Our furry friends are getting fat just like us; 1 in 3 are overweight

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-28 16:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Our loyal companions are packing on the pounds in step with us, a new study finds.

Surveying about 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the US during 2016, a group of researchers found that about one in three were overweight or obese. Looking over data from the last decade, the researchers say the new figures reveal a 169-percent increase in hefty felines and a 158-percent increase in chunky canines.

All the data is from researchers at Banfield, which runs a chain of veterinary hospitals across 42 states. The researchers surveyed animals that checked into one of Banfield’s 975 locations, putting them through a five-point physical and visual exam. Animals were considered overweight if their ribs were not clearly visible or easily felt and if their waists were also hard to see. Pets were dubbed obese if their ribs couldn’t be felt at all and they had no visible waist.

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Why is Jeff Bezos building rocket engines in Alabama? He’s playing to win

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-28 11:45:01 Source: arstechnica

This week the governor of Alabama announced that Blue Origin would build a factory in Huntsville, Alabama, for its new BE-4 rocket engine. "I must commend founder Jeff Bezos and company President Robert Meyerson for their vision to create this innovative company, and for choosing to make Alabama its home sweet home," said Gov. Kay Ivey.

The decision has been widely hailed as largely a political one—Alabama has considerable influence in the US Congress over space policy, and, with its decision to build there, Blue Origin was aligning part of its future with the southern state—but that does not appear to be the sole rationale. Rather, a closer examination of the Alabama choice reveals that Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, whose business acumen pushed Amazon to the top, has brought the same shrewdness to the aerospace industry. He is playing to win.

The BE-4 rocket engine is the cornerstone of Blue Origin's future as an orbital and deep-space rocket company. About 30 percent more powerful than the space shuttle's main engine, seven of the BE-4 engines will power the company's large New Glenn orbital rocket. It also is the front-runner to be selected by United Launch Alliance for its next-generation rocket, Vulcan. In other words, if the BE-4 engines work out, Blue Origin will need to build a lot of them.

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WEN hair loss scandal exposed dirty underbelly of personal care products

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-28 11:45:01 Source: arstechnica

The pharmacy in any corner drug store brims with carefully formulated, tested, and regulated drugs. But aisles packed with personal care products—shampoos, makeup, lotions—are a different story.

For the most part, these products aren’t regulated at all. The gels, creams, and concoctions we slather on our skin and massage into our heads on a daily basis clear no regulatory hurdles before strolling into neighborhood stores and medicine cabinets. The Food and Drug Administration only looks into these products when people voluntarily report problems. And people hardly ever report problems to the FDA—even when there are big ones. In a research letter this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, a trio of researchers argue that something has got to change.

A major motivation for their argument is the recent scandal involving WEN by Chaz Dean hair care products. (You’ve likely seen the celebrity-studded infomercials.) The FDA opened an investigation into WEN in 2014 after the agency received complaints that the brand’s Cleansing Conditioners were irritating scalps and causing hair to fall out. A whopping 127 complaints rolled in—that’s a lot for the FDA. In 2007, for instance, the agency received less than 200 complaints total, for all personal care products sold in the country.

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Blue Origin To Build Its BE-4 Rocket Engine In Alabama, Creating Hundreds of Jobs

