The Pulitzer and the Arab spring

I've seen some complaints that this year's Pulitzer Prize largely eluded coverage of the Arab uprisings, but the winner in the editorial cartooning category, Politico's Matt Wuerker, did provide some uprisings-related work. See a gallery of Wuerker's work here. Still, strange to see so little recognition of some of the fantastic work done during the uprisings — at least starting with Egypt, since English-language coverage of Tunisia was largely AWOL. 

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Zine al-Arab

Remember the very inventive campaign in Tunis, when a huge poster of Ben Ali was put up again and then, when angry residents took it down, turned out to contain a warning that dictatorship can return? (See the making-of here.)

I missed it when it first came out, but a new e-zine by a group of Egyptian and Arab artists and designers, including Ganzeer with whom we recorded podcast #7, has the great following cartoon inspired by that. In Egypt though the end is different. You can get Zine al-Arab here, and they may still be accepting submissions for the second issue. They have great comic art.

Update: an event feat. Ganzeer tonight at the Townhouse Gallery:

Feb 19, First Floor, 7 pm

Artist Talks
“In Print”

“In Print” concludes with an evening of artist talks by each of the participants (Ganzeer, Mohamed Shenawy, and Mohamed Elshahed) discussing the development of their projects during this 3 week period in Townhouse's First Floor Space.

For more info: 
www.ganzeer.blogspot.com , www.toktok.com , and www.cairobserver.com
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Muktatafaht: A comics anthology

Don't be fooled by the bad video that sounds, at the beginning, like an advertisement for the Boston area tourism board. This is a cool project to produce an anthology of Middle Eastern comics, and I've contributed to the Kickstarter fundraising project for it. Help if you like comics! [Thanks, Ethan.]

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

For Ali Ferzat

The above cartoon, in solidarity with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat is by Jonathan Guyer of Mideast by Midwest. Ferzat, who has published cartoons critical of Bashar al-Assad, had his hands broken last week by pro-regime assailants: 

In the early hours of Thursday, masked men seized Ferzat from the street and forced him in to a van. A relative has said that Ferzat's attackers targeted his hands, breaking them both, and told him it was "just a warning" before leaving him by the roadside with a bag over his head.

Across the Middle East and elsewhere cartoonists have expressed solidarity with Ferzat.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Steve Bell on Tony Blair and Mubarak

The Guardian's Steve Bell, perhaps the world's most devastating cartoonist.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Batman bin Superman

Coolest name ever. If you're 12.Fans of Frank Miller's Dark Knight will get special satisfaction out of this. At Language Log via Sarah Carr on Twitter.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Turn right at the end

State of Avigdor Lieberman

The above drawing is from a collection from the art project Turn Right at the End by the Israeli artist Sivan Hurvitz, who imagines Israel's non-democratic future. More about the project at the Forward.

 

Links for Jan.10.10 to Jan.11.10

“Lorsque je commençais mon enquête sur le tourisme au Sahara marocain, je n’imaginais pas être prise à témoin d’échanges sexuels” « Ibn Kafka's obiter dicta – divagations d'un juriste marocain en liberté surveillée | On sexual tourism in Western Sahara. ✪ What the "Eurabia" Authors Get Wrong About Islam in Europe - By Justin Vaïsse | Foreign Policy | Critique of Eurabia theory. ✪ The Trials of Tony Judt - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education | ✪ U.S. to store $800m in military gear in Israel - Haaretz | To keep in mind in context of Iran. ✪ Israel and Iran: The gathering storm | The Economist | Interesting story with background on Osirak bombing, Israeli prospects against Iran. ✪ Executive | Magazine has new books section. ✪ Strong reaction to warning of coup - The National Newspaper | Iraqis react to UK ambassador's testimony to Chilcot Enquiry that coup to purge Iran influence still possible in Iraq. ✪ the arabophile | New blog. ✪ Joe Sacco: Graphic History | Mother Jones | Interview with the cartoonist and author of "Footnotes from Gaza." ✪ High cost of living means more unmarried in Egypt | Bikya Masr | Stats on why Egyptians are marrying later. ✪ Arab Reform Initiative | Report on constitutional reforms in the Arab world. ✪ The architecture of apartheid | SocialistWorker.org | On the bantustanization of Palestine. ✪ The Venture of Marty Peretz’s bigotry: Arabs, Muslims, Berbers and more « The Moor Next Door | Kal on the New Republic editor's Islamophobia. ✪ The Forgotten Recantation — jihadica | Interesting post on the recantation of Abbud al-Zommor. ✪ 'Bush sold Arab states arms in violation of deal with Israel' - Haaretz - Israel News | Obama, more pro-Israel than Bush: "The Bush administration violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S. promised to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge over Arab armies, according to senior officials in the Obama administration and Israel."
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Links for 11.30.09 to 12.02.09

