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This Is How the Number 3.14 Got the Name 'Pi'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '17 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's happy-Pi-day! department:
An anonymous reader shares a Time article: Ancient research on real numbers likely "didn't get improved upon until the age of Newton," says John Conway, mathematics professor emeritus at Princeton University who once won the school's Pi Day pie-eating contest. Sir Isaac Newton recorded 16 digits of pi in 1665, later admitting that he was "ashamed" of how long he had worked on the computations, as it meant that he had "no other business at the time," per the MAA. It was not until the 18th century -- about two millennia after the significance of the number 3.14 was first calculated by Archimedes -- that the name "pi" was first used to denote the number. In other words, the Greek letter used to represent the idea was not actually picked by the Ancient Greeks who discovered it. British mathematician William Jones came up with the Greek letter and symbol for the figure in 1706, and it was popularized by Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, Catherine the Great's mathematician, a few decades later. "Euler was a much better mathematician than the people who used [pi] before, and he wrote very good textbooks," says Conway. "He used it because the Greek letter Pi corresponds with the letter 'P'... and pi is about the perimeter of the circle."

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FBI Says It Can't Release iPhone Hacking Tool Because It Might Still Be Useful
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '17 at 07:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Justice Dept. officials say that details of a hacking tool used to access a terrorist's iPhone should not be released because it may still be "useful" to federal investigators. From a report: The government is fighting a case against three news organizations, including the Associated Press, which are fighting to release details of the hacking tool that FBI agents used to unlock a passcode-protected phone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Details of the hacking tool have remained classified, not least because the Justice Dept. believes the tool may could still be used by the FBI in similar cases. "Disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security as it would allow hostile entities to discover the current intelligence gathering methods used, as well as the capabilities and limitations of these methods," said David Hardy, section chief of the FBI's records management division, in a court filing released late Monday.

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Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '17 at 07:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief in support of Google, after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the company had to hand over emails stored overseas in response to an FBI warrant. From a report: An amicus brief is filed by people or companies who have an interest in the case, but aren't directly involved. In this case, it's in Silicon Valley's interest to keep US law enforcement from accessing customer data stored outside the US. It isn't clear what data Google might have to hand over and, last month, the company said it would fight to the order. In the brief, the companies argue: "When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States -- in the place where the customers' private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer's consent."

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A Rogue Robot Is Blamed For a Human Colleague's Gruesome Death
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '17 at 05:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rise-of-the-robots department:
A new lawsuit has emerged claiming a robot is responsible for killing a human colleague, reports Quartz. It all started in July 2015, when Wanda Holbrook, "a maintenance technician performing routine duties on an assembly line" at an auto-parts maker in Ionia, Michigan, called Ventra Ionia Main, "was 'trapped by robotic machinery' and crushed to death." From the report: On March 7, her husband, William Holbrook, filed a wrongful death complaint (pdf) in Michigan federal court, naming five North American robotics companies involved in engineering and integrating the machines and parts used at the plant: Prodomax, Flex-N-Gate, FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric. Holbrook's job involved keeping robots in working order. She routinely inspected and adjusted processes on the assembly line at Ventra, which makes bumpers and trailer hitches. One day, Holbrook was performing her regular duties when a machine acted very irregularly, according to the lawsuit reported in Courthouse News. Holbrook was in the plant's six-cell "100 section" when a robot unexpectedly activated, taking her by surprise. The cells are separated by safety doors and the robot should not have been able to move. But it somehow reached Holbrook, and was intent on loading a trailer-hitch assembly part right where she stood over a similar part in another cell. The machine loaded the hardware onto Holbrook's head. She was unable to escape, and her skull was crushed. Co-workers who eventually noticed that something seemed amiss found Holbrook dead. William Holbrook seeks an unspecified amount of damages, arguing that before her gruesome death, his wife "suffered tremendous fright, shock and conscious pain and suffering." He also names three of the defendants -- FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric -- in two additional claims of product liability and breach of implied warranty. He argues that the robots, tools, controllers, and associated parts were not properly designed, manufactured or tested, and not fit for use. "The robot from section 130 should have never entered section 140, and should have never attempted to load a hitch assembly within a fixture that was already loaded with a hitch assembly. A failure of one or more of defendants' safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda's death," the lawsuit alleges.

