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These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 11, 2011.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Panic as explosion rocks Sapele mosque

There is a lot of speculation in the Nigerian press about what happened and who was responsible. Two things are certain - there was only one injury, and no-one, but no-one is blaming it on Christians (who might have cause for a 'reprisal' but don't usually plot such things)

This is The Vangard

The people of Sapele, the center of the Nigerian timber industry, in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State, were jolted from sleep at about 5.30 a.m., yesterday, by a thunderous explosion, which occurred at the main mosque in the town, leaving a Moslem critically injured and parts of the mosque shattered.

The blast, which heavily shook the ground around the mosque, caused a heavy thick smoke. It devastated the ceiling, roof and interior of the religious house and also generated a lot of tension in the port city with people running helter-skelter.

The injured person in the Sapele explosion, simply identified as Tanko, was rushed to the nearby Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara, but was reportedly denied treatment on the suspicion that he could be a Boko Haram member. He was later rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Benin City, Edo State, where he was placed on intensive treatment.

The state police spokesman, Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, ASP, told Sunday Vanguard that the explosion was not caused by a bomb, but resulted from a fire in the mosque. He said it was an insignificant incident that should not be overblown as it was not a bomb that was thrown in the mosque.

A source, nevertheless, disagreed with the police spokesman, saying, “A bomb was thrown into the mosque between 5.00 and 5.30 a.m., a time the Muslims were inside doing their early morning prayers, and it was by the grace of Allah that only one person was injured. You can imagine what we will be saying now if up 100 persons praying in the mosque were massacred”.

An eyewitness disclosed that there was stampede as soon as the explosion occurred, causing the worshippers to run helter-skelter. His words, “A rocket landed on the mosque from nowhere, destroying every object inside and injuring Tanko, one of the Muslims”.

But some faithful forced the door of the mosque open and, speaking on condition of anonymity, one of them said, “The blast was caused by two members of Boko Haram who want the worshippers to implement the full practice of Boko Haram”. He said the two men, who also worship in the mosque, bombed the mosque because “they were displeased with the new Iman, who introduced Hausa, English and Arabic language as mode of worship, rather than only Arabic language that has been in used in the mosque”.

On his part, the Chief Imam of the mosque, Alhaji Mohammed Yusuf, told Sunday Vanguard that the blast was targeted at worshippers. He, however, denied that it was associated with the Boko Haram sect and did not confirm whether there was any disagreement among the worshippers on the mode and language of worship.

But according to the Sunday Tribune Nigerian state security is working on the theory that the lone casualty was a Boko Haram jihadi.

Sunday Tribune observed that the commissioner of police was briefed on the incident by the Seriki Hausawa Sapele, identified as Alhaji Suleiman Umaru, at the scene of the incident from where he left for Sapele Police Station. A Mercedez Benz jeep carrying a top official of the State Security Service (SSS) in the state was also sighted at the scene.

The official, a woman accompanied by some aides, went in briefly to assess the scene and left shortly after. It was gathered that undercover security agents were working on the theory that the victim might be a member of the Boko Haram sect and that he could be from Niger Republic.

There was apprehension in Sapele community with residents insinuating that members of the dreaded sect had infiltrated the town.

The comments do indicate concern among the public that Boko Haram are extending jihad deep into the Christian south of Nigeria.

Posted on 12/11/2011 3:08 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Bomb blasts hit Nigerian city of Jos

Later on, in the Northern city which is the front line of Northern Muslim expansion - From Aljazeera and Capital News Kenya

At least two blasts have rocked the Nigerian city of Jos, with one death and a number of injuries reported at a bar where fans were watching Barcelona play Real Madrid. One of the explosions was said to have occurred near the outdoor bar where residents were watching the Spanish football match.

"Two bombs have just exploded in Jos," Pam Ayuba, spokesman for the governor of Plateau state, told the AFP news agency. "We are yet to establish the numbers of casualties, but reports I got said some people were injured." Ayuba said the blast occurred in an area where Christian and Muslim groups often clash. “That’s one of the most notorious flashpoints of the city,” he said. While investigations were still underway, Islamists based in northern Nigeria were the prime suspects. “We can’t rule out the activities of Boko Haram,” he said

A Red Cross official told Al Jazeera that his team took at least ten people to hospital, adding that there could be more.

Posted on 12/11/2011 3:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Somalia Al-Shabaab militia is planning to change its name

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militia is planning to change its name to the Somali Islamic Emirates to gain greater Muslim support as it continues its battle with the Kenyan and Somali joint forces, a Kenyan military official said on Saturday.

Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) Operations Commander, Colonel Cyrus Oguna, said the group is set to change its name to appear more appealing to Muslims worldwide and those inside Somalia as it seeks to regain lost support from its former supporters.

"Al-Shabaab wants to change its name in order to win sympathy from Muslim faithful both in Somalia and around the world," Oguna told a weekly press briefing in Nairobi, where he discussed progress on the warfront against the rag-tag force.

The eight-week military operation has completely disrupted the group’s activities and strategies, which could be prompting the move, the military strategist said.

"We are also currently engaged in the pacification of the Somalia through door to door searches to flush out any suspected militants, so we are urging the local community to cooperate with our efforts," Oguna said.

The Kenyan military plans to minimize Al-Shabaab interaction with the local community to reverse the progress achieved by the troops in various regions of their deployment.

The thing is, they will get that support from the rest of the Ummah

Posted on 12/11/2011 3:53 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Maldives - Protesters calling for religious tolerance attacked with stones, threatened with death

From Minivan News

Police are investigating a violent attack on a ‘silent protest’ calling for religious tolerance, held at the Artificial Beach to mark Human Rights Day. Witnesses said a group of men threw rocks at the 15-30 demonstrators, calling out threats and vowing to kill them.

One witness who took photos of the attacked said he was “threatened with death if these pictures were leaked. He said we should never been seen in the streets or we will be sorry.”

Among those injured in the attack was Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed, a controverisal blogger whose website was recently blocked by the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Rasheed suffered a head injury and was rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

“They started hitting us with bricks. They were aiming at our heads – we could tell they were serious and wanted to kill us,” Rasheed told Minivan News from hospital.

The protesters, calling themselves ‘Silent Solidarity’, had earlier issued a press release stating that their intention was to “make the Maldives and the international community aware of the rising religious intolerance in the Maldives, and to condemn the Constitutionally endorsed suppression of religious freedom. We also denounce the increasing use being made of Islam as a tool of political power.”

“Silent Solidarity will be protesting against discrimination of all races, gender, sexual preferences and religious beliefs and supporting freedom of thought and expression. In our silence, we speak volumes,” the group’s statement said.

Posted on 12/11/2011 4:00 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 December 2011
'Al-Qaeda splinter group' claims kidnap of Westerners

AFP: BAMAKO — A group identifying itself as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) said Saturday it was holding three Westerners kidnapped from a refugee camp in Algeria in October.

"This is the Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya in west Africa. We claim the operation carried out on October 23 at Tindouf when two Spaniards and an Italian were kidnapped," said the audio and written message sent to AFP's correspondent in Bamako. The transcript was read by telephone by a man claiming to be a spokesman for the group. He said they had broken away from AQIM but did not say why.

Security sources in the region had recently spoken of the formation of the group, which means "Unity Movement for Jihad in West Africa."

Saturday's claim came the day after the Mauritanian news agency ANI carried pictures of five Westerners whose abduction in Mali last month in two separate incidents was claimed by AQIM. One photo showed French nationals Serge Lazarevic and Philippe Verdon with three armed men behind them, their faces obscured by turbans. The other showed a Dutch national, a Swede and a man with dual British-South African nationality surrounded by four armed men, their faces similarly masked.

"What this emphasises is that elements of this group are from AQIM . . . They have decided to spread the jihad in west Africa and to not confine themselves just to the Maghreb or Sahel, . . . In the cell there are Sahrawi elements who took part in the kidnap of the three Europeans from the camp in Tindouf. There are some Algerians, but also some people from different west African nations," one security source told AFP.

These militant Islamists have spun a tight network across tribes, clans, family and business lines that stretch across the Sahel.

Defence ministers from six north African countries were due to meet on Sunday in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott to discuss the fight against AQIM in the region. Also on the agenda is the return of thousands of heavily armed fighters who served fallen Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Posted on 12/11/2011 4:10 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 December 2011
"When whatever that is fully breaks out, and it will..."

Posted on 12/11/2011 5:12 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Gingrich Stands Firm: Palestinians Are An Invented People

Romney, Paul and Santorum all disagree (or disagree about whether Gingrich should have said it out loud - it's a little hard to tell). From CBS:

Newt Gingrich is standing by comments he made earlier this week when he called the Palestinians an "invented" people.

"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire," the former House speaker told the Jewish Channel this week. "And I think that we've have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab community, and they had the chance to go many places."

Gingrich's comments immediately caused a stir in the Middle East and elsewhere. A Palestinian legislator said Gingrich had "lost touch with reality," while another official described called him "ignorant," according to the Associated Press.