Why they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past 30 years? | Stephen M. Walt | 288,000, Walt estimates. ✪ Libya convicts Swiss pair in apparent revenge for arrest of Gaddafi's son | World news | guardian.co.uk | Good timing. ✪ Israel strips more Palestinians of Jerusalem status (Reuters) | "Reuters - Israel stripped Palestinians of Jerusalem residency status last year at a faster rate than at any time in the history of the Jewish state, an Israeli rights group said on Wednesday, citing official Israeli statistics." ✪ Dubai model was the vision of one man | Reuters | Andrew Hammond's writes: "The "Dubai vision," which has suffered a crushing blow from the freewheeling Gulf emirate's sudden debt crisis, is the creation of one man who failed to apply the rules of open governance." ✪ Arab disappointment with Obama | Marc Lynch | Arabs disappointed with mideast policy, not democracy. Americans disappointed with everything. ✪ Spreading Shiism to the Moon Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | This is about Iranian ambitions over the Comoros Islands, but I link because the intro is funny. ✪ Jewish Nationalists and Palestinians Clash in East Jerusalem - NYTimes.com | This headline makes it sounds like the Jews are the natives. Plus it's in East Jerusalem, which is Palestinian under international law. ✪ Obama's Middle East Policies: the Persistence of the Bush Doctrine on Vimeo | A lecture by the Angry Arab, Asa'ad Abu Khalil. ✪ Israel attacks Sweden on Jerusalem plan | I think this Swedish position on Jerusalem, if the EU takes it up, is important. ✪ What to listen for in Obama's speech | What Walt says on Afghanistan. ✪ The New Inquisition | Laila Lalami in The Nation. ✪ Arab journalist throws shoe at Iraqi shoe thrower - Yahoo! News | He missed, too. ✪ Views from the Occident: Hizbullah Announces New Party Platform | Hizbullah peddles its national vision. ✪ ei: "We will have to kill them all": Effie Eitam, thug messiah | Buffalo, NY Jews welcome Elie Eitam, murderer and Eretz Israeler. ✪ Super Emo Friends | Diskursdisko | Comic book humor - should appeal to those emos in Egypt.
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Links for 11.25.09 to 11.26.09

Le journal hebdomadaire | Abou Bakr Jamai's imagines a letter from a Sahrawi. ✪ For Jews, roiling Yemen no longer place to call home | On persecution of the less than 350 remaining Yemeni Jews. ✪ MyMemory - Machine translation meets human translation | Uses records of translations to provide best one possible, Arabic possible. ✪ BBC iPlayer - Document: 23/11/2009 | BBC radio show on Britain's role in the Oman coup of 1970. ✪ AFP: Court jails Moroccan rights activist over drug case | Outrageous imprisonment of whistleblower for denouncing official corruption. ✪ Yemeni refugees caught up in Middle East's forgotten war | World news | The Guardian | Is it forgotten if the Guardian and others keeps on talking about this war, though? It's more that most of the world doesn't care. ✪ Q&A: Iraq war inquiry | UK news | guardian.co.uk | Interesting info - and note, no such inquiry in the US... ✪ Joe Sacco | The Observer | Interview with the cartoonist author of "Palestine" and "Footnotes form Gaza." ✪ Le Figaro: Uri Davis, Juif et dirigeant palestinien | About an Ashkenazi Jewish Israeli who converted to Islam and joined Fatah. ✪ Is Everybody Disappointed In Obama? | TPMCafe | Because he's a coward, that's why. ✪ Who's Paying?: The Case for More Transparent Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | "Not surprisingly, the exposure of Galbraith's dealings has caused some controversy in Iraq, though remarkably little in Washington." ✪ SHE2I2: Egyptian court upholds comic book ban, fines creator & publisher | "Metro" ban upheld. ✪ Marwan Barghouti: Peace talks with Israel have failed - Haaretz | "I do not see that there are fundamental political differences between Fatah and Hamas." ✪ Morocco relishes dual identities - Variety | On Morocco's film industry. ✪ Public Service Announcement | Center for a New American Security | Andrew Exum stops blogging. I understand him...
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Response to review of A Child in Palestine

