ADOS Its origins, troublesome ties and fears it's dividing Black folk in the fight for reparations

Monday, May 27, 2019
The Final Call

There are many organizations and individuals who have spent decades of their existence, and lives, advocating for reparations to be given to the descendants of enslaved Africans in America, during the more than 500 years Black people have spent living in this country and subjected to physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, educational, chemical and medical abuse and mistreatment. 

Make no mistake, reparations has been an ongoing fight, whether people know about it or not. 

Enter #ADOS, a hashtag created by Yvette Carnell, a former Capitol Hill political staffer turned social media blogger, and Antonio Moore, a former district attorney in Los Angeles, as well as an Emmy-nominated film producer. The duo of Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore, who combined, have a following of more than 30,000 people on Twitter, and 114,000 subscribers on their respective YouTube channels, have leveraged their individual popularity and following to help bring the topic of reparations into political and social media discussions. However, over the past few months, the ADOS hashtag has become a source of division within the reparations community. 

“The ADOS movement goes against everything; whether you want to call it Pan-Africanism, or seeing the Black world as a united family, ADOS goes against all of that,” Dr. Ray Winbush, a research professor and director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, told The Final Call. “They have no understanding of how the Black Diaspora throughout the planet is united. So for them to come in and try to divide Black Americans against Jamaicans, Black Brazilians, and even other Africans is ridiculous.”

ADOS plays on a unique brand of identity politics, specifically catering to Black American people. This position is largely based on the lineage of Black folks to their enslaved African descendants, a point of emphasis Ms. Carnell began strongly making in August 2018. 

ADOS also occupies a position on another front: the wealth gap. This part of the ADOS ideology and philosophy is largely driven by Mr. Moore who has penned a number of articles on the subject and co-authored the April 2018 report, “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” with Duke University professor and economist, Dr. Sandy Darity.

These two talking points—Black American identity based on lineage, and how the wealth gap keeps Black people at a financial and economic disadvantage from Whites—represent the foundation of the ADOS reparations platform. 

However, when Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore began discussing these two subjects on social media individually, they never connected them to reparations. That tie-in wouldn’t come until much later. 

Still, if it seems that #ADOS just magically appeared out of thin air, that’s because it did. 

But it’s important to understand the metamorphosis #ADOS has undergone before settling on this final iteration. 

And, because it was by and large birthed on Twitter, tracing the history of ADOS back isn’t difficult.

#ADOS, The Beginning

The #ADOS hashtag is the final version of various plays on Black Americanism and Blacks being descendants of enslaved Africans brought to these shores more than 500 years ago. Initially, #DOS (Descendants of Slaves) was the original hashtag that Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore would use, generally preceded by “American.” 

Prior to their monopolizing the #DOS hashtag, it was primarily used within Twitter’s tech community. The #ADOS hashtag was previously used within the context of Autism (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and wouldn’t officially be tied to Black people until October 2018.

Over the span of roughly two years, between 2017 and 2019, #ADOS as a social media phenomenon, has captured the attention of many people. By embracing #ADOS, many see it as an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and demand something from their Democratic politicians, the same ones they say Blacks blindly voted for in the past.

“If you need evidence that Black Americans are politically ignorant as a group, then just look at their loyalty to the Democratic Party without reciprocal, tangible benefits, in the form of programs that specifically target ADOS,” Hayden Jamal, and indie hip-hop artist from Atlanta who first heard of #ADOS three months ago, told The Final Call. “I had a huge spike in my interest in politics about five months before learning of #ADOS. I consumed a ton of different political shows and podcasts, but a lot of it didn’t speak to me personally. I learned about #ADOS browsing Tariq Nasheed’s YouTube account and saw a video where he was talking about foundational Black Americans. Once I listened to that, it led me down a pathway of exposure to #ADOS, as the core message is essentially the same thing. Once I saw the actual data from Sandy Darity, Darrick Hamilton, Thomas Shapiro as well as other intellectuals in the same space, [being #ADOS] was a complete no brainer.”

