Artificial Intelligence and commercial sex purportedly intersect

For anyone who knew Marvin, “AI pioneer accused of having sex with trafficking victim on Jeffrey Epstein’s island” is a surprise.

Apparently Jeffrey Epstein was using some of the money that he stole to run Templeton Foundation-style scientific gatherings in the Caribbean (funded with money that John Templeton earned and then skipped paying taxes on by renouncing his U.S. citizenship and relocating to the Bahamas). A woman now says that, as a 17-year-old, she was paid to have sex with the then-73-year-old Marvin Minsky at one of these gatherings. (There does not seem to be any evidence the Marvin ever left the mainland U.S. to hang out with Epstein, though.)

In the 40+ years that I saw Marvin, at his office, at his home, and at conferences, he never once took notice of a young woman or commented on the appearance of a woman. He was simply not very interested in matters of the flesh.

On a more practical level, if Marvin had wanted to have sex with 17-year-olds, he could have done so legally in Massachusetts, in which the age of consent is 16. (Prostitution per se is illegal in Massachusetts, but it wouldn’t be illegal for an older person to supply a young sex partner with gifts of jewelry, housing, transportation, vacation trips, etc. (though the real money would be in a pregnancy followed by harvesting the unlimited child support cash available under Massachusetts law)) There were also quite a few graduate students who had sexual relationships with successful academics and, lo and behold, found that the path to a tenure-track professorship was wide open. There was never any hint or rumor around Marvin of a sex-for-career-advancement exchange (or any other kind of affair).

Ever since Stormy Daniels dominated the mainstream media, I guess it isn’t surprising that people whose job is having sex in exchange for money are newsworthy. But if they’re claiming that they were paid to have sex with those who are deceased, and there is no evidence to support these claims, should reporters be broadcasting these tales? This is the first one about someone that I know personally and it rings false.


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Harvard Economics professor beats the sexual harassment rap

“Star Economist at Harvard Faces Sexual Harassment Complaints” (NYT, Dec 14, 2018):

Before he turned 40, Roland G. Fryer Jr. had earned tenure at Harvard, received a MacArthur “genius” grant and won the most prestigious award for young American economists. He stoked a national debate by concluding that police officers show no bias in the shootings of black men.

But his rapid ascent has taken a troubling turn as Harvard officials review a university investigator’s conclusion that Dr. Fryer fostered a work environment hostile to women, one filled with sexual talk and bullying.

The findings, reviewed by The New York Times, found that Dr. Fryer had engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward four women who worked in the Harvard-affiliated research lab he created. In one case, his “persistent and pervasive” conduct contributed to stress that resulted in the accuser’s taking disability leave, the investigator found.

I.e., things were so bad that someone had to be paid for not working.

Cash and sex go together in economics research…

Now 41, he is one of Harvard’s best-paid faculty members, earning more than $600,000, the university’s 2016 tax filing shows. He has brought at least $33.6 million in grants to the university, according to a résumé on his Harvard web page.

Dr. Fryer told a Harvard investigator that any sexual banter in his office was related to his research and “in the spirit of academic freedom.”

Seven months have gone by. Has the guy disappeared? The Harvard web site suggests he is still on the payroll. How is that possible? Nobel Prize winners have been disappeared for far less (e.g., Tim Hunt).

“Complainant Withdrew Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Complaint Against Harvard Prof. Roland Fryer” (Harvard Crimson, April 23, 2019):

A Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination investigation into whether Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. sexually harassed and retaliated against a former female employee concluded in February by agreement of the parties, according to documents obtained by The Crimson. … The MCAD closed its investigation after the complainant’s lawyer, Monica R. Shah, signed the withdrawal form on Feb. 4. On the form, Shah indicated that the complainant had reached a “satisfactory settlement” with Harvard, Fryer, and Allan.

I.e., cash was the magic solution for the professor in a discipline that says most problems can be fixed with cash…


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Why didn’t Jeffrey Epstein move?

