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When people think of San Antonio’s tech sector, Rackspace—the web hosting company launched in the late 1990s—is often the first thing to come to mind, and for good rea-son. Current and former Rackspace employees (better known as “Rackers”) have been behind much of the local industry and the city’s forward-thinking growth. Former chairman and co-founder Graham Weston, for example, helped found the 80/20 Foundation and coworking space/startup incubator Geekdom while also contributing to investment and development that is transforming downtown into a place tech companies want to operate.
Rackspace, though, is just the start of the city’s growing technology scene. San Antonio and its military bases boast the nation’s second largest concentration of cybersecurity experts, according to Port San Antonio. Much of that is driven by the mil-itary’s longtime presence and emerging partnerships with the FBI, Secret Service and National Security Agency. But it also is being fueled by initiatives and incubators including CyberSecurity San Antonio and Build Sec Foundry, both of which are helping to grow an ecosystem of civilian and corporate cybersecurity and information technology.
Add to that the dozens of health care–related tech ventures, apps and education initiatives, and San Antonio’s tech scene has become one of the city’s major economic and cultural drivers.
Tech Bloc CEO David Heard, who leads the advocacy group that works to develop a pipeline of local talent, says he’s hopeful that things like CAST Tech High School and Tech Talent Central are signs that the industry will continue to grow. “Building a vibrant local tech and innovation economy is absolutely critical to San Antonio’s future prosperity. The driver of all of this is access to talent,” Heard says. “So, our hope at Tech Bloc is to create an energetic movement that, along with our partners, helps San Antonio join the new economy and become a lead city for technology education, innovation and employment.”—EO
 
Denim Group has been helping customers to develop attack-resilient software since 2001. Their ThreadFix vulnerability management platform assesses the risk level of a client’s applications and their supporting infrastructure. In 2018, Denim Group’s owners sold a minority stake to India-based Wipro—a move that could help the local company extend its reach. denimgroup.com
Digital Defense Inc. provides security risk assessment Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to large and small businesses around the world. With its trademark Frontline suite of products, the Northeast San Antonio company that’s celebrating 20 years this year offers vulnerability scanning and penetration testing plus security awareness training for their clients’ employees. It also recently partnered with UTSA to allow computer science students to use its Frontline Cloud platform in the classroom. digitaldefense.com
InfoCyte's  team likes to say it plays offense in a world that is often focused on defense. That means it equips security professionals to look for, find and respond to threats. Its automated platform, HUNT, was developed by Infocyte’s founders, who once led the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team. The headquarters moved to Austin in 2018, but its Security Operations Center remains in SA. infocyte.com
Innové LLC helps U.S. government and infrastructure clients tackle complicated issues like risk management. In providing solutions through cyber security, virtual reality and data analytics, the company allows its clients to reduce costs while turning their focus to whatever mission they have ahead. Innové operates at several military installations, including a San Antonio software development and training facility. innove.com
Jungle Disk launched in 2006 and moved to San Antonio in 2010, where it operates from the Rand Building. It offers a cybersecurity suite that features automatic data backup, password management and security awareness training for small to midsize businesses. The reason? Its leaders say that nearly half of “major data loss” victims go out of business. Jungle Disk serves more than 25,000 customers worldwide and has data centers in the U.S. and Europe. jungledisk.com
SiloTech Group’s clients range from small businesses to the U.S. Department of Defense (specifically the 24th Air Force in San Antonio). It provides countermeasure development, threat and vulnerability analysis, network operations monitoring and response, among other services. Its academy trains the public and clients on cyber defense. silotechgroup.com
 
“Our public-private partnership, CyberSecurity San Antonio, exists because our community uniquely recognizes the need to convene, connect and brand the second largest concentration of cybersecurity professionals in the United States,” says Amanda Lee Keammerer, vice president of cybersecurity for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. “Our military roots keep us grounded and united with a ‘team San Antonio’ and ‘team USA’ mindset, which pushes us to find innovative ways to protect our businesses, our communities and our nation, while developing the next generation of cybersecurity leaders.”

