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BJP wants its own CM, not Nitish Kumar: Asaduddin Owaisi

Lokeswara Rao

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AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who has been trying hard to make his presence felt in Bihar Assembly elections, said that there is a political vacuum in the state. He further said that BJP, JDU, RJD and Congress failed the people of Bihar.

He told The Daily Guardian, “Bihar right now requires an alternative political voice for the betterment of the state, JD(U)-BJP-RJD-Congress combination failed the state. During the 15 years of Nitish Kumar or 15 years of the RJD, nothing has happened in terms of real development. BJP does not support Nitish Kumar. It wants a BJP person as CM in Bihar. BJP has been playing games with the people of Bihar.”

Further, Owaisi feels that Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is a non-performer CM. He added that Bihar needs better infrastructure, better governance, better hospitals, better education. He accused the present government of having failed to address the problems of migrant labor and unemployment.

He said that this time the people will definitely bless us. “We will stop BJP from coming to power. We don’t help BJP by cutting anti-incumbency votes. The RJD and Congress don’t have political conviction to defeat BJP. Mark my words, BJP does not want Nitish as CM. My goal is to bring our alliance to power”, Owaisi added further. AIMIM is contesting in 18 assembly seats in the elections.

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Let BJP rope in Donald Trump for Hyderabad campaign, mocks K

TRS working president K.T. Rama Rao targets the BJP, saying it has done nothing for Hyderabad’s development; he also calls Narendra Modi the ‘PM of Gujarat’.

Lokeswara Rao

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TRS working president K.T. Rama Rao (KTR) has been heading the whole of his party’s campaign in Hyderabad, while BJP has roped in many national leaders from Smriti Irani to Yogi Adityanath for the election campaign for municipal polls.

KTR told The Daily Guardian, “What is this BJP. These are Hyderabad municipal polls. All national leaders of BJP are campaigning. We will more seats than last time. We had no alliance with MIM, we are not aligning with them. Why are issues like Pakistan, Bangladeshis, Afghanistan, surgical strikes being raised? These are local body elections. BJP is speaking about Osama bin laden, Babar; we are speaking about progress of Hyderabad.” He further said that the Union government has not given a paisa for Hyderabad flood victims and gave money to Karnataka and Gujarat. He said that Modi is the PM of Gujarat.

KTR questioned what the BJP has done for Hyderabad so far, no funds from the Centre has been provided even for the flood victims of Hyderabad. He said that the TRS has transformed the city and brought many companies. He told TDG: “My father is talking about federal front and we are going to be successful in that effort.” He questioned whether Babar, Osama bin Laden and Akbar are voters of Hyderabad? Why does the BJP talk about them, he asked. He said “let the BJP call Donald Trump also for election campaign since he is the friend of Narendra Modi. TRS is fighting the elections on decisive politics, not division politics, he said, adding: “As we supported the BJP on some issues, the MIM supported like that only. There is alliance like that. We are not B team of anyone; we are the A team of Telangana. Let the BJP speak about the progress of Hyderabad.”

KTR said, “From state leaders to Central ministers, everyone in the BJP is spreading hatred and lies. The BJP is trying to hide their inefficiency behind lies. The BJP is desperate, my friends in BJP don’t have anything really to speak about in terms of work that they have done for the people of Telangana.” KTR further said that BJP comes and talks about everything, except development. He asked if there are illegal immigrants in Hyderabad, what is the Central government doing—”is it sleeping?” KTR also said that the BJP government at the Centre sanctions money only to Bangalore and Ahmedabad, but not to Hyderabad.

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A marine commando recounting 26/11 attacks from ground zero

A minute-by-minute account of that fateful night, how a team of MARCOS entered the Taj, and how one of its bravehearts confronted the terrorists and was nearly killed.

