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Ak-Sar-Ben Itself Merits Praise Along With King Dick And Queen Suzanne - 10-14-10

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Today, Second-Guessing Other Sports Commentators But Some Thoughts On Current Political Issues, Too - 09-30-10

Gates Gives Somber Non-Political Appraisals Of Iraq, Afghanistan - 09-23-10

At Last, A Prominent Moderate Muslim Speaks Out Against Muslim Terrorists - 09-16-10

Today, It’s All About College Football With Some “As I See It” Commentary - 09-09-10

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When The Subject Is Disasters,Obama Needs A History Lesson - 07-08-10

McChrystal’s Firing Spotlights Afghan War And The Slim Chance Of U.S. Victory There - 07-01-10

Advice For An Egocentric President: “I, I, I” Suggests One-Man Team - 06-24-10

Texas Decision Good For Big 12 But Even Better For The Longhorns - 06-17-10

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A New Issue: Does ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell’ Make Military Service Easier For Gays? - 06-03-10

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Democrats Continue Cheap Shot Campaign Against Republican Congressman Lee Terry - 05-20-10

Cartoonist Koterba Says It Clearly: Don’t Put All The Blame On Schools - 05-13-10

Citizenship For Immigrants Is Inevitable But Start By Closing The Border - 05-06-10

Punish Wall Streeters If They Deserve It But Liberal Dems Spawned The Mortgage Mess - 04-29-10

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The Stories Behind Some Disturbing Headlines And Some Advice For Avoiding National Bankruptcy - 04-01-10

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President Angry Replaces President Cool; ‘ObamaCare’s’ Chances Helped Or Hurt? - 03-11-10

Americans To Get ‘ObamaCare’ Even If They Don’t Want It? - 03-04-10

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Corporate Expenditures Bad For Politics Except When They Benefit Liberal Candidates? - 02-18-10

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Some Remarkable Legislative Comments And Some Questionable Media Performance - 02-04-10

When The Subject Is Nebraska Wind Energy, ‘Green’ Is The Color Of Money - 01-28-10

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Some Legislative Issues—Like Gambling—Deserve Quick Death But Water Issues Deserve Careful Attention - 01-14-10

Today: ‘Big Daddy’ Government Wrong Again, And How Justified Is Cornhusker Title Talk? - 01-07-10

Dan Neary Worthy Of The Honor--
Today Some Upbeat Comments But "Obama Care" Debate Demands Attention
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Even Without That Health Bill Vote, Another Term For Nelson Was Questionable - 12-23-09

Let’s Talk Football And Why Nebraska’s Suh Deserved The Heisman - 12-17-09

Image of Immigrants Would Be Helped By Less Cinco de Mayo, More 4th of July - 12-10-09

Image Of Islam Is Badly Damaged By ‘God-Approved’ Slaughter Of Non-Muslims - 12-03-09

Close Call For NU Research, Reputation; Thanksgiving Reminder: Count Your Blessings - 11-25-09

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Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’
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A Visiting Sports Columnist Agrees: ‘There Is No Place Like Nebraska’ - 10-22-09

Might Obama Wish He Had A Chance To Say ‘No, Thanks’ To Early Nobel Prize? - 10-15-09

Don’t Overlook The Variety Of Aid Which Goes To ‘Poverty Level’ Families - 10-08-09

Smorgasbord Today: From UN’s “Nutcake Day” To Obama Performance Here And Abroad - 10-01-09

Must Defense Continue To Cover For Huskers’ Anemic Red Zone Offense? - 09-24-09

'Energizer Bunny' President Continues To Add Proposals For Reform - 09-17-09

Today, Variety: Football, Golf And Why No President Should Televise Himself Into The Nation’s Classrooms - 09-10-09

Massachusetts Gave Kennedy Significant Second Chances - 09-03-09

Obama’s Problem Not Just With GOP
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Democrats Go All-Out Negative:
Trash Private Insurance Industry
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Journalistic Watchdogs Turned Lapdogs When Obama Called That ‘News Conference’ - 07-30-09

Look Back, Mr. President: Opposition Is Catching Up - 07-23-09

Dem Lynch Mob Might Hang President’s Hopes - 07-16-09

Dems Start Oust-Terry Effort In The Political Gutter - 07-09-09

Despite Liberal Media's Views, Nation Better Served By Viable GOP - 07-02-09

A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09

Freshman President Learning Some Political Realities? - 06-18-09

Voices Of Reason Raised Too Late To Slow Rush To Wind Power? - 06-11-09

Public Will Be Watching Prosecution Of Three Teen-Age Creatures - 06-04-09

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Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson
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Special-Interest Liberals
Shouldn’t Badger Obama
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A Surprising Source: Obama
Cites Positive Results of Iraq War
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Media Transfer Their Love
From Candidate to President
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Suttle Campaign Subtly Two-Faced? Or ‘Just Politics’? Voters Will Decide - 04-23-09

