الخميس، 17 سبتمبر، 2015

16 pyramids discovered in ancient cemetery


The remains of 16 pyramids with tombs underneath have been discovered in a cemetery near the ancient town of Gematon in Sudan.  
They date back around 2,000 years, to a time when a kingdom called "Kush" flourished in Sudan. Pyramid building was popular among the Kushites. They built them until their kingdom collapsed in the fourth century AD.
Derek Welsby, a curator at the British Museum in London, and his team have been excavating at Gematon since 1998, uncovering the 16 pyramids, among many other finds, in that time. "So far, we've excavated six made out of stone and 10 made out of mud brick," Welsby said. 
The largest pyramid found at Gematon was about 35 feet long on each side and would have risen around 43 feet off the ground. [See Photos of 2,000-Year-Old Pyramids Discovered at Another Site in Sudan]
Wealthy and powerful individuals built some of the pyramids, while people of more modest means built the others, Welsby said. "They're not just the upper-elite burials," he said.
In fact, not all the tombs in the cemetery have pyramids: Some are buried beneath simple rectangular structures called "mastaba," whereas others are topped with piles of rocks called "tumuli." Meanwhile, other tombs have no surviving burial markers at all.
Burial goods
In one tomb, archaeologists discovered an offering table made of tin-bronze. Carved into the tableis a scene showing a prince or priest offering incense and libations to the god Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. Behind Osiris is the goddess Isis, who is also shown pouring libations to Osiris.
Though Osiris and Isis originated in Egypt, they were also venerated in Kush as well as other parts of the ancient world. The offering table "is a royal object," Welsby said. The person buried with this table "must have been someone very senior in the royal family."
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الأربعاء، 16 سبتمبر، 2015

States move to ban aborted fetal tissue from medical research


Aggressive state efforts to ban the use of fetal tissue in research is alarming some scientists who say such measures will set back efforts to cure the world’s deadliest diseases, including cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
But lawmakers in states like California and Wisconsin, which are deliberating whether to make their state laws even tougher than federal restrictions, say ending the practice of harvesting organs from aborted fetuses is a moral and ethical imperative.
They say the summer release of nine undercover videos featuring Planned Parenthood representatives and others talking candidly about obtaining and transferring fetal body parts to laboratories has sparked outrage among their constituencies, and has “pulled back the curtain” on what they say is a gruesome business.
“There’s a lot of outrage and I think certainly a lot of strong feelings (in the General Assembly) similar to what we are hearing from our constituencies. They want this to stop and the videos are certainly what’s forcing that,” said Wisconsin Republican State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, who is also the majority leader.
He is helping to shepherd a bill through the Republican-dominated legislature that would not only prohibit the sale of fetal body parts – which is already banned under federal law – but would also demand that “no person may knowingly and for valuable consideration acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer a fetal body part.”
In addition, it would ban all use of fetal tissue from abortions for experimentation.
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Hull of Confederate sub, first in history to sink enemy warship, revealed

The hull of the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship has been cleaned and revealed for the first time in 150 years.
After a year of painstaking work, scientists using small chisels and hand tools have removed encrusted sand, sediment and rust from the outside of the hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.
Now, the outside appears much as it did when the Hunley and its eight-man crew rammed a spar with a powder charge into the USS Housatonic and sank the Union blockade ship off South Carolina in 1864.
But scientists said Thursday that cleaning the hull didn't solve the mystery of why the Hunley itself sank with its crew before returning from its mission.
NO SMOKING GUN...
Cleaning the hull showed some dents on both sides of the submarine. But scientists say it's not clear when the dents occurred. The Hunley sank twice before it went on its 1864 mission, though it also could have been dented at the time of the Housatonic attack or later when the sub sat for decades on the ocean floor off Charleston. "If there was a smoking gun, we would have seen it a long time ago," said Johanna Rivera-Diaz, a conservator with the Hunley project.
...BUT MORE CLUES
The most significant find from cleaning the hull is an indication that a wooden boom at the front of the Hunley that supported the spar with the powder charge was damaged in the attack. It appeared as if the boom had been pushed back into the sub. That would be consistent with the boom striking a vessel, said Michael Scafuri, an archaeologist with the project.
A LOT OF WORK
The conservation team has laboriously removed about 1,200 pounds of sediment and other gunk from the outside hull of the Hunley, which was built in an attempt to break the Union blockade that was strangling Charleston. That's roughly the same weight as a grand piano.
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الثلاثاء، 15 سبتمبر، 2015

