California man charged with using COVID loans to buy a Ferrari …

IRVINE, Calif. — A Southern California man has pleaded not guilty to charges he obtained $5 million in federal coronavirus-relief loans for phony businesses and then used the money for lavish vacations and to buy a Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini, prosecutors said Monday.

Mustafa Qadiri, 38, was arrested last week on suspicion of scheming to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program, which was implemented last year to help small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qadiri, of Irvine, pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple charges including bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Qadiri’s attorney, Bilal A. Essayli, declined further comment Monday.

Prosecutors said Qadiri submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications to three banks on behalf of four companies that didn’t actually exist. The applications included altered bank records, fake tax returns and false information about employees, according to the indictment.

Qadiri also used someone else’s name, Social Security number and signature to fraudulently apply for one of the loans, prosecutors said.

He received $5 million in loans that investigators said he used to pay for trips, sports cars and personal expenses.

Federal agents have seized the Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini cars that Qadiri purchased, along with about $2 million from his bank accounts, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton scheduled a jury trial for June 29. Qadiri was released on $100,000 bond.


Toyota twin-turbo V8 patent unearthed

An unremarkable patent focusing on a minor engine part has revealed that Toyota is at least considering a twin-turbo V8. While the filing is most likely just a large company protecting its intellectual property, it could also be a small glimmer of hope that Toyota, a storied company that’s made some glaring missteps with enthusiasts in recent years, can leave the ICE party with a bang for the ages.

The patent for a secondary PCV separator, whose function is to isolate exhaust gas from lubricating oil, was discovered by a member of the GR86 forum. In this case, it’s not engine oil that’s the culprit, but turbocharger oil. From a twin-turbo V8.

The patent starts out with an almost embarrassingly hilarious stick figure drawing of a car and where said engine would be located (in the front, under the hood, duh). It has the words “Internal Combustion Engine” printed on a rectangle in case there was any doubt.

However, the second figure shows a dual turbo setup nestled in the valley of a V8. It’s a prime location for reducing turbo lag and optimizing throttle response (and should necessitate a substantial hood bulge as well).

Now, interestingly, the forum member believes this engine will be installed in the next Tundra (and presumably Sequoia), but our own research indicates that the pickup will have a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 under the hood. With all due respect to the GR86 members, we’re going to stand by that assertion and cross our fingers that the patent hints at something even better.

That would be a high-performance Lexus, possibly an IS F or, if the ICE gods will allow it, an LC F. After all, we have had reports from Japan that a trio of F-cars were coming, including a LS F. It would explain why the 472-horsepower, V8-powered IS 500 was called the Sport Performance instead of full-on IS F. In fact, Lexus reps have promised that the F label would become even more performance oriented.

A proper IS F would be a fitting sendoff to Toyota’s high-performance V8, but the tested, then reportedly canceled, then reportedly revived LC F would be an even more melodious swan song. The flagship grand tourer could very well allow loyalists to forgive the aforementioned gaffes.

Toyota president and noted car guy Akio Toyoda has taken heat for questioning the coming outright ban of ICE sales in his home country of Japan. Perhaps this engine is one of the reasons he’s objecting.


Ford F-150 Lightning debut to be projected on 64,000-square-foot screen at HQ

The Ford World Headquarters building will be one of three live broadcast locations for the F-150 Lightning electric truck debut on May 19. Signaling the importance of the F-150 to the Blue Oval brand, workers in Dearborn have been busy covering the HQ building’s glass with a 64,000-square-foot projection screen for the event.

Ford is a huge presence in the Detroit metro area, so when anything odd happens at the company’s 12-story headquarters building, called the Glass House, it can cause quite a stir. So when The Detroit Free Press noticed over the weekend that workers in high-vis vests and hardhats were covering the building’s heat-absorbing windows with a white screen, the speculation began. They were able to get the size of the screen from the inside source, but not much more info.

