Muslim families hope to reunite following Biden’s travel ban repeal


Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden’s day-1 reversal of former President Trump’s travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.

The big picture: The repeal of what many critics called the “Muslim ban” renews hope for thousands of families separated by Trump’s order.

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In the San Francisco Bay Area, Mina Mahdavi, a Campbell-based cybersecurity engineer, has renewed hopes that her mother, who lives in Iran, could spend time with her grandson, who was born months after Trump signed the ban, ABC7 reports.

In New York, Nashwan Mozeb, a bodega worker from Queens, hopes to see his wife, who is in war-torn Yemen. He’s been trying to bring her to the U.S. since 2016, according to The City.

  • “Every day I pray to God to get together because it’s too hard,” Mozeb told The City, saying he hopes his wife’s visa application will be approved quickly.

In Chicago, Jihad Al-Nabi, a Syrian refugee who works as a pastry chef, is hopeful he will be able to reunite with his family, he told ABC7 Chicago.

In Los Angeles, Mania Darbani called her mother, who is in Iran, on the night of Biden’s inauguration as they remembered his promise to repeal the ban, Reuters writes.

But, but, but: The coronavirus pandemic may prevent some families from gathering as travel and visa restrictions are in place.

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‘Families across America watched in horror’: How to talk to your kids about the storming of the Capitol


Rioters supporting President Donald Trump — and, some commentators say, incited by him — stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to temporarily evacuate. and leave behind their duties certifying the presidential election of challenger Joe Biden.

The rioters breached the building after Trump’s fiery speech
rehashing election fraud claims — unproven allegations turned back by
multitudes of courts.  

Four people are dead, one shot by police.

It was an “unprecedented assault” on democracy, President-Elect Joe Biden said in a televised speech, with  pro-Trump supporters still assembled outside the Capitol building.

Now try explaining Wednesday’s chaotic events and their broader ramifications to your kids.

“Yesterday, families across America watched in horror the images that flashed across their television screens generated by the assault on one of our nation’s most hallowed grounds,” said  Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“The herculean efforts being done by school district administrators, building leaders, teachers and parents to educate our young learners regarding what’s right and what’s wrong was indirectly challenged following the senseless act of vandalism at the Capitol building,” he said in a statement.  

1. Your anxiety becomes their anxiety

Mary Alvord, a Rockville Centre, Md.-based psychologist, said it is critical that parents remain calm when talking about the day’s events because kids will pick up on unspoken cues and body language. Without that calmness, “we perpetuate fear, anxiety and outrage,” she said.

There are different messages for different age groups. For younger kids, up to 7 years of age, reassure your children that they are safe.  “For younger kids, maintain your routine, make sure their life goes on,” she added.

If home televisions and screens were on Wednesday, it would be good to turn them off Thursday and avoid the replays of the scenes, she said.

2. Ask how what they saw made them feel

For older children, from fifth grade and up, you can ask how it made you feel and express that yourself too, said Eric Soto-Shed, a Harvard Graduate School of Education lecturer who trains social studies teachers. He’s  already talked to several student teachers Thursday morning on how they should approach the event.

Kids should first have time to think and talk about their emotions, he said. He taught New York City high schoolers after 9/11 and he remembered their anger, sadness and years later, some eventual indifference.

3. Outline the facts

Parents and kids can talk about the facts of what transpired, he said. Being able to name for kids what happened is important, said Soto-Shed.

After that, they can take some time to think about some of broader personal takeaways. This could be a time to talk about things like the “assault on democracy versus the resilience of democracy,” he said. And there are other topics, like media literacy and the role of law enforcement.

“The question is how do you proceed with care? But, for the
most part, you do want to proceed,” Soto-Shed said.

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New year’s first babies deliver joy for families in the midst of the pandemic


Even in the midst of a pandemic, there were moments of joy as families welcomed the new year’s first babies.

Only 48 seconds after the clock struck midnight, Thuy Vu and Patrick Simmons became parents to 6.82-lb. Thomas at Humber River Hospital.

