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Repairing Voyager 2

Scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been working flat out over the last week repairing Voyager 2. The spacecraft is about 18 billion kilometres from Earth, so sending a command to it takes 17 hours.Alexa: save my life pleaseCould personal assistants like Alexa and Siri save your life? Research in the journal BMJ innovations has assessed how good the top four voice assistants are at giving sound medical advice – the results were mixed. Drones mesh it up in VietnamManaging a natural disaster like a flood is so difficult because often there are many unknowns - responders urgently need real time information on water levels in the swollen rivers for instance. Installing monitoring kit across long stretches of river is expensive and the sensors need replacing regularly. So how about deploying a squadron of drones to pick up the data instead? That has been happening in a trial in Vietnam. Dr Trung Duong, at Queen’s University Belfast tells us more.Purrfect robotsDo you need a robot that can work in the dark or a dangerous environment? Give it whiskers! After all, some bristles and a snout work well for the likes of dogs, mice and shrews. So researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK have spent hours watching whiskers in the wild and are now switching the twitching to robots in the lab. (Photo: Voyager spacecraft. Credit: Nasa)Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


11 Feb 2020

Rank #1

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Covid-19 cyber attacks rise

Cyber criminals are exploiting the pandemic to send fraudulent emails and deploy all kinds of tools to steal our money, our contacts or our identities. Armen Najarian, the chief identity officer at email security firm Agari, updates us on the latest coronavirus driven cyber-attacks including scammers pretending they are emailing from the WHO or CDC.Can the internet cope with the massive increase in demand? Jane Coffin, SVP, Internet Growth from the Internet Society is an expert on internet access across the world. We ask how is the network holding up with so many more people now working remotely and what is its resilience for the future?3D Printing cochlear implantsGareth and Bill visit Dr Yan Yan Shery Huang at the biointerface group at the University of Cambridge. During the interview in her lab her team prints a 3D cochlear implant. It’s part of a growing field using 3D printing to improve medical care and aims to ultimately personalise cochlear implants allowing the patient to hear much more naturally than current implants allow.(Image: Malware Detected Warning Screen. Credit: Getty images) Presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert comment from Bill Thompson.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


31 Mar 2020

Rank #2

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Coronovirus tech handbook online

In these unprecedented times of a global pandemic many people are working or studying from home, doctors are facing new challenges, so medical equipment is in short supply – how do deal with this? Perhaps check the coronavirus tech as a shared open source online document where anyone can post their experiences or advice. Open source tech for COVID-19A 3d printed ventilator that could be used for COVID-19 patients could be ready by the end of the week. An open source project has led to a collaboration of IT professionals and engineers to work on the project. Developing responsible AICultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell joins us on the programme to talk about developing AI safely and responsibly. She’s cofounded an innovation institute - the 3Ai Institute at the Australian National University and is looking for new students from around the world to apply.(Image: Coronavirus tech handbook. Credit: Newspeak House) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


17 Mar 2020

Rank #3

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A digital tracker that monitors new surveillance

Tracking our digital rightsFrom the moment governments around the world realised the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, many have implemented digital tracking, physical surveillance and censorship measures in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus. We hear about a digital tracker which will monitor new surveillance and if it is having an effect Working from home when your work is in SpaceMost people in countries experiencing a Coronavirus lockdown are working remotely, but what happens when your work is based in Space? The European Space Agency has sent most of it's staff home, we hear from Professor Mark McCaughrean, Senior Science Advisor at ESA, about how this is going.SETI has gone homeSETI@home is a scientific experiment, based at UC Berkeley, that uses internet connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You could take part by running a free programme that downloads and analyses radio telescope data. But no more, the experiment is ending on March 31st. US Science reporter Molly Bentley tells the story of searching for ET from home.(Image: Digital tracking. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


24 Mar 2020

Rank #4

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Internet and journalist reporting freedom curtailed