We recently featured a review of A Child in Palestine, an overview of the great Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali's work. The book's editor, Abdulhadi W. Ayyad, has responded to the review. Below are Mr Ayyad 's letter and a response by Ethan Heitner, the writer of the review. I read with interest your review of A Child in Palestine, which focused on the cartoons of Naji al-Ali, written by Ethan Heitner. Being the writer of the main body of the text, I feel it falls on me to correct a few misconceptions contained in Mr Heitner's review. To begin with, the book never sought to be a biography of the late Naji al-Ali. The fact that contributors to the Wikipedia website have listed more exhaustive details of the artist's life is impressive, and says a lot about Wikipedia. What we did seek to accomplish was to make the works of Naji al-Ali accessible to a new audience. There we find the reviewer's suggestion that my writing "overdetermined" the messages in what he felt were intentionally ambiguous drawings: I feel that this criticism is somewhat misplaced. The fact is, Al-Ali consistently employed visual imagery to allude to well-known idioms which would be obvious to native Arabic speakers, for whom his cartoons were made. I had to assume that the typical reader of the book would not have been able to appreciate this fully, and wrote the text accordingly. Finally, Mr Heitner suggested that my writing on Al-Ali tended towards the "hagiographic". I can fully concede this point, but I must point out that Naji al-Ali remains for Palestinians of every political hue a truly untainted national hero. While it might not suit the more cynical Western reader, the fact is that patriotism remains an important, vibrant force amongst Palestinians, and this will inevitably reflect itself on how any Palestinian will write about Naji al-Ali, at least for some time to come. To adopt a well-known Arabic aphorism, judge people by what they attempt to do. If the book had been intended for those familiar with the Middle East, or had it been planned as a biography, Mr Heitner could have expected another text. Yours, Abdulhadi W. Ayyad Ethan Heitner responds: Dear Mr. Ayyad, Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate that the book is an introduction for Western readers to the work of Naji al-Ali. As I expressed in my review, I can only hope that a future edition will contain more material (both cartoons and critical text). The importance of Naji al-Ali and his work should not preclude us, and in my opinion compels us, to attempt to look at his work and life critically and rigorously. - Ethan Heitner
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Review: A Child in Palestine

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Review of A Child in Palestine: The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali
Published by Verso, 2009
Introduction by Joe Sacco
Text by Abdul Hadi Ayyad



Most people familiar with Palestine are familiar with the work of Naji al-Ali, the creator of Hanthala. The cartoon of a ten-year-old refugee boy facing away from us, his hands behind his back, is the ubiquitous visual symbol of Palestinians expelled from their homeland and living in camps, silently witnessing the tragedies of Palestinian life since 1948. You can find al-Ali's iconic drawing spraypainted on walls not just around the Arab world but in European and American cities, as a pendant worn around the neck, on tee-shirts, sewn into keffiyehs, animated and all over the internet, and, just for example, on a cut-out sheet of paper taped to the back of the laptop on which I write this essay. Within Palestine and the Palestine solidarity movement internationally, Naji al-Ali's presence is equal perhaps to that only of Mahmoud Darwish as a cultural unifier and voice for the voiceless.
 Naji Al-Ali Israeli tank shoots dove.jpgSo it is shocking to consider that it is not until now, 22 years after al-Ali was assassinated in London (he was shot by unknown assailants on July 22, 1987) and more than 48 years since he was first published by Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, that the first English-language collection of his cartoons is making its appearance. Despite several online galleries, tracking Hanthala down in print in the West has been quite difficult. Therefore we can all thank and praise the editors of Verso Books for their decision to create a slender introduction to al-Ali's graphic work for the Angolphone world. They have selected 100 cartoons and arranged them roughly by theme in five chapters: Palestine; Human Rights; US Dominance, Oil and Arab Collusion; the Peace Process; and Resistance. There is a brief introduction to each chapter, and each cartoon is accompanied with a short caption providing translation and explanation. The whole book is furnished with an introduction by cartoonist Joe Sacco, probably al-Ali's heir as the single person most associated with the crossroads of Palestine and comics. cartoon_naji_al-ali.gif
 
