Gay-themed music video a YouTube hit

Grand's first music video, for his country-tinged rock ballad "All-American Boy," was posted on YouTube last Tuesday. By last night, it had exploded, attracting more than 400,000 total views — nothing for top-charting videos from big-name recording artists, but an impressive figure for one from a complete unknown whose only promotion has been Internet buzz.

The video cost just $7,000, a fraction of the major-names' going rate, but it was a fortune to Grand, who came up with the entire budget himself by maxing out his only plastic to tell the video's story.

"All-American Boy" portrays a young gay man who misreads signals from an apparently straight "all-American" male friend. On a day hanging out with the gang, the two guys and a girl take off in a car. She drives, as the guys sit together in the back, with the straight man, at one point, falling asleep on the gay man's shoulder. Feeling like a third wheel, the girl eventually, angrily drives off, leaving the two men to pal around in the woods, where they end up stripping down and going skinny-dipping — even sharing a quick kiss. Ultimately for the straight guy, it was just all in good fun. But for the gay man, it was something much more significant, and he is left dazed, confused and longing.

"I was a 13-year-old boy (at camp)," noted the 23-year-old singer-songwriter, speaking by phone from his hometown Chicago. "One of my counselors was warm and strong and he took an interest in me — not sexually, but as a friend, and it really moved me. I remember leaving with a horrible ache in my heart."

While "All-American Boy" is told from the gay man's perspective, Grand said he knew its tale of unrequited love would resonate across lines of sexuality. He's received hundreds of postings on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook from viewers, both straight and gay, saying they understand such rejection and heartache.

"I'm not a cryer," noted Grand. "But since this all began, since people have been reaching out, I've been beyond moved, because so many people have felt what I felt, been through what I've been through."Grand said that upon discovering he was gay in eighth grade, he told friends, which quickly got back to his parents. They insisted he go to so-called "straight therapy," which he endured for five years. But it didn't work.

He logged his full freshman year at Belmont University in Nashville, but, due to the costs, returned to Chicago. His recent employment has run the gamut from modeling to supplying music for Catholic church events, the latter being what he called the "food-money" gig.

Grand said he has no idea where the YouTube success may take him, though he does admit he's "not much of a singer" and more of a songwriter. "Of course, I want to continue to grow as a man and grow as an artist," he commented.In contrast, there are all of those thrifty people in emerging markets. They save vast amounts of money that can be used for investments in growing economies. With strong family traditions, they eschew debt in any form. Or do they? Actually they don’t. Given the chance, consumers around the world act more or less the same. Credit card abuse is a universal past-time. But this time the credit bubble is no longer in the US.

Consumer debt meltdowns are not exceptional in Asia. Before the American crisis, there were three. Over the past 15 years Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan have all experienced excessive household debt which threatened the stability of their financial systems. But these countries and their issues were relatively small and localized.

The combination of rapid economic growth in emerging markets, combined with trillions in stimulus money and the search for yield has provided borrowing opportunities never before available to millions. The result is that non-mortgage consumer credit in Asia outside Japan rose 67% in the past five years. It now amounts to over $1.66 trillion. Car, motorcycle, appliance and electronic loans all more than doubled while credit card loans grew 90%. These issues are no longer small or local.

But is this a problem? Overall, consumer debt in Asia is far lower than in many more developed countries. The difference is income. As a percentage of income, debt burdens in Asia are up to 30% higher than in the US. Overall, debt burden relative to GDP is higher in India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, China and Malaysia. It is only less in than the US in Taiwan and Hong Kong, two of the countries that have experienced consumer credit problems. 

One of the most vulnerable economies is Malaysia. Unusually, strong economic growth has led to an explosion of consumer credit. Consumer debt is approaching developed world levels. Malaysian household debt has risen to 76.6% of GDP from 65.9% five years ago. It is the highest in the region. Malaysian consumer boom has followed the country’s economic expansion. A lot of this expansion has been due to commodity producer exports to China.

Much of the credit has been due to the inflow of money from developed countries specifically the QE program of the US Federal Reserve. With China slowing and the QE program ending, consumers specifically and the Malaysia economy as a whole may be vulnerable. But they aren’t the only ones.

