The Winner of The Blood Spangled Banner

Tate Jones has won a copy of The Blood Spangled Banner by Barbara Schlichting. Congrats to Tate Jones!

Thanks to Barbara Schlichting for the interesting look at the history behind America’s national anthem and First Lady Dolley Madison. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Our Amazing First Lady Dolley Madison

Barbara Schlichting author photoRelevant History welcomes Barbara Schlichting, author of the “First Ladies” mystery series. Barbara has an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in special education. She studied at Bemidji State University and currently resides in Bemidji with her husband. Dolley Madison: The Blood Spangled Banner, a mystery that ties modern-day clues with historical features, follows a descendant of Dolley Madison who owns the First Lady White House Dollhouse Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Look for the release of Mary Lincoln: Words Can Kill in the fall of 2016. To learn more about Barbara and her books, visit her web site, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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As a substitute in the local school district, it is apparent to me that students nowadays have more to learn than I did at their age. Unfortunately, so much of what was learned and memorized in my day is not being taught today. Also because of cell phones and other electronic devices, information is easily researched and soon forgotten. I wanted to make history relevant and fun as well as bringing it alive, which I hope to do with this series.

Our nation’s first First Lady
Dolley MadisonDolley Madison was the most quintessential, bipartisan first lady to have ever lived in the White House. Her term began with Thomas Jefferson while her husband James Madison was secretary of state. She became Jefferson’s hostess for all state dinners and official functions since he was a widower. Jefferson called Dolley his first lady, which is how the title originated.

In the Madisons’ Washington home plus in her beloved Montpelier, Dolley opened her doors to all politicians, treating them equal. Her parties or soirees were famous, and people came from miles around to attend. All things were discussed, and because of her open-door policy, much was accomplished in the Senate and the Congress.

When Madison became president, Dolley moved her soirees to the White House. She entertained by serving cakes and wine, which made her famous around the world. Dolley’s humanity shined through, embracing everyone. She hosted the first inaugural ball. (Dolley did like a nip of snuff and alcohol). She taught everyone how to be civil and to respect each other by showing love to all.

By commandeering a wagon during the War of 1812, she saved vital state documents, the Presidents’ papers, silver, and china plus Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington. When the soldiers began singing our national anthem, they sang it for Dolley. After the war was over and the Madisons returned to Washington, Dolley rallied citizens and politicians by continuing with the soirees and promoting national unity.

After President Madison’s death, poverty forced her to sell her home, Montpelier, but she was happy to return to Washington, where she opened her doors again to politicians to discuss the day’s business.

The House of Representatives commemorated Dolley with a version of the Medal of Honor for her role in the War of 1812. The medal was cast in silver. When the telegraph was first invented, and Samuel Morse sent his famous message, “what hath God wrought?” Dolley was beside him. She was asked if she’d like to send a telegraph to the recipient, who was the wife of a U.S. Representative and a Baltimore cousin. Dolley asked Morse to send: “Message from Mrs. Madison. She sends her love to Mrs. Wethered.” This made her the first person to send a personal message. With Alexander Hamilton’s widow, Dolley attended the ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the Washington Monument. She passed away a year later and was eulogized as America’s First Lady.

Relatable history
My main character, Liv Anderson, treats the dolls as if they’re human by greeting them in the morning and saying “good night” in the evening. In between, she asks the dolls questions about what the president did or said during the day. I also relate the styles of clothes, the décor of the White House, and how it changed over time. In Dolley Madison: The Blood Spangled Banner, Liv comes up against a greedy killer who will stop at nothing to locate the original manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

I hope I’ve accomplished my goal in getting the reader to enjoy history and the love of the First Ladies. They’ve played a major role in the forming of this new nation and still are of great importance in today’s world.

*****

The Blood Spangled Banner book coverA big thanks to Barbara Schlichting. She’ll give away a trade paperback copy of Dolley Madison: The Blood Spangled Banner to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the U.S. only.

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The Winner of The Gilded Cage

P.A. De Voe has won a copy of The Gilded Cage by Judy Alter. Congrats to P.A. De Voe!

Thanks to Judy Alter for describing a historical riot that was similar to 21st-century protests. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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The One Percent in the 1880s

Judy Alter author photoRelevant History welcomes back Judy Alter, a native of Chicago who lives in Texas but never lost her love for the Windy City and its lake. She is the author of over seventy books, fiction and nonfiction, adult and young-adult, including fictional biographies Libbie (Elizabeth Bacon Custer); Jessie (Jessie Benton Frémont); Cherokee Rose (Lucille Mulhall, first rodeo girl roper); and Sundance, Butch and Me (Etta Place). Today she writes contemporary cozy mysteries. She is the single parent of four children and the grandmother of seven. To learn more about her and her books, visit her web site and blog, and follow her on Facebook and Goodreads.