My Facebook feed is lit up with posts regarding Jeffrey Epstein. Example:

My current guess: Trump’s tweet was his standard distraction from something awful by starting something even more awful. He may not even have meant to do it by being an obvious racist: just to whip up some boilerplate outrage that his base would love and that journalists would eat up. The question: distraction from what? My guess: Jeffrey Epstein.

One practical question: Why did Mr. Epstein spend any time in New York, Florida, or the U.S. after his 2005-2008 encounters with the criminal justice system?

Wikipedia shows that the age of consent in New York is 17 and in Florida is 18. What is illegal “sex with a child” in these states, however, might be legal (albeit sleazy) in adjacent states such as New Jersey (16) and Georgia (16).

Once he read the news about prominent men (e.g., Bill Cosby) prosecuted and/or convicted for decades-old offenses, why didn’t Epstein get in his Gulfstream and buy into citizenship in a European country that won’t extradite its citizens? France (age of consent: 15) or Germany (age of consent: 14; legal prostitution)?


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Transactional sex around Lake Malawi

As someone who shares a home with African cichlids, I clicked on a headline from NPR: “The Dark Secret Of Lake Malawi”. The story, however, turned out not to be about future aquarium pets:

“Sex for fish.”

That unlikely phrase is used in some lakefront communities in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world where men catch the fish and women sell the catch to local customers.

Or if the supply of fish is low because of overfishing, several women may vie for a fisherman’s catch — and transactional sex may be used as a bargaining point.

The writer does not seem to have researched the question of whether commercial sex is more common around this lake compared to other parts of the same countries.


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Women love Criminals

One surprise from The Last Stone, by Mark Bowden, is how successful low-income criminals are at meeting women and passing on their genetic personality characteristics:

At that point all they knew about Lloyd Lee Welch came from files. His criminal record sketched a rough time line before and after he had walked into Wheaton Plaza in 1975 with his bogus story—or so it had been considered then; now the authorities were less certain. Lloyd’s record traced a heroic trail of malfeasance. In Maryland: larceny (1977), burglary (1981), assault and battery (1982). In Florida: burglary in Orlando (1977), burglary in Miami (1980). In Iowa: robbery in Sioux City (1987). Then he’d moved to South Carolina: public drunkenness and then grand larceny in Myrtle Beach (1988), burglary in Horry County (1989), sexual assault on a ten-year-old girl in Lockhart (1992), drunk driving in Clover (1992). Then on to Virginia: sexual assault on a minor in Manassas (1996), simple assault in Manassas (1997). He’d finally landed hard in Delaware: sexual assault of a ten-year-old girl in New Castle (1997). After that the list ended. This was typical. Waning hormones or better judgment often overtook even the slowest learners by their mid-thirties, after which they avoided trouble. Either that or they got killed or locked up. In Welch’s case it was the latter. He was deep into a thirty-three-year sentence for the Delaware charge, housed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

He started reproducing as a teenager, a set of children whose expenses would ultimately be met by taxpayers:

His most significant relationship had been with a woman named Helen Craver, whom he had met when he was just sixteen and she was twenty, a chubby woman who shared his appetite for drugs and drifting. They had stuck together through the 1970s, traveling and using drugs and making babies. Helen lost one child and gave birth to three during those years. After he was sentenced to a second stretch in prison in 1981, they both relinquished parental rights, and Helen went her own way. Lloyd had seen neither her nor his children since. “They’re all adults now,” Lloyd said. “I should have grandchildren by now. You would think. I mean my oldest daughter’s thirty-four years old. But do you have any idea where they’re at?” Dave shook his head. “No? And if they married, their names?” Again, Dave shook his head. “I would love to establish a relationship with them, let them know that I did love them and everything, but I thought it was in their best interest to put them in foster homes and get adopted out. Margaret at the time was six, and Amy was just turning five, and Tanya was a little baby.”

There was no shortage of would-be successors to Helen:

When released from the prison stretch that split him from Helen and their children, Lloyd went back to wandering, drugs, drinking, and petty crimes. He was in and out of jail. In 1985, during one of his periods of freedom, he got married, in South Carolina—he was then using the name Mike. He started his own landscaping business in Myrtle Beach in 1989, by then living with a different woman from the one he had married. Then came his three child-molestation arrests, the last of which had earned him his current lengthy term.

