Butch Vig on Garbage’s political new album No Gods No Masters and the 30-year legacy of Nirvana’s Nevermind


ACROSS three decades Garbage have never shied away from sending an unfiltered message to the world.

The 2001 single Androgyny explored gender fluidity long before “being woke” was mainstream and going back to the band’s superb self-titled 1995 debut, frontwoman Shirley Manson has always advocated for the sexual empowerment of women in classics like Vow and Queer.

However, in Garbage’s previous six albums politics has waded in the background, never truly demanding centre stage. That’s not the case on album No.7 No Gods No Masters.

After enduring the most politically-divisive period in living memory in the US through Trump, Black Lives Matter, climate change and #MeToo, Manson felt compelled to pour all her scorn and indignation into her most caustic lyrics.

There’s no room for poetic metaphor either. On Godhead over a dystopian dark-wave riff Manson spits, “if a had a dick/would you see me?” and on the first single The Men Who Rule The World the gender power imbalance is addressed with, “The king is in the counting house/ He’s chairman of the board/ The women who crowd the courtrooms/ All accused of being whores.”

No Gods No Masters is not overtly political, but it’s definitely speaking much more about what Shirley is seeing in the world,” Garbage drummer Butch Vig says.

“As artists who have been around for so long, we don’t feel like we have to try and be a pop band, and nor do we want to.

“We’re never going to be played on top-40 radio, we know that at this point in our career, so it’s freed us up to do whatever we want.”

Work on No Gods No Masters began in 2019 when Manson, Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson convened at a property in the desert resort town of Palm Springs to begin jamming.

Initially the album sounded orchestral and spacious, but once Manson began presenting her lyrics, it was apparent the record was headed in the opposite direction.

“We sharpened the sound immensely,” Vig says. “All the music that Duke, Steve and I came up with got a lot more confrontational. It had an energy that reflected the world that we live in.

“It’s weird because Shirley wrote most of these lyrics in 2019. It’s like she saw the future of what 2020 was going to become with racism, the MeToo movement and lockdown with COVID and the politics moving to the far-right and divisiveness in countries all over the world.”

While recording finished a day before LA went into lockdown in March 2020, Manson added additional lyrics in the mixing process to more closely reflect the atmosphere of the pandemic.

With 52 per cent the US adult population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, life is slowly returning to normality for Vig. Prior to our interview, Vig completed a recording session in his LA home studio with rock band Silversun Pickups.

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As political risk fades, British government debt is back in vogue


FOREIGN EXCHANGE trading is, for the most part, a youngster’s game. Find a veteran whose memory stretches further than a couple of decades, though, and they will tell you that there are really only two numbers that matter for the pound. Those are 1.40 and 2.00, the bounds of its normal trading range against the American dollar. Since 1985, whenever it has hit either one, a turning point has been due (see chart).

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That was until June 2016, when Britain’s vote to leave the European Union sent sterling tumbling through the floor. The fallout has kept it there ever since. Political headlines became a consistent predictor of swings in the pound’s exchange rates, prompting comparisons to emerging markets. Foreign investors eyed British assets with distaste, fearful that they were priced in a currency that could plunge further if the most disruptive version of Brexit was realised. Those wishing to hedge against that risk found it increasingly expensive to do so, as speculators bet on the pound taking another beating.

In the event, the mauling failed to materialise. Although the trade deal signed between Britain and the EU excluded finance in favour of fishing, the transition period finished in a more orderly fashion than many had feared. As the deal hove into view, bets against the pound started to unwind, making it cheaper for foreign buyers to hedge the currency risk on sterling assets. Overseas investors flocked back into gilts (British government bonds) as never before, buying a record-breaking £89.8bn ($127.4bn) of them in the year to April 2021. The pound has even spent the past month trading above $1.40.