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Nintendo Switch Ships With Unpatched 6-Month-Old WebKit Vulnerabilities
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '17 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's buyer-beware department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo's Switch has been out for almost two weeks, which of course means that efforts to hack it are well underway. One developer, who goes by qwertyoruiop on Twitter, has demonstrated that the console ships with months-old bugs in its WebKit browser engine. These bugs allow for arbitrary code execution within the browser. A proof-of-concept explainer video was posted here. The potential impact of these vulnerabilities for Switch users is low. A Switch isn't going to have the same amount of sensitive data on it that an iPhone or iPad can, and there are way fewer Switches out there than iDevices. Right now, the Switch also doesn't include a standalone Internet browser, though WebKit is present on the system for logging into public Wi-Fi hotspots, and, with some cajoling, you can use it to browse your Facebook feed. The exploit could potentially open the door for jailbreaking and running homebrew software on the Switch, but, as of this writing, the exploit doesn't look like it provides kernel access. The developer who discovered the exploit himself says that the vulnerability is just a "starting point."

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Work-Life Balance: Cryptographer Fired By BAE Systems For Taking Care of Dying Wife
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mind-body-and-soul department:
mdecerbo writes: A new lawsuit by cryptographer Don Davis against multinational defense giant BAE Systems highlights the fact that companies are free to have their boasts about "work-life balance" amount to nothing but idle talk. The Boston Globe reports that on his first day on the job, Davis explained that his wife had late-stage cancer. He would work his full work day in the office, but if he was needed nights or weekends, he'd want to work from home. His supervisor was fine with it, but the human resources department fired him on the spot after four hours of employment. The lawsuit raises interesting questions, such as whether employment law requires corporations to have the sort of common decency we expect from individuals. But what I want to know is, if BAE Systems loses this lawsuit, will they prevent future ones by making their "work-life balance" policy say simply: We own you, body and soul? Don Davis' lawyer, Rebecca Pontikes, contends he was discriminated against because the company "requires its male employees to be the stereotypical male breadwinner and to leave family responsibilities to women." BAE issued a statement to The Boston Globe saying, "we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and work hard to provide our employees with flexible working options that enable them to have a meaningful work/life balance." The company declined to discuss specifics, citing pending litigation.

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NYC Sues Verizon For Breaking Promise To Make FiOS Available To All Residents
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 08:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's boulevard-of-broken-dreams department:
New submitter erickessler writes: 1 million NYC homes can't get Verizon FiOS, so the city just sued Verizon. Verizon wants another four years to cover remaining 1 million households. Washington Post reports: "New York City has sued Verizon, saying the phone giant broke its 2008 promise (PDF) to make its Fios cable service available to all city residents. The city said in a lawsuit (PDF) Monday that Verizon missed a 2014 deadline to extend wire by every home or apartment building in the city -- in technical parlance, "passing" the home. The city also argues that Verizon hasn't installed service for thousands who requested it. Verizon disagrees with the city's definition of "passing" a home and says it has done its job. Spokesman Ray McConville said Monday that Verizon sees "passed" as meaning that it can reach every home, provided a landlord gives permission. Verizon wants to reach some buildings through other buildings. In a letter to the city Friday, Verizon says 2.2 million households have access to Fios, a phone, cable and high-speed internet network. Verizon said Monday that it is committed to expanding Fios availability to the city's remaining 1 million households."

