Current Affairs Current Affairs - 31 December 2016 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 31 December 2016

General Affairs 

PM Launches BHIM E-Wallet App, Says Soon Will Only Need Thumbprint For It
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched a mobile app to make digital payments easier at Digi-Dhan Mela in Delhi. He thanked people for embracing digital transactions. The new BHIM app that PM launched, he said, will soon work on your thumbprint. The Prime Minister feels that BHIM is the best vision for 2017.

    Here are the highlights:
    • Government of India has launched a gift under which for the next 100 days, every day 15,000 people will win prizes through lucky draw.
    • These prizes will go to those who transact between Rs. 50-3,000 online. This is so that poor people get the prize.
    • Today we also had a draw for the Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana. This will happen once a week.
    • This is for those sellers who can encourage customers to buy products through digital mode
    • On Baba Saheb Ambedkar's birth anniversary - April 14 - there will be a mega draw which will see prizes worth crores.
    • But the most important thing we have done is launch a new app called BHIM.
    • Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar was an economist.
    • The RBI was born on principles he wrote in his thesis.
    • How the federal structure should run economically. The Finance Commission that was formed for this purpose was a result of his principles.
    • If there is one person whose contribution stands out in India's economic framework, it is Babasaheb Ambedkar.
    • The day is not far when all transactions will run through the BHIM app.
    • Babasaheb's contribution is come to the centre stage. This app is very simple.
    • You can use it on smartphones, on Rs. 1000-1200 feature phones, it is not necessary to have internet.
    • There is a new feature being tested, and when it comes, the power of BHIM will know no bounds.
    • You won't need any app, any smartphone or internet. Your thumb print will be enough.
    • This is such a big revolution. There was time when illiterates used to be called angootha chhaap. And this angootha (thumb) will become the basis of all transactions.
    • No matter how far a country has gone, even for them, they have to go to Google, ask Google Guru what is BHIM.
    • At first they will see Bhim from Mahabharat. If they dig deeper they will find Bharat Ratna Bhimrao Ambedkar.
    • This was the goal of his life, to empower the poor. And this is what the app will do. This is the poor's treasure.
    • This will empower the poor, the farmers, the tribal people.
    • And that is why this is named after the man who dedicated his life to the downtrodden.
    • There are some prosperous countries in the world.
    • When they find out that there are crores in India who vote by pressing buttons and start getting results in 2 hours.
    • They are stunned because it takes them weeks to do the same.
    • The country which is considered illiterate by some is an example to the world in this digital revolution.
    • There are some people who wake up in disappointment and go to bed in disappointment. They can keep doing so, there is no cure for that yet.
    • Some people don't realise billions are already traded digitally in share markets.
    • They think Modi has brought digital transactions, there must be something wrong with it.
    • Some intellectuals come up and say the country is illiterate, poor, how can they do digital transactions?
    • I have no cure for such pessimism. But I have solutions for the optimistic.
    • BHIM is not an ordinary thing. It will be a common platform. This is the best vision for 2017.
    • 3 years ago, the news was how much we lost in 2g, coal... Now the news is about how much has come back, PM Modi targets Congress on notes ban criticism
    • I am surprised. One neta said, "You dug a ditch to find a little bird I wanted to find that bird, it eats away everything from within."
    • I'll take this time to thank the friends in the media. When they decide something, it gets done.
    • They campaigned against the red lights, netas hesitate to use them today. They campaigned for seatbelts, people started wearing them. They campaigned for wearing helmets, people started wearing them. This is not a small service. They have taken up the Swachhata campaign.
    • I am a positive person, I see only the good in the media. In the coming days, media can do a great service.
    • The fact that media raised the issue of highlighting not everybody has smartphones made the government think that BHIM should work on feature phones.
    • Soon, they will start asking people if they are using BHIM.
    • India used to be the golden bird, it became a poor country for our own mistakes.
    • But it still has the potential to become that golden bird once again.
    • The country wants to run on the path of honesty, we must encourage that.
    • India's greatest strength is ability to fight against its own evils. What we have seen after November 8, proves it.
    • Some people brought these evils upon us, some gave it way. But it spread like termites.
    • But people want the path of honesty.
    • It wasn't a small feat, 86 per cent currency gone away in one move. And the country is still moving ahead, the world was stunned. This is the power that will take India ahead.
    • The poor have the first right to the country's resources. You cannot fight poverty with slogans.
    • The country in which one party fought the 2014 elections on how many subsidised cylinders to give 9 or 12.
    • There comes a government which asks people to give up the subisidies. And see what happened. 1.2 crore families have given away the subsidy.
    • I want to tell each one of you to do at least 5 digital transactions. It will then become a habit.

