38 thoughts on “About

  1. I’m a new computer science grad.
    What can I do to oppose the new H1B proposal?
    Is there a quick way to effectively contact all the reps?
    Who are the most influential and receptive ones to petition?
    There are 535 I believe; that’ s more than I can handle.
    Thank you,
    GDWitt
    gdwitt at gmail.com

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    • You can start by CALLING, not writing, the offices of your senators and representatives. Go to town halls held by your politicians, and ask pointed questions. Call radio talk shows, etc.

      But you really need to organize with others. Join the Programmers Guild, and then push them to become more activist. One thing I’ve always urged PG to do is to meet with newspaper editorial boards, like the industry lobbyists do; to my knowledge, PG has never done this. PG is great, but they really need to become more activist.

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    • AMERICAN
      ENGINEERING
      ASSOCIATION, INC. E-mail: aea@aea.org, Web. http://www.aea.org

      DEDICATED TO THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION AND U.S. ENGINEERING CAPABILITIES

      How Not to Hire a Qualified American Worker

      POSITION STATEMENT of the American Engineering Association, (9/23/06) Rev. 11/01/09
      http://www.aea.org/pdf/AEA_POSITION_Workforce.pdf

      AEA strongly opposes the importation of foreign Engineers, Scientists Programmers, Mathematicians and high tech (STEM) professionals. Evidence clearly shows foreign workers (H-1B, L1 etc.) are imported for the purpose of reducing labor costs and offer no skill advantages over our American professionals. In many cases American Engineers and Programmers have been directed to train their foreign replacements under penalty of losing their severance packages.
      The H-1B program depresses American salaries. Wages for Electronic Engineer, Job Shoppers was: $42/hr. 1983. Today: $45/hr. 2015was quoted. These are zero benefit packages.

      Richard F. Tax
      President
      American Engineering Association
      http://www.AEA.org
      201 664-6954

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  2. Norm, you’re the worst kind of academic and a traitor to America: You spend endless hours (seemingly an entire career, in fact) dancing around the *nuances* of H-1B implementation. (e.g., “Where I Stand on the H-1B Work Visa”) Doing so only promotes the idea that H-1B is a legitimate and reasonable system that perhaps merely needs to be tweaked to work fairly for America.
    To anyone reading this blog, let me make this simple for you:
    There has never been a need for foreign tech workers in the U.S. They only drive down wages for American tech workers. If there ever was a shortage of U.S. tech workers, their wages would go up (due to demand exceeding supply), and then more Americans would be attracted to enter the field, until a fair/reasonable balance between effort and reward in salary is established. In contrast, what the H-1B visa program (and other visa programs as well) has done is essentially create a limitless supply of labor. Obviously, when you have limitless supply of anything, that causes prices (wages in this case, to stagnate/fall). That is exactly where we are today and where we have been for some time, due to incremental abuse of this horrible H-1B system.
    The U.S. is now flooded with foreign tech workers (after years of abuse of this system), at the same time that oursourcing of U.S. tech workers has been proceeding with a vengeance. This has been an unmitigated disaster for U.S. tech workers for well over a decade now.
    That is the truth. So, you can really shut up with your nuanced “academic analyses” of this situation. Doing so merely obfuscates the very simple reality of what is happening.

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    • Well, Bob the American, thanks for the kind words. 🙂 But next time try actually reading my writings.

      My longtime stance on H-1B is that it should be used only to bring in “the best and the brightest,” the really outstanding talents. If we did this, we’d only having something like, say, 1,000 H-1Bs per year.

      Unfortunately (or fortunately) I don’t spend nearly as much time on this as you seem to think I do. You may wish to check my other blog, matloff.wordpress.com, to see what I “really” do.

      And now I must ask, What have you done about H-1B? Have you joined the Programmers Guild? Have you met with your congressperson’s office, and your local newspaper editorial board? Ever considered picketing politicians and employers who are standing in the way of fixing H-1B?