Dauber’s one-stop, easy-to-use mobile app is trucking reimagined. By simplifying fleet performance reporting, electronic ticketing, route optimization and even quicker pay for drivers, this app helps increase efficiency for trucking companies which leads to more loads per day. dauberapp.com
FunnelAI makes it possible to post a Facebook status about a new vehicle and receive answers to your specific question from a local dealership. The app filters through over 200 million public social media posts to find prospective customers for businesses. Using their software, businesses are then connected with potential clients and can respond to their social media posts directly. funnelai.com
Grok Interactive makes apps for businesses, organizations, events and initiatives. The company, which opened in 2013, offers scalable web services, too. Notably, Grok has built products for local companies such as MassVenture, Soloshot and Choose San Antonio, the city’s official promotional campaign that twice participated at South by Southwest. grok-interactive.com
HelpSocial was founded by former Rackers Matt Wilbanks and Robert Collazo. The company works to do what the name implies: help. Its open application programming interface (API) that brings together comments, tweets and other online actitivies together so that companies can respond, whether through bots or customer service personnel, more quickly and efficiently. Earlier this year it signed a deal to work with Virgin Mobile Mexico. helpsocial.com
Koedal is also part of the Geekdom portfolio and develops apps for a variety of individuals and businesses. Company founder Collin Beck previously worked at USAA, where he helped to develop the iconic corporation’s go-to app so he knows his stuff. He’s helping to spread that knowledge as leader for the local iOS developer meetup and an iOS bootcamp that he conducts in collaboration with Codeup. koedal.com
Parlevel Systems, based in Southtown (after getting its start at Geekdom), aims to “build better workplaces,” says Christopher Blomquist, director of marketing. It does that through a cohesive platform of hardware and software programs that support vending machines, kiosks, office coffee operations and more. By providing real-time data, its programs can better track inventory, reduce theft and manage the snacks and caffeine being provided in offices in over 22 countries. Seven-day-a-week customer service and tech support is provided so a snack that gets stuck in the vending machine doesn’t put it out of service all day. parlevelsystems.com
Scaleworks is a venture capital firm focused on the tech industry and founded by former Rackspace exec Lew Moorman plus Ed Byrne, who made his name launching and managing tech businesses. The firm looks to acquire SaaS firms that have large, sustainable growth potential and through its Venture Finance program also provide businesses with the loans needed to fund specific initiatives. scaleworks.com
TrueAbility was founded by former Rackers who saw the need for a new method of assessing recruits when phone interviews weren’t cutting it for certain tech jobs. Their company tackles that issue through digital skills-based assessments that help companies find new hires who can handle the job for which they’re applying. TrueAbility also offers performance-based testing for certifications. trueability.com
WellAware works with oil and gas companies to eliminate the need to sift through multiple spreadsheets and programs to analyze their growth, pipeline capacity and chemical services. It provides data collection, management and analysis so energy companies can focus on what matters: their product. wellaware.us

 
Conceptual Mindworks, Inc. provides health-related scientific and technical services to the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Health and Human Services and the private healthcare community. Clients rely on the company that was founded in San Antonio in 1990 for providing outpatient physicians with electronic medical records, patient portals, clinical data mining, testing and production, pharmaceutical development and more. conceptualmindworks.com
MR3 Health wants to help diabetes patients with a common complication of the disease: foot ulcers, which when not properly monitored and cared for can lead to amputation. Its in-home remote patient monitoring system collects data on foot temperature each day so that caregivers can detect and respond to problems quickly even when patients aren’t feeling physical pain. mr3health.com
InnerAlly Inc. founders know mental health matters even when you don’t have time to attend a mindfulness meetup. Thanks to this mobile app, you can work on positive self-talk and your own inner dialogue through character-driven games that when used regularly are meant to improve relationships and help decrease depression and anxiety. innerally.com
 
