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The Expansionist
Friday, June 01, 2007
 
Spelling Madness; Sexual Madness; "Click It or Ticket"; Preserving Marriage.

(1) Spelling Madness. The annual Scripps "National" Spelling Bee — Why are Canadians allowed into our "national" spelling bee? Let them in when they enter the Union, not before. — wrapped up last nite with a live telecast on ABC Television. The winner got prizes worth a total of $42,500. For spelling. Why is the spelling of English so difficult that kids can win huge prizes for doing it rite?
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The purpose of an alphabet is to convey speech across time and distance. That is all. It is speech that carries the meaning. To get to the underlying meaning, we convert visual symbols back into speech. But you can't do that in English without making innumerable adjustments, adjustments that take a very long time to learn and to make each time we encounter unfamiliar words. Even the best-educated reader of English can be stumped by unfamiliar words spelled in unexpected ways. On seeing them, many people can guess their sound, not so much from their spelling as from context: chamomile, chamois, ptarmigan (káa.ma.meel, sháa.me, tór.mi.gan). But some are opaque and unguessable, so have to be learned in their utterly arbitrary form: knight, phthisis, phthisic, mnemonic, pneumonia, thyme (niet, tthíe.sis, tíz.ik, nee.món.ik, noo.móen.ya, tiem). And some are perceived one way by some people and other ways by others, so we end up with multiple pronunciations of words learned largely from reading: kiln, naphtha, diphthong, nausea, atoll (kiln or kil, náaf.ttha or náap.ttha, díf.tthong or díp.tthong, náu.zee.ya or náu.zha, áa.taul or áa.tol or áa.toel or áe.taul or áe.tol or a.tául or a.tól or a.tóel — that's right, eight pronunciations for a five-letter word. Makes a lot of sense, right? Oh, no, wait. It doesn't make any sense at all.
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There are different ways to spell the same sound, so you have to learn distinctions in writing that don't exist in speech: ate-eight, to-too-two, here-hear, there-their-they're, I-eye-aye, nay-neigh-née-né! On hearing an unfamiliar word, you have to guess how to spell it. And you can't even look it up to find out what it means unless you can spell it!
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There are different ways to pronounce the same letter or letter combination: get-gesture-campaign, church-chemistry-champagne, ice-crevice, ate-incarnate, do (musical tone)-do, cove-move, mishmash-misheard, hear-heard-heart (get - jés.cher - kaam.páen, cherch - kém.is.tre - shaam.páen, ies - krév.is, aet - in.kór.nat, do - du, koev - muev, mísh.maash - mis.hérd, heer - herd - hort).
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Does it have an F or PH? EE or EA or EI or IE or EY or Y? If you hear náap.ttha, how are you to know there's an H after the P? If you hear nies, how are you to know (no?) it's spelled "gneiss"?
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Small wonder that, despite universal education, we have a high rate of functional illiteracy in English-speaking countries as against countries whose languages, like Spanish, have phonetic spelling systems.
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Every year English takes in more words from more languages, respelling almost none of them. And so we get more words with multiple pronunciations: jalapeño (hòl.a.páen.yo, hòl.a.péen.yo), mantra (máan.tra, món.tra, mún.tra). New scientific names are invented, using nonphonetic spellings from Greek (-photo, syn-), or Latinized distortions of familiar words or names (rafflesia, from a Mr. Raffles but pronounced ra.flée.zha, raa.flée.zha, or either of those beginnings with -zhee.a or -zee.a at the end). New words are coined, using old forms in unpredictable ways: humongous, which its coiner may have intended to be pronounced hyue.múng.gas, or even just hyue.múng.as, with no hard-G, by comparison to "among" (a.múng) but which is read by some people as hyue.móng.gas. Names for new devices or products are given arbitrary and unusual spellings to make them stand out: Wii (pronounced simply we), Skyy (skie) vodka. Specialists may use different pronunciations than the general public does: Celtic (kél.tik rather than sél.tik), fungi (fúng.gi rather than fún.ji). Personal names pronounced in unexpected ways become commonplace: Pilates is pronounced not like the familiar name (Pontius) Pilate. No, that would be too easy. It's pi.lót.eez. Ancient names from foreign languages are taken in, in an unreasonable form: Chaldea, even Chaldaea (both pronounced kaal.dée.ya), even tho the CH represents not the English CH-sound but a simple K-sound, and even tho that is not the way it was spelled in its original country, because the original country didn't use the Roman alphabet!
