I Just Wanted a Baby, But Surrogacy Gave Me So Much More

When I started telling people I was having a baby with a gestational surrogate, the responses ranged from awkwardly supportive to just awkward.

A woman at a party congratulated me, praised me for being so clever, so ahead of the times. “Ugh, you’re brilliant,” she told me. I’d have someone else do the dirty work of motherhood for me. Genius.compassionate surrogacy

Others wanted me to know I was in good company: Kim Kardashian had just been through the process. So had Gabrielle Union. And Andy Cohen. And now me!

My traditional Indian mother, fiercely private and surprisingly sneaky, had another idea. She thought it might be better if we made up a story that the baby was adopted. “People aren’t going to understand this,” she said.

Misguided, to be sure, but my mother (as usual) had a point: There is still an incredible amount of secrecy around the gestational surrogacy process. And wherever there is silence, stigma isn’t far behind. It’s for rich people, it’s immoral, it’s dystopian, it’s exploitative…

I know that these are just a few of the thoughts swirling in people’s heads when I tell them that this month a woman named Amber in Kansas will deliver my son. For me, and for countless other families who struggle with fertility, surrogacy isn’t a luxury or shortcut: It’s the light at the end of a very long and lonely tunnel.

The first time I got pregnant, I had just started running for Public Advocate in New York City. It was unexpected, but welcome news. My husband, Nihal, and I were so excited. We told family and friends with abandon (12-week rule be damned!). We changed our destination wedding date so I wouldn’t have to travel in the third trimester. That was almost eight years ago, and we were blissfully, naively unaware of what was ahead of us.

I remember fantasizing about being pregnant while running for office. I imagined how I would march my big fat, swollen feet all over the five boroughs knocking on doors. I would be a symbol of feminine power on the campaign trail: a knocked-up Rosie the Riveter. My baby would be a born public servant, just like me.

When we went to the doctor for our first appointment and saw the solemn look on her face, we didn’t understand. We were no strangers to failure. I had publicly bombed a race for Congress two years before. Nihal, an entrepreneur, had learned resilience from running start-ups. But this was supposed to be easy. Isn’t this what we were born to do? We were shocked that something like this could happen, that we could lose our baby.

Two nights later I put on a brave face and got on stage to introduce President Obama at a fundraiser. It should have been the best night of my life, but I was dying inside, literally, the entire time.

Six months later I miscarried again, hours before I was slated to give a huge pitch for my nonprofit to the “who’s who” of New York City. My job was to be dazzling. I felt so much rage knowing it was easier to betray myself and go through the motions than to admit why I couldn’t.

Vogue.com by Resma Saujani, January 24, 2020

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Dozens of anti-LGBTQ state bills already proposed in 2020, advocates warn

Many of the anti-LGBTQ state bills focus on transgender youth, including legislation in South Dakota that would make it a felony to provide trans health care to minors.

Like most high school students, Aerin Geary does not typically pay attention to state legislation. However, the South Dakota teenager has been closely following House Bill 1057, a Republican anti-LGBTQ state bills proposal that would make it a felony for medical professionals to provide transgender health care to minors.anti-LGBTQ state bills

“This bill makes me feel scared, since this is something that affects me deeply,” Geary, 15, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, told NBC News. “Transitioning is something that I’ve been hoping to get and been yearning for for years.

The high school sophomore is afraid that if the legislation passes, plans to take puberty-suppressing medication will be delayed indefinitely.

“I recently managed to convince my family to allow me to start transitioning, and I’m so close to getting there,” Geary said. “To take it away from me when I’m so close would be a huge blow to my hope.”

HB 1057, which successfully passed out of committee on Wednesday, would make providing certain forms of gender-affirming medical care to minors — including the prescription of puberty blockers — a Class Four felony, which in South Dakota carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Proponents say the bill is needed to protect children from rushing into a “life-changing” decision, while critics say it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and could cause physical and psychological harm to trans youth.

