DDnews

  • EAM Sushma Swaraj opens India's new chancery complex in Dhaka

    EAM Sushma Swaraj lit a candle to mark the opening of the huge complex at Dhaka's Baridhara diplomatic enclave while the High Commission was previously operating from a house in Gulshan area of Dhaka. During the ceremony, she also inaugurated 15 development projects of Bangladesh being funded by India. Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali, Health Minister Mohamad Nasim, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's political affairs adviser H T Imam among others joined the ceremony.
  • Rajnath Singh: Centre decides to start a sustained dialogue in J&K

    Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that former director of Intelligence Bureau, Dineshwar Sharma will be the Government's representative in the dialogue. The Home Minister said that the Government is serious about the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in J&K
  • Afghanistan President to visit India tomorrow, bilateral ties on agenda

    During his visit, President Ghani will meet with President Ram Nath Kovind and have detailed delegation level talks with the Prime Minister. PM Modi will also host lunch in honour of President Ghani. External Affairs Minister will call on the visiting dignitary. The invitation on behalf of Prime Minister Modi was extended by the National Security Adviser of India when the latter visited Kabul on 16 October. The visit will build upon the recent high level bilateral exchanges between the two countries. Last month, Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah and that of the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani visited India. During his India visit Afghani Chief Executive came down heavy on Pakistan and said his country's security is being threatened by groups based in Pakistan. The visit coincides with the visit of US secretary of state Rex Tillerson's maiden visit to India as the secretary of state. Last month U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who was in Delhi sought India's greater involvement in helping to stabilise Afghanistan. The visit is expected to give both side opportunity to review the entire gamut of bilateral strategic partnership, including the New Development Partnership & hold consultations and coordinate on furthering the shared objective of promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. This will also be first visit of President Ghani after Donald Trump's South Asia policy that calls for greater India role in Afghanistan. India has extensive developmental assistance programme for Afghanistan now stands at around $2 billion. The visit only strengthens the growing India-Afghan ties which has acted as a force of stability in a region.
  • NIA's chargesheet against Zakir Naik in terror funding case this week

    The formalities to file the chargesheet have been completed and it will be submitted before a special court this week. Naik is being probed under terror and money-laundering charges by the NIA after he fled from India on July 1, 2016, after terrorists in neighbouring Bangladesh claimed that they were inspired by his speeches. The NIA had on November 18, 2016, registered a case against Naik at its Mumbai branch under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His Mumbai-based NGO, Islamic Research Foundation has already been declared an unlawful association by the Union Home Ministry.
  • E-cigarettes might be damaging your lungs too, a new study suggests

    In 2016, the US Surgeon General identified a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use in high school students from 2011 to 2015. While e-cigarette vapor certainly doesn't contain the same kinds of carcinogenic compounds as regular cigarette smoke there is a growing body of research to suggest "vaping" may have its own set of unique harmful effects. A new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has published findings suggesting that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung diseases. The study examined 44 sputum samples from e-cigarette users, current cigarette smokers, and non-smokers. Amongst the e-cigarette using cohort a significant increase in neutrophil granulocyte- and neutrophil-extracellular-trap (NET)-related proteins was identified. The study notes that while neutrophils are useful in combating pathogens they also are known to contribute to lung diseases such as COPD and cystic fibrosis. The study also identified similar increases in specific biomarkers associated with lung disease between e-cigarette and cigarette users. An increase in mucin 5AC, a mucus secretion associated with chronic bronchitis and asthma, was also found in both e-cigarette and cigarette users. It is important to note that this study was small and limited, with the authors including the fact that most of the e-cigarette cohort were formerly cigarette smokers, making it difficult to clearly identify whether these results were solely related to e-cigarette use. The key factor to consider here though is that many previous studies have primarily examined the harm of e-cigarettes in relation to the harmful characteristics of cigarettes, potentially neglecting the unique or novel ways e-cigarettes could be causing harm. "Comparing the harm of e-cigarettes with cigarettes is a little like comparing apples to oranges," says Dr. Mehmet Kesimer, senior author of the new study. "Our data shows that e-cigarettes have a signature of harm in the lung that is both similar and unique, which challenges the concept that switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative." The long-term adverse effects of e-cigarettes are only now starting to become clear and while they most likely don't cause the same kind of harm as cigarettes, the idea they are a "healthy" alternative may be a misnomer. The only truly healthy alternative to cigarette smoking is to simply not smoke at all.
  • Now, take a walk on Mars in your living room!

