Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu: South African government clueless, already falling behind

Fidel Hadebe [a government spokesman] says "the most recent case [of swine flu] was reported in Kenya in the 1950's." Really? That's odd because I had my feet sprayed in Transkei and the Free State, and all our bags checked for pork as recently as November 26, 2005. I even published pictures on my blog:
With this description:
I had to have the undersides of my shoes sprayed as there is a serious outbreak of some kind of swine disease in the Transkei at the moment.
SHOOT: At the same time [November 25] H5N1 was circling in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. As a result of this worrying news I conducted the following interview with a microbial expert at UFS:
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"The most recent case was reported in Kenya in the 1950s," he said.

Hadebe did not respond to The Star's query on Wednesday about whether the second woman was in hospital.

According to Hadebe, the Department of Agriculture had said there were no cases of swine flu in pigs in SA or the region.

Health authorities have been aware since Monday that swine flu may have reached South Africa, but they failed to mention this for two days.

This comes as the outgoing cabinet on Wednesday reassured South Africans that there was no need to panic over swine flu.

On Wednesday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the national Department of Health confirmed two suspected cases in SA.

But department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe did not respond to The Star's query about why the department had taken two days to mention the first case.
Blumberg earlier said the woman had travelled extensively - on buses and trains - in Mexico this month.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu in South Africa - 2 cases

SHOOT: This was known on Monday. The case was in the Western Cape. No word on the second case although it's possible (one assumes) the doctor was the second case. If not, the second case isn't mentioned at all in the article. Worryingly, the lab sample was lost.

Moneyweb: A general practitioner who treated the woman last Saturday did consider swine flu as a possible diagnosis.
She was given anti-viral treatment and sent home.
The woman was fine now.

The specimen taken from her was not stored appropriately, which meant a laboratory assessment to confirm the case could not be done.
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(Sapa) Two suspected cases of swine flu have been reported in South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Wednesday.

Deputy director Lucille Blumberg said the first, which became known on Monday, was a woman from the Western Cape who travelled extensively in Mexico earlier this month.

She was in contact with the people there while using trains and buses.

The woman was ill with flu-like symptoms on her return to South Africa on April 24, Blumberg said.

A general practitioner who treated the woman last Saturday did consider swine flu as a possible diagnosis.

"(But) she fits the case definitely," said Blumberg.

No confirmed cases of swine flu have been identified in South Africa.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

#Swine Flu: Starbucks in Mexico ordered to close

SHOOT: If you monitor these signals the message is clear. If people congregate in public places it presents a health hazard [aka people could die]. That's a very serious signal emanating out of Mexico.
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NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks Corp. said Monday it has shut down 10 of its cafes in Mexico City in response to the swine flu outbreak. One of its employees in the city is also now being treated for flu symptoms.

Starbucks said in a statement that it closed the stores "pursuant to instructions from the Mexican government." Most of the stores are near major population centers such as shopping malls and universities.

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#Mexican Swine Flu: they can evolve faster than we can fight them off

We should respect viruses more and know that they can evolve faster than we can fight them off. This is their nature, they are one of the Elders on Earth.- Elaine Supkis

SHOOT: Humility may be an unexpected side-effect from this flu outbreak. Something sorely lacking in most people.

Viruses are one of the Elder Earth Life Forms.  They use us as their Trojan Horses to invade new territory.  I was one of the very earliest US victims of the infamous Hong Kong flu.  I got it from a Vietnam Vet who returned from Nam, came home, partied and collapsed. I was with the Free Clinic on night shift and I gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the oxygen arrived.  Three days later, I was walking down the street when I felt very peculiar. It was as if I was sinking into the sidewalk.  But no, I was literally collapsing.

Due to evolution, these flues have their own ‘hockey stick’ graphs.  They are not like sexual diseases that simply spread outwards, relentlessly but fairly slowly.  These pig flu/avian flu viruses move at tremendous speed and end just as swiftly.

I hope hospitals understand that the best way to deal with this is to use OLDER PEOPLE TO CARE FOR THE SICK who are suffering from this disease.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

#Swine Flu: More Mexican deaths, US cases in Ohio, Texas, California, New York, International cases reported in Spain, France, New Zealand, Israel, Hong Kong.

