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Exposing the Link Between Cell Phones and Fertility

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the social-network dept.

Cellphones 112

ApharmdB writes "We frequently gripe about the poor quality of science reporting by the media. A Guardian blogger from the mathematics department at Queen Mary, University of London has made a honeypot press release to see how bad it can get. (Or maybe to have some fun trolling the media?) The statistic used is the strong link between the number of mobile phone masts in an area and the number of live births. Of course, there is no causal link because they are both instead based on a 3rd variable, the local population size. Slashdot readers can keep on eye on news sources over the weekend to see just how much traction the story gets and watch the train wreck in real-time!"

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112 comments

ruined (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600628)

why would you post this, you are throwing off his experiment

Re:ruined (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600658)

casual idjits dont read slashdot, but I keep my threshold above 0. My opinion might be skewed

Re:ruined (2)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600870)

Right; whoever reads this is bound by the Slashdot code of secrecy not to explain it to any media people (or other non aware "sheep") at pain of having a dihydrogen monoxide [dhmo.org] poisoning attempt. Trust me, if you do give the game away, wait two days and then demand your food is tested for DHMO. We will find you. It will be there. We will get it into all and everything you eat.

(posting as Anonymous so that nobody can trace my packets)

Re:ruined (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601262)

You joke, but if carbon is a pollutant, then water is a poison.

Non-aware? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602000)

I think the media is VERY aware. The media has an agenda, what that agenda is not the same for all media but you can see it clearly by how a story plays OR doesn't play. Girl in train is assaulted by 5 people, beaten with a hammer, 6th helps them escape by knocking out a window. The police description released to help find them says they got tinted skins, meaning in Holland and considering the area muslims. Now can you guys how few media happened to report this story at all and even if they did write down the police description?

But is the agenda left-leaning? Maybe BUT the non-reporting of skin tone of crimes leads those who think immigrants are to blame for everything to assume any crime reported without mention of race are immigrants. Not all crimes are done by immigrants but now people think they are because they assume the media is hiding it.

So what is the real motive of the media in hiding facts?

Could it be that the press reports on non-stories to bury stories they don't want to pay attention to? Far easier to publish a non-story like this then to deal with the backlash of reporting on crimes with racial data. Fill the newspapers with fluff, nobody bombs your offices for fluff.

Re:Non-aware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34604036)

I think the media is VERY aware. The media has an agenda, what that agenda is not the same for all media but you can see it clearly by how a story plays OR doesn't play. Girl in train is assaulted by 5 people, beaten with a hammer, 6th helps them escape by knocking out a window. The police description released to help find them says they got tinted skins, meaning in Holland and considering the area muslims. Now can you guys how few media happened to report this story at all and even if they did write down the police description?

But is the agenda left-leaning? Maybe BUT the non-reporting of skin tone of crimes leads those who think immigrants are to blame for everything to assume any crime reported without mention of race are immigrants. Not all crimes are done by immigrants but now people think they are because they assume the media is hiding it.

So what is the real motive of the media in hiding facts?

Could it be that the press reports on non-stories to bury stories they don't want to pay attention to? Far easier to publish a non-story like this then to deal with the backlash of reporting on crimes with racial data. Fill the newspapers with fluff, nobody bombs your offices for fluff.

i'm sorry but WTF are you on about?

Re:ruined (4, Insightful)

dbolger (161340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600660)

Not really. If journalists don't even bother to look the topic up on Google and find this story, it proves the point.

Re:ruined (3, Informative)

madprof (4723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600866)

Exactly. Two UK newspapers were found copying wholly wrong information off of Wikipedia.
Private Eye mentioned that a Times columnist edited the Wikipedia entry for "April 29th" right after the announcement for the date of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. He added a fictitious story about Queen Victoria being rushed to hospital in Inverness after breaking a tow while fly-fishing at Balmoral.
The next day the Mirror and Telegraph reported it as fact.

Re:ruined (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600672)

If you RFTA, you would see that the article itself denounces the experiment. Far as I can see the /. post is just negative bias in the experiment.