    'Access Mars' was released on Thursday. The technology virtually transports users to mars from anywhere. It simulates walking on the red planet and provides close-up views of discoveries made by the Curiosity Rover. You can view it on a computer, phone or through a virtual reality headset.
  • Decades after WWII, archaeologists still discover bodies at Nazi concentration camp

    Archaeologists in Poland have uncovered a mass grave of prisoners at the Nazi death camp Gross-Rosen, on what is now the site of a memorial museum. In September 2017, human remains were found in what used to be an anti-aircraft trench and conservation works were suspended. Archaeologists estimated the number of people buried there to exceed 300. "The discovery of human remains matches the account of one of the former prisoners of the camp, a Belgian man who was the camp doctor and was on the site during the last months before the liberation evacuation," said Doctor Katarzyna Pawlak-Weiss, a historian studying Nazi concentration camps located by occupying German forces in Poland. "In his report he mentioned 300 people buried here." So far archaeologists have uncovered bones belonging to approximately 30 people, whom the team hopes to be able to identify. According to reports by survivors, the bodies of prisoners who died of illnesses and starvation were thrown into the trench in the last days of the camp's operation, but the first unearthed bones had what archaeologists think are markings from bullet wounds. "After exhumation the remains of the people we found in this pit will be transported to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Wroclaw where an inspection and autopsy will be performed. This will be done in order to determine their gender, age, health condition, if this will be possible, and the cause of death," said prosecutor Konrad Bieron from Polish Institute of National Remembrance. There is also a slight chance of identifying people buried in the mass grave. Unlike in Auschwitz, where the prisoners had the camp numbers tattooed on their forearms, in Gross-Rosen they carried small metal plates with numbers sewn to their uniforms. If archaeologists manage to find such plates, the historians may be able to assign the numbers with the names. Only a few documents concerning the camp survived and according to them and survivor testimonies it was established in August 1940 and inmates were mostly Jews from across Europe. At the peak of its activity, the Konzentrazionslager Gross-Rosen had about 100 affiliates or sub-camps and was considered to be one of the most notorious Nazi labour camps. Many inmates died of emaciation and illnesses due to the hard labour in a quarry, shortage of food and poor sanitary conditions. There were no gas chambers in Gross-Rosen, as in other Nazi death camps across Europe, but out of the total number of approximately 1,25,000 prisoners an estimated 40,000 died, many of them also in death marches following the camp's evacuation in February 1945. After the war none of the three camp commandants or staff members faced the trials for their activity in Gross-Rosen, although some were tried for crimes committed in other locations.
  • Last known Titanic victim's letter sells for a record USD 166,000

    The letter is one of the last known to have survived the sinking and still carries stains from its time in the Atlantic. Written by first-class passenger Alexander Oskar Holverson on embossed Titanic "on-board" stationary, the letter to his mother describes his impressions of the palatial ship, praising the food and music. The letter which eventually reached its destination after Holverson's body had been recovered, was sold by the Holverson family at an auction held by Henry Aldridge & Son in the southern English town of Devizes. Iron keys from the Titanic also sold for Rs. 65,22,092 (USD 100, 249). The Titanic was the largest ocean liner in service when it struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, in the Atlantic while travelling from Southampton to New York.
  • Himachal Pradesh polls: Last date for filing of nominations today