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In many ways, Chicago in the 1880s was a mirror image of industrial cities across the nation. It was a city of circles with the business district at the core, ringed by slums—hastily thrown up shacks and shanties, even places like the Patches where people lived outdoors on the river bank. Then came “the suburbs,” grand homes of the business barons. To the west were the Stockyards, where families lived in Packingtown with filthy streets and oppressive odors, infested in summer by mosquitoes.

Like the rest of the country, Chicago was threatened by worker unrest as laborers demanded an eight-hour day and better wages. There were 20,000 active anarchists in Chicago, led by a man named Parsons who had run for office to change the system from within. Defeated by ballot stuffing, he vowed to destroy the system, and called for strikes in his newspaper, The Alarm.

Prelude to violence
Trouble began in Chicago with the 1886 strike at the McCormick reaper plant. On 1 May 1886, a German anarchist named August Spies led 80,000 men up Michigan Avenue, where they laid down their tools. Factories were silent and empty. The city was prepared for violence, but the demonstration was peaceful. Still, nerves were on edge.

On 3 May, Cyrus McCormick used police and strikebreakers to prevent returning strikers from going back to work. They used Billy clubs and rifle butts to crack skulls and injured several, some severely. August Spies gathered the uninjured a distance away and began exhorting them about their rights. When the shift bell rang, striking workers drove the strikebreakers back inside and began smashing windows. Spies called for a peaceful meeting the following evening in Haymarket Square.

Again, the city was prepared for violence, expecting perhaps a bomb. Spies attracted only 2500 men this time. Mayor Carter Harrison asked riot troops to be on alert at the nearby police station but clearly ordered Police Chief Bonfield not to order his men to fire. A decade earlier Bonfield had ordered his men to fire at strikers, and Harrison did not want a repeat of the violence.

The mayor himself attended the rally, standing near Spies and ostentatiously lighting a cigarette over and over to call attention to his presence. Satisfied that the gathering was peaceful, he went by the police station to tell Bonfield to send his troops home. There would be no violence in Chicago that night.

The Haymarket Riot
Bonfield disobeyed. He marched his troops to the meeting, which had now dwindled to about 300 men whom he ordered to disband. Instead someone threw a bomb, Bonfield yelled “Fire,” and the police fired wildly into the crowd. At least seven policemen and one civilian died; many more were injured as men scrambled to avoid the bullets.

August Spies and seven other anarchists were arrested; seven sentenced to be hung, one to fifteen years. Two later had their sentences commuted to life in prison, and one cheated the hangman through suicide. But four men were hung. The Haymarket Riot became a landmark event in the history of America’s labor relations.

The Palmer mansionWhat does it have to do with the story of Cissy and Potter Palmer in my book The Gilded Cage? It is woven into the novel partly as the historical background and partly because it shows the difference in their reactions. Palmer condemned the protestors and claimed they should have stayed home. Cissy believed in taking philanthropy to those who need it. In the novel she bundles food and blankets to take to the families of the arrested men. Police, she told her son, would take care of their own—the families of those officers who died.

To me, this story has remarkable relevance in this day of social discontent and the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. It was either Edmund Burke or George Santayana (sources differ) who wrote, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s one of the major themes of The Gilded Cage.

*****

The Gilded Cage book coverA big thanks to Judy Alter. She’ll give away a trade paperback copy of The Gilded Cage to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the U.S. only.

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The Winners of The Trouble to Check Her

Ashley McConnell and June have won ebook copies of The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace. Congrats to Ashley and June!

Thanks to Maria Grace for showing us the romance of elopement in history vs. the reality. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Easier than Gretna Green

Maria Grace author photoRelevant History welcomes Regency romance author Maria Grace, who has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a sixteen-year veteran of the university classroom, where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She blogs at Random Bits of Fascination—mainly about her fascination with Regency era history and its role in her fiction. Her newest novel, The Trouble to Check Her, was released March 2016. To learn more about her and her books, visit her group blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

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Edmund Blair Leighton "The Elopement"A couple eloping to Grenta Green is a fairly common plot device for romances set in the early 1800s. But why was it done (other than because it sounds really romantic), and what cheaper, easier alternatives were at hand for a couple inclined to elope?