People are advised to seek medical attention if they suffered from symptoms including a fever of more than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.

SHOOT: You've got to be stupid not to see that this virus is spreading very rapidly. Even the statistics confirm this: deaths in Mexico went from 16 to almost 100 (and doctors there are saying it's now over 200) very quickly. Infections have gone rapidly from 1000 to 1400. H5N1 in 1918 went around the world 3 times in 8 months when there was no international air travel.
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MEXICO CITY – Churches stood empty Sunday in heavily Roman Catholic Mexico City after services were canceled, and health workers screened airports and bus stations for people sickened by a new strain of swine flu that experts fear could become a global epidemic.

President Felipe Calderon has assumed new powers to isolate people infected with the deadly swine flu strain that health officials say has killed up to 86 people and likely sickened about 1,400 in the country since April 13.

About 100 students complained of flu-like symptoms at the school. Some students went to Cancun, Mexico, on a spring break trip two weeks ago. Mexican authorities have not said whether swine flu has been found in the Caribbean beach resort.

The U.S. has also found the swine flu in California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio.

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Tracking #Swine Flu Contagion [+ Special Notice to Bloggers]

SHOOT: Please see below for useful source sites to stay informed. Please exercise discretion with information.

Advisory: Bloggers please do be as discerning as you can be with the information you're putting out there. Do not send PANIC or hoax messages. Lives may depend on the accuracy and even the tone of the messages we pass on. At the same time, comminques from government ought to be treated with a certain amount of skepticism. They've lied to us before, possibly for our own good, but there you have it.

Bloggers can provide a vital service by providing on the ground insights into what is happening in your country on the ground. To differentiate these high quality messages SHOOT suggests tagging your content as follows: #swine flu. People searching for these distinctive high quality messages can then google #swine flu. Use #swine flu with discretion, let's keep the 'non-essential noise to a minimum.
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Flu Virus Image

Step 1. Check the WHO Disease Outbreak News Center

WHO Outbreak Image

Step 2. Set up Google News Alerts

Google News Swine Image

Step 4. Find Where the Flu has Spread with HealthMap

HealthMap Image

Stay Calm, Stay Informed

While there’s likely to be much concern on social networking sites about public health incidents, it’s important to keep things in proportion, and go direct to the sources of news rather than spreading panic.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Swine Flu may scupper 2010 World Cup

SHOOT: It's interesting to note that the media so far hasn't really responded to this critical event. Pandemic flu presents the most serious threat to human beings that there is. It has, in history, killed 40 million people (more than our worst war figures by far). Pandemic flu could easily finish off what the credit crunch hasn't by wiping out teetering business by adding yet another expense to fragile bank accounts (medical health bills).
The possibility of Pandemic Flu could also result in travel bans which would finish of South Africa's World Cup. It's too early to call it now, but concern is valid.
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Fatal swine flu breaks out in Mexico.

MEXICO CITY – The schools and museums are closed. Sold-out games between Mexico's most popular soccer teams are being played in empty stadiums. Health workers are ordering sickly passengers off subways and buses. And while bars and nightclubs filled up as usual, even some teenagers were dancing with surgical masks on.

Across this overcrowded capital of 20 million people, Mexicans are reacting with fatalism and confusion, anger and mounting fear at the idea that their city may be ground zero for a global epidemic of a new kind of flu — a strange mix of human, pig and bird viruses that has epidemiologists deeply concerned.

A man, wearing a surgical mask ,passes a mural in Mexico City, Mexico, Friday,

Scientists have warned for years about the potential for a pandemic from viruses that mix genetic material from humans and animals. This outbreak is particularly worrisome because deaths have happened in at least four different regions of Mexico, and because the victims have not been vulnerable infants and elderly.