Indonesia has also benefitted enormously from the export of its mineral wealth to China. Indonesian non-mortgage consumer credit nearly tripled in the last five years. Domestic consumption has become the other main driver of Indonesian economic growth and has been driven by easy access to credit cards. The central bank has belatedly realized the danger and is trying to rein in credit by imposing minimum down payments for car and motorcycle loans. But unlike some of the other South Asian countries, Indonesia manufactures essentially nothing. That makes it particularly vulnerable when the two main sources of economic stimulus, commodities demand and cheap money, dry up.
  1. 2013/07/09(火) 16:36:29|
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Breast reconstruction after cancer a personal decision

When I received my second diagnosis of breast cancer in November, it came with good and bad news.The good was that, unlike the first, Stage 3 cancer, this one was in the early stages. No chemotherapy or radiation would be required. The bad was that the treatment was surgery: a mastectomy, removing the entire breast.The first time, I had no decisions to make; I did what I was told to save my life. The second time, I had a big one: Whether or not to undergo reconstructive surgery. It’s an intensely personal decision, and it involves more than body image. A little research at the beginning can help to ease possible regrets later on.

Actress Angelina Jolie recently put the subject in the foreground when she went public with her own situation: With a genetic disposition to breast cancer, she had pre-emptive mastectomies and reconstruction. Most women have to make their decisions quickly, in the emotionally charged wake of a fresh cancer diagnosis.

Almost 300,000 women receive new breast cancer diagnoses each year. That’s a lot of decisions, and oncologists and surgeons come at them from different perspectives.Dr. Matthew Ellis is chief of the breast oncology section at the Siteman Cancer Center, and an internationally noted researcher into the causes and cures of breast cancer. He’s opposed to leaping into anything without consulting a full team of physicians.

“My personal, deeply felt belief is that (patients) are best served if they can have a decision made in collaboration with a medical oncologist, a surgeon and a radiation oncologist, so that a balance can be set,” he said.

Mastectomy and reconstruction offer “an incredibly complex set of issues,” he added. The option to have reconstruction “is always there, but often inappropriate. Patients need to be carefully counseled as to the real risks and benefits of going through reconstructive surgery.”Jolie’s situation is rare. When breast cancer is present, reconstructive surgery must be carefully timed with chemotherapy and radiation, Ellis said. “People who’ve been through chemotherapy are at high risk” of complications.

For decades, breast cancer has been treated with “cut, burn and poison” -- surgery, radiation, chemo. In recent years, the order has changed, with chemo coming first and often shrinking the tumor to the point where it’s possible to have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy.

Increasingly, said Ellis, “we’re trying to get the systemic therapy, the chemotherapy, out of the way first. Only when that’s all complete, when the patient is healed (from chemo), do we proceed with mastectomy and reconstruction. The cure for breast cancer is the priority.”Radiation adds “a real wild card” to the equation, he said. If breast implants are already in place, it can damage them, as well as the overall appearance of the breast. It also can damage the chest wall, making reconstruction more difficult, and can result in complications.

Dr. Julie A. Margenthaler, a surgeon at Siteman, focuses her practice on breast cancer.“Reconstruction is a part of every single discussion I have” with new patients, she said. “There are very few contraindications (for it). I would say that the surgical decisions are more focused on the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon.”

Margenthaler said she usually offers immediate reconstruction, done at the same time as the mastectomy. Federal law mandates that insurance cover it. “I help (the patient) understand how she would look with and without reconstruction, and what it would feel like.”

Margenthaler agrees that chemo and radiation are considerations, and that killing cancer cells comes first, but noted that there are ways to preserve appearance that don’t get in the way of treatment. “There are some data out there to suggest that there are psychological and emotional benefits to reconstruction, with self-image and issues of sexuality.”

Reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy means better-looking results; skin and sometimes nipples can be preserved. It does come at a cost. Reconstruction adds to recovery time and the number of procedures, it adds pain, and there can be complications, some of them serious. The reconstructed breast “is all look, no feel,” said Margenthaler. “There’s no sensation.”