Re:ruined (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600928)

If *YOU* RTFA, you would see that the article itself explains that the article isn't the honeypot, but the press release is:

But would the media turn a correlation-only finding into a causation-based health scare? To find out, I have released my mobile masts and births results as a press release. We'll see if anyone jumps to the conclusion that mobile phone radiation really can give conception a helping hand.

Re:ruined (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601140)

The researchers have failed to take into account the use of cell phones as vibrator sex toys. If one woman has sex and "uses" her phone, then shares that still-wet phone with another woman, the second woman may be fertilized. The researchers may need to create a vibrator/flashlight/camera app to really see what's going on.

In other news (5, Funny)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600662)

.. a whopping 99.44 percent of hardened heroin addicts started out drinking milk!

Re:In other news (1)

symes (835608) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600744)

99.45 slashdot posts are made by people who have drunk coffee at some time in their life. The perils of caffeine!

Re:In other news (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600770)

Possibly unrelated, but there were also no atomic bombs before American women gained the right to vote.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34602470)

Don't forget that since the internet started, there have been no World Wars. THINK ABOUT IT.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34602536)

OH MY GOD! I've been right all along, Women shouldn't vote! - And here I was claiming it primarily because of Obama.

Re:In other news (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601064)

Also note that it already had been proven that the stork brings the babies (in Germany, both stork population and birth rates were going down for a long time, this is a clear correlation). So maybe cell phones attract storks. :-)

And in other, other news (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601582)

Matt Parker finds future references to his blog dwindling to zero.

Even to prove a point it's a bad idea to sabotage your own credibility.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34604260)

As funny as that statement is, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a link between heavy dairy consumption and opiate use.

Milk contains casein [wikipedia.org]. Casein, when consumed by humans, is broken down into casomorphin [wikipedia.org]. Casomorphinan is an active opioid, which is chemically related to heroin.

The study is nonsense! (5, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600682)

The numbers fail to take into account the impact of global temperatures on the local temperatures in the room where the babies are born, and completely ignores the impact of changes in the number of seagoing pirates on each of those factors. Completely irresponsible.

But there is a causal link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600686)

This article seems to imply that there is no causal link between local population size and birth rate.

Seems to me what the article proves is not that people stupidly infer causal links to mere correlations but that they cannot recognize the flow of causation and think somehow cell phone towers dictate birth rather than the other way around.

Re:But there is a causal link (2)

Rijnzael (1294596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600728)

I'm pretty sure the article has no opinion on the link between the local population size and birth rate (where obviously the birth rate is proportional to the local population size). It means to test people's aptitude to incorrectly jump to a casual link between two related--but definitely not causally related--variables.

Re:But there is a causal link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601240)

Whoosh!

I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (4, Insightful)

CyberBill (526285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600698)

This guy should have let the "honeypot" article sit around and see what happens first, rather than having the explanation article AND have it be posted on slashdot. Doing this interferes with the experiment by making it less likely to be picked up - anyone who reads the slashdot article (or the article it links to) first will not believe and propagate the honeypot article.

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600746)

anyone who reads the slashdot article (or the article it links to) first will not believe and propagate the honeypot article.

Or will propagate it because it's fake, if they want to see the experiment have certain results.

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600840)

Yes, obviously this is just part of a greater experiment to see how Slashdot readers handle obviously fake articles.
Oops, I ruined it.

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (3, Funny)

marmusa (557884) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600760)

Surely Slashdot readers are too smart to fall for this kind of thing anyway? ;-)

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600930)

Moreover, I couldn't even find the press release on the net, but now the re-posts of his blog entry about it have spread like wildfire. So anybody who even thinks to Google the topic will instantly see the story about how he's trying to trick journalists. This is an epic fail of an effort to do so.

I think that's part of the idea (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600968)

He doesn't want to make something that is difficult to check sources on. The biggest problem isn't journalists reporting on things that are hard to properly check. I mean you also walk a line between being extremely late in bringing things to people's attention or not bringing up an important story because there just inst' enough confirmation, and reporting something that isn't true. I agree in general that journalists today fall way too far on the side of just report everything you can't disprove.

However this is targeting a bigger problem: Journalists that don't even TRY. They find a story and just run it, they don't do any checking at ALL. This will expose people like that because it isn't as though this one will be hard to check up on, you can even find out what is going on on Slashdot (and probably other places). So any who get snagged by this are as lazy as it comes, and just publish whatever they find with zero additional checking.

