Welcome, 77 artists, 40 different points of Attica welcomes you by singing Erotokritos an epic romance written at 1713 by Vitsentzos Kornaros

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Local Natives revel gloriously in Greek debut

Local Natives revel gloriously in Greek debutOCRegister (subscription)“I've been watching the moon set behind you guys all night,” Taylor Rice told the more than 5,000 Local Natives fans who nearly filled the Greek Theatre on Friday Night. Throughout the set, and more than his three band mates and touring bassist, he ...


Late goal allows Panathinaikos to draw 1-1 at Platanias in the Greek league

by  Associated Press Panathinaikos snatches 1-1 draw at Platanias Associated Press - 15 September 2013 15:54-04:00

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Abdul Jeleel Ajagun's close-range shot in the 82nd minute allowed Panathinaikos to escape with a 1-1 draw at Platanias in the Greek league Sunday.

Ajagun scored 11 minutes after his league debut as a substitute. Thomas Nazlidis had opened the scoring with a header from a corner kick in first-half injury time.

Panathinaikos now has five points after four rounds, seven behind leader Olympiakos, the only team with a perfect record. Platanias has four draws in as many games and has never trailed.

Three of the day's other four games — Panionios vs. Panthrakikos, OFI vs. Asteras and Aris vs. Levadiakos — also ended 1-1. The sole winner, top division first-timer Kalloni, beat host Apollon 3-1 to join PAOK in second place, three points behind Olympiakos.

News Topics: Sports, Soccer, Men's soccer, Men's sports

People, Places and Companies: Greece, Western Europe, Europe

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This article is published under the terms of the News Licensing Group, LLC. privacy policy, in addition to the terms of use and privacy policy for this website.


A Greek movie shakes up the Venice Film Festival

Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci, who chaired the jury in the main competition of the 70th Venice Film Festival, told reporters on opening day that he wants to be ‘surprised and amazed’ by a movie.  Miss Violence is probably his kind of movie. Directed by Greek American Alexandros Avranas, this film made a big impression on the jury, critics and the public. So it should come as no surprise the film won two main prizes: one for best director (Silver Lion) and the other for the best male interpretation (Themis Panou).  Some thought Avranas should have even won the coveted Golden Lion award. Avranas studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Athens and graduated from the Universitat der Kunste in Berlin in 2008. Fresh out of university, it wasn’t long before he directed his first movie titled Without. When the Greek director and his team descended triumphantly on the red carpet for the festival’s closing ceremony, the Greek soundtrack of the movie played in the background.  This is no doubt good news for Greece and for a new generation of filmmakers. The Venice Festival this year even paid tribute to two great masters, Angelopoulos and Fellini. As regards Miss Violence, in a competition full of violence, murders, rapes and blood, the psychological violence, which is presented here with intelligence in a dramatic crescendo, was the unexpected element that made the difference. Because what you can find behind the door of a normal and maybe banal middle-class claustrophobic apartment, will shock on the screen probably more of any violent crime. This is a story of a normal grandfather, who with scientific cynicism rules as a perverse dictator on the entire family. If anyone breaks his rules, the punishment will be fast and may be performed in sadistic way by another member of the family. The breaking point will be the suicide of the granddaughter who through this sacrifice will start a slow but unstoppable rebellion lead by courageous women. Avranas’ inspiration for this movie came from a true story in Germany. He said: ‘Real facts are even worse than what I put in the movie, but I also wanted to put the accent on the fact that these things could have happen everywhere. Then I don’t think that the financial crisis has a role on this.’  For sure, the money coming from the prostitution of the girls plays an important role by giving to the entire family a decent life standard. On the other hand, the focus of the movie is a family which is closed like a bunker. After that, as highlighted by Avranas, the external world, represented by the inefficient social services, can’t stop or impede this tragedy. The dramatic solution of this cruel puzzle is inside the family and in this case the murder is fully justified also by the big and convinced ‘zero tolerance’ applause from both press and public of Venice.