The work itself is as powerful as one can imagine for a cartoonist who's voice was so threatening to those in power that he had to be silenced with bullets. These are not funny cartoons, not even in the sense of the droll sarcasm associated with editorial cartoons in America. Al-Ali's work is replete with bloody struggle against ghoulish enemies; maimed bodies of children and bullet-ridden adults are wept over by wailing mourners under skies of solid inky black. It is frequently black night in Hanthala's world, without stars and only a crescent moon to see by. Bodies and landscapes transform surreally into bullets, keys, barbed wire, bombs. The leaders of the Arab world become grotesque slugs, fat and corrupt; the Israelis are vampiric goblins. The recurring representative  of the "commoner," the Arab peasant or worker who becomes a militant is stabbed, hung, and shot all the while a little boy watches silently (usually). They are a cri de couer of horror and resolute endurance. 
 naji al-ali cartoon jail.jpg 
Technically, al-Ali's line is usually called "simple" and at times even "crude"--shaky, without variation in weight, using cross hatching or grey ink wash to give the figures roundess and shading without detailed rendering. This style is not dissimilar to other cartoonists and animators internationally of al-Ali's generation working in the 60s and 70s, especially those associated with the underground or hippie movements in the West, like Fred Wolf or Bruno Bozzetto. But the power of al-Ali's work can be seen in the endless creative variation of the visual metaphors used. Recurring elements are recombined and reimagined to produce inventive new ways of reiterating al-Ali's consistent and unwavering message, which is as stark as his images. The Arab commoner (Palestinian, Lebanese, or other), man and woman, thin and starving, is faced with multiple enemies who are in fact in collusion: the U.S., the Israeli soldier, and the leaders and "fat cats" of the Arab world (whether dressed traditionally or in Western business suits), who will always betray the armed struggle that is necessary for Palestine to be reclaimed. An analysis of the Arab ruler's simultaneous repression of their people, dependence on oil wealth and obeisance to the U.S. is neatly summarized in a single, striking, wordless composition. 
 NajiAlAliPalestine.jpg 
Al-Ali's images also provides a quick and easy way to debunk some common Western myths about the history of the struggle for Palestine. Human rights and democratic discourse were a part of Palestinian demands from the beginning, and were blocked by the Israelis. The objection to settlements is not new or recent, but dates to their inception in the 1970s, and from the beginning were recognized as an obstacle to peace by al-Ali. The Arab states and the leaders of the PLO are not "moderate" but in fact capitulate too readily to U.S. and Israel demands and have been doing so for decades. 

Still, one is left feeling that this book only represents the barest beginning for exposing al-Ali and Hanthala to English-speaking audiences. Obviously, 100 cartoons selected from a body of work that includes tens of thousands can only serve to pique the interest of those seriously interested in Naji al-Ali. Strangely, Verso did not credit an editor for this collection, nor is any explanation or rationale for the choice of cartoons given. I know from browsing Arabic-language collections, for example, that many of al-Ali's cartoons do include much text and dialogue despite his reputation as a wordless cartoonist for largely illiterate masses. One can only presume that these cartoons were left out for ease of translation, but they are precisely the ones least accessible to the non-Arabic audience.
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More importantly, and disappointingly, there is no critical biography of al-Ali or attempt at cogent analysis. The written material, credited to Abdul Hadi Ayyad only in the copyright errata inside the book, is generic and prone to platitudes and hagiography, and no more informative about al-Ali's life or work than his Wikipedia entry (actually slightly less). Its attempts at translation and explanation for the cartoons frequently overdetermine what appears to me to be deliberate ambiguity of images. I am left feeling that one of the most influential  and important cartoonists of the second half of the 20th century, of the non-English-speaking world, and of the global decolonization struggle, is still without a compendium that will be of use to more than casually interested audiences.  One hopes that with enough interest in this book it will be forthcoming. 


Ethan Heitner is a member of Adalah-NY: The Coalition For Middle East Justice and a student of cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He has previously written for TomPaine.com and Cairo magazine. His cartoons will be available at www.freedomfunnies.com soon.
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Cartoon on king's wealth banned in Morocco

original.16748.demi.png Forgive the poor quality, but this is a cartoon depicting King Muhammad VI of Morocco jetskying on money. It was chosen as an illustration for an article in Courrier International, a French magazine that culls and translates articles from around the world. The issue of Courrier International that carried the cartoon was banned in Morocco. The article it accompanied originally appeared in the Moroccan French-language weekly Le Journal Hedbomadaire. Update: And this cartoon that appeared in Le Monde alongside an article on the king by Jean-Pierre Tuquoi also got the issue banned: 18635981.jpg
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Links for 07.18.09 to 07.20.09

