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Prince William and Kate Middleton engagement

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2010 file photo, Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton leave the wedding of their friends Harry Mead and Rosie Bradford in the village of Northleach, England. According to an announcement from Clarence House in London, Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010, the couple are engaged, and will be married in 2011.(AP Photo/Chris Ison, pa , file) UNITED KINGDOM OUT: NO SALES: NO ARCHIVE
FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2010 file photo, Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton leave the wedding of their friends Harry Mead and Rosie Bradford in the village of Northleach, England. According to an announcement from Clarence House in London, Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010, the couple are engaged, and will be married in 2011.(AP Photo/Chris Ison, pa , file) UNITED KINGDOM OUT: NO SALES: NO ARCHIVE (Chris Ison - AP)
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Leslie Shepherd
Royal Watcher
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 12:00 PM

Prince William is to marry his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton next year in London, Britain's royal family announced Tuesday.

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Royal watcher Leslie Shepherd was online Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the engagement, announced by Prince Charles from his office at Clarence House and on Twitter.

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Leslie Shepherd: Welcome royal watchers to an hour of speculation about next year's royal wedding between Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, and his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton.

Where will it take place? Westminster Abbey, where his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and his great-grandmother were married? Or St. Paul's Cathedral, where the "fairytale" marriage of his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana took place in 1981?

What kind of rock did she get? Who will design her dress? Who will make the guest list? Will Princess Kate be the new people's princess? How does she get along with her future in-laws? How can we order souvenir dishcloths? And will they live happily ever after?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Thanks for joining me today to discuss today's announcement that William and Kate have become engaged after eight years of dating (minus a split of a few weeks in 2007). I look forward to your comments and questions.

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Tampa, Fla.: With all of the protocol that is involved in a royal engagement and wedding, I am guessing that a lot of things about both events have been in the works for a LONG time prior to the offical engagement announcement. I wouldn't be surprised if a wedding date and even some wedding plans have already been made, but just not made public, both for privacy and security reasons. Would this be a safe assumption to make?

Leslie Shepherd: Oh yes. Senior royals will have had to clear their calendars for one thing. There were reports in October that the Royal Mint was preparing a commemorative coin to mark the wedding. Someone will have made sure that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, will be in town, that sort of thing.

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Fairfax, Va.: So which church will the ceremony be at, Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral?

Leslie Shepherd: The London bookies say Aug. 13 is the likely date and Westminister Abbey the likely location. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were married there in 1947 (she was Princess Elizabeth at the time). And her parents, the Duke of York (later King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, later still the Queen Mother) were married there in 1923. But the abbey holds sad memories for William, because that's where his mother's funeral was held in 1997.

So will it be St. Paul's, where Charles and Di were married in 1981. Or Windsor Castle? A much smaller venue but security would be easier.

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D.C.: So...any guesses what the engagement ring will look like?

Leslie Shepherd: Just heard he gave her Diana's engagement ring. What a touching tribute to the mother he lost when he was only 15. Remember that big blue sapphire and diamond ring?

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Owings, Md.: Good afternoon:

Congratulations to William and Kate. It is ironic that mother's name is the same as Kate's. Where will the couple reside and what occupation does Kate hold?

Thank you.

Leslie Shepherd: Well, Kate doesn't really have an occupation other than being William's girlfriend (now fiancee), which is how she earned the nickname Waity Katy. She does some work for her parents' mail order party company. She currently lives with them, although she spends time with William near the Royal Air Force base in Wales where he serves. After their marriage, that's where they'll live.

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The Prince: is starting to look more and more like his father.

Leslie Shepherd: It's the receding hairline ....

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Arlington, Va.: I remember getting up at God knows what hour in July 1981 to watch The Wedding of the Century. I was getting married a few weeks later, so I was glad to see a fantasy version of my own (much smaller) wedding. So, who is going to design Kate's dress, and do you see her being the fashion icon that Diana was?