Since then, it has been all but confirmed that the screen will be used to livestream the F-150 Lightning reveal, to be simulcast at Ford headquarters, New York’s Times Square and on the Las Vegas Strip. The timing is just too perfect for it to be anything else.

However, the significance of using the HQ at One America Road (that’s its real address) cannot be understated. Automakers typically hold their reveals at auto shows or specially staged venues. An administrative building, even if it’s the center of a multinational corporate structure, is not typically high on the list.

However, the F-150 has been America’s best-selling vehicle for 40 years, and the Lightning represents a paradigm shift for America’s work truck. It is perhaps an even bigger philosophical leap than the Mustang Mach-E. By holding the event at the very heart of FoMoCo’s empire, a building officially called Henry Ford II World Center, the company is making a statement about what the F-150 Lightning means to the brand. Plus, the truck will be built at a new EV facility at Ford’s historic Rouge complex nearby.

The F-150 Lightning will debut at 9:30 p.m. ET May 19, and if you can’t be on location in Dearborn, NY, or Vegas, it will also be livestreamed on Ford social channels.


Now’s your last chance to win this rare, 750-horsepower Ford Mustang

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability is subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes. See official rules on Omaze.

If there’s one thing in the automotive world there’s plenty of, it’s Ford Mustang variants. You have the EcoBoost, GT, Mach 1, GT500, not to mention past favorites like the Bullitt and GT350. And how could we fail mention all of the third-party varieties? One thing there could be more of, however, is 750-horsepower Mustangs. Why should Dodge have all the fun? And why should people who have the money to buy supercharged muscle have all the fun? Thanks to Omaze you don’t have to have an extra hundred grand sitting around to park 750 horses in your garage. You just have to have a bit of luck. 

Win a 1-of-10 Mustang RTR Spec 5 & VIP Access to a Formula Drift Race – Enter at Omaze

This specific Ford Mustang is a 10th anniversary edition Mustang Spec 5, one of only 10 examples made by RTR. Not sure what any of that means? Then let’s get down to the numbers. Just like most Mustangs (not all, but most) this is a rear-wheel drive four-seater, and it’s powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that makes 750 horsepower and 670 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and according to Omaze is “the ultimate drifting machine.” 

It also comes with some RTR customizations like a “Ford Performance Phase 2 Supercharger kit; RTR Spec 5 fender flares, chin and rear spoiler, front and side splitters, rear diffuser, and hood vents; RTR front grill with LED lighting; RTR Tactical Performance Coilovers and sway bars; 20” RTR Aero 7 Forged wheels with Nitto NT555 G2 tires; plus four additional tires for the winner to shred.”

In addition to the car, if you win you also get VIP access to a Formula Drift race where you’ll be able to hang out with Vaughn Gittin Jr.  

You’re probably asking yourself, what does it take to win? Well, first of all there is no donation or purchase necessary to enter, though your odds dramatically increase if you do: $10 will get you 100 entries in this raffle, while $50 will get you 1,000 entries and $100 will get you 2,000 entries.

The donations themselves benefit Folds of Honor, which, according to Omaze, “is a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. Their educational scholarships support private education tuition, homeschooling and tutoring for children in grades K–12, and higher education tuition assistance for spouses and dependents. To date, they’ve awarded over 29,000 scholarships in all 50 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

If you want this opportunity to own this piece of high-powered horseflesh, enter here. The deadline to enter is May 13, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

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NTSB: Tesla owner started trip in driver’s seat before fatal crash

DETROIT — Home security camera footage shows that the owner of a Tesla got into the driver’s seat of the car shortly before a deadly crash in suburban Houston, according to a government report Monday.

But the preliminary report on the crash that killed two men doesn’t explain the mystery of why authorities found no one behind the wheel of the car, which burst into flames after crashing about 550 feet (170 meters) from the owner’s home. Nor does it conclusively say whether Tesla’s “Autopilot” partially automated driver-assist system was operating at the time of the crash, although it appears unlikely.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it’s still investigating all aspects of the crash. An onboard data storage device in the console, however, was destroyed by fire. A computer that records air bag and seat belt status as well as speed and acceleration was damaged and is being examined at an NTSB lab.