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So, instead of getting better over time, the spelling of English gets ever worse, and we have to direct ever larger portions of the time — and budget — given over to education, to learning simply to cope with a preposterous orthography.
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Small wonder, too, that the educational Establishment does not want spelling simplified or phoneticized, which is easy to do. If it took kids only six months to learn to read and spell every single word in the entire English language, we wouldn't need nearly so many teachers of reading. So, anytime you hear people defend the current, insane spelling of English — which cannot properly be called a "system" — know that they are defending the indefensible, perhaps from a vested economic interest.
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Oddly, one industry that would profit hugely from radical phoneticization of English, publishing, does nothing to promote spelling reform. It could sell hundreds of millions of books in new editions of old works — and not just in English-speaking countries but also in countries where large populations want to learn English — but its executives have apparently bought into the specious arguments against spelling reform.
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How much worse must things get before we finally say "Eenuf iz eenuf!" and demand drastic change? Or will we consent to have spelling become worse and worse — and worse — in perpetuity?
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That people in English-speaking countries might passively and resignedly accept endless worsening of written English does not mean that new learners in other countries will accept such madness. Perhaps China's government will adopt phonetic English (as it has romanized the writing of Chinese, in the pinyin system) and the authoritarian Communist government of the world's most populous country — comprising more than one in six people on the planet — will lead the rest of the world to phonetic English, simply riding roughshod over the defenders of spelling madness in the old English-speaking countries. After all, China's writing system is so bad that the Communists finally made a radical break from the past and started to move Chinese society in the direction of an alphabet. They did so because they appreciated the eminent good sense of showing speech clearly with a small number of characters, the letters of the Roman alphabet. It must have astonished them, when they looked at English, to see how we have thwarted the very purpose of an alphabet by turning groups of letters into ideograms almost as cumbersome and unreasonable as Chinese characters. "knight" is not really an alphabetical spelling but a word-picture that employs letters rather than brushstrokes.
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Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Communist government of China broke the back of resistance to reforming the spelling of English? That wouldn't justify the multitudinous crimes of that government, but it would mean that the suffering of the people of China under Communism might actually bring some benefit to them and the world more generally, as China leads the way to spelling English rationally. Stranger things have happened. Not many, perhaps, but some. This next item speaks to one such stranger thing.
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(2) Sexual Madness. I was irritated to find on AOL's welcome screen for people from North Jersey yesterday a link to "JerseyPride.org" — not to be confused with JerseyPride.COM, a website that promotes respect for New Jersey. JerseyPride.ORG turns out not to have anything to do with pride in New Jersey but is instead an insane organization for "the LGBTI community". "I"? What on Earth is the "I" for? Don't tell me "Intersex". Yup: "Intersexed". Their website is headed "Jersey Pride, Inc. producer of New Jersey's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersexed Pride parades." Unbelievable.
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There is no such thing as an "LGBTI community" any more than there is a single genius-retardate, evangelical-atheist, or any other single community drawn from mutually incompatible groups.
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As I note in the profile on the top right of this blog, I am the man who in 1970 offered the term "Gay Pride" as it is now used. June has in recent years been designated "Gay Pride Month" — or, in some antigay circles, "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month", since gay men are never entitled to anything to themselves. So this first day of June is an appropriate time to address the madness that has taken over and practically destroyed the gay-rights movement.
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I am appalled at what has happened. The Gay Movement, which is about a lot more than political progress, was always weakened by inclusion of outsiders and enemies, and has now been completely taken over by anti-gay, and especially anti-male, lunatics. It was bad enuf that from early on, the Movement in this country was shot-thru with lesbians, with whom gay men have absolutely nothing, intrinsic, in common; only outside disapproval, an extrinsic and largely extraneous matter in the lives of gay men once they have fought their way out of the closet.
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Hell, gay men and lesbian women disapprove of each other fully as much as straight society disapproves of either!
