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  #29 (permalink)  
Old 7th October 2014, 18:55
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Reuters: Ukrainian summer camp provides respite from trauma of displacement
Oct. 7, 2014, 7:46 p.m. | Ukraine abroad — by Reuters

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

PROMETEI SUMMER CAMP, Ukraine, October 7 (UNHCR) - Deep in the thick forests of eastern Ukraine, next to a meandering river, is a summer camp. Prometei is a throwback to another era, that of the Soviet Union. It was also, this summer this year, a refuge.

Here, two hours drive from the city of Kharkiv, dozens of internally displaced Ukrainians found themselves reverting to childhood in a corner once reserved for children. The internally displaced people, mostly women and children, lived in dormitories, ate in a communal cafeteria and, on their walks through the camp, contemplated life-size sculptures - a girl with a lamb, a boy in a blue bathing suit.

The families were lodged and fed here by a Ukrainian charitable foundation. A seemingly idyllic existence, but one that offered its own form of stress. "We have no money, we feel cut off, we are in limbo here," said one resident, echoing many others. Limbo was still better than the small hell that they had escaped.

Their stories were similar - conflict, shelling, cowering in cellars, empty stores, deserted cities and, finally, flight - but their backgrounds were often unusual. Anastasia celebrated her 21st birthday in the camp. Her brother phoned from the town of Makeevka where he had stayed. It was still a battle zone but he had a young wife, a child and an apartment to protect.

Anastasia, too, has a baby, Polina, just seven months old. She and her brother are orphans. She is also a single mother and, like several other young women with babies, she fled from a shelter for single orphan mothers in Makeevka. Her life had been hard. The summer in the camp was almost a vacation.

"Here they gave us diapers, but they didn't have a lot and there are a lot of small babies here," she said in the room she shared with her child. "People have promised to help, they bring baby food, and clean water. They help in any way they can."

Alexandr is 40 and has cerebral palsy. So does his wife Viktoria, but together they brought up one son, Dima, who is now 20 years old and living on his own. Their second son, Ivan, is 19 months old. They had made a good life for themselves, Alexandr as an economist, Viktoria as an accountant in Donetsk.

The conflict drove them out, not only the shelling but also the lack of drugs in the pharmacies. Viktoria depends on drugs to keep her condition in check. At the camp they were able to obtain the needed drugs but, by the end of the summer, their money was running out.

Alexandr had been able to find enough to buy two packages. "But two packages is only enough for two weeks for men," Viktoria told her husband. "What will you do? Can you go to Kharkiv?"

The camp had not been prepared to shelter people during the winter. It also was isolated, kilometres from the nearest town, and money was short. These families fared better than many of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people caught in this conflict, but home was where they longed to go.

"I hope to go back to Makeevka," Anastasia said. 'They promised to buy us tickets next week for free so we won't spend our own money."

Temporary camp accommodation was necessary and helpful, but UNHCR's Ukraine representative Old?ich Andrýsek warns it could backfire later if these people are kept in camps in the coming months.

"So unless the government wants to pay these people unemployment benefits, social benefits and basically feed a large part [of its displaced population], they should move them to cities, not only Kiev, . . . and give them an opportunity to get jobs."

A vacation from the reality of conflict, but not from its stress. Even the children felt it. As they worked on their makeshift house in the woods, one said, "We must make it big enough to hold all of us when we have to leave." In the event, the residents were moved to other heated camps. Still, they remain trapped, far from home, far from work, still prisoners of the conflict. Despite a ceasefire, fighting has been reported in eastern Ukraine.

By Don Murray in Prometei Summer Camp, Ukraine Ukrainian summer camp provides respite from trauma of displacement
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Old 9th October 2014, 13:11
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Reuters: Bulgaria rejects Russian accusation of betrayal over warplanes
Oct. 8, 2014, 7:22 p.m. | Business — by Reuters

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria on Wednesday rejected Russian accusations that it was betraying its former Soviet-era ally by considering replacing its ageing Russian warplanes with ones built in the West.

