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April 14, 2014

Appeal granted in Lev Tahor case, children do not have to go to Quebec

Filed under: legal, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:32 pm

A Superior Court judge has ruled 14 Lev Tahor children subject to a Quebec court order no longer have to return to that province, where they would be placed in foster care.

Judge Lynda Templeton ruled Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Fuerth erred in his original Feb. 3, 2014 decision that upheld the Quebec order. Her ruling means the children may stay in Ontario, but she directed the Ontario Court of Justice to address the question of what will happen with the seven children who are currently in foster care.

They are there because of an impromptu flight that saw some of the 14 children removed from the country ahead of the first appeal hearing. Eight of those children were apprehended and seven were placed in foster care with Jewish families in Toronto.

The Ontario Court of Justice is the court with the jurisdiction to decide whether they should remain in foster care. The court has already ordered eight hours of weekly visits by the parents of the children and directed Chatham-Kent Children’s Services to pay a portion of the travel costs.

Quebec child protection authorities have documented allegations of abuse, underage marriage and a substandard education regime within Lev Tahor. Leaders of the ultraorthodox Jewish sect have denied all allegations of abuse and say they are the victims of a smear campaign targeting the group for its religious beliefs.

The group originally fled Quebec ahead of a November ruling for the removal of 14 children, which kicked off a long legal saga that sought to determine whether the Quebec order could be enforced in Ontario. Fuerth ruled that it could, but allowed a stay of 30 days on his decision to permit time for the families to appeal.

On the day that appeal was scheduled to be heard, it was found that some of the children had fled the country. Templeton held a secret hearing and issued an emergency order for the apprehension of 14 children. Eight of the children were found, while six of the children subject to the original order remain in Guatemala with their parents.

A few families not subject to any court orders that they knew of attempted to get passports for their Canadian-born children to leave the country, but found that Quebec had issued apprehension orders for their children as well.

Guidy Mamann, lawyer for the group, says the orders apply to all children in the sect. It’s unclear if, or when, they will be brought before an Ontario court.


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November 8, 2012

Fiscal cliff: Boehner’s opening gambit

Filed under: loans, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

There’s a big difference between raising tax rates and raising tax revenue. And the distinction may prove key in fiscal cliff negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama over the next two months.

Boehner on Wednesday laid out in public his opening gambit for that deal-making.

House Republicans, Boehner said, are open to raising more tax revenue to reduce deficits — a key Democratic requirement — but only if it’s done through tax reform that lowers income tax rates and in conjunction with entitlement reform.

Done right, Boehner said in public remarks in Washington, a reformed tax code can raise more revenue by curbing special interest loopholes and deductions and by generating economic growth.

That’s very different than raising tax rates — something that has been off the table for Republicans.

Obama, by contrast, has proposed making a down payment on debt reduction by letting the portion of the Bush tax cuts that apply to high-income households expire. That would mean the top two income tax rates would increase to 36% and 39.6% next year from 33% and 35% today.

Boehner’s remarks left several questions unanswered.

For one, how much of the new revenue would Republicans want raised through economic growth versus through curbing tax breaks?

Many tax experts believe smart tax reform can boost economic growth and thereby generate more revenue over time. But how much growth and when is unpredictable. And there’s no guarantee that other factors that hurt economic growth won’t undercut the revenue raised by tax reform.

In any case, the conventional way Congress assesses how much revenue a proposal would raise does not include potential economic growth effects of the kind Boehner expects, noted Jim Kessler, senior vice president for policy at the centrist think tank Third Way.

So an official “score” of revenue raised from such a tax reform plan would be most heavily reliant on the tax breaks that are curtailed.

And curbing tax breaks is not always an easy sell politically to either party, because it could mean many taxpayers end up paying more in taxes even when income tax rates are lowered, said Pete Davis, a former Capitol Hill staffer who now runs Davis Capital Investment Ideas.

