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 on: Today at 09:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Gorilla plays peekaboo with toddler at Columbus zoo – video


A two-year-old baby gorilla named Kamoli is caught on camera playing a game of peek-a-boo with a toddler at Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Isiah Chute, also aged two, and the gorilla chase each other back and forth, with the gorilla hiding behind a plastic tree as the young visitor laughs excitedly

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 on: Today at 07:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Adapt or die: How arctic animals cope with climate change

Agence France-Presse
01 Sep 2015 at 08:59 ET     

When it comes to coping with climate change in the Arctic region, which is warming at three times the global average, some animals are more equal than others.

Migrating Barnacle geese that fly north to lay eggs amid the Norwegian Arctic’s craggy peaks and melting glaciers are adapting very well, thank you, at least for now.

Reindeer, foxes and polar bears, however, are having a harder time of it.

Just finding enough to eat can be a struggle.

The geese — which leave Scotland each year by the thousands — have come like clockwork since time immemorial in the Spring to Spitsbergen and other islands in the Svalbard archipelago to nest.

Until, that is, a few years ago.

“In 2007 they suddenly pushed forward their 3,000-kilometre (1,860-mile) trip by two weeks and it’s been that way ever since,” said Maarten Loonen, a Dutch ornithologist who studies the archipelago.

The revised travel schedule does not seem to pose a problem. Indeed, the number of goslings that hatch each season has more than doubled in two decades, from 15,000 to some 35,000.

But experts caution that the geese may be thriving in spite of climate change, not because of it: their growing numbers, they suspect, are mainly due to strict European conservation laws.

The Arctic has warmed more than any other region on Earth, an amplifying effect linked to sea ice loss and changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation.

In December, 195 nations will gather in Paris with a mandate to forge a planet-saving climate pact. Their goal: prevent average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

On Svalbard, temperatures shot up an average of 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last century, far exceeding the global increase of 0.8 C since the pre-industrial era.

Other animals have not managed to adapt as well as the geese to these rapid changes.

The freezing rain that often falls now instead of snow, for example, is making it harder for foxes and reindeer in Svalbard to get a meal.

The animals cannot break through the frozen rain to reach their food supplies.

“During winter the foxes sometimes have trouble accessing their stockpiles of gosling cadavers that they buried in reserve,” said Loonen.

Svalbard reindeer, which eat lichen and moss, have hoofs designed by evolution to clear the snow off their food supply in winter. But against ice, they are useless.

For now, reindeer, fox and geese populations in the Arctic are all stable, according to the International Union of Nature, which tracks at-risk species.

But scientists are tracking them carefully for signs of trouble.

– ‘Melting very fast’ –

The travails of polar bears, which no longer have as many floating ocean perches from which to hunt seals, has been well documented.

This shrinking hunting ground may be one reason they have taken to scarfing down the ready supply of goose eggs, a high-protein snack for the lumbering carnivores.

Their new foraging habits have also brought polar bears into closer contact with humans, who they slightly outnumber here.

Svalbard — one-and-a-half times the size of Switzerland — is home to some 3,000 polar bears and 2,500 homo sapiens.

“Most of the Svalbard bears live in the archipelago’s east, but over the past few years they have been exploring new territories and have been coming closer to Ny-Alesund,” said Norwegian scientist Sebastian Barrault, referring to a remote settlement that hosts 150 scientists and staff during the Arctic summer.

Thirty years ago, leaving the compound without a gun was not a problem. Today, it’s a no-no.

Warmer temperatures have also wrought havoc on the glaciers of Spitsbergen, the archipelago’s biggest island.

One of the biggest among them, 30-kilometre (18-mile) long Kronenbreen, is going fast.

“Kronenbreen has shrunk by a kilometre in three years. It’s unbelievable,” said Heidi Sevestre, a doctoral student studying glaciers at the University Centre in Svalbard.

Marine maps of glacier positions in local fjords are often out of date within a few years of being drawn.

And the pace is picking up. “Changes in the ocean levels are going to arrive faster than they did during [the end of] the last Ice Age,” said Florian Tolle, a glaciologist who’s been working on Svalbard for a decade.

The UN’s climate science panel says melting glaciers will account for a quarter of total sea level rise, which is pegged at 26 to 98 centimetres (10 to 39 inches) by 2100.

 on: Today at 07:41 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
Pope Francis tells priests to pardon women who have abortions

Agence France-Presse
01 Sep 2015 at 08:47 ET   

Pope Francis on Tuesday called on priests to pardon women who have abortions, and the doctors who perform them, during the upcoming Jubilee year — overruling hardline traditionalists within the Catholic Church.

