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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly
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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

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Hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood, Make Me Smart With Kai & Molly is now a daily news podcast that breaks down the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the most complex topics of the week. Together, we make sense of today. Because none of us is as smart as all of us.

350 Episodes
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In a typical month, 266,000 new jobs would be amazing. But April (and the 12 months before that) was not a typical month. Economists expected about a million, the labor market’s still in a deep hole and on balance, we expected women to get some of them. On today’s show we’ll take you behind the numbers, plus a little on Elon Musk’s autopilot problem and another round of our favorite game, Half Full/Half Empty. “Tesla says totally self-driving cars likely aren’t happening in 2021” from CNET “Five reasons for a self-driving car slowdown” from Marketplace Tech Plus this thread by Motherboard’s Edward Ongweso Jr. The April jobs report, table A-1 Our Half Full/Half Empty topics: Vaccine IP, Uber and Lyft backing away from self-driving, Twitter’s tip jar and “House of the Dragon” Check out all the thank-you gifts at $5 amonth and keep “Make Me Smart” going strong when you donate today: marketplace.org/givesmart
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, there’s been something of a global chip-demic brewing. And like the pandemic, a semiconductor shortage has knock-on effects you might not expect — like not enough rental cars to go around. How will this affect the pent-up demand for post-vaccination travel this summer? We’ll talk about it. Plus: Berkshire Hathaway gets Y2K’d, the Fed talks about “meme stocks” and condors make a mess. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Rental Companies Buy Up Used Cars as Chip Crisis Get Worse” from Bloomberg “The Chip Shortage Keeps Getting Worse. Why Can’t We Just Make More?” also from Bloomberg “Fed Says Covid Is Major Financial Risk, Asset Prices Vulnerable to ‘Significant Declines’” from The Wall Street Journal “Meme Stocks and Archegos: Fed Calls Out Financial Weak Spots” from The New York Times If you want to read the Fed’s Financial Stability Report yourself, here it is. Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price “Endangered California condors ‘absolutely trash’ woman’s house, won’t leave” from SFGate You can see more photos on Seana Lyn’s Twitter thread Check out all the thank-you gifts at $5 a month and keep “Make Me Smart” going strong when you donate today: marketplace.org/givesmart
We got that question from a listener and today, as Facebook’s own Oversight Board handed down a decision on banning Donald Trump, seemed like the right day to pick it apart. Along with the lexicon of dishonesty, we’ll answer your questions about record-high lumber prices and “green hydrogen.” Here’s everything we talked about today: “Facebook’s Oversight Board upholds ban on Trump. At least for now.” from The Washington Post “How to report responsibly on hacks and disinformation” (PDF) from Stanford University “What part of a new house costs 4 times as much as a year ago? Lumber!” from “Marketplace” “Lumber Prices Soar, But Logs Are Still Dirt Cheap” from Bloomberg “President Biden says green hydrogen is key to a lower emissions future. So, what is it?” from “Marketplace Tech” Check out all the thank-you gifts at $5 a month and keep “Make Me Smart” going strong when you donate today: marketplace.org/givesmart
A baby represents an investment in the future. Looking back at the last 15 months, you could understand why some people may not feel great about having one right now. But the causes and effects of a record-low birthrate stretch much further than the pandemic. On today’s show, Notre Dame economics professor Kasey Buckles will help us put the birthrate in context and unpack the immigration, climate and economic implications. Later in the show, listeners weigh in the death of the mall and the return of cruise ships, plus acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel answers the Make Me Smart Question. Here’s everything we talked about today: “U.S. Population Over Last Decade Grew at Slowest Rate Since 1930s” from The New York Times “Half a million fewer children? The coming COVID baby bust” from the Brookings Institution “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States” from the Migration Policy Institute “World’s population is projected to nearly stop growing by the end of the century” from Pew Research Center “Pfizer’s Covid vaccine revenues hit $3.5bn in first quarter” from the Financial Times “Deutsche Bank NYC Staff to Work From Home Until at Least July” from Bloomberg “Goldman Sachs just told its US staffers they need to be back in the office by June 14 in one of Wall Street’s earliest pushes to get employees back in person” from Insider “How Basecamp blew up” from Platformer Subscribe to Marketplace Tech to hear Molly’s three-part interview with acting FCC Chair Rosenworcel!
Is meat over?