When implants are used, spacers are put under the muscles of the chest wall. Over a period of months, they’re injected with saline solution until they reach the desired size; then permanent implants are put in place. When the patient’s own tissues are used (the technical term is “autologous”), a muscle flap is cut from the back or abdomen and secured in place. The recovery time is longer, and there can be permanent loss of muscle strength.

Dr. Marissa Tenenbaum is a plastic surgeon with a focus on breast issues. She said that she consults with oncologists — “cancer treatments come first” — but she believes “the vast majority” of women are candidates for immediate reconstruction.

Nationally, half of all mastectomy patients have reconstruction. “In St. Louis,” Tenenbaum said, “especially at Siteman, it’s upwards of 90 percent.” She attributes that to the medical resources available in St. Louis; in areas with few plastic surgeons, reconstruction is more apt to be put off.“Most of the breast surgeons at Siteman will encourage their patients to meet with us,” she said. “Women can be overwhelmed with the diagnosis, and it’s easy to get shuffled along the path.”

Kara Kuhns, 34, is an elementary school speech pathologist from Arthur, Ill.; she and her husband, J.D., have two daughters, ages 5 and 2. Diagnosed in April 2012, Kuhns “figured from the get-go” that she would have reconstruction. “I just thought it would be best and easiest long-term on my self-esteem to have reconstruction. Whatever my doctors thought would be best is what we went with.”

Kuhns had chemo all last summer and surgery in the fall, followed by radiation. She had her final reconstruction in May, and she’s very happy with the results. “I think it looks very natural.”When Jane Feibel faced a mastectomy, she “roamed the Web for information about reconstruction. But, in the end, I saw no point in adding to the list of possible complications.” She also feared that she would be “jarred by the sight of this alien thing on my chest every time I glanced in the mirror.”

With “questionable densities” in the other breast, and in consultation with Margenthaler, her surgeon, Feibel had both removed. She has no regrets. She’s symmetrical, her scars have healed well, and prosthetics, she said, are easy to wear. “Currently, the big mistake I make is going shopping and forgetting to wear my prosthetics.” Her attitude toward the loss is “something like ‘Too bad.’”

In my case, a lumpectomy from the first cancer meant that I was already asymmetrical. My oncologist advised that radiation on that side made me a poor candidate for reconstruction.
  1. 2013/07/09(火) 16:35:55|
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Never the rail deal

Sydney's monorail, which runs in a 3.6-kilometre loop around the fringe of the city and through Darling Harbour, which has carriages that might have travelled to the moon and back five times, which has inspired mockery and derision from adults and thrills from children and which has left tourists befuddled as to the point of it all, will ride for the last time on Sunday, June 30. It will be 25 years old.

The story of the monorail - ''one of many autocratic farces perpetuated by the powerful on our citizens,'' in the words of Nobel laureate Patrick White - is the story of the ability of NSW politicians to come up with transport ideas that annoy and bemuse people. It is the story of a small loop that has punctuated a day out for a generation of children. But it is also the story of a something novel.

In this it was both of its time and not. It was not of its time because it was built. But it was also symptomatic of what now seems like a golden age of crazy transport ideas, when not only the Cleaning sydney, but also the bus and train and the tram seemed like yesterday's newspapers.

Soon after the monorail opened in 1988, reports emerged of a detailed plan by a Professor Rolf Jensen, of Adelaide, to stretch monorails right across greater Sydney, to raise them above the Hume Highway, Victoria Road, Barrenjoey Road and Military Road in the north, and along Parramatta Road to the west.
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In 1989 the business community became involved. A lobby group called the Parramatta Connection came up with the idea of a freight-only monorail network to get trucks off Sydney's roads. ''It might be possible to run a spur line from the new airport at Badgerys Creek,'' the head of the Parramatta Connection, Fred Symes, said optimistically. There was a plan for a monorail to run over the arch of the Harbour Bridge.

But the pinnacle of outlandish transport notions must be that of Hawke government's transport minister John Brown, who in 1987 proposed a monorail in the middle of the country. Brown's monorail would cut out the drive from Uluru to the Olgas.

