Should Government Be Split By Sex?
\r\nJoan Wallach Scott: Most of my work is in nineteenth century French \r\nhistory and both the Veil book and Parité are on twentieth and \r\ntwenty-first century, and I had done work on feminist demands for voting\r\n rights. Women get the vote in France in 1944. I had done all kinds of\r\n work on that and then I began to read about this movement for… le \r\nmouvement pour la parité, and that was devised by a group of French \r\nfeminists who… many of whom were involved in politics and who felt that \r\nthey were just hitting a brick wall or a glass ceiling or whatever, that\r\n they was just so much toleration by the vast majority of men who were \r\nin politics for women coming in and one of the things they pointed out \r\nwas that since women had gotten the vote in 1944 until they started \r\ntheir movement in 1990 no more than 5 and at most 6% of the French \r\nParliament were women and this they seemed to them… this put France on a\r\n par with some of the most un-advanced countries of Europe and indeed, \r\nof the world and this was brought up over and over again as a way of \r\nthinking about what to do.
\r\nAt first they proposed quotas and quotas were struck down by the French \r\nconstitutional court as unconstitutional and then they proposed what \r\nthey called parité and this was where the thing we talked about before \r\nabout French universalism was this sort of wonderful turn on French \r\nuniversalism. French universalism, the unit of universalism is the \r\nabstract individual who has no characteristics, no social \r\ncharacteristics, no religion, no race, no ethnicity, nothing except \r\nhistorically sex. The reason women weren’t given the vote initially \r\nwhen men got the vote, which was in… First they had the vote in the \r\nFrench revolution for a while, but in 1848 you have universal manhood \r\nsuffrage. Women didn’t get the vote because they were thought to be \r\ndomestic, dependent, the sex. They were outside of the political realm \r\nand so the people who supported parité argued that sex was the one thing\r\n that couldn’t be abstracted for the purposes of the abstract individual\r\n and if that was the case then why not say that the abstract individual \r\ncame in two sexes, male and female, but that all that that sexual \r\ndifference meant was anatomy. It was anatomical difference. It had \r\nnothing to do with social, cultural, political behavior, capabilities, \r\ncapacities. Those were all culturally attributed. And so they began to\r\n campaign for 50% representation for women and what they argued was that\r\n there should be a law that said that 50% of the parliament had to be \r\nall… 50% of all the seats in the National Assembly had to be for women \r\nand so on in all political offices, which didn’t fly terribly well, \r\nalthough that was the original plan.
\r\nSo this movement developed and they were ingenious in the kinds of \r\npolitical things they did, the demonstrations they would have, the signs\r\n they would… the posters they would hold up, all sorts of puns in French\r\n on the National Assembly being you know all male and I can’t really \r\nreproduce them in this, but in any case they moved along and as \r\ndifferent governments came into… They created coalitions also across \r\nparty lines. This was one of the really ingenious things, with women \r\nwho were leaders in very different political parties. They also created\r\n a kind of grassroots movement by bringing together the heads of all the\r\n sort of voluntary associations, the Association of Graduates, women \r\ngraduates of technical schools, women lawyers, you know the kind of \r\nprofessional associations and farmer’s wives and whatever, grassroots \r\nassociations. The leadership of that came together and supported, \r\nsigned the petition also in favor of parité and they created this sort \r\nof ground swell of public opinion such that at one point something like,\r\n I don’t remember the numbers now, but something like 70 or more than \r\n70% of the population surveyed both male and female thought that there \r\nshould be greater equality in politics and they could imagine a woman \r\npresident of France. This was long before Ségolène Royal and you know \r\nher attempt to become president.
\r\nSo then the socialists came into power I think in 1997 and there seemed a\r\n real possibility for getting this law passed because Jacques Chirac was \r\ninclined to do more egalitarian sorts of things and this seemed like a \r\ngood thing to do and then the original movement, which was saying on the\r\n one hand there have to be… we have to take sex into account in \r\npolitical representation, but on the other hand saying that sex was \r\nirrelevant for the capabilities and the characteristics and the \r\nideologies and the outlooks of women and men that there weren’t… that \r\nthe differences were not deeply rooted or biological. Then in 1990, \r\nwell, in the 90s, but in 1998, ’99 it came to a head. This coincided \r\nwith the push for domestic partnership legislation in France and the \r\ndomestic partnership legislation unleashed a campaign that could only be\r\n called homophobic, although some of its representatives denied that \r\nthey were homophobic, of the most extraordinary sort in which everybody \r\nwas okay with the idea that there could be a contract, a domestic \r\npartnership contract, but not with the idea that gay couples could have \r\nfamilies, that gay couples could adopt or could have access to \r\nreproductive technologies of all kinds, in vitro fertilization and stuff\r\n like that and the law that passed did not permit adoption or the \r\nrecognition of a homoparental family.