Is meat over?

2021-05-0417:142

The plant-based “meat” industry has been growing for a while — we did an episode about it in 2019. But now tastemaking websites and restaurants are starting to turn away from meat and seafood, and companies who have made their name in meat are embracing alternatives. Is the sun setting on the burger kingdom? We’ll talk about it. Plus: “The Fed” hits the small screen, Trump might be back on Facebook and the Gates marriage comes to an end. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Decision on Donald Trump’s Facebook Ban Is Coming on Wednesday. Here’s How It Will Work.” from the Wall Street Journal “America’s Biggest Meat Company Gives Faux Burgers Another Shot” from Bloomberg “The New Menu at Eleven Madison Park Will Be Meatless” from the New York Times “The Planet on the Plate: Why Epicurious Left Beef Behind” from Epicurious “Director’s cut of Prince blowing minds on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ now has more Prince” from the L.A. Times “Mike Schur-Shea Serrano Comedy Among Shows on Amazon’s IMDb TV Development Slate” from Variety Finally: We need your voice memos! Tell us what you think of the show or ask a question for Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood to answer! Here’s how to do it.
You might not care about the company Basecamp or use its software, but you might care about the dust-up there. Employees are leaving en masse after the company banned “societal and political discussions” in the workplace. Today, we’ll wade into the controversy and try to come out smarter. Plus, another round of our favorite Friday game, Half-Full/Half-Empty. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Google’s Plan for the Future of Work: Privacy Robots and Balloon Walls” from The New York Times “Breaking camp” from The Verge “Basecamp implodes as employees flee company, including senior staff” some follow-up from The Verge “McConnell wants ‘1619 Project’ removed from federal grant programs” from The Hill Listen to the “1619” podcast here Our episode on nuclear power And our Half-Full/Half-Empty topics: meme NFTs, carbon capture, cruise ships, vaccine vacation crunch and the App Store Thanks to everyone who watched and participated in our happy hour livestream! Join us on YouTube each Friday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time/6:30 p.m. Eastern! Subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss it.
Molly calls it fight-or-flight wearing off. Kai calls it rubber-band syndrome. It’s that special kind of burnout where you’ve been working so hard for so long, keeping it all together, that the second you take a breath, you’re instantly knocked on your butt. We know we’re not the only ones feeling that way — CVS is offering in-store therapy now! — and it might get worse before it gets better, so today we’re gonna talk about it. Plus: Amazon’s “oil company money,” Rice Krispies Treats and T-Pain’s DMs. Here’s everything we talked about today: “CVS To Offer In-Store Mental Health Counseling” from NPR This study from the company Hibob “Twitter’s revenue jumps 28 percent in its first post-Trump quarter” from The New York Times “Facebook revenue rises 48%, driven by higher-priced ads” from CNBC “Amazon’s Profit Run Continues, Bolstered by Sustained Demand” from The Wall Street Journal “Biden’s Economic Plan Would Redistribute Trillions and Expand Government” also from The Wall Street Journal “Rice Krispies Treats Remixed: Pro Tips and Recipes” from — get this — The Wall Street Journal “T-Pain Revealed That He’s Accidentally Been Ignoring Some Celebs For Over Two Years In A Hilarious TikTok” from BuzzFeed Join us on YouTube Friday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time/6:30 p.m. Eastern for our live happy hour episode! Subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss it.
Homeland Security extended the real ID deadline this week, and one listener asked why this kind of identification is even a thing. Molly and Kai discuss. Plus: Will companies start requiring their employees to get vaccinations? And explainers about the financial press’ interest in company earnings and what the “Overton window” has to do with reparations. What we talked about today: The latest pandemic fault line: bills to ban employers from requiring vaccination from Marketplace California’s massive UC and Cal State systems plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations this fall, from The Los Angeles Times The Real ID Act Raises Privacy issues, from NPR How an Obscure Conservative Theory Became the Trump Era’s Go-to Nerd Phrase from Politico
