Monthly Archives: April 2014

Water was flowing on Mars 200,000 years ago – scientists

The crater formed long after the most recent proposed ice age on Mars, which ended some 400,000 years ago (PA/Nasa Hubble Space Telescope)

The crater formed long after the most recent proposed ice age on Mars, which ended some 400,000 years ago (PA/Nasa Hubble Space Telescope)

New research has suggested that water was flowing across the surface of Mars some 200,000 years ago. The nature of rock formations in a Mars crater suggests the sediment deposits and channels it contained were formed by ‘recent’ flowing water.

Swedish scientists from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Gothenburg identified “Very young …and well-preserved deposits of water bearing debris flows in a mid-latitude crater on Mars,” according to the study published in the journal Icarus.

It was previously estimated that liquid water flowed across the Red Planet during its last ‘ice-age’, some 400,000 years ago. However, the young age of the crater means the features signifying water must have appeared since.

The scientists drew comparisons between the geomorphological land formations and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The crater had features of areas on earth where debris flow had caused material to be deposited by fast-flowing water.

“Our fieldwork on Svalbard confirmed our interpretation of the Martian deposits,” stated Andreas Johnsson, a spokesperson for the research team.

“Our study crater on Mars is far too young to have been influenced by the conditions that were prevalent then. This suggests that the meltwater-related processes that formed these deposits have been exceptionally effective also in more recent times,” said Johnsson.

“If we find on Mars evidence for a second genesis, that changes everything,” Johnsson added.

A debris flow takes place when liquid water soaks through debris lying on an incline to the point that it becomes saturated and heavy, causing it to descend down the incline.

On earth, debris flow can result in material destruction and sometimes casualties, depending upon their severity.

When the flow stops, new landforms are made, including lobate deposits and paired levees. It is these that Johnsson has identified on the planet.

“Gullies are common on Mars, but the ones which have been studied previously are older, and the sediments where they have formed are associated with the most recent ice age. Our study crater on Mars is far too young to have been influenced by the conditions that were prevalent then,” Johnson said.

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Ukraine halts canal water supply to Crimea

KIEV, April 26  Itar-Tass

Ukraine had closed sluices of the North Crimean Canal, halting water supply from the Dnieper River to the peninsula, Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency reported on Saturday.

Crimea received 85% of fresh water through the canal, which was built in 1961-1971. It streches from the Khakhovka Reservoir to Kerch.

Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told the CrimeaInform news agency that restrictions on the supply of water to Crimea is an act of sabotage.

“Ukraine’s act of sabotage to limit the supply of water to the republic through the North Crimean Canal is nothing but a deliberate action against Crimeans,” he said.

Aksyonov said “negotiations are underway with Ukraine at the federal level” to resolve the issue. “There are backup plans. In any case, Crimea will not be left without water. As for drinking water, there are no problems with it,” he said.

The prime minister said that the Crimean authorities were engaged in negotiations with all agricultural producers who have been cut off from water supply from the North Crimean Canal. “The rice situation … is the worst. Crimea is redrawing the map of crop areas in regions where irrigation may not be available,” he said, adding that alternative areas were being offered to agricultural producers.

“The federal budget is ready to compensate agricultural producers for possible losses,” Aksyonov said. He recalled that this issue had been discussed with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. “Special conditions have been created for Crimea. No one will be left without help,” the prime minister said.

“We are also considering an alternative plan for drilling wells and we are working on this day and night,” he added.

Aksyonov stressed that “the persons who have seized power in Ukraine, including former residents of Crimea, Senchenko and Kunitsyn, are acting like enemies trying to cause their former fellow citizens harm. But they will get a proper assessment from the people of Crimea and will always be persona non-grata in the republic. Usually, those who mischief hatch, mischief catch,” he said.

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Breaking news – Unknown gunmen land from helicopters, attack checkpoint in Donetsk region

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DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Unknown assailants landed in helicopters and attacked a checkpoint in Soledar city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, a militia source told RIA Novosti adding that there is a fight going on.

There is no information on the number of casualties.

Soledar is located about 30 kilometers south east of Slavyansk.

The people’s governor of Donbass region Denis Pushilin confirmed to RT that there is fighting in Soledar.

As the unknown men attacked the checkpoint, the militia was forced to retreat, the source told RIA.

The second checkpoint is preparing for attack he said, adding that there are about 50 activists, many without weapons.

“We cannot send reinforcements from Slavyansk as all [forces] are defending the city,” the source stressed.