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  3. Well, Bob the (impolite) American does have some valid points. The funny thing is that Bob is saying more or less the same thing Norm has been saying for a long time, but Norm is backing it up with solid evidence and argument. Bob, on the other hand, is just ranting. I can’t blame him for this. The corporations have subverted the government and stacked the deck against American workers wherever possible. I first saw it in H-1B form starting in the early 90’s.

    A lot of politicians know this. Norm’s kind of evidence and exposure of blatant contradictions and deceptions doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately politicians don’t act in favor of the American worker over corporations. They know where their bread is buttered.

    The real problem is the corruption of the American political system by money from corporations, billionaires, foreign governments, etc. What Norm reveals in the H-1B issue is symptomatic of the overall problem: government submits to financial interests at the expense of American people.

    So Bob the American, how about focusing on the real problem – work to get money out of the electoral process. There are a lot of groups working on that. Or, as Norm says, fight the H-1B battle. I don’t think Norm will mind if you use some of his evidence and arguments in that effort.

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  4. Norm,
    What do you think of the idea of auctioning off H-1B visas to the applications promising the highest salaries?
    Thanks,
    Steve

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    • I don’t think you really mean an auction, which would mean giving the visas to the employers who pay the highest user fee to the government.

      But yes, I approve of giving the visas to those paying the highest salaries, an idea that has come up before. And best of all, Obama could do this with a stroke of his pen. There is nothing in the law for the current lottery system.

      A bill introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren a few years ago included this feature, BUT ruined it by adding a new type of visa, an H-1B workaround involving automatic green cards for foreign students at U.S. universities.

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  5. Hi Dr. Matloff,

    Can you please write something about the ghettoization of the UC Irvine campus as it pertains to the more than 50% Asian student population there?

    ghetto
    noun ghet·to \ˈge-(ˌ)tō\
    a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure

    This statistic, as you may know from being a statistics professor, is NOT A COINCIDENCE. As a Chinese American student, I find this to be extremely fishy in the admissions process. There is some kind of racism going on in the admissions process.

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    • UCI is only one of several UC campuses (including my own, I believe) that has 50% or more of its students in the Asian-American category. I use the hyphenated phrase here, as some readers may mistakenly think we are talking about Asian foreign students, and I should add that the term Asian includes not only the East Asians (Chinese, Korean, Japanese) but also Southeast Asians, e.g. Vietnamese, and South Asians (India etc.), as well as Filipinos. But I don’t think there is anything nefarious at work here.

      About 2/3 of all Asian-Americans are immigrants, and many more are children of immigrants. The countries of origin tend to be ones with a high cultural emphasis on education, and indeed for many Asian immigrants, a big appeal of moving to the U.S. is the wide availability of college education, which for some of them (especially those from China) is not true for their home countries. In addition, in those home countries, success in a career depends far more than in the U.S. on getting into the “right” school.

      As a result, (a) applicants to college in California tend disproportionately to be Asian and (b) given a choice of UC vs. CSU, Asians will disproportionately insist on the latter. (And if they are admitted to a highly prestigious private college, even UC won’t be enough for them.)

      All these factors lead to the high proportions of Asian-American students at a number of UC campuses, including Irvine. Note, by the way, that the ethnic breakdown among Asians does vary from campus to campus. Last time I looked at the data, UCI and UCD, for instance, had the same percentage of Chinese but UCI had a higher overall percentage of Asians, presumably related to the large number of Vietnamese in Orange County.

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  6. Fossil Group (watches, leathers, and accessories) is currently outsourcing their IT staff to H-1B giant, Infosys. Most Fossil IT jobs end on Friday, August 28, 2015 and we are expected fist to train our foreign-born, non-citizen replacements (and all such “knowledge transfer” sessions will be recorded!).