Do you know that you had a child that died, a female child? Does that ring a bell? Charlene? You knew she was pregnant when you left her and went to Baltimore with some fifteen-year-old chick. You knew she was pregnant.”

“I didn’t know she was pregnant! How could I have known she was pregnant?” “I mean, you have kids all over the place.” “I do?” “Yeah. I probably know more of your kids than you do at this point.” “Wow! How many I got?” “A lot, a lot.” “Yeah?” Lloyd looked proud. “Do you remember Charlene? Cici? She was very visibly pregnant when you left her. She was twenty. You told her she was too old and you were looking for somebody younger.”

Maybe he was super charming and treated women like queens?

Every single female I talked to said you beat the shit out of her. And every dude I met told me that you like to beat up girls. Why would everybody lie?”

He had a lot of money and women were availing themselves of the unlimited child support profits that Maryland family law provides?

He had worked for a traveling carnival, which explained the wide-ranging geography of his criminal past.

Humans are supposed to be animals in which sexual selection operates. Historically, polygamy has been the norm and fewer than 50 percent of men have descendants. Biologists would say that women have selected the best quality mates.

Why did so many women choose to mate and reproduce with this criminal? What was it about him that made them think he was fitter than average? One would think that being imprisoned is the very definition of poor genetic fit to current societal conditions, yet criminals apparently don’t have any trouble reproducing.

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Does a Pride flag mean EVERYONE is welcome?

A Facebook friend shared the following post from a Conservative Rabbi:

(i.e., a prime spot for a Black Lives Matter sign (in a nearly-all-white town, of course, with restrictive zoning to keep it that way) was taken up with a different victim group’s banner)

He added “We stand for radical hospitality. EVERYONE is welcome!”

Of course, I had to ask “Would someone who advocated for strict adherence to Leviticus 18 and 20 be welcome?” (see Wikipedia for “Orthodox Judaism generally prohibits homosexual conduct”)

There was a bit of back and forth, leading me to suggest an update: “everyone who agrees with us is welcome”

A righteous congregation member replied “Do you mean to suggest that the hypothetical conservative people you reference would be unable to respect that others have different moral perspectives from them, and would make a scene harassing others, causing them to be asked to leave?”

I refined the question: Okay, so the hypothetical person comes to the “EVERYONE is welcome” temple wearing a T-shirt reading “Follow Leviticus 18/20” on the front. On the back is “Outlaw abortion after a heartbeat can be heard”. On the head of this person is a red MAGA hat. The person is carrying (not on Shabbat, I hope!) Tefillin in a Trump Hotel laundry bag in one hand and a Reelect Trump 2020 tote bag in the other hand. Will this person be just as welcome as a person wearing a rainbow T-shirt?

A sincere congregation member: I imagine such a shirt might prompt conversation, and as long as all parties engaged in conversation in good faith, I have trouble believing Mr. T-Shirt Man (as I’m now thinking of him/you) would be asked to leave.

I asked how this would be different from a Catholic Church putting out a “Stop abortions now” (an issue on which Americans disagree) and saying “EVERYONE is welcome,”

The righteous response: a key difference is that the Catholic Church promotes a moral code that is anti-abortion, and presumably could even excommunicate members who have abortions. Therefore, such signage would be hypocritical. It seems that perhaps you are perceiving there are “two sides” that are mirrors of one another, but there are crucial differences between a Catholic or Evangelical church that says “abortion is immoral” and are working to criminalize abortion—but still say “all are welcome” — and a Jewish Temple or, say, a UU church that sees abortion as a medical procedure between a women and her doctor (but not going around and foisting the procedure on others) and welcomes all comers. The former groups are trying to control / legislate others’ behavior, but the latter groups are not.

I pointed out that the LGBTQ banner was sometimes unfurled in order to control and coerce others, e.g., preventing Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants, forcing the Colorado baker to make a same-sex wedding cake, or boycotting Israel (maybe they’d rather visit one of the anti-Israel countries in which homosexual acts are punishable by death?).

