Archive for May, 2012

As some of you know, today was the day on which both sides in the Sister Wives case were to file cross motions for summary judgment to establish whether the state’s criminalization of cohabitation is constitutional. This evening we have filed a roughly 80 page motion and brief challenging the anti-bigamy law on seven distinct constitutional and statutory grounds. Rather than file a summary judgment motion arguing the merits of constitutionality of the state law, however, the prosecutors have filed a declaration with the Court that they promise not to prosecute the Brown family for polygamy and have decided to end the investigation that has been ongoing for years. They further state that, in light of this lawsuit, they have adopted a new policy not to prosecute any plural family absent the commission of a collateral crime like child abuse. They are asking United States District Court Judge Clark Waddoups to dismiss the case in light of their concession and promise not to prosecute.

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In a major victory for gay rights, the United States Court of Appeal for the First Circuit in Boston has found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in a unanimous ruling. The court found that the 1996 law discriminates against homosexual couples. The law was supported by Bill Clinton and by the Obama Administration until the latter recently reversed its position in court and withdrew support for the law before the Court. The case is Gill v. Office of Personnel Management.

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This video of Illinois State Representative Mike Bost is going viral. Bost is complaining about a problem that is also growing in Congress of members not reading bills from the Patriot Act to the Health Care law. Bost is complaining about being given 15 minutes to read a 200 page pension reform bill. However, he seems to come unglued while making an important point. Nevertheless, Bost appears happy with the result: he posted the video on his website.

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As expected, the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency of Russia has come with crackdowns against free speech and association.  One of the most worrisome incidents involved an activist who has been jailed for 15 days for the act of just spitting on a picture of Putin during a protest.  Dmitry Karuyev, 20, used an interesting defense that he merely sneezed on it.

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This morning three different law professors sent me this video of U.S. Senate Candidate and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren claiming to be the first nursing mother to ever take the bar exam. One of the professors, who is a liberal academic, noted that she knows that claim to be untrue from personal experience. However, as noted by Winnie Comfort of the New Jersey Judiciary (which administers state’s bar exam), the bar does not track nursing habits and women have been taking the New Jersey bar exam since 1895. This was not a claim to be a nursing Cherokee mother, but the question remains why Warren is making such controversial boasts when she has a great financial expertise record to run on. Worse still, Warren today admitted that she did in fact claim minority status at Penn and Harvard — after insisting that she was unaware of the claims.

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There are two aspects of this story that I found interesting. First, is that the 18-year-old daughter of Clint Eastwood, Francesca, destroyed a $100,000 Hermès Birkin bag and, second, there is a $100,000 Hermès bag. Eastwood has triggered a firestorm of controversy over the “art” video with her boyfriend, Tyler Shields, with people noting that they destroyed a bag worth over three times the annual salary of most working Americans. Some have noted that some (budget basement) bag can go for as little as $10,000. Would that matter?

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For generations, the young have complained about the smell of old people. Well now researchers have confirmed that old people do have a distinct smell. However, they have also concluded that young people smell worse. Moreover, the old person smell is considered neutral. The study was published online in the journal PLoS ONE by researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

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Attorney General Eric Holder has been criticized repeatedly for actions viewed as political (or his abandoning independent role) during the Clinton Administration and the Obama Administration. Few, however, seem quite as raw as his participation in an upcoming event to advise black ministers on how far they can go in campaigning in this presidential election, presumably for President Obama who is expected to secure the overwhelming percentage of African American votes. The event is being hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus and will include appearances by other government officials like IRS officials. While the CBC is bipartisan, there remain questions about the propriety of the appearance.

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As we put the finishing touches on the summary judgment motion and brief in the Sister Wives case, a friend sent me this story out of Idaho. Five Wives Vodka has been told by the state of Idaho that it will ban the booze as insulting to the large Mormon population.