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There were even occasional heterosexual intruders, such as the odious Madolin Cervantes of the early New York Mattachine Society. Men just coming to terms with their attraction to men would go to a meeting of what they thought was an organization for gay men, and who should be at the podium but a heterosexual woman! Many of them were hugely embarrassed and offended, and never returned.
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Over the decades, various loons expanded, diluted, and self-confuted the Movement by incorporating "bisexuals" — that is, confused people who so hate themselves and everyone else that they can never commit to anyone, of either gender; transvestites (called also "transgendered people") — utterly insane, self-despising losers who want the world to accept their astoundingly mad delusion that a person could be born "the wrong gender", that a man could be "a woman trapped in the body of a man", and vice-versa; and then, in some formulations, "Queers" (to form a presumably single, unified but actually nonexistent "LGBTQ" community). Never mind that "Queer" is the exact equivalent of "Nigger". In the case of "Jersey Pride" (Pride? It is to laff!), they decided to include the "Intersexed", people who are neither here nor there. Never mind that there are very few genetic intersexes (Wikipedia says the best approximation is 0.018% of the general population, or about 1,584 people, of all ages, in New Jersey), and some of those that do exist are sterile and retarded, because distinct gender is fundamental to human functioning.
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So gay men went from being linguistically only half of their own movement, and second at that (it's almost always "lesbian and gay"; men are second, forced to sit in the back of the bus in their own movement), to 1/5 of their own movement. They are to be lumped in with, and their interests subordinated to those of, people with whom they share nothing.
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What happens when an organization incorporates not just extraneous causes but mutually antagonistic groups and purposes into itself? It destroys itself, that's what. In the quest for larger numbers of participants in events, the Gay Movement has destroyed itself. It is now an Everybody Movement, which is of course also a Nobody Movement.
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Why stop at Intersexes — that immense 0.018% (eighteen thousandths of one percent) of the population? Why not incorporate every conceivable "sexual minority": pedophiles (LGBTQIP), asexuals (LGBTQIPA), antisexuals (LGBTQIPAA), castrati and eunuchs (LGBTQIPAACE)? If you really want to grab for numbers, you obviously have to incorporate heterosexuals (LGBTQIPAACEH)! Indeed, since there are more heterosexuals than all the others combined, you'd have to put them first in the list (HLGBTQIPAACE). How about sex addicts (HLGBTQIPAACESA)? Sado-masochists (HLGBTQIPAACESASM)? Bestialists (HLGBTQIPAACESASMB)? Fist-f*kers (HLGBTQIPAACESASMBFF)? Foot-fetishists (HLGBTQIPAACESASMBFFFF)? Rapists ((HLGBTQIPAACESASMBFFFFR)? And on, and on thru all conceivable variations and distortions of the sexual impulse.
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Heck, why stop at sexual groups? If you really want to widen your potential membership base, why not bring in more groups now on the outside of society? Alcoholics (HLGBTQIPAACESASMBFFFFA)? Drug-users (for simplicity, we won't break out such people by type of drug used, be it heroin, cocaine, meth, marijuana, OxyContin, etc.) (HLGBTQIPAACESASMBFFFFADU)? Shoplifters and kleptomaniacs (HLGBTQIPAACESASMBFFFFADUSK)? And on and on thru all the various groups of the demi-monde. Wouldn't that make for a parade!
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What an interesting concept: in striving for a larger membership and thus more political clout, expand beyond all reason and destroy internal cohesion. What a great idea! Let's extend this to its 'logical' conclusion. How about increasing numbers for each group by merging the NAACP and Ku Klux Klan: NAAKKKCP. Merge Mensa and the Association for Retarded Citizens (MARC). How about a single political party for the Republican, Democratic, Green, Socialist Labor, Socialist Worker, and Communist Parties, plus independents (with independents placed first, of course): the IRDGSLSWCP?
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How about merging Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Mormonism, Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Unitarianism, atheism, and agnosticism into a single religion/nonreligion/antireligion, the Universal Communion of Believers and Nonbelievers (UCBNB)? It could hold services in Pig Latin.