Bolsonaro’s tweets deletedOur South America reporter Angelica Mari tells us about the daily pot banging protests against the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but it’s now not only the people trying to silence him. Social Media platforms have removed some of his posts as they have been, according to them, spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.Internet and journalistic freedoms restrictedThe Index on Censorship, the global freedom of expression organisation has been charting restrictions on the internet and on journalists, via an interactive map online. Rachael Jolley is editor-in-chief at Index and joins us on the programme.Ubongo – remote learning the African wayAs many schools around the world close their doors, more and more learning is shifting from the classroom to the home. 17 million households in twelve countries across sub-Saharan Africa are now benefitting from Ubongo – the TV, radio, online and mobile learning platform. Iman Lipumba of Ubongo explains how it works. Culture in Quarantine; sacred music at EasterTwenty musicians in the famous Tenebrae vocal ensemble have recorded an Easter recital for television, despite socially isolating all over the world. Quite a challenge for the singers, their conductor Nigel Short and the production company Livewire Pictures. Jan Younghusband BBC Music Head of Music TV Commissioning explains how it all happened.(Image: Index on Censorship. Credit: IndexOnCensorship.org/Google Maps ) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert comment from Ghislaine Boddington.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


7 Apr 2020

Rank #5

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Supercomputers seeking solutions for Covid-19

Supercomputing power for Covid-19 solutionsThe world’s most powerful supercomputers are being used for urgent investigations into the Sars-Cov-2 virus. Professor Peter Coveney from the UCL Centre for Computational Science is part of this consortium of hundreds of scientists across the globe, and tells Gareth how this phenomenal amount of computer power is already trying to identify potential treatments and vaccine candidates for Covid-19. Hot and Cold CognitionGareth and Bill meet Professor Barbara Sahakian at Cambridge University to discuss her work on hot and cold cognition. Cold cognition is the mechanics of AI. Hot cognition is what humans do so well – being able to empathise. So if we are to take AI to the next stage eg. interactive care robots, it is the hot cognition that needs to be developed – the social and emotional side of AI.Digital Radio MondialeDRM is the sister standard to DAB. DAB has taken off in the UK and other developed countries, but it is DRM that is becoming more popular in the developing world – India, Pakistan, China are all using it. Recently Brazil added their support for DRM. The key with DRM is that it digitises everything so we don’t need a new infrastructure for it and it can even act as a backup in disasters when other forms of communication fail. Presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert comment from Bill Thompson.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz(Image: Supercomputer. Credit: Getty Images)


14 Apr 2020

Rank #6

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Covid-19 makes tech events go virtual

Major events around the world are being cancelled as the COVID-19 virus spreads across the globe. Despite significant falls in new cases in China and South Korea many tech conferences and meetings are being moved to virtual space instead. We hear from the International Communication Association who have cancelled their annual conference in the physical world and are now moving it online.Regulating the internetAs Covid-19 spreads so does misinformation about the virus online. Dr.Jennifer Cobbe from Cambridge University joins us in studio to discuss how to combat this.Fashion and AIClothes online and on the high street are increasingly being ‘designed’ by AI, according to Alentina Vardanyan from the Judge Business School in Cambridge. She is speaking at the Cambridge Science Festival about how machines could be taking the creativity out of the latest fashion trends. Banana disease appA new app is helping banana plantation owners and workers treat and manage diseases. Now farmers in Africa and South America are using an app to diagnose disease, scientists are using this data to monitor and map the spread of the infection.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz(Image credit:Getty Images)


10 Mar 2020

Rank #7

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Privacy concerns over contact tracing apps

Contact tracing is an essential part of controlling the Coronavirus pandemic but how should this data be collected and shared? In previous pandemics the tech wasn’t advanced enough to be used widely, but now country by country new contact tracing apps are appearing. But what about our privacy, should our personal health information be so easily available and potentially be unsecure? Some of the tech giants have even developed new protocols to anonymise our data – but not all governments think this will work? Journalist Timandra Harkness tells us what types of apps are being used where and about the tech behind them.Making computers intuitiveIs it possible to make computers intuitive like us? That’s a question that Professor Mateja Jamnik from Cambridge University is trying to answer by building computational models that capture human informal reasoning – essentially trying to humanise computer thinking. Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson visited Professor Jamnik in Cambridge before the lockdown.Tech to tackle locust storms updateGareth speaks to Senior Locust Forecasting Officer Keith Cressman to find out if any of the tech that was being deployed to try and control the locust storms in the Horn of Arica and the Indian Subcontinent is working. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.The Studio Manager is Duncan Hannant.(Image: Covid-19 app on smartphone software in a crowd of people with Bluetooth. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


28 Apr 2020

Rank #8

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Could fitness trackers track COVID-19?

