December 11th, 2013
11:18 AM ET

Which is the world's most generous nation?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Keeping with Nelson Mandela's generosity of spirit, we thought we'd bring you good news about the world's capacity to give. The Charities Aid Foundation in London published its annual world giving index last week, and it turns out that the world was more generous in 2012 than it was in the previous year.

The Foundation crowned the United States the world's most generous nation, up from fifth place last year. The report is based on Gallup polls involving 135 countries and measures three factors. Who said they donated the most money to charity, who said they volunteered the most time, and who said they helped out strangers most often. The U.S. was only 13th when it came to donating money, but third place in giving time and first place when it came to helping out someone in need.

So what country is the least charitable? Well, according to the report, that distinction goes to Greece, and while economic troubles in Greece were rampant in 2012, this report proves it's not always about the money. Even Syria made the top ten list for helping out a stranger.

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Topics: Last Look

soundoff (175 Responses)
  1. SadWorld

    All I have to say is POLLS CAN BE INACCURATE!!!

    People can say things that they think people want to hear or are humiliated if they say they do not support those who are at a disadvantage.

    December 12, 2013 at 1:21 am | Reply
    • jimmer

      Until YOU get the results YOU want to hear.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:57 am | Reply
  2. SadWorld

    Also, why should Americans be so proud of giving to other countries when there is rising social inequality and a decrease in social mobility in their own country?

    Seems to me like Americans should focus on their own education system, high incarceration rate and population, income inequality, etc. etc. etc. than trying to be number one in donating money to foreign countries according to other reports or being generous to other societies.

    Fix your own country first, then worry about others.

    December 12, 2013 at 1:27 am | Reply

      Do you ever listen to yourself?

      December 12, 2013 at 4:07 am | Reply
    • Rett

      You honestly think Americans, when donating money to help other nations, were thinking "Oh, I sure hope we get to be number one in foreign giving"?

      December 12, 2013 at 5:49 am | Reply
      • minnie mouse

        Anything to self-justify slamming America. It is so tiresome.

        December 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @SadWorld, you believe in transparency, as your post is a model of transparency: you want to choose the recipients of others' gifts.
      America's "income inequality?"
      Equality of opportunity does not guarantee equality of income.
      "Social mobility?"
      Mobility upward requires work. Mobility toward the bottom requires relaxation.

      December 12, 2013 at 6:48 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        PS: I do admit that a "high incarceration rate" requires substantial effort by the persons incarcerated.

        December 12, 2013 at 6:55 am |
      • minnie mouse

        Mobility-toward-the-bottom also involves your employer choosing to close your workplace and move to asia for its slave labor wages. I once lived in a location where IBM abandoned an entire landscaped campus consisting of city blocks and approximately 12 impressive buildings - completely vacant - to build a multi-million dollar facility in asia "because it was more Efficient". (and no, IBM never had unions to conveniently blame it on) This choice left behind hundreds of trained/educated engineers and technicians with no jobs and no way to even sell their homes because the housing market collapsed.

        December 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Doug Lynn

      It is foolish, bordering on wicked, to help people that refuse to help themselves because it enables them to continue to be self-destructive. Most givers are not fools, but politicians giving away other people's money do not care why people are in need. Most of them are only interested in buying votes.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply
      • AZ senior

        Then you are not your brothers keeper, Doug Lynn?

        December 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
      • minnie mouse

        You know, creatures like you make me wonder if God was on vacation the day you were born.

        December 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
      • Brent

        how exactly would you recommend that the poor help themselves? i guess they could improve their education by getting a degree from Harvard but, oh, wait, they're poor. can't afford harvard. maybe community college, but it's hard to go to school when you're working two jobs just to pay your rent and utilities. maybe they could save money by not having children. we can make it to where only the rich in america have kids. oh, wait. then there wouldn't be anyone to work in the stores the rich shop in. i suppose we could just cut off their "benefits" and let them starve in the street. then we would look like n. korea. that should impress the world with our "greatness". i mean, wow, who isn't impressed with n. korea, right? maybe they just need to work harder. doing 60 hours a week already clearly isn't enough..... if they can find a job at all.