“I would watch Yvette off and on in 2015 and most of 2016 as she was collaborating with Dr. Boyce Watkins and ‘Your Black World.’ It was during the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential election,” Michael Hicks, special assistant to Dr. Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College in Louisville where the ADOS conference will be held in October, told The Final Call. 

 

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Antonio Moore

“Yvette’s bi-weekly work in political framing fortified Antonio Moore’s socioeconomic data and critiques of the societal distractions that keep American Descendants of Slavery from focusing on a self-interested politics. Such teachings are not necessarily new, but the power of the realities of Black life, manifest with socioeconomic data, interweaved with a focused framing around a collective self-interested politics, was and is, a powerful combination that brought a new and fresh perspective. I was onboard [with #ADOS] after Yvette was invited to Louisville by Dr. Cosby for a June 2017 West Louisville Forum and I showed up and recorded the event for a local community-focused blog that I publish,” Mr. Hicks added.

 

It seems the charismatic and oftentimes engaging personalities of Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore, combined with the information they give via their respective platforms, are directly tied to the rise and growth of #ADOS; both in cyberspace, and in the real world.

The Lineage and Wealth Gap Convergence

Prior to May 2018, Ms. Carnell would only talk lineage as a subject intermittently on Twitter, but that is when it appears the lineage, nativist, wealth gap and reparations—albeit subtly—positions of ADOS were officially established; six months before #ADOS would become a widely used hashtag. This convergence of ideas took place during her YouTube livestream in a video called, “Race is a Con. Lineage is the Truth.”

Mr. Moore has devoted a good portion of his personal Twitter activity to shed light on the growing wealth gap that currently exists between Black and White people in this country. However, in addition to this particular expertise, Mr. Moore also began to tie in lineage within the context of African-American descendants of slaves approximately nine months prior to Ms. Carnell doing so. 

 

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Interestingly, in December 2016, Ms. Carnell took up the wealth gap subject with a YouTube livestream titled, “Black Spending Power is an Illusion, but the Racial Wealth Gap is Real.” However, she would not touch the wealth gap topic again seriously until September 2017, nine days after she and Mr. Moore, participated in the inaugural Angela Project Conference at Simmons College. 

 

The Angela Project was originally billed as “A three-year movement commemorating the 400th anniversary of Black enslavement in America” with conferences taking place annually up to 2019 which, if you count slavery as beginning in America in 1619, represents the 400th year. However, it appears the third annual Angela Project Conference at Simmons College has been transformed into the first ever ADOS Conference taking place in Louisville Oct. 4-5.

American Identity Politics, Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Pan Africanist Sentiments

Over time, it began to appear that information being disseminated using the #ADOS hashtag, when it came to reparations, was the only reference point for those embracing and claiming an ADOS identity. 

Essentially, Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore became their “go-to” on Twitter for information. 

Unfortunately, this dynamic has also opened the door for misinformation about the fight for reparations to be blasted en masse, under the reparations hashtag. 

 

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“The problem that we have now is people don’t read, and they rely on social media for information as opposed to studying,” said Dr. Conrad Worrill, who served for many years as chairman of the National Black United Front and is a longtime fighter for reparations. 

 

“There’s a lot of anti-scholarship and anti-research attitudes today, and people are commenting on things without having done any study on them.”

The ADOS hashtag is also now being spun into an identity label that many supporters have embraced. Instead of calling themselves and identifying as Black, some are now placing their racial identity within the context of these hashtags, and have begun referring to themselves as ADOS, not Black.

“Race doesn’t exist. It’s not real. It was constructed to give us [Black people] a disadvantage and we cling to it more than anybody else,” said Ms. Carnell in her “Race is a Con …” video. “How do you cling to being Black when being Black was created to make you less than and give you a disadvantage to people who are called White? How do you cling to that? What you should be clinging to is your lineage because your lineage built a country economically, and you’ve never been paid for that.”

