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June 2006

Star Wars

Barbara Walters and Star Jones Reynolds are feuding publicly and it’s likely to get nastier and nastier. Star spoke out on the incident on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show. She accused new “View” member, Rosie O’Donnell of being mean and nasty.

Star is still a bold woman. Standing up to and exposing the icon known as Barbara Walters, is unprecedented. She also exposed Rosie O’Donnell for lashing out at her about her weight loss. Who cares if Star had surgery to lose weight? Who’s going to replace Star? How will America react to an openly gay woman?

I think Star was right in her position on the issue. Go head, Star!


Today was definitely an emotional roller coaster at work. I returned my voice mails, ordered floral arrangements and put a rude secretary in check all before I sat at my desk or had a cup of coffee. The first e-mail I opened was about the death of a friend/co-worker. Damn, what a way to start the day. After regaining my composure and putting his transitioning in perspective, I realized he was much better off because his wife said he’d been in so much pain lately.

Then, I found out that one of the trifling-a** wanna be big shots was about to get his due. That was a definite high. It was about time. I don’t wish any ill will on anyone so I left him in the Lord’s hands a long time ago. Yeah, me, the self-confessed control freak. Living by Exodus 14:14 has been a challenge but God operates in his time not ours. Pardon the Ebonics, but I learned that I ain’t in control of nothing and nobody but me.

Anywho, I managed to get through the work day by laughing with co-workers, chatting with one of my sorors and solving some problems for some folk along the way. Today was really a great day. Peace and Love, y’all.

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged

Did you hear the one about blacks losing the right to vote?


RACINE — Racine resident Phyllis Pittman is concerned the Voting Rights Act won’t be renewed. She became concerned a while ago when she received an e-mail that claimed blacks would lose the right to vote if the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is not renewed.

However, the information in the e-mail is false. Blacks’ right to vote will not expire. Although she now knows the e-mail to be false, Pittman believes Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should be permanent and apply to all states.

“People should be vigilant and protect their rights. It’s all about equality. We need that protection. We need the federal oversight. We want it to be a law so we’ll always have that protection,” Pittman said. She believes some states might revert to prior practices of placing obstacles in the way of minorities attempting to vote, Pittman said.

Since she received the e-mail Pittman has become an activist, urging others to contact their legislators to urge them to vote to make the Act permanent.

The e-mail Pittman received has been circulating since the mid 1990s. Its most recent version claims that Camille Cosby, Bill’s wife, gave a speech where she said blacks’ right to vote would expire in 2007.

According to the Urban Legends page at “The confusion arises from the apparent assumption that it’s the Voting Rights Act alone which guarantees suffrage to minorities. In reality, all the Act does is keep in place a set of so-called ‘extraordinary remedies’ meant to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment at state and local levels, where, in defiance of federal law, obstacles to the voting rights of black people were still in place in some parts of the country as of the early 1960s. These remedies, designed specifically to address problems that existed at the time, were never meant to be permanent, which is why the Voting Rights Act comes up for renewal every 25 years.”

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© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

FBI arrests terror suspects in Miami

While South Florida celebrated the Miami Heat's NBA championship, these seven men were arrested in an unlikely area of Miami. Something just doesn't seem right about this story.

Posted on Sat, Jun. 24, 2006


Group denies violent doctrine
An associate of one of the South Florida terrorism suspects said the group practiced a religion that blends Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

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The seven South Florida men accused of plotting terrorism claim to follow teachings of the Moorish Science Temple of America, a religion that blends aspects of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and stresses self-discipline through martial arts, a close friend of one of the arrested men said Friday.

Sylvain Plantin, 30, a distant cousin and friend of indicted group member Stanley Grant Phanor, said the group's leader, Narseal Batiste, followed the religious teachings of the Prophet Noble Drew Ali, who founded the Moorish Science Temple.

''I never joined the group, but I went to a couple of Bible studies'' at the warehouse on Northwest 15th Avenue that was raided by federal agents, Plantin said.

