The NYT Quotes Pamela Corley’s Recent Book called “The Puzzle of Unanimity: Consensus on the United States Supreme Court.”

This news story first appeared on July 1, 2014. For more information click here.

Tower Center Associate, Pamela Corley is an associate professor in the Political Science Department at SMU.

Compromise at the Supreme Court Veils Its Rifts

By Adam Liptak, New York Times; July 1, 2014

WASHINGTON — Two very different group portraits of the Supreme Court emerged this term, one familiar and one unexpected.

The familiar was on display Monday in two 5-to-4 decisions that were split by angry divisions and seemed to advance a conservative agenda.

But the more finely drawn portrait takes account of the 67 decisions in argued cases this term. The court was unanimous about two-thirds of the time, and those cases revealed signs of compromise and restraint, which many Supreme Court specialists said was a testament to the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., 59.

“The chief has done a remarkable job this term navigating divisions and dodging the most controversial of issues,” said Lisa S. Blatt, a lawyer with Arnold & Porter who argues frequently before the court.

Chief Justice Roberts, who completed his ninth term, does not get his way by backslapping or horse-trading, but by writing savvy opinions, making strategic opinion assignments to the other justices and sometimes working to protect the Supreme Court from accusations that it is a political institution.

Chief Justice Roberts’s handiwork was apparent this term in major rulings on abortion protests and cellphone searches, both unanimous decisions.

His majority opinion striking down buffer zones around Massachusetts abortion clinics was much narrower than his earlier First Amendment jurisprudence would have suggested, narrow enough to attract the votes of all four liberal justices. And he wrote a muscular opinion for a unanimous court requiring the police to get warrants before they search the cellphones of people they arrest.

All of the justices are sensitive to the accusation that they are motivated by politics.

The current set of nine justices is, for the first time in history, firmly divided along partisan lines, with all of the Republican appointees more conservative than all of the Democratic ones. Their efforts to find common ground may have been partly an attempt to counter the charge that they are, in Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s words, “nine junior varsity politicians” motivated by partisan agendas better left to elected officials.

But the number of unanimous decisions — a record for the Roberts court and the highest percentage since at least 1953 — masked some powerful disagreements, as the justices often agreed only on the bottom line, as was true in the abortion protest and recess appointment cases.

What matters most in Supreme Court decisions is what legal principle commanded a majority, not which side won. Lower courts will apply those principles, and the divisions about the reasoning supporting decisions can be vital. They mattered so much to Justice Antonin Scalia that he all but created a new judicial genre — he wrote three furious concurrences.

The Roberts court’s conservative majority has not retreated from several of its core concerns. It remains skeptical of campaign finance regulations, efforts to drive religion from public life and race-conscious decision-making by the government. It remains solicitous of corporate rights and of efforts to curb union power.

When the chief justice was in the majority in such cases, most decided by narrow margins, another side of him emerged. In all of them, he wrote or joined opinions that claimed to be modest extensions of existing law but may well portend wrenching change.

But the 5-to-4 splits dropped, to just 10. Of those, six featured the classic alignments, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining either the court’s four more liberal members or its four more conservative ones. He leaned right two-thirds of the time.

But in a great many cases the justices found ways to agree. This was the fourth term together for the nine current justices. Its newest members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, have grown increasingly comfortable in their roles, and all of the justices seemed, mostly, eager to find common ground with their colleagues.

It did not hurt that the term lacked huge and profoundly divisive cases like those that ended the last two terms. In June 2012, months before the presidential election, the court narrowly upheld the Affordable Care Act. In June 2013, the court issued one major ruling on same-sex marriage but kicked an even bigger question down the road.

The story of the current term was somewhat anticipated in a book published last year by three political scientists: Pamela C. Corley, Amy Steigerwalt and Artemus Ward. It was called “The Puzzle of Unanimity: Consensus on the United States Supreme Court.”

It is, after all, not obvious that the justices should ever all agree. The issues that reach them are complicated and usually susceptible to multiple plausible answers. Lower courts have almost always given varying answers. The justices themselves have differing judicial philosophies.

But the justices know that unanimous decisions have more force, which is why they worked hard to issue them in Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 school desegregation case, and United States v. Nixon, the 1974 decision that hastened the end of the Nixon administration.

Lower courts are less likely to follow divided decisions. But, and here is the bad news for the current court, there are two ways to be divided. “While dissents are clearly detrimental to the authority of majority opinions, concurrences can be equally damaging,” the “Puzzle of Unanimity” authors wrote. “In fact, if a decision of the court is accompanied by a concurrence that does not support the majority opinion, lower courts are less likely to comply with it.”

While the court’s level of agreement this term was authentically high, the numbers overstate the case. “A lot of the unanimity is ersatz,” said David A. Strauss, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

It is not every day, for instance, that you see a Supreme Court justice reading an angry concurrence from the bench, as Justice Scalia did last week in the recess appointments case. (Even oral dissents are rare, issued perhaps four times a term.)

Justice Scalia was similarly dismissive of the majority opinion in the unanimous case on abortion clinic buffer zones, issued the same day, though he concurred in the result. “I prefer not to take part in the assembling of an apparent but specious unanimity,” he wrote.

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by the court’s four liberals, an exceedingly unusual alignment. It was the same alignment that saved the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

Justice Scalia was no happier about two other narrow Roberts opinions for the same coalition plus Justice Kennedy, one avoiding a major decision on the scope of congressional power in a treaty case, the other rejecting a request to do away with securities fraud class actions.

Both times, Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. would have gone much bigger, and they refused to adopt the majority’s reasoning in either case. But nonetheless the vote counts said the decisions were unanimous.

“The higher unanimity rate might reflect an increase in cases with low ideological stakes,” said Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. “This term, about 36 percent involved questions of rights and liberties, compared with 57 percent in the three previous terms.”

