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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 29                            Email us
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Tax collector is expecting another form Feb. 29
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fact has not been reported widely, but the Costa Rica tax collectors would like to hear from you.

They are not expecting a Valentine's Day card, but they do want a form that lists expenditures and income for the last fiscal year. This is the D-151, called Declaración anual resumen de clientes, proveedores y gastos específicos.

The purpose of the form is to show where a taxpayer spent the money. The Direción General de Tributación will cross check the form with those of the person or corporations receiving the money to make sure income tax was paid.

Jorge Granados, a local accountant, said that the unusual deadline of Feb. 29 this year is because the tax agency is requiring electronic filing. In the past, the form was done on paper. Tributación simply did not have the DECLAR@7 software ready for distribution last year, so Jan. 10 the agency ruled that Feb. 28 would be the new date. Usually the form is due Nov. 30, two weeks before the fiscal year tax return is due.

Granados, who is with U.S. Tax & Accounting in Rohrmoser, said a taxpayer has these options:

• The software is free to download on the Tributación Web site.

• A free disc containing the software is available from the agency.

• Those who are challenged in using the complex software can turn to a professional. Accountants have been using various versions of the tax agency's software for several years.

• The tax agency maintains computers for the use of
Declara system
Use of this software is mandatory.


citizens who may not have one or one of the correct type to run the program.

Tributación's programs only run on a PC with a Windows XP or newer operating system.

The reporting rules are the same for the 2010-2011 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.  Taxpayers should report any professional fees, rents, interest, commissions that exceed 50,000 colons paid to one person or firm in the fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, 2010. That basically means every payment to a dentist, lawyer or accountant because the threshold is so low, just about $100.

Taxpayers also have to report any amounts they received for the same reason that exceed 50,000 colons.

For other expenses, the threshold is 2.5 million colons or about $5,000. That could be raw materials for a manufacturer or even computers if they were purchased from the same vendor. And the taxpayer must report amounts over that threshold that have been received.

Those who report the expenses can safely include the outgo on the annual tax return. Of course the form requires identification numbers and other data, which sometimes takes several days to put together.

Naturally a lot of landlords are shocked to find that their tenants have filed such reports. The realization comes when Tributación makes contact a year or so later wanting to know why the income was not reported.

Professionals in Costa Rica are notorious for not reporting income, hence the low threshold.



Two sea quakes take place offshore in the Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An early afternoon sea quake took place off the northern coast of the country Wednesday.

The quake was at 1:46 p.m. The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica estimated the magnitude at 4.5 with a depth of just three kilometers.

The laboratory said a number of sensing stations in
Guanacaste failed to register the quake because it was so weak inland. The location was 63.7 kilometers from Conchal de Santa Cruz and 67.1 kilometers from Playa Potrero. That is about 40 to 42 miles.

A second quake Wednesday took place about 3:34 p.m. about 33 kilometers into the Pacific from Dominical, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

The magnitude was estimated at 3.5.


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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Our readers' opinions
Trucker might have been
giving workers a ride home


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Tourists are shocked by everything in Costa Rica – the beauty of the rainforest – the abundance of wildlife – the beaches, the food and the sun – the friendliness of the people – the terrible treatment of bulls in the ring – and now how people get to and from work.

The thing with tourists is they are just that – passing through, gazing upon the lives of others – and, unfortunately in this case, using their North American values to judge the gravity of the circumstance.  In the course of her letter, Gwen Day took the sight of men standing in the back of a truck to a world class human rights abuse – and, of course, someone else (unnamed) saw the same thing, only it was even more heinous.

I have travelled to many parts of Costa Rica over the past seven years, have built a home in the Osa, and plan to retire there.  I continue to be shocked by the reality of Costa Rican life.  The happiness, the beauty, the simplicity, the bureaucracy, the violence, the cultural richness, the openness and generosity.

I wonder if Gwen (or her unnamed friend) ever thought that perhaps – instead of this being a breach of human rights – what she witnessed was the one man who owned a truck making sure that not one of his friends was left to walk home.  That type of generosity should shock tourists – none of them would experience that at home.

Dan Hill
Toronto Ontario
Ojochal de Osa

Half the people here
can be called dark-skinned


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I read your paper everyday and every once in awhile someone gets under my skin.  This women is out of her mind.  Tourist  should be just that, a tourist.  I am from Canada, too, and where I live in Vancouver they use minibuses for field workers. Yes, that's right, 9-person buses but they put 20 in them, all safe with doors that close and all seatbelted in (well one half ). 