Australia Eyes Greek Tourism Investments

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Germany's new anti-euro party could leave election outcome open

Attracting those against the single currency, Alternative für Deutschland seeks to tap into resentment over bailouts

In devotedly pro-European Germany, it is a radical message. In a packed beer hall meeting on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Roland Klaus tells scores of middle-aged, middle-class Germans what they want to hear. In short – no more bailouts.

"We've got the possibility to stop this madness," the former financial TV journalist intones. "Germany pays for no more rescue packages."

In an election in which the major parties essentially support Chancellor Angela Merkel's approach to the euro crisis, and two-thirds of Germans back her euro rescue plans, it is a surprise to find that thousands of Germans want to leave the single currency.

The conventional argument is that Germany has come out of the euro crisis better than its partners, and that Merkel has protected German national interests by foisting austerity on the European south.

But not everyone sees it that way. And a new party, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), is seeking to tap into that resentment to get seats in parliament in next Sunday's election.

The alternative to further bailouts, says the party, would be to refuse aid to faltering economies, encouraging them to leave the eurozone under their own steam. This would pave the way for a two-speed Europe with parallel currencies – one for the struggling south and one for the productive north.

The plan appeals to German voters like those in Baden-Württemberg, home to the country's automobile industry and global headquarters of luxury carmakers Daimler and Porsche. Many here say the euro was always doomed because of the cultural gulf between the "lazy" south and the "industrious" north.

And if a smaller, streamlined eurozone failed to materialise, the party has dared to suggest Germany would be better off out of it. "We'd say it clear. It can't be a taboo any more that it's an option for Germany to return to the Deutschmark," the AfD's Klaus tells his supporters to rapturous applause.

"We want to work with strong partners," says local AfD member Julian Eisenhardt, 23, an environmental science student. "But we can't change cultures. Greece exports feta cheese and olive oil. It can't keep pace with what we produce in the northern countries."

The AfD was formed in April by an economics professor, Bernd Lucke, who has described the euro as a "great mistake and failure". It has remained a fringe party with notions that are not discussed in mainstream political discourse. Even as Germany winced its way through three years of crisis, bailouts and skyrocketing national debt, openly anti-euro sentiments have remained off-limits for all mainstream parties. And despite everything, 66% of Germans support Merkel's policy of rescuing the euro, whatever the cost to the taxpayer.

But this idealistic commitment to Europe, says the AfD, is blinding the country to the long-term costs of repeatedly bailing out the eurozone. It is calling for a sober reanalysis of the economic facts in the name of securing Germany's long-term financial stability.

"We aren't left or right," Klaus says. "We're citizens who are worried about the future of our country."

For all Germany's official pro-European rhetoric, there are signs that these fears are not uncommon. A poll in April suggested just under a third of Germans would in principle vote for an anti-euro party – yet it is still unclear whether this will translate into the minimum 5% of votes needed for the eurosceptics to enter parliament in next weekend's election.

"The issue of Europe, let alone the common European currency, has never [yet] played a role in a German election," says Peter Matuschek, political analyst at German public opinion researchers Forsa. "As a purely anti-euro party, the AfD would have no chance of getting enough votes to enter parliament."

Wary of being pigeonholed as a single-issue party, the AfD has promoted its wider, populist policies. Calls for a tougher stance on unskilled immigrants and stricter rules on benefits to stem economic migrants appeal to the rightwing populist vote, as does the promotion of Swiss-style direct democracy based on referendums.

In response, leftwing groups have accused the AfD of providing a political home for neo-Nazis and racists, something vehemently denied by the leadership. Yet over the summer regional chapters said they had seen attempts by Germany's far-right fringe to infiltrate the party. This caught the attention of violent extremists on the left, prompting anti-fascists to attack Lucke with pepper spray at a rally.

Desperate to shake off this damaging association, the AfD has distanced itself from other anti-EU parties across Europe, emphasising it is not calling for Germany to exit the EU. "We're against the euro in its current form because we're for Europe and we fear for the peaceful co-existence of European countries," said Klaus.

Unsure how to tackle the AfD's anti-euro message, Germany's main parties have kept silent and tried to keep the currency crisis off the agenda until after the election. But the party's fortunes were given a pre-election boost last month when the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, indicated that Greece would probably need yet another bailout.