Leslie Shepherd: Who indeed will design the dress that will be copied overnight and rushed into stores? Kate is said to favour British designer Daniella Issa Helayel. But remember how Diana surprised us all by choosing little-known designer David and Elizabeth Emanuel who came up with that enormous fru-fru gown. I think she'll definitely become a huge fashion trendsetter. She's already got natural style and taste. She's tall and willowy. She'll have access to advice from the top British fashion magazines and designers. And, like Diana, she'll be the most photographed woman in the world.

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Fairfax, Va.: I hear Miss Middleton being referred to as "a commoner." What does this mean in the scheme of things regarding British royalty?

Leslie Shepherd: She wasn't born into a royal family (which means she can never be called Princess Kate, although everyone will).

Nor was she born into the nobiity or aristicracy with a title such as Lady Kate

She's a commoner just like you and me, although her parents are self-made millionaires and clearly she travels in a different social set than I do.

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Kate doesn't really have an occupation : What about charity work?

Leslie Shepherd: Not really, and that's been another knock against her. It's tough being a royal or nearly royal and holding down a job because you're open to criticism of playing on your royal connections. Sophie, Countess of Wessex (married to Prince Edwardm youngest of the queen's four children) had to give up her PR job because it was one landmine after another.

You'll see Kate get into charity in a big way once she's married and it will be interesting to see what her causes are. She'll also be asked to become the patron of numerous charities or arts groups.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that the royal family gets lots of attention and respect just because they're royal? They inherited their money and power. Haven't we evolved enough as a society to recognize royalty as a holdover from a time when we didn't recognize that all men were created equal?

Leslie Shepherd: Yes.

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Just heard he gave her Diana's engagement ring.: Hmmm. I think it's a little creepy. Diana and Charles didn't have the happiest of marriages and I'd think about that every time I looked at it.

Leslie Shepherd: Or, he's giving the woman he loves most something from the other woman he loved most ... Have to assume she agreed to it and is good with it. It's only a rock, right? It's not going to make or break their marriage.

It will be interesting to see the wedding ring as well. By tradtion, British royal wedding rings are made from a nugget of Welsh gold. The custom was started by the Queen Mother.

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Charlotte, N.C.: What type of honeymoon do you expect the newlyweds to take?

Leslie Shepherd: I was going to say something exotic, because they've been to a fancy resort in the Seycelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. He proposed in Kenya. They've vacationed on Mustique. But the British royals do enjoy tromping around their estate in Scotland, so that's another possibility. It would also be more private. Ladbrokes bookmakers are offering 5-1 odds on Kenya.

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Bethesda, Md.: Doesn't the bride's family plan and pay for a wedding? Is the tradition different in England?

Leslie Shepherd: There's no way any bride's family could afford to pay for this wedding. In fact, the government will wind up paying for part of it, when you consider all the security that will be necessary.

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B.C., Canada: What I find absurd is all of the speculation about whether she can handle the pressure like Di couldn't. TOTALLY different story here folks -- for one, Kate and Wills have been dating for almost a decade, she's well aware, as is he, of how ill-equipped Di was, and that's not going to happen here. They are marrying for love, not because the country needs an heir. They have and are facing the pressures head on, and not with the ridiculous fairytale crap that Chaz and Di had surrounding their "courtship" and "marriage." A much more realistic and adult relationship, that's for sure.

Leslie Shepherd: I agree. I think the royal family have learned a LOT from their experiences with Diana and Fergie as well.

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King William: What are the odds right now that the Queen would skip Prince Charles and give the throne to the much more popular Prince William? If not, is Queen Elizabeth going to hang on to the throne until her death? Seems like she's not ready to abdicate to Charles anytime soon.

Leslie Shepherd: Slim to less than none. The queen believes very much in tradition and will never abdicate. The abdication of her uncle, King Edward VIII, who gave up the throne for the woman he loved, American divorcee Wallis Simpson, was one of the formative events of her life. It put her unprepared father on the throne, which may have contributed to his early death.