South Dakota’s trans health care bill is not the only state legislation that has lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocates sounding the alarm. In fact, they say it’s just one of at least 25 anti-LGBTQ state bill s that have been proposed so far in 2020.

Many of the bills, like South Dakota’s, focus on transgender youth, but a number of others deal with nondiscrimination protections and religious exemptions. Chase Strangio, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, called this legislative session “one of the most hostile” for LGBTQ people in recent years.

Trans youth and health care

Bills seeking to limit transgender health care for minors have been introduced in at least seven states this month — all by Republican lawmakers.

Like South Dakota, Florida and Colorado have introduced bills that carry criminal penalties. The “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” one of four bills proposed in Florida last week that have been opposed by LGBTQ advocates, would make providing certain medical care or treatments to transgender minors — including nonsurgical care, like hormone therapy — a second-degree felony. Medical practitioners could face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Why Aren’t There More Rich Foster Parents?

Bureaucracy — no surprise — gets in the way of expanding the pool of volunteers to be foster parents.

Over the past 15 years or so, Pedro Maldonado, Nigel Warren and Brieanna Hayes, all now in their 20s, cumulatively lived in about 39 different foster homes in New York City. Pedro, who is Italian, was lucky: He ultimately settled in with a caring Mexican family for more than a decade before he aged out of the system and began living on his own.foster parents

Nigel and Brieanna had a harder time of it.

In one house, Nigel found himself subjected to a painful and relentless competition with another foster child who was favored for his good grades and athleticism. Once Nigel got into a fight with his foster father that became physical, and the foster father bit him.

Brieanna said that her best foster mother was a drug addict who, despite everything, really cared about her. Brieanna, who is gay, entered the system when she was 14 and immediately faced hostility from the guardians who could not abide her sexuality.

In one situation, Brieanna was not allowed to use the washing machine. During the holidays, she would be asked to leave to create room for extended family, which left her on the streets.

Despite the prevalence of such Dickensian anecdotes, New York City’s foster care system has been considered an enormous success in recent years, a potential model for the rest of the country where thousands of children suspended in the opioid crisis have required an ever greater number of caregivers.

During the past quarter-century, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services has reduced the foster population from 50,000 children to fewer than 9,000, through a focus on preventive services that strives to keep biological families together.

And yet, the broader problem of inequality along with the various hurdles imposed by bureaucracy can collude to impair how and where children might be placed, leaving the project of foster care another social burden assumed largely by the less affluent.

It is one of the essential paradoxes of life in New York that you are much more likely to find a foster parent in a small apartment belonging to the New York City Housing Authority than in a triplex on West End Avenue with its own gym.

How to attract a wider range of people to the work is a perennial question, Kerry Moles told me. Ms. Moles is the executive director of CASA-NYC, an organization whose volunteers are assigned by judges to help children in foster care and those who age out. (Pedro, Nigel and Brieanna are members of the organization’s youth leadership council, working with young people and educating judges and lawyers about the experience of growing up in the system.)

It would be easy to say that the problem lies with the selfish habits of the upper classes; however charitable they might be when it comes to writing checks to well-meaning foundations, they are all too happy to insulate themselves from the messiness of life beyond the bubble.

While there is obviously truth to that kind of judgment, it is also the case that the rigidity of the foster-care system can keep well-meaning people away.

Consider the example of Sara Beth Turner, a photographer in her 30s, who lives alone in a brownstone apartment in Brooklyn with that rarest of assets, an empty second bedroom. Inspired by the mission of her church, Trinity Grace, in Williamsburg, a congregation filled with young, creative people like her, she was moved to foster a teenager. About a third of the city’s foster population is made up of children over 13, and they are always the hardest to place.

NYTimes.com, January 17, 2020 By Ginia Bellefante

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How Men’s Bodies Change When They Become Fathers

Hint: They don’t just get ‘dad bods’ but men’s bodies change.

