VOICE CONTROL: COMING SOON TO HOUSE NEAR YOU

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[Technology★★]Voice Control: Coming Soon to a House Near You

[T020b] Voice Control_1_pic

(P1) It’s not unusual to find yourself talking to an uncooperative appliance or gadget. Soon, though, it could be more common for those devices to actually pay attention.

(P2) A startup called Wit.ai plans to make it easy for hardware makers and software developers to add custom voice controls to everything from smartphones and smart watches to Internet-connected thermostats and drones.

(P3) While big companies like Apple and Google have their own voice recognition technology, smaller companies and independent developers don’t have the deep pockets required to create voice software that continuously learns from mountains of data.

(P4) Wit.ai, based in Palo Alto, California, is taking aim at the swiftly growing number of devices with small displays, or no screen at all, and at activities like driving and cooking, where you may want the aid of technology but don’t want to look at or touch a display.

(P5) And to give all kinds of developers access to a simple-to-use, always-learning natural-language service, the company is offering it free to those who agree to share their user data with the Wit.ai community. Collecting this data should help improve the accuracy of the system over time. (P6) “Everyone will benefit from that,” cofounder and CEO Alex Lebrun says.

(P7) Lebrun has been thinking about how to make something like Wit.ai work for a while. He previously founded and led VirtuOz, a company that spent months building Siri-like voice-controlled software for clients like eBay and AT&T (bought by the speech recognition company Nuance in late 2012, these days it goes by the name Nina Web).

(P8) With Wit.ai, developers type a handful of plain-English commands they want it to recognize, such as “Wake me up tomorrow at 6” or “Wake me up in 20 minutes,” and note what they want to accomplish through each command — in this case, set the alarm on a hypothetical voice-controlled smart watch. Wit.ai uses what it knows about language to figure out the different ways a command might be expressed. Then, when a user wants to set the alarm for a specific time, that person’s utterances are sent to a Wit.ai server, which analyzes the audio and sends structured data back to the gadget —here, the instruction to set the alarm for the proper date and time. A demo on the company’s site gives an idea of how this can work. Already, about 4,600 developers are using Wit.ai with things like mobile apps, robots, home automation, and wearable devices.

(P9) Nick Mostowich, a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, is one of them. At a hackathon last month at his school, Mostowich and his team used Wit.ai to add voice control to a toaster and microwave. Mostowich says they quickly put together a set of commands and targets that could be mapped to a list of recipes on a remote server, so a user could say something like “Cook me some bacon” and the microwave would turn itself on, set to the right power level and time.

(P10) Voice-powered bacon-nuking aside, there are still plenty of obstacles for Wit.ai to overcome. Like many similar systems that rely on the cloud, such as Siri, it’s not as quick to respond as it could be, and it can’t work if you don’t have an Internet connection. And while Lebrun says Wit.ai can also be used to varying extents in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Swedish, it’s still far better in English.

(P11) Lebrun believes that as more data is added to the system, the non-English languages will improve. And he hopes to enable developers to use Wit.ai online to build and train voice interactions and then download it so it can be used on, say, a smartphone, without needing an Internet connection. Instead, it could just occasionally check in with Wit.ai’s servers to update its learning.

WORDS: 645

SOURCE: HTTP://MASHABLE.COM/2014/10/27/STARTUP-VOICE-RECOGNITION/

VOCAB (TESTING-KR ONLY): [T020B] VOICE CONTROL_VOCAB

TO PRINT (TESTING-KR ONLY): [T020B] VOICE CONTROL

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Explain the technology that Wit.ai is developing (P2). Why is it useful for other smaller companies and independent developers (P3)?
  3. Who is Alex Lebrun? Describe his background and how it relates to his current company (P6 & 7).
  4. What do you think of current voice-control technology? Have you used it at all? If voice-control can allow machines to understand human perfectly in any language, what kind of products do you want to make (or have)?

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TRUTH ABOUT ONLINE HARASSMENT

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[Technology★]This Study Reveals An Interesting Truth About How Men And Women Are Harassed Online

[T20b] Online Harrassment_1_pic2

(P1) The Pew Research Center on Wednesday released a study about online harassment. According to the study, which asked 2,849 people about different forms of online harassment, 73% of respondents said they’ve seen someone else being harassed, whereas 40% of people say they experienced it for themselves.

(P2) The study breaks up the harassment into two categories: less-severe harassment, such as name-calling and embarrassment. The other type of harassment is more severe: stalking, sexual harassment, and being the target of personal threats.

