Tag: Seattle (page 1 of 3)

Chapter 69 “Our Divine Destiny, A Saul Book”

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6 Natural Solutions To Decontaminate Soil

Marco Torres, Prevent DiseaseWith a progressively educated population becoming more aware of the inherent dangers of the conventional food supply, urban farming has become hugely popular. However, more people are also becoming aware of contaminated soil and how heavy metals pose potential risks to their food crops. As backyard gardening continues to explode in popularity, we must ask how contaminated is our soil?Many municipalities in many countries are embracing urban agri [...]

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Seattle Company Raises Minimum Wage to $70,000 a Year For All Employees!






Excerpt from nytimes.com

The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.

His idea bubbled into reality on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing that he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer service representative and salesman to a minimum of $70,000.

“Is anyone else freaking out right now?” Mr. Price asked after the clapping and whooping died down into a few moments of stunned silence. “I’m kind of freaking out.”

If it’s a publicity stunt, it’s a costly one. Mr. Price, who started the Seattle-based credit-card payment processing firm in 2004 at the age of 19, said he would pay for the wage increases by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.

Employees reacting to the news. The average salary at Gravity Payments had been $48,000 year. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

The paychecks of about 70 employees will grow, with 30 ultimately doubling their salaries, according to Ryan Pirkle, a company spokesman. The average salary at Gravity is $48,000 year.

Mr. Price’s small, privately owned company is by no means a bellwether, but his unusual proposal does speak to an economic issue that has captured national attention: The disparity between the soaring pay of chief executives and that of their employees.

The United States has one of the world’s largest pay gaps, with chief executives earning nearly 300 times what the average worker makes, according to some economists’ estimates. That is much higher than the 20-to-1 ratio recommended by Gilded Age magnates like J. Pierpont Morgan and the 20th century management visionary Peter Drucker.

“The market rate for me as a C.E.O. compared to a regular person is ridiculous, it’s absurd,” said Mr. Price, who said his main extravagances were snowboarding and picking up the bar bill. He drives a 12-year-old Audi, which he received in a barter for service from the local dealer.

“As much as I’m a capitalist, there is nothing in the market that is making me do it,” he said, referring to paying wages that make it possible for his employees to go after the American dream, buy a house and pay for their children’s education.

Under a financial overhaul passed by Congress in 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission was supposed to require all publicly held companies to disclose the ratio of C.E.O. pay to the median pay of all other employees, but it has so far failed to put it in effect. Corporate executives have vigorously opposed the idea, complaining it would be cumbersome and costly to implement.

Mr. Price started the company, which processed $6.5 billion in transactions for more than 12,000 businesses last year, in his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University with seed money from his older brother. The idea struck him a few years earlier when he was playing in a rock band at a local coffee shop. The owner started having trouble with the company that was processing credit card payments and felt ground down by the large fees charged.

When Mr. Price looked into it for her, he realized he could do it more cheaply and efficiently with better customer service.

The entrepreneurial spirit was omnipresent where he grew up in rural southwestern Idaho, where his family lived 30 miles from the closest grocery store and he was home-schooled until the age of 12. When one of Mr. Price’s four brothers started a make-your-own baseball card business, 9-year-old Dan went on a local radio station to make a pitch: “Hi. I’m Dan Price. I’d like to tell you about my brother’s business, Personality Plus.”

His father, Ron Price, is a consultant and motivational speaker who has written his own book on business leadership.

Dan Price came close to closing up shop himself in 2008 when the recession sent two of his biggest clients into bankruptcy, eliminating 20 percent of his revenue in the space of two weeks. He said the firm managed to struggle through without layoffs or raising prices. His staff, most of them young, stuck with him.

Aryn Higgins at work at Gravity Payments in Seattle. She and her co-workers are going to receive significant pay raises. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

Mr. Price said he wasn’t seeking to score political points with his plan. From his friends, he heard stories of how tough it was to make ends meet even on salaries that were still well-above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

“They were walking me through the math of making 40 grand a year,” he said, then describing a surprise rent increase or nagging credit card debt.

“I hear that every single week,” he added. “That just eats at me inside.”

Mr. Price said he wanted to do something to address the issue of inequality, although his proposal “made me really nervous” because he wanted to do it without raising prices for his customers or cutting back on service.

Of all the social issues that he felt he was in a position to do something about as a business leader, “that one seemed like a more worthy issue to go after.”

He said he planned to keep his own salary low until the company earned back the profit it had before the new wage scale went into effect.