Men’s bodies change when they become fathers.  As an anthropologist who studies human fatherhood at the University of Oxford, I’ve run up against a widespread and deeply ingrained belief among fathers: that because their bodies haven’t undergone the myriad biological changes associated with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, they’re not as biologically and psychologically “primed” for caretaking as women are.men's bodies change

As a result, they feel less confident and question their abilities to parent: Will they be “good” parents? Will they bond with their babies? How will they know what to do?

As my own personal and professional experiences dictate, the idea that fathers are biologically “less prepared” for parenthood is unlikely to be true. Much of the role of parenting is not instinctual for anyone. (I remember the steep learning curve of those first days of motherhood — learning what each of my baby’s cries meant, mastering the quick diaper change and juggling the enormous amount of equipment necessary just to make it out the door.)

And while the biological changes fathers undergo are not as well understood (nor as outwardly dramatic) as those of mothers, scientists are just beginning to find that both men and women undergo hormonal and brain changes that herald this key transition in a parent’s life.

In essence, being a dad is as biological a phenomenon as being a mom.

Testosterone seems to dip

Take testosterone, the stereotypically “male” hormone that plays important roles in male fetal development and puberty. Testosterone is largely responsible for motivating men to find partners and, studies suggest, men with higher levels of testosterone tend to be more attractive to potential mates. But being a successful human father means focusing inward on the family and resisting the drive to seek out another partner. So, experts believe, men have evolved for some of that testosterone to go.

In a pioneering five-year study published in 2011, for instance, Dr. Lee Gettler, Ph.D., an American anthropologist, followed a group of 624 single, childless men in the Philippines from age 21 to 26. Dr. Gettler found that while all men in the study experienced normal, age-related dips in testosterone, the 465 men who became dads during that five-year period experienced a more significant drop — an average 34 percent (when measured at night) — than those who remained single or married.

Globally, study after study — including my own unpublished findings in the United Kingdom — have found similar results, noting that this reduction in testosterone can happen just before and just after the birth of a man’s first child. And while it isn’t clear exactly what prompts this drop, Dr. Gettler said that his own preliminary results suggest that the more dramatic the drop, the bigger effect it seems to have on a man’s caregiving behavior. “We found that if brand new fathers had lower testosterone the day after their babies were born,” said Dr. Gettler, “they did more caregiving and baby-related household tasks months later.”

While news of this drop in testosterone is often greeted with groans of resignation from men — choose fatherhood and choose the road to emasculation, they think — some studies have suggested that the lower a man’s testosterone, the more likely he is to release key reward and bonding hormones, namely oxytocin and dopamine, when interacting with his child. Caring for your child, therefore, produces not only a strong bond but a neurochemical reward, inducing feelings of happiness, contentment and warmth — a welcome trade-off.

Brains seem to change

The brain also appears to undergo structural changes to ensure that fathers exhibit the key skills of parenting. In 2014, Dr. Pilyoung Kim, Ph.D., a developmental neuroscientist at The University of Denver, put 16 new dads into an M.R.I. machine: once between the first two to four weeks of their baby’s life, and again between 12 and 16 weeks. Dr. Kim found brain changes that mirrored those previously seen in new moms: Certain areas within parts of the brain linked to attachment, nurturing, empathy and the ability to interpret and react appropriately to a baby’s behavior had more gray and white matter between 12 and 16 weeks than they did between two and four weeks.

NYTimes.com, By Anna Machin, June 13, 2019

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Tennessee lawmakers pass legislation allowing adoption agencies to deny gay couples

Tennessee lawmakers are already making waves on the first day of the Legislative Session with passing a bill that would allow some adoption agencies to deny gay couples.

TennesseeIn the first bill voted on for the year, Tennessee lawmakers have passed HB 836/SB 1304. The bill would allow faith-based, private adoption agencies to deny certain couples. The bills prohibit privately licensed agencies from being required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in foster placement or adoption of a child with a family that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.