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Laptop SSD Capacity To Remain Flat As NAND Flash Dearth Causes Prices To Rise
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 06:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's steady-as-we-go department:
Lucas123 writes from a report via Computerworld: Laptop manufacturers aren't likely to offer higher capacity standard SSDs in their machines this year as a shortage of NAND flash is pushing prices higher this year. At the same time, nearly half of all laptops shipped this year will have SSDs versus HDDs, according to a new report from DRAMeXchange. The contract prices for multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs supplied to the PC manufacturing industry for those laptops are projected to go up by 12% to 16% compared with the final quarter of 2016; prices of triple-level cell (TLC) SSDs are expected to rise by 10% to 16% sequentially. "The tight NAND flash supply and sharp price hikes for SSDs will likely discourage PC-[manufacturers] from raising storage capacity," said Alan Chen, a senior research manager of DRAMeXchange. "Therefore, the storage specifications for mainstream PC [...] SSDs are expected to remain in the 128GB and 256GB [range]."

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Facebook and Instagram Ban Developers From Using Data For Surveillance
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's thou-shall-not-pass department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook and Instagram have banned developers from using their data for surveillance with a new privacy policy that civil rights activists have long sought to curb spying by law enforcement. Following revelations last year that police departments had gained special access to the social networks to track protesters, Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced on Monday that it had updated its rules to state that developers could not "use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance." The American Civil Liberties Union obtained government records last year revealing that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had provided users' data to a software company that aids police surveillance programs and had helped law enforcement monitor Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The ACLU found that the social networking sites had given "special access" to Geofeedia, a controversial startup that has partnered with law enforcement to track streams of user content. "Our goal is to make our policy explicit," Facebook said in its announcement on Monday. "Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply."

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Microsoft's Project Scorpio Will Pack Internal PSU, 4K Game DVR Capture
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-to-expect department:
According to an exclusive report from Windows Central, Microsoft's upcoming "Project Scorpio" gaming console will feature an internal power supply unit (PSU), similar to the Xbox One S, and 4K game DVR and streaming at 60 frames-per-second (FPS). From the report: In Microsoft's efforts to make Project Scorpio a true 4K system, it will also feature HEVC and VP9 codecs for decoding 4K streams for things such Netflix, just like the Xbox One S. It will also leverage HEVC for encoding 2160p, 60 frame-per-second (FPS) video for Game DVR and streaming. Microsoft's Beam streaming service has been running public 4K stream tests for some time, and it's now fair to assume it will not only be PC streamers who will benefit. Project Scorpio's Game DVR will allow you to stream and record clips in 4K resolution with 60FPS, according to our sources, which is a massive, massive step up from the 720p, 30FPS you get on the current Xbox One. With every bit of information we receive about Project Scorpio, the theme of native 4K keeps appearing -- not only for games, but also console features. We now believe Scorpio will sport 4K Game DVR, 4K Blu-ray playback, and 4K streaming apps, but the real showstopper will be the 4K games Microsoft will likely flaunt at E3 2017.

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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Solve the Instant Messaging Problem?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's answer-to-all-your-problems department:
Artem Tashkinov writes: The XKCD comics has posted a wonderful and exceptionally relevant post in regard to the today's situation with various instant messaging solutions. E-mail has served us well in the past, however, it's not suitable for any real-time communications involving video and audio. XMPP was a nice idea, however, it has largely failed except for a low number of geeks who stick to it. Nowadays, some people install up to seven instant messengers to be able to keep up with various circles of people. How do you see this situation being resolved?

People desperately need a universal solution which is secure, decentralized, fault tolerant, not attached to your phone number, protects your privacy, supports video and audio chats and sending of files, works behind NATs and other firewalls and has the ability to send offline messages. I believe we need a modern version of SMTP. [How would you solve the instant messaging problem?]