Foreign enthusiasm for gilts is not only down to a resurgent pound. A swift vaccine roll-out points to a faster recovery from the covid-19 pandemic in Britain than elsewhere in Europe. That, combined with the fact that the Bank of England is generally perceived as more hawkish than the European Central Bank, means the interest rate on British government debt is comparatively attractive. “It becomes easier to sell gilts on a 0.81% yield when people are glancing across at France’s 0.17%,” says Kit Juckes of Société Générale, a bank.

Political risk remains, particularly in the form of a looming fight over the future of Scotland. But the fiscal impact of a Scottish exit on the rest of Britain would be mild and on the upside. In the tax year of 2019-20, Scotland accounted for 9.2% of Britain’s total public spending and around 8% of its tax intake. And some of that revenue would probably be retained, as financial firms currently headquartered in Edinburgh decamped to London. “Hive Scotland off, and the rest of the UK goes from a budget deficit of about 2% of GDP to one of about 1.5%,” says Thomas Pugh of Capital Economics, a consultancy.

It will not all be plain sailing in the coming months. A row between Westminster and Brussels over the implementation of trade rules in Northern Ireland threatens to reopen the arguments that led up to the Brexit withdrawal agreement. That would harm Britain’s prospects for trade. Meanwhile, Treasury plans to award the government a veto over stock-exchange listings on national-security grounds may dim the attractiveness of the country’s financial markets to foreign firms. But for now the cash looks set to keep pouring in. “We’re still priced for permanent uselessness of the UK,” says Mr Juckes. “There’s got to be an opportunity there.”

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Gilt-y pleasure”

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Samoa’s political crisis deepens as two rivals claim prime ministership



Samoa’s beleaguered Caretaker Prime Minister has refused to concede leadership of the Pacific nation, despite the woman who won last month’s election being sworn in at a makeshift ceremony on Monday.

Both sides have accused each other of staging a coup, with incumbent Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has been in power for more than 22 years, saying he remains Caretaker Prime Minister despite numerous court cases disputing his interpretation of the law.

“This is what happened: They have broken the law, they have disgraced the chief justice, they have disgraced our country,” Tuilaepa said of his political rivals, in comments translated from Samoan by broadcaster RNZ.

His remarks came a day after Tuilaepa’s political opponent, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, and her FAST Party were barred from entering Parliament, and instead took their oaths of office under a large tent outside the building.

Fiame was declared Samoa’s first female Prime Minister during the unusual ceremony.

“There will be a time when we will meet again inside that House. Let us leave it to the law,” Fiame told supporters who had gathered outside Parliament.

Tuilaepa has called the swearing-in ceremony an act of “treason” and a “coup”, and accused the nation’s judiciary of being biased. 

“The courts have caused this problem, with no solution in sight,” Tuilaepa said.

“FAST have usurped and taken the duties of our government and the duties of the clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and as such they should be charged. This is treason.”

The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the Parliament to convene on Monday after the nation’s head of state, Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, attempted to cancel the sitting without explanation.

Samoa’s constitution requires elected representatives to meet within 45 days of an election. May 24 is the final day by that count.

Samoa’s bitter political battle has left both Fiame and Tuilaepa each claiming they are the rightful prime minister of the country.

“Samoans inside Samoa and around the world wake up to the fact that there are two Prime Ministers,” George Carter from the Australian National University (ANU) said.

Many leaders around the world have declined to take sides in Samoa’s leadership scandal.

The United Nations secretary-general, through a spokesperson, said he “urges the leaders in Samoa to find solutions to the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of the people and institutions of Samoa”.

The first nation to formally recognise Fiame as Prime Minister was the small Pacific archipelago of the Federated States of Micronesia.

President David Panuelo said his government had drawn from its experience of the United States and former president Donald Trump’s refusal to leave office in making the announcement.

“The FSM announced its support for the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Fiame for the same reasons that we denounce former US president Donald Trump for his embrace of fascism and rejection of democracy,” Mr Panuelo said.

He urged other democratic countries to show their support for Samoa’s elected leader.

“I didn’t mean to come in as the first country to recognise the newly sworn-in Prime Minister. I was just doing what I think is right.”