Medieval skeleton discovered in tree suffered violent death, experts say


Archaeologists in Ireland have unearthed startling details about the strange medieval skeleton found in the roots of a 215 year-old tree.
The beech tree in Collooney, Sligo, fell during a storm earlier this year, revealing the macabre sight of a skeleton trapped in its roots.  The Irish National Monuments Service brought in experts from Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services to excavate and analyze the remains, revealing a grisly tale.
“He had been killed violently,” Marion Dowd, director of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services, told FoxNews.com. “We have stab wounds in the upper chest and they were inflicted by a knife – we also have a stab wound in the left hand, which suggests that he was trying to defend himself.”
The skeleton is of a young man between the ages of 17 and 20. Radiocarbon analysis has dated the remains to between 900 and 1,000 years old.
“We don’t know if he was killed in a battle or if this was a personal dispute,” said Dowd, noting that the body was originally buried in a Christian fashion with its head pointing to the west. “His family or community must have buried him,” she added.
Dowd told FoxNews.com that whoever planted the tree was unaware of the grave. “It’s completely coincidental – the context is unusual,” she said. “There are historical records that say there was a church and graveyard in the area, but there are no remains visible today.”
Another aspect of the excavation is unusual – the young man’s height. “He’s 5-foot-10,” said Dowd. “For early medieval society that’s pretty tall.”
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الاثنين، 14 سبتمبر، 2015

Paleolithic hunter-gatherers loved oatmeal too


Some like it hot, some like it cold, and it looks like they probably liked it about 32,000 years ago.
An ancient grinding stone found in the Grotta Paglicci, Apulia, in southern Italy, has hit the news after scientists discovered that some of the debris on the stone turns out to be none other than oatmeal. The stone harkens back to the Gravettian era, a late Paleolithic culture, known for its tool making. It was recovered in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until recently that Marta Mariotti Lippi and team at the University of Florence in Italy studied the debris and found the oat fragments.
The team determined that the Gravettian people heated the grains before grinding them with the stone in order to preserve and prep them for processing. The resulting powder was then made into bread and oatmeal.
The Grotta Paglicci, Apulia served as home to ancient hunter-gatherer cultures anywhere from 34,000-32,000 years ago, and has produced artifacts that include mural paintings with animals and etchings on bones. As for the stone, Lippi says the team intends to continue studying the debris to find out what else prehistoric cultures dined on.
Matt Pope, an archaeologist with University College London, told Herald Scotland, “There is a relationship there to be explored between diet, experimentation with processing plant food and cultural sophistication. We’ve had evidence of the processing of roots and cattails, but here we’ve got a grain, and a grain that we’re very familiar with.”
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الأحد، 13 سبتمبر، 2015