In 1986, the last time the tax code was overhauled, lawmakers reduced rates and curbed tax rates for individuals. Most people got a net tax cut because lawmakers raised corporate tax rates a lot, Davis said.

This time, both Democrats and Republicans want to lower corporate tax rates, too. And if reform is to raise more revenue than the current system in great part by closing loopholes, more than half of taxpayers would likely see a net tax increase, according to Davis.

Given the country’s long-term fiscal shortfalls, that may be necessary. But it will be a tough sell on Capitol Hill.

Nevertheless, Boehner’s comments are a “promising start” to fiscal cliff negotiations, said Steve Bell, the economic policy director of the Bipartisan Policy Center.


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November 7, 2012

Amazon testing $8 per month price for Prime streaming

Filed under: loans, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:20 pm

It’s no secret that Amazon’s main streaming video competitors are Netflix and Hulu Plus. A new pricing setup pits the retailer even more squarely against its rivals.

Amazon is testing a $7.99 per month pricing scheme for its Prime program, the same exact cost as the monthly streaming services from ) and Hulu.

That’s a pricier option than Amazon Prime’s traditional $79 annual fee. The blog Hacking Netflix first reported on the pricing trial after a reader spotted the offer.

Amazon appears to be offering the monthly option only to some customers. CNNMoney didn’t receive the message when accessing Amazon’s Prime signup page from multiple browsers on several different computers. Amazon representatives didn’t reply to a request for comment on the program guaranteed online payday loans.

The Prime program is unique in that it covers both the Amazon’s retail and video content businesses. Prime customers receive free two-day shipping on certain tangible goods from, as well as streaming video access. Prime subscribers who have Kindle devices can also borrow some e-books for free.

As of September, Amazon said Prime Instant Video offered members streaming access to about 25,000 movies and TV episodes. Netflix doesn’t specify how many titles it offers, simply saying that its streaming catalog has “thousands” of selections. Hulu is similarly vague, advertising that its library features “a large selection of videos from more than 410 content companies.”


November 1, 2012

Eurozone unemployment hits record high

Filed under: legal, online — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:28 am

Unemployment in the eurozone rose in September to a record high of 11.6%, the European Commission’s Eurostat statistics agency reported Wednesday..

The figure was a slight increase from 11.5% in August. The increase is more significant compared to September 2011, when the unemployment rate was 10.3%. The number of unemployed people in the 17 nations of the area, which share the euro currency, rose by 146,000 to 18.49 million.

Unemployment rates within the euro area vary dramatically from one country to the next. Spain, with its sluggish economy, has the highest unemployment rate of 25.8%, followed by Greece at 25.1% and Portugal at 15 business cards.7%.

On the other side of the spectrum, Austria has the lowest rate at 4.4%, followed by Luxembourg at 5.2%, and Germany and the Netherlands at 5.4%.

The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.8% for September.

For all of the full 27 member-states of the European Union, including countries that do not use the euro, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 10.6%. The rate was up from 9.8% a year earlier. The number of unemployed people in the 27 nations rose by 169,000 to 25.75 million.eur


October 29, 2012

GDP Report: U.S. economy grew 2% in third quarter

Filed under: marketing, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:28 pm

U.S. economic growth picked up in the third quarter, boosted by stronger consumer spending, an improving housing sector and increased defense spending.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic health, grew at an annual rate of 2% from July to September, the Commerce Department said Friday, faster than the 1.3% rate in the second quarter.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had predicted a 1.7% growth rate for the third quarter, but were still reluctant to celebrate. Growth around 2% a year is in line with the pace of the sluggish recovery, and is hardly enough to lead to robust hiring.

“It’s a ho-hum number given the environment we’re in,” said Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo. “We’re looking ahead to fiscal cliff, and holiday sales forecasts this year are lower than last year. We’re limping into the final quarter this year.”

Related: Check the unemployment rate in your state

One major economic theory suggests that the economy needs to grow around 3% a year to bring unemployment down by one percentage point. The unemployment rate was 7.8% as of September.

