Boots & Sabers

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High inflation lights fuse of government taxing and spending time bomb

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Thanks to a loyal reader for the topic idea. The inflation bomb dropped by Trump and Biden is going to cause shockwaves for years to come.

Wisconsin has always been a high-tax state, but over the years, Republicans have put a few safeguards in place by capping increases to the rate of inflation. That was sensible when we had inflation of 2% or 3%. As inflation moves to 7% or possible above 10%, the ability of Wisconsinites to afford their government will be severely strained.

 

For example, in 2011, the Republicans implemented Act 10, which did a number of things including restricting public employee unions to being able to only negotiate wages up to the rate of inflation. In practice, that meant that most public employees have been receiving wage increases at the rate of inflation every year. With employee costs representing 70% or more of most government budgets, that means that 2022 will see significant spending increases for no additional value.

 

Also, Wisconsin caps government school district spending increases to changes in enrollment and inflation. Higher inflation means a much higher spending increase limit for school districts to pay for those increases in employee wages. This will drive a steep increase in property taxes at the same time that the housing prices upon which property taxes are based have gone up 9.5% according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

 

While spending and tax increases of 7% or more are looming, the ability for Wisconsinites to afford those increases is not keeping up. According to the BLS, Wisconsin’s wage growth ranks 37th in the nation for the third quarter of 2021, the most recent data available. Wisconsin’s average hourly wage in the private sector increased at a rate of 3.9% — a little more than half the rate of inflation. As inflation is squeezing Wisconsinites’ expenses, government is about to take a bigger slice. For those who are retired or on a fixed income, the bite of government will be even more severe.

 

To make it even worse — sorry, there is no good news here — recall that inflation measurements are a lagging indicator. Government budgets this year will be set based on inflation incurred last year. When inflation does eventually abate or a period of deflation possibly sets in, there is no mechanism to rein in the inflationary spending of government. Those spending increases will be baked into the pie forevermore unless elected leaders are willing to actually cut spending — something that neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to do in Wisconsin in my lifetime.

 

 

The Sachet Economy

Coming to America

The appearance of the sanitary pads in these small packs was “mind-boggling”, according to women’s health activist Dr Chioma Nwakanma.

They do not represent convenience but rather a more difficult choice as some women are no longer able to afford to cover their whole period.

“Even when it was an eight-pack it was sometimes not enough, so now people buy the sachet and start picking what day to use it,” Dr Nwakanma told the BBC.

 

[…]

With annual inflation peaking at 18% in March last year, and food inflation reaching 23%, this rise in the cost of living has created what is being termed by some as a “sachet economy”

 

In addition to sanitary pads, everything from baby food to cooking oil to breakfast cereal can now be bought in smaller portions, which are more affordable as the dramatic price increases have outstripped wage rises.

Wisconsin Supreme Court to Weigh Nondelegation Doctrine

There is a line here between rules to implement policies enacted by an elected body and rules that create new policy. I do not think that unelected bureaucrats should be creating new policy.

In a case stemming from several children not being able to play indoor sports because of Dane County’s emergency health orders, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is weighing whether to modify an elected body’s ability to hand over authority to an executive agency.

A conservative law firm representing Dane County plaintiffs and defendant Dane County have until Feb. 1 to tell the Supreme Court whether they want it to reconsider and modify current precedents on the “nondelegation doctrine,” or the idea that elected legislative bodies cannot pass the buck on decision-making to non-elected agencies and bureaucrats in most cases.

The doctrine became a focus of conservative groups around the country after the pandemic began, as a means to center power in Republican legislatures. Republicans in Wisconsin, spurred by business interests leery of government regulations, have for years tried to rein in the state’s executive branch agencies by revising the state’s rule-making process.

 

[…]

 

If the Supreme Court agrees with the plaintiffs, city and county elected officials would have to vote on public health policy changes rather than delegate that power to health officials. On a statewide level, more power would rest with the Republican Legislature if the Supreme Court decides executive agencies have too much rulemaking authority.

“It is our position that the legislature ought not delegate major or significant policy questions to the executive branch or administrative agencies,” WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said in a statement. “This violates the separation of powers which mandates that the legislature makes the law and the executive administers it.”

