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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Monday, June 4, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 110                           Email us
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Jo Stuart
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Time again for those tropical waves and unstable air
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All but the Caribbean coast is expected to have afternoon thunderstorms today.

The country was predicted to be in the gripe of a tropical wave early today. A wave is one of those low-pressure troughs that originate east of the Atlas Mountains in Africa and traverse the globe in tropical latitudes.

The forecast calls for the usual hot and humid mornings with the afternoon bringing heavy rain.

Sunday was generally fair in the Central Valley with some light rain. Saturday saw afternoon and 
Planes without pilot will seek out secrets of  hurricanes
storm sentinel

evening rain. San Ramón was hit by a particularly heavy lightning and thunderstorm Saturday afternoon.

The tropical wave is believed to be the first of the season. Typically there are dozens during the hurricane season, and such low pressure areas can cause tropical storms and hurricanes to develop. For Costa Rica, the low pressure can trigger storms when the air is saturated with humidity from the oceans.

An expat's guide to passing the new driver's exam
By the A. M. Costa Rica humor staff

The traffic education organization has increased the number of written exam questions from 25 to 40 to better evaluate applicants, it said.

The test is all done electronically now on a computer screen. But there is a big distance between passing the written exam and actually behaving like a Costa Rican in traffic.

For the benefit of expats who might take the exam, here are some possible questions and likely answers from experienced Costa Rican drivers.

1. You are fourth in line behind three vehicles stopped for a red light. How long should you wait before blowing your horn when the light turns green?

a. One second
b. One second
c. One second
d. Three seconds in anticipation

2. You are traveling on a busy city street during rush hour. A vehicle nearby brushes your bumper but does not do any damage. What do you do:

a. Take the driver's name, cédula number and telephone number in case there are hidden damages.
b. Forget about it, and go home to supper.
c. Call your office and report that you will be absent for a week because of traffic injuries.
d. Stop your car dead center in the street, call the Policía de Tránsito and block traffic for four hours until the police arrive.

3. You are driving down a two-lane street in the city, and a product displayed in a store window attracts your attention. What do you do?

a. Remember the store location, find a parking lot and return to inspect the article.
b. Hurry on to work
c. Pull up on the sidewalk and go shopping.
d. Stop dead in the traffic lane, get out of the car and go shopping.

4. You are driving on a typical two-lane country road without lines in the driving rain. What is the safest procedure.

a. Cut the speed, watch out for pedestrians and proceed carefully
b. Move the car to the center of the road so it does not slip off either side.
c. Pull over to the side of the road, put on emergency lights and wait for the rain to stop.
d. Drive faster so you can reach your destination quicker.

5. What does the term velocidad restringida mean?

a. There is a speed zone ahead
b. Signs are hard to read at this speed.
c. It's another law that won't be enforced.
d. Nothing. The cameras are all turned off.

crazy driver

6. You have been out with the boys watching a very important soccer game between West Wonga and St. Mary's School for Young Ladies. You have had six shots of guaro and five Imperials. You have to go home. What do you do.

a. Call a taxi and come back for the car tomorrow.
b. Look hard for a sober friend to drive you.
c. Have another guaro and sleep under the table.
d. Be thankful that you have had so much practice driving drunk.

7. You are approaching an intersection with a pedestrian crossing. A pretty woman is crossing in front of you pushing a baby carriage. And an elderly couple has just started to cross the street, too. What do you do.

a. Bring the car to a halt and signal both the woman and the couple to cross.
b. Slow down and honk so the pedestrians will move faster.
c. Leer lasciviously at the pretty woman and drive slowly by her honking the horn.
d. Leer lasciviously at the pretty woman, step on the gas to show masculinity and swerve to scare the elderly couple.

8. What are the items that you must always carry in your car

a.  Jack, a red triangle and a fire extinguisher
b. A detachable mirror to apply makeup.
c. Proof of registration and vehicle inspection.
d. A cell phone.

9. How many points on your license will be accumulated when you are caught driving an uninspected car without registration while speeding 30 percent greater than the posted limit.

a. 10
b. 20
c. 50
d. No points but you lose 20,000 colons.

10. What does a red light mean?

a. Stop.
b. Slow down
c. You can only turn right or left.
d. It's a suggestion.

Need we say that the correct answers are all d?