Gingrich was then asked about the comments during Saturday night's Republican presidential debate from Iowa, which was sponsored by ABC News.

"Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes," he answered. "Are we in a situation where every day rockets are fired into Israel while the United States? The current administration tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process... Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East."

Gingrich draws notice over Palestinian remark

Gingrich's rivals criticized him for the remark, but none too harshly. Republicans often tout their commitment to standing up for Israel in front of audiences of conservative voters who tend to have strong feelings toward Israel.

Notably, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas said Gingrich's statement was "just stirring up trouble."

"Technically and historically, yes-- you know, under the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinians didn't have a state, but neither did Israel have a state then too," Paul said.

The modern state of Israel was created in 1948 by the United Nations.

"I happen to agree with... most of the speaker said, except by going out and saying the Palestinians are an invented people. That I think was a mistake on the speaker's part," Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said.

Romney also attacked Gingrich for causing controversy with his statements.

"The last thing [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who's a historian, but someone who is also running for president of the United States stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in... his neighborhood," Romney said. "And if I'm president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability and make sure that I don't say anything like this. Anything I say that can affect a place with -- with rockets going in, with people dying. I don't do anything that would harm that -- that process. And, therefore, before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend, Bibi Netanyahu and say, would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do? Let's work together because we're partners. I'm not a bomb-thrower. Rhetorically or literally."

Gingrich responded by evoking Ronald Reagan and saying he had the "courage to tell the truth."

"I think sometimes it is helpful to have a president of the United States who has the courage to tell the truth, just as it was Ronald Reagan who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire, and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,'" he said. "Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and re framed the world. I am a Reaganite. I'm proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth, even if it's at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid."

Moderator Diane Sawyer asked Former Sen. Rick Santorum who won the point between Romney and Gingrich.

"I think you have to speak the truth. But you have to do so with prudence.. it's a combination," Santorum said. "I sat there and I listened to both. I thought they both... made excellent points. But we're in a real life situation. This isn't an academic exercise... We have an ally here that we have to work closely with. And I think Mitt's point... was the correct one. We need to be working with the Israelis to find out, you know what? Is this a wise thing for us to do? To step forward and to engage this issue? Maybe it is. My guess is at this point in time, it's not. Not that we shouldn't tell the truth, but we should be talking to our allies. It's their fight."

So Santorum and Paul both think the jihad against Israel is completely separate from the world-wide jihad being fought by devout Muslims everywhere. I'd like to hear their evidence for that. It's hard to tell what Romney thinks because he seems to think it's important to lie about it. This argument has been put forward for many years by well-meaning people who don't want Muslims to think we're at war with Islam, but all it has done is sow confusion and create policies which cause the TSA, for example, to strip search elderly women in wheelchairs and Homeland Security to think that our veterans are likely to be terrorists. I agree with Speaker Gingrich wholeheartedly. It's time to tell the truth.

Posted on 12/11/2011 5:27 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Mr. Karzai Deflects

Karzai says foreigners fuel Afghan corruption

KABUL — Foreigners are fuelling the problem of corruption in Afghanistan, a country already ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday.

At a major international conference in Germany on the future of Afghanistan last week, Karzai pledged to step up the fight against corruption in return for sustained international support.

But speaking in the capital on Sunday, Karzai said foreigners were adding to the problem by, for example, awarding contracts to high ranking government officials.

"We have problems with both Afghans and foreigners... Our foreigner colleagues have not only been uncooperative but sometimes they have created obstacles," he told an anti-corruption conference.

"One of the ways to curb corruption is that foreigners should stop giving out contracts to the relatives of the high-ranking government officials. We have to revise and reform the contract system. [said with a straight face?]

"We have lost our mutual trust: foreigners think we go corrupt for political reasons, and we think they are corrupt for the same reason."

In a global survey published this month by Berlin-based anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, Afghanistan was again named one of the world's most corrupt nations, coming 180th out of 183 countries.

Karzai said that the corruption problem was exacerbated by uncertainty over the future of the country.

"We have to work together with our foreigner friends to give people assurance," he said.

Afghanistan pledged at a conference in Bonn last Monday to maintain the fight against corruption as one of its "key priorities".

Experts say corruption is an endemic problem among many officials in Afghanistan and that the government and foreign powers must do more to combat it.

The US government has spent billions on aid to Afghanistan since 2002, much of which goes through contractors.

This is not the first time Afghanistan has blamed foreign influences for adding to the problem of graft.

In February the country partly blamed foreign donors for serious problems at the scandal-hit Kabul Bank.

