• This House Supports California's AB5 Gig Worker Bill

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    We now have Speakers and Moderator for this event. A bill before the California state senate could upend the gig economy. The bill, known as AB5, cleared a crucial Senate committee vote last week and may come up for final votes in the state Senate and Assembly as early as next week. Governor Gavin Newsom supports AB5 and is expected to sign the bill if passed by the legislature. The bill makes it harder to classify workers as independent contractors by codifying an employment test from a groundbreaking 2018 California Supreme Court decision. This “ABC” test says that for a worker to be a contractor rather than an employee, they must meet three conditions: A) they must be “free from the control and direction of the hiring entity” in their work; B) must perform work outside the “usual course of the hiring entity’s business;” and C) have their own independently established trade, occupation, or business. These conditions are much stricter than current state and federal rules for independent contractors. If AB5 becomes law, up to 10% of the state’s workforce will be affected. Most “gig”-economy employers, such as Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit, are not expected to pass the ABC test and so their workers will become employees. However, AB5 is loaded with exemptions for specific types of workers, including doctors, architects, engineers, independent hair stylists, realtors, commercial fisherman, insurance agents, investment advisors, and direct-sales salespersons. The following is a sampling of arguments for and against the Motion: Arguments for the motion: Tech companies and other employers have eroded people’s basic labor protections by classifying them as independent contractors, which denies them basic safety net protections like workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. All workers deserve these basic job protections. AB5 provides workers the dignity and respect they deserve and also provides certainty and clarity for workers and employers. If a person truly wants to be their own boss, they can take steps to meet the ABC test. Arguments against the motion: There is no doubt that AB5 will make it harder to do business in California. Most gig workers actually prefer the freedom and flexibility of being independent contractors. Many gig workers do not work by the hour but by the job, and they choose to spread out their jobs, but (per California “piecemeal work” law), as employees they will have to be paid for “breaks” between jobs, which is untenable. There are other less destructive ways to address issues associated with the rise of gig work. What do you think of this controversial issue? Join us at SFDebate to share your opinion and debate those of others. Attendees will be charged $5 at the door. https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/California-s-AB5-gig-work-bill-gets-key-backing-14410682.php# https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB5 https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/ab-5-freelancers-bill/ http://hrexecutive.com/is-california-ready-for-ab5/ https://calaborfed.org/5-reasons-the-ca-legislature-must-say-yes-on-ab-5/ https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/dol-says-certain-gig-economy-workers-not-employees.aspx https://imindependent.co/ https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/06/07/independent-workers-and-the-modern-labor-market/ https://www.hrdive.com/news/new-study-backs-bls-report-on-a-shrinking-gig-economy/549594/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2018/08/31/57-million-u-s-workers-are-part-of-the-gig-economy/#7a4f4c6b7118 https://www.gallup.com/file/workplace/240878/Gig_Economy_Paper_2018.pdf