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Mexican Flu toll rises to 68

“Cancelling a day of school isn’t going to slow this down. We should all be getting vaccinations.”
There is no vaccine against the new strain of swine flu, health authorities said.
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April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Mexico Health Minister Jose Cordova
said as many as 68 deaths may be tied to an outbreak of a new
strain of swine flu that’s also been seen in parts of the U.S.
At least 20 deaths are confirmed as linked to the virus,
and about 1,000 people in the Mexico City area are showing
symptoms of the illness. Schools, national museums, theaters and
libraries in the capital district will be closed indefinitely.
The government will distribute breathing masks to curtail the
disease’s spread, Cordova said today in Mexico City.
The Mexico flu strain is the same, previously unseen
variant of H1N1 swine influenza that has sickened at least eight
people in California and Texas. Global health experts are
studying whether the U.S. and Mexico illnesses pose a threat of
pandemic, a concentrated outbreak across multiple countries.
“We have enough resources to combat these cases,” Cordova
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Friday, April 24, 2009

Fears of Killer Bug Spreading

News of the flu had been lingering for several days but surged to national attention late Thursday after a televised announcement from Federal Health Minister José Angel Córdova. "With the information obtained this afternoon, we have before us the threat of a new type of influenza," Cordova said, announcing the first total school closures over the urban area of 20 million since the 1985 earthquake. -

Government worker Victor Mondragon, 45, says he may vacate the city in the next few days. "I want to see how bad this thing is," he says. "If thousands start dropping dead, then I am going to run for my life."

SHOOT: There is nowhere to run. The virus runs its course and you either survive it based on your natural immunity and a bit of luck, or you don't.
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People cover their faces with scarfs to protect themselves from the swine flu virus at the Mixcoac health center in Mexico City.

Fernando Navarette fingers his blue mouth mask and eyes other customers suspiciously at the juice stand as he orders a special anti-flu cocktail of pineapple, guava and honey. "I want to get the vitamins in me and then get back home," says the 37-year-old graphic designer, carefully keeping his distance. "I don't want to be in the street any longer than necessary and risk bringing the virus into my house. I have young children to worry about."

Fears of getting a killer bug are sweeping across the Mexican capital as reports erupted about an epidemic of swine influenza that is said to have killed dozens in recent weeks. The government ordered all schools and universities in Mexico City shut and advised people to pull their children out of nurseries and avoid busy places such as restaurants, bars and cinemas.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Forbes rates Standard Bank best South African company

SHOOT: My best friend works there and it really does seem like a particularly good company, intelligent, insightful, with a particularly rich and informed talent pool. There is a bit of an in-joke that the guys at Standard Bank never sleep (though not for the reasons you might imagine - because they're out cycling at 5am before work).
SEVENTEEN South African companies, headed by Standard Bank, have been included in the annual world’s top 2000 quoted companies compiled by US publisher Forbes.

Standard Bank was placed at number 223, up from 522 last year, an improvement that CEO Jacko Maree said this week showed South African companies were now major players in the global corporate sector.

Apart from Standard, other local companies on the list are Sasol at number 305, FirstRand (332), MTN (382), Impala Platinum (772), Telkom (786), Gold Fields (1097), Bidvest (1102), Sanlam (1142), Remgro (1220), Naspers (1240), AngloGold Ashanti (1408), Steinhoff (1461), African Rainbow Minerals (1664), RMB Holdings (1740), Shoprite (1749) and Harmony Gold (1958).

Construction group Aveng, transport and logistics firm Imperial and diversified industrial group Barloworld, which were on last year’s list, have been dropped. An analyst said this could reflect how their fortunes had been affected by the tough times in their sectors.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Downstream effect causes brownouts in Johannesburg

SHOOT: It's interesting how the use of words such as 'power failure' or 'blackout' are avoided. Instead the word 'tripped' is harmlessly inserted, as though an appliance somewhere malfunctioned (no one's fault, understand) and had small, incidental consequences (systemic systems failure across the whole city). Something tripped, the city was without power, no big deal. The problem could have been caused by theft or vandalism or a transmission line problem. That's code for: no one knows why this happened, sorry.
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Many areas in Johannesburg lost power on Thursday. Areas without power included the central business district, the south, and north-eastern suburbs.

City Power spokesman Louis Pieterse said the substation located in Prospect tripped, causing various other smaller substations which it supplies to lose power.

“It’s a ’downstream effect’, Prospect is a substation that imports the electricity from Eskom — this results in various grids in Johannesburg losing power,” he said.

“There are about 30 areas without power, including the areas in the CBD, Gresswold, Kensington, Bellevue, Mondeor, Glenvista, Rosettenville and Booysens.”