“I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it,” he said.

In a message outlining special measures for the Jubilee, Francis said he knew that while “the tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness… many others… believe that they have no other option”.

The Argentine pontiff said he was “well aware of the pressure” that some women were under to abort, adding that he had “met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonising and painful decision”.

The 78-year-old, who has repeatedly urged the Church to show greater compassion, said priests should use “words of genuine welcome”, as well as making sure those involved were aware of “the gravity of the sin committed”.

Francis announced earlier this year a Jubilee year — traditionally a time for remission and forgiveness — which will run from December 8 to November 20 and be celebrated not only in the Vatican but in dioceses across the world.

 on: Today at 07:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
‘Bug’ as big as Tom Cruise ruled the seas 460 million years ago

Originally published August 31, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Almost half a billion years ago, way before the dinosaurs roamed, Earth’s dominant large predator was a sea scorpion that grew to 5 feet 7 inches, with a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head and a spike tail, according to a new study.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Earth’s first big predatory monster was a weird water bug as big as Tom Cruise, newly found fossils show.

Almost half a billion years ago, way before the dinosaurs roamed, Earth’s dominant large predator was a sea scorpion that grew to 5 feet 7 inches, with a dozen claw arms sprouting from its head and a spike tail, according to a new study.

Scientists found signs of these new monsters of the prehistoric deep in Iowa, of all places.

Geologists at the Iowa Geological Survey found 150 pieces of fossils about 60 feet under the Upper Iowa River, part of which had to be temporarily dammed to allow them to collect the specimens. Then scientists at Yale University determined they were a new species from about 460 million years ago, when Iowa was under an ocean.   

Then, all the action was in the sea and it was pretty small scale, said James Lamsdell of Yale, lead author of the study published Monday in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

“This is the first real big predator,” Lamsdell said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be swimming with it. There’s something about bugs. When they’re a certain size, they shouldn’t be allowed to get bigger.”

Technically, this creature — named Pentecopterus decorahensis, after an ancient Greek warship — is not a bug by science definitions, Lamsdell said. It’s part of the eurypterid family, which are basically sea scorpions.

Those type of creatures “are really cool,” said Joe Hannibal, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Hannibal wasn’t part of the study but praised it for being well done, adding “this species is not particularly bizarre — for a eurypterid.”

Unlike modern land scorpions, this creature’s tail didn’t sting. It was used more for balance and in swimming, but half this creature’s length was tail, Lamsdell said.

There were larger sea scorpions halfway around the world at the same time but those were more bottom feeders instead of dominant predators, he said.

Lamsdell could tell by the way the many arms come out of the elongated head how this creature grabbed prey and pushed it to its mouth.

“It was obviously a very aggressive animal,” Lamsdell said. “It was a big angry bug.”

 on: Today at 06:09 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Why researchers are concerned about 'grey swan' hurricanes

Scientists are working to quantify the risk of exceptionally devastating hurricanes. While such events are extremely rare, researchers encourage city planners and officials to prepare for storm surges far beyond what they have previously seen.

By Michael Holtz, Staff writer August 31, 2015   

Tampa hasn’t experienced a major tropical storm since 1921, but a new study has put city planners there on notice.

Researchers at Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology named the city in a new paper that warns of potentially devastating storms they’ve dubbed "grey swans." Unlike Black Swans, which are truly unpredictable events, grey swans are highly unlikely but can be predicted with a degree of confidence.

"We are considering extreme cases," Ning Lin, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, said in a statement. "These are relevant for policy making and planning, especially for critical infrastructure and nuclear power plants."

Professor Lin teamed up with Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, to create computer models to examine potential storm hazards for three cities: Tampa; Cairns, Australia; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Their findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that powerful storms could generate devastating storm surges in all three cities.

Tampa is at particular risk in the United States because it sits on low-lying land surrounded by a bay of shallow water, reports Smithsonian Magazine. After plugging in Tampa Bay’s historical climate data from 1980 to 2005, the researchers ran 7,000 simulated hurricanes in the area. Their model showed that a grey swan storm could create surges of up to 18 feet tall, well higher than the 11-foot surges generated in the 1921 storm.

Professor Emanuel told The Washington Post that the purpose of the study was “to raise awareness of what a very low probability, very high impact hurricane event might look like.” But he and Lin both concede that such super storms are highly unlikely. Under current climate conditions, they have about a 1 in 10,000 chance of occurring in an average year.

“With climate change, these probabilities can increase significantly,” they write in the paper. For Tampa, those odds increase to between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 1,100 by 2050 and between 1 in 2,500 and 1 in 700 by the end of the century.