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Small sports concerned about their lack of enthusiasts could join with other sports organizations to increase their visibility. Instead of an NHL for hockey, USSF for soccer, MISL for indoor soccer, AFL for arena football, USL for lacrosse, etc., they could all merge with each other and with the (outdoor) NFL, Major League Baseball, and NBA to create one big, happy sports family: the NHSAFLOFBBA.
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Snap out of it! Organizations that dilute themselves to increase numbers at the expense of internal cohesion are doomed to failure, and deserve to fail. Thus it is that 55 years of gay activism in the U.S. have produced legal same-sex marriage in one state of fifty. One.
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The solution to small impact of separate organizations is not merger but coalition. Separate organizations retain their separate memberships but form ad-hoc alliances for specific purposes, and only for specific purposes. In every other area they retain full independence and are not bound to any other group's stances or purposes they do not share. That way they retain their internal cohesion but still get to affect public perceptions and politics.
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But be very careful what coalitions you join, and who else is part of those coalitions. Gay organizations should be particularly concerned about being tainted by groups like NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) and Eulenspiegel (sado-masochists). Alliance with such groups not only reinforces perceptions by the wider society that gay men are child molesters and self-hating, violent degenerates but also tells gay men that they should consider child-molestation and self-despising sexual violence as normal.
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Gay organizations need desperately to recognize the confused state that almost all gay boys start in, and steer them to wholesome and self-reinforcing, not self-subverting, attitudes and behaviors. Gay boys cannot learn to be gay men by seeing themselves as lesbians, "bisexuals", "transsexuals", "queers" (not normal, but queer, bizarre) or "intersexes". They need to identify solidly and solely as gay males, first boys, then men, and not ever anything else.
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(3) Fools and Seatbelts. My state's Governor, Jon Corzine, nearly died last month because he didn't trouble to buckle his seatbelt. He has since made a national PSA (public-service announcement) to promote seatbelt use, which kicked off a nationwide "Click It or Ticket" campaign to crack down on people who don't use seat belts.
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Corzine had been riding in the "suicide seat" (front passenger seat). On Wednesday, Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show, who had interviewed Corzine about his accident, was caught on camera not wearing a seatbelt himself while riding with (supposed) Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was driving and also not wearing a seatbelt. Lauer was not in the suicide seat, but a back seat, so his error in judgment was potentially somewhat less consequential, since the main hazard seatbelts are designed to prevent is a person's being thrown thru the windshield and clear of the vehicle in a front-end crash. A passenger in a rear seat can still suffer very serious injuries from being thrown against the roof or forward into the seatback ahead, so it's a good idea to wear a seatbelt even if riding in the back seat. Once, when I settled into the back seat, when my sister was to drive, she refused to start the car until I buckled up: 'I don't want you flying into me if I have to stop suddenly.'
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In Britain, a seatbelt safety PSA has shown a backseat child flying into the driver (the 'mother' in this fictional scenario) and killing her. Such injuries, especially fatal such injuries, are rare but definitely possible. A UK site says:
Car passengers [in the rear seat] need to be educated about the dangers not just to themselves but to front-seat passengers and drivers as well. Research in 1998 showed that 160 lives could be saved a year [in the UK], of which up to 15 are front-seat passengers or drivers hit by the unbelted passenger.
If a similar percentage applied in the U.S., which has 5 times as many people as the UK, that translates to 800 deaths a year, of which 75 are front-seat passengers or drivers killed by back-seat passengers flying into them. To put this in context, there were about 43,443 traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2005. 800 is 1.8%; 75 is 0.17% of all traffic deaths here.
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Mitt Romney is a fool if "he needs to keep reminding himself to buckle up." He shouldn't bother. His death would be no loss. It might even be a public boon.
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(4) Preserving Marriage. The statistic is commonly batted about that half of all (heterosexual) marriages end in divorce. How many women who now launch divorce proceedings would do so if the laws were changed to end child support from a divorced spouse and require the custodial parent to bear all the costs of childcare? This is a simple way to preserve a lot of marriages. If women want their 'freedom' from a bad marriage, and want custody of the children from that marriage, let them pay all the costs of the children they steal from the father. The noncustodial parent should pay all costs of caring for his/her children only when they are actually in his or her care (weekends, holidays, vacations, all summer — whatever).
