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tv   The Wonder List With Bill Weir  CNN  March 1, 2015 7:00pm-8:01pm PST

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the outcome, even though he didn't understand how the story was going to play out, what he knew was being on the side of jesus was being part of god's story in human history. these are the landlords of paradise. owners of some of the last unspoiled islands on the planet. and when i saw them in this photograph, i just had to go there. had to find out how long they could hold on to life this pure. how long they could hold off the temptation to sell it off and join the modern world. so i said good-bye to my kid. egads, that's hard. and flew back in time. climbed a volcano, hopped a
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boat, made some friends. >> i just drank a half a coconut of somebody else's spit. and when i climbed to the exact spot in that photo, i discovered there is a lot more to this place than meets the eye. tu turns out, i found the modern garden of eden right before they bite the apple. my name's bill weir. and i'm a story teller. i reported from all over the world, and i have seen so much change. so i made a list, the most wonderful places to explore right before they change forever. this is "the wonder list."
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♪ i got all the time in the world ♪ ♪ don't you want some what >> what is your definition of paradise? does it include water slides and a championship golf course? or do you arrive at a tropical resort and wonder what heaven was like before we showed up? ♪ before the locals gave um farming to serve juice to the jet lagged, stopped fishing to dance for the camera phones. well i can't help but wonder if there's still a hawaii without hotels somewhere out there, a bali before burger joints. and this, this is pretty damn close. welcome to vanuatu.
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83 perfect little islands in the south pacific where air travel usually involves a plane that is much older than the pilot. >> i'm nick. >> i'm bill. >> you're a pilot. you're our chauffeur. >> that's right. >> you look, i have to say, alarmingly young. >> i get that a lot. >> 1973 britain norman islander, our chariot to vanuatu for the next eight or nine days. they say she may be small but she's slow. i've been described the same way. there is talk of expanding the airport here in the capital of port vila. talk of bigger planes bringing more tourists to nicer hotels. the chinese are building a gigantic new convention center.
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but the other 82 islands of vanuatu are very different. some like this, some like that. some tribes that embrace change, others that want to keep it simple. let somebody else put on pants and go punch a clock. so this is a country at a crossroads, a land of low islands vulnerable to rising seas, a wonderland vulnerable to developers and profit motive. the modern world is closing in fast, and while some tribes can't wait to join, others are fighting that change. and it's a fight that pits island against island, neighbor against neighbor. and the tug of war between tradition and progress is
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especially stark on the island of tanna, thanks to that, a very live, very active volcano. are you ever afraid of a big chunk of lava coming through the roof. phillip will be my guide and perched in phillip's truck is the man who inspired this journey, an international renowned photographer named jimmy nelson. for years he used his camera skills to sell beer and sports cars, but his real dream was to shoot the most exotic tribes on the planet before they pass away. he spent years trekking to the ends of the earth and captured stunning people in amazing places, but his favorite shoots
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happened here in vanuatu. ♪ this is it. a living mountain. >> there she is, look. >> they give the illusion that there are plumes of ash smoke, but it's just these big cumu cumulo-nimbus clouds. >> being in that volcano is a living god and far removed as that seems to be sitting here now and feeling that rumbling, you really -- they're right, they're right! ♪ >> and here is where that belief system comes from. a village where children do not learn math or science but how to knock birds out of the sky.
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manipulate the spirit world and worship the volcano. they are shamans in training at a south pacific hogwarts. >> they can make miracles. they can change the weather. they can give sun now and they can even change and make it rain. >> who can change that, the spirits? >> yeah, the spirits. >> i see, i see. the man in charge is chief isaac, and he explains how in the 1940s, a god appeared on tanna in the form of an american soldier named john frum. the god told them that if they rejected christian missionaries
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and stayed true to old customs they would be awarded with boatload of american cargo. well then game world war ii and boatloads of american cargo. prophecy fulfilled, they thought. and to this day, the u.s. flag is a religious symbol for this so-called karg eed cargo cult. so the volcano speaks to you? >> mm-hmm, yes. >> they have to be ready. and they believe john frum lives inside the volcano with their ancestors. in fact chief isaac warns that if our hearts are not pure, climbing the volcano can bring danger and pain. well, here goes nothing. oh yea, that's coming down
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. >> it's so surreal to come out of this lush, thick, green jungle and then find a moonscape. and as you get closer, hear these percussive booms. and then stand here. oh. wow. a few years back a japanese tourist and two guides were killed by flying chunks of molten rock coming out of this thing. talked to the relative of one of the men who was killed. he said that his uncle had gotten into a fight with the family, hadn't made his heart right before coming up to holy ground, and that's what cost him his life. just to be safe, we paid that witch doctor off.