The militia has blocked the entrances to warehouses storing arms to prevent the National guard forces from confiscationg the weapons, a militia source told RIA.

He added that the warehouses were left over from Soviet times and have in storage only outdated weaponry, such as Mauser, Colts, Degtyarev machine guns, submachine PCA guns but in great amounts.

“Armed men attacked our warehouses storing weapons, we are repelling the attack, there is fighting,” Interfax cites a militia in the people’s self-defense HQ as saying.

Kiev authorities are carrying out a military operation against anti-government militia supporting the federalization of Ukraine in the eastern part of the country.

Kiev said on Friday that “the second stage” of the military operation in Slavyansk has been launched.

Slavyansk is in the control of people’s self-defense forces that are defending the city, repelling the attack of the Kiev military.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

 

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‘NATO spies’? Slavyansk self-defense forces keep foreign military inspectors detained

Federalization supporter stands guard outside the security service (SBU) regional building which was seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 25, 2014.

The self-defense forces in Slavyansk have refrained from immediately freeing the detained foreign military observers they are calling “NATO spies.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has promised to do its utmost to accelerate their release.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it is taking measures to resolve the situation with the detained military observers.

The ministry pointed out that the Vienna document pins full responsibility for the security of observers on the receiving party, in this case Kiev.

“It would be logical to expect from the present Kiev authorities a preliminary coordination of location of activities and safety of the inspectors in the areas where these authorities do not control the situation and where a military operation against the citizens of their own country has been launched,” the statement said.

“We believe that those people should be released as soon as possible,” also said Russia’s envoy to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Andrey Kelin. “Just like all other members of the organization, we are concerned with the developments.”

“Their detention would not help with defusing the tension on the ground and deescalating the conflict,” he added.

‘Detained group alright, could be exchanged for anti-Kiev activists’

A group of German negotiators have already arrived in eastern Ukraine for talks to set free the detained military observers, Itar-Tass quoted Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) news agency as saying.

The detained team is “not OSCE monitors” but was sent by OSCE member states in accordance with the 2011 Vienna Document on military transparency, the organization explained on Friday. The current Germany-led group arrived to Ukraine on April 21 by Kiev’s request.

Speaking to journalists on Saturday, the “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, did not rule out that the group could be exchanged for anti-government activists that had been detained by Kiev authorities.

“People’s mayor” of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov (L), speaks during a press conference in Slavyansk on April 26, 2014.

“The Kiev junta has our fellows and comrades therefore, if there is a possibility, we are ready for an exchange,” Ponomaryov said, answering the questions of journalists on Saturday.

He dismissed the allegations of the Ukrainian Security Service that the group is being held in “inhuman conditions.”

“They are in alright condition. One of the soldiers suffers from diabetes, but it is not a serious condition, he is on tablets. There is medicine there is food,” Ponomaryov said, adding that they are still trying to verify the purpose of the group’s activities in Slavyansk.

A statement released by the Ukraine’s state security service on Saturday maintained that “the official representatives of the OSCE are being held in inhuman conditions,” and that “among those detained is a person who needs immediate medical help.”

“The terrorists plan to use the hostages as a human shield,” Kiev’s statement claimed.

‘No NATO spies fighting in Ukraine’ – NATO

The protesters said they detained eight officers of NATO member states – four from Germany, and one each from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The group was accompanied by four Ukrainian officers, thought to be members of the country’s general staff.

On Saturday a representative of the protesters told journalists that the detained officers had “maps of Slavyansk with checkpoints and barricades marked on them, dog tags and live ammo,” which proved they were acting officers gathering intelligence.

The journalists were shown some of the documents of the detainees, in which the military observers are described as officers. The names of three of them are as follows: John Christensen (Denmark), Axel Schneider (Germany) and Krzysztof Kobelsky (Poland).

With the preponderance of officers from NATO member countries in the group, they were branded “NATO spies” by the militia.

NATO’s official spokeperson, Oana Lungescu, tweeted on Saturday that the alliance has no force deployed in Ukraine.

A similar statement was made earlier by NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow.

Reinforcements sent to Slavyansk

The interim people’s governor of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic, Denis Pushilin, promised to send reinforcements to Slavyansk, which is currently besieged by Ukrainian troops.

“We’ve reached an agreement on full coordination of actions in Slavyansk as the command of defense of Slavyansk has been handed over to the authorities of the Donetsk republic,” Pushilin said.