At that time the suggestion of foreign responsibility was quickly rejected by a US official who said Kabul was attempting to shift the blame for its own failure in the affair.

The war-torn country's biggest commercial bank came close to collapse last year amid claims that former executives had granted themselves huge loans off the books.

The central bank governor fled Afghanistan in June, saying his life was in danger after he exposed some of those he said were responsible for the Kabul bank's woes.

But Karzai's government dismissed his claims, suggesting he was fleeing a possible investigation into his own activities.

"Those Afghans who have foreign passports flee the country, they have sanctuaries in Western countries. Like the Taliban they also have sanctuaries," Karzai said Saturday.

"Our former central bank chief is now in America, he talks from there. We want the United States to hand him over to us."

He said those who have foreign support can "do anything they want", and that contracts awarded by foreigners without informing the government amounted to billions of dollars.

Azizullah Lodin, director general of the high office of oversight and anti-corruption, told the event that his organisation needed more power to fight the problem.

"The high office of oversight in Afghanistan is like a lion who is toothless who can hunt but cannot tear or eat the prey," he said.

Lodin said there were 12 different bodies set up to fight corruption in the country, each with its own policies, but they had not made "any tangible achievements".

"All the parallel administrations should be removed so there will be only a single but strong, committed institution to fight corruption effectively," he said.

Posted on 12/11/2011 6:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Advent Pub sign 11

The Angel Watlington Norfolk.

As angels go this little chap is more of a rococo cupid, but where's the harm in that.

Posted on 12/11/2011 9:21 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Israeli Lecturer Rewrites For Effect

From CAMERA:

Tel Aviv Law Lecturer Rewrites Report on Police Incompetence

eyal-gross haaretz.jpg
Eyal Gross rewrites Ha'aretz probe to suit him

Writing in Ha'aretz today, Eyal Gross, who is apparently the same Eyal Gross who is a lecturer on international and constitutional law at Tel Aviv University, seriously distorts a Ha'aretz article published last week about police incompetence in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). While the Dec. 9 report found that the police were equally incompetent whether investigating compliants lodged by Israeli settlers or Palestinians, Gross falsely writes today that only Palestinians suffer from police incompetence:

A Haaretz probe revealed the shortcomings of police conduct in the Judea and Samaria District, exposing the fact that there are no serious investigations taking place when violence is directed against Palestinians.

But here is what the Ha'aretz probe by Chaim Levinson actually said:

The police's Shai District, which is responsible for the West Bank, consistently fails to conduct even the most basic investigatory actions, such as taking fingerprints, checking alibis, questioning witnesses and conducting identification line-ups. As a result, case after case - against settlers and Palestinians alike - is either closed without going to trial or thrown out of court, Haaretz has found. . .

Still, there's one thing to be said in [the police district's] favor: It doesn't discriminate. Complaints from settlers and Palestinians alike are all handled with equal incompetence.



As Gross ably demonstrates, it's not just the police who are plagued by incompetence.

___________________

One more point, not made in the article above: why do Israelis call other Israelis "settlers"? The term is loaded, and inaccurate.

Posted on 12/11/2011 10:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Elliot Abrams Thinks The American Government Should Help Sunni Arabs Overthrow The Alawites
A certain consistency in his folly:

The Syrian Civil War

The revolt against the Assad regime is becoming a civil war.  The London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Alawsat reports this:

Defections from the Syrian army and other security forces is on the rise, leading to an increase in the frequency of armed clashes between Syrian security forces and defectors in a number of Syrian provinces, particularly the Idlib Governorate, which borders Turkey. Observers monitoring the course of events in Syria have been surprised by the recent defection of a large number of elements from the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate. This represents a sudden and surprising shift in the mindset of this security apparatus, which was previously considered one of the most loyal to the Syrian regime.

A Jerusalem Post story says this:

Hundreds of army defectors in southern Syria fought loyalist forces backed by tanks on Sunday in one of the biggest armed confrontations in a nine-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.

These revolts within the military will grow. For one thing, three-quarters of the Syrian population is Sunni and Syria has a conscript army broadly representative of the population. It is logical to expect more Sunnis in the security forces to turn against the Assad clique. For another, more and more people in the security forces are likely to conclude that Assad is playing a losing hand, and will seek to get out of the line of fire or jump to the side that may win.

This is a growing disaster for Syria, for it means more violence, more sectarian divisions, and more economic damage. Putting the pieces back together after Assad is gone becomes that much more difficult. That’s why the sooner he goes, the better—and every effort should be made to bring that day closer.