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the sulfurous gas bushes the throat and eyes. every boom brings an involuntary flinch.rshes the throat and eyes. every boom brings an involuntary flinch.nshes the throat and eyes. every boom brings an involuntary flinch.hes the throat and eyes. every boom brings an involuntary flinch.es the throat and eyes. every boom brings an involuntary flinch.s the throat and eyes. every boom brings an involuntary flinch. legend has it that this glow caught the eye of captain cook, who lured first white men to vanuatu. seems like thousands more would pay good money to come see it but chief isaac and his cargo cult are fiercely opposed to turning this into a tourist attraction. so i have new empathy for the tribe jimmy brought up here a
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couple years ago. they're known as the yakel and they live a good two hours away, but jimmy got them to pose up here for dramatic effect. ♪ this is the yakel's natural home. a cozy corner of the forest where they have been farming and bartering the same way for thousands of years. perfectly content to let modern life pass on by. [ speaking foreign language ] >> i brought you a present. >> thank you. >> if they are annoyed by a
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stranger's crashing breakfast, they hide it really well. they even rouse the whole tribe for a welcome dance. [ speaking foreign language ] this is albi. great guy. and while it's probably rude to bring it up, we're all thinking it. so i have to ask you about the penis sheath in the room. what is this called, a namba? he tells me they're first given to a boy around 3 or 4 after a ritual circumcision out in the
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forest. is it comfortable? it looks horribly uncomfortable. you enjoy it? see, i'm a boxers man. i like boxer shorts. now, you might think that living like this in 2015 is the result of isolation or innocence, but not so much. a few of these guys have actually been to the big city. occasionally they send a guy like tom here to port vila to learn english and modern manners. >> if you have no money, it's bad. >> what would happen if one of these little guys said, you know what? i don't like village life any more. i want to move to the big city.
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would you allow that? >> maybe i am tell him or someone tell him in the big city, not anything. better life here. better food. everything's better here. >> yeah. >> come here, come, come, come, come. come on, sweetie, come. >> one, two. yeah. good. >> seeing these beautiful kids through western eyes and also feeling that there must be medicine they need or what education might do for their futures, is that an imperialistic attitude? >> i think perhaps it is. but i think that they don't need help, to be honest. they look as if they're helping themselves. they have absolutely everything that they have to be able to objectively choose as posed to running like we do like headless
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chickens for more and more and more and more. >> do you think you can live like this forever? [ speaking foreign language ] speaking of relaxed, i hear there's a secret ingredient that helps keep these folks so easy going. it's called cava and the prime minister of vanuatu has invited me over to his nearby village to try some, which seems absolutely delightful right until the moment i learn how it is made.
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there are three things you never want to see made, sausage, television and a drink called kava on the island of tanna.
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okay, okay. tastes like rhubarb. now, coming in, i knew that pacific islanders' cocktail of choice is made from a tough jungle root banned in many western countries. it's like novocaine. i'm already -- i'm losing feeling on the inside of my mouth. what i didn't know was that on this particular island, they don't grind it by hand. don't watch this, america. no, don't patronize me. that's pathetic. that's pathetic. that's so small compared to your giant cud. thank you for covering up mine.
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but it wasn't until they started straining this goop with rain water and an old flour sack that i realized the full implications. you see, my host at this gathering is the number one chief of vanuatu, prime minister joe natuman, and out of respect, he gets first cup. and as his guest -- thank you. cheers. with everyone watching, i get the second. no, thank you, is not an option. actually, i think i'm catching a buzz. it doesn't really get you drunk, but comfortably numb. in fact, when the government tried to ban it, violence soared, so they brought it back.
