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This isn't a new problem with OS X Mail, it persists into Mountain Lion.

Mountain Lion Mail unread badges

The badges are quite obnoxious; I can go into that [Gmail] folder and right-click and Mark As Read. But they start piling up right away again.

Is there a way to never have a badge beside any non-Inbox folder, or have a way for Mail to automatically clean up?

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Create a filter in Gmail (web settings) to automatically mark all spam emails as read.

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I don't know how to make the badge go away but a way to reduce the number of the unread messages if they're spam is to modify the settings on your gmail account on the web. Settings/labels/spam/show/hide in IMAP. Uncheck show in IMAP google's settings list for labels

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