``I never heard him [Batiste] talk about explosives or guns. He only talked about defending themselves. If I'd have heard that, believe me, I'd have been the first to call 911.''
Batiste, a martial arts enthusiast, referred to his group as ''soldiers'' in an ''Islamic army'' that would wage a ''full ground war'' against the United States, according to the indictment.
Federal officials declined to comment on any connection the indicted men may have to the religion.

Members of the movement say terrorist acts are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
''We teach and practice love, truth, peace, freedom and justice,'' said Clark El, a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America in Chicago, who said the only official Moorish Temple in Florida is in Tampa. ``You have splinter groups that claim to be part of the Moorish Science Temple of America but are not.''

The Moorish Science Temple of America was founded in 1913 as a sect of Islam but incorporates teachings from Judaism and Christianity, said Aminah Beverly McCloud, a professor of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago who has written about the group.

The Moorish movement is small, but not obscure, said McCloud. There are about 15 to 20 Moorish Temples across the country and two main branches. A search of phone and Internet records failed to find a temple listed in South Florida.

The movement emphasizes peace and justice, McCloud said. Adherents pray two or three times a day facing east and follow prayers and religious instructions from a book titled Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America, she said.

They also call themselves ''soldiers'' and incorporate ''quasi-military physical training'' into their spiritual program, McCloud said, stressing that traditionally the group uses martial arts as a mental discipline, not to wage war.

''They're soldiers for God in the same way that the Salvation Army is an army,'' McCloud said.
Leaders of South Florida's Muslim community said Friday that the seven suspects had no ties to area mosques. ''As far as we're concerned, they have no relation to our community,'' said Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for the Council for American Islamic Relations in South Florida.

Bedier said members of the group ``should not be called Muslims.''

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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Miami celebrates HEAT victory

The Miamt HEAT's victory has done wonders for the South Florida community. In an area that can be embarrasingly polarized, the resulting community unification is nothing short of magical. Prayers, good luck beads, orisha white, whatever the reason, let's just enjoy it.

I did not venture into the heat for the HEAT celebration but I enjoyed Shaq's impromptu up close and personal contact with fans and Pat Riley's dance. These guys really seem to enjoy each other. Let's hope their love remains infectious. Peace and Love.


Posted on Sat, Jun. 24, 2006

`We're gonna do it again next year!'


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Confetti cannons shot silver flakes that shimmered and danced in the sun and fell like gold dust upon the masses along Biscayne Boulevard. Out of this surreal haze stepped a giant. Shaquille O'Neal left the detached comfort of the 18-wheel flatbed truck on which he'd been standing and stepped down onto the street during the Miami Heat's championship parade Friday.

It was his idea and nobody told him no, possibly related to the fact he is roughly the size of an upright Cadillac Escalade.

Suddenly, a scene that was merely crazy turned merrily insane as Shaq turned into a seven-foot two-inch, 330-pound Pied Piper. It started with him shaking the hands of police officers and high-fiving a few fans along the human corridor of love.

Before long, hundreds of fans were spilling through barriers and following in his enormous wake, trying to get close to the mountain who'd helped Miami to the mountaintop, until finally cops spirited Shaq into a pickup truck lest things grow unruly.

''I just had to touch my people,'' the big man would explain later. ``I'm a people person.'' Talk about a man in his element.

An estimated 200,000 Heat fans swarmed downtown Miami on Friday, sweating and swelling, teeming and screaming, to celebrate the Heat's first NBA championship in 18 years as a franchise.

Hispanic, black and white, wealthy and not so, young and old, neckties and tank tops, men, women, children and a German shepherd in a No. 3 Dwyane Wade jersey -- a cross-section of South Florida mirroring our diversity -- turned out in a stunning, nearly breathtaking display. It was an entire community coming together, and in more than just the physical sense.

This is the power of sports, and of magical teams. It can provide us a common bond not common enough. It can be a coalescing force that makes us forget all our differences for a sweet while, because we are busy cheering for the same thing.

