Tuesday, June 08, 2004



S Korea cautious on US troop cuts
South Korean officials have responded cautiously to a US proposal to cut by a third its troops based in the country.

Officials said more negotiations were needed, and South Korea needed time to prepare "countermeasures".
China indicated that it welcomed the plan, saying it hoped it would contribute to regional stability. But South Korean opposition, civic groups and analysts said the relatively quick timescale for the pull-out could jeopardise security.

The US has proposed withdrawing 12,500 of its 37,000 troops by 2006.

The US has said it needs to modernise its forces, but the move may leave some South Koreans feeling vulnerable to North Korea.

"There still need to be negotiations," Defence Minister Cho Young-kil said on Tuesday.
"In response to the US-presented broad idea, our idea is also going to prepare a countermeasure in a broad framework," a government official said on condition of anonymity.
"I think the direction of our response will be decided this week after concluding a careful review of the US proposal and collecting various opinions," he said.
The main opposition Grand National Party was less sanguine, calling the US plan "shocking and surprising".
"The number of troops Washington wants to cut came as no surprise, but the timing is rather faster than expected," Professor Kim Tae-hyo at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security told The Korea Herald.

The Pentagon says its commitment to defend the South will not be affected and the use of longer-range weapons and better technology will compensate for the reduction in numbers.
But the South does not want big changes until the resolution of the dispute over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, says the BBC's correspondent in Seoul, Charles Scanlon. It would prefer the pull-out to happen gradually over 10 years.

Plans are already under way to redeploy the US troops, which will remain in South Korea, and the two sides held a second day of Future of the Alliance talks on that issue in Seoul on Tuesday.

At present nearly half the 37,000 US troops in South Korea are stationed north of Seoul, a throwback to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Their forward position puts them in range of North Korean artillery and US officials have said that pulling troops back south of the capital would strengthen the military's hand.
The US also wants to move the main US army headquarters from its current location in central Seoul to free up money for better military technology and infrastructure.
Source; BBC News, June 04

US to pull out 12,500 troops
Significance largely symbolic: S Korea has 690,000 troops, N Korea 1.1m
US plans to pull remaining troops back from DMZ

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Chinese protests on the rise
More than three million people took part in protests in China last year, according to official statistics.
The figures confirm police reports that demonstrations within China are growing in size and number, and becoming better organised.
The report, in Outlook magazine, blames dissatisfaction with government policy.
The main problems, it says, are wage disputes, social welfare problems, the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, and evictions.
These problems amount to a list of the fallout from China's reform process.
Many protests in China happen far from the public eye, but these figures show they are on the rise.

The Ministry of Public Security says last year there were more than 58,000 "mass incidents" -the term they use to describe public protests - involving three million people: that is an increase of almost 15% over the year before.

Western experts say that as protests increase, Chinese police are trying different strategies to contain them, sometimes even making economic concessions to demonstrators - moves that may even encourage others to stage protests.
And one Western academic has warned that, when it comes to the growing unrest, China's leaders will face riskier dilemmas than at any time since the massive protests in 1989.
Source; BBC News, June 04
Write; by Louisa Lim in Beijin

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India and Pakistan ministers to meet
Natwar Singh, the Indian foreign minister, is to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart during a two-day regional meeting in Islamabad on July 21-22.
Mr Singh would attend the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, said Masood Khan, the foreign ministry spokesman. He would be the first cabinet minister from the new government to visit Pakistan.
Pakistani and Indian officials are due to meet in New Delhi next week to discuss ways to improve nuclear security. Farhan Bokhari, Islamabad
Source; Financial Times, June 04
Write; by Farhan Bokhari

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Vietnam Gov'ts to Enforce Net Crackdown
Vietnam has ordered local governments nationwide to closely monitor Internet use and enforce regulations aimed at cracking down on "bad information" sent or read on the Web, an official said Tuesday.
The move comes after the communist country sentenced several dissidents to long prison terms over the past two years for using the Internet to criticize the government and promote democracy.

