In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King Jr.
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Arts Culture STEM Competition Tuesday 16th April 2024 Industry Opinion Local Nations

Victor Lustig: The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower Twice

Victor Lustig, a master con artist from Austria-Hungary, weaved a life of audacious scams throughout Europe and the United States in the early 20th century. Nicknamed "the man who sold the Eiffel Tower twice," Lustig's exploits captured headlines and cemented his place as one of history's most cunning tricksters.

Early Days and Shifting Gears

Born in 1890, Lustig displayed a quick mind from a young age. However, his talents turned towards deception by his teens, leading him to card games and other hustles. After leaving school, he honed his skills, becoming fluent in multiple languages and adept at reading people.

Lustig's initial cons targeted wealthy travelers on Atlantic liners. He'd pose as a businessman or producer, swindling unsuspecting victims out of cash. World War I disrupted these operations, prompting Lustig to seek new opportunities in the United States. By this time, he had earned a reputation amongst law enforcement for his clever scams, including one where he tricked a bank into giving him money for fake bonds.

The Eiffel Tower Scheme

In 1925, Lustig stumbled upon a newspaper article discussing the high maintenance costs of the Eiffel Tower. Seeing an opportunity, he hatched a daring plan. He forged government documents and posed as a high-ranking official tasked with secretly selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal.

Lustig invited a group of scrap metal dealers to a posh hotel, convincing them the sale was confidential due to public sentiment. He carefully observed the group, identifying Andre Poisson, a businessman eager for prestige, as his prime target.

Lustig played on Poisson's insecurities, portraying himself as a corrupt official seeking a bribe to finalize the deal. Believing he was securing a lucrative opportunity, Poisson paid a hefty sum to Lustig, who promptly vanished with the money.

Confident that Poisson would be too embarrassed to report the crime, Lustig even attempted the same scam later that year with another group of dealers. However, this time, the authorities were alerted, forcing Lustig to flee back to the U.S.

The "Rumanian Box" Scam

Another of Lustig's infamous cons involved a specially designed mahogany box he called the "money box" or "Rumanian Box." He claimed it could duplicate any currency placed inside, taking just six hours. The box had compartments and levers, creating an illusion of a complex machine.

Lustig would convince his mark to insert a specific bill, then secretly swap it with a genuine one hidden within the box. After a supposed "printing" process, Lustig would accompany the mark to a bank to verify the duplicate. Confident in the device's legitimacy, the mark would then be willing to pay a hefty sum for it. Lustig would often pack the box with additional real bills before disappearing, leaving the victim with a worthless device.

Later Years and Downfall

Lustig's audacity even extended to attempting a con on Al Capone. He approached the notorious gangster with a seemingly risky scheme, requesting a small investment. After a staged failure, Lustig convinced Capone to give him a sum of money to "tide him over," further solidifying his image as a trustworthy associate.

However, Lustig's most elaborate scheme involved a large-scale counterfeiting operation in the 1930s. He partnered with others to create counterfeit bills and distribute them through a network of couriers. The influx of fake money eventually drew the attention of federal agents.

Lustig's downfall came from a disgruntled mistress who tipped off authorities. He was arrested and later escaped prison, only to be recaptured. Lustig was sentenced to Alcatraz Island for counterfeiting and died of pneumonia in 1947.

Victor Lustig's life of crime may be a cautionary tale, but his cunning and elaborate cons continue to fascinate even today.

Innovation vs. Ethics: The Debate Over AI in Agriculture

In the realm of agriculture, AI (Artificial Intelligence) presents a double-edged sword. While it offers potential benefits for animal welfare, it also raises significant ethical concerns. As technology advances, the farming industry is increasingly integrating AI into its operations, raising questions about the ethical limits of AI involvement in farming.

Current applications of AI in farming include monitoring and managing animal health through sensors that track various physiological and behavioral indicators. These sensors, coupled with AI algorithms, aim to improve animal welfare by detecting health issues early and optimizing environmental conditions. For example, in the dairy and beef industry, AI can monitor cattle health, reducing the need for intrusive interventions. Similarly, in the poultry and pork industries, AI can ensure animals are well-fed and watered, improving their overall well-being.

