Category Archive : Top Stories

Medical college doctors threaten indefinite stir

Doctors of government medical colleges have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from February 9 unless their salary dues, pending from 2016, are cleared.

The Kerala Government Medical College Teachers Association (KGMCTA) said in a statement on Saturday that protests would be held in front of all medical colleges and the office of the Director of Medical Education at 11 a.m. on January 25. A token strike would be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at all medical colleges on January 29, KGMCTA president Binoy S. and secretary Nirmal Bhaskar said in a statement.

Doctors would keep away from OP, elective surgeries, and academics during the three hours. However, COVID-19 care, emergency services and surgeries, services linked to the ICU, labour room, ward and casualty would be exempted. If the demands were not met, doctors would boycott non-COVID 19 meetings, board meetings, academic duties, VIP duty and pay ward admissions from January 29.

Relay fasts would be staged at all medical colleges from February 5. The doctors would go on an indefinite strike from February 9. The KGMCTA urged the government to agree to the demands of doctors.

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Police arrest 1,500 at Navalny rallies

Police detained over 1,500 people and used force to break up rallies around Russia on Saturday as tens of thousands of protesters demanded the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose wife was among those detained.

Mr. Navalny had called on his supporters to protest after being arrested last weekend as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned with a nerve agent he says was applied to his underpants by state security agents in August.

The authorities had warned people to stay away from Saturday’s protests, saying they risked catching COVID-19 as well as prosecution and possible jail time for attending an unauthorised event. But protesters defied the ban and bitter cold, and turned out in force.

In central Moscow, where Reuters reporters estimated at least 40,000 people had gathered in one of the biggest rallies, police were seen detaining people, bundling them into nearby vans.

The authorities said just some 4,000 people had shown up. The Foreign Ministry questioned Reuters’ crowd estimate, using sarcasm to suggest it was too high. “Why not just immediately say 4 million?,” it quipped on its official Telegram messenger channel.

Some protesters chanted “Putin is a thief”, and “Disgrace” and “Freedom to Navalny!”

Mr. Navalny’s wife Yulia said on social media she had been detained at the rally. Mr. Navalny’s mother Ludmila was also at the protest. Some of Navalny’s allies were detained in the days before the protest.

The OVD-Info protest monitor group said that at least 1,614 people, including 513 in Moscow and 212 in St Petersburg, had been detained across Russia. It reported arrests at rallies in nearly 70 towns and cities.

 

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More flash droughts in India by end of century

In 1979, India faced a severe flash drought, affecting about 40% of the country and taking a toll on agriculture. An article published that year in the journal India International Centre Quarterly noted that the big granaries of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra were affected, and the country suffered a loss of about ₹5,000 crores. A new study has now pointed out that India could experience more such flash droughts by the end of this century.

Flash droughts

Flash droughts are those that occur very quickly, with soil moisture depleting rapidly. Normally, developing drought conditions take months, but these happen within a week or in two weeks’ time. Several factors including atmospheric anomalies, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play an important role.

Hopeful note

“The ongoing climate change has caused a significant increase in global temperature and this can lead to more and more flash droughts in the coming years. If we can meet the ‘Paris Agreement’ goals and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the numbers and frequency of the projected flash droughts may go down,” says Vimal Mishra from the Civil Engineering and Earth Sciences at IIT Gandhinagar. He is the corresponding author of the paper published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science. The team analysed the major flash droughts that occurred from 1951 to 2016 in India. They simulated the soil moisture using the meteorological data obtained from the India meteorological department. Duration, intensity, and area of the flash droughts were studied and an overall severity score was given. The top five flash droughts based on the overall severity score occurred in 1979 followed by 2009,1951,1986 and 2005.

