Archive for October, 2007

Second Life And What It Brings Out In Celebrities

Posted on October 26, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |


When Giorgio Armani opened a store on Second Life recently, he reportedly sent his avatar to be interviewed by Style.com. Other celebrities are also emerging in the virtual world known as Second Life.

Wired.com’s information about which celebs have made an appearance on Second Life and how shows that the number is growing.

The showmasters tend to pay extreme care, not only to their appearances, but more so to what they are doing in the space and time they have allocated themselves in the virtual world. The range of activities stretches from giving talks about issues they are knowledgeable on to live concerts to SL’s active avatars, which number over 2.3 million.

But living the SL it is not all that uncomplicated for the stars. “Being spotted in Second Life can be as hazardous as being spotted in public, except here celebs have to dodge digital penises and fireballs instead of paparazzi”, Wired.com writes.

Stars are in dire need to be well aware of the latest digital fashion inventory and can also count on being accosted by penis shooting vandals. Wired’s been on a hunt for celebs in second life and picks out these;

Suzanne Vega was the first artist to ever hold a LIVE concert in SL. The concert took place last August. Mypopspace has this link to the concert, which already has been officially branded a ‘historic event’.

The rap star Chamillionaire turned up at SoundScape, Universal’s music island, reportedly animated by his true self. The show has been recorded and plays on his SL jukebox, says Wired, quoting InWorld Studios.

Duran Duran hired a London virtual design company to create custom avatars and an island where the band could perform and fans could gather.

Wired.com quotes New World Notes, saying Cory Doctorow the editor of Boing Boing and sci-fi writer had the brilliant idea to outsource his avatar creation. His fans are invited to create an avatar. He has expertise in digital rights and can be expected to talk about this subject in SL no doubt.

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Surgeons Consider Use Of Honey As Antibiotics Replacement

Posted on October 22, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Surgeons are saying honey can be used in stead of antibiotics to disinfect wounds. A few spoonfuls of honey on a wound and inflammation is alleviated and swellings are reduced. Honey doesn’t only speed up the healing process; it even impedes tumors.

That is what researchers point out in a study published in the October issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice. If applied at regular intervals, honey can sterilize wounds in three to ten days.

The researchers warn that people should leave dosage up to the experts, but they add that they themselves apply honey anywhere between hourly to twice daily.

“Honey is one of the oldest foods in existence and was an ancient remedy for wound healing” explains Dr Fasal Rauf Khan from North West Wales NHS Trust in Bangor, who took the lead in the research. He adds that pots of honey were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun; still edible, undeniable proof that it doesn’t spoil. Rauf Khan believes that honey is especially useful for healing wounds left by laparoscopic surgery to remove cancers. The qualities of this foodstuff making it such an effective disinfectant include its sugar content, gluconic acid, hydrogen peroxide. And honey has a low moisture content.

Honey used to be the standard application in medicine, but the invention of antibiotics in 1940 halted its use. Honey is on the rise again because people are concerned about immunity to antibiotics when it is prescribed repeatedly.

The research into the antimicrobial properties of honey draws on eighteen other studies carried out over 60 years. The research also included other, seemingly old wives’ remedies used for wound healing, the most notable of which is the application of maggots. This cure also used to be popular in wound disinfection before the introduction of antibiotics. Dr Rauf Khan’s team discovered an ancient manuscript detailing how to use wine dregs, juniper prunes and beer as wound disinfectants. Dr Rauf Khan stresses he’s not tried and tested these alternatives!

Researchers have also reported that applying honey can be used to reduce amputation rates among diabetes patients.

Stressing that patients should always check with their surgeon before applying any substance to post-operative wounds, Dr Khan adds that studies have found that honey offers a number of benefits.

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Dutch Dyke Building Spills Over Into Toilet Design

Posted on October 20, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Dutch have a way with water. That’s not just nice alliteration, but unsalted truth. Their dyke building is taking an unexpected twist; in a drive to save the environment. The Dutch have manufactured toilets to separate urine from the sewage system.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the logic. General water drainage systems contain less than 1 percent of urine, yet the fluid itself contains half of all phosphates and 80 percent of the ammonium in the wastewater. Dutch Professor Mark van Loosdrecht says there are more advantages to recycling urine than making the water cleansing process easier and saving energy.

