Below the featured items is a random selection of His Highness the Aga Khan's speeches & interviews.

Featured Item  »»  FULL EVENT VIDEO: Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre, Toronto, Opening Ceremonies

On Friday, September 12, 2014, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, in the presence of the Aga Khan, performed the the Opening Ceremonies of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Like the Aga Khan’s address to the Canadian Parliament, we are sure this event will also go down as one of the signature events of this Imamat.

For the tens of thousands Ismailis in North America, and around the world, who were unable to watch the event live, it is our great pleasure to be able to bring you the full video of the 3 hour 20 minute webcast — unedited, from start to finish — together with a time index schedule to let you jump directly to any segment of interest.

Words cannot capture the dignity, the soul stirring, awe inspiring grandeur and majesty of the ceremonies, nor the stately presence of the buildings, and so we will not attempt to offer any. It was a proud moment not only to be an Ismaili, but to just be a member of the human race moved beyond words, witnessing an inspired vision, executed with flawless precision in every aspect, come to life.

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Schedule (click on the time to play that segment)

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NOTE: The time links below do not work for Vimeo, but the times are the same.

00:00:00  Introduction for the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre
00:04:45  Video about the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum
00:10:30  Live performance from the Museum and guest arrivals at the Ismaili Centre
00:23:00  The Aga Khan and his party arrive at the Ismaili Centre
00:26:03  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at the Ismaili Centre
00:29:40  The Aga Khan, his family and Prime Minister Harper enter the hall
00:30:48  Canadian National Anthem
00:33:04  Recitation from the Qur’an (2:255) followed by translations
00:38:25  The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, delivers his address; TEXT
00:46:37  His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his address; TEXT
01:07:47  Commemorative plaque unveiling for the Ismaili Centre
01:08:37  Conclusion of the the Opening Ceremony; Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and his party depart for a private tour of the Centre
01:12:49  The tour party enters the jamatkhana prayer hall
01:17:23  Observing the live choir and photographic tour of the Ismaili Centre’s interior
01:23:50  Video about the other Ismaili Centres
01:35:37  Photographic tour of the Ismaili Centre’s interior continues over live choir
01:39:02  Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Salwa on the Ismaili Centre terrace
01:41:28  Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn on the terrace; Press photo shoot
01:47:41  The tour party leaves the Ismaili Centre for the Aga Khan Museum, via the Aga Khan Park
01:51:17  The tour party arrives at the Aga Khan Museum for the ribbon cutting ceremony
01:54:17  The tour party makes its way to the auditorium to live music in the courtyard
01:56:53  The tour party enters the auditorium for the Opening Ceremony; Canadian National Anthem
02:00:58  Introduction for the Opening Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum
02:01:48  Recitation from the Qur’an (4:174-175) followed by translations
02:06:47  Prince Amyn delivers his address; TEXT
02:23:46  The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, delivers her speech; text not yet available
02:32:44  Commemorative plaque unveiling for the Aga Khan Museum
02:33:35  Conclusion of the the Opening Ceremony; Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and his party depart for a private tour of the Museum to music in the courtyard
02:35:53  The tour party enters the Bellerive Room
02:41:25  The tour party enters and tours the Museum’s exhibition halls, proper
03:18:43  Memories from an historic day

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Featured Item  »»  Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

It is not so often that we have an opportunity of this sort — to come together in a beautiful setting, in a wonderful spirit of friendship, and to dedicate such a splendid architectural accomplishment….

When I mentioned that our planning for this complex began 18 years ago, some of you probably wondered how people sustained their enthusiasm through such a long process. Yes 18 years! My response is to say that throughout these 18 years, we have been inspired by a great sense of common purpose, as we have sought to create places and spaces of true enlightenment. And, in doing so, we have also been strengthened by a pronounced spirit of friendship. And what a joy it is to celebrate that spirit, at a time when so much of the world’s attention is focused on climates of belligerence.

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Societal): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan’s passion for parks and gardens

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto series in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the societal aspect and the park.

The park is the latest of some two dozen parks and gardens created, or committed to, by His Highness the Aga Khan and illustrated on the graphic. Click on the image, or here, to view it in full size or download as a wall-paper for your computer.