Since then party officials say their support has swelled and they are now expecting to hit at least 7% or 8% of the vote, despite struggling to top 3% in the polls.

Other indications suggest the party is causing a stir online. Analysis by fanpagekarma showed the AfD had the fastest growing fanbase on Facebook and was being mentioned more often than any other party.

Party leader Lucke has even claimed the AfD has been the victim of a plot by pro-euro politicians, media and even opinion polls to play down a recent groundswell of support, an accusation dismissed by Forsa as a conspiracy theory.

Yet pollsters admit voters could be reluctant to say they will vote for the renegade party, leaving analysts unaware as to whether it will gain the 5% of votes needed to win seats in the Bundestag lower house.

Analysts say the AfD's chances on 22 September will be at the mercy of unpredictable protest voters. "At every election … there are protest voters who, without ideological conviction, vote for any party they feel will most clearly demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the status quo," says Klaus-Peter Schöppner, head of opinion pollster Emnid.

These and other voters could also be attracted to the AfD by media reports that a strong showing for the party could wreak havoc with parliamentary arithmetic. If the party gets enough votes to enter the Bundestag it could deny a majority to either the current coalition government or the opposition – potentially forcing Merkel into a pact with rivals the Social Democratic party (SPD). Neither party wants this, but polls suggest this would be a majority of voters' preferred outcome.

"Protest voters tend to choose the party which will most annoy the government and the main opposition if it gets votes. At this election that could well be the AfD," predicted Schöppner.

GermanyEuropeEurozone crisisEuropean UnionEuropean monetary unionEconomicsBankingEuropean banksFinancial crisisFinancial sectorEuroAngela MerkelJosie Le © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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14 Questions About The Federal Reserve You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask

As market-watchers, nothing gives us heart palpitations quite like a meeting of the Federal Open Market Commission.

And fortunately, a big one is coming up this week!

But for most people, the Federal Reserve invokes confusion, derision, or nausea.

Inspired by some other great "explainers" we've seen lately, here's the definitive Federal Reserve Q&A, answering all your questions shame free. Hopefully, this will help you understand this week's big meeting, as well as all future ones.

Let's get started.

What is the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve — or "the Fed" — is the central bank of the United States. Let's just start with what a central bank is, since plenty of countries have them. Actually, the U.S. was pretty late to the central banking game, as Americans' spirit of individualism generally inspires disdain for large, centrally-coordinated government authorities. Central banks are tasked with controlling interest rates, the money supply, and overseeing the banking system.

How is the Fed set up?

In a stranger way than most central banks. There are four tiers: The Board of Governors, the Federal Open Market Commission (FOMC), 12 regional banks, and smaller member banks.

We'll start from the top. The Board of Governors is responsible for much of the monetary policy we'll describe later. These seven people are nominated by the President, pass Senate approval, and sit in Washington making decisions. Ben Bernanke is the current chairman. His term will end in January, and people have been speculating and endorsing like crazy about who his replacement will be.

Next we have the FOMC, a commission of seven Board of Governors members and five regional bank presidents. The FOMC runs open market operations, which we'll also get to later.

Then there are the 12 regional banks, responsible for much of the nitty gritty banking stuff (like check clearing). They are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco. Each regional bank has a president and oversees the thousands of member banks in its region.

Those are very random cities.

Yeah, it's weird. You can actually chalk that up to 1913 American politics. There were a lot of holdouts when Congress was voting on the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. The senator from Missouri, for example, could only be swayed if his home state became the only one to house two regional banks.

This seems complicated and arbitrary. Why do we even have a Federal Reserve?

As we mentioned, the U.S. didn't have a Federal Reserve bank for a long time. This meant that the late 19th Century was basically a series of uncontrollable economic panics. It wasn't until 1907, when the New York Stock Exchange fell 50% and depositors "ran on the bank" to recoup their money, that people warmed to the idea of a central bank and legislation passed.

So the point of the Fed is to control economic panics? How?

Well, yes (at first).