science - Posted On:2017-06-28 06:14:57 Source: slashdot

Blue Origin has recently announced its plans to manufacture the company's new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. According to The Verge, the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political. From the report: On the surface, it's a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville's decades-long history of rocket development. The city is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was developed and where NASA's future massive deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, will also be worked on. Plus, many private space contractors are based in Huntsville, making spaceflight a key part of the city's economy and a huge jobs creator. It's why Huntsville has been nicknamed Rocket City. But the move is most likely motivated by politics as well, given Blue Origin's plans for the BE-4. The company ultimately hopes to use seven BE-4 engines to power its future massive rocket called the New Glenn, which is supposed to launch sometime before 2020. But that's not the only rocket that the BE-4 could fly on. The United Launch Alliance -- a company responsible for launching most of the satellites for the U.S. military -- is developing a new rocket called Vulcan, and it needs new U.S.-made engines for the vehicle. Blue Origin's move to Huntsville will supposedly generate 342 jobs at the new facility, with salaries averaging $75,000, reports The Verge. Given the city's history, the company should have no problem finding aerospace experts in the area. The only problem that could arise would be if ULA doesn't select the BE-4 as the Vulcan's main engine. "ULA is also considering a second option in case the BE-4 doesn't work out: an engine being developed by longtime manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne called the AR-1," reports The Verge. "Aerojet is only meant to be Plan B for ULA. But it has one advantage that Blue Origin didn't have until now: it's building its engine in Huntsville, Alabama -- and that comes with some very key political protection." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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August Solar Eclipse Could Disrupt Roads and Cellular Networks

science - Posted On:2017-06-28 03:14:58 Source: slashdot

GeoGreg writes: On August 21, 2017, the contiguous United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. According to GreatAmericanEclipse.com's Michael Zeiler, approximately 200 million people live within one day's drive of the eclipse. Zeiler projects that between 1.85 to 7.4 million people will attempt to visit the path of totality. As the eclipse approaches, articles are appearing predicting the possibility of automobile traffic jamming rural roads. There is also concern about the ability of rural cellular networks to handle such a large influx. AT&T is bringing in Cell On Wheel (COW) systems to rural locations in Kentucky, Idaho, and Oregon, while Verizon is building a temporary tower in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The disruption could be frustrating to those trying to get to the eclipse or share their photos via social networking. If cellular networks can't handle the data, apps like Waze won't be much help in avoiding the traffic. If communication is essential near the eclipse path, Astronomy Magazine recommends renting a satellite phone. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Vegan Mayonnaise Company Starts Growing Its Own Meat In Labs, Says It Will Get To Stores First

science - Posted On:2017-06-27 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

Chase Purdy reports via Quartz: The maker of vegan mayonnaise has been working on getting lab-made meat onto dinner tables everywhere. It's just that nobody knew about it. Hampton Creek -- a company that built its name on plant-based condiments and vegan-friendly cookie doughs -- today revealed that, for the last year, it has been secretly developing the technology necessary for producing lab-made meat and seafood, or as the industry likes to call it, "clean meat." Perhaps even more surprising is that Hampton Creek expects to beat its closest competitor to market by more than two years. Since it was founded in 2015, Memphis Meats has raised at least $3 million from five investors for the development of its meat products, according to Crunchbase. By contrast, Hampton Creek -- just a 20-mile drive from its Silicon Valley rival -- has raised more than $120 million since 2011. It's one of Silicon Valley's unicorns -- a company that has a valuation that exceeds $1 billion. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Black-hole mergers may reveal dark past of cannibalism

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-27 17:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Now that we can detect gravitational waves, a new generation of stargazers is turning its attention to the Universe and using observatories that can be disrupted by a passing rabbit. Gravitational-wave detectors are going to give us an entirely new view of our place in the cosmos.

As with all new techniques, we are still in the age of crude and not-very-sensitive. That means we can only search for the biggest and baddest of events: black-hole mergers. So far, LIGO has detected three and a half mergers—the third merger is right on the edge of the detection limit, so it is provisional. But those black holes have been larger than expected, which raises an intriguing question: is that their first merger, or have they grown through previous mergers?

Now (arXiv version) scientists have determined how to figure out if black holes are first-time cannibals or recidivist cannibals.

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Scientists come up with neural mechanism—and possible fix—for chronic pain

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-27 15:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Chronic, aching pain after an injury or operation may be all in your head. Researchers now think they’ve figured out exactly how brain wiring goes haywire to cause persistent pain—and how to fix it.

