Brit living in Belgium and earning an income from building interfaces. Interestes include science, science fiction, technology, and European news and politics
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Happy 20th Birthday, GNOME!

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ORINDA, CA. Today, the GNOME Project proudly celebrates its 20th Birthday. Founded by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena Quintero on August 15, 1997, GNOME has since become a pillar of the Free Software community.

There have been 33 stable releases since the initial release of GNOME 1.0 in 1999. The latest stable release, GNOME 3.24 “Portland,” was well-received. “Portland” included exciting new features like the GNOME Recipes application and Night Light, which helps users avoid eyestrain. The upcoming version of GNOME 3.26 “Manchester,” is scheduled for release in September of this year. With over 6,000 contributors, and 8 million lines of code, the GNOME Project continues to thrive in its twentieth year.

Celebrate Twenty Years Strong with the GNOME Foundation: visit the 20th Birthday Party page to find a party — or even start your own. You can also support GNOME by making a donation or becoming a Friend of GNOME.

Enjoy a few of the many photographs from the 20th Birthday Party at this year’s GUADEC, where co-founder Federico Mena Quintero celebrated his own birthday alongside GNOME’s.

Happy 20th Birthday, GNOME!

 

A more detailed history of the GNOME project, fun facts, pictures, and more, can be found at http://www.happybirthdaygnome.org.

 

** Photos shared under CC-BY-SA 4.0 by Christian Hergert, Nuritzi Sanchez, and Behdad Esfahbod.**

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expatpaul
1 day ago
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Left and right unite to shift the blame from American Nazis

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So what are the hot takes on events in Charlottesville?

Brendan O'Neill is in no doubt about who is to blame.
The events in Charlottesville are the logical consequence of the politics of identity. One of the nastiest trends in Western politics in recent years has been the relentless racialisation of public life and political debate. Everyone has been forced, often against their will, into a racial box. 
It's all "Dear White People", black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, racial re-education on campus, warnings against "cultural appropriation", where everyone from the white dude who wears dreadlocks to Beyonce in a sari is branded a racial thief.
This, of course, is O'Neill usual contrarianism-by-numbers. "The problem is no the Nazis but the people who protest against them."

And, while his picture of modern political argument may have some truth on campus and social media, little of that approach has reached the newspapers or broadcasters. Most of us could go through life and never come across it if we chose. And I imagine most people do.

When I do come across this style of argument I am a little exasperated myself. This is not because I question the existence of racism but because I find it typical of a certain self-obsession in the young all those selfies.

Approaching a debate by talking about your own "privilege" does tend to give the impression that, deep down, you think it is really about you.

But none of this begins to form an argument that the left is responsible for events in Charlottesville.

The Nazi march and violence is the fault of the Nazis. To argue anything else is grotesque.

And from the left comes Laurie Penny:
This isn't really about Charlottesville at all. It is about the politics of the left in Britain.

It attempts to paint anyone who does not support the hard-left Labour agenda - be they Liberals or working-class voters who supported Leave because of their worries about immigration - as Nazis or at least the abetters of Nazis.

But if you call everyone a Nazi it means you are pretty bad at reacting when real Nazis appear - social media will be giggling about Godwin's Law as the tanks roll down Whitehall.

No, the Nazis are not the fault of the left or centrists or the working class. They are the fault of the Nazis.
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expatpaul
2 days ago
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"The Nazis are not the fault of the left or centrists or the working class. They are the fault of the Nazis."
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The Moral Shambles That is Our President

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Denouncing Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists by those names should not be a difficult thing for a president to do, particularly when those groups are the instigators and proximate cause of violence in an American city, and one of their number has rammed his car through a group of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring dozens more. This is a moral gimme — something so obvious and clear and easy that a president should almost not get credit for it, any more than he should get credit for putting on pants before he goes to have a press conference.

And yet this president — our president, the current President of the United States — couldn’t manage it. The best he could manage was to fumble through a condemnation of “many sides,” as if those protesting the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists had equal culpability for the events of the day. He couldn’t manage this moral gimme, and when his apparatchiks were given an opportunity to take a mulligan on it, they doubled down instead.

This was a spectacular failure of leadership, the moral equivalent not only of missing a putt with the ball on the lip of the cup, but of taking out your favorite driver and whacking that ball far into the woods. Our president literally could not bring himself to say that Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists are bad. He sorely wants you to believe he implied it. But he couldn’t say it.