Justice Kennedy was most often in the majority, though not by much. He was rivaled by Chief Justice Roberts.

But Justice Kennedy was the only justice in the majority in all of the 5-to-4 decisions. The six that featured the classic ideological splits were telling.

Justice Kennedy joined the court’s conservative wing in major cases allowing more money in politics, more religion in official settings, religious liberty rights for corporations and limits on union power. He joined the court’s liberals in limiting the use of the death penalty and sustaining the use of a federal gun control law to curb so-called straw purchases.

Business groups had a good if relatively quiet year at the court. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed briefs in 17 cases decided by signed opinions and was on the winning side 13 times. “As in past terms, the court continued to curb the worst excesses of the plaintiffs’ bar and overreach by regulators,” said Lily Fu Claffee, general counsel to the group. “We consider that a great year.”

The administration suffered stinging losses in several major cases, including ones on campaign finance, recess appointments and the contraception coverage put in place under the Affordable Care Act. The court “rejected Obama’s position in nearly all the high-profile cases of the term,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

But the administration still won 56 percent of the cases in which it was a party, compared with 39 percent last term, Professor Winkler said. It did even better in cases in which it had filed supporting briefs, ending up on the winning side 70 percent of the time.

Some of this may reflect decisions to take fairly conservative positions, notably in the case on opening town board meetings with a prayer. But the administration did well in major environmental cases in which it was not obvious that it would prevail.

The current term may have been a chance for the court to catch its breath, said Ms. Blatt, the lawyer with Arnold & Porter. “They are either resting up and saving their fire for all of the abortion, guns and gay marriage cases in the lower courts,” she said, “or the cases this term were simply not as controversial as in the past two years.”

Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University, cautioned that it was too soon to declare a new era of harmony and light based on, say, the unanimous votes on recess appointments and abortion clinic buffer zones.

“No one should confuse these outcomes with a sudden outbreak of Kumbaya fever at the court,” he said. “The familiar lines of division were in evidence in all these cases. But, surprisingly, the court found a way to channel its core divisions into compromise holdings that allowed controversial cases to be settled rather than resolved.”

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Anna Batta, Associate

• Presenter, “The Russian Minority in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova,” the annual conference of the International Studies Association, ISA, Toronto, March 26-29, 2014.
• Presenter, “Russian Aggression against Ukraine: Why? Why does it Matter,” University of North Texas, Denton, March 6, 2014.

Mark A. Chancey, Associate

• Presenter, “Rewriting History for a ‘Christian America’: The Texas Social Studies Controversy,” Allen-Head Lecture, Austin College, Sherman, TX, Feb. 2014.
• Presenter, “Teaching about the Bible in the Shadow of Court Decisions: Bible Courses, Public Education, and the Changing Terrain of Church-State Relations in Texas,” Allen-Head Lecture, Austin College, Sherman, TX, Feb. 2014.

Elizabeth Colton, Fellow

• Presenter, “The Politics of Global Images: Global Politics, Diplomacy & the News Media,” UVA-International Shipboard Education’s Enrichment Voyages, 2014.
• Panelist, “Free Press & the Freedom of Information Act and Foreign Policy Implications,” McCuistion TV/KERA, Jan. 28, 2014.
• Speaker, “Foreign Policy Decision-Making & the News Media,” Defense Intelligence Analysts Association (DIAA), McLean, VA, Feb. 18, 2014.
• Panelist, “On the Record: A Freedom of Information Update,” Press Club of Dallas, Feb. 20, 2014.

Carrie Liu Currier, Associate

• “China: la busqueda de la seguridad energetica en el mundo en desarrollo”(China’s Search for Energy Security in the Developing World – in Spanish), article with Manochehr Dorraj in Alejandro Chanona & Miguel Angel Porrua Editors, Confrontando Modelos de Sequridad Energetica (Mexico City: National University of Mexico), 2013, pp. 143-162.
• Presenter, “China’s Global Dreams,” Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, March 24, 2014.
• Presenter, “Armed for Peace: China’s Strategic Interests in the Middle East and Maghreb,” the Western Political Science Association, Seattle, WA, April 17, 2014.
• Presenter, “The Rise of China and the World,” National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, April 29, 2014.

Shubha Ghosh, Fellow

• Lecturer, “Implications of United States Supreme Court Decisions on Global Patent Law,” National Law School of Delhi, March 25, 2014.
• Appointment, Selected as the first AAAS Fellow in Law & Science, Federal Judicial Center, Washington, DC.

Christopher Jenks, Associate

• Thematic Note, Monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding: Does the Human Rights Council report on human rights in North Korea provide a template for the Sri Lankan investigation?, Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection, April 28, 2014.
• Contributor, “Law of Warcraft”: New Approaches to Generating Respect for the Law and Peace Forces at War: Implications Under International Humanitarian Law, American Society of International Law Cables online reporting of the ASIL annual meeting, April, 2014.
• Guest Post, Eyes Wide Shut: Scahill and Greenwald’s Flawed Critique of U.S. SIGINT Based Targeting, Just Security, February 18, 2014.
• Thematic Note, The Janus Moon Rising-Why 2014 Heralds United States’ Detention Policy on a Collision Course…With Itself, Professional in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection’s Current Challenges in International Humanitarian Law, February 10, 2014.
• Interview, “SMU law professor discusses likelihood of Knox extradition,” WFAA, Jan. 31, 2014.
• “Drone Strikes: Security, Human Rights, and Morality,” The Corazon Group Speaker Series, Park Cities Club, Dallas, April 2014.
• Presenter, “Battlefield Status and Protected Persons,” and “International Criminal Law,” International Humanitarian Law Workshop, Berkeley Law; Berkeley, CA, January 2014.
• Panelist, “Transparency and Targeting,” US Pacific Command Military Operations and Law Conference, Manila, Philippines, April 2014.