The Ministry of Culture and Information last week instructed the People's Committees in all 64 city and provincial governments to closely monitor all online information, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Under the new regulations, part of government policy announced in March, Internet cafe owners can be fined or jailed for allowing clients to download or send "bad information" on the Internet, the official said.

That includes allowing access to sites ranging from those deemed pornographic to those accused of disseminating state secrets.
Internet cafe owners must also document what Web sites their clients visit and for how long, and all users must present identification cards before logging on.
There are an estimated 5,000 Internet cafes in Vietnam. About 4 million people out of Vietnam's population of 81 million regularly use the Internet.
Source; The Associated Press, June 04

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N.Z. Labour Regains Voter Support After Budget, TV3 Poll Shows
June 6 (New Zealand's governing Labour party, buoyed by a big-spending budget, regained its lead over the main opposition National party, according to a poll conducted for TV3 News in Auckland.
Voter support for Labour rose to 43 percent from 42 percent in March. National fell to 40 percent from 42 percent, according to the poll results, which were e-mailed to Bloomberg News.

Labour last month pledged NZ$14.1 billion ($8.8 billion) of new spending the next three years aimed at boosting the income of families and encouraging more people into work. The government hasn't led in the TV3 poll since January.
In February, National took the lead in the poll for the first time since October 1996 after leader Don Brash attacked the government for policies he said favor native Maoris over other New Zealanders.

Clark remains most preferred prime minister with 35 percent support from Brash with 26 percent support, according to the TV3 poll of 1,000 voters. The poll was carried out from May 27 to June 3 by Auckland-based TNS and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.
Separately, consumer confidence was unchanged after falling in March to its lowest since April last year, according to the poll. The proportion of people expecting the economy to improve the next three months was steady at 40 percent. Still, 30 percent expect the economy to deteriorate from 28 percent in March.
Source; Bloomberg, June 04
Write; by Tracy Withers in Wellington, New Zealand

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Economist warns of looming labour shortage
A small dip in newspaper job ads has not dented hopes that the 5.6 per cent unemployment rate is about to fall to a 23-year low.
The ANZ job ads series, which counts the number of ads in metropolitan newspapers, fell 2.8 per cent in May.

But the drop followed an exceptional year of employment growth and also masked a rise in the use of internet advertising, where ad numbers have risen 51 per cent since May last year.
ANZ measured a monthly rise of 3.4 per cent if newspaper and internet ads were measured together. The rival Olivier internet job ads survey recorded a monthly rise of 4.7 per cent.
Scott Haslem, an economist with UBS, said forward indicators such as the job ads surveys suggested unemployment would soon fall to its lowest rate since 1981.

Tony Meer, an economist with Deutsche Bank, said Australia, Britain and New Zealand were on the cusp of a historic demographic shift that would create a labour shortage over the next 10 years.

"By the end of this year, or early next year, we'll have an unemployment rate in the low 5s or high 4s," he said. "You have to go back well over three decades ago to find a sustainable unemployment rate below that."
Unemployment was last at 5.6 per cent in 1989, before the 1990 recession, but has not fallen consistently below that mark since the mid-1970s. In 1981 the unemployment rate dipped briefly to 5.4 per cent.

Robert Olivier, a director of the Olivier Group recruitment firm, said the labour market was looking increasingly like a sellers' market. "Employers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract top candidates," he said. "It also means there will be pressure on organisations to raise salaries in their June reviews."

Ninety per cent of jobs created in the 12 months to April were full-time, said the federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews.
He was responding to a report in yesterday's Herald that said more than half of all jobs created in the past 16 years had gone to casual workers, and more than a quarter of workers were employed on a casual basis.

Casuals were "an essential and legitimate part of a flexible labour market", he said, adding that they received loadings of up to 30 per cent above normal wages to compensate for the lack of entitlements.
Mr Andrews warned that if a Labor government was elected it would force employers to pay casual workers for sick leave, holidays and redundancies - a move that would force businesses to lay off staff.