To be clear, when it was announced the president would address the press about Charlottesville, I wasn’t expecting much from him. He’s not a man to expect much from, in terms of presidential gravitas. But the moral bar here was so low it was on the ground, and he tripped over it anyway.

And because he did, no one — and certainly not the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists, who were hoping for the wink and nod that they got here — believes the president actually thinks there’s a problem with the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists. If he finally does get around to admitting that they are bad, he’ll do it in the same truculent, forced way that he used when he was forced to admit that yeah, sure, maybe Obama was born in the United States after all. An admission that makes it clear it’s being compelled rather than volunteered. The Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists will understand what that means, too.

Our president, simply put, is a profound moral shambles. He’s a racist and sexist himself, he’s populated his administration with Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists, and is pursuing policies, from immigration to voting rights, that make white nationalists really very happy. We shouldn’t be surprised someone like him can’t pass from his lips the names of the hate groups that visited Charlottesville, but we can still be disappointed, and very very angry about it. I hate that my baseline expectation for the moral behavior of the President of the United States is “failure,” but here we are, and yesterday, as with previous 200-some days of this administration, gives no indication that this baseline expectation is unfounded.

And more than that. White supremacy is evil. Nazism is evil. The racism and hate we saw in Charlottesville yesterday is evil. The domestic terrorism that happened there yesterday — a man, motivated by racial hate, mowing down innocents — is evil. And none of what happened yesterday just happened. It happened because the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists felt emboldened. They felt emboldened because they believe that one of their own is in the White House, or at least, feel like he’s surrounded himself with enough of their own (or enough fellow travelers) that it’s all the same from a practical point of view. They believe their time has come round at last, and they believe no one is going to stop them, because one of their own has his hand on the levers of power.

When evil believes you are one of their own, and you have the opportunity to denounce it, and call it out by name, what should you do? And what should we believe of you, if you do not? What should we believe of you, if you do not, and you are President of the United States?

My president won’t call out evil by its given name. He can. But he won’t. I know what I think that means for him. I also know what I think it means for the United States. And I know what it means for me. My president won’t call out evil for what it is, but I can do better. And so can you. And so can everybody else. Our country can be better than it is now, and better than the president it has.


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popular
3 days ago
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StunGod
3 days ago
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Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
expatpaul
3 days ago
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Belgium
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3 public comments
LeMadChef
2 days ago
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The golf analogy was icing on the cake.
Denver, CO
jerkso
2 days ago
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You are making hoops for the president to jump through, he denounced all side for the violence. He has denounced the violence you know it, you're response is weak and without substance. Why don't you talk about the cause of this and their numbers growing? Hint it is not Trump.
Bangkok, Thailand
katster
2 days ago
“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us….. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all…. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” ~The Daily Stormer
boredomfestival
2 days ago
There are not multiple sides to this.
jerkso
1 day ago
There aren't multiple sides, care to explain, that seems a refutation of reality as much a commonsense. Seems both of you perhaps are living in a bubble, Quit it with the might is right reasoning in such attitudes and ignorance. Recognize the poison there on both sides.Ignoring this collectivism of any sort is going to end poorly for everyone.
skorgu
3 days ago
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GOP. Delenda. Est.

You have become extremely famous all over the world

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I think Trump is getting stupider every day – noticeably stupider, strikingly stupider.

He called up the governor of Guam to tell him the North Korea thing is just wonderful for him and for Guam, because it’s making them famous. They’re celebrities! Tourism will soar!

You think I’m exaggerating for sarcastic effect as usual. I wish I were.

The threat by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to create “an enveloping fire” around the tiny United States territory in the Western Pacific will boost Guam tourism “tenfold,” Mr. Trump is heard saying in the recorded conversation with Gov. Eddie Calvo.

The recording was put on the Republican governor’s Facebook page and other social media accounts.

Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: “You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”

And it’s all thanks to Trump! He is so awesome!

Mr. Trump had threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea for any provocation. Alluding to Mr. Kim, he told the governor, “You notice he hasn’t spoken recently. He doesn’t talk so much anymore. We’ll see how it all works out.”

He added, lowering his voice: “This is between you and I. But you don’t talk like they talk. You can’t do that. You can’t do that with people like us.”

Ok first the small item – it’s between you and ME, bozo.

Next – it’s between you and him? Because you lowered your voice? I think you’ll find that’s not quite right.

