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Atheists Online: -How Atheists Grew An Active Internet Community- – Conatus News

Posted: February 22, 2017 at 3:58 am

The Pew Research Center

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There are a multitude of websites aimed at an atheist audience.Many tend to follow the same lines, talking about problems of religion in society as well as attacking religious apologetics.These sites are tremendously popular, as many atheists were brought up in a religion and have some amount of animosity towards what they see as a repressive ideology that did them harm in the past.Atheists are by no means limited to religious talk, however.A number of sites are devoted to atheist political action, most of which promulgate a highly progressive political agenda.

Many atheists seek to do more online than read someone elses arguments, advice, or calls to action though.As with almost all media endeavors in the modern world, consumers want lots of content and lots of interaction.One of the most popular places on the internet for users to interact is Reddit.While there are numerous subreddits for atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and the like, the top dog is the /r/atheism subreddit. Currently with about 2 million subscribers, it is in the top 100 subreddits (

Some, who are willing to broadcast their atheism to the world, are able to reach hundreds of thousands.There are over 1,000 religious radio stations in the U.S. but I was able to find no atheist stations, and a very small number of broadcast atheist themed shows.That does not mean, of course, that there are no atheists in radio, but rather that a new niche has been created and populated very well, in online atheist radio and podcasts.Some of the most prominent atheists in the world, including Sam Harris, have a weekly podcast, but there are hundreds of others done on different aspects of atheism.Examples include

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Smith about his take on the online atheist community.Thomas told me that through his podcasting and online activity he has been able to develop meaningful relationships with others.He believes that the internet has provided a place where atheists can congregate without needing to physically go to any location, allowing the scattered atheist community to support each other. The internet is certainly a boon to any minority group, and atheist demographics, which skew young, white, and male, are also some of the biggest internet users.Thomas recently changed the name of his main podcast from Atheistically Speaking to Serious Inquiries Only, a step he said came in part from losing guests because of the societal stigma attached to the word atheist.He says that after the name change he had numerous people tell him they loved it, because now they could share the podcast with friends and family without outing themselves as atheists.

This societal stigma is certainly part of the reason atheists seem so drawn to internet interactions.Anonymity, or at least the safety of separation from those around you, provides the ability to truly speak ones mind.For atheists that means declaring their atheism.For atheists in some parts of the world that anonymity could literally be a matter of life and death, as there are

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West Lafayette robotics teams show off their hard work | WTHITV.com – WTHITV.com

Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:19 pm


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West Lafayette robotics teams show off their hard work | WTHITV.com
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Virtual Reality Is Bringing These Lost Worlds Back to Life – NBCNews.com

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:18 am

A virtual reconstruction of a dwelling at Skara Brae, a pre-historic Scottish village. Soluis/Heritage

Seeing opportunities to educate and attract new visitors, museums are getting in on the VR game, too. The British Museum in London, for instance, partnered with

Another VR exhibit in Beijing’s Forbidden City takes visitors through reconstructions of the porcelain factories during the Ming and Qing dynasties. To transport visitors into a more recent past, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in Ottawa partnered with VR company SimWave to make a rumbling rig that recreates being down in the trenches at the Vimy Ridge battle during World War I.

Some see the most promise in experiences that go beyond the visuals.

“For my money, the most useful stuff is not the VR, at least not yet, but the augmented reality,” says Shawn Graham, a digital archaeologist at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Augmented reality (AR) and other forms of mixed reality use VR elements overlaid on the real world think Pokmon Go and Google Glass.

“If you have an AR headset and you’re out in the field, you can see what’s going on around you but then have an overlay,” Eve says of elements sights, sounds, and smells. “It adds so much more to that experience.”

Simulations that can fool your other senses like 3-D audio to trick your ears or gloves to mimic touch make for a more effective immersive experience, as sight is just one way we perceive reality.

Eve, however, notes that AR technology isn’t quite ready to be a massive hit. He’s waiting to see what companies like the Florida-based AR outfit Magic Leap come up with in the next few years.