That, I think, would be valuable to see.

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601038)

Looking for another honeypot with plenty of non-logical links? Try Fox News.

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601268)

It's well worth reading the comments under the Guardian article!

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (2)

da (93780) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601940)

Re: comments. Fuckin' amazin'! Even some of the people who RTFA didn't RTFA!!!

Re:I wish he wouldn't have admitted it immediately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601656)

Well, true. But in light of that fact, if it gets picked up at all, then it's going to be a pretty sad commentary on the conventional media.

CORRELATION != CAUSATION!!!1!11!eleven (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601858)

This guy should have let the "honeypot" article sit around and see what happens first, rather than having the explanation article AND have it be posted on slashdot. Doing this interferes with the experiment by making it less likely to be picked up - anyone who reads the slashdot article (or the article it links to) first will not believe and propagate the honeypot article.

A lack of inaccurate articles (alleging a causal relationship between cell towers and high birth rates) may not be caused by the explanation and the posting to slashdot. Rather, it could be caused by a third factor: Nobody gives a damn what this guy says.

DHMO is fatal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600710)

Did you know that 100% of people exposed to DMHO either already have or will die?

http://www.dhmo.org/ [dhmo.org]

Re:DHMO is fatal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600802)

In terms of weather and climate phenomena, more people have died in the past because of a lack of DHMO than because of a surplus of it. Especially in areas of subsistance agriculture.

Anonymous Scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600722)

Isn't explaining the hoax in the article itself going to prevent the media from taking up the story as intended ?

Or, are we expecting the media personnel to look at the headline and make up the rest of the story ?

I'll be watching this space. See u in a few hours people.

Re:Anonymous Scientist (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602522)

Isn't explaining the hoax in the article itself going to prevent the media from taking up the story as intended ?

Crop circles [wikipedia.org].

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (1)

KaeloDest (220375) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600732)

I wonder if I can get a grant to research an acausal link between gullibility and pseudostatistics

Cause of living near highways found (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600836)

What I want to know is, why are families with autistic children so keen on living near highways? [google.com] I think it's because they're hoping their kid gets run over.

Re:Cause of living near highways found (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601218)

why are families with autistic children so keen on living near highways? I think it's because they're hoping their kid gets run over.

Where I come from highways tend to be fenced off[1], so it seems that an equally valid conclusion would be that retarded parents have retarded kids.

[1] Whether this is to protect people from traffic or vice-versa is unknown.

Low-income living. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601506)

The highway in this context means living within 1,000 feet of the heavily trafficked cross-town expressway.

The researchers theorized that the type and sheer quantity of chemicals distributed on highways are different from those on even the busiest city roadways.

at I want to know is, why are families with autistic children so keen on living near highways? I think it's because they're hoping their kid gets run over.

More likely it's because they can afford the rent.

Re:Cause of living near highways found (1)

onepoint (301486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602760)

well i did look at the study... it's data is about mothers within a certain range of a highway that give birth.

the correlation that it generates is that you should not live near a highway if you are pregnant because of some risk factors which might be Autism.

if the data is right or wrong is another story...

this kinda reminds me of the powerline near your home equal cancer issues.

Causal link (5, Funny)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600880)

Of course, there is no causal link because they are both instead based on a 3rd variable, the local population size.

Aha, but births cause population. This could be a vicious circle with cell phone towers boosting the birth rate which leads to a higher population which buy more cell phones leading to the construction of more towers.

There's strong evidence to show that the dinosaurs never developed cell phones, and they died out.

Re:Causal link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601070)

Mr. President, we must not allow a cellphone-tower gap!

Re:Causal link (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34605702)

Bah, humbug. How can you hook up these days without a cell phone? You can't. There's your causal link.

