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Conversations with Ghosts: Former USM notable chronicled in new book

It's said that before Alex Tanous was even born, his psychic powers were foretold.

"You will have a son," Kahlil Gibran counseled Alex's father, "a man of exceptional gifts, of great abilities — but also a man of great sorrows," according to the Alex Tanous Foundation for Scientific Research website.10-31-14-TG-ghosts-1

Now the spirit of Dr. Tanous, who was born in Van Buren, taught at the University of Southern Maine, and died in 1990, is returning with the publication of "Conversations with Ghosts," featuring part of Tanous's previously unpublished writings, edited by Callum E. Cooper, of Nottingshire, England.

"He taught classes on dreams, the power of creative living (early self-help classes), intro to parapsychology, the dynamics of success," says Alice Kelley (nee Tanous), his niece, who runs the foundation.10-31-14-TG-ghosts-2

"The dreams one was really popular; he ended up writing a book on that, and was almost done when he died. The first thing the foundation did was put that book out," she said. "It was very popular. People love dreams."

Tanous became known around the world for his research, writing and on-the-spot psychic experiments and encounters. He was the first psychic investigator on the scene at Amityville, and immediately debunked any notion of psychic activity there — a judgment unheeded (and altered) by the book and moviemakers.

"In the first decade after his death, the foundation was just getting organized," Kelley said. "Now we want to get everything scanned. We have thousands of cassette tapes and found a place where it's finally affordable to convert."

Cooper received $2,000 to work on the book, the money helping him to go on book tour, including a stop at the Alex Tanous Library at the Rhine Center in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., one of last research centers in the United States that does on-site psychic research.

Kelley visited the Rhine Center to check out how the field has changed since the 1970s, its heyday. Back then, the American Society for Psychical Research was astir in New York, and all the top researchers were there. Now, the courses are offered online at Rhine.

"The experiments they were showing us — they're using a lot of the same type of equipment when Alex was there, with soundproof rooms and remote viewing," said Kelley, who had a Maine location for the foundation from 1990 to 2002, on Main Street in South Portland. She now works out of her home.

"Conversations with Ghosts" is the first of many hoped-for books to come out with Tanous research and writings.

"He has so much unpublished work. He died untimely," she said. "I don't know where we found Cal, how he came to us, but it's good. Cal was only two years old when Alex died. At the college where Cal works, they have a whole department."

Cooper agreed that the psychic field is enjoying a resurgence in the UK, with more than two dozen universities that cater to the parapsychological whereas there are only two in the United States, the University of West Georgia and Atlantic University in Virginia Beach. Cooper, who grew up in Nottingshire, said reading about Tanous inspired him to enter into the paranormal field.

"I had never considered it a career," he said. "I was at the local library, reading about aliens and UFOs in the ghost section with some friends. I was fascinated, though more with the human aspect of it. At college, I picked a wide variety of subjects to add more strings to my bow."

The collegiate experience at the University of Northampton led him to realize one could study parapsychological within psychology. In a Skype interview, Cooper spoke of the Maine Triangle, a three-sided geographical area, symmetrical to the Bermuda Triangle and off the coast of Maine, about which Tanous had started to theorize.

"In putting the book together, I noticed there were scraps of information that never got published about the Maine triangle. He became interested in the idea when he studied the Bermuda Triangle, but the writings never got published. Alex was looking at all kinds of things: ESP, healing, haunt locations, OBEs (out-of-body experiences) and some geographic anomalies (like triangular formations where paranormal activities would take place), and also psychic crime detection."

When asked if he thought the book would appeal to readers all the year round, and not just on Hallowe'en, Cooper said, "I think it will. It's not about being cynical; it's about being skeptical."

