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Americans Got 26.3 Billion Robocalls Last Year, Up 46 Percent From 2017
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-getting-worse department:
Americans are now getting so many robo-calls on a regular basis that many are simply choosing not to answer the phone altogether. From a report: That's one big takeaway from a report [PDF] released Tuesday by Hiya, a Seattle-based spam-monitoring service that analyzed activity from 450,000 users of its app to determine the scope of unwanted robo-calling -- and how phone users react when they receive an automated call. Consistent with other analyses, Hiya's report found that the number of robo-calls is on the rise. Roughly 26.3 billion robo-calls were placed to U.S. phone numbers last year, Hiya said, up from 18 billion in 2017. One report last year projected that as many as half of all cellphone calls in 2019 could be spam.

While many businesses have legitimate purposes for using robo-calls -- think package delivery services, home maintenance technicians and banks -- unwanted robo-calls represent a growing challenge for regulators and telecom companies. In its analysis of a month's worth of calling data, Hiya found that each of its app users reported an average of 10 unwanted robo-calls. Many more incoming calls, about 60 on average, were from unrecognized numbers or numbers not linked to a person in the recipient's address book.

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Electronics Are 'the Fastest-Growing Waste Stream in the World'
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Electronic waste is a growing threat to the environment. Thanks to the low cost of manufacturing, it's easier than ever for corporations to pump out millions of laptops, smart phones, internet of things devices, and other electronics. From a report: A new initiative combining the efforts of the United Nations and the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development wants to change that. The group formed the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), and announced itself at Davos -- a yearly gathering of the world's wealthy elite -- where it released its first report. "E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world," PACE's report said. "It is estimated this waste stream reached 48.5 million tonnes in 2018." Most of that waste comes from Europe and the United States and ends up in places like Nigeria and Hong Kong, which suffer the human and economic costs of disposing of the material. "The material value [of e-waste] alone is worth $62.5 billion, three times more than the annual output of the world's silver mines and more than the GDP of most countries," PACE's report [PDF] said.

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iRobot Unveils Terra, a Roomba Lawn Mower
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Krystalo writes: iRobot is best known for making vacuum cleaner robots: the infamous Roomba lineup. But the company also makes mopping robots (Braava lineup), pool cleaning robots (Mirra lineup), a bot to help clean gutters, and even programmable robots (Create lineup). So, what's next for your home? A lawn mower robot. Queue the "get off my lawn" jokes.

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Mind-Altering Cat Parasite Linked To Schizophrenia in Largest Study Yet
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Scientists claim they have found new evidence of a link between infection with the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, and schizophrenia, in what is described as the largest study of its kind. From a report: T. gondii, a brain-dwelling parasite estimated to be hosted by at least 2 billion people around the world, doesn't create symptoms in most people who become infected -- but acute cases of toxoplasmosis can be dangerous. Healthy adults are generally thought to not be at risk from T. gondii infections, but children or people with suppressed immune systems can develop severe flu-like symptoms, in addition to blurred vision and brain inflammation.

Pregnant women need to be careful too, as the parasite can cause foetal abnormalities or even miscarriage. Aside from the known physiological dangers, however, the stranger and more ambiguous risks associated with the parasite remain largely hypothetical -- although a huge body of research suggests something weird is going on. Causation remains very much disputable, but the brain-dwelling parasite -- commonly carried by cats and present in their faeces -- has been linked to a huge host of behaviour-altering effects.

Virtually all warm-blooded animals are capable of being infected, and when T. gondii gets inside them, unusual things happen. In rodents, animals seemingly lose their inhibitions, becoming more exploratory and losing their aversion to cat odours.

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UAE Used Cyber Super-Weapon To Spy on iPhones of Foes
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Reuters reports: A team of former U.S. government intelligence operatives working for the United Arab Emirates hacked into the iPhones of activists, diplomats and rival foreign leaders with the help of a sophisticated spying tool called Karma, in a campaign that shows how potent cyber-weapons are proliferating beyond the world's superpowers and into the hands of smaller nations. The cyber tool allowed the small Gulf country to monitor hundreds of targets beginning in 2016, from the Emir of Qatar and a senior Turkish official to a Nobel Peace laureate human-rights activist in Yemen, according to five former operatives and program documents reviewed by Reuters. The sources interviewed by Reuters were not Emirati citizens.