Two armed men (Front) check two men’s identity papers in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 26, 2014.

On Friday, security forces loyal to the coup-imposed government in Kiev announced the beginning of the second stage of a “counter-terrorist operation” in the Donetsk region. They said the plan is to establish a full blockade of Slavyansk.

According to Ponomaryov, the city is being defended by approximately 2,500 volunteers.

Earlier, the Slavyansk self-defense forces detained a number of people, including journalists, suspecting that they could be gathering information for the Ukrainian authorities or for the radical nationalists from the Right Sector movement.

The suspicious attitude towards visitors is understandable, considering a number of fatal gun attacks on militia-held checkpoints the city witnessed in the past few days. Some of the attacks were carried out by Ukrainian troops acting in an ongoing “anti-terrorist operation” against Slavyansk. The perpetrators of some of the others remain unidentified, with the protesters laying the blame on Right Sector activists.

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US soldiers arrive in Lithuania to ‘reassure’ NATO allies amid Ukrainian crisis

American soldiers stand on the tarmac after arriving at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014.

American troops have arrived in Lithuania for military drills as tensions rise in the region over Ukraine. Russia has voiced its concern over the troop buildup in Eastern Europe as well as to the deployment of NATO ships in the Black Sea.

The Lithuanian government welcomed the arrival of 150 troops at the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base in Siauliai on Saturday, reported Reuters. Referring to the escalating tensions in Ukraine, President Dalia Grybauskaite said “we know in this situation who our real friends are coming to help.”

“If any of our guests are injured, it would mean an open confrontation not with Lithuania but with the United States,” she added. The group of troops is part of a larger contingent of 600 troops that have been deployed throughout Eastern Europe to reassure NATO allies. Another company of soldiers arrived in Poland on Wednesday and in Latvia on Friday. Troops are also expected to arrive in Estonia on Monday.

“It’s a message to anyone who will listen, and the message is that the United States of America will honor its commitments to Lithuania,” Richard Longo, Deputy Commanding General of US Army Europe, told reporters in Siauliai.

According to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry the soldiers will conduct a number of military exercises throughout this year.

US soldiers walk at the airport after arriving at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014.

The US Department of Defense announced the drills on Tuesday, saying they sent a clear message to Moscow.
“If there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe,” Kirby told reporters. Washington has accused Russia of meddling in the affairs of neighboring Ukraine, which is currently embroiled in a crisis that shows no signs of abating.

Russia denies it has any involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and has alleged that the US is “running the show.” In addition, Moscow has spoken out against the buildup of allied force troops in Eastern Europe, saying their war games will not help to normalize the situation in Ukraine.

“Our concern is caused by an increase of US air force and military personnel in the Baltic, Poland, and also the Alliance’s ships in the Black Sea,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement, quoting General Valery Gerasimov who spoke with his American counterpart on Friday.

The US has also deployed frigate USS Taylor in the Black Sea, which will shortly be joined by French NATO vessel Dupleix. France will also send four fighter jets to participate in aerial patrols over the Baltics.

Lithuanian soldiers and US soldiers stand in front of an aircraft of the US air force at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithuania, on April 26, 2014.

Moscow has voiced its concern over the Ukrainian government troops that have been deployed in the East of the country as part of an “anti-terror” operation. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces have been deployed in the region. At least five people have been killed so far during the Ukrainian operation.

In response to the buildup of troops close to its borders, Shoigu said Russia was “forced” to begin military drills on Thursday.

Moscow does not recognize Kiev’s coup-appointed government and has decried the use of force against Ukrainian civilians in the east of the country.

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Russian planes have not entered Ukrainian airspace – Moscow

Su-27 fighter jet

Russian military aircraft have not breached any state borders, including those of Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry has said. Ukraine’s acting defense minister has also retracted claims by Kiev that Russian jets “violated Ukrainian airspace seven times.”

“Russia’s means of objective airspace situation control did not record any violations of air boundaries of the states adjacent to Russia, including those of Ukraine,” Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement Saturday.

Pentagon officials quoted by US media Friday claimed that “Russian fighter jets flew into Ukrainian airspace a handful of times over the last 24 hours,” calling it “a continued provocation.” The officials were not named.

“The unfounded claims of Pentagon officials on the alleged ‘breaching of airspace of Ukraine by Russian fighter jets’ appears to have been based on rumors and speculation,” a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Itar-Tass on Saturday.