For more than a year we’ve been ensconced in our homes, but that doesn’t mean we have a lot of privacy. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has entrenched the yearslong erosion of our privacy, according to Harvard professor emeritus Shoshana Zuboff. Powerful tech companies were already doing big business with our data. Now they’re providing the tools essential for school, work, even getting the vaccine. But Zuboff says there’s a reason to hopeful: Living online has sharply increased public concern about data privacy and lawmakers’ appetite for regulating big tech. Here’s what we talked about today: “The year we gave up on privacy” from Recode “Everything you need to know about vaccine passports” also from Recode “Pharmacies score customer data in vaccine effort. Some are crying foul.” from Politico “Biden seeks $80 billion to boost IRS enforcement” from CNN “Google Promised Its Contact Tracing App Was Completely Private—But It Wasn’t” from The Markup
Twitter is full of conversation starters. Most of them are bad, but today we hit on a thread that really did make us think. It’s all about the why, if not the how, of banning cryptocurrency for the sake of the environment. On today’s show, we’ll pick it apart a bit. Plus: Facebook vs. Apple and Apple vs. podcasters. Oh, and some vaccine news to start us off. Here’s everything we talked about on the show today: “U.S. to Share AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine Doses With World” from The Wall Street Journal “U.S. Population Over Last Decade Grew at Slowest Rate Since 1930s” from The New York Times “How Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s CEO Became Foes” from The New York Times This thread from @JoshuaACNewman and this one from @AlexandraErin. “Someone deciphered the Ted Lasso shortbread recipe from Apple’s Spring Loaded event” from The Verge “Russian man ‘trapped’ on Chinese reality TV show finally voted out” from The Straits Times
Look at a well-heeled publication like the Financial Times today and you’ll see that investors are in “uproar” about President Joe Biden’s proposed capital gains tax hike on the superrich. Today we kindly — eh, maybe not-so-kindly — ask everyone to pump the brakes a bit. Plus: vaccine nationalism, D.C. statehood and much more on this jam-packed happy hour episode. Here’s everything we talked about today: “U.S. defends restrictions on export of COVID-19 vaccine raw materials amid India’s request to lift ban” from the Hindu “Some mass vaccination sites in U.S. close as demand begins to fall.” from The New York Times “CDC, FDA lift pause on using J&J’s coronavirus vaccine, add safety warning” from CNN “JPMorgan apologises for backing breakaway football Super League” from the Financial Times “Investors in uproar over Biden’s proposed capital gains tax rise” from the Financial Times The topics we covered in Half Full/Half Empty: tax credits for vaccine time off, D.C. statehood, Overtime Sports, U.S. gas emissions and LeVar Burton hosting “Jeopardy!” Finally, here’s a link to join the fan-run Make Me Smart Discord server Thanks to everyone who joined us on YouTube today! We’re live each Friday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time/6:30 p.m. Eastern for happy hour! Subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss it.
Climate change is an existential risk to so much life on on this planet, but sometimes the bottom-line risks are more compelling to the people making the decisions. We hate to be so mercenary about this, but let’s talk about it. Plus, a reminder that the pandemic isn’t over, why you don’t humanize robots and the politicking around infrastructure and the debt. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Climate Change Could Cut World Economy by $23 Trillion in 2050, Insurance Giant Warns” from The New York Times This thread about the Montana electric vehicle bill “States introduce legislation to more than double EV registration fees” from the Associated Press “Rising Trend of Punitive Fees on Electric Vehicles Won’t Dent State Highway Funding Shortfalls but Will Hurt Consumers” (PDF) from Consumer Reports “India sets a global record for daily infections” from The New York Times “GOP Senators Release Outline of $568 Billion Infrastructure Plan” from The Wall Street Journal “Mars helicopter Ingenuity flies higher and longer on Red Planet in 2nd flight” from Space Finally, photos of Greta Thunberg looking disappointed at world leaders. Happy Earth Day! Join us on YouTube Friday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time/6:30 p.m. Eastern for our live happy hour episode! Subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss it.
One of our listeners noticed that the Coinstar machine at her local grocery store is dealing in bitcoins now, and she’s wondering how that works. We’ll talk about the how and the why of bitcoin ATMs on this Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday. Plus, more listener questions and comments about the restaurant business, cicadas and good ol’ fashioned stocks. Here’s everything we talked about today: “As Diners Return, Restaurants Face a New Hurdle: Finding Workers” from The New York Times “A labor shortage is forcing chains like Subway and Dunkin’ to cut hours, close dining rooms, and push employees to work harder than ever” from Insider “Bitcoin ATMs are coming to a gas station near you” from Reuters “What Happens to the Stock of a Company That Goes Bankrupt?” from Investopedia “What Happens To My Stock When The Company Gets Acquired?” from Benzinga
