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The Brazilian government is changing the process for approving Indigenous lands, with critics warning the country now risks sliding back after years of progress on climate and environment.
The move to strip the country’s National Indigenous Foundation (Funai) of its power on Indigenous land matters comes after the country saw a 30% rise in deforestation of tropical rainforests.
Brazil’s justice minister, Alexandre de Morates announced last week that decisions over demarcating Indigenous land will now be made by the ministry of justice.
Environmentalists and political figures say the changes will weaken land rights of Indigenous communities and make it easier for agricultural firms to move into the Amazon where much of the land is located.
The government of Interim-President Michel Temer is perceived to be rowing back on environmental protections in favour of agricultural development.
Since coming to power after the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff, Temer’s government has moved to cut funding and support for Funai and the country’s main environmental protection body.
In an open letter written last month, employees from Ibama, the government organisation responsible for protecting the Amazon, complained about a lack of support for their work.
“We are not controlling deforestation rates in the Amazon.
“We estimate that the increase in the last two years reflects Brazil’s refusal to prioritise an environmental agenda.
“This is exemplified by successive investment cuts, the weakening of laws, as well as appointments of state managers who have had no experience working in the environment,” the letter read.
Speaking to Energydesk, Attorney General of the Amazon State of Para argued the change in policy is largely down to the farming lobby.
“In the west of Para farmers have deforested loads without permission, but the government didn’t react and eventually they just changed the law. They’re basically sending the message that if you break the law enough, it’s okay, we’ll change it.”
He added: “Even though Ibama is a really rigorous organisation, there’s a lot of political pressure from the agricultural lobby which is tying their hands.”
The head of environmental protection at Ibama told Energydesk that the organisation had recently applied to the Amazon Fund – an NGO working to limit Amazon deforestation – for $148 million.
The institute also sent the environment minister a request for a public tender to increase staff capacity.
The shift in policy on demarcating land comes after there was a significant increase in deforestation of the Amazon last year.
Almost 8,000 square kilometres of forest land disappeared between 2015 and 2016, according to an analysis by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Though the rate of deforestation is significantly lower than in the recent past, an average of 19,500 km squared was lost per year between 1995 and 2005, the figures have alarmed experts.
After huge forest loss in the 1990s and early 2000s, President Lula’s government rolled out a series of policies, demarcating protected areas, recognising land claims of Indigenous people and vigorously enforcing laws against illegal deforestation using satellite data.
As a result, deforestation rates fell 80% between 2004 and 2014, while beef and soy production grew.
As Jonah Busch, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and co-author of the 2016 book ‘Why Forests? Why Now?’, explains, in this period, “Brazil went from being seen as an environmental villain to an environmental hero”.
Speaking to Energydesk, Busch said he found the recent rise “very concerning”.
“Now more than ever it’s times to strengthen the signals from the international community to Brazil that we value the Amazon rainforest and will not tolerate seeing it destroyed.”
Donald Trump, in what’s been hyped as an “unprecedented” move, has instituted a freeze on the hiring of federal employees. Hyperbole aside (it’s hardly unprecedented, since Ronald Reagan did the same thing on his first day in office), one thing is already clear: this will hurt a lot of people.
Trump’s order exempts military personnel, along with any position that a department or agency head “deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” That offers a fair degree of latitude when it comes to filling positions in certain areas.
But Trump’s appointees aren’t likely to ask for “national security or public safety” exemptions for the many government jobs that help people in ways Republicans despise. So who stands to lose the most under this hiring freeze?
1. Social Security Recipients
Trump and his advisors seem to have had Social Security in mind when they included this language:
“This hiring freeze applies to all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding …” (Emphasis mine.)
While there may be other reasons for this verbiage, it effectively targets Social Security, which is entirely self-funded through the contributions of working Americans and their employers.
Social Security is forbidden by law from contributing to the deficit. It has very low administrative overhead and is remarkably cost-efficient when compared to pension programs in the private sector.