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Washington, D.C.: How big was her ring?

Leslie Shepherd: The oval blue sapphire in Diana's engagement ring was 18 carats! surrounded by 14 small diamonds

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Washington, D.C.: Have Middleton's parents met the Queen?

Leslie Shepherd: Yes her parents were invited to William's graduation from the Sandhurst military academy. It's believed they have stayed at Highgrove, the country residence of Prince Charles. And this month they were photographed as part of a private shooting party on the queen's Scottish estate (although the queen wasn't there at the time). We now know that Kate and William were already engaged then, but it providing interesting tea leaf reading at the time.

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Fairfax, Va.: Interesting that most of the rumors had them engaged next year and marrying in 2012. But 2012 is the Queen's 60 jubilee and London is hosting the Summer Olympics. I just want a tea towel from Woolworths.

Leslie Shepherd: I want something completely useless like a little china tray for after dinner mints ... I inherited the one my grandmother got for the Queen's Silver Jubilee and cries out for a matchine piece

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Debretts: Where will Kate fall in the order of precedence? I figure that she's not the wife of the heir apparent, since Charles is the heir, not William.

Leslie Shepherd: Right. The queen comes first. Then you mean who enters the room first and sits at the highest table, rather than the order of succession? I know someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Princess Anne (the queen's daughter) and Princess Alexandra (queen's cousin) are next, having been born royal and born princesses. Then Camilla as wife of the heir to the throne. I'm just doing the women here. Then Edward's wife (aince Andrew is divorced) and then Kate.

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Alexandria, Va.: So now that the royal closest to my age is taken, who are the other single royal males out there and where are they from? At the age of 5, I decided my career goal was to be a princess. I still haven't achieved my goal, yet, but I'm persistent.

Leslie Shepherd: Prince Andrew (Duke of York, queen's second-oldest son) is technically single, but he is still rather attached to Sarah Ferguson. So your best bet would be William's younger brother, Prince Harry, who has an on-and-off relationship with Chelsey Davy, a blonde Zimbabwean training to become a lawyer.

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It put her unprepared father on the throne, which may have contributed to his early death. : Come ON. Yes, it was hard on him, but George VI basically smoked himself to death.

Leslie Shepherd: That too.

Just sayin' what the family thinks.

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Age: Wasn't Diana married at 19? I think that's going to be the biggest difference (although actually knowing the groom comes in a close second).

Leslie Shepherd: Yes, Diana was 19 and Charles was 32, a 13-year age gap. Kate and William are both 28, so they're both considerably older than Diana was when she got married, and they don't have the big age gap between them. I think the other big difference is that they're apparently marrying for love and at a time of their own choosing. Charles was under intense pressure to find a wife and at the time, it was eseential she be a virgin. Oh, and the other big difference for Kate and William? No love-of-his-life ex-mistress hanging around.

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Has there been a Queen Katherine...: ...since Henry VIII?

Leslie Shepherd: That's the last one I can think of. The beauty of these chats is, if I'm wrong, someone will let us know ASAP.

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Kate and Wills have been dating for almost a decade: So I guess Kate has already been instructed on how to wave properly? You know, from the wrist?

Leslie Shepherd: And how to smile, how to look good in hats, all that sort of thing. In the eight years she has been dating William, she's had lots of time to get to know the royal family and the royal way of life (of course, Diana grew up around the royals and that didn't help her in the end). Again, I think The Firm has learned a lot from their experience with Diana and Fergie and the need to prepare royal brides for their future roles.

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Royal Life: It's hard to imagine the intensity of life that being a royal brings (I know, there's the wealth, but also all the scrutiny, lack of privacy, etc.). As a Royal Watcher, what would you say were the biggest considerations for Kate in deciding that she wanted to marry into this kind of life?

Leslie Shepherd: Hm, do I want to be Queen of England or stuff party favours in boxes in my parents' basement?

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Ottawa, Canada: For Fairfax, sorry but Woolworth's went out of business a few years ago.