    This is an abuse of the H-1B visa program as I understand it. It was never intended to allow the wholesale outsourcing of actively filled positions with foreign “guest” workers. It’s obviously a business decision intended to cut operating costs at the expense of highly-skilled, well-compensated American professionals.

    It’s time for American workers to stop permitting this distortion of our economy. Why don’t we hear any outcries about the strategic implications and potential national security issues that may come of turning over the country’s IT
    infrastructure to non-American workers who may not share our national and cultural interests?

    Stop merely reading this blog and start getting active! As Norm recently suggested, we should be making phone calls (and writing emails) to Congress, local government, the Attorney General’s office, the Secretaries of Labor, Homeland Security, and State, and every local and national news outlet.

    Do you want your children (or any children) to have a shot at a middle-class life (the American Dream) or are you willing to allow this country to become a land of powerless serfs?

    It’s your choice.
    951413

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The key is the trade deals. Americans need to become more aware of the global scope of this issue, and also we need to realize that we- the whole world are in it together. its not a zero sum game.

    Americans’ and others as well, all of our attentions should be focused on the FOUR pending trade deals, TISA, GATS, TTIP 9which include services provisions) and TPP, which as far as I know, does not. GATS? isnt that dead? No its not and if TPA passes we will see its return very quickly.

    jane kelsey wrote a very good book on this subject several years ago. Highly recommended. its titled “Serving Whose Interests ?: The political economy of trade in services” It gives the history of “offshoring” and outsourcing, as well as of the GATS. The GATS and its Mode Four is at the core of this issue.

    This thesis from several years ago summarizes a number of the theories being used to justify global trade in services liberalization.

    http://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloadFile&recordOId=1336427&fileOId=1646753

    These (below) are the two (badly named) “mandate” documents which can function (with some effort) as outlines of the scope and goals of TISA and TTIP, IF people understand that every sentence, literally, is loaded with meaning and they are designed to VASTLy understate the scope and intended effect. They are designed to allow somebody at some future date to claim that they were public, “manufacturing consent” as it were.

    These deals – and nothing shows it better than these documents if you can thoroughly research the documents references and the language and its meaning, (trade glossaries and access to the literature on WTO jurisprudence needed) are literally an attack on democracy and the existence and even idea of a middle class. They attempt to privatize all public services, and force whatever public money is spent to not compete unfairly with business which means that public schools will have to be bad, so they dont compete.

    They are a lot more than just enabling a few indian IT firms to save money on wages.

    These deals could and will, if allowed to, devastate the social contract in America and elsewhere.

    http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-11103-2013-DCL-1/en/pdf

    http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6891-2013-ADD-1-DCL-1/en/pdf

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  8. Prof. Matloff,

    I was very grateful to come across your extensive materials online re: “Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage.”

    As a concerned world citizen, I have been independently investigating the corruption/co-opting of science by economic forces/actors that have spilled out of the economic realm proper and metastasized into the political and cultural domains. I am considering what can be done along the lines of raising awareness in the greater public domain. The practice of science can no longer operate freely, out of its own laws, but has become beholden to political and moneyed interests. So much depends on breaking these chains, I believe.

    I just wanted to say Thank You for your work on this issue, Prof.

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    • Nothing will happen unless people organize. It’s that simple. Lots of people think like you do, but you have to unite. Easier said than done, of course. As I start, I’d urge you to join the Programmers Guild if you do anything related to programming.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Prof.,

        Thank you for your reply! I am definitely working on the ‘organizing’. 🙂 But it is of a different kind. While political organizing in the traditional sense (marching in streets, calling representatives, writing editorials) certainly has its value, one must begin to question its ultimate efficacy in a society where government is firmly in bed with moneyed interests. It is this stark realization that is behind the unprecedented decline in voter activity in America: as the saying goes, ‘why play when the game is rigged?’ It is not for lack of interest or indignation.