“Growth rates this low will not reliably lower joblessness in the years to come,” said Josh Bivens, research and policy director for the Economic Policy Institute.

Residential construction accelerated at a 14% pace in the third quarter, signaling the housing sector may have finally started recovering. But because housing makes up less than 3% of the entire U.S. economy, the impact was minor.

Consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of the economy, grew at an annual pace of 2% in the third quarter. This was the single biggest contributor to stronger economic growth, and was supported mainly by stronger auto sales.

Surprisingly, higher federal defense spending also boosted the economy, growing at a 13% annual rate after shrinking in the three prior quarters.

“We can’t figure out where that came from,” Bullard said. “That category is highly susceptible to being revised, and we expect it’s going to get watered down.”

State and local governments contracted for the 12th consecutive quarter. Meanwhile, businesses cut back on their spending.

Spending on software and equipment in particular, had previously been a strong point in the recovery, but was flat in the third quarter. Economists point to uncertainty over tax policy and the fiscal cliff as key reasons why businesses are now holding back.

“The ongoing fiscal folly is a major contributing factor to the soft tone of the economy, as is evidenced by the slower pace of investment spending, especially spending on equipment and software, which was flat,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. “The uncertainty generated by fiscal ineptitude has basically shut down investment spending.”

Weak exports also weighed on growth, a sign that global economic weakness is hitting American manufacturers. The world’s second largest economy, China has been slowing, and Europe’s economy has been shrinking.

Economists are expecting the U.S. economy to slow in the fourth quarter, as uncertainty about the fiscal cliff and weaker growth overseas intensify.

“After the election we expect economic activity to slow and both businesses and consumers to pull back in response to a contentious debate over fiscal policy,” said Ellen Zentner, senior economist at Nomura.


October 24, 2012

Spanish economy shrinks again

Filed under: canada, economics — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:28 am

Spain fell deeper into recession in the third quarter, upping the pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he seeks more austerity measures and considers requesting a eurozone-led bailout.

Preliminary central bank figures for the quarter released Tuesday showed the Spanish economy shrank by 0.4% compared to the March-June period, with contractions occurring in both government and household spending. Year-over-year, the economy contracted by 1.7% in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with 1.3% in the second quarter.

Spain, the eurozone’s fourth largest economy, is stuck in its second recession in three years. Both the government and the International Monetary Fund are predicting further contraction next year, although they differ on the scale.

Unemployment has risen to record levels around 25%, putting Spain on a par with Greece, and sparking angry protests at the waves of spending cuts and tax increases introduced by the government to reduce debt.

Rajoy presents his 2013 budget to parliament later Tuesday. It includes plans for further austerity measures aimed at bringing down the budget deficit. Opposition groups have promised to organize more protests in response.

Yields on Spanish government 10-year bonds soared above 7% in July on fears the government would default. But they fell to just above 5% as Madrid won a promise of eurozone help for its banks and the European Central Bank pledged to buy government bonds.

Related: Spain’s future brightens as it dodges downgrade bullet

Investors have begun to demand a higher risk premium — the 10-year bond was quoted at 5.6% Tuesday — due to a lack of clarity about when Spain will formally request help from the European Stability Mechanism, one of the conditions for ECB action small personal loans.

Rajoy’s People’s Party won an election in his home region of Galicia last weekend. Some analysts had expected a bailout request to follow, but last week’s lack of progress at an EU leaders’ summit on the mechanics of the ESM could lead to further delay.

The ESM is the eurozone’s permanent rescue mechanism, replacing the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

“Uncertainties remain around, for example… whether the EFSF loan to recapitalize Spanish banks will remain on Spain’s sovereign balance sheet and how soon these issues will be resolved,” ratings agency Fitch said in a note.

Related: EU leaders punt on thorny issues

Ratings agency Moody’s last week confirmed its investment grade rating on Spain, based on the assumption that Madrid will tap the ESM, and reflecting progress on fiscal and banking reform.