Because the phosphates in the urine can be directly sent to the artificial fertilizer industry, says Professor Mark van Loosdrecht. In the Netherlands, there are no links between this industry and the water businesses. But if phosphates were precipitated from pure urine, this could become a lucrative side business for the water industry. Wastewater plants could be producers of energy, rather than running up high energy bills as industrial users.

Ammonium from separate urine reservoirs can be directly processed into nitrogen gas by the anammox bacteria. This cuts out the cumbersome methanol and oxygen additions. The anammox bacteria is only active however when a fluid has a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius or higher.

“If only 50 percent of the urine is separated, the effect is already optimal,” says Van Loosdrecht. To separate urine from the sewage system, new toilets are installed. These look like normal toilets. Yet on the inside there is a ridge which separates the waste. The new toilets catch the urine in as undiluted a way as possible, while the solids happily float other directions.

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Promotional ‘Green’ Benefits- Will The Trend Survive?

Posted on October 17, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Companies venturing out to reach consumers in new ways are experimenting with promotional benefits in the shape of immaterial goods. More and more frequently, these are ‘green’ offers. Immaterial marketing has really taken off throughout all established industries, but there’s virtually no information about its effectiveness.

“Using Green promotional benefits, [i.e.] incentives that have environmental benefit, to drive acquisition is uncharted territory as there are few benchmarks to validate their use or their effectiveness”, MarketingGreen believes.

What is clear so far is that the stage is being set for entirely new economic concepts and formulas. Companies, already opening themselves up by swapping expensive production facilities for free open source tools, eliminating middlemen and replacing money with goods, are experimenting with a hoist of techniques.

In this light, Doc Searls points out that the attention economy as just another way ‘for advertisers to skewer eyeballs’ is pretty much on its way out. The logic is simple. “Why build an economy around attention, when intention is where the money comes from?”, he says.

Consumers have been putting up with commercialist marketing approaches only because individually they do not have the resources and strategic talent of the commercial gurus. But this landscape is changing.

Call it attention, intention, experience economy, what’s beyond doubt is that the power-of-the-individual is irreversible. Individual projects and not just smart marketers’ viral exploits are all but barred from entering into the ‘mainstream’. What’s more, those individual initiatives that stand out from the crowd, are memorable for reasons that are all their own. Replicating them isn’t necessarily a workable formula.

In going the ‘green’ route, marketers can decide to play on consumers’ guilt, but few will opt for this. But it is a proven fact that consumer sentiment on environmental matters is edgy to the point that a real voracious hate of the superficial could develop into the deathblow every marketer fears.

Materialistically rich consumers want immaterial values. Sustainability is the buzzword, and everybody knows that it can’t be negotiated any further. Consumers don’t only want to have the feeling but they want to be sure that when they buy they are sending signals right to the company bosses that tell them to make systemic changes. “Strictly speaking, these may not be rational”, says Alex Steffen at WorldChanging.com, but there’s a “whole different level of committed consumption [that] comes into play”.

It will take time for the new initiatives to materialize into recogniseable forms that can compete with the cornershop. It’s a slow process “as both buyers and suppliers need time to get used to something they literally didn’t grow up with”, say Trendwatchers. They warn that those ideas that threaten existing power structures might be subjected to opposition, which might slow development. Other factors that slow the progress are companies’ misinterpreting creativity for spending, and reckless expansion.


Personal carbon footprint calculators are increasingly popular. These are multiple choice questionnaires that gather data about your age, location, food choices, travel habits, housing and household arrangements. Calculations take into account much productive land and water is needed to support your consumption and waste. BeGreenNow offers a good calculator, as well as ideas for offsetting your individual carbon footprint. Wired.com provides an integrated calculator of energy and food consumption.