The bill passed the House last year and Senators voted to pass the measure on Tuesday. On Tuesday, 20 lawmakers voted yes and 6 voted no. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally declined to vote on the measure.

Fox17.com by Kaylin Jorge, January 14, 2020

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How will LGBT history be taught in New Jersey schools after new law?

New Jersey schools will teach LGBT history under a new state law, but what does that mean for the classroom? That may depend on where you live.

The law requires that middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of LBGT individuals, but leaves it up to local districts to determine how to teach those lessons.  New Jersey schools and LGBT history is now a part.New Jersey schools LGBT

School boards have to update social studies standards — a process that will unfold locally in hundreds of school districts — in time for the 2020-21 school year.

“I envision each board of education will set policy or set a foundation for the curriculum that is age-appropriate, and I don’t think that’s difficult,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

Huttle offered examples of potential lessons: books about children with two moms or dads, or lessons on the achievements of leaders like Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, the transgender activist from Jersey City who died Feb. 3.

“When looking at someone like Babs, or Harvey Milk, or the Stonewall riots, these materials are readily available to implement and to teach students, for students to understand that there are differences,” Huttle said.

North Jersey Record, by Hannan Adely, January 7, 2020

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NYS Lawmakers Reviving Paid Gestational Surrogacy Push

Will Cuomo’s help prove key in opening up option, gestational surrogacy, important to gay couples?

The contested effort to legalize compensated gestational surrogacy in New York State is underway again after the legislative push faltered last year in the face of criticism from a wide range of voices, including out lesbian Assemblymember Deborah Glick of Manhattan.Glick betrayal

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was among the chief backers of the bill last year, has included gestational surrogacy on his State of the State agenda for 2020 — which he will lay out in a January 8 address — signaling his steadfast intentions to prioritize the legislation this year.

The lawmakers who carried the bill last year, out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan and Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester, are also moving ahead with plans to revive the legislation this year.

New York is one of the few remaining states with an outright ban on paid gestational surrogacy, which entails a prospective parent or parents compensating a person to carry a baby who is not biologically related to the carrier. Hoylman, who led the bill to passage in the Senate last year, has two children through gestational surrogacy with his husband, David Sigal.

Hoylman and other lawmakers have touted the legislation’s bill of rights that they say boasts the strongest protections in the nation for surrogates and requires parents to cover all medical and legal fees for them. The bill would also address the “second parent adoption” process by removing remaining barriers couples could face to the non-biological parent’s rights regarding their child.

Despite clearing the Senate in 2019, the legislation encountered resistance in the Assembly, where Glick blew off her previous commitment to support it and instead was among the critics arguing that women carrying the babies could be exploited and that the expensive surrogacy process is essentially available only to wealthy prospective parents who can fork over tens of thousands of dollars to have children that way.

The legislative effort was ambushed on multiple fronts. Opponents included voices as disparate as longtime feminist leader Gloria Steinem, the Catholic Church, and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), a group of transphobes who have emerged primarily from the United Kingdom aggressively opposing transgender rights, surrogacy rights, and sex work decriminalization. The transphobes hijacked a City Hall rally opposing sex work decriminalization last year, holding up a sign that read, “NO to the sex trade, surrogacy, and transgende­rism.”

In the final days of the 2019 legislative session late last spring, Paulin told Gay City News she was still trying to whip votes for the bill in a last-ditch effort that proved unsuccessful. On June 20, after the bill had died for the session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “Many members, including a large majority of women in our conference, have raised important concerns that must be properly addressed before we can move forward.” He stressed the importance of prioritizing the “health and welfare” of women and said he looked forward to “continuing this conversation in the coming months.”