That hasn’t prevented Republicans in Congress from taking a meat cleaver to Social Security’s administrative budget. That has led to increased delays in processing disability applications, longer travel times for recipients as more offices are closed, and longer wait times on the phone and in person.
Social Security pays benefits to retired Americans, disabled Americans, veterans, and children — all of whom will be hurt by these cuts.
2. Working People
The Department of Labor, especially the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), ensures that working Americans are safe on the job. It’s a huge task: Nearly 2.9 million Americans were injured on the job in 2015, according to OSHA data, and another 145,000 experienced a work-related illness. 4,836 people died from work-related injuries in 2016. (These numbers count only reported injuries, illnesses, and deaths; not all are reported.)
OSHA’s employees study injury and illness patterns, communicate safety practices and rules, and inspect workplaces to make sure that the rules are being followed. This hiring freeze will lead to fewer such studies, communications, and inspections. That means working Americans will pay a price — in injury, illness, and death.
Some 500,000 veterans have waited more than a month to receive medical care from the Veterans Administration. Nevertheless, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump’s hiring freeze will affect thousands of open positions at the VA, including positions for doctors and nurses. The nation’s veterans will pay for this freeze, in prolonged illness, injury, and pain — or worse.
Vets will pay in another way, too. Vets make up roughly one-third of the federal workforce, which means they will be disproportionately harmed by this hiring freeze. So will women and minorities, both of whom have a significant presence among federal workers — greater than in the workforce as a whole.
4. Small Businesses and Workers All Across the Country
Contrary to what many people believe, federal employees are work in offices all across the country. The goods and services purchased by each federal worker provide jobs and growth for their local economies. Cuts in the federal workforce will therefore cause economic damage all of the states where federal jobs are located.
According to the latest report on the subject from the Office of Management and Budget, states with the largest numbers of Federal employees are: California, with 150,000 jobs; Virginia, with 143,000 jobs; Washington DC, with 133,000 jobs; and, Texas, with 130,000 jobs.
That’s right: Texas.
Other states with large numbers of Federal employees include Maryland, Florida, and Georgia.
Demand for goods and services will fall with the federal workforce. So will demand for workers, which means that wages will rise more slowly (if at all). This hiring freeze will affect small businesses and working people in states like Texas and all across the country.
5. Everybody Else.
The “public safety” argument could also be used to exempt employees of the Environmental Protection Agency from the hiring freeze. But Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt, a longtime foe of environmental regulation who has sided with some genuinely noxious polluters, to run the EPA.
As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt has sued the EPA 14 times. “In 13 of those cases,” the New York Times reports, “the co-parties included companies that had contributed money to Mr. Pruitt or to Pruitt-affiliated political campaign committees.”
In other words, Pruitt is dirty. It’s unlikely he’ll seek a “public safety” exemption for the inspectors that identify industrial polluters and bring them to justice. So another group that will suffer under this freeze, without getting too cute about it, is pretty much anybody who drinks water or breathes air. That covers just about everybody.
And that’s just the beginning.
This is not an all-inclusive list. We’ve left out tourists, for example, who’ll pay the price for staffing cuts at the nation’s monuments and national parks. But the overall impact of Trump’s hiring freeze is clear: it shows a reckless disregard for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people.
(And that’s not even counting his plan to end the Affordable Care Act. Physicians Steffie Woolhandler and David Emmelstein estimate that this will result in 43,000 deaths every year. And they’re not Democratic partisans or ACA apologists; they’ve been fighting for single-payer healthcare for years.)
Given these implications — and the thousands of jobs affected at the VA alone — it was surprising to read, in Politico, that “Trump’s move, by itself, doesn’t actually do much.”
That’s true, in one way. The 10,000 to 20,000 jobs affected by this freeze pale in comparison to the federal government’s total workforce of 2.2 million.
But Trump’s just getting started. His memo instructs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to come up with a broader long-term plan for reducing the federal workforce through attrition. And Trump’s choice for that job, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, is a far-right Republican who’s been fighting to cut the federal government for years.
This freeze is a bad idea, but there will be more where this came from.