Does that include backing the opposition forces, such as the “Free Syrian Army?” The relationship between the military opposition and the Syrian National Council (the civilian, political opposition leadership) is apparently a difficult one, and that is no surprise: we have seen the same thing in Libya. As the fighting goes on those problems will only grow: in the end, forces that feel they won the war against Assad will want a share in power even if they are not entitled to it through democratic procedures. But it is nevertheless the case that we should be broadly supportive of the struggle against Assad, including the military struggle, for after all it was he not the opposition who chose to militarize the confrontation. It was he, not they, who started shooting.

How we do that should be a prudential judgment. Perhaps the Turks are already doing what is needed by giving the Free Syrian Army a safe haven; perhaps the Saudis, or Qataris, or other Arabs are helping them (as the Qataris helped the opposition in Libya with training, guns, and money). Perhaps they are not and we ought to be encouraging them to do so, as well as encouraging friends in Europe (the French, in particular) to get into this.  Or we could get in directly, through covert support. There is certainly no moral argument against doing so, for we want this struggle over and Assad out as soon as possible, and want influence with those who will inherit power in Syria.  Moreover, given the vast efforts made by the Assad regime to help jihadis kill Americans in Iraq, we should have no hesitation to help bring him down. How best to do so is, again, a prudential judgment requiring more information than I have.

But the civil war in Syria is growing. It is useless for American officials to decry it and urge the Syrian opposition to eschew the use of force. Let’s adopt a new policy goal: winning, as fast as possible. [would this "winning" be akin to the two-trillion dollar eight-year "winning" in Iraq? Or would it be different?]

Posted on 12/11/2011 10:11 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Of Course, It’s About “Fairness�

If I hear President Obama or his supporters tell me one more time that raising taxes on the “rich” is only a matter of “fairness,” it is quite possible that my head will explode. As it turns out, you see, I could very well be what they call rich; not that any real people who know me would agree. Moreover, even if I do fall into that category, it is not at all clear that having some bureaucrat take from me and give to someone they, in their convoluted logic, deem more worthy has anything to do with fairness. You see, I’m like most people they call rich in that I didn’t start out that way. In fact, I had a lot of tough years; years of hard work; years of personal and family sacrifice. I’m not complaining, mind you, but I don’t need some bureaucrat or ideologue telling me to give my own and my family’s hard-earned cash to other people simply because they refuse to do the same. That’s not only unfair, it’s also not right.

Perhaps as a technique to save my sanity, perhaps as a genuine part of debate, I find myself responding to advocates of “fairness” by asking them two questions. The first is:  What do you mean by rich? How much money makes someone rich, and does that change with factors like location, moral and other obligations, family size, and so forth. And who will make those determinations and adjudicate appeals? For Pete’s sake, I usually cry out in frustration with their non-answers, just tell me who’s rich. The other question is: What’s someone’s fair share? Being a homeowner in Cook County, Illinois, I spend a lot more time working for the government than I do for my family. How much more would I have to pay in order to be doing what’s “fair”? And when frustration overtakes me again, I plead, “In the name of all that is good and right, just tell me how you define my fair share.”

Well, since I never get any answers to these questions, I came up with my own “fair tax.” First, everyone would have to file a statement of their income by a certain date. The almighty government would then calculate what percentage of the GDP that income represents and notify each citizen (oh-oh, am I forgetting anyone?) that their tax liability is a percent of some large pool. I think it should be the federal budget—assuming, of course, that we eventually have a president willing to pass one—and the notification would include the dollar amount each person must remit by a certain date. It’s simple, and I really like several things about it. First, everyone pays something no matter how little they make. We all have skin in the game. Second, it insures a balanced budget—no messy Capitol Hill battles driven by political considerations rather than what’s best for the American people. Third, it means that every time Congressmen or Senators vote for increased spending, they’re taking money out of their own pockets—and their relatives’.  Imagine the phone calls from family: “Hey, it’s your brother. Don’t vote for that bill, you’d be costing me $500 that I need to pay your niece’s college tuition.”

Of course, there’s downside. If I know that making more will increase my percentage of the federal budget, there could be times when I opt to forego the additional work, additional spending, additional hiring—the additional innovation—and stay pat. It also makes me dependent on a government with discipline in its spending habits, a thought that should give everyone of us sleepless nights. And it confirms the principle of our lives being in the hands of a cabal of self-interested men and women, most of who could not last five minutes in our employ.

But at least it’s some definition, since the purveyors of “fairness” refuse to supply any.

Posted on 12/11/2011 1:17 PM by Richard L. Benkin
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Spring has sprung?
Posted on 12/11/2011 2:40 PM by Mary Jackson

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