In a Twitter post commenting on reports that Bulgaria was contemplating buying secondhand jets such as Eurofighters from Italy or F-16s from Portugal to replace its current fleet, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote:

"News from Bulgaria: a certain Shalamanov (the Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov) has convinced Prime Minister (Georgi) Bliznashki to once again betray Russia ... in favor of second-hand eagles."

In response, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Danail Mitov issued a statement calling Rogozin's comments "extremely unworthy ... contrary to good manners and (they) show, unfortunately, a lack of respect for Bulgarian institutions and the state."

He continued: "As for the implicit accusations of disloyalty, I would like to remind (the comments') authors that the Republic of Bulgaria is a member of the EU and NATO and it does not owe explanations about its sovereign decisions to third parties."

Bulgaria shares linguistic, religious and cultural ties with Russia, was seen as Moscow's most pliable ally before the fall of the Berlin Wall and remains heavily depend on Russian energy. But since it emerged from Communism a quarter of a century ago, Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.

Its conflicting loyalties have been tested by the ongoing standoff between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

It participated in NATO exercises after Russia's annexation of Crimea and reluctantly stopped working on a giant Russian-led gas pipeline project after pressure from the United States and Brussels.

It is not the first time Rogozin, who is subject to U.S. and European sanctions, has offended former eastern bloc countries.

In May he reacted to being barred from Romanian airspace by tweeting that he would return in a TU-160 bomber.

Bulgaria has been considering buying new jets for the past fifteen years, but has not done so due to financial constraints. https://ca.news.yahoo.com/bulgaria-r...161045509.html
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Old 9th October 2014, 17:27
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New York Times: Ukrainian students to take Russians' places in US exchange program
Oct. 8, 2014, 7:45 a.m. | Ukraine abroad — by New York Times

WASHINGTON — Russia’s decision to cancel a longstanding high school exchange program with the United States has had one result that the Kremlin may not have anticipated: more slots open for students from Ukraine.

The exchange program, which was established after the end of the Cold War, provides scholarships for students from the former Soviet Union to live with an American family and study at an American high school.

Nearly 240 Russian students are in the program. But last week, Russia abruptly announced that it was withdrawing after one of its students sought asylum in the United States on the grounds that he would face persecution at home because he is gay.

American officials said Tuesday that half of the slots that would have gone to Russian students during the next academic year would instead be allocated to Ukrainians. Ukraine currently has 204 exchange students in the program, and the decision will expand that number to more than 300. The remainder of the Russian slots will go to Georgia, Moldova and Armenia.

Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s top official for European and Eurasian affairs, disclosed the change in a speech on Tuesday at Shevchenko University in Kiev, Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation made the decision last week,” Ms. Nuland said, “to deny their own citizens the opportunity to study in the United States.”

“We hope that we’ll be able to restore our program in Russia in the not-too-distant future,” she added. “But in the meantime, we will have more than 100 extra high school slots for Ukrainians.”

Russian students currently in the United States will be allowed to complete the academic year here.

“We also hope Russia will reconsider,” said Lisa Choate, the executive vice president of the American Councils for International Education, which runs the program. “Meanwhile, we do expect the Ukrainian program to grow.”

The program is highly competitive, and the 769 students who enrolled this year were picked from about 40,000 applicants. Former Senator Bill Bradley, the New Jersey Democrat, played a critical role in creating the program, which was established in 1992 and is financed by the United States government.

Susan Reed, the supervising lawyer with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, who is representing the student at the center of the dispute, declined to provide many details about the case, citing privacy concerns. She said the student, who is 17, “was afraid to go home” and had been put in federal custody through the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The teenager, Ms. Reed said, has been placed by the government into foster care. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/wo...gram.html?_r=0
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Old 11th October 2014, 18:04
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Wall Street Journal: Russian rock stars run afoul of Kremlin over Ukraine (VIDEO)
Oct. 11, 2014, 7:39 p.m. | Lifestyle — by Wall Street Journal

MOSCOW—Russian rock icon Andrei Makarevich was working the crowd between songs at the House of Music one evening last month when five rough-looking men hurled fruit at him, sprayed pepper gas and yelled: “Makarevich is a traitor to the motherland!”