As the ADOS hashtag gained steam and momentum online, one of the more unfortunate outcomes has been division created within the reparations movement. Much of the divisiveness began in June 2018 when Ms. Carnell livestreamed “Pan-Africanism is Dead” on her YouTube channel. In the video, she gave her opinions on what she called the “limitation of Pan-Africanism and Black nationalism.”

“Pan-Africanism really still lives within us as kind of a self-esteem booster, rather than any kind of real political exchange or any real political ideology,” Ms. Carnell said in her video. She went on to say, “We have this kind of relationship with America that causes some people to say they don’t have a country. No, you have a country. We just have a country that is abdicating our responsibility to us, but we still have a country … We’re American. We’re not Pan-African. We’re not African. We’re American. We’re Black American descendants of slaves. We are as American, if not more American, than anybody else.”  

“Pan-Africanism as a geopolitical unification strategy among sovereign African and Black-led Diasporan nations, it is not dead, it has been in a coma for decades,” Mr. Hicks said. “There are clusters of Diasporan Black folk and organizations throughout the Diaspora that adhere to its principles ... but it is not a dominant position amongst the totality of Black people around the world. I am not—and I would go so far as to say the ADOS community does not—say that Pan-Africanism does not have merit, it’s just not a primary driver or influence. The ADOS political movement is different in primarily this way: it is a focused legal and legislative justice claim for an aggrieved group with provable harm and damage in the United States.”

This thought process and idea hasn’t sat well with many in the Pan-Africanist, pro-Black and reparations communities. 

“ADOS invites us to double down, to dig deeper, to embrace its ignorant YouTube versions of history and economics, to reject solidarity with other people suffering at the hands of a capitalist empire and its policies of genocide and ecocide,” the Black Agenda Report wrote. “ADOS leaders want to join the U.S. empire, not fight the power.”

“[Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore] are two personalities expounding opinions and positions that are counter to everything I’ve ever studied or seen in my many years of activism and organizing,” Dr. Worrill said. “They seem to be completely anti-PanAfrican, anti-African, and anti-immigrant, while ignoring the history and evolution of the reparations movement in America.”

By the ADOS leadership positioning themselves on a pro-reparations platform, but seemingly against Pan-Africanism and Black immigrants, while embracing the identity of the country that has mistreated Black people physically, spiritually, mentally, psychologically, economically, medically, educationally and otherwise, became an immediate red flag for advocates of Black liberation and independence. 

“It’s interesting to me that a lot of the people in the organizations that ADOS has been attacking, have been involved in fighting for reparations decades longer than ADOS has,” Guyanese writer and author Dwayne Wong, told The Final Call. “What makes the reparations movement strong are all of these different organizations fighting for it together, and on a united front. But ADOS seems very intent on spreading division and what they’ve essentially done is harmful for the reparations struggle and harmful in general. Division tends to weaken what we’re doing and it creates tunnel vision where people only see things the way they want to see it.”

Both Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore have also been accused of being disrespectful of prominent Pan-Africanists like Marcus Garvey, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, and even Min. Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, who have always spoken up and fought for reparations, as well as Black independence and self-sufficiency within the context of that discussion. 

“ADOS people are ahistorical. They have no understanding of how the Black Diaspora, throughout the planet, is united. So for them to come in to try and divide Black Americans from Black Jamaicans and Black Brazilians, that stuff is ridiculous,” said Dr. Winbush.

In addition, some ADOS acolytes have become very aggressive in their online discourse toward those they feel stand in opposition to them, and Black immigrants from the continent of Africa, and from countries like Haiti and Jamaica. Their feeling is people from these countries come to America and steal benefits and other advantages that, in their opinion, belong to Black Americans strictly. However, not all of those on the side of ADOS, agree with that sentiment. 

“You can’t prove intent in large numbers, and stealing is a very intentional act,” Mr. Jamal told The Final Call. “For Black immigrants, I do think the number of those that deliberately come to America to access resources under the guise of being African-American are larger than we think. But again, that’s just a thought.”

