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Brussels at odds with Germany over future migrant deals

EU Minister Johannes Hahn has called out the German government for saying African transit countries could receive the same migrant deal as Turkey. Hahn and Chancellor Merkel will travel to Africa this week for talks. Contrary to popular discourse within German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Brussels said the European Union's migrant deal with Turkey should not serve as a blueprint for potential future agreements with North African migrant transit countries. Johannes Hahn, the EU's commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said it was counterproductive for the German government to habitually compare the migrant crises in Turkey to those in Africa. Brussels holds that the situations in Turkey and North Africa are not comparable, since Turkey has become home to almost 3 million Syrian refugees, while North African countries, such as Egypt, are considered transit countries for migrants entering Europe. His comments come ahead of Merkel's three-day state visit to Africa, where she will travel to Mali, Niger and Ethiopia. The continent's migrant flow towards Europe is likely to be the main point of discussion. Ahead of her visit, the chief of the German Chancellery and one of Merkel's most trusted advisors, Peter Altmaier (CDU), reiterated the importance of a North African migrant deal in the German magazine "Der Spiegel." In September, Merkel told a European delegation in Vienna that: "Agreements similar to the one with Turkey must by all means be agreed with other countries, such as Egypt and other African countries." The EU-Turkey deal, agreed in March, stipulates that Turkey will receive 3 billion euros in EU aid for the 3 million migrants currently grounded in the country. The money is designated for housing and schooling for refugees. In exchange, Turkey has agreed to take back migrants from the Greek Aegean Islands, just off its coast. Almost no other official advocated the deal more than Merkel. However, Brussels now reportedly fears that Merkel's announcement and the CDU's discourse will lead other transit countries, such as Egypt, to expect the same level of aid. Hahn will travel to Egypt on Wednesday to discuss partnership opportunities with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

EU Minister Johannes Hahn has called out the German government for saying African transit countries could receive the same migrant deal as Turkey. Hahn and Chancellor Merkel will travel to Africa this week for talks. Contrary to popular discourse within German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Brussels said the European Union’s migrant deal with Turkey should not ... Read More »