CIA ship at center of 'strangest covert operation' to meet its end


More than 40 years after it was the centerpiece of what PRI calls "possibly the biggest and strangest covert operation" of the Cold War, a piece of CIA history is headed for the scrap heap.
After the Soviet Union failed to find one of its nuclear submarines that sank 1,500 miles northwest of Hawaii in 1968, the CIA swooped in, hoping to recover both the sub's nuclear missiles and its cryptography gear, according to Reuters.
Under the code name Project Azorian, the CIA schemed to raise the 14 million-pound sub three miles to the surface—an undertaking considered impossible. "I think given a better background in marine engineering, we likely would not have tried," says the retired CIA employee who finally revealed the long-officially-secret story in 2012.
The ship that the CIA came up with—and what is now being scrapped: the Hughes Glomar Explorer. The ship was unique to say the least: 619 feet long and too wide to fit in the Panama Canal, it featured massive hydraulics, ball bearings the size of bowling balls, and one huge claw with which to grab the sub wreck.
The CIA was able to cover up the construction of the ship for four years by convincing the world Howard Hughes was building it to mine manganese nodules from the ocean floor.
Project Azorian was modestly successful, with the Hughes Glomar only raising the bow of the Soviet sub. The CIA's infamous "Glomar Response" ("we can neither confirm nor deny...") has its origins in the agency's attempt to keep the project secret even as details leaked.
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New book claims Nazi soldiers were high on crystal meth


You can add drug abuse to the long list of Nazi exploits, according to author Norman Ohler, who claims Adolf Hitler's soldiers were as high as a kite during World War II.
When a friend mentioned Nazi soldiers used drugs, Ohler began scouring US and German archives and uncovered some surprises, described in his new bookDer Totale Rausch (Total Rush), per Deutsche Welle.
First, notes from Hitler's personal physician describe him receiving 800 injections of animal hormones and the opiate Eukodal, which Ohler calls "a pharmaceutical cousin of heroin," over 1,349 days, reports the Independent.
But Ohler also uncovered evidence that Nazi soldiers were on drugs during major offenses. Though the Nazis condemned cocaine, opium, and morphine as "Jewish," Nazi chemist Fritz Hauschild developed a new drug, Pervitin, which was basically crystal meth in a pill, Ohler says.
It wasn't some secret operation: Pervitin was openly available in Germany in 1937 and used as a kind of medicine to make people feel alert. It was even put in chocolates so housewives could take part in the high.
"It became a drug of choice, like people drink coffee to boost their energy," Ohler says. "For the first couple of days, you don't need to sleep." That made it perfect for when Hitler's armies invaded Poland in 1939.
Ahead of the attack on France, some 35 million tablets were ordered for the army, Ohler says. General Erwin Rommel, a decorated tank commander known as the "Desert Fox," reportedly consumed Pervitin like it was his "daily bread," reports the Independent.
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السبت، 12 سبتمبر، 2015

Mass grave of new human relative discovered in South Africa, claim scientists

Scientists in South Africa working at Moropeng, the site located just outside of Johannesburg and known as the "Cradle of Humankind," have discovered a mass underground grave containing the remains of hundreds of individuals from what they say is an entirely new species of the human family.
“I give you a new species of human - ‘homo naledi,’” said Professor Lee Berger, head of the paleontology team at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and leader of the discovery team. 
The species' brains were a third of the size of today’s humans but they stood like us, and had similar feet and hands, although their fingers were elegantly curved. This new species, Berger said, should be placed as an early humanoid just before the time of homo sapiens. The species could date back as far as 2.8 million years, according to experts.
"History books will have to be rewritten.”
- Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of SAouth Africa
South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa told Fox News Thursday that “history books will have to be rewritten” due to the discovery, which was made in a subterranean chamber by a team of 60 so-called "underground astronauts." The archaeologists have come across 1,500 fossils - entire families of hundreds of early humans.
The discovery of these fossils, believed by scientists to possibly be the largest group of individuals in fossil form ever found in one place anywhere in the world, was made in 2013. When the team of ‘astronauts’ was put together, only small - and thin - scientists were encouraged to apply. Archaeologists had to squeeze through a 10- inch wide gap between underground rocks - dubbed “Superman’s Crawl,” and go through a succession of caves, before finally making a vertical 10-yard drop to get into the now-named Dinaledi Chamber. At the entrance, they found 300 fossils, and in the chamber itself some 1,200 fossilized bones. After two years of keeping the discovery secret, the search is ongoing.
"There are hundreds more fossils probably to be found,” said Berger
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الجمعة، 11 سبتمبر، 2015