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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 reader's opinion
Military retiree, 73,
urges a Democrat vote

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I’m 73, a military retiree and university graduate who lived 16 years outside America and been in 30 countries. I’ve also been voting for 55 years, so have seen and experienced the shift in the last 30 or so years toward intense partisanship started by Republican Newt Gingrich.

Today, the net result is a war between politicians — not about important national issues — but about reelection. Behind the scenes and fueling the political wars are the two most powerful men in America, Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Norquist’s pledge that almost all Republicans must sign and Rove’s money machine totally controls who gets elected and reelected. All that money comes from a very few people who have very selfish interests.

The Democrats do not have two powerful puppet masters pulling the strings nor concentrated money aimed at destroying opponents so have been slowly losing the political wars.

If anyone reading this believes that Republicans have the average person’s best interests at heart you need to look at the facts. They are in office because of the money behind them, and they do what the money tells them to do.

If you already have lots of money, vote Republican. If you think the increasing disparity of wealth and continual political wars should be stopped, vote Democratic.
Doug Hicks
Tampa, Florida

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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U.S. human rights report ducks some key issues for expats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. human rights report about Costa Rica appears to be significant for what was left out instead of what was included.

Although the report addresses overcrowded prisons and delays in civil cases in general, there is nothing about the frauds and battles expats have fought or are fighting to hold on to their real estate. The report did not overlook the low rate of convictions:

“The legal system faced many challenges, including significant delays in the adjudication of civil disputes and a growing workload. In 2010 approximately 235,000 criminal complaints were filed with the judicial branch, of which 4 percent (9,835 cases) went to trial with a conviction rate of 61 percent. Many cases filed did not have sufficient evidence to go to trial.”

In a summary the U.S. State Department said that principal human rights abuses reported during the year here included poor prison conditions, including overcrowding and cases of prisoner abuse, delays in the judicial process, and commercial sexual exploitation of minors. Other human rights problems reported were domestic violence against women and children, trafficking in persons, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and child labor, it said.

The case that got primary attention was that of 10 La Reforma prison guards being accused of beating to death a prisoner who engineered an attempted escape May 11, 2011. The criminal case has not yet been resolved.

The report covers the period from January to November, and the document is required each year by U.S. law.

The report states matter-of-factly and without comment the preventative detention for persons awaiting trial in Costa Rica:

“A criminal court may hold suspects in pretrial detention for up to one year, and the Court of Appeals may extend this period to two years in especially complex cases. Every three months the law requires court review of cases of suspects in pretrial detention to determine the appropriateness of continued detention. By law, if a judge declares a case is related to organized crime, special procedural rules apply that establish the maximum period of pretrial detention may not exceed 24 months (although the Court of Appeals may grant one extension not to exceed an additional 12 months); the statute of limitations is 10 years from the date of the last crime. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that authorities used pretrial detention often and not as an exceptional measure. According to the Ministry of Justice, as of June 30, there were 2,945 persons in pretrial detention, constituting approximately 13 percent of the prison population.”

Some detentions were attributed to pending investigations and others were due to court backlogs, the report said.

There are 23,046 in the custody of Adaptación Social of the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, said the report. Of these 11,534 are jailed full-time, it said. About 11,000 persons either spend
the nights and weekend in jail or are otherwise supervised by the correction system.

The report noted the legal and legislative dispute here over in-vitro fertilization:

“After a one-year extension to lift the ban on in-vitro fertilization, in August the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights determined that the country failed to comply with its recommendations and referred a case involving the country to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for trial and possible sanctions. In the report on the merits, the commission considered that the ban was an “'arbitrary interference in the right to private and family life and the right to found a family.'”

The report notes the absence of minorities in the political process: “Women were represented with a degree of visibility in government; indigenous people and people of African descent, representing approximately 4 percent of the population (2000 census), were not.”

The report did address corruption and the conviction of former president Miguel Angel Rodríguez. He continues to appeal.

In addition, the security ministry had suspended more than 1,000 uniformed officers in 15 months for various offenses out of a force of about 12,000, it noted.

The report also said that of 1,744 reported rape and attempted rape cases in 2010, the courts convicted just 215.

The report also addressed child labor, meaning anyone working under the age of 15 or anyone working at a dangerous job under age 18. “The worst forms of child labor also occurred in some service sectors, such as construction, fishing, street vending, and domestic service,” it said

The report noted that Costa Rica is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but it made no mention of North American fathers who have fought here without success to regain their children.