Johannesburg metro police spokesman Wayne Minnaar said traffic lights in the Johannesburg CBD were not working, causing major disruptions to people travelling to work.

Bree, Sauer and Rissik streets were among those affected, as well as Houghton, Parktown, Orange Grove and most of the inner city.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

World's Best Hotel Beds

SHOOT: Click on the link to see a dozen more, including floating beds and beds on rockets. I like the outdoor alternatives, especially the astronomic hotel in Chile and the African options.
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The bluest sky: Reserve an Ocean House at Naladhu Maldives (view slideshow) for bed views of the translucent turquoise lagoon... just past your own private, infinity-edged plunge pool. Paradise, found.

Snooze factor: Luxurious lullaby. You'll be rocked to sleep by the rhythmic sound of rolling waves and the sight of a never-ending Indian Ocean twinkling under a Maldivian moon. The bedrooms, with their whitewashed walls, are the most expansive rooms in the Ocean Houses—in part to fit an oversize king bed, outfitted with the luxurious linens you'd expect at this price point. But you'll also enjoy the seaside setting while brushing your teeth in your open-air bathroom.

Who goes there: Honeymooners, naturally, but also scuba and snorkel fans.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Finance is Rotten: Get the rich!

The basic capitalist bargain, under which genuine risktakers are allowed to garner huge rewards, seems a poor one if taxpayers are landed with a huge bill for it all. Hence the anger.

SHOOT: The rich are now at pains to secret away their loot.

There is even a correction going on in conspicuous consumption: Net-a-porter, a pricey website, offers to deliver designer outfits to its customers in brown paper bags.

SHOOT: Banking needs to become a boring business once more, with salaries equivalent to what we see in education. Teachers should be the benefactors of higher salaries, because God knows, populations around the world need to get smart, and quick.
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Frightened by the downturn, people are furious with politicians, central bankers and immigrants. But a rising wave of anger is directed against the new “malefactors of great wealth”.
Today’s villains are a larger and more global bunch than the handful of American robber barons Teddy Roosevelt denounced a century ago; and most of them are bankers and fund managers, rather than owners of trusts and railroads.
The first charge is that the rich created a new form of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose capitalism.
Unlike the “deserving” rich entrepreneurs who set up Microsoft and Google, the “undeserving” traders and brokers just shuffled money around the system to nobody’s profit but their own.
As finance grew, the banks got ever bigger—too big to fail, eventually, so when they tottered taxpayers had to prop them up. Far from epitomising capitalism, the undeserving rich undermined it: it was socialism for the wealthy.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

NYC church tweeting the Passion of Christ

SHOOT: And the Lord said: 'It is finished.' [Or was it: These people are finished.]
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Experience the Passion of Christ — in 140-character bursts.

In a marriage of Christian tradition and digital technology, Wall Street's Trinity Church is using the micro-blogging service Twitter to perform the story of Jesus Christ.

The main characters will tweet the Passion play for three hours beginning at noon on Good Friday. The feed also can be delivered to mobile devices or e-mail addresses.

The lower Manhattan Episcopal parish also is offering a Web version of the Stations of the Cross.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Obama considers geoengineering atmosphere as urgency to tackle warming tipping points kicks in

Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."

Holdren, a 1981 winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, outlined these possible geoengineering options:

• Shooting sulfur particles (like those produced by power plants and volcanoes, for example) into the upper atmosphere, an idea that gained steam when it was proposed by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in 2006. It would be "basically mimicking the effect of volcanoes in screening out the incoming sunlight," Holdren said.

• Creating artificial "trees" — giant towers that suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it.

SHOOT: They should also consider atmosphere processing (as demonstrated in ALIENS] - giant atmosphere processors meant to scrub the air and remove carbon from it while cooling it down.
A cheaper method would involve painting all black surfaces (including roads and rooftops) white.
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John Holdren talks about his role as President Obama's science adviser during an

WASHINGTON – Tinkering with Earth's climate to chill runaway global warming — a radical idea once dismissed out of hand — is being discussed by the White House as a potential emergency option, the president's new science adviser said Wednesday.

That's because global warming is happening so rapidly, John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month.