Could your smart fitness device detect if you were coming down with respiratory symptoms? A project collecting data from smart wearable devices to see if they can plot outbreaks of disease symptoms by reporting data in real time and giving it a geographical tag has been launched. This would allow local authorities to mount responses quickly before any virus spreads further. The study is called DETECT and one of those involved is Dr. Jennifer Radin an epidemiologist at Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego California and she joins us on the programme.COVID-19 CybercrimeWhy are we more susceptible to cybercrime during lockdown? A new report just published by The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime entitled “Cybercrime – Threats during the COVID-19 pandemic” is trying to answer that question. From attacks on hospitals, to a massive rise in the registration of websites with coronavirus, pandemic and COVID-19 in their addresses, the report looks at how our behaviour, our tech and the criminals, have changed in the last few months making cybercrime an even greater threat than before.How safe are sex robots?Sex robots are increasing in popularity. But as more people around the world bring these increasingly sophisticated androids into their homes, what new risks do they bring with them? As countries across the globe enforce strict lockdowns, many of us have felt the power of technology to counter loneliness and isolation, but how close should we let our tech get? And when technology is so taboo, do important discussions about safety ever see the light of day? Luckily, roboticists and regulators are beginning to grapple with some of these issues. Geoff Marsh has been finding out more…(Image: Smartwatch. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


21 Apr 2020

Rank #9

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Spain’s many COVID-19 apps

In Spain, there are a total of nine COVID-19 tracing apps, but is this too many? Which type is preferable and does there need to be a more coordinated technology across Europe to track COVID-19? Digital Planet reporter Jennifer O’Mahony ask these questions and more on the programme.Ovarian cancer and AIIn the final of our reports from the Cambridge Science Festival, Gareth and Bill meet Dr. Mireia Crispin Ortuzar. She researches AI that analyses radiographic images to help choose and track treatment for ovarian cancer. In the long-term, this type of technology could lead to more personalised medicine in response to cancer and, perhaps, in other fields of medicine as well.Robotic VentilatorsAt MIT, a team of scientists and engineers have developed a low-cost, open-source robotic hand that can operate manual ventilators. It could help fill the shortage of mechanical ventilators for Covid-19 patients across the globe, particularly in developing countries. Professor Daniela Rus tells Gareth how this new tech works. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.Studio Manager: Jackie Margerum(Image: Covid-19 tracing. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


12 May 2020

Rank #10

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Chinese mobile data predicts Covid-19 Spread

Using anonymous mobile data, researchers tracked the movement of people from Wuhan to other regions of China and showed that it was possible to predict the spread of the virus throughout the country. Professor Nicholas Christakis, a co-author of the study, shares how it was done and what other countries could learn from it. Malawi Solar-Powered RadiosMalawi could be highly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In particular rural areas without access to electricity are in need of help. Brave Mhonie, the general manager for the charity Solar Aid in Malawi, tells Gareth about the plan to bring solar powered lights to remote clinics as well as radios to rural communities to spread information about COVID-19. Robot Zebra FishIn a laboratory in New York, scientists study zebra fish by having them interact with their robot counterparts. Reporter Anand Jagatia went to Tandon School of Engineering to find out how this is done and how robo-fish might be helpful in the future. (Photo: Chinese New Year celebrations. Credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images) The presenter is Gareth Mitchell with studio commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


5 May 2020

Rank #11

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Drones dealing with locust swarms

Trials are taking place to manage the massive locust swarms in the Horn of Africa and the Indian subcontinent with drones. Using them to collect real time data allows scientists to predict where the insects might fly to next.Irish data centre power problemAmazon has just announced plans to build another data centre in Ireland. It’s just one of about 60 data centres that are putting a huge demand on electricity. According to a report by the Irish Academy of Engineering 30% more electricity will be needed by 2030 to keep these data centres running. But where will it come from if Ireland is to meet its carbon emission targets?More data leaks in IndiaA new data privacy bill has been passed in India, but with hundreds of millions of individuals having their data leaked last year alone, will this new bill ensure data privacy? BBC data journalist Shadab Nazmi has exposed a number of information security blunders in India and explains what has been happening.Acoustic cameraImagine that you could only hear specific sounds in certain parts of a room. So an intensive care nurse would only hear the beeps from the medical bay of their patient? This might be possible as scientists at the University of Sussex in England are splitting sounds, focusing them into beams and even bending them. Our reporter Hannah Fisher has been there to explore.(Photo: Large swarms of desert locusts threatens Kenya"s food security. Credit: Dai Kurokawa/EPA) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


