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Congress Should Investigate ‘Gain-Of-Function’ Research

Congress Should Investigate ‘Gain-Of-Function’ Research

Authored by Bill King via RealClear Wire,

I fear that the investigations Republicans…

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Congress Should Investigate 'Gain-Of-Function' Research

Authored by Bill King via RealClear Wire,

I fear that the investigations Republicans have promised in the House next year will be little more than another round of toxic partisan gamesmanship. But there is one investigation Congress should undertake, and that is into so-called “gain-of-function” research.

Before the pandemic, I suspect that most of you, like me, had never heard of gain-of-function research. What we learned during the pandemic is that scientists around the world routinely tinker with the genome of viruses to see how the induced changes will affect replication of the virus (contagiousness) and the effects it has on its host (lethality). Such research has apparently been going on for decades and is routinely funded by governments, including ours.

Within weeks of the COVID-19 virus emerging in China near the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), many began to question whether the virus had been created by gain-of-function research and somehow escaped from WIV’s labs. Recently analyzed Chinese documents from early in the pandemic seem to suggest the virus might have come from WIV. To many, the proposition that the novel coronavirus just happened to naturally occur a few hundred yards from the WIV facility seemed too much of a coincidence.

But in February 2020, barely three months after the virus’s genome had been sequenced, 27 scientists signed a statement in the medical journal The Lancet, unequivocally declaring that the virus had occurred naturally and that any suggestion to the contrary was quackery and a conspiracy theory. Their statement quickly became the accepted orthodoxy for much of the world’s scientific community and virtually all the mainstream media.

However, as time wore on, circumstances regarding the origin of that statement came under scrutiny. In a 2021 Vanity Fair article, investigative journalist Katherine Eban revealed that the statement was organized by a scientist named Peter Daszak. That statement concluded with a declaration from the scientists who signed it that “we have no competing interests.” However, Eban reported in a follow-up article that Daszak was the director of EcoHealth Alliance, which in 2014 had received a $3.7 million grant from the NIH for gain-of-function research and made a sub-grant for $600,000 – to the WIV.

I wrote to the email address reserved for the statement in the Lancet post, posing a number of questions about the circumstances around the creation of the letter and the “competing interests” statement. I also reached out to two of the scientists who signed the letter asking for an interview regarding the statement. I received no responses.

Questions about gain-of-function research predate COVID. In fact, there has been a robust debate over the potential risks and benefits that dates to, at least, 2011. In 2014, a group of 300 prominent scientists, led by Harvard’s highly regarded epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, signed a statement raising alarms about risks associated with gain-of-function research.

The academic controversy caused the Obama administration to issue a moratorium on gain-of-function research, but it included a general exception for studies “urgently necessary to protect the public health or national security.” According to Eban’s reporting, the exception quickly became a glaring loophole that essentially rendered the rule useless: the controversial research mostly continued unabated.

The Trump administration scrapped the moratorium in favor of a complex review process. But that process was mostly conducted outside of the public’s view or even significant peer review, leaving many of the critics, including Lipsitch, still wary.

The debate over the origins of COVID still rages today and unfortunately has become politicized, with Democrats and Republicans generally lining up behind the natural and lab-leak theories, respectively. In August 2021, the National Intelligence Council issued an unclassified report in response to an order from President Biden to review the origin of the virus. The report stated that the intelligence community had not been able to reach a conclusion and that the origin would likely never be known without more cooperation from the Chinese government. Of course, the more time that passes the less likely it is that the mystery will ever be solved.

While we would all like to know how the pandemic started, the mere fact that it might have originated from gain-of-function research gone awry makes it imperative to conduct a detailed investigation of the risks and potential benefits of this kind of research. Of all the things we regulate, surely tinkering with viruses to make them more contagious and more lethal should be right at the top of the list. Congress needs to pass laws closely regulating what Rutgers professor Richard Ebright described to Katherine Eban as “looking for a gas leak with a lighted match” and not leave this up to executive orders.