        December 19, 2013 at 8:28 am |
      • Dan

        I'm sure I've read this wrong! So let me see if I can get it. Politicians here donate to citizens of other countries, people who cannot vote in the United States, becasue they want to buy their votes? No, it didn't work. Im still lost.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • neoritter

      Sounds like you're just jelly.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:57 am | Reply
    • bbinhb

      Hey Sad World, you may want to brush up on your reading comphrehension. The article was about about the most generous nation, not the nation that gave the most to other nations. One aspect was how much charity is given by its citiziens, not just charity given to other nations. .

      December 12, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Reply
      • minnie mouse

        Hey, America: gimme more, gimme more, gimme more.

        December 12, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • wayne ferrell

      u are 100% on target

      December 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Reply
      • Andy

        Actually no, they're not. Learn to read. This says absolutely nothing about donating to other nations. The entire premise for the sad rant is not even true. Did you even READ the article??

        December 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • minnie mouse

      I'm wondering if maybe our high incarceration rate is due to so many people committing crimes

      December 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      rotflmao. and if the us DID quit giving then you, and the rest of the world, would be asking, "why are americans so selfish? why don't they act like good citizens and try to help the world?" i think your problem is that you just don't like the us and try to slam even the small good news we get recently.

      December 19, 2013 at 6:27 am | Reply
    • Tim

      I'm an American, and one of the lower income brackets I can tell you that there i no one starving here. If you are truly in need almost anyone will buy you food. Study's done have shown that homeless beggars often make more money than some workers.
      Don't be ethnocentric or a racist. At least experience life here before you judge so harshly.
      Heck, our president granted amnesty to illegal immigrants. Your country can't say the same.

      December 2, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  3. svpyadav

    Respected Mr. Fareed Zakaria Garu, India is the most generous nation than U S

    December 12, 2013 at 2:58 am | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      Good to know. That makes India the winner.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    • sandy

      December 19, 2013 at 7:14 am | Reply
    • Brent

      based on.....?

      December 19, 2013 at 8:22 am | Reply
  4. Mark

    Greece, a country people vacation in that's part of the EU is least charitable in the world? According to who, the Ministry of the Bleeding Fake? There are far more violent, empoverished countries to choose from. Listing Greece is a joke. I've witnessed first hand the depth of their generosity. Articles like this make me regret my degree in Journalsim. Seriously, get a life.

    December 12, 2013 at 3:48 am | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      Greece is struggling with its own economic worries currently. That will eventually be resolved. Maybe that affects how much "free cash flow" Greek citizens have. Everyone's first responsibility is to feed and shelter themselves and their families so they do not become an economic drain on their own society.

      December 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      since the article is merely reporting the results of a survey, it seems that your disappointment may be better directed toward those who actually did the survey. also, it's possible that your personal experience is not indicative of the nation as a whole.

      December 19, 2013 at 8:21 am | Reply
  5. WorldFarceGiving

    This organizations methods are dubious at best, they rely on 3 key questions, and trust those queried. Total farce if you ask me! Jason Mik's, get a new job or something.

    *The World Giving Index relies on a simple averaging of the responses from the three key questions asked in each country. Each country is given a percentage score and countries are ranked on the basis of these scores.

    December 12, 2013 at 5:38 am | Reply
  6. Dave Green

    I don't want to take away from people who legitimately give their time and money to charitable endeavors. There are plenty of people out there. However, I also happen to know that many of the people in the US who give to charity give just enough to deduct from their taxes and you can bet they get a receipt for every last dime.

