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Current Affairs - 24 August 2015

General Affairs

Sushma Swaraj Arrives in Egypt on First Leg of Two-Nation Tour
  • Sushma Swaraj Arrives in Egypt on First Leg of Two-Nation TourCAIRO:  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Cairo today on the first leg of a two-nation tour which is expected to see new vistas being opened in bilateral ties with particular focus on boosting trade.

    Ms Swaraj was received by Indian Ambassador to Egypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya at the airport.

    During her visit to Egyptian capital Cairo, she will call on President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, hold bilateral talks with her counterpart Sameh Hassan Shoukry and meet Nabil ElAraby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, besides other leaders.

    Ms Swaraj, in her first visit to the country as External Affairs Minister, is also scheduled to deliver a public address at the prestigious Diplomatic Club in Cairo to be hosted by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

    "The Minister's visit to Cairo will provide an opportunity to review the entire gamut of our bilateral and multilateral relations and to exchange views with the Egyptian leadership covering whole range of issues of mutual interest," the External Affairs Ministry said.

    Egypt has traditionally been one of India's most important trading partners in the African continent.

    Trade between India and Egypt during the last financial year (April 2014 -- March 2015) has been recorded at USD 4.76 billion.

    Most importantly, India is the sixth largest trading partner of Egypt -- the second largest export destination.

    India's imports from Egypt were worth USD 1.74 billion during 2014-15.

    There has been diversification in the export basket of Egyptian products to India.

    After Egypt, Ms Swaraj would visit Germany. During her visit to Berlin from August 25-27, Ms Swaraj will hold meetings with German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier and a number of other leaders.

    Both the countries are expected to review bilateral relationship with a particular focus on enhancing economic engagement.

Devendra Fadnavis Reviews Marathwada Water Situation
  • Devendra Fadnavis Reviews Marathwada Water SituationMUMBAI:  Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today chaired Aurangabad division review meeting to discuss the water scarcity situation in Marathwada region.

    "I chaired a drought mitigation meeting at Aurangabad where we discussed all measures that can be taken to provide respite to people. We are trying to ensure that water supply to residents and fodder supply for livestock reaches the region," Mr Fadnavis told PTI.

    According to latest official figures, only eight per cent of water is left in reservoirs of Marathwada, one of the worst drought-hit regions of Maharashtra.

    He said planning was done to supply cattle fodder through "hydroponic technique" and water to Latur city through railway wagons.

    "We have also planned to discharge water from upper dams so that the dams in the lower region receive adequate amount of water," he said.

    Mr Fadnavis further said that he has instructed officials to hold gramsabhas in every village of Marathwada region to apprise people of the 27 measures taken by the government to deal with water crisis in parched conditions.

    National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will be taken up on a large scale now and water conservation work in farm ponds and wells will be relentlessly done, he said.

    According to an official from the Chief Minister's Office, Maharashtra, since June, has received around 500 mm or 59.3 per cent rains against the normal of 831.4 mm.

    Currently, there is a total of 18,018 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) water in the state's 2,229 reservoirs, which is 48 per cent of the total usable capacity. In 2013, it was 76 per cent, while last year it was 61 per cent.

    State ministers Eknath Khadse, Pankaja Munde, Diwaker Raote, Dr Deepak Sawant, Baban Rao Lonikar, Dilip Kamle and other ministers were also present at the meeting.

Union Minister Goyal Attacks Bihar Government Ads, Says 'Zero' Power Production
  • Union Minister Goyal Attacks Bihar Government Ads, Says 'Zero' Power ProductionPATNA:  Even as Nitish Kumar government today claimed improvement in power scenario in Bihar through full page advertisements in newspapers, Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal trashed it saying the poll-bound state's power production is nothing but "zero".

    "Not a single MW or unit of electricity is generated by Bihar government owned power plants. The entire power supply to Bihar is being met by the Centre," Mr Goyal said.

    "The Centre has been providing 2800 MW electricity to illuminate the state on day-to-day basis. Of which, 484 MW is not even the allocated share of Bihar," he said.