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The most common argument made against gay marriage* is that marriage is for children. What is divorce for?
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Society created an arrangement for taking care of children economically and emotionally . It's called "marriage". Why should we undo the very institution we created for children, and pretend that child support payments are a wholly satisfactory substitute? Is a father really so easily dispensable that a mere check is adequate replacement? If not, then society needs to restore marriage to what it was intended to be: security not just for the adult partners but, MORE IMPORTANTLY, for the children.
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Most (straight) people enter into marriage nowadays with insufficient seriousness, on the blithe assumption that if it doesn't work out, they can escape a few years down the road and move on. Society's revisions to marriage laws have promoted immaturity and instability, and injured not just adults but also children by the tens of millions.
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Divorce between marital partners should end the relationship entirely, as tho it never existed. There should be no alimony, no child support. If the relationship no longer exists, the financial benefits and obligations should also no longer exist. Period. Divorce should return people to the position of strangers. If you owe a stranger no financial support, you owe no ex-spouse financial support. Conversely, however, if a person wants child support or any other financial benefit from another person, let the two be married and stay married. It is insane to create an institution to provide such things and then destroy that institution but retain the financial obligations built into that institution. There should be no alimony, no palimony, no child support outside of marriage — nothing. Financial support is a benefit of marriage, not the obligation of strangers.
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In the uncommon case where neither parent feels able to bear the full cost of custody, the court should be empowered to enroll the custodial parent in a public-assistance program — or to deny the divorce entirely. If one adult wishes to move out on his or her own, only within marriage should s/he be required to pay child support in the children's home. If one's 'freedom' is so important that a person is willing to continue to pay all the costs s/he would have had to pay had s/he remained in the marital home PLUS all costs of a second residence for him- or herself as well, fine. Plainly, no court is entitled to require him/her to live in a place s/he finds oppressive. But the children will be provided for, by the institution designed to provide for children: marriage.
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If an abandoned spouse refuses to be divorced, courts should evaluate the justice or injustice of that spouse's making continuing financial demands upon a spouse who wants out of an unhappy marriage. This is definitely not a no-fault approach to marriage. People who enter into marriage assume legal obligations in perpetuity, and should not be permitted to abandon those responsibilities for trivial cause. When there are no children and each partner is capable of taking care of him- or herself, divorce should be nearly automatic. But when a partner feels entitled to financial support because that was the promise when s/he entered the marriage and people are entitled to rely upon promises made in a contract, that partner should have the right to contest a divorce and either defeat it entirely or delay its effectiveness, and the resulting cessation of financial support, for a time reasonably sufficient to make other, adequate arrangements. If one partner becomes disabled, and the able-bodied partner wants out of the marriage on that account, courts have the right to take very seriously the "for richer, for poorer" and "in sickness and in health" parts of the common wedding vows (contractual promises), and bear in mind the intent of society in establishing marriage as an institution to save society from having to support people who should instead be able to rely upon the support of a spouse.
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Divorce should not be automatic. If you don't want to risk becoming trapped in a marriage that may go awry, don't get married. If you do get married, take the promises very seriously. At end, each of us should prefer to take care of him- or herself if a marriage fails despite honest effort on both partners' part. People should let go if efforts to save a marriage fail, and move on, for their own emotional well-being as much as anything else.
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When gay men end a relationship, they end it. Each takes his own things and resumes full financial responsibility for himself. Straights could learn from us.
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(5) Disgusting Commercials. Why should I and millions of other gay men, plus boys and young children, have to hear about menstrual bleeding and vaginal yeast infections in commercials that invade general-audience programming? Commercials for tampons, menstrual pads, vaginal yeast medications, etc., do not belong on television. Period (you should pardon the expression).
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* By the way, New Hampshire's Governor signed legislation yesterday that makes that conservative/libertarian New England state one of seven states that have legalized same-sex "civil unions". New Hampshire's neighbor Massachusetts is the only state, so far, to legalize gay "marriage". Of the New England states, only Rhode Island has at present neither a same-sex "civil union" nor "marriage" statute. New England. Puritan country.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 3,475 — for Israel.)



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