Karma was used by an offensive cyber operations unit in Abu Dhabi comprised of Emirati security officials and former American intelligence operatives working as contractors for the UAE's intelligence services. The existence of Karma and of the hacking unit, code named Project Raven, haven't been previously reported. Raven's activities are detailed in a separate story published by Reuters today. The ex-Raven operatives described Karma as a tool that could remotely grant access to iPhones simply by uploading phone numbers or email accounts into an automated targeting system. The tool has limits -- it doesn't work on Android devices and doesn't intercept phone calls. But it was unusually potent because, unlike many exploits, Karma did not require a target to click on a link sent to an iPhone, they said.

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Apple Says It's Banning Facebook's Research App That Collects Users' Personal Information
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's enough-is-enough department:
Facebook is at the center of another privacy scandal -- and this time it hasn't just angered users. It has also angered Apple. From a report: The short version: Apple says Facebook broke an agreement it made with Apple by publishing a "research" app for iPhone users that allowed the social giant to collect all kinds of personal data about those users, TechCrunch reported Tuesday. The app allowed Facebook to track users' app history, their private messages and their location data. Facebook's research effort reportedly targeted users as young as 13 years old.

As of last summer, apps that collect that kind of data are against Apple's privacy guidelines. That means Facebook couldn't make this research app available through the App Store, which would have required Apple approval. Instead, Facebook apparently took advantage of Apple's "Developer Enterprise Program," which lets approved Apple partners, like Facebook, test and distribute apps specifically for their own employees. In those cases, the employees can use third-party services to download beta versions of apps that aren't available to the general public.

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Hanford Nuclear Waste Cleanup Makes Progress, But Questions Loom
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 05:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's only-time-will-tell department:
The Hanford Vit Plant in Washington state, a $17 billion federal facility for treating and immobilizing radioactive waste, is now on track to begin "glassifying" low-activity nuclear waste as soon as 2022, reports IEEE Spectrum. This is "a year ahead of a court-mandated deadline." From the report: Still, an air of uncertainty surrounds the project. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed reclassifying some of the nation's radioactive waste as less dangerous, and it's unclear how that could affect the Hanford facility's long-term prospects. Hanford houses about 212 million liters of high-level waste, the leftovers of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

< article continued at Slashdot's only-time-will-tell department >

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Meet the Man Behind a Third of What's On Wikipedia
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '19 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's legendary-internet-users department:
Thelasko shares a report from CBS News: Steven Pruitt has made nearly 3 million edits on Wikipedia and written 35,000 original articles. It's earned him not only accolades but almost legendary status on the internet. The online encyclopedia now boasts more than 5.7 million articles in English and millions more translated into other languages -- all written by online volunteers. Pruitt was named one of the most influential people on the internet by Time magazine in part because one-third of all English language articles on Wikipedia have been edited by Steven. An incredible feat, ignited by a fascination with his own history.

How much money does he make from his work? None. "The idea of making it all free fascinates me. My mother grew up in the Soviet Union ... So I'm very conscious of what, what it can mean to make knowledge free, to make information free," he said. Pulling from books, academic journals and other sources, he spends more than three hours a day researching, editing and writing. Even his day job is research, working in records and information at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He joked that his colleagues probably think he's nuts. To put in to perspective what it took for Pruitt to become the top editor, he's been dedicating his free time to the site for 13 years. The second-place editor is roughly 900,000 edits behind him, so his first place status seems safe, for now.

