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25 Things You Might Not Know About Brain Candy

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In 1996, the movie Brain Candy by The Kids in the Hall based its comedy on the funniest topic the Kids could think of: depression. In the movie, doctors devise a new antidepressant drug that locks the patient into his or her happiest moment, reliving it over and over. Unfortunately, the drug is rushed to market, and severe side effects become apparent only after the world is hooked on the drug.

While Brain Candy is a cult classic (and a huge favorite of mine), sadly it lost a bunch of money. It marked the beginning of a four-year hiatus (read: breakup) for The Kids in the Hall. Here's some trivia you can enjoy before dunking the drug.

1. It Was Supposed to Be Called "The Drug"

Brain Candy's working title was The Drug, but Paramount executives nixed it. Apparently Paramount doesn't share an ad team with Roritor Pharmaceuticals.

2. Cancer Boy's Marrow is Low

Paramount executives fought hard to have Cancer Boy removed from the film, but lost that battle. The Kids insisted that he remain, and that his song "Whistle When You're Low" remain as well. Maybe there's hope for him after all. Years later, Bruce McCulloch recalled:

Cancer Boy was, arguably, what kind of financially killed Brain Candy. I love Cancer Boy more than anybody. I was tired of the way that little kids with cancer were used by celebrities for photo ops. If the kid goes into remission, does Wayne Gretzky still visit him? It was about how cheery a sick little kid could be, and he was worried about everyone else around him. And, of course, that pissed off a lot of people, even though it was only a cameo.

Mark McKinney commented on the group's thought process:

[Cancer Boy] wasn't an issue for us, but it was for the powers-that-be, the heads of the studio, who wanted it out and then didn't understand why the neophyte comedy troupe from Canada, with only cult appeal, was not listening to them. We thought, "Great, we won the battle, and they're not going to ignore a $7 million movie, are they?" But they kind of can.

Here's the scene:

3. The Queen Approves

Cancer Boy wasn't the only pre-existing Kids in the Hall character to appear in the film. Bigot Cabbie, White Trash Couple, Raj, Lacey, Melanie, Nina Bedford (aka Nina Spudkneeyak), The Queen, and the Police Department cops are all in there.

4. The Movie was Surrounded by Death

For a comedy, the movie is pretty dark, focusing on themes of depression, alienation, suicide, sexual repression, corporate greed, loneliness, you name it. This is partly explained by all the real-life darkness that descended on the troupe before shooting. Scott Thompson explained:

"In the period of a month, Dave’s marriage broke up, one of Kevin’s parents died and my brother committed suicide. I was pretty much in shock. My brother died literally a week before we started shooting. All those things conspired to make it a dark time."

In the film's end credits, the producers note the death of Thompson's brother. The dedication reads, "For Dean Thompson and all the Deans in the world."

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5. Dave Foley is No Lady

Dave Foley is the only member of the troupe who didn't play a female character in the movie. He was starting his sitcom NewsRadio; perhaps drag wasn't seen as a wise idea for a primetime star.

6. Dave Foley Was Supposed to Play the Lead Role

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Kevin McDonald wasn't originally slated to play the role of Dr. Chris Cooper; that part was supposed to go to Dave Foley. But creative tensions were so high (read: Foley didn't want to do it) that McDonald had to step into the lead. McDonald later recalled (emphasis added):

"I felt great pressure playing the lead. It took away what I do best, which is being silly around the main person. The only time you see me alive in the movie is when I play the dad killing himself."

"Ow, my other foot" indeed.

7. Mark McKinney Played the Most Roles

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As is typical for KITH projects, everybody played a lot of roles—but Mark McKinney played nine. Scott Thompson clocked in at eight, Bruce McCulloch at seven, Kevin McDonald played four (one being the lead), and Dave Foley also played four (one being the "Just a guy" guy with three lines).

8. Kevin McDonald Played His Own Father

In the scene where Dr. Chris Cooper's father shoots himself offscreen, Kevin McDonald plays Cooper's father. "Young Chris Cooper" is played by Jason Barr, an Ontario native who went on to work on The Howie Mandel Show and Sailor Moon. Here's the scene:

9. Dave Foley Quit

Dave Foley is the only member of the troupe who didn't receive a writing credit on the film—because he quit the group in the middle of writing to focus on his own TV and film efforts. Longtime KITH TV writer Norm Hiscock is the only non-Kid receive a writing credit, and went on to write for King of the Hill and Parks and Rec, among others.