To predict the future flash droughts the team used a Community Earth System Model which simulates the summer monsoon precipitation, sea surface temperature, role of El Nino Southern Oscillation, and air temperature over India. The analysis showed a considerable rise in the frequency of extremely dry and hot years in the coming three decades. They also examined the role of greenhouse gas emissions, industrial aerosols, and land-use/land-cover change. “The frequency of concurrent hot and dry extremes is projected to rise by about five-fold, causing an approximately seven-fold increase in flash droughts like 1979 by the end of the 21st century,” adds the paper.

They conclude that this increased frequency of flash droughts can have deleterious implications for crop production, irrigation demands and groundwater abstraction in India.

Predicting droughts

The team has planned future studies that will consider the flash-drought prediction ahead of time using operational meteorological forecasts from India Meteorological Department. They explain that this will help manage irrigation water demands and avoid considerable losses in agriculture.

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Child panel orders digitalization of school

Moyan school digitalization project has been lying unfinished for more than six years

The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has ordered that the digitalization project of Government Moyan Model Girls Higher Secondary School here should be completed in 100 days. The digitalization project, started more than six years ago at an estimated cost of ₹8 crore, has been lying unfinished for various technical reasons.

The Commission has ordered that the empowered committee be convened within two weeks, and plans be chalked out for the completion of the project in 100 days.

The Commission has also ordered that the Deputy Director of Education (DDE) inquire into the complaint about the theft of electronic equipment from the school and initiate action against the guilty.

A division bench of the Commission comprising chairman K.V. Manoj Kumar and member C. Vijayakumar further ordered modification of the furniture set up by the project implementing agency Habitat Technologies Group in such a manner as to help the students sit without strain for long periods.

A section of parents from the school had approached the Commission seeking its intervention for the project’s completion. The multi-crore digitalization project introduced by Shafi Parambil, MLA, in 2014 stopped midway as it faced many hurdles. With 4,800 girls in its rolls, Moyan school is one of the largest girls schools in the State. Parents were complaining that their children were being denied the fruits of digitization as most other schools had already embraced digitalization as part of the government plan.

The Commission observed that the empowered committed with the additional chief secretary of general education as its chairman had failed to make constructive interventions for the project’s completion.

Shafi Parambil, MLA, Additional Chief Secretary of Finance, Director of General Education, Higher Secondary Education Director, and Palakkad District Collector are members of the empowered committee. Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) director is the project director.

A section of parents had complained against non-inclusion of the school head or the PTA members in the empowered committee. The issue had turned into a dispute with the entire project being perceived from a political perspective.

Parents opposing Mr. Shafi Parambil claimed that the project should have been made part of the KITE’s digitalization programme. They also complained that because of the project, the school lost much of its existing furniture and electronic equipment.

“We already had 40 classrooms with projectors and laptops, and they were removed as part of implementing this digitalization project. And all of them are missing now,” said school management committee chairperson Nazeema Jafar.

The PTA had opposed setting up of fixed benches and desks by replacing the old furniture. They claimed that the new furniture would be dangerous for the health of the children.

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Helmets to predict Alzheimer’s, a stress-canceller, an app to track seizures : Health tech at CES 2021

Wellbeing was disrupted for the better at the virtual Consumer Electronics Show 2021, which ultimately saw a brave new world of health tech. Plus, a few wise words from expert speakers.

While a part of the world is going back to work, the topic of ‘health at home’ has remained prevalent — and Consumer Electronics Show 2021 was no different. Taking place virtually instead of the usual Las Vegas setting, the globally popular tech expo saw more than 2,000 exhibitors, of which more than a quarter were in the health-tech space.

We look at some of the technologies which are bound to have a profound impact on the way we look at our bodies, inside out.

A hydration device

Not drinking enough water? Last year saw people waking up to how truly hydrated they were, often downloading apps or setting alarms to remind themselves to drink water.