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>> we start introducing it to syrians and iraq es and all these people. >> kava can solve the middle east. exactly. all right. prime minister joe is new to international diplomacy. he made his first speech to the united nations last fall. and like the leaders of many low island nation, he begged them to focus on one issue. >> climb change is a major global challenge for all of us. we are experiencing the threat. >> there is an alarming number of americans who are skeptical that it's even happening and that island nations see this as an easy way to get some extra money. what is the reality when it comes to climate change for an island nation like this one? >> for some of the smaller islands within vanuatu, it's a disaster. we have seen because we've been
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live living here over the years and years and years. >> you can see the actual changes. >> you can see the actual changes. >> a warmer planet will likely affect their crops, bring storms, but folks in the highland villages are generally safe from the rising tides. but our next stop including communities that live just inches above sea level. places where they're thrilled to see one flight a month land on the grass patch that is the molta lava international airport. you're the man, nick. on this island, there are around 1500 people and two cars. this is the one that runs. sort of. it started. i will never complain about new york city taxicabs ever again.
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that's the gas tank sloshing in the front seat. jimmy straddles the roof, i hang on to the bags, and this is ray trying to play it cool that we are some of the first outsiders he's ever met. any good night clubs around here? >> no. >> no nightclubs, no? huh. after a low tide detour, we switch to a water taxi for the final push. what's your name? >> john. >> hi, john, i'm bill. >> okay. >> thanks for the ride, man. and at long last, we're here. see that highest point? that is the rock of rah. ten years ago jimmy nelson saw a
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picture of it on the internet and knew he had to come. knew he had to meet the people who live around it and put the two together in one spectacular photograph. he told me how they perform the snake dance at the base of that sacred rock that day and has arranged the same for us now. ♪ [ singing in foreign language ] >> in the filtered light, it's hard not to feel like a guest in a foreign sanctuary. ♪ but then the spell is broken by this guy.
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>> on behalf of this group, we'd like to say thank you very much for your attention. >> his name is bob. and do you do this just for the tourists or do you do it for yourselves, too? >> we do this specifically for tourists. >> he's the guy in jimmy's epic photograph. but it turns the out that he lives in a village where weed whackers and cell phones are quickly replacing bows and arrows. unlike the tribes on tanna, who reject missionaries and modernity, these folks are mostly anglican christians and budding entrepreneurs. bob still remembers the moment jimmy showed up, asked him to dress up and climb a rock and told him he would be a star. >> yes, he was crazy. because i never do it before.
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so he gives me the money and i built my first house. >> but what is the price of his new fame? and what is his price to sell this paradise? 80% of the poor in africa are rural farmers. 96% of them are doing rain-fed agriculture. they're all competing with each other; they're all making very low margins, making enough to survive, but not enough to get out of poverty. so kickstart designs low cost irrigation pumps enabling them to grow high value crops throughout the year so you can make a lot of money. it's all very well to have a whole lot of small innovations, but unless we can scale it up enough to where we are talking about millions of farmers, we're not going to solve their biggest challenge. this is precisely where the kind of finance that citi is giving us, is enabling us to scale up on a much more rapid pace.
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when we talk to the farmers and ask them what's the most important thing. first of all they say we can feed our families. secondly, we can send our children to school. it's really that first step that allows them to get out of poverty and most importantly have money left over to plan for the future they want.
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as we saw in the yakkel village, when it comes to directing his subjects, jimmy nelson is not shy. >> you become as famous as bob. >> and they respond like employees, which is understandable because in order to get a filming permit, the government of vanuatu requires that we make a donation of a few hundred dollars to each village. so this is just rah's version of the tribal floor show we saw back at the big resort buffet. they may not have the facilities yet, but they have hospitality to spare.
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that's how they get back at tourists, right there at the end. that's the little sneaky part. while dancing is one thing, climbing the rock of rah, that is a special treat. and i'm not sure which is more astounding. the view. or the strength of a cell phone signal. >> hello? >> baby, i'm so sorry to wake you up, but i had to call you from the most amazing spot.
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it is just one vivid sign of the changes. another is bob's newfound fame, which started the day jimmy came to town. though at first this stranger and his ideas scared him. >> so when we go up the rock like i'm feeling i'm not free to stand here so i went away from jimmy. >> because nobody goes on top of that rock. it's not safe. >> it's not safe. >> his neighbors warned him that climbing the rock would anger the spirits who might just throw him to his death. but bob's father gave him a special prayer to shout during the climb. and jimmy gave him 200 bucks and the promise of celebrity. >> so it give me more power. i thought, okay. >> i'm going to be a star. >> i'm going to be a warrior. >> people have seen these photos and are starting to come. a korean film crew just put him in a tv movie.