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Pentecostal pastor Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was one of the nation’s leading advocates of snake handling as an article of faith. Last Sunday, he sent a message to the faithful to join him at a state park for “homecoming like the old days” with “Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.” Wolford then proceeded to handle snakes as a demonstration of the immunity given by God to those who believe. He was then bitten and died. It came 29 years after his father — another religious snake handler — died from a snakebite in 1983.

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Either this is a grooming gone bad or the Talosians from Star Trek have crossed over into canine blood lines with telepathic abilities.

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He has killed scores of his own citizens and political opponents. He has devastated a nation, reducing it to unspeakable poverty while he and his family live in unrivaled luxury. He has denied everyone in his country every basic right and liberty. He has turned Zimbabwe into a pariah nation. And now Robert Mugabe is the newest ambassador for tourism for the United Nations. He will now work with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which appears interested in enlisting the help of dictators on vacation.

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In Afghanistan, the struggle for basic rights for women continues to be a struggle for life itself. Today officials confirmed that 160 were poisoned in what is viewed as another attack by Muslim extremists. Last month, 170 schoolgirls and three teachers were poisoned. Muslim extremists oppose the education of women and the Karzai Administration, while supporting such education, has been accused of rolling back on the gains of women and girls following the fall of the Taliban. These “men of God” continue to believe that killing or maiming little girls pleases Allah and makes them spiritually pure, including throwing acid in the faces of little girls. Fortunately, there is no word of deaths yet and many children have been released from the hospital.

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This reads like a torts exam question. A group of frat brothers allegedly want to celebrate the end of the year with some book burning at Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Louisiana. The text books then cause a large fire that ultimately claims not just the frat house but the nearby apartment building. The motto of the fraternity is “Once a Pike, Always a Pike.”

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Police have identified the man shot in the midst of chewing the face off a victim in Florida. Police shot and killed Rudy Eugene, 31, after they found him along a highway naked while biting off the face of of his victim. What is more important in the future is that the cause of insane rampage appears to be “bath salts,” a new form of LSD.

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The lawyers for juice maker Pom Wonderful appear to have found a way to make lemonade from a lemon. After the company was hit by a largely negative ruling by Administrative Judge D. Michael Chappell over false advertising of the health benefits of his product, the company used lines from the opinion as part of its new advertising. Many have complained that the selective quotation is misleading. Whatever the accuracy, it is a move that will not go over well with Chappell or other judges.

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I could not resist taking a picture of this sign in front of the Pork Barrel BBQ in Alexandria, Virginia when the family was out walking last night after buying ice cream on Memorial Day. Over at the corporate headquarters of Safeway, executives wish they had two fewer pigs after the company’s General Counsel cracked a joke about Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi that has been denounced as sexist.

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Happy Memorial Day

Best wishes to all on this Memorial Day. It is a sobering holiday on the heels of our passing the 3000 death in Afghanistan alone. This week we also learned that half of our returning veterans are filing for disability. While some of us opposed these wars, we still are united as a country in our gratitude and respect for the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way in foreign lands. The cost to these heroes and their families is a debt that we can never fully repay.
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The U.S. Justice Department again showed how its protects its own in scandals involving government lawyers. The DOJ has long been notorious in refusing to seriously punish its own lawyers for wrongdoing while pushing the legal envelope on criminal charges against others. The slightest discrepancy in testimony or omission in reporting can bring a criminal charge from the DOJ. The DOJ is particularly keen in finding intentional violations or substitute for intent in federal rules — bending laws to the breaking point to secure indictments. However, when its attorneys are accused of facilitating torture or lying to the court or withholding evidence, the general response is a long investigation and then a slap on the wrist. This week is no exception. Waiting until late Thursday to inform Congress to guarantee a low media coverage, the DOJ announced that it had found no intentional violations by its attorneys in the failed prosecution of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens — despite the contrary finding made by an independent investigation. Instead, the investigation again offered rhetorical punishment as a substitute for true punishment — declaring that the attorneys were only guilty of “reckless professional misconduct.” As a result, Joseph Bottini will be suspended for only 40 days and James Goeke will be suspended for 15 days. Even that level of punishment is viewed as noteworthy for the DOJ given its prior history of whitewashing misconduct by its attorneys. Even the finding of misconduct and brief suspension was contested within the department by Terrence Berg, a lawyer with the department’s Professional Misconduct Review Unit.