Jeffrey D. Kahn, Fellow

• Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, (University of Michigan Press, paperback edition 2014).
• “The Law is a Causeway: Metaphor and the Rule of Law in Russia,” The Legal Doctrines of the Rule of Law and the Legal State (Rechsstaat) (Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, Vol. 38) (J. Silkenat et al., eds., Springer, 2014).
• “How Federal Is The Russian Federation?” (with A. Trochev & N. Balayan), Federalism and Legal Unification: A Comparative Empirical Investigation of Twenty Systems (Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, Vol. 28) (D. Halberstam & M. Reimann, eds., Springer, 2014).
• “Freedom of Expression in Post-Soviet Russia,” 18 UCLA J. Int’l L. & For. Aff. 1-30 (2013).
• Panalist, Fugh Symposium on Law and Military Operations, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Department of the Army, Charlottesville, VA, May 14, 2014.
• Presenter, “The Law is a Causeway: Metaphor and the Rule of Law in Russia,” 3rd Annual Conference of the Younger Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law, Lewis & Clark School of Law, Portland, OR, April 5, 2014.
• Presenter, “Separation of Powers and the Future of National Security Law,” Symposium of the Pepperdine Law Review on the Future of National Security Law, Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, CA, April 4, 2014.
• Presenter, “The Law is a Causeway: Metaphor and the Rule of Law in Russia,” 17th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture & the Humanities, University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, VA, March 10, 2014.
• Appointment, Promotion to Professor of Law by action of the Board of Trustees, May 9, 2014 (effective September 1, 2014).

Sheri Kunovich, Fellow

• Speaker, “Gender Gaps in Voting and Political Knowledge, Poland 1989 to 2007,” Polish Academy of Sciences Warsaw Poland, March 2014.

Tony Pederson, Associate

• Award, SMU M Award, April 2014.

Carolyn Smith-Morris, Associate

• Smith-Morris, Carolyn, Gilberto Lopez, Lisa Ottomanelli, Lance Goetz, and Kim Dixon-Lawson. “Ethnography and Fidelity to Evidence-Based Medicine: Supplementing the Fidelity Process in a Clinical Trial of Supported Employment with Ethnographic Data”. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 21 April 2014.
• Smith-Morris, Carolyn and Jenny Epstein. “Beyond Cultural Competency: Skill, Reflexivity, and Structure in Successful Tribal Health Care”. In Special Issue Cultural Capital and Health in Native American Communities, Jennie Joe and Robert Young (Eds). American Indian Culture & Research Journal 38(1): 29-48.

Michael Strausz, Associate

• Grant, Program for Promotion of International Research, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan, with Dr. Michiya Mori from Ritsumeikan.

Hiroki Takeuchi, Fellow

• “Sino-Japanese Relations: Power, Interdependence, and Domestic Politics,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific 14(1) (2014): 7-32.
• “From the World Trade Organization to the Trans-Pacific Partnership: China’s Rise, Globalization, and American Domestic Politics,” the International Studies Association, Toronto, Canada, March 2014.
• “Sino-Japanese Relations: Power, Interdependence, and Domestic Politics,” the International Studies Association, Toronto, Canada, March 2014.
• “Dancing in Another Ball Room? What Are the Roles of China’s Democratic Institutions?” (co-authored with Tomoki Kamo), the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, January 2014.
• “Japan-U.S.-China Relations Seen from the U.S.,” Jan. 1, 2014.
• “U.S. Misunderstandings on the Senkaku Issue (1): The Possession of Senkaku and the Treaty of Shimonoseki,” Jan. 6, 2014.
• “U.S. Misunderstandings on the Senkaku Issue (2): The Senkaku Nationalization and the U.S. Response,” Jan. 10, 2014.
• “Dictator’s Dilemma (1): Dictatorship and People’s Voice,” Jan. 19, 2014.
• “Dictator’s Dilemma (2): The Contrast of Tunisia and Egypt,” Jan. 24, 2014.
• “Dictator’s Dilemma (3): China and Nationalism,” Jan. 28, 2014.
• “Mexico’s Energy Revolution,” Feb. 6, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (1): The Importance of ‘13%’ and ’42 million people,'” Feb. 12, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (2): The Implications of Increasing ‘Hispanics,'” Feb. 28, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (3): Is It Good for the Japanese to Support the Republican Party?” March 13, 2014.
• “American Politics Seen from the Immigration Issue (4): The Implications of ‘Unauthorized Immigrants,'” March 26, 2014.
• “The Korean Peninsula Seen from the U.S. (1): How to Evaluate the ‘Kim Jong-un Regime,'” April 13, 2014.
• “The Korean Peninsula Seen from the U.S. (2): The Perspective for Unification,” April 20, 2014.
• “The Korean Peninsula Seen from the U.S. (3): Why the Japan-South Korea Relationship Has Deteriorated,” May 3, 2014.

Jenia Iontcheva Turner, Associate

• Article 65: Proceedings on an Admission of Guilt, in Klamberg Commentary on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2014).
• Rule 139: Decision on Admission of Guilt, in Klamberg Commentary on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Court (2014).
• The Constitutionality of Negotiated Criminal Judgments in Germany, 15 German L.J. 81 (2014) (with Thomas Weigend) (peer review)
Effective Remedies for Ineffective Assistance, 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 949 (2013).
• Participant, International Criminal Law Workshop, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, May 2, 2014 (via videoconference).
• Moderator, Testing the Boundaries of the Adversarial Contest, SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium, Jan. 24, 2014.
• Limits on the Search for Truth in Criminal Procedure: A Comparative View, SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium, Jan. 23, 2014.
• Candidate, Fulbright SpecialistRoster, 2013-present

Sandy Thatcher, Associate

• Writings (78 articles) on publishing and copy right issues accessible at this institutional repository:[desc_metadata__creator_sim][]=Sanford+G.+Thatcher

Bud Weinstein, Associate

• “Tax Reform May Be The Best Energy Plan Of All,” Investor’s Business Daily, April 14, 2014.
• “Repeal Jones Act before exporting oil,” Houston Chronicle, April 11, 2014.
• Book Chapter, “The moving media industry as a catalyst for technological change and economic development: Texas as a case study,” Agglomeration, Clusters and Entrepreneurship, eds. Karlsson, Johansson, and Stough (Edward Elgar, 2014).
• Congressional Testimony, U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Feb. 5, 2014.