Youngkin Begins Fulfilling Campaign Promises

This could be Wisconsin a year from now.

Executive Orders:

Executive Directives:

  • Executive Directive Number One delivers on his fulfilling his Day One promise to jumpstart our economy by cutting job-killing regulations by 25 percent.
  • Executive Directive Number Two delivers on his fulfilling his Day One promise to restore individual freedoms and personal privacy by rescinding the vaccine mandate for all state employees.

People are policy

Here is my full column that ran earlier in the week in the Washington County Daily News.

After another election cycle where the Wisconsin Election Commission did everything they could within and without of the law to tilt the election results to the Democrats, there is talk again of restructuring or rebuilding the WEC to make it less partisan. The problem is not with the structure or mission of the WEC. The problem is with the people who run it and the refusal of lawmakers to hold them accountable.

 

The history of the WEC is important to remember. The WEC came into existence in 2016 as a response to the corrupt Government Accountability Board. The GAB was an allegedly bipartisan board that was responsible for the oversight of elections and ethics. Particularly after Gov. Scott Walker won in 2010 and Republicans won majorities in the Legislature, the GAB was involved in multiple scandals as they used their power over elections and ethics to advance the cause of Democrats. It was one of the many cases of Democrats weaponizing a purportedly unbiased government agency for political gain.

 

But the GAB was created for the same reason as the WEC. The GAB was only in existence for less than a decade. It was formed in 2008 to assume the combined responsibilities of the State Ethics Board and the State Elections Board. The GAB was created because the State Ethics Board and State Elections Board had been involved in multiple scandals where they used their authority to influence outcomes instead of acting fairly and, ironically, ethically.

 

Do you see the pattern? While the response of politicians to the rogue actions of one of their creations is to reshape it with the vain notion that structure can be a substitute for leadership, they ignore the root of the problem. The problem is not the structure. The problem is the people.

 

The structure of the WEC is designed to balance competing interests. The commission is comprised of six appointed commissioners who serve staggered five-year terms. Two of the commissioners are appointed by the governor. Two commissioners are appointed by the Senate majority and minority Leaders. Two commissioners are appointed by the Assembly speaker and Assembly minority leader. As structured, no single political party would ever have complete control of the commission, but one party could control a majority of the commissioners.

 

The commissioners are responsible for leading the WEC, but they hire a staff that does most of the work. The staff is also responsible for making recommendations to the commissioners on public policy matters. The WEC is not a lawmaking body. The extent of their mandate is to manage Wisconsin’s elections within the firm boundaries set forth in state statute. It is in the intentional violation of their legal boundaries where the WEC most often runs afoul of their charge.

 

In just the last few years, the WEC has bent or broken the law in a number of ways. They refused to purge the voter rolls in a timely fashion as directed by law. They reportedly allowed nursing home staffers to cast votes on behalf of residents in violation of the law. They allowed municipalities to use unattended ballot drop boxes, closed polling locations, prohibited special voting deputies from entering nursing homes, and repeatedly used the pandemic as an excuse to ignore state law. All of these actions made it easier to cheat and made our elections less likely to actually represent the will of the people.

 

Beyond the affirmative violations of the law, the WEC exploited its regulatory authority to favor Democrats. In almost every single dispute about an election process or action, the WEC ruled in favor of Democrats. It is remarkable that a purportedly nonpartisan and unbiased commission would make decisions in favor of one party so consistently.

 

The structure of the WEC is supposed to prevent such biased actions. The fact that the WEC is an appointed commission that is accountable to elected officials is supposed to hold them accountable to the law and mission of the commission. Here is where the actions, and inactions, of people is the root of the problem.

 

When the WEC was created, it was staffed almost entirely with the same Madison bureaucrats who worked in the GAB. Since the GAB was discredited and dissolved because it was corrupt, it was ludicrous to move the same staff to the new commission, but that is exactly what happened.

 

With the same biased and corrupt staff, the new commissioners of the WEC have the power and responsibility to act legally and fairly. Here again, the commissioners have failed in their duty to use their power to keep Wisconsin’s elections free and fair.