The Alex Tanous Foundation is hoping to revive interest in Tanous's psychic research in his home state, offering scholarships and grants to researchers like Cooper looking to hold conversations with ghosts.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:24

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Voter Education Brigade issues voters' guide; candidate criticizes process

Looking for feedback about candidates? The Voter Education Brigade has issued a voters' guide for the Tuesday, Nov. 4 election.
If their name doesn't ring a bell, it's because the "brigade" is a new incarnation of what in the past was the League of Young Voters.10-31-14-Adams-Herb-color
"The Voter Education Brigade (VEB) was started by the same people who brought you the Voter Guide for the past 10 years, under the umbrella of the League of Young Voters," an online summary explains.

"Because the League is on hiatus, and we know how much the Portland community values the guide, we founded a new group that will continue the legacy of the Voter Guide into the future," the group explains at its Indigogo.com fundraising site (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-make-the-2014-voter-guide). The fundraising campaign was launched in early August. The site indicates that $1,350 was raised during the campaign to publish the voters' guide.

Members reorganized themselves to be locally based and without affiliation with the national League of Young Voters, but membership largely stayed the same, according to one of the members, Maine Rep. Ben Chipman, I-Portland. Chipman is also a candidate mentioned and endorsed in the voters' guide; he was elected in 2010 and 2012 as an Independent for State Representative in Portland (Parkside, Bayside, and East Bayside), now District 40, and is seeking re-election this fall.

Chipman is in a race for re-election with Herb Adams, a well-known and respected historian and educator who previously held the seat.

The Voter Education Brigade endorsed Chipman, arguing that while Adams had a worthy record of accomplishments from his time in the Maine Legislature, Chipman has been doing a "bang-up job" and asking why "change horses in midstream?"10-31-14-chipman-ben

The endorsement process rankled Adams, however, who said he was not given a fair chance to represent himself to the Voter Education Brigade.

"I never received a response to any of my phone calls, I never received a response to any of my emails, I never received a response to any messages I sent them through third parties, I was never interviewed by the Voter Education Brigade, they never took any of the thick packets that I prepared for them," Adams said.

Saying he had a raft of information about events, legislation and other information about his work in Maine, Adams said, "They never responded. I got an email after they had held their whole process."

The Voter Education Brigade, which says it is a "non-partisan group committed to empowering community members to vote thoughtfully and hold elected officials accountable," crafted its voters' guide and distributed copies in places such as Hilltop Superette, Longfellow Books, SPACE Gallery and the Public Market House, according to the group's Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/VoterEducationBrigade).

The group reported, "Endorsements were chosen by the Brigade through a process that involved rigorous research and ranked-choice voting among members. The group's research committee sent out questionnaires to every candidate and conducted interviews with many candidates. The committee then presented its findings to all members at an event called Project Vote on September 24 and held a vote to choose endorsements."

Zack Anchors, a member of the Voter Education Brigade, issued a statement to the Sun, which reads, "Many of us wish that both Herb and his opponent, Ben Chipman, could represent our community in Augusta, because they are both great candidates. But members of the Voter Education Brigade ultimately voted to endorse Chipman after a thorough review of both candidates' records and the questionnaires they completed for us. We're proud of the democratic and transparent process that the Voter Education Brigade uses to decide its endorsements and the rigorous research on which that process is based. Many of the candidates we didn't endorse have continued to support our group and attend our events, and we hope Herb will continue to be an ally, too."

Adams said timing worked against him.

"There had been a night when they had invited candidates, but it was the night of a big storm in August," and Adams said he wasn't able to attend both due to the weather and work conflicts. He requested an alternative day but to no avail, he said.

Adams said he had encountered the Voter Education Brigade in the spring when the group endorsed a Portland Parks Initiative spurred by proposed development of Congress Square Park.

"I dealt with them, they were forming around the time of the Congress Square Park referendum, and they had me and another gentleman, David LaCasse, come and present our side," Adams recalled.

"I thought they were deliberative and thoughtful and fair. So entering the fall process, I had some hopes that they again would be deliberative, thoughtful, fair and open," Adams said.
Now, Adams said he is disappointed.

"I was met with silence and closed doors, what gives?" he asked, saying, "courtesy and communication" were both lacking in the process.