Leslie Shepherd: Alas, they may have to go upmarket to Selfridge's.

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Engagement ring: I do remember that incredible sapphire and diamond engagement ring, and think it's nice William gave it to Kate. However, a bit of a morbid curiosity -- did they take it off Diana's finger after her death or was she no longer wearing it since she and Charles had split up?

Leslie Shepherd: I believe she was still wearing it and that her butler, Paul Burrell, removed it after she died.

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Alexandria, Va.: Where did the couple meet and how long ago?

Leslie Shepherd: They met at St. Andrews University in Scotland in 2001. She studied art history; he got a degree in geography. They shared living accommodation with a group of people and are thought to have become a couple in 2003.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: With all the economic challenges Britain is facing right now, I wonder if the wedding will be much more downscale than Charles and Diana's was? Or maybe the Brits need a morale booster after Iraq and such and would welcome a spectacular bash? I am sure this is getting careful consideration by both the monarchy and the government.

Leslie Shepherd: That's a good question. The royal wedding will be a big boost to the British economy -- all those souvenirs, lost of tourists, etc. But government coffers are empty and the royals are also counting their pennies (ok, their pounds), so I suspect it will be elegant and tasteful but not over the top? The security bill is going to be huge.

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No love-of-his-life ex-mistress hanging around. : that we know of.

Leslie Shepherd: Indeed.

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Arlington, Va.: Regarding the comment about the Queen abdicating: NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.

Americans never seem to understand that, in the U.K., the sovereign takes a religious vow to serve for life. For her to abdicate would be like walking out on a marriage or on priestly vows; she would never consider it.

Now if she were to become incapacitated Charles would likely be named Regent (as George IV was in 1810 when his father's porphyria-induced madness became permanent), but she won't abdicate.

I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Charles may not survive his mother, anyway. Then the throne would pass directly to William.

Leslie Shepherd: All good points.

The Windsor women tend to outlive the men by a long time. The queen is 80; her mother lived to be over 100.

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"it was eseential she be a virgin": .. sorry to be ignorant, but could you explain this? Are there any kind of requirements for Kate about this - seems a little old fashioned...

Leslie Shepherd: At the time Charles and Diana were married, it was inconceivable (no pun intended) that his bride not be a virgin. It was just a question of the times, public opinion.

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Woolworth's: is alive and kicking in South Africa...

Leslie Shepherd: For the shoppers among us.

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Chantilly, Va.: Doe William have any contact with members of Diana's side of the family?

Leslie Shepherd: Some. His much married uncle, Earl Spencer, lives in Britain, after having spent many years in South Africa. His daughter Kitty (William's cousin) travels in overlapping social circles when she is in London, that sort of thing.

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Kensington, Md.: Diana was NOT wearing her engagement ring from Prince Charles when she died. They'd been divorced for over a year, and she was with a new boyfriend. Apparently she was actually wearing a ring that he (Dodi) gave her -- remember all the controversy about whether that ring was THEIR engagement ring.

I think it's sweet that William gave Kate his mother's ring. It would've been creepy had she actually been wearing it when she died, but that didn't happen.

Leslie Shepherd: Right-o -- I just did a quick Google of Burrell's book.

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She studied art history: Aha! The real reason she has no occupation.

Leslie Shepherd: Ouch!

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Alexandria, Va.: Elizabeth II's father died at a rather young age because he was an incessant smoker and suffered from lung cancer. Had he not smoked, he might have lived longer

Leslie Shepherd: Yep.

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New York, N.Y.: I think it was fantastic that they were able to keep it secret for a month. It gave them a little time to just be engaged and enjoy it between the two of them.

Leslie Shepherd: A little old-fashioned, but sweet

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Arlington, Va.: Re: the Windsor women vs. the men

True, the Windsor women have tended to be long-lived, unlike the men. But the men all smoked like chimneys. Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI all died from smoking-related diseases, as did the Queen's sister Princess Margaret. As Charles is a dedicated nonsmoker, perhaps that'll improve his chances of succeeding his mother.