 

Even as the commissioners are failing in their duty, it is the duty and responsibility of the governor and legislative leaders to hold their appointees accountable when they violate the letter or spirit of the law. Here again, the elected leaders are failing in their duty.

 

The WEC has three layers of leadership and accountability, and all three layers are failing because of the weak and/or corrupt people who are in those leadership positions. There is no alternative commission structure than could instill ethics or backbone in people who do not have them already.

 

The problem with the WEC is not the structure. The problem with the WEC is the people responsible for running it. Until the people of Wisconsin hold elected officials accountable, the problem of corrupt and sloppy elections in Wisconsin is not going away.

Democrats Struggle to Make Headway in Texas

Ha

If fact, Democrats haven’t won any statewide elections in that long, and there have been about 100 of them during that time.

By way of illustration, an online site for lottery players puts the odds of someone matching three of the six numbers in a Texas Lotto drawing at about one in 75. The payout for hitting three of six is a modest $3. But it still means a Texas Democrat has a better chance of winning at least part of the Lotto jackpot than he or she has of getting elected statewide.

And that begs the question, why can Democrats win at least sometimes in red states but not in Texas?

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some clues. And, like the Lotto analogy, evidence suggests that a little luck is often involved.

I remember growing up in Texas when Democrats were regularly elected statewide. And in some parts, like East Texas, one couldn’t get elected without being a Democrat. Back then, Democrats still loved God, guns, law & order, and fought for the little guy. Those Democrats are not today’s Democrats. I’d suggest that Texas has not gotten more conservative or Republican. If anything, it has drifted a bit left. But the Democrats have gone so far left that they can’t win in a majority of the state.

Fauci Cashes in on Pandemic

Is it any wonder that he wants to keep perpetuating the nation’s pandemic fetish? He’s doing quite well, thankyouverymuch.

Republican senator who grilled Dr Anthony Fauci over his financial disclosures – leading a frustrated Fauci to call him under his breath a ‘moron’ – has published the public health expert’s financial records.

 

The records show that Fauci – the highest-paid federal employee in the country, who earns more than President Joe Biden – and his wife, the top bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, have a combined wealth of $10.4 million.

 

Fauci, 80, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and, if he continues until the end of Biden’s term in 2024, will have made roughly $2.5 million as the president’s chief medical advisor.

 

[…]

 

Fauci’s records show that he and his wife were paid $13,298 to attend four galas and ceremonies – three of them virtual.

 

He was paid $5,000 to attend a ‘RFK Ripple of Hope’ virtual awards ceremony in December 2020; $1,600 to attend ‘An Evening of Hope’ virtual event in April 2020; and $1,500 to attend a ‘Prepared for Life’ virtual gala in October 2020.

 

He was also reimbursed $5,198 for costs associated with his being awarded federal employee of the year and being given the Service to America medal, in October 2020.

 

The four events were listed under ‘gifts and travel reimbursements’.

Empty Shelves in Grocery Stores Becoming Normal

Marxist policies have the same results every time they are implemented.

U.S. retailers are now facing roughly 12% out of stock levels on food, beverages, household cleaning and personal hygiene products compared to 7-10% in regular times.

 

The problem is more acute with food products where out of stock levels are running at 15%, the Consumer Brands Association said.

 

SpartanNash, a U.S. grocery distributor, last week said it has become harder to get supplies from food manufacturers, especially processed items like cereal and soup.

 

Consumers have continued to stock up on groceries as they hunker down at home to curb the spread of the Omicron-variant. Denis said demand over the last five months has been as high or higher than it had been in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Similar issues are being seen in other parts of the world.

Sensenbrenner Endorses Kleefisch

I agree. Kleefisch is conservative, aggressive, intelligent, and a problem solver. There’s no reason to muck around. She has my support.

WAUKESHA — On Thursday, former longtime Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced his endorsement of Rebecca Kleefisch.