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Online Job Sites May Block Older Workers
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 04:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's put-in-a-hard-day's-work department:
Joe_Dragon quotes a report from CNBC: Older Americans struggling to overcome age discrimination while looking for work face a new enemy: their computers. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently opened a probe into allegations that ageism is built right into the online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt. Separate research published recently by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank found that in a widespread test using fabricated resumes, fictional older workers were 30 percent less likely to be contacted after applying for jobs. Fictional older women had it even worse, being 47 percent less likely to get a "callback." Several forces are conspiring to ensure that many Americans have to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65. People are living longer, their retirement savings are inadequate, and Social Security reforms are almost certainly going to require it. The San Francisco Fed says that the share of the older-65 working population is projected to rise sharply -- from about 19 percent now to 29 percent in the year 2060. Online job-hunting tools should be making things easier for older employment seekers, and it can. Indeed.com, which claims to list 16 million jobs worldwide, currently lists 158,000 openings under its "Part Time Jobs, Senior Citizen Jobs" category. Monster.com, which claims 5 million listings, has a special home page for "Careers at 50+." In other ways, however, online job sites can cut older workers out. Age bias is built right into their software, according to Madigan. Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it's impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don't go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out. For example, one site's menu options for "years attended college" stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form. Madigan's office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, "barring anyone who is older than 52." Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. The Illinois' Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan's office has sent inquiry letters to six top jobs sites: Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.

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Lloyds To 'Offshore' 2,000 Jobs In IBM Data Center Outsourcing Deal
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 02:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's wait-and-see department:
In early January, IBM announced a roughly $1.6 billion outsourcing deal with Lloyds Banking Group. IBM would pay Lloyds for its data center assets and in return will charge the bank for ongoing management. Today, Lloyds plans to move almost 2,000 members of staff to U.S. tech giant IBM as part of the IT outsourcing deal. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from The Stack: The seven-year deal hopes to save the bank close to $930 million in costs, streamline the business and make its IT services more agile. Lloyds Trade Union (LTU), which represents around 35,000 members of staff, now "derecognized" by the bank, claimed in a newsletter that once the deal is signed the jobs would be "offshored" over a four-year period. It added that most of the 1,961 positions would be cut. "1,961 staff will be transferred to IBM including permanent staff, contractors, 3rd parties and offshore suppliers. However after 4 years, only 193 of the staff transferred to IBM will still be working on the LBG contract," wrote LTU.

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PlayStation Now Will Bring PS4 Games to your PC
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 01:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-convergence department:
You could soon play PlayStation 4 exclusives like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Remastered on your PC. From a report on Engadget: Sony is bringing the PS4 catalog to its streaming game service PlayStation Now, the company said today in a blog post. The announcement is light on details, but we know that every game in the service, including PS4 games, will be part of a single PS Now subscription.

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Boaty McBoatface To Go On Its First Antarctic Mission
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 01:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A small yellow robot submarine, called Boaty McBoatface after a competition to name a new polar research ship backfired, is being sent on its first Antarctic mission. Boaty, which has arguably one of the most famous names in recent maritime history, is a new type of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which will be able to travel under ice, reach depths of 6,000 meters, and transmit the data it collects to researchers via a radio link. Its mission will be to investigate water flow and turbulence in the dark depths of the Orkney Passage, a 3.5km deep region of the Southern Ocean. The data it collects will help scientists understand how the ocean is responding to global warming. Boaty will travel with the DynOPO (Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow) expedition on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research ship James Clark Ross, departing from Punta Arenas in Chile on 17 March. The craft will be sent back and forth through a cold abyssal current that forms an important part of the global circulation of ocean water. In 2019 Boaty McBoatface will be fitted with acoustic and chemical sensors and sent into the North Sea to "sniff out" signals associated with the artificial release of gas beneath the seabed. A future aim for Boaty will be to attempt the first-ever crossing of the Arctic Ocean under ice, which has the potential to deliver a significant change in scientists' ability to observe change in this vital region.

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Google Wants To Use AI To Cut the UK's Electric Bill By 10 Percent
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 12:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's using-AI-for-good department:
The Google-owned firm artificial intelligence company DeepMind is in talks with the National Grid about a potential partnership, with the possibility of using the technology to make the supply of energy across the UK more efficient. From a report: Google Deepmind is opening talks with the UK government to use the company's artificial intelligence to reduce energy use by up to 10 percent. Artificial intelligence is highly adept at spotting patterns and making predictions that are much too small and subtle for humans to pick out, which lets AIs to micromanage systems with far greater efficiency than any human engineer could hope to achieve. For instance, Google is currently using Deepmind's AI to control its server rooms, where it manages windows, fan speeds, air conditioning, and more than a hundred other factors to save Google hundreds of millions of dollars in electricity costs.