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Narrowing Down Your Personal Likes/Dislikes Plus The Voice Of Money Makes For A New Lingo

Posted on October 14, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I bought a mars bar for the astortionate price of one euro recently. Mac Donalds next door to the candy store offered burgers for one euro too. The difference between the calory intake of a mars bar and a burger wasn’t what concerned me all that much. But I must admit, it was numbers that made me think about this choice until long after I’d devoured the chocolate.

The Economist’s BigMac Index is a numbers game that can make you easily as obsessed as a weight watcher on a weight losing streak. Published every week on the magazine’s last page, the index calculates the effect that local currency differences have on consumers’ purchasing power in countries around the world. It indexes the price you pay for a Big Mac in dollar terms, but it assumes purchasing power parity (ppp), ie the idea that one dollar should buy the same goods in every country.

The index calculates the price of a Big Mac in every country where it is sold on this basis (some 120 nations around the globe), providing a nice snapshot of a currency’s over or under valuation. For instance, McDonald’s hamburger might cost 80 cents in Moscow. Which means that goods and services are estimated at 20 cents less than where they should be at that moment. The underlying theory assumes that in the long run the exchange rates of countries should move towards the rate that equalises the price of the Big Mac. Something that economists have devised millions of theories about.

The index and related theories represent a good setting for thinking about the global consumer community. Even though compared to when the index was launched simulaneously with the magazine’s inception in 1986, there is a lot more to know about what drives consumers. We’re vastly becoming connected and with this new intensity with absolute strangers, there is scope for change in the relationship we have with manufacturers. Communities have been long believed to be largely invisible. Ernest Gellner has an interesting theory about what a nation is. He points out that it’s an imagined political community that only exists in people’s minds. ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist,’ is a famous line by him. Perhaps it’s time to move on from this notion.

The combination of the vastly extended factual data and computing processes enables us to bigger things connection-wise, than ever before and communities of consumers are leading the new realization trend in social experiences. The relationship between the Big Mac eater in New York and the one in Moscow won’t necessarily immediately be all that more intense than a decade ago, but it would not be inconceivable though. New initiatives rather than established success formulas are building on the new closeness we all feel community wise. And this has its impact, changing what we perceive to be next logical steps. Consumers, without all that much ado, are beginning to materialize. In the flesh.

How much of an irresponsible bet would it be to anticipate what the consequences are going to be of people’s narrowing down on all aspects of life? The mesmerizing long tail that people like Jeff Jarvis describes so vigorously, is incredibly long and incredibly specific and detailed and involved.

There is no reason for people to be involved with strangers that stay strangers or they are miscommunicating about the particular facet. William Gibson’s only novel set in modern day times, Pattern Recognition, is a poignant example of some rather believable ingredients to new crazes. At the moment, we are all hugely keen on assembling information that highlights how we arrive at certain conclusions. Complexity theories enthrall us very much especially because everybody arrives at them from their own field, knowing that the others arrive from completely different backgrounds at exactly the same spot.

The main character in Pattern Recognition has a superficial but interesting relationship with someone she shares a passion for a forum topic with. It makes the relationship adventurous. Being human takes on a proportion that is that tad more exciting because we feel we have greater scope for interacting and unleashing ideas, passions, craves, pet hates and the look and feel of our latest gadget. There is an outlet for each and every one of our crazes that’s likely way more in-depth than we could achieve on our own.

The activity I’d like to refer to as ‘pin pointing’, and which Gibson describes as ‘footagehead’, a narrowing of essential crazes in pictures, is in itself exciting beyond belief and it might lead some people to believe there is a need for an entirely new lingo here. One perhaps that is not immediately going to be understood by outsiders. Language and story telling has long been the object of study of scenario planners as a means of understanding the foreseeable future. Experts assert that the best scenario, anticipating future developments to any degree of precision, treads the middle ground between paralysis and denial. Already, risk managers say that it is possible to cover 80 percent of the most important uncertainties the future offers.

Story telling and narrative techniques are crucial in ‘divining’ the future. But it’s unlikely that adopting an imaginative approach only employs narration. Art projects of all kinds of media preach a gospel of patterns, points, maps, arrival points, departure points. We’re fascinated with the new, the public experience of the new. We’re reinventing ourselves communally almost, by being imaginative even though we know there’s nothing new under the sun and that is the new, ballistic, life style.