    "The ground reality belies all those claims being made by the Nitish Kumar government about improvement in power situation in Bihar," the Union Minister of State for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy told reporters in Patna.

    Throwing a gauntlet to Mr Kumar to speak out about the ground reality of power scenario in Bihar, Mr Goyal asked him for how long the production will remain zero in the state.

    On the state government's claim that it has identified 2500 acre land for construction of an Ultra Mega Power Project in Banka district, he said identification of land was not enough and it has to be acquired by the state government.

    The Centre has allotted a dedicated coal mine for the said project, but construction work was delayed as the state government has not acquired land, Mr Goyal said.

    Raising questions about transmission infrastructure of the state, the Union minister reminded Mr Kumar about his promise in 2012 to people that if he failed to improve electricity condition he would not come to seek vote in 2015 election.

    After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's criticism of power scenario in Bihar, Mr Kumar said on last Sunday that all villages would be electrified within a year and it should not be confused with electrifying every household.

    The transmission infrastructure comprising 628 power stations and 98 grid power sub-stations was not enough to provide electricity to all villages of Bihar, Mr Goyal said.

    Despite the state government's claim about improved power scenario, the per capita electricity consumption in Bihar is only one-fifth of national ratio at 200 units against 1000 units at the national level, he said.

    He also expressed concern at the 'unacceptably high' transmission loss rate of 46 per cent.

    Hinting at corruption in the power department, Mr Goyal said a staggering 46,000 transformers had to be changed in the state over the past five years due to their poor quality.

Death Penalty for Heinous Crime Not Barbaric, Says Supreme Court
  • Death Penalty for Heinous Crime Not Barbaric, Says Supreme CourtNEW DELHI:  In the wake of the debate over the death penalty following the execution of Mumbai attack convict Yakub Memon, the Supreme Court has said capital punishment is not inhuman or barbaric and will not violate the right to life and liberty in heinous crimes.

    The observation came on Friday from a three-judge bench which was hearing the appeal from a murder case convict who has been given the death sentence.

    Vikram Singh, who had been convicted for abducting and killing a 16-year-old, had challenged his death sentence, arguing that capital punishment is applicable only to terrorists.

    The bench of Justices TS Thakur, RK Agrawal and AK Goel said, "A sentence of death in a case of murder may be rare, but if the courts have found it is the only sentence that can be awarded, it is difficult to revisit that question..."

    What was important, the top court said, was that the punishment should be should be proportionate to the crime.

    "Death penalty in a case of kidnapping or abduction will not qualify to be described as barbaric or inhuman so as to infringe the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," the court said.

    While death penalty is awarded in the rarest of the rare cases, the last few persons to be executed were people convicted on terror charges - Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case and Ajamal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

    But it was Yakub Memon's execution that not only triggered questions from the civil society about his punishment, but also on the larger debate on death penalty.

    Vikram Singh had been arrested for the abduction and murder of school student Abhi Verma in 2005.

    He was awarded the death sentence by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court.  He had challenged the death sentence given for the crime he was booked under - kidnapping for ransom (Section 364A).

    Punishments under the section include death sentence, life imprisonment and a fine.

Political Difference Won't Affect Bengal Development, Says Union Minister Arun Jaitley
  • Political Difference Won't Affect Bengal Development, Says Union Minister Arun JaitleyKOLKATA:  Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's view that the country would not grow unless the eastern states prospered, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said political differences between BJP and Trinamool Congress will not come in the way of development of West Bengal.

    In the state capital in Bengal to inaugurate Bandhan Bank, the senior member of the BJP-led NDA Cabinet also lamented the "obsolete policies" of the past which, he said, should be done away with.

    "Political differences will continue. But for the development of the state, that will not matter," Mr Jaitley said as he repeated the Prime Minister's call for increased economic activity in the eastern states.

    "Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal need more economic activity," he said, adding that West Bengal and Odisha have mineral and other natural resources, which are the fundamentals for growth.

    "Breaking with some of the policies of the past and realising the potential is important," he said, assuring that the Centre and the states would cooperate towards that end.