“What does happen, and what is a problem for ADOS, is that the relative success of Black immigrants who have come to the U.S., and now have first or second generation American-born children here, a couple of counterproductive realities for ADOS emerge,” Mr. Hicks explained, adding, “First, a false impression of progress in Black America is created when foreign-born Africans of the Diaspora—who usually come from class positions that not only exceed average ADOS, but White Americans as well. This is a problem for ADOS because this group of Black immigrants is used as a mask of progress against the durable and deliberate underdevelopment of American Black folk and our communities. That presence creates interference in the socioeconomic data and reality of ADOS, and undercuts our righteous justice claim. What adds insult to these real injuries is when these upper-class immigrant Black folks are looked upon as authority figures for Black interests. And if they reject reparations for ADOS in the U.S., where does that leave ADOS?”

 

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In this April 10, photo, Reparations Labor Union founder Anita Belle talks about slave reparations during an interview in Detroit. The Detroit-based organization and the Washington-based National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in Amer- ica, also known as N’Cobra, pushing for federal legislation on reparations for de- scendants of African American slaves, are bringing their agendas and messages to Detroit. Belle wants U.S. presidential candidates to attend the organization's summit in Detroit, but so far none has pledged to attend. Photo: AP Photo/Corey Williams

As a result of their Americanized identity politics position, many in the ADOS community, as a way to separate themselves from the so-called immigrants online, have begun to use the American flag in their bio and tweets—claiming the identity of a country that never intended for Black people to enjoy full citizenship. The comments, as well as using the American flag as a cultural and personal identifier, has not gone over well.

 

“How can any Black movement use the American flag rag, as I call it, wrap themselves in it, and then cut themselves off from our other brothers and sisters in the Diaspora?” Dr. Winbush asked. “Then they’ve said things like if you’re a child of a Caribbean descendant—which would include Minister Farrakhan—somehow you’re not really an American. But John Henrik Clarke said the only difference between Black people from Brooklyn and the Bahamas, or from Los Angeles and Brazil, is where they dropped us off on the ship. We need to stop talking about where they dropped us off and start focusing on where they picked us up, which is Africa.”

“For many Black people, America is the only place we’ve known for generations, and as a result, a lot of us have internalized negative ideas about Africa. So, for many of us, there has been a disconnect and most Black people consider America to be their identity. But that thing called America and Americanness, fundamentally opposes our existence as African people,” Dr. Kwame Zulu Shabazz told The Final Call. “But our kids are indoctrinated with Americanism every day when we send them to these White schools and they have to sing the National Anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s all White propaganda to get us as Black people to identify, uncritically, with this American theme that’s not ours.”

Cut The Check

Another unfortunate outcome in the rise of ADOS, is that their narrative and ideology has been used to only partially represent what reparations is and what it means, thus reducing it to nothing more than a demand for the U.S. government—using Democratic politicians as a proxy—to cut Black people a check for what they are owed. For Kamm Howard of N’Cobra (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America), the ADOS ideology is completely dismissive of the groundwork put in by grassroots reparations activists for decades. 

“I see ADOS as a brilliant use of social media to take up an issue and get people talking about it,” Mr. Howard told The Final Call. “But, within the leadership and membership, there isn’t a deep enough knowledge of the reparations movement and what it is to take a lead position in this fight, even though they have driven the conversation,” Mr. Howard added.

 

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N’Cobra is currently scheduled to host their national convention with the theme, “400 Years of Terror: A Debt Still Owed,” this summer in Detroit, June 20-23.

 

“ADOS is responding to the economic conditions in America, and in this country, we do a very good job of lying to ourselves,” Omowale Afrika, a grassroots organizer and self-identified Pan-Africanist, told The Final Call. “I feel we are at the beginning stages of a recession that could potentially turn into a depression, and ADOS is responding to a future that looks hopeless; a future that looks like they’ll be economically starved out and left to die. Yvette Carnell is bringing that up and saying the only way we’ll survive this future is if White people give us a check because if they don’t, we’re going to suffer. I think that’s why you see this energy and urgency around the conversation for reparations.”

