How Glyphosate Poisoning Explains the Peculiarities of the Autism Gut (Long Research worth reading)


Children with autism have a peculiar digestive system disorder, as was recently eloquently described by Dr. Arthur Krigsman at the AutismOne conference.  How might glyphosate (Roundup) cause this?

In May of 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the AutismOne conference in Chicago, Illinois [1]. As in previous years, it was an exciting event where many experts, mostly alternative medicine practitioners, gave impassioned presentations offering their latest insights into various features of autism or biometrics linked to autism or treatment programs that they found to be beneficial. As in the past, I came away with increased optimism that we might finally solve the autism puzzle, along with many new leads on research topics that I needed to dig into more thoroughly, and renewed hope that autism can, in fact, be reversed.

One talk in particular really grabbed my attention, a presentation by Dr. Arthur Krigsman providing a detailed depiction of the distinct pathology that characterizes the autism-gut. I took copious notes, and I was thrilled to see how well his observations matched my predictions in terms of how glyphosate could be predicted to affect the gut. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the pervasive herbicide Roundup. It is used extensively on the core Roundup Ready crops of the processed food industry —  corn, soy, canola, sugar beets – and also sprayed on many other common crops right before harvest as a desiccant or ripener — wheatoats, legumes, sugar cane, etc. The United States government has not considered it to be necessary to test for the levels of glyphosate in food, because they consider it to be nontoxic to humans. An ever-increasing body of research by independent scientists, however, has proven otherwise [2]. In fact, I now believe that glyphosate is the main factor causing the autism epidemic.

Myosin and the Gut

Dr. Krigsman’s findings have been published in the research literature, and two recent publications provide considerable detail about the unique features of the gut dysbiosis linked to autism [3, 4]. In his talk, Dr. Krigsman said that 50% to 80% of autistic children have gut symptoms, and they seem to have a unique form of enterocolitis, characterized by a peculiar kind of constipation that is entirely not due to an obstruction. Their feces can pile up over days or even a week as soft stools that comes out after an accumulation of enough water eventually allows the contents to be flushed as diarrhea. As the feces pile up, their abdomen becomes bloated and tender to the touch. They are often described as experiencing alternating constipation and diarrhea, which seems contradictory at first but makes sense if you describe it this way. He explained it mostly as a motility problem: impaired peristalsis causes the feces to remain stagnant rather than being slowly pushed forward through the radial contractions of smooth muscle cells lining the abdominal wall that propagate in a wave down the tube. All I could think of was that the gut appeared to be paralyzed. Of course, this also leads to the build-up of excessive bacteria in the upper gut feasting on the immobilized feces, explaining a condition linked to autism called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

I was very excited when I heard this because I had been predicting that glyphosate would cause impaired peristalsis if, in fact, my theory that it substitutes by mistake for glycine during protein synthesis is correct. I had supportive evidence from a paper describing a case study of a woman who tried to kill herself by drinking a glyphosate-based formulation. She survived the ordeal, but a striking observation by the team who treated her was that her gut became paralyzed [5].

The protein in the smooth muscle cells lining the gut that is responsible for contraction is called myosin. Myosin molecules typically are assembled from heavy chains and/or light chains, but the type of myosin in smooth muscle cells is made up only of heavy chains. The myosin heavy chain has a highly conserved glycine residue at location 699 in the sequence. Elegant experiments have shown that, if this glycine is replaced by alanine, the protein loses 99% of its ability to contract [6]. Glycine is the simplest amino acid with no side chains. Alanine has just a methyl group as its side chain and is the amino acid that is most similar to glycine. So this is a very small change, but it has a dramatic effect on the protein’s function.

Glyphosate is also an amino acid, and, in fact, it is a complete glycine molecule except that a hydrogen atom normally attached to the nitrogen atom in glycine has been replaced by a much bulkier methyl phosphonyl group. Substituting glyphosate at location 699 would have a much more dramatic effect, due to the bulky side group as well as its characteristic negative charge. It would almost certainly destroy any ability to contract. In the experiment, they showed that if only 2% of the molecules of myosin in a muscle fiber had alanine in place of glycine, the muscle could only contract to 50% of its normal capacity.

What is even more intriguing is that the gallbladder also depends on myosin to contract in order to release bile acids. Bile acids are essential for the digestion of fats. Bile also acts as a detoxifying surfactant and it has antimicrobial properties [7]. Dr. Krigsman showed many photos illustrating the very pale color of stool samples from autistic children, and he pointed out that this implied low levels of bile acids. I have previously written about a defective production of bile acids in the liver due to impairments in cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes that are essential for bile synthesis [8]. CYP enzymes all contain a highly conserved short peptide motif FxxGxRxCxG that always has two and often has three glycine residues, with the amino acids indicated as “x” representing wildcards (many different possibilities) [9]. Glyphosate’s disruption of CYP enzymes could be due to substituting for glycine in this motif. But the release of bile acids can also be impaired if glyphosate is getting inserted into the myosin molecules in the gallbladder. This would also predictably cause cholestasis and the build-up of gallstones, eventually requiring the gallbladder to be removed.

Another feature that Dr. Krigsman talked about is that the autism stools often contained clear evidence of undigested food particles. This can easily be explained through glyphosate’s expected impact on digestive enzymes, particularly trypsin, pepsin, and lipase. Trypsin and pepsin digest proteins and lipase digest fats. My colleague Anthony Samsel ordered samples of porcine trypsin, pepsin, and lipase from a lab and had them tested for glyphosate. All three were found to have high levels of glyphosate contamination [10]. Trypsin has three highly conserved glycine residues that form “glycine hinges,” each of which is critical for trypsin activation [11]. Undigested proteins induce an inflammatory response in the gut that opens up the tight junctions, leading to leaky gut syndrome [12], and subsequently opening up the brain barrier as well, allowing toxic metabolites to enter the brain and cause a neuroinflammatory response. A recent study has shown that glyphosate disrupts the tight junctions in the gut epithelial wall and opens up the gut barrier [13].