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Hardline Tories could try to ‘destroy’ BBC for political motives, say opposition parties


Opposition MPs increasingly alarmed at government response to fallout from Diana interview

Opposition parties have expressed concern that hardline anti-BBC Conservatives could use the fallout from the discredited interview with Diana, Princess of Wales to try to “destroy” the corporation for political motives.

The warning came as Priti Patel, the home secretary, gave the clearest indication yet that ministers are considering sweeping changes to how the BBC is run, calling next year’s review of the BBC charter “a very, very significant moment” for its governance structures.

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Soccer-Turkey’s Erdogan says UEFA decision to move CL final was political



FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of the Ataturk Olympic stadium, the venue of the postponed Champions League final 2020, during a 4 day curfew amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey May 19, 2020. Picture taken with drone. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

May 20, 2021

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said UEFA’s decision to move the Champions League final between English clubs Manchester City and Chelsea to Porto from Istanbul was political.

“A couple of years ago, we were notified that the final would be played in Turkey, but things took a sudden turn when two English clubs qualified to play the final,” Erdogan said on Turkish television on Wednesday.

“We couldn’t reach the U.K. Prime Minister in the meantime, he applied a lot of pressure on this issue.”

Erdogan complained that Turkey’s talks with UEFA and British ministers did not achieve any results, adding that Istanbul was promised the Champions League final in 2023.

UEFA announced last week that the Champions League final on May 29 was moved from Istanbul to Porto to allow English fans to travel under COVID-19 restrictions.

The final was scheduled for Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium, but Turkey was put on Britain’s travel “red list”, meaning no English fans would be able to attend the game. It will now be held in Porto’s Estadio do Dragao.

There had been discussions over moving the final to London’s Wembley Stadium but UEFA said that despite “exhaustive efforts on the part of the (English) Football Association and the authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements”.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay, editing by Ed Osmond)



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Tasmanian government releases report into state’s political donation laws


The Tasmanian Government has moved towards toughening the state’s electoral laws, three years after an election that allowed the origins of millions of dollars in political donations to remain secret.

Tasmania has the weakest political donation laws in the country, with only donations above $14,300 required to be declared.

Analysis by Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change in 2019 found just 20 per cent of $25 million donated to Tasmanian political parties in the past decade had been publicly disclosed.

Shortly after the 2018 election, which was dominated by debate over poker machines and donations from hospitality groups to the Liberal Party, the Tasmanian Government announced a review of the state’s Electoral Act.

The final report from that review has now been released.

It includes 11 recommendations — all of which the government has said it supports in-principle.

They include setting a threshold for disclosing political donations that is more in line with other states, setting better timeframes for disclosing donations quickly, and requiring third parties that participate in electioneering to abide by the same rules.

In releasing the report, Premier Peter Gutwein detailed the Tasmanian Government’s position on making amendments to the laws, but further work on the specifics still needs to be done.

Proposed changes include:

  • Reducing the disclosure threshold to between $1,000 and $5,000
  • Donations will need to be disclosed at least six-monthly, and more often during an election campaign
  • Foreign and anonymous donations over a certain threshold will be banned

The introduction of expenditure caps for campaigns would be considered at a later stage, due to “insufficient evidence” they were needed.

Premier Peter Gutwein says the government supports the 11 recommendations “in-principle”.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

)

Mr Gutwein said the changes would come at a cost for candidates, due to the expectation people who face having their political leanings made public may choose to stop making voluntary donations.

He said that meant some public funding of election campaigns would be needed, estimated to be the equivalent of between $2 and $8 per vote, but accepted that would be a “challenging concept” for some Tasmanians.

Mr Gutwein said it was important to note the changes were not being driven by recommendations from a corruption watchdog.

“There is no evidence of corruption, systemic or otherwise, in terms of the electoral system in Tasmania,” Mr Gutwein said.

The proposed changes would be limited to Tasmania’s House of Assembly.

The government plans to release legislation for consultation after Easter and will table it prior to Parliament’s winter break.