Friday, we were cheering only our fifth pro sports championship, after the Dolphins' 1972-73 Super Bowls and the Marlins' World Series in 1997 and 2003.

Friday, we were cheering a doubted team that proved all doubters wrong.

Team owner Micky Arison hoisted the golden championship trophy from the car that carried him along the parade route and the crowd lifted with it each time, roaring.

Alonzo Mourning, who endured a kidney transplant to finally reach this day, aimed a video camera at the crowd with one hand and raised a triumphant, clenched fist with the other. ''Twenty years of basketball just to enjoy this moment,'' he'd say later. ``The wind sprints, the surgeries, the disappointment, the pain, the adversity. It makes you appreciate this moment even more.''

Wade, the wunderkind, only 24 but capable of becoming our most beloved athlete since Dan Marino, grooved and danced with his NBA Finals MVP trophy held high. He wore his wife's sunglasses with enormous white frames. Wore his ball cap off center, hip-hop style. ''I wanted to go again,'' he said of the parade. ``I loved every moment of it.''

Udonis Haslem, the only one of the Heat's ''15 Strong'' born and raised in Miami, looked out over the emotional snapshot he'd helped create and seemed overwhelmed, battling his emotions like he'd battled Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki in the Finals.

Pat Riley, grinning, pumped a large plastic gun and sprayed water across grateful, simmering, cheering fans.

The Heat's 61-year-old coaching legend had won four championships with the Los Angeles Lakers but none in 18 years. He said none of his previous rings compared to this one. ''This is the best. For so many reasons. It just is,'' he said quietly after the parade and before the arena-steps ceremony that followed. ``When I was younger, it didn't have the same meaning. It came at the right time in my life.''

Riley's elderly mother passed away as the playoffs began. General Manager Randy Pfund's mom died just before that. The mother of Arison's wife also passed away recently, as did the wife of trainer Ron Culp.

Marilyn Culp, before succumbing to cancer just before the Heat won the championship she knew they would, hid letters throughout the house for her husband to find after she'd passed. One read simply, ``Congratulations.'' ''

We had four special angels up there,'' Riley said.

The day ended not with such reflection, but with pure joy as a giant black curtain parted to reveal Riley and his players on stage as a sea of fans roared. Shaq rapped as music boomed, adapting lyrics to the Heat.

He even coaxed a few gingerly dance steps out of Riley, bad hip and all. Later, Riley swayed as speakers boomed his personal anthem by his favorite singer, Bruce Springsteen. The song title described the Heat's path from doubts to the champions: The Rising.

The parade kicking off Friday's celebration had begun just past 2 p.m. Except it didn't, really. It began on May 6, 1986, when former basketball star Billy Cunningham and theatrical producer Zev Bufman announced plans to bring an NBA franchise to Miami.

It began on April 22, 1987, when the league officially awarded us an expansion team.

It began on Nov. 5, 1988, when the Heat played its first-ever regular-season game.

Or perhaps the parade really began on Sept. 2, 1995, when Riley became president and head coach. That was the day the franchise instantly gained a national stature it hadn't had, and the first day the word ''parade'' was ever mentioned.

It was the day the daring to dream began.

Riley had stood in a cruise ship called Imagination, in a lounge called Dynasty, only a mile east of where the confetti fell Friday, and said, ``I imagine in my mind the symbolic championship parade right down Biscayne Boulevard.''

The parade began on June 26, 2003, when the Heat selected a Marquette guard named Dwyane Wade in the NBA Draft's first round.

The parade began on July 14, 2004, when a center called Shaq arrived in a seismic trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Shaq promised to bring a championship to Miami those two summers ago, on the same arena steps where Friday's post-parade ceremony took place.

The latest occasion did not inspire in Shaq any sudden, uncharacteristic bout of modesty.

''We're gonna do it again next year!'' the giant shouted to the adoring mass of fans. ``Yeah, I said it! Yeah, I said it!''

The parade itself ended in about an hour.

Except it didn't, really.