The Hardwicke Act
Starting with the ‘why’: Marriage back at the start of the 1800s was pretty different than it is today. For many years marriage only required words of consent uttered by the parties involved (at least age fourteen for men and twelve for women) in front of two witnesses.

While that approach made things fairly simple, it proved a record-keeping nightmare as there was no real way to prove a marriage did or did not exist. To rectify this dilemma, the Hardwicke Act of 1753 stipulated:

* A couple needed a license or the reading of the banns to marry
* Parental consent if either was under the age of twenty one
* The ceremony must take place within a public chapel or church, by authorized clergy
* The marriage must be performed between eight a.m. and noon before witnesses
* The marriage had to be recorded in the marriage register with the signatures of both parties, the witnesses, and the minister.

Usually parental consent was the fly in the ointment, but sometimes, the reading of the banns might raise an objection. Perhaps one of the parties was promised to marry another, or worse, had already married another. Either could put a crimp on a young couple’s plans.

An obvious solution might be to go somewhere else to get married, like perhaps Scotland. Scottish law merely required two witnesses and a minimum age of sixteen for both parties. (Of course for now, we’ll ignore the fact that whether or not Scottish marriages were legally valid in England was a matter of some debate.)

Gretna Green was just nine miles from the last English staging post at Carlisle and just one mile over the border with Scotland. The town took advantage of the situation and made something of a business in quick marriages, not unlike Los Vegas today. Hence, it was known for elopements, and it became a favorite plot device.

The Trouble with Gretna Green
If it was so simple and convenient, why not go to Gretna Green to marry? Barring the fact that elopements were a good way to get ostracized from good society, there were practical considerations that made it unsuitable for many.

Off to Gretna GreenGretna Green is three hundred twenty miles from London, the largest British population center of the early 1800s. My local highways boast an 80 or 85 mile-per-hour speed limit, so I can travel that distance in half a day, no bother. In the early 1800s those speeds were unheard of. Most people walked. Everywhere. Only the very wealthy had horses and carriages of their own.

If one were moderately well off, they might purchase tickets on a public conveyance to go long distances. While better than walking, one could still only expect to travel five to seven miles per hour. Traveling twelve hours a day, with only moderate stops to change horses and deal with personal necessities, the trip would take about four days.

Four days packed in a carriage with as many other people as the proprietors could squeeze into the space and more sitting on top of the coach.

A lovely, romantic picture, yeah?

Luckily, Gretna Green was not the only option. Other locations were available to facilitate a clandestine marriage. Towns along the eastern borders of Scotland, like Lamberton, Paxton, Mordington, and Coldstream also catered to eloping couples. In some cases, the toll-keepers along the road provided the marriages at the tollhouses.

From the south, those willing to sail might go to Southampton, Hampshire and purchase passage to the Channel Islands. The Isle of Guernsey in particular provided another alternative for a quick marriage.

Far simpler and closer to home
A far less romantic but simpler, cheaper and closer to home alternative existed. All a couple really had to do was have their banns read for three consecutive weeks in a church, then have the ceremony performed.

In a large urban center, like London, parishes could be huge and the clergy hard-pressed to verify each couple’s age and residency. If a couple could manage to get to a large town, or better London itself, they could lose themselves in the crowd and get married the conventional way, and their families were unlikely to get word of it in time to prevent anything.

After such a wedding occurred, the only recourse an aggrieved parent had was to go to the church where the banns had been called and challenge that the banns had been mistaken or even fraudulent. The process was public, inconvenient and embarrassing and thus not very common.

Despite a Gretna Green (or other Scottish) elopement being a romantic idyll, marrying in a big city parish was by far the most likely way young people married against their parents’ wishes.

*****

The Trouble to Check Her book cover imageA big thanks to Maria Grace. She’ll give away an ebook copy of The Trouble to Check Her to two people who contribute comments on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winners from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET.

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The Winner of Hidden

Sandra has won a copy of Hidden by P.A. De Voe. Congrats to Sandra!

Thanks to P.A. De Voe for a look at justice and law in ancient China. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Justice and Law in Ancient China

P.A. De Voe author photoRelevant History welcomes P.A. De Voe, an anthropologist, Asian specialist, and incorrigible magpie for collecting seemingly irrelevant information. Her first published mystery, A Tangled Yarn, is a contemporary cozy. In her current writing, however, she has jumped back in time and place, immersing her stories in the Ming Dynasty. She’s published several historical short stories, From Judge Lu’s Ming Dynasty Case Files, in anthologies and online. Her newly published adventure/mystery YA trilogy (Hidden, Warned, and Trapped) takes place in 1380 A.D. China. To learn more about P.A. De Voe and her books and to get a free short story, visit her web site.