And finally – that’s how a street corner tough thinks and talks. That’s how a prickly impulsive self-absorbed neighborhood bully thinks and talks. Trump is supposed to be on a larger stage now. He should have moved beyond narcissistic injury by now, to think about the safety and welfare of seven billion people and however many trillions of animals and the planet.

But he hasn’t. His mind is shrinking rather than expanding. He’s getting more narcissistic and idiotic every day, not less.

I mean seriously. He’s recklessly gambling with the lives of billions of people, and he’s babbling about making a few of them famous? How divorced from reality do you have to be to say a thing like that?

While Guam is generally calm about the escalating threats of a missile attack, some were not thrilled by the tone of conversation between the two men.

“Listening to that call left me feeling disgusted,” said Andrea Nicole Grajek, a local artist from Dededo village. “I was so shocked I was actually crying. They’re leaders discussing a rise in fame and tourism, while the world is watching our island carefully to see if we’ll still be here tomorrow.”

But the lunatics think it’s all going swimmingly.

Mr. Calvo, however, told Mr. Trump that he had “never felt more safe or so confident than with you at the helm. So, with all the criticism going on over there from a guy who is being targeted, we need a president like you. So I’m just so thankful. I’m glad you’re holding the helm.”

Mr. Trump responded, “We’re going to do a great job. You don’t have to worry about a thing. They should have had me eight years ago, somebody with my thought process.” He added, “And frankly, you could’ve said that for the last three presidents.”

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expatpaul
4 days ago
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"The threat by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to create “an enveloping fire” around the tiny United States territory in the Western Pacific will boost Guam tourism “tenfold,” Mr. Trump is heard saying in the recorded conversation with Gov. Eddie Calvo."

#facepalm
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How retail companies use sonic weapons to physically assault kids – and ten ways they can do it better.

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By Simon Davies

Back in 2005, an entrepreneur by the name of Barry Stapleton came up with an ingenious plan to automatically ward off “unruly” children and young people loitering around high-end retail shops.

Stapleton’s idea was to build an ultrasonic device that could be heard only by people under the age of 25 (the alleged trouble-making demographic). If this device could be designed to produce a particularly irritating and grating sound – let’s say by pulsing the frequency – kids would simply find somewhere else to go. Adults would be none the wiser.

Physiology was on Stapleton’s side. The human ear degenerates over time, so that certain high frequencies simply cannot be heard by older people. By the time they reach mid twenties, most people have lost touch with anything over 15 kHz (kilohertz). Think of it like a dog whistle, which can’t be heard by the human ear. You can also think of it as a sonic weapon. Here is a 17kHz sine wave for those who can hear it.

A stereotypical unruly youth, as depicted on the Mosquito homepage. Note the terrible colour coordination.

Stapleton built the device, which he called “The Mosquito”. He designed it in such a way that the sound created a deeply unsettling feeling among the hearing population. The sound isn’t just annoying; it is disturbing. For some young people, deeply so. Imagine something five times worse than Tinnitus.

Retailers loved it; kids didn’t, which was the point of the exercise. Another population that didn’t like it were human rights advocates, child protection experts, lawyers and health workers. Campaigns and legal actions were sparked across the world. Some towns and municipalities have banned it outright. People with conditions such as Autism were particularly affected by the device.

I gave my first interview on The Mosquito to Canada’s National Post newspaper in 2008, in which I branded its use “criminal assault”. Given the weight of opposition to the technology at the time, I quickly moved on to other issues and never gave The Mosquito a second thought – until now.

The other week, I was browsing the pages of The Scotsman newspaper when I happened upon a report that Helensburgh railway station has just installed a couple of Mosquitoes (Helensburgh is a small Scottish town, famous as the birthplace of TV technology pioneer John Logie Baird). In the days since, various writers and advocates have raised exactly the same issues as those debated a decade ago. It seems The Mosquito has thrived off this controversy. Not only that, but its technology has evolved. The 17 kHz frequency can now be fused with music, so everyone except the kids can enjoy Vivaldi.

Exhaustive research shows that the Mosquito most definitely does not harm young people

Of course, innovative coders have also thrived off the controversy. In the true nature of Newton’s Third Law, kids can now download a high-frequency app that allows them to hear notifications of incoming texts and calls without teachers or parents ever knowing. Pure genius.

The device continues to cause controversy and legal action across the world, even in the smallest and most remote townships.