The NTSB said it tested a different Tesla vehicle on the same road, and the Autopilot driver-assist system could not be fully used. Investigators could not get the system’s automated steering system to work, but were able to use Traffic Aware Cruise Control.

Autopilot needs both the cruise control and the automatic steering to function. Traffic Aware Cruise Control can keep the car a safe distance from vehicles in front of it, while autosteer keeps it in its own lane.

“The NTSB continues to collect data to analyze the crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test results, seat belt use, occupant egress and electric vehicle fires,” the agency said in its report. “All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause.”

The agency says it intends to issue safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.

The April 17 crash happened at 9:07 p.m. on Hammock Dunes Place, a two-lane residential road in Spring, Texas. Both the 59-year-old owner and the 69-year-old passenger were killed.

The NTSB report said the car went off the road on a curve, drove over a curb, hit a drainage culvert, a raised manhole and a tree.

The crash damaged the high-voltage lithium-ion battery, where the fire began.

Local authorities said one man was found in the front passenger seat, while another was in the back.

The report didn’t say how fast the car was going, but Harris County Precinct Four Constable Mark Herman said it was a high speed. He would not say if there was evidence anyone tampered with Tesla’s system to monitor the driver, which detects force from hands on the steering wheel. The system will issue warnings and eventually shut the car down if it doesn’t detect hands. But critics say Tesla’s system is easy to fool and can take as long as a minute to shut down.

Consumer Reports said in April that it was able to easily trick a Tesla into driving in Autopilot mode with no one at the wheel.

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Lewis Hamilton wins the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Verstappen

MONTMELÓ, Spain — Lewis Hamilton beat Max Verstappen in a thrilling duel to win the Spanish Grand Prix and increase his championship lead over his top rival on Sunday.

Verstappen’s Red Bull edged the pole-sitting Hamilton to the first curve to snatch the early lead.

But Mercedes’ use of two pit stops to give Hamilton fresher tires down the final stretch paid off and allowed him to overtake the Dutchman with six laps remaining.

“Red Bull got a great start,” Hamilton said. “I was hunting …. It was a long way to come back from, 20-odd seconds back. But it was a good gamble.”

Hamilton followed his 100th career pole on Saturday by taking his 98th career win. He also tied Michael Schumacher’s mark of six victories at the Spanish Grand Prix, including the last five in a row.

Hamilton increased his lead to 14 points over Verstappen, who grabbed a bonus point for the fastest lap.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas steered his Mercedes to a third-place finish.

Verstappen got the jump on Hamilton off the starting line, recovering the scarce meters that separated them on the grid down the first straight. They entered the first curve side-by-side and appeared to graze one another before Hamilton backed off, as Verstappen pulled away.

The superior tire strategy kicked in on lap 25 when Verstappen came in to swap his soft tires for the more durable mediums. Hamilton stayed out to take the lead for three laps before he ceded it back to Verstappen when he had to change his tires to mediums as well.

Even though Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said before the race that he expected to make one pit stop, seeing Verstappen holding his lead must have changed his mind. Hamilton came in for a second time on lap 43 for a new set of tires.

When Hamilton got back on the track he asked his team “how far have I got to catch up?”

He was told: “Twenty-two seconds. We’ve done it before.”

Verstappen saw Hamilton eating into this lead and told his team “I don’t see how we are going to make it to the end.”

He was right. Verstappen was unable to put up a fight when Hamilton caught and overtook him on the outside of a turn.

“Great job with the strategy,” Hamilton told the team over the radio upon crossing the finish line.

Meanwhile, Verstappen told his team: “It is what it is. It is impossible to keep him behind.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fourth, followed by Sergio Pérez in the other Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for McLaren. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari was seventh, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon in an Alpine and Pierre Gasly for Alpha Tauri rounding out the top ten.