    Mr Jaitley also said that West Bengal, like other coal- producing states, would receive benefits arising from the coal auction and would have the fullest support of the Centre.

    Referring to the manufacturing sector in West Bengal, he said at another event that the state government would have to be manufacturing-friendly like the governments of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

    He also felt that the industry set-up in West Bengal needed to be incentivised.

Business Affairs 

Markets may see volatility; global cues, rupee hold key
  • Markets may see volatility; global cues, rupee hold keyStock markets are likely to remain volatile this week ahead of the derivatives contract expiry for this month, while global cues and rupee movements may largely drive the trading sentiments, say experts.
    Moreover, monsoon rains, investment trend by foreign investors and crude oil movement would also influence trading.
    "Forwarding the prevailing sentiments, this week is likely to remain volatile as the F&O August series expiry is scheduled on Thursday," said Jayant Manglik President Retail Distribution at Religare Securities.
    "In absence of any major events, participants will continue to eye global markets for further cues alongside movement in the currency. Needless to say, progress of monsoon and movement in crude will also be closely tracked," Manglik added.
    Last week, Sensex lost 701.24 points to 27,366.07 and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) Nifty ended 218.60 points down at 8,299.95.
    "Considering the recent sell-off and existence of support in index, we expect some rebound in index first followed by consolidation", he said.
    "Going forward, sentiments in the near-term will be driven by a host of global and domestic factors. These include currency volatility, US interest rate movement, progress on reforms and monsoon, update on MAT on FIIs. Apart from this, notably, while a depreciating currency may invite certain challenges for the economy, it is a positive for pharma and IT sectors," said Hitesh Agarwal - Head Research - Reliance Securities.
    In a possible relief to FIIs, a government-appointed committee has recommended that there was no case for imposing the controversial minimum alternate tax (MAT) on FIIs retrospectively, a suggestion that the government is said to be "favourably" considering.
    "Movement of index in near term will depend on further reform initiatives and also expiry of derivative contracts of August month," said Vivek Gupta, CMT, Director Research, CapitalVia Global Research Limited.
    "While the broader markets are expected to be volatile and correct for some more time, the undercurrent of the markets is strong," said Jimeet Modi CEO of SAMCO Securities.
    On the global front, geopolitical tension between South and North Korea and concerns about the health of China's economy has kept investors worried.