Excavation of Rome home shows ancient city bigger than thought

Archaeologists have discovered a 6th-century B.C. residence under a palazzo in central Rome, saying that it proves the ancient city was much bigger than previously thought.
Officials said Wednesday that the area on the Quirinale Hill had long been thought to have only been used as a necropolis, with ancient Rome's residential zone further south and centered around the Roman Forum.
But archaeologists excavating a palazzo on the hill said they discovered a well-preserved rectangular home, complete with wooden supports and a roof, proving that the area was also used for residential purposes.
The ANSA news agency quoted excavation chief Mirella Serlorenzi as saying the discovery "means that Rome at the start of the 6th century was much bigger than what we thought and wasn't just centered around the Forum."
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الخميس، 10 سبتمبر، 2015

NASA releases dramatic new Pluto images


NASA has released more stunning images from New Horizons’ historic flyby of Pluto, which show icy mountains, fog, and the dwarf planet’s landscape dramatically backlit by the sun.
The images, released Thursday, were taken on July 14 and downlinked to Earth on Sept. 13.
NASA released the first images from New Horizons’ Pluto flyby in July. The spacecraft began its yearlong download of new images and other data over the Labor Day weekend.
Thanks to favorable backlighting and high resolution, an image taken by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) also reveals new details of hazes throughout Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere. The image shows more than a dozen thin haze layers extending from near the ground to at least 60 miles above the dwarf planet's surface, according to NASA. 
"In addition to being visually stunning, these low-lying hazes hint at the weather changing from day to day on Pluto, just like it does here on Earth," said Will Grundy, lead of the New Horizons Composition team from Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz., in a statement released by NASA.
Earlier this month NASA released images showing Pluto's stunning range of surface features, from heavily cratered terrain to icy plains.
Launched in 2006, New Horizons passed by Jupiter in 2007 on its journey to Pluto. The fastest spacecraft ever, the probe traveled at 30,000 mph on its epic trip.
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Rare ancient sarcophagus discovered in Israel


An elaborate ancient sarcophagus has been discovered at a building site in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Thursday.
However, the sarcophagus, which is around 1,800 years old, was severely damaged when building contractors attempted to remove it improperly from the ground, according to officials.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said that it will take legal action against those involved.
Described as one of the rarest sarcophagi ever discovered in Israel, the stone coffin weighs 2 tons and is 8.2 feet long. Sculpted on all sides, a life-size figure of a person is sculpted on the sarcophagus’ lid.
“One side of the sarcophagus lid is adorned with the carved image of a man leaning on his left arm,” explained Gabi Mazor, a retired archaeologist and expert on the classical periods, in an Israel Antiquities Authority press release. “He is wearing a short-sleeved shirt decorated with embroidery on the front. A tunic is wrapped around his waist. The figure’s eyes were apparently inlaid with precious stones that have disappeared and the hair is arranged in curls, in a typical Roman hairstyle.”
The other side of the lid features a carved relief of a metal amphora, a vessel used for transporting liquids such as wine, from which there are intertwining tendrils bearing grape clusters and grape leaves. The sarcophagus is also decorated with wreaths and images of bulls' heads, naked Cupids, and the head of the mythical creature Medusa.
The sarcophagus, which was apparently excavated last week, was repeatedly struck by a tractor in different places, scarring the stone and damaging the decorations sculpted by on its sides, according to the press release.
“The irreparable damage was caused by contractors who encountered the impressive sarcophagus during the course of their work,” officials explained. “They decided to hide it, pulled it out of the ground with a tractor while aggressively damaging it, concealed it beneath a stack of sheet metal and boards and poured a concrete floor in the lot so as to conceal any evidence of the existence of the antiquities site.”
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Amateur paleontologist unearths rare fossil of fish in Arizona