Dr. Krigsman also said that the older autistic children had evidence of skeletal muscle wasting, particularly their upper arms and upper legs, which were abnormally thin, almost resembling what’s seen in kwashiorkor, the protein malnutrition condition that afflicts starving children in Africa. With an impaired ability to digest food, as seen from the food particles showing up in the stool, the body starts to break down its own muscle tissue as a source of energy, processing glutamate, derived from muscle breakdown, through the citric acid cycle to generate ATP. A study on 18 adults with autism found that they had abnormally high levels of glutamate in their blood, with high statistical significance (p < 0.001) [14]. Glutamate is neuroexcitotoxic, and the levels found in the autistic patients were found to correlate with autism severity. The skeletal muscles might also be disturbed by glyphosate poisoning in the same way as the smooth muscles in the gut: myosin is the most common protein in skeletal muscles. This would cause the muscles to be very weak due to an inability of myosin to contract.

Does Glyphosate Substitute for Glycine During Protein Synthesis?

Protein synthesis is a fascinating “manufacturing” process that works by assembling “coding” amino acids like beads on a string, according to the famous four-letter DNA code (AGCT). Each three-letter sequence codes for a particular amino acid, choosing among 20 or so options. The amino acids “join hands” like paper dolls through peptide bonds. When the synthesis machinery sees “GGC,” for example, it “knows” to look for a glycine unit. Glyphosate is a complete glycine molecule with an extra attachment on the nitrogen atom, which the matching program could overlook because it sits outside of the pocket where glycine fits snugly. Protein synthesis is inherently an errorful process, and the strategy is to fully assemble the protein, let it go through its sophisticated folding process, and then discard it if it appears to be defective once completed.

If it can be proven that glyphosate substitutes by mistake for glycine during protein synthesis, it is “game over” for glyphosate. Anthony Samsel suggested to me that this might be happening in December of 2015, and we published our first paper on this idea the following March [15]. I have since published several other papers, together with colleagues, showing how this concept can elegantly explain the disease process in multiple diseases and conditions whose rate is rising alarmingly in the past two decades. These include diabetes and obesity [15], Alzheimer’s disease [15], autism and multiple sclerosis [10], amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) [16], anencephaly (child born with a missing cerebral cortex) [17], and Mesoamerican Nephropathy, the life-threatening kidney disease that is now rampant among sugar cane workers in Nicaragua and El Salvador [18]. In each case, specific proteins whose defective function is linked to the disease are shown to have strong glycine dependencies that would lead to dysfunction if glyphosate substitutes for these critical glycine residues.

Glyphosate is not unique in its property as an analog of a coding amino acid. Actually, there are several naturally produced amino acids that are insidiously cumulatively toxic like glyphosate, that work their destruction through substitution by mistake in place of a specific coding amino acid. You can read more about these other toxins in several of the papers mentioned above and the references therein. They cause debilitating diseases like ALS and multiple sclerosis. In fact, glufosinate is a natural non-coding amino acid analog of glutamate [19], and it is used as an herbicide that is gaining popularity now that so many weeds are becoming resistant to glyphosate. As the use of glufosinate accelerates, we can expect to see a growing incidence of a new list of currently unidentified diseases and conditions that will be due to disruption of critical highly conserved glutamate residues in various proteins.

It is a straightforward process to search the research literature looking for highly conserved regions of specific proteins where glycines are absolutely required for proper protein function, similar to the situation with myosin as described above. Again and again, you find that displacement of these glycine residues with glyphosate, a bulkier and negatively charged molecule, can explain the pathology of a specific disease or condition that is currently on the rise.

Most people are inclined to believe that this can’t possibly be true since glyphosate has been on the market for such a long time and we are repeatedly assured by governmental regulators that it is perfectly safe for human consumption. The highly significant correlations between the rise in glyphosate usage on core crops and the rise in a long list of debilitating neurological and autoimmune disorders [20] are often dismissed with the convenient adage, “correlation does not necessarily mean causation.” Yet there is no other chemical being used in agriculture today that comes anywhere close to matching as well as glyphosate does. The fact is that all these diseases are alarmingly on the rise, and, I would rather ask the question, “If not glyphosate, what?”

Much of the Research has already been Done

It is widely acknowledged that some if not much of glyphosate’s toxicity comes from its property as an amino acid analog of glycine. For example, it is known that glyphosate excites NMDA receptors, probably by mimicking glycine, which normally binds to and excites these receptors [21]. But most experts are assuring us that it is not possible that it could actually substitute for glycine during protein assembly. However, such a substitution within the protein EPSP synthase is by far the most plausible explanation for how it disrupts this critical enzyme in the shikimate pathway in plants. Disruption of this enzyme is acknowledged by Monsanto as being the most damaging effect that it has on weeds.

A paper from 2006 by T. Funke et al. is very revealing in this respect [22]. This paper discusses the mutation in the DNA code for EPSP synthase in the microbe whose mutated code was inserted into genetically modified plants in order to afford resistance to glyphosate. The modification is very simple: it results in a substitution of alanine for glycine at residue 100 in the protein sequence. Glycine is the simplest amino acid, with no side chain. Alanine is the amino acid that is closest to glycine, and therefore the least disruptive change. It has a methyl side chain. Residue 100 is situated within a very important amino acid sequence that folds into a shape that creates a pocket where the substrate phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) fits snugly. The currently held belief as to how glyphosate disrupts this protein is that it fits snugly into the pocket as well, displacing PEP. However, a much more plausible explanation is that it displaces glycine at residue 100, and its extra methylphosphonyl group then protrudes into space where PEP should fit, preventing it from entering the pocket.

Alanine also disrupts the fit of PEP, causing a significant reduction in enzyme activity. But it affords remarkable protection from glyphosate poisoning, up until very high concentrations. The obvious reason for this is that it has changed the DNA code so that it no longer recognizes glycine, and therefore also no longer recognizes glyphosate. Funke et al. were particularly surprised that glyphosate stood out as having a much more damaging effect on the activity of EPSP synthase compared to all the other molecules that were tested. They wrote: “More than 1,000 analogs of glyphosate have been produced and tested for inhibition of EPSP synthase, but minor structural alterations typically resulted in dramatically reduced potency, and no compound superior to glyphosate was identified.” This is because glyphosate is the only one among these modified molecules that is an amino acid, and can, therefore, be inserted into the peptide sequence during protein synthesis.