ScotRail, the company operating the Helensburgh devices, responded that they would use the technology only as a last resort (presumably, police are no longer useful in such matters). And after all, authorities have been using water canon and fire hoses for decades to remove undesirable people. Same principle.

Retailers loved it; kids didn’t, which was the point of the exercise. Another population that didn’t like it were human rights advocates, child protection experts, lawyers and health workers.

This problem has traditionally been the domain of private security staff – at least in theory. The historic problem in small towns, of course, is that security staff are often just like the people they are supposed to control. Or they are their uncles (and, in some cases, their substance suppliers).

Sadly, human audio functionality cuts across the spectrum and cannot be filtered to the “unruly” population. Everyone is affected – even nice, middle class, educated young people with ironed clothes. I recently learned this fact while travelling in Europe.

Consider the case of Tomberg, Brussels. Tomberg is about as respectable as you can find in Brussels. It is green and clean, manicured and well planned. From what I can tell, the last controversy there was in 1998, when a small and respectful demonstration occurred over a budget cut to the local heritage society. People with dreadlocks and tattoos apologise if they accidentally get in your way. Street folk don’t menacingly demand a cigarette; they politely ask to buy one – and then they apologise.

Despite this reality, the huge Carrefour Market store in Tomberg decided to install a Mosquito. It goes off indiscriminately, reducing infants to tears and traumatising anyone within hearing range. One problem is that youngsters start to cry inconsolably and their parents have absolutely no idea why. So, they stay there in front of the store – chatting with friends – while their kids go through hell. Carrefour hasn’t bothered to place a warning sign.

Hundreds of louts loitering outside Carrefour Market in Tomberg

 

The mere existence of the device is a mystery. In 2008 the Belgian Parliament passed a resolution instructing the government to ban the Mosquito. It seems the government couldn’t be bothered to do so. Having said that, Belgium was in political crisis at the time and was effectively being run by the monarchy – luckily for Stapleton.

Of course Stapleton responded years ago to such actions by urging EU and US governments to regulate his technology. What a nice, responsible guy! Though for the record, “regulate” means “create a legal footing”, which means “legalise”, and finally “state endorsed”. Just so we’re clear on that point.

Hey, but why stop at retail stores? Here are ten other uses of the technology that may well come to pass:

  1. Website discrimination. Worried about pesky young people and their radical ideas? Concerned they may be reading your Republican stuff? Why not install mosquito as a site audio! With the help of a malicious coder you can also disable their audio functionality so they have to exit and go somewhere else.

  1. Age verification. Why bother with all the hassle of checking ID at bars and liquor outlets, when you can just send an ultrasonic bolt through the brain. One twinge and the proof of illegal purchase is established.

  2. Local Area Mosquito. Why stop at occasional loitering? Entire groups of young people can be assaulted and dispersed. University demonstrations – a thing of the past! Simply point the Mosquito at an unruly crowd of political science students and ratchet the output to 120 dB (decibels).

  3. Workplace toilet control. Older people are responsible toilet users. They know the limits. Kids sit in there and read comics or do drugs. Set the Mosquito for three minutes in all cubicles.

  4. Wide Area Mosquito. Send them a message in the style of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Do what they do in the Netherlands and have government controlled audio towers that emit a test disaster warning signal every first Monday of the month. This will teach them some respect for authority and make them think twice before rebelling.

  5. Home discipline. Jonny not obeying orders? Sally coming home late? Make them sit through dinner with the Mosquito on. They can either conform or starve.

  6. School discipline. Ever since the beginning of recorded history, kids have been sneaking out of class. Install Mosquito at 90 dB in the hallway and increase it to 100 dB as they approach the exit. They won’t get far.

  7. Driver awareness. A simple tech fix. Link the Mosquito to your kid’s speedometer and set it to go off at 60 mph. It might result in a disaster, but we can never pay too high a price for responsible road use.

  8. Lie detection and correction. Did you know that you can buy a semi-professional polygraph for less than $400? Using such a device on your colleagues and family is sort of fun, but there’s no closure. Link the polygraph to a Mosquito and the world of truth opens up to you!

  9. Torture. Why not!. People have been doing it for years with far cruder devices. Security warnings at airports, elevator music, the Shopping Channel…


With special thanks to James Cohen for helping with this article
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expatpaul
4 days ago
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"Of course Stapleton responded years ago to such actions by urging EU and US governments to regulate his technology. What a nice, responsible guy! Though for the record, “regulate” means “create a legal footing”, which means “legalise”, and finally “state endorsed”. Just so we’re clear on that point."