With Thomas’s original due date not until Jan. 19, his parents were not expecting him to arrive so soon. But Vu said having her husband on hand during the delivery “really helped.”

Like other parents, Vu said the pandemic created inconveniences for her during her pregnancy.

“We had to be extra careful not to get the virus,” she said.

At Markham Stouffville Hospital, Abygail Gosselin was born 59 seconds after midnight to Marie-Pier Fortin and Gabriel Gosselin. She was originally due Dec. 28.

In a year unlike others, most baby photos came directly from hospitals due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mount Sinai Hospital's first baby of 2021, a girl named Liv, was born to father Charlie and new mother Chen at 12:18 a.m.

Thirteen minutes after the top of the hour, Kiaan Arora was born at North York General Hospital to Manik and Tashu.

And at Mount Sinai hospital, new father Charlie and new mother Chen gave birth to a baby girl, Liv. Weighing 8.11-lbs., Liv was born at 12:18 a.m., arriving several days after her original due date.

The Scarborough Health Network said its first baby of 2021 was born at 5:02 a.m.

The first baby born in the new year at North York General Hospital, Kiaan Arora, arrived 13 minutes after midnight.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, a baby boy named Arthur was born at exactly midnight — perhaps the first Canadian newborn of 2021.

The Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital says the baby weighed seven pounds and four ounces, and is the first child for parents Genevieve Beaulieu and Logan Allen.

Only 10 seconds into the first hour of the year, baby Lara Michelle Adaskiewicz was born to parents Aleksandra Modelewska and Martin Adaskiewicz at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.

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With files from The Canadian Press

Irelyne Lavery





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Iran allocates $150K US payments to families of Ukraine crash victims


Iran’s cabinet has created a compensation fund to pay families of the 176 victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane that was shot down by Iranian forces outside Tehran last January, the president announced Wednesday.

Iran will pay $150,000 US for each victim, state TV reported without giving a timeline. The announcement comes as the families of victims prepare to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 8 crash, and diplomats from nations that lost citizens push Iran for more co-operation on the investigation and compensation issues.

Those killed include dozens of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and many others with ties to Canadian universities.

Canada’s foreign affairs minister said in a statement that “Canada and the other members of the International Coordination and Response Group (CG) are taking a co-ordinated approach to obtaining reparations from Iran, which includes not only compensation for the families but also an accounting of the events that led to the tragic result.”WA

François-Philippe Champagne went on to say that no negotiations or meetings between Iran and the other countries have been held and that “no formal offers have been made by Iran to the CG countries.”

WATCH | Iran says it will pay families of victims of Flight 752:

Iran’s president says $150,000 US will be paid for each victim on board Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down nearly a year ago. But some families in Canada, still pushing for justice, say they won’t accept the compensation. 2:02

For days, Iran denied that its military was responsible for the downing of the plane. But with extensive evidence emerging from Western intelligence reports and international pressure building, Iran admitted that its military had mistakenly fired at the Ukrainian jetliner at a moment of heightened tension between Iran and the United States.

Hostilities had reached a fever pitch the week before over an American drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, raising fears of further violence in the region.

Iran blames ‘human error’

Western intelligence officials and analysts believe Iran shot down the aircraft with a Russian-made Tor system, known to NATO as the SA-15.

Tehran blamed “human error” for the shoot-down, saying in a report released over the summer that those manning a misaligned surface-to-air missile battery wrongly identified the civilian flight as a threat and opened fire twice without getting approval from ranking officials.

Canadian authorities say Iran has not disclosed all relevant evidence or provided satisfactory answers to a number of lingering questions.

This includes the identities of those responsible, the exact chain of events that led the Revolutionary Guard to open fire and the circumstances around the decision to leave Iranian airspace open to civilian traffic the same night that Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq.

The plane, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukraine International Airlines bound for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 17 Swedes, 11 Ukrainians, four Afghans and four British citizens, according to officials. The route was popular with those travelling onward to Canada.