In March, it was revealed that Yvette Carnell had admitted to being a board member of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), a right-wing think tank led by John Tanton. Mr. Tanton is a noted White nationalist who also heads the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that has been accused of connections to eugenicists and American White supremacist groups. Some of  FAIR’s supporters include former Attorney General in the Trump Administration Jeff Sessions, Iowa Congressman Steve King, and far-right political activist Stephen Miller.

“I joined the PFIR board to advocate for the style of politics I’m doing right now, which promotes an #ADOS justice claim and our primacy to other “people of color” & immigrant groups in general. #LineageMatters,” she tweeted March 23 in defense of her affiliation with PFIR.

According to the America’s Voice website, organizations like FAIR and PFIR are “closely aligned with the Republican Members of Congress who are now in charge of immigration policy for the U.S. House of Representatives.” The site added, “The anti-immigrant lobby has created a series of front groups, including Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). These groups pretend to speak for the ‘silent majority’ of workers, African Americans, Vietnamese Americans, or environmentalists—to name only a few examples—who oppose immigration reform and support a mass deportation agenda instead. But a closer look how these groups are organized and funded shows that they are entirely dependent on the anti-immigrant lobby, and represent nothing but the desire of its leaders and allies in Congress to make their mass deportation policies seem less extreme than they really are.”

PFIR has been accused of being behind the creation of groups like BALA (Black American Leadership Alliance), Choose Black America and the African American Leadership Council, all of which espoused rhetoric saying immigration is a detriment to the Black community.

“It’s troubling when opportunists use the economic challenges of the African-American community as cover for ideological and political extremism to align themselves with groups like FAIR, which had their own genesis in the eugenics movement,” Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Human Rights, said in a 2013 interview with The Daily Beast.

The ties to FAIR and PFIR, as well as their sordid histories, hasn’t seemed to diminish the support for ADOS from those who follow Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore.

“It is not a mystery to our community. [Yvette] has been upfront with this on her show. This is not a secret,” Mr. Hicks said. “I believe Yvette is on the PFIR board because she believes that it’s important that Black people have a voice in the larger national discussion over immigration in America.”

“She announced it on her show and has explained it multiple times since then,” Mr. Hayden added, saying, “I want someone of ADOS in that space, so I’m glad Yvette is there.”

It also appears ADOS wants to force the reparations conversation on Democratic presidential candidates, like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker—who introduced the H.R.40 companion bill on the Senate floor—Elizabeth Warren, who supports reparations, and Bernie Sanders. But ADOS doesn’t press or confront Donald Trump or any other Republicans on the issue. ADOS says there is a reason for this dynamic.

“The Democratic Party has been the political party that the American descendants of chattel slavery have been most loyal to over the last 50+ years. We have, throughout this history, provided them both strong turnout as well as the overwhelming percentage of our votes. Why would we not go to them first? Why would we not petition them first?” asked Mr. Hicks.

Added Mr. Hayden, “Historically, Black Americans have voted loyally for Democrats and have gotten nothing for it. … I personally haven’t seen any ADOS putting the [reparations] onus on Democrats only, but if there are [some doing it] I disagree with it. One of the core principles of the movement is the loyalty only to an agenda, so I’m highly skeptical of a narrative that says otherwise.”

“I think it’s good when you see Black people take uncompromising stances and unifying around an issue,” Mr. Afrika said. “The danger is that a lot of this excitement around reparations is happening within the context of a national election. And if you study the history of ebbs and flows around political promises, whenever Black people feel that they can wrestle some kind of concession from one of the political parties in this country, there is typically a lot of excitement—almost childlike—that isn’t tempered by reality or historical knowledge.”

 

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Dr. Ray Winbush

“All of these candidates want the Black vote and they know that reparations is a resonating issue among us. But I’ve listened to each of these [Democratic] candidates [talk about reparations] and a lot of them speak in generalities, not specifics,” said Dr. Winbush. “If this country is going to be the so-called America they claimed it was in 1776—which it wasn’t—they’re going to have to deal with the issue of reparations. There is no options in that regard. I always tell my students the number one document they should regard in regards to our citizenship in this country as Black people, is the Dred Scott decision. This country has never seen us as full citizens and they don’t treat us such. But regardless of how America treats us, we as Black people are entitled to justice, and reparations are a form of justice.”