Enflux makes big data less intimidating and tedious for universities thanks to its automated data extraction, organization and analysis. Led by CEO Alejandra Zertuche, who has an MBA from St. Mary’s University and a master’s in biomedical informatics from UT Health at Houston, Enflux integrates and analyzes data  across multiple platforms, providing a holistic view of a higher education institution, program or even the effectiveness  of a student. The Enflux approach to data also reduces or eliminates accreditation challenges (think for medical or pharmacy schools), which can be numerous for institutions that had been manually collecting and analyzing data in-house. enflux.com
MERGE goes beyond a digital screen in the classroom with experiential learning through its augmented and virtual reality (VR) products meant for kids, educators and professionals. Through VR, children can explore the solar system, study fossils and more. Part toy and part educational tool, their MERGE Cube (available for purchase online) has won awards from the American Library Association and Tech & Learning for the accessibility and ease at which it allows students to virtually access the intricacies of almost any subject matter. mergevr.com

5 programs helping to develop the next generation of curious industry leaders
CAST Tech High School
This industry-led, charter high school in San Antonio ISD is the first of its kind and focuses on preparing students to confidently enter high-demand careers (or higher ed programs) in computer science, information technology, user experience and business. schools.saisd.net
UTSA’s B.B.A. in Cyber Security  
An interdisciplinary program that teaches the importance of cybersecurity in business, this program is offered fully online or in-person (at the soon-to-expand downtown campus). It’s been ranked the nation’s top cybersecurity program by Ponemon. business.utsa.edu/programs/cyber-security/
Codeup  
Whether your expertise is in computer science, communication or customer service, Codeup can train you for a new career as a computer programmer, data scientist or data-driven problem solver with its two 20-week programs. codeup.com
Open Cloud Academy
Another option for those who aim to get into tech, Rackspace’s Open Cloud Academy equips students for an entry-level IT career in as short as 13 weeks. Instructors come from Rackspace and about 35 percent of graduates find employment there, says Academy director Marcus Benavidez, adding that other graduates have helped fill demand for staff at tech companies throughout the area. opencloudacademy.rackspace.com
Youth Code Jam 
Former mom blogger Debi Pfitzenmaier  created this nonprofit so that all youth would have access to “the critical literacy of coding.” To help build the next generation’s coding skills, the organization holds a free annual community “code jam” (this year’s is Sept. 28 at ESC Region 20), in which over 1,000 students, parents and volunteers come together to code using a variety of tools. It also hosts summer camps, after-school coding clubs and teacher professional development. youthcodejam.org
 
Dryden Labs is a digital marketing agency that develops apps and websites plus a whole host of other services—from social media management and SEO to email marketing, cloud hosting and branding and design. drydenlabs.com
iNNOV8, based at Geekdom, provides website help for all types of businesses. Think website theme customization, content organization and management and implementing best practices so companies show up in Google searches. CEO Stefanie Young is a former FrontEnd developer with Grok Interactive and she’s joined in the venture by COO Lorne Barfield, another Grok veteran. innov8.place
Pear Analytics has offices in Dallas and Houston but its headquarters is in San Antonio, where it was founded from a home office in 2008. Now a boutique digital marketing firm, it helps clients with advertising management on Google, LinkedIn and Facebook, email marketing, HubSpot automation, SEO, brand strategy, advanced analytics as well as web design and development. It won a contract to train the U.S. Army on analytics in 2015, rebuilt the Fiesta San Antonio website in 2017 and last year launched an Applicant Management System for nonprofit foundation groups. pearanalytics.com
Pressable, is one of the oldest startups from Geekdom. Founder and former CEO Vid Luther originally launched the company as ZippyKid in 2010. The WordPress hosting company experienced incredible growth and Luther rebranded as Pressable in 2013 in response to the company’s expanding clientele, which has included Fortune 100 businesses, nonprofit agencies, freelancers, developers, marketers and WooCommerce operators. pressable.com