You get the feeling that as long as Shaq and D-Wade are here, perhaps the parade has just begun.

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Assault on Kevin Aviance

When does the madness stop? Let people live in peace regardless of their sexual preference. As long as you are not directly affected, what's the problem?



Fly Life
Shocking, But Not Surprising
The Kevin Aviance assault proves gay bashing is alive and well in New York City

by Tricia Romano

June 19th, 2006 7:04 PM

Kevin Aviance photo: Karl Giant

The first time I saw reknowned drag performer Kevin Aviance was at Twilo in 1997. Junior Vasquez's signature stompy house served as the soundtrack for a fun, serviceable time, but by four in the morning go-go boys in matching Speedos had begun gyrating on the speakers—the witching hour had arrived. I was tired and wanted to go home. But someone insisted otherwise: "Wait for Kevin. He goes on at 6."

How to explain the essence of Kevin Aviance? Well over six feet tall in sneakers, he's Amazonian. He wore a slinky black dress and a sweeping, circular black hat. He was not unlike Grace Jones, but also not quite like anyone I'd seen before. He stormed Twilo's tiny stage and lip-synched his hit "Din Da Da," a weird, abstract house record. He made me feel like I'd been inducted into some secret society: I'd become a real New Yorker.

The brutal attack on Aviance—early morning Saturday, June 10, four attackers between 16 and 20 years old broke his jaw and caused numerous head, neck, and knee injuries—shortly after he'd left the Phoenix, an East Village gay bar on 13th and Avenue A, initially seemed so shocking to us New Yorkers. But it shouldn't have. "It happens more frequently than people realize," say Clarence Patton, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. "We try to let people know every time a case catches the attention of people. They tend to think there must be a real jump in these things, but that's not necessarily the case. The fact is those types of things happen all the time. That's why we're still here. We haven't quite figured out a way to go out of business."

The 26-year-old institution tracks everything from casual verbal insults—like being called a "faggot"—to more serious attacks. In 2005 there were 566 total incidents, with 233 of those classified as assaults. A hate crime triggers a harsher legal penalty, so a third-degree felony would become a second-degree if hate is proven to be a mitigating factor. But the New York Police Department has considerably lower numbers than the Anti-Violence Projects'— partially because people often feel more comfortable talking to the AVP than the police. Officer Kevin Czartoryski, a police spokesperson, says the number of anti-LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) incidents in 2006 are up from last year; so far they've recorded 22 such incidents—including any crime from a harassment case up to a serious assault—compared with 17 in all of 2005.

In fact, the same weekend Aviance was assaulted, there were two other gay-bashing incidents in Queens. Furthermore, Paul Short, a prominent promoter and bouncer for several leather and bear parties. was attacked after leaving a leather party at Siberia in Hell's Kitchen May 20. Short—a strapping 5'11", 180-pound guy, born and raised in Queens, who speaks with a thick New York accent—was dressed in full leather gear, walking down Ninth Avenue, when a guy walking alongside suddenly clocked him in the face. Though the assailant never yelled any slurs, Short had no doubt as to his motivation: "I looked totally gay."

The cops came but couldn't find the suspect, and the case was closed that night, recalls Short, who missed three weeks of work and has already had two operations to fix the broken bones in his eye socket, with a third still possibly necessary. After the incident, Short says people suddenly revealed their own gay-bashing tales. "So many people had stories worse than mine," he says."They were bashed with bats, irons. It's an ongoing thing, to tell you the truth. It just doesn't get reported much."

But there was a silver lining: Short's boyfriend bonded with his family. "He really met my father," Short recalls. "Each surgery is three hours, and they'd have margaritas together. My father said, 'You've got a great guy. You're really lucky.' That never would have happened in a hundred years."

Much has been made of press reports that Aviance wasn't in drag when he was attacked; Short stressed that he personally was dressed in ultra-macho leather gear. The unspoken implication is that the gay men who are more effeminate or are "swishy" are even easier targets, in a sense "asking for it," like girls wearing short skirts. And what about transgender performers? Even a downtown fixture like cabaret comic Murray Hill gets harassed in neighborhoods where gays and lesbians rule the roost, and where posters advertising his performances are plastered everywhere.