Health restrictions have limited spectators for Sunday’s race to one thousand locals who are members of the circuit. In 2019, 90,000 fans attended.

“There are a thousand here, but we know there are hundreds of thousands watching from home and we hope we can have them back soon,” said Spaniard Fernando Alonso after saluting the smattering of spectators in his tribute.

Alonso finished a disappointing 17th in his Alpine.

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Germany’s largest union targets Tesla to represent gigafactory workers

FRANKFURT — Germany’s largest and most powerful union IG Metall has set its sights firmly on setting up a works council at Tesla’s gigafactory near Berlin, which is scheduled to open later this year, its head Joerg Hofmann said.

The U.S. electric carmaker is hiring for the site in Gruenheide, whose opening was pushed back in April due to red tape as well as a decision to include a battery cell manufacturing plant.

Organized labor will be an issue for the group in Germany, not only home to some of the world’s biggest and most famous carmakers but also to powerful unions that command significant say over strategic matters.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

“So far I have not been in contact with (Tesla CEO) Elon Musk. Why should I be, or he? Tesla is now hiring in Gruenheide, in the land of co-determination and collective bargaining agreements. Tesla’s management knows this,” Hofmann told Reuters.

“If the team for Gruenheide is on board, we will establish a works council with the employees and organize them.”

Hofmann’s comments, coming shortly after a report in Business Insider saying that German authorities are probing possible violations of labor laws at the Gruenheide site, suggest Tesla will have a tough time avoiding organized labor in Europe’s top economy.

Hofmann said that while meaningful talks with Tesla in Germany were not easy due to numerous leadership changes that have taken place at the carmaker, IG Metall welcomed Tesla’s decision to establish itself in Germany.

In October, Tesla’s executive overseeing construction of the Gruenheide factory left his position, a source familiar with the matter said at the time, following the departure of Jochen Rudat, head of Germany, a year earlier.

“It’s the first big investment in a new factory in the automotive sector since the turn of the millennium,” Hofmann said.

He said that finding skilled workers in Germany would be a challenge, adding Tesla will have to adhere to the standards of the local labor market.

Hofmann a day earlier had warned that Germany’s car industry was facing an “employment fiasco” unless it gets badly needed investment in new technologies, especially in batteries.


Analysis: U.S. labor secretary likely to investigate gig employers like Uber

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. (AP)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh‘s move this week to block a rule making it easier to classify gig workers as independent contractors is just a first step in what is likely to be a long battle over how to delineate the rights of America’s growing gig army.

The rule by former President Donald Trump’s administration, which was supposed to go into effect in March, would have hampered the ability of workers at companies like Uber and Lyft to demand benefits like overtime pay.

The Labor Department, under Walsh‘s leadership, is now likely to investigate how the pay and benefits gig workers receive stand up against the federal law protecting American workers, the Fair Labor Standards Act, labor lawyers, unions and former policy makers said.

Walsh, himself a former union member, told Reuters he thinks a lot of U.S. gig workers in the country deserve employee benefits, and that his department would have conversations in coming months with companies that employ them.

“These companies are making profits and revenue and I’m not (going to) begrudge anyone for that because that’s what we are about in America. But we also want to make sure that success trickles down to the worker,” he said last week.

The department’s roadmap is likely to start with announcing its intent to look at worker misclassification and then using probes to build the case for a ruling that supports protections for workers.

Any ruling would have to be reviewed by the White House and be subject to a public comment period, which could take as long as 90 days.

If the department issues a ruling, millions of gig workers could become eligible for benefits like overtime and a minimum wage.

That would almost certainly be the beginning of a battle in Washington as well as state legislatures and courtrooms across the country, the experts told Reuters.

Walsh‘s position is reinforced by the FLSA as it currently stands, said Erin Hatton, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who specializes in workforce inequities, with a focus on labor markets and the gig economy.