[T20b] Online Harrassment_1_pic

(P3) Overall, men are actually more likely than women to experience some type of online harassment — 44% vs. 37%. Men experience name-calling and are more likely to be targets of physical threats, according to the study. Women, however, are more likely to experience much harsher types of harassment, such as sexual harassment and stalking.

(P4) But it gets worse for women. According to the study, “Women were more likely than men to find their most recent experience with online harassment extremely or very upsetting — 38% of harassed women said so of their most recent experience, compared with 17% of harassed men.”

(P5) And, according to the study, young women, ages 18-24, are the most likely to experience “severe” harassment, with 26% saying they have been stalked online, 25% saying they were targets of online sexual harassment, and 23% saying they were physically threatened.

(P6) Online harassment has been in the spotlight recently — particularly in the gaming community, in light of the GamerGate controversy. The Pew study says 16% of respondents were harassed in an online gaming community, and in terms of gender, 44% of respondents said gaming sites are more welcoming toward men.

(P7) The study was conducted in June, however, which is before the GamerGate controversy began.

WORDS: 283

SOURCE HTTP://WWW.BUSINESSINSIDER.COM/PEW-STUDY-ON-ONLINE-HARASSMENT-2014-10

VOCAB (TESTING-KR ONLY): [T20B] ONLINE HARRASSMENT_VOCAB

TO PRINT (TESTING-KR ONLY): [T20B] ONLINE HARRASSMENT

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Describe different kinds of online harassment men and women experience (P3&4). How many (in percentages) are experiencing “severe” harassment and why?
  3. Why has been online harassment been in the spotlight recently? (You can do your own research but the information is included in the pdf as well)
  4. Has online harassment or trolling ever been brought up as a social issue in your country? Have you experienced online harassment? What do you think about GamerGate Controversy? Share your perspective with the tutor!

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THIS IRANIAN POP STAR HAS A POINT

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[Life★★]This Iranian Pop Star Has a Point

[L020b] Iranian Pop Star_1_pic

(P1) After fleeing Iran as a child, the singer known as Arghavan is out to unmuzzle her countrywomen. So what if it’s risky?

(P2) On May 10 in Stockholm, Sweden, Arghavan, 31, smiled as she posted a YouTube video on Facebook. In the four-minute clip, “Happy in Tehran,” six young Iranian men and women—one of them a close friend of hers—camped it up, dancing on rooftops and lip-synching to Pharrell Williamsmegahit. Arghavan, an aspiring Iranian pop star who’d left the country at age three, sent her friend an email and captioned her post “JUST LOVE IT!!”

(P3) Nine days later the dancers were detained. Why? Because in Iran women are effectively not allowed to sing or perform in public, one of the many freedoms severely limited after the 1979 revolution (which prompted Arghavan’s family to flee the country). Arghavan tried everything to reach her friend, but no luck. Says the singer, “I was up the whole night worrying.”

(P4) The shutdown of the “Happy” dancers (who were convicted of producing a vulgar video and given suspended sentences) hit home for Arghavan. In 2010 she’d won a coveted spot on the TV show Googoosh Music Academy, a wildly popular American Idol-style competition filmed in London and accessible only illegally in Iran. (It’s named for the country’s biggest pop singer, who has lived in exile since 2000.) Each week that Arghavan advanced in the competition, she found herself flooded with emails from female fans. It wasn’t just her choreography or costumes—”though they did like my hats,” she jokes—it was that Arghavan was an Iranian girl belting her heart out in front of a massive crowd, an impossible feat for a woman actually living in Iran. “They wrote, ‘I wish I could sing on a stage like you.’ They were telling me their stories,” she explains. “They were asking me for help.” (P5) Arghavan decided to use her newfound fame to give voice to her silenced sisters, who, like her, “can’t breathe without music.” Recently she headed back to Iran for the first time in 15 years, risking imprisonment to convince women artists to share their plight in a documentary; she also wrote a book Zan (“woman” in Farsi), published this summer in Swedish. “It wasn’t easy to find women who dared to speak, but these girls are very brave,” she says. Since then she’s been lecturing constantly, including becoming an ambassador for the Swedish National Committee for U.N. Women and giving a TEDx talk this month, trying to rally outrage at women’s oppression not just in Iran but around the world. “This kind of activism is very important,” says Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights lawyer in Iran. “All these performances, albums, books, and films get sent to Iran through YouTube, and everyone ends up seeing them. So effectively the government fails in its aims at censorship.” To Julia Wiklander, founder of the advocacy network Girls’ Globe, “Arghavan is a true activist and one of the most passionate individuals I’ve met. She takes substantial risks to get the word out. She won’t give up.”