 
Third-generation East Side San Antonian becomes tech community advocate 
While the tech industry is a focus of Brian Dillard’s role as chief innovative officer for the city of San Antonio, it’s not what fuels him. “One of the things my team and I believe in is that San Antonio is not tech-driven. It’s all community-driven,” says Dillard, who grew up on the East Side and initially joined the city in 2018 as its Smart City administrator. “We do things to address what our community needs on a day-to-day basis, whether that means traffic congestion, air quality or addressing the digital divide.”
By doing that, he says, they’re helping create a city that will not only attract tech companies and entrepreneurs but also be the kind of place people in lots of industries want to live and work.
The leadership role is not one Dillard saw for himself when he enrolled at UTSA in 2002 to study aerospace engineering. He failed one of his classes that first semester and, knowing he couldn’t afford to stay if he didn’t succeed, went to an Air Force recruiter to enlist. The recruiter recommended Dillard pursue cybersecurity in the military, in part because of an IT certificate he’d earned at Sam Houston High School, and his career developed from there.
After earning his degree online and serving 10 years on active duty as a cybersecurity operations specialist, Dillard went into the private sector, working with places like Chevron, Delta Risk and Lockheed Martin. He realized during that time, though, that the biggest difference he was making in San Antonio was not at work but as president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association.
In his current position, he’s able to combine his experience in the tech world with his passion for building up his hometown. “You have to prioritize what’s most important for the community and take an equitable approach to solving those issues,” Dillard says.—CW
The SA-based oil and gas investment portfolios also include the chance to invest in bitcoin that’s mined on the same site as natural gas
There’s something to do at literally any hour of the day in the Alamo City. Here, we outline a few suggestions for a full 24 hours fun.
Florence Barrera sparkles with creativity and drive as she aims to expand her fashion brand
200 E. Grayson St., Ste. 107
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© 2022 Open Sky Media
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200 E. Grayson St., Ste. 107
San Antonio, TX 78215
210-268-1100
© 2022 Open Sky Media
All rights reserved
Website by Web Publisher PRO

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Biden begs for money for 2024 Campaign from local SF Bay Area tech leaders and talks AI

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Biden discusses risks and promises of artificial intelligence with tech leaders in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Joe Biden convened a group of technology leaders on Tuesday to debate what he called the “risks and enormous promises” of artificial intelligence.

The Biden administration is seeking to figure out how to regulate the emergent field of AI, looking for ways to nurture its potential for economic growth and national security and protect against its potential dangers.

“We’ll see more technological change in the next 10 years that we saw in the last 50 years,” Biden said as the meeting with eight technology experts from academia and advocacy groups kicked off.

“AI is already driving that change,” Biden said.

The sudden emergence of AI chatbot ChatGPT and other tools has jumpstarted investment in the sector. AI tools are able to craft human-like text, music, images and computer code. This form of automation could increase the productivity of workers, but experts warn of numerous risks.

The technology could be used to replace workers, causing layoffs. It’s already being deployed in false images and videos, becoming a vehicle of disinformation that could undermine democratic elections. Governments, as well as the European Union, have said they are determined to regulate and put brakes on AI before it is too late.

Biden said social media has already shown the harm technology can do “without the right safeguards in place.”

In May, Biden’s administration brought together tech CEOs at the White House to discuss these issues, with the Democratic president telling them, “What you’re doing has enormous potential and enormous danger.”

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White House chief of staff Jeff Zients’ office is developing a set of actions the federal government can take over the coming weeks regarding AI, according to the White House. Top officials are meeting two to three times each week on this issue, in addition to the daily work of federal agencies. The administration wants commitments from private companies to address the possible risks from AI.

Biden met Tuesday at the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco with Tristan Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Technology; Jim Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media; and Joy Buolamwin, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, among others. California Gov. Gavin Newsom was also in attendance.