Congress should also investigate what appears to have been a coordinated attempt to squelch any inquiry into the legitimate questions over COVID’s origins in the early days of the pandemic. For example, the signers of the Lancet statement should be subpoenaed and questioned about what was almost certainly a false certification of “no competing interests” by at least one of the signers. (The criticism regarding potential conflicts of interest is not just coming from the right: The uber-progressive Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs disbanded a group he had established to study the origins of COVID, citing conflicts of interest. Interestingly, Daszak was part of the group Sachs disbanded.)

I don’t know whether House Republicans can conduct such hearings without turning them into a carnival sideshow. But hopefully they will rise above partisan instincts and deliver much-needed answers for the American people.

Bill King is a businessman and lawyer, and is a former opinion columnist and editorial board member at the Houston Chronicle. He has served in a number of appointed and elected positions, including mayor of his hometown. He writes on a wide range of public policy and political issues. Bill is the author of “Unapologetically Moderate” and currently serves as the co-chair of the Forward Party of Texas.

Tyler Durden Mon, 01/02/2023 - 20:40

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Spread & Containment

‘Excess Mortality Skyrocketed’: Tucker Carlson and Dr. Pierre Kory Unpack ‘Criminal’ COVID Response

‘Excess Mortality Skyrocketed’: Tucker Carlson and Dr. Pierre Kory Unpack ‘Criminal’ COVID Response

As the global pandemic unfolded, government-funded…

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'Excess Mortality Skyrocketed': Tucker Carlson and Dr. Pierre Kory Unpack 'Criminal' COVID Response

As the global pandemic unfolded, government-funded experimental vaccines were hastily developed for a virus which primarily killed the old and fat (and those with other obvious comorbidities), and an aggressive, global campaign to coerce billions into injecting them ensued.

Then there were the lockdowns - with some countries (New Zealand, for example) building internment camps for those who tested positive for Covid-19, and others such as China welding entire apartment buildings shut to trap people inside.

It was an egregious and unnecessary response to a virus that, while highly virulent, was survivable by the vast majority of the general population.

Oh, and the vaccines, which governments are still pushing, didn't work as advertised to the point where health officials changed the definition of "vaccine" multiple times.

Tucker Carlson recently sat down with Dr. Pierre Kory, a critical care specialist and vocal critic of vaccines. The two had a wide-ranging discussion, which included vaccine safety and efficacy, excess mortality, demographic impacts of the virus, big pharma, and the professional price Kory has paid for speaking out.

Keep reading below, or if you have roughly 50 minutes, watch it in its entirety for free on X:

"Do we have any real sense of what the cost, the physical cost to the country and world has been of those vaccines?" Carlson asked, kicking off the interview.

"I do think we have some understanding of the cost. I mean, I think, you know, you're aware of the work of of Ed Dowd, who's put together a team and looked, analytically at a lot of the epidemiologic data," Kory replied. "I mean, time with that vaccination rollout is when all of the numbers started going sideways, the excess mortality started to skyrocket."

When asked "what kind of death toll are we looking at?", Kory responded "...in 2023 alone, in the first nine months, we had what's called an excess mortality of 158,000 Americans," adding "But this is in 2023. I mean, we've  had Omicron now for two years, which is a mild variant. Not that many go to the hospital."

'Safe and Effective'

Tucker also asked Kory why the people who claimed the vaccine were "safe and effective" aren't being held criminally liable for abetting the "killing of all these Americans," to which Kory replied: "It’s my kind of belief, looking back, that [safe and effective] was a predetermined conclusion. There was no data to support that, but it was agreed upon that it would be presented as safe and effective."

Carlson and Kory then discussed the different segments of the population that experienced vaccine side effects, with Kory noting an "explosion in dying in the youngest and healthiest sectors of society," adding "And why did the employed fare far worse than those that weren't? And this particularly white collar, white collar, more than gray collar, more than blue collar."

Kory also said that Big Pharma is 'terrified' of Vitamin D because it "threatens the disease model." As journalist The Vigilant Fox notes on X, "Vitamin D showed about a 60% effectiveness against the incidence of COVID-19 in randomized control trials," and "showed about 40-50% effectiveness in reducing the incidence of COVID-19 in observational studies."