Iran sends mixed messages on compensation

For months, the governments of the five other affected countries have demanded that Tehran accept “full responsibility” for the crash and pay compensation to the victims’ families in line with international agreements.

Iran, for its part, has sent mixed messages on the matter of compensation.

In October, Gholamreza Soleimani — the head of the country’s main insurance agency — said Iran would refuse to pay awards because the jet was “insured by European companies.”

But other Iranian officials have promised to negotiate compensation with the five countries.

“A mistake has been made by us but the base of the compensation should be decided,” Mohsen Baharvand, deputy to the foreign minister, said in September. “We have told our Ukrainian colleagues that international regulations are our basis.”

Victims families push for court action

The spokesperson for an association of victims’ families in Canada seeking justice said the Canadian government should take court action against Iran.

“What Iran is doing is humiliating and insulting to the families,” said Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his nine-year-old daughter, Reera, and wife, Parisa, on the flight.

“We need to know the truth and we need to see the criminals in an impartial independent court like [the United Nations] International Court of Justice,” he said.  “We are done with Iran’s actions.

“Now it is our government’s turn to act and react. To take the investigation from them and take them to the court.”

Champagne made no mention of court action in his statement but said the Canadian government “will continue to fight for justice and accountability every step of the way.”

The association released a statement last week demanding an independent and transparent investigation into the crash.

“The families are vigilant and will not sign any document,” the statement read. “The murderer cannot play the role of mourner.”



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The exceptional home for families in the south


Create timeless moments with your family at Likha Residences

The home is valued now more than ever as people go out less often for work or leisure. Thus, many get to spend most of their time with their families at the comforts of their homes. Besides, what makes a home, however grand or sophisticated it may be, is how it brings family members to bond together as well as to relax and unwind. For the established modern family, there is a place that makes it possible to create moments that they will cherish for a lifetime.

Built by PHINMA Properties, Likha Residences is the perfect home for established professionals to create new stories for their families. The exclusive Likha Residences offers three-storey townhomes with a floor area of 237.85 square meters, that inspire limitless bonding opportunities and fine living.

“Our vision is for families to come together and be close-knit, just like what the Southern living imbibes. Those are the memories we want families to make in Likha Residences,” Enrique M. Moran, Assistant Vice-President of Operations — Prism of PHINMA Properties, said.

With its timeless design and accommodating space, coupled with strong security, excellent service, and proximity to business and leisure centers, Likha Residences assures prospect homeowners of a reliable home investment with a value that will steadily grow along with their families.

Drawing inspiration from Filipino architecture and design aesthetics, the townhomes of Likha Residences are built from enduring and quality materials that evoke an ageless character that resonates from one generation to another. Complementing these intricately designed units are its finely designed amenities, namely the clubhouse, multi-function hall, lounging deck, swimming pool, fitness gym, and playground.

What also makes Likha Residences a great investment for families is the security it assures for tenants. Likha Residences is structured to be a safe and secure community that encourages a sense of comfort and certainty. With 24-hour roving security and double-gated boundaries surrounding Likha Residences, families can enjoy high-end and close-knit living with peace of mind.

Aside from homegrown design, Likha Residences also draws inspiration from the distinct and innate hospitality of Filipinos. With residents at the center of what it does, Likha has an approachable team that is committed to impeccable service that will help foster and nurture the well-being of families.

Nestled in the south of the Metro, Likha Residences allows families to experience the joys of luxe southern living while striding with ease between bustling cities and relaxing vacation spots, allowing families to create treasured moments.

Located at Cupang, Muntinlupa City, the upscale development is close to malls like Alabang Town Center, Festival Mall Alabang, and Santana Grove; schools like De La Salle Santiago Zobel, Paref Southridge School, and San Beda Alabang; and the Asian Hospital & Medical Center. Moreover, Likha Residences is within reach of the prestigious business districts of Metro Manila such as the Makati Central Business District, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, and Filinvest City in Alabang.