But whatever form the VR and AR experience takes, the story is key.

“I think we make a mistake if we imagine that augmented realities or virtual realities are something brand new in the world,” Graham says.

He recalled being a graduate student in the U.K. and taking a field trip to Avebury, a cousin of Stonehenge, with one of his professors. “He was standing there in the middle of this stone circle, and he was telling us this story of coming into this sacred space and he was pointing to the horizon, drawing our attention to different burial mounds, and he was enabling us to see the past in a way we couldn’t see before coming in fresh as students.”

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New Barbarians: Inside Rolling Stones’ Wild Seventies Spin-Off – RollingStone.com

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 1:43 am

Remember that time when Ronnie Wood released a solo album, put together a band to promote it that included Keith Richards and fusion bassist Stanley Clarke, and played a bunch of arena shows centered not around Richards but perversely Wood and his songs?

Unless you’re the most diehard of Rolling Stones fans, you probably have zero memory of that moment. But Rob Chapman’s new book, New Barbarians: Outlaws, Gunslingers and Guitars (Voyageur Press), finally tells the story of one of the most oddball and least-chronicled moments in the Stones’ history.

As Chapman details in his art-crammed book, Wood and his new label, Columbia, decided he should play some shows to promote his 1979 solo album, Gimme Some Neck. Richards, who was in between Stones sessions, signed on to his bandmate’s ad-hoc group. Richards was also eager to hit the road, because, as Chapman writes, he was “on the run from heroin, [girlfriend] Anita Pallenberg and endless psychotherapy sessions” after his 1977 drug bust in Canada. The band, a truly odd lot of musicians, included two naturals, Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan and on-again, off-again Stones saxman Bobby Keys, along with two others Clarke and Meters drummer Ziggy Modeliste who had barely played rock & roll before.

For a brief moment, Chapman reports, Neil Young almost joined the lineup after stopping into early rehearsals for the tour. He eventually opted out due to the birth of one of his children and the editing chores involved in his then-upcoming concert movie, Rust Never Sleeps. But after Young remarked “you guys are nothing but a bunch of barbarians,” the ad-hoc band at least had its name, adding a “New” after learning there was another band called the Barbarians. Ringo Starr and Boz Scaggs also stopped by rehearsals but, like Young, didn’t join up.

Over the course of its month-long tour, ending with shows at England’s Knebworth Festival on a bill with Led Zeppelin, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and Todd Rundgren and Utopia, the New Barbarians crammed in a lifetime of rock & roll. Drugs, booze and private jets were a daily treat; a small room was built near the back of the stage so the band could get high without the audience noticing. When Clarke offered Richards a health shake, Richards just replied, ruefully, “Stanley, Stanley.”

As Chapman reports, drama was also part of the recipe. Unsure if Wood’s name would sell out arenas, some on their business side began suggesting to reporters that the shows could include “special guests,” hinting at Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Jimmy Page. None of those musical pals ever materialized, and early in the tour, fans showed their displeasure at not seeing Mick but hearing an hour and a half of Wood originals, covers of blues and country songs, and the very rare Stones cover (usually “Honky Tonk Women”). In Milwaukee, a riot broke out, resulting in 81 arrests and a very pissed-off Richards.

Packed with details of stage designs, offstage and onstage photos and reproductions of tour T-shirts and limousine bills, New Barbarians is surely the last word on one of rock’s most oddball superstar tours. As a bonus, it also comes with a 10-track CD of previously unreleased live recordings including Wood’s “Mystifies Me” and covers of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Rock & Roller” and the blues standard “Rock Me Baby” that revel in the band’s proudly sloppy swagger. Would a similar lineup with a similarly quirky set list make it anywhere near a 20,000-seat arena these days? Probably not, which only makes the story of the New Barbarians that much more flabbergasting today.

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The future of solar power technology is bright – Ars Technica

Posted: at 1:12 am

Enlarge / Making tea with the sun in Tibet.