Chipman, who, if re-elected Tuesday, is eligible for one more term (term limits allow four consecutive terms), said as a member of the group, he found their process fair and thorough.

"They didn't endorse me the first time I ran, they endorsed my opponent in 2010," he added. (Chipman said Jill Barkley was endorsed over him in 2010 for state representative.)
"Sometimes they've endorsed me and sometimes they haven't."

Chipman said, "It seems to be a pretty thorough process, from my understanding. I've always found it to be very fair. There's groups out there that don't even send questionnaires and endorse candidates."

Chipman added, "There's organizations that have endorsed Herb Adams this year that I've never received a questionnaire from. ... As far as the Voter Education Brigade, they're very thorough, they're very fair."

Chipman said he became a member of the Voter Education Brigade's precursor when Sen. Justin Alfond started the League of Young Voters Maine chapter over a decade ago.
As for the value of endorsements, Chipman said a wide range of endorsements can help, but that "it's not what wins or loses a race."

Chipman concluded, "It's not what's going to win it at the end of the day."

For more information on the Voter Education Brigade or to view its voters' guide online, visit Votereducationbrigade.org.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:25

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Amid Ebola furor, Gov. LePage exploring 'all options' regarding medical worker at Fort Kent

Governor Paul LePage announced Thursday that negotiations with a healthcare worker who had been quarantined in New Jersey but came to Fort Kent and refused to comply with a forced quarantine had failed, leading to a possible legal showdown.10-31-14-lepage-patriot-tie

Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said the healthcare worker, Kaci Hickox, should not be subject to a mandatory quarantine.

"Kaci Hickox is a trained medical professional complying with medical guidelines, including those laid out in the New England Journal of Medicine," Beyea said. "She shows no symptoms and is carefully monitoring her health. She poses neither a clear nor imminent threat to public safety. While there are situations where protecting public health would justify limits on civil liberties, this isn't one of them. In times like this, it is of utmost importance that the government remain transparent and even-handed and avoid overreaction. Extreme measures like mandatory quarantines and police intervention raise serious concerns about government overreach, not to mention frighten the public. This is a public health situation and our response should be guided by sound medical science, not by fear."

The American Nurses Association opposed the mandatory quarantine of healthcare professionals who return to the United States from West African nations where Ebola is widespread, according to a statement from that group. ANA reported that it supports Hickox, "who recently returned to the United States after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, in her challenge of a 21-day quarantine imposed by state officials in Maine, her home state," the group reported.

Governor LePage issued a statement Wednesday morning about the voluntary quarantine.

"We commend all healthcare workers for their humanitarian work in West Africa and other regions in the world, and we are proud that Americans are always ready to help others," said Governor LePage. "However, the healthcare worker who is in Fort Kent has been unwilling to follow the protocols set forth by the Maine CDC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients."

On Thursday, LePage said his chief legal counsel together with the Attorney General were in hours of negotiation Wednesday in an attempt to reach agreement on how healthcare workers in Maine should meet the CDC guidelines for those in the “some risk” category. That category includes anyone who has had direct exposure to persons infected with Ebola within a 21-day incubation period, the governor's office reported. The agreement sought to identify how healthcare workers should conduct themselves, given the threat of exposure to the public, should symptoms develop, a governor's press release stated.

“I was ready and willing — and remain ready and willing — to reasonably address the needs of healthcare workers meeting guidelines to assure the public health is protected,” LePage said.

As a result of the failed effort to reach an agreement, LePage said he will exercise the "full extent of his authority allowable by law." Maine law provides "robust authority to the state to use legal measures to address threats to public health," the governor's office reported.

CNBC News reported Monday that "the medical worker at the center of a political firestorm over her involuntary quarantining in New Jersey after working with Ebola patients will be allowed to leave that state and travel to Maine."

In reaction, Gov. LePage issued a statement Monday, saying the healthcare worker "who may be returning to Maine after traveling from West Africa" will be subject to federal health guidelines.