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Germany’s economy is viewed as the most successful major economy in the world today and the key bedrock for European recovery. While many conservative leaders in the United States are calling on the tearing up of environmental protections to help our economy, Germany has shown the fallacy of that claim. The Germans continue to set new records on environmental protection. This week the German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour — literally half of the energy used through the key midday hours in the country.

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Scientists are warning that the world could face a new HIV strain as a result of the failure to stop poachers from killing great apes and monkeys for “bushmeat.” We have previously seen how bushmeat remains a great draw for Africans even in the United States. However, scientists are warning that it could be humanity itself that will bear the costs of the continuing slaughter of apes and monkeys as humans are exposed to new strains that are highly compatible with human bodies.

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One of my former students sent me this video of a harrowing experience of an 80-year-old woman named Laverne who almost falls out of her harness in a parachute jump. I have long collected “falling body” cases of torts involving falling human and animal bodies (which we discuss in class). This one will have to go into the negligence section, though ultrahazardous activities might be an option.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

It was just a small news item on the blog site, but it had a big impact on me.  It was reported that two female soldiers have filed suit against the Defense Department in an attempt to force the military to allow women soldiers to fight on the front lines along with men.   They are alleging that women soldiers are being denied their Equal Protection rights under the Fifth Amendment by the military holding them back from fighting on the front lines in all military jobs. (more…)

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Marital Discord

By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”     Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

The year 1648 saw the publication of Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts, a compilation of laws enacted by the colony’s General Court.  The preface reminds us that “there is no humane law that tendeth to common good . . . but the same is mediately a law of God.”  The list of capital offenses included adultery, idolatry, blasphemy, sodomy and witchcraft, with appropriate references to Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other books of the Bible.

And while the Puritan colonists were committed to their religious freedom, they firmly rejected the idea of freedom of religion, with its implication of doctrinal indifferentism.  Banishment was the prescibed penalty for heresy, as carefully defined.  Anabaptists and others opposed to infant baptism were likewise subject to banishment.  A special section prohibited “those of the Jesuiticall Order” and ecclesiastics “ordained by the authoritie of the Pope” from even stepping foot in the colony, with death the penalty for repeat offenders.  (In perhaps the earliest recorded example of compassionate conservatism, however, Jesuits who washed ashore through “ship-wrack or other accident” were permitted to remain until the departure of the next available ship.)

Yet despite the strongly theocratic foundation of their laws, the Puritans reserved to civil authority the solemnization of the most important relationship: marriage. (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

The old joke about male sopranos having feminine proclivities may be just another cultural myth. Researcher Leigh Simmons has developed data which strongly suggests that basses have decidedly lower sperm counts. Working with volunteers at the University of Western Australia, the evolutionary biologist tested 54 heterosexual men.  He first asked 30 female volunteers to rate the men’s voices for sexual attractiveness and masculinity. Not surprisingly, men with deep voices were uniformly rated the highest in sexual allure.

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

People may believe that residents of New England are staid and reserved. That may be true of some but definitely not all of us. It’s also not true of our farm animals—and I have a news story to prove it:

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

One wonders who the man is to the left and why is he channelling SNL’s, Beldar Conehead. Seems John Walsh appeared before the Los Angeles City Council to oppose the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. According to proponents of the bag ban, the flimsy and wind friendly containers have the habit of blowing into tree limbs, sinking into lakes, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Walsh spoke in support of a measure to ban the bags and allow supermarkets to charge up to 10 cents for the paper variety.