Helmets to predict Alzheimer’s, a stress-canceller, an app to track seizures : Health tech at CES 2021

HidrateSpark’s new STEEL rechargeable smart bottle is a gadget that blinks when it’s time to top up and syncs with its own app to keep your daily goal updated. The glow can be customised as per the user’s liking, too. HidrateSpark has formulated a ‘Hydration Equation’ which calculates your daily goal based on age, height, weight, sex, altitude, activity (whether you are swimming, hiking).

The native app is calculated daily to give you the most accurate hydration level whether you’re travelling, hiking in the mountains, or swimming at the pool. One can opt for text notifications that offer additional reminders. Of course, there is a social aspect that connects the user with friends through the app in the name of friendly competition.

Available in the U.S. ($65) via hidratespark.com

A digital epilepsy journal

An award-winner at this year’s CES, Epsy took home ‘Best of Innovation Award’ for Health and Wellness, and an ‘Innovation Award’ for Software and Mobile Apps. Yes, it is just an app available for iOS and Android; no wearable here! Epsy helps those with epilepsy track seizures and medication, as well as help identify triggers.

Helmets to predict Alzheimer’s, a stress-canceller, an app to track seizures : Health tech at CES 2021

This data collection — a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)-compliant platform that uses secure data encryption — is helpful to share with a doctor for future steps forward for living with the neurological disorder.

A stress-canceller

If you were not paying attention to your mental health before 2020, chances are you became aware of it while house-bound. This in mind, Feelmore Labs unveiled their digital therapeutics non-invasive headset, Cove, which claims to be a ‘stress-cancelling’ device. Through 20-minute sessions, Cove applies specific vibrations behind your ears to gently activate the part of your brain that regulates anxiety, so you can stress less and sleep better.

Helmets to predict Alzheimer’s, a stress-canceller, an app to track seizures : Health tech at CES 2021

In trial studies, 90% of subjects reported reduced stress and improved sleep after using Cove. Extensive EEG and MRI studies performed by Feelmore Labs and validated by world-class neuroscientists have demonstrated that Cove has the ability to can modulate a deep part of the brain controlling emotional response, the insula.

As expected, there is a free companion app (available for iPhones and Androids) that can be used to get set up and stay on track

Available in the U.S. ($490) from feelcove.com

A helmet to predict Alzheimer’s

Helmets to predict Alzheimer’s, a stress-canceller, an app to track seizures : Health tech at CES 2021

Artificial Intelligence has long been a tool for neurologists, and the Alzheimer’s space is part of the solution drive. Korea-based iMediSync unveiled an electroencephalogram (EEG) digital biomarker for early detection of Alzheimer’s and dementia on their AI cloud platform, iSyncBrain.

How does this work? The platform’s mild cognitive impairment (MCI) classifier screens and discriminates Alzheimer or non-Alzheimer type of amnestic MCI to prevent dementia at the preclinical stage. This endured multicentre clinical trials with results of over 90% accuracy, states the company. However, the product is awaiting clearance from the USFDA and has not hit the market yet.

A sleep sticker kit

Helmets to predict Alzheimer’s, a stress-canceller, an app to track seizures : Health tech at CES 2021

Curious and curiouser about sleep tech? This is only natural given the pandemic of ‘COVID-somnia’. These unprecedented shifts in our sleep patterns are finally being addressed on a data level. Meet TatchSleep, a sticker wearable kit that comprises Bluetooth-connected patches and a native app for data collection of sleeping positions, breathing quality, and other key parameters.

This data is shared securely with a sleep specialist at Tatch who provides actionable, personalised insights delivered to users the next day.

Join the waiting list for Tatch ($60) at tatchsleep.com

What do the experts say?