Me: Circling back to the original post, would your temple be equally welcoming to the Colorado baker who was the subject of the Supreme Court case as you would be to someone wearing a Provincetown Pride T-shirt? If not, it is inaccurate to say that EVERYONE is welcome!

Congregation Member 1: exerting pressure on corporations to change their practices is not the same as legislating the elimination of human rights for certain groups of people. Apples and oranges.

Congregation Member 2: you seem to say above that a flag representing “[Jewish] gays are welcome,” is a point of view?

Readers: What do you think? Does hanging a pride flag signal adherence to a political point of view and therefore tend to exclude people who don’t agree with that point of view (e.g., Orthodox Jews, observant Muslims, Catholics, etc.)? Or is it legitimately characterized as an “EVERYONE is welcome” sign?

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New York Times is the new Penthouse Forum for AARP Members?

A tale of an encounter in a department store dressing room with a rich famous guy in which both man and woman had to keep silent for fear that the dozens of nearby department store workers, including security personnel, would hear. For folks who were born well before the Internet porn revolution, that would be the summary of a letter to Playboy or Penthouse Forum (and ultimately the subject of scholarly analysis).

What’s different this time? The New York Times is competing with Playboy and Penthouse and the female in the story is 76 years old (but might have been as young as 52 at the time, still two years over the age of eligibility of membership in AARP).

What are we to make of the media interest in this tale?


Update: This is the top story in New Yorker magazine’s daily email:

The dressing room encounter turns out to be related to the undocumented:

I imagined that undocumented families would be openly and cruelly persecuted in America, and that there would be plans of mass raids and internment, and that as this was happening I would not be rioting in the street as I ought to but depressively checking things off my Google Calendar to-do list and probably writing a blog post about a meme. What I didn’t imagine, though—and what actually occurred last week—is that a respected and well-known writer would accuse the President of raping her, and that I would be so sad and numb, after years of writing about Trump’s many accusers, after watching Brett Kavanaugh get confirmed to the Supreme Court in the face of credible sexual-assault allegations, that I would not even have the courage to read the story for days.

… public figure accusing the President of rape is news. Even though Carroll is at least the twenty-second woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, she is only the second to accuse him of rape. (The first was Ivana Trump, who later downplayed her story.)

(not mentioned is that Ivana Trump was an alimony and child support plaintiff at the time and a failure to attempt to use the domestic violence parallel track in a U.S. family court is typically a sign of poor legal advice; Plaintiff Ivana “downplayed” the story once she got the cash she was seeking)

If the President had ever convincingly espoused ideas of respect for people who are not like him, or of equal rights for women, it’s possible that he would be held accountable for his actions. Instead, he promised mass campaigns of cruelty against undocumented immigrants, and he is delivering. He said that he grabbed women by the pussy, and many women—twenty-two, so far—explained that, yes, he did that, or something like it, to them. Carroll’s essay—exceptional, devastating, decades in the making—has made me consider how hard it is to understand right away that you’ve been exhausted into submission, especially when submission and endurance feel inextricable.

The writer seems very concerned about the undocumented, but has she offered any concrete assistance to them? A room in her Manhattan apartment?

[On Facebook today, I saw a non-Jew holding a placard reading “End Family Separation. End Detention Camps. The Jewish Community Says This is a Moral Emergency.” I had to restrain myself from responding with “But not such a serious emergency that any of the members of the Yale Jewish Community would offer to shelter a migrant in their own houses?”]

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Sultan of Brunei owns Piper Aircraft

“Piper’s financial ties to anti-gay Brunei stir up controversy, with Harris caught in crossfire” (Florida Today):

Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft Inc. has become embroiled in an international controversy, as a result of its ownership by the government of Brunei, which has just implemented a harsh new law that punishes sex between men and adultery with death by stoning.

Jackie Carlon, senior director of marketing and communications for Piper, said that, while “the shareholder of Piper Aircraft is the ministry of finance of Kingdom of Brunei,” and “we’re very, very aware of” the policy in Brunei, “I can’t control what they do in their country.”

