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Malaysian protesters kick off second day of anti-government rally

A crowd of protesters danced and performed aerobics on the second day of the rally in Kuala Lumpur, continuing their push against Prime Minister Najib Razak. The demonstrators accuse Razak of large-scale corruption. Thousands of protesters gathered for the second day of an anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday morning, including hundreds who slept on the streets of the capital. The day of the demo opened in a festive mood, with exercises, dancing, a mass at the city cathedral and interfaith prayers. "This is a watershed moment," said protester Azrul Khalib, who slept on the street with his friends. "Malaysians are united in their anger at the mismanagement of this country. We are saying loudly that there should be a change in the leadership." The protests were sparked by a financial scandal involving the head of government Najib Razak. The prime minister is suspected of transferring $700 million (620 million euros) from the state development fund 1MDB to his private bank account. Razak denies any wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of a "political conspiracy." In the wake of the scandal, Razak replaced his deputy and several ministers who publicly questioned him, as well as the attorney general who was investigating the case. 'Healthy distance' The two-day rally was organized by the pro-democracy group Bersih, which fights for electoral reform. Bersih estimates that some 200,000 turned out for the protests on Saturday, while the police estimates only 25,000. "We are hoping to have as many people as yesterday to send the message to this government," said Simon Tam, a lawyer. "They have been lying and stealing and bullying for far too long and the public won't take it anymore," The government has declared the rally illegal, blocked the organizers' website and banned the yellow attire symbolizing support for Bersih. However, there were no reports of arrests or violent clashes with the police on Saturday. "We are happy that the police have maintained a healthy distance," said Pang Chin Liu, a trader among the thousands of protesters. "We do not want any trouble, we just want to send out our message to the prime minister." The rally is set to last until midnight Sunday, ushering in Malaysia's 56th National Day on Monday. No leader Despite the political turmoil, many experts believe that the government does not view the Kuala Lumpur rallies as a serious threat. "They feel safe because it has not really affected the rural Malay segment, their bedrock support," said political analyst Ibrahim Suffian. Many of the protesters come from Chinese and Indian communities, and the movement lacks a strong central leader. However, the government critics might gain momentum from the former premier Mahathir Mohamad's appearance on the Saturday rally. The 90-year old Mahathir is still a ruling-party heavyweight, and a fierce critic of Prime Minister Razak. For many years, Mahathir led the dominant political force in Malasyia, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

A crowd of protesters danced and performed aerobics on the second day of the rally in Kuala Lumpur, continuing their push against Prime Minister Najib Razak. The demonstrators accuse Razak of large-scale corruption. Thousands of protesters gathered for the second day of an anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday morning, including hundreds who slept on the streets of the ... Read More »