Matthew Wilson, Fellow

• Presenter, “Catholicism and Contemporary American Politics” a conference on Catholicism and Mormonism in America, University of Notre Dame.



[May.] Time to React: The Efficiency of
International Organizations in Crisis Response
by Professor Heidi Hardt

ghosh[Apr.] The Idea of International Intellectual Property
by Tower Center Fellow, Shubha Ghosh

Jenks-Large[Mar.] Secret Intelligence and the Law of Lethal Attacks
by Tower Center Associate, Christopher Jenks

tchumkam2[Feb.] Rioters for Justice: Remnants of Colonization and Civil Unrest in the French Banlieues
by Tower Center Associate, Hervé Tchumkam

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Student Blog – Catherine Kirby | My Experience at the Tower Center

My Experience at the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies


Being introduced to the John Goodwin Tower Center was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was introduced to the Tower Center by my teacher and mentor, Mrs. Jieun Pyun, when we met at a Korean speech contest. Over the past six months, I have attended two fantastic events, and my experiences at them have changed my life.

The first event I attended was the Sun & Star Symposium: Asia’s Contested Waters: The East China and South China Sea. I listened to the wonderful presentations of six professors. The first three spoke about the history of conflict over resources in the East and South China Seas, and the next three talked about the politics of territorial disputes. Through this event, the Tower Center helped me further develop my interest in the history and relations among Asian countries; I was able to learn relevant information about the area I am interested in. Additionally, while attending the events, I met many people with whom I share similar interests which was a great opportunity for me.

Without the Tower Center and its wonderful events, I would never have been able to meet Dr. Muscolino. As a result of my experience at the Tower Center, I read the publications of the various professors I had heard speak including those of Dr. Micah Muscolino who is a professor of Global Environmental Studies, Chinese Environmental History, Modern China and the Pacific World at Georgetown. Because I was going to be in Washington D.C. over Thanksgiving break, I was able to arrange a meeting with him. I had a lot of questions about what I had read, and I used the opportunity in Washington D.C. to see if Dr. Muscolino were available to speak with me. Dr. Muscolino graciously obliged, and I talked with him for about an hour about subjects from China’s environmental history to his own personal story. This was an amazing experience and thrilling opportunity for me. I couldn’t believe that a college professor would be willing to meet a young inexperienced high school student and discuss his work. Also, it made me less anxious about attending college in two years. To know that professors were kind and approachable greatly comforted me. I learned so much about the history of international relations, environmental history, and possible career choices, and it motivated me to further dedicate myself to studying foreign language and affairs. Dr. Muscolino also provided me with a book that I greatly treasure, Lost Names, a story set during the Japanese occupation of Korea; I would recommend this book to anyone.

The second event I attended was U.S., South and North Korea: What the Future Holds. This event was of particular interest to me because I have been studying Korean language, culture, and history for three years. Thanks to this event, I had the opportunity to meet people who actually work and teach in the field in which I am interested. The two speakers were Dr. Han Park and Dr. Victor Cha, experts on North Korea. The questions asked to both professors were very relevant, and they allowed for interesting discussions. It was so fascinating to learn about the five different possible methods of reunification outlined by Dr. Park, and the practicality and desirability of reunification by Dr. Cha. After the event was over, I greeted and talked with many of the other attendees, and I was thrilled that I met people who remembered me from the previous event. I was even able to talk to Dr. Cha, and I got him to sign my book. I was also fortunate enough to converse with the consulate general and the administrative head of the Dallas Korean Consulate as well.

The environment created by the Tower Center was very welcoming, and it has allowed me to grow as a person. I plan to pursue international relations in the future, and the Tower Center has successfully introduced me to the academics of this study area. I hope that someday the knowledge I have gained from my experience at the Tower Center can be used to promote and create the best foreign policy for the United States.

- Catherine Kirby, Senior at the Hockaday School in Dallas

catherineCatherine will be a senior at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas next year. She will graduate in May 2015. Catherine has attended Tower Center events since last September, and she looks forward to continuing her relationship with the Tower Center. Catherine wants to pursue international relations and international business in college, and she hopes to become involved in foreign affairs.

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Student Blog – Karly Hanson | Time to React: The Efficiency of International Organizations in Crisis Response

Dr. Heidi Hardt presented her research and the topic of her book, Time to React: The Efficiency of International Organizations in Crisis Response, May 14 during the final Tower Center Monthly Seminar of the semester. Dr. Hardt’s research focused on the timeliness of post-Cold War peace operations from four international organizations: the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), Organization of American States (OAS), and the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Looking at response times, from when a demand was presented to when there were troops on the ground, Hardt found that on average the EU takes a longer time to reach a decision than the other organizations, which contradicts due to its financial capacity, tight membership, homogenous culture, and economic integration, opposes her initial intuition. After considering many factors, such as the ones listed above, Hardt determined that response time can be explained by the organizational culture. The organizations that meet informally, and therefore build interpersonal relationships, are able to respond to crises more efficiently. The European Union frequently holds formal meetings, but because they are so time consuming, the ambassadors do not socialize outside of these meetings. Other organizations, such as the AU, holds formal meetings less frequently, so the majority of the interactions are informal and therefor foster the development of the essential interpersonal relationships Hardt discussed during the seminar.