The incident capped the 60-year-old’s unintended transformation from the frontman of one of the foremost Soviet rock bands loved by millions of Russians to a blacklisted dissident. The tipping point: playing a concert for refugees in a town controlled by Ukrainian government troops.

With his middle-of-the-road songs and boyish grin, Mr. Makarevich is a most unlikely character to have concerts canceled and be smeared on Russian TV as the “fascist” face of opposition to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. For years the clean-cut member of Russia’s rock scene, he sat next to President Vladimir Putin at a Paul McCartney concert on Red Square in 2003, when it seemed Russia was opening up to the West.

Now, the campaign against Mr. Makarevich shows how the Ukraine crisis has transformed the atmosphere inside Russia, fueling a crackdown on critics and even the merely skeptical.

Pro-Kremlin channel NTV labeled Mr. Makarevich one of 13 “friends of the junta,” as it refers to the Kiev government, in an August program. The broadcast also named singer Diana Arbenina and poet Dmitry Bykov, who both opposed the war. Ms. Arbenina said several concerts were abruptly canceled after the broadcast. A few weeks later, Messrs. Makarevich and Bykov and writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, who all signed an antiwar petition, had their faces printed on a banner hung by opponents of a peace march that declared it a “traitors’ march.”

“It’s a lesson to all cultural figures,” said Artemy Troitsky, a music critic and producer. “They are saying: ‘Look, we can do this to Makarevich who sat next to Putin at a Paul McCartney concert. This is serious, and don’t you dare open your mouth.’ ”

Russian officials deny any repression of critics. After an appeal by members of the intelligentsia against the annexation of Crimea in March, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “those who held a different opinion proved to be black sheep.”

“With their dissent they began to offend the feeling of national pride that seized the whole country. That’s why there’s such an uncompromising attitude to them in society,” he said on state television in April.

As the Kremlin has whipped up nationalistic and anti-Western fervor on its propaganda channels, there is no space left for those not toeing the official line. Most Russians appear in favor: Mr. Putin’s approval rating jumped to 86% in September, from 65% in January, before the Ukraine conflict began, according to pollster Levada-Center.

That has dealt a blow to those who hoped the end of Soviet power signaled Russia would become more like the West.

“The main part of the population hasn’t matured, hasn’t developed to the life that I would like to see,” Mr. Makarevich said in an interview last month. The Ukraine conflict, he said, has split people into “patriots” and “traitors.”

His creative response came in a song with the refrain: “My country has gone mad/ And I can’t do anything to help.”

Yet he declined a request to perform the new tune when he returned to the stage after the Sept. 25 attack, following a two-hour interruption during which the hall was cleared. “Let’s not start a political rally,” he told the audience.

The singling out of Mr. Makarevich, a small man with a gray goatee, is all the more striking because his music contains only the lightest hints of social criticism. Music critics in Russia’s gritty rock fraternity view Mr. Makarevich as a gentle soul who at times has kept too-close company with the upper echelons of power to be truly rock ’n’ roll.

While underground rock bands such as DDT growled edgy criticism of Soviet life in the 1980s, Mr. Makarevich’s band Mashina Vremeni, or Time Machine, mostly sang bittersweet melodies about people’s lives and personal freedom, such as “Turning Point” and “While the Candle Burns.”

“I tell of my feelings about the world in which we live,” he said of his songs. “I don’t want anything to do with politics.”

Soviet authorities used to restrict his performances and recordings, but as Russia opened up in the late 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Makarevich joined the mainstream. He threw concerts, toured the U.S. and presented a popular TV cooking show. The Kremlin awarded him a medal in 1993 as a “defender of free Russia.”