Who knows, it might not be beyond reason to imagine that money will soon have as much as its own voice. Or that some groups would invent a new, borderless nation. The breeding ground for private initiatives at bonding on a particular level is fertile. Consider the fact that there’s a number of high profile novels just out which involved the invention of new vocabulary. For instance A clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which combines Russian with English and Dune by Frank Herbert, who invented vocabulary to go with ecological concepts.

Teri Santitoro, an editor at Samsdotpublishing says that in both instances the structure of the words and language not only places the reader into the story itself, but into the customs and surroundings of that story. And by miraculous means. “When an author invents words and languages, the reader gets drawn into something beyond the normal experience, which is extremely helpful in building new worlds in science fiction,” the editor says. Science fiction and the money vocabulary idea aren’t all that different. Even though nobody really has ever taken the idea seriously that money might have a vocabulary, I could somehow just imagine the first book featuring this idea will roll off the presses quite soon. In fact, I am cursing my busy schedule right now because I’m well enthralled with the idea myself. I’d dream up a saga including Mother Mary who’d be giving (or taking) apparition lessons from or to consumers…

It’s really not all that ridiculous and fictional because up until today, marketers’ only guideline for recognizing consumers have been numbers and cash flows. We assumed so far that this is a blessing, because if more were known about us, our privacy would be invaded. Nevertheless, recently people are realizing that so long as the process of revealing buying intentions is focused and controlled by the consumer who protects himself by becoming a member of a group, the numbers game might not be so bad after all.

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Dutch Dailies Printed On Paper From Ancient Canadian Caribou Forests

Posted on October 11, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Greenpeace says that Dutch newspapers are directly responsible for the disappearance of ancient forests in Canada that provide shelter for the caribou. Dutch newspapers are considering changing their Canadian paper supplier.

A Greenpeace report entitled Dutch Glory – Paper contends that a Canadian paper manufacturer called Abitibi Consolidated uses very dubious processes to manufacture the paper on which virtually all Dutch national dailies are printed. The report was published earlier this week and has stirred up debate because it reveals in depth information that’s not generally out in the public domain.

“Abitibi-Consolidated makes paper from wood from ancient forests which are chopped down to be replaced by very simple conifer trees, Dutch campaign leader Suzanne Kroger is quoted as saying in De Dag newspaper’s print edition.

The replaced trees will only match the forest that is being removed in a time span of 250 to 300 years in terms of bio diversity, the campaigner says.

Greenpeace also points out that one of the forests´ most authentic species, the caribou, is under threat as a result. Greenpeace says the fact that Abitibi´s manufacturing practices are dubious is is totally in conflict with some newspaper organisations’ public statements indicating that they conduct environmental friendly policies.

Abitibi has been certified a durable manufacturer of paper by CSA, a Canadian environmental organization. But Greenpeace says that the label is not beyond proven doubt. “A Canadian environmental consultancy agency has researched the four [standard] Canadian environmental certificates which has shown that only the international FSC-label is trustworthy. FSC propagates the same point of view as Greenpeace”, Dutch newspaper De Dag writes.

A spokesman of the Dutch newspaper group PCM Uitgevers told the newspaper that his organization is investigating the claims and will consider changing its supplier if they prove true. It would discuss such a move with other publishers because all Dutch paper houses buy paper together.

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Dutch Center Opens Door For Cosmetic Surgery Addicts

Posted on October 5, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A Dutch counselling center has started a treatment course for women with a cosmetic surgery addiction. The center says the number of women that suffers from make up addictions is growing.

The Changes Counselling Center’s founder, Claudia Krumme, points out that annually around 5,000 Dutch women are being treated cosmetically for breast enlargements alone. That is a considerable number, she believes. The Dutch population amounts to around 17 million.

“When women have an average to good sense of self esteem, this is okay”, she’s quoted as saying in Dutch newspaper De Dag. Women that are developing an addiction however remain unhappy about their appearance. They end up thinking that only repeated cosmetic surgery will deliver the boost in their self esteem that they sought when they started. Krumme says that treatment exists for women that fall into this category. In her center, women are trained in a few sessions to increase their sense of self esteem.