Hayley Vogt, a 24-year-old communications coordinator at Gravity who earns $45,000, said, “I’m completely blown away right now.” She said she has worried about covering rent increases and a recent emergency room bill.

“Everyone is talking about this $15 minimum wage in Seattle and it’s nice to work someplace where someone is actually doing something about it and not just talking about it,” she said.

The happiness research behind Mr. Price’s announcement on Monday came from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. They found that what they called emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about $75,000 a year.

Of course, money above that level brings pleasures — there’s no denying the delights of a Caribbean cruise or a pair of diamond earrings — but no further gains on the emotional well-being scale.
As Mr. Kahneman has explained it, income above the threshold doesn’t buy happiness, but a lack of money can deprive you of it.
Phillip Akhavan, 29, earns $43,000 working on the company’s merchant relations team. “My jaw just dropped,” he said. “This is going to make a difference to everyone around me.”

At that moment, no Princeton researchers were needed to figure out he was feeling very happy.

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Will new ruling finally free Lolita after 40 years in captivity at Miami Seaquarium?



Excerpt from seattletimes.com

A decision to list the captive orca Lolita for federal protection is expected to set the stage for a lawsuit from advocates seeking the whale’s release.

Seattle Times staff reporter



A Puget Sound orca held for decades at Miami’s Seaquarium will gain the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, a move expected to set the stage for a lawsuit from advocates seeking the whale’s release.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday the decision to list Lolita as part of the southern resident killer whales of Puget Sound, which already are considered endangered under the federal act. 

Whale activists, who petitioned for this status, have long campaigned for Lolita’s return to Puget Sound. They hope the listing will provide a stronger legal case to release Lolita than did a previous lawsuit that centered on alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

“This gives leverage under a much stronger law,” said Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island based Orca Network, which hopes a San Juan Island cove will one day serve as the site for Lolita to re-enter the wild.

NOAA Fisheries officials on Wednesday described their decision in narrow terms, which set no broader precedents. It does not address whether Lolita should be released from the Seaquarium.
“This is a listing decision,” said Will Stelle, the NOAA Fisheries regional administrator for the West Coast. “It is not a decision to free Lolita.” 

Aquarium officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of releasing the orca. 

“Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for 44 years,” said Andrew Hertz, Seaquarium general manager, in a statement. 

“Lolita is healthy and thriving in her home where she shares habitat with Pacific white-sided dolphins. There is no scientific evidence that ... Lolita could survive in a sea pen or the open waters of the Pacific Northwest, and we are not willing to treat her life as an experiment.”

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are found in many of the world’s oceans. The southern resident population, which spends several months each year in Puget Sound, is the only group listed in the U.S. under the Endangered Species. 

The three pods in the population were reduced by captures by marine parks between 1965 and 1975, NOAA says. Among them was a roundup in Penn Cove where seven whales were captured, including Lolita. 

The southern resident pods now number fewer than 80. Possible causes for the decline are reduced prey, pollutants that could cause reproductive problems and oil spills, according to NOAA Fisheries.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to cause a “take” of a protected orca, which includes harming or harassing them.
Wednesday, NOAA officials said holding an animal captive, in and of itself, does not constitute a take. 

Orca activists are expected to argue in their lawsuit that Lolita's cramped conditions result in a prohibited take.

There is “rising public scorn for the whole idea of performing orcas,” said Garrett, who hopes Seaquarium will decide to release Lolita without a court order. 

But NOAA officials still have concerns about releasing captive whales, and any plan to move or release Lolita would require “rigorous scientific review,” the agency said in a statement.
The concerns include the possibility of disease transmission, the ability of a newly released orca to find food and behavior patterns from captivity that could impact wild whales.

NOAA said previous attempts to release captive orcas and dolphins have often been unsuccessful and some have ended in death.

Garrett said the plan for Lolita calls for her to be taken to a netted area of the cove, which could be enlarged later. She would be accompanied by familiar trainers who could “trust and reassure her every bit of the way,” he said. 

The controversy over releasing captive whales has been heightened by the experience of Keiko, a captive orca that starred in the 1993 movie “Free Willy,” about a boy who pushed for the release of a whale.

In 1998, Keiko was brought back to his native waters off Iceland to reintroduce him to life in the wild. That effort ended in 2003 when he died in a Norwegian fjord. 

Garrett, who visited Keiko in Iceland in 1999, said he was impressed by the reintroduction effort, and that there was plenty of evidence that Keiko was able to catch fish on his own.

“The naysayers predicted that as soon as he got into the (Icelandic) waters he would die, and wild orcas would kill him,” Garrett said. “He proved that 180-degrees wrong. He loved it.”