The report also said that the government, security officials, and child advocacy organizations acknowledged that commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem. From January to November, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare organization, reported 67 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of minors, said the report.

The government also identified child sex tourism as a serious problem, it added. However, there was no mention of any arrests of tourists or others. Nor was there a mention that prostitution is not penalized here.

The report also addressed problems by migrants and problems that their youngsters might have when their births are not recorded.

The country summaries in the report are prepared by State Department empoyees in the local embassy.

Quake in the Pacific felt throughout the country Sunday night
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday night's tranquility suffered a jolt at 6:46 p.m. when a wave of a Pacific earthquake rolled through the county.

The epicenter was estimated to be in the Pacific south of Panamá. The Red Sismológica Nacional said the quake had a 5.7 magnitude.  The U.S. Earthquake Information Center estimated it at 6.2. Specifically the center said the epicenter was (346 kilometers or 214 miles) south of David, Panamá.

There was no immediate report of serious damage.

The location suggests that the quake was related to the large system of faults that are in the Panamá fractura zone, said the Red Sismológica Nacional. This is in the border between the Coco and Nazca tectonic plates. This is the most active region in Central America, it said.

The Red also estimated the epicenter to be 130 kilometers or about 81 miles south southwest of Puerto Jiménez on the Osa peninsula.

The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica said that 13 of its stations reported a strong quake. The Laboratorio noted that each quake behaves differently. In this case, the quake appears to have been felt strongest in the center of the country. The Laboratorio listed a weak tremor in Quepos but decidedly strong in the Central Valley.

The depth was estimated by the Laboratorio as just over 9 kilometers or about 5.5 miles.

The impact of the quake appeared to travel in two waves just a few seconds apart. Two distinct waves could be felt in the Central Valley.

There were three quakes Friday

quake location
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico graphic
Estimated location of epicenter Sunday night.

One that took place at 3:06 p.m. was estimated to have been north of the Gulf of Nicoya and about 2.6 kilometers southeast of Bebedero de Cañas and about 12.4 kilometers southwest of Cañas Centro. The magnitude was estimated at 3.7.

Two quakes estimated at 3.7 magnitude took place earlier the same day along the Pacific coast.

The Laboratorio said the first took place at 9:45 a.m. about six kilometers north northeast of Damas, Quepos, Aguirre, on the central Pacific coast. The quake was felt all the way to San Pedro, the agency said. The estimate placed the epicenter just a few miles inland.

Just a minute after 1 p.m., the Laboratorio said a quake took place east southeast of Montezuma on the tip of the Nicoya peninsula. The estimate puts the epicenter at the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya, a location of frequent seismic activity.

The quake was felt strongest on the tip of the peninsula, the Laboratorio said.

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A Global Hawk aircraft that will spend hours trying to learn the secrets of hurricanes.

storm sentinel
National Aeronautics and Space Administration photo

Planes without pilot will seek out secrets of Atlantic hurricanes
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Beginning in late August through early October and continuing for the next several years during the Atlantic hurricane season, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will dispatch two unmanned aircraft equipped with specialized instruments high above tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean basin.

These severe storm sentinels will investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will join several other NASA centers and numerous federal and university partners in the missions.

So far both the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons are predicted to the normal, meaning just several hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The automatically-flown Global Hawk aircraft are well-suited for hurricane investigations, said NASA. They can overfly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 18,300 meters (60,000 feet), and fly up to 28 hours at a time -- something piloted aircraft would find nearly impossible to do. Global Hawks were used in the agency's 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes hurricane mission and the Global Hawk Pacific environmental science mission. The Global Hawks will fly from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and are based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, California.

"Hurricane intensity can be very hard to predict because of an insufficient understanding of how clouds and wind patterns within a storm interact with the storm's environment," said
Scott Braun, the mission principal investigator and research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The unmanned aircraft missions seek to improve understanding of these processes by taking advantage of the surveillance capabilities of the Global Hawk along with measurements from a suite of advanced instruments, he added.

"One aircraft will sample the environment of storms while the other will measure eyewall and rainband winds and precipitation," Braun continued. The study will examine the large-scale environment in which tropical storms form and move through and how that environment affects the inner workings of the storms, he said.