On its Dutch language website, the Center says it offers treatment for cosmetics addictions by women who doubt whether their motives to have cosmetic surgery are healthy, women that want to fuse body and spirit and develop a sense of self esteem from within, and women who believe they’ve ‘lost control’ and are never happy with their appearance despite repeated surgery.

“Experts agree that many people who suffer a cosmetics addiction are unable to help themselves. Just like an alcoholic craves more than just one drink, the cosmetics addicted person finds it very difficult to break the habit once they have started surgery, ” the center’s website says.

The Center also treats other addictions, including drugs, alcohol, relations and sex addictions. Women that have a more serious degree of worthlessness and that are suffering from an imaginary idea of ugliness, also called ‘body dismorphic disorder’ are referred to specialist hospitals and clinics.

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Would You Chew The Meat Of Cloned Cows?

Posted on October 1, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |

It is estimated that by the year 2010 Americans and Europeans will be eating the meat of cloned cows and drinking their milk. By the end of this year, US regulators will decide whether to allow cloned animals from entering the food chain and the EU is studying the issue at this moment. Experts say the decision is not going to be without consequences. In the EU, the public is largely ignorant of what is going on. Unlike in the US, where consumers are ganging up against it.

Bio technology is huge in terms of governments’ international trading balance. That is just about the only safe conjecture to make at this point in time, when estimating what the impact of artificially created meat will be in terms of competition. At the moment other issues are more important and have compelled the US and Europeans to collaborate. The technicalities however are more or less out of the way and the process is in the regulatory stage. Both the US and EU aim to meet similar objectives — absolute safety- but their regulatory approaches differ.

Tassos Haniotis, expert and a member of the European Commission in Brussels (Belgium), says in an article that ‘the US focuses on regulating the end product, the EU has the tendency to regulate the whole production process. At some point it will be important for these regulatory processes to find some equilibrium that will satisfy consumers and regulators.’

The EU is known to be highly regulatory. Non labeling of food items is hardly going to be conceivable. Nevertheless, the Europeans decided earlier in the year that there won’t be any special measures to cover food products from cloned animals in the EU. But to make sure they were doing the right thing, they deferred the issue to the EU watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EFSA is to ‘advise on food safety, animal health, animal welfare and environmental implications of cloned animals… their offspring, and of products obtained from these animals”.

It was in Europe that the first momentous clonings have taken place. Most recently, it’s been the birth of the first calf of a cloned cow. That’s put pressure on the EU legislators to get up to speed with their legislation pertaining cloned meat entering the food stream. The calf, Dundee Paradise, was recently born in the UK. Experts the world over agree that the industry has reached a critical stage and that by 2010 it will be ready to immerse the market with cloned food products.

Dairyreporter.com says ‘Urgent talks have taken place at the European Commission’s Novel Foods Working Group, after Europe was hauled into the cloned food debate because of news that the offspring of a cloned cow had been born on a UK farm.’ Weighing food risk factors on the basis of scientific evaluation is no longer done in a vacuum, but in a real, concrete environment. The EFSA on its website says it is ‘Taking into account the complexity of the issue and the broad range of expertise needed to address this question’. The organization charged its Scientific Committee to address this request. A working group of experts in the field is currently preparing a draft opinion and it outlines on the website what additional information from the outside world is required.

What is going to be very important in both the US and the EU is of course where regulation leaves off and why. This might be the litmus test between governments that strike up deals with transnational entities whose fate is dependent on their solidarity to citizens. There have been more battles between governments and scientists, but this field is among the most precarious.

There are distinct differences in the perception of risk between US and EU consumers and citizens. The EU is religious when it comes to labeling. As a result of the BSE crisis, Europeans lost a lot more of their trust in governments’ and scientists’ judgement on what you can and can’t put in the food chain. Europeans, more than Americans, display a greater amount of distrust over new developments in the early stages of technological applications. Not only in terms of food safety, but also in terms of environmental impacts. These concerns reached almost hysterical levels in the aftermath of the first BSE crisis. There was an outcry over the effects of use of antibiotics in animal feed, and the use of hormones as growth promotors in animals. A new approach to food safety regulation was introduced in the EU as a result. The food safety regulatory system was completely overhauled both in the area of scientific evaluation and in that of consumer protection.