“Oftentimes, policy is a bit of a laggard with the technology which advances much more rapidly than policy. We should not lose hope though.” — Dr Hassan A Tetteh, Warfighter Health Mission Chief, Joint Artificial Intelligence Centre, U.S. Department of Defense at the CES 2021 talk ‘The Trade-Off Between Staying Secure and Staying Healthy’

“With smart health principles guiding design, the care location of the future is everywhere… Human-centred design techniques really drive a degree of empathy and trust in the way in which care is delivered across different venues.” — Aloha McBride, Global Health Leader, Ernst & Young, at CES 2021 talk ‘Next-gen Technologies to Transform Health Care’

“There’s this funny thing in the technology industry where folks are so afraid about scaling human-to-human connection, and it’s not for lack of humans, there are billions of us. Connecting human with humans is inherently possible and scalable. We have to bring in a lot of technology to make those intimate connections, the immediacy of that connection.” — Rishi Mandal, CEO co-founder and Future, at CES 2021 talk ‘Starting with Sports: The Health & Wellness Future’

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Mayor promises more initiatives to manage waste

The city Corporation will launch more initiatives to manage waste along with taking forward all the ongoing systems for the purpose, Mayor Arya Rajendran said in a press release here on Saturday.

She said the current administration was committed to continuing the successful community-level waste collection and processing programmes that were implemented in the previous terms. The Corporation will implement the waste-management-at-source programmes laid out in the Left Democratic Front (LDF)’s manifesto for the local body elections.

Kitchen bins

The Mayor said the Corporation had successfully carried out various waste-management-at-source initiatives after the closure of the centralised treatment plant at Vilappilsala. In the past eight years, 565 Thumboormuzhi-model aerobic bins had been installed across the city for community-level waste management. Kitchen bins had also been installed at several houses.

Material recovery centres and resource recovery centres had been set up for the collection of non-biodegradable waste. The health wing, consisting of more than 1,300 sanitation staff and other employees, had played a major role in managing the city’s waste. All the wards in the Corporation and all the houses needed to get the benefits of these services. The data available now indicated that there was room for improvement in the collection and processing of non-biodegradable waste.

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Arnab’s chats: Maharashtra seeking legal opinion for action, says Minister

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh sought to know from the Centre how Mr. Goswami got access to sensitive information regarding the strike.

The Maharashtra government is taking legal opinion on whether action can be taken against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami under the Official Secrets Act over his purported WhatsApp chats concerning the Balakot air strike, a state minister said on Saturday.

Addressing a press conference here, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh also sought to know from the Centre how Mr. Goswami got access to sensitive information regarding the strike.

He was referring to the purported chats between Mr. Goswami and former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) head Partho Dasgupta, which mentioned that Mr. Goswami was privy to the 2019 air strike, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) hit the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26 that year.

“The WhatsApp chat shockingly revealed that Arnab had information about the Balakot air strike three days in advance of the actual incident,” he said.

“We want to ask the central government how Mr. Goswami got such sensitive information about the attack, which is otherwise known only to prime minister, defence minister, Army chief and few select people,” the minister said.

This issue is related to national security and the central government must reply on it, he said.

“The Maharashtra government is taking legal opinion on whether the state home department can take action in this connection under the Official Secrets Act, 1923,” Mr. Deshmukh said.

The air strike was carried out in Pakistan’s Balakot in the wake of killing of 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14, 2019 by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.

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Microsoft reverses Xbox Live Gold price hike after backlash from gamers

The software giant also said that gamers “no longer need” an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Halo on Xbox.

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Microsoft has reversed its decision to increase Xbox Live Gold membership price after a backlash from online gaming community.

“We messed up today and you were right to let us know,” the company said in a blog post. “Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.”

Also Read | Microsoft Flight Simulator update allows flying planes in virtual reality

Xbox Live Gold pricing will remain as: $9.99 for 1-month, $24.99 for 3-month, $39.99 for 6-months, and $59.99 for retail 12-months, in the U.S., Microsoft noted.

The software giant also said that gamers “no longer need” an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Halo on Xbox.

Also Read | Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony’s shared guidelines for safer online gaming

Gamers using PlayStation or Nintendo Switch can already play the free-to-play games without a subscription.