Rapprochement between Russia and Turkey

What have been the most important stages in the recent history of Russian-Turkish relations? DW presents the major milestones. On Monday (10.10.2016) the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will visit Turkey. This visit was unimaginable just a few weeks ago. Between November of last year and June of this, and despite years spent forging a successful relationship between Turkey and post-Soviet Russia, Ankara and Moscow were in a state of cold war. DW looks back on their history over the past 25 years. 1. The end of the Soviet Union, and small businesses Rapprochement between post-Soviet Russia and Turkey was swift. There was great demand in Russia for Western-style fashions, and small Turkish businesses stepped up to meet it. Cheap clothing from Turkey soon conquered the Russian markets. Turkish companies quickly found a niche in the Russian construction industry, and the 1997 agreement to supply gas via the Blue Stream pipeline also provided a strong stimulus. 2. The heyday of friendship and cooperation At the highest political level, however, the relationship between the two countries intensified only later - after Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia, in 2000, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey in 2003. For many years the relationship between the two politicians was close and friendly. The tabloid press spoke of "the friendship between two men," while critical papers called it a "friendship between two autocrats." In this period the trading turnover between the two countries - including gas supply - quadrupled. In 2014, each country was very important to the other as a partner for foreign trade. 3. The litmus test of Crimea, and the Turkish Stream pipeline 2014 was a litmus test for the relationship. Outwardly, Turkey reacted calmly to Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula, despite Turkish fears for Tatars living in Crimea, to whom they are ethnically related. The Turkish-Russian relationship appeared to survive this test. The best proof of this was the statement on December 1, 2014, in which Moscow and Ankara announced the construction of a new gas pipeline, Turkish Stream, which would run from Russia to Turkey via the Black Sea. Turkish Stream would replace the unsuccessful South Stream pipeline project. 4. Recognition of the Armenian genocide, and the Su-24 fighter jet However, negotiations over the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline were delayed, and tensions increased: among other things, in relation to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. And when the Russian president officially used the word genocide in reference to the killing of Armenians by Turks during the First World War, it was a big blow for Ankara. Erdogan responded by reminding Moscow of Crimea, and the forced resettlement of entire peoples under Stalin. However, what Erdogan finds most uncomfortable is Russia's interference in the civil war in Syria. Ankara has for years been pursuing completely different goals from Moscow on the Syrian front, without success. Turkey wants to topple the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad; Russia, however, supports him. An incident on 24 November 2015 brought Turkish-Russian tensions to a head. The Turkish military shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter jet; sources disagreed as to whether the jet was over the border zone between Syria and Turkey or, as Ankara declared, had crossed into Turkish airspace. Moscow responded by imposing comprehensive sanctions: a ban on the import of Turkish agricultural products, visa requirements for Turks, the freezing of the majority of joint Turkish-Russian economic projects, the end of joint cultural initiatives, and the departure of Russian students from Turkey. But what hit both sides the hardest was Russia's ban on package holidays to Turkey. 5. Apology, and renewed rapprochement In June 2016 Erdogan wrote a letter to Putin in which he apologized for the shooting down of the fighter jet. The Turkish president emphasized that he still regarded Russia as a "friend" and "strategic partner," and said he wanted to improve bilateral relations again. Putin responded by lifting the ban on the sale of package holidays to Turkey. The plan is for other sanctions gradually to be lifted as well. However, a meeting between Erdogan and Putin in St. Petersburg in August of this year showed that while both parties are prepared for a rapprochement, neither wants to alter its position on foreign policy. The subject of Syria was simply not addressed. The two sides agreed to continue negotiations over the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline and the Russian-designed nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, as well as the creation of a free trade zone. However, even now, cooperation between Turkey and Russia cannot be said to have returned to previous levels.

What have been the most important stages in the recent history of Russian-Turkish relations? DW presents the major milestones. On Monday (10.10.2016) the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will visit Turkey. This visit was unimaginable just a few weeks ago. Between November of last year and June of this, and despite years spent forging a successful relationship between Turkey and post-Soviet ... Read More »

Hurricane Matthew heads for Haiti; US on alert

One person has died and another is missing as the Category 4 storm moves towards the Americas' poorest nation. Towns and villages are braced for "catastrophic" floods and mudslides. Winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (139 miles per hour) threatened Haiti on Monday evening, as Matthew brought monstrous storm swells of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) to the impoverished island, forecasters said. Billed as the most menacing storm in nearly a decade, Matthew was feared to exacerbate the appalling conditions faced by thousands of Haitians following the country's 2010 earthquake, where many residents still live in tents. In the largest slum in the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mayor Frederic Hislain ordered 150,000 people to be bussed to safer places. But many residents were reluctant to leave their homes due to fears their belongings would be stolen, officials said. Ahead of Matthew's arrival, a fisherman drowned on Friday and another went missing Sunday, both off the southern coast, civil protection officials said. Authorities have also closed Haiti's main airport to wait for the storm to pass. Washington promises aid With the hurricane just a few hours from making landfall, the US said it would provide $400,000 in aid to Haiti and Jamaica to help them pay for relief supplies. Neighboring islands also prepared for the extreme weather, with flooding reported in some areas of Jamaica, while around 250,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Cuba. Matthew is now forecast to reach the Bahamas on Tuesday and Florida by Thursday. But forecasters hope it will weaken as it crosses the ocean. "It has the potential of being catastrophic," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Miami-based hurricane center.