\r\nThe debate that unfolded around that was one which reintroduced the \r\nnotion of sexual difference as a fundamental distinction that had to be \r\nmaintained. Maybe it wasn’t biological, but it was cultural. People \r\nsaid things like children have a right to know that they are born of a \r\nman and a woman. This in the age of reproductive technology when, you \r\nknow, some children are produced in petri dishes and you know, \r\nwhatever. That children would become psychotic if they were raised by \r\nsame sex parents and so on and so on, and there was a book published \r\nactually at the time called, La Politique du Sexe, The Politics of Sex, \r\nby the wife of ****, ****, a philosopher of sorts, and she argued in \r\nfavor of parité and against homosexual parenting by saying that couples \r\nthat… the sort of normal couple had to be a man and a women because \r\nthere was complementarity that had to be… come into play and similarly \r\nshe said in politics that complementarity has to be there, so no single \r\nsex legislatures, no single sex families and that became the kind of \r\ndominant discourse of the moment and when the law passed the law on \r\nparité, people kept saying I agree or many of the legislators who voted \r\nfor it finally said yes, I agree with **** that there has to be \r\ncomplementarity, that women represent a different sensibility, a \r\ndifferent set of concerns, a different set of interests and we need to \r\nhave those in the parliament as well, so on the one hand the law passed,\r\n but the underlying premises of it had changed in the course of the \r\nhistory of the movement for parité from one in which the goal was to \r\neliminate the notion that there were fundamental differences between men\r\n and women to one in which the fundamental differences were what indeed \r\nhad to be represented.
\r\nQuestion: Do you think democratic government would function better \r\nunder a parité system?
\r\nJoan Wallach Scott: Well I think you know what parité now is \r\nit’s a requirement that all the ballots… rather than that the \r\nlegislature has to be half and half that the ballots, that on most \r\nballots and not all ballots women have to be half the candidates. I’m \r\nnot sure that would work here. I think it would be dismissed as another\r\n form of quota, as a secret form of quota creeping in, but I do think \r\nthat the best sorts of situations are one in which sexual difference \r\ndoesn’t matter anymore and those happen the more women, because they are\r\n the ones who are usually excluded, the more women you have in the group\r\n just as the more African-Americans you have in a group, the more of \r\nothers become part of what you get used to you stop thinking about the \r\ndifferences of sex of the differences of race. You just deal with them \r\nas people and you disagree with their ideas. You say no, I don’t like \r\nthat idea rather than reacting to them as women or men or black or white\r\n or whatever. I mean I think those are in my experience of having at \r\nthe beginning of my career being the one woman in the Department of \r\nHistory at the university I first taught at to being part of a group. \r\nWhen I was at Brown University under a court order Brown increased, \r\ndramatically increased the numbers of women who are on its faculty. \r\nAfter a while you know nobody can say well all women are like her or she\r\n is the embodiment of what I hate about women because the variety is \r\nlarge enough so that it becomes a kind of irrelevant consideration or if\r\n not irrelevant because it is never completely irrelevant, a minor \r\nconsideration in the institutional dealings, in the practical matters, \r\nin the kinds of politics and sorts of decisions that you have to make, \r\nso I think the more mixing you have the more democratic and in fact, the\r\n more egalitarian things become. Again, it is never perfect. I mean \r\nthere are always going to be deep psychological issues about who is \r\nmale, who is female, men, women, this, that, but those become less and \r\nless significant in situations in which you have a fairly large \r\nrepresentation of the varieties of groups that are possible.
Recorded April 26th, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen
The history of the French "parité movement," and its lessons for U.S. democracy.
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The author of 'How We Read' Now explains.
During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework.
As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material?
The answers to both questions are often “no," as I discuss in my book “How We Read Now," released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.