Earlier, on Friday, Microsoft had announced the changes to Xbox Live Gold pricing. It had increased the membership prices to $10.99 for 1-month, $29.99 for 3-month, and $59.99 for 6-months.

According to a report by Eurogamer, Microsoft had removed the Xbox Live Gold 12-month subscription option in July last year. So, with the Xbox Live Gold subscription price hike, gamers would have been required to pay double or $119.98 for one year membership.

Also Read | Xbox launches cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Microsoft had also given an option to gamers to upgrade their Gold membership to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with the remaining Gold time converted directly to Ultimate (up to 36 months).

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Triple H: ‘Never say never about my in-ring return’

WWE executive Paul Levesque aka Triple H says the wrestling promotion plans to produce localised content for India whilst discussing the challenges for Indian athletes to make their mark in the main roster of performers

One thing you cannot fault Paul Levesque with, is failing to do his homework; it is the same work ethic he applied during his heyday inside a wrestling ring.

Connecting from his home in Connecticut in the United States over Zoom for an early morning interaction on all things WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), Levesque pulls this one out of his hat: “Your cricket team pulled off an amazing comeback by winning the test series. It is as if WWE scripted it,” says the man who is now WWE’s executive vice president for Global Talent Strategy and Development.

Known better as Hunter Hearst Helmsley (HHH) — or Triple H — for fans of professional wrestling, Levesque’s in-ring career has few parallels.

Now semi-retired, most of Levesque’s work happens behind the scenes; serving on the WWE board of directors, he is credited with overseeing most of the wrestling promotion’s talent acquisitions. He also produces one of WWE’s flagship programmes — NXT. But it is the upcoming standalone special WWE: Superstar Spectacle that we start discussing off the mark.

Paul Levesque aka Triple H

It is no secret that India is a major part of WWE’s expansion programme; the country occupies the first position in global YouTube and Facebook engagement for WWE content.

There is also high demand for the content produced weekly via WWE’s other flagship programmes — the weekly episodic shows Raw and Smackdown. “India has been a big fan base for us for years. We want to put on a show that is worthy of that passion and their love of WWE. We are looking to put on exactly what is in the name — a spectacle,” he says.

Epic backstory

  • A generation of wrestling fans who grew up watching the Attitude Era of wrestling have, at some point, imitated The Game’s entrance gimmick, more specifically the part where Triple H spits out a mouthful of water with great force whilst looking upwards. It mostly ends with the bathroom ceiling sporting ‘water art’ bearing an interesting pattern. Levesque has an interesting backstory to how he added the now trademark gimmick to his entrance act.
  • “As my career was progressing, after I became WWE champion in the late 1990s, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder and a bit of an attitude. So when I was getting in the ring, there were a lot naysayers who said I would never make it to the [top] level. A lot of people were against me, they didn’t like what I did or how I got there. So you know, the water bottle… I would wet my hair and have the bottle with me as I stood up on the [ring] apron… I would put the water in my mouth and spit it out in defiance at the crowd while holding the championship. It always got a big reaction, and over time that morphed into sort of what you see now,” he says.

The pandemic affected WWE’s plans of taking more fresh Indian talents on board, Levesque adds. In 2019, the company held trials in India to select athletes whom they thought fit the company’s profile of a ‘Superstar’.

“As we started the process of immigration (for the selected athletes), getting everybody set and begin training, the pandemic hit and slowed things down,” says Levesque, remarking, “It is just a bump in the road as far as I am concerned.”

Going for the brass ring

Getting into the WWE is one thing, getting to the big leagues — appearing on Raw, Smackdown or becoming a main event talent — is another thing altogether. It is pertinent to note that Jinder Mahal — whose championship reign extended from May to November 2017 — is still the only Indian-origin performer to have held any title worthy of note in the company.