  • This House objects more to Nancy Pelosi's comments on Israel than Ilhan Omar's

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    $5.00

    NOTE: original date after all. On August 15, 2019, the Israeli government announced that it would bar first-term U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and her Palestinian-American colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from going on a planned trip to Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This announcement brought public attention back to controversial comments that Rep. Omar had made about Israel earlier in the year. On February 10, journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted "GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It's stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans" and Rep. Omar responded: "It's all about the Benjamins baby" (referring to a Puff Daddy song about $100 bills) When journalist Batya Ungar-Sargon asked for clarification on who Rep. Omar thinks "is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel", she answered: "AIPAC!" (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "America's Pro-Israel Lobby" on its website) https://www.vox.com/2019/2/11/18220160/ilhan-omar-aipac-benjamins-kevin-mccarthy Rep. Omar's tweets were condemned publicly by Congressional leaders from both parties, and she deleted them and apologized for them. Then on February 27, speaking at a bookstore event in Washington, DC, Rep. Omar gave a speech that included the line: "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?" https://ips-dc.org/what-did-ilhan-omar-say-heres-the-full-transcript-of-her-response-to-a-question-about-anti-semitism/ This comment was also condemned by politicians from both parties, and prompted the House to pass a resolution that included condemnations of bigotry against Muslims and others as well as Jews, but began by resolving that the House "(1) rejects the perpetuation of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the United States and around the world, including the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance, especially in the context of support for the United States - Israel alliance." Some objections to Rep. Omar's comments: https://forward.com/opinion/419112/ilhan-omar-tweeted-something-anti-semitic-again/ https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/03/ilhan-omars-dual-loyalty-charge-was-anti-semitic/584314/ Less attention has been given to remarks by incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), whose district includes most of San Francisco. On December 12, 2018, she spoke at the Israeli-American Council National Conference in Florida, saying: "I have said to people when they ask me, if this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain is our commitment to our aid, and I don't even call it aid, our cooperation with Israel. That's fundamental to who we are." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvi3O9NkhQI#t=7m36s At the same event, Speaker Pelosi referred to obligations of members of Congress: "We really want to see again Israel to prevail as a Jewish democratic state, but we have to make sure that there is security, because that is the first responsibility of any government, it's the oath we take as members of Congress, and any of you who are part of any official organization, to protect and defend. And we have to make sure that the security of Israel is essential, that is essential to a solution." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvi3O9NkhQI#t=21m35s On March 26, Speaker Pelosi's speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference included the line: "We must also be vigilant against bigoted or dangerous ideologies masquerading as policy, and that includes BDS." This was a reference to the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until its government changes its policies towards Palestinians. https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/32619/ Some objections to Pelosi's comments: http://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/a-passionate-attachment/ https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/boycott-divestment-sanctions-democratic-party-netanyahu At our debate, you'll be shown additional comments about Israel from Rep. Ilhan Omar and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and you can weigh in with your opinion on whether or not their comments really are objectionable as their critics say, and which Representative's comments are more objectionable. There is a $5 admission fee to offset room rental costs.

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  • Motion: This House Supports Kamala Harris’s Housing Plan

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    Kamala Harris’s Housing Plan: Kamala Harris’s plan would create a 100-billion-dollar US Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-administered grant to provide recipients with up to $25,000 in down payment assistance and closing costs. This $100 billion investment would provide at least 4 million families/individuals living in federally-supported or renting housing in historically red-lined communities with down payment and closing cost assistance. In order to qualify for the program the recipients must be purchasing a principal residence and have lived for at least the preceding 10 years in a historically red-lined community that remains low-to-moderate income. The maximum grant is capped at either $25,000 or 20% of the loan value plus closing costs. The maximum home price to qualify for the grant is $300,000 for consideration of high-cost areas. Household income limits apply and recipients would still need to demonstrate an ability to pay the mortgage with the lender. For more details on the Plan, see the link below. What follows are some arguments for and against the Plan. Arguments For: A sign of economic justice in our country is the distribution of wealth. Wealth makes it easier for people to move between jobs and places, handle an emergency financial situation, and retire with dignity. Lack of wealth perpetuates poverty and undermines social mobility. Homeownership is the main source of household wealth in the US. Today, nearly three-quarters of white households (73%) are homeowners, while under half of Black households (45%) and Latinx households (47%) are homeowners. The percentage of Black homeowners has remained basically unchanged since 1968. Government policy and widespread discrimination are responsible for this gap in homeownership. The main causes are historic redlining, flaws in the GI Bill, and unfair lending practices. If we eliminate racial disparities in homeownership rates, the wealth gap between Black and white households would shrink 31% and the wealth gap between white households would shrink 28%. Arguments Against: Subsidized mortgages sound like a great way to increase homeownership. However, the US government has been subsidizing mortgages for low-income and black families for over 50 years and it has been an unmitigated disaster. Consider that black home ownership increased 20% from 1950 to 1970 – and since then it’s been flat, at around 42%. What happened? Subsidized mortgages followed by a jump in foreclosures followed by declining home values in historically black neighborhoods is what happened. Here’s the process: when your neighbor defaults on his mortgage and their house is repossessed by the bank, nearby home values—the cornerstone of household wealth—decline. Vacant houses are magnets for crime and vagrancy. The key protection against foreclosure - which Harris wants to remove from the equation - is a down payment, based on thrift and savings, traits that typically make for successful homeownership. So what do you think? Is the Kamala Harris Housing Plan a viable way to address historic wrongs and close the racial and ethnic wealth gap? Or is it a road to hell paved with good intentions? Or something in-between? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions. Note that $5 will be charged at the door for all attendees (to offset room rental costs). Read more: In Favor of the Housing Plan: https://kamalaharris.org/homeownership-gap/ Against the Housing Plan: https://www.city-journal.org/kamala-harris-housing-plan Background information: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/down-payment-reality-report/ https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/1-demographic-trends-and-economic-well-being/ https://realestatedecoded.com/2-surprising-facts-about-the-black-homeownership-rate-from-1950-to-today/