Print versus digital reading
The benefits of print particularly shine through when experimenters move from posing simple tasks – like identifying the main idea in a reading passage – to ones that require mental abstraction – such as drawing inferences from a text. Print reading also improves the likelihood of recalling details – like “What was the color of the actor's hair?" – and remembering where in a story events occurred – “Did the accident happen before or after the political coup?"
Studies show that both grade school students and college students assume they'll get higher scores on a comprehension test if they have done the reading digitally. And yet, they actually score higher when they have read the material in print before being tested.
Educators need to be aware that the method used for standardized testing can affect results. Studies of Norwegian tenth graders and U.S. third through eighth graders report higher scores when standardized tests were administered using paper. In the U.S. study, the negative effects of digital testing were strongest among students with low reading achievement scores, English language learners and special education students.
My own research and that of colleagues approached the question differently. Rather than having students read and take a test, we asked how they perceived their overall learning when they used print or digital reading materials. Both high school and college students overwhelmingly judged reading on paper as better for concentration, learning and remembering than reading digitally.
The discrepancies between print and digital results are partly related to paper's physical properties. With paper, there is a literal laying on of hands, along with the visual geography of distinct pages. People often link their memory of what they've read to how far into the book it was or where it was on the page.
But equally important is mental perspective, and what reading researchers call a “shallowing hypothesis." According to this theory, people approach digital texts with a mindset suited to casual social media, and devote less mental effort than when they are reading print.
Podcasts and online video
Given increased use of flipped classrooms – where students listen to or view lecture content before coming to class – along with more publicly available podcasts and online video content, many school assignments that previously entailed reading have been replaced with listening or viewing. These substitutions have accelerated during the pandemic and move to virtual learning.
Surveying U.S. and Norwegian university faculty in 2019, University of Stavanger Professor Anne Mangen and I found that 32% of U.S. faculty were now replacing texts with video materials, and 15% reported doing so with audio. The numbers were somewhat lower in Norway. But in both countries, 40% of respondents who had changed their course requirements over the past five to 10 years reported assigning less reading today.
A primary reason for the shift to audio and video is students refusing to do assigned reading. While the problem is hardly new, a 2015 study of more than 18,000 college seniors found only 21% usually completed all their assigned course reading.
Maximizing mental focus
Researchers found similar results with university students reading an article versus listening to a podcast of the text. A related study confirms that students do more mind-wandering when listening to audio than when reading.
Results with younger students are similar, but with a twist. A study in Cyprus concluded that the relationship between listening and reading skills flips as children become more fluent readers. While second graders had better comprehension with listening, eighth graders showed better comprehension when reading.
Research on learning from video versus text echoes what we see with audio. For example, researchers in Spain found that fourth through sixth graders who read texts showed far more mental integration of the material than those watching videos. The authors suspect that students “read" the videos more superficially because they associate video with entertainment, not learning.
The collective research shows that digital media have common features and user practices that can constrain learning. These include diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset, a propensity to multitask, lack of a fixed physical reference point, reduced use of annotation and less frequent reviewing of what has been read, heard or viewed.
Digital texts, audio and video all have educational roles, especially when providing resources not available in print. However, for maximizing learning where mental focus and reflection are called for, educators – and parents – shouldn't assume all media are the same, even when they contain identical words.
Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
After former U.S. President William Henry Harrison delivered his inaugural speech on March 4, 1841, he posed for a daguerreotype, the first widely available photographic technology. It became the first photo taken of a sitting American president.
As for the eight presidents before Harrison, history can see them only through artistic renderings. (The exception is a handful of surviving daguerreotypes of John Quincy Adams, taken after he left office. In his diary, Adams described them as "hideous" and "too true to the original.")
But a recent project offers a glimpse of what early presidents might've looked like if photographed through modern cameras. Using FaceApp and Airbrush, Magdalene Visaggio, author of books such as "Eternity Girl" and "Kim & Kim," generated a collection of convincing portraits of the nation's first presidents, from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant.
Modern Presidents George Washington https://t.co/CURJQB0kap— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611952243.0
What might be surprising is that Visaggio was able to generate the images without a background in graphic design, using freely available tools. She wrote on Twitter:
"A lot of people think I'm a digital artist or whatever, so let me clarify how I work. Everything you see here is done in Faceapp+Airbrush on my phone. On the outside, each takes between 15-30 mins. Washington was a pretty simple one-and-done replacement."