The image of a group of men in suits making decisions about the rights of women is becoming an emblematic sign of the backlash against our human rights, particularly those related to women’s bodily integrity and reproductive and sexual freedoms.
Just two days after the massive demonstrations for equality and against discrimination that took place in cities across the USA and around the world, President Donald Trump decided to put the rights of women at risk by reinstating the so-called “global gag rule”. The rule blocks US federal international funding for non-governmental organisations that provide abortion counselling or referrals, advocate to decriminalise abortion or expand abortion services — even though the US does not fund these services itself.
The global gag rule — also known as the Mexico City Policy — was first instated by Ronald Regan’s administration in 1984, and has been traditionally rejected by Democrat administrations only to be reinstated by Republican Presidents.
President Tump is now following a worrying tradition that has a dangerous impact on the sexual and reproductive rights, health and life of women and girls across the world, particularly those who are most at risk of human rights abuses. The gag rule during both Reagan and Bush’s administration was a barrier to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health in many parts of the Global South.
As long as you live you’ll never see a photograph of 7 women signing legislation about what men can do with their reproductive organs pic.twitter.com/dXjfVjnRiX
— Martin Belam (@MartinBelam) January 23, 2017
Trump’s version of the Gag rule expands the policy to all global US health funding, not just the US family planning funding through US foreign aid. This means that organizations working on other health issues, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS or maternal heath must make sure that their programs do not involve any abortion referral or information.
Many women’s rights organizations have conducted extensive research into the impact of the global gag rule. They found that the rule imposed significant cuts in funding for programs that provide family planning, HIV/AIDS treatment, emergency contraception, and other reproductive health-care services, alongside abortion services and information, particularly in Africa and Latin America.
A 2006 study by the Association for Women’s rights in Development (AWID) on the status of funding for women’s rights — “Where is the Money for Women’s Rights?”, also found that the women’s rights groups felt the gag rule affected women in particular ways, including by violating their rights to freedom of speech, association, and their ability to participate in the strengthening of their civil societies and democratic institutions.
This disastrous US policy also prevented health providers from complying with basic medical ethics. In countries where abortion was legal, for example, they could not provide the full range of legal reproductive health care nor could they refer or counsel parties as required by medical ethics. As a direct result, the Global Gag Rule will imperil women’s health and lives both in countries where abortion is legal, as well as where it is illegal.
In 2011, a Stanford University study found that organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa that refused to sign the global gag rule lost USAID funding, and as a result abortion rates increased in these countries to more than twice the rate prior to the Bush’s administration.
Evidence from countries where abortion services are safe, legal and accessible, shows that abortion related deaths and complications are greatly reduced. However, the global gag rule has thwarted in the past the efforts of abortion reform advocates to change restrictive laws.
The consequences of unsafe abortions has been particularly acute in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region with the highest rates of unsafe abortions, according to the World Health Organization data.
The Guttmacher Institute calculates that between 2010 –2014, an estimated 6.5 million induced abortions occurred each year in Latin America and the Caribbean, and according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, more than an estimated 2,000 Latin American women die every year from unsafe abortions.
Abortion is completely banned in seven countries in the region — Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname — even when the health or life of a woman or girl depend on it. Legal abortion upon request during the first trimester is available in Cuba, Mexico City, and Uruguay. In most other countries in the region, even when legal, accessing life-saving abortions is incredibly difficult as some health professionals will refuse to practise them on ideological grounds.
The consequences of criminalising women who seek an abortion are well known: high maternal mortality and morbidity rates due to unsafe abortions that disproportionately affect women and girls living in poverty. Many women are forced to spend years behind bars after being accused of having an abortion.
Persistent gender discrimination and inequality in most countries across Latin America and the Caribbean is at the root of women and girls’ inability to exercise their human rights.
Discriminatory stereotypes remain deeply rooted in a patriarchal culture which still relegates women to the sphere of social reproduction — a culture widely promoted, in great part, by religious organizations including the Catholic Church and evangelical churches.
