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WES CRAVEN: the scream of our times


Lance Duerfahrd, Purdue University

Wes Craven in 2010. Photo by Bob Bekian  Creative Commons

Wes Craven, director, actor, producer, writer, and  bird-watching member of the Audubon Society .2010 photo by Bob Bekian Creative Commons

Only an obituary as messy as an autopsy could honor the passing of Wes Craven, the slasher-film maven who  died on August 30 at age 76. Blood flows generously in Craven’s films, which tread a delicate line between visceral impact and franchise-worthy digestibility.

He will be remembered as the director who created not only iconic horror films, but also horror icons (A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Scream’s Ghostface Killer) – faces as readily identifiable to us as those of Buster Keaton and Abraham Lincoln. Ultimately, Craven forged the figures seen on the pennies and dimes of contemporary horror currency.

He did so by creating deceptively simple scenarios that tapped into universal fears. Craven became the master of the sequel because he realized that a monster isn’t something that merely appears once. It is something that must reappear.

Is it any coincidence that Craven’s figures have become denizens of the real world in its moments of turmoil? Every Halloween provides a further sequel for Freddy Krueger, and the mask of Ghostface Killer has emerged alongside the Guy Fawkes mask featured in V for Vendetta as the literal face of social protest.

The director’s early films, like Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, display a low-budget ingenuity. Featuring mostly unknown actors, the protagonists often inch painfully toward death in natural settings.

For example, in The Hills Have Eyes – a minimalist exploitational gem – a suburban family’s car and trailer break down in the Nevada desert not far from the US government’s nuclear testing grounds. They’re subsequently tormented by a group of mutant savages.

Craven offsets the endlessness of the desert with the cramped space of the marooned camper, into which sex and violence will be compressed.

In The Hills Have Eyes, Craven’s aesthetic can be tied to a number of contemporaries and successors.

Sporting necklaces made of teeth and small bursts of animal fur around their lapels, the hill-dwelling savages prefigure the simultaneously prehistoric and post-apocalyptic look of George Miller’s Road Warrior and Fury Road. Craven gives us a bike gang worthy of a nuclear test site: too savage even to own motorcycles, they retain only the hierarchy and mannerisms of a gang. (Meanwhile, the mutants speak of cannibalism in disturbingly colloquial ways, yelling over their shoulders to their wives as they exit the cave, “Keep yer eye on the young tenderloin baby!”)

The film also contains all the suburban antagonism and frenetic torture of the isolated group seen in director John Boorman’s Deliverance, freed of the river’s softening lyricism.

Finally, Craven gets immense mileage out of the disturbing geological quality of actor Michael Berryman’s skull, whose rock-formation head is the horror film’s retort to the thoughtful pate of sitcom star Peter Boyle.

Craven’s more renowned films derive their power from the low-budget aesthetic of his early work.

Nightmare on Elm Street emerges from an unnervingly simple premise: the possibility that we are dreaming the same nightmare. It taps into the terror not only of dreaming but of falling asleep.

Whereas the characters in Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers feared sleep because of what they would be upon waking (living replicas of themselves), the inhabitants of Elm Street fear something more immediate: what happens to them in their dreams, and the possibility of never waking up.

Craven’s film is suffused with cheap-looking – but effective – scenarios of helplessness: a set of stairs in which the running victim’s feet sink, or the way Freddy’s face slowly presses through the wall (clearly replaced with spandex) above the heroine’s bed.

Unlike big budget horror flicks infused with special effects like World War Z or I am Legend, Craven brazenly offers terror more homemade-looking than slick, a world in which the sound of iron claws against metal pipe does the trick. His genius was to realize that a horrible danger can seem real even if the bearer of the threat might be unconvincing. 

But Craven’s real legacy extends beyond cinema. Every Halloween witnesses an endless series of 4’9″ Freddy Kruegers stand holding an outstretched bucket of candy.