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It was ancient China’s inherently different approach to law—based on morality and collective responsibility—compared to our contemporary approach—based on written law and individual rights—that has interested me for a long time. This interest led to my writing crime novels and short stories set in 14th- and 15th-century China. In my Ming Dynasty trilogy and Judge Lu short stories, I often highlight different parts of how the traditional Chinese judicial system worked as well as its implications for the entire family and community.

Justice and law
Traditionally, people believed a criminal’s behavior threw the world into a moral imbalance. And this imbalance had to be righted by not only bringing the criminal to task for his crime—and thereby bringing justice to the victim—but also by that criminal taking moral responsibility for his crime.

We can think of this view of crime as each individual being a brick upon which the health and well-being of the community and even the nation was built. As a result, it was not the individual but the community, the society, which was important.

The role of the magistrate
The magistrate was the centerpiece of the Ming Dynasty’s legal system. A magistrate was chosen among the best and brightest in the country. He had passed the all-important national examinations at the highest level. Once assigned to the office of magistrate, he remained in any one location for only three years at a time. This limited time frame was designed to keep him from becoming too close to the local power structure and thereby subverting his ability to do his law-enforcing job fairly.

And his job was formidable and multifaceted: he was the investigator, prosecutor, and judge all rolled into one. Because of his position’s tremendous power, the government required full documentation of the cases that came before the court. During the investigation, every detail had to be recorded. Examinations of witnesses were open and transparent, taking place in public and written up by the court secretary. The law mandated a timetable for bringing each case to a successful resolution—that is, to getting an admission of guilt by the alleged criminal.

Admission of guilt
It was critical for the criminal to admit his guilt. Simply finding rock hard evidence against him was not enough. An accused could not be legally found guilty and given a sentence if he did not admit to having committed the crime. This was because by admitting guilt he took responsibility for the crime and thereby restored moral order in the community and the universe.

Collective responsibility
Once found guilty, the criminal was not the only person who could and would be punished. Because of the notion of collective responsibility, members of his family could also be punished—or at least held accountable at some level. If a man, for example, committed a crime, his family was considered partly responsible for his behavior and, therefore, the crime. If his father was alive, the father could receive an even more severe punishment than his son because the father was ultimately responsible for his son’s behavior.

The legal use of torture
This, of course, raised the problem of how to get a criminal to admit guilt, which in the case of serious crimes, could lead to the death penalty, exile, or military service—which was at the borders of the country and often meant a life of severe hardship. Because, as I said, even unquestionable evidence against the criminal was not enough, the answer to how to get a man to admit guilt was the use of moderated torture. The court applied various levels of torture. The law strictly defined the type and degree of torture not only allowed, but often expected. While the use of torture could be used in bringing about a confession, a magistrate’s use and potential abuse of torture was closely monitored by the government. How was this done?

Monitoring judicial practices
Whenever a serious crime was committed—with the penalty, therefore, being equally serious—all of the court documents had to be sent up through the various levels of the judicial process until it reached the emperor’s office. If any impropriety was found—in the investigation, in the treatment of the alleged criminal, or in the punishment assigned—the magistrate was held culpable. This resulted in an investigation of the magistrate and his handling the case. If found guilty of maleficence, the magistrate could receive the punishment he had given the alleged criminal—including the death penalty! Plus, he and his family could lose all of their property. Again, under the concept of collective responsibility, his family was punished along with him—at a lesser level but still punished.

Such a system may seem overly harsh; however, its objectives were to 1) bring justice to victims of crimes; 2) make the criminal (and his relevant family members) take responsibility for his crime; and 3) return moral order to the community and, thus, the universe. How this all played out in the lives of people is what fascinates me and what I hope intrigues my readers.

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Hidden book cover imageA big thanks to P.A. DeVoe. She will give away a paperback copy of Hidden to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available worldwide.

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The Winner of Don’t Dare a Dame

Warren Bull has won a copy of Don’t Dare a Dame by M. Ruth Myers. Congrats to Warren Bull!

Thanks to M. Ruth Myers for a look at the personal sacrifices made by women who worked on the home front during WWII. Thanks, also, to everyone who visited and commented on Relevant History this week. Watch for another Relevant History post, coming soon.