Now, the Sydney monorail, the only one of the mid-1980s flurry of proposals that was ever built, will be torn down. Nobody wants to pay to maintain it. The carriages need replacing and the pylons need work. And the space it occupies could be better used. Taking the monorail pylons off Pitt Street will open another lane to traffic. Removing it from Pyrmont Bridge opens up the chance for a cycle path. And if it was not there it would be easier to build larger buildings in the place of the old large buildings around Darling Harbour, which is how the O'Farrell government is determined to repeat history.

Born in 1988, the monorail was conceived four years earlier out of two bully-boy fathers.

In May 1984, the Labor premier Neville Wran announced Darling Harbour, then a rundown goods yard, would be redeveloped in time for the bicentenary. Something would be done to improve transport to the site, Wran said. The minister for public works, Laurie Brereton, set to finding a solution. So did Sir Peter Abeles, the country's dominant Labor-friendly business tycoon.

Two proposals emerged as serious contenders as transport options for Darling Harbour. The race was on to pick one and build it before the royal family arrived for the 1988 party.

Abeles' TNT company, a logistics giant, put forward the monorail. It would be built above street level. It would run without drivers and cost $1 a ride. For the Wran government it had the great advantage of being offered at no cost. TNT would build it for free.

The other proposal was a light rail line, put forward by firms Transfield and Comeng. The light rail would be two lanes to extend from Pyrmont and across Pyrmont Bridge. The lanes would then head down Sussex Street and Hickson Road to Circular Quay in one direction. In the other direction they would run to a transport interchange at Central.

But Brereton backed the monorail. Almost immediately after calling for proposals, he began rubbishing the light rail in public. It would be a return to the street-clogging trams of the 1960s, he said. And in private the light rail line was never given a fair go, according to Richard Smythe, then the director of Carr's department.

Smythe recalls a meeting of a cabinet subcommittee including Brereton as minister for public works, Carr as planning minister and Barrie Unsworth as transport minister to discuss the competing proposals, with their department heads and advisers in the room.

''As I recall at that first meeting we were discussing ways each proposal might be evaluated and compared but the matter went no further as it all ended when Laurie Brereton came into the meeting and announced that the decision had been made to go with the monorail, essentially to the proponent with the most clout or influence, led by TNT,'' Smythe said.

Asked about this episode last year, and whether he had supported the tram line, Carr said he had only a slight memory of it.

''Of course the route it took would not have got people directly from the middle of the CBD into the new retail activity planned for Darling Harbour but linked the Quay with DH, which I guess would have been seen as a bit circuitous,'' the Foreign Minister said of the light rail in an email.

''The challenge was a link that would move people in useful numbers from the heart of the CBD into the new precinct,'' Carr said. ''It certainly would have been more popular than the monorail which became a vote-loser for an embattled 12-year-old government.''

Vote loser or not, Brereton pushed on. TNT's proposal won formal cabinet selection in October 1985, with - in another version of history repeating - Brereton relying on a report by the then fledgling Macquarie Bank to justify the End of lease cleaning sydney.

People hit the streets. There was Patrick White, Ita Buttrose, actor Ruth Cracknell, the unionist and activist Jack Mundey. Even Liberal opposition leader Nick Greiner turned out to protest against the monorail before and during construction.


  1. 2013/06/18(火) 17:58:19|
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Hackers steal $45 million from world's ATMs in hours

The sophistication of a global network of thieves who drained cash machines around the globe of an astonishing $45 million in mere hours sent ripples through the security world, not merely for the size of the operation and ease with which it was carried out, but also for the threat that more such thefts may be in store.

Seven people were arrested in the U.S., accused of operating the New York cell of what prosecutors said was a network that carried out thefts at ATMs in 27 countries from Canada to Russia. Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation, U.S. prosecutors in New York said Thursday.

"Unfortunately these types of cybercrimes involving ATMs, where you've got a flash mob going out across the globe, are becoming more and more common," said Rose Romero, a former federal prosecutor and regional director for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card with a magnetic stripe -- an old hotel key card or an expired credit card worked fine as long as it carried the account data and personalized bobbleheads.

A network of operatives then fanned out to rapidly withdraw money in multiple cities, authorities said. The cells would take a cut of the money, then launder it through expensive purchases or ship it wholesale to the global ringleaders. Lynch didn't say where they were located.