Professional costs

Kory - while risking professional suicide by speaking out, has undoubtedly helped save countless lives by advocating for alternate treatments such as Ivermectin.

Kory shared his own experiences of job loss and censorship, highlighting the challenges of advocating for a more nuanced understanding of vaccine safety in an environment often resistant to dissenting voices.

"I wrote a book called The War on Ivermectin and the the genesis of that book," he said, adding "Not only is my expertise on Ivermectin and my vast clinical experience, but and I tell the story before, but I got an email, during this journey from a guy named William B Grant, who's a professor out in California, and he wrote to me this email just one day, my life was going totally sideways because our protocols focused on Ivermectin. I was using a lot in my practice, as were tens of thousands of doctors around the world, to really good benefits. And I was getting attacked, hit jobs in the media, and he wrote me this email on and he said, Dear Dr. Kory, what they're doing to Ivermectin, they've been doing to vitamin D for decades..."

"And it's got five tactics. And these are the five tactics that all industries employ when science emerges, that's inconvenient to their interests. And so I'm just going to give you an example. Ivermectin science was extremely inconvenient to the interests of the pharmaceutical industrial complex. I mean, it threatened the vaccine campaign. It threatened vaccine hesitancy, which was public enemy number one. We know that, that everything, all the propaganda censorship was literally going after something called vaccine hesitancy."

Money makes the world go 'round

Carlson then hit on perhaps the most devious aspect of the relationship between drug companies and the medical establishment, and how special interests completely taint science to the point where public distrust of institutions has spiked in recent years.

"I think all of it starts at the level the medical journals," said Kory. "Because once you have something established in the medical journals as a, let's say, a proven fact or a generally accepted consensus, consensus comes out of the journals."

"I have dozens of rejection letters from investigators around the world who did good trials on ivermectin, tried to publish it. No thank you, no thank you, no thank you. And then the ones that do get in all purportedly prove that ivermectin didn't work," Kory continued.

"So and then when you look at the ones that actually got in and this is where like probably my biggest estrangement and why I don't recognize science and don't trust it anymore, is the trials that flew to publication in the top journals in the world were so brazenly manipulated and corrupted in the design and conduct in, many of us wrote about it. But they flew to publication, and then every time they were published, you saw these huge PR campaigns in the media. New York Times, Boston Globe, L.A. times, ivermectin doesn't work. Latest high quality, rigorous study says. I'm sitting here in my office watching these lies just ripple throughout the media sphere based on fraudulent studies published in the top journals. And that's that's that has changed. Now that's why I say I'm estranged and I don't know what to trust anymore."

Vaccine Injuries

Carlson asked Kory about his clinical experience with vaccine injuries.

"So how this is how I divide, this is just kind of my perception of vaccine injury is that when I use the term vaccine injury, I'm usually referring to what I call a single organ problem, like pericarditis, myocarditis, stroke, something like that. An autoimmune disease," he replied.

"What I specialize in my practice, is I treat patients with what we call a long Covid long vaxx. It's the same disease, just different triggers, right? One is triggered by Covid, the other one is triggered by the spike protein from the vaccine. Much more common is long vax. The only real differences between the two conditions is that the vaccinated are, on average, sicker and more disabled than the long Covids, with some pretty prominent exceptions to that."

Watch the entire interview above, and you can support Tucker Carlson's endeavors by joining the Tucker Carlson Network here...

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/14/2024 - 16:20

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International

Shakira’s net worth

After 12 albums, a tax evasion case, and now a towering bronze idol sculpted in her image, how much is Shakira worth more than 4 decades into her care…

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Shakira’s considerable net worth is no surprise, given her massive popularity in Latin America, the U.S., and elsewhere. 

In fact, the belly-dancing contralto queen is the second-wealthiest Latin-America-born pop singer of all time after Gloria Estefan. (Interestingly, Estefan actually helped a young Shakira translate her breakout album “Laundry Service” into English, hugely propelling her stateside success.)