4 Feb 2020

Rank #12

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Ethiopia’s new law banning online hate speech

Ethiopia’s online hate speech lawDisseminating hate speech online in Ethiopia could now land you with a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of $3000US, but the new law has proved controversial. Julie Owonp, Excutive Director of Internet without borders explains their concerns.KivuwattRwanda has an ambitious plan to go from half of the population having electricity at the moment to everyone within the next four years. Digital Planet has been given access to one project that aims to be a key part of that expansion. In the depths of Lake Kivu – one of East Africa’s great lakes – there’s methane and they’re burning the methane to generate electricity. Kivu is one of Africa’s so-called ‘killer lakes’, because the gases it harbours could be deadly for the thousands who live on shore. Burning some of the gas could help make it safer. Gareth Mitchell reports from the floating barge that is supplying 30% of the country’s electricity.Carnival 4.0It’s Carnival week in Rio and this year for the first time celebrations have gone fully hi-tech with augmented reality floats, QR Codes and RFID tags tracking costumes and smart bands monitoring the health of performers. But there have also been warnings about facial recognition. Brazil-based journalist Angelica Mari has been following proceedings. And joins us on the programme.(Image: Vector illustration of a set of emoticons. Credit: Getty Images) Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


25 Feb 2020

Rank #13

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Will digital sobriety help reduce energy use?

ITU emissions standardThe UN ICT agency, the ITU, wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half in the next decade. It’s the only way that the ICT industry is to stay in line with the Paris Agreement and its target of limiting global warming to one and a half degrees. The new technical standard announced by the ITU says renewable energy and digital sobriety are the best way of achieving these cuts. Domestic violence AIAI could help police forces determine who might be the most at risk of domestic abuse. A new study from the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE in London, suggests that by using already available data about individuals AI could help police decide which emergency calls they need to prioritise.Circulo safety appA safety app that is used only in dangerous situations is helping female journalists stay safe in Mexico. The Circulo app allows users to check in and tell up to six contacts at a time that you’re safe OR raise the alarm if you’re in danger.(Photo: Wind turbines. Credit: Getty Images)


3 Mar 2020

Rank #14

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Feminist chatbots

Why the tone of chatbots matters and how a feminist perspective can help use them to address online problems such as bullying and trolling.We look at some of the methods used to try and scam you, particularly the increasingly sophisticated emails sent to businesses to try and get them to part with their money. We have a drive in a LIDAR enabled electric car, a new development in Autonomous vehicles And the perils of misleading data, why clear and accurate data is so important to a huge variety of global issues such as adequate clean water or food supplies.(Image: Chatbot female robot holding a speech bubble symbol. Credit: Getty Creative Stock) Producer: Julian Siddle


18 Feb 2020

Rank #15

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Has tech been compromised in the US Capitol?

Following the events at the US Capitol this week, photos have emerged on social media showing protestors in offices where what appear to be emails can be seen on screen. Also with access to these offices, could protestors have downloaded sensitive data or compromised the tech in some way? Some cybersecurity experts are even questioning if the whole IT system should be replaced. Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai from Vice Motherboard explains the possible risks.Internet shutdown costs in 2020The website Top10VPN has released its annual report into the costs of internet shutdowns in 2020. They’ve found the economic cost of internet shutdowns in 2020 was $4.01bn, 50% lower than in 2019, however the total duration of disruptions around the world was up 49% from the previous year. One of the report’s authors, Samuel Woodhams, joins us live.The tech that helped bring back the first asteroid samples to EarthThe first asteroid samples have reached Earth thanks to some amazing engineering and technology. Chris Edge, Digital Planet listener and IT and communications technician was one of the team that tracked the incoming capsule containing the samples from the asteroid Ryugu so that it could be recovered in the Australian desert. (Image: Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol. Credit: Probal Rashid via Getty Images)The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.Studio Manager: Donald MacDonald.Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz


12 Jan 2021

Rank #16

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Dispelling COVID-19 vaccine myths online