With all these perks and features, Likha Residences perfectly bundles exceptional family living and bonding, reliable security and service, and easy accessibility together into a home that is worth one’s hard-earned investment. “We would like future residents of Likha to feel that they are buying a good investment. Ultimately, we want Likha to become a standard of Filipino homes for the Filipino family,” Raphael B. Felix, President & CEO of PHINMA Properties, said.

As of December 2020, PHINMA Properties has started realizing stories at Likha Residences, with two model units fully complete. A blessing and ribbon cutting for these units were held last Dec. 12. In addition, four other units are halfway complete. Land development, meanwhile, is 84% complete, and the entire project is at 10.11%.

Likha’s model units are now open to the public for viewing. Call (02) 8535 6800 or (+63) 917-535-6800, or e-mail inquiries@phinma.com.ph to schedule a safe home tour at Likha Residences, located at Km 19 West Service Road, Cupang, Muntinlupa City. Visit http://phinmaproperties.com/ for more details.

 










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Community groups fill Christmas void for Queensland families hit by coronavirus after charities drop out


For a few hours today, the unpaid bills, the car with no fuel, and even the eviction notices will be put to one side.

In its place, there is a community that is pulling together to throw a Christmas lunch, and offer some hope to people who feel they have very little.

Jason Budden, who runs Ipswich Assist, describes the problems some people face as “monumental”.

“One lady had a $5,400 electricity bill, because she didn’t think she was being charged while COVID was on, then there’s the eviction notices, and it’s just huge stuff,” Mr Budden said.

Ipswich Assist volunteers chop up vegetables for the charity Christmas lunch.(Supplied)

This year, his small charity has helped out locals with everything from food hampers, to bill payment plans and fuel vouchers, and simply being an ear for those in pain.

Because some of the major charities aren’t hosting their annual Christmas lunches, Ipswich Assist has stepped up.

“We weren’t really sure how it would go this year … a lot of the other agencies have actually shut down due to COVID and so, all of a sudden, we thought, we’ll do a Christmas lunch this year,” Mr Budden said.

“To say we were inundated isn’t the word — we had to actually stop people from registering because we were unable to supply enough food.”

Mr Budden said his organisation would host 100 people in the Ipswich Central Presbyterian church hall, with the limited allocation filling up in just three days.

A small truck carrying food supplies is unloaded by four elderly people in grey T-shirts.
Ipswich Assist offered to help after charities cancelled 2020 Christmas lunches due to COVID concerns.(Supplied)

“We’ve still had people ringing us this morning — and unfortunately we just can’t take them due to lack of food and, obviously, social distancing,” he said.

‘195 kilos of potato salad’

On the Gold Coast, Susie Longman and her son will be hosting their 13th annual community Christmas lunch.

Ms Longman said it all started after a family holiday to Port Douglas, when she and her son volunteered on Christmas Day and decided to replicate the idea at home.

Person sleeping in an alcove during the day.
Charity workers say the pandemic has created “monumental” problems for some Queensland families.(Supplied: Blind Eye)

“We had about 280 people at our first event, and we’re now up over 700 people every Christmas Day — and it’s just the most beautiful day,” Ms Longman said.

This year will be a significantly pared back event.

Ms Longman says they begged and borrowed picnic blankets and shade marquees to make the lunch happen.

At the Labrador primary school hall, disabled people and the elderly will enjoy a sit-down lunch, while all others will be picnicking on the oval.

“We’ve got 195 kilos of potato salad, 95 chickens, over 20 hams, and more pudding and soft drink than you could poke an elf at,” she said.

“Christmas is such a hard time for so many people … it can be really isolating, and not a happy time for so many people in the community.

Ms Longmans said thousands of people have a hand in making her event happen each year.

“As an event organiser, one of the things I love the most is how many thousands of people touch this event,” she said.