Mark Simmons, who for two years served as director of animal husbandry for the Keiko-release effort, has a different view. He says Keiko never was able to forage for fish on his own, and that he continued to seek out human contact at every opportunity. 

Simmons wrote a book called “Killing Keiko,” that accuses the release effort of leading to a long slow death for the orca, which he says lacked food and then succumbed to an infection.

“It’s not really the fact that Keiko died, but how he died,” Garrett said Wednesday.

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Elon Musk drops space plans into Seattle’s lap




Excerpt from seattletimes.com

Elon Musk thought three major trends would drive the future: the Internet, the quest for sustainable energy and space exploration. He’s got skin in all three games.

Of all the newcomers we’ve seen here lately, one of the more interesting is Elon Musk.

The famous entrepreneur isn’t going to live here, at least not yet. But earlier this month he did announce plans to bulk up an engineering center near Seattle for his SpaceX venture. The invitation-only event was held in the shadow of the Space Needle.
If the plan happens, SpaceX would join Planetary Resources and Blue Origin in a budding Puget Sound space hub. With talent from Boeing, the aerospace cluster and University of Washington, this offers fascinating potential for the region’s future.

Elon Musk sounds like the name of a character from a novel that would invariably include the sentence, “he had not yet decided whether to use his powers for good or for evil.”

He is said to have been the inspiration for the character Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. in the “Iron Man” movies. He’s also been compared to Steve Jobs and even Thomas Edison.

The real Musk seems like a nice-enough chap, at least based on his ubiquitous appearances in TED talks and other venues.

Even the semidishy essay in Marie Claire magazine by his first wife, Justine, is mostly about the challenge to the marriage as Musk became very rich, very young, started running with a celebrity crowd and exhibited the monomaniacal behavior common to the entrepreneurial tribe.

A native of South Africa, Musk emigrated to Canada and finally to the United States, where he received degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School. He left Stanford’s Ph.D. program in applied physics after two days to start a business.
In 1995, he co-founded Zip2, an early Internet venture for newspapers. Four years later, he co-founded what would become PayPal. With money from eBay’s acquisition of PayPal, he started SpaceX. He also invested in Tesla Motors, the electric-car company, eventually becoming chief executive. Then there’s Solar City, a major provider of solar-power systems.

Musk has said that early on he sensed three major trends would drive the future: the Internet, the quest for sustainable energy and space exploration. He’s got skin in all three games.

At age 43, Musk is seven years younger than Jeff Bezos and more than 15 years younger than Bill Gates.

His achievements haven’t come without controversy. Tesla played off several states against each other for a battery factory. Nevada, desperate to diversify its low-wage economy, won, if you can call it that.

The price tag was $1.4 billion in incentives and whether it ever pays off for the state is a big question. A Fortune magazine investigation showed Musk not merely as a visionary but also a master manipulator with a shaky deal. Musk, no shrinking violet, fired back on his blog.

SpaceX is a combination of the practical and the hyperambitious, some would say dreamy.

On the practical side, the company is one of those chosen by the U.S. government to resupply the International Space Station. Musk also hopes to put 4,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide inexpensive Internet access worldwide.

The satellite venture will be based here, with no financial incentives from the state.

But he also wants to make space travel less expensive, generate “a lot of money” through SpaceX, and eventually establish a Mars colony.

“SpaceX, or some combination of companies and governments, needs to make progress in the direction of making life multiplanetary, of establishing a base on another planet, on Mars — being the only realistic option — and then building that base up until we’re a true multiplanet species,” he said during a TED presentation.

It’s heady stuff. And attractive enough to lead Google and Fidelity Investments to commit $1 billion to SpaceX.

Also, in contrast with the “rent-seeking” and financial plays of so many of the superwealthy, Musk actually wants to create jobs and solve practical problems.

If there’s a cautionary note, it is that market forces alone can’t address many of our most serious challenges. Indeed, in some cases they make them worse.

Worsening income inequality is the work of the hidden hand, unfettered by antitrust regulation, progressive taxation, unions and protections against race-to-the-bottom globalization.

If the hidden costs of spewing more carbon into the atmosphere are not priced in, we have today’s market failure exacerbating climate change. Electric cars won’t fix that as long as the distortions favoring fossil fuels remain.

So a broken, compromised government that’s cutting research dollars and failing to invest in education and forward-leaning infrastructure is a major impediment.

The United States did not reach the moon because of a clever billionaire, but through a national endeavor to serve the public good. I know, that’s “so 20th century.” 

Also, as Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon might argue, visionaries such as Thomas Edison grabbed relatively low-hanging fruit, with electrification creating huge numbers of jobs. 