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Hard to imagine how the discussion got started, but engineers at MIT have solved one of the modern age’s most pressing problems: How do you get stuck ketchup out of the bottom of the bottle? Foolish waste of time you say? No, the inventors of the special coating claim it will save 1 million tons of the perfectly usable — but inaccessible — condiment.

The research was led by doctoral candidate, Dave Smith, whose team of researchers employed nanotechnology to invent LiquiGlide. The spray-on coating, composed of FDA approved materials, has many applications according to Smith which include food packaging for mayonnaise and ketchup as well as other industrial uses like lubricants for oil and gas pipelines and even car windshields.

LiquiGlide is unique because it’s “kind of a structured liquid,” Smith said. “It’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” Here’s the stuff in action:

Now, can they please start to work on keeping all those subscription cards from falling out of the magazines.

Source: msnbc

~Mark Esposito, GuestBlogger

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Find The Kitteh Contest

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Click to enlarge. Solution below the fold. Bonus Points available. Good luck.

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Volare

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


We present Bobby Rydell in glorious STEREO!

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Malcolm X Elementary Principal J. Harrison Coleman has ordered the holding of “Trayvon Martin” Day at the elementary school. Students and parents will be given iced tea and skittles to honor the day.

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Brian Banks was a former high school football star when he was accused of rape by Wanetta Gibson. Gibson’s name was sealed as a rape victim while Banks was publicly accused as a rapist despite his insistence that it was consensual sex. It was his word against hers and prosecutors threatened him with life imprisonment if he went to trial, so he pleaded guilty to a rape that he did not commit. He spent five years in jail. When he was released he was surprised when his “victim” asked to befriend him on Facebook. She later admitted that she made the whole thing up but did not want to give back the $1.5 million that she won in a judgment against the school district for her alleged rape. She retains the money despite admitting to lying about the rape.

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Harvard alums received a bit of a surprise when reading the status of graduates for the class of 1962 in anticipation of the 50th reunion. One graduate decided to respond and list his current profession as “prisoner” and his “awards” as “eight life sentences.” The alum is unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

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In Washington, it is often the response of politicians to allegations that get them into more trouble than the original allegations themselves. Harvard Professor and US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren appears to be reaffirming that rule as more information surfaced that casts serious questions about her veracity over the claim to being a Native American. The latest disclosure comes from the Boston Globe, a Democratic-leaning newspaper that has been criticized for downplaying the controversy in the past. I previously discussed how claiming to be a minority is a significant act for law professors due to reporting to the federal government, the ABA, and AALS. Warren has insisted that she was unaware that she was listed as a minority, but, as a law professor, I am skeptical how such listings can occur without a professor volunteering the information. Now, the Boston Globe is reporting that Harvard listed Warren for years as a minority in reports to the federal government. Obviously, this story has particular interest to law professors, but it is being played out in the Massachusetts senatorial race.

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The U.S. efforts to pacify the violence in Afghanistan might want to start with the government officials themselves. Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal allegedly threatened to cut Shakib Noori, Afghan’s commercial attaché at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, “into pieces.” The proposed Shakib Shish Kebab was never prepared, though it was detailed in an email sent on April 28, 2012 and carbon copied to various other officials. Noori says in emails that he believes that this is not mere hyperbole, but a real threat. It turns out that the law firm Holland & Knight is featured prominently in the controversy.

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We have been following the political and economic demise of Detroit for years. Its leading officials from city council members to the former mayor to judges to lawyers in the city have been the source of endless scandals. They have coupled a shrinking economy with expanding levels of corruption and cronyism. Now, the city is planning to simply turn off half of the street lights to try to force citizens into a small living area — leaving much of the city abandoned and dark. We previously saw how the city’s fire chief suggested just let many buildings burn down to save the cost of firefighting.

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It appears that anyone visiting Tennessee this summer should leave their cash at home. A New Jersey man has encountered an outrageous policy among police in that state to seize large amounts of cash from out-of-state visitors without any probable cause of a crime. The practice brings a new meaning to “highway robbery.”