    While disclosing this on Sunday, a spokesperson of the State Election Office said that scrutiny of nomination papers would be done on October 24. He said that nominations can be withdrawn till October 26, 2017 and on the same day, the Returning Officers would allot elections symbols to the contesting candidates. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party released a list of the leaders, including PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, who would be campaigning for the upcoming assembly elections in the state. Polls in the state are scheduled to be held on November 9. Top cabinet ministers including Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari and Smriti Irani will also be a part of the election campaigning.
  • Some rejig in GST rate structure required, says Revenue Secretary

    The GST tax, which amalgamates more than a dozen central and state levies like excise duty, service tax and VAT, will take about a year to stabilise. Adhia, however, said the rejig would require some calculations by the fitment committee, which will decide which items need a rationalisation of rate under the GST regime which kicked in from July 1. "There is need for some rejig in rates... it is possible that some items in the same chapter are divided. There is a need for harmonisation of items chapter wise and wherever we find there is a big burden on small and medium businesses and on common man, if we bring them down, there will be a better compliance," Adhia said. Nearly four months since its introduction, the new indirect tax threw up teething troubles and compliance issues, which the GST Council -- the highest decision-making body of the new regime -- has addressed through several rounds of changes. To ease hassles facing medium and small businesses in paying taxes and filing GST returns, it has tweaked various aspects of the new indirect tax regime to make it industry-friendly. Also, the GST Council has rationalised rates on over 100 commodities and made refund process easier for exporters. "We are very keen to do it as early as possible, it depends on how much time the fitment committee takes to work on it. They need data, calculate revenue loss. They need various comparisons. But harmonisation has to be done," he said. The 23rd meeting of the GST Council, chaired by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and comprising representatives of all states, will be held in Guwahati on November 10. The GST Council has reworked various provisions of the new indirect tax regime which was introduced from July 1 so as to make it more industry-friendly. When asked how much time will it take to stabilise the GST system, Adhia said: "It will take one year. Because it is a new system for everybody... There has been a complete overhauling of tax system in GST, so one year is needed."
  • FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain outplay Iran 3-1 to reach semi-finals

    Spain, one of the pre-tournament favourites, completely dominated the quarterfinal match as their one-touch passing game proved to be too good for the Asian giants, who were completely outplayed on the day. Captain Abel Ruiz gave Spain the lead in the 13th minute before Sergio Gomez (60th) and Ferran Torres (67th) added a goal each. For Iran, Saeid Karimi pulled one back in the 69th minute at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. Spain, seeking their maiden title, now meet African champions Mali in Navi Mumbai in the second semi-finals on October 25. This will be Spain's sixth appearance in the semi-finals in ninth attempt. The La Rojita were runners-up in 1991, 2003 and 2007 and finished third in 1997 and 2009. Spain were the overwhelmingly dominant side today with nearly 70 percent possession. They had seven shots on target while Iran barely had any clear chance except for one in the closing stages of the match. But for some fine saves by their goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh, Iran would have lost by a bigger margin. Zadeh was busy all day as Spain made waves of attacks through their fast- paced passing football. Valencia youth team winger Ferran Torres, who has been on the radar of Barcelona and Real Madrid, created a lot of problems for Iran throughout the match with his speedy runs and crosses from the right flank. It was a completely different and unusually defensive Iran today as they did not look like a side, who had not lost any match before. They sorely missed suspended striker Younes Delfi who had scored twice in Iran shock upset of formidable Germany in the group stage. Spain, who had several players from the world famous academies of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, would build their attacks through their flowing passing and the Iranians could not even touch the ball for long spells. One such spell resulted to the first goal, which came after 26 uninterrupted touches by the Spaniards from which captain Ruiz scored. The first Spain chance came in the 11th minute but Mateu Morey's right footed shot from outside the box just missed the near post. Two minutes later, Spain took the lead through Ruiz who scored his fourth goal of the tournament. The goal came after 26 passes were completed by Spanish players before Ferran Torres got the possession of the ball. Torres got the better of his marker in the right flank and sent a long cross for Sergio Gomez who, in turn, gave a square pass to Ruiz at the center of the Iran box. Barcelona youth team striker Ruiz's first shot hit a defender built from the rebound he made no mistake with his right footer finding the left side of the Iran net with a diving goalkeeper unable to reach the ball. This was Ruiz's 24th goal in 28th appearances for the Spain U-17 side. He is currently on the the radar of top English Premier League sides. Spain had two fine chances to increase the lead but Iran goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh kept the scoreline 1-0 with two fine saves, one in the 19th minute and then in the 34th. A flowing start to the second half saw Spain push for a second goal. At the hour mark, another Barcelona youth team player Sergio Gomez took the game out of Iran's reach with a spectacular strike from well outside the box that hit the underside of the crossbar and went into the net. Iran pressed forward in search of a goal and that left spaces behind for Spain to make further inroads. In one such flowing move, Mohamad Moukhliss delivered an inch-perfect low cross from the right which Torres simply tapped in to make it 3-0 in the 67th minute. Iran did get their goal two minutes later when a long ball from defence met the head of Allahyar Sayyad whose diagonal flick found Saeid Karimi who nodded home. The game was attended by a capacity 29,000 spectators -- highest at the venue for any match.
  • BJP releases list of star campaigners for Himachal polls

