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Censorship Government Politics

Chinese, U.S. Condemn Censorship 238

Posted by Zonk
from the glad-we-can-talk-about-this dept.
More reactions both at home and abroad to the censorship issue. picaro writes "According to the BBC, 'party elders' in China released an open letter decrying the current state of censorship in China, and suggesting that 'history demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance.'" LWATCDR writes "The US government is upset over restrictions of freedom of speech on the Internet. The United States, has 'very serious concerns' about the protection of privacy and data throughout the Internet globally, and in particular, some of the recent cases raised in China."
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Chinese, U.S. Condemn Censorship

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:44PM (#14719551)
    China is now looking for a more "fair and balanced" way to report the day's headlines.
    • Re:In other news... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And Guantanamo prisoners are looking forward to US joining list of countries that respect basic human and civil rights..

      • And the whole world is waiting for muslims to chill out over cartoons. And the Jews are still waiting to be accepted as human beings in their region of the world. And France is still waiting to win a war. And I'm still waiting to win the lottery.
    • Does that mean their propaganda will be presented in a "no spin zone"?
    • Wikinews has a story [wikinews.org] on this which could use some editing help.

  • A Few Questions... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kelbear (870538) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:46PM (#14719565)
    Who is this letter being addressed to? Who will it reach that have the power to change the status quo?

    I'm wondering what purpose this announcement serves. I'm glad to hear this, but is this just lipservice or a precursor to some real action?

    I'm at a loss as to how such a major policy change can be brought about in China aside from a sudden onset of mass altruism. Part of it stems from a very poor understanding of the Chinese government structure. I'm sure I'm not the only one in the U.S that doesn't know.

    Can someone fill in these information gaps?
    • A few answers (Score:3, Informative)

      by pepsi_j_cola (943788)
      1) There are only a few top post in China that provide policy direction. Most of it currently filled by Hu, a civil engineer by trade (thus all the rail road, dam and other civil projects got a lot more funding.) 2) There is also a people's congress full of semi-elected people (some of them are appointed by local governments, some elect by villages, some by state companies). They mostly just rubber stamp what the top people want to do. But sometime they don't. 3) There is also a mass of state and local gove
    • From my knowledge of China, I'd say there is a good chance this will have a positive though not doing away completely with censorship, assuming that the letter actually is read by the chinese. One of the prime reasons for the strict authoritarianism in China is because of the political culture of confucianism. In a confucianist culture there is a strict heirarchy and the people are expexted to be loyal; however, it is also the responsibility of the elders and advisors to speak out when they see the country
    • And a few answers (Score:3, Informative)

      by code65536 (302481)
      First, I would strongly recommend that people listen to this clip on NPR's All Things Considered: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?stor y Id=5206172 [npr.org] because it goes into a lot more depth and offers more insight than the BBC article.

      1) A government for a country of that size is NOT monolithic. For example, it would be foolish to say that everyone in the US government is in favor of having troops in Iraq: there are a lot of Senators who are not happy at all. Likewise, the Chinese government has v
  • Remarkable candor (Score:2, Insightful)

    by theCat (36907)
    Or double-speak. It's hard to tell them apart if done correctly.

    It would be trivially easy for the Chinese leadership to appraoch Google, Y! et al and say "Just serve up the same search results as you do in any other country. We won't throw anyone in jail or kick your servers out of the country if you do. We welcome the internal discussion this would provoke because we want to support free speech."

    Let's see if in fact they do that. Nothing short of that exact approach is likely going to cut it.
    • They'd also have to end restrictions of printed books and public expression. The fact that they do none of this shows they're completely full of it.
  • Yeah right. (Score:5, Funny)

    by mctk (840035) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:49PM (#14719585) Homepage
    "The letter was signed on 2 February but publicly released on Tuesday."

    Sadly, the writers made the unfortunate mistake of pointing out important parts using the infamous "black highlighter." They could not be located for clarification.

  • by aquatone282 (905179) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:49PM (#14719591)

    If China censors free speech, that's bad.