    December 12, 2013 at 6:56 am | Reply
    • Doug Lynn

      Politicians are far more selfish than any private giver regardless of the reasons. Politicians give away other people's money and most of them only do it to buy votes and power. Too often what politicians give away does more harm than good because they only address surface needs. When poverty is self-inflicted because poor choices, free stuff alone enables people to continue to be self-destructive. It is like giving an alcoholic free booze.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
      • Brent

        most poverty in the us is not self-inflicted though. we have this popular perception that people are poor because they are lazy drug addicts who popped out 5 kids when they were 13, but that isn't true. the average american poor works longer hours at harder jobs than the average american does. this makes sense because they HAVE to do this just to survive. strangely, they don't have the money to send their kids to harvard and yale, thus their kids never achieve the success of say, george w. bush. thus, the poverty continues. it's as incorrect to say that poverty is "self-inflicted" just because you were born into a poor family as it is to say that wealth is "earned" just because you were born into a rich family. and if we look at the numbers, the average american is losing ground. more middle class are sliding toward poverty than wealth. if it's "self-inflicted" then we can only surmise that for some reason a large segment of the middle class suddenly decided to self-destruct. personally, i find that unlikely.

        December 19, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Bill

      Even if people are taking the tax deduction the net result is they have given away money. The tax deduction only allows them to give a little more. You need to lessen your cynicism.

      December 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      Does the hungry recipient of the charitable gift care about U.S. tax rules?

      December 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  7. Skeptimist

    I'm not sure what or how much this poll actually reveals.
    I have known some very generous people.
    But I only found out about them from people they helped.
    Compassion has its own rules.
    Anonymity may not show up on a spreadsheet.

    December 12, 2013 at 7:19 am | Reply
  8. RM1234

    Take away the charity deduction and see how long America stays in the top ten? As for foreign aid, Congress sends that against the wishes of many.

    December 12, 2013 at 7:59 am | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      I guess that would leave those recipient nations to take responsibility for their own economics.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      losing the charitable deduction would probably cause corporations to quit donating, but not average citizens. after katrina and 911, i doubt most americans donated thinking, "thank god i can write off helping people". contrary to the impression left by a media which always dwells on the negative, the average american is still a pretty decent person.

      December 19, 2013 at 8:08 am | Reply
  9. aurelius

    That's private donations from private US citizens, not the US government. On a per capita basis the US (as a nation) is the smallest donors among the top 25 and most of it is through military assistance programs. Check Wikipedia, or any other source, on the subject; don't take my word for it.

    December 12, 2013 at 8:31 am | Reply
  10. cwcollins06

    Reblogged this on Humbly through Him and commented:
    Here's an interesting article in light of yesterday's post.

    December 12, 2013 at 9:00 am | Reply
  11. mickinmd

    Commenters are confusing Foreign Aid with Generosity. Those tightwads don't have to worry much, we've nearly cut-off foreign aid. The index here includes Jaycees cleaning up an elderly couple's yard, a Church providing food for someone in their congregation or sending a team to help hurricane victims. Even the Honda dealer I bought my Fit from in January called before Thanksgiving asking for donations for a canned food drive for the needy.

    In foreign aid we give 0.16% of GDP where most industrialized nations give 0.5% or more. The Scandinavian nations all give 1% or more. Because of our income and population, we give more in total than any other nation, but the UK, France, and Germany, which together have 2/3 our population and 4/5 our income, give twice the foreign aid we do.

    And, ignoramuses as Americans tend to be, the nay-sayers don't have a clue that every $1 of foreign aid brings $2 of business to American companies.

    December 12, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • bribob

      This post completely ignores how much good the US military has done in the world overall and the amount of money the United States spends through its military to the benefit of other countries either under the umbrella of US protection or by direct action. The military is an easy target to pick on but overall the world is more safe and as prosperous than it has ever been, and by a huge margin. Over recorded history whenever a country, or people, has gained such an advantage over other countries, as the United States has enjoyed over the world in both military technology and resources it has lead to more conflict. For the first time in recorded history a lone power has exerted their power in defense of and for the benefit of the weak. Their faults committed along the way have been almost to numerous to count, however every american should be proud of their overall accomplishments and the fact that the US has changed the world drastically by not following the path of every other nation that had been in a dominant position previously.