However, the integration of AI into farming also poses risks, particularly in intensively farmed systems. For instance, while AI can improve individual animal care, it may also lead to the expansion of inherently low-welfare systems, such as cage-based methods, which prioritize efficiency over animal welfare. This raises concerns about a potential global decline in animal welfare standards as AI drives the adoption of these systems.

Moreover, the increasing reliance on AI in farming raises questions about the autonomy and dignity of farmers. AI-controlled parameters, such as temperature and humidity, could be set remotely by corporations, eroding farmers' control over their own farms and turning them into mere instruments of corporate interests. Additionally, AI's potential to reduce the need for human workers raises concerns about job loss and the nature of agricultural work.

To address these ethical challenges, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines for the use of AI in farming. These guidelines should ensure that AI advancements do not lead to an increase in maximum stocking densities or drive the shift towards greater use of cage-based intensive systems. Additionally, companies should be transparent about welfare problems detected by AI and held accountable for addressing them. AI technologies should also not be used to take autonomy and decision-making power away from frontline farmers.

In conclusion, while AI offers promising advancements for animal welfare in farming, it also presents significant ethical challenges. By establishing and enforcing ethical guidelines, we can ensure that AI in farming serves the interests of both animals and farmers, while upholding ethical standards and preserving the dignity of all involved parties.

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Exploring the Mbendjele BaYaka's Mobile Lifestyle

In March 2023, a team of researchers embarked on a journey through the Likouala region of the Republic of Congo, guided by Mbendjele BaYaka men, one of the last remaining mobile hunter-gatherer groups. These men led the researchers through the rainforest, seeking their temporary settlements. The researchers observed that the Mbendjele BaYaka's mobile lifestyle was not merely a means of survival but a deliberate choice to maintain a way of life that has persisted for hundreds of thousands of years.

Contrary to traditional narratives, which depict hunter-gatherers as primitive societies struggling for survival, the Mbendjele BaYaka's mobility is part of a larger social network that spans vast territories. This mobility allows them to maintain genetic diversity, share cultural innovations, and avoid inbreeding, ensuring their resilience as a community.

The researchers also found that settling down, as some hunter-gatherer groups have done, can lead to higher fertility rates and increased workload, but also higher disease rates and reduced leisure time. This suggests that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with its mobility and abundance of free time, offers unique advantages that are often overlooked.

Ultimately, the Mbendjele BaYaka's choice to remain mobile challenges the notion that settled agriculture is the pinnacle of human progress. Their lifestyle highlights the diversity of human experience and the importance of understanding and preserving alternative ways of life that have sustained us for millennia.

The Mbendjele BaYaka's mobility is not just about moving from place to place; it is a way of life deeply rooted in their culture and worldview. For them, mobility is not a burden but a source of freedom and connection to their environment. It allows them to maintain close ties with other communities and to access a wide range of resources throughout the year.

One of the key aspects of the Mbendjele BaYaka's mobility is their seasonal movements. They move to different locations based on the availability of resources such as food, water, and shelter. During the dry season, they may move closer to rivers or streams where water is more abundant. In the rainy season, they may move to higher ground to avoid flooding. This seasonal movement not only allows them to access resources more efficiently but also helps them avoid overexploiting any one area.

Another important aspect of the Mbendjele BaYaka's mobility is their social organization. They live in small, kin-based groups that are highly egalitarian. Decision-making is often done through consensus, and leadership is informal and temporary. This social structure allows them to adapt quickly to changing environments and to make decisions that benefit the entire group.

The Mbendjele BaYaka's mobility is also closely tied to their spiritual beliefs. They believe that the forest is inhabited by spirits that must be respected and appeased. This belief system reinforces their connection to the land and provides them with a sense of purpose and identity.

In conclusion, the Mbendjele BaYaka's mobile lifestyle is a complex and deeply ingrained way of life that offers important insights into the diversity of human cultures and the adaptability of our species. By studying and understanding their way of life, we can gain a greater appreciation for the many ways in which humans have thrived in diverse environments throughout history.