    But if fundamentalist religious zealots threaten us with violence for exercising free speech, we're okay with that.

    Seriously - WTF?

    • by msbsod (574856) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:59PM (#14719690)
      Like this case: click [theregister.co.uk].
      Sad.
    • Ya know, there's something that everyone born with the right to free speech seems to have forgotten lately..

      Just because you can say it doesn't mean there aren't consequenses from saying it! To think that someone can stand on their soapbox and rant on about something that infuriates others and not have their ass kicked shows a severe lack of common sense.

      That said, there's definitely room for tolerance of conflicting opinions, views, etc. in our world. But don't expect everyone to act that way.

      • by lbrandy (923907) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @06:14PM (#14719828)
        Just because you can say it doesn't mean there aren't consequenses from saying it!

        This is such a god damm strawman argument and I am so sick and tired of it. People who say that freedom of speech and of the press are important values (like the GP) aren't saying that speech should be free from consequences. However consequences is defined in a very particular way. When people, correctly, say that there are "consequences" to speech, they aren't talking about bombings, riots, murder, and all that bullshit. Stop equating some doofus at some university for getting himself kicked out because he posts stuff on the internet (a legal consequence), with people who riot in the streets, burn buildings, cause violence, kill each other, and threaten to kill the people who said stuff they disagree with half a world away.

        Muslims, including many moderates, feel that a paper should not be allowed to insult their religion. That is the very definition of a violation of free speech. Threatening to kill Danish citizens is not a "consequence" of freedom of speech. Pissing someone off doesn't give them the right to burn shit, and kill people. That is not a valid "consequence" of speech.
        • Thanks, the consequence of you posting this is that I'm copying it to paste in the future when others bring up this same old canard. I got sick of constantly typing out why it is a non-sequiter to the question of free speech.
        • >>Just because you can say it doesn't mean there aren't consequenses from saying it!

          >This is such a god damm strawman argument and I am so sick and tired of it. >People who say that freedom of speech and of the press are important values >(like the GP) aren't saying that speech should be free from consequences. >However consequences is defined in a very particular way.

          It'd be nice if you gave a definition and not examples.

          >When people, correctly, say that there are "consequences" to spe
      • "To think that someone can stand on their soapbox and rant on about something that infuriates others and not have their ass kicked shows a severe lack of common sense."

        if someone attacks you violently for what you say, they are wrong. the punishment for a crime cannot exceed the damage caused by the crime. otherwise, you have an escalation of violence. you cannot blame someone for inciting you to do a crime which is worse than the crime you are resonding to

        if i slap you, and you shoot me in the face in retu
        • meanwhile, if i slap you, and you slap me back, that's totally justified.

          I don't think a judge would agree with you on that. If someone strikes you (assault), you're entitled to defend yourself, but not to dive in and have a melee. What you're supposed to do in such a case is only answer with enough force to ensure your safety, and presumably file charges against the person who hit you.

          -jcr
          • Unfortunately, most people frequently forget that there is a difference between legal obligations and moral obligations...

            There are many immoral acts that are entirely legal.

            There are many illegal acts that are entirely moral.

            I think that the discussion being had was more about what was moral than what was legal, and a judge is perhaps a poor choice of guide for morality... he'll get too hung up on the relevant law.

            If someone strikes you, you have many options... It is entirely morally acceptible for you t
    • But if fundamentalist religious zealots threaten us with violence for exercising free speech, we're okay with that.

      No, but what do you propose we do about it, other than get into a "Bush is bad," "No, Islam is a violent religion," fight?
      • No, but what do you propose we do about it, other than get into a "Bush is bad," "No, Islam is a violent religion," fight?