Strong evidence of a very different sort supporting glyphosate incorporation into proteins comes from a paper where rabbits were exposed to glyphosate directly applied to their eyes [23]. After a period of time, the rabbits were sacrificed and their retinas were analyzed to determine the distribution of different types of folded proteins. Remarkably, glyphosate at the two highest concentrations caused a marked reduction of the percentage of the proteins in the eyes that folded into alpha helices and a corresponding increase in the percentage that folded as beta sheets. A sharp fold referred to as a “beta-turn” was also reduced in the glyphosate-exposed retinas. Multiple studies on the roles of glycine residues in proteins have shown that glycines are crucial for maintaining the stability of alpha helices, and glycine residues are also commonly found at sharp bends because it has no side chains and therefore affords flexibility. So it can be anticipated that glyphosate substitution for such critical glycine residues would cause proteins that should fold into alpha helices to instead misfold into beta sheets.

It has been demonstrated that amyloid beta, the protein that misfolds in association with Alzheimer’s disease, has a highly conserved motif in its transmembrane segment, containing a GxxxGxxxGxxxG pattern (four highly conserved glycines regular spaced by “wild cards”). It has been discovered that this transmembrane alpha helix misfolds into a water-soluble beta sheet that eventually precipitates out as the fibrils that build up in the Alzheimer’s brain. Such misfolding can easily be expected if glyphosate substitutes for a glycine within this motif. Amyloid beta is also present in the retina, and its misfolding there is linked to macular degeneration [24]. Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness, and it affects nearly 50 million people worldwide.

Finally, a completely different type of experiment involving radiolabelled glyphosate has provided strong evidence that glyphosate is incorporating into proteins, and such an experiment was carried out by Monsanto researchers in an unpublished report from 1989 [25]. Anthony Samsel gained access to this report through the Freedom of Information Act, and we summarized its findings in our Glyphosate VI paper on amyloidoses and autoimmune neurological diseases [10]. These authors exposed bluegill sunfish to radiolabelled glyphosate and then measured the amount of radiolabel in various tissue samples. They also measured for glyphosate using standard techniques, and they found that the amount of glyphosate detected fell far short of the total radiolabel, accounting for only up to 20% of the radioactive carbon present in the tissue sample. They then got the idea to apply enzymes (proteinase K) to the sample, in order to break down the protein into individual amino acids, and after this, the amount of glyphosate detected rose to 70% of the radiolabel. They wrote: “Proteinase K hydrolyzes proteins to amino acids and small oligopeptides, suggesting that a significant portion of the 14C activity residing in the bluegill sunfish tissue was tightly associated with or INCORPORATED INTO protein.” [25] (emphasis added). This comes extremely close to admitting that glyphosate incorporates into proteins by mistake in place of glycine during protein synthesis.

It is also worth noting that this means that any foods containing significant amounts of protein will likely have hidden glyphosate contamination that will be missed if the food is not subjected to significant proteolysis prior to measurement. And even after proteolysis there was still a stubborn 30% of the radiolabel that remained undetected, suggesting that glyphosate makes proteins difficult to break down, which is not surprising to me, but is also ominous in terms of the build-up of amyloid beta plaque in association with macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease, both of which are rising alarmingly in frequency in the industrialized world.

Conclusion

You have a choice. You can continue to put toxic food on your family’s dinner plate and wait to see what happens after you have randomly barraged the proteins throughout your body with glyphosate bullets, one by one. Once you or a close family member is diagnosed with a debilitating and painful disease, you can deal with all the medical expenses in a seemingly hopeless quest for recovery. Or you can make a pledge to switch to purchasing only certified organic food when you shop at the grocery store. It is satisfying to me to see the steady growth in the percentage of shelf space devoted to organic foods in grocery stores around the country over the past decade. Your choice to feed your family only organic foods will help to encourage the farmers to grow only organic food, and increased demand will drive down the prices. Together we can create a movement that can reverse the destructive path we are currently on towards a path where sustainable organic agriculture heals the soil as well as the human body. All the other organisms that share this planet with us, such as the bees and the butterflies, will be very grateful that we have finally stopped poisoning them as well.

MEDIA SILENT ON GENETIC STUDY DEFYING EVOLUTION


white-horse

When a scientific study was published showing that 90 percent of animals appeared on Earth at the same time as humans, you could almost hear the proverbial pin drop in the popular press, academia and evolutionary scientific community.

That was in May when Mark Stoeckle from the Rockefeller University in New York and David Thaler at the University of Basel in Switzerland, both evolutionary scientists, published in the Journal of Human Evolution the results of their meticulous and sweeping genetic study of the DNA barcodes of more than 100,000 animal species and humans showing man and all the animals seem to have sprung to life spontaneously no more than 200,000 years ago.

Since then, not one major news agency has reported the shocking findings. There has not been any significant attempt at refutation of the research by the evolutionary scientific community. There are no reports of an uproar in the science academy.

“This conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could,” researcher and co-author Thaler told one interviewer.

The first report on the study came in Phys.org, which concluded the findings are “sure to jostle, if not overturn, more than one settled idea about how evolution unfolds.” Yet, even that report buried the lead under the headline: “Sweeping gene survey reveals new facets of evolution.”

That report focused on the still disquieting but, perhaps, less disturbing aspect of the study that counters the evolutionary assumption “that species with large, far-flung populations – think ants, rats, humans – will become more genetically diverse over time.” The report then asked the lead author of the study: “But is that true?”

“The answer is no,” said Stoeckle.

The study was most ambitious and sweeping study by evolutionary biologists on the historic changes in animal and human DNA barcodes. It found not that humans and animals have been around on Earth for millions of years, but, rather, less than 200,000 years – and that they all seem to have appeared at once, a clear refutation of the theory of evolution over vast eons of time. How extensive and time-consuming was the study? The researchers examined some 5 million gene snapshots, or DNA barcodes, collected from 100,000 animal species by hundreds of researchers around the world and deposited in the U.S. government-run GenBank database.