Labor's workplace relations spokesman, Craig Emerson, described Mr Andrews's claims as "another Liberal lie".
"Labor policy is to give regular, long-term casuals the choice to request a conversion to permanent employment with employers being able to say no if it's reasonable to do so," he said.
Mr Emerson said the ABS definition of full-time work included casual and permanent full-time employees.
The most recent ABS survey of casual employment showed almost 45 per cent of new jobs created between August 2002 and August 2003 were casual.
Source; The Sydney Morning Herald
Write; by John Garnaut and Aban Contractor

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Rising Japanese bond yields a 'positive sign'
Heizo Takenaka, Japan’s economy and financial services minister, on Tuesday sought to quell concern about rising long-term interest rates, describing a three-and-a-half year spike in 10-year bond yields as a positive sign of the strength of the economic recovery.
"Yields can rise when the economy is getting better and they can also rise when the credibility of JGBs [Japanese government bonds] is deteriorating," he told journalists. "I do not see the yield rise as negative at all. Rather I see it as a positive sign."
On Tuesday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year JGB rose three basis points to 1.7 per cent, its highest since early 2001 when the Bank of Japan began its current ultra-loose monetary policy.

Mr Takenaka was reacting to investor concern about the danger a sharp rise in long-term interest rates could pose as the economy recovers and as inflationary expectations gradually take hold.

Pessimists worry that rising interest rates could cause problems on a number of fronts, making it harder for the government to service its debt, raising private borrowing costs, and reducing the value of bond holdings held by commercial banks.
Hajime Takata, chief strategist of Mizuho Securities in Tokyo, said there was a possibility that long-term interest rates would overshoot, damaging the economy and causing big losses for institutions holding government bonds.

Mr Takata, who has long warned of the dangers of a collapse in the government bond market, said the risks of bond market turbulence became more acute as the economy pulled out of its long deflationary phase.

"This is like a prisoner dilemma situation," he said. "With 97 per cent of government bonds held by Japanese, Japanese people have no way of escaping from the interest rate risk." He said the government should adopt a policy to minimise the risks, issuing more floating-rate bonds and, perhaps, getting the Bank of Japan to buy more long-term JGBs.
Peter Tasker, consultant economist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, said such fears were exaggerated. Bond yields were rising, he said, because the prospects for nominal growth and inflation were improving, precisely what Japan had long been waiting for.
Any negative impact caused by falling bond prices, Mr Tasker said, would be more than compensated for by stronger growth and rising equity prices.

Economists said that, even if banks, which have been big purchasers of government bonds, suffered losses on their fixed-income portfolios, they would be able to compensate by gaining wider spreads on lending. Regional banks' balance sheets are more skewed to bonds than the big city banks, which are still big holders of equity.

Economists were also not unduly alarmed at the higher interest rate payment that the government might face on refinancing public debt, now about 140 per cent of gross domestic product. As bond yields rose, so would the tax take, they said.
Nonetheless, the government said it remained vigilant against excessive interest rate rises. Sadakazu Tanigaki, finance minister, said: "We need to watch movements in long-term interest rates closely."

Mr Tanigaki also said the ministry would continue to diversify its bond issuance. The government has held two auctions of inflation-linked bonds, both of them heavily oversubscribed.
Source; FT, June 04
Write; by David Pilling in Tokyo

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Greatest archeological discovery since new China
Of the archeological activities on Western Zhou over the past 70 years, Qishan graveyards may be the only large relics of Zhou population ever found. From the burial sites the walls, oracles and advanced buildings and graves are discovered and the oracles reading "Duke of Zhou (Zhou Gong)" appeared many times there.
After a number of on-site investigations, researches and discussions carried out by many famous archeologists the Western Zhou large burial site has received wide attention and was regarded as belonging quite likely to the family of the Duke of Zhou. This greatest archeological discovery as such ever since the founding of new China proves immeasurably precious to the research on China's civilization and for carrying on and developing China's excellent traditional culture.