Scream’s Ghostface Killer has likewise seeped off the screen into cultural spaces as diverse as rap music (Ghostface Killah) and social protest. Is the ubiquity of the ghostface mask at the Occupy protests merely a part of the protesters’ desire for anonymity, or was this a mask that somehow embodied a fitting look of frozen horror?

A recent photo of Belgian demonstrators depicts a protester in a ghostface mask picking up a paving stone as tear gas grenades explode all around him. This photo brings out the sadistic pleasure, but also the look of concern (even worry) in the features of that iconic mask. It’s not clear whether the figure is screaming or laughing – and perhaps the real world crisis offers a context for both to appear at once.

In Ghostface Killer, Craven bestowed upon us a deeply contradictory face – a contorted and slightly terrifying expression that seems to be witnessing horror, and whose jaw is melting in the process.

Perhaps Scream has bequeathed a reaction shot to the world’s persistent inequalities. And for the now-deceased director who conceived this mask, the eyes in the hills are surely weeping.

Creative Commons

The Conversation

Lance Duerfahrd is Director of Film & Video Studies at Purdue UniversityThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.



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Rajendra Pachauri: Defended climate science, resigned amid sex scandal

Indian scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned from the world’s foremost body on climate science, oversaw an international effort to highlight the strength of scientists’ conclusions.

By Marianne Lavelle, The Daily Climate
February 24, 2015 

Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned Tuesday from chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change amid charges of sexual harassment, presided over the international effort to forge consensus on climate change during eight years in which the science grew stronger, but so did the attacks.

Rajendra Pachauri: Photo © European Union 2014 - European Parliament. Creative Commons

Rajendra Pachauri, who accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the IPCC in 2007, resigned prematurely in February, 2015, amid allegations of sexual harassment, saying he was unable to provide the leadership the IPCC needs in “the current circumstances.” Photo © European Union 2014 – European Parliament. Creative Commons

At the high point of the Indian engineer and economist’s tenure, in 2007, he accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the monumental effort to bring together the work of more than 2,000 scientists in readable volumes accepted by governments. The low point, before the allegations that face Pachauri now, came in 2010 when the panel was forced to admit it had included in its assessment an unfounded claim that the Himalayas could melt by 2035. 

But perhaps the most difficult issues that the IPCC has faced on Pachauri’s watch have been born of its very mission of delivering “policy-relevant” science, while staying out of politics.

Last year, because of objections by a group of developing nation governments, the IPCC deleted information from a key summary for policymakers that would have made clear the nations’ growing contribution to the global greenhouse gas burden. Although the data still was included in the IPCC’s bulky full report, scientists objecting to the change came forward both in an open letter and in journal articles to question whether the IPCC process needed reform.

Pachauri’s chairmanship began to unravel last week after a 29-year-old female employee at his research institute in Delhi filed allegations of sexual harassment. Pachauri has denied the charges through a spokesman, but said in his resignation letter that “under the current circumstances” he could not provide the strong leadership that the IPCC needs.

Pachauri, who was in his second five-year term as chairman, had earlier announced his plans to step down this coming fall, before the IPCC began its next assessment.

Over the eight years of his tenure, “Patchy,” as he is almost universally known, was a strong voice for action on climate change, even though the United Nations panel’s charge is not to be “policy-prescriptive.” He consistently urged nations to forge a treaty to mitigate fossil fuel emissions.

“If we allow things to continue unchanged and we don’t take action today, it would destabilize human society,” he warned in a 2008 interview with CNN.

David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, and an IPCC lead author, said that Pachauri should be credited for his steadiness. The assessment released last year, despite the deletions, benefited from his leadership in forging compromises to maintain some of the difficult language on the obligations of different countries, Victor said.

“He’s been particularly effective at finding ways to defend the scientific part of the organization against governments that want to strip away content from our reports. He can’t defend all of it. It’s structurally set up for governments to meddle huge amounts. And one of the things Pachauri has done very well is navigate his way around that.”

Victor, interviewed shortly before Pachauri’s resignation, added that part of Patchy’s legacy at the IPCC will be his effort to bring his own science of economics into the assessments.