    Polls in the state are scheduled to be held on November 9. Top cabinet ministers including Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari and Smriti Irani will also be a part of the election campaigning.
  • World War II shipwreck recreated with virtual reality

    Researchers, including those from University of Nottingham in the UK, combined a highly detailed 3D model of the sunken ship, based on thousands of photographs, with 360- degree underwater video of divers exploring key sections of the wreck. One of the most famous shipwreck-diving sites in the world, the British freighter SS Thistlegorm was a British armed Merchant Navy ship sunk by German bombers in 1941 near the Gulf of Suez at the northern end of the Red Sea. At the time, the ship was carrying hundreds of tonnes of Allied war supplies - including tanks, train engines, trucks and motorcycles - to the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Until now, only divers would be able to directly see most of the world's underwater heritage sites. However, with virtual reality technology, the wider public can now experience the shipwreck, researchers said. "There are something like six million divers in the world, so less than 0.1 per cent of the world's population ever gets access to these sites," Jon Henderson, a marine archaeologist at the University of Nottingham told 'Live Science'. "But we are now at the point where we have got technology where we can reconstruct them in photo-realistic detail, and we can now create models that people can explore and interact with on their mobile phones or in their homes," he said. Archaeologists spent five days moored above the Thistlegorm wreck. They made 12 dives to the Thistlegorm wreck totaling more than 13 hours underwater and gathered thousands of photographs. The team later processed and combined images of the shipwreck with photogrammetric software, which can extract 3D data from sets of 2D photographs. The result was the highly detailed 3D model of the giant wreck, based on 24,307 photographic images - the largest photogrammetric survey yet made of a shipwreck, covering an area of about 28,300 square metres.
  • Nepal: 807 candidates file nominations for first phase of parliament and assembly elections

    According to revised figures released by the Election Commission of Nepal 323 candidates submitted their papers for 37 constituencies of House of Representatives and 484 candidates filed nominations for 74 Provincial Assembly constituencies. Candidates can withdraw their names on Wednesday and final list of candidates will be published on the same day.  Former Prime Minister and Naya Shakti Party Nepal, Coordinator, Baburam Bhattarai, Nepali Congress leader and Minister for Information and Communications Mohan Bahadur Basnet, Senior leader of CPN (Maoist Centre) Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Prajatantrik Chairman Pashupati Shumsher Rana and CPN(UML)Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai  are among prominent candidates filed nominations on Sunday. Polling for the first phase will be held in 32 districts on November 26. Nominations  in remaining 45 districts will be filed on November 2 and voting for second and final round will take place on December 7.  As per the new constitution of Nepal it is necessary to complete, local, province and parliament elections by January 21 next year. Local elections have been successfully completed last month. 
  • Rohingya issue must be dealt with restraint, says EAM Swaraj in Dhaka