The large Western Zhou burial site is located in the ruins of the Duke Zhou Temple in Qishan County of Shaanxi Province. Archeological team composed of Shaanxi Archeology Institute and Peking University, has discovered 19 large graves: nine with four grave tunnels, four with three and two respectively and two with one grave tunnel. There are another 13 funerary pits. Over 700 oracle bone pieces were discovered outside the graves, 420-word oracle identified, four slates with characters reading "Duke of Zhou" ever found, over 1500-meter-long wall and sites of foundations of six large buildings of rammed earth.

After three days of careful investigation Professor Zou Heng from Peking University said, it is the only large community of Zhou people, in which the Western Zhou walls, oracles, advanced buildings were all discovered ever since the archeological activities on the Western Zhou Dynasty were started over 70 years ago. That referring to the Duke of Zhou appeared many times on oracle bones indicates that the site is the feud of Duke Zhou and the burial site belongs to his family. The 78-year-old Zou, dubbed "No.1 archeologist on China's Shang and Zhou dynasties", is the discoverer of the capital ruins of the States of Yan and Jin of the Western Zhou Dynasty and instructor for exploring and excavating Lord Jin's grave of the Western Zhou Dynasty.

Yin Shengping, former curator of Shaanxi History Museum, a noted expert in Western Zhou history, said, king-level graves discovered previously only had one or two tunnels, and it is the first time for us to discover four-grave-tunnel graves in the feud of the Duke Zhou. Duke Zhou was a person honored as King of Zhou and is fully qualified to use the funeral treatment of the highest level. It is no wonder that graves with four tunnels were discovered in his family burial site.

Named Dan and surnamed Ji, Duke Zhou is the founder of Zhou Dynasty, and once assisted King Zhou Wu and afterwards serving as regent for seven years, he gave the power back to King Zhou Cheng. He initiated feudalistic system, and formulated the rites and composed music, thus laid the political and cultural foundation of the Chinese nation. Confucius turned his thought more humanized and worldly, and on the basis he formed the Confucianism, which has been passed on for thousands of years, becoming the most fundamental cultural tradition in Chinese society. "Dreaming of Duke Zhou" still remains a catchword nowadays.

Doctor Zhang Tian'en, director of Shang and Zhou Office of Shaanxi Archeology Institute who devoted for years to seeking tombs for kings of the Western Zhou, held that the title of Duke Zhou is hereditary and lasted for five to six hundred years. Although Zhou Gongdan's eldest son was given the State of Lu in the east but Western Zhou practiced the system of returned burial, i.e. one must be buried in the mother town when he died. As descendents of Duke Zhou given provincial enfeoffment must also be buried in the family graveyards, therefore, many graves appeared with four tomb-tunnels.

Researcher Yuan Zhongyi, former curator of Qinshihuang Terracotta and Horses Museum, said, the size of the four-tunnel graves are generally a bit small, so they are not likely to be of the graves for kings but more likely to be graves of the family of Duke Zhou. As to whom they actually belong, that depends on the final determination after excavation.
Source; People's Daily Online

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Indonesia's shameful export
Poverty, ignorance and unenforced laws fuel an industry that has sold 70,000 children into prostitution overseas

The talk in Jakarta
It is not something any government likes to make public, but the figures say it all: Indonesia is one of the world's largest exporters of sex workers, mainly children.
The Unicef says as many as 70,000 Indonesian children have been sold across the country's borders as sex commodities. They are employed in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Similarly, nearly half of the 400,000 estimated sex workers in Indonesia are children under 18 years old.

This grim reality has mostly been ignored, buried deep in local newspapers. In this instance, it is the lack of discussion about the problem that is disturbing. That is, until unique cases like the most recent arrest of a 'madam' emerged.
Twenty-seven-year-old Arum was arrested last month for operating a network of prostitutes from her humble food stall in a densely populated neighbourhood in South Jakarta.
Reports said she had recruited girls, mostly students between the ages of 14 and 16, to work for her by first luring them to buy items from her, on credit. These included mobile phones, clothes and shoes.

When the girls ended up with huge debts, she then made them escort older men.
The girls would meet their customers in the daytime, after school, before going home.
Arum's case was special, as she did not operate in a typical 'lokalisasi' or red-light district area.

