Category Archives: Water

Water and Climate Dominate World Economic Forum Risk Report

Brett Walton reports for Circle of Blue:

Image result for Water and Climate Dominate World Economic Forum Risk ReportEnvironmental risks, steadily rising in importance, are recognized as authentic and relentless obstacles to peace, wealth, and health, according to the World Economic Forum’s global risk report, an annual survey of business, academic, and political leaders.

The report analyzes the strength and likelihood of 30 risks and 13 trends that shape global society. Four of the five environmental risks in the report, all related to climate change and extreme weather, are judged to be large impact and high likelihood threats.

Water crises, deemed a “societal risk” because of their broad reach, ranked third in the high-impact category, the third consecutive year in the top three. Harsh droughts last year in India, South Africa, and Vietnam slashed farm production and cut hydropower generation. Meanwhile, depletion of India’s groundwater reserves could squeeze long-term economic growth and flush rural residents into already jammed cities. These and other environmental threats to social well-being “are more prominent than ever,” the report states.

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The Coming Water Crisis

Genevieve Belmaker, Cindy Drukier, Tara MacIsaac and Larry Ong writes for the Epoch Times:

BENJAMIN CHASTEEN/EPOCH TIMES; EPOCH TIMES (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION)Water is life. Water is the new oil. Water is power.

Fresh, life-sustaining water is draining away. It’s becoming an increasingly scarce resource across the globe through overuse and pollution. As these issues become more acute, tensions that have already begun will escalate, and this will affect us all.

Some say water is the new oil. But unlike oil, water is essential for survival.

A deep dive into the planet’s water situation reveals that in the coming decades, every country, including the United States, will have to determine how to treat water as an economic good, a human right, and a depleting resource.

A look at three key areas—United States, the Middle East, and China—shows the range of challenges.

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Deadly Bacteria Spread across Oceans as Water Temperatures Rise

Umair Irfan reports for Scientific American:

Deadly bacteria are spreading through the oceans as waters warm up, and are increasing infection risks, according to a new study.

Multiple species of rod-shaped Vibrio bacteria live in the world’s oceans, and their populations rise and fall based on many different variables, changing the likelihood of making people sick.

report published yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesexamined the role of the changing climate in Vibrio infections.

In the United States, Vibrio bacteria cause about 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths each year. The species that causes the devastating diarrheal disease cholera, Vibrio cholerae, is responsible for up to 142,000 deaths around the world annually, according to the World Health Organization.

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Adding fluoride to water supply may have no benefit, say experts

Haroon Siddique reports for The Guardian:

Water fluoridation has been in place in England for more than 40 years, and now covers about 6 million people. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls adding fluoride to drinking water one of the 10 great public health achievements in the 20th century.

Public Health England (PHE) describes it as “a safe and effective public health measure” to combat tooth decay in children and, alongside dentists’ groups, has called for it to be implemented more widely.

But health experts are calling for a moratorium on water fluoridation, claiming that the benefits of such schemes, as opposed to those of topical fluoride (directly applied to the teeth), are unproved.

Furthermore, critics cite studies claiming to have identified a number of possible negative associations of fluoridation, including bone cancer in boys, bladder cancer, hyperthyroidism, hip fractures and lower IQ in children.

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NASA: The Earth is Running Out of Water

Lauren McCauley reports for Common Dreams:

Two new NASA studies led by researchers from the University of California Irvine and published Tuesday show that the depletion of global groundwater resources, due to the dueling impacts of global warming and growing human demand, has caused the world’s water supply to drop to dangerous levels.

The first report compares statistical analysis of water withdrawal to GRACE satellite analysis, which measures variations in gravity on the Earth’s surface, between January 2003 and December 2013. The study compares the difference between the use and availability of these resources to determine the amount of overall renewable groundwater stress, or RGS.

According to the findings, at 21 of the 37 largest aquifers, water is being drained at a greater rate than it is being naturally replenished, 13 of which fell into the most troubled category.’

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How NATO deliberately destroyed Libya’s water infrastructure

Nafeez Ahmed writes at The Cutting Edge:

‘The military targeting of civilian infrastructure, especially of water supplies, is a war crime under international law and the Geneva Conventions.

Yet this is what NATO did in Libya, and the results have worsened today.