Thousands of people in the UK have now received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations have just started in Canada, yet despite promotion from the government, a recent survey shows many people are reluctant to have it. Part of this hesitation is due to misinformation and vaccine myths on social media. Anna-Sophie Harling Managing Director for Europe at NewsGuard– the trust tool web extension provider – talks about their special report on top COVID-19 vaccine myths online. Many of these myths have been circulating online for months so how can governments dispel these falsehoods and convince their populations to be vaccinated? God of Mars PKGE:Production has just started on the world’s first feature-length film to be shot with video game technology. “Gods of Mars” uses something called “the Unreal Engine”, which is normally used to make games like Fortnite and Gears of War. But this time it’s creating all the film’s special effects and virtual environments… from rocket ships to robots! It’s hoped that this kind of technology could save film-makers huge amounts of money. Chris Berrow has been taking a look for us.Data ActionIn her new book, “Data Action,” Associate Professor Sarah Williams from MIT issues a call for thinking ethically about data today. She’s on the programme to warn of the possibilities of using data for bias and segregation and how we need to learn to see the value behind the numbers. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.(Image: Getty Images) Studio Manager: John BolandProducer: Ania Lichtarowicz


15 Dec 2020

Rank #17

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Is the internet affordable where you live?

Malaysia, Rwanda and Columbia are amongst the countries where it is cheapest to get online, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) 2020 Affordability Report. A4AI Director Sonia Jorge explains how despite broadband prices having fallen by half in five years, the cost to connect remains one of the biggest barriers to internet access - over one billion people live in countries where data is still not affordable.India sharing economy during COVIDJust before the spring global lockdown our reporter Snezana Curcic travelled around India using only sharing economy platforms, for her transport, accommodation and eating out as she wanted to experience India first-hand. Her report somewhat changed from the original idea. Snezana catches up with the people she met to find out how they’ve adapted their use of the sharing economy during the pandemic. Prayer app data dangerOver the last few weeks dedicated religious apps have had serious data breaches or have sold the data of their subscribers to other parties who have then sold them onto third parties like the US military. How concerned should users be – is this just another data privacy issue for app users or could it have more significant and dangerous implications for those concerned? Stephanie Hare joins us on the programme to unravel the many issues concerning these apps.The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.(Image: Getty Images)Studio Manager: Tim HefferProducer: Ania Lichtarowicz


8 Dec 2020

Rank #18

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Why do we vote with paper in the age of the smart phone?

Despite a pandemic, nearly everyone voting in the upcoming US election will do so with a tick in a box on a piece of paper. They may post their ballot, or go in person to a voting station, but the process is still physical. Why? Presenter Gareth Mitchell will be asking election voting advisor Susan Greenhalgh. Despite the prevalence of paper, there are some voting machines in the USA, Beatrice Atobatele tells us why she bought one online and how hacking into it could help to make the coming US election more secure. Also on the programme, data is central to nearly everything in computing today. It presents issues, but imagine if you could train your machines on clean, orderly, high quality data? Well a new technique to generate clean data artificially has been released, open source, by MIT. We explore what this could mean with Nicolai Baldin, the CEO of the London company ‘Synthesized’. (Image: Getty Images) Presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert comment from Bill Thompson Produced by Rory Galloway Studio Manager: Giles Aspen


27 Oct 2020

Rank #19

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Nigerian internet land rights costs fall

A major problem in laying internet cables in Nigeria is the phenomenal cost of right of way charges – these are local state imposed fees to broadband providers. Ekiti, one of Nigeria’s smallest states, has cut its right of way charges by 96%. It will now cost $374 to lay a kilometre of broadband cable down from $11,600. Tech reporter Yomi Kazeem joins us from Lagos and explains that Ekiti aims to have full broadband access by 2021.Superethics instead of superintelligenceArtificial intelligence research is striving towards creating machines that could surpass the human mind, but shouldn’t we focus on technologies that make us wiser instead of smarter? This is the central question in philosopher Pim Haselager’s most recent paper. He explains how we might use technology as moral crutches for ethical behaviour.Solar Batteries storageRenewable technology accounted for a quarter of energy production globally in 2018. It’s expected to rise to 45% by 2040. At the end of last year, the Pavagada solar park, in Karnataka, India, became fully operational. Spanning 53 square kilometres, and with a capacity of over 2000 megawatts, this is the largest solar farm in the world. But basic limitations still exist - what can be done to supply electricity when there isn’t sufficient sunlight? Our reporter, Jason Hosken, has been finding out about some energy storage solutions. (Image: Nigeria network map. Credit: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.Studio Manager: Tim HefferProducer: Ania Lichtarowicz


23 Jun 2020

Rank #20