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Decorated with the Shaurya Chakra for his role in rescuing hostages, Praveen Kumar Teotia was one of the MARCOS—Marine Commandos of the Indian Navy—who fought the terrorists holed up in the Taj during the 26/11 attacks, suffered near-fatal injuries and, in the end, saved hundreds of lives. Teotia, in his book, narrates a minute-by-minute account of that fateful night, how his team entered the Taj, how he confronted the terrorists and how he was nearly killed. Excerpt:

It was a usual Mumbai evening. Walking past the Leopold Café, I was headed towards the Gateway of India. The majestic Taj stood gazing at the Arabian Sea, overwhelming the tourists below. Bewildered by its imposing structure, I looked at the Taj and marvelled at its beauty. The people inside must be living such a luxurious life, I thought to myself and sighed.

It was 8 pm and the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea looked calm. Heading towards my naval base, I had one final look at the area. Some pigeons fluttered past, a policeman whistled and a hawker packed his belongings for the day. The neon-lit surrounding would now illuminate some late-night lovebirds, looking for their private space in this insomniac city. Life looked picturesque and undisturbed. Who would have known that an hour from then, death would spread its dirty tentacles, choking life out of this picture? Who would have imagined that ten men from Pakistan would come sailing through the Arabian Sea in a small boat and would launch the most dastardly attack on the city? And hardly would have I imagined that few hours from now, I will be facing these fidayeen, inside the Taj, eye to eye, and my life would change forever.

I entered the room. It was dark and silent. Ever since we had entered the Taj, there was death and mayhem around us—in the halls, the corridors, the reception area. The lazy opulence of the place had been disrupted and what stood before us was a shaken Taj. Bullet-ridden bodies were lying amidst the inferno and bloodbath. Some lucky survivors had to be pulled out with corpses lying on top of them, an experience that would torment them for life. Imagine your loved one or a complete stranger lying breathless on top of you. What could you do? Push it as if the person didn’t mean anything to you? Or just lie down with your eyes closed, smelling blood and feeling the unmoving mound of flesh on top of you, waiting to either die or be rescued?

Everything about the majestic Taj that day was pale and morbid, but the atmosphere of the room we had just entered was sinister. Danger was very close and years of my training and times spent in real operations told me that something was not right in this room. I could sense danger lurking somewhere. I became more vigil. But nothing was visible.

I was leading the team and behind me, roughly at a distance of a metre and a half, was my buddy. Third in the line was Sunil Kudiyadi, our navigator for the night. Without him, it would have been very difficult to manoeuvre through the Taj. Behind Mr Kudiyadi, there were two more commandos, Ranjeet and Ashok, and even though our friend, the security manager, had no weapon to himself, he was safely ensconced between the armed commandos. His calm demeanour was noteworthy as it helped us focus more. Mr Kudiyadi was also one of the commandos that day, albeit without an army fatigue.

One more step and I was consumed by complete darkness now. I was carrying my weapon in my right hand and with the left hand, I tried exploring the wall. ‘Where is the light switch?’ I quietly asked Kudiyadi. ‘Should be ahead.’ All of us were groping in the dark.

My left hand was now touching the wall and it provided me with support and acted as my guide while moving ahead. I was taking each step very slowly and quietly, with my eyes ocussing in the darkness. After ten to twelve cautious steps I heard a sound.

Click.

Click.

These were, in fact, two sounds coming from two different sources. It was the sound of safety catches of two AK-47s being removed. The AK-47 is one of the first true assault rifles and, due to its durability, low production cost and ease of use, the weapon and its numerous variants remain the most widely used assault rifles in the world. To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, moves the selector lever to the lowest position, pulls back and releases the charging handle, aims and then pulls the trigger. In this setting, the weapon fires only once, often called semiautomatic, which requires the trigger to be released and depressed again for the next shot. With the selector in the middle position (full-automatic), the rifle continues to fire, automatically cycling fresh rounds into the chamber, until the magazine is exhausted or the pressure is released from the trigger.