Numerous reports comment on the water crisis that is escalating across Libya as consumption outpaces production. Some have noted the environmental context in regional water scarcity due to climate change, but what they ignore is the fact that the complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome this problem was targeted and disrupted by NATO.

During the 2011 military invasion, press reports surfaced, mostly citing pro-rebel sources, claiming that pro-Gaddafi loyalists had shut down the water supply system as a mechanism to win the war and punish civilians.

This is a lie.’

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Nestlé’s California Water Permit Expired 27 Years Ago

Zoë Schlanger reports for Newsweek:

Last month, California newspaper The Desert Sun published an investigation revealing that Nestlé Water’s permit to transport water across the San Bernardino National Forest for bottling has been expired since 1988. On Friday, the California Forest Service announced it would make it “a priority” to reassess the permit, and that it might impose as-of-yet unspecified “interim conditions” on the bottling operation in light of the severe drought, The Desert Sun reports.

The fact that Nestlé has continued its massive water-bottling operation while the state struggles with crippling water shortages has become a sticking point for activists. A petition demanding Nestlé immediately stop bottling and profiting off California water has drawn 27,000 online signatures and counting, and last month activists reportedly blocked the entrances to Nestlé’s bottling plant in Sacramento.’

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New age of water wars portends ‘bleak future’

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Behind the escalating violence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the epidemic of civil unrest across the wider region, is a growing shortage of water.

New peer-reviewed research published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) shows that water scarcity linked to climate change is now a global problem playing a direct role in aggravating major conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

Numerous cities in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are facing “short and declining water supplies per capita,” which is impacting “worldwide” on food production, urban shortages, and even power generation.’

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Agricultural insecticides pose a global risk to surface water bodies, researchers find

Science Daily reports:

Streams within approximately 40 percent of the global land surface are at risk from the application of insecticides. These were the results from the first global map to be modelled on insecticide runoff to surface waters, which has just been published in the journal Environmental Pollution by researchers from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Koblenz-Landau together with the University of Milan, Aarhus University and Aachen University. According to the publication, particularly streams in the Mediterranean, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia are at risk.’

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Pentagon Makes No Secret of Wanting to Monitor Social Change Activism

Nafezz Ahmed writes for AlterNet:

The US military is increasingly concerned about the risks to social, political and economic stability from resource stress and climate change, and whether they might lead governments to collapse. That’s the upshot of the latest call for proposals from the Pentagon’s flagship social science research program, the Minerva Research Initiative.

Minerva is a multi-million-dollar research program led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and founded in 2008 under the watch of then-defense secretary Robert Gates. The final deadline for submissions for the latest research round is next month.

The research call, which was put out near the end of last year by the Office of Naval Research, shows that the Pentagon is particularly taken aback by sudden “societal shifts like those seen recently in North Africa and the Middle East,” as well as in “Central Eurasia.”’

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The Coming Blackout Epidemic

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Motherboard:

‘​Industrialized countries face a future of increasingly severe blackouts, a new study warns, due to the proliferation of extreme weather events, the transition to unconventional fossil fuels, and fragile national grids that cannot keep up with rocketing energy demand.

“We need a fundamental re-think about how electricity is generated and distributed and who controls this,” said lead author Prof Hugh Byrd of Lincoln University, a specialist in international energy policy and urban sustainability. “It is not in the interests of the privatized power industry to encourage less electricity consumption.”

Every year, millions of people around the world experience major electricity blackouts, but the country that has endured more blackouts than any other industrialized nation is the United States. Over the last decade, the number of power failures affecting over 50,000 Americans has more than doubled, according to federal data.’

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The Toxic Uzbek Town and Its Museum of Banned Soviet Art

Stephen Bland writes for VICE News:

‘Making our way out of Uzbekistan’s Xorazm Province, we began our three-hour drive to the city of Nukus, capital of the country’s autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Up until the late-1990s, the land we were driving through was still cotton fields; today, it’s just an expanse of salty grey emptiness.

Once a thriving agricultural center, Karakalpakstan is now one of the sickest places on Earth. Respiratory illness, typhoid, tuberculosis and oesophageal cancers are rife, and the region has the highest infant mortality rate in the former USSR.’