The aircraft will address the controversial role of the hot, dry and dusty Saharan air layer in tropical storm formation and intensification. Past studies have suggested the layer can both favor and suppress intensification. In addition, the aircraft will examine the extent to which deep convection in the inner-core region of storms is a key driver of intensity change or just a response to storms finding favorable sources of energy, NASA said.

The crafts will carry sophisticated instruments to measure water vapor and heat radiation in the inner regions of storms. One device will use microwaves. Some of these devices are expected to be used in future NASA space missions.

The instrument operates at microwave frequencies that can penetrate clouds, enabling it to determine temperature, humidity and cloud structure under all weather conditions, said NASA, adding that this capability is critical for studying atmospheric processes associated with bad weather, like the conditions present during hurricanes.

Readers invited to express their political views
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

This is another presidential election year in the United States, and plenty of expats here have opinions on who should win.

The choice is between the incumbent, Barack Obama, and the Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, although a reader wrote Wednesday to say that Ron Paul still has a chance. There also is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.

The main force behind the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is political speech. Readers are encouraged to express their views, tightly and clearly. A.M. Costa Rica is not a discussion list, so readers have just one chance to express themselves on this topic.

Discussion is good. Personal attacks are bad. Readers should try to focus on facts to support their argument.

The election is Nov.6, but most expats here will have filed their absentee ballots long before that date. So A.M. Costa Rica will cut off discussion of the candidates and their positions Oct. 15.

Shortly thereafter, this newspaper will publish its opinion and endorsement.

This is the same rule that applied in 2008, but 

some readers, miffed at the newspaper endorsement, became enraged when told their letters would not be published.

So if readers have something to say on the presidential or congressional elections, they should say it before Oct. 15.

Of course if someone wishes to insert political advertising promoting one candidate or another, the newspaper will happily accept money at the printed rates. The ad must contain a line of type saying who paid for the message.

This message will be repeated as the election draws near.

Expats have many options to register to vote Nov. 6
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. expats have plenty of time to register to vote in the Nov. 6 federal election. They have a right to do so no matter how long they have lived overseas.

Several organizations exist to help expats register and obtain their absentee ballot. Probably the best known is the non-profit Overseas Vote Foundation that also operates Youth Vote Overseas mostly for U.S. students in foreign countries and several other initiatives. The Arlington,Virginia, based organization is non-partisan.

The Democratic National Committee also has a program to help overseas voters, be they expats or military. It is Vote from Abroad.
The U.S. government has the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

All have set ups so that expats and others eligible to vote can register at their designated state and submit requests for ballots. Some states allow online registration and online ballot requests.

In some states, the primary election already has passed. In others, there still is time to vote in the party primaries. Every site appears to have detailed information to answer any questions expats may have.

Local organizations affiliated with the U.S. political parties also have staged voter registrations in the past and will likely do so again this year.

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Queen marks her 60 years
with ride on Thames

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

This weekend marks the culmination of year-long celebrations in Britain marking the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

A specially outfitted ship carried the 86-year-old queen and her family along the River Thames at the head of a 1,000-boat parade. Rain and cold kept many people away, but tens of thousands came out anyway to cheer, underlining the queen's popularity.

“The monarchy has gone through a lot of ups and downs in its time, in her time on the throne, high peaks and then very low troughs. She has fulfilled her oath to her people," said one man in London.

Historian Miles Taylor of the University of London says the monarchy continues to be relevant.  “I think there is still a place for monarchy.  It is the most visible and familiar symbol of our national identity. Yes, there’s the glamor, there’s the glitz, there’s the tradition, but the monarchy by the early 20th century was playing a hugely important role in the voluntary sector, in making all charities, philanthropy, all the kind of civic-mindedness work in the country," he said.

The queen also maintains a political role, speaking for the government and advising prime ministers. 

She meets with foreign leaders from all corners of the world.

And she is the leader of the Commonwealth, the nations once part of the British Empire.

During Queen Elizabeth’s 60-year reign, Britain has endured a variety of troubles, including terrorist attacks. When Princess Diana died in 1997, the queen had some of her toughest days, enduring criticism for not sharing the depth of the nation’s grief.

But the queen emerged with a status unparalleled in Britain and many other countries. 

And in recent years, she has allowed the spotlight to focus on the most popular members of her family.

An 80-year-old British army veteran, who gave his name only as Tom, is among relatively few people here who can remember a time when Elizabeth was not their queen. “I was at Windsor when King George VI died.  I attended his funeral down there, and then I had to go around the town, march around the town, with the proclamation of the queen, Princess Elizabeth then, becoming our queen.  And that sticks in my heart now.  I think she’s held this country together," he said.