Biden is also in the San Francisco area to raise money for this 2024 reelection campaign. At his first fundraiser of the night, Biden spoke about what he saw as freedoms under siege, particularly for the LGBTQ community and with the overturning of abortion protections by the U.S. Supreme Court. And as president, it’s his job to help safeguard the right to choose.

“I think the American people need to have the confidence that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” he said.

Climate change has also been a priority in Biden’s speeches at the fundraisers. On Tuesday, he told a group that he expects that John Kerry, the special envoy for climate, will soon return to China for talks on reducing carbon emissions.

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Associated Press writer Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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Microsoft makes case for Activision merger amid EU scrutiny

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Microsoft makes case for Activision merger amid EU scrutiny

BRUSSELS (AP) — Microsoft’s Xbox video game division on Tuesday announced new partnerships with Nintendo and chipmaker Nvidia as it tries to persuade European regulators to approve its planned $68.7 billion takeover of game publishing giant Activision Blizzard.

A key audience for the announcements were the European Union antitrust regulators who held a closed-door meeting Tuesday with executives from Microsoft and some of its competitors, including Sony and Google.

Microsoft announced a 10-year agreement with chipmaker Nvidia to bring Xbox games to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service. Microsoft also said it has now signed a similar deal with Nintendo, formalizing a commitment it revealed late last year.

What it does not have is an agreement with Xbox’s chief rival, PlayStation-maker Sony, which has sought to convince antitrust regulators around the world to stop the Activision Blizzard merger.

The all-cash deal, which is set to be the largest in the history of the tech industry, faces pushback from regulators in the U.S. and Europe because it would give Microsoft control of popular game franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush.

The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm, has been investigating whether the merger would distort fair competition to popular Activision Blizzard game titles. It’s scheduled to make a decision by March 23.

Microsoft first announced the agreement to buy the California-based game publisher early last year, but the takeover has also been stalled in the U.S., where the Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the deal, and in Britain, where an antitrust watchdog’s provisional report said it will stifle competition and hurt gamers.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, has been counting on getting approval in either the EU or Britain to help advance its case in the U.S.

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Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said at a Brussels news conference after meeting with regulators Tuesday that he was “not in a position to say exactly what was said in the hearing room” but emphasized that Xbox has a much smaller share of the market than PlayStation does in Europe, and asserted that the deal would be good for the industry by bringing more games to more people.

“For us at Microsoft, this has never been about spending $69 billion so that we could acquire titles like Call of Duty and make them less available to people,” Smith said. “That’s actually not a great way to turn a $69 billion asset into something that will become more valuable over time.”

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Amid ChatGPT outcry, some teachers are inviting AI to class

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Amid ChatGPT outcry, some teachers are inviting AI to class

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Under the fluorescent lights of a fifth grade classroom in Lexington, Kentucky, Donnie Piercey instructed his 23 students to try and outwit the “robot” that was churning out writing assignments.

The robot was the new artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, which can generate everything from essays and haikus to term papers within seconds. The technology has panicked teachers and prompted school districts to block access to the site. But Piercey has taken another approach by embracing it as a teaching tool, saying his job is to prepare students for a world where knowledge of AI will be required.

“This is the future,” said Piercey, who describes ChatGPT as just the latest technology in his 17 years of teaching that prompted concerns about the potential for cheating. The calculator, spellcheck, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube. Now all his students have Chromebooks on their desks. “As educators, we haven’t figured out the best way to use artificial intelligence yet. But it’s coming, whether we want it to or not.”

One exercise in his class pitted students against the machine in a lively, interactive writing game. Piercey asked students to “Find the Bot:” Each student summarized a text about boxing champion and Kentucky icon Muhammad Ali, then tried to figure out which was written by the chatbot.

At the elementary school level, Piercey is less worried about cheating and plagiarism than high school teachers. His district has blocked students from ChatGPT while allowing teacher access. Many educators around the country say districts need time to evaluate and figure out the chatbot but also acknowledge the futility of a ban that today’s tech-savvy students can work around.