        That's weird. I think Bush is bad, and I also think Islam is a violent religion. I'm confused. These don't seem like opposing viewpoints to me.
    • exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @06:18PM (#14719860) Homepage Journal
      many say the prophet mohammed cartoons were a direct provocation of muslim sensibilities. and they would be correct. and equally true is that many muslims are rightfully deeply insulted by the cartoons... but most of them they stew in their anger in silence, or wage peacful protests. and some say the western media only focuses on the most violent of reactions. there is some truth to this too.

      however, the problem is that, even with all of these mitigations, there is still a worrisome, large segment of the muslim world that thinks their reaction, violence, is appropriate. in other words...
      1. the muslims were provoked: true
      2. most muslims react peacefully and appropriately: true
      3. western media shows a disproportionate amount of violent reaction: true

      and yet, after all of those mitigations, there still really are a lot of muslims, a disporportionately, worrying large amount, who reacted with violence. and this points to a real problem in the muslim world, that haters of the west, and apologists for the muslim world, or anyone else for that matter, would be foolish to think they can ignore as a serious issue.
      • First of all, there was a very small percentage of muslims who reacted violently. Second, You are leaving out the political/cultural context. The muslims have been experienced a lot of suffering under colonial occupation. Remember the british phrase "no indians or dogs" allowed inside. The war in Iraq and the cartoons are seen as a continuation of the insult.
        • Re:exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh (216268)
          First of all, there was a very small percentage of muslims who reacted violently.

          Small percentage? There's thousands of Muslims rioting and attacking embassies. If it were a few small groups of extremists, that'd be one thing. But popularly-supported riots with thousands of people is another thing entirely. It's pretty obvious that the behavior of these violent Muslims is fairly representative of the feelings of the majority.

          You can't call them "a few extremists" any more when there's thousands of them
          • Re:exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

            by kbahey (102895) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @10:28PM (#14721608) Homepage

            First of all, there was a very small percentage of muslims who reacted violently.

            Small percentage? There's thousands of Muslims rioting and attacking embassies. If it were a few small groups of extremists, that'd be one thing. But popularly-supported riots with thousands of people is another thing entirely. It's pretty obvious that the behavior of these violent Muslims is fairly representative of the feelings of the majority.

            You can't call them "a few extremists" any more when there's thousands of them crowding the streets.


            Let us do some math.

            Assuming that there were demonstrations in 10 countries, and there were 2,000 people in each demonstration, this makes up for 20,000 Muslims involved.

            I am in a generous mood, so let us say 5,000 in each demonstration, in 20 countries. Total is 100,000 Muslims then. Mind you not all of these were violent, nor involved property damage. The most notable torching of embassies was in Lebanon and Syria, perhaps a couple of others.

            Now, how much is 100,000 in the total population of Muslims worldwide which is estimated at 1.2 billion or more? This is 0.008% of the total.

            Even if we assume that there are 1,200,000 Muslims involved, this is still 0.01%.

            Negligible for sure.

            You can read an alternative view in some thoughts on the prophet Muhammad cartoons controversy [baheyeldin.com].

            Second, You are leaving out the political/cultural context. The muslims have been experienced a lot of suffering under colonial occupation.


            Tough shit. Honestly, I really don't care any more. The Europeans haven't had control of the middle eastern countries for almost a century now; no one in those violent crowds was alive when there were any colonies. This is like the excuse that some black people in the US give for having atrocious behavior, that their distant ancestors were slaves. Sorry, it's not 1850 any more; it's time to join the rest of society and stop playing the oppression card. Even worse, the US has never had any colonies, so that argument really doesn't apply to the country they all hate the most.


            You have a point here about the victimization complex, and I agree with it.

            On the other hand, if it not have been for the two recent invasions of Muslim countries, this argument would have been stronger.


            I've been rabidly anti-Republican since the Bush/Gore election, but any sympathy I ever had for Muslims is gone now.


            Too bad that you sympathy is gone because of some choice footage in the media that leaves a lot of background and context.

            By the same token, the rest of the world solely judges the USA from what they see from Hollywood and TV shows, as well as its actions (foreign policy and military). This is unfair, but it is the sore thumb sticking out. Judging should be based on a deeper multi-facted analysis.


            We should pull out of these backwards, hellhole countries and leave them to their own devices.