Merely recovering the lost demand of the Great Recession has proved difficult. Another electrificationlike revolution that lifts all boats seems improbable.

I’m not sure that’s true. But it will take more than Iron Man to rescue the many Americans still suffering.

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Why Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ Calls Evolution ‘Undeniable’ and Creationism ‘Inane’



Picture of thousands of galaxies
Gazing at galaxy clusters like Abell 2218, it's hard to imagine how we fit into the cosmos. Evolution can help with that, says Bill Nye.
Photograph by NASA, ESA, and Johan Richard (Caltech, USA)


Darwin's theory explains so much of the world, from bumblebees to human origins, says the Science Guy.


Excerpt from
By Jane J. Lee

With a jaunty bow tie and boyish enthusiasm, Bill Nye the Science Guy has spent decades decoding scientific topics, from germs to volcanoes, for television audiences. Last February, the former engineer defended the theory of evolution in a televised debate with young-Earth creationist Ken Ham, a vocal member of a group that believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Nye's decision to engage Ham kicked up plenty of criticism from scientists and creationists alike.

The experience prompted the celebrity science educator to write a "primer" on the theory of evolution called Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. In his new book, Nye delights in how this fundamental discovery helps to unlock the mysteries of everything from bumblebees to human origins to our place in the universe.

Who do you hope will read this book?
Grown-ups who have an interest in the world around them, people coming of age who have an interest in science, people who still want to know how the world works.

This is the big concern of mine with respect to the organization Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham and all those guys: their relentless, built-in attempts to indoctrinate a generation of science students on a worldview that is obviously wrong.

I worry about these kids—they're part of my society. We can't raise a generation of students who don't understand the fundamental idea in all of life science, any more than you want to raise a generation of kids who don't understand chemistry or physics or arithmetic.

How and when did you first encounter creationism?
About 20 years ago. I was a member of the Northwest Skeptics, which is the Seattle-based skeptics organization. We met people who insisted that the Earth was 6,000 years old. The inanity took my breath away. When you understand anything about astronomy or have just a rudimentary understanding of radioactivity, the Earth is patently not 6,000 years old. It's silly.

It's been said that a good way of convincing people of something is to appeal to their emotions. What do you think?
That's my business! In the book, I purposely spend a lot of time in the first person. The reason is, we find stories compelling. Stories are how we remember things, how we organize things.

By telling a story in the first person, it's hard to dismiss. If I say, "I remember the time I met Ivan the gorilla," it's really difficult for the listener or reader to go, "No, you don't!"

When you say, "I feel," it's really hard for the reader to say, "No, you don't." Yes, I do. I did a lot of that in the book...

Picture of a sweat bee pollinating a deadly nightshade flower
A fascination with bees and flight drew a young Bill Nye into the world of science and evolution.
Photograph by Mark W Moffett, National Geographic



Picture of the Earth seen from the International Space Station
One of the most fundamental ideas in explaining life on Earth is the theory of evolution, says Nye.
Photograph by NASA Earth Observatory

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Liftoff! SpaceX Gets $1 Billion From Google and Fidelity

 Excerpt from  nbcnews.com SpaceX, the California-based rocket company that now has its sights set on a globe-spanning satellite constellation, says it has received a $1 billion investment from Google and Fidelity that values the c...

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CEO of Tesla Motors is trying to bring the Internet to space

 Excerpt from cnet.com The SpaceX CEO wants to build a satellite network high above Earth that would speed up the Internet and bring access to underserved communities. And he'll use the profits to help colonize Mars.  Elon Musk, the man who...

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‘Super-Earths’ May Have Stable Oceans That Are Key For Alien Life

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comNASA's Kepler space telescope celebrated its 1,000th exoplanet discovery earlier this month, an impressive milestone in the search for life on other worlds. Now astronomers are homing in on those exoplanets that may ...

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Stunning 3-D Models Reveal Bizarre Double Star Ready to Explode


Picture of Eta Carinae star in the southern constellation of Carina
The supermassive star pair Eta Carinae erupted in the 1840s and produced this double-lobed cloud of dust called the Homunculus Nebula.

Excerpt from news.nationalgeographic.com

The star system Eta Carinae sends out the brightest flares yet recorded.

SEATTLE—Armed with a 3-D printer, a supercomputer, and several space telescopes, astronomers have gotten their best look yet at one of the galaxy's biggest, weirdest double star systems.