While our recent look at residential solarmay lead you to believe harnessing that power is a newer initiative, humans have been exploiting solar energy for thousands of years to heat their homes, cook, and produce hot water. Some of the earliest written references to technology consciously designed to capturethe Suns rays come from ancient Greece. Socrates himself said, in houses that look toward the south, the sun penetrates the portico in winter, while in summer the path of the sun is right over our heads and above the roof, so that there is shade. He is describing how Greek architecture exploited the different paths of the Sun through the sky at different times of the year.

Technologies for harnessing the thermal energy in sunlight have only continued to grow over time. Colonists in New England borrowed the ancient Greek homebuilding techniques to keep warm in the harsh winters. Simple passive solar water heaters, little more than a black-painted barrel, were sold commercially in the United States in the late 19th century. And more elaborate solar heating systems were developed to pipe water through absorbing and/or focusing panels. The hot water is stored in an insulated tank until needed. In climates subject to freezing, a two-fluid system is used, where the Sun heats a water/antifreeze mixture that passes through coils embedded in the storage tank, which does double-duty as a heat exchanger.

These days, a variety of sophisticated commercial systems are available for water and space heating in the home. Solar thermal systems are deployed throughout the world, with the largest installed base per capita found in Austria, Cyprus, and Israel.

But modern solar truly starts in 1954 with the discovery of a practical way to make electricity from light: Bell Labs uncovered the fact that silicon could make a photovoltaic material. This finding createdthe foundation for today’s solar cells (essentially the devices converting light energy into electricity) and ushered in a new era of solar power. Aided by intense research ever since, it’s an era that continues today as solar appears poisedto become the dominant source of power in the future.

The most common type of solar cell is a semiconductor device made from silicona cousin of the solid-state diode. The familiar solar panels are made from a number of solar cells wired together to create the desired output voltage and current. Those cells are surrounded by a protective package and topped with a glass window.

Solar cells generate electrical power using the photovoltaic effect, a fact that didn’t come from Bell Labs. Instead, this wasfirst discovered in 1839 by French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel (son of physicist Antoine Cesar Becquerel and father of physics Nobelist Henri Becquerel, the discoverer of radioactivity). A little more than a century later, Bell Labs had its solar cell breakthrough,providing the foundation of the most common solar cells.

In the language of solid state physics, a solar cell is formed from a p-n junction in a silicon crystal. The junction is made by doping different areas of the crystal with small amounts of different impurities; the interface between these regions is the junction. The n side is a conductor with electrons as the carriers of current, and the p side has holes, or areas with missing electrons that act as current carriers within the crystal. In the region near the interface, the diffusion of charges creates a local built-in voltage across the interface. When a photon enters the crystal, if it has enough energy, it may dislodge an electron from an atom, creating a new electron-hole pair.

By Bhpaak / CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The energy required to transform a bound electron into a free one is called the band gap. Its the key to understanding why photovoltaic (PV) cells have an intrinsic limit on efficiency. The band gap is a fixed property of the crystal material and its dopants. Those dopants are adjusted so that solar cells have a band gap close to the energy of a photon in the visible region of the spectrum. This is a practical choice, because visible light isnt absorbed by the atmosphere (phrased differently, we humans have evolved to see in the most common wavelengths).

Photons come in fixed amounts of energy, which means their energy is quantized. That also means a photon with energy less than the band gap (say, one in the infrared part of the spectrum) wont create a charge carrier. It will simply heat the panel. Two infrared photons together will do no better, even if their combined energy would be enough to bridge the gap. A photon with excess energy (an ultraviolet photon, for example) will knock an electron loose, but the excess energy will also be wasted.

Since efficiency is defined as the ratio of light energy striking the panel divided by electrical energy extractedand since much of this light energy will necessarily be wastedthe efficiency can not be 100 percent.

The band gap of a silicon PV solar cell is 1.1 electron volts (eV). As can be seen from the diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum reproduced here, the visible spectrum lies just above this, so visible light of any color will produce electrical power. But this also means that for each photon absorbed, excess energy is wasted and converted into heat.

