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8 Ways to Not Get Tricked While Going Green

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Could This Be the Secret to Reef-Friendly Sunscreen?

Conventional sunscreens are having a detrimental impact on the environment and are a major culprit behind coral bleaching. Vast swaths of reef?including the majestic Great Barrier Reef?are turning bone white and dying, and certain chemicals in our sunscreen are partly at fault.

The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, the FDA-approved active ingredients in most conventional sunscreens, are known to cause bleaching, deformities, DNA damage and death in thriving coral ecosystems. In fact, they are contributing to a great coral die-out. And our love of swimming in the ocean is the problem.

When you wear?sunscreen in the ocean, it?leaches into the water systems, where the chemicals have a havoc-wreaking half-life of about 2.5 years.

Even if you don?t visit coral reefs on a regular basis, the EWG confirms that these chemicals are also powerful endocrine disruptors that can throw hormone levels dangerously?out of whack. Unfortunately,?these chemicals can be detected in the bodies of almost all Americans?even in breast milk.

So what do we do? Is there a healthy sun solution that is safe for our bodies and the ocean? Well, the ocean may, in fact, hold the answer.

According to a study conducted by King?s College, London, a special compound in seaweed could protect our skin from sun damage without harming marine ecosystems.

Scientists extracted a mycosporine-like amino acid (MAA) from seaweed known as palythine. When testing on human skin cells, palythine was shown to block UV rays and protect the skin, even at very low concentrations. It also has powerful antioxidant activity, meaning it can actually protect the skin from cellular free radical damage and photo-aging.

And since it naturally comes from the ocean, it’s already ocean-safe.

“here are significant concerns that conventional sun protection products are having a negative impact on the environment,”?Professor Antony Young, senior author of the study, commented.?”Our data show that, with further research and development, marine derived sunscreens may be a possible solution that could have a significant positive impact on the health of our marine habitats and wildlife, whilst still providing the essential sun protection that human skin requires to guard against damage that causes diseases such as skin cancer.?

While seaweed-based sunscreens are unlikely to hit the market anytime in the immediate future, this research does bear promise for the development of a healthy, eco-friendly, natural sunscreen to replace the conventional disasters we are currently told to use.

In the meantime, look for non-nano-particle?mineral sunscreens with very simple formulations. Try hardy, natural surfer-developed sun pastes/cremes like Manda, or cover up with clothing during long bouts of intense sun exposure.

While you should definitely protect yourself from sunburns, the last thing you want to do at the beach is hurt yourself or the oceans.

Related on Care2

Why Endurance Runners Can Ignore Discomfort (and You Can, Too)
This New Wearable Tech Helps You Avoid Sunburns
Is Your Smartphone Prematurely Aging Your Skin?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Could This Be the Secret to Reef-Friendly Sunscreen?

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On Amazon’s Prime Day, the environment gets a raw deal

This Tuesday is day two of Prime Day, a late-capitalist online extravaganza for Amazon Prime members only. The once-a-year sale, which Amazon says rivals Black Friday for low prices, has become famous for its deals on increasingly bizarre items. But before you rush to purchase a hot dog toaster or a life-size yeti garden statue, consider the environmental footprint of that purchase — and Prime in general.

Transportation experts are split over whether online shopping reduces or increases emissions. In theory, online shopping can be more environmentally friendly than a traditional brick-and-mortar store: Either way, a truck has to deliver the items, and in the case of online shopping, you don’t have to drive to the store as well.

“Our research shows that delivering a typical order to an Amazon customer is more environmentally friendly than that customer driving to a store,” said Melanie Janin, sustainability representative at Amazon, in an email.

But research has shown that it’s a different story when companies incorporate “rush” shipping. Free two-day shipping — the hallmark of Amazon’s plan to squeeze out traditional retailers — burns through significantly more emissions than standard shipping or traditional in-store shopping.

And Amazon has only increased its shipping speeds, offering select products on Prime Now that can be delivered in one to two hours.“With one-hour or two-hour delivery, there is no time for companies to consolidate shipments,” says Miguel Jaller, professor of civil and environmental engineering at University of California Davis. “And that means more vehicles, more emissions, and more health impacts.”

When you wait three to five days for shipment, Jaller explains, Amazon has time to find the most efficient (and cheapest) way to deliver goods. Aviation is by far the most carbon-intensive transit option, and with more time the company can route your package by land, instead of by air. Slower shipping also allows Amazon to group your package with other, similar deliveries. But with Prime, there’s almost no incentive to choose a slower option.