Surprising new observations of the system, known as Eta Carinae, described Wednesday at the American Astronomical Society's annual winter meeting, include a set of oddly bright flares that might signal a change in the two stars' billowing stellar winds. What's more, 3-D printed simulations show unexpected anatomy within the star system's churning, tempestuous center.

Scientists have kept a close eye on Eta Carinae since the 1840s, when a series of unexpected eruptions briefly transformed it into the brightest star in the southern sky. At any time, the unstable system could explode in a spectacular supernova. (Don't worry—Earth will be fine. But the light show will be unforgettable.)

The new observations don't pin down when Eta Carinae might explode, but they are helping astronomers better understand the turbulent pair.

"It's not only the most massive and luminous object that's close to us, but it's also extremely erratic," says astronomer Michael Corcoran of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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Age of stars can now be pinned to their spin

Excerpt from bbc.comAstronomers have proved that they can accurately tell the age of a star from how fast it is spinning. We know that stars slow down over time, but until recently there was little data to support exact calculations. For ...

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Our Solar System: Evidence of Creation

This presentation goes through each planet in our Solar System (and a few of their moons), and shows how each one discredits evolutionary theories in a different way. Includes about 100 beautiful photos taken from various space probes and the Hubbl...

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Amazon, Google, IBM & Microsoft Want to Store Your Genome


Excerpt from  technologyreview.com


By Antonio Regalado

 For $25 a year, Google will keep a copy of any genome in the cloud.

Google is approaching hospitals and universities with a new pitch. Have genomes? Store them with us.

The search giant’s first product for the DNA age is Google Genomics, a cloud computing service that it launched last March but went mostly unnoticed amid a barrage of high profile R&D announcements from Google...

Google Genomics could prove more significant than any of these moonshots. Connecting and comparing genomes by the thousands, and soon by the millions, is what’s going to propel medical discoveries for the next decade. The question of who will store the data is already a point of growing competition between Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

Google began work on Google Genomics 18 months ago, meeting with scientists and building an interface, or API, that lets them move DNA data into its server farms and do experiments there using the same database technology that indexes the Web and tracks billions of Internet users.

This flow of data is smaller than what is routinely handled by large Internet companies (over two months, Broad will produce the equivalent of what gets uploaded to YouTube in one day) but it exceeds anything biologists have dealt with. That’s now prompting a wide effort to store and access data at central locations, often commercial ones. The National Cancer Institute said last month that it would pay $19 million to move copies of the 2.6 petabyte Cancer Genome Atlas into the cloud. Copies of the data, from several thousand cancer patients, will reside both at Google Genomics and in Amazon’s data centers.

The idea is to create “cancer genome clouds” where scientists can share information and quickly run virtual experiments as easily as a Web search, says Sheila Reynolds, a research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. “Not everyone has the ability to download a petabyte of data, or has the computing power to work on it,” she says.

Also speeding the move of DNA data to the cloud has been a yearlong price war between Google and Amazon. Google says it now charges about $25 a year to store a genome, and more to do computations on it. Scientific raw data representing a single person’s genome is about 100 gigabytes in size, although a polished version of a person’s genetic code is far smaller, less than a gigabyte. That would cost only $0.25 cents a year.


The bigger point, he says, is that medicine will soon rely on a kind of global Internet-of-DNA which doctors will be able to search. “Our bird’s eye view is that if I were to get lung cancer in the future, doctors are going to sequence my genome and my tumor’s genome, and then query them against a database of 50 million other genomes,” he says. “The result will be ‘Hey, here’s the drug that will work best for you.’ ”


At Google, Glazer says he began working on Google Genomics as it became clear that biology was going to move from “artisanal to factory-scale data production.” He started by teaching himself genetics, taking an online class, Introduction to Biology, taught by Broad’s chief, Eric Lander. He also got his genome sequenced and put it on Google’s cloud.

Glazer wouldn’t say how large Google Genomics is or how many customers it has now, but at least 3,500 genomes from public projects are already stored on Google’s servers. He also says there’s no link, as of yet, between Google’s cloud and its more speculative efforts in health care, like the company Google started this year, called Calico, to investigate how to extend human lifespans. “What connects them is just a growing realization that technology can advance the state of the art in life sciences,” says Glazer.

Datta says some Stanford scientists have started using a Google database system, BigQuery, that Glazer’s team made compatible with genome data. It was developed to analyze large databases of spam, web documents, or of consumer purchases. But it can also quickly perform the very large experiments comparing thousands, or tens of thousands, of people’s genomes that researchers want to try. “Sometimes they want to do crazy things, and you need scale to do that,” says Datta. “It can handle the scale genetics can bring, so it’s the right technology for a new problem.”

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