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Navigating Ethics in Supporting Sports Teams

In the world of sports, fans often face moral dilemmas when players, coaches, or team owners are accused or convicted of wrongdoing. These situations raise questions about the role of fans and the ethical choices they must make.

One such case arose in August 2023, when Manchester United had to decide whether to allow Mason Greenwood, a talented player who had faced serious allegations of rape and assault, back into the team. Fans were also faced with a choice: should they continue to support Greenwood and the team despite the allegations?

This situation is not unique. Across different sports, fans are confronted with similar challenges. In American football, fans of the Cleveland Browns may soon have to support Deshaun Watson, who has been accused of serial harassment. Fans of the Kansas City Chiefs must decide whether to participate in the racially insensitive 'Tomahawk Chop.' In rugby, fans of the Parramatta Eels had to reckon with Dylan Brown's conviction for sexual touching.

When players or teams are involved in such controversies, fans are left to grapple with their ethical responsibilities. As fans, they are deeply invested in their teams, often viewing fandom as a form of love for the community and identity the team represents. This loyalty can be akin to loving a country or a city, with fans identifying with the values and history of their team.

In cases where a player's actions conflict with the values of the team or the fans, supporters may feel compelled to take action. This can range from voicing dissent to boycotting games or withdrawing financial support. Collective action by fans has, in some cases, led to clubs reversing controversial decisions, highlighting the power of fan solidarity.

Critics of fandom may question why fans continue to support teams implicated in wrongdoing. However, for many fans, sports fandom is more than just a hobby; it is a source of meaning and community. Walking away from a team is not a decision made lightly, as it can feel like abandoning a part of one's identity.

In conclusion, navigating the moral risks of fandom requires critical reflection and a willingness to stand up for ethical principles. While sports fandom can provide joy and community, it also demands fans to confront uncomfortable truths and make difficult choices. Ultimately, being a true fan may sometimes mean being willing to walk away.

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Medieval Saint Rediscovered in English Manuscript

A recently unearthed entry in a 15th-century manuscript sheds new light on the legacy of Thurstan, the Archbishop of York from 1114 to 1140. Previously thought to have been overlooked for sainthood, the discovery in a service book from Pontefract Priory confirms Thurstan's status as a saint. The entry, found by English Heritage Senior Properties Historian Dr. Michael Carter at King’s College Cambridge, records Thurstan’s death on February 6th, 1140, in red ink, indicating its significance to the monks at the time.

Thurstan was a pivotal figure in medieval England, deeply involved in both church and state affairs. He championed religious reform and played a crucial role in founding many of Northern England’s major monasteries, including Furness Abbey, Gisborough Priory, and Rievaulx Abbey, among others. Thurstan also demonstrated political acumen, leading the English army to victory against the Scots in 1138 and settling a longstanding dispute over precedence between Canterbury and York.

Born in Normandy in 1070, Thurstan aspired to become a Cluniac monk, fulfilling his vow by retiring to the Cluniac priory at Pontefract in 1140, where he passed away. Despite being well-known among medieval historians for his political and social influence, Thurstan's sainthood was previously unrecognized. Dr. Carter's discovery firmly establishes Thurstan as a saint, placing him alongside other revered figures of Northern England's religious history.

Several indicators of Thurstan's sanctity exist in historical records. The archdeacon of Nottingham reportedly had a vision of Thurstan in heaven shortly after his death, while accounts of the opening of his tomb revealed an incorrupt body and vestments emitting a sweet smell – both considered signs of sainthood in the medieval period.

Professor Janet Burton, an expert in medieval history, emphasizes Thurstan's transformative impact on his diocese, introducing administrative reforms and fostering new monastic foundations. His interactions with prominent figures in European religious movements highlight his broad influence and progressive ideas.

Thurstan's newfound status as a saint adds a significant dimension to his historical legacy, affirming his place among the revered religious figures of medieval England and Europe.

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams

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The Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith

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The Lycurgus Cup: A 4th-Century Marvel of Roman Glass

The Lycurgus Cup, a 4th-century Roman glass cage cup, stands as a unique testament to the craftsmanship of its time. Crafted from a rare dichroic glass, the cup reveals a remarkable color transformation, shifting from red when illuminated from behind to green when lit from the front.

