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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Further your focus with business automation

If you would prefer to concentrate on fulfilling your brand’s mission, you need to look for the ways automation technology can save you time and money.

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Automation is making itself known more and more across various industries and area of business. From finance to marketing, automated tasks offer a number of advantages to anyone running a business. By automating, you can let go of the worry and the time that many essential business tasks require. There are so many necessary things to do to keep your business running, but they often feel like they’re just distracting you from the real work.

If you would prefer to concentrate on fulfilling your brand’s mission, you need to look for the ways automation technology can save you time and money.

AUTOMATION CAN MAKE HIRING EASIER

As you grow your business, you need to start working with other people. You can’t do everything yourself, and you certainly can’t be an expert in everything. You might start off using contractors and freelancers, but eventually, you usually need to make some permanent hires. Recruitment can take up a lot of your time and money, even if you outsource the process. Fortunately, automation offers a way to make it quicker and easier. It can be used for various parts of the recruitment process, such as sifting through CVs to narrow them down and select likely candidates for interview.

IMAGE SOURCE: The Blue Diamond Gallery

TRACKING EMPLOYEE ACTIVITY WITH A.I.

Once you’ve hired people, tracking their work is often a necessity to check on how much people are working and even what they spend their time doing. Filling in and checking timesheets can be tedious for everyone, but there are better ways to do it. Automation technology offers the option of tracking computer activity. This type of automation makes it easier to collect data and to analyze it too. It can make it simpler to increase productivity and improve performance, plus it helps to maintain transparency too. Using a time tracking system can offer the benefit of reducing costs too, because a human no longer needs to do the job.

TAKING CARE OF REPETITIVE TASKS

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Every business has various tasks that need to be completed again and again, but which don’t necessarily serve to advance the business. They include admin tasks and paperwork that are essential to keep things running and stay organized but don’t exactly help the business to grow. Automation can take care of many of these tasks to reduce or even eliminate the amount of work that needs to be done. It can also make doing some boring tasks more fun, as artificial intelligence systems often need to spend some time learning before they can do a job alone, and that requires teaching them.

MANAGING FINANCES BECOMES SIMPLER

You can’t run a successful business if you don’t watch your numbers. There are so many financial aspects to oversee, from invoicing to payroll, and accuracy is always key. Automation using Fintech software as a service can simplify it all, with various solutions for accounts payable and receivable, and much more. You can visit the website for DataServ for more on how automation could help you manage your finances better. Take care of everything from invoice processing to digitizing mail and even automating workflow with a set of tools from one provider. You can find a complete solution that helps with managing your business’s finances and beyond.

COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMERS USING CHATBOTS

Connecting with people online is now an essential part of running a business. In fact, many people would prefer to get in touch with a company online, rather than having to call them. Chat and messaging applications have become popular on websites, so it’s worth considering when it’s time to automate them. Chatbots can answer common questions, so there’s no need for there to be a human responding at all times. They can be useful for retail companies in particular and can also do things like giving customers discount codes or tips for using the website.

PRIORITIZING CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS

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When dealing with customers, there’s often a need to consider which ones are more important. For example, when sales representatives are making calls, they might need to decide which customers they should call first or which are most valuable. This can take time and sometimes might just be done using guesswork. But automating this prioritization can make it much simpler and quicker. Your business can place its sales focus in the right places by identifying the customers that matter most without having to either guess or spend hours trying to work it out.

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AUTOMATING MARKETING

Marketing is a major part of any business because it’s how you start bringing in leads before you convert them to sales. Many hours can go into marketing campaigns to make them successful, but automation can make it less complicated and time-consuming. Putting automated actions into place and analyzing the success of campaigns helps to take the guesswork out of getting it right. Marketing software can provide automated notifications and alerts to help people stay more in touch with their campaigns and what’s working for them.

Systems that help with marketing management can provide tools for different types of marketing. Some are designed to help manage digital marketing campaigns, while others make more traditional forms of marketing easier to handle. Telemarketing and direct mail campaigns can both be automated in various ways using the right tools. For example, automation can be used to customize direct mail letters for just one simple way to make things easier.

If you feel like your business is wasting time on tasks that don’t help to advance your brand or even those that do, automation could make a huge difference.

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Art to push the curious to explore

Check out Copenhagen-based artist Spurv, whose erotic art pieces reached/touched others, particularly those “like me (who) have the curiosity to explore, and the people who are afraid to dare.”

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Sometime in 2015, Copenhagen-based artist Spurv started making erotic art pieces. It was, he said to Outrage Magazine, “somehow my personal journey through sex life where I explore my hidden sides, curiosities, fetishes, desires, limits, et cetera.

And so – in not so many words – Spurv said that without wanting to sound self-centered, he was “inspired by life itself – my life.”

Here’s the thing, though: although his artworks are “my story”, Spurv’s work eventually reached/touched other people, particularly those “like me (who) have the curiosity to explore, and the people who are afraid to dare.”

Spurv uses the old technique of gravure, this time on linoleum to create linocuts (block prints).