An amateur paleontologist may have made the discovery of the summer last month when she found a jaw bone belonging to a long-snouted fish known to exist more than 220 million years ago.
Stephanie Leco was part of the first dig for citizens held last month at at Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. The park routinely turns up fossils from the age of the dinosaurs and has vast expanses of rainbow-colored desert.
The fossil is about the same size of a pinky fingernail. It was unearthed from the site of what was a lake or pond in the Late Triassic period, when the fish were thought to be extinct in North America. Scientists knew closely related fish were present in the world in the Early Triassic period, about 10 million years earlier, but the fossils were found only in China in the Late Triassic, said park paleontologist Bill Parker.
"People who actually study this group of fish might start setting their sights in our direction now," he said.
Leco was sifting through loose dirt on a barren hillside using her background in art to differentiate colors, patterns and textures among bones, rocks and charcoal when she targeted an area looking for smaller objects. She already had several small teeth in her collection and was marveling at the tibia of a plant lizard that another digger found before coming across the jaw bone. Not exactly sure what it was, she handed the fossil over to Matt Smith, the park’s lead fossil preparer, and asked what it was.
"I don't know, that's why it's cool," he responded.
The two wrapped the bone, placed it in a tin and took it to the lab, looking at it more closely under a microscope, she said. The park later emailed her to say it was a fish closely related to the genus Saurichthys.
"Okay, it wasn't a T-Rex," Leco, a Phoenix resident, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "But, honestly, I feel like this is much cooler!"
The 26-year-old said she’s since developed an even deeper fascination with paleontology and bought a couple of books on the Triassic period so that she can speak with authority about her find. The period, which started about 250 million years ago and lasted 50 million years, followed the largest extinction of life on Earth when the land mass was a single continent and had the first dinosaurs.
The full jaw of the fish would be about three to four times longer than the fossil Leco discovered, Parker said. He said other fossils of the fish might also be found on the East Coast and on the Colorado Plateau where similar rock is exposed.
Ben Kligman, a senior at the University of California, Berkley, has been studying the pond site preserved in a six-inch layer of rock. He plans to return to Petrified Forest next summer to look for a full fossil of the fish to determine whether or not it's a new species. What he didn't know before Leco found the jaw bone is that he already had smaller pieces of the fish that he couldn't identify as such, he said.
"Although it's probably a new species, we can't say that it is yet because we don't have enough specimens," Kligman said.
Other citizens participating in the August digs found the vertebrae of a long-necked lizard first uncovered in the park last year and the teeth of a large carnivorous reptile, both considered rare in the park's fossil record. Their names will accompany the collections at the park, which will use them to reconstruct the habitat of the pond and get a better idea of where the animals fell in the food chain, Parker said.
"Anytime we can fill in gaps in the fossil record, it's really important," he said. "People who don't study Triassic fish may not be excited. The fact you can find new stuff is the real takeaway."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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الأربعاء، 9 سبتمبر، 2015