“The companies are really pushing to change the contours of employment law … saying workers want flexibility and this is the only way they can get it,” Hatton said.

“If employment law were to be applied to these gig workers, they would be found to be misclassified,” she said.

Companies like Uber argue that the current system defining employment and a worker’s relationship to a company is outdated.

“It forces a binary choice upon workers: to either be an employee with more benefits but less flexibility, or an independent contractor with more flexibility but limited protections,” Uber spokesman Noah Edwardsen said on Wednesday. “Uber believes that we can combine the best of both worlds.”

Uber, Lyft and Postmates declined comment on this story. Grubhub did not respond to requests for comment. The Department of Labor also declined comment.

Battle ahead

The exact number of gig workers in the United States varies widely. In 2017, the most recent government data available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 21.4 million out of the 331-million-strong population had “contingent” or “alternative” jobs as their sole or main employment, including on-call and temporary workers as well as contractors.

Despite setbacks in Europe, gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash and Instacart have been successful in maintaining their workers’ status as independent contractors in the United States, albeit with additional benefits.

The companies scored a decisive win in California in November, when voters in the Democratic-leaning state supported a company-sponsored ballot measure overwriting a state law that would have made their workers employees.

Similar legislation has been introduced in at least three other states – Connecticut, Massachusetts and Missouri – according to labor and gig economy experts tracking such efforts. In West Virginia, a bill was recently enacted into law.

Kathleen Anderson, a partner at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP who represents employers in misclassification cases, said a new Department of Labor ruling on gig workers could give it the ability to go after companies to ensure their compliance.

If the department comes out with an “aggressive ruling,” the courts and the U.S. Congress are likely to get involved, Anderson said.

“This could be potentially devastating to a business … but to really make this stick, you have to go through (federal) legislation,” she said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), one of the largest unions in the country, said Uber and Lyft are already trying to “muddy the waters” by saying a new ruling would hurt actual independent contractors.

“Most gig workers are misclassified,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. 


Spain pours billions into landing European electric vehicle production

Spain is moving aggressively to land new battery and electric vehicle plants, using billions of European Union pandemic relief funds to avoid being left behind as the global auto sector undertakes the biggest technology transformation in a century.

As Europe’s second largest car-producing nation behind Germany, and with the automotive sector accounting for 10% of its economy, Spain has a lot to lose as automakers overhaul supply chains and manufacturing for electric vehicles.

Germany and number three European producer France are already pouring funds into battery plants, supporting their respective national champion automakers, and both Volkswagen and Renaultare investing heavily in EVs on their home turf.

Less wealthy and with electric car sales lagging the EU’s average, Spain is fighting back by deploying to EV projects some of the €140 billion ($168 billion) of EU COVID-19 relief funds it is entitled to.

“We have a clear goal. We want Spain to remain the EU’s second-largest car producer in 2030, 2040 and 2050, regardless of the technology there is,” said Raul Blanco, junior industry minister for Spain, also the world’s eight largest carmaker.

Of the €70 billion to be sent from Brussels in the form of grants, the Spanish government plans to spend 13 billion on sustainable mobility through 2023.

That will mostly be used to promote domestic sales of EVs, improve charging infrastructure and build its first battery cell plant for cars.

In one of the highest-profile uses of EU funds in Spain, the government in March announced a public-private partnership aimed at promoting electric vehicles, with a bidding process due to start around July and winners to be announced by year-end.

The project, in which central and regional governments may hold a stake, will cover the manufacturing of batteries and EVs in Spain, demand promotion for electric cars and the development of infrastructure to support them.

A 40-gigawatt battery cell plant constructed as part of the project would cost over €2.5 billion, Blanco said.

The proposal has sparked competition among Spain’s regions, with Catalonia offering land, public loans and aid to attract a battery plant, and neighbouring Aragon and Valencia also in contention.

While few private sector bidders have yet publicly emerged, Volkswagen AG’s Spanish SEAT brand and utility Iberdrola (IBE.MC) have formed an alliance to work on a bid.