The first click indicated that the attacking weapon was in single shot. The second click meant that it was now in ‘burst’ mode and with a single press of the trigger the entire magazine could be emptied. The standard magazine capacity is thirty rounds, which mean thirty bullets at once racing towards the target. Gauging by the extent of this planned assault, it was clear that the terrorists knew they were facing an army or commandos, and not ordinary citizens. They wanted to ensure maximum damage in minimum time.

I swiftly bent down a bit. They had been in this darkened room for a while, hence they must have adapted. They were able to now see the movement in the dark. With enough time, our eyes can adapt and see the low levels of light present in partial darkness. Human eyes take several hours to fully adapt to darkness and reach their optimal sensitivity to low-light conditions. The quickest gains in vision sensitivity are made in the first few minutes after exposure to darkness. For this reason, many people think that after only a few minutes, their eyes have reached their peak sensitivity. But after several hours of exposure to darkness, the eyes continue to adapt and make small gains in sensitivity. My attackers thus had an edge over me.

I, however, had just entered the room and the surroundings were unfamiliar for me. I felt a table and hid myself behind it, trying to locate the direction of the sound. It was coming from the right side of the room. My cheek placed neatly on the butt of my weapon and my fingers on the trigger, I now aimed towards the direction from where the sound was coming from. With my eyes focussing hard to decipher even an iota of movement, I was ready to take my shot. And suddenly there was a flash. The flash was followed by the sound of burst fire that was directed at me. The staccato of burst shots filled the room, leaving a deafening silence in the room.

My weapon was in single-shot mode and I immediately fired three to four shots. In a split second, it was all over.

I had been shot.

Excerpts from the book, ‘26/11 Braveheart: My Encounter With Terrorists That Night’ (Rupa).

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Cyclone Nivar intensifies, Tamil Nadu declares public holiday today

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Cyclone Nivar, centred about 130 south of Chennai, has intensified into a severe cyclonic storm, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its bulletin on Wednesday. “It is very likely to intensify further into a very severe cyclonic storm during the next 12 hours,” the IMD added.

The cyclone hit the coast between Puducherry and Marakkanam in Tamil Nadu late in the Wednesday night, bringing with it heavy rain and strong winds.

In view of Cyclone Nivar, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday said the state-wide public holiday will continue till 26 November in 13 districts of the state. The Chennai airport and metro services have also been closed. As many as 26 flights from and to Chennai have been cancelled in view of Cyclone Nivar, the Chennai Airport said.

“Due to Cyclone Nivar, the statewide public holiday to continue till November 26 in 13 districts of Tamil Nadu including Chennai, Chengalpattu, Kanchipuram, Villupuram, Vellore, Thiruvannamalai, Cuddalore, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Mayiladuthurai, Ariyalur, and Perambalur,” said Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami.

Heavy rainfall might occur at few places over Vellore, Ranipet, Tiruvallur, Tirupattur, Krishnagiri, Tiruchirapalli, Salem and Dharmapuri districts of Tamil Nadu, the Met department said. It also predicted scattered heavy to very heavy rain at isolated places over Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu, Myladuthirai, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Kallakurchi, Villupuram and Tiruvannamalai District of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karaikal.

A total of five trains have been partially cancelled, including two for Wednesday, three for Thursday, and one for 28 November, Southern

On Cyclone Nivar impact, Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, DG of IMD said, “Cyclone Nivar gradually intensifying. It could cause structural damage, uprooting of trees, damage to thatched or tin houses, and damage to banana and paddy crops. There’ll be strong winds and heavy rain. The most impact will be in Puducherry and Karaikal.”

The Southern Command of Indian Army said that the jawans are ready to assist the government and civil administration in both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry ahead of Cyclone Nivar’s landfall. As many as 12 humanitarian assistance and disaster relief teams and two engineer task forces are ready for deployment, according to reports. Such is the expected intensity of the cyclone that seven gates out of the 19 of Chembarambakkam Lake in Chennai have been opened. For the first time in around five years, the gates of the reservoir have been opened, sources said. 