10 Dead In Jharkhand Mine Cave-In, Many Still Missing
  • Rescuers pulled out two more bodies today from the rubble of a collapsed coal mine in Jharkhand, taking the number of deaths to 10, police said, as many were still feared trapped. A massive mound of earth caved in late Thursday at the Lalmatia open cast mine, burying at least 23 miners and dozens of vehicles as hundreds of workers battled overnight to rescue them.

    "Up till now, 10 bodies have been recovered after two more were pulled out. Coal mine authorities believe that there may be 2-3 more dead bodies inside," Jharkhand police spokesman, RK Mallick, told AFP.

    "Total dead should not be more than 13 or 14, as per assessment."

    He added that it was difficult to know how many may be trapped, but said close to a dozen were still unaccounted for.

    Some of the workers had escaped the disaster site following the collapse, Mr Mallick said.

    Images showed the dead covered with white sheets on makeshift quilts as colleagues and locals looked on at the rescue efforts.

    Police and emergency workers used sniffer dogs, earth movers and their bare hands to remove giant rocks and mangled, overturned trucks to locate the trapped workers under tons of earth.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his grief on Twitter, promising to help the state government in its rescue operations.

    "Saddened by the loss of lives at a mine in Jharkhand. My prayers are with those trapped inside," he said.  

    Federal disaster and rescue authorities have dispatched more than 200 rescue workers to the site.

    The mine is operated by the government-owned Eastern Coalfields Limited. Its top official, Niladri Roy, told AFP that more than 250 metres (820 feet) of the mine collapsed as workers headed towards the exit around 7:30 pm Thursday.

    There was no immediate explanation for the collapse, but the government has launched an investigation into the "unprecedented" incident.

    In a separate incident on Thursday, four miners were injured at a government-run coal mine in Jharkhand's Dhanbad district.

    A mine official said the workers were hit after the roof of the Putki Balihari coal mine partially collapsed. Two of the workers were critically injured.

    Jharkhand is one of the richest mineral zones in India, accounting for around 29 percent of the country's coal deposits. However it is also one of India's poorest areas and the epicentre of a Maoist insurgency.

    In 2015, India recorded 38 deaths across 570 mining sites. The last major mining accident in India occurred in 1975, when 372 workers were killed following the flooding of Chasnala mine in Dhanbad.

Amid Notes Ban Row, Mamata Banerjee's Lawmaker Tapas Pal Arrested In Chit Fund Case
  • Tapas Pal, a senior leader of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, has been arrested in Kolkata in what is referred to as the "Rose Valley chit fund scam", in which thousands of small investors were allegedly cheated.

    Directly linking the arrest to her party's aggressive opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's notes ban, Ms Banerjee said: "Modi Babu, how many MPs and MLAs (lawmakers) do you want to arrest? They will stand in queue."

    Mr Pal, 58, was questioned for hours today by the CBI before his arrest. His house was also raided earlier.

    The actor-turned-politician was a director in two companies of Rose Valley, a leisure and entertainment group accused of cheating 17,000 crores in small savings through a Ponzi scheme.  The group has been investigated for almost two years.

    Officials say the lawmaker is suspected to have benefited from the scam that surfaced around the same time as the Saradha case - the other scam involving low income investors roped into unregulated schemes. The chairman of the Rose Valley group, Gautam Kundu, was arrested earlier by the Enforcement Directorate.

    Another Trinamool lawmaker, Sudip Bandopadhyay has also been summoned in the case but he has said he will appear for CBI questioning only next week.

    The Trinamool has alleged that the centre is using the CBI to target its leaders for political vendetta.