Hardt’s argument contradicts the popular theory that state’s interests and other political conflicts are responsible for the slower response times to military and civilian crises such as what appeared to be the case in the Syrian incident, and what happened in Rwanda 20 years ago. When Tower Chair Josh Rovner asked Hardt to address this, she said that over the years while leadership in the various regions has changed, the organizational culture of the four organizations she studied did not. The social networks have sustained themselves and allow the organizations to move around the confounding politics.

The formal culture within organizations such as the European Union is not effective. In those situations, people are not able to communicate as easily and freely as they are with their friends. Even in situations of global crises, trusting relationships are important for cooperation and efficiency within any organization. Personal relationships, as Hardt argues, should always be a priority. Delays cost lives, and these international organizations need to be aware of measures that could reduce those delays, like setting aside time for employees to meet casually.

- Karly Hanson, SMU student and Tower Center Intern

Click here to listen to the presentation.
Click here to download the presentation slides.

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Student Blog – T.I. Atkins | The Political Economy of International Money

OwensThe forum that I found most interesting in the monetary policy conference was the opening dinner led by Jeffrey Frieden, who spoke on macroeconomic international cooperation between states. During the forum I was pleased to note just how much I understood about what he was describing from what I’ve been learning in my classes. In his opening remarks on the status quo of international political economic politics, for example, he alluded to the two prevailing theories of the modern age, one of which is too cynical, the other too utopian. It was exciting to catch the reference to the international relations theory which I’m learning about in one class, and how that pertains to real-world dynamics in IPE of which I’m learning in another. To hear him explain how multilateral liberalization and exchange rates lead to lower consumer prices domestically, was sometime I (who until this semester has zero knowledge of economics) had just learned a couple weeks prior  in the case of China artificially undervaluing their currency for the benefit of both Chinese industries and American consumers. The brief discussion he gave on Great Britain as being the only historical example of unilateral liberalization was something I was vaguely aware of from Britain’s hegemonic precedent but hadn’t fully considered until then. The phenomenon of large consumer benefit and great industrial cost (which ultimately affects policy-making more drastically) poses an interesting question for me as to why multilateral liberalization in two different markets can offset the relative harms. Surely Chinese consumers must be hard-pressed with the rise of American partnership in business just as American businesses struggle to compete with foreign prices of labor and manufacturing. What makes multilateral liberalization and cooperation fundamentally different or less harmful than a purely domestic market policy, where in Frieden’s terms there “are more winners than losers?”

In addition to the references I have been currently learning about, there were a lot of points that I haven’t yet covered at all in my classes and was therefore grateful to consider for the first time. The 2008 economic crisis is something I’ve heard about ad nauseam, but the ramifications of the crisis amongst international players was something I hadn’t considered. Frieden explained how the crisis set a precedent that led to greater cooperation between principal central banks, and how emerging markets from developing countries were soon flooded with capital that led to borrowing in their own currencies. This, in turn, led to a skyrocketing of currency values that invited relatively cheap foreign borrowing, inevitably leading to speculative fear and total collapse. To see how the boom-and-bust effect of larger richer countries facilitated the untimely demise of developing countries was extremely interesting and novel to me.  Another such extrapolation that I found interesting was a comment almost made in passing in which he mentioned the circulation of a new “unholy trinity” in IPE, consisting of state sovereignty, democracy, and global economic governance. Not even weeks prior, I had just been tested on the definition and application of the conventional “unholy trinity” of exchange rates; noting the evolution of such concepts and the most-current ideas of renown economists such as Frieden was a cool way to go beyond the classroom for the newest developments in economic theory.

The most provocative section of Frieden’s discussion however, was his speculation towards the end on how this should impact policy –in effect his argument. From what I understood, he made the claim that since leading banks don’t factor domestic economic impact into their behavior they should not be expected to contribute in any significant way to domestic policy. The nature of a bank, as with any corporation, is to maximize the profits of today in order to stay afloat in the economy. The lack of foresight therefore is not irresponsible so much as it reflects the prioritization of survival. Thus the burden of national, long term best interest, he argued, should fall on politicians who are more equipped to consider bigger-picture impacts of economic policies. The idea of international macroeconomic cooperation comes into play when politicians could be influenced by the approval of their congregation from said collaboration. I believe the term he used was “public attractiveness;” though, I’d be curious to know how much of politician’s constant striving for re-election that Frieden considered in making this theory. His argument that banks are not fit to make long-term decisions because of the competitive nature of their environment and their constant plight for self-preservation seems to hold especially too in the political arena as well. In terms of the broader analysis of international relations I must admit that I am encouraged to see him taking a stance in favor of being “too utopian” than “too cynical.” From what little I’ve learned about international relations liberalism seems to be the laughing stock of the majority of experts, and, perhaps in the naivety of youth, I would like to maybe enter the arena one day with the hope of making international interdependence more feasible than the pipe-dream that it is largely perceived as at present. Without a doubt there were a lot of points to Frieden’s argument that I didn’t understand fully or that just passed me by, but in the bigger picture I have to agree with the merits of his proposal more so than the downsides, and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to hear his thoughts at the forum.


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Student Blog – Anna Norkett | The Political Economy of International Money


On April 4th, 2014, I was able to attend The Political Economy of International Money Conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas thanks to the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU. I had never been to a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas before, so once I wandered my way in and made it through the top-notch security, I was impressed by the beautiful building. After checking in, I was led to the auditorium where the conference was being held. While no one was there at first, people started to trickle in from lunch. After a few minutes, everyone settled into their seats, and the program began. I looked around, and only about 40-50 people were in attendance. I was thankful for this opportunity because how many times as a college student can you walk in to the Fed to attend such an intimate discussion with important economists?