One person has died and another is missing as the Category 4 storm moves towards the Americas’ poorest nation. Towns and villages are braced for “catastrophic” floods and mudslides. Winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (139 miles per hour) threatened Haiti on Monday evening, as Matthew brought monstrous storm swells of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) to ... Read More »

Over a hundred prominent women petition UN’s Ban for treaty to end Korean War

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been petitioned by prominent women from 38 countries to bring a permanent peace to end the Korean War. The conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Women leaders from 38 countries have sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to initiate a peace process that would officially end the Korean War before he leaves office. The letter was co-sponsored by Women Cross DMZ, which organized a peaceful walk across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) last year and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, had promised such an initiative before taking office in 2007. North and South Korea technically remain at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. As a result the DMZ, separating the two Koreas is the most heavily fortified border in the world. The letter to Ban was signed by 132 women, including 22 from South Korea. It urges Ban to initiate a peace process via the UN Security Council with the aim of concluding it by 2018, "the 70th anniversary of Korea's division into two separate states." At a press conference to announce the letter, Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace said: "The secretary-general has the opportunity to build on his own legacy as the world's most important peacemaker." She added "Ban can demonstrate that nuclear threats can be met with a diplomatic recipe of engagement, lifting sanctions, and promise of trade and aid, in exchange for North Korea giving up its nuclear ambition." Napalm girl The signatories of the letter include American women's rights activists Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler, Nobel Peace laureates Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and UNESCO goodwill ambassador Kim Phuc. Phuc, more commonly known as ‘Napalm girl' became an international symbol for the horrors of war in 1972 when, as a 9-year-old girl, she was photographed running down a road screaming, after a napalm attack on her Vietnamese village. Valerie Plame, reported to be a CIA operative in 2003 also signed the letter. The initiative came as tensions continue to rise on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has alarmed its South Korean neighbor and their western allies with a series of nuclear and missile tests. In response, the US has agreed to deploy a sophisticated missile defense system, known as THAAD, in the South. Further tests by North Korea have accelerated plans for the anti-missile deployment. Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told a US congressional hearing that the timing was up to the Pentagon. But he added: "Given the accelerating pace of North Korea's missile tests, we intend to deploy on an accelerated basis - I would say as soon as possible."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been petitioned by prominent women from 38 countries to bring a permanent peace to end the Korean War. The conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Women leaders from 38 countries have sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to initiate a peace process that would ... Read More »

Switzerland votes in referendum for increased government surveillance

A clear majority of Swiss voters have agreed to an overhaul of the confederation's spying powers. Opponents have voiced concern that the measures could endanger the country's dearly-held neutrality. Swiss intelligence services have been granted an array of new powers after voters approved the measure by a margin of 65.5 percent, according to local media. The new law will remove hurdles that prevented Swiss authorities from using some information. The Federal Intelligence Service will now have the power to tap phones, search e-mails and track internet activity in order to bring down hackers, spies and terrorists. They will also be allowed to use hidden cameras and microphones to monitor suspected criminals, although only after receiving a warrant from a federal tribunal and an oversight committee. The government in Bern had argued that the security services needed enhanced powers in an increasingly volatile world. Opponents to the bill countered that the measures would do little to actually fight terrorism, while threatening the country's cherished neutrality. Green-party lawmaker Lisa Mazzone told broadcaster RTS that proponents of the bill had used "a campaign of fear" to convince voters to side with them. Supporters of the new law, on the other hand, maintained that it was a necessary step to help Switzerland keep up with other countries. Bern vows restraint The new bill will see Switzerland "leaving the basement and coming up to the ground floor by international standards," said Defense Minister Guy Parmelin. At the same time, Parmelin insisted that the Swiss system would still be a far cry from "the United States or other major powers." Although the law had already been approved by parliament in 2015, opposition politicians from the Socialist and Green parties managed to obtain the 50,000 signatures needed to bring the matter to a national referendum. Bern has said that the new powers will only be utilized in the most necessary cases, offering an estimate of about a dozen times a year. The subject is a very sensitive one, as many Swiss voters still remember a 1989 scandal in which it was revealed that the intelligence services had been keeping tabs on 900,000 citizens.