Leslie Shepherd: Can't hurt.

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Kate's title?: So what will Kate's title be? Will she be HRH Princess of Wales, like Diana? Will she ever be Queen if Wills is King?

Leslie Shepherd: It will be interesting to see what her first title is.

Everyone will just call her Princess Kate, even though that's wrong. Technically she'll be A Princess of Wales. If/when William ascends to the throne, she will become Queen Catherine.

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Stamford, Conn.: There has been at least one Queen Catherine since Henry VIII: Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess who was the wife of Charles II (he reigned 1660-1685). I'm not sure that's any happier a precedent than Henry's three wives of that name; the marriage of Catherine of Braganza was childless, and her husband ignored her in favor of his many mistresses.

Leslie Shepherd: See, isn't that great? I don't even have to look it up -- someone finds the correct answer for me.

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Alexandria, Va.: Leslie, I wish you would get your facts right. When Charles and Diana were married, Diana became third lady of the land, as the wife of the heir to the throne BEFORE Princess Anne, Princess Margaret and Princess Alexandra. It was after the second marriage of the Prince of Wales that the Queen changed the Order of Precedence ...

Leslie Shepherd: But the question was where would Kate stand. The order of succession was redone only last year

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Kennebunkport, Maine: If Prince Charles predeceased Queen Elizabeth, would Prince William still be next in line to be King, or would Prince Andrew then move up?

Leslie Shepherd: William is second in line after Charles. Then Harry.

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Alexandria, Va.: Leslie, the queen cannot abdicate without an act of Parliament. Only Parliament can change the succession ... by an act of Parliament. Edward VIII abdicated with an act of Parliament

Leslie Shepherd: Yes, there was a Declaration of Abdication Act 1936.

I think if the queen were bound and determined to abdicate, Parliament would write an act for her.Think the issue is she'd never ask for one.

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San Diego, Calif.: Seems like William and Kate have a good chance of making this work, since they've essentially been married for nearly a decade anyway, and thankfully the Royal Family seems to have dispensed with the archaic tradition of marrying within the same social class and marrying a virgin. Anyway ... why did Kate give up her job in the clothing boutique a few years back, and how can she afford such stunning clothes all the time if she doesn't work? Who supports her?

Leslie Shepherd: She gets a lot of clothes donated or at discount. It's a huge boost to a designer to have someone like her seen in thir clothes. Her parents support her, although William would pick up the tab for their vacations, other entertainment. The line at the time she quit her clothing shop job was that she needed more flexibility -- basically to be available whenever William was.

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Oh, these titles ...: So if Charles became kKing, would Camilla be queen?

Leslie Shepherd: Oh that's a whole other can of worms. They say no, and that's why she's the Duchess of Cornwal and not the Princess of Wales. But you just know Charles wants her to be Queen Camilla and hopes that public opinion will have softened by then.

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Confused about titles for King/Queen's spouses: So if Kate would be Queen Catherine, how come Prince Philip is not King Philip, and Princess Diana would not have been Queen Diana if Charles had become King and they were still married?

Leslie Shepherd: Different rules for men and women. The wife of a king automatically becomes queen. The husband of the queen does not.

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Alexandria, Va.: Leslie, the order of succession has not been touched in centuries. The precedence was done after the Charles and Camilla wedding. The succession law was established in 1701 with the Act of Settlement -- although the idea of male primogeniture is based on tradition, not any law. Parliament is unlikely to take up a change of succession laws any time soon

Leslie Shepherd: Yes, let me correct myself.

The line of succession (who inherits the throne) has not changed.

The order of precedence (who walks into the room first, wt) was changed after Charles married Camilla.

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Leslie Shepherd: Thanks to everyone for participating today -- it was a lot of fun. Now we have months of wedding fever and speculation to look forward to before the big event. Mark Aug. 13 on your calendar just in case the bookies are correct!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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