But just last spring 2011 one rolled over and killed all 20 people.  So, Gwen, look at changing things at home before you change things elsewhere.  I live here and understand the way thing get done here.  Those workers get a free ride to work everyday and get paid, dark skin or not. Shall we call you pasty white or just Alberta's snow blind.   
 
Sorry if dark skin people in your eyes or beneath you, and, as a white church-going person, you need to feel better. Come back down and spend more time in the country and travel next time. Half the country is dark skinned.

Matija Muller
San José/ Vancouver     

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary














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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 29
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Where are those street vendors when you want to arrest them?
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday marked the first coordinated effort by the Fuerza Pública and the San José Policía Municipal to rid downtown public spaces of unlicensed vendors. But when patrols and canine units took to the streets in the morning, officers reported that the vendors were nowhere to be found.

“When we arrived they weren't there,” said Subdirector Pablo Bertozzi of the Fuerza Pública. He said that police made no arrests as a result of the operation despite the elevated presence.

Fuerza Pública reported it participated in the operation in compliance with the recent Sala IV constitutional court order that said streets should be cleared of the illegal sellers for public safety reasons and to help people with disabilities better navigate downtown.

Prior to Wednesday, the municipal police have undertaken operations of their own to combat the street vendors. But usually they only scare them off and, at most, confiscate their merchandise as punishment. Most street vendors have elaborate look-out systems in place where one warns the others when a municipal officer is spotted wearing their neon-green augmented uniforms. This cat-and-mouse game has been going on for years.

So when the Fuerza Pública, the Ministerio de Salud, the Policía de Control Fiscal, the Policía Profesional de Migración and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia joined the effort Wednesday along with the municipal police, the vendors probably decided it was better to stay home.

As a consequence the downtown and the central pedestrian mall fell eerily quiet.

Women did not scream “bufandas, bufandas, bufandas” to sell scarves, and no men blew bubbles into the passersby or threw little grey firecrackers that go pop as they hit the pavement in an attempt to entice customers. Going also was much easier without horizontal DVD arrangements blocking crowds of rush hour pedestrians.

At peak time after work only one vendor was spotted on Avenida Central, clandestinely selling chips from a black duffle bag. The only ones left making commerce downtown were lottery vendors, sanctioned by the government and beggars. Outside of the central area it was business as usual for street vendors.

Meanwhile integrated police patrols, one municipal officer and another from the Fuerza Pública, walked through the downtown.

Rafael Arias, an adviser to the mayor's office in San José, said that it is of utmost importance for the health of the city that the pandemic of street vendors be brought under control. He said 3,300 unlicensed vendors have been documented to be working in the city. According to municipal calculations, about half of the vendors are foreigners and, of those
Police on the street
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
A municipal policeman and a Fuerza Pública officer were among those seeking illegal vendors.

foreigners, about 15 percent have an illegal immigration status.

Many of the products on sale are suspects. The CDs almost certainly are counterfeit, and the source of other products are uncertain. The vendors collect no sales tax.

Underage children are also known to work illegally as vendors. For this, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency, was involved in the sweep.

Arias characterized the vendors as often linked with drugs or crime and usually controlled by mafia-style bands that exploit the economic situation of the vendors. He said some are affiliated with stores to help them to push more products to a wider audience.

He said Cartago, Heredia and Alajuela have similar problems with illegal vendors.

Fuerza Pública officials, although they participated in the coordinated effort, have said it is primarily the city's problem and will only be helping out as needed. Arias said any enforcement solution may be difficult because it deals with such a large quantity of people. He characterized the primary problem with the street vendors as only a failure to formalize the economic activity. He said the city is in charge of issuing such permissions to sell in public streets in San José.

A small group of vendors staged a peaceful protest last week against being shut down. There have been more violent confrontations in the past when municipal police tried to enforce the law.


Protest here in support of Panamá labels Martinelli a killer
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans who support the protests of the native peoples in Panama held a protest of their own Wednesday. The gathering was at the Embassy of Panama in San Pedro.

The participants referred to Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panamá, as a killer. There are three confirmed deaths of natives as a result of confrontations with the Policia Nacional ordered into the area by the Martinelli administration.