A clear majority of Swiss voters have agreed to an overhaul of the confederation’s spying powers. Opponents have voiced concern that the measures could endanger the country’s dearly-held neutrality. Swiss intelligence services have been granted an array of new powers after voters approved the measure by a margin of 65.5 percent, according to local media. The new law will remove ... Read More »

Turkey’s Saturday Mothers meet for 600th time demanding justice for forceably disappeared

The families of the forcibly disappeared in Turkey have gathered for a symbolic 600th time demanding justice. The Saturday Mothers movement is one of the longest running civil disobedience campaigns in the country. Holding red carnations and pictures of loved ones forceably disappeared by Turkish security forces over the years, the Saturday Mothers (Cumartesi Anneleri) and thousands of supporters sat on Istanbul's main pedestrian thouroughfare for the 600th time on Saturday in one of the longest running acts of civil disobidenced in the country. The families of the forcibly disappeared and human rights activists gather in Istanbul's Galatasaray Square every Saturday at noon to demand justice and accountability for thousands of people, mostly Kurds, disappeared by security forces and the police in the wake of the 1980 military coup and the so-called "dirty war" between the state and Kurdish separatists in the 1990s. Taking inspiration from the Argentinean movement Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, which organized in the late 1970s to find out the fate of people disappeared during that country's dictatorship, the Saturday Mothers have gathered since 1995 under the motto "We want our disappeared loved ones." The protests for justice is against the "entrenched official mentality that has utilized enforced disappearance to eliminate the opposition and instill a culture of fear in society," according the Turkish Human Rights Organization. Speaking at the sit-down, Elmas Eren, whose son Hayrettin disappeared 36 years ago, said, "My soul has been troubled looking for his bones. What was the crime of our bright children that we never heard from them again, that the state killed them." The sit-down was supported by other protests across Turkey and in Europe, including solidarity sit-downs in Hamburg and Berlin. The Saturday Mothers' main demand is that the bodies of those disappeared be found, the perpetrators tried and justice delivered. Their demands also include a change in the statute of limitations in order to prosecute political murders and forced disappearances. The 600th sit-down comes as concern mounts that the state may be resorting to forced disappearances again after a multi-year break. A young Kurdish politician, Hursit Kulter, disappeared in Sirnak in May during a security clampdown on Kurdish militants. He is the first person to be disappeared in 15 years in Sirnak, where during the 1990s at least 200 people were never heard from again after being taken into custody by security forces.

The families of the forcibly disappeared in Turkey have gathered for a symbolic 600th time demanding justice. The Saturday Mothers movement is one of the longest running civil disobedience campaigns in the country. Holding red carnations and pictures of loved ones forceably disappeared by Turkish security forces over the years, the Saturday Mothers (Cumartesi Anneleri) and thousands of supporters sat ... Read More »

Boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsizes off Egyptian coast

At least 29 people have died after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized near the Egyptian coastline. The boat was reportedly carrying migrants and refugees from Egypt, Syria and several African countries. A rescue mission is underway off the coast of Egypt after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sunk, killing 29 people and injuring five, reported health officials on Wednesday. "Initial information indicates that the boat sank because it was carrying more people than its limit. The boat tilted and the migrants fell into the water," a senior security official in the northern province of Beheira told Reuters news agency. The dead include 18 men, 10 women and one child, reported local authorities. Around 155 people have been rescued so far, said Beheira official Alaa Osman, adding that workers are still pulling bodies from the water. Other Egyptian officials have said the migrants and refugees on board came from Syria, Egypt, Sudan and several African countries. Initial reports from Egypt's state news agency MENA said 600 people were aboard the vessel. Another report from the private Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm said the boat was carrying 300 migrants. It was not immediately clear where the boat was headed, but authorities believe the ship was en route to Italy. Dangerous route With the closure of the Balkan route and a migrant deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum seekers trying to reach Europe have looked to other paths, turning more and more to departure points in Egypt and Libya. Egypt is starting to become a departure country," Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told the Funke Group of German newspapers in June. "The number of boat crossings from Egypt to Italy has reached 1,000 (so far) this year," he said. Human smugglers often overcrowd the boats, which are typically unfit for the dangerous sea crossing. Around 320 refugees drowned off the Greek island of Crete in June. Afterwards, survivors told officials that the boat set off from Egypt. in the first six months of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