The panel consisted of a variety of perspectives: two professors, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Affairs, and a deputy assistant secretary for the US Department of the Treasury. While each had his own particular topic, they all focused on currency wars and international monetary arrangements. Coincidentally, these are the same topics we had been learning about in my International Political Economy course at SMU, so it was a beneficial experience to be able to use what we studied in class to follow along in their discussions. In some courses in school, students often ask, “When will we ever use this in the real world?” Well, this conference was a perfect example of how coursework applies. These economists live and breathe this information, so much so that they could stand up at the podium and speak for hours without any notes at all.

Many of the panelists took information I was familiar with and presented it in a new, interesting way.  For example, Benjamin Cohen, Professor of International Political Economy at University of California, Santa Barbara, spoke about the lessons from the Great Depression on the management of currency values. The Great Depression displayed the disadvantages of freely fluctuating exchange rates that invited competitive depreciation (in effect, a currency war) before 1944. In the past, I had learned about the crash of the stock market, but never had I heard a cause of the Great Depression being a currency war.  However, this explains why the compromise at Bretton Woods was to create a par value system of currency that provided stability but also allowed for minimal adjustments. Even this, though, ultimately proved unworkable due to a fundamental disequilibrium in balance of payments. Thus, in 1976, the IMF added an amendment to its Articles of Agreement that allowed a free choice of exchange rate policies that was subject to surveillance only to avoid currency manipulation.  While the IMF tried hard to enforce this surveillance, “dirty floats” have become widespread, and countries such as China have started to practice, to borrow a term from another panelist Brad Sester (Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Economic Analysis for the US Department of the Treasury), “competitive nonappreciation.” To move forward, Cohen looked back at the Tripartite Agreement of 1936, where the United States, Britain, and France all agreed to stabilize their currencies amongst each other. While such an agreement is unlikely to be replicated today, it brings about the idea that the world does not necessarily need one big hegemon; instead, there could be a group of leaders in the international economy. Thus, Cohen suggests the G7 plus China should sit down to compromise on monetary stabilization.

Not only did this conference enforce how important and applicable the information   we learn everyday in class is, but it also gave me a small glimpse into what it would be like as a professional political economist. Political economists create theories based on what they observe happening in the political economy around them by analyzing data and looking for trends. They take lessons from history to amend current policies, always suggesting ways to improve the economy today. They discuss their ideas with other economists and sharpen each other’s points, working together to compromise on the best solution. They take into account different cultures and values to assess how to best come to an agreement between countries.  Say I was not interested in becoming an economist, though. This conference illuminated just how much the economy affects our daily lives. For example, even if someone does not understand what currency misalignment is, they surely know when prices rise because now they have less purchasing power.

Therefore, as both someone who is interested in pursuing economics as a career and a consumer in the economy, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear from expert economists speak about such important current issues.

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SMU junior Rahfin Faruk awarded 2014 Truman Scholarship

This news story first appeared on April 16, 2014. For more information click here.

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU junior Rahfin Faruk has been named a 2014 Truman Scholar. The prestigious and highly competitive national scholarship recognizes college students who are “change agents,” with outstanding leadership potential and a commitment to public service careers.

SMU junior Rahfin Faruk, 2014 Truman Scholar
SMU junior Rahfin Faruk

Faruk was one of 59 students, mostly college juniors, from 52 U.S. colleges and universities selected to receive the award, which provides up to $30,000 for graduate study. He is the 14th Truman Scholar at SMU since the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975. He was one of 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities for one of academia’s most sought-after awards.

Faruk, of Richardson, Texas, is an SMU President’s Scholar majoring in economics, political science, public policy and religious studies, with a minor in mathematics, in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He plans to pursue an MBA and a master’s in public policy to work in the social enterprise sector.

“As someone who wants to break down sectoral boundaries, I was attracted to the societal impact I could have as a Truman Scholar,” Faruk says. “Truman Scholars are everywhere – in a wide array of sectors and functions – and they are working to serve humanity in better ways.”

“It’s fitting that the Truman Scholarship Foundation honored Rahfin Faruk as a change agent,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “Rahfin not only has excelled academically, but he also has applied his knowledge and research skills to important issues facing the North Texas and global community. With his record of servant leadership on campus and in the community, Rahfin is an SMU world changer with big ideas who no doubt will make a significant contribution as a Truman Scholar.”

Two SMU juniors also were selected as finalists for the Truman Scholarship: Prithvi Rudrappa, a Dedman College Scholar majoring in biochemistry in Dedman College and finance in Cox School of Business, with a minor in Spanish; and Fantine Giap, a President’s Scholar majoring in biological sciences and minoring in mathematics and psychology in Dedman College.

In his graduate studies, Faruk intends to focus on improving financial inclusion, the financial system that gives the poor and marginalized access to credit, savings and insurance services. At SMU, Faruk founded a microfinance initiative called Green Riba, which provides zero-interest loans to low-income entrepreneurs in West Dallas. He twice was awarded grants for his organization through Big iDeas at SMU, an undergraduate research program.

“Services many take for granted — a savings account, free check cashing and ATM access — cost the poor disproportionately more money,” Faruk says. “Through my work with my microfinance organization, I came to realize that financial inclusion should have a bigger seat at the political table because it is interconnected to so many other aspects of life, such as health care, education and upward mobility.”

Faruk worked in the microfinance industry during summer 2012 as an intern at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh; in 2013, he interned with the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. For both internships, he was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies awarded Faruk the Jack C. and Annette K. Vaughn Foreign Service and International Affairs Internship for his work at the State Department. The Tower Center also named him the Edwin L. Cox Research Fellow and awarded him a Hatton W. Sumners Foundation Scholarship.

As a Hamilton Undergraduate Research Scholar in Dedman College, Faruk conducted and presented research at the Southwest Conference on Asian Studies and the Western Political Science Association Conference.

Faruk is the former editor-in-chief of The Daily Campus and has written op-eds for The Dallas Morning News and The Huffington Post. He is a member of the University Honors Program and serves as a student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees on the Academic Policy, Planning and Management Committee. He was named a Carole and Jim Young Fellow by TEDxSMU.