The natives from the Ngöbe Buglé Comarca or reservation set up blockades and halted traffic on the Pan-American highway for 200 hours. The government of Panamá and native representatives reached an agreement Tuesday afternoon, but the protest here already had been scheduled.

A few protestors with flags, banners and homemade signs created a buffer between vehicles and the other participants to guide the traffic and keep their fellows safe. Opposite them was a steel barrier that blocked the protestors access to the Panama Embassy. The steel fence was backed by armed police officers. No one was allowed on the other side.

Ramón Lamboglia Castillo from the Asociación de Reservistas de Costa Rica, said that the Panama ambassador wasn't a representative of the republic but rather an ambassador of Martinelli. Lamboglia had fought against Manuel Noriega with a weapon in his hand and lost a son, he said. He said he was ashamed of the Panamá government and the abuse toward the native peoples. His organization is the reserve element of the Fuerza Pública.

There have been false accusations said one of the speakers.  Specifically, he referred to the reporting about kidnappings and violence used by the Ngöbe people. A family who was there said that those reports were lies. Some Costa Ricans who were trapped in the blockade said Sunday, however, that they felt they had been kidnapped.

Eventually four protesters were allowed into the embassy to present their views.

The Centro de Orientación Indigenas joined the protest around 10 a.m. The members had come from Los Santos, San Marcos de Tarazú. Candelario Gomez Galindo, a spokesman for the organization, said he had family and
Panama protest
Credit A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Banner demands an end to repression of the Ngöbe people and calls Ricardo Martinelli a killer.

friends that participated in the protests in Bocas del Toro. He said the organization wants Latin American governments to respect all mankind regardless of ethnicity, age, or social class.

“ We are all united with our brothers in Panama. We are human, not animals. We are human beings,” he said.

Protestors chanted against the Martinelli administration, against mining projects, and for native rights.

The protestors were a coalition made up of different people from union leaders, student organizations, native groups, indignados to young and old people. They were joined by legislators Carmen Muñoz Quesada from the Partido Acción Ciudadana, and José María Villalta Flores-Estrada from the Partido Frente Amplio.

The protests in Panamá stemmed from legislation that would allow hydro projects in the watersheds of the reservation. The government there has agreed to review the legislation.

The native leadership says they were not consulted and that a prior agreement forbids such use. Martinelli denies that is the case.

Some protesters Wednesday were against mining. That has been a major issue in Costa Rica. The native peoples in Panamá also oppose mining on their land, but Martinelli has said that mining was not going to be pushed.


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Report says more tobacco controls being adopted in Americas
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A growing number of countries in the Americas are adopting measures to reduce consumption of tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke. But a new report from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization recommends further measures, particularly increases in tobacco taxes and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.

The new Tobacco Control Report for the Region of the Americas summarizes progress in the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first international public health treaty, which requires nations to apply a series of policies and measures aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and protecting people from secondhand smoke. The treaty has been in force since 2005. Costa Rica ratified the treaty in 2008 but still has not passed the required legislation.

Of 35 countries in the Americas, 29 have ratified the treaty, most recently, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. St. Kitts and Nevis. Argentina, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, and the United States have only signed the treaty, implying they will make good-faith efforts to ratify it and, in the meantime, will not undermine its objectives. The Dominican Republic is the only country in the hemisphere that has neither signed nor ratified the treaty.

The treaty requires large, graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, a program to monitor the consumption of tobacco products, a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and increased taxes on such products. The treaty also requires countries to protect citizens from tobacco smoke.

According to the Pan American Health Organization Costa Rica has about 16 percent of the adults who smoke and a slightly lower percentage of minors. About 24 percent of adult males use tobacco and just 8 percent of adult females, said the report. The percentage is nearly even with minors, 16.9 percent of males and 13.1 percent of females.

“The wide endorsement of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in our Region shows that there is clear political will for making tobacco control more comprehensive and more successful,” Mirta Roses, director of the health agency, says in the report.

The report examines both achievements and challenges in the implementation of these measures in the countries of the Americas. Highlights in the report include:

• Brazil, Colombia, Panama, and Uruguay are the countries that have advanced the most in implementing tobacco control measures recommended by the World Health Organization.

• At least 24 countries still allow tobacco advertising on domestic television and radio broadcasts and in national newspapers. Colombia and Panamá are the only countries that have and enforce bans on such advertising. The treaty requires countries to ban such advertising within five years of the treaty’s entrance into force in a country. Costa Rica has not done so.