    "Today is 50 days. They knew we will question the PM so they arrested my MP," the Chief Minister said, referring to PM Modi's statement while announcing the notes ban that he would clean up the system in 50 days, till December 30. "We have a whole list of people they want to arrest," she added.

    Ms Banerjee has demanded the Prime Minister's resignation, alleging that he has failed to deliver on his commitment to resolve the problems arising from demonetization by the end of the year.

Andhra Pradesh Government Inks Deal To Develop Major Rail Projects
  • Andhra Pradesh government today signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Railways for setting up a joint venture company for taking up major rail projects in the state.

    While many new railway lines will be built by the JV, the main objective is to develop at least 21 railway stations in the state akin to airports.

    Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who is a member of Rajya Sabha from the state, took part in the programme through a video link from New Delhi while Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Union Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapati Raju and others attended the function at the Railway Institute here.

    Speaking from New Delhi, Suresh Prabhu said they were trying to tie up with banks and other financial institutions to fund the JV.

    Foundation stone was also laid on the occasion for the Nadikudi-Srikalahasti new railway line while free high-speed WiFi facility was launched in Guntur railway station.

    The Railway Minister also flagged off a new double-decker train between Tirupati and Visakhapatnam.

    The renovated route-relay interlocking system at Vijayawada railway junction was also dedicated to the nation while a new hostel building of the Electric Traction Training Centre a Satyanarayanapuram was inaugurated.

    The Chief Minister said Rs. 300 crore was initially allotted for acquiring land for the Nadikudi-Srikalahasti railway line.

    The 309-km line would propel economic growth in Chittoor, SPS Nellore, Prakasam and Guntur districts, he said.

    In all, 2400 acres of land would have to be acquired for the project taken up at an overall cost of Rs. 2999 crore.

    Vijayawada MP Kesineni Srinivas, South Central Railway General Manager Vasisht Joshi and other officials attended the event.

IIT Madras Website Hacked, Pro-Pakistan Message Posted
  • The students of IIT Madras received a rude shock on Thursday morning when they found the institute's website hacked and pro-Pakistan messages posted on it.

    The website apparently was hacked by one 'Faisal 1337x', who put the photo of the famous joker from the Batman movie "Dark Knight" in the garb of McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald on its page.

    A message posted on the page read "Pakistan Zindabad" and "You don't know the power of Pakistan hackers".

    "I came to know sometime in the morning from students that the website was hacked," IIT Madras spokesperson Venkatraman told news agency IANS.

    "The website overall worked fine, except the hacked pages," he added.

    The pages were restored after some time, and started working as usual.

Business Affairs 

Government Amends Tax Treaty With Singapore To Curb Black Money
  • In its efforts to plug the loopholes in the international tax treaties, the government on Friday signed the third protocol for amending Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Singapore.

    Before this, the government had amended the DTAA treaty with Mauritius and Cyprus. Due to loopholes in the DTAA, a large number of foreign portfolio investors (FPI) and foreign entities managed to route their investments in India without paying taxes.

    Before amendments, the DTAA with Singapore, Mauritius and Cyprus gave full exemption on capital gains to investors allowing round tripping of foreign funds into Indian economy. 

    In a press conference with the media, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the amended DTAA pact with Singapore was similar to the pact with Mauritius.

    Capital gains tax will be imposed on investments from Singapore that are made from April 2017 onwards. The tax rate will be half of the existing Indian rate for the next two years and will then be equated with the prevalent rate in India  by April 2019.

    While Mauritius has traditionally accounted for almost a third of the total Foreign Direct Investment inflows into India, of late, Singapore has emerged as a preferred destination for investors to route their money to India.

    Apart from this, India has also signed an agreement with Switzerland under which the European nation will provide real time information about all the money parked in Swiss banks by Indian citizens.

    The Modi government came to power with a promise to curb the generation and hoarding of black money. Over the past one year, the government has taken various steps including demonetisation of high denomination currency notes and amending tax treaties with other nations to control the black economy of the country.