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School officials in Florida’s Volusia County School are insisting that a school nurse was perfectly correct in refusing to give a boy his inhaler during an asthma attack because a medical release form was not signed by a parent. By the time the mother arrived at the school, her son was passed out on the floor. She says that the nurse watched as her son, Michael Rudi, 17, collapsed.

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It would be just my luck. I find a nice planet near a warm balmy star and purchase a place as my retirement spot. Next thing I know, all of my real estate is being sucked into space in the ultimate depreciation disaster. That is what scientists caught recently (sans the retiree) when it found the first known case of such a planet vaporized by its nearby star and gradually being sucked away.

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This Romanian television station decided to make its own weather story by creating a sandstorm effect for the local news. The problem was panning too much to the right to catch the producer kicking up the sand.

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Many of us were critical of the Seminole County Sheriff and prosecutors who insisted that citizens could be ticketed for flashing their lights to warn others of a speed trap. Ryan Kintner, 25, can now claim to not only have warned neighbors of a speed trap but to have protected their constitutional rights. Kintner has won his challenge under the first amendment and a court has ruled that the Sheriff and local prosecutors were misconstruing a statute and violating the rights of citizens.

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A marketing pitch sent to prospective students by Rutgers University School of Law at Camden touted a 90 percent employment rate in the legal field for its employed graduates and top private-practice salaries in excess of $130,000 for “many top students.”

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We previously saw how Orthodox Jews in New York prevailed upon the government to get rid of bike lanes in their neighborhoods to protect them from the sight of women on bikes. Now almost 40,000 men gathered in Citi Field to call for an end to the Internet as a danger to their faith. Women of course were not allowed to attend because that would also be an affront. They were allowed to watch . . . you guessed it . . . on the Internet.

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The United States has long been criticized for disregarding the sovereign rights of Pakistan and other countries in launching drone attacks and military operations. Now, Pakistan has responded with a reported lengthy sentencing of the Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who helped track down Osama Bin Laden as guilty of “high treason.”

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It appears that the “Drone people” have decided that they need an extreme makeover to change the image of drones from authoritarian killing machines to something more like a really really smart toaster. Company officials are about to launch a publicity campaign to change the public perceptions of drones after conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said recently that the first person to shoot down a surveillance drone on U.S. soil will be a “folk hero.” It is not clear when this ” How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Drone” will start.

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Somewhere a mother told her son not to go to bed before washing his hands and brushing his teeth.

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The Obama Administration is facing another challenge to the national health care law. With over half of the states opposing the law in the federal courts, including the pending case before the Supreme Court, the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and 41 other Roman Catholic institutions have sued over the requirement that employers cover contraception in workers’ health plans.

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We have been following the outrageously abusive fines being imposed on citizens for downloading and sharing songs — obscenely large fines allowed by Congress under laws written by lobbyists for the music and movie industries. Law firms have been targeting even people who try to inform citizens of their rights. Now, in one of the most abusive cases involving a former Boston university student, the Supreme Court has refused to review a $675,000 fine against Joel Tenenbaum, 28, for downloading and sharing 30 songs. Despite the general condemnation of these actions, Congress is cowed by pressure from the industry lobby. The most abusive litigation is directed by the Recording Industry Association of America.

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NYPD Sergeant Lesly Charles is the center of a controversy this morning after the release of a video showing him in a tirade where he speaks of the giant size of his penis and says that committing crimes is okay with him. He was just upset that someone double parked their car.

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Thomas Parkin, 52, of Brooklyn was sentenced to 13 years and 8 months in prison for a bizarre crime where he dressed up like his dead mother in a red cardigan and lipstick. Breathing through an oxygen tank, he claimed to be Irene Pruskin who died in 2003 at 77. This would seem to take the Oedipus complex to a whole new level.

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