Bandhan Bank to fund SMEs, create jobs, says FM Jaitley
  • Finance Minister Arun JaitleyNewly-launched Bandhan Bank will fund lakhs of small and medium entrepreneurs, create jobs and act as a response to agrarian poverty, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday.
    "A great institution is being born in West Bengal," he said while inaugurating Bandhan Bank in Kolkata.
    Bandhan Bank on Sunday launched its operations with 501 branches in the country. The company, which started operations as a micro finance institution, got final approval from RBI in June to launch commercial banking operations.
    Jaitley said Bandhan Bank Chairman and Managing Director Chandra Shekhar Ghosh has said that the priority area of the bank will be small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
    "It is a landmark initiative in the service of country and state. It is these entrepreneurs in SMEs, many of them in unorganised sector, who today form the backbone of Indian economy. Small entrepreneurs, from shopkeepers to hawkers, they are generating almost 11-12 crore jobs in this country. The large organised industry is able to generate only a small fraction of that," Jaitley said.
    He said if private sector initiatives like Bandhan Bank join this effort of funding at the grass-root level, then the small enterprises can grow on their own feet.
    "All over the eastern parts of the country, in states like West Bengal, if we are able to create small entrepreneurs in lakhs we can then see it as a response to agrarian poverty that is building up," Jaitley said.
    The objective is to extend over Rs 1 lakh crore worth funds to SMEs across the country, Jaitley said, adding that SMEs usually repay what they borrow and the banks' NPAs are not because of lending to this sector.
    "If funding of unfunded sector continues, it is they who generate jobs and it is they who take very little assistance from the state and go back and return what they borrow. The problem of NPA, certainly this segment is not responsible for them," he said.
    Jaitley also said that the Centre has set up a MUDRA agency which will slowly evolve as MUDRA Bank and the main purpose is to fund the unfunded.
    Bandhan, as an MFI, has already extended loans to 7.5 lakh small entrepreneurs. "The NPA rate of those small entrepreneurs is less than 1 per cent. More than 99 per cent of them earn a return on what they borrow from institution," Jaitley said.
    Jaitley also said that the banking system is now becoming more and more technology-enabled, rather than the traditional brick and mortar branches.
    "The RBI's recent initiative to have 11 Payments Banks where most people who own just a mobile phone would be in a position to make all payments through various instruments through the banking system itself, this will be an extremely important step in taking India in the direction of becoming more and more cashless," he said.
    RBI last week awarded in-principle approval to 11 entities to launch Payments Banks within 18 months.
    He said along with 110 million people subscribing to the social sector insurance schemes and also the launch of pension schemes, banking activity needs to expand to bring people into the formal banking fold.
    ".... it is expansion of the banking in states like Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, North East, more and More people need to get rid of other unreliable institution in which they invest in and there after they regret those investments, and to come under the ambit of structured banking systems," he said.
    He said private institutions like Bandhan Bank will fill the gap. "It will create jobs, it has already created 7.5 million micro entrepreneurs, it will now create millions of small and medium entrepreneurs with modest amount of loans and once it is able to do that its ability to attract deposits as a responsible institution will also increase," he said.
    He further said that banks have taken initiatives to extend the reach of banking facility as brick and mortar branches were not able to reach out to each and every village in the country.
    "... the initiatives of having private individuals as banking correspondents who visit every home in order to bring people into the structured banking network. It is the expansion of this segment which will help keep people away from investing in otherwise unreliable agencies which have created many problems in many states, including West Bengal," the minister said.

MAT waiver for FIIs will spur market, says MoS for Finance Jayant Sinha
  • MAT waiver for FIIs will spur market, says MoS for Finance Jayant SinhaMinimum Alternative Tax (MAT) waiver on foreign institutional investors (FIIs) prior to April, as recommended by the government-appointed Shah panel, would be positive for the stock market, union Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said on Saturday.
    "The Shah report has said the MAT issue should be resolved quickly, which I think will be positive for the market," Sinha told reporters on margins of a science event in Bengaluru.The three-member panel, headed by Law Commission chairman AP Shah, set up on May 20, has advised the government not to levy 20 per cent MAT on foreign investors before April 1, 2015, as no legal provision exists for such imposition.
    Though the budget for 2015-16 removed MAT on foreign investors (FIIs), the government said the demand raised for the earlier period would stay, leading to FIIs exit the stock markets in droves.
    The tax department also served notices on about 70 FIIs, asking them to cough up about Rs 600 crore as MAT dues of previous years.
    Though Sinha did not confirm if the government had accepted Shah's advice, investors expect a favourable response to spur the stock markets.
    On growth prospects, Sinha said he was optimistic that it would continue despite global volatility, as there were many other positives in the Indian economy.
    "Market volatility is due to slowdown in China and fears of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates in turbulent times. But many positives in the global and Indian markets will enable growth in India," he said after inaugurating a science fest at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru.

RBI likely to go for 25 basis points cut in September, says HSBC
  • RBI likely to go for 25 basis points cut in September, says HSBCThe Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to go for a 25 basis points rate cut in September as price pressures have fallen "notably and far more than expected", says an HSBC report.
    According to the global financial services firm, food prices have been falling across all major sub-groups, across the CPI and WPI measures, both on annual and sequential basis.Moreover, while rains remain 10 per cent below normal, their impact so far remains "non-disruptive" and fuel inflation has predictably eased off.
    "All of these suggest that space for a 25 bps rate cut in the upcoming 29th September policy meeting has opened," HSBC Chief Economist India Pranjul Bhandari said in a research note.
    As per official figures, retail inflation (CPI) slipped to a record low of 3.78 per cent in July while the wholesale price index-based (WPI) inflation touched a historic low of (-)4.05 per cent.
    HSBC, however, noted that there are two risks to its forecast of 25 bps next month.
    First, the rupee, which has already depreciated 2.3 per cent against dollar following developments in China, could come under further pressure from a possible Fed lift-off in September. Secondly, a large payback in August inflation reading following the July moderation could keep the RBI from cutting rates in September, it said.
    "If the period around the September FOMC meeting remains volatile, the RBI's rate cut could be pushed to fourth quarter," HSBC said and on rupee depreciation it added that "a sharper pace of depreciation, however, could put the 25 bps rate cut in jeopardy."
    RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, in his third bi-monthly policy of the fiscal, left benchmark lending (repo) rate unchanged at 7.25 per cent as also the cash reserve ratio (CRR) at 4 per cent.
    RBI has already reduced the policy rate by a total of 75 basis points or 0.75 per cent since January.