However, some anti-evolutionary voices are emerging eager to seize on the findings.

Nathaniel Jeanson, who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in cell and developmental biology and the author of the book “Replacing Darwin,” says, “There’s a great danger to the evolutionary model in this study in ways they don’t quite realize yet.”

He notes, of course, the fact that many species formed contemporaneously with modern human beings. But he adds that data strongly suggests that the mitochondrial DNA clocks of modern humans “formed within the last 6,000 years.” That would be a confirmation of the literal Genesis account of Creation. He also asserts, after studying the data released in the report that suggests many, if not most, of the species “formed within the last 6,000 years.”

That the authors of the study are perplexed, if not disappointed, by their own research results is affirmed by a paper they collaborated on in 2014 that pointed to the possibility of “a single global population crash – “almost a Noah’s Ark hypothesis,” they wrote dismissively. “This appears unlikely.” Instead, they explained their findings thusly: “Perhaps long-term climate cycles might cause widespread periodic bottlenecks.”

The Phys.org report did eventually get around to what it characterized as perhaps “the study’s most startling result … that nine out of 10 species on Earth today, including humans, came into being 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.”

“How does one explain the fact that 90 percent of animal life, genetically speaking, is roughly the same age?” posed the report. “Was there some catastrophic event 200,000 years ago that nearly wiped the slate clean?”

For his part, Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis, pulls no punches, saying the research affirms what Scripture says about life’s origins. Creationists believe the catastrophic event was the flood.

“Evolution doesn’t expect the vast majority of our species to have arrived at the same time, nor does it expect species to have these clear genetic boundaries,” he said. “But this is what we’d expect in a biblical worldview – indeed it’s what creationists have been saying all along, although their timeframe of 100,000 – 200,000 years is inflated, due to evolutionary assumptions.”

Neither Stoeckle nor Thaler seem ready to abandon their faith in evolution.

For his part, Stoeckle said about the unexpected results of his study: “The simplest interpretation is that life is always evolving. It is more likely that – at all times in evolution – the animals alive at that point arose relatively recently.”

In other words, in the evolutionary view, a species only lasts a certain amount of time before it either evolves into something else or goes extinct. But even that notion is refuted by the data collected in the study – that species have very clear genetic boundaries, and there’s nothing much in between, not much room for “missing links.”
“If individuals are stars, then species are galaxies,” said Thaler. “They are compact clusters in the vastness of empty sequence space.”

The absence of “in-between” species is something that also perplexed Darwin, he said.

Here’s how some of the very few news organizations that covered the study buried the sensational, man-bites-dog news hook even in their headline treatments:

  • “Genetic differences between people across the world are no greater than differences between pigeons” – The U.K. Independent
  • “What can ‘DNA barcodes’ tell us about evolution and ourselves? – Real Clear Science

Most of the major media did not report at all on the study.

Reader comments on the original Phys.org report were strong and varied:

  • “This study seems to subvert evolutionary theory in two respects. First, it shows a clear delineation between species. And second, it has almost all species being created at the same time. This sounds more like Creationism than Darwinism. Not every single species created 7,000 years ago. Just almost every single species created 200,000 years ago. I have a feeling there will be a lot of fallout from this study.”
  • “Can the theory postulated by Carl Sagan in one of his ‘Updates’ to the original Cosmos series, created 10 years after the series began, when he offered his boxed DVD set, before he died, now become considered, as an alternative to spontaneous generation and some aspects of evolution? That theory is that life exists in the universe and is ‘seeded’ via comets on habitable worlds, which then evolve from that point, given the conditions. If true is this intentional via aliens? Wow…”
  • “Sudden appearance of life seems to validate a Creation event. When the timelines for carbon dating are adjusted and calibrated for non-linear decay it fits the Genesis model nicely.”
  • “The planet was obviously seeded by extraterrestrial beings. Google the news about the U.S. aircraft carrier that was shadowed recently by a white tic-tac shaped UFO, and meditate on it some.”

Do You Know How much Gold is in the FIFA World Cup Trophy?


Inside BullionStar
Posted on 12 Jul 2018 by BullionStar

Arguably the best known and most coveted trophy in the history of the sport, the World Cup Trophy has a mythical status among elite footballers and sports fans alike, and its iconic shape and form are synonymous with the World Cup football tournament that takes place every four years.

For such a legendary trophy, it goes without saying that it could not have been made out of anything except gold.

Designed in 1970 by Italian Artist artist Silvio Gazzaniga and the Italian Stabilimento Artistico Bertoni trophy design company (now known as GDE Bertoni), the current World Cup Trophy, officially called the FIFA World Cup Trophy, made its first appearance in the 1974 World Cup held in former West Germany.

Brazil: World Cup winners 1994

Following Brazil’s win of the World Cup competition in 1970, which added to their World Cup wins of 1958 and 1962, the previous trophy for the competition, known as the Jules Rimet Trophy, passed to the Brazilian Football Confederation in perpetuity. This was in line with a FIFA regulation at the time where a three-time winner earned the right to permanently keep the Cup.

A Universal Symbol

And so in 1970 FIFA embarked on a design tender to find a replacement trophy, receiving 53 submissions from sculptors around the world. Gazzaniga’s winning entry, the now iconic trophy was, in his owns words, “a universal symbol“, “inspired by two fundamental images: those of a triumphant athlete and of the world“.

Gazzaniga’s  vision for the trophy, he said, was to:

“reflect the elation of the winning footballer – a man transformed by the enormity of his victory – but without the superhuman ego. This sporting hero who embraces the world in his arms.

Silvio Gazzaniga’s FIFA World Cup design, created in 1970

Of the actual sculpture, Gazzaniga explained that:

“The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory.”

These spiraling lines, said Gazzaniga, would be:

“a human being – the hero – but not alone, because the game and every match is done by two teams, two wills opposing and acting together,”

“Energy, force, strength, dynamism, roughness, agility, speed, success, achievement, victory, triumph. All this had to turn around and embrace the world, who is over all and over every single man.”