Since releasing her first record at age 13, Shakira has spent decades recording albums in both Spanish and English and performing all over the world. Over the course of her 40+ year career, she helped thrust Latin pop music into the American mainstream, paving the way for the subsequent success of massively popular modern acts like Karol G and Bad Bunny.

In late 2023, a 21-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Shakira, the barefoot belly dancer of Barranquilla, was unveiled at the city's waterfront. The statue was commissioned by the city's former mayor and other leadership.

Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

In December 2023, a 21-foot-tall beachside bronze statue of the “Hips Don’t Lie” singer was unveiled in her Colombian hometown of Barranquilla, making her a permanent fixture in the city’s skyline and cementing her legacy as one of Latin America’s most influential entertainers.

After 12 albums, a plethora of film and television appearances, a highly publicized tax evasion case, and now a towering bronze idol sculpted in her image, how much is Shakira worth? What does her income look like? And how does she spend her money?

Related: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's net worth: How the new TKO Board Member built his wealth from $7

How much is Shakira worth?

In late 2023, Spanish sports and lifestyle publication Marca reported Shakira’s net worth at $400 million, citing Forbes as the figure’s source (although Forbes’ profile page for Shakira does not list a net worth — and didn’t when that article was published).

Most other sources list the singer’s wealth at an estimated $300 million, and almost all of these point to Celebrity Net Worth — a popular but dubious celebrity wealth estimation site — as the source for the figure.

A $300 million net worth would make Shakira the third-richest Latina pop star after Gloria Estefan ($500 million) and Jennifer Lopez ($400 million), and the second-richest Latin-America-born pop singer after Estefan (JLo is Puerto Rican but was born in New York).

Shakira’s income: How much does she make annually?

Entertainers like Shakira don’t have predictable paychecks like ordinary salaried professionals. Instead, annual take-home earnings vary quite a bit depending on each year’s album sales, royalties, film and television appearances, streaming revenue, and other sources of income. As one might expect, Shakira’s earnings have fluctuated quite a bit over the years.

From June 2018 to June 2019, for instance, Shakira was the 10th highest-earning female musician, grossing $35 million, according to Forbes. This wasn’t her first time gracing the top 10, though — back in 2012, she also landed the #10 spot, bringing in $20 million, according to Billboard.

In 2023, Billboard listed Shakira as the 16th-highest-grossing Latin artist of all time.

Shakira performed alongside producer Bizarrap during the 2023 Latin Grammy Awards Gala in Seville.

Photo By Maria Jose Lopez/Europa Press via Getty Images

How much does Shakira make from her concerts and tours?

A large part of Shakira’s wealth comes from her world tours, during which she sometimes sells out massive stadiums and arenas full of passionate fans eager to see her dance and sing live.

According to a 2020 report by Pollstar, she sold over 2.7 million tickets across 190 shows that grossed over $189 million between 2000 and 2020. This landed her the 19th spot on a list of female musicians ranked by touring revenue during that period. In 2023, Billboard reported a more modest touring revenue figure of $108.1 million across 120 shows.

In 2003, Shakira reportedly generated over $4 million from a single show on Valentine’s Day at Foro Sol in Mexico City. 15 years later, in 2018, Shakira grossed around $76.5 million from her El Dorado World Tour, according to Touring Data.

Related: RuPaul's net worth: Everything to know about the cultural icon and force behind 'Drag Race'

How much has Shakira made from her album sales?

According to a 2023 profile in Variety, Shakira has sold over 100 million records throughout her career. “Laundry Service,” the pop icon’s fifth studio album, was her most successful, selling over 13 million copies worldwide, according to TheRichest.

Exactly how much money Shakira has taken home from her album sales is unclear, but in 2008, it was widely reported that she signed a 10-year contract with LiveNation to the tune of between $70 and $100 million to release her subsequent albums and manage her tours.

Shakira and JLo co-headlined the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show in Florida.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

How much did Shakira make from her Super Bowl and World Cup performances?

Shakira co-wrote one of her biggest hits, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” after FIFA selected her to create the official anthem for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. She performed the song, along with several of her existing fan-favorite tracks, during the event’s opening ceremonies. TheThings reported in 2023 that the song generated $1.4 million in revenue, citing Popnable for the figure.