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Detroit Faces “Humanitarian Crisis” as City Shuts Off Water Access for Thousands of Residents

‘We are on the road in Detroit, broadcasting from the “Great Lakes State” of Michigan, which has one of the longest freshwater coastlines in the country. But its residents are increasingly concerned about their access to affordable water. A judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy recently ruled the city can continue shutting off water to residents who have fallen behind on payments after a judge concluded there is no “enforceable right” to water. The city began cutting off water to thousands of households several months ago, prompting protests from residents and the United Nations. Today, some 350 to 400 customers reportedly continue to lose water service daily in Detroit, where poverty rate is approximately 40 percent, and people have seen their water bills increase by 119 percent within the last decade. Most of the residents are African-American. Two-thirds of those impacted by the water shutoffs involve families with children. We speak with Alice Jennings, the lead attorney for residents who have lost their water access. “What’s happening here is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis,” Jennings says. “In a military way, the truck would start at one end of the street, and by the time it reached the other end maybe 50 percent of the homes were shut off.”’ (Democracy Now!)

Islamic State militants’ key weapon is water

Erin Cunningham writes for The Washington Post:

‘The Islamic State militants who have rampaged across northern Iraq are increasingly using water as a weapon, cutting off supplies to villages resisting their rule and pressing to expand their control over the country’s water infrastructure.

The threat from the jihadists is so critical that U.S. forces are bombing the militants close to both the Mosul and Haditha dams — Iraq’s largest — on a near-daily basis. But the radical Islamists continue to menace both facilities.’

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Coca-Cola and Its Egregious History

Heather Gray writes for CounterPunch:

‘The Coca-Cola Company is, of course, a capitalist company meaning that its goal is to make money virtually any way possible. It’s good at this. Its market cap today is $168.7 billion according to Forbes.  Since it’s founding in the late 1800’s it is now known to be the most recognized product in the world. Its goal of making money is accomplished regardless of the consequences be it environmental degradation, pollution, abuse of and destabilizing water use, worker assassinations, discrimination in the work place, or the health of individuals drinking its product, to name but a few.  Promoting a product that requires purchase by huge numbers of individuals in order to make a profit necessitates deliberate efforts at creating a positive public image. It’s good at that also but it is simultaneously considered by some as one of the most evil corporations in the world – a designation that suits it well.

Living in Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola, the time has come for me to begin writing about the company, as Alex Cockburn had wanted. The purpose of this article on Coca-Cola is to share an assortment of some of my personal experiences with the corporation in the past few decades in reference to Atlanta, South Africa and the Philippines. For a fairly comprehensive list of criticisms against The Coca-Cola Company throughout the world that I won’t be referring to please go to: Killer Coke.’

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Mount Rubbish: Bali’s tourism demands are threatening its future

‘More than 10 million people visit Bali each year, almost three times its local population. It is a huge stress on its resources, but with tourism so important to its economy, how can the competing demands be met? Many thousands of cubic metres of waste are dumped everyday in Bali. A new local site not to be found on the tourist trail is Mount Rubbish. Worse still, the toxic run-off from this mountain of waste filters into Bali’s source of drinking water. “We are being poisoned by this pile of rubbish”, says environmental activist Moko. But garbage is not the only problem; Bali’s development is based on foreign exploitation, which has made locals feel that their very way of life is under threat. Many Balinese now believe that keeping culture and traditions strong could be their last defence. “We Balinese should take the move to save Bali, before it’s too late”, a local campaigner explains.’ (Journeyman Pictures)

Shutoff: Detroit’s Water War

‘Earlier this year, Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department began turning off water utilities for overdue or delinquent accounts. Since April, the department has cut off the water for nearly 3,000 households per week — meaning roughly 100,000 Motor City residents are without water. Entrenched at the bottom of Detroit’s current economic crisis, many of those without water are the city’s poorest resident. The city’s shut-off campaign has garnered international press attention, and has been called “an affront to human rights” by representatives of the United Nations. VICE News traveled to Detroit to see first-hand how residents are dealing with the water shut-offs, speak with local government representatives about the issue, and discuss possible resolutions with activist groups.’ (VICE News)

Despite Calls for Humanity, Detroit Resumes Water Shutoffs

Lauren McCauley reports for Common Dreams:

‘Despite widespread public outcry and international condemnation, the city of Detroit on Tuesday resumed shutting off the water supply to thousands of city residents. Ending the month long moratorium on shutoffs, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) public affairs specialist Gregory Eno confirmed to Common Dreams that the city turned off the water to roughly 400 households that are delinquent on their water bills and have not yet set up a payment plan. More shutoffs are expected.