      December 16, 2013 at 4:12 am | Reply
      • Brent

        although i totally agree with the overall point, i would question whether or not this is "generous" of us. contrary to the whiners and their lame opinions of how aggressive and imperialistic we are (despite our lack of an empire), i would agree that the us is the most stabilizing force in the world right now. although that is a free benefit to other nations, i don't believe we do it for that reason. like england before us, we are a trading nation and stability is essential to promote trade. i think we have considerable vested interest in this role. yes, the military IS very expensive. however, the stability it provides leads to FAR greater economic rewards. the military is an investment in commerce. (incidentally, i LOOK FORWARD to the day when the us says "that's it!" and gives up it's role as the mean, evil, aggressive, imperialistic stabilizer. i want to see how joyous the world DOESN'T become when they see the effects of less stability while america sits secure in it's fracking-induced energy independence and says, "not our problem".)

        December 19, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  12. JesterJames

    "who said they helped out strangers most often" all that poll says is American are more willing to brag or lie about helping strangers.

    December 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • Trevor

      ASSumptions, ASSumptions, ASSumptions...

      December 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      I'm sorry we denied you citizenship for some reason.

      December 12, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Reply
      • B Sacks

        The US is the generous at spreading war that's for sure.

        December 16, 2013 at 1:58 am |
  13. glenview0818

    Jester James, Americans neither lie more or less than any other nationality. You have a negative view of Americans for some reason.

    December 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      probably because he's not American

      December 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  14. J-Man

    Statistics can say what ever you want them to say. How about factual studies. Which country gave the most? Period. I am guessing that the USA donations both public and private are greater than all others combined. Clearly this study was done in a way no not highlight that fact (that the US gives more). Out of 172 recognized countries on earth, the USA give aid to about 160. We even give money/food & aid to countries and people who hate us (North Korea and Palestinians for example).

    December 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      I'm not fond of giving some of my tax dollars to people who cheered American deaths on September 11, 2001. (although I comprehend the tragic "Influence-Chess-Game" over there and support authorizing the aid to Palestinians – I'm just not fond of doing so).

      December 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      who actually gives more in real dollars does not accurately gauge generosity. the only accurate way to do so is to compare foreign aid as a percentage of GDP. i'm sure that in dollar amounts, the us's contributions dwarfed almost everyone. however, we are the largest economy on earth, thus, we have a LOT of dollars! (especially when you consider that we MAKE those dollars to begin with. they're OUR money.) example: you are worth ten million dollars and you donate 10,000 to charity. i am worth ten thousand and i donate 100 to charity. although your donation was much larger in terms of real dollars, it represented only one-one thousandth of your wealth. my smaller donation represented one-one hundreth of my wealth, or, ten times more of my wealth than yours. in this sense, my donation, although smaller, was far more generous because it represented a larger proportion of my wealth. this is especially true if you factor in the fact that, having fewer dollars, each one is more important to me. therefore, my donation represents a greater sacrifice also. if you figure foreign aid as a percentage of american gdp, our donations are smaller than many other countries. at home however, we are quite generous with each other. (look at the massive donations to charities after natural disasters.)

      December 19, 2013 at 7:46 am | Reply
  15. Maja

    Mr. Zakaria,
    The real question is, are you generous?
    And if you are, I fail to see the compassion in being so if you were to brag about it.
    Lumping oneself on a list in which you claim your host nation is most generous, but that you would remain less so,
    is telling. It is unimpressive, at least to me.
    Perhaps you are very generous and I shouldn't know about it. Great, sincerely.

    As far as Greece goes, the average person there is worth over $200K and at least a large minority owns property. Meanwhile, "wealthy" Germans are only worth about $50K on average since most do not own property, but rather rent.
    This reflects more about the Greek and German character than I care to say right now.