Lin told Smithsonian that it’s important to predict the extremes and then “prepare for them as much as we can rather than wait for the consequences.”

 on: Today at 06:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Dynamic duo: Twin black holes fuel quasar closest to Earth

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found that the nearest galaxy to Earth that hosts a quasar is powered by twin black holes orbiting each other.

By Jessica Mendoza, Staff writer August 31, 2015   

Astronomers have come to expect to find massive black holes at the center of the universe's brightest bodies, but last week, NASA astronomers revealed a startling new finding: a pair of "furiously whirling" black holes at the heart of a galaxy called Markarian 231.

Located some 600 million light years from our solar system, Mrl 231 is the closest galaxy to Earth that hosts a quasar core. The idea that quasars host black holes is not new, but this discovery – found with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope – suggests that they may contain binary, or twin, black holes more often than originally thought.

“We are extremely excited about this finding because it not only shows the existence of a close binary black hole in Mrk 231, but also paves a new way to systematically search binary black holes via the nature of their ultraviolet light emission,” Youjun Lu of the National Astronomical Observatories of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement published by NASA.
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As gas and dust swirl around a quasar, the material gets sucked inward into the black hole at its core, where the black hole's gravity compresses and heats it, producing radiation.

The black hole's magnetic fields concentrate much of that radiation into jets that stretch from each pole deep into space – jets that appear as bright points far outshining the galaxies where they originated.

Scientists first observed a mysterious hole in the center of the Mrk 231 quasar’s accretion disk, or the ring of gas that spirals around the black hole. Using modeling studies, the researchers concluded that the best explanation for the hole is that the center of the disk is carved out by two black holes – one larger and one smaller – orbiting each other.

Researchers say the primary black hole in Mrk 231 is about 150 million times the mass of our sun, while its partner weighs in at about 4 million solar masses.

The duo likely fell into orbit around one another as a result of the merger between two galaxies, and together generate huge amounts of energy that causes the core of the host galaxy to outshine the rest of its stars.
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“The structure of our universe, such as those giant galaxies and clusters of galaxies, grows by merging smaller systems into larger ones, and binary black holes are natural consequences of these mergers of galaxies,” said co-investigator Xinyu Dai of the University of Oklahoma, in NASA's statement.

The merger has also led Mrk 231 to produce stars at a rate 100 times the Milky Way.

The two black holes are predicted to spiral together and collide within a few hundred thousand years.

 on: Today at 06:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
How Christchurch used the earthquake to return the city to its cycling roots

After the 2011 disaster, residents were asked what they wanted from the city once known as ‘Cyclopolis’. They demanded a greener, more people-focused Christchurch – and investment in new cycleways means it is starting to happen

Charles Anderson in Christchurch
Tuesday 1 September 2015 00.01 BST

There has been a slight change in Glen Koorey’s daily 20-minute bicycle ride to work over the last four years. In the weeks following Christchurch’s devastating earthquake in 2011, in which 185 people were killed and large portions of the CBD were levelled, there was no way to drive through the city. Buildings lay crumbled. Roads were cracked and split. Basic infrastructure was torn apart.

For months stretching into years, it remained nearly impossible to navigate the city without having to divert into myriad detours before eventually arriving at your destination. Cycling, says Koorey, became a simpler means of transport.

“At work if there was an aftershock and you were told to go home, it was a lot easier to go on a bike than drive.”

Slowly, Koorey has watched Christchurch recover – the roads repaired, the buildings rebuilt and the infrastructure reengineered. But he has also seen a change in attitude for a city that had long neglected its two-wheeled commuters.

Koorey is a transport engineer by trade and teaches at the local University of Canterbury. But before all that he was, and always has been, a cyclist. In the aftermath of the earthquake, he became a voice for cycling advocates. He presented to the local council on how the city could build back better – this time with cycling in mind.

    In 1924, the council estimated there were 40,000 cyclists in the city – half the population at the time

The city had an opportunity for change and asked its citizens what it wanted of the new Christchurch. One of the resounding calls from the public was that it wanted a greener and more people-focused city – and one of the more obvious ways to achieve this was to invest in cycling infrastructure.

“The key thing is that council asked the question and that often doesn’t happen,” Koorey says. “You shouldn’t have to have an earthquake for this to happen.”

The model to transform was based on those northern European countries that are famed for their cycling infrastructure – particularly the Netherlands and Denmark. Koorey was interested in how they did what they did. After all, 40 years ago Amsterdam, the bastion of cycle-friendly cities, was heading down the same path as Christchurch. It had not invested in infrastructure, and the proliferation of low-cost cars and cheap petrol saw its streets bulging with vehicles. But then Amsterdam had its own earthquake of sorts, says Koorey: a terrible record of children being killed by motorists. It took that self-reflection to turn the city around. Now, 32% of Amsterdam traffic is made up of bicycles.