Sensex Rises 260 Points, Ends 2016 With 2% Gain
  • Indian shares ended the last trading day of 2016 with a positive note with the BSE benchmark Sensex rising 260 points to 26,626 and the Nifty settling 82 points higher at 8,185.80 on account of value buying in recently beaten down stocks.

    For the year 2016, The Sensex gained 1.95 per cent, while the NSE benchmark Nifty added 3 per cent.

    The year 2016 was marked by volatility from global events including Britain's vote in June to exit the European Union and the U.S. election victory of Donald Trump in November. This year's gains marked a recovery from a decline recorded in 2015. 

    At home, the approval of the goods and services tax bill earlier this year helped boost sentiment, but that was offset later by the government's move to scrap higher-denomination notes, raising concerns about economic growth. 

    But analysts sounded optimism for the new year, with the Reserve Bank of India expected to cut rates at its next policy review in early February and the government gearing up to issue the annual budget. 

    "Markets remain in comfortable zone, most of the lull was over in the last month," said Deven Choksey, managing director of KR Choksey Securities. 

    "Market is expecting positive outlook from budget in subsequent months." 

    Both Sensex and Nifty, however, were down for the month, with the BSE down 0.1 per cent and the NSE down 0.47 per cent. 

    Among NSE's members, Hindalco Industries was the top gainer for the year rising nearly 83 per cent, followed by Yes Bank and Tata Steels. 

    By contrast, Idea Cellular, Bharat Heavy Electricals and Aurobindo Pharma were the top decliners in 2016. 

    However, midcap shares outperformed the Sensex in 2016 with the BSE Midcap index rising 8 per cent. Meanwhile, the BSE Smallcap index closed 1.8 per cent higher, matching the performance of the Sensex.

2016 Devaluations Not Worrying For India's Start-Up Climate, Say Experts
  • 2016 has been quite a roller coaster for India's start-up ecosystem, experts say, with funding getting tighter, more start-ups shutting shop and the recent note ban propelling fintech into the forefront. But let's get into some specifics.

    Start-ups raked up a total of 4.2 billion dollars in funding in 2016, which is 46 per cent lower than the total of 2015 and even 33 per cent lower than 2014, according to Nucleus42, a provider of start-ups data. In addition, start-up casualties went up to 32 this year compared to 11 in 2015, or in other words, one start-up shut down every 11 days in 2016. The likes of Peppertap, Dazo, TinyOwl and Zupermeal closing shop proved that foodtech and hyperlocal start-ups didn't have a very good year. Still, experts say this isn't worrying for India's start-up climate.

    "I think things normalised in 2016 in terms of expectations, the valuations had risen unrealistically. There's been a clear dip in both deals made and funding allotted, but you know that's just cyclical," explains Girish Shivani, executive director and co-founder of YourNest Fund, an early-stage venture capital fund.

    Now looking forward, what can be expected of this start-up ecosystem in the new year? The recent note ban, they say, has led the digital payment sector to be one to watch out for, amongst others. "We are bullish about B2B IoT, automation, artificial intellegence and machine learning. There's also a lot of innovation happening in robotics, distributed leger technology and block change," Mr Shivani adds.

    Still, investors maintain that the core of any good start-up has to be a great idea that solves a problem. Padmaja Ruparel, president of the Indian Angel Network, says, "I think what we are looking for are ideas that will make an impact in society and solve a problem. For example, we urge entrepreneurs to look at solutions in spaces of water, pollution, health, urban transport."

    Year 2016 also saw massive layoffs in start-ups, with Grofers, Ola, Quikr, Zomato, Askme and many more together handing out 10,000 pink slips over one year. Experts say these companies were forced to narrow their resources after the bullish boom of 2015. Still investors agree that even next year, India's start-up ecosystem is here to stay.

    Big Shortage Of IT Talent In Japan. How Some Companies Are Hiring
    • Headhunter Casey Abel spent four months trying to hire a data-center architect for a Japanese automaker, including five meetings with the client -- one with the top executive. In the end, the IT specialist joined an e-commerce company abroad for significantly more money.