Jihadist Nusra Front commander reportedly killed in Syria

حکومتی فورسز کی بمباری کے نتیجے میں شام میں القاعدہ کی شاخ النصرہ فرنٹ کا ابو حمام الشامی نامی ٹاپ کمانڈر مارا گیا ہے۔ اس جہادی گروپ کی طرف سے الشامی کی ہلاکت کی تصدیق کر دی گئی ہے۔ شام کی سرکاری نیوز ایجنسی سانا کے مطابق ابو حمام الشامی کو الفاروق السوری کے نام سے بھی جانا جاتا تھا اور ان کی ہلاکت جمعرات کو اسپیشل آرمی آپریشن کے دوران صوبہ ادلیب میں ہوئی۔ الشامی کا تعلق دارالحکومت دمشق سے تھا اور وہ القاعدہ کے تجربہ کار کمانڈروں میں شمار ہوتے تھے۔ النصرہ فرنٹ کے جنرل ملٹری کمانڈر کا ٹائٹل بھی الشامی ہی کے پاس تھا۔ قبل ازیں النصرہ فرنٹ کے جنگجوؤں نے کہا تھا کہ الشامی کی ہلاکت امریکی ڈرون حملے کے نتیجے میں ہوئی ہے لیکن بعدازاں کہا گیا کہ ان کا کمانڈر اس وقت ہلاک ہوا جب وہ النصرہ فرنٹ کے دیگر اعلیٰ کمانڈروں سے ملاقات کر رہے تھے۔ ابو حمام الشامی کی ہلاکت کے ایک روز پہلے ہی النصرہ فرنٹ نے شامی ایئر فورس کے انٹیلی جنس ہیڈکوارٹرز پر حملے کی ذمہ داری قبول کی تھی۔ النصرہ فرنٹ کی طرف سے یہ حملہ حلب میں کیا گیا تھا۔ تجزیہ کاروں کے مطابق فوجی داؤ پیچ کے لحاظ سے الشامی کو النصرہ فرنٹ کا دماغ سمجھا جاتا تھا اور ان کی ہلاکت اس گروپ کے لیے ایک ’بڑے دھچکے‘ سے کم نہیں ہے۔ یاد رہے کہ شامی حکومت صدر بشار الاسد کی قیادت میں اس وقت ’اسلامک اسٹیٹ‘ ( آئی ایس) اور النصرہ فرنٹ دونوں ہی سے نبردآزما ہے۔ عرب ٹیلی وژن الجزیرہ کے کے مطابق النصرہ فرنٹ القاعدہ کے لیڈر ایمن الظواہری سے وفاداری کا اعلان کر چکی ہے اور ملک کے شمال میں صدر اسد مخالف اعتدال پسند گروپوں کو لڑائی کے ذریعے شکست بھی دے چکی ہے۔ الجزیرہ کے مطابق، ’’النصرہ فرنٹ میں کچھ قوتیں ایسی ہیں، جو القاعدہ کے ساتھ تعلقات منقطع کرنے کا سوچ رہی ہیں۔ تجزیہ کاروں کے مطابق یہ کارروائی تنظیم کے اندر طاقت کی رسہ کشی کا نتیجہ بھی ہو سکتی ہے۔‘‘ تجزیہ کاروں کے مطابق یہ حملہ سکیورٹی کی ناکامی کی وجہ سے ہوا ہے۔ اس کا مطلب یہ ہے کہ خفیہ معلومات اندر ہی سے فراہم کی گئیں تھیں۔ پینٹاگون کے ایک ترجمان کرنل اسٹیو وارن نے کہا ہے، ’’ہم النصرہ فرنٹ کے سینئر لیڈر کی ہلاکت سے متعلق میڈیا رپورٹوں کی تصدیق نہیں کر سکتے۔‘‘ تاہم اس ترجمان نے اس بات کی بھی تصدیق کی ہے کہ یہ حملہ نہ تو امریکا اور نہ ہی اس کے کسی اتحادی ملک نے کیا ہے۔ اطلاعات کے مطابق النصرہ فرنٹ کے کچھ لیڈر اس وجہ سے القاعدہ سے تعلق توڑنا چاہتے ہیں کیونکہ وہ النصرہ کو خالصتا ایک شامی گروپ بنانا چاہتے ہیں۔ تجزیہ کاروں کے مطابق اگر النصرہ فرنٹ کسی نئے نام اور شناخت کے ساتھ کام کرتی ہے تو اسے مزید فنڈز حاصل ہو جائیں گے کیونکہ فی الحال امریکا نے اسے ایک دہشت گرد گروپ قرار دے رکھا ہے اور اسے پابندیوں کا سامنا ہے۔

The militant Nusra Front group says its military commander has been killed in an air strike. A number of the group’s other prominent leaders are also believed dead. The Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, said on Thursday its top military commander, Abu Hommam al-Shami, had been killed in a blast targeting a Nusra meeting in the northwestern Idlib province. ... Read More »

Unexploded WWII bomb found near Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park