New Zealand has a way to go. Cycling here accounts for 1.4% of trips, and 3% of all all commutes. In Christchurch this rises to 7% – making it the country’s unofficial cycling capital. But that number used to be much higher. In fact, Christchurch was once known as “Cyclopolis” and as the “Copenhagen of the south”.

You can still find old black-and-white films of commuters clogging the city’s streets. But in these films there are not traffic lights, roundabouts and intersections; instead, there are hundreds of cyclists all merging, all organically going about their day. In 1924, the council estimated there were 40,000 cyclists in the city – half the population at the time.

Koorey believes that, one day, Christchurch can become more than “just” the Copenhagen of the south. He thinks it can become one of the best cycling cities in the world.

“I’ve had the chance to see a lot of good places for cycling,” he says, “but really they are not too far ahead of what Christchurch is now doing” (that is, investment and thinking smarter about how to promote cycling). Almost NZ$160m (£67m) has been promised from government to build 13 new cycleways planned for the city.

    The key thing is that council asked the question … You shouldn’t have to have an earthquake for this to happen
    Glen Koorey

Creating good cycling infrastructure starts with doing the basics right, such as having well-designed intersections and creating “quiet streets”, where few cars are allowed and only at 30kmh. Along with installing separated cycle lanes, there are means by which to change perceptions of how city transport should function.

According to Koorey, when you include the associated health benefits, there is an eight-to-one benefit-to-cost ratio that comes with cycling investment. “What’s good for cycling is good for people generally,” he says.

This philosophy has shone through in other projects throughout Christchurch. Groups such as Frocks on Bikes encourage women to take up cycling. Bike events have seen the city closed to cars to show residents what Christchurch could look like in the future. Pop-up central city bike workshops such as RAD have been built by young community-minded citizens wanting to get involved in the rebuild – a hallmark of the Christchurch recovery. A cycle share project, Spark Bikes, also started in August on a two-year pilot programme that saw 40 bikes installed in five different locations around the central city.

“There is a renaissance of cycling all around the place,” Koorey says. “We need all that in addition to the infrastructure to make it fun.”

One of the biggest barriers to cycling being fully embraced here is the perception of safety. Koorey says the local media has made much of cycling deaths over the past several years – 12 since 2009. He says by virtue of having more cyclists that any other city in the country they have more accidents, but per capita the numbers are actually quite good. Even in the Netherlands, because of the sheer volume of cyclists, they still have 180 deaths a year.

Then there are the oft-cited road rage incidents between cyclists and motorists. One 51-year-old cyclist was even fined by the police for impeding traffic on a narrow and winding hill road on the outskirts of the central city. Koorey says out of that confusion good discussions can be had, and will need to be had if the city is to fully embrace a cycling future.

It will take about five years before the city’s major cycleways are off the ground. By then, Koorey anticipates that Christchurch’s cycling commuters will have doubled. Then give it a few more years, he says, and his vision of a world-class cycling city that rivals the Northern Europeans may actually take shape: “I don’t see why not.”

 on: Today at 05:59 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Dutch government to appeal against carbon emissions ruling

Environment minister says Netherlands will contest court ruling ordering it to cut emissions steeper, but government will begin complying in the meantime

Tuesday 1 September 2015 10.54 BST

The Dutch government will appeal against a district court ruling ordering it to cut emissions of greenhouse gases faster than currently planned, in a politically sensitive case that is being closely watched by policy-makers abroad.

Deputy Minister for the Environment Wilma Mansveld wrote in a letter to parliament on Tuesday that the government would contest the 24 June ruling which ordered it to slash emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020.

But the government said it will also begin implementing the lower court’s ruling because the filing of an appeal does not undo its obligation to comply.

Urgenda, an environmental group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of 900 Dutch co-plaintiffs, said it looked forward to the appeal process and urged the government to do more to slow climate change.

The ruling, a rare intervention by the judiciary in the global warming debate, is being closely watched by policy makers and environmentalists as a legal precedent.

Mansveld’s letter said it was the first time that a judge found that the government should achieve a minimum emissions reduction.

The government of conservative prime minister Mark Rutte “questions the application of international law,” and agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, it said.

“Due to the consequences for climate is desirable for the ruling to be considered by a higher court,” it said.

The Netherlands, a laggard among developed countries in cutting emissions after reducing spending on alternative energy during the financial crisis, used record amounts of coal in the first five months of this year.