We all know that when you deposit a check, the money doesn't just stay in your bank's vault until you need to hit the ATM because this bar is cash-only. No, banks move around and invest most of what they take in. This is how banks make money, among other ways. There are, of course, rules now about how much banks have to hold in "reserves," but the problem before the Federal Reserve was this: What happens when all the depositors want their cash back at once, a la the bank run scene in It's A Wonderful Life. As you'll recall, Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey tells the townspeople of Bedford Falls, "You're thinking of this place all wrong. As if I had the money back in a safe. The money's not here. Your money's in Joe's house... and in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Macklin's house, and a hundred others."

George Bailey was actually talking about fractional-reserve banking. Today the Federal Reserve might say, "George, if all else fails, we can step in and be the lender of last resort." The Fed kind of did say that in 2008, albeit not to George Bailey, but to nine highly-paid bank CEOs.

How can the Fed be the lender of last resort?

We're not sure you want to ask that because the answer may scare you. We know the Federal Reserve has power to print money. Theoretically, though, it could print enough money to bail out anyone or anything in any situation. How? As a fiat currency, the dollar is not tied to anything. It was once tied to gold, but Richard Nixon got rid of that in 1971.

Debt hawks are wrong when they say things like, "The U.S. is becoming the next Greece." Greece doesn't have its own state currency, and needs to be periodically bailed out by Europe's central bank. But the United States as a whole can always just print more money!

That doesn't seem sustainable.

It's not. To be fair, it's not exactly like we're just sitting here sending truckloads of $100 dollar bills into the economy. Plenty of governments have tried to do that and bad things have happened. The good news is that the Fed keeps a watchful eye on inflation to make sure that, as the balance sheet expands, we're not seeing runaway figures.

Still, as originally intended, the Federal Reserve exists to extend credit to banks or other institutions in emergency circumstances like a bank run.

Of course, we've come a long way in 100 years, and new circumstances like the financial crisis has inspired the Fed to do a lot of new things. They admit as much in their mission statement: "To provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. Over the years, its role in banking and the economy has expanded."

Expanded? What does the Fed do now?

The Fed sets what's known as "monetary policy" in order to promote the economic health of the country. Monetary policy impacts interest rates, which obviously impact the economy. Via monetary policy, the Fed intervenes in a few key ways.

1. The discount rate: "The discount rate is the interest rate charged to commercial banks and other depository institutions on loans they receive from their regional Federal Reserve Bank's lending facility — the discount window," according to the Fed. Don't worry too much about this one for our purposes.

2. Reserve requirements: How much a bank has to hold in reserves. The Fed uses the tool to control how much banks can lend out.

3. Open Market Operations (OMO): Listen up because this one is important. You might have heard how the Fed is buying assets in a program known as Quantitative Easing, and we'll get to that later. OMOs are similar, and have been the longstanding program by which the Fed implements monetary policy. The Fed has used OMOs, the purchase of government bonds on the open market, as a means to adjust the federal funds rate to a specified Fed target. The federal funds rate is a metric that controls "interbank loans." 

When the Fed reduces the federal funds rate, as it has done since the crisis, it encourages banks to take out interbank loans. That incentivizes them to lend more freely, which theoretically speeds up the economy. Conversely, the Fed would raise the federal funds rate if it thought the system was too loose and could create a bubble.

With the economy in recovery mode, the Federal Reserve wants to keep the federal funds rate as low as possible. The only problem now is that it has been at 0% since 2009.

In fact, the Federal Reserve has been operating under ZIRP — zero-interest rate policy. Simply put, nominal interest rates are as low as they can go. We've reached the boundary of conventional monetary policy wisdom.

So what monetary measure can the Federal Reserve take if rates are at zero?

We told you we'd get to Quantitative Easing (QE) later. It's later. QE is what's known as "unconventional monetary policy," which is a nicer way of saying "Sure, I guess we'll try this now."

In the wake of the financial crisis, and with rates at the "zero lower bound," the bank introduced a spate of new monetary policy options. Chief among them was "quantitative easing," a program in which the Fed purchases assets in order to increase the money supply. Since 2008, the Fed has purchased billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities (those bad things that helped cause the financial crisis) and billions of dollars worth of Treasury notes. Along the way since then, the Fed introduced two new "rounds" of QE.