      "There's just a massive mismatch in salaries," said Abel, managing director at recruiter HCCR K.K., who has spent as long as a year trying to land some IT candidates. "You've got some engineers making 20 million yen ($170,000) a year. Then you try to fit them in the traditional manufacturer-based salary structure where it should be 7 to 9 million yen."

      Attracting the best information technologists is becoming increasingly important for Toyota, Honda and Nissan as they seek a bigger share of revenue from IT-driven services such as ride-sharing and cloud-based monitoring of vehicles. Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn has said Japanese carmakers can't afford to lose the "global war for talent" to new rivals like Uber Technologies and Tesla Motors. 

      Luring such talent requires big pay bumps in Japan because the companies are chasing the same experts that banks, tech companies and everyone else needs, said Abel. The automakers "operate within extremely strict budgets and the business is generally low margin." Japanese companies suffer from a dearth of domestic talent and the perception their business is more "mature and slow moving" than the new wave of tech startups. 

      Honda said it will adopt a more flexible salary policy at its new Tokyo lab, while Nissan declined to comment specifically on pay at its new Tokyo data office. Toyota located its so-called connected-car business unit and AI research center in the U.S., which a spokesman said offer competitive compensation. 

      Japan has had the most severe talent shortages in the world since 2010, with IT professionals among the top three hardest positions to fill, according to Manpower Group's annual market survey. The country is short of an estimated 171,000 IT staff in 2016 and the number may more than quadruple to 789,000 by 2030, according to a survey by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). 

      That race for staff is accelerating. Nissan said in October it plans to hire about 150 engineers in Tokyo by 2018 for software, cloud computing, data analytics and machine learning. Honda starts operation next year of a Tokyo research center mainly for artificial intelligence and IT. Volkswagen AG said this week it will hire more than 1,000 IT experts, tapping high-technology sectors, gaming industry and top-level research centers, in the next three years. 

      Toyota last month announced its connected-car strategy, which includes building a big data center to create new business using drivers' data such as tailoring insurance policies to drivers' habits, and hired former U.S. defense scientist Gill Pratt to set up and lead an AI research institute in the U.S. 

      "You need really good talents to do those really complicated things," said Jeremy Carlson, an analyst of autonomous driving at IHS Markit. "Japan has an educated and intelligent population, but many highly motivated and capable individuals in these fields flock to areas like Silicon Valley." 

      Japan came last in METI's survey in terms of the proportion of respondents who thought IT was an interesting area to work, while Indonesia, India and the U.S. ranked highest. 

      The Japanese corporations are following the lead of U.S. rivals Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. Ford established a science lab in Silicon Valley in 2012 to develop software, while GM has built two data centers since 2013 to streamline product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales as well as connectivity services. 

      Honda is trying to address the salary issue by adopting a more flexible work and pay system at its new Tokyo lab, rather than the rigid, seniority-based pay grades used elsewhere within the company, said Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, president of Honda's research arm, which operates largely autonomously. 

      With the intense competition for staff in Japan, Toyota in April set up its Toyota Connected Inc. data unit in Plano, Texas. The division works with Microsoft Inc. to develop data management and services for its operations worldwide, including systems for connected cars that help make it easier for people to use automotive technology. 

      Then there's the problem of attention span. 

      The development cycle for a car usually last years, which can be frustrating for programmers used to building a system in weeks, said Mandali Khalesi, Asia-Pacific chief of Netherlands-based digital map-maker HERE, owned by German automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler. "These people are from complete IT backgrounds and they don't expect these long-time cycles," he said in an interview in Tokyo. 

      Nissan decided to try to turn that to its advantage. It's building the 150-person connectivity division in Tokyo, partly in the belief that the long-serving work attitude is Japan's edge over Silicon Valley, according to Ogi Redzic, head of the unit. About half the IT professionals in Japan have never changed jobs, compared with 14 percent in the U.S. and 21 percent in China, according to the METI survey. 

      "We cannot afford to have people that only come here for a year or two," said Redzic, a former executive of HERE, who joined Nissan and alliance partner Renault SA this year to head the group's IT service for connected cars. 

      "The way that people are going to get remunerated is going to be tied to the type of work that they do," said Redzic, declining to give details. "We fully get it that if you want to build data-analytics themes there are certain market conditions around what those people expect."