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  • Motion: Modern Feminism is a Gender Supremacy Movement

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    Feminism is described by Merriam-Webster as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” The first wave of the feminist movement was born in the late 1800s and early 1900s when women began to protest for suffrage, property rights and other basic freedoms. By the 1960s, the focus turned to social issues facing women like access to contraceptive pills and abortion. As the movement progressed, it took on issues such as equal pay, cultural stereotypes, domestic violence, sexual assault, and the specific challenges faced by women of color. As feminism continues to evolve, some argue it has morphed into a gender supremacy movement, one that assumes female superiority and seeks to dominate, control and subjugate men. The following are some of the arguments for and against the Motion that modern feminism has become a supremacy movement: For the Motion: Feminism has become a tribal movement that exists to promote the group’s interests against other groups, e.g., men. To this end, tribal feminism has laid out specific beliefs — for instance, that everywhere you look there is constant oppression from the patriarchy and the only differences between men and women are figments of our cultural imagination, not based on biology or science. Questioning these beliefs may very well jeopardize one’s job, career, reputation, and relationships. Modern feminism employs exaggeration and the threat of righteous retribution to advance its agenda, which has become less about equal rights than the urge to power hiding behind a mask of victimhood. Against the Motion: Modern feminists may occasionally use different tactics than previous generations but the overarching goals of the feminist movement remain the same. Those goals have nothing to do with promoting female superiority or domination. As Emma Watson put it at the UN, “Feminism is a movement to establish equal economical, social, political rights for women. Feminism is for men and women. Feminists fight to close the wage gap. Feminists want women to feel safe against harassment and domestic violence.” It’s that’s simple: not a power grab but a fight for equality. So what do you think? Has feminism morphed into a superiority movement that uses the threat of public shaming and exclusion to muffle criticism and put men “in their place”? Or is this idea patently absurd, an example of backlash against effective feminist campaigns for equality and against male domination and sexual abuse? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions. Note that $5 will be charged at the door for all attendees (to offset room rental costs). Read more: https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2018/09/30/himpathy-is-a-societal-illness-but-at-least-we-have-a-word-for-it/ https://www.quora.com/Do-feminists-want-superiority-over-men https://markmanson.net/whats-the-problem-with-feminism https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/misandry-men-hate-crime-women-sexism-racism-feminism-a8586591.html https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/midterm-election-women-dont-identify-as-feminists https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Survey-Questions-2018-National-Study-on-Sexual-Harassment-and-Assault.pdf https://iwpr.org/publications/gender-wage-gap-occupation-2018/ https://fee.org/articles/harvard-study-gender-pay-gap-explained-entirely-by-work-choices-of-men-and-women/ https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/03/22/gender-pay-gap-facts/ https://www.statista.com/statistics/184272/educational-attainment-of-college-diploma-or-higher-by-gender/ https://news.aamc.org/press-releases/article/applicant-enrollment-2017/ https://www.americanbar.org/advocacy/governmental_legislative_work/priorities_policy/discrimination/the-paycheck-fairness-act/ https://cawp.rutgers.edu/current-numbers

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  • Informal get-together - Direct to The Bank

    The Irish Bank

    In lieu of a debate, lets get together informally at the Irish Bank to discuss events in our country and to argue the minutia of them all! Like we normally do, post-debate. We also have a lot of possible debate topics to discuss and share ideas about. Next formal debate is Monday, July 8th.

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  • This House Supports Elizabeth Warren's Wealth Tax Proposal