Gazzaniga’s sculpture was unlike any traditional sporting cups of the time, having a wide circular base that narrowed and then spiraled upwards in the form of two human figures with arms outstretched in celebration, holding a globe of the world resting on their shoulders, and made entirely of gold. Based on Gazzaniga’s design, the FIFA World Cup Trophy was manufactured by the Milan based Bertoni design house in 1973.

France: World Cup winners 1998

Worth its Weight in Gold

The FIFA World Cup Trophy stands 36.8 cms tall with a base diameter of 12.5 cms. Overall it weighs 6175 grams (13.61 pounds) and has a gold content of 4927 grams (10.86 pounds) of 18 karat gold. The trophy is hollowed, since otherwise, being made of gold, it would be far too heavy to lift. The base of the trophy contains two layers of the dark green semi-precious stone malachite.

Given that its 18 karat gold (meaning 18 parts gold to 6 parts of other metals, i.e. 75% gold), there are 3695.25 grams (118.8 troy ounces) of pure gold within the trophy. At a gold price of US$ 40 per gram at the time of writing, the gold within the World Cup Trophy has a current market value of approximately US$ 150,000. But as a unique sporting trophy, the FIFA World Cup Trophy is arguably priceless, so important that nowadays FIFA closely guards the original while presenting a replica to each winning country.

Germany: World Cup winners 2014

The choice of using gold to create the FIFA World Cup Trophy seems to have been a given. Nowhere within the history of the trophy or its design does it appear to be documented that there was any debate on what Gazzaniga’s design should be made of. The choice of using gold just appears to have been the natural choice for such a unique and important sporting prize.

But this is not surprising. For gold is rare and precious. Gold has inherent value. Gold has been revered in countless civilizations throughout history and has long been associated with the divine sphere. Gold symbolizes the pinnacle of human competition and achievement. Gazzaniga knew this when be designed the iconic trophy. FIFA knew this when they chose Gazzaniga’s unique design. Every footballer who has ever played in a World Cup dreams of this golden prize.

Argentina: World Cup winners 1986

From 1974 to 2014, the FIFA World Cup trophy has been won 13 times. A unique quadrennial football event, in which thirteen elated winning captains have held aloft a World Cup made of gold, not of any other metal. Soon a fourteenth captain will do the same when the winner of the 2018 World Cup final becomes known on Sunday 15th July. And the iconic trophy made of gold will again be in the spotlight, a “universal symbol” as Gazzaniga put it, “at the stirring moment of victory.”

BullionStar

The full story of Thailand’s extraordinary cave rescue (Long and awesome)


Illustration of the boys playing football

On 23 June, 12 boys went exploring in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province with their football coach – and ended up trapped deep inside a cave underneath a mountain. The BBC’s Helier Cheung and Tessa Wong were at the scene as a dramatic rescue bid gripped the world.

What happened over those two weeks is a remarkable story of friendship, human endurance – and the lengths some people will go to save someone else’s child.

Here our reporters tell the full story of the Wild Boars.

The birthday party that went wrong

It all began with a birthday.

On Saturday 23 June, Peerapat “Night” Sompiangjai turned 17 – a milestone most young people around the world would want to celebrate in style.

His family had prepared a bright yellow SpongeBob SquarePants birthday cake and several colorfully wrapped presents at their home in a rural village in Mae Sai district.

Composite showing the birthday cake, and the presents, Night's family had prepared for himImage copyright AFP

But Night wasn’t rushing home that day. He was out with his friends, the other members of local youth football team the Wild Boars, and their assistant coach, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong.

When their football practice ended, they raced through the rice paddies on their bicycles and up into the forested hills that lately had been blanketed in rain.

Their destination: the Tham Luang cave, a favorite haunt for the boys, who loved exploring the nooks and crannies of the mountain range towering over Mae Sai.

A photo the boys posted to Facebook shortly before they went in the caveImage copyrightFACEBOOK/NOPPARAT KANTHAWONG
Image caption photo the boys posted to Facebook shortly before they went in the cave

Once at the mouth of Tham Luang, they stashed their bikes and bags by the cave entrance.

The team and their young coach were ready to celebrate Night’s birthday. They had often ventured deep into Tham Luang, sometimes as far as 8km, for initiation rites where they would write the names of new team members on a cave wall.

In high spirits, they clambered into the cave with just their torches. They didn’t need much else – after all, they were only planning to be there for an hour.

They would not emerge until two weeks later.

Back at Night’s home, his family began to worry. His birthday cake sat untouched.

Where were the Wild Boars?

View of the mountain where the boys are trapped on July 7, 2018 in Chiang Rai, ThailandImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Snaking for 10km beneath the cloud-swathed mountain range that separates Thailand and Myanmar is Tham Luang, the fourth biggest Thai cave system.

Named after a mountain shaped like a reclining woman, its full name is Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non – “the great cave and water source of the sleeping lady mountain”. Rich in folklore, it is a popular destination for day-trippers – and adventurous children.

It has its dangers – people have gone missing in Tham Luang before. And once monsoon season starts in July, the cave goes from innocuous to extremely dangerous.

The cave can flood up to 5m (16ft) during the rainy season, and should only be entered between November and April.

“The water is moving, it’s muddy and there is almost no visibility,” local guide Joshua Morris told the BBC.

And once the cave floods – it’s risky even for experienced divers.

Almost everyone in Mae Sai knows this. So when the parents of the Wild Boars began to worry about their missing boys, they headed straight to the cave. The boys’ plans to visit Tham Luang had been discussed in a group chat on a messaging app with other friends.

They found the bikes, the bags, and some football shoes outside. They raised the alarm.

Bicycles and backpacks from the boys outside the caveImage copyrightAFP

Deep in the cave, the Wild Boars found themselves in trouble. It had been raining for the last few days, and all that water falling on the mountain had to go somewhere.

That somewhere was the Tham Luang cave system, which was fast filling up.

One initial account from the boys suggests they were caught off-guard by a flash flood. They needed to get out, but instead had no choice but to scramble even deeper into the cave.