An unexploded Second World War bomb was found near the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund on Thursday morning. The bomb was defused safely midway through the afternoon. Just hours before Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp was due to give his press conference ahead of the derby against Schalke, a 250-kilogram (550-pound) unexploded bomb of British origin was discovered near Borussia Dortmund's stadium, the Signal Iduna Park. The bomb was difused at just after 15:00 local time (14:00 UTC), whereupon it was taken to a temporary holding in Hagen before it will later be destroyed in a disassembly plant in North Rhein-Westphalia. With a 250-meter safety radius, both the stadium and the fan world were evacuated as well as everyone living in the area. "The area is sparsely populated. Nevertheless, we've got to make sure that there's no one inside the restricted area. Especially in the Bolmketal garden district," said city spokesman Hans-Joachim Skupsch to Ruhr Nachrichten on Thursday morning. As was confirmed by a statement on the Dortmund city council's website, the unexploded bomb was found on the west side of the stadium on a construction site after analysis of an aerial photograph. Approximately 20 minutes after the news that the bomb had been disposed, the club confired via Twitter that the stadium and FanWorld area had been reopened. The ground below many German cities remains littered with unexploded bombs dropped by Allied and Soviet forces during the Second World War. Most of the bombs are safely defused once discovered, but with hundreds of thousands of aerial photographs from the Second World War, it's hard to pinpoint exact locations. In Germany's capital, Berlin, authorities believe 3,000 bombs still remain undiscovered, and experts warn that some of the munitions are growing increasingly dangerous as they rust and their fuses grow more brittle.

An unexploded Second World War bomb was found near the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund on Thursday morning. The bomb was defused safely midway through the afternoon. Just hours before Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp was due to give his press conference ahead of the derby against Schalke, a 250-kilogram (550-pound) unexploded bomb of British origin was discovered near Borussia ... Read More »

German government says no tanks for Lithuania: report

The German government has rejected a request from Lithuania for Boxer tanks, according to a newspaper report. The decision has been criticized by both sides of the German governing coalition. The German government has said it will not fulfill a request from its NATO ally and European Union partner Lithuania for the delivery of so-called Boxer tanks, a media report said on Sunday, citing the German Defense Ministry. "A delivery of armored transport vehicles from the German army or the resale of vehicles that are to be procured in the next few years is not in our plans," a ministry spokesman said, according to Die Welt am Sonntag. The paper reported that the decision was made in view of the German military's own requirements. Lithuania's request came amid security fears fueled by Russia's alleged role in fighting in Ukraine, where Moscow has been accused by several countries of fomenting a pro-Russian insurgency and supplying weapons, equipment and even troops to support pro-Russian separatists. Moscow has denied any role in fighting and maintains any Russian soldiers in Ukraine are "volunteers." Disputed decision The decision by Berlin to reject the request has been criticized by defense commentators on both side of the governing German grand coalition, the paper said. "We have a great interest in increasing the capability of our NATO partners in the Baltic," Social Democrat defense expert Rainer Arnold was quoted as saying. Florian Hahn of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said the fears of Baltic states were justified in view of the Ukraine crisis. "In this position we are required to support our NATO and EU partners as much as possible. That is also the case for procurement plans like this one for the Boxer transport tank," he said.

The German government has rejected a request from Lithuania for Boxer tanks, according to a newspaper report. The decision has been criticized by both sides of the German governing coalition. The German government has said it will not fulfill a request from its NATO ally and European Union partner Lithuania for the delivery of so-called Boxer tanks, a media report ... Read More »

Greece and eurozone edge toward draft accord

Greece and the eurozone's finance ministers are nearing an agreement on a draft accord that could potentially extend the country's bailout program, according to officials. As of yet, no final decision has been reached. Signs of a tentative agreement by the 19 eurozone finance ministers were confirmed on Friday evening during the third round of such talks in a week. Officials close to the discussions said the ministers were focusing solely on Greece's extension request, but that a final decision "could be soon." Earlier a source from the Greek government had referred to "an initial agreement on a joint draft text" between the partners, with the details still to be worked out. Athens still awaits a formal decision on the 240-billion-euro ($273-billion) bailout program, due to run out on February 28. Greece is asking for a six-month loan extension from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis submitted a request to the European Council on Thursday asking for the expiry date to be delayed, as well as for the removal of tough austerity measures. European leaders had mixed feelings about Greece's request, with Germany demanding "significant improvements" in commitments to widespread reforms, before it would even consider extending eurozone funding. Reports out of Athens say Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had asked Donald Tusk, chief of the EU Council, for an emergency European Union meeting to be held on Sunday, should the talks fail.