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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India’s vaccines and therapeutics can prevail over Covid-19

Until there is sufficient herd immunity, there is little choice except to continue with social distancing, patient isolation, face masks and hand hygiene. This is a war that the world can and must win, a war in which India can play the lead role in both vaccines as well as therapeutics.

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Based on discussions with medical experts, in India, 9.2 million people have been so far diagnosed with Covid-19. Many may have been undiagnosed. Covid-related deaths are 135,000. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, this is easily the lowest death rate of any country that has been hit badly by the novel coronavirus. Only a certain proportion of the population needs to be immune to an infectious agent for large outbreaks to be prevented. What is that proportion is a key question and depends on the disease. Herd immunity is often created in epidemics through natural infection, but it may also be created by vaccines. Diseases like the deadly Spanish Flu and many influenzas have disappeared entirely through natural infections conferring immunity (albeit after a death toll). Another example is Japanese B encephalitis, which is nearly eradicated in Japan because most people were immunised and the vaccine is highly effective. Japanese encephalitis is mostly seen in non-Japan Asian countries.

According to medical experts, herd immunity is in place when one infected person in a population generates less than one secondary case on average. The effective reproduction number R is the average of persons infected by a case. Ro is the original number who got infected by one infected person on average when the epidemic started. In a recent October 2020 paper in Nature Reviews Immunology, Arnaud Fontanet and Simon Cauchemez of the Institut Pasteur’s Emerging Disease Epidemiology Unit estimated that for France, with Ro at 3 for France (worldwide, Ro is between 2.5 to 4), it will require 67% of the French population to be immune to stop outbreaks. How different might that number be for India? This would be a worthwhile study for the Health Ministry to consider, in the light of reports that the incidence of Covid-19 in some locations where mass sampling has taken place is far higher than initially estimated. Further there are localised factors.

It is postulated that because Delhi is having what appears to be a raging epidemic, the high PM 2.5 pollution level might be a factor in that respect. So too the severe density of population in some parts of Delhi. Also, the reality that for people doing manual or related work, it is very difficult to use masks and indeed social distancing. It has been observed that masks are still not in common use in several places in the capital. Fontanet and Cauchemez also stated that depending on the immunity already in place through the epidemic, if it is assumed that 1 in 3 are already immune, transmission rates only need to be lowered to 50% to ensure safety from the disease. Another factor are super-spreaders—those likely to spread to many because they have interaction with multiple contacts due to the nature of their work or location. Many might already have been infected, and hence could have low probability of spreading to further people.  This might lower the rate of spread.

This is also relevant in terms of age groups: Those older than 80 have much less contact with non-family than those in the age group 20-40 years. By managing the level of contacts in most vulnerable age groups, several epidemiologists project that 50% population immunity might be sufficient. Super-spreader events such as mass meetings and festivals are also important. Unlike Joe Biden, who took care to adhere to safety protocols in holding meetings, President Donald Trump threw caution to the winds by addressing crowded groups of people, many of whom had no masks and were not tested. Such neglect of public safety may have cost him a second term in the White House.

It is not just super-spreading individuals when calculating what level of herd immunity can stop outbreaks. Children less than 10 years of age are less susceptible, and are also less contagious, and so may be partly eliminated from the calculation. Population immunity is generally assessed through properly conducted cross-sectional surveys of representative samples that record immunity (antibody tests). However, it is postulated that for SARS-CoV-2, the full spectrum of immunity is in fact greater after the first wave of infections, because of T-cell (T-lymphocytes) immunity (otherwise described as cellular immunity). Other unknowns include the extent to which prior immunity to common coronaviruses might confer some level of cross-protection. BCG immunisation against Tuberculosis has also been postulated to provide some degree of immunity. However, these may only protect against severe disease rather than prevent infection entirely. Interestingly, there was no sterilising immunity through common cold or BCG etc cross-protection during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in April 2020 on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, where 70% of young adult sailors got infected before the epidemic stopped on the Aircraft Carrier (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_on_Charles_de_Gaulle). This number (70%) on an isolated aircraft carrier, served in some respects as a laboratory test for a natural experiment on herd immunity.