At least 29 people have died after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized near the Egyptian coastline. The boat was reportedly carrying migrants and refugees from Egypt, Syria and several African countries. A rescue mission is underway off the coast of Egypt after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sunk, killing 29 people and injuring five, reported health officials ... Read More »

Seleka rebels accused of massacre in Central African Republic

Sectarian violence has flared in the Central African Republic leaving at least 20 villagers dead in a remote village. UN peacekeepers have been dispatched to quell some of the worst bloodshed in months. The Central African Republic's presidency says 26 villagers were killed Saturday after a Muslim majority rebel faction systematically murdered civilians from a rival Christian group in the village of Ndomete. "The Seleka (rebels) went door to door," presidential spokesman Albert Mokpeme told the Reuters news agency. "The village chief was among the victims … It was a massacre." Violence pitting the mainly Muslim Seleka fighters against rival Christian anti-Balaka militia members started Friday where the massacre occured before fighting spread to surrounding towns and villages. The country's UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, dispatched troops to the area to separate the two rival factions. It said in a statement that it was reinforcing its positions in and around Kaga-Bandoro and stepping up patrols in an effort to protect civilians and prevent further violence. "MINUSCA regrets the loss of human life and the wounded that were recorded and also denounces attacks against the humanitarian community and United Nations personnel," it said, without elaborating. Resource-rich country rife with conflict Central African Republic, which is rich in minerals and metals including uranium, gold and diamonds, suffered its worst crisis in its half-century of statehood in 2013 when Seleka rebels toppled then-President Francois Bozize. Christian militias responded by attacking Muslims, causing a fifth of the population to flee their homes and dividing the impoverished nation along ethnic and religious lines. Faustin-Archange Touadera - a former premier - won February's presidential election. But deep divisions remained and the election failed to bring stability. Rebels and militia fighters still stalk much of the country outside the capital.

Sectarian violence has flared in the Central African Republic leaving at least 20 villagers dead in a remote village. UN peacekeepers have been dispatched to quell some of the worst bloodshed in months. The Central African Republic’s presidency says 26 villagers were killed Saturday after a Muslim majority rebel faction systematically murdered civilians from a rival Christian group in the ... Read More »

EU summit: dark clouds over Bratislava

The first EU summit after the UK "Brexit" vote is meant to give the EU a new sense of direction. But the mood is grim as member countries fail to stand united. DW's Barbara Wesel explains from Bratislava. EU Commission President Donald Tusk has announced he'd be ruthless in his analysis of the reasons behind the Brexit vote. He said he would then develop a "Bratislava Roadmap" to show a way out of the doldrums. That does not sound like he's preparing for a happy meeting. Angela Merkel has admitted that Europe is at a crucial stage. Following a preparatory meeting with French President Francois Hollande on Thursday she called on EU member states to work faster and more efficiently. And that applies to France and Germany, too, by the way. They see eye to eye on some issues - like the road map for Ukraine - but beyond that there is little common ground. Opposition from eastern Europe Now Angela Merkel is trying to get concrete projects off the ground to show EU citizens that they benefit from the Union. She wants to improve cooperation between the administrations, cut expenditure and streamline EU defense projects. But on her tour through eastern European her ideas proved to be a tough sell. Especially her stance on refugee issues continued to be met with resistance. There was no sign of solidarity in the face of this problem. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are coming to Bratislava with their own plan for a "cultural counterrevolution" in Europe. They are completely opposed to immigration from Muslim countries and see Christianity as the only common set of values in the EU. They also propose giving national governments a stronger say. One of the protagonists of this push is Hungary's prime minister, Victor Orban, who has the backing of his Polish counterpart. According to their shared vision, the European Union would be redefined as a loosely knit group of countries. Warsaw is planning to push for changes to the EU laws and regulations – while ensuring that payments from Brussels continue to fill the coffers of eastern European. Even Greece, which has benefited from EU money through years of debt crisis, has called on Mediterranean countries to stand together against Brussels. It hopes to get Italy, Portugal and Spain on board to question the financial stability pact. British Prime Minister Theresa May has not been invited to the summit. But the Brexit issue is sure to be the big elephant in the room. London has triggered a major EU crisis – but as long as it has not even invoked Article 50, triggering official exit procedures – it is totally unclear what future lies in store.