Notably, the Lycurgus Cup is the sole surviving complete Roman glass object of its kind, distinguished by its intricate cage-cup design featuring a composition with mythological figures. Depicting the tale of King Lycurgus, who sought to harm a follower of Dionysus, the cup captures a moment of transformation and divine intervention.

The dichroic effect is achieved through the inclusion of nanoparticles of gold and silver in colloidal form within the glass. The exact process remains unclear, likely discovered inadvertently through the presence of minutely ground gold and silver dust. The Lycurgus Cup's dichroic quality sets it apart from the few other surviving fragments of Roman dichroic glass.

Corning Glass Works successfully reproduced the Lycurgus effect in a material with similar composition, furthering our understanding of this ancient glassmaking technique. Recent advancements include the replication of the dichroic effect in a 3D printable nanocomposite material by researchers from The Netherlands, utilizing silver and gold nanoparticles.

Believed to originate from Alexandria or Rome around 290–325 AD, the cup measures 16.5 cm × 13.2 cm. Its superb condition suggests a history of preservation, potentially within a church treasury or recovered from a sarcophagus. The present gilt-bronze rim and foot, added circa 1800, enhance the cup's visual appeal.

The cup's early history remains shrouded in mystery, with its first known mention in 1845. Acquired by the Rothschild family, it found its way to the British Museum in 1958. The Lycurgus Cup, now a part of the museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, has been displayed in various exhibitions worldwide, showcasing its captivating color-changing properties.

The intricate scenes on the cup depict King Lycurgus, bound by a vine, surrounded by mythological figures like Ambrosia and Dionysus. The interpretation of this scene varies, with suggestions linking it to historical events or associating it with the ripening of red grapes, aligning with Bacchic celebrations.

The Lycurgus Cup's significance extends beyond its aesthetic appeal. It provides a glimpse into the esoteric religious practices of its time, reflecting a deeper and more complex understanding than contemporary Christianity. Whether used for feasts or Bacchic rituals, the cup's lack of a foot hints at its communal use, possibly passed around during medieval cultures.

The Lycurgus Cup remains a captivating artifact, a masterpiece of ancient glasswork, and a subject of ongoing scientific exploration. Its ability to bridge the past and present, coupled with advancements in nanocomposite replication, ensures its enduring legacy in both historical and scientific contexts.

The Tale of a Treasured Radio: A Father-Son Connection Through Time

In today's era of disposability and constant upgrades, finding a cherished relic from the past is a rarity. For Robert McGee, that cherished possession is a blocky, black radio manufactured in 1941, the same year his father turned 12. Robert stumbled upon this unexpected gem when he salvaged it from a landfill at the tender age of 13 back in 1978.

The person who tossed it away likely deemed it irreparable, but Robert's father, an electronics repairman, saw its potential. With some expertise and a straightforward tube replacement, the radio roared back to life. It took its place on a shelf above his father's workbench, serenading them with country tunes about lonesome truckers. The radio became a symbol of their bond.

After his father's passing in 1994, Robert carried the radio across thousands of miles, from the Appalachian farm of his upbringing to Los Angeles and back home. In California, he tuned in to horse races and famous radio personalities like Paul Harvey and Casey Kasem. The radio evolved from an object into a conduit to his father and a wellspring of solace.

Now resting on a shelf above Robert's workspace, the radio sees sporadic use due to its age and scarcity of repair parts. But every year, on the anniversary of his father's death, Robert switches it on to check if it still hums to life. Each time, he senses his father's presence, reminiscing about the day they salvaged the radio and the unique bond they shared.

Robert's father embodied practical skills and authenticity. He could fix anything, from a broken-down Fiat to any challenge Robert faced. Memories of his father's fearlessness and resistance to societal norms are precious to Robert.

The radio stands as a time capsule, transporting Robert to those cherished moments with his father. As he tunes into its AM spectrum, he recalls the day they found the radio and his father's gentle acceptance. The radio becomes a vessel for their shared experiences, a reminder that their bond transcends time and space.