In past years, a second stronghold of opposition to women’s rights progression in the region has come from the United States. The increasing influence of anti-abortion groups within the Republican Party has created a drift towards anti-abortion policies in some states. This has affected pro-choice and women’s rights organisations both directly, by the imposition of the gag rule, and also indirectly, through the legitimacy and strength given to anti-abortion discourses and proposals. Latin American politicians have not been indifferent to these trends and have thus sought the support of US conservative forces and anti-abortion groups to strengthen their chances of winning office by negotiating the rights of women and proposing policies and legislation to criminalise abortion and further restrict women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
While discrimination against women is evident in almost all areas of life, it is in the area of sexual and reproductive health that it reaches shocking levels. It is the regulation of women’s sexuality and reproduction that most clearly reveals harmful gender stereotypes and bias.
Unfortunately, in this adverse regional context, and with the reinstatement of the global gag rule, the future for women and girls and their real chances of being able to exercise their human rights are tragically uncertain.
Today more than ever, a strong stand against these clear violations of women’s human rights needs to prevail. It is time to unite in action against discrimination and violence.
Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday officially abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sweeping, 12-nation economic agreement negotiated by the outgoing Obama administration that Congress had yet to ratify. Trump was making good on a centerpiece of his right-wing presidential campaign — yet some on the left and the labor movement praised Trump. Bernie Sanders, for example, said in a statement: “If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers, then I would be delighted to work with him” — and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka even claimed credit on behalf of “a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP.”
Pranav Jani challenges the logic of the left lining up behind Trump’s reaction, in an article based on a comment posted on Facebook.
I hate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Donald Trump also opposes. But labor and the left need to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of Trump’s economic nationalism — which is just changing the terms by which U.S. capitalism exploits the working population at home, while trying to keep its global dominance against China’s rise.
Trump’s rhetoric and even threatened action against free trade — a border tax on U.S. companies that move production, restrictions on exports and imports — are calculated to continue the myth that he is for ordinary working people.
And since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton were more or less supportive of every free trade agreement they could get their hands on, Trump’s narrative that he was defending workers against a pro-free trade establishment seems to fit.
The reality, though, is this: Trump’s economic nationalism and rejection of the TPP goes hand in hand with racist and anti-immigrant ideology, Islamophobia and an imperialist agenda that seeks to expand U.S. economic and military dominance.
For Trump, saying “Stop the TPP” goes along with saying “No Syrian and Somali refugees,” “Build the Wall” and accelerate deportations, and “Keep Muslims Out.”
Trump’s claim is that he will keep jobs here for U.S. workers. But he also opposes fights for wage increases and for unionization, and he proposes to detain and deport undocumented workers.
How is that a victory for workers in the U.S.? Are the jobs resulting from Trump’s policies going to be available to all? Will they have decent wages and benefits? Are they going to come with health benefits, with access to reproductive rights?
Will Trump restrict oil pipelines and defend Indigenous rights, or order a pipeline building boom and trample over those rights?
And when U.S. workers fight back, they will face a more repressive police force, armed with even more military hardware and emboldened through Trump’s attack against the movement for Black Lives. Housing and education will continue to be a struggle for the working class and the poor, especially for people of color.
While individual capitalists may be hurt temporarily by policies that curb free trade and impose protectionism, Trump’s aim, in fact, is to strengthen the hand of the U.S. capitalist class as a whole. Stay at home and be rewarded with a sweet deal for profits — that’s his message to U.S. capitalists.
And given Trump’s own expansion of his businesses worldwide, I don’t really believe the restrictions he proposes will hold U.S. capital back from global opportunities, but only change the terms.
While it may seem like the language of borders and barriers unites Trump’s policies, this is highly selective. In terms of military might or trade with allies like Israel, India and Saudi Arabia, the policies will be about unfettered movement and access across borders.
So the left needs to be wary of Trump’s economic policies that are sold as a defense of U.S. jobs, because they are part of a larger agenda — one that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton carried out through different means and with different rhetoric to a different domestic audience.