QE has kept interest rates low, some would argue artificially and "uneconomically" low. Either way, the upshot has been a rebounding stock and bond market in the years since the crisis.

Now, critics of QE (who like to call the third round "QE-Infinity" due to the program's endurance) have warned that this kind of asset purchasing will lead to higher inflation. Controlling inflation, as it happens, is one of the Fed's chief concerns.

So far, we haven't seen the kind of inflation people were worried about, and economist Paul Krugman gained a lot of notoriety for basically calling QE critics wrong over and over again. That doesn't mean the program isn't problematic. The Fed's balance sheet has grown immensely, to $3.6 trillion.

Will QE ever stop?

In June, the Fed sent markets in a tizzy by announcing it would look at "tapering" QE. Now, tapering doesn't mean ceasing the purchase of assets. It means buying them at a slower rate. Markets still freaked out and interest rates shot up.

Even with a taper, it looks like QE will go on for a while longer. And even when it finishes, people are unsure how exactly a central bank can unwind $3.6 trillion.

So what the Fed says or does really impacts the market?

You said it. The Fed has tried to be pretty direct by offering what's known as "forward guidance" — meaning clear communication about future interest rates. Having exhausted its normal monetary policy tools, the Federal Reserve has said it will tether policy changes to observed economic indicators. Better communication will help market actors "price in" economic changes.

Think of it this way, the Fed right now is saying, "Look, we're going to keep rates low for a very long time." Normally, the Fed only controls the short-term interest rate, but by telling Wall Street that they can borrow at low rates for a long time, firms will presumably be more eager to lend money out to the American people (at a lower interest rate too).

Central banks usually act in a shroud of mystery, but Chairman Bernanke clearly wants to uproot that. Other central bankers, like Mark Carney in England, have followed suit.

The Fed says that it will keep the federal funds rate unchanged until we hit 6-6.5% unemployment. We're currently at 7.3%. Seems clear enough, but market still get roiled every time the Fed opens its mouth or people think it just did. Central banks will always make waves in markets because what they do or say is clearly so intrinsic to the future of economy. Guessing on the future of the economy remains how traders make money, so you can imagine how angry some of them get when the they think the Fed isn't being clear about its intentions.

Hold on, let's go back a second. You never said anything about the unemployment rate.

Ah sorry, yes, the Fed does concern itself with employment figures. As a 100-year old institution, the Fed's responsibilities have been revised by legislation through the years.

There was the 1946 Employment Act which called upon the government to pursue maximum employment. Then in 1977, Congress got more specific and passed the Federal Reserve Reform Act, which instructs the Fed to use monetary policy to promote employment and control inflation. That law didn't happen by accident. You might recall that the late 1970s was a terrible time for employment and inflation.

But why do people hate the Fed?

Surely you're talking about Ron Paul's campaign battle cry to "End the Fed." Or perhaps Rick Perry's veiled threat to murder Ben Bernanke for high treason.

The Fed today has what is known as a "dual mandate" to keep an eye inflation and employment at the same time. And this is one of the chief critiques that Fed haters cite.

Critics stress that the original intention of the Fed was to avoid banking panics. If the Fed has to concern itself with employment, it has an incentive to keep interest rates low to juice the economy. But if you keep interest rates low, especially during good times, bubbles can and will appear. In 2001, we saw a stock bubble. In 2007, an asset (housing) bubble. Bubbles, as history has shown us, lead to the kinds of banking crises the Fed was originally tasked with preventing.

So what's the likelihood of another crisis?

If you can answer that, you should be a central banker. This is hard stuff. The people at the Fed are genuinely trying to ensure the health and stability of the American economy. In retrospect, it's easy to see clear central banking mistakes. During his tenure as Fed Chair in the 1990s, Alan Greenspan was hailed as a demigod for having "figured out" monetary policy. It wasn't until the housing market crashed years later that people realized his policy of ultra-low interest rates and deregulation fostered an economic powder keg.