 

“From Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, I spent my career working alongside strong conservative icons to accomplish our shared goals, and we had a lot of success. I know what conservative leadership looks like, and Rebecca Kleefisch is the real deal,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

 

“Early on, my late wife, Cheryl, and I spotted Rebecca s unparalleled tenacity and came to know well her leadership abilities. She beat the odds as an outsider running for lieutenant governor in 2010, and she even beat cancer that same year. She has been crucial to the conservative reforms in Wisconsin state government. No one will out-work Rebecca Kleefisch. No one will fight harder for our conservative ideals than Rebecca Kleefisch.”

“Scientists” Covered Up Wuhan Leak to Promote International Harmony

These “scientists” who we are told to trust without question are lying politicians more interested in their power and money than actual science. Yeah, we knew that already, but here is another confirmation.

An email from Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, on February 2 2020 said that “a likely explanation” was that Covid had rapidly evolved from a Sars-like virus inside human tissue in a low-security lab.

 

The email, to Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Francis Collins of the US National Institutes of Health, went on to say that such evolution may have “accidentally created a virus primed for rapid transmission between humans”.

But a leading scientist told Sir Jeremy that “further debate would do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular”. Dr Collins, the former director of the US National Institutes of Health, warned it could damage “international harmony”.

 

Viscount Ridley, co-author of Viral: the search for the origin of Covid, said: “These emails show a lamentable lack of openness and transparency among Western scientists who appear to have been more interested in shutting down a hypothesis they thought was very plausible, for political reasons.”

Inflation Surges to 7% and is Accelerating

Holy crap.

The US consumer price inflation index rose 7% over the past year, the steepest climb in prices since June 1982, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.
It was also a faster rate of increase than November’s 6.8%, and higher than economists had predicted.
Stripping out food and energy costs, which tend to be more volatile even in non-pandemic times, inflation rose to 5.5% between December 2020 and December 2021 — the biggest annual jump since February 1991. That was a much faster pace than in November, when core inflation stood at 4.9%.

 

Tommy Leaves Open Run for Governor

I suspect this is just because Tommy likes for people to be talking about him, but no thanks. And given the results of his last run for Senate, I think that most of Wisconsin is with me.

MADISON, Wis. — Tommy Thompson, who was elected four times as Wisconsin governor and is wrapping up a sting as interim University of Wisconsin System president, said Tuesday that he’s not ruling out another run for governor.

 

The 80-year-old Republican told WISN-TV that “everything is on the table.”

 

“I’m not saying it’s in the cards,” Thompson told WISN. “But, I’m physically and mentally capable of doing anything.”

 

Thompson said he would discuss his future with his family in April. He is resigning as interim UW president on March 18.

Chicago Hostage Crisis Ends With Forced Medical Testing on Children

FFS. You notice that the parents and kids didn’t even have a seat at the negotiating table.

CTU chief of staff Jen Johnson said in a virtual press conference Monday night that the agreement includes testing at leas 10% of students at each school for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. The union had been requesting much wider testing that parents would have to explicitly opt out of, but the district and Lightfoot would not agree to that. The plan also gves clear metrics for when schools would switch to remote learning, Johnson said.

Schools will go to remote learning if they are in an area of high transmission according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 40% of students are in isoloation or quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols. Schools could also go remote if 50% of students are in isolation or quaratine even if the transmission rate is no longer considered high by CDC standards. Another scenario that could cause a school to switch to remote learning would be if 30% of teachers are in isolation and total teacher absences exceed 25% even with substitutes.

People are policy

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

After another election cycle where the Wisconsin Election Commission did everything they could within and without of the law to tilt the election results to the Democrats, there is talk again of restructuring or rebuilding the WEC to make it less partisan. The problem is not with the structure or mission of the WEC. The problem is with the people who run it and the refusal of lawmakers to hold them accountable.

 

[…]

 

The WEC has three layers of leadership and accountability, and all three layers are failing because of the weak and/or corrupt people who are in those leadership positions. There is no alternative commission structure than could instill ethics or backbone in people who do not have them already.

 

The problem with the WEC is not the structure. The problem with the WEC is the people responsible for running it. Until the people of Wisconsin hold elected officials accountable, the problem of corrupt and sloppy elections in Wisconsin is not going away.