It appears no individuals lost money. The thieves plundered funds held by the banks that back up prepaid credit cards, not individual or business accounts, Lynch said.

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Ori Eisen, a cybercrime expert and founder of 41st Parameter, a fraud detection and prevention firm, said the $45 million heist was on the "high-end" of what can be done by cybercriminals who exploit banking systems connected to the Internet.

"Given the scale of the global credit card networks, it is almost impossible to detect every kind of attack," he said. "This attack is not the last one, and if the modus operandi proves to be successful crooks will exploit it time and again.”

There were two separate attacks in this case, one in December that reaped $5 million worldwide and one in February that snared about $40 million in 10 hours with about 36,000 transactions. The scheme involved attacks on two banks, Rakbank in the United Arab Emirates and the Bank of Muscat in Oman, prosecutors said.

The New York suspects were U.S. citizens originally from the Dominican Republic who lived in the New York City suburb of Yonkers. They were mostly in their 20s. Lynch said they all knew one another and were recruited together, as were cells in other countries. They were charged with conspiracy and money laundering. If convicted, they each face 10 years in prison.

The accused ringleader in the U.S. cell, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Pena, was reportedly killed in the Dominican Republic late last month, prosecutors said. More investigations continue and other arrests have been made in other countries, but prosecutors did not have details.

An indictment unsealed Thursday accused Lajud-Pena and the other seven New York suspects of withdrawing $2.8 million in cash from hacked accounts in less than a day.

Lajud-Pena was found dead with a suitcase full of about $100,000 in cash, and the investigation into his death is continuing separately. Dominican officials said they arrested a man in the killing who said it was a botched robbery, and two other suspects were on the lam.

The first federal study of ATM fraud was 30 years ago, when the use of computers in the financial community was growing rapidly. At the time, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found nationwide ATM bank loss from fraud ranged from $70 and $100 million a year.

By 2008, that had risen to about $1 billion a year, said Ken Pickering, who works in security intelligence at CORE Security, a white-hat hacking firm that offers security to businesses.

So how does he rack up all these points? For one thing, by choosing plastic over paper. Kelly suggests getting a credit card that earns rewards you will use, and using that card whenever you make a purchase. When shopping online, use a shopping portal to earn rewards even faster. Most major airlines offer them, as do many credit cards.

"There's also cash back shopping portals, so even if you don't want airline mileage, you can be getting cash back for every online purchase," Kelly says.

Of course, this method only works if you use it responsibly. You need to pay the balance in full every month, or else you could end up paying more in interest than you are saving on the make your own bobblehead.

"A lot of these travel reward cards have hefty annual fees. The APRs are higher than most standard cards, so if you're running balances, if you're letting miles expire, you can absolutely get eaten alive," Kelly says. "On the flip side, if you're spending a lot of money and just using cash, you're missing out on tons and tons of points in value. So, it's really all about, are you winning as a consumer? And you can absolutely win."
  1. 2013/05/15(水) 16:32:13|
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Wenatchee bullrider talks about life in the ring

Bullrider Garett Wolfe doesn’t get nervous anymore. The Wenatchee-raised pro rider can carry on a calm, steady conversation up until it’s his turn to ride. But once he’s in the ring on a 1,500-pound bull, the screams and cheers of 6,000 rodeo fans couldn’t break his concentration.

“You never know from jump to jump what these bulls are going to do,” Wolfe said. “Even bulls that have a set pattern will throw a monkey wrench and do something different every now and again. Once you’re passed that first push out of the gate, you’re just trying to match the bulls’ moves.”

Wolfe is one of 35 cowboys competing for cash in the G.S. Long Bullriding Blowout. Three other riders are from North Central Washington: Seth Carden and Austin Covington of Omak, and Aaron Hammen of Winthrop.

The Town Toyota Center is expecting about 6,000 spectators Friday and Saturday. The rodeo also includes a mutton bustin’ competition for kiddos up to 50 pounds who want to try their hand at riding sheep. Four people from the audience will be chosen to play bull poker, a card game held in the ring with a raging bull on the loose. The last player sitting wins the cash pot.