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With Islam," It's Self-Defense
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Seven Iowans Change Marriage
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Will Liberal Democrats Continue
Escaping The Verdict Of History?
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Multi-Focused President
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Richard Nixon—Appropriate To Recall The Good As Well As The Dark Side - 03-19-09

Not Reducing Mortgage Costs; We’re Simply ‘Modifying’ Them - 03-12-09

Fair Warning From NY Times: Obama’s “Breathtaking Plans” Would “Transform American Society” - 03-05-09

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Let’s Not Move Slot Machine Cancer From Iowa Casinos To Nebraska Race Tracks - 02-19-09

Whiteclay Is Wrong Target;
Aim At Alcoholism Problem
- 02-12-09

For The Best “Stimulus” Formula:
Put Economic Recovery First;
“Remaking USA” Can Wait
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Journalistic Hounds Are Still
In Full Pursuit Of Bush
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‘First Black President’ Celebration
Shouldn’t Further Distract Us
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‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real
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Advice For Husker Fans:
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Kennedy Dynasty History
Includes Shameful Chapters
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Today Some Merry Christmas Thoughts But A Few Political Barbs, Too - 12-24-08

This Time It’s Indians
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Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
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Obama Steers A Moderate Course
But Congressional Democrats Veer Left
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Too Many "Non-Blessings"
This Thanksgiving Week
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Let’s Hear More About
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Color-Blind Issues Voting
Showed No Turn To The Left
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Election Made History
But Big Questions Remain
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Today, A Choice of Topics:
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Splitting Electoral Votes Good Idea? Then Why Do 48 States Reject It? - 10-23-08

Dems Take 11th Hour Low Road
In 2nd Congressional District Race
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Another Government “Welfare Program,” Bargain Mortgages, Caused The Crisis - 10-09-08

Words Can Lose Their Meaning
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—Have We Learned This Lesson?— Crisis Results When Individuals, Encouraged By Financial Institutions, Try To Live Beyond Their Means - 9-25-08

Bonds To Build Four-Lane Highways?
Where Would The Money Come From?
- 9-18-08

Today, a Large Load of Political
Commentary After a Brief Plug For
My Book, ‘Life With Marian’
- 9-17-08

Major News Media Look Bad
In Non-Coverage of
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- 9-11-08

Disadvantaged Students Can Be
Helped Without Discriminatory ‘Affirmative Action’
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My Favorite Olympic Champion?
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Will Chinese Get Away With
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Windmills, Solar Won't Do It;
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I Doubt That God or Jesus
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- 8-07-08

‘Pop Star’ Obama Lacks Experience,
McCain Lacks Clear Campaign Strategy
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Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit?
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Would Odor of Politics
Taint Fire Chief Choice?
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Will Hospitality, Qwest Center
Lure Swim Trials Back to Omaha?
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Omaha Stars Again
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Omaha's CWS Reputation
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S.D. Vote Could Lead
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Don’t Let Niobrara Go The Way
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Voters Didn’t Impose Term Limits
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“It’s Our Turn” Pitch Might
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"Why The Big Fuss Over
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"Barack Obama and John McCain:
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"‘First Black President’
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"What 'Tough' Election Contest
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"Overhyped New Hampshire
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"Coach Bo Now Well Welcomed;
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"Bo Brings Emotional Fire to NU Job;
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"Callahan Outclasses Loudmouth Critics;
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As I See It
Harold W. Andersen is a retired Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the Omaha World-Herald Company. Full biography.

Our new policy is to make my column available early each Wednesday.

A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)

And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.


December 19 , 2007

Finally, logically if belatedly, our community turns its attention to the fundamentally important issues raised by “Mr. Hawkins” shopping mall slaughter of eight people.

Finally, news media attention is shifting from an avalanche of coverage of details of the killings and continuing emphasis on the sorrow caused by “Robbie” Hawkins’ murder spree.

It was a welcome sight Monday to see a headline which read: “Gun control heats up as local issue.” Efforts in the direction of gun control certainly are commendable and should be pursued, but pursued with the recognition that they are very unlikely to be broadly effective. There are far too many guns out there - - guns by the thousands - - which are beyond the reach of any system of gun registration or any other effort at control.