    EAM Swaraj apprised PM Hasina of the productive discussions at the Joint Consultative Commission and tangible progress made since her visit to India. Swaraj discussed situation arising out of influx of displaced persons from Rakhine state and need for an early and lasting solution. The India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission which was co chaired by Sushma Swaraj with her counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali saw various aspects of the bilateral relationship including security, trade & investment, connectivity, power, shipping, and people to people contacts being discussed. Addressing the press later she said talked about how terror is a challenge and the urgent need to fight the ideology of hate. On the humanitarian issue of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, she said situation has to be be handled with restraint. Earlier the two countries inked two MOUs - one is a 15-year deal between India's Numaligarh Refinery Ltd and Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation for the supply of high speed diesel once the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline between Siliguri and Parbatipur in Bangladesh is completed. The other agreement is for establishing a Common Facility Centre for small scale and medium enterprises in the Institute of Diploma Engineers of Bangladesh in Khulna. The two Ministers also exchanged the Instruments of ratification of the International Solar Alliance. Day two of her visit on Monday will see inauguration of New Chancery Complex at the High Commission of India and 15 development projects funded by the government of India in Bangladesh.
  • CARA to launch portal for NRIs & foreign applicants to track adoption status

    The move will help non-resident Indians (NRIs), Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) as well as foreign nationals who apply for inter-country adoption. While domestic applicants can register on their own on the website of Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), candidates from outside India have to route their applications via an authorised foreign adoption agency (AFAA) or a central authority (CA) which then registers them on the CARA website. Once it is ready, the new portal will allow parents to access information after they register with an AFAA or CA. "The online module will give such parents direct access to information which until now they could not get on their own. Parents often get anxious when an authorised foreign adoption agency fails to update them on important information and we are trying to bridge that gap," said CARA CEO Lt Col Deepak Kumar. Abroad applicants will be given a username and a password and they will be able to check whether details filled by an AFAA such as the age of the child are according to their requirement. Prospective parents will also be able to track whether their application has been approved by CARA, their place on the waiting list and will be able to find out when children are referred to them for adoption as well as access their profiles, etc. "We will be able to ensure greater transparency and provide better services to parents who often complain about how the agency they are dealing with is clueless on the status of their application and is not able to provide information on time. We will also have fewer grievances," Kumar said. The move to provide an information window to foreign applicants follows requests from both AFAA and prospective parents during a recent interaction with the CARA CEO on Facebook. A member with one of the AFAAs in Spain, Sandrine Perrotton, asked Kumar for a "tool" which would help parents track their place on the waiting list "so that we could comfort the families in their wait and keep them informed". "Please activate or introduce an option where Indians residing abroad can keep a track on their application online," an NRI applicant requested CARA last week on the same forum. As per the CARA website, in 2016-2017 there were a total 578 inter-country adoptions and 3,210 domestic adoptions.
  • Alcohol may advance foreign language skills: Research

    Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, University of Liverpool and King's College London in the UK tested the effects of a low dose of alcohol on participants' self-rated and observer-rated ability to converse in Dutch. Participants were 50 native German speakers who were studying at a Dutch University and had recently learned to speak, read and write in Dutch. The exact dose of alcohol varied depending on participants' body weight. The chat was audio-recorded and participants' foreign language skills were subsequently rated by two native Dutch speakers who did not know if the participant had consumed alcohol or not (observer-ratings). Participants also rated their own Dutch language skills during the conversation (self-ratings). The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that participants who had consumed alcohol had significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared to those who had not consumed alcohol. However, alcohol had no effect on self-ratings of Dutch language skills, researchers said. "Our study shows that alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who recently learned that language," said Inge Kersbergen, from the University of Liverpool. "This provides some support for the lay belief that a low dose of alcohol can improve their ability to speak a second language," Kersbergen said. It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol. Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language, researchers said.
  • CIL coal supply to power sector up 7 percent during April-Sept