Given all the above, there is little reason to believe that SARS-CoV-2 will stop being a problem before at least 50% of the population is immune through natural or vaccine-induced herd immunity. A complicating factor is that immunity to seasonal coronaviruses generally is not life-long, and is relatively short-lived, but how short is still unclear. Will it take several rounds of infections, or vaccine shots and booster doses to achieve the desired result? Even after more than a year since the disease manifested itself, much about it remains unclear. There is significant mutation taking place in the virus, and that is a further complicating factor that would naturally impact on the efficacy of vaccines, helpful though they may be in preventing numerous cases. Different vaccines are being rushed through. There can always be a few incidents when large populations are immunized, hence it is wrong to oppose a vaccine on such grounds. Overall, vaccines have helped to either reduce or stop the spread of several illnesses that were once deadly. Sufficient evidence on efficacy and safety will be generated in populations. Making vaccination compulsory in the above scenarios may need to follow assessments on data availability, and in some cases, reliability of some of the vaccines being developed abroad.

Experts say that the vaccine due to be produced in India seems to be among the most reliable, and this has been made possible both by the local manufacturer as well as the way in which PM Modi has put the push towards safety from the novel coronavirus on a war footing. This was manifested by Modi from the start, with the record lockdown of the entire country soon after the banning of international flights. India has gone much further than almost any other country in the comprehensive nature of its lockdown, as also the length of time. Covid-19 has a fatality ratio of 0.3-1.3% but of course even such a small percentage results in vulnerable sections with co-morbidities losing life as we see daily. This highlights the importance of herd immunity, including through vaccination.

If all goes well, the next few months may witness steady improvement in cases and in a reduction of the fatality rate. India has led the way in therapeutics, and the same is possible with Covid-19. Improved patient management is essential, especially early diagnosis and therapeutics. There is sufficient evidence already that therapeutics can lower case-fatality especially in otherwise healthy individuals who do not have concurrent illnesses and risks such as diabetes, cardiac disease, chronic respiratory disease or being overweight. Highly exposed populations would naturally need to be prioritised for vaccines such as health professionals and those with customer-contact.

There is a reason in favour of good and effective vaccines. This is that post infection, patients sometimes complain of complications, so a vaccine would be a safer way to confer immunity than natural infections. But that would especially be in the case of a very good vaccine that is well-monitored for continued efficacy and safety. India’s record in this is impeccable, especially when everyone is rushing through the process at unprecedented speeds.

Therapeutics, especially antiviral drugs, that reduce viral loads and therefore decrease transmission risk, and medicines that prevent complications and death, should also be an important weapon against SARS-Cov-2 (the virus) and Covid-19 (the disease). It must be remembered that as PM Modi repeatedly warns, until there is sufficient herd immunity, there is little choice except to continue with social distancing, patient isolation, face masks and hand hygiene. This is a war that the world can and must win, a war in which India can play the lead role in both vaccines as well as therapeutics. Such is the lesson learnt from the expertise of the medical fraternity in India, which is on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

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Centre issues fresh guidelines for December for war against corona

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The Union Home Ministry has issued new guidelines to be in effect from 1 December to 31 December in a bid to intensify its war against the rising coronavirus cases. According to the latest guidelines, states have been asked to strictly implement infection prevention measures and control congestion. This time, the focus is on controlling the coming together of crowds. 

The Home Ministry said that the main focus of these fresh guidelines is to maintain the control that has been achieved against the proliferation of Covid-19. This is reflected by the steady decline in the number of active cases in the country. The ministry is said to have very strict rules about curfews, especially night curfews, which can be imposed in the containment zone. The Centre has also made it clear that its approval would have to be taken to impose lockdown locally outside the Containment Zone. The Centre has said that the success we have so far achieved in the fight against corona has to be maintained.