In mice with peripheral nerve damage and chronic pain from a leg surgery, a broken circuit in a pain-processing region of mammalian brains caused hyperactive pain signals that persisted for more than a month. Specifically, the peripheral nerve damage seemed to deactivate a type of interconnected brain cells, called somatostatin (SOM) interneurons, which normally dampen pain signals. Without the restraints, neurons that fire off pain signals—cortical pyramidal neurons—went wild, researchers report in Nature Neuroscience.

But the circuitry could be repaired, the researchers found. Just by manually activating those pain-stifling SOM interneurons, the researchers could shut down the rodents’ chronic pain and keep the system working properly—preventing centralized, chronic pain from ever developing.

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Physicists Have Created the Brightest Light Ever Recorded

science - Posted On:2017-06-27 03:14:57 Source: slashdot

Jason Koebler writes: A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth using Diocles, one of the most powerful lasers in the United States. When this high intensity laser pulse, which is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, strikes the electron, it causes it to behave differently. By firing this laser at individual electrons, the researchers found that past a certain threshold, the brightness of light will actually change an object's appearance rather than simply making it brighter. The x-rays that are produced in this fashion have an extremely high amount of energy, and Umstadter and his colleagues think this could end up being applied in a number of ways. For starters, it could allow doctors to produce x-ray medical images on the nanoscale, which would allow them to detect tumors and other anomalies that regular x-rays might have missed. Moreover, it could also be used for more sophisticated x-ray scanning at airports and other security checkpoints. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store

science - Posted On:2017-06-26 20:14:59 Source: slashdot

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Potential jurors call Shkreli evil, snake—one blamed him for EpiPen price

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 17:44:59 Source: arstechnica

Martin Shkreli appeared in a New York federal court Monday for the start of his securities fraud trial—and was quickly declared guilty of price gouging by potential jurors.

Shkreli is facing eight counts of securities and wire fraud in connection to an alleged Ponzi-like scheme involving one of his old pharmaceutical companies, Retrophin. But the ex-CEO is infamous for something completely different: raising the price of a life-saving medication given to infants and people with HIV/AIDS by more than 5,000 percent overnight as CEO and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Outrage over that unrelated move spilled into the courtroom today and stands to slow progress of the fraud trial.

In interviews with Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, potential jurors called Shkreli “evil,” and “the face of corporate greed in America,” CNBC reports. One potential juror said: “he’s a snake.” Another admitted: “I have total disdain for the man." One potential juror blamed Shkreli for the skyrocketing price of EpiPens, which are made by Mylan, a pharmaceutical company that has no connection with Shkreli.

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Turkey pulls evolution from its high school curriculum

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 16:44:59 Source: arstechnica

In the US, opponents of evolution have tried to undercut instruction on the topic by suggesting schools should "teach the controversy." The national education authorities in Turkey, however, have decided that teachers should avoid any hint of controversy in the classroom. In service of that goal, the country is pulling evolution out of its high school curriculum entirely. The change will be implemented during the upcoming school year, 2017-2018.

In Turkey, the curriculum for state-run schools is set by the national government. The move against education in biology came as the state education authorities were undertaking a review of the national curriculum. Reports indicate that the review largely resulted in an emphasis on religious themes and Turkish culture and history, at the expense of information on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his role in the founding of the modern Turkish state.

But science got caught up in the process somehow. According to the head of the national board of education, Alpaslan Durmus, the problem is that Turkish students aren't given the necessary scientific background to separate the theory from the controversy that it has generated in some communities:

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Turkey decides evolution is too “controversial” to teach to high schoolers

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 16:29:59 Source: arstechnica

In the US, opponents of evolution have tried to undercut instruction on the topic by suggesting schools should "teach the controversy." The national education authorities in Turkey, however, have decided that teachers should avoid any hint of controversy in the classroom. In service of that goal, the country is pulling evolution out of its high school curriculum entirely. The change will be implemented during the upcoming school year, 2017-2018.