For nearly a decade, the Black Lives Matter movement has called attention to the everyday injustices Black Americans endure, helping to build understanding around issues from systemic racism in the criminal justice system to the racial wealth gap. Now Congress is starting to act. Today on “Make Me Smart,” we spoke with William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, co-authors of the book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” about the federal government might amends for the harm inflicted on generations of Black citizens by discriminatory public policies. Darity and Mullen walked us through the history and laid out the central characteristics they believe a reparations plan should address. Here are links to everything we talked about today: “Black Reparations and the Racial Wealth Gap” from Brookings “House Panel Advances Bill to Study Reparations in Historic Vote” from The New York Times “Evanston approves housing grants as part of city’s local reparations program, believed to be first of its kind in the nation” from the Chicago Tribune “Goldman Reveals Black Workforce Numbers for the First Time” from Bloomberg “Dogecoin at $50 Billion Makes It Bigger Than Ford and Kraft” from Bloomberg “What’s new with Percy the Mars rover?” from The Washington Post “Americans overwhelmingly say marijuana should be legal for recreational or medical use” from Pew Research Center “Dozen Megadonors Gave $3.4 Billion, One in Every 13 Dollars, Since 2009” from The New York Times
The city of Oakland, California, announced a guaranteed income pilot program back in March, and now Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing a similar plan in Los Angeles to combat poverty and aid the economic recovery. The idea of providing people living in poverty some level of basic income has been around for decades. If adopted, Los Angeles would be the biggest U.S. city to try out the policy. Plus, California is buying hotels to house the homeless, and NASA flew a helicopter on Mars! Here’s everything we talked about today: “Apple will reinstate Parler” from CNBC “$1,000 A Month, No Strings Attached: Garcetti Proposes A Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot In Los Angeles” from LAist “Oakland City Officials Announce Guaranteed Income Pilot Program” from NBC Bay Area “One Way to Get People Off the Streets: Buy Hotels” from The New York Times “After fully vaccinating a majority of its population, Israel no longer requires people to wear masks outdoors” from Business Insider “NASA’s Mars Helicopter Completes First Flight on Another Planet” from The New York Times “Meet Bearsun, the real-life teddy bear on a journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco” from CNN Join us on YouTube Friday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time/6:30 p.m. Eastern for our live happy hour episode! Subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss it.
The White House is walking back its plan to keep the cap on refugees at the historic low set by the Trump administration. President Joe Biden had previously indicated he wanted to raise the limit from 15,000 to several times that, and after much backlash his press secretary now says a final number will be announced next month. On today’s show, we’ll talk about that policy and the administration’s first big stumble. Plus: Kai Ryssdal’s piping hot take on the boba shortage and another round of Half Full/Half Empty. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Biden administration may keep refugee cap at Trump’s level, though it says final number will come next month” from The Washington Post “Another Unlikely Pandemic Shortage: Boba Tea” from The New York Times “NASA selects SpaceX as its sole provider for a lunar lander” from Ars Technica “Is shopping by livestream the next chapter of e-commerce?” from “Marketplace” “California ‘Zoom town’ grapples with influx of remote workers” from “Marketplace” “What drives corporations to sign — or not sign — a letter opposing voting restrictions?” from “Marketplace” “March retail sales soar 9.8% thanks to relief payments” from Marketplace.org “Dogecoin spikes 400% in a week, stoking fears of a cryptocurrency bubble” from CNBC Three things supported by our departing media designer Ben Tolliday: Sabri Ben-Achour’s ceramics, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles. We’ll miss you Ben! Thanks to everyone who joined us live on YouTube! Join us every Friday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific/6:30 p.m. Eastern for happy hour! Subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you don’t miss it.
The system is broken