        To wit – there was a trenchant take down of the trade deals posted above. TPP – the vast majority of Americans were completely in the dark about the TPP (it was very purposefully shrouded in secrecy, after all). In terms of the relative few who were on to it, there was near unanimous opposition to it – many protests were staged in American cities, advocacy groups were formed, petitions were circulated, representatives were called (I certainly did). In the end, the political machinations behind the passage of Fast Track were jaw-dropping in their circus-like nature. It could literally stretch the edges of one’s sanity to watch the proceedings and be reminded that this was our nation’s legislature in action. In other words: complete disconnect between the actions of our elected ‘representatives’ and the Will of the People.

        What I have been contemplating has very much to do with what you said above: “lots of people think like you do.”

        We have no shortage of impassioned thinkers, advocacy groups, agendas, petitions, etc. This all seems very fractured to me – a numberless striving in a multitude of directions. A cacophony of voices shouting to be heard.

        This fractured-ness seems to me to be a reflection of our understanding, which is likely far too conditioned by the mechanistic education we receive in school and via the news. (The philosopher Alain de Botton aptly characterizes the news as ‘orphaned’ pieces of information. The boredom/apathy which many feel toward current world events is really just a protective reflex of the mind, ‘despairing’ of where to place all the de-contextualized bits of information.)

        I guess I am saying that effective action must be founded on none other than effective understanding. The first step for me is to gain this understanding holistically. The decimation of science is being mirrored right now in all cultural institutions (education and the arts). Meanwhile, the underlying dynamic of said decimation is the same. The cultural domain has been swallowed whole by economic interests, often acting through the proxy of state administration/control. And yet this mechanism that is draining life from science, education and the arts is coming from our ‘own hand’ in a way – the state has control of cultural institutions because it has control of our tax money, which it directs to certain purposes.

        To turn primarily to the government for redress of our grievances is, I think, to invest power and ‘say-so’ into a crumbling institutional relic – when it belongs in actuality to the people. When we petition, beg, the government for what we want, we pump more authority into a corrupt structure; we therefore agree – implicitly and explicitly – to the co-opting of our cultural institutions by the state (which now operates largely according to bottom-line dictates and special interests). We the people are the lifeblood of the cultural institutions. We are the scientists, the teachers, the students, the philosophers, the musicians. Asking permission – whether politely or not – may not cut it anymore.

        What is needed is a fully independent sphere of culture. Science that is freely funded by the people; education that is freely funded by the people; arts that is freely funded by the people. Not the state. Society has already (at least nominally) recognized that religion, as a cultural activity, must be left absolutely free. That it must be allowed to unfold out of its own inner necessity; that its practice is a matter of individual freedom; and that the state cannot interfere.

        This step must be taken with all other ‘arms’ of the cultural sphere.

        As you said above – easier said than done.

        I am thinking on all these things and more… what will come of it? I will check in with you from time to time. Perhaps I may even call on your help in some way… 🙂

        Thank you again.

        Like

  9. Professor,

    I am studying your article “Are foreign students the ‘best and brightest’?”

    Re: the PRA document you reference here:

    “The Policy Research and Analysis (PRA) division of the National Science Foundation (NSF) complained that Ph.D. salaries were too high. In an unpublished report, PRA proposed a remedy in the form of importing a large number of foreign students…”

    Can you tell me if these internal NSF/PRA documents are available online somewhere for review? I know these documents form the basis of Weinstein’s NBER working paper, but I am wondering if all we have to go on is Weinstein’s word that he saw these internal reports. I have tried to contact Eric Weinstein, but his email addresses are apparently no longer active.

    Would appreciate any pointers you may have, Prof!