Monetary policy can have reverberations years — perhaps decades — later, so it's best to pay attention. It's not easy work, but hopefully now you understand it a little better.

Join the conversation about this story »



Ten years on, what Britain can learn from the Swedish euro referendum

Sweden's people were proved right in saying no to the euro. A slimmed-down EU may be the rational outcome of Cameron's in/out referendum

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter," Winston Churchill famously said. He could have added that the best argument against elite rule is a five-minute conversation with your average politician.

I used to be sceptical of referendums. They are populist instruments, I thought. Voters never vote on the actual issue. And what do voters know anyway? Then the euro happened.

Saturday is the 10-year anniversary of the Swedish public voting no to joining the euro in a high-profile referendum, 56% to 42%. The Swedish elite was in shock. All the major parties, the national newspapers, the business organisations, including the Swedish CBI, and most of Stockholm's chattering classes favoured ditching the krona. According to some estimates, the yes campaign outspent the no campaign 10 to one. There were a lot of clever and genuine people on the yes side, making valid arguments such as eliminating exchange risk for business and replacing the flaky devaluation policies of the past.

However, it was obvious that something wasn't quite right. Yes, perhaps Sweden could benefit from sharing a currency with Germany, the destination of many of its exports. But the euro wasn't about liberal economics: stretching from the Arctic circle to Sicily, it locked vastly different countries, cultures and economic structures, into one monetary system, under a single interest rate – forever binding together the problems of all its members, large or small. It was a system based on the hopelessly flawed assumption that politicians and central bankers would make the right decisions all the time.

As with all referendums, there were various reasons why the Swedish public voted no, including an inherent bias in favour of the status quo. Fundamentally, though, most Swedes' gut instinct – bondförnuft as the Swedes say (literally "farmer's common sense") – told them that a serial defaulter with dubious finances, Greece, and a heavily industrialised exporter with an obsession with sound money, Germany, simply couldn't share the same currency. Swedes treated the exam question with the same kind of book-keepers' approach by which many of them run their own household economies. Whatever the experts told them, the arguments – and the numbers – simply didn't add up.

Ten years on, Europe is shrouded in uncertainty, but one thing is clear: the Swedish public got it right, the elite got it wrong. Though there may have been some politicians in Sweden and elsewhere who saw the single currency as the ultimate way to set the snowball rolling towards an EU superstate, the euro was far more a case of cock-up than conspiracy. Today, 80-90% of Swedes oppose the euro, and the political and business elites are wary too – save the odd isolated politician doing an impression of the Japanese soldiers found in the 1960s refusing to believe the second world war had ended.

However, referendums are by no means a magical potion. It's clear that there are cases where they're hijacked or misused – and where they lead to outcomes that no one intended or that settle nothing. Sweden itself has some less successful experiences with public votes. In 1980, a three-way referendum on whether to ditch nuclear power – arguably a populist kneejerk response to the Harrisburg disaster – generated a vote in favour of a vague plan to incrementally dismantle all nuclear plants. The result was totally inconclusive, leaving half the country embittered on the issue (Sweden still has nuclear power today).

Incidentally, there's a lesson for David Cameron here. He has promised to negotiate a new settlement in the EU and put that to an in/out referendum by 2017. If that indeed happens, the worst possible outcome is a 49-51% type result, too close to call in either direction. As in Sweden in 1980, much of the population would feel disenfranchised and the EU debate will continue just as before. This isn't in either the UK's or Europe's interest.

To avoid this scenario, there needs to be substantial and systemic changes, ideally rooted in EU-wide solutions so that they last (unilateral opt-outs tend to be eroded). That would allow a decisive vote in favour of the UK staying in a heavily reformed, slimmed-down EU.

One can have different views on Cameron's strategy, but given public and political discontent about the EU status quo, sooner or later there will probably have to be a referendum to settle the Europe question in this country. And as the Swedish euro vote shows – warts and all, the public can opt for perfectly rational and responsible outcomes that would not occur if politicians were left to their own devices.

SwedenEuropeEU referendumEuropean UnionEuroEuropean monetary unionForeign policyDavid CameronMats © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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