            Good idea. Intervention was wrong in the first place. But it is not going to happen, since there is so much at stake (oil, geo-politics, ...etc.)
            • Even if we assume that there are 1,200,000 Muslims involved, this is still 0.01%.
              Negligible for sure.


              Sorry, I still don't buy it. I really don't care about the total number of Muslims in the world; what's more important is how many people are gathering and having a violent protest in one place. Any time you have thousands of people in a single place, that's a lot. If there's enough people in Lebanon who have gathered and are able to torch an embassy (somehow without any resistance from law enforcement, w
            • Where is the islamic world's condemnation of the Albanians that were killed in Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Serbia and Croatia? Nowhere.

              Where is the islamic world's condemnation of Syria manipulating the affairs of Lebanon? Nowhere.

              The goal of most governments in Islamic states is to maintain a sense of unbalance within their populations, to keep the focus of the ills of the populations on the Western Infidel governments, etc.

              Only in Lebanon do we have a sense that SOME people in the Islamic world have a clue, that
          • Small percentage? There's thousands of Muslims rioting and attacking embassies.

            Blame the leadership. For instance, in Beirut many people attended what they expected to be a peaceful demonstration that then turned violent. [bbc.co.uk] Also, several Danes in Beirut have said that they have felt support from the local population and have wanted to stay. Some of them have gotten cold feet along the way, but that's somewhat understandable since 100 good neighbours might not be enough to save you from one crazy islamofasc

      • Yeah.. this whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense to me, particularly the calls for "retribution" by making holocaust cartoons (which just emphasizes the distorted view that Israel == theWest, I think). It's sort of like some guy walks down the street and says your kids are ugly, so you turn and tell your neighbor that you nailed his wife. Your neighbor gets pissed, and the guy across the street is just bewildered.

        Also ironic is the fact that people are getting violent over the fact that someone insinua
      • Re:exactly (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MickDownUnder (627418)
        1. the muslims were provoked: true

        Provoked perhaps deliberately. Here [brusselsjournal.com] are the 12 cartoons that were actually published. However it might be much of this furor is over three cartoons that were never published.

        This is from the following article [alternet.org]...

        "The dossier contained at least three cartoons that had never been published in Denmark. These were brutally offensive; indeed, they were incendiary. One shows Mohammed as a pedophiliac demon. Another shows Mohammed with a pig snout. The third shows a pray
        • Re:exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Savantissimo (893682)
          Not only that, the cartoons were published in the Egyptian paper Al Fagr in mid-October with barely a ripple. Only when the Saudi government needed a distraction from criticisms of the hotel disaster did they start pumping up the cartoon story in their state-controlled media.
    • There were plenty of Muslims who were offended but didn't threaten anyone.
      Our opinions count too you know.

      Plus some of those cartoons arguably count as hate speech.

      • There were plenty of Muslims who were offended but didn't threaten anyone.

        Sure, not everyone who's offended by a cartoon is going to throw a tantrum. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff, for example, reacted in an absolutely appropriate way to an exceptionally snotty cartoon in the Washington Post a short while ago. They wrote a letter to the editor, without demanding that Tolles be fired, and certainly never threatened to burn down the Post's Springfield printing plant.

        There is a civilized way to react to an in
    • > If China censors free speech, that's bad.
      >
      > But if fundamentalist religious zealots threaten us with
      > violence for exercising free speech, we're okay with that.

      Find a single person who is "okay with that."

      The whole cartoon situation is two problems, one much worse than the other. First, printing something that is offensive (shouldn't be a big deal, it happens every day, but it is still offensive). Second, reacting violently - which is completely inexcusable.
      • There's something about "offensive" writing. It's up to those who are offended to become offended. There's nothing innately offensive about the writing itself. No writing is offensive until interpreted by the offended party.

        I'm not a Muslim, so all of those various comics simply elicited a chuckle from me, the same as the numerous comical portrayals of Jesus elicit a chuckle from me, the same as the humorous portrayals of Athiests elicit a chuckle from me... None of those comics are offensive to me. On that
  • by MyNymWasTaken (879908) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:51PM (#14719602)
    Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005 [rsf.org]

    Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland all tied for 1st place.