Greece and the eurozone’s finance ministers are nearing an agreement on a draft accord that could potentially extend the country’s bailout program, according to officials. As of yet, no final decision has been reached. Signs of a tentative agreement by the 19 eurozone finance ministers were confirmed on Friday evening during the third round of such talks in a week. ... Read More »

Thwarted Canada mass shooting ‘not linked to terrorism’

Police in Canada have dismissed the possibility that a plan to commit a mass shooting in Nova Scotia on Valentine's Day was linked to terrorism. Residents have been urged to stay vigilant. In a statement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said a 23-year-old Illinois woman and 19-year-old local man planned to go to a highly-populated public place on Saturday "with a goal of opening fire to kill citizens, and then themselves." Authorities have not released details of alleged targets. At a news conference early Saturday morning local time, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Brennan called the plan a "heinous event," and said it was a close call. "Had they been able to carry out their intention, the possibility for a large loss of life was definitely there," he said. Three people have been arrested in connection with the scheme, including two men aged 17 and 20, whose role is unclear. The American woman was taken into custody at Halifax Stanfield International Airport without incident. Police found the 19-year-old suspect dead in his rural Timberlea home, near the provincial capital Halifax on Friday. His death is now being investigated by the Serious Incident Response Team. Police believe they have now captured all persons involved in the plot. Following a tip-off on Thursday morning of a "potential significant weapons-related threat," authorities say they "acted quickly and intercepted a threat." Money is also believed to have been seized along with firearms. Minister for Public Safety Steven Blaney praised authorities' efforts, calling them "a great example of the fine work they do on a daily basis to help keep Canadians safe." Authorities have called on Canadians to be vigilant, and report anything they think is suspicious. Canadian Justice Minister Peter Mackay is scheduled to hold a news conference at 8:00 a.m. local time (1300 UTC).

Police in Canada have dismissed the possibility that a plan to commit a mass shooting in Nova Scotia on Valentine’s Day was linked to terrorism. Residents have been urged to stay vigilant. In a statement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said a 23-year-old Illinois woman and 19-year-old local man planned to go to a highly-populated public place on Saturday “with ... Read More »

German barracks uninhabitable, says soldiers’ commissioner

Better conditions for Germany's armed forces personnel have been promised by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen after a damning report. Many barracks are "dilapidated," says the commissioner for Bundeswehr personnel. Parliamentary ombudsman for Bundeswehr personnel, Hellmut Königshaus, said on Tuesday that past German focus on equipping its troops in Afghanistan had left facilities at home dilapidated. He called for massive additional investment by parliament on its armed forces, saying there was a "visible tendency" already into a "downward spiral." NATO combat operations, including up to 4,700 German troops at peak, were ended late last year and replaced by a mission to train Afghans. Königshaus said neglected Bundeswehr infrastructure within Germany coupled with weapon faults, insufficient training for foreign deployments and frequent stationing of soldiers away from their families had left Germany's troops facing "unacceptable overloads." And that put at risk von der Leyen's plan to turn the Bundeswehr into an attractive employer for professional recruits, he added. Germany abolished military conscription in 2011. Third of barracks unfit Königshaus said billions of euros were needed to repair Bundeswehr infrastructure, far beyond the 500 to 750 million euros ($566 to $849 million) suggested by von der Leyen on Monday. His said more than a third, or 38 percent, of barracks had large defects. Nine percent, or 269 out of 3,000, of all Bundeswehr buildings were actually uninhabitable, he said. Despite this, many were still in use, exhibiting mould and rust, sewage odors and defect heating radiators in washrooms during winter, he said. Comments follows auditors' assessment The commissioner's call to fix the catalogue of deficiencies follows a stinging auditors' report in October, which prompted wide discussion in Germany. The auditors listed equipment disrepair, including tanks and navy helicopters grounded or disabled, partly because spare parts were lacking. Königshaus' annual report to parliament, comprising 115 pages, said soldiers in weapons training had even been told to bend the rules. In one case, a manipulated machinegun has fired off 150 rounds. No one was wounded, but only through coincidence, he said. He also urged generals to spread resources more widely and provide more personnel to units facing constantly high burdens, such as military medics and air transport crews. The commissioner said soldiers had sent him 4,645 complaints during the year, signaling a "continuing high level." Motives for 24 suicides and 43 attempted suicides during 2014 mostly lay in soldiers' private lives, Königshaus said, adding that separation from family had for some been a factor. Need for modernization' Replying on Tuesday, von der Leyen admitted that the Bundeswehr had a "considerable need for modernization." "2014 was the year in which problems were placed massively on the table," she told the commercial German television channel N-TV. Königshaus belongs to the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), who lost all their seats in Germany's parliament in the last federal election. In May, he is to be succeeded as commissioner by Hans-Peter Bartels of the Social Democrats (SPD), who govern with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