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‘I don’t want to become a political prisoner’. Three ‘foreign agent’ journalists describe life after designation by Russia’s Justice Ministry



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In Russia, you don’t have to be a legal entity to be designated as a “foreign agent” — all you need is a pulse. Last December, for the first time, the Justice Ministry added a handful of individuals to its registry. The authorities named five journalists and activists. The designations imposed the same public accounting requirements on these people that burden Meduza, which was named a “foreign agent” in late April 2020. In other words, they’re now forced to mark anything they write or share online (or in the mass media) with a loud, inescapable notification that they have “foreign agent” status in Russia. The law also demands that these individuals create formal legal entities, in order to report their earnings and spending to the government. Russia’s regulations do not stipulate, however, that each “foreign agent” needs a separate legal entity, and so three “agents” on the Justice Ministry’s list actually createda joint LLC. To learn more about how this status changes ordinary life, Meduza spoke to journalists and “foreign agents” Denis Kamalyagin, Sergey Markelov, and Lyudmila Savitskaya.


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Navalny Dissolves Political Network Ahead of Expected ‘Extremist’ Ruling


Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s political network has been disbanded ahead of a court ruling to declare it an “extremist” organization, his senior aide announced Thursday.

A Moscow court is expected to hand down the decision behind closed doors later in the day, banning the network’s crowdfunded work and putting members and supporters at risk of up to six years in prison.

“We are officially disbanding Navalny’s network,” Leonid Volkov, the network of regional headquarters’ former coordinator, wrote on social media.

“Keeping the work of Navalny’s network in its current form will lead immediately to extremism charges and entail criminal sentences for those work there, cooperate with it and help it,” he said.

Prosecutors in Moscow had suspended the network’s operations Monday, banning it from using bank accounts, posting anything online, organizing protests or taking part in elections. The network’s coordinators in several Russian regions had announced they were suspending operations that day to avoid legal repercussions.

The network’s website shtab.navalny.com was still accessible as of Thursday morning, showing dozens of locations spanning 11 time zones.

Prosecutors have also asked the court to brand Navalny’s other group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), as an “extremist” organization.

The Navalny groups’ anticipated “extremist” designations would ban Russia’s most potent opposition force five months ahead of parliamentary elections where the pro-Putin ruling party seeks to overcome historically low approval ratings to maintain its supermajority.

It was not immediately clear how the court ruling will affect Navalny’s “Smart Voting” strategy that seeks to unseat United Russia party incumbents in September by rallying support behind the most promising challenger.

Volkov only noted in his announcement that “there are dozens of cool and awesome regional politicians, thousands of their supporters, strong and independent political organizations that will deal with investigations and elections, public campaigns and rallies.”

“You will help them and they will succeed.”

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Australia’s first political assassination is just as mysterious today as it was a century ago


The basic details sound like the ingredients of a wild west movie: a country town, a lone gunman, armed police and a shootout at the local railway station.

But unlike a Hollywood blockbuster, the events at the small South Australian settlement of Riverton on March 22, 1921, have never resolved themselves into neat explanation.

Several people were wounded and two were killed, including Percy Brookfield — a charismatic, maverick MP who had held the balance of power in the New South Wales Parliament.

Six-foot-four Brookfield was a giant of socialist politics and his heartland was Broken Hill.

Percy Brookfield in 1915, wearing an anti-conscription badge.(

CH Conlon / State Library of Victoria

)

But his popularity among his followers had been hard won — his opposition to wartime conscription and his support for the Russian Revolution made him a controversial figure.

His killer, Koorman Tomayeff, was unemployed and itinerant, originally from Russia but more recently from the silver city.

Both men were aboard the train to Adelaide when it stopped at Riverton to allow passengers to disembark for breakfast.

It was then that Tomayeff launched his terrifying attack, firing more than 40 shots into the crowd.

As mass panic ensued, police and Brookfield bravely confronted the shooter, but Brookfield sustained two bullet wounds before Tomayeff was detained.

“I’m done, he has shot me,” said the stricken MP, who died in hospital.