    The USA ranked 44th. (Fell more than 20 places)

    China ranked 159th.

    The Index also refutes the theory frequently advanced by leaders of poor and repressive countries that economic development is a vital prerequisite for democracy and the respect for human rights. The top portion of the Index is heavily dominated not only by rich, but also by very poor, countries (the latter having a per capita GDP of less than $1,000 in 2003).
    • "The USA ranked 44th. (Fell more than 20 places)"

      The article states that the US fell in rank for imprisoning reporters who wouldn't divulge sources. This was due to an overzealous prosecutor investigating the CIA operative leak. So the Democrats are responsible for destroying freedom of press since getting back at the Republicans is more important than basic civil liberties (Republicans do this all the time too).

      "The Index also refutes the theory frequently advanced by leaders of poor and repressive countri
    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @06:11PM (#14719803)
      I wouldn't put too much faith into that list.

      There is a reason why the USA slipped of course and ranks at 44th place, but abuses of press get a lot more press if it happens in the USA. The only way to know about these abuses is more or less the same mechanism that the report is criticizing.

      Take for example Hungary, my home country at the 12th place. Now, around 80-90% of the media here is owned by ex-communist leaders who transferred their political power into economic one. That makes for a pretty biased press. I'm not sure if I would take the USA's press over what we have here, but I'd take the UK's press any day (especially the beeb) and they got the 24th place while Hungary is 12 places higher.

      This freedom of press report should be taken with a pinch of salt. I'm no expert on press in most of the world, but based on how it represents local press I have to conclude it to be pretty inaccurate.
    • Sweden is hopefully coming down from the top. Members of the parliament in Sweden have lately uttered that they find censorship OK, if minorities are involed in a hatefull way. YAP YAP YAP.
    • Freedom of speech is not the same as a right to hide sources. I don't think "freedom from divulging sources engaged in illegal activities" really counts as freedom of speech. Sure you can say anything you want, but that doesn't necessarily give you the right to hide illegal activities.

      The people making this report have a different idea of what free press is than here. Many of those countries at the top would jail anyone who ran a Nazi or otherwise racist publication. In the US, you have the right to free sp
  • Stunning. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:51PM (#14719608) Homepage
    Now "Party Elders" really means "former party officials", so this isn't indicating change from the inside. Still a stunning statement. The close ties of the people signing the letter to Mao seems significant... Though the cynical part of me notes that at least two of them were explicitly propagandists, implying this may simply be more of the same (but to what purpose, I don't know). Yet the statement "only a totalitarian system needs news censorship" is one of those things that is so true it doesn't matter who says it.
  • by Serveert (102805) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @05:56PM (#14719658)
    The day those in government stop accepting Chinese money to fund our historic spending is the day we can start taking our government seriously when it makes value judgements against China.

    If they're so evil, stop accepting the money, it's really simple
    • Indeed, the U.S. government mired in the mess of Iraq, North Korea, and the developing mess with Iran, is quite beholden to the Chinese government and not really in a position to make too many demands. But in addition to this, it has been U.S. corporations in their blind pursuit of profits at any cost who have enabled China to get the billions that they are now using to build up their military and wield more influence in the U.S. and elsewhere. It is no secret that a low paid and tightly controlled populac
  • It's all just talk until things change. I'll ignore the public statements and wait for change before altering my opinion, thank you.
  • by revery (456516) * <charlesNO@SPAMcac2.net> on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @06:00PM (#14719700) Homepage
    So, first they model their cencorship policy [slashdot.org] on our "model", then they criticize it. And apprently, we agree with them..

    I'm so confused...

  • All I'm going to say is that actions speak louder than words. I'll believe it when i see it.
  • Crock O' Shite (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PingXao (153057) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @06:03PM (#14719732)
    The U.S. is as concerned about "privacy rights" as casinos are in letting you win. The quote comes from State Department flunky Josette Shiner, a 15-year veteran of the Washington Times and a member of the cult known as the "Unification Church". When a Moonie tells you, on behalf of the U.S. Government, that the government is interested in personal privacy it's time to run in the other direction as fast as possible. FWIW Shiner got her appointment from Bush to the State Dept. as a political favor to the Moonies for their support.