"I never really feel safe in the East Village anymore," Hill writes in an e-mail. "There used to be a time when I could walk down Avenue A at 8 p.m. or 3 a.m., and people would stop and say hello to me. About three years ago, I started getting verbally harassed on Avenue A by young guys that were recent transplants or visitors to the East Village. The button-down and baseball cap type. I certainly don't get a sense they knew the neighborhood's history at all. At first I was literally shocked—now I've gotten used to it. Back in '97, the only person that might harass you was someone asking for spare change."

House DJ Honey Dijon adds that if she was harassed as a black gay man in drag in the mid '90s, it's even worse now as a black woman. "I didn't get hit on until after I transitioned," she says. "I wish everyone understood what women go through. It's been an incredible education. I get more comments as a woman than I did before. Women are not threatening to men. Even if you are a drag queen, you're still a man."

It's doubly hard to square the frequency of gay bashings with the public perception that it's OK to be gay. "Just because we have gay TV shows and all that, these things are just a fantasy," Dijon says. "It's like two different realities. It's like The Matrix. There's the virtual reality and what's happening in the real world. And what's happening on the street is a reflection of what our larger government and religious institutions are doing. What's the difference between what the government did in Iraq and what they did to Kevin Aviance? One is sanctioned and the other is not?"

Publicist Len Evans, speaking on Aviance's behalf, echoes that sentiment: "He blames President Bush for all of this. He is trying to ban gay marriage—what message is he putting out to us, that gay culture is not accepted? He's our leader, and he's telling us gay marriage can be banned?"
Gay-bashing numbers sometimes spike in the months leading up to and including Pride celebrations—June, July, and August. Thus, Aviance's attack was not just brutal, but professionally devastating. "This period of time is when he makes the money for the year," says Aviance's lawyer, Jay Sanchez. "He can't make it because he can't perform." Like other self-employed artists, Aviance doesn't have health care to pay for the broken jaw that's been wired shut, or his fractured knee and neck. A fund has been set up through the Anti-Violence Project—send donations to the attention of Joseph Turla, care of Anti-Violence Project, 240 West 35th Street, Suite 200, 10001.

In addition to Saturday's rally held at the site of Aviance's attack, there are also several benefits in Aviance's honor, including one at the Cock on Thursday, June 29, with fellow House of Aviance member Kim Aviance and Ari Gold performing; and another co-benefiting FIERCE on Sunday, June 25, at the Knitting Factory. Aviance himself will make a single Pride appearance—though he will not perform—at Vasquez's party at Spirit that Sunday.

"I'm a human being," Honey Dijon says. "Everyone wants to be treated as a human being, and what happened to Kevin was inhumane."

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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New York Giants star Michael Strahan on the DL?

Wow, New York giants star Michael Strahan is accused of living on the DL (down-low). Talk about a nasty divorce, his soon to be ex-wife, Jean has accused him of a relationship with TV doctor, Ian Smith.

Of course both men deny their relationship is of that nature. Smith indicates that he offered Strahan to sleep on his couch when Strahan split from his wife.

He goes on to claim that his friend was in need and that's what friends do.

That sounds believable until the article goes on to mention Smith impending nuptials with his girlfriend of 14 years. 14 YEARS? That doesn't sound cool at all. Let's just call it like it is.

It's likely that the divorce proceedings will get nastier. That's unfortunate as there are children involved.

If Jean Strahan, the estranged wife of New York Giants star Michael Strahan, isn't careful, she's going to get flagged for unnecessary roughness.

According to a report in the New York Post, Jean Strahan said her husband engaged in an "alternative lifestyle" with his friend, television doctor Ian Smith, after the couple split in March 2005.

Jean Strahan made the allegations as she opened up to reporters outside the Essex County Family Court on Tuesday after her husband completed a second day on the witness stand in their divorce proceeding.