The upshot is that even if the PV panel is flawlessly manufactured and conditions are ideal, the theoretical maximum efficiency is about 33 percent. Commercially available solar panels typically achieve about 20 percent efficiency.

Most of the solar panels commercially deployed are made from the silicon cells described above. But research into other materials and strategies is underway in laboratories around the world.

Some of the most promising recent research for silicon alternatives has involved materials called perovskites. The mineral perovskite (CaTiO3) was named in 1839 in honor of Count Lev Aleksevich Perovski (1792-1856), a Russian mineralogist. It can be found on every continent and in the clouds of at least one exoplanet. The word perovskite is also used for synthetic compounds that have the same orthorhombic crystal structure as the naturally occurring mineral (or a closely related one) and share a structurally similar chemical formula.

Crystal structure of natural perovskite.

Solid state | CC BY-SA 3.0

Depending on which elements are used, perovskites can display a wide variety of useful properties, such as superconductivity, giant magnetoresistance, and photovoltaic activity. Their use in PV cells has generated a great deal of optimism, as they have shown an unprecedented increase in efficiency from 3.8 percent to 20.1 percent in the past seven years of laboratory research. This rapid rate of progress inspires confidence that further gains are likely, especially as the factors limiting efficiency are becoming clearer.

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2017’s Hottest Cannabis Technology Innovations – Leafly

Posted: at 1:12 am

There simply isnt a better way to get your finger on the pulse of whats hot in innovation than to get out and go see whats going on at the trade shows. With cannabis trade shows, expos, and conferences beginning to circulate in the new year, the latest products and innovations are revealed to consumers and industry professionals alike.

This year, the cannabis industry is fixing to see a massive explosion in technological innovation as legalization continues to spread at a staggering pace. Lighting technology, grow room automation, soil amendments, extraction hardware, and seed to sale software are on the list to see major overhauls in the coming months. Lets take a look at a few of the most interesting innovations to look forward to this year.

Undoubtedly one of the most rapidly expanding sectors of the cannabis market is in lighting technology, and LEDs are at the forefront of the innovation game. Both consumers and commercial cultivators alike are eying LEDs as they continue to make advancements. The research happening in this field is astounding, and more companies are beginning to invest in LED research and development.

Cost ownership of LEDs is proving to be lower over time, with fixtures beginning to incorporate longer-lasting diodes thatproduce more light and require less power. Another promising feature with LED technology is the ability to customize light spectrums, throwing the control into the hands of the cultivator. These advancements are leading the way for growers to be able to develop species/strain-specific light spectrums that will maximize phenotypic responses in various cultivars.

As of now, the price point for LEDs is still considerably higher than alternative lighting solutions such as high-pressure sodium, metal halide, and T5 fluorescent. However, prices are beginning to plateau and even decrease with the influx of new developers as well as the declining price of components.

Terpene isolation technology has seen a rapid rise in popularity within the industry. What was one a niche market within the cannabis concentrate sector is now expanding with the introduction of crossover technology from both the essential oil and fragrance industries. Isolation technologies such as short and long path steam distillation systems are seeing their way onto convention floors, with members of peripheral distillation markets beginning to service the interests of cannabis businesses.

Both cannabis-derived and non-cannabis-derived terpene isolates can be used to infuse various products, and companies are beginning to blend terpenes into profiles that resemble strain-specific fragrances. Often high-cannabinoid distillates are reintegrated with pre-formulated strain profiles that resemble the aromatic properties of various strains in their flower form. These blends contain varying measurements of isolated terpenes such as myrcene, b-caryophyllene, and pinene. Together, certain blends of terpenes can react with cannabinoids with the potential to create new synergistic properties.

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This year, expect to see isolated terpenes and blended terpene profiles to reach more markets as companies look to jump onto this exciting new trend in concentrates.

Perhaps the greatest explosion of tech innovation the industry has seen this year so far has been in the solventextraction community. Developers are flocking to cannabis expos to show off their new solvent extractors and rosin technology as this new and exciting form of cannabis concentrate reaches the hands of more consumers.