“The concept of Amazon Prime pushes us towards more emissions,” Dan Sperling, another professor at UC Davis, tells Grist. “It makes the marginal cost of purchases very small, so you have motivation to buy more. And of course, that’s what Amazon wants.”

Emissions aren’t the only problem — the company has previously come under fire for truly unreasonable amounts of packaging for small items and more recently for troubling labor practices. But transport continues to be a sustainability problem for Amazon, and we don’t even know the full extent of the problem: the Seattle-based conglomerate is highly secretive about what their emissions actually are.

It’s not hopeless: Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, could take a stance on green delivery and prioritize low-emission vehicles. (Not a bad decision for a man recently named the richest in modern history). According to Jaller, Amazon could also offer higher incentives for Prime customers to opt for slower shipping. Other researchers have suggested labeling standard shipping as the green choice, or giving consumers the chance to purchase carbon offsets.

At the end of the day, however, it will take consumer pressure to make any of these changes. So please, consider whether you can wait a few days to receive your garden yeti — or better yet, whether you even need it at all.

“Amazon isn’t the villain in this,” says Sperling. “The villain is us — it’s what people are willing to pay for.”

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On Amazon’s Prime Day, the environment gets a raw deal

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Solar Ovens Serve Up Yummy Food Almost Anywhere

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Trump and Putin are clearly in cahoots — over saving the fossil fuel industry

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist and staff writer for Grist, covering climate science, policy, and solutions. He has previously written for the Wall Street Journal, Slate, and a variety of other publications.


Whether Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 is not up for serious debate — numerous intelligence agencies, both foreign and domestic, concluded it did.

During a joint press conference with President Donald Trump in Helsinki on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin went a long way toward answering why. 

“I did [want Trump to win] because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal,” Putin said.

That statement was widely covered, but I’m convinced something else Putin said during the press conference is more important.

“I think that we as a major oil and gas power, and the United States as a major oil and gas power, as well, we could work together on regulation of international markets,” he said. “We do have space for cooperation here.”

Some close observers have drawn this connection before, but it’s worth saying again explicitly: There’s no way to understand Trump’s relationship with Russia without putting oil and climate politics at its center. If you’re upset at Trump and Putin for undermining our democracy, just wait until you find out that they are likely colluding to destroy our planet’s climate system, too.

After Monday’s meeting in Helsinki, it’s clearer than ever that we are at a crucial moment in our American democracy as well as in the biggest and most important fight we’ve ever had — the fight against climate change.

Fossil fuels still power 80 percent of the world’s economy, and the leaders of that dying industry might start acting in desperation to stave off its decline. You can see why rapidly eliminating dirty energy sources — exactly what science says we have to do — might be fiercely opposed by politicians who have a substantial stake in their success.

Russia is a petrostate, and the U.S. is now, too. In fact, the two countries are the world’s largest non-OPEC oil producers, extracting nearly as much as all OPEC countries combined. They also own an even greater share of the global natural gas market: Added together the two countries produce six times more natural gas than the rest of the world.

By working together, they can keep the global economy swimming in oil and gas.

And what’s the primary force working against the fossil fuel industry these days? Climate activists. It’s not difficult to see the Trump-Putin alliance as a deliberate attempt to delay action on climate change. Consider these moves:

Trump’s promise to withdraw from the Paris climate accord was specifically designed to weaken that agreement — and the spirit of cooperation it helped embody
Trump’s moves to open up offshore drilling in the Arctic will help both the U.S. and Russia access the oil-rich and increasingly ice-free region
Trump’s steel tariffs on Europe will help bolster bolster Russia’s pipeline-building oil and gas industry
Trump’s claims that by purchasing natural gas, Germany was being “controlled by” Russia is a window into his vision of fossil fuel-driven geopolitics
Trump’s buddying with North Korea might even be designed to clear the way for a Russian gas pipeline there

From their comments leading up to Monday’s meeting, it’s clear that Trump and Putin see the oil and gas industry as a critical component to their working relationship.

But here’s the thing: They will lose. Radical action on climate change is now inevitable, and the era of fossil fuels is quickly drawing to a close. Either the world bands together to shift culture and the status quo away from fossil fuels, or the climate system will do it for us.

With the costs of counteracting climate change coming down and the risk of locking in existential damages rising by the day, the only reason to delay is greed. And the truth is, now that more people than ever support action on climate change, it’s strong democratic institutions that are a direct threat to the oil industry.

The quicker we resolve to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, the quicker Putin and Trump will become powerless.

