in shares to the public on the Shanghai stock exchange, the largest share offering on mainland China in more than a decade.

While some worry that the Chinese government is taking early steps to prevent domestic firms from selling their shares on foreign exchanges, others believe Beijing’s aim is not so clear.

China’s aims may be limited

“I think it would be premature to assume that the goal is to prevent listings of any kind by these companies in foreign markets,” said Nicholas R. Lardy, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If that was the goal, the securities regulator could have just refused to approve any of the listings that were in the pipeline.”

In an interview with Bloomberg News last Friday, Paul Triolo, a senior leader with the Eurasia Group also said that he believes Beijing’s strategy is more limited.

It’s not clear that Beijing’s strategy is, for example, to force companies to all list in Hong Kong or on the mainland here, because I don’t think that’s really realistic in the short term,” he said. 

“I think Beijing is trying to thread the needle here,” he added. “They’re trying to get their companies to agree to go through these regulatory hurdles before they list so they can gain some control over this. But they’re still, I think, grappling with the long-term issue of are they going to come to agreement with the U.S. over this auditing issue, because ultimately, that’s going to be a really huge factor in whether Chinese companies are going to continue to go and do IPOs on the U.S. market.”

Complications of transparency

The friction over the U.S. demand that Chinese public companies submit to financial audits arises from the inherent differences between Chinese companies and firms in most other major developed countries. 

In the U.S., for example, public companies tend to have an arm’s-length relationship with the federal government, which means that when investors demand detailed information about their operations and finances, the government’s security interests are not implicated.

In China, however, major companies are often closely intertwined with the government or the armed forces, making demands for Western-style transparency far more complicated.

‘An inflection point’

Experts say there is little question that there will be at least some level of disconnection between Chinese companies and U.S. markets.

“Some decoupling is underway and seems inevitable,” said Doug Barry, a spokesperson for the U.S.-China Business Council. “The whole relationship is at an inflection point.”

“To avoid a major split, China in particular will have to change course in ways that at the moment seem very unlikely,” Barry said. “Our companies that are in China report continued good earnings from their operations there but are increasingly concerned about the future because of the deteriorating bilateral relationship. New investments will be reduced until the outlook becomes clearer.”

Like others, Barry holds out hope for a solution that might prevent major damage. He said that the Phase One trade deal negotiated by the Trump administration might be a means of achieving some kind of balance.

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