“He’s an economist by training, and while the social sciences are barely represented [in the IPCC reports], economics is now the most heavily represented,” he said. “The attention to economic policy in the design of the assessments has been radically for the good.”

Pachauri became a target for attacks by those who deny climate science and those who oppose an international treaty. They called for his resignation after the Himalayas incident. 

As one of his last official acts as chairman, Pachauri urged that the IPCC venture more boldly into the political realm.

The tone of the battle he has fought through most of his tenure makes it difficult to remember the controversy around Pachauri’s appointment in 2002, with the endorsement of President George W. Bush’s administration. The Natural Resources Defense Council acquired documents under the Freedom of Information Act at the time showing that Exxon Mobil had sent the White House a memo endorsing Pachauri’s selection. (Exxon later said it did not write the memo, but just passed it along.)

In an April 21, 2002 op-ed in The New York Times, former Vice President Al Gore, who would later share the Nobel stage with Pachauri for his advocacy on climate change, raised questions about his appointment.

Pachauri, Gore wrote, “is known for his virulent anti-American statements.” In a speech at Vanderbilt University that month, Gore raised concern over Pachauri’s one-time endorsement of a worldwide boycott of American goods and Pachauri’s opposition to developing countries sharing in the reduction of greenhouse gases.

A number of IPCC scientists reached in recent days said Pachauri’s personal legal woes should not mar the work of the IPCC.

“For me, the IPCC is never about one person,” said Chris Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, and another IPCC lead author. “It’s about harnessing the wisdom and dedication of the entire scientific community. 

As one of his last official acts as chairman, Pachauri made some of his own thoughts known, in a “Chairman’s Vision Paper on the Future of the IPCC.” In the document, prepared for the IPCC session that opened in Nairobi today without him, Pachauri urged that the IPCC venture even more boldly into the political realm. 

In addition to the massive summaries of the science delivered every five to seven years, he urged that the IPCC begin to produce annually “a brief and accurate report.” These reports, he suggested, should indicate how well nations’ official plans for addressing climate change measure up in the effort to keep global warming below the goal of 2 degrees Celsius. The IPCC, Pachauri urged, should keep in mind that its audience is not just governments, but the media, civil society, business, and other stakeholders.

“It is important that this is taken into consideration when deciding on the future products of the IPCC, so that the IPCC moves forward with the times and responds to changing expectations,” he wrote.

Climate scientists hold starkly differing views on the wisdom of such a course of action. Victor said he couldn’t imagine that such a process would be workable, given the IPCC’s current structure. There would be “large error bars,” indicating a huge range of possibilities. Victor, an IPCC lead author who authored one of the Science articles about the flaws in the current process, said he has come to feel there are realms of important science that are too politically charged for the IPCC to take on, because of the need for government sign-off.

Carnegie’s Field cautioned against adding tasks to the panel’s mission. “The unique value that the IPCC adds is not about the individual brilliance of the authors; it is the systematic monitoring, review, and consensus of the scientists with approval by countries,” he said. “We want to preserve it and be careful about adding anything else that would erode its core value.”

Pachauri’s final writings as IPCC chairman were filled his typical rhetorical flourishes about matters both large and small. “For me the protection of planet Earth, the survival of all species, and the sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission,” he said in his resignation letter. “It is my religion and my dharma. 

And in his vision statement for the future of the IPCC, he urged that panel members guard to reduce their carbon footprints, by curbing the printing out of papers and travel for meetings. Quoting German writer and statesman, Goethe, Pachauri wrote, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”

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This article is republished from the Daily Climate, published by Environmental Health Sciences. Read the original article here.


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JULIO MONTANER: doctor led harm reduction in global HIV/AIDS fight

December 1, 2014 

Julio Montaner. Official photo, B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIIDS

Julio Montaner. Official photo, B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIIDS

Though still not widely known outside his home Canadian province of British Columbia, Julio Montaner has arguably done more than any medical doctor in the world to save lives in the ongoing struggle to combat the ravages of AIDS.