    CIL's (Coal India Ltd) dispatch to the power sector in April-September 2016-17 was 191.5 million tonnes (MT), according to government data. In September too, the fuel supply increased 17 percent to 32 MT against 27.4 MT in the same month of the previous fiscal, the data said. State-run Singareni Collieries Company supplied 25 MT coal in April-September 2017-18, registering 10.4 percent growth over the corresponding period of 2016-17. Coal Secretary Susheel Kumar had recently said there was no shortage of coal and blamed power producers for low fuel stocks at plants. "The sentiment that is being created by some people is just to meet their own ends ... so as to get more and more coal. This is not right. This sentiment should not be created. There is no shortage of coal," Kumar had said. He said pit headstock of Coal India as on October 10 was at 30.3 MT. "The root cause of all this problem is that many power plants have not followed the CEA (Central Electricity Authority) guidelines of stocking coal for 22 days. This is not the coal ministry's instruction. This is the instruction by the ministry of power," Kumar explained. The secretary had said if power plants do not stock dry fuel as per the guidelines of CEA, then during monsoons, there would be disruptions. He had said people have to maintain discipline and adhere to the guidelines. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had recently asked the Centre to ensure an adequate supply of coal and early allocation of a coal block in Odisha to meet the severe fuel shortage faced by power units in his state. Rajasthan Urja Vikas Nigam had also earlier said power generation at thermal power stations has reduced by 2,700 MW due to the shortage of coal, forcing it to resort to load shedding in the state.
  • EPFO to consider crediting ETF units to PF accounts

    Employees Provident Fund Organisation's (EPFO) apex decision-making body the Central Board of Trustee (CBT) headed by Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar will meet in November. They are likely to consider the proposal to credit ETF investments to members' accounts," a Labour Ministry official said. The official said that the issue was listed on the agenda of the CBT meeting held earlier this year and was referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The official said that the CAG had agreed to the proposal in principle but sought few clarifications. As per estimates, EPFO's investment in ETFs is expected to touch Rs 45,000 crore by the end of the current fiscal. EPFO had started investing in Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) in August 2015, putting 5 percent of its investible deposits in stock linked products. It was raised to 15 percent for the current fiscal. Once approved, the share of subscribers in the form of ETF units will be credited to their accounts. An ETF is a security that tracks an index, a commodity or a basket of assets like an index fund, but trades like a stock on an exchange. EPFO, which has about 5 crore subscribers, manages a corpus of over Rs 10 lakh crore.
  • Government de-affiliates 400 ITIs for failing quality norms

    Asked about around 400 out of the 13,000-odd industrial training institutes (ITIs) being de-affiliated, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajesh Agarwal replied in the affirmative. "We get (them) inspected, we see the quality of infrastructure, the trainers that should be there as per the guidelines. "When it is not there the ITIs are de-affiliated because ultimately if you have to be an ITI at the NCVT (National Council for Vocational Training) level, there are certain minimum conditions that you have to meet," Agarwal said. He said the skill development ministry has begun monitoring the ITIs with a view to maintaining their quality standards and also introduced voluntary self-grading by the institutes. "We are trying to see that centres or institutes which are not up to the mark or quality are slowly chucked out of the system," Agarwal said. The government’s vocational training programmes are administered by industrial training institutes (ITIs), which cater to about 36 percent of the 7 million people enrolled in various training programmes in India. According to Agarwal, about 5,100 ITIs have been graded till now under the star rating system and are presently in the process of getting inspected through third parties and certification assessment. "It is a voluntary process. We are trying to build incentives around grading. ITIs who get graded and are doing well, there are incentives for them to grow, whereas the ones not getting graded will slowly phase out," the Joint Secretary said.

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