Ulysses S Grant https://t.co/L1IGXLI3Vl— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611959480.0
"Other than that? I am not a visual artist in any sense, just a hobbyist using AI tools see what she can make. I'm actually a professional comics writer."
Did another pass at Lincoln. https://t.co/PdT4QVpMbn— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611973947.0
Of course, Visaggio isn't the first person to create deepfakes (or "cheap fakes") of politicians.
In 2017, many people got their first glimpse of the technology through a video depicting former President Barack Obama warning: "We're entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time." The video quickly reveals itself to be fake, with comedian Jordan Peele speaking for the computer-generated Obama.
While deepfakes haven't yet caused significant chaos in the U.S., incidents in other nations may offer clues of what's to come.
The future of deepfakes
In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.
But the video is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real.
The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a 2020 report from The Brookings Institution. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes.
As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:
"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.
- People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
- They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
- Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Ancient mining areas below Paris for limestone (red) and gypsum (green).Credit: Émile Gérards (1859–1920) / Public domain
"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless."
China Miéville's fantasy novel Un Lun Dun is set in an eerie mirror version of London. In it, he hints that other cities have similar doubles. On the list that he offhandedly rattles off, Paris stands out. Because the City of Light really does have a twisted sister. Below Paris Overground is Paris Underground, the City of Darkness.
Most people will have heard of the Catacombs of Paris: subterranean charnel houses for the bones of around six million dead Parisians. They are one of the French capital's most famous tourist attractions – and undoubtedly its grisliest.
But they constitute only a small fragment of what the locals themselves call les carrières de Paris ("the mines of Paris"), a collection of tunnels and galleries up to 300 km (185 miles) long, most of which are off-limits to the public, yet eagerly explored by so-called cataphiles.
The Grand Réseau Sud ("Great Southern Network") takes up around 200 km beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements (administrative districts), all south of the river Seine. Smaller networks run beneath the 12th, 13th, and 16th arrondissements. How did they get there?
Paris stone and plaster of Paris
It all starts with geology. Sediments left behind by ancient seas created large deposits of limestone in the south of the city, mostly south of the Seine; and gypsum in the north, particularly in the hills of Montmartre and Ménilmontant. Highly sought after as building materials, both have been mined since Roman times.
The limestone is also known as Lutetian limestone (Lutetia is the Latin name for ancient Paris) or simply "Paris stone." It has been used for many famous Paris landmarks, including the Louvre and the grand buildings erected during Georges-Eugène Haussmann's large-scale remodelling of the city in the mid-19th century. The stone's warm, yellowish color provides visual unity and a bright elegance to the city.
The fine-powdered gypsum of northern Paris, used for making quick-setting plaster, was so famed for its quality that "plaster of Paris" is still used as a term of distinction. However, as gypsum is very soluble in water, the underground cavities left by its extraction were extremely vulnerable to collapse.
Like living on top of a rotting tooth: subsidence starts far below the surface, but it can destroy your house.Credit : Delavanne Avocats
In previous centuries, a road would occasionally open up to swallow a chariot, or even a whole house would disappear down a sinkhole. In 1778, a catastrophic subsidence in Ménilmontant killed seven. That's why the Montmartre gypsum quarries were dynamited rather than just left as they were. The remaining gypsum caves were to be filled up with concrete.
The official body governing Paris down below is the Inspection Générale des Carrières (IGC), founded in the late 1770s by King Louis XVI. The IGC was tasked with mapping and, where needed, propping up the current and ancient (and sometimes forgotten) mining corridors and galleries hiding beneath Paris.
A delightful hiding place
Also around that time, the dead of Paris were getting in the way of the living. At the end of the 18th century, their final destination consisted of about 200 small cemeteries, scattered throughout the city — all bursting at the seams, so to speak. There was no room to bury the newly dead, and the previously departed were fouling up both the water and air around their respective churchyards.
Something radical had to happen. And it did. From 1785 until 1814, the smaller cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were transported with full funerary pomp to their final resting place in the ancient limestone quarries at Tombe-Issoire. Three large and modern cemeteries were opened to receive the remains of subsequent generations of Parisians: Montparnasse, Père-Lachaise, and Passy.
The six million dead Parisians in the Catacombs, from all corners of the capital and across many centuries, together form the world's largest necropolis — their now anonymized skulls and bones methodically stacked, occasionally into whimsical patterns. The Catacombs are fashioned into a memorial to the brevity of life. The message above the entrance reads: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort. ("Halt! This is the empire of Death.")