From his small, cluttered office in Vancouver’s elderly St. Paul’s Hospital, it was Dr. Montaner who first championed the powerful anti-retroviral drug cocktail therapy that has turned HIV/AIDS into a manageable, chronic disease.

And it was Dr. Montaner who then went on to develop the groundbreaking Treatment as Prevention strategy, as he realized that these anti-retroviral drugs reduced the viral load of HIV patients to such minimal levels the danger of passing the virus on to others was eliminated. Hence, if enough patients were treated, transmission could be stopped in its tracks.

In B.C., aggressive employment of Treatment as Prevention, seeking out those on the margins of society, has slashed the number of new infections by more than 70 per cent. This in a province whose drug-riddled, impoverished Downtown Eastside area in Vancouver once had the highest HIV infection rate in the developed world.

Dr. Montaner’s once controversial strategy has now been adopted by the World Health Organization and is being pursued in a growing number of countries, including China and Brazil. Thanks to these advances, the dream of a world without AIDS is no longer just fantasy. This year, UNAIDS set 2030 as a target date for the end of a disease that has killed untold millions around the globe.

“Of course, there is no end to AIDS,” Dr. Montaner explained in an interview. “We are talking about the end of the pandemic as we knew it, and recognizing that people with HIV will not necessarily progress to AIDS, leading normal lives into their 70’s.”

Yet, on World AIDS Day, despite achievements that have won him multiple honours and these tantalizing glimpses of an AIDS-free world, the Argentinian-born Dr. Montanter, at 58, remains restless. There is still so much to be done.

His active mind is beginning to branch towards other infectious diseases. If Treatment as Prevention works to ease the spread of AIDS, why not apply it, say, to Hepatitis B and C, and then, even further to lessen such socially contagious afflictions as smoking, obesity and addiction, itself?

Employ the same principle of aggressively treating those afflicted and engaging with struggling individuals at risk, he proposes.

That message is occupying increasing amounts of Dr. Montaner’s seemingly boundless time and energy. Spend money now for better health later on and, in the long run, costs to the beleaguered health care system are substantially reduced.

“I would never have dreamed that we would have been able to rise this wave of success after success, innovation after innovation, and be able to use our [AIDS/HIV] program to influence the world the way we have,” Dr. Montaner said. “We have demonstrated there is a different way of doing business, to take a pro-active approach, and it is a money-saving strategy.”

In May, Vancouver's St. Paul's hospital closed its dedicated ward for AIDS -- due to lack of patients.  Stigma and despair overshadowed the limited medical interventions that could be provided. Opened in 1997, the ward saw an average of one AIDS-related death every day during its darkest days.   But today, in a historic symbolic move, St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver announced that Ward 10C has outlived its role as the place where life ended. Julio Montaner at a news conference announcing the success of treatment. Photo from B.C. government

Julio Montaner, above, at a news conference in May 2014. Vancouver’s St. Paul’s hospital announced closure of ward 10C, opened in 1997 and dedicated to AIDS patients, because of the success of treatments. B.C. government photo.

At the same time, however, Dr. Montaner has hardly forgotten the cause that has consumed him for the past 25 years. Even as he involves himself in and welcomes the ambitious new UNAIDS program, he continues to be angry and frustrated by the failure of the rest of his own country, Canada, to buy into Treatment as Prevention.

While the strategy produces dramatic results in B.C., where it is strongly supported by the provincial government, infection rates are on the rise in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the federal government sits on the sidelines.

“When you think about it, this life-saving treatment, the role model we have created in British Columbia for dealing with HIV/AIDS is probably one of the biggest public health successes in the history of Canada,” he said. “Yet people are still sitting around and looking the other way. I can’t shake the feeling. That’s wrong. That’s deeply, deeply wrong.”

I have interviewed Dr. Montaner many times. Each conversation is always the same. I sit back and let his passion roll on over what he and his colleagues are doing in their long, long battle against HIV/AIDS roll on. I barely have to say a word. He is driven by the fight.