Better conditions for Germany’s armed forces personnel have been promised by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen after a damning report. Many barracks are “dilapidated,” says the commissioner for Bundeswehr personnel. Parliamentary ombudsman for Bundeswehr personnel, Hellmut Königshaus, said on Tuesday that past German focus on equipping its troops in Afghanistan had left facilities at home dilapidated. He called for ... Read More »

Lebanon: DNA tests show captives related to ‘IS’ leader al-Baghdadi

Lebanon's interior minister has said that tests confirm it is holding a daughter and an ex-wife of the self-styled "Islamic State's" leader. The captives might prove useful to Lebanon with its own hostage problems. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said tests had shown that Lebanese authorities were holding a daughter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (pictured above), the leader of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) terror group. Lebanon first said it was holding a wife and son of the purported "caliph" of the group's territory last month, but their identities came under question. The woman, who has been named as Saja al-Dulaimi, was not al-Baghdadi's wife as initially said, but rather an ex-wife, Machnouk told Lebanese channel MTV late on Wedensday. She was arrested with two boys and a girl; the minister said that DNA tests showed the girl to be al-Baghdadi's child. "Dulaimi is not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's wife currently. She has been married three times: first to a man from the former Iraqi regime, with whom she had two sons," Machnouk said. "Six years ago she married Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for three months, and she had a daughter with him. Now, she is married to a Palestinian and she is pregnant with his child." Machnouk gave no details on Dulaimi's nationality, but said that the children were in a care facility while she was being interrogated. The Islamic State is yet to publicly comment on Dulaimi's detention, but the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, issued a statement condemning the arrest. Dulaimi is currently belived to be a member of the al-Nusra front. The group referred to her as "sister Saja al-Dulaimi," saying her detention was a sign of Lebanon's "weakness." Lebanon has also detained the wife of Anas Sharkas, a senior figure within al-Nusra. In August, during an attack on the border town of Arsal by IS and al-Nusra fighters, members of Lebanon's security forces were taken captive. Three of the 30 have been executed, while 27 are believed to still be in captivity; the AFP news agency reported, citing sources, that Dulaimi and her children might prove useful bargaining chips for the government in Beirut.

Lebanon’s interior minister has said that tests confirm it is holding a daughter and an ex-wife of the self-styled “Islamic State’s” leader. The captives might prove useful to Lebanon with its own hostage problems. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said tests had shown that Lebanese authorities were holding a daughter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (pictured above), the leader of the self-proclaimed ... Read More »

US seeks allies in Paris conference on “Islamic State”