How exactly lawmakers plan to address those concerns is not clear this early in the year, but Paulin and Hoylman told Gay City News on January 2 that they are continuing to work with advocates and legislators to bolster the bill. Paulin, noting an example, pointed to the rigorous medication and hormone treatment that the women who are egg donors in the surrogacy process must adhere to. She said she is in touch with experts to navigate the best path forward in addressing those concerns.

GayCityNews.com, by Matt Tracy, January 3, 2020

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Methodist Split Over Same-Sex Marriage – United Methodist Church to Divide

Under an agreement to be voted on in May, a new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination would split over same-sex marriage and continue to ban same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy.

Methodist split over same-sex marriage – A group of leaders of the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the United Methodist Church, announced on Friday a plan that would formally split the church, citing “fundamental differences,” a split over same-sex marriage after years of division.catholic

The plan would sunder a denomination with 13 million members globally — roughly half of them in the United States — and create at least one new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination that would continue to ban same-sex marriage as well as the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

It seems likely that the majority of the denomination’s churches in the United States would remain in the existing United Methodist Church, which would become a more liberal-leaning institution as conservative congregations worldwide depart.

A separation in the Methodist church, a denomination long home to a varied mix of left and right, had been brewing for years, if not decades. It had become widely seen as likely after a contentious general conference in St Louis last February, when 53 percent of church leaders and lay members voted to tighten the ban on same-sex marriage, declaring that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“We tried to look for ways that we could gracefully live together with all our differences,” Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of Louisiana said. After last year’s conference, she said, “it just didn’t look like that was even possible anymore.”

In the months following, Bishop Harvey and 15 other church representatives came together in an informal committee that determined separation was “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the church to remain true to its theological understanding.”

The United Methodist Church is only the latest denomination to be roiled with intense and exhausting theological disputes over the place of L.G.B.T. members and clergy. Such fights have led to an exodus of congregations from Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in recent years, and pushed young evangelicals and Catholics to leave the pews as well.

Representatives from the Methodists’ wide-ranging factions, including church leaders from Europe, Africa, the Philippines and the United States, hammered out the separation plan during three two-day mediation sessions held at law offices in Washington. The negotiations largely centered on how to allocate the church’s significant financial assets and how to craft a separation process.

Once the agreement is written in more granular detail, it must be approved when the denomination meets for its global conference in Minneapolis in May. The initial response from some conservatives and liberals after the announcement suggests its passage is likely.

NYTimes.com by Campbell Robertson and Elizabeth Diaz, January 3, 2020

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More LGBTQ millennials plan to have kids regardless of income, survey finds

 The price of parenthood can be costly for LGBTQ millennials, and all LGBTQ families, especially those dependent on assisted reproductive technology.LGBTQ millenials

Since they married in 2015, LGBTQ millennials, Jonathan Hobgood, 37, and his husband, Kerry Johnson, 36, have wanted to be dads. At first, the couple saw adoption as the best path to parenthood, but South Carolina, where they live, is one of 10 states with religious exemption laws that make it more difficult for same-sex couples to foster and adopt, and they worried that adopting would set them up for a legal nightmare down the road.

“Our concern was that if we did a private adoption and the birth mother decided a couple of years later that she wanted her child back, we would be in for a rather extensive legal battle to try to keep the child,” Hobgood told NBC News. “So we just decided, ‘Well, let’s take ourselves down the surrogacy path from there.’”

In reality, a court-ordered private adoption would have provided the secure, legal parent-child relationship Hobgood and Johnson were looking for, but it is common for prospective parents to have misconceptions about how the law treats parental rights, according to Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality.

The couple did their research. The cost of hiring a female surrogate, they learned, would be steep — $120,000 to $150,000, a price that Hobgood, a project specialist for a medical insurance company, and Kerry, a management analyst with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, could hardly afford. But it did not deter them.

“I knew I wanted to be a child’s father,” Hobgood said. “I really just wanted to go through and enjoy bringing up this wonderful child who is a part of our family.”