On Wednesday, as controversy swirled around the medical worker and disputes over whether she should face a forced quarantine, LePage said, "We hoped that the healthcare worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols. We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community. We are exploring all of our options for protecting the health and well-being of the healthcare worker, anyone who comes in contact with her, the Fort Kent community and all of Maine. While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state."

Upon learning the healthcare worker intended to defy the protocols, LePage said, he began working collaboratively with state health officials within the Department of Health and Human Services to seek legal authority to enforce the quarantine.

The Maine State Police will monitor the residence in Fort Kent where the healthcare worker is staying, for both her protection and the health of the community, LePage said. To protect privacy and security, neither this person's identity nor the location of quarantine will be released by the state, he said.

Portland Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert P. Deeley asked for "calm, compassion and prayer" in a statement on Wednesday about the situation.

"In a time of uncertainty surrounding a health threat to people abroad and now, potentially at home, it is in our very nature to be concerned and yes, perhaps even to react with fear," Bishop Deeley said. "It is important to remember what we are being told by experts in the health profession — the Ebola virus is not spread through the air or by water, and many precautions are being taken by officials at the state and federal levels who continue to monitor the situation. The Ebola outbreak, which has impacted thousands of people in scattered areas around the world, has now hit home with the return of Kaci Hickox. It is important to acknowledge the bravery that Ms. Hickox exhibited by putting herself at risk when she chose to use her training as a nurse to treat those afflicted with this disease in Sierra Leone."

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "Maine continues to be in close contact with our federal partners and is actively monitoring travelers from this region of the world with Maine as their final destination."

The Maine CDC noted, "Ebola is transmitted only if an individual has direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from a person who is showing symptoms. It is not an airborne disease, nor can a person get Ebola when they have contact with a person who is not showing symptoms."

For the latest information regarding this disease, the public can visit http://www.maine.gov/ebola.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:25

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Gubernatorial race hardens around LePage, Michaud; Cutler decries campaign of 'fear' but releases voters

In the final days before the Nov. 4 election, heavy hitters came out for Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.

Meanwhile, the Independent in the race invited his supporters to vote for one of the party candidates as polls showed a two-way contest.10-31-14-obama-1

Maine's race for governor has repeated in many ways the 2010 contest, when a three-way split gave LePage the edge to win. This year, LePage and Michaud have attracted prominent endorsements.

President Obama traveled to Maine Thursday and attended a Democratic National Committee roundtable at a private residence, and then delivered remarks at a public campaign event for Michaud and other Maine Democrats at the Portland Expo. President Obama's visit came on the heels of campaign events with President Bill Clinton in Portland and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Scarborough.

Days after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned with LePage in Northern Maine, on Wednesday, longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe formally endorsed LePage. The LePage campaign announced it will be releasing a call to voters throughout Maine with a message of support from Snowe.10-31-14-obama-KL-crowd

Alex Willette, LePage campaign spokesman, said, "Senator Snowe's support means so much to the Governor especially coming from a true independent leader both here in Maine and across the nation."

A transcript of Sen. Snowe's recorded call reads: "This is Olympia Snowe. To continue economic growth in Maine, I am supporting Paul LePage. Under Paul LePage the economy is turning around. Over 22,000 new private sector jobs have been created and wages are up since Governor LePage took office. The unemployment level is the lowest it has been since 2008. Governor LePage is working to end domestic violence, and is supporting our veterans. This is Olympia Snowe, please join me in supporting Governor Paul LePage on Tuesday."10-31-14-obama-KL-mitchell

On Wednesday, Independent Eliot Cutler held an impromptu press conference and announced that he was releasing his supporters to vote for other candidates.
Just days earlier, Cutler had urged Michaud to "release his voters" and clear them to vote for Cutler in the statewide election on Tuesday, Nov. 4. In the days that followed, at least one poll showed that Cutler was standing in a distant third place, while LePage and Michaud stood virtually tied.