Illustration of the boys in the cave

The Wild Boars eventually found themselves marooned on a small rocky shelf about 4km from the cave entrance, past a normally dry point known as Pattaya Beach which by now was flooded.

Swallowed up by an unforgiving mountain and surrounded by darkness, the boys and the coach lost all sense of time. Fear, perhaps even terror, would no doubt have crept in.

But they were nothing but determined to survive. The group used rocks to dig 5m deeper into the shelf, to create a cavern where they could huddle together and keep warm.

Coach Ake, a former monk, taught the boys meditation techniques – to help them stay calm and use as little air as possible – and told them to lie still to conserve their strength.

Illustraton - Coach Ake teaches the boys to meditate

But an extraordinary set of circumstances also worked in their favour.

They apparently had no food – but they did have a supply of drinkable water in the form of moisture dripping from the cave walls.

It was dark, but they had their torches. There was also enough air for a while – because the porous limestone and cracks in the rocks meant air could come through.

They had the right conditions to survive – at least for a little while. And most importantly, the Wild Boars had one another.

Now came the hardest bit – hoping for rescue.

Media captionWhat’s it like in a Chiang Rai cave?

Outside the cave, a full-blown rescue operation was quickly unfolding.

Authorities called in the elite Thai Navy Seals, the national police, and other rescue teams. Local volunteers also pitched in.

Initial investigations found footprints at one of the chambers in the cave – but no other sign the boys were still alive.

Thai soldiers and police gather in the mountains near the Tham Luang caveImage copyrightAFP

The Wild Boars were somewhere in the twisted depths of Tham Luang – but where exactly? And more importantly – how could rescuers get to them?

Exploring the cave was a challenge – most of the Navy divers had little cave diving experience. And the weather was merciless – heavy rainfall meant the water level was still rising, flooding chambers and cutting off rescuers from parts of the cave.

Engineers desperately tried to pump water out of the cave – but struggled, at least at first.

At the start, “no one really had any idea what to do”, one volunteer said. Officials brought whatever equipment they could think of – small water pumps, long pipes, knives and shovels – but much of it was apparently unsuitable.

They even tried drilling into the mountainside, desperate to find cracks into the cave system which they could squeeze into, and used drones with thermal sensors to try to locate the boys.

Media captionThe BBC joined search teams around the caves

Rescuers also turned to the villagers for local knowledge. The Thai Navy Seals found a boy, a Wild Boar member who happened to have skipped the cave expedition. He recalled a place in the complex they’d visited before – called Pattaya Beach.

Could the missing 13 be there?

Amid the flurry of rescue operations, a small group kept vigil at the mouth of the cave.

Family members and relatives pray at the entrance of Tham Luang cave while rescue personnel conduct operations to find the missing members of the children"s football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018Image copyrightAFP

These were the boys’ families, worriedly offering prayers for their lives. Among them was Tum Kantawong, the godmother of Coach Ake.

Every day she went up the mountain, carrying fruits, incense and candles. “It was to show respect to the spirit that protects the cave. I asked her to protect the 13 kids,” she said.

Media captionA country in prayer

The group gradually expanded to include concerned teachers from the schools the Wild Boars attended.

“We wanted to be the first to welcome the boys when they came out,” said school administrator Ampin Saenta, who is so close to one boy, Adul, that she calls herself his “mama-teacher”.

Classmates of the Wild Boars held group prayers, sang songs of encouragement into the cave, folded paper cranes, and posted messages of hope on school noticeboards.

Villagers rallied together, donating money and hundreds of packages of food to the relatives of the boys and their coach.

That sense of community soon began to spread, as the story gained the nation’s attention. Volunteers from other parts of Thailand flew in, while Thai social media lit up with expressions of love and support.

But it was about to get even bigger.

Helicopter from Thai air force carry a mini excavator to the mountain top where they are trying to make a hole to get into Tham Luang Nang Non caveImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
British cave-diver John Volanthen walks out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in full kit, 28 JuneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The first international rescuers arrived on Thursday 28 June.

These were US air force rescue specialists, and cave divers from the UK, Belgium, Australia, Scandinavia, and many other countries. Some had volunteered, and some were called in by Thai authorities.

Others were roped in when it became clear just how monumental the search effort would be.

Over the next few days, they and the Thai divers would fight a constant battle with the elements. They had to swim against a strong current, and were often forced back by rising floodwaters.

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On Sunday 1 July – just over a week after the boys went missing – the rescuers made some progress. They reached a large cavern that would be later dubbed “chamber three” and serve as a key base for the divers.

It also happened to be the birthday of Note – one of the “Thai cave boys”, as they were now dubbed by the media. All, however, were still lost to the world.

But not for long. The very next day, two British divers made an incredible discovery.

‘Thirteen? Brilliant!’

Illustration - British divers find the boys

John Volanthen and Rick Stanton had been braving Tham Luang’s narrow, murky passageways for several days, laying out guide ropes and searching for signs of life.

On Monday, the two men finally reached Pattaya Beach. But there was nothing.

They continued onwards into the darkness. Then, a few hundred metres further, they found an air pocket.

“Wherever there is air space we surface, we shout, we smell,” John told the BBC. It’s a standard procedure for such rescue operations.

“We smelt the children before we saw or heard them.”

Soon, the light from John’s torch illuminated an electrifying sight – the boys emerged from the darkness, coming down the ledge towards him.

Media captionThe moment divers discover the missing boys

Rick started counting the boys, while John asked: “How many of you?”

“Thirteen!” came the reply in English.

“Thirteen? Brilliant!”

Next to John, Rick couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. “They’re all alive!”

The lost Wild Boars had been found.

Graphic showing cave network and rescue route
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The two divers spent some time with the boys – trying to boost their morale. Then, they left lights with the boys, and promised to return later with food.

The extraordinary encounter was recorded on the divers’ cameras – and swiftly posted online. The jubilation was instant, and worldwide.

Wracked with worry for much of the past week, the Wild Boars’ parents were ecstatic to see their children had miraculously survived. They looked thin, but were otherwise in relatively good shape.