Carlon said Brunei currently doesn’t profit from Piper’s business, but rather reinvests the profits back into the company.

I.e., so far this has been a money-sink for the Sultan. Surprise, surprise! (Who told him that general aviation would be a good investment? That Piper had already gone bankrupt twice in its history so plainly a third bankruptcy was impossible?)

Cirrus, the market leader in family-sized aircraft, was formerly owned by the First Islamic Investment Bank, ultimately renamed Arcapita, “the premier source for Shari’ah-compliant alternative investments” and “a global leader in Islamically acceptable alternative investments.” It is unclear if Arcapita maintained traditional Islamic views regarding sexual activities. Cirrus today is owned by the Chinese government, basically, and China does not comply with U.S. standards regarding, for example, same-sex marriage (Wikipedia).

Maybe the answer is to pay up for an Embraer Phenom 300? The company is Brazilian, part-owned by the Brazilian government, and same-sex marriage is available in Brazil (Wikipedia). If you’re passionate about flying and matters LGBTQIA, but approximately $10 million short of the $10 million necessary for a Phenom 300, Cessna is owned by Textron, which earned a perfect score in the 2019 Corporate Equality Index (“Rating Workplaces on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Equality”). New and used Cessnas are available to suit nearly every budget.

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NYT: The Monsters are the Men

“‘The Monsters Are the Men’: Inside a Thriving Sex Trafficking Trade in Florida” (NYT, yesterday):

First, a health inspector spotted several suitcases. Then she noticed an unusual stash of clothing, food and bedding. A young woman who was supposed to be a massage therapist spoke little English and seemed unusually nervous.

The inspector reported her findings to police. They would eventually learn that her suspicions were right: The women were not just employees: They were living in the day spa, sleeping on massage tables and cooking meals on hot plates in the back. Some of them had had their passports confiscated.

Beyond the lurid celebrity connection, however, lies the wretched story of women who police believe were brought from China under false promises of new lives and legitimate spa jobs. Instead, they found themselves trapped in the austere back rooms of strip-mall brothels — trafficking victims trapped among South Florida’s rich and famous.

“I would never consider them prostitutes — it was really a rescue operation,” the sheriff said, training his anger at the men whose demand for sex kept the massage parlors in business. “The monsters are the men,” he added.

So the male customers are “monsters”. What about the folks who actually managed the “human trafficking”? It turns out that they were neither male nor monsters:

Sheriff Snyder said investigators, who worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, estimated the trafficking ring to be a $20 million international operation. Men paid between $100 and $200 for sex, the sheriff said; between $2 million and $3 million have been seized in Florida, he said, including a safe stuffed with Rolex watches.

In addition to arresting men ranging in age from their 30s to at least one in his 80s, police charged several women who appeared to be overseeing the operation with racketeering, money laundering and prostitution.

What is the root of the problem?

State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County, whose office leads a human trafficking task force with the F.B.I., said trafficking foreigners to work in places like massage parlors can be more difficult to root out than trafficking, for example, American girls who are recruited in person or online.

So the Times would suggest that we vote for politicians who promise to make it more difficult for people to get into the U.S. (e.g., with a wall along the southern border and restrictions on via tourist and work visas for folks who arrive by air)?

[Note that immigrants in the commercial sex industry are referred to by the Times as “prostitutes,” but when American women work in this industry they are “sex workers” (example).]

Also fun from the front page today: “The Power of a $15 Minimum Wage: Research has found that a living wage is an antidepressant, a sleep aid and a stress reliever. And that’s not all.” (full article) But how is $15/hour a “living wage”? A full-time worker would need to earn closer to $45/hour to be over the income limit for subsidized public housing in NYC (family of 4) and maybe $50/hour to pay for Obamacare insurance without a taxpayer subsidy. The article opens with a young immigrant from Guatemala who has earned permanent residency (Green Card), but whose skills are insufficient to command more than minimum wage. What will happen to him when he is older and less productive and it is illegal for anyone to hire him at less than $20 or $25/hour (or whatever the minimum wage is then)? The photo shows that he is well on his way to obesity and type 2 diabetes. SSDI?