Today, rosin sits right next to solvent-based concentrates on the shelves of almost every dispensary. Contrary to products such as BHO, which can take up to a week to make, solvent extracts such as rosin hash oil can be manufactured in seconds. Commercial-sized presses are beginning to pop up on trade show floors along with intimate personal home presses designed to process smallamounts of starting material into hash oil.

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How to Make Rosin

Pneumatic and hydraulic presses are now able to reach pressures exceeding 20 tons, allowing for much lower extraction temperatures that are vital for terpene preservation. New innovations such as flower pre-presses, seamless nylon pressing pouches, and titanium collection tools are among some of the hot new tools being introduced. Pollen collectors, cold water hash processing bags, and dry sifting bins are all seeing improvements, as well, with companies beginning to introduce these products to manufacturers and consumer enthusiasts alike.

Solventless extraction tech has the unique advantage over hydrocarbon extraction tech of being able to reach the consumer market because its not dangerous to produce hash in the comfort of ones own home (contrary to BHO and other expensive hash oil extraction techniques). The industry is beginning to see a transition into DIY craft concentrates akin to the craft home beer brew movement, and it will be interesting to see how solventless tech innovation caters to this paradigm shift.

All in all, 2017 looks to be an exciting year for innovation as a whole within the cannabis community. If you have the opportunity, try to make it out to a cannabis trade show in your area to see some of the exciting new developments that are in store for the coming year. Without a doubt, this season will surely see an explosion of new tech, new brands, and new products all designed to service the ever expanding cannabis industry.

Interested in checking out the latest cannabis products? Check out Leaflys Products section!

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Polish Second World War Museum Director Vows to Fight … – Newsweek

Posted: at 12:46 am

The director of a major new war museum in Poland has vowed to fight against government censorship and try to bring his collection to the public.

The Museum of the Second World War in Gdask is almost ready to open after eight years of preparation.

But a bitter legal battle has delayed its launch: the government has sought to gain control over the institution, which the ruling Law and Justice party fears will present an insufficiently nationalist view of Polands wartime experience.

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Writing in the design journal Disegno, the museums director Pawe Machcewicz said a final decision is due on the dispute in March or April. He said that before that, we will feverishly attempt to use this time to open the museum to the public before it is too late.

Machcewicz and his team want the museum to focuson the everyday experiences of millions of ordinary people, with a permanent collection centered around approximately 2,000 historical artefacts, many of them family relics donated by individuals.

But the government, he said, condemned our museum as too pacifistic, humanistic, universal, multinational, and not sufficiently Polish.

While the museum aims to make the Polish history a part of the European and world history, the government wants it instead to focus on presenting exclusively Polish sufferings and heroism, Machcewicz said.

In order to get its way, the government wants to merge the museum with an as-yet unbuilt institution, the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939, a plan first announced in 2015.

This move would allow the government to appoint a new director, and gain influence over the tone and direction of the new, merged museum. But the museum has challenged the plan in the courts. Machcewicz said that the court had suspended progress on the merger. One ruling in the Supreme Administrative Court in January found in favor of the government. But the final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Plans for the Museum of the Second World War were first announced in 2007 under the government of former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now the President of the European Council.

The Second World War was different from all earlier conflicts because it touched civilian populations the most, Machcewicz said, As we developed the main concepts for the museum, we decided that the human dimension of the conflict is the most important to us.

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Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence becomes ‘highly aggressive’ when stressed. Skynet, anyone? – Mirror.co.uk

Posted: February 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Google’s DeepMind is one of the most famous examples of artificial intelligence.

Last year it famously defeated the world’s best Go player at the tricky Chinese board game. It’s also being used at Moorfields Eye Hospital to recognise eye diseases from scans.

But new research shows that DeepMind reacts to social situations in a similar way to a human. Notably, it started to act in an “aggressive manner” when put under pressure.

Google’s computer scientists ran 40 million different turns of Gathering a fruit-gathering video game that asked two different DeepMind participants to compete against each other to collect the most apples.