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NASA Is Back To Work, But the Effects of the Government Shutdown Linger
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's to-be-determined department:
Following a record 35-day government shutdown, thousands of civil servants and contractors are heading back to work this week at NASA's various centers throughout the country. "These first few days back on the job will be consumed with practical matters, such as figuring out employee backpay and how to dive back into projects," reports The Verge. "The shutdown will undoubtedly result in delays for some of NASA's long-term programs, too, but it'll be a while before the space agency can fully assess the extent of the damage." From the report: To explain how NASA is adjusting in the wake of the shutdown, the space agency's administrator Jim Bridenstine addressed employees during a town hall meeting this afternoon at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC. "Welcome to 2019," he said during the meeting, which was live-streamed on NASATV. "NASA is now open and we're very thankful for that." The comment was met by applause from those in attendance, while Bridenstine went on to acknowledge that it's been a rough start to the year for the agency. "I want to say thank you for your patience and for your commitment to this agency and to the mission we all believe in so dearly."

< article continued at Slashdot's to-be-determined department >

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Study Shows How LSD Interferes With Brain's Signaling
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A group of volunteers who took a trip in the name of science have helped researchers uncover how LSD messes with activity in the brain to induce an altered state of consciousness. Brain scans of individuals high on the drug revealed that the chemical allows parts of the cortex to become flooded with signals that are normally filtered out to prevent information overload. The drug allowed more information to flow from the thalamus, a kind of neural gatekeeper, to a region called the posterior cingulate cortex, and it stemmed the flow of information to another part known as the temporal cortex. This disruption in communication may underpin some of the wacky effects reported by LSD users, from feelings of bliss and being at one with the universe to hallucinations and what scientists in the field refer to as "ego dissolution," where one's sense of self disintegrates.

< article continued at Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department >

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Google Cleans Up Gmail App With An All-White Redesign
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
While Gmail on the web was significantly redesigned last year, the app for Android and iOS stayed relatively unchanged, with the exception of an update last year that removed the bold colors in favor of an almost entirely white look. Engadget reports that a redesigned Gmail for mobile is starting to roll out today and it will be available to all Android and iOS users in the coming weeks. Engadget reports: Functionally, the new Gmail mobile app isn't wildly different than what came before. There's a button in the lower-right corner to compose a new email, just like before -- it's just white with a multi-colored "plus" sign, the same glyph that shows up in Gmail and Drive on the web. The iconic top red bar is now white, and the whole top area is a search bar; the old app required tapping a smaller target to get into search. Finally, there's a shortcut right to the account switcher on the main page. Previously, switching accounts required opening the sidebar, but now that option is front and center.

A few features that came to the web version of Gmail make their way to mobile today. Probably most recognizable is that attachment previews will show up below the messages, making it easier to both find messages with attachments and get a sense of the content. For those that prefer to see more messages, Google also has "comfortable" and "compact" density options that remove attachment previews and avatars, respectively. The large red phishing warnings that Gmail on the web shows also now show up in the app. Visually, it looks just like you'd expect if you've tried any of Google's recent mobile apps -- it's basically all white, with the new Google font throughout.

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Ask Slashdot: What Could Go Wrong In Tech That Hasn't Already Gone Wrong?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's look-into-the-crystal-ball department:
dryriver writes: If you look at the last 15 years in tech, just about everything that could go wrong seemingly has gone wrong. Everything you buy and bring into your home tracks you in some way or the other. Some software can only be rented now -- no permanent licenses available to buy. PC games are tethered into cloud crap like Steam, Origin and UPlay. China is messing with unborn baby genes. Drones have managed to mess up entire airports. The Scandinavians have developed a serious hatred of cash money and are instead getting themselves chipped. CPUs have horrible security. Every day some huge customer database somewhere gets pwned by hackers. Cybercrime has gone through the roof. You cannot trust the BIOS on your PC anymore. Windows 10 just will not stop updating itself. And AI is soon going to kill us all, if a self-driving car by Uber doesn't do it first. So: What has -- so far -- not gone wrong in tech that still could go wrong, and perhaps in a surprising way?

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Facebook Pays Teens To Install VPN That Spies On Them
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's desperate-for-data department:
A new report from TechCrunch details how "desperate" Facebook is for data on its competitors. The social media company "has been secretly paying people to install a 'Facebook Research' VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user's phone and web activity," a TechCrunch investigation confirms. "Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity." From the report: Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android "Facebook Research" app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page. The program is administered through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak Facebook's involvement, and is referred to in some documentation as "Project Atlas" a fitting name for Facebook's effort to map new trends and rivals around the globe.