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It's About Time Astronauts Got Healthcare For Life
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 12:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department:
Miriam Kramer, reporting for Mashable: NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria flew to space four times for the space agency between 1995 and 2007. While in space, his eyesight deteriorated, a well-documented medical issue NASA's known about for years, and one that many astronauts have experienced first-hand. For many astronauts, their eyesight readjusts once they get back to Earth. That wasn't the case for Lopez-Alegria, though. His eyesight got significantly worse during his time in orbit, and NASA isn't paying for his contacts or doctor visits today, years after his retirement from the agency. However, he still travels to Houston, Texas once per year to allow the agency to gather data about his health, without any expectation that NASA will offer treatment for any conditions that may have developed because of his time in space. In other words, while Lopez-Alegria's eyesight deteriorates, NASA benefits from the data he provides to the American space program, without medical recompense to him today. The lack of health care for former astronauts has long been a sore spot at NASA, but now it threatens the agency's future. Deep space missions beyond the moon, like a mission to Mars, require a better understanding of how extended spaceflight affects the human body.

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The Most Striking Thing About the WikiLeaks CIA Data Dump Is How Little Most People Cared
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 12:03 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's aftermath-analysis department:
Last week, WikiLeaks released a trove of web pages describing sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the C.I.A to break into smartphones, computers, and IoT devices including smart TVs. Despite the initial media coverage, it appears normal people don't really care much about it, reports Quartz. An anonymous reader shares the report: There's also one other big difference between now and 2013. Snowden's NSA revelations sent shockwaves around the world. Despite WikiLeaks' best efforts at theatrics -- distributing an encrypted folder and tweeting the password "SplinterItIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterItIntoTheWinds" -- the Vault 7 leak has elicited little more than a shrug from the media and the public, even if the spooks are seriously worried. Maybe it's because we already assume the government can listen to everything.

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Pandora Debuts Premium On-Demand Music Tier
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 10:47 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-competition department:
Pandora will now let you listen to whatever you want, for a price. The internet radio firm today announced Pandora Premium, for which it will charge customers $9.99 a month. From a report on USA Today: The new on-demand service Pandora Premium, which costs $9.99 monthly, lets subscribers choose and play any song or album and use new playlist creation features. Currently, Pandora's Internet radio can be listened to free with advertisements, but you cannot choose a specific song, only artists or a type of music. Listeners can give songs a thumbs up to hear more songs similar to that or thumbs down to not hear that track again on that station. Pandora will send out invitations to current select users on Wednesday, with options for all users to upgrade in coming weeks. Pandora hopes this new tier of service helps strengthen its position in the competitive music streaming market. It already reigns as the top music service in terms of overall listening, earning 28% of all streaming music hours in 2016, according to research firm MusicWatch.

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Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Could Get $23M Exit Payment, Ex-IAC Executive Will Become CEO
Posted by News Fetcher on March 13 '17 at 10:47 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
Yahoo has named a replacement for CEO Marissa Mayer once the merger with Verizon becomes official. The next leader of the Sunnyvale-based tech giant will be Thomas J. McInerney, a former chief financial officer of IAC. From a report: Yahoo said Monday that after it completes the sale of its core search business to Verizon and Marissa Mayer and co-founder David Filo step down as board members of Altaba (the new name for the remaining holdings), Mayer could get a $23 million "golden parachute" payment, and Thomas McInerney will run the remaining part of the business as CEO. Mayer's golden parachute, a large payment for top executives if they lose their position as a result of a deal, would include $19.97 million in equity and more than $3 million in cash, according to a regulatory filing. It would kick in if there is a change in control, as will be the case in the deal, and she is terminated "without cause" or "leaves for good reason" within a year.

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