When there were enough apples to share, the two computer combatants were fine – efficiently collecting the virtual fruit. But as soon as the resources became scarce, the two agents became aggressive and tried to knock each other out of the game and steal the apples.

The video below shows the process – with the DeepMind “gamers” represented in red and blue while the apples are green. The laser beams are yellow – and while the combatants don’t get any reward for a hit, it does knock the opponent out of the game for a set period of time.

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“We characterize how learned behavior in each domain changes as a function of environmental factors including resource abundance,” the team wrote in a paper explaining their results.

“Our experiments show how conflict can emerge from competition over shared resources and shed light on how the sequential nature of real world social dilemmas affects cooperation.

“We noted that the policies learned in environments with low abundance or high conflict-cost were highly aggressive while the policies learned with high abundance or low conflict cost were less aggressive. That is, the Gathering game predicts that conflict may emerge from competition for scarce resources, but is less likely to emerge when resources are plentiful.”

The results are interesting in that they show computers are able to adapt to situations and modify their behaviour accordingly.

Many experts have warned of the dangers of true artificial intelligence in machines. Elon Musk singled out DeepMind in particular as one to keep an eye on.

“The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like DeepMind, you have no idea how fast it is growing at a pace close to exponential,” he wrote in 2014.

“I am not alone in thinking we should be worried.”

“The leading AI companies have taken great steps to ensure safety. They recognize the danger, but believe that they can shape and control the digital superintelligences and prevent bad ones from escaping into the Internet. That remains to be seen…”

So while Google’s super-smart computers may be content to beat each other up in a race to collect virtual apples, the prospects for the future could be worrying. Especially if your name’s Sarah Connor.

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BitcoinCasino.us Ensures Instant Payouts and Responsible Gambling – newsBTC

Posted: at 12:41 am

A new Bitcoin gaming platform has been launched with a promise to deliver the most transparent and quick casino service.

A new Bitcoin gaming platform has been launched with a promise to deliver the most transparent and quick casino service.

Bitcoincasino.us, as the platform is titled, operates using only Bitcoin. Which implies that you wont have to wait long to receive your pay-outs; they are processed instantly. And if you win big, the pay-out will be processed within 5-15 minutes!

Bitcoincasino.us is a casino that cares about their players, which is rare in the world which is witnessing an increase in online frauds. Bitoincasino, however, has agoal of offering its visitors thebest time possible. Its their passion for casino games and entertainment that keeps them driven towards their goals.

Bitcoincasino.us provides its users with amazing high-quality games, secure transaction, quick pay-outs and excellent customer service. They offer an online gaming experience that compels the players to keep coming back for more.

All their casino games are handpicked by the team. This is to ensure that they offer only the best to their customers. The Bitcoincasino.us team is also confident in the stunning graphics and the sharp sound effects used in the games to attract more players and having them return for more.

Bitcoincasino.us has also set up a robust customer care where the players can contact them for any problems they face. They promise to address any problems faced by the players right away. Bitcoincasino.us strives to keep their customers happy and wants to assure them they wont have to worry about being left out in the cold when playing in their casino.

What further distinguishes the casino platform from its counterparts and further reiterates its message about caring for its visitors is their option to purposefully block the clients from their casino who feel that they are getting addicted to gambling.

In a gesture of care, they do not want their users to lose a healthy life balance. In order to do so, they offer a safeguard against gambling too much.

If you reach the point where you feel that you can no longer trust yourself with using bitcoins to gamble on Bitcoincasino.us, you can mail them. They will purposefully block you from their casino.

They also offer to help in case you suspect your spouse or relative might have a problem.

Bitcoincasino.us wants their casino to be a fun and friendly place, where everyone gambles responsibly.

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Are Republicans Losing Momentum on Obamacare Repeal? – The Fiscal Times

Posted: at 12:37 am


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Are Republicans Losing Momentum on Obamacare Repeal?
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But 40 or so members of the House's far right Freedom Caucus blew up that political calculus Monday night after agreeing among themselves to refuse to support anything but the most extreme version of Obamacare legislation, comparable to the 2015 …

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