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Trump and Putin are clearly in cahoots — over saving the fossil fuel industry

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5 Things Besides Sunscreen That Are Bad for Coral Reefs

Coral Reef Awareness Week, in the third week of July each year, was created to highlight the importance of coral reefs and the need to protect them. Coral reefs only cover 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, but these amazing ecosystems support around 2 million species of marine plants and animals. In addition, more than 500 million people throughout the world rely on coral reefs for food and income.

Coral reefs have been on the earth for about 500 million years. But in the past few decades, coral reefs have been dying at an alarming rate. It?s estimated that 19 percent of the world?s coral reefs are already dead, and 60 percent are currently at risk. If global action is not taken to stop this decline, all coral reefs will be in danger by 2050.

You may have heard about how sunscreen can be toxic to coral reefs, but many other factors also impact the health of coral reefs. Let?s look at some of the worst threats coral reefs currently face.

1. Climate Change

Research suggests that climate change is quickly becoming the most significant threat to coral reefs today.

A coral reef is actually a community of hundreds to thousands of corals, which are small, delicate animals that are easily disrupted by changes in their environment. Each tiny, soft-bodied coral secretes a hard outer skeleton of limestone to keep itself safe. The accumulation of these skeletons creates a coral reef.

This process has been going on uninterrupted for thousands of years and has created the massive coral structures we know today. But corals also form an incredible partnership with a type of algae known as zooxanthellae to keep this cycle going. Zooxanthellae are single-celled algae that can live within the corals? soft tissues, where they photosynthesize in a way similar to plants. The corals can then feed off the products of the algae?s photosynthesis and continue to grow and thrive.

It?s been observed that a rise in ocean temperatures of only one or two degrees can disrupt this unique partnership. When oceanwater heats up, the zooxanthellae start producing toxins, which forces the corals to eject the algae back into the ocean. Without the zooxanthellae, corals lose a vital food source and slowly die. This process is known as coral ?bleaching? because the colorful, living algae and corals are gone, leaving only the white limestone skeletons behind.

Climate change is causing a rise in overall ocean temperatures, as well as increasing the likelihood of localized temperature spikes. A chilling example of this was a ten-month long stretch of abnormally warm water around Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean from July 2015 to April 2016. In the months following the temperature spike, 90 percent of the reef?s corals died.

Another deadly trend fueled by climate change is ocean acidification. Every day, 90 million tons of carbon pollution is released into our atmosphere. About one-third of that carbon is absorbed by our oceans, which is gradually altering the chemistry of seawater and making it more acidic. The chemical changes make it more difficult for corals to acquire the nutrients they need to survive, causing a slower decline than bleaching, but with a similarly fatal end.

2. Over-Fishing

Global demand for fish continues to increase, both for food and for the pet trade. Over-harvesting of fish to meet this demand is taking a toll on biodiversity and the ecological balance of coral reefs. Physically damaging fishing methods, such as trawling or using dynamite or cyanide in the water, can also damage or completely destroy coral reefs.

3. Pollution

Pollution affects our entire planet, including our oceans. A 2013 study found that fine airborne particles, produced largely by human industrial activities, actually block sunlight from reaching corals, which impacts photosynthesis and growth. Researchers examined coral reefs in Panama and Belize and found their growth rates have been slowing down since the 1950s because of this reduction in sunlight.

In addition, the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the world?s oceans each year disrupt countless numbers of marine plants and animals, including corals, who will eat tiny plastic pieces thinking they?re food. Many other sources of pollution, such as oil spills, sewage and agricultural runoff, also take a toll on coral reefs.

4. Human Activities

Irresponsible human recreation, such as careless swimming, snorkeling or diving, can damage coral reefs. Boating can also hurt coral reefs through noise pollution, dropping anchors on sensitive areas or collisions with wildlife.

Human coastal development is another threat. Sensitive marine areas are being dredged and disturbed to construct airports and buildings on land reclaimed from the sea. Also, building marinas, fish farms and other water-based structures can disrupt nearby coral reefs.

5. Disease

The frequency of coral disease appears to be on the rise, primarily by infection from bacteria, fungi or viruses. Scientists believe this is largely due to the increased environmental and physical impacts corals are currently facing, which weakens their natural defenses.

For example, an Australian study looked at the effect of permanent offshore visitor platforms that had been constructed within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Researchers found that coral disease was up to 18 times more likely in reefs with platforms compared to undisturbed reefs.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP CORAL REEFS

The World Resources Institute has a great video summarizing their Reefs at Risk report, which examined the state of the world?s coral reefs and what we can do to bring them back to health. Check it out below.