    Looking at net worth then, Americans are very middle of the road. That they would be generous is lovely, but they are also the most murderous lot, and imprison more of their fellows than any other country in the world. Generosity of cash might be more of a pay off to appease a burdened heart. I'd rather have fellow Americans be generous of spirit and not necessarily their wallet.

    Tell me, would you hire a felon who has paid his debt to society, or would you settle on hiring clever crooks who continue to get away with their crimes? Americans aren't so forgiving as they are foolish. Just look at the banking industry that hobbled this country's economy going on a decade now and yet, they continue their folly.

    And, are you really that generous if you expect a tax deduction for it? For corporate America this serves as bargain public relations outlays. Maybe it's the liberal tax code in this country that skews the numbers. Since Greeks avoid paying taxes, maybe their generosity is off the books too.

    I do know that a Greek wedding in Boston compared to a Lutheran one in Wisconsin is exceedingly much more generous.

    December 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Reply
    • minnie mouse

      What does buying your own daughter an expensive Greek wedding have to do with charity and generosity?

      December 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      oh, how art thou illogical? let me count the ways. 1) what does fareed's generosity have to do with national rankings? he's not a nation. 2) how is generosity less compassionate if you brag about it? giving is giving. and what exactly is wrong with americans enjoying some positive news for a change? god knows we can use some right now. 3) looking at net worth of germans, americans, greeks, etc is totally irrelevant. the survey was about giving, not worth. also, just because greeks may be worth more in dollars does not make them wealthier. you have to factor in costs of living also. americans may be worth less than greeks, but our cost of living is lower so we may be proportionately wealthier. 4) we imprison more people than anyone else. so what? again, nothing to do with the survey. and, personally, i think it's better to imprison them than to just kill them like many countries do. if your point was that we DON'T just kill them then....yay america! if your point was that we have a high crime rate then i would point out that the us is a very wealthy nation. with greater wealth comes greater crime. (ask the roman empire. rome made new york's crime rate look like iceland's.) i mean, stealing from the poor is kinda pointless, huh? 5) how does a generous wallet indicate a burdened heart? and since americans also rated highly in donating time AND helping others that WOULD seem to indicate a generosity of spirit. 6) rotflmao @ the american banking industry. and you know who EAGERLY gobbled up a LOT of those "foolish" prime mortgages that collapsed? EUROPE! that's why they went down with us. who's the bigger fool? the fool that made money off the deal (while it lasted) or the fool that PAID money to go down with us? 7) what do tax codes have to do with it?! unless you donate huge sums, the tax paperwork usually isn't even worth the hassle. people leave the donations undeclared. and MOST donations are SMALL. as for being off the books in greece, the survey ASKED people in the countries. even if donations are "off the books" were they also "off the brains" of the donors? do they not know that they donated money? 8) i have no clue what greek weddings in boston have to do with wisconsin, or international donations, so i won't comment on that except to say that it's seeming irrelevance would indicate that it was as illogical as every other remark. wow! 8 illogical remarks all in one post. you're very generous with your lack of logic.

      December 19, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply
  16. minnie mouse

    Wow. America-slammers are so cute.

    December 12, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      lmao. i've always found them to be predictable and dull. "every evil in the world is america's fault." "americans aren't good at anything." "americans are fat, and lazy, and stupid". blah, blah, blah. if we do something, it was wrong, and if we don't act then we were wrong for not getting involved. sooo tedious :)

      December 19, 2013 at 6:54 am | Reply
  17. Gail D

    Charity begins at home, US. It's easy to give away taxpayer's money, forgive debts, etc.

    December 13, 2013 at 7:17 am | Reply
  18. Rolf

    This rank is completely useless unless it is made per cápita!

    December 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  19. B Sacks

    I went to the Annual World Giving Index webpage as linked above. I then downloaded the 2012 PDF file. Nowhere does it say that the US is the most generous nation. Australia is ranked 1st sorry to say.

    Zakaria you and this article are a scam.