In an interview with Philip Jodidio, the park’s designer, Lebanese architect Vladimir Djurovic, said the Aga Khan has a “passion for gardens which is intoxicating” and that he feels the Aga Khan “is happiest when he is working and discussing the gardens.” Why is this? Why are parks and gardens such a point of focus and happiness for the Aga Khan?

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Intellectual): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the intellectual aspect and the Aga Khan Museum.

Click on the graphic or here to view the timeline. When opened, the Aga Khan Museum will be a unique museum on the North American continent, and indeed the Western world. To help better understand why, we bring you “His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto.”

Click here to read:
His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum

Image credits (pursuant to 2012 Canadian Statute, Bill C-11, Section 29.21):
Fumihiko Maki and Maki Associates via The Aga Khan Museum, Jodidio, 2008

Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Spiritual): The vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to launch The Road to Toronto. Each week we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution, starting this week with the spiritual and the Ismaili Centre.

When opened, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto will be the sixth such Centre (click on the image, or here, to view the graphic), with more planned for Houston, Los Angeles and Paris. To help better understand the Ismaili Centres, we present “His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres.”

Click here to read:
His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres

Image credits (pursuant to 2012 Canadian Statute, Bill C-11, Section 29.21):
London: WikiPedia; Burnaby: Mohib Ebrahim; Lisbon:; Dubai: Muslim Harji via; Dushanbe: FNDA Architecture Inc. via; Toronto: Imara Wynford Drive via

The Road to Toronto Credits:
Concept & Research by: Azeem Maherali
Design & Published by: NanoWisdoms Archive

2005 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

Many countries, nations at widely diverse stages of economic and social development, are expressing grave doubts about the effectiveness of their systems of education to develop the intellectual and moral talent they need to function in the modern world — and to engage all levels of their societies.

This vital work in education must be highly sensitive to local conditions, gain the confidence of parents and children and communities and draw upon the best research into brain development, nutrition, and learning theory. But it must also grasp the role and the importance of local values, for educational change is also a deeply moral enterprise. It will only flourish as part of a revitalisation of our societies.

A great risk to the modernisation of the Islamic world is identity loss — the blind assumption that we should give up all our essential values and cultural expressions to those of other civilisations.

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The (Manchester) Guardian Weekly Interview, Akbar Ahmed, ‘The quiet revolutionary’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Those who wish to introduce the concept that you can only practise your faith as it was practised hundreds of years ago are introducing a time dimension which is not part of our faith today. It is a very delicate issue, whether it is in science, in medicine, in economics.

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Sunday Telegraph Interview, Brough Scott (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

I think the racing public like continuity (he said on Thursday, reflecting on a recent award as the most influential owner of the last 50 years) they like to follow a set of colours like mine, to watch the sons and daughters of horses they remember. Being the breeder, planning the matings, is fascinating. But unless you just want to treat it as a hole in the ground, you have to run the finances. I am absolutely unbending in the need to take tough decisions.

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Conversations In Integration: ‘Effective Pluralism requires Concerted Efforts’ published on (Canada)

It has never been easy for people to live together. Wiping away superficial misunderstandings will not by itself allow a spontaneous spirit of accommodation to blossom. To do so will require concerted, deliberate efforts to build social institutions and cultural habits which take account of difference, which see diversity as an opportunity rather than a burden. We can begin by looking at the structures of public governance.

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BBC Two NewsNight Interview (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

I think the notion of time is different. I think in my case, I’m working in an institution whose time context is different from that of a politician…. You start with an idea and then you let it grow…. I think at the moment there is a tendency to want to see political change occurring in the developing world very rapidly. And I think this notion of consultation and democracy is all excellent, but I simply don’t believe that Western forms of democracy are necessarily replicable throughout the developing world I know. And indeed I would go so far as to say at the moment one of our risks is to see democracy fail…. I think you have to be patient, careful, analytical, thoughtful, prudent and build step by step. I don’t think it can be done like mixing a glass of Nescafe.