But it cut its rating Tuesday on five Spanish regions — Andalucia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalunya, and Murcia.

Moody’s attributed the cuts to deterioration in liquidity, large debt redemptions due before the end of the year and increased reliance on central government funding that masks fundamental economic weakness.

In another reminder of southern Europe’s financial woes, Russia said Tuesday it was still discussing a €5 billion bailout loan for Cyprus.

“We are working through this question, but until now there have been no (new) developments,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told reporters.

The Mediterranean island state is the fifth of 17 eurozone countries seeking financial support. It is heavily exposed to losses on Greek loans.


October 18, 2012

Bank of America tops forecasts, driven by mortgages, trading and investment banking

Filed under: money, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:28 am

Mortgages both helped and hurt Bank of America’s third-quarter results. While the bank cashed in consumer demand for new mortgages and refinancing old ones, its tarnished portfolio of pre-financial crisis mortgage loans continued to cut into profits.

Revenue from the refinancing and origination of home mortgages increased 12% from the second quarter and 18% from a year earlier. Amid a broader plan to cut 30,000 employees over the next several years, Bank of America actually added 3,000 to 4,000 new workers to handle the rising mortgage volume.

On the flip side, Bank of America is still dogged by its Countrywide baggage and other pre-financial crisis loans. The mortgage lending unit failed to turn a profit during the quarter, as the cost of managing the bank’s delinquent and defaulted loans dragged down the unit’s earnings.

But Bank of America still managed to report earnings that topped expectations. The bank earned $340 million, which translated to $0.00 per share, on revenue of $22.5 billion. Analysts expected the bank to generate a net loss of 7 cents per share, on $21.9 billion of revenue.

“Our strategy is taking hold even as we work through a challenging economy and continue to clean up legacy issues,” CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement.

Moynihan and CFO Bruce Thompson said on an analyst call that as those so-called legacy costs continue to shrink, the bank will move some of its staffers who service delinquent mortgages into divisions that work on new mortgages or refinancing no teletrack payday loans.

Related: Big bank lending remains weak

Bank of America also cashed in on the global corporate refinancing boom. Fees in the investment banking division jumped 17% from the second quarter and 44% from the third quarter of 2011.

Overall, the bank increased both its deposits and its lending from the prior quarter. Deposits grew 2.7%, and lending increased 8%.

Still, the bank remains mired in litigation from the financial crisis. A$1.6 billion litigation expense dragged down profits this quarter. Part of that stemmed from the bank’s recent $2.53 billion settlement of a class action shareholder lawsuit related to Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

That settlement will help the bank put the bulk of its litigation expenses behind it, executives said on the conference call.

Shares of , Fortune 500) are up 70% this year, after dropping precipitously in 2011. The bank’s stock edged up about 0.6% early Wednesday.

Bank of America is the fifth major bank to report earnings, following , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), and , Fortune 500). All four banks also beat expectations. , Fortune 500) reports Thursday.


September 13, 2012

European stocks rally after German ruling

Filed under: economics, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:28 am

Investors around the world cheered a German court ruling that clears the way for Europe’s latest rescue fund.

European stocks rallied, the euro climbed higher, and borrowing costs in Spain and Italy eased to their lowest levels in six months.

Early Wednesday, the German Constitutional Court ruled against a group of conservative politicians who requested an injunction that would bar Germany from ratifying the treaty governing the European Stability Mechanism.

The DAX in Frankfurt surged almost 2%, while the CAC 40 in Paris jumped 1%. London’s FTSE closed down 0.2%.

Wall Street also got a lift from Europe, with all three major U.S. indexes rising 0.2%.

“I think it’s very much a political symbol for support of these bailout policies,” said Clemens Fuest, professor of taxation at Oxford University’s Sa?d Business School. “That’s bad news for the taxpayer, but good news for people who hold government bonds. I think the uncertainly about short-term exits [from the European Union] of Greece and other countries like Spain has been reduced.”