Famed author Dame Mary Gilmore later eulogised Brookfield as a martyr and commemorated the incident in verse, describing the moment “the madman’s bullets came flying” like a “gallop of fiery rain”.

An old steam train at Riverton railway station.
The scene of the crime decades later(

Supplied: John Wilson

)

But beneath the myth is an enduring mystery — Brookfield’s death is often described as Australia’s first political assassination, but Tomayeff’s motive remains unclear.

Was he acting alone, or on behalf of others? Was Brookfield the target, or an incidental victim of an act of random terror?

And what of an enigmatic woman whose death may have sent Tomayeff over the edge?

Black and white photo of Australian writer Dame Mary Gilmore at her desk.
Dame Mary Gilmore later wrote a poem about Brookfield’s bravery on the day he died.(

State Library of Victoria: Herald and Weekly Times

)

The shooter

The Riverton railway station shooting was the sensation of its day but, unlike other unusual episodes that litter Australia’s past such as the Somerton Man mystery or the Battle of Broken Hill, it is now largely forgotten.

Railway historian John Wilson probably knows more about what happened that day than any other researcher.

Author John Wilson holds a book.
John Wilson has written about the shooting in his book The Riesling Railway.(

ABC News: Daniel Keane

)

He has speculated that the Battle of Broken Hill of 1915 — which, in an eerie foreshadowing of the Riverton shooting, involved two men of suspected Afghan background opening fire at a train and killing four passengers — may have nudged Tomayeff towards penury, then crime.

“Tomayeff was seen to be a foreigner, and there was an intense xenophobia in Broken Hill,” he said.

Tomayeff is, as Sir Winston Churchill said of Russia, a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

His name is spelled at least half a dozen different ways in historical newspaper articles, which also contradict one another in relation to many other aspects of his life.

Turkish flag and rifles in Broken Hill attack
Weapons and a Turkish flag from the Battle of Broken Hill.(

Supplied

)

Aged 36 at the time he shot Brookfield, he had migrated to Australia before the outbreak of World War One and was classified by authorities as a foreign “alien”.

Sources suggest he had worked as a miner, had moved from Broken Hill to WA and then back, and that he was intending to head to Clare on the day of the shooting.

Witnesses recalled him having kept to himself on the train, although another said he had been gambling and had become disgruntled after losing money.

A document pertaining to Koorman Tomayeff.
Tomayeff was registered as a foreign “alien” by federal authorities.(

National Archives of Australia

)

Some reports describe him as a “Russian émigré”, leading to speculation that he was an anti-revolution “white” Russian — however, evidence for any political affiliation is scant.

According to police, Tomayeff told them he was “sorry I shot Brookfield. I’m not sorry for the others”, but he later allegedly said, in broken English, that he was paid to target the MP.

“You no forget to tell judge I get £100 [at the time, almost a year’s wages] to shoot Brookfield” — but that statement was inconsistent with another, to the Riverton court:

The victim

Percy Brookfield was a man with powerful enemies.

During the war, he had publicly clashed with Australia’s pro-conscription Prime Minister Billy Hughes, condemning him as a “traitor, viper and skunk”.

But Brookfield himself was widely regarded as a traitor by the political right, especially after he told a gathering, at Broken Hill in early 1917, that he “would not spill one drop of my blood for any flag, the Union Jack included”.

Men standing with a trade union banner in Broken Hill.
At the time of Brookfield’s death, Broken Hill was a hotbed of radical politics.(

State Library of SA

)

His remarks earned a swift rebuke from Hughes, who said Brookfield was “a liar or a perjurer, or else he is a traitor to his country”.

In 1919, Brookfield loudly declared his Communist sympathies at a time when Australian troops were fighting against the Red Army in northern Russia.

But Brookfield also alienated those on his own side of politics — his views led to him quitting the Labor Party, and he joined a radical splinter group.

Were any of Brookfield’s foes capable of murderous conspiracy? Complicating that question is the contradictory evidence about Tomayeff.