“Those media allegations are populist in nature, they contain no information on the time and place of the incident, as well as no data on altitude, speed and the direction of aircraft, as well as no other objective parameters,” the spokesman said.

The US sources must have “dreamed it all up,” or “a little bird told them that,” the spokesman added.

The Defense Ministry spokesman called on Pentagon officials to stop “spreading unverified ‘facts’ through the media,” saying that “it does not at all help de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.”

Instead, the US Defense Department should “use the many years’ experience of cooperation on information interchange” with the Russian side.

The Ukrainian coup-imposed acting defense minister, Mikhail Koval, on Saturday told journalists that no violations of state borders by the Russian aircraft or troops have been recorded.

“Four [Russian] transport airplanes Il-76 were flying along our state border but they did not cross the borderline,” Koval was quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine.

Ukrainian army soldiers check vehicles on a road not far from the border between Ukraine and Russia, in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine

The “peak of activity” of the Russian Armed Forces conducting military exercises near the Ukrainian border was recorded on April 24-25, he said. The closest that the Russian troops came to the Ukrainian border was 2-3 kilometers, Koval said.

According to the Ukrainian official, the Russian drills were meant to discourage Kiev from continuing with the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in three southeastern regions of Ukraine. However, he added, the military operation continues “although its pace is not high.”

Koval’s statements, made during the Saturday briefing, apparently contradicted the allegations earlier made by the Kiev government against Russia.

“Russian military aircraft today at night crossed and violated Ukrainian airspace seven times. The only reason is to provoke Ukraine… and to accuse Ukraine of waging war against Russia,” the coup-imposed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk claimed during his visit to the Italian capital, Rome. Yatsenyuk, who had previously made similar unfounded allegations of “Russian tanks in Crimea” and nuclear weapons in Iran,” was speaking to reporters in English.

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Money for nothing? Boeing says F-35 isn’t so stealth after all

As the price of the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons endeavor ever soars even further, critics are calling into question the cost and capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

When all is said and done, the United States Department of Defense is expected to spend over $1 trillion on acquiring a fleet of the fancy stealth jets. But while concerns have been raised repeatedly regarding the program for years now, some new reports suggest that the military might soon sign-on to buy other state-of-the-art aircraft.

On Friday this week, Military.com reported that the US Navy has not only decided to drop the number of Lockheed Martin-made F-35s it plans on purchasing from 69 to 36, but that 22 new EA-18G Growlers built by Boeing have been added to a list of unfunded priorities.

Reporters Kris Osborn and Michael Hoffman wrote for the website that Boeing “has worked not so quietly this past year to offer the Navy an escape hatch from the costly Joint Strike Fighter program.”

According to their report, since at least last summer Boeing has been urging the Navy to buy more F/A-18 Super Hornets and Growlers as concerns continue to emerge about the F-35.

As RT reported extensively in the past, the F-35 program has been anything but a success for the DOD thus far — just last month, in fact, it was found out that ongoing software problems were going to push delivery of the Joint Fighter fleet even further behind schedule.

But now in addition to the continuously increasing costs, the F-35’s actual ability to stealthily soar through the sky is being called into question.

Mike Gibbons is the vice president for Boeing’s Super Hornet and Growler programs, and has good reason to talk down the F-35s—after all, less money to Lockheed Martin likely means more for his firm. Regardless, Gibbons told Osborn and Hoffman that the F-35 is no longer as advanced of a stealth craft as once claimed, and is not as effective as the Growler when it comes to countering a wide spectrum of air defense systems.

“The density of the threat is getting more complex and more difficult. The electromagnetic spectrum is getting more complex and more difficult and requires more of what the Growler provides in electronic attack and electronic awareness. Only the Growler has this capability,” Gibbons told the website.

Russia and China, Gibbons added, have developed air defense systems that put the F-35’s stealth technology to the test. And if those capabilities should improve, then the Pentagon’s widely-touted weapons program may be no match for the offensive capabilities of foreign militaries. Advocates for Growlers say that those aircraft can outsmart some of that stealth-defying technology, but the ability to actually stay hidden may soon be slipping away from the DOD altogether.

“[Stealth] is needed for what we have in the future for at least 10 years out there and there is nothing magic about that decade,” added Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert. “But I think we need to look beyond that. So to me, I think it’s a combination of having aircraft that have stealth but also aircraft that can suppress other forms of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions so that we can get in.”