A report by the Jakarta office of the International Labour Organisation-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-Ipec) said a large number of children in the country are trapped in the worst forms of child labour, mainly prostitution.
These children come from both urban and rural areas.
Poverty is the trigger in most cases. Government reports say between three million and six million children had been left, without parental care, to eke out a living after the 1997 economic crisis.

In some rural areas, parents are also known to sell their children for money to recruits for the sex industry.

Yet it is the large cross-border syndicates, which recruit girls through deceptive means, that are running a lucrative business of prostitution and people trafficking in an industry that generates millions of rupiah a year in the country.
With the authorities, such as some police and immigration officials, on their payroll, the syndicates target Indonesia as a place for recruitment as well as a destination for sex tourists.
Activists point out the government's glaring lack of effort to tackle this problem. The government last year came up with a national plan to combat the trafficking of women and children.

But with a lack of capacity and resources, the plan was criticised as just 'lip service'. For instance, there is no budget to implement the plan.

'If we want to fight organised crime groups that are making a lot of money, we have to be willing to spend some money,' said Mr Aris Merdeka Sirait, the secretary-general of the National Commission on Children Protection, in Jakarta recently.
The government has drafted a law that mandates severe punishment for exploiters of children. But the enforcers, either out of lack of knowledge or collusion with the suspects, often ignore the law and prosecute the cases using the regular criminal code.
For activists like Mr Aris, nothing is more frustrating than seeing the stacks of cases they submit to the police receive little follow-up.

'We get hundreds of cases and data on child prostitution, but if you'd ask me a year later how many of those have been successfully prosecuted, you'd be disappointed to hear the answer,' he said.

The government only started to act when people began talking about the country's corruption problem. So, until more people start talking about it, this problem of teen prostitutes will see little change.
Source; Singapore Press Holdings, June 04
Write; by Devi Asmarani

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Malaysia; The elusive Islamic state
Muslims the world over often affirm that Islam is a religion of peace based on submission to God. Yet opinions vary considerably as to how this Divine Will should be actualized.

Cut off from centuries of classical Islamic and legal scholarship, which requires one to understand not just Arabic but the context and evolution of Islamic history in the first place to be able to render a sound juristic verdict, the legal sensibility of Muslims has been severely compromised.

Muslims in Malaysia, not unlike those in the Middle East, have resorted to appreciating Islam through the narrow prism of al Halal wal Haram fil Islam - which means abiding by the "lawful and prohibited acts in Islam", and which is detailed in a book of the same name by Yusuf Qaradawi.

In this philosophy, submission to God is reduced to a series of dos and don'ts - a binary moral code. This approach was systematized by Qaradawi, dean of Islamic law at Qatar University, and the methodology gained currency in the Middle East, and subsequently in Southeast Asia.

Since 1960, when Qaradawi wrote his book in Arabic, his narrow approach toward Islam has predominated. In Malaysia, his influence is deep, even among the governing Muslim elites. When former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim was the president of the International Islamic University, Malaysia, he spent considerable time with Qaradawi, expressing his support for the latter's fiqh al aliyyah (introducing Islamic law according to priorities).

In his governmental post of deputy to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar was able to bring some of Qaradawi's ideas into public policy. Eventually Anwar was dumped from the government and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption; however, the thoughts and practice of Qaradawi have not been totally excluded from government policy, including the reductionist elements.

Islamic scholars and thinkers in Malaysia continue to look to Qaradawi for various Islamic interpretations and verdicts, such as on the legality of suicide terrorism. More important, the inspiration of Qaradawi is integral to the conceptual blueprint for an Islamic state as held by the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which controls the Kelantan state government.

PAS's Islamic state is based on the permissible and the prohibited as outlined by Qaradawi. Observe the "Islamic state document" produced by PAS last year, the first of its kind in the history of the party, after much demand from Malaysians as to what a PAS-style Islamic state would actually represent.

In this document, it was clearly stated that PAS would implement "the Shariah [Islamic law] to achieve the five imperatives of the Shariah; therein to protect a Muslim's beliefs, life, intellect, dignity and property".