So what’s to be done now? Crying for attention, it seems to me, is an obvious question: How could Hawkins’ slaughter spree have been prevented? An obvious answer to that obvious question: Hawkins should have been kept under the surveillance of - - if not in the custody of - - persons acting under the authority of Nebraska state government. Let’s learn from that failure.

Remember that after four years as a state ward during which the state spent more than $265,000 trying to help Hawkins with psychiatric problems and addictions, Sarpy County Juvenile Court Judge Robert O’Neal ended state custody based on, in the words of the court order, “an unsuccessful completion of the conditions, and the child is non-amenable to further services of the court.”

So a youth who isn’t responding to treatment of troublesome symptoms, including a possible tendency towards violence, is simply turned loose on Nebraska society.

In defending what the state had tried to do for Hawkins, Todd Landry, director of Children and Family Services for the State Department of Health and Human Services, said the court’s decision was based on agreement among HHS, the therapist, the court and Hawkins’ father. Landry also said - - I’m not making this up - - that “the most appropriate thing for this youth was the closure of the case.”

What about the most appropriate thing for the eight people Hawkins killed and the three he seriously wounded?

If any responsible official - - from Governor Heineman’s office on down - - is demanding that Judge O’Neal and Todd Landry explain how their decision was in the public interest, I haven’t heard or read anything about such a demand.

The Problem With Gun Control Laws

Next obvious question (largely overlooked until 12 days after the killings): What can be done to prevent such outbursts of murderous violence in the future? The initial emphasis has been on gun control, making guns somehow unavailable, or not so easily available, to potential killers.

An Omaha district court judge has suggested that using the licensing of motor vehicles as a model, the state require that all guns be licensed. It would seem obvious that a gun is a good many times smaller and more easily concealed than a motor vehicle. Guns which are hidden and brought out for violent purposes are an entirely different animal than motor vehicles which must travel in public to be of any practical use and can be traced by the license plates. Need I say more?

Mayor Mike Fahey and Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren support reinstating what was described as a “10-year federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.”

The facts are that there was no “assault weapons ban.” The ban was a federal law on importation of additional assault weapons of the AK-47 type (30 shots as quickly as you can pull the trigger, with another 30-shot ammunition clip attached to the gun) which Hawkins used in his shopping mall murder spree.

The federal law did nothing to affect the ownership of thousands upon thousands of AK-47s and other semi-automatic multi-shot weapons already in private ownership in this country.

Suppose Congress were to pass a law outlawing the ownership of semi-automatic, large-magazine weapons or perhaps requiring owners to register such weapons.

Some responsible owners might respond positively. But remember that responsible owners are not the ones who own thousands of weapons which aren’t registered and never will be because the owners want them available for illegal purposes or want to be able to sell them to others who want to use them illegally.

And remember also that even a successful ban on AK47-type “assault” weapons wouldn’t do anything at all to curb the one-at-a-time or two-at-a-time gunshot deaths which in Omaha to date this year have taken 26 lives, three times the number of Hawkins’ victims.

Control of handguns responsible for the great majority of deaths by violence in cities across the country requires, it seems to me, the approach that State Senator Ernie Chambers, who represents a North Omaha area where a good deal of the gun violence occurs, recently advocated. Chambers said: “We can pass any law we want to, and if it’s not going to be enforced, it won’t make any difference.

“These kids know where to go to get these guns,”

Police, Chambers said, should be able to figure it out as well.

Psychiatrist Gives Sound Advice

Let’s finish today’s sermon with what I think may be the best answer to the question, How can we keep something like the shopping mall murder spree from happening again? No attack on the problem assures success, but the approach detailed below seems to me to offer a good opportunity. It has the advantage of not only possibly preventing shopping mall-type murder rampages but also the prevention of smaller-scale killings - - perhaps single killings. And the advantage of offering hope for cure or at least prevention of suicide for young people who need supervised help.

Dr. Michael J. Reznicek of Spokane, Wash., a psychiatrist, an Omaha native and a 1985 graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, wrote a piece for The World-Herald’s “More Commentary” page. His concluding paragraphs:

“Now is a good time for Nebraskans to re-examine how they deal with troubled teens. At some point in the past, the collective wisdom of raising children was replaced with the trendy theories of the psychiatric profession, a shift that had less to do with science than with the romance of science.

“If current psychiatric knowledge cannot even explain consciousness, why do we think it can explain the more complex arena of human behavior?

“The alternative to the status quo is not to build teen gulags, of course. But we might want to consider returning to an era when we had smartly run institutions for children who had no parents - - orphanages, I believe we called them.

“Designed correctly, these institutions would be highly structured, set high standards, punish bad behavior, reward good behavior and pay less attention to how children feel about it all.