"Michael moved in with Ian in his one-bedroom apartment for the next year," Jean Strahan said. "You could say an alternative lifestyle sprouted."

Asked to elaborate, she was prevented from saying any more by her lawyer.

Michael Strahan's lawyer, Robert Penza, called the remarks "outrageous."

"This allegation has been raised in the past by Jean," Penza added. "She's been spreading rumors throughout this entire litigation process."

The Giants defensive end, who is a seven-time Pro Bowl performer and holds the NFL's single-season record for sacks, could not be reached for comment, but Smith strongly denied the allegation.

"This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Smith told the Post.

"Yes, Michael Strahan is one of my best friends, and in a time of need, when he was kicked out of his home and had no place to go, I did what any good friend would do and offered him my couch.

"At the same time, I was planning my wedding to a woman I had been dating for over 14 years, and we are happily married.

"Michael Strahan is very heterosexual, and I am very heterosexual."

Inside the courtroom Tuesday, Michael Strahan chuckled when one of the love letters he was shown looked like it was addressed "Dear John" instead of "Dear Jean."

"I've been accused of that before," he said jokingly, according to the Newark Star Ledger.
Jean Strahan's allegations are not the first vicious shots in what has become an extremely contentious case.

According to the Star Ledger, she also teared up in court after Michael testified he did not remember her birthday or a heartfelt Father's Day card she gave him.

"I was devastated," Jean Strahan said after the hearing. "He denied remembering a really important card. He couldn't remember my birthday. He basically denied that we ever existed."
During other testimony, the couple also exchanged dueling tales of wild spending ways.

According to the New York Daily News, Michael Strahan said Jean spoiled their toddler twin girls, recently spending nearly $100,000 on them - including $27,000 for clothes alone. But Jean responded, saying the Giants star spent nearly $200,000 on two luxury cars, lavished money on a mistress and kept a secret ledger detailing the married couple's sex romps before the twin daughters were born.

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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Rappers picked wrong woman this time

I like some hip-hop and rap but Ice Cube, Ludacris, 50 cent and others are way out of line trying to force Oprah to put them one her show. It's cheap publicity for the rappers. I quite frankly, I disappointed with Cube. I thought he'd turned the corner and began to use his celebrity status for other ventures to assure himself a life-long career.

I'm glad someone is taking a stand. Rap music lyrics tend to degrade women, especially Black women and it's time for it to stop. Hello, it's Oprah's show ; she can have whoever she plese on it. The piece below brings everything into focus. I have one thing to say to Oprah, "You go, girl!"

2006 NBA Champions - Miami HEAT

Final score: Miami HEAT 95 Dallas Mavericks 92

Dwayne Wade led my Miami HEAT to its first NBA championship. The fans in Miami are going wild and South Florida needs anything to bring the community together. I must admit that I was skeptical of a HEAT win in Dallas territory.

Give credit to the legendary Pat Riley. He is a basketball god. Inarguably charismatic, motivational, inspirational, an all-around great coach. Four rings for Riley...

On the real, Dallas has a great team; much better depth than Miami. They just need to be able to handle stressful situations better. It's understandable that Dallas is disappointed but they must carry themselves like champions and they didn't do that.

There's a tremendous police presence here to keep the fans under control but that's probably not necessary. A parade is tentatively scheduled for Thursday afternoon in downtown Miami.

This victory was so sweet because the HEAT were written off so early. The HEAT came back from a 2-0 deficit and won four straight. Unheard of. The HEAT had not beat Dallas in Dallas before today.

This championship was monumental in so many ways. Miami is now home to champions in basketball, football and baseball. It doesn't get much better than that.

Congratulations, Miami HEAT!

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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The Death of the Internet

Major telecommunications companies are spending millions lobbying the U.S. congress to make the Internet into a private network. In political lingo this means abandoning what is called “Net Neutrality”. In common sense terms it’s about the government withdrawing our right to Internet Freedom, it’s about the Death of The Internet.

© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged
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