We need to be especially wary right now because the anti-imperialist politics of the U.S. left are pretty weak in the wake of the fall of the antiwar movement from a decade ago.
It’s not a coincidence that Bernie Sanders’ critique of the Democratic status quo on trade marks the key place where his policies and rhetoric come closest to Trump’s. As I wrote during the Sanders campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, his left version of economic nationalism left much to be desired.
The left needs to stand firm and develop our own principles, not of economic nationalism or “anti-globalization,” but, as we called it in the period between the Battle of Seattle and the 9/11 attacks, of “global justice.” That goes hand in hand with anti-imperialism and internationalism.
But we have to do better than the global justice movement of the late 1990s, at least the U.S. version, which also had a dose of economic nationalism engrained in it. The proof is in the pudding: when 9/11 happened and the war in Afghanistan began, the global justice movement collapsed, while liberals and progressives fell in line with support for imperialist war — a long war that has not abated since.
Imperialism is about economic and military policies working together to ensure the continued dominance of the wealthiest capitalist countries and their allies over the rest. The forms of these policies change: free market or protectionism; boots on the ground or drone strikes; multilaterally through the UN or unilaterally by the U.S. alone.
But for the working class in the U.S. and around the rest of the world, one thing doesn’t change: Imperialism kills. Period.
It can be easy to despair, to feel like trends toward inequality are impossible to stop, to give in to fear over increased racist, sexist and xenophobic violence. But around the country, people are doing the hard work of fighting back and coming together to plan for what comes next. In this ongoing “Interviews for Resistance” series, we introduce you to some of them. Today’s interview is the seventh in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
As Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from several Muslim countries took effect, some people already on their way to the US were stuck in limbo, some of them in the airport. Around the country, grassroots groups called emergency rallies demanding those detained be freed. In New York, a rally was called early in the day at John F. Kennedy Airport. On Saturday night, a federal judge halted the order, following sustained protests. According to The New York Times, 81 people who were stopped from entering the US were eventually given waivers. Ongoing actions across the US will continue Sunday. I spoke with Daniel Altschuler, director of civic engagement and research at Make The Road New York, from the rally Saturday afternoon.
Sarah Jaffe: And where are you right now?
Daniel Altschuler: I’m at JFK Terminal 4, where hundreds of people and growing every minute are here to denounce the unconscionable and unconstitutional executive orders that Donald Trump signed yesterday and that now is tearing families apart here at JFK Airport, we know of at least 12 people who were detained overnight. One is now free, and everyone’s here to cheer the fight for the remaining refugees who have been detained here at JFK.
I can hear chants in the background. Obviously Donald Trump had been threatening to ban refugees from the beginning, can you tell us about the preparation that went into place to be able to respond to this?
I think the folks who are here, immigrant rights organizations, civil rights organizations, Muslim organizations have stood together to say this is unconscionable and wrong when it was being proposed, and organizations have been trying to prepare for the worst. We heard late last night about the first two and I think people leapt into action.
There were amazing lawyers who were here and monitoring the airports, to see what was going to happen and if people were going to be held and unfortunately folks’ worst fears came true. An amazing coalition — an informal coalition of organizations and people heard what was happening, were horrified and decided to show up to the airport.
This is one of these beautiful organic movement moments where people show up for other people’s rights and for all of our rights.
Can you tell us about the one person who was released?
Yeah, Mr. Darweesh was someone who worked the US military I believe as a translator, folks can obviously look at The New York Times article for greater detail about his case. When Congressmembers Velazquez and Nadler arrived they went in immediately and demanded to speak to Customs and Border Patrol and were able to speak to them and after some negotiation were able to get him free.
He came out, he was very relieved, he was very appreciative of the folks that were here and then he went to be with his family. He had been separated from his family since arriving here yesterday in the late afternoon.
There were several calls for rallies earlier today and one for 6 p.m. tonight, is the plan to stay there as long as necessary?