This is evident from the decreasing number of active cases in the country. However, the festive season has led to an increase in cases in some states. These states will have to exercise caution and strictly implement containment, surveillance measures.

GUIDELINES FOR SURVEILLANCE AND CONTAINMENT

States will have to strictly follow the rules in the Containment Zone. The surveillance system will have to be strengthened.

The district administration will have to follow the guidelines issued by the Central government.

States are exempted from imposing sanctions on their own given the situa

The list of Containment Zones in all the districts has to be uploaded on its website. It will also have to be shared with the Health Ministry.

In containment zones, the movement of all individuals will have to be strictly stopped. Exemption will be available only for essentials and medical needs.

The surveillance team will go door-to-door to identify the symptoms of corona. Testing should be done according to protocol.

A list has to be prepared of people coming in contact with infected person. They should be identified, tracked and quarantined.

Treatment of the infected person should be started immediately. The person should be kept in home isolation and only if needed, be hospitalised.

ILI and SARI cases should be monitored and mobile units should be in touch with them.

The local district administration and police will be responsible for enforcing restrictions and following the rules.

The state and Union Territory have to follow social distancing in the offices. In cities where there is a weekly 10% positivity rate, office timings should be changed and other necessary steps need to be taken.

In terms of social distancing, there should not be much staff in the office at one time.

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‘I have always been used to lockdowns’: Deepa Malik, Paralympian & Arjuna Awardee

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Deepa Malik

Indian athlete and a medalist in the paralympic games, Deepa Malik joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation in its special segment called NewsX A-List. 

Addressing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Deepa said, “By the grace of God, I have always been used to lockdowns. I faced my first lockdown when I was a five year old and was in a hospital, literally admitted for a year at a go as a young little girl, in an era when there were no laptops, i-pads, Netflix or mobile phones. That was one and second, my daughter had an accident as a very young child and she got Hemiplegia paralysis on one side, so with her, I had to be grounded.”

Deepa’s own paralysis in 1999 left her bed-ridden for two years and for two years, she was not even made to sit because she had to go through major surgeries in her spine. “With urine bags and everything around me, all I could see was the ceiling, I was not even made to turn around, just to change diapers. So mentally I have been prepared for a lockdown or being a social recluse,” said Deepa.

Deepa went on to say, “Being a sportswoman, every time you are getting ready to win a medal for 130 crore Indians, you have to go under a lockdown, you have to eat very consciously, you have to work towards your immunity,  you have to exercise, you have to do your meditation because the focus is important in winning a big medal and then, you are under such a strict regime that you have no time to socialize. So for me, the lockdown has not been a very unprecedented situation in a way of mental stress, but of course, Covid was new, my role in Covid was very new because in February I had taken over as the president of the Paralympic Committee of India. It was a transition for me, from being an athlete to being into an administrative role. So, for me, it was a totally new learning experience.”

Talking about the impact of Covid-19 on the athletes, Malik said that India still does not have the infrastructure or the public transportation that aids the physically challenged people’s smooth movement outside their home. She said that they do not have end-to-end accessibility in most parts of the country. She addressed the problems faced by the athletes who are below the poverty line. However, looking at the positive aspect of this, Deepa said that the athletes learnt to use the video calling mobile applications during this pandemic. According to Deepa, they were able to communicate with each other more than they ever did before.

Deepa Malik has received a number of awards in the last decade for her work, some of the awards that she received include Padmashree award, Arjuna award, Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna award, Women Transforming India award etc. Deepa thinks that her entire journey was aimed at changing the mindsets.  “So when the United Nations, Niti Ayog, Prime Minister, Jury chooses me to receive an award that says ‘Women Transforming India’ award, that was very dear to me and it was received by my father and that was the day my father asked everyone to pray for me and he said that he had faith that I’ll bring everyone a medal. On 12th, I won it.”

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