In seeking to fulfill these five imperatives, the document read: "In implementing the Shariah all vices and crimes that pertain to the above stated aspects would be controlled. Man-made laws have been [proved] a failure in securing the security and dignity of the human race."

From this line of reasoning, it is clear that punitive logic is not far from the implementation of Shariah as envisaged by PAS.

In fact, despite promising to keep true to the five objectives, what is known as Maqasid al-Shariah, PAS is totally silent on the jurisprudential methodology and tradition that would be employed on how these objectives can be fulfilled.

Yet anyone who is vaguely informed on Shariah is aware that the recourse to different methods or schools of thought on Shariah - whether it be mazhab Shafii (as is customary in Malaysia and Indonesia) or mazhab Maliki (as is common in Northern Africa) - can produce variations to each law.

PAS stated that the reason for the creation of an Islamic state is a Fardhu Ain (necessary Islamic obligation). To justify the creation of an Islamic state, PAS quoted the Islamic maxim: "Something becomes obligatory if an obligatory injunction fails to be fulfilled without it."

Going by the above assertion, Islamic law, in the words of M B Hooker, an Islamic-law specialist based in Australian National University, is a creature of "executive institution", something that the Islamic state must create.

Hence, rather than based on Islamic scholasticism, where religious scholars debate on each point of law before it is deployed or introduced, it is now the Islamic state that will decide how Islamic laws are best made.

It is in this context that Parvez Manzoor, a Muslim scholar based in Stockholm University, argues that the Islamic state can become an "all-watchful Hegelian state". This is because it carries within it the administrative, theological and bureaucratic reach, to sanction and approve every mode of behavior.

How one practices Islam in Malaysia, according to PAS, should boil down to observing the prescriptions (the dos) and proscriptions (the don'ts) of the Islamic state, and the kind of restrictive Shariah conceived by it. Therefore, the intermingling of men and women is banned, as are art events deemed offensive.

Although Islamists inspired by the clarity of Qaradawi's work often point to the validity of his approach, since there is a phrase in the Koran that encourages Muslims "to advocate virtue and forbid vice", they fail to note that even Qaradawi himself openly acknowledged the difficult and unprecedented nature of reducing Islam to a set of positive and negative deeds.

That this warning is not heeded is largely due to a shallow understanding of Islamic history, combined with even poorer understanding of Islamic law, and the methods with which laws are derived.

In seeking to create an Islamic state to police and punish, the very position of Islam itself is made controversial, especially in a modern and multiracial society such as Malaysia, where up to half of the population are non-Muslims.

Due to the tendency to assume that a punitive Islamic state is the norm, when Islamists in Malaysia do propose a legislative agenda, they are often predisposed to an approach that rarely questions the spirit and ethics laden in Shariah to satisfy the five imperatives.

Rather, the jurisprudence is based on sanctions and injunctions of the Islamic faith, which in fact is the most simplistic, if not crudest, rendition of Islam into contemporary context.

Herein lies the irony in Malaysia: Despite the clarion call of PAS to create an Islamic society guided by moral awareness, the current approach dilutes it. Instead, it is heavily tilted toward creating an all-powerful Islamic state rather than one fostered on ethical precepts.

Nevertheless, it remains PAS's contention that an Islamic state must come into existence first before an ethical Islamic society could come to be. Morality, in other words, comes after power.

Although the ruling party of Malaysia, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), is arguably "softer" on the importance of Islamic state, even its Islamization program is not without punitive elements, in some cases even on par with PAS. Islamic laws passed by states ruled by UMNO have been just as strong and harsh.

The only way out for Malaysia is for scholars and students of Islam to be more sensitive to the context of Islamic history, rather than to adopt it wholesale, as is the preferred approach in Islamic institutes and universities thus far. Unless Islamists in Malaysia combine a perceptive reading of Islamic history and Islamic jurisprudence, the reliance on a punitive approach will continue to predominate.
Source; Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. June 04
Write; by Yukiko Ohashi

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