Debate: Is it time to bid adieu to the Bell Curve?
    Bakul Dholakia
    Director General, International Management Institute, New Delhi

    Debate: Is it Time to Bid Adieu to the Bell Curve?For times immemorial, organisations have endeavoured to get the best out of the people working with them. But now, performance appraisal is all about performance management. It has become one of the most difficult and tricky terrains for managers, worldwide. Systems have evolved as a holistic developmental tool for managing the performance of people in an organisation. The use of quantitative tools to get an objective view of the performance of an individual also came into the picture.
    Then, in 1994, Herrn-stein and Murray came up with their seminal work: The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. They argued that intelligence is measurable across racial, language and national boundaries, and is one of the most important factors related to the economic, social and overall success of a country. They said it was not possible to manipulate IQ and, therefore, future success manipulations were unlikely.
    Soon, it was adopted across the globe. The bell curve demanded organisations to classify employees under three categories: high, average and low performers. While there were significant advantages of its use, there were disadvantages, too. The model suggested that high performers will be further motivated and continue to improve if they were given incentives such as stock options, performance bonus, paid holidays, etc. This, in turn, would make the average performers aspire to be part of the high performer category and with the help of training modules, improvement programmes, etc., it will increase the overall productivity and ensure accountability across the organisation. The bell curve was appropriate for an organisation with a large workforce, but could not be effectively implemented on a handful of people. The doubt about the fairness of the classification also loomed large.The context in which it was introduced was very different from what it is now. Today, generations that were subjected to this system are very different in terms of aspirations and ambitions, psychological make-up and mind-set, and value system. The times when employees were considered as a factor of production have also evolved to a time when employees are acquired and retained to help them realise their potential for growth and performance. Earlier, there were sufficient examples where employees would be categorised in a lower category despite very good performance. If this happened once, it could be a one-off incident, but if it happened repeatedly then it would result in enhanced levels of anxiety and frustration, and would become counterproductive for the organisation.
    Some organisations realised the negative impact of the system and did away with it. Like all systems, implementation was key to the success or failure of the bell curve. Paucity of time on the part of the manager and little understanding about the staff lead to failed implementations because everyone wants to get over with the process. Sincerity and developmental assessment is what is required. This would ensure any such system of classification works. It is important to have classification, but that should not mean we place people in them to make it look complete. It seems the time has come when you need to have more categories instead of the existing three: high, average and low performers, and a real-time approach to putting each employees performance on record as and when its happens. Any performance management system has to have both rewards and penalties, but should ascertain and achieve a productive outcome, as against a mix of productive and counterproductive, or under productive, outcomes. The underlying principle has to be about leveraging the potential that employees bring to the organisation and making the best use of it. That will come only with a positive productive view to performance assessment.
    Adil Malia
    Group President (Human Resources), Essar Group