In Turkey, the curriculum for state-run schools is set by the national government. The move against education in biology came as the state education authorities were undertaking a review of the national curriculum. Reports indicate that the review largely resulted in an emphasis on religious themes and Turkish culture and history, at the expense of information on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his role in the founding of the modern Turkish state.

But science got caught up in the process somehow. According to the head of the national board of education, Alpaslan Durmus, the problem is that Turkish students aren't given the necessary scientific background to separate the theory from the controversy that it has generated in some communities:

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Sorry, But Anonymous Has No Evidence That NASA Has Found Alien Life

science - Posted On:2017-06-26 15:45:00 Source: slashdot

From a Popular Science article: In a new video, the hacker group known as Anonymous claims that NASA has discovered alien life. But before you freak out, let's talk. Sadly, the group of activists and hacktivists doesn't seem to have found any new evidence to support their extraordinary claim. The video is mainly based on NASA quotes taken out of context, and what appear to be videos and information from conspiracy theory websites. The crux of the argument is based on something Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said during a hearing in April. These sorts of hearings are organized to educate the House Science Committee on the latest research in a particular field of study. During this one, Zurbuchen said: "Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented, discoveries in history." That's the quote Anonymous is pegging their video on. But if you watch his opening statement, he actually explains his reasoning just before he gets to that part. He mentions the Mars 2020 rover, which will look for signs of past life on the red planet. The Europa Clipper mission is slated to search for conditions suitable to life on Jupiter's ocean-filled moon. In a statement, Zurbuchen said, "While we're excited about the latest findings from NASA's Kepler space observatory, there's no pending announcement regarding extraterrestrial life. For years NASA has expressed interest in searching for signs of life beyond Earth. We have a number of science missions that are moving forward with the goal of seeking signs of past and present life on Mars and ocean worlds in the outer solar system. While we do not yet have answers, we will continue to work to address the fundamental question, 'are we alone?'" Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Murder charges for doc who prescribed alleged “horrifyingly excessive” opioids

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 14:45:00 Source: arstechnica

An Oklahoma doctor is facing five counts of second-degree murder charges following the opioid overdose deaths of her patients.

Prosecutors charged osteopathic physician Regan Ganoung Nichols, 57, on Friday in Oklahoma County District Court. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter told reporters that Nichols prescribed trusting patients a “horrifyingly excessive” amount of opioid medications. “Nichols’ blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable,” he said.

In all, Nichols allegedly prescribed more than 1,800 medically unnecessary opioid pills to the patients who died, according to a probable cause affidavit reported by the Associated Press. Three out of the five patients also received allegedly deadly combinations of painkillers, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety medications.

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Fake climate negotiations produce real impacts

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 14:30:00 Source: arstechnica

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts—Some critics of the Paris Agreement on climate change probably think they could have done a better job with the agreement's details. Recently, a group of people taking a system dynamics course at MIT’s Sloan School of Management got the chance to take a whack at it.

Ars dropped in on a mock climate negotiation exercise run by MIT’s John Sterman, University of North Carolina’s Andrew Jones, and University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Juliette Rooney-Varga—the first time they’ve done one of these since President Trump announced his intent to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. The simulated negotiation was informed by a display at the front of the room that showed the impact of the participants' pledged emissions reductions on climate change. In this case, the scoreboard was the same simple climate model that was used to facilitate the international negotiations in Copenhagen and Paris.

That model was developed in the late 1990s to simulate economic interactions with energy use and climate change, but it was adapted into a tool negotiators could use to quickly calculate the impacts of proposals. John Holdren—President Obama’s top science advisor—was keen on the model and ran it on his laptop during the negotiations that led to a bilateral agreement with China in 2014. And just before the Paris talks kicked off, top UN climate officials were running every what-if they could think of through the Climate Interactive model.

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Saving the world from climate change, one (pretend) UN at a time

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 14:14:59 Source: arstechnica

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts—Some critics of the Paris Agreement on climate change probably think they could have done a better job with the agreement's details. Recently, a group of people taking a system dynamics course at MIT’s Sloan School of Management got the chance to take a whack at it.