“To be perfectly honest, do I wish it could be uninvented? Yes. But it happened,” said Steve Darlow, the technology trainer at Florida’s Santa Rosa County District Schools, which has blocked the application on school-issued devices and networks.

He sees the advent of AI platforms as both “revolutionary and disruptive” to education. He envisions teachers asking ChatGPT to make “amazing lesson plans for a substitute” or even for help grading papers. “I know it’s lofty talk, but this is a real game changer. You are going to have an advantage in life and business and education from using it.”

ChatGPT quickly became a global phenomenon after its November launch, and rival companies including Google are racing to release their own versions of AI-powered chatbots.

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The topic of AI platforms and how schools should respond drew hundreds of educators to conference rooms at the Future of Education Technology Conference in New Orleans last month, where Texas math teacher Heather Brantley gave an enthusiastic talk on the “Magic of Writing with AI for all Subjects.”

Brantley said she was amazed at ChatGPT’s ability to make her sixth grade math lessons more creative and applicable to everyday life.

“I’m using ChatGPT to enhance all my lessons,” she said in an interview. The platform is blocked for students but open to teachers at her school, White Oak Intermediate. “Take any lesson you’re doing and say, ‘Give me a real-world example,’ and you’ll get examples from today — not 20 years ago when the textbooks we’re using were written.”

For a lesson about slope, the chatbot suggested students build ramps out of cardboard and other items found in a classroom, then measure the slope. For teaching about surface area, the chatbot noted that sixth graders would see how the concept applies to real life when wrapping gifts or building a cardboard box, said Brantley.

She is urging districts to train staff to use the AI platform to stimulate student creativity and problem solving skills. “We have an opportunity to guide our students with the next big thing that will be part of their entire lives. Let’s not block it and shut them out.”

Students in Piercey’s class said the novelty of working with a chatbot makes learning fun.

After a few rounds of “Find the Bot,” Piercey asked his class what skills it helped them hone. Hands shot up. “How to properly summarize and correctly capitalize words and use commas,” said one student. A lively discussion ensued on the importance of developing a writing voice and how some of the chatbot’s sentences lacked flair or sounded stilted.

Trevor James Medley, 11, felt that sentences written by students “have a little more feeling. More backbone. More flavor.”

Next, the class turned to playwriting, or as the worksheet handed out by Piercey called it: “Pl-ai Writing.” The students broke into groups and wrote down (using pencils and paper) the characters of a short play with three scenes to unfold in a plot that included a problem that needs to get solved.

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Piercey fed details from worksheets into the ChatGPT site, along with instructions to set the scenes inside a fifth grade classroom and to add a surprise ending. Line by line, it generated fully formed scripts, which the students edited, briefly rehearsed and then performed.

One was about a class computer that escapes, with students going on a hunt to find it. The play’s creators giggled over unexpected plot twists that the chatbot introduced, including sending the students on a time travel adventure.

“First of all, I was impressed,” said Olivia Laksi, 10, one of the protagonists. She liked how the chatbot came up with creative ideas. But she also liked how Piercey urged them to revise any phrases or stage directions they didn’t like. “It’s helpful in the sense that it gives you a starting point. It’s a good idea generator.”

She and classmate Katherine McCormick, 10, said they can see the pros and cons of working with chatbots. They can help students navigate writer’s block and help those who have trouble articulating their thoughts on paper. And there is no limit to the creativity it can add to classwork.

The fifth graders seemed unaware of the hype or controversy surrounding ChatGPT. For these children, who will grow up as the world’s first native AI users, their approach is simple: Use it for suggestions, but do your own work.

“You shouldn’t take advantage of it,” McCormick says. “You’re not learning anything if you type in what you want, and then it gives you the answer.”

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Associated Press writer Sharon Lurye contributed to this report from New Orleans.

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The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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