Gambling with peace: how US bingo dollars are funding Israeli settlements | World news | The Guardian | More Moskowitz. There should be an international financial blockade against any institution involved in the settlements. 'U.S. tells Israel to halt East Jerusalem building' - Haaretz - Israel News | More on Irving Moskowitz's settlement plans. Asma Al Assad: Syria's First Lady And All-Natural Beauty (SLIDESHOW) | HuffPo celebrates the beauty of Asma al-Assad. Never mind her hubby being a dictator and all... WaPo bows cravenly to pro-Israel lobby | WaPo publishes inaccurate "correction" on Gilo settlement. De “Freej” à “Hamdoon” : le dessin cartonne aux Emirats | On the spread of homegrown cartoon characters in the UAE. French agents kidnapped in Somalia | Security trainers were posing as journalists and staying at journalists' hotel — can't say I feel any sympathy for them. Publier ici votre bilan des dix de règne - Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer! | Larbi, one of the best Moroccan bloggers, is inviting readers to send in their assessment of the first 10 years of Muhammad VI's reign. Breaking the silence | Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009 Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cementing the rift via dialogue | Update on Egypt-brokered Palestinian reconciliation talks after Ramallah meeting, takes the position that Fatah is sabotaging talks for electoral purposes. But does not acknowledge Egypt's acquiescence in this plan. The freegans' creed: waste not, want not | Environment | The Observer | Article on freeganism, i.e. eating free food that's been thrown away. Clearly only possible as a lifestyle in the first world. Somaliland's addict economy | GlobalPost | About Qat (also spelled Khat, the drug) in Somaliland. EGYPT: Poet accused of insulting Mubarak awaits final verdict | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Ridiculous. OpenStreetMap | Not bad alternative to Google Maps. For Cairo not bad, but Google is more detailed and in Arabic. Still, good effort that might improve, and does not lock us in to the G-Man. Revisiting Obama's Riyadh meeting | The Cable | So the idea that Obama came out empty-handed out of his pre-Cairo Speech meeting with Saudi King Abdullah is gaining ground. But it is ridiculous to imagine that Abdullah would pre-emptively agree to concessions before the Israelis have made even a single concession. Egyptian chronicles: Ahmed Rushdie-Barely-Speaks For The First Time | Very interesting post on former Egyptian minister of interior Ahmed Rushdie, described here as the only minister of the Mubarak era to have resigned and the only interior minister who was respected. (I don't know how true this is, but it's interesting!) International Crisis Group - 152 Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC | New ICG report on Sudan warns of laying off pressure on Khartoum over Darfur as focus shifts to the south and the CPA again. Among key recommendations to the ruling party is that Bashir should step down as soon as possible. US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat | Sharq al-Awsat interview, mostly on Syria. The Obama administration sure loves Saudi media. Palestinians aim for massive pastry record Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | I'm all for building the world's largest ball of twine or baking the biggest kunafa, but the reporting on this is over the top. Taboo Topics on Contemporary Foreign Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | Excellent post on the Ten Commandments of foreign policy wonks. You could add plenty more, but I would add (as far as Egypt is concerned) "Thou shall greet yesterday's oppressor as today's reformer, or vice versa if appropriate." Walt makes so many good points it's hard to choose a favorite, although #9 is up there.
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The missing "Metro"

My article about the confiscated graphic novel "Metro" came out in The Review, the weekend cultural supplement of The National, a new English daily based in Abu Dhabi. Below is the opening paragraph. You can see translated panels from the novel at Words Without Borders.  

In a pivotal scene in the Egyptian graphic novel “Metro,” a blind old shoe-shiner stumbles upon an anti-government demonstration in the streets of Cairo. “Where can the oppressed find justice? Where can the hungry find food?” chant the demonstrators. The old man, almost without realizing it, starts mumbling along. A few frames later, he’s being carried on the shoulders of the demonstrators, having improvised a choice slogan of his own. A few frames further on, he’s being beaten by a gang of those young thugs routinely employed by the authorities to break up demonstrations. In two pages, the author of “Metro” has suggested the appeal and hopefulness of recent democracy movement in Egypt, as well as the severe consequences of any political activism.

 

 

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Links for December 4th

Automatically posted links for December 4th:

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