10. GLeeMONEX Has a Fake "Real" Name

GLeeMONEX, the drug featured in the movie, has a pseudo-scientific name: Duoroflouriximinimum 602. This is briefly visible when The Queen declares the drug "approved."

11. Don Roritor Was Based on The Kids' Boss

Don Roritor, the head of the pharmaceutical firm in the film, has a characteristic speech pattern. It's based on Lorne Michaels, the group's producer and creator of Saturday Night Live. Michaels has also inspired other film characters, including Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

12. Roger Ebert Hated It

Roger Ebert called Brain Candy "awful, dreadful, terrible, stupid, idiotic, unfunny, labored, forced, painful, bad." He claimed he "didn't laugh once," and openly fought Gene Siskel on the air. Here's their video review:

13. ...But Gene Siskel Loved It

And conveniently, marketing for video store owners quoted only Siskel's portion of the review in their bizarre marketing video. Seriously, look at this crazy promo video trying to sell VHS tapes to video stores.

14. The Soundtrack Ruled

The Brain Candy soundtrack is a surprisingly impressive catalogue of 90s indie rock. It includes tracks from Pavement, Liz Phair, They Might Be Giants, Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, Matthew Sweet, Cibo Matto, and Stereolab, among others. Tragically, it's missing Cancer Boy's "Whistle When You're Low."

15. It Had a Very Different Ending

The movie had a dramatically different ending in an early cut. Floating around in collectors' circles, this alternate version of the film has entire characters and subplots that were removed from the final version. Here's a look at that ending, in super-crappy quality. Note that there are f-bombs in here:

16. The "Alternate Cut" Was Pretty Rough

As a huge fan of the movie in the '90s, I had (and have) one of those VHS dubs of the original cut. It just doesn't work as a movie, though. While the ending is arguably better, the rest of the film is crammed with goofy extra plot lines (including a major one involving terrorists). Here's a sample of the material that was removed:

17. They Cut Janeane Garofalo's Role

Janeane Garofalo had a role in Brain Candy, and she's in the alternate cut. But she didn't make the final cut—which is surprising given that she was a pretty big deal in 1996.

18. The Film's Director Was a TV Guy

Brain Candy director Kelly Makin mostly directed TV shows (including many segments on Kids in the Hall), though he also directed the films movies National Lampoon's Senior Trip and Mickey Blue Eyes.

19. "The Drug is Ready" is a Song Lyric

As Dr. Cooper takes an elevator to meet with the top brass at Roritor, the elevator music is "Butts Wigglin" by The Tragically Hip. That song features the lyrics "In my opinion, the drug is ready," which is what Cooper ends up telling his boss during the meeting. (Later, Dr. Cooper is asked to "wiggle those hips" on a talk show.) You can hear the whole song here:

20. Brendan Fraser Has a Cameo

Toronto actor Brendan Fraser has a brief cameo as a test subject convinced he's getting sugar pills instead of the drug, due to his severe acne. He's also visible running out of the Depression Project holding a lab rat cage, almost precisely one hour into the film. He does not appear in the film's credits.

21. The Trailer is Full of Deleted Scenes

If you take a careful look at this trailer, you'll notice it includes a bunch of material that wasn't in the final cut of the movie. We see the deleted Dave Foley terrorist character (when Foley is introduced), Don Roritor enjoying extra pepper, and plenty of extra stuff from the White Trash Couple. Watch and spot the differences:

22. Kevin McDonald's Acting is Modeled on Young Frankenstein

In an interview with The A.V. Club in 2004, Kevin McDonald recalled how he prepared to play Dr. Chris Cooper:

[Playing the part] was really hard for me, because I didn't see it as a funny part. As we had time to rewrite it, I sort of found the comedy in it. I rented Young Frankenstein and I saw Gene Wilder playing the straight part, but getting a lot of laughs reacting to everyone else. That's how I decided to play it, as a modern Young Frankenstein. And we have similar hair.

23. "Chris Cooper" Was KITH's Longtime Editor

The lead in the film, Dr. Chris Cooper, was named in honor of Christopher Cooper, who edited tons of KITH projects—including the TV show, Dog Park, Brain Candy, you name it.