    When a woman who has spent the majority of her adult life in service to Rev. Moon there's very little credibility there.
    • Re:Crock O' Shite (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032)
      The U.S. is as concerned about "privacy rights" as casinos are in letting you win.

      I believe you're confusing the government with the country.

      -jcr
  • 'party elders' found dead.
  • We're censoring contraceptives now? The far right in this country is really taking things too.. what's that?

    Oh, heh.. nevermind.
  • by Illbay (700081)
    There's a whole lot more wrong with China than just this issue.

    For instance, they're [REDACTED] about the [REDACTED] insofar as [REDACTED] is concerned, and yet they continually [REDACTED] the [REDACTED] for as long as they can [REDACTED].

    I wish they'd address those issues as well.

  • The United States, has 'very serious concerns' about the protection of privacy and data throughout the Internet globally...

    Hey, there's some progress. Next thing you know, the US will be voicing it's "very serious concerns" about warrantless searches.
  • A group of former senior Communist party officials in China have been arrested.
  • Strange (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Arwing (951573)
    It's strange for you guys to think that China(or Chinese) has a single mind. Or even the Chinese government is somehow unified under the same ideology and the whole nation is being ruled by one central government.
    What you don't hear about is the riots in the countryside and local government officials (mostly even more corrupted than the central officials) gathering warlord-like power and basically dickslap the orders/directives from the central government.
    Chinese central government is not as strong as mo
  • Communism has always been about freedom. That's what they shout right before they shoot you in the head. Why is OLD Chinese misdirection making the /. frontpage like it's news?
  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GoMMiX (748510) on Tuesday February 14, 2006 @07:35PM (#14720514)
    I keep hearing about how US lawmakers don't like that Google, MS, and others have agreed to conform to Chinese law in order to continue doing business in China.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't pretend to understand all the issues - or politics really.

    But I don't understand why US lawmakers are giving US companies a hard time for complying with Chinese law in China. I mean, seriously - if you go to your local retailer and look at the goods for sale half say "Made in China", 49% more say "Made in Taiwan", and 1% say "Assembled in the USA". (Which reminds me, in Bush's recent state of the uninion didn't he say the foreground of the US economy was going to be our developing manufacturing industry?)

    Anyway, point being - if the US lawmakers feel so strongly why are there not import/export sanctions on China rather then politcal badmouthing and epeen flexing?

    Like I said, I just don't get it - but sure would like to understand more - I've googled but all I can find is fingerpointing and namecalling rather than any real pertinent information about why it's working this way. (Which I imagine someone is going to say it's political and all there is to be had on the subject is opinions, fingerpointing, and namecalling anyway.)

    Ohh well, I suppose were it up to me I'd be doing my best to make sure importing goods evened out with manufacturing them here in the US. Guess that's why it's not up to me! (Kinda like I'd like to see outsourced IT end up costing US companies just as much (yes I know some would argue it already does) as having a US citizen as an employee)
  • I thought China *has* a totalitarian gov't, albeit one that has grown to wear the familiar yellow happyface also used by one of its bigger customers... what are these retired party members thinking??

    Totalitarian: A political system based on absolute power of a single party or dictator.
  • Then yes the U.S. is showing increasing signs of totalitarianism, one we're getting right now is that the U.S. military is increasingly distanced for the political process, they don't know why they're fighting, every single interview with a soldier shows they don't know why they're fighting and no one seems to think this is a problem.

    The U.S. has a very high ratio of spending on military vs. Education.

    Heck today on slashdot they have an Artical about the U.S. military using video games to train soldiers
  • The sweet irony is that the BBC website was one of the very first websites blocked here in China and remains completely blocked to this day.

    So the Elders offer their comments to a news source they know cannot be read in China.

  • Burke and Hare condem grave-robbing.

    TWW

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