So Britons pause for four days to celebrate their queen and their heritage.  They put aside concerns about the economic downturn and foreign wars and crises, at least for a while.

Transit of Venus helped
scientists calculate distance

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The planet Venus will make a rare transit across the face of the Sun on June 5.  The phenomenon will not occur again for more than a century.  The U.S. space agency, NASA, plans to use the Venus transit to fine-tune some of its deep-space planet-hunting techniques.
Venus will appear as a small, black dot as it crosses in front of the Sun.  The six and a half hour long passage will begin at 22:09 Universal time Tuesday, and most of the world — except much of South America and western Africa — will be able to see it.  Experts warn to never look directly at the Sun. The local time will be 4:09 p.m. in Costa Rica.

Harley Thronson says transits of Venus in the 18th and 19th centuries provided the measurements that allowed astronomers to calculate the key distance between the Earth and the Sun.  However, he admits that many people will observe the 2012 phenomenon just for fun. He is with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“It is primarily a gee-whiz factor.  Its scientific importance is now historical.  It was scientifically critical in the 1700s and 1800s,” Thronson said.

Thronson says knowing the Earth-to-Sun distance — 150 million kilometers or 93 million miles — allowed astronomers to determine the size of the solar system for the first time and ultimately, the sizes and distances of everything in the cosmos.

Scientists look for distant planets by detecting the slight dimming of a star’s brightness that occurs when an orbiting object passes between it and the telescope making the observation. It is known as the transit method.

Thronson says this year's close-to-home Venus transit will give NASA the chance to make refinements to the delicate instruments like those aboard the Hubble space telescope that it uses to search the universe for relatively small, rocky, Earth-like worlds.

“Some astronomers are going to treat the transit of Venus similar to a hypothetical Earth-like world passing in front of its central star and that very, very slight dimming of the star,” Thronson said. 

Transits of Venus always occur in pairs, eight years apart, with more than a century separating each pair. Some 130 years passed between the transits of 1874 and 2004.

After Tuesday, the wonder of watching the tiny silhouette of Venus glide across the face of the Sun will belong to future generations of astronomers and sky-watchers in the year 2117.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 4, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 110
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China may agree to build
$22 million police school

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister had told lawmakers that the People's Republic of China may pay for construction of a new police school. That means some $22 million that was supposed to be borrowed from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo can be spent elsewhere for police purposes, said the minister, Mario Zamora Cordero.

He was speaking with the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios at the legislature. The country is seeking to borrow $135 million from the development bank. The  Ministerio de Justicia y Paz would administer the funds to run programs of violence prevention and social reintegration of prisoners.

Zamora said he hopes to get a formal agreement with China via diplomatic notes, he said. He said that loan money that was supposed to build the police school could be used to improve the structures of the various police stations in the country.

Caja setting up program
to keep seniors sharp

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's health care system is setting up a special program for older residents to keep them aware mentally. The program is being called mental gymnastics, and it will be free.

The agency, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, said that the program will be 10 sessions of three hours each for persons 65 and holder. The first session will begin in September.

The participants will do crosswords and other activities that are designed to use the mind. Specialists in psychology will supervise, said the Caja. The agency offers other programs to help seniors live on their own.

Husband defies court order
and kills wife and himself

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman who obtained a protective order against her husband died early Sunday when the man forced a gate, entered the home and shot her in the head. Then the man killed himself.

Neither the dead woman nor her husband were identified immediately by the Judicial Investigating Organization. An agency report said that the shootings happened in Concepción de Tres Ríos. The woman was 27 and the man was 22, the report said.
The man arrived at the home about 1:30 a.m., judicial agents said. The agency confirmed that the woman has sought a protective order against the man after they had separated.

U.S. expat dies in crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. expat died Saturday morning when his vehicle overturned in Lagunas de Barú, Dominical.

The man was identified as Daniel Kelly, 69, a resident. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the brakes on the vehicle appear to have failed on the hilly road.  Kelly was thrown from the vehicle and ended up underneath. Three other persons with him were not hurt seriously, the judicial agency said.

Planned outage in Rio Oro

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz said that it will cut power today at 8 a.m. from the Catholic church in Rio Oro, Santa Ana, south. The outage will affect homes, it said.

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