The ice arena began its transformation into a rodeo hall Monday. A crew covered the ice with a fiberglass insulated floor, then topped it with heavy plastic, plywood and about 20 semitruck loads of dirt from Bob’s Apple Barrel Bark in Wenatchee, said Chris Berg, director of operations at the TTC. Two frontloaders spread the soil about a foot deep across two-thirds of the arena floor Tuesday.

The other third of the arena will be reserved for a mechanical bull, reserved seating, vendors and a musical stage for local country band Night Rider.

The crew is waiting anxiously to hear how the Wenatchee Wild do this weekend. If the team wins one game, the team will be back on the ice by Tuesday. If they win both games or get eliminated, the crews can take their time hauling out the dirt, sweeping the floors and dusting off all the seats, Berg said.

For Wolfe, the preparation has been in the 14 years he’s been riding bulls. Wolfe’s family introduced him to the North Central Washington rodeo scene as a boy, and he began riding sheep and roping steers. By age 13, he learned how to ride bulls and later drove to Okanogan County every week to break in young bulls after school.

Wolfe went on to ride bulls in the national finals in high school and college. He was named among the top 12 bullriders in the nation four times and made the top 10 in 2011. He was offered full scholarships for bullriding, but took breaks from school to compete professionally. At his peak, he earned about $40,000 in four months in prize money, and competed in more than 70 rodeo events nationwide.

Now 26, Wolfe is considered an old-timer in the bullriding world. Admittedly, he’s beginning to pull back on rodeo life to focus on more traditional trades. He recently graduated with a degree in civil engineering technology and started his own personalized bobbleheads company in Milton-Freewater, Ore.

“I’ve been taking it pretty slow this year,” Wolfe said. He’s competed five or six times this year, he said. “This year not really craving it, and it’s one of those sports you really have to crave. ... It truly is a young man’s sport.”

As the name suggests, the MediaPad 7 Lite is a 7-inch tablet running Android 4.0. It succeeds the MediaPad and Ideos 7 tablets and, although it suggests Huawei has taken some of the criticism about its earlier offerings — low-resolution screens, poor performance and terrible battery life — to heart, it hasn’t got the mix quite right yet.

For starters, the MediaPad 7 feels quite thick (11mm) and heavy (370g) for a 7-inch tablet. It’s noticeably bulkier than Samsung’s recent 7-inch offerings and thicker than all of the leading tablet computers in its form factor.

custom bobbleheads
One of the unlikely upshots of the device’s heft is that it feels far more high end than its predecessors. The MediaPad 7 Lite is clad in a metal-looking, plastic unibody shell, with white panels at the top and bottom of the device’s rear cover.

Even the volume rocker and power/lock button feel surprisingly sturdy and resilient, as do the built-in covers for the Sim and microSD card slots. It’s these little touches, along with the 1 024×600-pixel display (which is far better than the 800×480-pixel displays often found on budget 7-inchers), that make the MediaPad 7 appear to be a higher-end device than it is. Turn the tablet on, and the illusion quickly dissipates.

The MediaPad 7 is slow — painfully so. Sometimes something as simple as changing the display orientation can induce shudders and flickers on the display as the 1,2GHz processor struggles to keep up. Data-intensive websites generate similar problems, and running multiple custom bobbleheads simultaneously only compounds the problem.

Of course, one has to make concessions for budget devices, which is why it seems unreasonable to complain about the poor quality of images from the 3,2-megapixel rear camera or the 0,3-megapixel front-facing one, or to be too scathing about the 8GB of internal storage (expandable to 32GB via microSD card).

However, given how integral processor speed is to user experience, it seems like a corner not worth cutting. Similarly, poor battery life is sure to leave users frustrated.

Left fully charged and inactive for a day, the MediaPad 7’s 4 100mAh battery lost almost 60% of its charge. In use, half an hour of browsing using Wi-Fi wiped out 10%. In heavy use, the MediaPad won’t even make it through four hours. Slow performance may be tolerable; a rubbish battery isn’t.

Topic:This 4-star modern hotel is a member - Genre:Diary

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