According to the citizens group Detroit Water Brigade, the only thing that changed since shutoffs began in March is that the city has lowered the required down payment water bills from 30% to 10%. “The water is still too expensive for Detroit,” they said. Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the United States with over 38% of the population living below the poverty line, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Members of the Detroit Water Brigade are calling on the city to halt the shutoffs altogether and consider alternatives for helping people pay their bills, arguing that restricting access to water for the city’s poorest residents is “doing nothing more than hurting people,” DWB volunteer DeMeeko Williams told a local CBS affiliate.’

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When Water is a Commodity Instead of a Human Right

Pete Dolack writes for Systemic Disorder:

‘The shutoff of water to thousands of Detroit residents, the proposed privatization of the water system and the diversion of the system’s revenue to banks are possible because the most basic human requirement, water, is becoming nothing more than a commodity.

The potential sale of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is one more development of the idea that water, as with any commodity, exists to produce private profit rather than to be a public necessity. And if corporate plunder is to be the guiding principal, then those seen as most easy to push around will be expected to shoulder the burden.

Thus, 17,000 Detroit residents have had their water shut off — regardless of ability to pay — while large corporate users have faced no such turnoff. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began its shutoff policy in March with a goal of shutting off the water to 3,000 accounts per week. Residents can be shut off for owing as little as $150. That is only two months of an average bill.’

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Was ISIS Capture of Mosul Dam a ‘Virtual’ Event?

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Early today we reported, on the basis of reports from other media outlets and a confirmation by Nineveh Governor Atheel Nujaifi, that the Mosul Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in Iraq, was seized by ISIS from Kurdish forces. The following image appears to have been the basis of the story.

Liz Sly from the Washington Post was the first to suggest the story may not have been true, showing photos taken earlier in the day of Deputy Kurdish Premier Qubad Talabani at a conspicuously unconquered Mosul Dam.’

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Intersex Fish Showing Up in Pennsylvania Rivers

Megan Gannon reports for Live Science:

A smallmouth bass‘Scientists found intersex fish in three river basins in Pennsylvania, a sign that the water may be tainted with chemicals from human activity.

Male smallmouth bass with female characteristics — namely, immature egg cells in their testes — were discovered in the drainage areas of the Susquehanna, Delaware and Ohio rivers, according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Such abnormalities are linked to estrogen-mimicking chemicals, which likely got into rivers and streams from agricultural runoff and human waste, the researchers said.’

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Humans have tripled mercury levels in upper ocean

Anne Casselman reports for Nature:

‘Mercury levels in the upper ocean have tripled since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and human activities are to blame, researchers report today in NatureAlthough several computer models have estimated the amount of marine mercury, the new analysis provides the first global measurements. It fills in a critical piece of the global environmental picture, tracking not just the amount of mercury in the world’s oceans, but where it came from and at what depths it is found.

…Researchers collected thousands of water samples during eight research cruises to the North and South Atlantic and Pacific oceans between 2006 and 2011. To determine how mercury levels had changed over time, they compared samples of seawater from depths down to 5 kilometres with water closer to the surface, which had been more recently exposed to mercury pollution from land and air.’

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Why ISIS Wants Iraq’s Dams

Nigel Wilson writes for the International Business Times:

‘When the Americans invaded in 2003, securing the Haditha Dam, located on the Euphrates river, was one of their top priorities. The dam is the second largest in Iraq, and contributes around a third of the country’s electricity supply. Moreover, energy experts agree that releasing water from the dam could potentially flood wide regions of the country, destroying all in its path.

[…] The group has also launched an assault on the country’s biggest dam, located outside Mosul on Iraq’s second major river, the Tigris. The dam provides electricity to Mosul’s 1.7 million residents and its capture would amount to a major loss for Kurdish forces that have countered the Islamic State advance. “Definitely the dam is very important and Isis will not do anything to harm it based on understanding this. Isis will use as a pressuring card as by controlling Haditha dam and Mosul dam Isis will have control over 70% of electrical power of the country. So it is not only water but it is also electrical power,” said the London-based expert.’