• Argentina and Chile are the only countries that tax tobacco products at 75 percent or more of the retail price (nevertheless, tobacco prices in Argentina are still among the lowest in the Americas). Few countries in the region have raised tobacco taxes incrementally and continually, as required by the treaty.

• A number of Latin American and Caribbean countries
cigarettes
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Most cigarrets today are filtered.

approved new 100 percent smoke-free laws in 2010 and 2011. Last year, Brazil became the world’s largest country to have such laws. Currently, 13 countries in the Americas are 100 percent smoke-free, meaning they have local or national laws covering at least 90 percent of the population that ban smoking in all closed public spaces and workplaces (with no exceptions).

• Sixteen countries (six of them starting in 2010 or 2011) now comply with World Health’s three key recommendations on health warnings, i.e., that they take up at least 50 percent of the principal display area on tobacco packaging (the exception is Colombia, where they take up 30 percent), they include graphic warnings, and they do not allow misleading or deceptive phrases such as “low-tar,” “light,” or “mild.” The Treaty requires compliance with its articles on health warnings within three years of its entrance into force in a given country.

• Very few countries in the Americas provide strong support for smoking cessation as recommended by the treaty, such as national telephone quit lines, nicotine replacement therapy, and other support services that are cost-covered and easily accessible.

In addition, the report presents data on smoking rates among adults and youths in different countries. Rates in South America point to a closing of the gender gap. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, smoking rates are now higher among teenage girls than teenage boys.

Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year around the globe, as a result of direct consumption or exposure to secondhand smoke. At least 1 million of these deaths occur in the Americas. If current trends continue, the number of tobacco deaths worldwide is projected to climb to 7.5 million annually by 2020. Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for chronic noncommunicable diseases, which are the leading cause of death worldwide.


Tuna and mackerel have declined 60 percent, new study says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The overall population of tuna and mackerel has declined 60 percent in the world's oceans since 1954, according to a study by a multinational group of researchers.

The research was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In all, 26 populations of fish were studied. They included 17 tuna populations, five mackerel populations and four populations of Spanish mackerel.

“The steepest declines are exhibited by two distinct groups: the largest, longest lived, highest value temperate tunas and the smaller, short-lived mackerels, both with most of their populations being overexploited,” said a summary. The remaining populations, mostly tropical tunas, have been fished
down to approximately maximum sustainable yield levels, preventing further expansion of catches in these fisheries, the report said.

The population of cold water tuna, including the red tuna of the Atlantic, have decreased 80 percent over the last 50 years, said the report. About 12.5 percent of the tuna population is caught each year, it estimated.

To guarantee higher catches, stabilize profits, and reduce impacts on marine ecosystems requires the rebuilding of overexploited populations and stricter management measures to reduce overcapacity and regulate threatening trade, the study said.

The lead author was Maria José Juan-Jordá of the  Universidad de A Coruña, Spain.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica


U.N. report cites epidemic
of crimes in Caribbean

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An increasing crime rate is threatening economies and livelihoods in Caribbean countries, says a new United Nations report that calls for the right mix of policies and programs to tackle the problem.

The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012, prepared by the U.N. Development Programme, says that with the exception of Barbados and Suriname, homicide rates – including gang-related killings – have increased substantially in the last 12 years across the Caribbean, while they have been falling or stabilizing in other parts of the world. 

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 8.5 per cent of the world population, yet the region accounts for some 27 per cent of the world’s homicides, according to the report, which was made public Wednesday in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

The report – the first U.N. Human Development Report focusing on the Caribbean – is the result of extensive consultations with 450 experts, practitioners and leaders and reflect a large-scale survey with 11,555 citizens in seven countries in region: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. 

The study found that even though the total number of murders in Jamaica dropped after the report’s completion to 1,124 in 2011 – a seven-year low – the country has the highest homicide rate in the Caribbean and the third-highest murder rate worldwide in recent years, with about 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

Only El Salvador and Honduras have higher rates, with 66 and 82.1 murders per 100,000 people, the report notes, citing figures from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. In Trinidad and Tobago, the report notes, murder rates increased five-fold over a decade, to more than 40 per 100,000 in 2008, and then declined to 36 in 2010. 

Although murder rates are exceedingly high by global standards, Caribbean nations can reverse the trend, states the report, which calls for governments to beef up public institutions to tackle crime and violence while boosting preventive measures.