This crowd is going to be here for many hours, there’s tremendous enthusiasm here, there’s a vigil that’s called for 6 p.m., there’s been constant chanting, amazing people showing up and just making their signs on the spot to say that they’re going to resist, to say no Muslim ban, to say they stand with refugees. This is not one of those times where there’s a designated beginning point and endpoint, this is a moment where people are here to fight for what they know that this country can be, which is a place that welcomes refugees, that welcomes Muslims, that does not impose religious discrimination, so folks are excited to be here.
Obviously some of the executive orders that came out this week also have to do with immigrants from Mexico and Latin America, are there similar rapid response plans for deportation back to that part of the world?
Absolutely. And there are immigrants here at this rally right now because folks are saying we stand together. So yes, immigrant rights organizations like ours are preparing for what happens now that Donald Trump has further empowered and is going to continue further empowering an out-of-control and rogue Immigration and Customs Enforcement and border apparatus. Absolutely defending families is going to be at the core of that.
What can people do if they are watching or listening from somewhere that is not within easy getting-to-JFK-Airport distance? Are there other actions that you know of?
I honestly have been so ensconced in this action that I’m not sure what else is going on. I wouldn’t be surprised, I’d expect there’s solidarity actions and people should look, you can get on social media, on Facebook and Twitter and engage there as well, and I think folks most importantly should call their members of Congress and denounce the measures that have been taken this week against immigrants, refugees and Muslims and tell them that they insist that these refugees be freed and that these executive actions be rescinded.
And how can people keep up with you and Make the Road?
Make the Road New York, you can find us on Facebook at Make the Road New York, and our Twitter handle is MakeTheRoadNY.
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast.
BURLINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A 20-year-old woman threw a 5-year-old girl onto the NJ TRANSIT tracks in Burlington, New Jersey as the Light Rail train approached the station Friday night, police say.
An NJ TRANSIT bus driver alerted a Burlington City Police Officer about suspicious activity near High and Broad streets just after 8:30 p.m.
As officers approached the area, they spotted Autumn Matacchiera, 20, of Hainesport, on the NJ TRANSIT Light Rail platform on West Broad Street.
When the officers walked toward her, she grabbed a 5-year-old girl who was standing nearby with her mother and threw the girl onto the tracks, police said.
Police signaled for the train to stop as the mother’s boyfriend jumped onto the tracks to save the little girl.
Matacchiera, who didn’t know the mother or the 5-year-old, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, police said. She was taken to Lourdes Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation.
The girl was taken to Memorial Hospital of Burlington County to be treated for a cut to her face and bruising.
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A tough Brooklyn cat used one of its nine lives after surviving a 25 mile snowy trip while trapped underneath the hood of a car.
On Friday night, the cat, named Gumbo, was reunited with his owner, Raven Huang, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“It feels like a family member came back, and it’s really comforting that he’s OK,” Huang said.
Two weeks ago, Huang was looking for a place to have Gumbo neutered in Brooklyn when before he knew it, the cat escaped from his car.
“I was doubtful of finding him, you know finding a cat that runs loose is very difficult,” he said.
Nearly 230 miles away Monday, the Warren County SPCA in upstate New York got a call from security at the Great Escape Lodge in Queensbury.
A family traveling from Brooklyn had just arrived and heard meowing coming from its car. When they looked under the hood, they found Gumbo stuck in the engine.
Chief Humane Officer Jim Fitzgerald believes the cat snuck in before the family left and couldn’t get back out.
“It found its way up through the back of the block, and then it had to come up through the front of the engine, and then crawl back down into a compartment,” he said.
That made it tricky to rescue him, but in about 20 minutes, Fitzgerald managed to wiggle him free.
“It was lethargic when we took it out, and it was definitely thirsty and hungry,” he said.
Gumbo made it out with just a few scratches, despite being stuck for three to four days.
“I don’t know if that was like its eighth life or what, but definitely pushing it at 10 years old,” Fitzgerald said.
Through Facebook, the SPCA and Huang connected with one another after posts about the cat went viral online.
“It’s a big sigh of relief, I feel like there’s a lot of things looking over us,” Huang said.
He said from now on, Gumbo will wear a leash for trips to the vet.
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