The decision helped push down Spanish 10-year bond yields to 5.6%, while the yield on the Italian 10-year bond slid to 5.06%. Borrowing costs for both nations haven’t been this low in months as Spain and Italy have struggled to reduce their deficits.

Last week’s move by the European Central Bank to buy euro-area bonds helped ease investors’ concerns. And the latest news from Germany is adding to that optimism. The euro is at a four-month high against the U.S. dollar, just shy of $1.30.

German magazine Der Spiegel referred to the German court ruling as “a sigh of relief” for Germany and Europe, and “a historically significant signal for the euro rescue.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the sentiment, calling it “a good day for Europe.”

Asian markets, which were already closed ahead of the German ruling, ended higher. Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 1.7%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was up 0.9%, and the Shanghai Composite added 0.3%.


September 7, 2012

ECB outlines bond-buying program

Filed under: canada, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:28 am

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi outlined the details of a plan to buy euro area government bonds, reiterating his pledge to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro.

Following a meeting of top ECB officials in Frankfurt on Thursday, Draghi said the ECB is prepared to make “outright monetary transactions,” or OMTs, in the secondary bond market.

The goal is to “address severe distortions in government bond markets,” which he said stem from “unfounded fears on the part of investors of the reversibility of the euro.”

He said the OMTs will be subject to conditions, including the activation of the two eurozone rescue funds — European Financial Stability Facility or European Stability Mechanism. In other words, governments that want the ECB to buy its bonds must agree to a program of reforms and oversight by the bailout funds and possibly the International Monetary Fund.

The move is aimed mainly at Spain and Italy, which struggled with unsustainable borrowing costs earlier this year, although Draghi said the offer is open to all euro area governments. So far, neither Madrid or Rome has officially requested support from the bailout funds.

There will be no “ex ante limits on the size” of the purchases, said Draghi, calling the plan a “fully effective back stop that removes tail risks from the euro area.”

The purchases will focus on bonds with a duration of between 1 and 3 years. And Draghi said the ECB will not be considered a preferred creditor under the new program.

Investors welcomed the comments, with stock markets rallying in Europe and the United States. In the bond market, yields on Spanish and Italian bonds fell sharply.

“This is a very significant step for the ECB,” said Marie Diron, senior economic adviser to the Ernst & Young. “The ECB did not disappoint on the very high expectations in the market.”

Diron praised the ECB for being proactive, but she added that the new program alone “is not enough for the eurozone economy to turn itself around.”

“The program certainly improves the financial market environment and will create some room for governments to hold up their part of the bargain,” she said.

During his press conference, Draghi said “conditionality” is the most important difference between the OMTs and past interventions in the bond market under the ECB’s Securities Market Program.

The ECB president stressed that intervening in the bond market is not effective without “concurrent” policy actions by government policy makers. “You need two legs,” he said.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed income analyst at Janney Capital Markets, called the emphasis on conditionality “a sacrifice to the German financial gods.”

“Essentially, if a bailed out country doesn’t meet its fiscal target, the ECB stops buying, and borrowing rates go through the roof,” LeBas wrote in a note to clients. “It also allows the ECB an ‘out,’ which reduces the effectiveness of the purchase program.”

The decision was backed by all members of the ECB’s governing council, with one exception. Jens Weidmann, president of the German Bundesbank, has made his opposition to bond buying publicly known.

Draghi reiterated his argument that bond buying is not a violation of the ECB’s mandate because dysfunctional financial markets are impeding the “transmission” of monetary policy.

However, he downplayed reports that ECB leaders are divided along geographic lines, with more hawkish Northerners opposed to more dovish Southerners.

“There is a mistaken caricature, particularly in this country (Germany) about how the governing council works,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ECB said its main refinancing rate will remain at a record low of 0.75%. Some analysts had expected a rate cut to 0.5%.