Among its recommendations, the report calls on Caribbean governments to implement youth crime prevention through education, as well as provide job opportunities that target the marginalized urban poor. 

As for the impact on the region’s economies, estimates by the Caribbean Community show that the cost of gang-related crime is between 2.8 per cent and 4 per cent of gross domestic product in the region through both the cost of policing and as a result of lost income from youth incarceration and reduced tourism.

According to the report, crime costs Jamaica alone over $529 million a year in lost income. In Trinidad and Tobago, a 1 per cent reduction in youth crime would boost tourism revenue by $35 million per year. For every additional gang in a community, homicide rates increased by about 10 per cent, according to research featured in the report.


Vatican sex crimes chief
issues warning to bishops

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top Vatican official is blasting bishops for what he calls their deadly culture of silence in dealing with the church's child sex abuse scandal.

The scandal has shaken the faith of Catholics around the world.  Wednesday, the Vatican’s top sex crimes prosecutor warned bishops they will be held accountable.

"We have the duty to cooperate with civil authorities in a common fight against crime," said Charles Scicluna.

Scicluna, a monsignor, told a closed-door, church sponsored symposium in Vatican City that bishops can and should be removed from office if they fail to follow church guidelines.

"So there is already provision in canon law, it is a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one's duty," Scicluna said.

Many victims' groups have long been critical of the Catholic Church and its bishops for shielding priests accused of sexually abusing children and have dismissed the symposium as a public relations ploy.

But Marie Collins, the only abuse victim taking part in the symposium, says she is pleased by what she heard.

"The bottom line for me is that children have to be protected. We can't do anything about those like myself, who were abused in the past, but by putting in proper protection for the future, we can save children in the future from being abused," Ms. Collins said.

Pope Benedict has expressed shame and sorrow over the abuse and has called on bishops to come up with guidelines against pedophiles by May of this year. Earlier this week, the church said it has received more than 4,000 child sex abuse allegations over the past decade.


Diver frees orca from rope
in New Zealand rescue

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A scuba diver in New Zealand has rescued an orca, commonly known as a killer whale, he found trapped in a fisherman's rope. New Zealand media report the whale had become entangled in a rope attached to a crayfish trap off the coast of Coromandel Peninsula.

Diver Rhys Cochrane said the whale did not seem to mind when he swam down to cut the rope and said it swam away quickly once it was freed. He said several other whales had watched from a distance.

New Zealand orca expert Ingrid Visser watched the video Cochrane had taken of the experience. She said whales are smart enough to know when you are trying to help them. Ms. Visser said she could see bite marks on the whale, indicating other whales had tried to free it.

Ms. Visser added that swimmers should never jump in the water to swim with orcas as they are a top predator. But, she said, at the same time, there is no record of a person being attacked by an orca in the wild.

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Latin America news
Center of San José gets
free wireless Internet


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología has installed a low-speed wireless system in an area adjacent to the Asamblea Legislativa. The plan is characterized as a pilot project.

The coverage of the 512 kbps system runs from the Estación al Atlántico to the Tribunales de Justicia. That puts the legislature and the Museo Nacional right in the middle of coverage. However, both already are serviced by the Internet.

The principal beneficiaries probably will be persons awaiting trains at the station and persons relaxing in Parque Nacional. The general public can access the system for free with a laptop computer or cell telephones with Internet capabilities, the ministry said.

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz helped erect an antenna. The ministry will keep track of how many persons use the system.

The system was welcomed with a ceremony Wednesday on the Bulevar Ricardo Jiménez, which is Calle 17 that runs east of the legislature.


Coke found in drivetrain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another trucker has been detained because anti-drug police found what they believe is cocaine in his vehicle. This time the substance was packed into the rear differential of the drivetrain.

The man was identified by the last names of Arévalo Vargas. Agents said he was from Honduras.


Construction expo next week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Expo Construcción y Vivienda Verano 2012 says it will have 570 stands and some 250 firms represented when the event begins Feb. 15. The exposition will be in the Centro de Eventos Pedregal in Belén.

There also will be nine financial institutions there offering loans in dollars and colons for purchasing and remodeling.

The event runs until Feb. 19. The first three days are free. Saturday and Sunday there is a 2,000-colon admission, about $4. the event is organized by the Cámara Costarricense de la Construcción.










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