Related on Care2

10 of the Most Endangered Species on Earth
How You Can Help Protect the World?s Wildlife
10 Surprising Facts About Turtles

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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True Green Introducing Compostable Straws and Hot Cups

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True Green Introducing Compostable Straws and Hot Cups

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Hold on to your snowballs: More Americans accept the reality of climate change than ever before

Seventy-three percent! That’s the proportion of Americans who now think there is “solid evidence” of global climate change, according to a new report released by National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE). It’s the highest percentage since the survey started in 2008.

Good news? Sort of. Even those who accept the reality of climate change are still hazy on the causes. Only 34 percent of those sampled believed that climate change is due primarily to human activity, as established science indicates. As for the rest, 26 percent thought it was partially due to humans and 12 percent blamed natural causes. Come on, people!

Before you tear your hair out, here’s a quick lesson in the types of climate denial. “Trend deniers” are people who question whether the climate is changing at all — like the infamous snowball-throwing James Inhofe. “Attribution deniers,” on the other hand, question whether the changes can be linked to human influence — more in line with Scott Pruitt’s oh-so-vague climate beliefs.

Evidence suggests that trend deniers are on a sharp decline. Only 15 percent of those sampled in this study believed the climate was not changing at all. “That’s the lowest percentage since we started the survey,” says Barry Rabe, coauthor of the report and professor at the University of Michigan.

This has been a long time coming. Americans are experiencing more extreme weather on a personal level (heat waves, anybody?) and are seeing a growing number of reports about rising sea levels and melting polar ice.

National Surveys on Energy and Environment

But at the same time, attribution deniers are still around — and they present problems for anyone hoping to pass climate legislation.

“Those who are averse to mitigation aren’t as vehemently challenging the science of climate change, as they are the ability of policies to make any difference,” says Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion and another coauthor of the report.

This has been particularly visible in the Trump administration, where climate denial has taken the form of rejecting human influence rather than rising temperatures more generally. And, by denying the role of humans, the Trump team has absolved itself of making any significant policy changes — well, except for rolling back environmental regulations.

At least we don’t have to waste as much paper showing why a single snowball doesn’t disprove the reality of a warming world. But if you think that climate change is only partially — or not at all — caused by humans, you’re even less likely to take the drastic actions needed to prevent catastrophe.

“In general, having Americans accept the existence of climate change is a necessary condition for policy action,” Borick argues. “But it’s not sufficient.”

Borick and Rabe are hopeful that we will continue see slow movement toward both acceptance and action. The surveys show some hints that trend deniers can become attribution deniers — and that attribution deniers, in turn, may eventually accept the full science of climate change. But, if the last decade is any indication, it’s going to take a while.

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Hold on to your snowballs: More Americans accept the reality of climate change than ever before

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Democrats say Trump’s “culture of corruption” is making people sick

Peggy Price, a mother and retired Marine Corps sergeant, was livid when she recently learned that the Environmental Protection Agency had delayed the release of a study exposing large-scale contamination of water sources with perfluoroalkyls. The chemical compounds, also called PFAS, have tainted 126 water systems at or near U.S. military bases across the country and are linked to cancer and a host of other health problems, affecting the reproductive system and major organs like the liver.

Price was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in the early ‘80s. The base was the site of one of the most notorious contaminated water cases in American history. It wasn’t until an exposé in 2000, that she learned her family’s many health battles stemmed from her time at Lejeune — and she’s infuriated that officials are still trying to keep the public in the dark about water crises.

“The rest of my life has become a battlefield of cancer, disease, and mental health disorders for me, my two sons, and my two daughters,” said Price, fighting back tears as she spoke at a Congressional forum Wednesday.

On the heels of Scott Pruitt’s ouster as EPA administrator, Democrats held the forum where party members pointed to a “culture of corruption” that they say is not only harming the environment, but making people sick. Their rhetoric falls in line with a larger Democratic strategy of calling out the Trump administration on its pervasive double-dealing, which it hopes will spur a blue wave during this year’s midterm elections.

“From the start, this president’s toxic team has chosen to help special interests at the expense of everyday Americans,” said first-term Virginia Congressman Donald McEachin as he opened Wednesday’s event, convened by the Democratic Environmental Message Team.

In May, Democrats announced a series of proposals that they say aim to “get rid of the corruption that’s led to such a dysfunctional political system in Washington.” At the top of the their agenda is a commitment to reign in the influence of special interest groups and lobbyists. Pruitt and his successor Andrew Wheeler have been top targets of the left’s finger pointing due to their links to oil and coal companies, respectively.

“While the news of Scott Pruitt’s resignation last week was great to hear — especially after his role in suppressing the study — I’m still worried.” said Sergeant Price, referring to the PFAS report. “The government has never taken contaminated water seriously, and under Trump and Pruitt it’s been worse.”