24. Wally's License Plate Is Revealing

Wally, the repressed gay dad (who's remarkably similar to KITH's TV character Danny Husk) has a license plate reading GAY IAM. It's only visible for an instant as he marches out into his suburban street to lead the "I'm Gay!" musical parade.

25. Tool Actually Covers "Some Days It's Dark"

The fictional ultra-dark song by Grivo's band "Death Lurks" performed in Brain Candy has made its way into the real world of dark music. Tool covers it live, with more or less the same absurd lyrics. Here are the lyrics and an audio recording from a Tool concert in Ontario, 2007:

Some days it's dark. / Some days I work. / I work alone. / I walk alone.... / I know....

Sweetness / bring me / laughter / or not.

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14 Not-So-Dirty Facts About Dirty Dancing
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Released on August 21, 1987, no one—not even stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey—could have predicted the phenomenon that Dirty Dancing would turn into. Today, 30 years later, we’re still talking about the dance-musical-romance’s sensual choreography, its oldies soundtrack, and not putting Baby in a corner. Here are some not-so-dirty facts about the iconic movie, which grossed nearly $215 million worldwide.

1. PATRICK SWAYZE BELIEVED DIRTY DANCING ENDURED BECAUSE OF ITS HEART.

In an interview with AFI, Swayze explained why he thought Dirty Dancing has stuck around for so long. “It’s got so much heart, to me,” he said. “It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves—this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because [of] what she’s got in her heart.”

2. THE FILM GAVE NEWMAN HIS FIRST BIG MOVIE ROLE.

Before starring as Stan, the resort’s social director, Wayne Knight had small roles in a few TV movies, including an uncredited role in the nuclear holocaust drama The Day After. Dirty Dancing showcased his talents, which in 1992 led him to be cast as Newman on Seinfeld.

3. BILL MEDLEY THOUGHT HE WAS BEING HIRED TO RECORD A SONG FOR A “BAD PORNO.”

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sang the vocals to the Oscar-winning song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Medley told Songfacts that Dirty Dancing music supervisor Jimmy Ienner called him and mentioned he was gathering music for the movie. “It sounds like a bad porno movie,” Medley said. Medley’s wife was expecting a baby, so he turned the song down. A few months later Ienner convinced him to do the song, even though Medley didn’t think the movie would be popular.

“We just went in to work together, to sing together, and little did we know it was going to be the biggest movie of the year. Just unbelievable,” Medley said. The song ended up selling more than 500,000 copies, and Medley ended up titling his own memoir The Time of My Life. (Note: The film was actually the 11th highest grossing film of the year; Three Men and a Baby took the top spot for 1987.)

4. PAUL FEIG STARRED IN A DIRTY DANCING TV SHOW SPINOFF.

Dirty Dancing the TV series lasted for only 11 episodes beginning in the fall of 1988, but it gave us then-unknown actors Paul Feig (creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids) and Melora Hardin (Jan Levinson of The Office). Hardin played Baby but her last name on the show was Kellerman because her dad was Max Kellerman, not Dr. Houseman. CBS even used “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for the show’s opening credits.

5. A DIRTY DANCING REALITY SHOW AIRED OVERSEAS.

For two seasons between 2007 and 2008, the UK’s Living network aired a reality show called Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life, in which groups of dancers competed for a year-long contract with Bloc, a Los Angeles-based dance agency. The series took place at Virginia’s Mountain Lake Lodge, where much of the original movie was filmed. Couples danced in front of three judges, including Miranda Garrison, who played Vivian Pressman in the movie and was also an assistant choreographer on the film.

6. MOUNTAIN LAKE LODGE REGULARLY HOSTS DIRTY DANCING WEEKENDS.

The Pembroke, Virginia resort where many of the Kellerman’s scenes were filmed hosts regular Dirty Dancing­-themed weekends a year. Dinners, a sock hop, a screening of the movie, a watermelon toss, group dance lessons, and a Dirty Dancing scavenger hunt are just some of the many activities on the agenda.

7. ELEANOR BERGSTEIN WROTE ANOTHER DANCE MOVIE AFTER DIRTY DANCING.

Bergstein wrote the script to Dirty Dancing, and in 1995 she had the opportunity to direct as well. She wrote and directed Let It Be Me, starring Jennifer Beals and Campbell Scott. To this day, she hasn’t written or directed any other movies, but she did adapt Dirty Dancing into a successful stage show.