Media captionFamilies of the boys celebrated after finding out their loved ones were alive

The boys and their coach were quickly joined by a military medic and Navy SEAL divers who would stay with them for the rest of the ordeal.

After nine days in the darkness, the Wild Boars once again saw light. They longed for proper food, and begged for pad krapao, a rice dish with meat stir fried with basil.

But doctor’s orders were that they be put on a special diet of medicated liquid food, and mineral water with added vitamins.

A third boy, Dom, spent his birthday in the cave.

Rescuers set to work in figuring out how to extract 13 people – some of whom couldn’t swim – from a winding, flooded 4km-long stretch of caves that even experienced divers would struggle with.

Cross section of the Thai cave complex
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“Time is not on our side because they’re expecting heavy rains within three days,” diver Ben Reymenants told the BBC at the time.

“Now the real hard work comes.”

A volunteer army

The astonishing discovery of the children deep in a mountain cave catapulted tiny Mae Sai into the international spotlight.

Overnight, journalists from all around the world descended on the district, as even more rescue volunteers from around the world poured in.

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A small makeshift town mushroomed at the rural country park by the cave entrance.

Food stalls were set up – some staffed by members of the Thai royal kitchen – serving free drinks, hot noodles, chicken rice, and even ice lollies.

Rescue camp
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No job was too small to do.

The country park toilets were dirty and stretched beyond capacity – so people began cleaning them. Workers needed to get up and down the mountain – so drivers offered free lifts. Rescuers were covered in mud – so a local laundromat cleaned their clothes every night.

Media captionThailand cave rescue: Meet the volunteer helpers

Spirits were high, but then a fatal accident devastated the community.

A hero dies

Former Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan was one of many volunteers who had rushed to help in the rescue.

On 6 July, while on a routine run to deliver air tanks to the boys, he lost consciousness after running out of air for himself. His dive buddy pulled him out and tried to revive him.

But Saman could not be saved. He was only 38 years old.

Wife and father remember ‘hero’ Thai diver: “He loved helping others”

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Media captionWife and father remember ‘hero’ Thai diver: “He loved helping others”

His funeral took place later that day. Buddhist monks murmured prayers for Saman as incense burned.

His wife, Waleeporn Gunan, said: “Saman once said we never know when we’re going to die… so we need to cherish every day.”

The death hit home the danger of the rescue mission, and the risks facing the boys. Saman was a fit and healthy diver who had also represented Thailand in triathlons.

Ratdao Chantapoon, the mother of cave boy Note, was said to have told a friend: “The Navy Seal had practised for so long, and was so strong, but also died. How about a boy who has never dived before?”

There was another thing to worry about too – despite efforts to replenish the air, oxygen levels in the chamber had fallen to 15%, lower than the usual 21%.

Time was running out.

Graphic showing how oxygen levels affect the body
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Rescuers had identified three possible options:

  • Training the boys to dive through flooded areas of the cave – a process so ripe with potential for disaster it was widely considered a last resort
  • Pumping water from the cave and waiting for water levels to recede naturally – but this could take up to four months
  • Finding or drilling alternative passages into the cave

The divers started practising with some local boys at a swimming pool – figuring out how to transport a child safely underwater.

Other solutions, such as an offer of a kid-sized submarine designed by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s engineers, would be rejected as unsuitable.

The rescue team faced conditions so difficult that even simple tasks – setting up air and phone lines in the cave – seemed impossible at first because of the labyrinthine layout of the cave.

Finally, late on 6 July, rescuers set up an oxygen supply. And in the end the boys communicated with their parents the old-fashioned way – by writing letters.

Letters from Night, Tern and NoteImage copyrightTHAI NAVY SEALS
Image captionLetters from Night, Tern and Note
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To coach AkeImage copyrightTHAI NAVY SEALS
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The letters, made public by the Thai Navy Seals, were deeply moving.

Scrawling hearts and smiley faces on note paper, the boys told their parents again and again that they loved them and not to worry.

They listed the food they wanted to eat – fried chicken and pork crackling. One even cracked a joke: “Teacher, please don’t give us too much homework!”

“I’m really sorry to the parents,” said Coach Ake in his letter. But instead of a tongue-lashing, he received only love.

“Coach Ake, I really thank you for taking care of all the kids, and keeping them safe,” one boy’s relative wrote.

D-Day

Military police secure the road as large convoy of official vehicles enter the Tham Luang cave areaImage copyrightAFP

Sunday 7 July. Two weeks had passed since the boys went missing.

Out of the blue, the Thai authorities announced they were pulling out the boys – now.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” Narongsak Osotthanakorn, the head of the rescue operations, said.

Journalists and volunteers were asked to leave the cave rescue site – and a brisk, steely mood overtook the camp.

Media captionRescue teams begin the operation to extract the boys from the cave

Why the snap decision? The rain that had pelted Mae Sai incessantly had petered out in recent days, giving rescuers a rare break.

Locals had also told the Thai Navy Seals that by around 10 July every year, the Tham Luang cave system would be completely flooded.

It was time to launch what would later be described as a “superhuman” rescue effort, one that involved nearly 100 Thai and foreign divers.

The journey was split into two sections.

The first – from the boys’ rocky ledge to chamber three – was more difficult. Rescuers made their way for hours through pitch dark waters that were bone-chilling cold, feeling their way with guide ropes. At times they had to navigate sections so ridiculously narrow that they could only just about fit a body through.

Graphic showing cave network and rescue route
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Each boy was given a full-face air mask to ensure they could breathe, and clipped to a diver. Another diver accompanied them.

A cylinder was strapped to the front of each child, while a handle was attached to their backs – and they were held face down to ensure water would run away from their faces.

John, the British rescue diver, likened the equipment to “a shopping bag” that allowed them to manoeuvre the boys around obstacles.

At the narrow sections, rescuers had to unstrap their air tanks in order to squeeze through, while also pulling along their precious cargo.

It would have been terrifying for experienced divers, let alone children who couldn’t swim. The Thai government says the boys and the coach were given anti-anxiety medication to relax – but several sources have told the BBC that they were in fact heavily sedated, and only semi-conscious during the journey – to ensure they would not panic.