Spain upbeat about finding replacement as Nissan departs 3 plants

Spain is optimistic that an alternative project will be found to save thousands of jobs threatened by Nissan’s (7201.T) decision to shut its three plants in the Barcelona area by the end of the year, a government official told Reuters.

A factory to produce electric vehicle battery cells is among 17 proposed projects that have been submitted by 13 companies for the facilities, junior industry minister Raul Blanco said in an interview, without specifying who was behind the battery plan.

Most proposed projects are linked to electric mobility, officials have previously said.

Sweden’s Volta Trucks, which produces electric vehicles, is among the few bidders that have publicly announced their interest in the plants, where it could make its Volta Zero. It is part of a consortium of companies that has submitted a bid.

Nissan’s factories employ around 3,000 people directly, and up to 20,000 indirectly when taking into account suppliers.


Elon Musk hosts Saturday Night Live and shows humility and hubris

Elon Musk showed a combination of humility and hubris as he opened his highly anticipated hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live.”

The 49-year-old Tesla CEO, SpaceX founder and one of the world’s richest men opened his monologue by mocking his monotonal speaking style, saying no one can tell when he’s joking.

“It’s great to be hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and I really mean it,” said Musk standing on the stage in a black suit with a black T-shirt. “Sometimes after I say something, I have to say that I mean it.”

He added, in explanation, that he is the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to host the show. “Or at least the first person to admit it,” he said.

It may have been the first time Musk has publicly said he has the mild form of autism.

Musk also joked about his Twitter account, which has more than 50 million followers, and the tweets that led some critics to object to his being invited to host the show.

“Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works,” he said.

Then Musk added a boast that got his biggest laugh of the night, and an applause break from the studio audience.

“To anyone who’s been offended, I just want to say I reinvented electric cars, and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship,” Musk said. “Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”

Musk didn’t appear in the show’s unconventional and heart-warming cold open, in which cast members and their moms did brief bits for Mother’s Day as musical guest Miley Cyrus sang her godmother Dolly Parton’s inspirational “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

But Musk brought his own mother, model Maye Musk, on stage to talk about what he was like when he was 12.

The casting choice brought criticism from those who felt the show was celebrating a man for his exorbitant wealth in a time of great inequality and a man who spread misinformation to his huge Twitter following as he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

Playing on Musk’s reputation as an innovator, NBC live-streamed the episode globally on YouTube, the first time “Saturday Night Live” has ever been viewable simultaneously around the world.

Musk took his first stiff stab at acting in the show’s first sketch, a mock soap called “Gen Z Hospital,” playing a doctor in a fake beard who delivered bad news to a group of youths in their own lingo.

“You all might want to sit down, what I’m going to say might be a little cringe,” Musk said. “Your bestie took a major L.”

He had small roles in subsequent sketches. He played one of a party full of people out for the first time after quarantine, and he did a German-ish accent in a bleached, spiked wig as the director of an Icelandic talk show.

And on “Weekend Update” he played a character close to himself, donning a bow tie and glasses as a financial analyst named Lloyd Ostertag, throwing an extended plug for Musk’s favored cryptocurrency dogecoin.

After “Update” anchor Michael Che struggled to understand, Musk as Ostertag admitted, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.”

Dogecoin’s price, which has been volatile all year, tumbled 23% in the hour after the show began, and fell further on Sunday.

While Musk is likely the wealthiest host of the show ever — Forbes Magazine puts his fortune at $177 billion — several other business leaders, politicians and other non-entertainers have hosted the sketch comedy institution in its more than four decades on the air.

Steve Forbes, a publishing executive from a wealthy family and a longshot presidential candidate, hosted in 1996.

Donald Trump hosted twice, in 2004 as businessman and host of “The Apprentice” and in 2015 as a presidential candidate. The show’s sketches began making him their primary target the following year, but the choice to team with him has brought harsh criticism in the years since.

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