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Ordinary and Overlooked

M Ruth Myers author photoRelevant History welcomes M. Ruth Myers, who received a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America for Don’t Dare a Dame, the third book in her Maggie Sullivan mystery series. The series follows a woman private investigator in Dayton, Ohio, from the end of the Great Depression through the end of WW2. Other novels by the author, in various genres, have been translated, optioned for film, and condensed for magazine publication. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri J-School and worked on daily papers in Wyoming, Michigan and Ohio. To learn more about Ruth and her books, visit her
web site and blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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Time constraints cause most survey history classes to focus on generals and royalty; statesmen; luminaries in the arts and sciences. Small wonder ordinary folks like most of us feel no connection to such distant people and see no link between their world and ours today.

That’s why I’m currently writing the fifth book in a mystery series about a woman private eye in 1930s and 1940s Dayton, Ohio. Yes, she carries a .38 and keeps a bottle of gin in her office desk like her male counterparts. But she lives in an all-woman rooming house, as was typical for America’s first-wave career women. She’s slighted because of her gender. When her bank account runs low, she eats sardines and crackers to stretch her money. In other words, she’s an ordinary person with worries much like our own, but living in times much different than ours. We can identify with her, yet the world she inhabits is just a bit exotic.

Her name is Maggie Sullivan, and I created her for two reasons.

First, I wanted to bring to life the American women of what’s widely known as the Greatest Generation, the generation that on the battlefield and at home was the lifeblood of World War II. Most movies and novels depict them as sweethearts left behind or as Rosie the Riveter, or dancing with GI’s at USO dances. In recent years, belatedly, and usually pegged to an occasion like Veterans Day, an article here and there recognizes the women who flew military planes from one base to another or performed similar auxiliary functions.

The women overlooked
Overlooked are the countless women who stepped into jobs on newspapers, in shops and offices, as cartoonists or university instructors to keep the country moving. During World War II, the number of American women working outside the home increased from 25% to 36%.

Unmentioned is the shortage of housing women faced as they flocked to cities to enable American factories to produce vital supplies. In San Diego, with its booming aircraft industry, many single women were forced to sleep in shifts in a single room. In Washington, D.C., both genders searched the obituaries in order to pounce on apartments that became available.

In Dayton, Ohio, young women who had trained as teletype operators arrived to work at what is now Wright-Patterson A.F.B. Shortage of barracks meant many had to live miles away in the city’s YWCA or in boarding houses where they shared a laundry tub and a kitchen in the basement, riding to their around-the-clock shifts in an unheated bus with hand straps and a few bench seats.

World War II women posterHousing was just one of the hardships faced by women whose husbands flooded into the military. If they wanted to live with their husband while he was in training, they’d find themselves sharing an apartment with another couple, or living in a lean-to, possibly with no bathtub. Nor were they always welcomed by locals. Two teachers from Missouri recall being called “low-down soldiers’ wives” and “damn Yankees” when they went to see their husbands at Ft. Knox, KY. The “rooms” they managed to find consisted of cots in the hall of rooming houses. When their husbands shipped out, women knew they wouldn’t see them again until the war ended—or they came home too badly wounded for further service. Because the military censored letters from men in uniform, the women at home didn’t even know the country where they were stationed.

Relatable history
My second goal in writing the Maggie Sullivan mysteries was to make history relevant by helping some of my readers recognize that people are still alive in their own families who, if not part of the Greatest Generation itself, have childhood memories of the 1940s or remember a parent or grandparent talking about that era. Readers can compare history with things in their own experience: rotary phones to cell phones; snail mail to real-time Skype conversation with loved ones in distant places; World War II rationing of food, clothes and other essentials to current day flag bumper stickers. If you have a female relative who did something interesting on the World War II home front, I invite you to contribute photos and share her story.

Through Maggie Sullivan and her friends on the home front, I attempt to show ordinary Americans, a typical Midwestern community, and American society itself, as they move from a sort of innocence in the waning years of the Great Depression into and through the reality of World War II. If I’ve done my job right, readers will be able to hear the click of heels on the wooden floor at McCrory’s five and dime and see people from all walks of life pulling together to support their fighting men. If I’ve done my job right, they’ll be able to touch history.

*****

Don't Dare a Dame book coverA big thanks to M. Ruth Myers. No Game for a Dame (Maggie Sullivan #1) is available free for Kindle, Nook, Apple, and Kobo. (Note: No Game for a Dame is an excellent read. I posted a five-star review for it on Amazon.) In addition, Ruth will give away a paperback copy of Don’t Dare a Dame (Maggie Sullivan #3) to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the U.S. only.

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