In 2003, when Mr. McCartney—his musical idol—played Red Square, Mr. Makarevich was moved to a seat on an empty row. Halfway through the concert, Mr. Putin, wearing an open-collar black shirt, sat down next to him. The two chatted as Mr. McCartney welcomed the president and his entourage, saying in Russian: “Hi, guys!”

The concert appeared to illustrate Russia’s new openness to the West. For Mr. Makarevich, sitting next to Mr. Putin “put him to the very top of post-Soviet cultural hierarchy,” said Alexander Kan, a music and cultural commentator who works for BBC Russian Service. A few months later, the singer received a presidential order “for services to the fatherland.”

As the Kremlin took a more authoritarian turn, Mr. Makarevich remained largely quiet.

At a televised meeting with Mr. Putin following a charity event in 2010, fellow rocker Yuri Shevchuk, DDT’s frontman, spoke up about social injustice, police corruption and lack of media diversity in unusually frank tones that appeared to shake the president. Mr. Makarevich spoke briefly a few minutes later, asking Mr. Putin to push for better legal protection for pets.

“It wasn’t appropriate” at a charity event, Mr. Makarevich said of Mr. Shevchuk’s démarche.

A few months later, Mr. Makarevich hosted Mr. Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, at a cafe, chatting about environmental issues and rock festivals over drinks, snacks and songs. Mr. Shevchuk wasn’t there.

Mr. Makarevich said he supported rock fan Mr. Medvedev, who seemed to him like an agent of democratic change.

When Mr. Medvedev announced in 2011 he would step aside at presidential elections the following year in favor of Mr. Putin, Mr. Makarevich spoke up.

“I don’t like it what’s happening. We’ve already been told who will be our president. It’s not about Putin, but about the feeling that we are being deprived of the vestiges of choice,” he said in a radio interview at the time.

He attended protest marches and sang lightly satirical songs about Mr. Putin’s rule. He switched his support to the ill-fated presidential campaign of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, composing a song about the tall tycoon called “The Tallest.” He sent an open letter to Mr. Putin maintaining that growing corruption could lead to “total catastrophe.”

“I think it’s unlikely that any of those who are drawing attention to it can say how to root out corruption,” Mr. Putin told reporters with a wry smile.

When Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in March, Mr. Makarevich joined a peace march and signed an antiwar appeal.

In August, he traveled to eastern Ukraine to play a few songs for refugees, including many children, in the government-held monastery town of Svyatohirsk.

A few days later, pro-Kremlin channel NTV targeted Mr. Makarevich in its “13 Friends of the Junta” program. Footage of his performance was spliced with artillery shelling and destroyed buildings, accompanied by orchestral music.

“Andrei Makarevich is like a trophy for the Ukrainian army,” a deep voice intones over shaky footage of the singer strumming a guitar. “It turns out that Russian musicians also support the junta.”

A music producer labels his performance “a concert on bones.” A lawmaker calls for his state awards to be rescinded. The program presenter says that “in his motherland, people have begun to forget his works.”

The program also showed a video of singer Ms. Arbenina from rock group Night Snipers apologizing to fans at a concert in Kiev for other musicians who hadn’t supported Ukraine. She later listed eight concerts she said had been canceled since the broadcast for various reasons, including leaking roofs and sudden renovations. “Of course, it’s all lies,” she said in a video posted online, promising to reschedule the concerts.

Mr. Makarevich said recently there was no political message to his concert in Svyatohirsk. “I won’t perform for any soldiers, Ukrainian or others. I am on principle against war. We should help those who suffer from war,” he said.

Another few paragraphs do not fit: Russian Rock Stars Run Afoul of Kremlin Over Ukraine - WSJ
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Old 12th October 2014, 02:36
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Gordon: Yanukovych went on a bender because of depression
2014/10/09 • News EUROMAIDAN PRESS

According to the journalist, the drunk former President tried to order around the Head of Putin’s Administration.

Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych went on a drinking binge and is currently deeply depressed, stated Kyiv-based journalist Dmytro Gordon on Shuster Live.

“Yanukovych is now on a bender. You know, he is now in Sochi in his dacha, drinking all the time. I know for sure that when he lived near Moscow, he was visited by Sergey Borisovich Ivanov, the head of the Administration of President Putin. Yanukovych greeted him in a robe, drunk, and started giving him orders. After this Ivanov came to Putin and said: ‘Don’t send me there again, because it is unclear who is the guest here: him or us.’ Yanukovych is on a bender, depressed. Because it looks like it even got through his skull what he did in the historical sense,” Gordon said.

According to the journalist, this is verified information, however, he did not name his sources.
Gordon: Yanukovych went on a bender because of depression | EUROMAIDAN PRESS | News and Opinion from Across Ukraine
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Old 16th October 2014, 18:35
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Mikhail Gorbachev 'Deteriorating' In Hospital
Sky NewsSky News – Fri, Oct 10, 2014

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is in hospital fighting for his life, according to reports from Russian news agencies.

The 83-year-old became the last leader of the Soviet Union in 1985 and brought in the sweeping reforms known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding).

The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Mr Gorbachev as saying: "My state of health has been moderate for a week and today I am in hospital. My health is deteriorating."

He added: "I'm hooked up to a monitor."

And he told Interfax news agency: "You know my character. I am determined to fight for my life."

But Pavel Palazhchenko, Mr Gorbachev's interpreter, said he had been in contact with him on the phone, and that he was "feeling normal".

He said Mr Gorbachev was speaking with a strong voice, and that there was "no need to make a fuss".

Last year, Mr Gorbachev was forced to deny rumours of his death after RIA Novosti posted reports and later claimed to have been hacked.

Using an expletive to describe those behind the rumours he said they were "hoping in vain" and added: "I'm alive and well."

The Nobel Peace laureate is said to be diabetic and despite remaining active in Russian politics he is said to have seemed tired during recent public appearances.

He has repeatedly criticised President Vladimir Putin and demanded he stand down.

Mr Gorbachev's reforms eventually led to Moscow-controlled republics gaining enough power to break away.

He has since talked openly about his regrets, saying his actions were meant to save the nation, rather than allow it to crumble. https://uk.news.yahoo.com/mikhail-go...7.html#50ri2fg
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Old 19th October 2014, 20:46
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New York Times: Conflict uncovers a Ukrainian identity crisis over deep Russian roots
Oct. 19, 2014, 10:39 a.m. | Ukraine abroad — by New York Times

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainians have long endured a tormented relationship with the novelist Mikhail Bulgakov — a native son who extolled this city’s beauty even while mocking the very idea of a Ukraine independent from Russia.

“We call him the Great Kiev Citizen,” said the director of the Bulgakov museum here, Ludmila V. Gubiauri. Yet she helped bring about the recent, extraordinary government decision to ban as “Russian propaganda” a new mini-series of “The White Guard,” his most important work set in Kiev.

While some Ukrainians are implacably hostile toward Russia, many others are experiencing an identity crisis kindled by the confrontation with Moscow, and the contradiction embodied by Mr. Bulgakov reflects their inner turmoil.

Even among those Ukrainians pleased with the current turn to the West, many are grappling with the almost inconceivable idea that Russia has become a mortal enemy, forcing Ukrainians to draw a line between themselves and what has long been their cultural motherland.

“I considered myself part of the Russian culture — my mother is Russian, my father is Ukrainian,” said Aleksey Ryabchyn, a young economist and journalist from Donetsk who is running for Parliament. “I have lots of Russian friends; I like books in Russian; I speak Russian at home. So I am asking myself, ‘Who am I?’ ”

For many, a mental switch was flipped six months ago when the Federation Council in Moscow voted to give President Vladimir V. Putin an open mandate to invade Russia’s smaller neighbor.