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Aga Khan Hospital Expansion, Second Phase Launch (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Through linkages between the Schools of Medicine and Nursing of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the Aga Khan University, and the Aga Khan teaching hospital in Nairobi, we are building here in Dar-es Salaam a regional hub of quality medical and nursing services. This hospital will be part of what amounts to a regional teaching hospital network….

Post Graduate Medical Education programmes are already in place between here and the Aga Khan teaching hospital in Nairobi. The family medicine post graduate programme has been placed at this hospital, in part because of the important links to our five up-country community health clinics. Other post-graduate medical programmes will be established here in future. These programmes will be opened to physicians from our own and other hospitals to gain greater regional synergies. The hospital already has a partnership with the Muhimbili College of Health Sciences at the University of Dar es Salaam. Rotations for specialising physicians help them gain valuable clinical experience.

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Reception and luncheon hosted by Aga Khan University (Calgary, Canada) ·· incomplete

If you look at what has happened in the past decades in the developing world, there are a number of lessons you can draw. And I think one of them is the volatility of development. To stabilise development in most of these fragile parts of the world, one of the fundamental principles is to develop strong institutions.

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Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications Foundation Stone Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

Let me mention just five of the most important ways in which the School, we hope, will be truly distinctive….

In the first place, the School will work on the newest frontiers of media technology, with state-of-the-art equipment and innovative pedagogies … This does not mean that we will ignore old skills and values. Our core concern must always be the ability of our students to think critically and creatively, to pursue the truth ethically and responsibly, and to articulate ideas clearly and vividly….

The second distinctive emphasis of our School will be its sharp focus on the singular challenges facing media in the developing world. This will mean exploring local and regional realities in all of their complexity….

A third special element of the School will be one of the first programmes in this region in the field of Media Management. In my view, the quality of media depends not only on those who produce the content — writers and artists and editors — it also depends on those who manage media enterprises and on the proprietors who own them….

A fourth distinctive dimension of the Graduate School of Media and Communications will be interdisciplinary study. The new School will work closely with other faculties of the Aga Khan University so that media students can deepen their knowledge in fields such as health, economics, political science, religion, and environmental studies….

Fifth and finally, we like to say that our School will be demand-driven which means that it will be flexible, evolving with the changing needs of both our students and their eventual employers.

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India Today Interview (2nd), Sandeep Unnithan, ‘What keeps him on course with reviving cultural heritage in developing world’ (Delhi, India)

I think what drives our network is to enable people to manage their destinies. Once they manage their destinies, you will see, generally speaking, a take-off situation. It’s when they cannot manage their destinies and cannot achieve a level of economic independence that they are indebted in a terrible way or are subject to climate change because they are in agriculture or because they are high-risk and they have an earthquake — these are situations which we try to assist. We are not interested in philanthropy in a Western terminology as I would call it, because philanthropy or what they call it, charity, is not our notion of development. Our notion of development is to assist people to go from a notion of an unsatisfactory position of development to an autonomous position. That to us is what is important. Once they are autonomous, our role is finished. They can manage their destiny….

I think about what I used to read about India, China — you remember, the word most used by the Western media was “basket-case” (laughs). I think over and muse over the stupidity of that word, and how silly it looks today, in relation to India and China. I wonder where the basket is nowadays, probably it is moving to other places.

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Acceptance Address – Granada de Oro (Granada, Spain)

Granada is truly exceptional; its history is steeped in influences from several major world cultures, each of which is richly represented in the city’s splendid assemblage of historic buildings and public spaces. As someone with a life-long interest in architecture, it is thrilling to move through this city, its monumental buildings, and its historic neighbourhoods. As a Muslim I am moved by the respect and care devoted to the Islamic heritage by the authorities. At the same time, Granada is clearly also a bustling modern city. Managing this combination is a great challenge, one which you and your colleagues are to be congratulated on meeting so admirably.

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Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Summit (Toronto, Canada)

[The Aga Khan Development Network's] experience has been considerable. But what have we learned from it? Let me share a quick overview.

First, I would underline that our approaches have to be long-term. Sporadic interventions produce sporadic results, and each new burst of attention and activity must then start over again. The key to sustained progress is the creation of sustainable systems.