Only when I suggest that he must be incredibly satisfied by having such an impact on the lives of so many people does the perpetually loquacious doctor become tongue-tied. “I honestly…I’m humbled, honoured….” He stopped, searching for the right words. “I try to adopt a graceful attitude to this incredible opportunity to be able to help people come up with something….

“My goal back in Argentina was to develop better public health. I managed to do that from here, and I can only be grateful for that. I feel myself incredibly blessed that I had this opportunity.”And the world has been blessed, too.

 Copyright Rod Mickleburgh 2014

References and further reading:

United Nations — UNAIDS, press release for World Aids Day 2014
British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
, directed by Julio Montaner 
Wikipedia page for Julio Montaner 
Julio Montaner 2010 award by the Albert Einstein World Award of Science, by the World Cultural Council 


UNAIDS statistics on HIV/AIDS:

  • In 2013, there were 35 million [33.2 million–37.2 million] people living with HIV. Since the start of the epidemic, around 78 million [71 million–87 million] people have become infected with HIV and 39 million [35 million–43 million] people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.
  • Worldwide, 2.1 million [1.9 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2013.
  • Worldwide, 240 000 [210 000–280 000] children became newly infected with HIV in 2013.
  • In 2013, 1.5 million [1.4 million–1.7 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide.
  • In 2013, around 12.9 million people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy.
  • This represents 37% [35–39%] of all people living with HIV, yet only 24% [22–26%] of all children living with HIV are receiving the life-saving medicines.
  • Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, with an estimated 320 000 [300 000–340 000] deaths in 2012.
  • HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age.
  • In 2013, 54% of pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries did not receive an HIV test.
  • In 2013, almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15–24 occurred among adolescent girls and young women.
  • AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10–19 years in Africa.
  • Globally, gay men and other men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population.
  • HIV prevalence among sex workers is 12 times greater than among the general population.
  • Transgender women are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV than all adults of reproductive age.
  • HIV prevalence is estimated to be up to 28 times higher among people who inject drugs than the general population.


Doctors Julio Montaner and Thomas Kerr .Photo by Brent Granby Creative Commons

Doctors Julio Montaner and Thomas Kerr at a 2011 Vancouver news conference, after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against federal government efforts to close the city’s Insite injection site.  Montaner and his colleagues led the harm reduction strategy in Canada’s westernmost province. Photo by Brent Granby Creative Commons



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Gough Whitlam: an abiding interest in the public good

Australian politician and statesman Edward Gough Whitlam died October 21, 2014, age 98. Whitlam led his Labor Party to government in 1972 and, in one of Australia’s most enduring controversies, was dismissed by the Australia’s Governor-General in 1975 during a constitutional crisis. His party lost the next election. While prime minister Whitlam ended military conscription, and introduced universal health care, free university education, and legal aid programs. He continued public service into his 90s, including a term as an Australian ambassador to UNESCO. 

By John KeaneUniversity of Sydney
November, 2014

Gough Whitlam, 1955. Australian Parliamentary Library photo

Gough Whitlam, 1955. Australian Parliamentary Library photo

Edward Gough Whitlam has passed on, leaving behind millions of citizens saddened by scores of eloquent obituaries reminding us how, once upon a time, Australian politics produced world-class leaders courageously committed to the public good.

I must confess I shed tears upon hearing news of his death. When great democratic leaders go, they often have that effect. It is not just their lasting policy achievements that make citizens weep. People are moved to tears because they sense that genuine democratic leaders have the knack of mobilising persuasive power, let’s call it, the ability to motivate citizens to do things for themselves, to win public respect by reminding everybody leaders are always deeply dependent upon the people known as the led. True leaders lead because they manage to get people to look up to them, rather than dragging them by the nose.