The dangers on a technological level might not be all eliminated by far. Dolly, the very first cloned sheep born in the United Kingdom in 1996 was not perfect at all. The poor thing was euthanized at the age of 6. Sheep typically live to 11 or 12 years. Dolly was diagnosed with arthritis, a condition usually found in older sheep. It is not clear whether the cloning process led to the arthritis, but research in 1999 suggested that Dolly might be susceptible to premature ageing — a possibility raised after a study of her genetics. One of the scientist who was a member to the team that created Dolly, Professor Ian Wilmut, feels that it is a shame that his country didn’t profit from this technology.

Professor Wilmut told BBC News: “I think that it is very difficult for a small country like this to develop fully something which does have great international value, because once that’s recognised the science will move elsewhere. And in a sense, that’s a compliment to the science: the technology was very important and is now being exploited commercially in Japan and the United States, all sorts of different countries.”

Wilmut’s right. The centre of activity has moved to Texas where a combination of academic and commercial laboratories are providing a service for a growing number of clients. Animals are already being cloned commercially on a small scale. ViaGen, a commercial cloning company based in Austin, Texas, made world headlines reporting it had sold a cloned kitten, Little Nicky, to a member of the public. It also said it produces copies of individual animals of very high value – whether emotional or commercial. ViaGen charges $15,000 to clone a bull and $3,000 for a pig. However, whether the activity is allowed to continue remains to be seen. At the end of the year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will deliver its final decision on the issue. The BBC says that if the ruling, as expected, allows animal products from clones and their offspring to enter the human food chain then agricultural cloning is set to take off.

The food chain’s going to be affected. Consumers in the EU are hardly throwing up a fight. The novelty and scientific nature of the issues involved are mostly to blame. It is difficult to make out why cloning would be dangerous, but for that matter, it is equally difficult to see what the advantages would be. Bio engineering experts quoted by the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad assert a view that is oft quoted by those in favor of cloning, pointing out that it’s as ridiculous to demand a label on meat than it is to indicate whether it was produced by means of artificial insemination. Others are saying that there is going to be no noticeable difference between the cloned products and the real thing and that it is for this reason that authorities don’t want to spend extra funds on this. ViaGen, which cloned as many as 67 animals in 2006 according to its president Mark Walton, developed AnguSure, a genetic test for Angus beef. Walton estimates, though, that ViaGen won’t start making a profit for three more years. The company is working on lowering the cost of cloning, making it affordable to cow and pig farmers, while gearing up for the demand that may follow. He expects to clone and up to 800 animals in 2008.

Cloning technology might revolutionize food production around the world. Or it might follow the example of nuclear energy, which once was a symbol of socioeconomic progress but which now has become one of the most unpopular innovations in history. Cloning is a way more precarious issue because it affects health way more directly. Walton, the ViaGen president pointed out his firm’s main challenge in convincing farmers and the public at large is priority number one if he wants to make some profit. He cites unanswered questions thrown up by the novelty of the business as none all too different from doing business itself when saying “That’s the nature of a new business. There are far more questions than answers”. It is a scary comment especially because it is coming from someone who’s presumably faced with the responsibility to provide answers before jumping into the deep end. Consumers have a few more months to blow the whistle.

How global trading will ultimately be affected remains to be seen. Thomas Bernauer, who wrote Genes, Trade, and Regulation : The Seeds of Conflict in Food Biotechnology, says that the global trading system has long been a source of friction, particularly between the United States and the European Union. But it’s not immediately clear whether cloning will facilitate countries with a competitive advantage. Bernauer reviews cooperative and unilateral policy tools, pinpointing why the tools used thus far have been and will continue to be ineffective and that there’s no end in sight for the rivalry between the EU and the US.

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