(P6) Arghavan welcomes the support. “We have to stand together and shout, ‘No, you cannot stop us from singing,'” she says. “‘We want change, and we have the guts to make it happen.'”

(P7) HER WORDS TO LIVE BY: I know how it feels to have big dreams and be told, ‘You can’t, you can’t.’ Don’t wait for someone else to believe in you. You have to believe in yourself first.”

WORDS: 583

SOURCE HTTP://WWW.GLAMOUR.COM/INSPIRED/2014/10/IRANIAN-POP-STAR-ARGHAVAN-FIGHTS-FOR-WOMENS-RIGHTS

VOCAB (testing-KR only): [L020B] IRANIAN POP STAR_VOCAB

TO PRINT (testing-kr only): [L020B] IRANIAN POP STAR

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Describe what happened to “Happy in Tehran”. Why were they given suspended sentences (P2&3)?
  3. What kinds of emails was Arghavan getting from Iranian women when she was on Googoosh Music Academy? Why would they write such messages (P4)?
  4. How is Arghavan giving voice to her silenced sisters (P5)?
  5. How is female musicians (and dancers) viewed in your culture? Has it ever has a history of oppression in the past?

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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ‘GOOD ON PAPER’ AND ‘GOOD FOR YOU’

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[Life★] The Difference Between “Good on Paper” and “Good For You”

[L020b] Good on Paper_1_pic

(P1) If you’re on Match.com or any other online dating site like my friend J, you’ve likely already learned this lesson: Men who look good on paper don’t always look good in your life. “He’s attractive, got a good job, loves dogs—but something’s just missing,” J usually laments to me after each date.

(P2) I have another friend whose male BFF is also paper-perfect: He’s wickedly smart, funny, compassionate and giving. He’s got a great job that pays well. He even likes cats, and she’s a #catlady. She’s known him for eight years, and I can tell you that while he’d date her in a hot-minute, she’d never give him a second romantic glance. Something’s just missing, she’d say.

(P3) Call it chemistry or magic, but there’s something you just can’t manufacture no matter how paper-perfect someone appears.

(P4) Sometimes, we women wish we could force ourselves to fall for the good-on-paper guy, especially those of us whose hearts go pitter-patter for bad-boy types. (Beware: Bad boys who’ve falsified their romantic resumes so that they appear good on paper.) But alas, if he’s not “good for you,” it doesn’t matter how hard we try.

(P5) So what does “good for you” really mean? A “good for you” guy makes you laugh, deep in your belly. He shares your values. He makes your toes curl in pleasure. A “good for you” guy takes your breath away without even trying. He is considerate of your feelings. He turns you on in a turn of phrase. In other words, a “good for you” guy is everything you can’t possibly see on paper.

(P6) That doesn’t mean a “good for you” guy can’t also be good on paper—of course he can! I just mean that there’s no way to tell from a piece of paper if a guy will end up being good for you, no matter how impressive his credentials.

(P7) Have you ever tried to date a “good on paper” guy and it didn’t work out? Was the “good for you” guy you dated also good on paper, or not so much?

WORDS: 345

SOURCE HTTP://WWW.GLAMOUR.COM/SEX-LOVE-LIFE/BLOGS/SMITTEN/2014/10/THE-DIFFERENCE-BETWEEN-GOOD-ON

VOCAB (testing-kr only): [L020B] GOOD ON PAPER_VOCAB

TO PRINT (testing-kr only): [L020B] GOOD ON PAPER

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. What does the author mean by “men who look good on paper don’t always look good in your life” (P1)?
  3. What kind of guys (or girls) do you fall for? Describe their looks, character, or any other traits you seek in your SO (significant other).
  4. Have you ever tried to date a “good on paper” guy and it didn’t work out? Was the “good for you” guy you dated also good on paper, or not so much?

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SOCIAL (MONEY) ETIQUETTE

Deciding when and how to spend your money is a big deal, so it’s a good idea to think carefully about these decisions. What do you think of people going over their budgets just to fit in with the crowd?


[Thoughts★★]Social (Money) Etiquette: Don’t Let Fun With Friends Tank Your Finances

[H020b] Finance Friends Fun_1_pic

(P1) Just three weeks after graduating from college in 2011, Erin Lowry finally had the chance to do what she’d been fantasizing about for years.

(P2) She packed up her life in the small college town of St. Bonaventure, N.Y., and relocated to the big city—quickly landing a gig as a page for “The Late Show With David Letterman.”