Gough Whitlam was certainly up there in the ranks of genuine democratic leaders. He had dollops of what Steve Denning calls narrative intelligence. Gough Whitlam was blessed with the learned art of persuading and inspiring citizens by combining opposites. Enthusiastic hope, inner calm and level-headed realism. Courteousness with the resolute refusal to be biddable. The ability to listen to others, to poke fun at oneself and, when confronted by enemies, to exude a certain radiance of gracious style. By combining these opposites, great democratic leaders create room for citizens to see and judge them in various ways. That’s why, when the end comes, citizens mourn them in many different ways, as I did by lighting a candle in his honour, in memory of his policy achievements, and my one and only meeting with him.

It was the day before his 90th birthday, in mid-July 2006, in the grand marbled lobby of the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney. There he was, momentarily unattended, sitting in his wheelchair, dressed in a dapper suit, sporting a pocket handkerchief, looking a bit bored. So I seized the seconds, and sauntered to his side. ‘Hello, Mr Whitlam’, I began, offering my hand, ‘You don’t know me. John Keane is my name. May I call you Gough?’

‘What do you do?’, he asked, ignoring my question.

Gough Whitlam in 1968. Photo from Gosford Library collection via Wikipedia

Gough Whitlam in 1968. Photo: Gosford Library collection via Wikipedia

‘I’m a professor of politics in London. I write about democracy. I was born in Adelaide a hundred years ago, but I’m now briefly visiting, as a guest of the University of Sydney’.

‘I hear they’re all up their own arses there’, snapped one of its most distinguished Arts degree graduates, winner of a rowing blue and editor of Hermes, the students’ magazine.

My instincts counselled against taking the bait. I instead shifted subjects, to the moment when the country was set on fire by public opposition to the Vietnam War.

‘I owe you my personal thanks for what you did back in the earliest days of your new government’, I said. ‘I was conscripted and joined the anti-Vietnam War protests. It transformed me into a political animal. But I feared prison, and my refusal of military conscription proved stressful. It caused family rows, but it was your 1972 election promise to abolish conscription and to bring the troops home that persuaded my mother, and even my blue-rinsed aunts in Adelaide, to vote Labor for the first and only time in their lives. For many years afterwards, one of them used to remind me how she felt sick to the gills that day she dropped her ballot paper into the box, with a vote for you.’

‘I’d have felt the same’, he chuckled. ‘But it had to be done.’

With a crowd now milling, I hastened to ask him about his coming birthday, and how he was managing his mounting years. ‘What’s it like to be on your way to a ton?’

The dumb-arsed question earned his quick shrug of shoulders, then a surprise confession. ‘Put it this way’, he said, looking down, without mentioning he was still coming to his office three or four days a week. ‘I don’t put appointments in my diary when they’re more than a couple of weeks ahead.’

‘Gough, may I ask you a personal question?’, I then asked, hoping I’d just enough time to get away with a small indiscretion.

‘Why not?’, he replied. ‘Everybody else does.’

‘I know you’re not a believer in any straightforward sense. You’ve described yourself as a fellow traveller of Christianity, as a post-Christian, and you’ve talked about an afterlife. So I wanted to ask whether you think about some kind of Maker and how you’ll say hello if and when the time comes. What would you say?’

‘Not exactly sure’, said Gough, playing along with the joke, his eyes twinkling. ‘But you can be certain of one thing. I’m determined to treat whoever it is as my equal.’

And with that short, self-mocking sermon on the need for greater equality and more humility, a core democratic virtue he prompted me to think and write about in detail, Gough Whitlam was whisked away, into an excited crowd of well-wishers, parliamentary admirers, journalists, old enemies, photographers, family and friends. I didn’t ever again have the privilege of meeting him, but I never forgot that face-to-face, fleeting moment with the man who no doubt is now busily questioning his creator. I probably never will.

Gough Whitlam meeting Chairman Mao, Beijing, November 1973 Whitlam Institute

Gough Whitlam meeting Chairman Mao, Beijing, November 1973 Whitlam Institute

The Conversation

Creative Commons

John Keane, Professor of Politics at University of Sydney, does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Further reading:

Gough Whitlam page on Wikipedia


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