The first EU summit after the UK “Brexit” vote is meant to give the EU a new sense of direction. But the mood is grim as member countries fail to stand united. DW’s Barbara Wesel explains from Bratislava. EU Commission President Donald Tusk has announced he’d be ruthless in his analysis of the reasons behind the Brexit vote. He said ... Read More »

New ceasefire in Donbass proves fragile hours after starting

Residents of the town of Avdiivka, near Donetsk, are skeptical about the new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that began on Thursday. Shortly after going into effect, it was broken at least twice. "Last night was hot," a Ukrainian serviceman at a military base near Avdiivka told DW on Thursday morning. Avdiivka is a government-controlled town in eastern Ukraine, a stone's throw from the pro-Russian separatist city of Donetsk. A day earlier, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Ukrainian and French counterparts Pavlo Klimkin and Jean-Marc Ayrault announced that a ceasefire in Donbass would go into effect starting at midnight on Thursday. The ceasefire is set to last for a week, but Ukrainian soldiers are skeptical. "Which one is that in a row of recent ceasefires?" asked a serviceman who was deployed to the base several months ago. "None of the previous ceasefires has borne any fruit," he said. During the past few nights, the serviceman said shells had been collected from all kinds of weapons, including those believed to have been pulled back. Ceasefire violated at least twice Over the last month, Avdiivka, which had a pre-war population of 35,000 people, has remained a hot spot, with both the Ukrainian army and rebels using large-caliber weapons in daily fighting. Just two days before the ceasefire, the militants were using 122mm and 152mm artillery. Implementation of large-caliber weapons is a violation of the Minsk Protocol of September 2014, which was signed by Ukrainian, Russian and rebel representatives and called for the end of fighting in eastern Ukraine. Aside from small arms, grenade launchers and mortars, militants have also used tanks. The shelling hit many houses and ruined numerous monuments at the Avdiivka cemetery. At 11 p.m. on September 14, an hour before the ceasefire went into effect, it was not yet quiet around the town, Ukrainian servicemen said. This information was also confirmed by the rebel-controlled Donetsk media. After a short break at midnight, the shelling resumed, Ukrainian media reported Thursday morning. According to different reports, two to four shellings were recorded in Avdiivka after the start of the ceasefire. Residents pessimistic Like many other servicemen at the Avdiivka military base, Alexander, who volunteered for the Ukrainian army, doesn't believe that the ceasefire will hold. "There is an OSCE surveillance camera on the roof of our base that must record shellings. But during the most severe fighting it stops working for some reason or turns in an opposite direction," he told DW. Avdiivka residents are also pessimistic. Elena and her family live in an apartment block on the outskirts of town. Only one section in their house has remained undamaged, other apartments are missing windows and walls as a result of shellings and are unfit for living. "Another ceasefire? This is already laughable," the woman said. She has every reason to be skeptical. The previous ceasefire in Donbass was announced on September 1, but failed to hold even a few days.

Residents of the town of Avdiivka, near Donetsk, are skeptical about the new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that began on Thursday. Shortly after going into effect, it was broken at least twice. “Last night was hot,” a Ukrainian serviceman at a military base near Avdiivka told DW on Thursday morning. Avdiivka is a government-controlled town in eastern Ukraine, a stone’s ... Read More »

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