Along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, several members of Congress, and other invited guests highlighted the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back protections established through the Clean Air Act and the Clean Power Plan. This administration and the Republican Congress “have unleashed an unprecedented attack on public health,” said Earl Blumenauer from Oregon. “And I’m not just talking about their unrelenting assault on the Affordable Care Act, but public health, in terms of air and water.”

Though it was Democratic leaders who had invited Sergeant Price to Washington to speak at their forum, her message for greater transparency wasn’t just aimed at Republicans but at all legislators.

“We need the members of Congress to carry out strong oversight of agencies and to demand greater transparency so the public can know what’s happening,” she said, referring again to the PFAS study. “If this affects us, we have the right to know.”

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Democrats say Trump’s “culture of corruption” is making people sick

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Will Justice Roberts stand up to the Supreme Court’s potential Voldemort?

On Monday night, President Trump announced his replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — and the news isn’t good for people who care about the planet. Trump’s nominee is 53-year-old D.C. circuit court judge Brett Kavanaugh, a dedicated originalist who has a bleak record on green issues.

“I think of him as the Lord Voldemort of the environment,” Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity and fellow at American University, tells Grist. (No joke, his last name is Snape.)

“Kavanaugh, to me, is another Scalia,” Snape adds. “On all things administrative law, energy law, environmental law, he has been pretty much the worst.”

But while Voldemort targets Muggles, Kavanaugh aims at environmental regulations. In 2012, on the D.C. circuit, he ruled that the EPA could not regulate air pollution that crosses state borders — a decision that was later reversed by the Supreme Court, 6-2. By the EPA’s reckoning, this decision literally saved lives. Had the court followed Kavanaugh’s opinion, the resulting unregulated air pollution could have led to between 13,000 and 34,000 additional deaths per year.

Kavanaugh also appears to have influenced the Supreme Court’s rulings against the Clean Air Act. He is cited in both Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA and Michigan v. EPA.

“He has just been a Clean Air Act disaster,” Snape tells Grist. “And it’s not just with regard to the EPA — he seems to have a very ideological anti-environmental stance.”

Kavanaugh also ruled to limit the power of critical habitat protections, most notably in a 2011 case around endangered fairy shrimp. The first case on the Supreme Court docket for the coming term, Snape warns, is a critical habitat case.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed and becomes SCOTUS’s Voldemort, where does that leave the rest of the court? With Kennedy gone, the court will move hard to the right, and John Roberts — who is not what most people would consider “moderate” — will become the new swing vote.

It could be worse. Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, has gradually been shifting toward the center throughout his tenure. In recent years, Roberts has been a bona fide moderate. In fact, he’s already credited with casting the court’s swing vote about 30 percent of the time — second only to the retiring Kennedy.

But Roberts has a sketchy record on climate science. In Massachusetts v. EPA, he joined the conservative side in voting against giving the EPA the ability to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. In his dissent, he wrote that drawing a direct link between individual choices of vehicles and the rising oceans was “pure conjecture.”

Still, some environmental campaigners think that the pro-business Roberts will be open to standardized environmental controls — which could actually be a net benefit to companies’ bottom lines. Moreover, Roberts has indicated that, despite his dissent at the time, he considers Massachusetts v. EPA to be established precedent. He’s unlikely to then want to break that precedent to overturn it.

So it remains to be seen whether Roberts will follow the path of the Dark Arts on issues related to the environment. Will he stick to climate denial, now that his vote matters even more? Or, will he come through like the original Professor Snape and rally to support the light when he’s needed most?

No matter what he decides, the consequences will be enormous — and could affect planetary health for millennia to come. No pressure.


And in case you’re wondering, here’s how the rest of the Supremes stack up in Harry Potter’s world, courtesy of Grist’s resident Potterhead, Caroline Saunders:

Clarence Thomas — Cornelius Fudge. These old boys don’t like to mess with the status quo.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Professor McGonagall. She keeps the world in line. Also, don’t cross her.

Stephen Breyer — Remus Lupin. Just like our furry friend in Harry Potter, he provides balance on tough issues.

Samuel Alito — Scrimgeour. Boy, do they both like to prosecute.

Sonia Sotomayor — Hermione Granger. Two badass female champions of the underserved.

Elena Kagan — Nymphadora Tonks. Kagan may not have technicolor hair, but she’s a hip young force on an aging bench. Don’t underestimate her.

Neil Gorsuch — Lucius Malfoy. They even look alike!

So @J.K. Rowling, when are you releasing Harry Potter and the Supreme Court Justices?

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Will Justice Roberts stand up to the Supreme Court’s potential Voldemort?

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