Hobgood and his husband are among an increasing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the U.S. planning to have children, according to data released this year by Family Equality, a national nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ families. And despite the additional financial barriers for many prospective parents in this group, this increased desire to have children was found across income levels, according to a report the group released this month, “Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood.”

Family Equality polled LGBTQ millennials -500 LGBTQ and 1,004 non-LGBTQ adults, and found that the desire to become parents is nearly identical among both lower- and higher-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Forty-five to 53 percent of LGBTQ people between the ages of 18 and 35 are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family (compared to 55 percent for their non-LGBTQ counterparts, a gap that has narrowed significantly compared to older generations).And those making less than $25,000 a year plan to have children at a similar rate to those making over $100,000, according to the report.

Amanda Winn, the organization’s chief program officer, was surprised by the findings.

“I was expecting that folks who were living at the poverty line would report lower rates of wanting to bring children into the home knowing that finances were tight, but that’s not the case,” Winn told NBC News. “That innate, strong desire to have families exists regardless of income levels.”

LGBTQ prospective parents are more likely to face financial hurdles than their heterosexual peers, according to the report. Reasons include their relatively lower annual household incomes and the additional costs associated with having a child using an option other than sexual intercourse, which is considered by only 37 percent of LGBTQ people planning to start their families or have more children.

Assisted reproductive technology: ‘an impossible barrier’ for some

Thanks to advancements in assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy, more LGBTQ people can have children through nontraditional methods, and interest is growing. Forty percent of LGBTQ people are considering such technology to conceive children, according to a Family Equality survey published in February — but many of these prospective parents will pay for it out of their own pockets, and the technology can be expensive.

“Most LGBTQ+ individuals will learn that their health insurance plan does not cover the cost of fertility treatments at all, and, if they do, the individual or family unit must prove that they have been ‘trying’ to conceive for 6-12 months before coverage begins,” the Family Equality report states. “This stipulation in the policy results in high monthly expenses for some and creates an impossible barrier for others.”

nbcnews.com, by Julie Compton December 27, 2019

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Opinion – What Happened to All Those Frozen Eggs?

Frozen Eggs was supposed to be as revolutionary as birth control. It hasn’t lived up to the hype — but it has still changed women’s lives.

Frozen eggs – The potential for egg freezing to allow women to pause their biological clocks is one of the most astonishing developments of recent fertility science. The promise was thrilling: Women could enjoy more time to find the right partners, break up with the wrong ones and become emotionally and financially ready to become mothers.Egg Donations

Enthusiasts even fantasized the technology would promote gender equality by giving women control over their fertility so that they wouldn’t have to scale back their career ambitions during their 20s and 30s. “Freeze Your Eggs. Free Your Career” blared a 2014 cover of Bloomberg Businessweek.

When Facebook and Apple announced that same year that they would pay for egg freezing for employees in a “game-changing perk,” Apple said in a statement, “We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.”

Egg freezing was an act of self-care — and professional advancement — for the modern woman.

“All the talk in the beginning was about how egg freezing would be as big as the birth control pill and liberate women,” said Janet Takefman, a reproductive health psychologist at McGill University in Montreal, who has counseled more than 200 women considering egg freezing.

And women responded to this promise. In 2009, the first year the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology started collecting egg freezing data, 475 women went through the procedure, in which an average of 10 eggs are surgically removed and preserved in liquid nitrogen after 10 days of hormonal stimulation. In 2017, more than 9,000 women froze their eggs.

Now we have a chance to look back and ask: Did egg freezing live up to its hype?

The most obvious question is whether egg freezing worked by allowing women to have children later. Although SART collects data on pregnancy rates using frozen eggs, it doesn’t break out whether women had frozen them as part of in vitro fertilization treatment or fertility preservation during illness, or to delay childbearing. So I contacted four fertility clinics that have been in the field the longest to find out. (I froze my eggs at two of them and haven’t yet thawed.)

nytimes.com, by Sarah Elizabeth Roberts, December 21, 2019
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