"I ran for governor four years ago because I believed that I had ideas, skills and experience that could help move Maine forward," Cutler said Wednesday. "Ours was a positive, issues-based campaign where we treated Maine voters like adults. Despite all the polls, pundits and partisan naysayers, we almost made it. Four years later – after more continuous economic decline and more bitterly divisive politics in Augusta – I saw another chance to make a difference. And I have tried as before to run a positive campaign and to approach Maine voters as adult citizens in a free and open democracy. When I conceded to Paul LePage on the morning after the 2010 election, I said that I believed that 'we had stuck a dagger in the heart of negative campaigning in the State of Maine.' I believed that we had beaten back the politics of fear. I was wrong."

Cutler continued, "Indeed, the politics of fear and negative ads have returned with a vengeance beyond my imagining. This 2014 campaign is locked in the grip of fear – fear that one of my opponents will be re-elected, or fear that the other will take his place. These fears have been fueled and amplified by more than $10 million in attack ads and mailings, financed by special interest PACs that don't give a damn about Maine's future, but care only whether the winner has a D or an R after their name. ... Anyone who has supported me – but who now worries that I can not win and is thereby compelled by their fears or their conscience to vote instead for Mr. LePage or Mr. Michaud – should do so."

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Angus King, I-Maine, announced he was switching his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud.

"Eliot Cutler is a fine man who would make a good governor of our state," King said. "He is a friend who I believe would be a true consensus builder, ready to put solutions ahead of politics. My feelings about Eliot on these matters have not changed since I endorsed his candidacy four years ago and again this past August. But, like Eliot, I, too, am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014. The good news is that we still have a chance to elect a governor who will represent the majority of Maine people: my friend and colleague, Mike Michaud. And today, I'd like to offer him my support."

In response, Michaud said, "I'm grateful and humbled by Sen. King's endorsement and his support. Sen. King and I have worked together for many years, and we've always tried to put the best interests of our state first."

On Wednesday, moments after Cutler's press conference, a half-dozen high-profile supporters of Cutler's gathered at Ocean Gateway, part of an already-planned event, and announced their intention to unite behind Michaud in order to defeat LePage.

On Tuesday, the Michaud campaign noted a recent poll from Pan Atlantic SMS, taken of 400 people and conducted Oct. 15-21, which found Michaud and Gov. LePage tied at 40 percent of the vote and Cutler dropping to 13 percent. The prior poll released by Pan Atlantic, issued on Oct. 9 and taken Sept. 23-29, showed 39 percent for Gov. LePage, 34 percent for Michaud and 20 percent for Cutler, the Michaud campaign noted.

On Saturday, Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald reported, "Republican Gov. Paul LePage has opened a lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the closing weeks of the gubernatorial campaign, according to a Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald poll. The findings mark a significant shift from previous polls showing both candidates running in a virtual dead heat. LePage leads Michaud 45 percent to 35 percent, with independent Eliot Cutler at 16 percent and 4 percent undecided, according to the poll of 639 likely voters conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center."

The Michaud campaign reported, "The Republican Governors Association also released an internal poll on Monday that found Michaud and Gov. LePage tied at 42 percent of the vote, with Cutler at just 13 percent. Other more recent polls tell a similar story. A New York Times-CBS poll, which was conducted Oct. 16-23 of 1,177 likely voters, found Michaud with 37 percent, Gov. LePage with 35 percent and Cutler with just 7 percent. Twenty-one percent said they weren't sure. The poll is consistent with a poll released Friday by Public Policy Polling, which found Michaud and Gov. LePage tied at 40 percent, with the third-place candidate at 17 percent. The PPP poll was conducted Oct. 22-23."