Ars dropped in on a mock climate negotiation exercise run by MIT’s John Sterman, University of North Carolina’s Andrew Jones, and University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Juliette Rooney-Varga—the first time they’ve done one of these since President Trump announced his intent to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. The simulated negotiation was informed by a display at the front of the room that showed the impact of the participants' pledged emissions reductions on climate change. In this case, the scoreboard was the same simple climate model that was used to facilitate the international negotiations in Copenhagen and Paris.

That model was developed in the late 1990s to simulate economic interactions with energy use and climate change, but it was adapted into a tool negotiators could use to quickly calculate the impacts of proposals. John Holdren—President Obama’s top science advisor—was keen on the model and ran it on his laptop during the negotiations that led to a bilateral agreement with China in 2014. And just before the Paris talks kicked off, top UN climate officials were running every what-if they could think of through the Climate Interactive model.

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After nine launches in 2017, it’s tough to be an honest critic of SpaceX

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-26 09:59:57 Source: arstechnica

Elon Musk and SpaceX had one hell of a weekend. While much of the country celebrated the summer weekend at the beach or enjoying time with friends, SpaceX was hard at work launching two rockets for customers, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast. One of those rockets had previously been flown. And despite dangerous returns due to high-energy missions and inclement weather, the company recovered both of the first stage boosters.

SpaceX garners a lot of acclaim for its achievements, and has legions of admirers within the aerospace community and the public at large. But it also has critics, primarily competitors who look at SpaceX and see a company that gets a lot of hype, but doesn't always deliver. What is perhaps most striking about this weekend's back-to-back launches is that the company's successes drove a stake into some of the most credible criticisms that have been levied against SpaceX in recent years.

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SpaceX successfully launches its second rocket in three days [Updated]

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-25 16:45:00 Source: arstechnica

4:40pm ET Sunday update: The Falcon 9 rocket took off amid a dense canopy of fog on Sunday, but nevertheless it successfully delivered a payload of 10 Iridium satellites into a good orbit. Then the first stage booster fired its engines for home. SpaceX founder Elon Musk had warned that landing conditions were marginal due to extreme weather, and that the droneship had had to be relocated as a result. But no matter, the first stage booster hit the mark on Just Read the Instructions all the same. Also, it appeared the new grid fins performed well, with little evidence of charring.

Original post: Chances are, if you're a SpaceX employee, you've had a busy weekend. On Friday, the company successfully launched its second "used" Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Now, two days later, the company will attempt to launch a new Falcon 9 from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The instantaneous launch window opens at 4:24pm ET.

This is a fairly conventional launch for SpaceX except for one novelty, revealed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Saturday night. After lifting 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to low Earth orbit, the Falcon 9's first stage will attempt to return to a droneship with a new, more durable set of grid fins, which help to stabilize the rocket as it descends back to Earth.

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Watch live: SpaceX to test “significantly upgraded” grid fins Sunday

Scientific Method - Posted On:2017-06-25 16:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Chances are, if you're a SpaceX employee, you've had a busy weekend. On Friday, the company successfully launched its second "used" Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Now, two days later, the company will attempt to launch a new Falcon 9 from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The instantaneous launch window opens at 4:24pm ET.

This is a fairly conventional launch for SpaceX except for one novelty, revealed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Saturday night. After lifting 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to low Earth orbit, the Falcon 9's first stage will attempt to return to a droneship with a new, more durable set of grid fins, which help to stabilize the rocket as it descends back to Earth.

During prior missions these grid fins, manufactured from aluminum with added thermal protection, have caught fire due to atmospheric heating. To address this problem the company has forged new grid fins from titanium. "Flying with larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins," Musk tweeted. "Single piece cast & cut titanium. Can take reentry heat with no shielding." The new fins are a bit heavier, but are designed for multiple re-uses as SpaceX seeks to more toward rapid reuse of its first stage booster.

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