A police investigation revealed he had lodged in Broken Hill with other Russians, and that photos of Russian Bolshevik revolutionaries — and a red banner bearing the words, “Long live the Federated Industrial Republic of Russia” — were found at their premises.

Koorman Tomayeff's medical certificate.
Tomayeff’s medical file, following an assessment by Dr Michael Downey.(

Supplied: John Wilson

)

But it’s unclear if those items belonged to Tomayeff or instead to his compatriots, who “very seldom mixed” with Tomayeff and had reportedly quarrelled with him.

Furthermore, if Tomayeff had been pro-Bolshevik like Brookfield, then why would he have shot him?

“He did not take any active part in union matters or industrial disputes,” a police sergeant later wrote of the Russian.

The statement of Koorman Tomayeff.
John Wilson uncovered this statement from Tomayeff.(

Supplied

)

The mystery woman

John Wilson believes political motives are a red herring and has developed a theory — based on archival foraging and some inspired guesswork — that hinges on a woman called Madge Kewey.

Following the shooting, newspapers reported that Tomayeff had been upset because of the death of a female associate and, after trawling through death records, Mr Wilson has identified Kewey as the most likely candidate.

The death certificate of a woman called Madge Kewey.
The death certificate of Madge Kewey, whose name is also spelled differently in various documents.(

Supplied

)

He further believes that she was a sex worker for Tomayeff.

“It seems, and I’m fairly confident about this, that he made his income being a pimp,” Mr Wilson said.

“Madge Kewey died days before the shooting of Percy Brookfield. This was never followed up by the investigators.

“We don’t know very much about her but it seems that Tomayeff went ballistic at the time she died … that’s what tripped him. But I think it goes deeper than that.

Mr Wilson thinks that Tomayeff suspected Kewey had been assaulted before her death, and was out for revenge.

But the answer may never be known, since the case against Tomayeff never went to trial, which fuelled suspicions of a cover-up, and he was instead adjudged to be “criminally insane”, spending the rest of his days in Glenside asylum’s infamous Z Ward.

The exterior of the Glenside hospital.
Tomayeff was incarcerated at Glenside for more than 20 years.(

Supplied: John Wilson

)

Like the Somerton Man — another mystery figure of suspected Russian origin — Tomayeff died in 1948. His body was donated to science.

“A lot of it is lost to the mists of time,” Mr Wilson said, but he hopes the centenary might trigger a new breakthrough.

“We can only hope that something might turn up out of the blue.”

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Carson accuses Democrats of using race ‘to divide people and to provide power for a political class’


Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson warned Democrats against stoking racial divisions on “The Ingraham Angle” Monday. 

“As a neurosurgeon, when I open that head and operate on a brain, which makes you who you are, I can’t tell whether you are Black, White, Yellow or Brown,” Carson told host Laura Ingraham. “It’s absurd.

“We need to move away and start to think about something that is important in this country,” he added. “Just using this to divide people and to provide power for a political class is absolutely absurd and unnecessary.”

He also reacted to Washington Post writer and MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart, who recently said there is “no way to be Black in America” without “liv[ing] under siege.”

Carson responded that Capehart is rejecting the advice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

“[He] dreamed of … a nation where people were judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Every day it seems like there is something else to inflame the racial situation,” he said.

“I am not saying there is not a racial problem, but I will say it has gotten so much better if my lifetime. The difference is night and day. We need to keep working on it. There was racism yesterday and today and tomorrow, but it doesn’t have to be a central focus of everything we do.”

Carson added there is no reason to change educational standards to control for racial differences, which Ingraham had described as “adjusting for educational outcomes instead of holding the bar high for everyone regardless of skin color.”

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“A person with a normal IQ is good at math,” he responded. “People say, ‘I am not good at math.’ Not true. It’s a matter of how you are taught. That’s where we need to be investing resources. The way school systems work now, it’s millage [property] taxes, so if you live in a poor area there is not a lot of money for your school.

“That just perpetuates the inferiority of education and the inferiority of outcome.”

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