Second, our approaches should be community-oriented. Outside assistance is vital, but sustainable success will depend on a strong sense of local “ownership”.

The third point I would make is that our approaches should support the broad spectrum of health care. Focusing too narrowly on high-impact primary care has not worked well — improved secondary and tertiary care is also absolutely essential.

Our approaches should encourage new financial models. Donor funding will be critical, but we cannot sustain programmes that depend on continuing bursts of outside money….

Our approaches should also focus on reaching those who are hardest to reach. And here, new telecommunications technologies can make an enormous impact….

Our approaches should be comprehensive, working across the broad spectrum of social development. The problems we face have multiple causes, and single-minded, “vertical” interventions often fall short. The challenges are multi-sectoral, and they will require the effective coordination of multiple inputs. Creative collaboration must be our watchword. This is one reason for the growing importance of public-private partnerships.

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State visit to Canada (Ottawa, Canada)

Expressing his gratitude to the Canadian Government for what he termed “an outstanding partnership,” the Aga Khan observed that the programmes on which the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the AKDN had worked together in Africa and South Asia could now be extended further in Central Asia. “The capacity that we have been able to build together and our joint experience,” said the Aga Khan, “can help minimise the fragility of the start-up situation in Afghanistan.”

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Seventh Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain)

Collectively the seventy-six projects selected for premiation over the last twenty years share a celebration of the humanity of inspired architecture, and confirm the potential of its social purposes. They are also distinguished by the pluralism of the cultures of the Islamic world in which they are rooted, a pluralism that all Master Juries have both honoured and trusted. This richness of cultural expression is even more fully documented in the materials collected on the hundreds of projects considered but not selected in each cycle of the Award. But what are the prospects for the pluralism of cultures in the Islamic world, their richness of expression, and their contributions to world culture as one looks ahead over the next twenty to forty years? On the basis of my extensive travels as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims or in connection with the activities of the Aga Khan Development Network, I feel there are grounds for serious concern….

The loss of our inheritance of cultural pluralism … will impoverish our societies now and into the future. Sustaining this inheritance will require conscious and concerted effort involving the best minds and most creative institutions around the world…. It will also necessitate that the cultures of the developing world establish a presence on the rapidly growing information superhighway to balance those that currently dominate the new electronic media. This will require an investment of time and resources and a mastery of regional and international languages. Unless these cultures develop creditable and creative ways to present themselves effectively in this new and powerful medium of communication, cultural pluralism will suffer a massive setback.

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Oleg Grabar Interview (Boston, USA) ·· incomplete

[Mimar Magazine] too elite a voice and a publication for the expression of the concerns of history, tradition and identity raised by the [Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. It quite simply did not reach enough people because it was too expensive.

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Riad Naguib El-Rais Interview, ‘The Critical Time’ (Al Mustaqbal, Cairo, Egypt)

God has favoured me with the blessing of Islam. I think that many religions find it difficult to adapt to or to live in an evolving world. Not so with a Muslim who believes in the omnipresence of God. In Islam, there is no dichotomy between the spiritual and the temporal. I have endeavoured all my life to live and work in accordance with this integrated philosophy. I think that many of us, Muslims who were educated in the West or have been imbued with Western ideas, forget that there are certain Christian traditions which go back to the teachings of Saint Augustine and which sharply separate the religious from the secular. These are not the traditions of Islam. Quite the contrary, Islam forbids the separation between the way you deal with people in society and that in which you discharge your religious duties. The meanings of life, its aims and ethics are part and parcel of the integrated unity of the Muslim environment in which I believe and through which I work.

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Acceptance Address – Tutzing Evangelical Academy’s ‘Tolerance’ Award (Tutzing, Germany + [USA])

There is a human impulse it seems — fed by fear — to define “identity” in negative terms. We often determine “who we are” by determining who we are against. This fragmenting impulse not only separates peoples from one another, it also subdivides communities and then it subdivides the subdivisions…. But the human inclination to divisiveness is accompanied, I deeply believe, by a profound human impulse to bridge divisions. And often the more secure we are in our own identities, the more effective we can be in reaching out to others.