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    • My discussion of the PRA document comes from Eric Weinstein’s analysis. I’m told that it can be found in the Congressional investigation of the NSF in the early 90s, but I’ve never had time to look for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It was you Professor who provided the critical pointer. I had come across a useful timeline (“PEAT Time-Line of Pivotal Documents and Influential Publications”) on Weinstein’s PEAT website. [link: http://users.nber.org/~peat/ReadingsFolder/PrimarySources/TimeLine.html%5D

    The point on the timeline that jumped out at me was the 1992 Congressional investigation, described as such: “Extensive hearing which gave evidence of a pattern of deception by the National Science Foundation and others (see for example the statement of Joel Barries on pg. 404). … Successfuly, if temporarily, ended the panic over shortages and led to questions about deliberate supersaturation of the science and engineering labor markets.”

    When you kindly pointed me in the direction of the Congressional investigation, all I had to do was Google the title of the Hearing record, which was given in the timeline itself.

    Thank you so much again!

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    • Still, some skilled sleuthing on your part, glad to see it.

      We would never have a hearing like that today, sad to say.

      By the way, did you notice the comment in that book expressing concern about sexist attitudes held by immigrant engineers and scientists? We’d never see a government document with that kind of statement today either.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Prof., I did not see that comment yet. But it reminds me of an anecdote shared by my friend who works in a big Silicon Valley firm. (My friend is an immigrant.) He shared with me that in the weekly meetings at his firm, sexism is rampant: shouting down and chauvinistic comments are not uncommon. All this in addition to a general atmosphere of aggression. Maybe this shows my naivete, but I was shocked upon hearing this.

    I do think the will to confront all these issues is lacking in government itself. And that is why I am contemplating how the citizenry itself can self-organize.

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    • Silicon Valley, circa. 1995 versus today. As an IT person who has been employed for the past 40+ years in the IT industry, a visit to Silicon Valley today, you will find an abundance of non-US citizen, foreign born IT people working in the various companies that make up Silicon Valley and surrounding areas.

      When the dominance of the foreign born employee is prevalent within a group that makes up a division of the company, such as product development, for example, the culture within that portion of the company becomes one of the foreigner’s culture that they know, were born and lived with from where they came. I have experienced this cultural behavior first hand.

      I have also worked for companies on the East Coast, one of which had US citizens as owners who were Indian in ancestry. The company had software development operations in India for some portion of the products they developed, and also employed H1B visa engineers, and administrators at its East Coast operations. In general, the culture was different from a traditional American perspective, and business practices, were, as well, to say the least, on the edge of deceptive. By the behavior of the executive owner management, culture and norms were passed from the top down, and some serious questions could be raised as to whether there was an unspoken male sexist preference operating within the culture.

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  12. Prof., above you said that ‘lots of people think like you do, but you have to unite.’

    When you said ‘lots of people’, do you specifically mean scientists/engineers with whom you have spoken? Or have you also heard this sentiment from laypersons?

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    • Every time I have spoken in a public forum on this issue, e.g. in radio issues, the vast majority of people agree with me. The same is true for others I’ve seen speak against the H-1B program.

      A 1998 Harris Poll found that 82% of the respondents opposed expanding H-1B. Of course, polls can vary according to how the question is asked — last year a poll commissioned by a pro-immigration group asked, in essence, “Which would you rather have, illegal immigration or immigration of engineers and scientists?” — but I think the wording that Harris Poll was pretty fair.

      The big problem is that most Americans are unaware of how much abuse there is of H-1B. When it is explained to them, they readily agree that we need to clamp down.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Professor Matloff. I graduated from UC Davis with a CS degree and was one of your student back in 2001. I’ve been working in the technology sector for over 15 years and is seeing the painful effect of the H1B program. I’m a big supporter of your blog and your views on H1B. I would like to get your views on which president to support for the upcoming election if I’m against the H1B program. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t say on the blog whom I’m voting for. I do say that I am a lifelong Democrat.