That has not stopped the Catacombs, accessible via a side door to a classicist building on the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, making just about every Top 20 list of things to see in Paris.
An underground economy
However, while the Catacombs certainly are the most famous part of the centuries-old network beneath Paris, and in non-pandemic times draw thousands of tourists each day, they constitute just 1.7 km (1 mile) of the 300-km (185-mile) tunneling total.
Subterranean Paris wasn't just used for mining and storing dead people. In the 17th century, Carthusian monks converted the ancient quarries under their monastery into distilleries for the green or yellow liqueur that still carries their name, chartreuse.
Because the mines generally keep a constant cool temperature of around 15° C (60° F), they were also ideal for brewing beer, as happened on a large scale from the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century. Several caves were dug especially for establishing breweries, and not just because of the ambient temperature: going underground allowed brewers to remain close to their customers without having to pay a premium for real estate up top.
Overview of the Paris Catacombs.Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain.
At the end of the 19th century, the underground breweries of the 14th arrondissement alone produced more than a million hectoliters (22 million gallons) per year. One of the most famous of Paris' underground breweries, Dumesnil, stayed in operation until the late 1960s.
In that decade, the network of corridors and galleries south of the Seine, long since abandoned by miners, became the unofficial playground for the young people of Paris. They explored the fantastical world beneath their feet, in some cases via entry points located in their very schools. Fascinated, these cataphiles ("catacomb lovers") read up on old books, explored the subterranean labyrinth, and drew up schematics that were passed around among fellow initiates as reverently as treasure maps.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in Underland, Paris-beneath-their-feet became "a place where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface."
Some larger caves turned into notorious party zones: a 7-meter-tall gallery below the Val-de-Grâce hospital is widely known as "Salle Z." Over the last few decades, various other locations in subterranean Paris have hosted jazz and rock concerts and rave parties — like no other city, Paris really has an "underground music scene."
Hokusai's Great Wave as the backdrop to the "beach" under Paris.Credit: Reddit
Cataphiles vs. cataphobes
With popularity came increased reports of nuisance and crime — the tunnels provided easy access to telephone cables, which were stolen for the resale value of their copper.
The general public's "discovery" of the underground network led the city of Paris to officially interdict all access by non-authorized persons. That decree dates back to 1955, but the "underground police" have an understanding with seasoned cataphiles. Their main targets are so-called tourists, who by their lack of knowledge expose themselves to risk of injuries or worse, and degrade their surroundings, often leaving loads of litter in their wake.
The understanding does not extend to the IGC. Unlike in the 19th century, when weak cavities were shored up by purpose-built pillars, the policy now is to inject concrete to fill up endangered spaces — thus progressively blocking off parts of the network. That procedure has also been used to separate the Catacombs to prevent "infiltration" of the site by cataphiles.
Many subterranean streets have their own names, signs and all. This is the Rue des Bourguignons (Street of the Burgundians) below the Champs des Capucins (Capuchin Field), neither of which exists on the surface.Credit: Jean-François Gornet via Wikimedia and licensed under
The cataphiles, however, are fighting back. In a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, they are reopening blocked passages and creating chatières ("cat flaps") through which they can squeeze into chambers no longer accessible via other underground corridors.
Catacomb climate control
Alone against the unstoppable tide of concrete, the amateurs of Underground Paris would be helpless. But the fight against climate change may turn the subterranean labyrinths from a liability into an asset — and the City of Paris into an ally.
The UN's 2015 Climate Plan — concluded in Paris, by the way — requires the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. And Paris itself wants to be Europe's greenest city by 2030. More sustainable climate control of our living spaces would be a great help toward both targets. A lot of energy is spent heating houses in winter and cooling them in summer.
This is where the constant temperature of the Parisian tunnels comes in. It's not just good for brewing beer; it's a source of geothermal energy, says Fieldwork, an architectural firm based in Paris. It can be used to temper temperatures, helping to cool houses in summer and warming them in winter.
One catch for the cataphiles: it also works when the underground cavities are filled up with concrete. So perhaps one day, Paris Underground, fully filled up with concrete, will completely fall off the map, reducing the city's formerly real doppelgänger into an air conditioning unit.
Cool in summer, warm in winter: Paris Underground could become Paris A/C.Credit: Fieldwork
Strange Maps #1083
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