Diplomats are gathering in the French capital to discuss ways to overcome the threat posed by "Islamic State" militants. The United States is calling on its allies to show solidarity in the fight against the jihadists. Senior figures from an emerging US-led coalition are to meet this Monday to discuss options to defeat "Islamic State" (IS) militants, with Washington keen to bring more members actively on board. Ahead of the Paris conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Washington's allies to join a united front, in particular calling upon Arab nations to play a meaningful role. Kerry said some nations had offered to put troops on the ground and that "there are some that are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States and to do airstrikes." "We have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance, in actual strikes if that is what it requires," Kerry told US broadcaster CBS on Sunday. Kerry added that there was no plan to use ground troops, despite offers from some allies. A Senior US State Department official told the Reuters news agency that offers of Arab air participation in the air campaign being carried out by IS at the behest of the Iraqi government had been made. France to outline air contribution France has said it is prepared to take part in US-led airstrikes on IS fighters in Iraq. Australia, for its part, has said it us preparing to contribute 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft to the campaign. US President Barack Obama has also said he foresaw the training of "moderate" Syrian rebels to take on IS, as well as the reconstitution of an Iraqi army that was routed by the rapid advance of the Islamist militants across northern and western Iraq. Monday's gathering comes amid outrage over the killing of British air worker David Haines, whose beheading has been claimed by IS fighters. Fourth hostage threatened Haines was beheaded by the militants in a video released on Saturday, the validity of which British officials say they have no reason to doubt. In the video, IS claims that the 44-year-old Briton was killed because of Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to join the coalition with the US and arm Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. A hooded man in the video spoke with a British accent, as was the case in two previous videos that showed the killing of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley. IS also threatened the life of another kidnapped British aid worker it claims to be holding, 47-year-old Alan Henning.

Diplomats are gathering in the French capital to discuss ways to overcome the threat posed by “Islamic State” militants. The United States is calling on its allies to show solidarity in the fight against the jihadists. Senior figures from an emerging US-led coalition are to meet this Monday to discuss options to defeat “Islamic State” (IS) militants, with Washington keen ... Read More »

Indian bank head arrested over bribery allegations

Indian police have arrested the chairman of a state-run bank for allegedly accepting bribes to increase the credit limit of private firms. It is one of the most high profile cases involving a serving bank chief in India. India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – the country's top crime-fighting body - also arrested 11 other people over bribery allegations over the weekend, including the brother-in-law of the Syndicate Bank's chairman and managing director Sudhir Kumar Jain. "We arrested him (Jain) [early Sunday local time] from Bangalore and he will be produced in court later today (Monday)," Kanchan Prasad, the CBI spokesperson, told the news agency AFP, on Sunday. The CBI said it had "laid a trap" and recovered five million rupees ($82,000), which was allegedly paid to Jain by private companies through middlemen to get extensions on their loans. Two directors of Delhi-based private firms had also been detained in the same case, revealed India's anti-corruption officials. The companies, the CBI said, had been defaulting on loan repayments to the medium-sized Syndicate Bank amounting to millions of rupees. The anti-graft body said its investigation was ongoing. Two companies for which Jain allegedly enhanced the credit limit are Prakash Industries and Bhushan Steel, which are also being investigated in a coal block allocation scam. The authorities said they had found several documents, computer records and evidence which proved that a number of other banks were also involved in the scandal through the same set of middlemen. "We will probe the larger conspiracy involving other banks as we have recovered huge amount of incriminating material," CBI Director, Ranjit Sinha, told the Times of India newspaper. Jain has worked in the banking sector for nearly 26 years and has been chief of the Syndicate Bank since July 8, 2013. Anti-corruption drive In a similar case late last year, Indian officials investigated a senior executive of the State Bank of India for allegedly taking bribes to sanction loans to a company. The South Asian country's state-run banks have been hit with bad and restructured loans, as companies drown in debt and India's economy struggles through its worst slowdown since the 1980s. Former premier Manmohan Singh's government was hit by a string of corruption scandals in previous years. Singh was criticized for being too lenient with corrupt ministers and state officials. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power after a landslide victory in April-May parliamentary elections, has vowed to eradicate corruption from India and fix the economy.

Indian police have arrested the chairman of a state-run bank for allegedly accepting bribes to increase the credit limit of private firms. It is one of the most high profile cases involving a serving bank chief in India. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – the country’s top crime-fighting body – also arrested 11 other people over bribery allegations over ... Read More »

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