 

Where We Stand Now

Since the #ADOS hashtag was injected into the social media discussions, it was first met with optimism and support. Some of that has devolved into full-blown skepticism, and at times, outrage over the behavior of those using the hashtag in their social media discourse. Physical threats have been made against those who positioned themselves opposite of ADOS, along with other tactics that have been used to intimidate anyone who challenges the ADOS position on any front. This has led to increased speculation that the hashtag itself has been co-opted by people who aren’t Black to sow angst, division and discord amongst Black folks around an issue that should be universally agreed upon.

According to Media Matters for America, an organization that bills itself as an “information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media,” “There is evidence that ADOS is advancing a right-wing agenda, and while it calls itself progressive, it pushes pro-Trump, anti-immigrant views … The hashtag has been mostly used to criticize Democratic leaders and publicly attack Black celebrities—like rapper Talib Kweli, actor Yvette Nicole Brown, and radio show hosts Charlamagne Tha God and Roland Martin—and anyone else who the founders believe do not share their vision for reparations … The ADOS website praises President Donald Trump and former President Ronald Reagan for their views on Black America and criticizes former President Barack Obama.”

In addition, Media Matters found that as early as August 2018, there was evidence that “white supremacists have jumped on board with ADOS and that 4chan posters may be using the movement to sow division.”

Many of those in opposition to ADOS, largely based on Yvette Carnell’s ties to FAIR and PFIR, the behavior of those using the hashtag online under the cover of anonymity, talking points on the ADOS101 website, the anti-immigrant rhetoric, and divisiveness convinced the hashtag is nothing more than the creation of John Tanton’s right wing think tank using Black people as the face of it.

“ADOS’ alliances and affiliations can lead us to speculate that there is another kind of strategy at play here and a nefarious agenda going on,” Dr. Conrad Worrill, told The Final Call. “This is why I don’t use the term ‘movement’ to describe them. I call ADOS a hashtag entity and a social media phenomenon. A movement has boots on the ground. Movements carry out work on a day to day basis by organizing, convening meetings and using that energy as their base and foundation. The whole ADOS thrust, at this point, has been a hashtag. A movement is a sacred term. Movements mean that strategies are being created that bring people together face-to-face, and in this stage of history, social media advocacy can be leveraged to link the work being done on the ground. The ADOS hashtag has done none of that. It doesn’t have an organizational base on the ground.”

“Reparations is a movement that has involved hundreds of people over dozens of years,” Dr. Winbush added. “From what I’ve seen in their writings and video rants, ADOS’ plan, because they haven’t done any groundwork, is to discredit those who did by calling them old heads who have done nothing to get the reparations conversation to this point. For ADOS to do that is absurd.”

 

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Dr. Conrad Worrill

The point made by Dr. Worrill rings true. Although they have a planned conference in October, like known Black reparations groups such as N’COBRA and NAARC (National African American Reparations Commission), ADOS is not an officially recognized entity on the books; either politically speaking, or within the context of being a fully functioning and recognized organized social justice group. 

 

This has led to even more questions that have yet to be answered.

“You can’t say you love Black people and are fighting for Black people, then turn around and threaten them. There’s something wrong there,” said Dr. Winbush.

Online, #ADOS is still going strong, led by frequent posts and YouTube commentary from Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore. However, it appears that their momentum may be slowing as more Black people in the Twittersphere continue to draw parallels between ADOS, MAGA and neo-Conservative political ideologies, and push back against it. 

While it doesn’t appear the reparations conversation and push is coming to an end any time soon, one byproduct of the creation of ADOS, even if it was unintentional, is more Blacks are becoming aware of the reparations movement, struggle and fight, and are energized in becoming advocates for it in a positive manner, not a negative one. 

The Final Call made several weeks of attempts to reach Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore for an interview, however they went unanswered. 

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