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Commercial sex in Florida then and now

From “Life as a carrier-based pilot in World War II” (2017 post about a British pilot’s memoir):

After a quiet drinking session one night at the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, we decided at midnight that it was time we started to wend our way back to the station, using the method by which we had come—hitch-hiking. The four of us stood on the pavement of the main street, in the direction of Pensacola, and waved our thumbs. A big open Oldsmobile cruised to a standstill. ‘Pensacola, boys? OK, climb aboard!’ The driver, a man of about 45 years of age, was cheerful—nay, downright jovial. This was not surprising considering the amount of alcohol he seemed to have put away. His joviality was somewhat blurred and his driving slightly erratic. He crawled along for a minute or two, then stopped again. ‘Hey! Any o’ you fellers want a piece of ass before we get going? On me, boys—my treat. How’s about it?’ What on earth was a ‘piece of ass’? We looked dumb—he thought so, too. ‘You Limeys don’t know what a piece of ass is? You don’t want a jump? Hell! You know! A woman! A good whore! How’s about it?’ To a man we declined. His opinion of Limeys had hit an all-time low. What sort of fellers were these? ‘Well, I’m having me a blow-through before I leave town. Only keep you waiting ten minutes, boys. Hey! Officer!’ (This to a policeman, patrolling the street.) ‘Hey! Officer! Where’s the nearest whorehouse?’ The policeman wasn’t at all put out by the request, the inflammable breath or the bleary bloodshot eyes. ‘Second left, third house on the left. Good house, too. OK?’ We drove down. He pulled up the car with a screech of brakes outside the brothel; a good-looking three-storey house in a nice enough district. ‘Sure you won’t join me in a piece of ass, boys? Round your evening off nicely.’ He leered. Then he stood up in the car. ‘Hey! Mother! Bring out your whores! Bring out your whores!’ He was bawling at the top of his voice. ‘Goddammit! Woman! Bring out them whores, for Chrissake!!’ I wondered how much longer he would create a disturbance before someone did something about it. Then suddenly a first-floor window opened. A middle-aged woman, hair in curlers, stuck out her head. Her voice was equally refined. ‘Now you just git the hell out o’ this. My girls have had a long, hard day and they’re all tuckered out! Git the hell out of it!’ ‘Ah! The hell! You just git them whores o’ yours down again and open this goddam door! I’ve bin pinin’ for a piece of ass for the last two hours and I just ain’t goin’ home!’ ‘Mister, you can just fuck off. All my gals are in bed and you ain’t gonna see one of ’em!’

Florida was already home to, um, gentlemen’s clubs:

Pettigrew and I were at the Villa Venice, one of the better night-clubs on the Beach, with a very good, well-dressed floor show. We had sat through two shows but Jim, whose whole world revolved round girlies, insisted on seeing the third and last performance. … The last show gave him his chance, for the girls appeared clad only in wonderful head-dresses, gauntlets, high-heeled shoes and G-strings. Jim shook me back to life. ‘They’re on.’ So they were. And Jim was right—she was a honey. Blonde, about 19; and everything came out and went back again in exactly the right places. She smiled at him and made his day. We were cold and shivering outside, despite our greatcoats. … Eventually she emerged, looking lovely enough to eat. Her hair under the lamplight was beautiful. She wore a mink coat which she must have earned the hard way. Her legs beneath it were the pride of Florida. As Jim moved towards her, she declaimed—from 20 yards, in a rasping voice which can’t have done a thing for Jim’s ego: ‘It’ll cost you 30 bucks!’ It must have been a hard life for a high-kicker in Miami. ‘Thirty bucks?’ said Jim, incredulously. ‘Thirty bucks? Jesus! I only want to borrow it, not buy it!’ She swept past us with a look of contempt. Her perfume and the swish of her mink wafted over me. Strange things, girls, I thought. And how bloody awful to be so hard at 19! Already she must be sick to death of men. She isn’t young any more. Boys, young men, have been left far behind, and the wallets of the well-to-do—men of any age, shape or colour—are her only interest.

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