ACLU Appoints New Executive Director

Long ago the ACLU transitioned from a somewhat equal defender of civil rights into another leftist activist group. In case you thought any different, allow me to disabuse you of your misconceptions. Meet the Wisconsin ACLU’s new Executive Director. 

Dr. Brennan earned her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and her master’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She went on to earn her doctorate in gender studies at Indiana University, where she wrote a dissertation on the nexus between hate acts, nationalism, white supremacy, and American Islamophobia.

 

Before joining the ACLU, Dr. Brennan served as a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Board Consultant for the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition Project, training and educating board members about disability, race, and class issues related to mobility justice. She also has expertise in the DEIJ space, with years of experience as a consultant and community advocate.

 

“Many of the issues I am devoted to reveal the way difference is weaponized and cast as problematic, rather than honoring difference, being accountable to justice, and supporting communities held at the margins,” Dr. Brennan said. “My commitment to this work is informed by scholarship and action, much of which was done by women of color, queer people of color, and other multiply marginalized leaders who speak truth to power.”

It is certainly the ACLU’s right to be a leftist activist group. But just remember that when the media turns to them as a purportedly “unbiased” arbiter on controversial issues.

Sotomayor is Grossly Wrong on the Facts

It’s interesting to remember that she didn’t make that up out of whole cloth. In what circles is she running where they are throwing around such wildly wrong information? Where did she hear this?

But then Sotomayor went off the rails: “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.”

 

That’s wildly incorrect, assuming she is referring to hospitalizations, given the reference to ventilators. According to HHS data, as of Jan. 8 there are about 5,000 children hospitalized in a pediatric bed, either with suspected covid or a confirmed laboratory test. This figure includes patients in observation beds. So Sotomayor’s number is at least 20 times higher than reality, even before you determine how many are in “serious condition.”

 

Moreover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been less than 100,000 – 82,843 to be exact – hospital admissions of children confirmed with covid since Aug. 1.

One Citizen. One Vote? Not in NYC

Wow. While we lavish immigrants – illegal or not – with taxpayer-funded benefits, we used to all agree that one needed to be a citizen in order to legally vote. If there is one thing that distinguishes a citizen from a non-citizen, it is that citizens decided on who will lead our government. Not anymore… does being an American citizen really mean anything anymore?

Eric Adams supports legislation that will allow 800,000 non-citizens to vote in municipal elections in New York City as early as next year.

 

So-called ‘Dreamers’ will have access to the ballot box after the new mayor of New York City allowed the bill to automatically become law on Sunday.

 

Opponents have vowed to challenge the new law, which the City Council approved a month ago – but unless a judge halts its implementation, New York City is the first major U.S. city to grant widespread municipal voting rights to non-citizens.

Ron Johnson to Run

Excellent! Johnson is the only Wisconsin Senator in a generation to actually work and try to keep government accountable. He gets in and does the grunt work on behalf of the state. Baldwin… Kohl… Feingold… lazy back benchers.

MADISON – Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has decided to seek re-election to a third term, two Republicans with knowledge of the plan told The Associated Press on Friday.

 

The Republicans with knowledge of his plans were not authorized by Johnson to speak publicly about his intentions, but said he could announce as soon as early next week. Johnson did not return a text message or phone call seeking comment.

 

A Johnson candidacy would avoid a wide-open GOP primary in the narrowly divided swing state.

Johnson said in 2016 he would not run for a third time, but he later said circumstances changed when Democrats took full control of Congress and the White House.

Keep our schools open

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week. Last year at this time, this column would have been controversial. This year, I’m on the bandwagon.

Think back to your childhood. Maybe you were 6 years old and excited to get to school to play with your friends. Maybe you were 12 and learning that instrument that would spark a lifelong love of music. Maybe you were 17 and sweating through your ill-fitting suit as you danced with the girl who would become your wife. Those were formative years. They were important years.

 

Now go back into your memory, pick any year or two, and erase it. Replace it with a picture of yourself sitting at home – alone – staring at the world through a screen and trying to understand it. Hour after hour. Day after day. How many opportunities are lost? How many relationships are never formed? How is your life different?