Ask Levesque when he thinks the next Indian-origin champion will emerge, and he cautions that “only the best of the best of the best” can shine through amongst the competition at the highest level in WWE. He reckons that Superstar Spectacle will be “a test” for the company’s Indian talents, and help the powers that be in WWE to decide “how they perform under the lights and with the pressure of their nation watching”.

“Do I believe they all have the potential [to be the best]? Absolutely. But when you have champions like Drew McIntyre and Roman Reigns (the current WWE universal heavyweight champion), the competition is stiff and it is not easy to get there. To become a WWE champion is a true accomplishment,” he adds.

Triple H doing his iconic entrance

With its global expansion strategy ever-evolving, Levesque says that moving forward, WWE’s focus will be on creating localised content pertaining to the region. The answer is to a question about the possible creation of NXT: India along the lines of NXT: UK.

“The intent and desire is to come to India and recruit enough athletes. Certainly, there is a desire amongst Indian people for us to be on the ground as well. At some point, we would love to have a performance centre, or more than one centre, in India… have athletes train there and produce localised WWE content. When you see talents from your region succeed locally to get to the bigger stages, and to watch their careers develop… that is the goal. Because the only thing bigger than WWE in India is cricket. That’s something to be said,” Levesque says.

Never say never

Back in the States, however, WWE has continued to produce weekly programmes despite the pandemic and without a break in action.

Triple H interacts with fans after a match

Of course, there are no fans; the company migrated to a setup called the ThunderDome where fans can live stream the action (their reactions are caught in the screens set up where the audiences used to sit in arenas). The company is also battling the virus itself; a few talents have tested positive, including current WWE champion Drew McIntyre.

“Luckily for Drew, he was asymptomatic. Our medical staff has cleared him, and I couldn’t be more happy about that,” Levesque says.

Although his in-ring persona, Triple H, is now semi-retired, ‘The Game’ (his character’s nickname) made a surprise appearance to take on another veteran Randy Orton on Raw two weeks ago; the appearance was born out of a necessity due to Drew McIntyre’s unavailability.

Ask Triple H if there is a comeback on the cards and he laughs. “Never say never. Look, I am incredibly busy doing Superstar Spectacle, Royal Rumble and all those things behind the scenes; there is also NXT. It is a lot to do but if the opportunity arises, when somebody comes up to you and says — ‘Would you like to have the ultimate adrenaline rush? Would you like to stand in the ring one more time under those lights and relive it all in front of the fans?’ — how do you turn that down?” he says.

WWE Superstar Spectacle will premiere exclusively on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony MAX on January 26 at 8 pm, with commentary available in both English and Hindi.

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Host a healthy community – The Hindu

New institutes and revamped courses are necessary to increase the number of nurses and other healthcare professionals

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the demand-supply imbalance in healthcare services, including equipment, drugs, lifesaving machines and healthcare personnel.

Apart from COVID-19, India also faces other health issues like maternal and child health, nutritional deficiencies, and other communicable and non-communicable diseases. India has one government doctor for every 10,189 people, against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000.The nurse:patient ratio is 1:483, which implies a shortage of two million nurses. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system and the pandemic has increased the pressure on an already overburdened workforce.

However, the crisis has also opened up many opportunities in this sector. To fulfil the gap in the number of nurses, universities and the Nursing Council should re-frame existing policies and create new strategies to increase manpower. The health sciences institutes that offer nursing programmes are not independent and cannot redesign the curriculum. Neither can they start new programmes or increase the number of seats.

Therefore, the Central and State Ministry of Health should review and modify this process so that new institutes can be opened to bridge the present gap. Another strategy is to allow the admission of an additional 15-20% for the upcoming academic year.

Institutions and universities should make optimum use of online classes and digital tools to organise webinars and increase interactions with students. The Nursing Council can consider a review of the current curriculum and reconstruct it keeping the pandemic and related needs in mind. To create a healthy community, all stakeholders should re-frame the present policy and enhance the quality of nursing education.

The writer is Principal, ITM-IHS College of Nursing

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