“Whether it’s a donation of a ham, a pick-up, offering their business as a drop-off point for gifts — there are literally thousands of people who touch this event and I love that because it truly is a community Christmas lunch.”



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Western Australia opens border to South Australia reuniting families at Christmas


Western Australia’s border opened to South Australia today, prompting many emotional Christmas Day reunions.

“It’s amazing. We weren’t sure if it was actually going to happen, so I finally believe it now that we’re actually here,” one returned traveller said.

People from Perth were able to touch down in Adelaide knowing they don’t have to quarantine when they return.

Families were able to reunite for Christmas as WA opened its border to SA. (Nine)

“I cant afford to miss work so I can’t quarantine, so it just worked out really well. We were lucky in the end),” one traveller said.

“Fantastic to be here; it didn’t look like it was going to happen a week ago but (a) nice surprise.”

And there was plenty of joy and relief for those leaving SA to spend Christmas with family in Perth.

“It’s really exciting, I’m so excited to visit my sister for Christmas,” one woman said.

One group of travellers were carrying an extra-special gift on board.

“I just had a newborn so that’s the most exciting part for us — introducing her to everyone.”

Emotions ran high at Perth airport, many returning for the first time in months.

Flights were packed with people eager to reunite with family and spend part of the festive season together. (Nine)

“It’s been a long-awaited 12 months — 12 months to the day so its good it’s good to be back,” said one returnee.

While many were leaving Adelaide, hundreds of others spent Christmas Day in quarantine in city hotels.

Waving from the balcony of the Pullman Hotel, the Barton family are isolating after arriving from Germany. But they still managed to find a way to celebrate Christmas.

“The grandkids waved to us and we talked to them on the phone — and it’s not quite the same as in person but it’s pretty good,” Ian Barton said.

“It’s definitely a Christmas we won’t forget, put it that way,” Josh Barton added.



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Coronavirus Australia live news: Northern beaches families separated as Christmas COVID-19 restrictions begin



No more hotel quarantine exemptions for international air crews

 

International airline crew members arriving in Victoria are now required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine, ending an exemption experts had described as a risky “loophole”.

 

Previously, incoming staff aboard international flights were allowed to quarantine at home or a hotel chosen by their airline until their next departure.

 
But weeks after a hotel worker caught coronavirus from a self-isolating crew member in Sydney, Victoria has joined New South Wales in requiring airline staff to enter official hotel quarantine facilities as of midday yesterday.

 

“Airline crews and technicians employed by international carriers who transit through Melbourne are now required by law to enter mandatory quarantine,” a Victorian Government spokesperson said.

 
“We’ve taken this approach as an additional precaution to help reduce the risk of airline staff inadvertently bringing the virus back to Australia from overseas.

 
“These measures are consistent with practices already in place in other jurisdictions, including in New South Wales and Queensland.”

 

Crew members will be accompanied between their hotel and the airport by DHHS staff, and will need to take a COVID test when they get to their accommodation.

 

If they test negative, they’re free to jump on their next flight — but if they test positive, they’ll stay at a health hotel until they’re no longer infectious.

 

Reporting by Leonie Thorne.



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Canada trying to exploit the grief of Flight 752 victims’ families, Iran says


Iran’s Foreign Affairs Ministry accused Canada on Monday of exploiting the grief of families of those killed during the downing of Flight PS752 in Iran early this year.

Speaking at a news conference in Tehran, ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said Canada wants to make a “business” out of the families’ suffering and that Canada’s actions have been politicized and without legal basis.

“Up to this day, Canada has done everything they could to intervene and get in the way of the natural course of events to finding out what exactly happened mechanically,” Khatibzadeh said in a video obtained and translated by CBC News.

“It is very regrettable that Canada is using the grief of these families … to take advantage and attempt to use it in their own domestic politics.”

Iran should not be in charge of probe: Goodale report

Khatibzadeh was responding to a report released last week by the federal government’s special adviser on the issue, Ralph Goodale. In the report, Goodale argued that Iran should not be left in charge of the investigation, since it was the Iranian military’s actions that led to the crash.