A decade later, 2020’s Superbowl halftime show featured Shakira and Jennifer Lopez as co-headliners with guest performances by Bad Bunny and J Balvin. The 14-minute performance was widely praised as a high-energy celebration of Latin music and dance, but as is typical for Super Bowl shows, neither Shakira nor JLo was compensated beyond expenses and production costs.

The exposure value that comes with performing in the Super Bowl Halftime Show, though, is significant. It is typically the most-watched television event in the U.S. each year, and in 2020, a 30-second Super Bowl ad spot cost between $5 and $6 million.

How much did Shakira make as a coach on “The Voice?”

Shakira served as a team coach on the popular singing competition program “The Voice” during the show’s fourth and sixth seasons. On the show, celebrity musicians coach up-and-coming amateurs in a team-based competition that eventually results in a single winner. In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Shakira’s salary as a coach on “The Voice” was $12 million.

Related: John Cena's net worth: The wrestler-turned-actor's investments, businesses, and more

How does Shakira spend her money?

Shakira doesn’t just make a lot of money — she spends it, too. Like many wealthy entertainers, she’s purchased her share of luxuries, but Barranquilla’s barefoot belly dancer is also a prolific philanthropist, having donated tens of millions to charitable causes throughout her career.

Private island

Back in 2006, she teamed up with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame and Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz to purchase Bonds Cay, a 550-acre island in the Bahamas, which was listed for $16 million at the time.

Along with her two partners in the purchase, Shakira planned to develop the island to feature housing, hotels, and an artists’ retreat designed to host a revolving cast of artists-in-residence. This plan didn’t come to fruition, though, and as of this article’s last update, the island was once again for sale on Vladi Private Islands.

Real estate and vehicles

Like most wealthy celebs, Shakira’s portfolio of high-end playthings also features an array of luxury properties and vehicles, including a home in Barcelona, a villa in Cyprus, a Miami mansion, and a rotating cast of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Philanthropy and charity

Shakira doesn’t just spend her massive wealth on herself; the “Queen of Latin Music” is also a dedicated philanthropist and regularly donates portions of her earnings to the Fundación Pies Descalzos, or “Barefoot Foundation,” a charity she founded in 1997 to “improve the education and social development of children in Colombia, which has suffered decades of conflict.” The foundation focuses on providing meals for children and building and improving educational infrastructure in Shakira’s hometown of Barranquilla as well as four other Colombian communities.

In addition to her efforts with the Fundación Pies Descalzos, Shakira has made a number of other notable donations over the years. In 2007, she diverted a whopping $40 million of her wealth to help rebuild community infrastructure in Peru and Nicaragua in the wake of a devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake. Later, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Shakira donated a large supply of N95 masks for healthcare workers and ventilators for hospital patients to her hometown of Barranquilla.

Back in 2010, the UN honored Shakira with a medal to recognize her dedication to social justice, at which time the Director General of the International Labour Organization described her as a “true ambassador for children and young people.”

On November 20, 2023 (which was supposed to be her first day of trial), Shakira reached a deal with the prosecution that resulted in a three-year suspended sentence and around $8 million in fines.

Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu via Getty Images

Shakira’s tax fraud scandal: How much did she pay?

In 2018, prosecutors in Spain initiated a tax evasion case against Shakira, alleging she lived primarily in Spain from 2012 to 2014 and therefore failed to pay around $14.4 million in taxes to the Spanish government. Spanish law requires anyone who is “domiciled” (i.e., living primarily) in Spain for more than half of the year to pay income taxes.

During the period in question, Shakira listed the Bahamas as her primary residence but did spend some time in Spain, as she was dating Gerard Piqué, a professional footballer and Spanish citizen. The couple’s first son, Milan, was also born in Barcelona during this period. 

Shakira maintained that she spent far fewer than 183 days per year in Spain during each of the years in question. In an interview with Elle Magazine, the pop star opined that “Spanish tax authorities saw that I was dating a Spanish citizen and started to salivate. It's clear they wanted to go after that money no matter what."