    December 16, 2013 at 1:39 am | Reply
    • Brent

      the annual index only ranks foreign aid. try reading the article again, focus on what questions were asked, and then get back to us when you know what you're discussing.

      December 19, 2013 at 6:50 am | Reply
  20. B Sacks

    The only thing the US is good at is war mongering and starting wars...

    December 16, 2013 at 1:52 am | Reply
    • Brent

      what a totally ridiculous remark. we landed on the moon, invented computer networking (which lead to the internet), we create more life saving drugs than any other nation on earth, and a lot of other positive things. your remark is merely generic bigotry.

      December 19, 2013 at 6:49 am | Reply
  21. DRJJ

    Just read North Korea executed dozens last month for having a Bible! They were marched into stadiums around the country, hooded then executed in front of 1000s! Why wasn't this in our National/World news??
    This is one evil dictator with a small brain and no morals!

    December 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  22. Best

    We should all go out and buy a Ferrari and send the invoice to President Obama who runs the most generous Country on the Planet! Good Job:)

    December 17, 2013 at 12:03 am | Reply
  23. bill

    donating money for Americas and hoping to be the first one in this part? oh. I got surprised for this. They always know what they are doing and why they are doing it.
    my homepage: ترجمه آنلاین

    December 17, 2013 at 4:40 am | Reply
  24. Neil

    Oh the great abuse of great right of freedom of speech!!!!! It is so mindboggling amazing that there are people who criticize Americans for donating money, moreover most of them are Americans themselves. I as an American am proud that America is top donator in the world. Know why? Because it is great to be number one at many things but being number one at donation means being number one at empathy and that is just country full of people with hearts. Now I can go and tell the world who pin-point guns and newtown and what not at Americans that hey, we are also number 1 people with hearts.

    December 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  25. Brent

    I know what I'm about to say is going to offend some Americans and that they will think that I'm one of those highly annoying, America-hating liberals. I assure you, i'M NOT. i WAS US Marine and, contrary to the whining of many in these comments sections, I LOVE the US. (So screw all of y'all.) However, having said that, the US is NOT the most generous nation in the world. At least, not internationally. We DO give more aid in total dollars, but we have a LOT of dollars. If you compare foreign aid to GDP then the US does not rate highly. Many European countries, and even some Arab countries, beat us in the percentage of their GDP that they devote to foreign aid. (I think we currently give about one-tenth of one percent of our GDP in foreign aid. In real dollars we win, but that because even that extremely small percentage counts for a lot coming from such a huge economy.) A lot of the foreign aid that we DO give goes to Israel and Egypt in the form of military aid. Not exactly humanitarian. At home however, I do believe that Americans are very generous. We spend a lot on welfare programs (which the vast majority of Americans still support), we have a lot of churches and charities which we generously donate to, and, in the event of natural disasters (or man-made ones, like 911) we respond with overwhelming generosity. It often seems like we live in a country where everyone is trying to screw everyone else, but I have seen FAR more examples of Americans trying to help those whom they can rather than just saying "It's not my problem." Internationally, we could give far more in aid. At home though, we are a VERY generous people.

    December 19, 2013 at 6:45 am | Reply
    • Tjatji

      Ur right, that's why I cant say America is generous

      January 13, 2014 at 4:06 am | Reply
  26. Din

    There is no doubt billions of dollars goes from USA but who are the people giving this kind of money? Only Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and celebrities can’t just do it by themselves. In my opinion most of charity is given by foreign settlers in USA. Whenever they see any natural disaster like what happened in Chile 1000s of residents living in USA from Chili donated millions of dollars. In some religions like Muslims must have to pay 2.5% charity on their wealth every year.

    December 19, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  27. Tjatji

    I don't believe it, how was the rankings made. Are they made on just how much you give or on how much you give from what you have. I don't think the ranking were right, some countries only give where they want something in return and we can't call it giving.

    January 13, 2014 at 4:01 am | Reply
  28. zainuddind95

    only 5 dollar

    February 23, 2014 at 4:29 am | Reply
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