Heh, this is funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600962)

This is funny (only in a relative term), where I live (in Canada), there has been a lot of press about the dangers of WiFi in schools, and how it affects people (respitory system, neurological problems, etc.), and some schools have had to pull routers (wired ethernet is more secure anyway), but at least the RF radiation is at arms length. With a cell phone, the EM radiation is RIGHT BESIDE YOUR BRAIN. Heh! Kids all over have cell phones, and do the text messaging. (LOL! LOL! CuL8R)!!! So far, the wireless carriers have been given a pass. Not much has been done in the way of studies.... I know you can get little electronic gadgets that send out UHF pulses that affects vermin (electronic pest control), but the don't just take care of mice and spiders, they will screw up your gerbils and hamsters too. There are even ones that farmers put in the field to take care of moles. You just knew that there had to be a range of frequencies in the RF spectrum that would affect people. The army already has something like this (as well as countermeasures), but for the kids in school, WiFi, and also cell phones, right beside their brains. The funny part was: no press (yet).

Those liberal scientists are at it again! (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600972)

If we see this reported at all in the Rupert Murdoch sector of the media, I predict it will be misinterpreted as a claim by anti-business liberal alarmist scientists that cellphones are bad for you.

Poor choice of hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34600986)

Why would an increase in fertility be so terribly alarming? Find a statistic that suggests loss of life instead.

Re:Poor choice of hypothesis (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602096)

I would think the link to the number of *stillbirths* would be much more effective!

All those poor .6 babies! (5, Funny)

swrider (854292) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601016)

The report says that the towers result in 17.6 more births. I guess you can credit modern medicine for keeping all of those .6 babies alive, but really, what kind of existence will they have?

Re:All those poor .6 babies! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601196)

A half life.

Re:All those poor .6 babies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601302)

The report says that the towers result in 17.6 more births. I guess you can credit modern medicine for keeping all of those .6 babies alive, but really, what kind of existence will they have?

The non-integer baby numbers reflect partial brains. Some of the cell sites are co-located on Fox towers. Although it may not help intelligence, there are reports of enhanced vision - even the ability to see Russia.

Re:All those poor .6 babies! (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601484)

The report says that the towers result in 17.6 more births. I guess you can credit modern medicine for keeping all of those .6 babies alive, but really, what kind of existence will they have?

Remember those 2.4 children that the average couple used to have?

Now it's worse.

And it's all because of cell phones.

I don't know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601720)

.6 is .2 more than .4. That could be a whole working arm or something, which would be a major quality of life improvement.

Re:All those poor .6 babies! (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602440)

No, no, it's fine. Modern medicine can combine the 0.4 extra children from the average couple with the 0.6 from the towers to create a single, perfectly healthy baby.

Isn't technology grand?

Re:All those poor .6 babies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34602436)

I dunno, probably similar to an American slave, who also would have been 3/5 of a person.

My favorite blooper: "marriage creates wealth" (1)

echtertyp (1094605) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601078)

I really wish journalists had to pass an introductory statistics course in order to "practice" their trade. One of the biggest bloopers that seems to come up over and over again in mainstream media, at least in the English-speaking press, are assertions that marriage makes men healthier, and makes them wealthier, and so on.

Of course, that gets the direction of causality exactly wrong. Higher income and net worth is almost perfectly correlated with levels of health (Dutch study nailed this pretty well) and as any guy in a UK or American city will tell you, money is to marriage-crazed females what honey is to bees.

But the MSM can't take the necessary 45 seconds to think through correlation and causality. This statistical illiteracy in media has been a huge practical joke waiting to happen and I'm glad someone finally put out the plant. This should be awesome to watch unfold :)

Re:My favorite blooper: "marriage creates wealth" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601270)

They already know it's wrong. Most news is not factual, it is social (and usually aimed to entertain than inform). As long as it gets enough (uninformed) people reading, perhaps by reinforcing prejudices or exaggerating the faults of other ingroups then they will write down as many misleading things as they can. The illiteracy is a feature that will not go away because it serves too many purposes.

Re:My favorite blooper: "marriage creates wealth" (1)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601404)

as any guy in a UK or American city will tell you, money is to marriage-crazed females what honey is to bees.

So the money's actually created by the women? Is the husband like the bee keeper who periodically collects the money/honey for his own purposes?

Re:My favorite blooper: "marriage creates wealth" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34602118)

as any guy in a UK or American city will tell you, money is to marriage-crazed females what honey is to bees.