The system is broken

2021-04-1623:012

When you do the numbers on how many people police killed in nonviolent incidents just last year — to say nothing of the video and testimony coming out of multiple American cities this week alone — you can’t come to any other conclusion. This is a broken system. Also on the docket today, with guest host Marielle Segarra: A third vaccine, dating in the pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service and the “denim cycle.” Here’s everything we talked about on the show today: Read Marielle’s work for Marketplace here “U.S. Economy Ramps Up on Spending Surge, Hiring Gains” from The Wall Street Journal “PepsiCo bets on vaccine-led reopenings for soda sales boost” from Reuters “Over half of police-involved killings in 2020 began after non-violent incidents ” from Axios “Pfizer CEO says third Covid vaccine dose likely needed within 12 months” from CNBC “Stanford begins testing Pfizer vaccine in babies and young children” from Mercury News “‘A win-win-win proposal’: Banking and booze could save the U.S. Postal Service, experts say” from NBC News “Banking at the post office? Service would help millions of ‘unbanked’ Americans” from the Chicago Tribune opinion section
As a follow-up to yesterday’s show about cryptocurrencies, one of our listeners wants to know if Coinbase, which went public today, is really a reliable way to buy and sell bitcoin and other blockchain-backed assets. We’ll try and answer without thinking too hard about the money Molly might have lost when another exchange got hacked. Plus, your questions about vaccine appointment bots, the fallout from the mess in the Suez Canal and Kai pulls back the curtain a bit on “Marketplace.” Here’s everything we talked about today: Revisit some old Marketplace reporting on Mt. Gox “Meet the vaccine appointment bots, and their foes” from the Associated Press “Egypt impounds Ever Given ship over $900 million Suez Canal compensation bill” from CNN “Ever Given Customers Face New Payments to Get Shipments Moving” from The Wall Street Journal Finally: We need your voice memos! Tell us what you think of the show or ask a question for Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood to answer! Here’s how to do it.
We talk to Gil Luria, the director of research at D.A. Davidson, about who wins and who loses in the mainstreaming of Bitcoin. Plus: Gil answers your questions about Bitcoin mining and the related math problems that are hard to get our heads around. Here’s everything we talked about today: Molly’s interview with Gil: “Don’t look now, but Bitcoin is going mainstream,” from “Marketplace Tech” The 2013 article referencing Gil’s first note about Bitcoin: “Bitcoin Could Be Worth 10-100x Current Price – Analyst,” from StreetInsider.com “SPAC Boom Faces New SEC Threat With Accounting Crackdown” from Bloomberg “Darius, ‘World’s Longest Rabbit,’ Is Missing” from The New York Times
We’re going to get the latest year-over-year inflation data early tomorrow morning. It will, in all likelihood, be followed by some misleading headlines — remember what was happening a year ago? Today, we’ll tell you what to keep an eye on. Plus: Kai and Molly talk about Alibaba, fire season, Mars and rhinos to round out this catch-up, grab-bag episode. Here’s what we talked about today: “Ant Group Announces Overhaul as China Tightens Its Grip” from The New York Times “Jack Ma’s Ant Group Bows to Beijing With Company Overhaul” from The Wall Street Journal “‘This has never happened’: California’s only wildfire research center makes scary discovery” from SF Gate “As Biden works to fix chips shortage, Intel promises help for hurting automakers” from Reuters “Nepal’s Rhino Population Grows, Likely Boosted by Covid-19 Closures” from The Wall Street Journal “NASA’s Mars helicopter gets ready to make history” from National Geographic Finally: We need your voice memos! Tell us what you think of the show or ask a question for Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood to answer! Here’s how to do it.
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Comments (29)