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Report: World faces water crises by 2040

Renee Lewis reports for Al Jazeera:

‘Globally, there has been a three-fold population increase in the past century and a six-fold increase in water consumption, the report said. If trends in population and energy use continue, it could leave a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030. In most countries, including the United States, energy production is the biggest source of water consumption — even larger than agriculture, researchers said. In 2005, 41 percent of all freshwater consumed in the U.S. was for thermoelectric cooling, according to the study.

Power plants produce excess heat, requiring cooling cycles that use water. Only wind and solar voltaic energy production require minimal water. “If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage — even if water was free, because it’s not a matter of the price,” Sovacool said.  Researchers said nuclear power and coal — the most “thirsty” power sources — should be eventually replaced with more efficient methods, especially renewable sources like wind and solar, the report said.’

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Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution

Suzanne Goldenberg reports for The Guardian:

lake erie water‘The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Water problems in the Great Lakes – the world’s largest freshwater system – have spiked in the last three years, largely because of agricultural pollution. Toledo draws its drinking water from Lake Erie.

…The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.’

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Punished for saving water: A drought Catch-22

The L.A. Times reports:

‘Talk about mixed messages: While Gov. Jerry Brown is warning that California faces its worst drought since record-keeping began and regulators have approved fines of up to $500 for wasting water, some Southern California cities are continuing to issue warnings and citations to residents who let their lawns go brown.

After a Glendora couple decided that they’d water their lawn only twice a week, which left it with brown patches and bald spots, they received a letter from the city’s code enforcement unit warning them to turn their grass green again or face $100 to $500 in fines and possible criminal action, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.’

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Companies proclaim water the next oil in a rush to turn resources into profit

Suzanne McGee reports for The Guardian:

water bottles‘After spending nearly 30 years of my life writing about business and finance, including several years dedicated to the commodities market, the idea of treating water as a pure commodity – something to bought and sold on the open market by those in quest of a profit rather than trying to deliver it to their fellow citizens as a public service – made me pause.

Sure, I’ve grown up surrounded by bottled mineral water – Evian, Volvic, Perrier, Pellegrino and even more chi-chi brands – but that has always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to whatever home I’m occupying. All it takes is turning a tap. The cost of that water is fractions of a penny compared to designer bottled water.

This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity. At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.’

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PETA Offers To Help Pay Water Bills For Struggling Detroit Residents — But Only If They Go Vegan

Think Progress reports:

‘Detroit residents are struggling to pay their water bills at such an alarming rate that the city’s utility announced a few months ago that it would cut off water for between 1,500 and 3,000 people every week. The situation has gotten so bad that the United Nations has had to step in and tell the city that such massive water shut-offs are a violation of human rights. People are desperate just to keep their taps turned on, as about half the city has fallen behind on its bills. As a resident recently told ThinkProgress, “when half of the city can’t do something, it tells you it’s a systemic problem.”

Now, an unlikely group seems to think it can step in and solve this systemic problem. PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, announced in a blog post on Thursday that it will offer financial assistance to 10 families who can’t afford their water bills — if the families go vegan, that is.’

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Facing mass protests, Detroit temporarily halts water shutoffs

‘Detroit is temporarily suspending its policy of cutting off water for low-income residents who are delinquent on their bills. In March, the city sent out 45,000 shutoff notices and began turning off water for thousands of citizens. After a public backlash, rallies against the policy and even calls to the UN for humanitarian assistance, the bankrupt city decided it may need to reevaluate how it is handling the situation.’ (Meghan Lopez)

Coca-Cola Forced To Shut Bottling Plant in India

Fatima Hansia reports for CorpWatch:

Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage producer, has been ordered to shut down its bottling plant in Varanasi, India following local complaints that the company was drawing excessive amounts of groundwater. After an investigation, government authorities ruled that the company had violated its operating license.

…This is not the first time that the company has been in trouble in India for unsustainable water extraction practices. In 2004 a bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala, was closed for excessive water consumption. Later Kerala passed legislation that allows Coca-Cola to be sued for as much as $47 million in damages as result of the operations. And last year, community organizers in Charba, Uttarakhand, defeated Coca-Cola’s plans to build a new factory as soon as the proposal went public.’

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