European astronaut uses 'the Force' to control rover from space


Demonstrating one small step for rover operations, a European astronaut successfully maneuvered a machine on Earth in precision operations from his perch 248 miles high on the International Space Station.
Sept. 7, the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen helped demonstrate the first "force feedback" using a rover controlled from space. With the help of a system that let him feel forces pressing against the rover's arm, Mogensen remotely inserted a small, round peg into a "task board" that offered just a fraction of a millimeter of clearance.
"Andreas managed two complete drive, approach, park and peg-in-hole insertions, demonstrating precision force-feedback from orbit for the very first time in the history of spaceflight," experiment leader André Schiele of ESA's Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory said in a statement. [Video: Space-Borne Astronaut Runs Robot On Earth]
"He had never operated the rover before, but its controls turned out to be very intuitive," Schiele said in the statement. "Andreas took 45 minutes to reach the task board and then insert the pin on his first attempt, and less than 10 minutes on his follow-up attempt, showing a very steep learning curve."
Clever engineering allowed the astronaut to "feel" his way around the hole despite there being a 1-second delay between his movements and what was happening on the ground. The team — which included members from the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) and graduate students from Delft University of Technology, both in the Netherlands — created software models to compensate for the lag.
The signal from the space station has to pass through several obstacles before reaching ESTEC and the waiting rover. After leaving the station, the signal goes to satellites in geosynchronous orbit roughly 22,300 miles high, beams to a ground station in New Mexico (via NASA's Johnson Space Center) and then travels to ESTEC via a transatlantic cable. 
By the time the signal gets back from the International Space Station, the round-trip is more than 89,000 miles, the equivalent of nearly halfway to the moon.
Besides placing a peg in a hole, Mogensen also evaluated the stiffness of different springs on the joystick to figure out the appropriate sensitivity for the device. 
The experiment, called Interact, is intended to pioneer remote-control operations from space. As astronauts expand exploration across the solar system, someday this technology could be used for lunar bases or exploring Mars, ESA officials added.
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الثلاثاء، 8 سبتمبر، 2015

Space Station crosses Sun's face in spectacular new photo


An amazing new photo shows the International Space Station crossing the sun's face.
The picture, a composite of five images taken Sept. 6 from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia by NASA photographer Bill Ingalls, captures a "transit" of theInternational Space Station (ISS) across the solar disk.
Such transits don't last very long, because the space station zooms around Earth at more than 17,000 mph — the $100 billion complex completes one lap around our planet once every 90 minutes or so.
Transits can offer more than just aesthetic appeal. For example, in the 18th century, astronomers were able to calculate the distance from the Earth to the sun by carefully observing two transits of Venus across the sun's face (one in 1761 and the other in 1769) from various locations around the globe. And NASA's Kepler space telescope has spotted thousands of potential exoplanets by detecting the tiny brightness dips they cause when crossing in front of their stars from the observatory's perspective.
The ISS is currently staffed by nine space fliers. But three of them — cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, Denmark's Andreas Mogensen and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov — will come back to Earth Saturday (Sept. 12), returning the orbiting lab to its normal complement of six crewmembers.
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Elon Musk's answer to making Mars more like Earth? Just nuke it


It hasn't even been a week since Stephen Colbert started hosting CBS' The Late Show, and already, he's getting his guests to make some pretty spectacular claims. Oprah may have watched Tom Cruise jump on a couch, but Colbert got Elon Musk to advance a decidedly gasp-worthy theory about how best to make Mars a more hospitable environment for human life. "The fast way is to drop nuclear weapons over the poles," the Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal founder told Colbert. To which the host responded, "You're a supervillain!"
Or Ironman, but you know, same difference.
Describing Mars as "a fixer upper of a planet," Musk noted that the main problem with our red neighbor is that it's too cold for inhabitation. But, he noted, it can be made to more closely resemble Earth if we just warm it up. "There's the fast way and the slow way," Musk said, with the slow way being the gradual release of greenhouse gasses, which are famous on Earth for causing global warming and climate change.
But the flashier, more exciting way (and let's face it, the more Elon Musk way), is to drop nuclear bombs on the planet, because nothing screams warmth like thermonuclear weapons. Unfortunately, Musk didn't get to elaborate much further on how exactly this plan would pan out, but it's certainly a novel idea. And considering that his last few SpaceX rocket landings have resulted in explosions of their own, maybe Musk can jumpstart this warming process by sending his spacecraft to Mars.
Of course, the viability of such a plan is probably a bit more questionable than say, bringing frozen methane to Mars from neighboring planets or moons, or better yet, bringing cyanobacteria and algae that are capable of producing oxygen to the Red Planet. But then again, many of Musk's ideas have seemed outlandish at first blush, and he's only ever proved the haters wrong.
So keep this Late Show prediction in the back of your minds, folks. We may just be exploding nukes on Mars someday. Better there than here.
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