In May the 2014 Truman Scholars will attend a leadership development program at William Jewell College and will receive their awards at the Harry S. Truman Library in Missouri.

Learn about SMU’s Office of National Fellowships and Awards:

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Student Blog – Julien Teel | Viral Warfare: The Security Implications of Cyber and Biological Weapons

On Thursday, the Tower Center had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Gregory Koblentz, a leading expert and scholar on bioterrorism. Dr. Koblentz used this opportunity to speak about the growing security implications of cyber and biological weapons. In the wake of sophisticated and massive cyber-attacks, experts and military officials have attempted to compare cyber weapons to other conventional means to fight wars, such as air power, nuclear deterrence, and other modern doctrines. However, Dr. Koblentz made a unique and warranted observation: cyber and biological weapons share many strategic characteristics, thus we have the opportunity to address them in a similar manner.

Dr. Koblentz referred to four specific characteristics which define cyber and biological weapons. First, there is an evident multi-use nature of the associated technology. Second, the aggressor has the advantage over the defender during an attack. Third, there is a challenge of attribution following an attack. And fourth, governments and militaries use covert programs to create such weapons. The implications of such characteristics ensure that cyber and biological weapons are inextricably easy and cheap to produce, effective in safeguarding anonymity, and are alluring for weaker states to develop.

His solution proposed during the presentation, however, presented the opportunity that cyber capabilities may be used to advance information technology rather than risk physical confrontations. Dr. Koblentz stated that any solution to address cyber-attacks cannot be technical in nature. Rather, just as the international community addressed biological weapons, we must once again take an ethical and moral stance against the use of cyber weapons. If the global community was able to produce the Biological Weapons Convention to combat the use of biological weapons, then there is an opportunity to produce a comparable agreement in regards to cyber weapons.

Considering the similar characteristics between cyber and biological weapons, it is entirely possible that an international agreement or convention develop in the future. It was stated that the world, beginning with the United States, must create the norm that it is morally and ethically wrong to use cyber weapon capabilities to attack civilians, energy and transportation infrastructure, and financial systems. Without such a change in behavior norms, there can only be escalation and the possibility for physical confrontation.

– Julien Teel, 2013 Tower Center Vaughn Intern

Teel, JulienJulien Teel recently graduated from SMU in December 2013 with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. His research encompasses security and defense issues in East Asia, as well as analyzing the trilateral relationship between the U.S., Japan, and China. Currently, Julien is in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School in the Navy with the intention of entering as an Intelligence Officer. He eventually hopes to become a Foreign Area Officer in the Navy, formulating and promoting American foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Honoring the legacy of Ambassador Robert Strauss

Tower Center regrets to inform you of the passing of the Honorable Robert S. Strauss, our dear friend and supporter of the SMU Tower Center for Political Studies.

Honoring a Legacy: Ambassador Robert S. Strauss, 1918-2014

By the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, March 20, 2014

It is with heavy hearts that we convey the news that Ambassador Robert S. Strauss has passed away.

Bob Strauss was an innovator and leader in his field, but more importantly, he was a remarkable man. He touched the lives of many and led a life guided by wisdom, insight, kindness, and integrity. In both his personal and professional life, he exemplified the model of giving back to one’s community and garnered a deep level of respect from everyone who  had the pleasure of meeting him. After serving as a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, his students could attest to his commitment to public service and influencing positive change in the world. Outside of the classroom, he made extraordinary contributions as both a public servant and a private businessman. His passion for solving challenging global issues has served as an inspiration that we at the Strauss Center will continue to cherish and attempt to live up to for years to come.

Without him, the hopes for founding a Center that made innovations in global policy scholarship and cultivated international leaders would not have been realized.
Over the course of his remarkable career, Ambassador Strauss became one of America’s most trusted and influential figures. While it is impossible to do justice to his accomplishments and personal character in such a short space, we hope to highlight some of the extraordinary moments in his career. Among some of his outstanding accomplishments are serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, serving as President Jimmy Carter’s personal representative to the Middle East peace negotiations, and helping to guide America’s policy on Russia during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. He served as the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and played an integral role in transforming a long-standing rivalry into a relationship characterized by a greater level of cooperation. Speaking to his exceptional character and dedication to his work, Ambassador Strauss was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas as well as the former Lloyd Bentsen Chair at the LBJ School.

Ambassador Strauss leaves a particularly strong imprint on his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Among other things, he was the inspiration for and generous supporter of the research center there that bears his name: The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

The University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. noted: “Ambassador Strauss was one of the most influential figures on the world stage of the past half-century. His stature and successes were rooted in Texas, and he has been vital in UT Austin’s growth as a global research university. As a Distinguished Alumnus, thought leader, and philanthropist, he supported and elevated programs across the university. And our Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law has brought together the best minds in academia, government, and the private sector to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The UT family will miss Bob greatly, but his legacy will serve our students, our nation, and our world for generations to come.”

Jim Langdon, a fellow University of Texas alum who was Ambassador Strauss’ partner at their law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and who played an integral role in founding the Strauss Center, said: “Bob Strauss was an American original and he was my friend, my partner, and my mentor for the last 40 years. He was a statesman and a political figure who spanned the decades. He had friends across the political spectrum at home and abroad, and he believed in the art of compromise. While he lived most of his professional life in Washington D.C., his heart and soul were firmly rooted in Texas and his beloved University of Texas. Whether the task at hand was the Middle East or the work of an Ambassador or dealing with the Congress or advising a President, one could always see those Texas roots at work. He took great pride in the establishment of the Robert S. Strauss Center at the University of Texas, but more than pride, like everything else he did in life, he has bestowed on this Center a high level of expectations. This state and this nation will miss Bob Strauss.”