“In the circumstances of this case, as known thus far, there are indications of incompetence, recklessness and wanton disregard for innocent human life,” Goodale wrote. He went on to criticize what he called Iran’s lack of transparency around the investigation, including the six months it took to read out the plane’s black box flight data recorders.

“The party responsible for the situation is investigating itself, largely in secret,” the report said. “That does not inspire confidence or trust.”

The report comes just a few weeks ahead of the one-year anniversary of the incident, in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan 8., killing all 176 people aboard, including 138 people with ties to Canada.

WATCH: Goodale’s report criticizes Iran’s investigation, citing lack of transparency: 

A new Canadian report says Iran should not be investigating the events around Flight PS752, shot down by its own military in January, killing 138 people with ties to Canada. Special advisor Ralph Goodale’s report criticizes the country for its lack of transparency from the start. 2:01

Minister needs to ‘understand his boundaries’

During Monday’s remarks, Khatibzadeh warned Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne to “understand his boundaries” and that Canada’s government should be “accountable for their own actions.”

He said the federal government has worked to cut off the flow of medicine, resources and financial assets to Iran and therefore had “no business positioning itself behind a podium to lecture others on human rights.”

“I invite the Canadian foreign minister to understand the basics of diplomacy. To understand his boundaries, his place, and to only speak within those four walls. Otherwise, he will receive a different answer [from us],” Khatibzadeh said.

Canada has placed economic sanctions on Iran that include prohibitions on exports related to nuclear technology, missiles and other types of military material, as well as assets and services related to the prohibited export goods. It also froze the assets of some Iranian individuals and entities.

WATCH: Champagne disputes Iran when it says human error led plane to be shot down:

Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne wouldn’t say whether he believes Flight PS752 was shot down deliberately. 2:00

Champagne told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics last week that he was questioning everything Iran said at this point and that he did not believe the crash was the result of “human error” — but he did not specify what he did believe was to blame.

After initially denying any wrongdoing, Iran eventually admitted responsibility for the plane crash but has maintained “a lengthy chain of human errors and other deficiencies resulted in the mistaken firing of the Iranian missiles.”

CBC News reached out to Global Affairs Canada for comment and has not yet received a response.



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Florida man pays past-due utility bills for 114 families


PENSACOLA, Fla. – When Gulf Breeze, Florida, veteran and business owner Mike Esmond graciously paid the past-due utility bills of 36 households in December 2019, he did so in the name of a holiday good deed. He could relate to those struggling after struggling himself years ago. 

This year, a more pressing feeling made Esmond decide to pay the overdue bills of 114 households in Gulf Breeze, almost doubling his donation total from 2019. His city was slammed by the combination of September’s Hurricane Sally and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Gulf Breeze is just a ghost town,” Esmond said last Monday, referring to the drastic decrease in incoming traffic caused by the Pensacola Bay Bridge shutdown. “Normally, there’s 55,000 cars a day that go through to buy gas and stop at McDonald’s or Waffle House. There’s nothing now, there’s no traffic. Zero.” 

As he did last December, the 74-year-old owner of Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas visited City Hall this month and requested a list of all utility accounts that were past due and at risk of having their gas and water turned off. He donated to all 114 accounts. 

Esmond is confident the massive jump in overdue accounts is tied to unemployment brought on by the pandemic and the financial woes incurred by the shutdown of the bridge. On Sept. 16, unmoored Skanska USA barges slammed into the bridge and put it out of commission until at least March 2021. 

“Even if we didn’t have the hurricane, I felt like the pandemic alone made it more critical for me to do something,” Esmond said. “Last year, I did something just to help people out. This year, it’s more meaningful.”

Esmond’s second good deed totaled $7,615.40, according to Gulf Breeze Utility Billing Supervisor Joanne Oliver. He paid off about $4,600 worth of bills last year. 



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