 

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Wisconsin, some school districts are already thinking about closing their doors to pretend to do virtual learning. The Milwaukee Public Schools and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin’s two largest school districts, have already decided to go virtual (read: abandon education) and delay opening for fear of omicron. Other school districts might soon follow.

 

This must stop. We are almost two years into our experience with COVID-19 and there are two things we know for sure: COVID-19 is almost no threat to kids, but closing schools is devastating to them on many levels. We must prioritize the education and mental health of our kids over the minimal threat of COVID-19.

 

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,040 kids under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago. Bear in mind that the CDC’s accounting of COVID-19 deaths has been intentionally hyperinflated by including people who died with COVID-19 in their body even if something else might have killed them.

 

COVID-19 can be a serious or deadly illness for a few kids, but for the vast majority of them, it is no worse than a seasonal cold. To put it in perspective, in 2019, according to the CDC, more than twice as many kids committed suicide; more than twice as many kids accidentally strangled or suffocated; more than twice as many kids died of heart disease; more than ten times as many kids died from accidents; more than three times as many kids were murdered; and roughly the same number of kids died from influenza and pneumonia.

 

Parents should be as concerned about COVID-19 for their kids as they are about the flu. Parents should be much more concerned about their kids’ substance abuse, driving safety, and mental health than COVID-19. Sadly, by the time the CDC crunches the death statistics for 2020 and 2021, we can expect to see child deaths by suicide and drug overdoses to have skyrocketed.

 

While COVID-19 poses a nominal physical threat to kids, we have seen ample evidence that closing schools has a detrimental impact on their education and mental health. According to researchers at Stanford University, they “estimated that the average student average student had lost one-third of a year to a full year’s worth of learning in reading, and about three-quarters of a year to more than 1 year in math since schools closed in March 2020.”

 

According to the CDC, more than 85% of teachers reported seeing a significant learning loss in their students compared to previous years. Wisconsin’s test scores mirror the research and studies as math and reading scores plummeted after the widespread closure of schools.

 

It is too early to know if the school systems can ever fill the hole left in the kids’ educations. Some kids will likely be able to get back on track, but far too many will never fully recover those lost months and years. The kids who will be hardest hit are those who are already on the other side of the yawning socioeconomic gap in education and kids with learning difficulties.

 

In addition to the detrimental impact on kids’ education, the impact on their mental health is truly tragic. According to the CDC, nearly 25% of parents whose children were forced into virtual or hybrid education reported a decline in their children’s mental or emotional health. Kids also had worse diets, exercised less, and spent more time alone.

 

Closing schools is having a devastating impact on our kids and their futures, but there is no evidence that closing schools reduces the incidence of COVID-19 for kids. The rate of COVID-19 in communities that closed their schools and neighboring communities that kept them open are identical. Closing schools is politically motivated pandemic theater and our kids are paying the price of admission.

 

When it comes to closing schools, our kids’ futures and their very lives are on the line. Closing schools is far more destructive to our kids than COVID-19 ever will be. Keep our school open. Our kids are depending on us.

Police Put Down Violent Demonstration

Yikes.

MOSCOW — Dozens of protesters and 12 police died during extraordinarily violent demonstrations in Kazakhstan that saw government buildings stormed and set ablaze, authorities said Thursday. One police officer was found beheaded in escalating unrest that poses a growing challenge to authoritarian rule in the Central Asian nation.

 

After breaking into the presidential residence and the mayor’s office in the country’s largest city Wednesday, demonstrators continued to try to storm more buildings overnight. “Dozens of attackers were liquidated,” police spokeswoman Saltanat Azirbek told state news channel Khabar-24, using a term common to describe the killing of people thought to be extremists. Twelve police officers were killed in the unrest and 353 injured, according to city officials cited by the channel.

 

[…]

 

Tens of thousands of people, some reportedly carrying clubs and shields, have taken to the streets in recent days in the worst protests the country has seen since gaining independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago. Although the demonstrations began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of vehicle fuel, their size and rapid spread suggest they reflect wider discontent in the country that has been under the rule of the same party since independence.

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