So many times. Not Stapleton but I frequently see articles where the purveyors of quackery or dodgy technology call for regulation for exactly the reasons outlined above.
Belgium
zippy72
2 days ago
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FourSquare, qv
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From a logical point of view …

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I have now read that “google manifesto”. I read it more out of a desire to forestall people saying “but have you ACTUALLY READ IT?” than out of any expectation that it would contain new or unfamiliar information, and indeed it was your fairly standard evo-psych “just asking questions”, genus differences-in-tails-of-distributions. It’s a mulberry bush that was already pretty well circumnavigated when Larry Summers was still President of Harvard. But what really struck me was that I have changed in my old age; I used to be depressed at the generally very poor level of statistical education, now I’m depressed at the extent to which people with an excellent education in statistics still don’t really understand anything about the subject. I’m beginning to think that mathematical training in many cases is actually damaging; simple and robust metrics, usually drawn from the early days of industrial quality control, are what people need to understand. Let’s talk about distributions of programming ability.

My contention is that the true underlying distributions of computer programming ability for men, women, liberals, conservatives and any other demographic slices of the population are a) more or less totally unknown, and b) not worth the time and effort to estimate with any precision at all, because c) they are totally irrelevant to the practical questions which anyone interested in them might actually want to solve. This is true whether we’re interested in “get the best engineers for Google” or whether we’re interested in “get fair representation for minority groups and women in the workplace”.

The true underlying distributions would be useful if Google’s hiring process was to select people at random from the population, put them through a standard test of the single “quality” variable of interest, then take the ones who passed the test and discard the ones who failed. As a description of how recruitment processes don’t work, this is pretty spot on. Google (like any other company – I first started making this argument in the 1990s when McKinsey were publishing their incredibly influential, amazingly wrong and massively destructive “War For Talent” series) fills jobs by advertising for vacancies or encouraging through word of mouth and recruiters, using interview questions and tests which might have unknown biases, and recruiting people for their suitability for the roles currently vacant (which is not the same thing as “quality” because companies change all the time but keep the same employees. Each one of these stages is enough of a departure from the random sampling model to mean that the population distributions are not relevant.

The male/female ratio at Google is not the outcome of a neutral process; it’s a variable under Google’s control. And when you think of the male/female ratio as an input rather than an output, you can start thinking about recruitment as a quality control process and everything becomes much simpler.

Think of recruitment as a production process. It’s aim is to produce an output of employees of adequate quality, and its failure mode is to recruit inadequate employees[1]. Under very general assumptions, we can say that if the recruitment process is “fair” with respect to male versus female employees (or any other groups), the defect rate in the groups will be identical. It’s an argument similar to marginal cost optimisation.

To translate this into practical language, if the Google Manifesto was correct, then you would expect to see that Google was full of mediocre female employees, who had been hired by a process biased in their favour despite being inadequate to the task. Whatever the author of the manifesto thinks, Google does not believe this to be the case and as far as I can tell from industry blogs, it isn’t – female employees in tech are generally very good. This would, of course, be consistent with the hypothesis that the current selection process is biased against them.

I’d note that this argument could also be extended to one of the author’s other concerns about “ideological diversity” (mentioned in the context of Google, but most usually seen in discussions of university professors). If there were a genuine problem with a biased recruitment process, you would expect to see that the small minority of conservative professors were startlingly good and universally recognised as being so intelligent and productive of the best scholarship that they had got through the discriminatory process. One might call it the “Jackie Robinson Effect”.

If, on the other hand, one had a situation where the writers of windy conservative manifestoes about not getting fair treatment were in fact mediocre whiners who inflated their CVs, then that would be evidence that there wasn’t a bias in the recruitment and retention system, and that in fact there was probably an inefficiency caused by the extent to which mediocrities were able to bump along because their face fitted in a homogeneous techbro culture. The concentration on star engineers, senior executives and Sheryl Sandberg C-Suite geniuses is entirely wrong; the progress of gender equality in the workplace ought to be measured by the extent to which women can get into the ranks of time-serving dead-wood middle management roles.

Or, as the famous calypso had it …

[1] No, don’t make that ‘splainy comment about the Pareto distribution of engineers and how the best are ten times more productive. If it is important to recruit stars, then a non-star employee is a defect from the point of view of the star-recruiting process. That’s the great thing about robust methods, they’re robust.

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expatpaul
5 days ago
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