This year, as Robert listens to the radio again, he marvels at its endurance and the connection it sustains. Amidst the booming voice of an evangelist preaching the same message, he finds solace in the radio's unwavering signal. With each listen, Robert and his father draw closer, drowning out the static of the modern world.

In a world where possessions come and go, the radio's tale reminds us of the potency of sentimentality and the enduring connection between a father and his son.

Inside the World of Andrew Callaghan: A Journey into American Subcultures

In the bustling world of modern journalism, Andrew Callaghan has carved a unique niche for himself. His journey began on Bourbon Street, working as a doorman while conducting interviews with inebriated tourists for a series called "Quarter Confessions." The success of these clips on Instagram catapulted Callaghan into the limelight, leading to the creation of the web series "All Gas No Brakes." Together with his friends, he embarked on a cross-country adventure to explore the eccentric corners of American society, from furries to diehard QAnon believers.

Callaghan's interview style, characterized by a deadpan and droll demeanor, conceals a deep dedication to his craft. This dedication became evident when he, along with his partners, launched the YouTube show "Channel 5," where he seamlessly transitioned from interviewing a gangster rapper to seeking shelter in war-torn Ukraine.

The culmination of his journey is the HBO documentary "This Place Rules," a comprehensive exploration of an America seemingly devouring itself. To delve into the intricacies of his work, Callaghan engaged in a conversation with one of his heroes, British journalist Louis Theroux.

A Conversation with Louis Theroux

The dialogue between Callaghan and Theroux began with an exchange of pleasantries, transcending into a discussion about their respective approaches to journalism. Callaghan described his style as "radically empathetic, unbiased, civilian journalism." He started in a comedic manner, interviewing drunk tourists on Bourbon Street. Over time, his work oscillated between comedy and serious reporting, depending on the subject matter.

Theroux, a seasoned journalist with a conventional background, shared insights into his own journey. He emphasized the importance of understanding the subjects and finding a connection, even in unconventional and challenging environments.

From Instagram to HBO: Callaghan's Unique Path

Callaghan narrated his unconventional path to success, starting with making short Instagram clips to capture the millennial attention span. He highlighted the challenges of navigating the media landscape, recounting his experiences at the UFO Mega Conference and the unexpected turn of events that led to an HBO documentary deal.

The conversation delved into the making of "This Place Rules," with Callaghan explaining the intentional shock value in the opening scenes featuring rival prank influencers from Florida. The aim was to engage a disengaged American audience with a mix of the bizarre and the serious, reflecting the diverse facets of the country.

Balancing Empathy and Objectivity

As the conversation progressed, the two journalists explored the delicate balance between empathy and objectivity, particularly when dealing with individuals holding controversial views. Callaghan shared his strategy of allowing such individuals to express themselves, often leading them to reveal more about their beliefs. He emphasized the importance of not turning a blind eye to problematic ideologies and exposing public figures responsibly

Social Media's Impact and Deplatforming Dilemma

The discussion turned toward the role of social media in shaping public discourse. Callaghan expressed concern about the algorithm-driven echo chamber effect, where individuals are trapped in a cycle of outrage tailored to their preferences. The dilemma of deplatforming emerged, with both journalists acknowledging its complexities. They discussed the potential unintended consequences, such as pushing individuals toward more extreme platforms.

Seeking Optimism Amidst Chaos

In closing, Callaghan shared his approach to finding optimism and fulfillment in his daily life through personal connections and experiences. Theroux acknowledged the challenges but highlighted the importance of identifying problems without necessarily providing solutions.

The interview concluded with mutual appreciation, as Callaghan thanked Theroux for being a significant influence on his journalistic journey. Theroux, in turn, commended Callaghan for his unique approach and dedication to seeking the truth.

In a world inundated with information, Andrew Callaghan continues to stand out, unraveling the quirks of American society one interview at a time.

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Exploring the Time-Travel Magic of Old Magazines

In the relentless march of time, memories can warp, and history often gets encapsulated into mere ideas. The '80s, an era of vibrant music, unique fashion, and shifting political landscapes, is now etched in our minds as a caricature of a distant time. The Face, a London-based style monthly, recently unearthed, reveals the enchanting dichotomy of the 1984 we remember and the one captured in its pages.