So the money's actually created by the women? Is the husband like the bee keeper who periodically collects the money/honey for his own purposes?

In a sense yes... if you're a pimp. You beat the honey to get the money. I think the GP's analogy is off when specifically related to marriage. More like money is to a relationship what gravity is to mass. The more money one side has, the more it dictates the shape of the relationship, and the more mass something has the more central it is to the movement of the rest of the mass in it's gravity-cone.

And the granddaddy of them all... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601102)

is the correlation of CO2 and temperature.

Other suggestion (0)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601208)

I suggest a study about the correlation between file sharing and global warming. It seems to have significantly slowed down after Napster started.

Re:Discover Magazine has fallen for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601466)

Fount the below but they appear to be just linking to the original...

http://www.topix.com/science/mathematics/2010/12/mobile-masts-linked-to-birth-rate
http://tweetmeme.com/story/3428749555/mobile-phone-masts-linked-to-sharp-rise-in-birth-rate-matt-parker-science-guardiancouk
http://article.wn.com/view/WNAT9FBD13EB678DF591F86DCB20AAC1503F/

Re:Discover Magazine has fallen for it (2)

zarzu (1581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601826)

If you read the article you linked to, you'd know that they didn't. People are just linking to the article explaining the honeypot, which is exactly what happens if you release an article about the experiment at the same time as the honeypot. This whole thing is utterly senseless.

Re:Discover Magazine has fallen for it (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 3 years ago | (#34604430)

Could be he's just applying the original article's experiment to secondary articles.

Re:Discover Magazine has fallen for it (1)

notknown86 (1190215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601838)

I know, RTFA is not commonly a part of the commenting procedure in these parts.

But maybe - before posting that, you could *at least* RTLFP (read the last f*n paragraph):

"Parker is releasing his data as a press release, so keep an eye on your favorite (or least favorite) news organizations to see who bites on the sham cell tower-fertility connection."

Or, failing that, RTFURL (read the f*n URL):
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/12/17/each-cell-phone-tower-creates-18-babies- [discovermagazine.com] the-difference-between-causation-correlation/

fear sells better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601894)

Nice try, but the results aren't going to scare anybody, so they won't be picked up anywhere.

If the results "proved" that "cell phone towers cause infertility" this honeypot would have a much better chance of going viral in the media.

Link to something scary (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602110)

They should have linked the cell phone towers to *stillbirths* (which I assume would correlate just as well). Then the article would have gone everywhere!

I smell an opportunity. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602212)

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200 lbs of the finest German lead will encase your iPhone so that your future children will be protected. iProgenyProtector will ensure that harmful EM radiation do not leave the Bauhaus inspired design.

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The iProgenyProtector is proactive in ensuring your future offspring. As such it limits your calls only to where you place the iProgenyProtector. Fewer calls means more children!

Wouldn't being encased in all that lead make it hard to send any receive any signals?
After numerous investigations is appears that customers have merely been holding it wrong. Please curl up in a ball and squeeze into the case to make a call.

Available now for $1999 in dark grey and medium dark grey. White will be available in 2011--Er--2012

Definite causality (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602480)

Every time my wife sees another tower going up, she says, "Well fuck me! They're putting up another one of those damned towers."

There's a lot to be said about... (1)

dos4who (564592) | more than 3 years ago | (#34603164)

.. non-hypothesis-based data analysis. Take, for instance, some health data that was overlaid with GIS data at a health authority I worked at a few years back. One of the more curious combinations that popped up was the fact that there were a higher number of Leukemia cases in households that lived under high power electricity lines. We were all about to unanimously blame the cancer on the long-period-exposure to EMF, when someone who lived in the area brought up a good point... properties under the lines were less expensive that those properties away from the lines, and therefore more attractive to lower-income families - the very same lower income families whose eating habits are generally lower on the nutrition scale. ie: higher carbs & fats, with less roughage, antioxidants, etc, which all helps to contribute to poorer health.

found so far (1)

echostorm (865318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34604448)

So far I have found the honeypot release reprinted or linked to the guardian article at:
zmarter.com
esciencenews.com
tweetmeme.com
wn.com
topsy.com
tingly.com
scandalnews.com
and johornews.com
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