But as developers continue to strive towards perfecting the F-35s, other problems aren’t exactly disappearing. RT reported last month that a study from the US Government Accountability Office had determined recently that the estimated acquisition cost of the F-35 fleet had dropped by around $11.5 billion during the last year. Just last week, however, the Pentagon published its latest Selected Acquisition Reports, and in it acknowledged that the price of the program had actually increased by about $7.4 billion.

On Friday, former Government Accountability Office employee Winslow Wheeler wrote for CounterPunch.org that the latest report is a “major embarrassment” to the GAO given that the group’s report from last month made claims quite to the contrary.

“In truth, the future of the F-35 program remains clouded, and most cloudy of all is the ultimate unit cost of the aircraft and the impact of that cost, as its reality unfolds, on existing and future buyers,” Wheeler wrote.

Others, however, have suggested that the number of future buyers may soon shrink as well: on Thursday this week, the Australian military was blasted in a harshly worded op-ed published in the Brisbane Times who condemned efforts to acquire F-35 for down under.

“Twelve billion dollars is a big wad of the folding stuff to drop on whizz bangs,” John Birmingham wrote for the paper, “And $12 billion probably won’t come close to the final cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters both mainstream political parties are committed to buying.”

“I got ten bucks says it’ll be more like twice that amount, but you’ll have wait 30 or 40 years to collect. That’s how long these things will be in the air. Assuming they shed their habit of shedding bits and pieces of equipment and airframe at inconvenient moments,” Birmingham added. “Like when they’re in the air.”

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BBC News – Ukraine : Pentagon says Russian jets violated airspace

Armed pro-Russia groups remain in control of seized buildings in eastern Ukraine

The US says Russian military aircraft have entered Ukrainian airspace several times in the past 24 hours, amid rising tension in the east of the country.

A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC on Friday that the incidents had happened mainly near the border with Russia, but gave no further details.

Earlier, pro-Russian separatists seized a bus carrying international military observers, Ukrainian officials said.

Talks were under way to secure their release near the town of Sloviansk.

Russia has tens of thousands of troops deployed along its side of the border with Ukraine as pro-Moscow separatists continue to occupy official buildings in a dozen eastern towns, defying the government in Kiev.

Also on Friday, US President Barack Obama and European leaders threatened to impose new sanctions on Russia, saying it has failed to implement an agreement to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia has accused the West of wanting to “seize” Ukraine.

In a statement from the Pentagon, Col Steven Warren repeated US calls to take “immediate steps to de-escalate the situation”.

He said the US had told Russian officials that US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wanted to speak to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, but there had been no response so far.

Mr Hagel described Russian activity along the Ukrainian border as “dangerously destabilising” and “very provocative”.

via BBC News – Ukraine crisis: Pentagon says Russian jets violated airspace.

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Russia urges to immediately stop combat operations in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Friday they were deeply concerned by the progressing crisis in Ukraine

MOSCOW, April 25, 20:43 UTC+4 ITAR-TASS

Russia urges to immediately stop any combat operations and violence in Ukraine, to pull troops back and to begin the implementation of the Geneva agreements, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Bearing in mind the genesis of the current crisis, we think it right to begin with measures stipulated in the agreements of February 21, 2014 that was signed by the leaders of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] coalition and reaffirmed by foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France,” the ministry said. “It would make it possible to start practical de-escalation in line with the Geneva statement.”

Russia consistently supports its full realization, including the activities of the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),” the ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Friday they were deeply concerned by the progressing crisis in Ukraine.

Lavrov told Steinmeier that, to stabilize the situation, it was necessary to put an end all types of violence and to stop the use of the Army units and armed nationalistic radicals in the towns and cities of Eastern Ukraine.

The two ministers drew a conclusion on the importance of an active engagement of a mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the efforts to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.

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Ukrainian troops destroy check point of federalization supporters near Slavyansk

KIEV, April 25, 23:50 UTC+4 – ITAR-TASS.

Ukrainian troops, which are conducting a special operation in Ukraine’s southeast, have destroyed a check point organized by supporters of federalization at the approaches to the town of Slavyansk, Donetsk region, the Ukrainian Security Service said on Friday.

According to the Ukrainian Security Service, the Ukrainian troops are conducting reconnaissance operations to expose gun posts near Slavyansk. “Measures have been taken to prevent any movement” of self-defence groups and not to let “additional forces and means” reach Slavyansk, the service said.

“Apart from that, Ukrainian interior ministry’s troops installed a check point at the motorway linking Izyum and Slavyansk,” the service said.

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