We asked Guardian Mobile Firewall's security expert Will Strafach to dig into the Facebook Research app, and he told us that "If Facebook makes full use of the level of access they are given by asking users to install the Certificate, they will have the ability to continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps -- including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed." It's unclear exactly what data Facebook is concerned with, but it gets nearly limitless access to a user's device once they install the app.

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New Proposal Would Ban Government Facial Recognition Use In San Francisco
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The San Francisco Examiner: San Francisco could be the first city in the nation to ban city agencies from using facial recognition surveillance technology under proposed legislation announced Tuesday by Supervisor Aaron Peskin. The legislation, which will be introduced at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, echoes ordinances adopted by cities including Oakland and Berkeley, as well as by the transit agency BART, that require legislative approval before city agencies or law enforcement adopt new surveillance technologies or policies for the use of existing technologies. However, the new proposal takes things a step further with an outright ban on facial recognition technology.

The San Francisco proposal would not only ban facial recognition but would also require the Board of Supervisors to approve new surveillance technology in general. The board would have to find that the benefits of the technology outweigh the costs, that civil rights will be protected and that the technology will not disparately impact a community or group. Peskin portrayed the proposal to be introduced Tuesday as an extension of his "Privacy First Policy," approved by voters in November, which sets new limits and transparency requirements on the collection and use of personal data by companies doing business with The City.

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Apple Says Profits Were Flat, Citing Slump In China
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's overall-revenue department:
Due to an economic slowdown in China and diminishing demand for new iPhones, Apple's profits in its most recent quarter were flat compared with a year earlier. "The disappointing financial performance had been expected since Jan. 2, when Apple, for the first time in 16 years, revised its forecast for the quarter," reports The New York Times. "But the announcement on Tuesday indicates a difficult road head for Apple, which just five months ago became the first company to be worth more than $1 trillion. The company said it expected between $55 billion and $59 billion in revenue in the current quarter, just below analysts' expectations for $59 billion. Apple's earnings per share were $4.18, beating analysts' expectations by a penny."

In addition to the quarterly earnings, Apple reported revenue of $84.3 billion, a decline of 5 percent from one year ago. "Revenue from iPhone declined 15 percent from the prior year, while total revenue from all other products and services grew 19 percent," Apple said in a press release. Analysts had estimated revenue of $83.97 billion and earnings of $4.17 per share. "While it was disappointing to miss our revenue guidance, we manage Apple for the long term, and this quarter's results demonstrate that the underlying strength of our business runs deep and wide," said Tim Cook. Apple's active install base of 1.4 billion is "a great testament to the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers, and it's driving our services business to new records thanks to our large and fast-growing ecosystem," Cook said. The Verge adds: "iPhones account for 900 million of those devices. iPad revenues were up 17 percent against the year-ago quarter; Mac was up 9 percent; and Wearables/Home/Accessories were up by 33 percent."

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Game Retailer GameStop Says It Can't Sell Itself, Sees Stock Drive 27 Percent
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's holding-on-for-life department:
GameStop announced today that it has called off a decision to find a private buyer for the company and its subsidiaries. "The announcement ushered in the public company's largest stock-value dip in over 10 years, seeing it plummet in one day from $15.49 to (as of press time) $11.28 -- a dive of roughly 27 percent," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The Texas-based gaming retailer had been linked to acquisition rumors, as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that multiple private equity firms had been circling GameStop -- and its subsidiaries, including the merch-focused ThinkGeek and the gaming magazine Game Informer. That report had suggested a deal might close by mid-February.

However, Tuesday's statement indicated that prospective deals fell through "due to the lack of available financing on terms that would be commercially acceptable to a prospective acquirer." The rest of the statement offers little clear hint of the company's next steps beyond pumping the cash from a recent subsidiary sale into options such as "reducing the company's outstanding debt, funding share repurchases, or reinvesting in core video game and collectibles businesses to drive growth."