If our animosities are born out of fear, then confident generosity is born out of hope. One of the central lessons I have learned after a half century of working in the developing world is that the replacement of fear by hope is probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress. Even in the poorest and most isolated communities, we have found that decades, if not centuries, of angry conflict can be turned around by giving people reasons to work together toward a better future — in other words, by giving them reasons to hope. And when hope takes root, then a new level of tolerance is possible, though it may have been unknown for years, and years, and years.

Tolerance which grows out of hope is more than a negative virtue, more than a convenient way to ease sectarian tensions or foster social stability, more than a sense of forbearance when the views of others clash with our own. Instead, seen not as a pallid religious compromise but as a sacred religious imperative, tolerance can become a powerful, positive force, one which allows all of us to expand our horizons and enrich our lives.

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Brown University Commencement Ceremony (Providence, USA)

From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilisations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought….

Little of what was discovered and written by Muslim thinkers during the classical period is taught in any educational institutions. And when it is, due credit is not given. This gap in global knowledge of the history of thought, and the faith, of a billion people is illustrated in innumerable ways, including in such diverse worlds as that of communication and of architecture. Our cultural absence in the general knowledge of the Western world, partially explains why your media sees Islamic world and its thought as an ideological or political determinant in predominantly Muslim cultures, and refers to mere individuals affiliated with terrorist organisations as Muslim first and only then by their national origin or ideological or political goals.

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Paris Match Interview (4th), Caroline Pigozzi, ‘The Confessions Of The Aga Khan’ (Paris, France)

[Translation] I confess that I am obsessed with time and each day I remind myself that my rare free moments must be devoted to preparing for the future. After all, life is fragile. God calls us whenever He sees fit. If I had to take stock of my life, my feeling would be that I have structured the Ismaili Imamat, for which I was given responsibility nearly 50 years ago, in such a way as to provide it with the institutional means to work for the good of Ismaili communities and the countries in which we are involved. However, there is still a great deal to do and in order to be both effective and reactive I try always to acquire new knowledge in all sorts of areas.

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Associated Press Interview on the ‘Aga Khan Express’ (Sultanabad, Pakistan) ·· incomplete

INCOMPLETE: We regret that from this interview, only limited portions made public by the reporter are available below. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have the complete transcript would kindly share it with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

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The East African Interview, Peter Mwaura, ‘How East Africans can build one common destiny for and by themselves, step by intelligent step’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

[W]e are looking at quality of life indicators — indicators that are not the same as those of the World Bank, indicators we have tried to develop through our own experience. We are looking at things like security, longevity, disposable income, access to education and employment. We are looking at what really affects people’s attitudes to their own understanding of quality of life. We did discover that communities around the world don’t have the same value systems. They will interpret their own qualities of life very differently from one part of the country to the other….

Imams around the world have businesses, not just the Shia Ismaili Imam. We do not see a conflict and indeed if we lived in an attitude of conflict, I don’t believe we would be living within the ethics of Islam. Islam doesn’t say that a proper practice of the faith means you have to ignore the world. What it says is: Bring to the world the ethics of your faith. If you have wealth, use it properly. But the actual ownership of wealth is not in any way criticisable unless you have acquired it through improper means or you are using it for improper purposes. It is seen as a blessing of God. So this whole notion of conflict between faith and world is totally in contradiction to the ethics of Islam….

Creating energy can be a source of environmental damage. The question is what is the most cost-effective way of creating this energy with minimum damage. I believe the partners in Bujagali have gone through massive environmental analysis and come to the conclusion that this is one of the least environmentally damaging initiatives in East Africa, because it impacts a very, very small area of land and a small percentage of the population, who were all relocated in good conditions. I have seen situations where energy has been produced by windmills, by solar batteries and the damage that they have done to the environment is simply incredible. Because these types of energy creation don’t work everywhere. And when they don’t work, they get written off in three years but nobody pulls them down. So they stay there and they are awful. We still don’t really know a great deal about the technology of these new energy sources.

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