Once they reached chamber three, it was time for the second phase. This took another few hours.

Each boy was secured in a stretcher, and carried by a team of at least five men. At one point they had to place the stretcher on a raft and pull it across a chin-high pool of water.

Graphic: How boys were carried through the caves
Boy being moved by rescuers inside the caveImage copyrightAFP/ROYAL THAI NAVY

Rescuers had to winch the boys up a steep slope using a pulley system. In some rocky areas they formed a human chain, passing the boys hand to hand, while at others they slid them on top of pipes pumping out water.

For diver Ivan Karadzic, the experience was extremely stressful. Stationed at a halfway point in the cave, he was responsible for replacing air tanks and guiding rescue divers through.

He clearly remembers the nerves he felt when the first boy emerged from the darkness and was brought towards him. “I didn’t know if it was a casualty or a kid,” he told the BBC.

“But when I saw that he was alive and breathing – it felt very good.”

Classmates of the Wild Boars soccer team pray at the Maisai Prasitsart school before classes the morning as the third rescue mission to free the last four boys and their coach from a flooded cave is under wayImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThai students prayed for the rescue mission to be a success

One by one, the Wild Boars were brought out of the darkness of Tham Luang. They were given oxygen before they were swiftly spirited away in ambulances to a hospital in Chiang Rai city.

Rescuers took them out in three batches over as many days, as they needed time in between to replenish air tanks.

But they were cutting it close. By the time the last batch of boys and the coach were out, water levels were starting to rise again, as rapidly as 30cm in one hour, according to senior Navy SEAL Supachai Tanasansakorn.

It was Tuesday 10 July – the day that locals said the cave would become completely flooded.

But while the boys were out, there were still people left on the rocky ledge deep inside Tham Luang – the Navy SEAL divers and medic who had looked after the Wild Boars, as well as Richard Harris, a famed Australian cave diving expert and doctor.

They emerged shortly after the last boy was taken out. It was not a moment too soon, as a pump suddenly stopped working – some said it failed while others said it was switched off.

Floodwaters rushed in, sending workers clearing up the site fleeing.

Hooyah!

It was an astonishing feat – after two agonising weeks the Thai cave boys and their coach were finally out at last, safe and sound.

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On Facebook, the Thai Navy Seals posted: “We are not sure if this is a miracle, science, or what.”

In Chiang Rai, jubilant crowds lined the streets leading to the hospital, cheering on the ambulances. Car horns blared incessantly in celebration.

Students celebrate in front of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, where the 12 soccer players and their coach rescued from the Tham Luang cave complex are being treated, 11 July 2018Image copyrightREUTERS

Thai social media was inundated with posts hashtagged #ThankYou, #Heroes and #Hooyah, the signature Thai Navy Seal chant.

All around the world, millions of people who had anxiously followed the story celebrated the return of the Wild Boars.

But it was a bittersweet night for one person – Richard Harris. The selfless doctor who cut short his holiday in Thailand to save the boys’ lives received the terrible news that his father had just died.

Reunited again

Media captionThe boys give peace signs as they recover in hospital

Dressed in gowns and wearing face masks, the Thai cave boys sat up in their hospital beds and waved to the world.

On Wednesday 11 July, the media got its first post-rescue glimpse of the Wild Boars in a Thai Navy Seals video. Some made victory signs at the camera.

Their parents, who had waited so very long to hold their sons again, were not by their side. They were behind a viewing window, some sobbing with joy at the sight of their boys.

The government said it was necessary to quarantine the boys to protect them and others from infection – though this did not stop Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha from visiting in person. The parents did not publicly object to the strict rules.

At the hospital, the boys and coach were put through a series of health checks. Eye shades were a must at first – their eyes, accustomed to two weeks of darkness, could not bear the light.

The last four Thai Navy SEALs giving a thumbs up after exiting safely from the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Mae Sai district,Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe last four Navy SEALs to exit the cave

Hospital authorities said that some had minor lung and eye infections and needed antibiotics. Apart from that, they appeared to be on the mend.

Eventually, parents were finally allowed to briefly see the boys, although they had to maintain a 2m distance, and don hospital gowns and masks.

Some of the boys have even been able to start eating normal food again, after days of craving chocolate and their favourite snacks.

Media captionRear Adm. Arpakorn Yuukongkaew, head of the Thai navy seals: “There was only a tiny bit of hope”

As for the rescuers, they are still digesting the unprecedented feat they pulled off.

“We didn’t think the mission would be this successful,” said Thai Navy Seals leader Rear Adm Arpakorn Yuukongkaew.

When rescue operations began, his team only had “a little bit of hope that they might still be alive”.

“In the end that tiny bit of hope became reality.”

A video grab handout made available by Thai Royal Navy shows some of the members of a trapped soccer team in a section of Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park on July 04, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Many had expected the story of the lost Wild Boars to end in tragedy. Instead, it became a story of hope and survival, and of parents and sons reunited.

It’s a story of ordinary people from all over the world coming together in a remote town in northern Thailand with one mission: to save 12 young boys and their coach.

“If you could do the same for someone else’s child, you would,” John told reporters upon his return to the UK.

What’s next for Mae Sai? The district, and Tham Luang cave, have been put on the global map, probably permanently.

Thai students smile as they hold pictures of 12 boys and a football coach at a school in front of hospital where the boys rescuedImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe story of the Wild Boars has dominated life in the local community

Already, local officials are planning to convert the cave complex into a museum and tourist attraction – and, inevitably, at least two production companies are eyeing the Hollywood potential of the story and angling to turn the rescue mission into a film.

As for the Wild Boars and Coach Ake, plans are afoot for them to shave their heads and spend a few days in a monastery. Their families believe this Thai Buddhist tradition will bless their lives, and cleanse them of an unfortunate experience.

“It’s for their protection,” said Night’s grandfather, Seewad Sompiangjai. “It’s like they have died [after going into the cave] – and now have been reborn.”

For the boys, and Coach Ake – their first priority once they leave hospital must surely be to spend time with their families again.

After all, Night still has to celebrate that 17th birthday – and his parents have promised him a party.

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