Dutch greenhouse gas emissions fell 5% in 2014 from a year earlier, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) said on Tuesday, citing the mild winter and lower fossil fuel use.

“These lower emissions were dampened by higher use of coal and less gas by electricity producers,” it said. “Emissions were 15% than 1990 levels.“

Based on current government policy, the Netherlands will achieve a reduction of 17% at most in 2020, which is below a norm of 25-40% for developed countries, a summary of the ruling said.

Not many developed countries are on track in making deep cuts such as those as demanded by the court, which were based on scenarios by the UN panel of climate scientists in 2007 for limiting rising temperatures.

The European Union is targeting reductions of at least 20% by 2020 from 1990 levels, while the United States is aiming for about a 4% cut.

 on: Today at 05:57 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Climate change brings cyclone risk to Persian Gulf, study warns

Shallow and warm waters of the Persian Gulf, where cyclones have never been recorded, might generate future storms that threaten cities such as Dubai

Tuesday 1 September 2015 09.57 BST

Climate change is bringing small risks that tropical cyclones will form in the Persian Gulf for the first time, in a threat to cities such as Dubai or Doha which are unprepared for big storm surges, a US study said on Monday.

Tampa in Florida and Cairns in Australia, two places where cyclones already happen, would be increasingly vulnerable to extreme storms this century, according to the report, based on thousands of computer models.

The shallow and warm waters of the Persian Gulf, where cyclones have never been recorded, might generate the storms in future as a side-effect of global warming, according to the study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“You can’t always rely on history” to predict the future, lead author Ning Lin of Princeton University told Reuters of the findings she reached with Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For the Persian Gulf the probability of cyclones “is very low but ... if you build a nuclear power plant you have to consider these things,” she said.

For Dubai, for instance, a storm surge of 1.9 metres (6 feet and 3 inches) in height could be expected once every 1,000 years based on recent climate warming, and one of 4 metres (13 feet and one inch) once every 10,000 years, the scientists estimated.

They dubbed such extreme tropical cyclones “grey swans”, saying they could not be predicted from history alone. The metaphor is inspired by “black swans”, judged impossible by Europeans until they were found in Australia.

Some past studies have also pointed to risks of abrupt changes in the climate system linked to global warming, including that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer or that monsoon rains could veer off track.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the build-up of greenhouse gases from human activities means more energy accumulates in the climate system.

“Bad climate surprises may happen,” he told Reuters at UN talks in Bonn on a deal to slow climate change.

Monday’s study said the closest cyclone to the Persian Gulf was in 2007, when Cyclone Gonu in the Arabian Sea struck Oman and Iran, killing 78 people and causing $4.4bn (£2.Cool in damage.

The study said that extreme hurricanes now likely to hit Tampa only once every 1,000 years, causing a storm surge of 4.6 metres, would occur every 60 to 450 years by the late 21st century. Cairns would also be vulnerable to worsening storms.

 on: Today at 05:56 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Barack Obama in Alaska: global fight against climate change starts here

President says massive areas of ice disappearing every year are not some far-off problem but ‘a leading indicator of what the entire planet faces’

Dan Roberts in Washington
Tuesday 1 September 2015 05.27 BST

Shrinking Alaskan glaciers served as a vivid backdrop for Barack Obama’s latest push for action on climate change in Anchorage on Monday night as he warned that the equivalent of 75 blocks of ice the size of the national mall in Washington were melting from the state every year.

The president, who will visit the nearby Seward glacier on Tuesday to see its shrinkage for himself, urged international participants at the Glacier conference to act fast before it was too late to limit the impact not just on the region but the whole world.

“The Arctic is at the leading edge of climate change, a leading indicator of what the entire planet faces,” warned Obama, who said new research showed 75 gigatons of ice were disappearing from Alaskan glaciers annually – each gigaton the equivalent of a block stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln memorial and four times as high as the Washington Monument.

“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem,” he added. “Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy and infrastructure.”

Obama struck an optimistic tone about the growing global consensus around the need to limit carbon dioxide emissions. “This year in Paris has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can,” he said.

“This is within our power. This is a solvable problem – if we start now.

“We are starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will to get moving.”

In particular the president hinted at further announcements during the remainder of his three-day trip to Alaska, which is designed to highlight the threat from carbon emissions and strengthen the domestic political case for new power station regulations.

“Over the course of the coming days I intend to speak more about the particular challenges facing Alaska and the United States as an Arctic power and intend to announce new measures to address them,” he said.

Nonetheless the president was greeted with environmental protests before his speech, with campaigners criticising his support for offshore oil drilling in the state.

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