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Microsoft Warns Internet Explorer 10 Will Be Terminated In January 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mark-your-calendar department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Microsoft has warned that it isn't only Windows 7 for the chop in 2020. Unloved Internet Explorer 10 will be joining it. Finally. Internet Explorer 10 first appeared back in 2012 and in 2016 Microsoft made a concerted effort to kill the thing by focusing its support efforts on Internet Explorer 11. Anything not Edge-related or without "11" after it would no longer be supported. However, not every operating system was capable of actually running Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft infamously restricted its Edge browser to Windows 10 (and later iOS and Android). Notable exceptions to the IE10 crackdown were Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Embedded.

At this point administrators will doubtless be shuddering at the memory of having to run Internet Explorer in their pristine Server environment in order to get access to some recalcitrant function or component. Alas, the shuddering must resume since after a two-year stay of execution, Microsoft has decided that IE10 must be stamped out completely. Windows Embedded 8 Standard and Windows Server 2012 will remain supported until 2023 after all, and keeping IE10 patched for another four years is doubtless keeping the engineers awake at night. Microsoft has therefore warned that as well killing off Windows 7 in 2020, enterprises that prefer to take a slower path will have to update IE on their 2012 Servers, since IE10 support will finally end for everything in January 2020. Unlike Windows 7, you won't even be able to pay for patches.

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China Will Attempt 30-Plus Launches in 2019, Including Crucial Long March 5 Missions
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
New submitter starmanaj shares a report: The main contractor for the Chinese space program is planning more than 30 launches in 2019, with major missions including the crucial return-to-flight of the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket in July. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), announced Jan. 29 that it would aim to loft more than 50 spacecraft on 30-plus launches this year. Among these will be the third launch on the Long March 5, a 5-meter-diameter, 57-meter-tall heavy-lift launch vehicle which failed in its second flight in July 2017, delaying the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission and the construction of the Chinese Space Station. The mission will take place in July at the coastal Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island, CASC vice president Yang Baohua said at a Jan. 29 news conference in Beijing, which also saw the release of a "Blue Book of China Aerospace Science and Technology Activities."

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Amazon To Fund CS Classes in Over 130 NYC High Schools
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Amazon announced today a plan to fund computer science classes in more than 130 New York City area high schools. Specifically, Amazon will fund both introductory and Advanced Placement (AP) classes across all five NYC boroughs, including more than 30 schools in Queens, near its new headquarters. From a report: The courses will be supported by the Amazon Future Engineer program, whose stated goal is to bring more than 10 million kids to computer science per year, and fund computer science courses for over 100,000 underprivileged kids in 2,000 low-income high schools in the U.S. It also awards 100 students per year with four-year $10,000 scholarships and offers internships at Amazon.

The funding for the New York area schools will cover preparatory lessons, tutorials and professional development for teachers, says Amazon, as well as offer sequenced and paced digital curriculum for students, and live online support for both teachers and students. All participating students will also receive a free membership to AWS Educate, which offers free computing power in the AWS Cloud for coding projects.

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Apple Was Notified About Major FaceTime Eavesdropping Bug Over a Week Ago
Posted by News Fetcher on January 29 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's blame-game-begins department:
An anonymous reader writes: Twitter user MGT7500 tagged the official Apple Support account in a January 20 tweet claiming that her 14-year-old son discovered a "major security flaw" that allowed him to "listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval." The user also tagged Tim Cook on the issue in a follow-up tweet on January 21."

Once the bug started making headlines on Monday, the Twitter user then shared additional tweets claiming that they had also emailed Apple's product security team over a week ago. A screenshot of the email was shared, and it appears the team did respond, but what they said is not visible in the screenshot. [...] All in all, there is evidence that Apple Support was tagged about an eavesdropping bug eight days before it made headlines, and if the rest of the tweets are truthful, the company was also alerted about the bug via several other avenues.

The original story has been updated to include another example of a user -- John Meyer -- who has shared a video about the FaceTime bug that he says was recorded and sent to Apple on January 23.

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