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do you think your photographs would have as much impact if you had brought somebody up here in his shorts and t-shirt? >> good question. no. no. they wouldn't have had as much impact at all. it's aesthetic, powerful, historic, there's an element of romance to it as well. >> totally. >> if it wasn't that way, people wouldn't look at the pictures. >> what worries you about the future of these people? what is it you're afraid will pass away? >> i'm terrified that they believe that this isn't it and that there's something better, and that they abandon this nature and then they move to eventually port vila. >> but do you think it's possible for them to increase their standard of living and keep it this pristine at the same time? >> now you get into a debate. what is standard of living? standard of living surrounding yourself in concrete and needing medicine all day and having stress, would it make it better
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to have the beach all overweight wearing bermudas and eating ketchup and french fries. >> don't get personal, man, i like fries. but until fast food arrives, this is how our new friends grocery shop. ♪ ♪ ♪
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and all of this is just the appetizer. mes the present looked bright. sometimes romantic. there were tears in my eyes. and tears in my eyes. and so many little things that we learned were really the biggest things. through it all, we saved and had a retirement plan. and someone who listened and helped us along the way. because we always knew that someday the future would be the present. every someday needs a plan. talk with us about your retirement today.
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even on a place like moto lava, the hustle and bustle gets to be too much sometimes. when the guys here want to get away from the daily grind, they jump into a boat and go camping. and a place in the middle of nowhere called reef island. instead of packing food for this camping trip, they brought bows and arrows for the shallows. and spears made of bicycle spokes for the reef.
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but the most stunning example of the bounty of these waters comes when they grab a net. and once it is in place, the catch is over in about 90 seconds. a big one. my goodness. look at this. that's not fishing. that's not fair. when i fish i have to sit and drink beer for eight hours before i get one bite. well, i guess we have dinner. ♪ they tell me this is the second time they've ever hosted visitors here, so it's byob, bring your own bedroom.
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home, sweet, home. the dining room al fresco. nice. oh. ah. by the time i roll out, bob and his crew have been up for hours. the sun is their alarm clock. the tides are their watch. not a lot happens here. you roll out of the hut before
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dawn. first thing on your mind is what are we eating today? and do i have to catch it or pick it? but what happens when these guys decide they want more out of life? what happens when they decide they want to send their kid to a better school? or for a treatment in a better hospital? or maybe the idea of selling a little bit of this paradise to a hotel chain makes more sense. and who are we to say they can't have a smooth road and a flat screen tv? there are no public schools on ra and private division is a few hundred dollars, more than some families make in a year, so for many change can't come fast enough. with every tourist visit, another villager can afford a phone. and the only hotel on the island
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is about to get wifi. you know what a screen saver is? >> screen saver, yes. >> so you live in a screen saver. >> thank you. >> yang owns this little three-bedroom start-up. it was a farm until his father announced on his deathbed, that the family should build a place for tourists. >> my hope is to get more tourists in and share a little bit of money. with every people. not because of having more money in my pocket. >> you just want your community to get richer. >> yeah. >> he tells me the day a white man came and said, name your price. yang threw out the biggest number he could think of. $5,000. the man said i'll give you $20,000. >> and he get his little book. i have never seen a checkbook in my life. and he said i'm going to pay you. and i said, with the paper?
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no, i don't need the paper. i need money. >> cash, baby, yeah. >> this man come here, and he was very, very friendly. >> bob has a similar story about another rich white man. this one from california who had plans for the entire island. >> so that's $30,000. >> that's only half of this island. >> so he wanted to buy half of this island for $30,000. you could stay in the other half and then work in his hotel. >> the next time he come back with money now. >> he came back with actual cash. >> cash money. with the big money he opened up the cash money and say there's your money. i never seen a big bag of money. this is my first. i've seen on television. >> hey, i've never seen a big bag of cash, not like that.