Bobby Chesney, the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and professor of law at the University of Texas, noted “A giant in American life has passed from the scene, and we are all the poorer for it. Ambassador Strauss embodied profoundly important—and profoundly American—virtues. He had a burning desire to serve the greater good, and in doing so to elevate pragmatic solutions over the temptations of partisan advantage. And he did it all with humor and grace, leaving us with an extraordinary and timely example we would do well to emulate. Our thoughts and prayers—and deepest appreciation—go out to him, and to his family.”

Frank Gavin, formerly the Director of the Robert Strauss Center and currently the Frank Stanton Chair in Nuclear Security Policy studies and Professor of Political Science at MIT, added: “Ambassador Strauss leaves an extraordinary legacy, to the University of Texas, his home state, the nation, and the world. He stood for something that is all too rare in our modern world: rising above ideology and partisanship, working with people from all sides of a debate to find the best solutions to our nation and our world’s most pressing challenges. He was wise, generous, and funny, and no one told a better story. He was an American original who will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by the many people whose lives he touched.”

Ambassador Robert Hutchings, Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, also noted: “From his position as the Democratic National Committee Chairman to his role as the first U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation after the breakup of the USSR, our dear friend Robert Strauss has left his indelible mark on how we approach domestic and international policy as a country. Through his vision, bipartisanship and philanthropy, Strauss exemplified the highest ideals of public service and his legacy will live on in the Strauss Center and the many students and researchers who will continue to benefit from his generosity for years to come.”

The Strauss Center is dedicated to fulfilling the legacy of Robert Strauss by fostering the intellectual innovation and leadership necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Throughout his career, Ambassador Strauss had the unique ability of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and encouraging open dialogue between all levels of academia, government, and the private sector. He valued giving voice to the next generation of leaders. The Strauss Center continues to honor this legacy by nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers and policymakers and contributing cutting-edge yet practical perspectives to the policy debate.

Bob Strauss will be deeply missed by everyone at the Strauss Center, LBJ School, and the University of Texas. But he will live on in the lives of his beloved family, in the countless people whose lives he touched, in the nation that he served so honorably and effectively, and in the Strauss Center as we strive to embody his values of civility, innovation, and leadership.

More on the incredible legacy of Ambassador Robert S. Strauss can be found below:
Robert S. Strauss, Texas lawyer and versatile political insider, dies at 95 by the Washington Post
Robert S. Strauss, Presidential Confidant and Deal Maker, Dies at 95 by the New York Times
Robert Strauss dies at 95; former Democratic Party chair by Los Angeles Times
Former DNC Chairman Robert Strauss dies at 95 by The Hill
Robert Strauss, 1918-2014 in Politico
Robert S. Strauss, Top Washington Trouble-Shooter, Dies at 95 by Bloomberg News
Ex-Democratic Chairman Robert Strauss dies at 95 by the Associated Press
George H.W. Bush says Strauss a valued advisor by the Houston Chronicle
Dallas’ Bob Strauss, former Democratic Party chairman, dies at 95 by the Dallas Morning News
The Life and Career of Robert Strauss by C-SPAN
Oral history interviews, including videos from the Academy of Achievement
The Inspiration for the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law
The Whole Damn Deal: Robert Strauss and the Art of Politics by Kathryn J. McGarr
Robert Strauss Oral History – Hell, Mr. President, I didn’t even vote for you” by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
Robert S. Strauss Oral History by LBJ Presidential Library


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Joshua Rovner | What to Say to Russia

This op-ed first appeared in the March 14, 2014, edition of The National Interest. For more information click here.

By Joshua Rovner, Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security, Tower Center

The United States has a powerful interest in stopping the Ukraine crisis from escalating. The Obama administration rightly wants to shift its focus away from Europe and the Middle East and towards China. Restoring Ukraine as a buffer between Russia and Western Europe will help alleviate insecurity on both sides, making it easier to pivot to Asia. On the other hand, conflict in Ukraine will deepen the rift between Russia and the West and make it difficult to cooperate on issues from arms control and counterterrorism to Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

If the administration hopes to make any headway in order to stave off conflict, it needs to convince Vladimir Putin that making a deal is better than making trouble. Specifically, U.S. officials need to deliver a set of reminders, warnings, threats and assurances.

American diplomats should remind Russia that it was much better off before it sent armed forces to Ukraine. If Putin had stayed put, Russia could have maintained a reliable voting bloc in Crimea, which would have been useful given the very close results in recent elections. In addition, Russia could have waited for the inevitable Ukrainian backlash against the West for having to implement IMF austerity measures. It could have avoided a dreadful stock-market and currencyplunge. And Russia could have focused media attention on theshadier characters in the new Ukraine government, rather than diverting media attention by sending its own masked men into the Crimea.

The simple message to Putin is that Russia’s strategic position was quite favorable before it blundered into Ukraine, and he can restore that position if he is willing to back down in the current crisis.

Diplomats should also deliver a simple warning: Things will get worse no matter what Washington does. A formal annexation of Crimea will drive Ukraine closer to NATO and lead European states to balance against Russia. It will validate the far-right parties in Kiev who are most opposed to Russian interests. And it will further discourage investors, especially if they believe that Putin has designs on territories in the east of the country. Russia has put its security as well as its economy at risk, and it stands to lose a great deal more in a prolonged conflict.

To reinforce that point, diplomats may threaten specific sanctions against specific Russians. The utility of economic sanctions partly depends on the nature of the target regime. Sanctions are particularly effective if a foreign leader needs the support of key economic elites; if sanctions target those elites, the leader is more likely to back down. Thus if the Treasury Department can identify a set of elites on whom Putin relies, then the United States may be able to craft sanctions that cause him to reconsider. While sanctions are not a silver bullet, they may be useful in combination with other tools of coercion, and there is some evidence that Putin issensitive to investors.

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