The concept of using technology to purposely cool the climate is called geoengineering. One option raised by Holdren and proposed by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays.

His concern is that the United States and other nations won't slow global warming fast enough and that several "tipping points" could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said.
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20 car pile up in Johannesburg this morning: "There are burnt out cars all over. It looks like a massacre."

SHOOT: If you're headed towards Limpopo today for the Easter weekend recommended alternative routes are the R21 and R101 going north. Clearing operations on the N1are expected to last the whole day.
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A runaway cement truck ploughed into 20 cars on the N1 highway near Pretoria on Thursday morning, causing the highway to be closed off for most of Thursday.

Pretoria Metro officials said the crash happened at about 2am, between the Rigel and Atterbury offramps. Five people in total, the truck driver included, were hurt in the accident which saw several cars catching alight.

"It is estimated that clearing-up operations may last the entire day. Alternative routes to be used are R21 and R101 northwards directions," he said, urging motorists heading towards Limpopo to drive with care and be patient.

Talk Radio 702's traffic commentator Aki Anistasiou(corr) was on the scene and described the series of burnt out car wrecks as "like nothing I have ever seen in all my years".
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Should South Africa's Politicians Be Obsessed with Race?

SHOOT: If they want to win, yes. because the ordinary citizen is very race conscious. Morally though, it is a device, a ploy that really amounts to a focus on finger wagging, rationalising and justifying and defending. There's not a focus on the merits of what needs to be done for all. South Africa, or any country, can't afford to operate in such a divided and divisive manner. But are unfortunately in the habit of doing so. Imagine an elections in the USA or Britain where one candidate effectively says: I represent the interests of blacks. The other says: I don't represent your interests, I represent the interests of my race group. Isn't it better to - as sincerely and genuinely as possible - represent interests, economic goals and civic values of service delivery for all?
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During a recent interview with Sowetan, DA leader Helen Zille, pictured, was asked about the continuing racial inequalities in Cape Town – a city which her party wants to project as a Mecca of racial harmony.

In response, she argued that she lived in Rosebank “a suburb which is more racially integrated than any other suburb in Johannesburg”.

“Johannesburg is much more segregated than Cape Town. I live in a black majority suburb – coloured and black majority suburb, and I have never found a place in Johannesburg which is as integrated,” she said.

Either Zille does not know Johannesburg and has a parochial view about it; or she ascribes to the dictum by a former Mpumalanga premier that it is okay for politicians to lie. I suspect the latter is the case. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Zille’s response about racially integrated suburbs is a manifestation of the DA’s even worse flaw – its superficial, and therefore racist, approach to non-racialism.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Paradox of Thrift and the way out of this mess - if you can handle it [JOHANN HARI]

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It's a strange debate to have now, because the opponents of any stimulus seem to be mired in a row that was resolved back in the 1930s. John Maynard Keynes transformed the way that we think about recessions. Before him, everybody believed the Merkel-Cameron-McCain line that recessions are like bad weather: you just need to wrap up and sit it out, even though it hurts. But Keynes transformed all that.
He showed that recessions are actually caused by a failure of consumer demand. When people sense that they might lose their job, they - perfectly sensibly - cut back on their spending. They buy fewer DVDs or restaurant meals or holidays. But this causes a fall in demand for services - and more people lose their jobs, causing demand to fall further in turn, and on and on, in a spiral. He called it "the paradox of thrift": what is rational for an individual consumer is irrational for the society as a whole.
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Climate Change is more critical than the Credit Crunch as it is pushing us towards a massive human die-off in our lifetimes - this is not theory but reality

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Two global crises have collided, and we have a chance here, now, to solve them both with one mighty heave – but our leaders are letting this opportunity for greatness leach away
When this hinge-point in human history is remembered, there will be far more sympathy for the people who took to the streets and rioted than for the people who stayed silently in their homes. Two global crises have collided, and we have a chance here, now, to solve them both with one mighty heave - but our leaders are letting this opportunity for greatness leach away. The protesters here in London were trying to sound an alarm now, at five minutes to ecological midnight.

That's why the protestors were talking about the climate. It should be the number one issue at every global meeting. And the way out of the climate crunch and the credit crunch is the same - a Green New Deal.
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