    BSNL To Lease 15,000 Point of Sale Machines To Push Digital Bill Payment
    • Sate-run BSNL is planning to take on lease about 15,000 point of sale machines to enable more customers to use digital methods of bill payment, and sees digital transactions accounting for up to 40 per cent of all bill payments by March 2017, nearly double of current levels.

      "We are in the process of leasing about 15,000 point of sale (PoS) machines to be used by customer service centres so that electronic payment can be encouraged. That is also the direction in which the country is moving, everyone is looking at electronic payment methods," BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.

      He further said that telecom corporation intends to have about 20-50 customer service centres in each of its telecom districts, equipped with PoS machines. 

      "We have 334 telecom districts or SSA. We are saying that in each telecom district, between 20-50 customer service centres should have PoS machines," he said, adding that at present, 1,500-2000 PoS machines are available in BSNL's own customer service centres.

      By March 31, BSNL expects up to 40 per cent of the total bill payments to come from digital mode. At present, digital payment account for less than 20 per cent of the overall bill payment.

      "Before March 31, we would like it (digital methods of payment) to account for 35-40 per cent of our overall bill payment across mobile, landline, broadband, Fibre to The Home (FTTH) services," he said.

      At present, Shrivastava said, payment methods vary depending on the amount of bill. E-payment tends to be more favoured for FTTH billing, while cash finds favour in case of landline bill payment.

      "On December 15, we had a meeting with the Chief General Managers (CGMs) and they have been told to equip the customer service centres with PoS facility. We are of the view that for POS machines at this point of time, capital expenditure should not be incurred and therefore it should be taken through lease mechanism for which talks have already started with various banks," he said.

      General Awareness

      Report finds India as second largest arms purchaser after Saudi Arabia

        1. As per the report of ‘Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2008-2015′ released by Congressional Research Service (CRS), India has emerged as the second largest purchaser of arms among developing nations after Saudi Arabia.
          • According to the report, between 2008 and 2015, India purchased defence equipment worth $34 billion while in the same period, Saudi Arabia’s purchase was worth $93.5 billion.
          • The report highlights the recent Indian efforts to diversify its procurement of arms, of which the US has been a major beneficiary. India is planning for continuous modernisation plan for its defence forces.
          Findings of the report
          India which is principal arms customer of Russian, in recent years has sought to diversify its weapons supplier base.
          • In 2004, India purchased the Phalcon early warning defense system aircraft in from Israel.
          • Besides, it also purchased six Scorpene diesel attack submarines along with numerous other things from France in 2005.
          • In 2008, India purchased six C130J cargo aircraft from the United States
          • In 2010, the UK sold India 57 Hawk jet trainers for $1 billion.
          • In 2010, Italy also sold India 12 AW101 helicopters.
          • In 2011, France secured a $2.4 billion contract with India to upgrade 51 of its Mirage-2000 combat fighters.
          • In 2011, US agreed to sell India 10 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for $4.1 billion
          • In 2015, Russia to a contract to provide at least 200 Ka-226T helicopter to India. During the mid-1990s, Russia sold major combat fighter aircraft and main battle tanks to India, and has provided other major weapon systems through lease or licensed production.
          • The report stated that the diversification of Indian arms purchases indicates that Russia will likely face strong new competition from other major weapons suppliers for the India arms market, and it can no longer be assured that India will consistently purchase its major combat systems. India in 2011 had eliminated Russia from the international competition to supply a new-generation combat fighter aircraft, a competition won by France.
          About Congressional Research Service
          The Congressional Research Service (CRS), known as Congress’s think tank, is a public policy research arm of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works primarily and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a confidential, nonpartisan basis.
          Objective of CRS
          It prepares reports on a wide range of issues for lawmakers to make informed decisions.CRS offers Congress research and analysis on all current and emerging issues of national policy.
          • CRS offers timely and confidential assistance to ensure that Members of the House and Senate have available the best possible information and analysis on which to base the policy decisions.
          • Formed: July 16, 1914
          • Headquarters: Washington, D.C., U.S.
          • Director: Mary B. Mazanec

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