Within the folds of The Face's May 1984 issue, an article titled "Electro: the beat that won’t be beaten" takes center stage, chronicling the dominance of the Roland drum machine and the imported sounds from New York clubs. Yet, what surprises contemporary readers are the subtle omissions of significant historical events. The British miners' strike and the escalating unemployment crisis that gripped the nation find only the faintest mentions. AIDS, a looming epidemic that would soon reshape societies worldwide, is conspicuously absent.

As we delve into these magazine pages, it becomes a journey into a simultaneously familiar and alien 1984. A time capsule that freezes moments in history, not always aligning with our recollections. Much like Elizabeth Hardwick's analogy of old jazz records being "priceless flotsam," these magazines are the artifacts of collective desire, offering a glimpse into the cultural pulse of bygone years.

For many, magazines, both old and new, are repositories of dreams and information. Growing up in 1980s Dublin, the author relied on British magazines to weave a tapestry of interests, from music and fashion to art and literature. However, the romance with the magazine page extends beyond nostalgia; it's a thrill that pulsates through the act of researching offline in libraries, archives, or even the depths of a dusty eBay find.

Old magazines become affordable time machines, enabling readers to embark on archaeological journeys into collective desires. Take a print issue, preferably over 20 years old, and read it cover to cover. Rather than a deep dive, it offers a lateral slice through a culture, providing insights into classes and milieus of the past.

In a quest to understand great sentences, the author stumbled upon Joan Didion's photo captions from the 1960s, offering glimpses of midcentury American magazines' aesthetic sophistication. Beyond the renowned names and iconic images lie subtleties that challenge our perceptions. A copy of Vogue from August 1965 unveils a slightly skewed version of the '60s, with fashion focused on pliable knits and a fascination with "Op" rather than "Pop" art.

Magazines from the past provoke smirks at outdated fashions and assumptions, but they also evoke a sense of nostalgia for the textures and habits of speech. The past, as captured in these pages, is never a mere cliché; it's a complex tapestry that defies simplistic narratives. So, whether reading cover to cover or succumbing to distraction amidst bristling layouts, the magic of old magazines lies in their ability to unlock hidden corners of history and transport readers to bygone eras.

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Controversy Brewing as Congress Pushes for AM Radios in All New Cars

The debate surrounding the fate of AM radio has intensified as Congress proposes a mandate to include AM radio receivers in every new vehicle. While some politicians argue that this move is crucial for public safety and emergency alerts, trade groups representing the automotive and technology industries disagree, stating that the plan is ill-conceived and obstructive to progress.

AM radio, a broadcasting veteran that has outlived various entertainment options like vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, now faces the challenge of keeping up with modern trends. As new vehicle models, especially electric cars, hit the roads, streaming audio is becoming the preferred choice, leaving AM radio trailing behind.

Congress members, unhappy with the phase-out of AM radio in certain vehicles, have proposed the "AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act." The bill seeks to mandate the inclusion of AM radio receivers as standard equipment in all new cars, with no additional cost to the buyer. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are among the co-sponsors of the legislation, stressing the importance of AM radio as a crucial channel for emergency alerts and disseminating information.

While the Federal Communications Commission and the radio broadcasting industry back the proposed law, the actual implementing industries are less enthusiastic. In a letter addressed to the bill's co-sponsors, organizations like the Zero Emission Transportation Association, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the Consumer Technology Association, and TechNet point out the flaws in the plan.

The legislation emphasizes the use of AM radio for emergency alerts, but critics argue that in the digital age, there are more effective and accessible ways to broadcast such alerts, like Wireless Emergency Alerts on cellphones. According to the trade groups, 97 percent of Americans already own cellphones, which are designed to receive such alerts and can even do so when cellular networks are down. Additionally, cellphone alerts can include embedded hyperlinks, providing recipients with instant access to vital information.

As the debate rages on, it remains to be seen whether Congress will succeed in pushing this legislation forward. While some champion the preservation of AM radio for its historical significance and local sports broadcasts, others believe it's time to embrace modern technology for more effective emergency communication.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Bill Watterson

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The Iliad & the Odyssey

Homer

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