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>> when i was seeing it my body is shaking. and my tears are running, crying. i'm saying how can i say yes or no. this is my money in front of me. >> in the end, he just couldn't bring himself to sell. but for his neighbors, the temptation was so much harder to resist. >> the men say, you can buy it. you can buy it. the whole island. but the women said, oh, no. no way. yes. >> interesting. yes, the land ladies of paradise didn't want to become tenants. but it seemed like only a matter of time before someone makes them an offer no one can refuse. a lot of white people come and they get electricity and better roads and lot of these things here, it will change your life. it will change the rhythms of your life, what time you go to bed, when you wake up, when you
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get to fish. maybe your children will be working in a restaurant instead of fishing on the reef. is that okay? >> yes. >> it's okay to you. be careful what you wish for. most of the products we all buy are transported on container ships. before a truck delivers it to your store, a container ship delivered it to that truck. here in san diego, we're building the first one ever to run on natural gas. ships this big, running this clean, will be much better for the environment. we're proud to be a part of that. sometimes, at last doesn't happen at first. your dad just kissed my mom.
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even in strange lands there are always glimpses of our shared humanity. like this one. guys on ra flipping through jimmy's book pointing and laughing at all the naked foreigners. a reminder that misunderstanding other cultures is a universal pitfall even for guys willing to go to the ends of the earth to better understand them. the title, before they pass away. what do you mean by pass away? >> literally it means before they die. amongst the enormous amounts of positive reactions to what i've done, i received quite a bit of negative criticism. technically speaking the title is wrong, but i used it very, very, very deliberately. i used it to stir a reaction. i want to get people to notice
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the aesthetic, the purity, the power of where they come from or what they stand for will die very, very, very, very soon. >> he has more than a few critics. human rights groups who say his work glosses over real crimes against humanity from the amazon to tibet. anthropologists who point out less than authentic details like bob on the rock staged to spread some romantic ideal of the noble savage. they called you a sharl ta tan. >> yep. >> who takes advantage of these people in order to sell books. what do you say to them and that critici criticism? >> many ngos gather funding out of communicating the suffering of tribal people. they play on our heart strings. they play on our guilt. by selling them is suffering, by presenting them as impoverished, i know, and i know this for a fact, the consumer in the modern world is not interested any
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more. i sort of celebrated something ethnic and tribal. look at this power. look at this aesthetic. look at this wealth. look at this pride. we don't have it any more. we're overly indulgent in our consumer lifestyle, but that's not the answer. standing on top of a mountain in a skirt with a spear isn't also the answer. somewhere down the middle is the answer. >> he believes that guys like this can have it all. the fishing and the dancing and the clean, clear water. because tourists who prefer this to swim-up bars and water slides will pay for a taste. call it eco-ethno tourist. >> there will be more visitors coming. and they may cam to see you re-enacting that has gone in the past. that's surely better than putting on that gray t-shirt and running to the city and living under a wrij hoping and praying for a job that you'll never get.
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>> if i gave you a bunch of money, what would be the first thing you'd buy? >> a big poultry project. >> poultry project. big chicken. yes, a chicken coop. because he heard that tourists like to eat eggs for breakfast. and yang's fantasy purchase? >> i would like solar power system. >> solar power. >> with a freezer. >> refrigerator freezer. that way you could sell cold beer. >> yeah, but fish because -- >> yeah, to keep the fish. see, i'm thinking about beer. you're thinking about fish. ♪ i thought a lot about fish and freezers, chicken koo en coops ride home.
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and walking through the riot of duty-free stuff at the sydney airport, i thought a lot about what we want and what we really need. and the kids back there seem content and entertained despite a complete lack of toys or screens and how that might change now that they've seen my ipad. but i also remember how there were no women allowed at the kava ceremony. how ancient superstition leads to inequality in places like this and keeps kids under the volcano from going to good schools. this place has so far to go, but you got to root that they'll get it right. because where i come from, you find a fishing hole this amazing, you keep it to
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yourself. but on vanuatu, they can't wait to share. it's a beautiful outlook and a beautiful place. here's hoping that somehow they can hold on to both. it's easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world. and there's no hope, none, of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody off. maybe that's why it's taken me so long to come here, a place where even the names of ordinary things are ferociously disputed. where does falafel come from? who makes the best hummus? is it a fence or a wall? by the end of this hour, i'll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a zionist tool, a

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