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    Elizabeth Warren’s campaign got a much-needed boost during her first visit to the Bay Area as a Democratic presidential candidate. Her fiery speeches, first in Kamala Harris’ home turf of Oakland, then at the California state party convention at Moscone Center, railed against corporate greed, government pandering to moneyed interests, and especially income inequality. The speeches were very well received, notable in the Bay Area, where perhaps the largest concentration of wealth on earth is located. Warren brings her “I got a plan for that’ mantra to bear on the issue of income inequality, a top ten issue to Democratic voters. As per Fortune magazine, America has the highest level of inequality in the world, with the richest 1% owning 40% of the total household wealth as of 2017, up from 33% in 2013. But as Warren points out, it’s not so much income- but rather wealth inequality that’s the issue. That’s because wealth of the superrich is concentrated in assets such as real estate, stocks and bonds far more than in ordinary income as with most Americans. Warren Buffett’s net worth, for example, is estimated at $84 billion - mostly in stocks – while he pays himself only $100,000 per year as an income. He once famously pointed-out that he pays far less in taxes relative to his net worth than does his secretary. Warren’s Wealth Tax proposal seeks to address both this wealth inequality and the tax burden disparity. The proposal would tax a family’s total wealth at values above $50 million at 2% per year, with an additional surcharge of 1% over $1 billion. About 75,000 families would owe such a tax (or 1 out of 1,700) as per estimates, bringing in $2.75 trillion over 10 years. But critics of the plan point to the administrative nightmare the IRS would have trying to keep track of illiquid assets (e.g., real estate or stakes in privately held companies), which are changing constantly in value. The superrich are very likely to mount a formidable challenge to such a tax, and they have considerable resources to do it with. Wealth taxes are historically notorious for avoidance and they typically raise much less than expected, according to economists. Which is why most western democracies have abandoned the idea decades ago. Perhaps more importantly, even were the tax to be passed by Congress, it would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The power to levy such a “direct tax” is seen as a one reserved for the States and not the Federal government. Opponents of the plan also point out that the proposal would tax the very large-scale investments that most contribute to the economy and create the largest number of jobs. Such a tax would disincentivize the kinds of investments that can transform society but which don’t pay steady, predictable returns favored by smaller and institutional investors. So what do you think of Elizabeth Warren’s proposal? Join us at SFDebate to air your opinions and debate those of others. $5 will be charged at the door for all attendees. https://elizabethwarren.com/ultra-millionaire-tax/ https://theweek.com/articles/843846/real-economic-question-about-elizabeth-warrens-wealth-tax http://time.com/5516903/elizabeth-warren-wealth-tax-income-assets/ https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-folly-of-elizabeth-warrens-wealth-tax-2019-03-11 https://robertreich.org/ https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/23/politics/fact-check-warren-wealth-tax/index.html https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/elizabeth-warrens-wealth-tax-is-an-old-idea-and-its-time-has-come https://www.barrons.com/articles/understanding-elizabeth-warrens-wealth-tax-proposal-51549560874 http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/constitutional-concerns-are-a-major-risk-for-a-wealth-tax.html https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/18/upshot/warren-wealth-tax.html https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/elizabeth-warren-wealth-tax http://fortune.com/2015/09/30/america-wealth-inequality/

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  • Informal get-together - Direct to The Bank

    The Irish Bank

    In lieu of a debate, lets get together informally at the Irish Bank to discuss events in our country and to argue the minutia of them all! Like we normally do, post-debate. We also have a lot of possible debate topics to discuss and share ideas about. Next formal debate is Monday, June 10. Debate topic TBD at the Bank.

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  • This House Supports the Proposed California Estate Tax

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    Despite its prominence in the national political discourse, relatively few individuals actually face the federal estate tax. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center estimates that 4,000 individuals dying in 2018 will leave estates large enough to require filing an estate tax return. Only 1,900 estates will eventually owe any taxes, less than 0.1 percent of the 2.7 million who died in 2018. One reason is the steady increase in the estate tax exemption, from $600,000 in 1997 to around $5.5m in 2018. A large estate tax cut was actually signed by Obama in 2010, which not only dramatically increased the exemption, but the "portability" clause effectively allowed some married couples to double their exemptions. The biggest estate tax cut was signed by Trump into law in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The exemption doubled to $11.4m for individuals, $22.8m for married couples. Despite the low number of taxable estates, estate taxes will bring in $15b federal revenue for 2018, from a high of $19b in 2014. The top 10% of income will pay 93% of that amount, with the richest 0.1% paying 39%. California Senate Bill 378, introduced by state Senator Scott Wiener in March would directly counteract the TCJA's estate tax cuts. If passed by voters in 2020, the bill will impose an estate tax of a size equal to what was cut in the federal bill. The California tax would kick-in for estates larger than $3.5m for an individual, the level it was at in 2009, and would phase out when the estate value reaches the current federal level. Revenues from the tax would be earmarked for programs designed to combat income inequality. As Wiener noted: “It’s obscene that the federal estate tax exemption has escalated so dramatically.” This tax cut, along with others in the Republican-passed TCJA is seen as a giveaway to the super-rich in this country. It is a symbol of the ever-increasing levels of income inequality that are perpetually passed onto future generations. The estate tax is in fact the most progressive part of the US tax code, targeting the wealthiest in our society. Much of the money that wealthy heirs inherit would never face any taxation were it not for the estate tax, precisely why it was created in 1916. A survey of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that 26 of its 34 members levied some form of estate tax in 2014 (the latest data available). US estate and gift taxes were well below the average for these countries. Opponents of this “death” tax decry its punitive nature, targeting individuals simply because of their wealth and success. Hard work and self-reliance are attributes to be encouraged in this country, and successful people should be able to pass on their wealth to their families when they die. CA Bill 378 is unabashed wealth redistribution which will benefit government bureaucracies more than lower-income people. The estate tax is a tiny part of total federal revenues (less than 1%). Estate planners have a variety of mechanisms to avoid paying this tax, including lifetime gift giving and establishing trust funds, rendering the CA bill meaningless. Politicians’ priorities should be focused on job and wealth creation, not on such divisive measures. What do you think? Voice your opinions as we debate this controversial topic. Attendees will be charged $5 at the door. Everyone will be given a chance to speak, although no-one is required to. While we understand debates can get heated and emotional, we expect debaters to be civil and respectful of each other. https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-estate-tax-legislation-2020-ballot-20190326-story.html https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/who-pays-estate-tax https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/ten-facts-you-should-know-about-the-federal-estate-tax https://smartasset.com/taxes/5-ways-the-rich-can-avoid-the-estate-tax https://www.heritage.org/taxes/commentary/separating-economic-facts-fiction-the-trump-tax-cuts