      Trump at first had an excellence stance on H-1B, which I praised here, but he backpedalled somewhat the next day, which I strongly criticized him for. Sanders, over the years, has consistently been negative about H-1B, though to my knowledge he has not addressed the issue recently.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Norm,

    I largely agree with your positions on H1B. I feel that many if not most of the people coming over on visas are substandard and being used to depress wages especially in computer science and that it does drain US talent. The program is horribly abused and we are starting to see other types of visa (TN, etc.) abused as well.

    I also question how much more effective the Indian or Chinese educational system is than our own. Most brains have relatively similiar potential and how it is trained both strengthens and weakens than potential in different ways. I think their system has flaws like our system has flaws and I worry that we are latching onto test scores as evidence of our academic inferiority. It feels like we are justifying the actions of the people who abuse our systems.

    However, I am not sure whether H1B root problem or part of a larger economic problem. I worry that our currency is out of sync with the world economy. Our economy does not follow normal economic rules. We have had a trade deficit for a long time now and while I suspect this has caused the inflation we have experienced (perhaps because displaced worker salaries decrease taxes and put more stress on government aid which in turn drives taxes and good prices up or other less clear reasons), the dollar has remained unaffected. This has dire consequences when increasingly talented foreign labor is pushing labor value down.

    We are losing our ability to produce (export) to foreign labor. Is the average US citizen relatively skilled? Yes. However, if we are too expensive, the work will not go to the US citizen but to someone who is cheaper because our people are not twice as good. Even if we end H1B, can we really keep US salaries high and for how long?

    I think we have an overvalued currency that makes us uncompetitive in the world economy. In niche fields where we can contribute R&D, we should be able to stay productive but we can’t support our economy on niche fields and if we are more expensive, business will go elsewhere.

    China doesn’t have to pay 100 dollars for a Windows license. They can build an OS in China of relatively similar caliber for a fraction of the cost. We can’t get low enough on price to compete. Cost of living is simply too high.

    It just feels wrong, Undeveloped countries may have different economic balances and a more significant lack of wealth distribution but should they really be an order of magnitude cheaper for the same work? And are China and India really *that* underdeveloped? What do we do when other countries simply do almost everything cheaper than we do and we find ourselves unable to do simple jobs? Especially when their cost of living is a fraction of ours and some of them have a really high standard of living?

    Shaun

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    • In terms of standard of living, we are far ahead of China and India (in spite of the fact that there are SOME wealthy people in both countries). So of course their people want to come here, and will work cheap relative to our wages. It really isn’t a currency issue, and as far as I know, the U.S. government is NOT trying to keep our currency up.

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  15. I don’t think the US is. I think China is and I am not sure we can prevent it. I also don’t think we want to rapidly correct it.

    Economics seems to be largely a collaborative psychological phenomena. People in China produce a lot and have better access to food than before but their quality of life is kept depressed. Do they really have so little? No, but their government encourages them to feel like they do and relatively, they are still poor.

    People here seem to focus on how cheap goods have made life better for the top of our society but the lack of productive jobs don’t necessarily mean better lives for the less privileged.

    We are expensive and we are losing jobs. I am not sure we have any real ability to protect our economy nor can we fairly determine who is qualified to work over here. When most of the jobs are gone, the house of cards falls down. I don’t think it will get there but doesn’t mean it might not get rough.

    Having solid immigration policy would be very nice but will it work when so many people have every incentive to cheat?

    I don’t think any of this is a huge problem in the near term. The market will correct and we will stumble along unless we pass something that makes immigration even worse; however, at some point, I do think that markets need to equalize a bit and I suspect it will get worse before it gets better.

    With globalization, we all jumped in too fast and now seem to be struggling to slow the process when we should have been patient all along.

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  16. Greetings Dr. Matloff!

    I wanted to inform you of a typo in your book “The Art of R Programming”.

    Section 3.4.1 on page 75, prgh 2 (below 1st code snippet).

    *”cbin()” is used instead of “cbind()”*

    Consider the latter an appreciative gesture for your many contributions in the field.

    Thank you Dr Matloff!

    Mark Razmandi

    Like

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