(P3) Unfortunately, her dream job didn’t quite come with a dream salary. So to make ends meet, she supplemented her income with side gigs—working 25 hours a week as a barista at Starbucks and babysitting for multiple families on nights and weekends.

(P4) In an effort to stretch her limited income—and avoid draining her nest egg—Lowry also focused on living frugally, following a strict budget and taking home Starbucks leftovers at night.

(P5) Lowry’s carefully constructed game plan was going well. That is, until she agreed to attend a friend’s birthday dinner. As is often the case with big group gatherings, partygoers wanted to split the check evenly—and Lowry hadn’t budgeted for the expense.

(P6) “I was living quite hand-to-mouth, so I would scout menus at a restaurant, find the cheapest item I could get away with ordering, and abstain from any drinking,” Lowry says. “At that birthday dinner, people declared that we owed $50 each, but I’d only had a $10 appetizer.”

(P7) Lowry was faced with a conundrum: Engage in an awkward “I can’t afford it” conversation in the middle of her friend’s joyous celebration, or cough up the cash in order to save face.

(P8) Fortunately for Lowry, a friend’s boyfriend asked people to contribute their fair share instead, but the damage was done. “After that, I started to avoid birthday dinners unless I knew a majority of the people in attendance or that I’d only be on the hook for my meal and a portion of the celebrant’s dinner,” she says.

(P9) If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, you’re not alone.

(P10) It turns out that many people (78% of Millennials, to be exact) feel the pressure to keep their spending in line with their friends’, according to a 2013 study from the American Institute of CPAs and the Ad Council—even if it’s at the expense of their own financial well-being.

(P11) In fact, a 2013 CouponCabin survey found that nearly 10% of those polled actually went into debt just to attend someone else’s wedding!

(P12) Translation: Americans seem to be getting a bit too comfortable with the idea of going into debt simply to avoid social awkwardness and keep up appearances.

(P13) It’s a trend that, as in Lowry’s case, has the potential to torpedo even the most airtight of budgets, but there are ways to approach such predicaments with grace and aplomb—and help prevent your social calendar from plundering your hard-earned cash.

WORDS: 641

SOURCE: HTTP://WWW.LEARNVEST.COM/2014/10/HOW-TO-STOP-OVERSPENDING-FROM-PEER-PRESSURE/

VOCAB (testing-kr only): [H020B] FINANCE FRIENDS FUN_VOCAB

TO PRINT (testing-kr only): [H020B] FINANCE FRIENDS FUN

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Explain the situation Lowry was in (P1, 2, 3, 4). How was her financial situation? (try to use the expressions highlighted in the text)
  3. What conundrum was Lowry in P7?
  4. Do you also feel the pressure to keep your spending in line with your friends (P10)? What do you think Lowry should do in her situation?

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CAN YOU DESIGN HAPPINESS?

When you’re feeling unhappy, you might also begin to feel helpless to change your situation. Read on to learn how one woman tries to tackle those problems. Can you think of moments when you could use a good strategy to combat unhappiness?


[Thoughts★★] Can You Design Happiness?

[H020a] Design Happiness_1_pic

(P1) Could there be a design solution to unhappiness? Silvia Neretti, an Italian designer who just graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, explores the relationship between psychology and design in her master’s thesis, the Unhappiness Repairer. This pop-up therapy stand, not unlike Lucy’s psychiatrist’s booth in Peanuts, injects “happiness into everyday life,” according to Neretti.

(P2) This, she writes of the project on her website, is accomplished “through the analysis and the modification of the interactions between people, situations, and communication in a specific unhappy context, by sabotaging the symbolic objects in it…”

(P3) Unhappiness, she argues, is the result of a specific context (though as far as empirical psychology goes, she doesn’t provide any studies to back up that assertion). She becomes unhappy when her father bogarts the couch, splaying across it and not engaging her in conversation. As a design intervention, she creates cardboard subdivisions for the sofa–much like these park benches designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them–and suddenly, the video shows her and her father chatting happily.

(P4) In another case, she helps a woman, lonely and recently separated from her husband, think about her unhappiness spatially. Neretti maps the woman’s home, and using basic cardboard boxes, she covers the house in whimsical new creations–cardboard shelves, a cardboard desk to work at, cardboard decorations to replace tired paintings–all designed to get the f to think about her home in a new way, and eventually, move on.

(P5) Designers can never replace therapists and mental health professionals, and it’s likely that getting your distant father to talk to you isn’t quite as easy as making his favorite relaxation spot really uncomfortable. But having a third party help us rethink the roots of our unhappiness? Never a bad thing.