The ECB also lowered its outlook for economic growth this year to a range between a decline of 0.6% and 0.2%.


August 31, 2012

Stocks: Good news is bad news

Filed under: loans, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:56 am

U.S. stocks fell Thursday as a string of positive economic reports dimmed hopes that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would announce new stimulus on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost between 0.8% and 1%.

Analysts said a steady string of positive economic indicators this week — including a report that the U.S. economy grew slightly faster than initially reported as well as signals that the housing market is recovery — is dashing expectations that Bernanke will come out strong on support for new economic stimulus during his Jackson Hole, Wyo., speech tomorrow.

Although Thursday’s jobless claims report wasn’t as good as economists expected, the news wasn’t as bad as it could have been, either. A separate report showed that both personal income and spending rose in July.

“Jackson Hole is the elephant in the room today, as the market is starting to adjust its expectations that QE3 might not happen,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management. “Investors aren’t digesting that the economic fundamentals are strong and that we don’t need it. Instead, they’re focusing on the fact that they don’t want the punchbowl taken away.”

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart further cooled stimulus expectations, telling CNBC Thursday that he sees “limited benefits from more action.” However, he added that there “wouldn’t be much of a question about policy” should the climate worsen.

Europe remained in focus Thursday, following an auction of 5- and 10-year Italian bonds. Italy’s borrowing costs fell, signaling that investors are more confident that the European Central Bank will stage a major intervention in the bond market.

A Wednesday op-ed by ECB president Mario Draghi added to that optimism, as he reiterated that “exceptional measures” are justified to stabilize financial markets. The ECB will hold its next policy meeting on Sept. 6 and investors are keen to hear Draghi’s plans.

World Markets: European stocks closed in the red Thursday. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.4%, the DAX in Germany fell 1.6% and France’s CAC 40 edged lower 1%.

The European Commission’s Economic Sentiment Indicator fell in August, as European consumers continue to lose confidence in the eurozone, particularly when it comes to retail trade and construction managers.

The Business Climate Indicator, however, edged higher, helped by an improvement in managers’ assessments of exports and past production Same day payday loans.

Meanwhile, Asian markets ended lower Thursday. The Shanghai Composite was flat, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 1.2%, and Japan’s Nikkei fell 1%.

Economy: The U.S. Labor Department reported that number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment claims totaled 374,000 during the week ending August 25, unchanged from the previous week’s revised figure. Claims were expected to total 370,000, according to a survey of analysts conducted by

The Bureau of Economic Analsysis said personal income increased $42.3 billion, or 0.3%, in July, in line with’s consensus.

Personal consumption expenditures increased $46 billion, or 0.4%, for the month. That was slightly below the 0.5% increase expected by economists polled by

Companies: The Nasdaq and S&P 500 were being dragged lower by , Fortune 500), which is getting kicked out of the S&P 500 next week. ), which manufactures chemicals and refines crude oil, will replace Sears, when it leaves the S&P 500 after the closing bell on Sept. 4.

) shares jumped 14%, as the music streaming service said it broke even in its most recent quarter.

) named Antony Jenkins as the bank’s new chief executive Thursday morning. Jenkins currently leads Barclays retail and business banking business. Former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond resigned in July amid a scandal over the manipulation of Libor rates. Shares of the bank were edged lower.

Same-store sales data from several leading retailers, including , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500), exceeded expectations.

A voluntary recall of Mr. Coffee Single Cup Brewing System Units prompted ) to clarify that the recall will not have an impact on its Keurig brewers. Despite the fact that the recall will not affect Green Mountain’s brand, shares of the company fell by 3.4% Thursday.

Shares of network equipment maker ) fell 19.5% following disappointing second-quarter earnings.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro, but lost ground against the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for October delivery fell by 94 cents to settle at $94.62 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery lost $5.90 to end at $1,657.10 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 1.61% from 1.65% late Wednesday.


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