“If we spent more time shaping young minds and less time labeling them as mentally ill, we would gain happier, better-adjusted children and a safer environment for all of us.”

* * *

'Cheap Shot’ Iowa Campaign

Gets Cheaper

Isn’t this presidential campaign - - swelling in volume more than 10 months before the election in November of 2008 - - more noisy, more marked by hypocrisy, irresponsibility and cheap shots than other campaigns in the post-World World II era? Whatever, this campaign is bad enough, no matter how it compares with the past. Consider:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a guitar playing, wise-cracking former television evangelist (not the most respected of American vocations), seems determined to use the Iowa caucuses as a stepping stone to the Republican presidential nomination by persuading voters that he is the candidate most committed to the Bible and to Jesus Christ. His environmental policy, he has said, is based on the simple belief that we are living in “God’s House” and we should, therefore, take good care of it based on our religious principles and respect for God, our landlord.

And in a swipe at rival Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, and Romney’s Mormon faith, Huckabee asked a New York Times interviewer if the Mormon faith isn’t the one that believes Jesus Christ and the Devil are brothers.

Could it be that Huckabee has been so busy preaching the Christian religion according to Baptist interpretation that he isn’t aware of the legend - - some would call it a religious belief - - that the Devil is a fallen angel sometimes referred to as Lucifer and has, in biblical teaching, no relationship to Christ?

Or could it have been a cheap shot that Huckabee thought he could get away with? In any case, when challenged, he apologized.

In one of the countless televised debates, Huckabee was joined by former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee in suggesting that Romney’s background of wealth both as a child and adult somehow disqualifies him as a president who would look out for the welfare of the common man, compared to a candidate who had grown up in a rented house as Huckabee had.

Such a standard would, of course, have disqualified past presidents like Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and George H. W. Bush, all of whom came from wealthy backgrounds.

On the Democratic side, we have John Edwards, sounding somewhat desperate as he lags behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Edwards’ TV ads have him declaring that he has spent his life (one assumes he means his adult years after he graduated from law school) working for common people against corporations. He doesn’t mention that he became a multi-millionaire, now with a multi-million dollar North Carolina estate, as the result of a very well-paid career as a jury-swaying trial attorney.

Then there is Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois who seems comfortable with the fact he has virtually no record to defend since he is in his first term in high office. So he can campaign on promises of what he will do without having to spend time defending what he has done - - or not done.

Obama was joined on the campaign trail by superstar Oprah Winfrey, justifiably popular as a TV talk/variety show host. Oprah’s enthusiastic endorsement seemed to make even clearer that inherent in Obama’s campaign appeal is the fact that he would be America’s first black president. That appeal, I think, represents something of a gamble. His color (half black/half white) is not likely to appeal to a good many voters as somehow ranking among the qualifications which the American public expect in a president.

* * *

Big Win for Huskers, But…

I didn’t join the crowd mobbing Coach Doc Sadler and his victorious Cornhusker basketball team on the Qwest Center floor after the Huskers 88-79 win over sixteenth-ranked Oregon last Sunday. But I was among the 11,000-plus fans delighted by the Husker victory and hopeful as to what it might mean for more success down the season-long road.

But perhaps my reaction was too restrained. A print journalism coach/commentator enthused over the “signature moment” in Sadler’s tenure at Nebraska, a win which showed that the Huskers will have a chance to win in every Big 12 game to come except possibly against KU. He also wrote that Oregon, if playing in the Big 12, would be the second best team in the conference.

I wonder if such rhetoric does justice to Coach Sadler and his team. The win was a good one, but why describe it in terms so extravagant as to very possibly unfairly raise expectations of what the Huskers should accomplish during the rest of the season?

* * *

Starkweather: Punk or Troubled Youth?

Scattered among the expressions of sorrow for the victims of “Robbie” Hawkins’ killing spree were occasional words of sympathy for the troubled youth himself. The head of an institution providing state-sponsored care and custody of troubled young people said the state had failed young Hawkins by releasing him too soon from state supervision.

Somehow these well-intentioned expressions of sympathy for Hawkins brings back memories of a World-Herald headline when Charles Starkweather’s 10-murder spree came to an end nearly half a century ago. The headline in the Thursday morning World-Herald January 28, 1958 read:

“Punk’s Blood-Stained String Ends
at 10 Dead With Wyoming Capture”

Today, how might the story have been headlined, assuming that psychiatrists and child welfare counselors had been asked for their comments. Perhaps something like this:

“Troubled Youth Arrested After Killing 10;
Some Say That Society Failed Him.”

# # #

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