WORDS: 292

SOURCE: HTTP://WWW.FASTCODESIGN.COM/3037398/CAN-YOU-DESIGN-HAPPINESS

VOCAB (testing-kr only): [H020A] DESIGN HAPPINESS_2_VOCAB

TO PRINT (testing-kr only): [H020A] DESIGN HAPPINESS

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Describe Silvia’s thesis project. What artifact did she make and what message is she trying to get across with the project (P1)?
  3. “Through the analysis and the modification of the interactions between people, situations, and communication in a specific unhappy context, by sabotaging the symbolic objects in it…” Can you think of symbolic objects that creates unhappy context in your life? (Silvia gives an example of the couch in P3)
  4. Do you think design can help making a happier life? If so what would you design for yourself? If not, why you don’t believe so?

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WHY PEOPLE AREN’T BUYING LOTTERY TICKETS

It’s more than just the lottery companies who care about lottery sales. State governments rely on that revenue and, to keep customers engaged, they’re trying to making lottery exciting again!


[Business ★★]Why People Aren’t Buying Lottery Tickets

141027_EM_Lottery

(P1) Lottery sales have gone flat in several states, but not necessarily as a result of gamblers waking up to the fact that the house always wins.

(P2) Are people who had been accustomed to dropping a few bucks here and there on state lottery games experiencing “jackpot fatigue”? It sure looks that way, according to Stephen Martino, director of the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, who at a recent meeting noted an astonishing 41% dropoff in Powerball sales in the state last month, compared with September 2013. Paraphrasing Martino, the Baltimore Sun reported that “players may be becoming numb to soaring prize numbers,” and so they’re not buying lottery tickets at the blazing pace set in the past.

(P3) Maryland is not the only state where lottery sales are falling, flat, or just not measuring up to the projections offered by local gaming commissions. Sales of core lottery games declined in Ohio during the first half of 2014, for instance, while lottery sales in Kentucky are failing to measure up to what was drawn up in the state budget last spring. Meanwhile, once-torrid lottery sales have plateaued in Missouri, with profits for the fiscal 2014 year that are $21 million lower than the year prior. One expert told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the falloff in lottery sales in Missouri (and elsewhere) comes partly as a result of players getting bored with the games:

(P4) “It follows a life cycle like any product,” said Thomas Garrett, a University of Mississippi economist who studies lotteries. “You get this increase in sales. It peaks. People get used to it, and then you get this slowdown.”

(P5) In light of this concept, it makes sense that money spent at newer, up-and-coming video lottery terminals in states such as Ohio is rising, while traditional lottery games like instant tickets and Pick 3 and Pick 4 are on the decline. To boost sales and attract a new generation of lottery players, states are spending more on advertising and rolling out games that are sold in new ways (lottery ticket sales at gas station pumps and ATMs) and that are sold with themes favored by locals (college football teams, “Duck Dynasty”).

(P6) In addition to simple fatigue and a lack of excitement for the same old games, lottery sales have also been hurt by the spread of casinos, according to some research. This past summer, the Washington Post noted that lottery sales in Maryland had increased for 16 years in a row before casinos came to the state. And the recent opening of another casino in Maryland seems to have played some role in the September slump of Powerball tickets. “Those two industries [lottery and casinos] tend to be substitutes for each other,” one economist hired by Maryland to conduct a study on lottery sales explained to the Post.

(P7) At the same time, gambling industry supporters point out that while lottery sales in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania initially declined or went flat after casinos opened in the states, the drop was only a blip—and that sales are strong once again. The debate about how casinos impact lottery sales is raging in Massachusetts, where a Repeal the Casino campaign argues, among other things, “If the lottery takes the minimum expected hit of 10 percent from the introduction of casinos and slots, state lottery transferred as state aid to towns and cities will be reduced by about $90 million.” Casino supporters, on the other hand, say that such projections are based on outdated and flawed data, and that any effect of casinos on lottery sales is temporary.

WORDS: 605

SOURCE: HTTP://TIME.COM/MONEY/3541514/LOTTERY-SALES-DECLINE-CASINOS/

VOCAB (testing-kr only): [B020B] LOTTERY_2_VOCAB

TO PRINT(testing kr-only): [B020B] LOTTERY

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Explain what is a “jackpot fatigue” in P2. What is happening with the lottery sales in Maryland (P2&3), Ohio, Kentucky, and Missouri (P2)?
  3. Describe some of the new trends in lotteries these days (P5)?
  4. Why are some states concerned about how casino impact lottery sales (P6)? Does the government in your country also control sales of lottery?

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