“The Russian part of me died on March 1 when I saw the Russian senate allowed Putin to send troops into Ukraine,” Mr. Ryabchyn said. “It was the biggest shock in my life.”

The ties binding the two countries form a complex weave — personal, historical, religious, geographical — that stretches back more than a millennium. Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University, argues that much of the history was manipulated in modern times to create links where none existed. But myths endure.

The Russian Orthodox Church traces its origins to mass conversions purportedly forced by Vladimir, the grand prince of Kiev, in 988. The name Russia, adopted by Peter the Great for the empire in the early 18th century, was rooted in Kievan Rus, a medieval state that included lands that became Ukraine.

“They stole our church; they stole our name,” said Andrii Bychenko, who runs the sociology program at the Razumkov Center, a think tank here.

Catherine the Great conquered much of what is now Ukraine for Russia in 1795. In Soviet times, key leaders emerged from here. Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet ruler from 1964 to 1982, was born in what is now Dnepropetrovsk. Nikita Khrushchev, his predecessor, grew up in the now embattled Donbass region.

Kiev feels like a Russian city, architecturally and linguistically. Check into a hotel, signal a waiter, enter a shop, and chances are you will be addressed in Russian. Television talk shows are bilingual — guests speak the language in which they are most comfortable. Taxi drivers still listen to “Russky Chanson,” Russian prison ballads that are something of a cross between gangsta rap and country and western music.

But recent months brought subtle changes. The young consider speaking Ukrainian cool. Some older Ukrainians have adopted the attitude that Russia does not own the culture.

“Some of my friends think that real patriots of Ukraine should not speak Russian because they are enemies,” said Irina Bekeshkina, a sociologist who specializes in political polling. “Why should we identify Putin with the Russian language? Russian language and culture has been around a lot longer than Putin.”

In some ways, the language issue precipitated the entire crisis with Moscow. In February, when hard-line members of Ukraine’s Parliament tried but failed to annul a law that endorsed using Russian as a second official language, the Kremlin seized on the attempt as evidence that Russian speakers needed protection.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and unleashed a relentless propaganda campaign painting the Kiev government as Nazi-inspired fascists bent on killing Russians.

People on both sides of the border say that families and friends experienced the sharpest rift. Entire clans living on opposite sides have stopped speaking to each other.

Many Ukrainians describe how their Russian relatives, watching TV, frantically called to tell them: “We will save you! Come to Russia!” The Ukrainians said they responded with some version of: “What do you mean, save us? You are killing us and stealing our land.” The ensuing breach has rarely been repaired.

The arts remain a minefield.

The writers Nikolai Gogol and Mr. Bulgakov, best known for “The Master and Margarita,” are universally acknowledged titans of Russian literature. Since they were born in Ukraine, however, locals try to claim some reflected glory, even if neither was terribly complimentary.

In “The White Guard,” Mr. Bulgakov chronicled the trials of a middle-class family of White Russians in 1918 as the czarist order collapsed around them. (Many suggest the book echoes current Russian sentiment toward Ukraine.)

The protagonist, Alexei Turbin, is considered an alter ego for Mr. Bulgakov, a doctor who worked as a military medic. Dr. Turbin, a loyal son of empire, is as hostile toward the Bolsheviks as toward the Ukrainians. The book underscores the revulsion of the urban elite as rural Ukrainian peasants rise up to seize Kiev.

Their leaders are depicted as cowardly, cruel, anti-Semitic and treacherous.

As for the Ukrainian language, Mr. Bulgakov wrote in the novel that it was only understood in the docklands where “ragged men unload watermelons from barges.”

Yet the author found his native city enchanting, calling St. Vladimir’s Hill, for example, “the most beautiful spot on earth.”

to complete read: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/wo...ots-.html?_r=1
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