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  • Informal get-together - Direct to The Bank

    The Irish Bank

    No formal debate tonight, but since we have a gap until our next debate, let's get together to discuss whatever events in the country and in the world are on our minds, and argue about them, as we normally enjoy doing post-debate. AND share ideas about possible topics for future debates at the Mechanics Institute Library, which we've reserved for the following dates: Monday, May 6. Monday, June 10. Monday, July 8.

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  • Motion: Stereotypes are Inherently Harmful

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    If you are interested in moderating this debate, please contact event organizer Deborah through this website. Stereotypes are specific traits attributed to people based on group membership. Many argue that stereotypes are inherently harmful because they facilitate intergroup hostility and give rise to toxic prejudices around sex, race, age and multiple other social distinctions. They maintain that stereotypes are used to justify injustice and discrimination, validate oppression, enable exploitation, rationalize violence, and shield corrupt power structures. According to this view, stereotypes reduce, simplify, and misrepresent the incredible diversity of human societies and deny individuals of their singular complexity. Stereotypes can also be hard to counter because they often trigger anxiety and self-doubt in individuals under “stereotype-threat”, leading them to falter and fail in ways consistent with the stereotype. It’s no wonder stereotypes have a bad reputation – and deservedly so. Others maintain stereotypes are often accurate, useful and essential for effective decision-making. Stereotypes are one way our brain constructs general categories, from which it derives predictions about category-relevant specific, and novel, situations. That trick has served us well enough to be selected into our brain’s basic repertoire. Wherever humans live, so do stereotypes. We have stereotypes about techies, the homeless, and Trump supporters. We have stereotypes based on how people dress, talk, act, their religion and what they think about climate change. And a lot of “individuating” information is just the piling on of additional stereotypes. Is the person standing by the ATM wearing a business suit? Is he disheveled with torn clothing? Is his face obscured or clearly visible? Our decision to take money out of that particular ATM may depend on what stereotypes the man activates. Is that inherently a bad thing? So what do you think? Are stereotypes inherently harmful? Or not? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions. Note that there’s a $5 fee to help offset expenses. Read more: https://www.aauw.org/2014/08/13/why-stereotypes-are-bad/ http://www.spsp.org/news-center/blog/stereotype-accuracy-response https://momentousinstitute.org/blog/why-stereotypes-are-harmful https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201809/stereotype-accuracy-displeasing-truth https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/oliver-burkemans-blog/2012/dec/12/stereotypes-bad-even-when-good https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype https://www.asu.edu/courses/lia294a/total-readings/RamirezBerg--Categorizing.htm https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-the-lines/201112/are-stereotypes-unfairly-stereotyped http://case.edu/think/fall2017/stereotypes.html#.XKTy7kh7m70 https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/28/stereotypes-are-useful-clinical-medicine https://www.wsj.com/articles/sometimes-stereotypes-can-be-a-helpful-formulation-1504302743

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