    It is high time that the corporate Rip van Winkle wakes up to write an obituary to the bell curve. And those who successfully do it could receive the much-coveted corporate No-bell Prize!
    This debate is the outcome of what exactly happens when a statistical tool introduced to check the robustness of a process is maniacally pursued by its protagonists - beyond a point the process and its purpose gets forgotten and the tool pretends to be the original process. And, as a result, this annual ritual sacrifices many deserving executives.
    If there is any one process that has alienated and mispositioned HR managers vis-a-vis their business colleagues and rest of the organisation, it is the bell curve process. The misguided arguments of the protagonists in favour of the process would leverage around the following logic: Companies cannot afford to adopt absolute performance rating systems when the markets they operate in have a relative performance system; In absence of a viable alternate system there is a need to continue with the old devil; Bell-curve is the best and the fairest system to distribute rewards and compensation; and, every organisation needs a logical tool to explain away their reward distribution philosophy and the bell-curve has a statistical normal distribution logic supporting it.
    For the uninitiated, statisticians call bell-curve, a 'normal distribution' curve. The model assumes that we have an equivalent number of people above and below the average and that there will be a very small number of people - two standard deviations above and below the average. In corporate application, it effectively means that if the final performance ratings of all employees were plotted on a graph and if that graph threw up a bell like parabola shape, the logical conclusion would be that overall a fair, normal and robust performance rating exercise was undertaken. But that is where the Achilles heel pains. Managers have, over a period of time, allowed the bell curve test to masquerade itself as the sole purpose of the performance management process.
    Strong prosecution arguments, however, back the plea for capital punishment to this rogue tool.
    First, we are in the knowledge era. The bell curve performance is more suitable for classical industry workers whose operational performances could be accurately measured by outputs. Knowledge performers are high-quality input drivers.
    Second, we live in VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) times where nothing is normal. Goals shift, strategies evolve, new challenges emerge and employees move from projects in quick succession to cope with dynamic market challenges. How can a performance rating distribution pattern follow a normal curve, which is otherwise suitable for a sub-normal business climate?
    Third, employee performance has to be decoupled from its compensation or rewards distribution agenda. Performance review in VUCA times has to focus on development, coaching and performance enhancement of employees.
    The forced ranking process results in capricious rankings, power struggles among managers and unhealthy competition among colleagues. It not only diminishes the value of top performers, but also pushes away mid-level performers into the bottom level, making them look like 'losers'.
    Mathematical constructs have limited application to human behaviour, more so, when it has a developmental agenda with an emotional anchorage.
    The bell curve applied to people performance creates more problems than what it strives to solve, including motivation and unfairness. The new world has no space for a rusted tool of the past. Let us bury it and on its tombstone let us write an epitaph: "B.Curve, Rest in Peace. Forever. We are preparing for the normals of the new world!"

General Awareness


    • Dear Readers,
      We are providing you some of the General Awareness Questions which was asked in 26 July 2015 SBI PO MAINS 2015 Examination. 

      1.    PM Suraksha Bima Yojana Age Limit?
      Answer: 18-70
      2.    FMC to be merged with?
      Answer: SEBI
      3.    Volkswagen which country?Answer: Germany
      4.    Modi Ji launch which bank in China? 
      Answer: ICICI Bank
      5.    Which country is first to launch facial ATM?
      Answer: China
      6.    Irvin rose ?
      Answer: is an American Biologist &  along with Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko, he was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
      7.    Agartala kiska capital hai?
      Answer: Tripura
      8.    Something related to NAV and mutual funds
      Answer: Net Asset Value(NAV)
      9.    Omkareshwar dam is where ?
      Answer: Madhya Pradesh
      10. Ceat Cricketer of the year?
      Answer: Ajinkya Rahane
      11. Indian IT company ranked 57th in US
      Answer: TCS
      12. Corbett national park?
      Answer: Uttarakhand
      13. Katasraj temple in which country?
      Answer: Pakistan
      14. Which country agreed to lend 1165 crore for Odisha transmission system improvement project ?
      Answer: Japan
      15. Who is appointed as India A coach?
      Answer: Rahul Dravid
      16. Mutual fund regulator?
      Answer: SEBI
      17. Who chaired Health Sumit ?
      Answer: Geneva
      18. 100th amendment?
      Ans: India & Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement
      19. International peace day?
      Answer: 21 sept
      20. Maximum amount of Pension in APY?
      Answer: Rs. 5000

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