8. ACCORDING TO BERGSTEIN, EASTERN EUROPE WATCHES A LOT OF DIRTY DANCING.

In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Bergstein talked about the movie’s popularity with people in the former Eastern Bloc. “And in Russia, it’s policy in the battered women’s shelters, when a woman comes in for help. First, they wash and dress her wounds, then they give her soup. Then they sit her down and show her Dirty Dancing. When the Berlin Wall came down, there were all these pictures of kids wearing Dirty Dancing T-shirts; they were saying, ‘We want to have what they have in the West! We want Dirty Dancing!'”

9. PENNY BRIEFLY TRANSFORMED INTO A POP STAR IN THE LATE 1980s.

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Cynthia Rhodes made a name for herself as dancer Tina Tech in 1983’s Flashdance and starred as John Travolta’s dance partner/love interest in Staying Alive that same year. But it was her role as Johnny Castle’s dancing partner, Penny, that garnered her the most notice. A couple of years after Dirty Dancing, she married singer Richard Marx (they’ve since divorced), and she briefly filled in as the lead singer of L.A. pop group Animotion, known for their hits “Room to Move” and “Obsession.”

10. JENNIFER GREY PLAYED A VERSION OF HERSELF ON THE SITCOM IT’S LIKE, YOU KNOW...

The short-lived ABC sitcom (1999-2000) featured Grey as a member of a Seinfeld-like gang, except the show swapped out New York City for Los Angeles. She allowed herself to be self-deprecating, even poking fun at her nose job and her Dirty Dancing celebrity. Arthur (Chris Eigeman) meets “Jennifer Grey” and goes, “Oh, like the actress. Dirty Dancing. You spell it the same way as her?” “I am Jennifer Grey,” she responds, then she does a dance to prove it. “You look different,” he says. “Nose job!” She blurts. “Just one?” he retorts. (She had two of them.)

11. GREY WAS SHOCKED TO BE A PART OF THE MOVIE CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.

During a scene in the 2012 rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love., Ryan Gosling uses the famous Dirty Dancing lift to woo Emma Stone into bed with him. As she watched the movie, Grey got an unexpected surprise. “I’m such a fan of Ryan Gosling and all of a sudden he’s saying my name [in the movie],” she told Yahoo!. “I’m just in the theater with my husband and I look at him like, ‘Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What’s going on?’ I was so scared. I was like, ‘Oh, no. What are they about to do?’ All of a sudden there I was, part of their movie.”

12. BORSCHT BELT RESORTS LIKE KELLERMAN’S ARE DISAPPEARING.

The area in the Catskills and upstate New York where many resorts like Kellerman’s were located is referred to as the Borscht Belt, because of the area’s popularity with Jewish-American families from the 1920s to the 1980s, with the height of their popularity being in the 1950s and ’60s. Comedians such as Joan Rivers and Jerry Seinfeld got their starts at these resorts. Since the 1990s, hundreds of these resorts have shuttered.

13. TWO FILMMAKERS PRODUCED A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE RESORT THAT SUPPOSEDLY INSPIRED KELLERMAN’S.  

For over 100 years, the Monticello, New York-based Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club welcomed Jewish-American families every summer. Wilt Chamberlain worked there as a bellhop, and according to Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg, the husband-and-wife filmmakers behind Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort, it’s also part of the inspiration behind Dirty Dancing.

“Perhaps Hollywood had taken sort of what was true for the Catskills and was using it for their own purposes, but ... [Hollywood] was just copying what was already here,” Rosenberg told ABC News. One of the last bastions of the Catskills’ Borscht Belt, Kutsher’s closed in 2013 and was sold to a billionaire who plans on replacing the resort with a $250 million yoga and wellness center. At least the doc acts as a relic to the halcyon days of dancing and escapism.

14. A DIRTY DANCING REMAKE WAS RELEASED EARLIER THIS YEAR.

Talk of a Dirty Dancing remake had been floating around Hollywood for a few years, and earlier this year it finally came to fruition. The film, which starred Abigail Breslin as Baby, was not met with great reviews. "Somehow, this earnest, anodyne remake has managed to surgically extract the magic—leaving the story and signature lines intact while suctioning out all the subtlety, charm, and lead chemistry that defined the iconic 1987 original," wrote Entertainment Weekly of the remake.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually broke away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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