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:23

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Faculty, students decry layoffs at USM

Faculty and students protested layoffs at University of Southern Maine, calling the reductions an attack on the university and on Maine's creative economy.10-31-14-USM-cuts-1
Layoffs occurred in multiple departments including computer science and economics, the Maine Education Association reported, spurring a press conference on the Portland campus Wednesday.
Paul Christiansen, associate professor of musicology, told a crowd outside Payson Smith Hall, "I've been at USM for nine years, I've been tenured for three years, I've been fired by voicemail, and I'm supposed to get a letter sometime today by I guess express mail. Pretty pathetic."
Christiansen said his position's elimination will affect students.10-31-14-USM-cuts-2
"How will music undergraduate and graduate students be able to graduate without the music history courses that I've been teaching here since I've been here?" he asked. "How will they be able to graduate without a PhD teaching these courses? And I was the only music historian not only at USM but in the entire University of Maine system."
Prefacing his comments with the remark, "Well, here we go again," Christiansen noted that cuts have buffeted the university over the entire year. He said the impacts will be felt outside the halls of higher education.
"This is even worse for the entire state of Maine. They're destroying USM and this comprehensive public university that serves the economic and cultural center of the state," Christiansen said.10-31-14-USM-cuts-3
"There's an utter lack of vision or leadership among these administrators. It's mere bean counting, not higher education," he said.
Rachel Bouvier, associate professor of economics, said her layoff notice led to gifts of chocolates and flowers from students, but she urged them to go beyond commiserating. She urged students to share their stories about the value of the economics department and professors' role in their education.
"You need to tell your stories to the legislators, and you need to tell your stories to the community. You need to tell them that your education is not just about a diploma, it's not just about a degree," Bouvier said.
Relationships with faculty and the experience at USM also play an important role in a student's development, she said.
"My beloved, beautiful, bright students, I hope that I will be able to be part of your future," Bouvier said, holding out hope that the cuts might be reversed.
"We are not a diploma mill, we are educating our students," she said.10-31-14-USM-cuts-4
Wil Aitchison, a sophomore from Portland in business finance, said he was planning to double major in economics prior to the cuts.
"Now, based on half of the department being cut, it seems, I don't know if that is even possible at USM anymore," Aitchison said.
According to the Muskie School of Public Service Student Organization, as part of the plan to cut costs, "the administration seeks to eliminate all but one or at most two Public Policy and Management (PPM) and Community Planning Development (CPD) faculty, and merge PPM, CPD, Geography and Anthropology (GYA), and Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) in order to create one new graduate degree program. In addition, the proposed elimination of the Applied Medical Sciences (AMS) graduate degree adversely impacts the Master's degree in Public Health (MPH) through the loss of quality faculty who teach core curriculum in the MPH program."
A $16 million shortfall at USM for fiscal year 2016 has been blamed for a host of painful cuts, including recent elimination of two academic programs.
Earlier this month the University of Southern Maine launched a "strategic academic alignment of its programs" as the university began conversion to a "Metropolitan University." The alignment, the University of Maine Board of Trustees reported, will save approximately $6 million by reducing the faculty by 50 positions. The academic alignment is the first phase in closing USM's $16 million structural gap for FY 2016, the
The University of Maine Board of Trustees voted on Oct. 24 to approve USM's proposal to eliminate two academic programs. The eliminated programs include a Master's in Science in Applied Medical Science and a Bachelor of Arts in French, a UMaine press release reported. Trustees approved the elimination proposal by a vote of 9-2 after hearing from approximately 60 speakers in a four-hour public comment session, the press release reported.
The Masters in Science in Applied Medical Science has, on average, graduated 4.6 students over the last five years. Over the same period the net cost of the program to the university is $983,868 annually, the press release stated. In response to concerns from the medical and biomedical industries, USM and the University of Maine will hold discussions about how UMaine's graduate programs may serve students impacted by the program elimination, the press release stated.
The Bachelor of Arts in French program at USM has graduated 4.8 students on average over the last five years and operated at an average annual deficit between faculty expense and tuition revenue of $25,723, the press release continued.
The University of Southern Maine will work with declared majors within these programs to assist them with the completion of their course work, the press release stated.
The board materials can be found at http://www.maine.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Full-Meeting-Materials-Oct-24-20147.pdf.
Critics say the reductions at USM miss the mark.
Christiansen said, "We have a creative economy, and we need cultural capital."

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:26

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