ID21274754

Avenue Q! Thanks Molly!

May 8th
Reply

Laura F

Molly, you haven't listened to Throughline. July 15, 2020 episode

Jan 20th
Reply

Hasan Farahani

I most of the days listen to your fantastic podcast not because I care about the news, but because listening to the intro is the best thing can happen in a day.

Dec 15th
Reply

Andrea Bennett

can you talk about the vaccine on your Wednesday show? specifically are we going to need the cord vaccine every year? is it a one and done vaccine like the polio vaccine? thank you! love your show!

Dec 15th
Reply

Solomon Mars

oh my gosh Vampires vs. the Bronx has the same plot idea as a comic that was proposed by artist Ronald Wimberly a back in 2017! aww maaan

Oct 13th
Reply

Eric Everitt

wow Kai.. way to stick up for the milllions of men that single handly raise their kids, without mother's involved. Sexism to the max.

Sep 16th
Reply

Victor Lopez

I used to drink in a bar where the frosted mugs were so cold it would turn your beer to ice. Not the whole thing, but enough to ruin it. No cold glass!

Jul 11th
Reply (1)

Chris Horton

Wow!! This episode was mind blowing! Really made me think. The guest has a narrative that a lot of people should listen to.

Jul 1st
Reply

No Face

Will this show ever be about tech & the economy again? I'll unsub and check back after Christmas.

Jun 17th
Reply

Solomon Mars

episode error. it won't download.

May 27th
Reply

Megan Taylor

The source is bad

May 27th
Reply

Nellie Fly

He makes it so hard for me to keep being a fan.

May 12th
Reply

Nellie Fly

Aliens more believable then the Donald

Apr 29th
Reply

Phil Ouellette

OMG! Cruise bookings are up? Cannot believe it. So love the topics you explore

Apr 3rd
Reply

Amy Nelson

Kai and Molly, you made.me smile!

Mar 21st
Reply

Vernon Shoemaker

The glib "capitalism" impresses ideologically but the principle that seems to come through is "self-interest.". Nothing wrong with that if you recognize your self-interest. Is it short term personal gain through manipulation and exploitation of the system or is it commitment in consideration that all our attachments are existentially temporary (We can define our insecurity by our attachments.)? The current form goes like this:. When innovation and growth are desired, there is a competitive market created which exhausts itself in a bubble and the conservative hangover results in a stable cooperative form, monopolistic capitalism (The bubble is the divergence of systematic value and what it's supposed to represent.). Capitalistic principles are consistent but apply differently.

Feb 16th
Reply

Vernon Shoemaker

I listened to the interview twice dissatisfied. Is it possible to be subject to disinformation about disinformation? Am I wrong or "neurotic" to be suspicious of people who complicate beyond recognition until I acquiesce in the hope of deferred clarity? Is that what "agreeable" people do? "The Wisdom of Crowds" implies a faith that guides both democracy and markets. It's not absolute but it's regulation is for the purpose of setting ground rules and correcting clear abuses. Disinformation is signified by a Russian ad but this remains vague. Is this really the bellwether it's made out to be?

Jan 17th
Reply

Mark Matthieu

it's 2019 and they've never made a profit and lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter alone this year.

May 25th
Reply

Roger Fredrickson

Ah what a stupid idea.

Feb 23rd
Reply

Cat Blossom

😂 Oh my gosh...Africa! Was wrong about the same thing!

Feb 23rd
Reply
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