Prosecutors in the case sought a fine of almost $26 million and a possible eight-year prison stint, but in November of 2023, Shakira took a deal to close the case, accepting a fine of around $8 million and a three-year suspended sentence to avoid going to trial. In reference to her decision to take the deal, Shakira stated, "While I was determined to defend my innocence in a trial that my lawyers were confident would have ruled in my favour [had the trial proceeded], I have made the decision to finally resolve this matter with the best interest of my kids at heart who do not want to see their mom sacrifice her personal well-being in this fight."

How much did the Shakira statue in Barranquilla cost?

In late 2023, a 21-foot-tall bronze likeness of Shakira was unveiled on a waterfront promenade in Barranquilla. The city’s then-mayor, Jaime Pumarejo, commissioned Colombian sculptor Yino Márquez to create the statue of the city’s treasured pop icon, along with a sculpture of the city’s coat of arms.

According to the New York Times, the two sculptures cost the city the equivalent of around $180,000. A plaque at the statue’s base reads, “A heart that composes, hips that don’t lie, an unmatched talent, a voice that moves the masses and bare feet that march for the good of children and humanity.” 

Related: Taylor Swift net worth: The most successful entertainer joins the billionaire's club

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International

Delta Air Lines adds a new route travelers have been asking for

The new Delta seasonal flight to the popular destination will run daily on a Boeing 767-300.

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Those who have tried to book a flight from North America to Europe in the summer of 2023 know just how high travel demand to the continent has spiked.

At 2.93 billion, visitors to the countries making up the European Union had finally reached pre-pandemic levels last year while North Americans in particular were booking trips to both large metropolises such as Paris and Milan as well as smaller cities growing increasingly popular among tourists.

Related: A popular European city is introducing the highest 'tourist tax' yet

As a result, U.S.-based airlines have been re-evaluating their networks to add more direct routes to smaller European destinations that most travelers would have previously needed to reach by train or transfer flight with a local airline.

The new flight will take place on a Boeing 767-300.

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Delta Air Lines: ‘Glad to offer customers increased choice…’

By the end of March, Delta Air Lines  (DAL)  will be restarting its route between New York’s JFK and Marco Polo International Airport in Venice as well as launching two new flights to Venice from Atlanta. One will start running this month while the other will be added during peak demand in the summer.

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“As one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Venice is hugely popular with U.S. travelers, and our flights bring valuable tourism and trade opportunities to the city and the region as well as unrivalled opportunities for Venetians looking to explore destinations across the Americas,” Delta’s SVP for Europe Matteo Curcio said in a statement. “We’re glad to offer customers increased choice this summer with flights from New York and additional service from Atlanta.”

The JFK-Venice flight will run on a Boeing 767-300  (BA)  and have 216 seats including higher classes such as Delta One, Delta Premium Select and Delta Comfort Plus.

Delta offers these features on the new flight

Both the New York and Atlanta flights are seasonal routes that will be pulled out of service in October. Both will run daily while the first route will depart New York at 8:55 p.m. and arrive in Venice at 10:15 a.m. local time on the way there, while leaving Venice at 12:15 p.m. to arrive at JFK at 5:05 p.m. on the way back.

According to Delta, this will bring its service to 17 flights from different U.S. cities to Venice during the peak summer period. As with most Delta flights at this point, passengers in all fare classes will have access to free Wi-Fi during the flight.

Those flying in Delta’s highest class or with access through airline status or a credit card will also be able to use the new Delta lounge that is part of the airline’s $12 billion terminal renovation and is slated to open to travelers in the coming months. The space will take up more than 40,000 square feet and have an outdoor terrace.

“Delta One customers can stretch out in a lie-flat seat and enjoy premium amenities like plush bedding made from recycled plastic bottles, more beverage options, and a seasonal chef-curated four-course meal,” Delta said of the new route. “[…] All customers can enjoy a wide selection of in-flight entertainment options and stay connected with Wi-Fi and enjoy free mobile messaging.”

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