Linocut, a printmaking technique that is a variant of woodcut where a sheet of linoleum is used for a relief surface; the design is cut into the linoleum surface with a knife and the raised/uncarved areas represent a reversal/mirror image of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet is then inked with a roller, and then impressed onto paper or fabric.

“I chose (this technique) because I find very appealing (in creating) the contrast between this technique and the depicted topic of gay fetish,” Spurv said.

His subjects are actually reminiscent of Tom of Finland, Hal Fischer, Jim Wigler, Rinaldo Hopf and Etienne (among others), adapting the same raw approach to (male-to-male) sex/sexuality. And yes, as he noted, the use of linocut – instead of sketching/drawing/painting/photography – differentiates Spurv’s works.

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Obviously, Spurv is cognizant of how – even if erotic art is now very pervasive – it continues to be frowned upon. But not wanting to go deeper into this topic, he said that appreciating this necessitates going deeper to see beyond the superficial perspectives/POVs/analyses.

With art, Spurv said that there is no need to compare oneself with others, particularly since “every artist depicts his own universe in his own way. This is not a competition.”

For up-and-coming artists, “I would always encourage people to know and then express themselves (since being able to) express themselves in an artistic way is a blessing,” Spurv said. So, just like the many males in his artworks, going about discovering their sexuality, “fear is not an option.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Will money be totally digital in the future?

A recent fintech industry survey suggests that some 50% of all adults globally will facilitate a smartphone, laptop or tablet to access their financial services by the year 2021. Which would equate to a staggering 53% rise from similar stats for 2017.

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Money has long been a dirty word. And it’s fair to say that when it appears in both small change and bank notes, the microscopic germs prevalent (and largely lying dormant in the creases of the folding stuff) should send shivers down your spine; hypochondriac or not. So as the more tactile manifestation of money – as we knew it – is slowly being phased out, and replaced by virtual transactions (c’mon, even our parents bank online these days!) we look at whether money – as we know it – will become totally digital in the future. And less about the exchanging of grubby notes and more about the swipe of a screen.

As it stands, it certainly looks that way. What with the surge in popularity – if not widespread understanding – of cryptocurrencies and bitcoins alone, the foreseeable future of money as we traditionally recognize it is destined to be a thing of the past, sooner rather than later.

For the uninitiated, cryptocurrency is the form of digital money which has been created to be both secure and anonymous. Although still in its relative infancy in 2018, the concept – and indeed, history – of this means of funding which is encrypted with virtually un-crackable code (so as to track purchases and transfers) can be traced back to the Second World War. Understandably its evolution has progressed at a rate of knots with the subsequent advent of the digital landscape we all look out upon today; powered by a fusion of mathematical theory and computer science.

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Bitcoin is pretty much the other side of the same coin, if you’ll excuse the pun; yet shares many traits with the broader sense of cryptocurrency in the context of a form of electronic cash. Essentially bitcoin exists as a decentralized digital currency which doesn’t require either a central, bricks and mortar-based financial institution or single administrator to perform rudimentary and every day user-to-user monetary services; courtesy of the systematic enabling of the up-and-running peer-to-peer bitcoin network as such. Thankfully, far from being rooted in the past, banks and countless small personal loans providers haven’t wasted any time by successfully moving with it, when it comes to the advancement of the digitized monetary revolution which is taking place.

For instance, services like Loans2Go have, over recent years, addressed this shake-up of the sector and sought to keep up with the constant revisions. Whilst this doesn’t mean venturing down cryptocurrency paths, it has however resulted in the more traditional (and non-traditional lenders) looking to overhaul their digital lending processes and – in some cases – drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Alongside of creating online apps and interactive, user-friendly borrower portals, personal loans and log book providers have also developed and equipped themselves with new tools to improve borrower-acquisition and on-going servicing.

Wherever you look today, from transactions such as the viewing of our account balances, transferral of funds, making payments, etc, online banking which sees absolutely no physical monies being exchanged is among us and thriving. So much so that a recent fintech industry survey suggests that some 50% of all adults globally will facilitate a smartphone, laptop or tablet to access their financial services by the year 2021. Which would equate to a staggering 53% rise from similar stats for 2017.

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That’s as maybe, but does all this point in direction of money going totally digital as a construct as we head into the next decade? Well, not necessarily. There is another line of thought – and deed – whereby future banknotes (definitely plastic, like the new breed, as we distance ourselves totally with paper versions of old money) are empowered by in-built chips. Not least because banks are desperately looking at ways to ascertain if a note is valid or not in ways they haven’t been able to previously. Meanwhile experts in the fintech field also point towards banknotes possessing some sort of short radio interface which would enable it to converse with our smartphones. A very impressive idea, and one which doesn’t sound that far away judging by the speed of progress right now. Plus, if you think about it various items in our supermarkets already operate on similar platforms in the guise of RFID tags.

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Health & Wellness

Religious freedom laws may be linked to poorer self-reported health among sexual minorities

Religious freedom laws may be linked to poorer self-reported health among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or are unsure of their sexual orientation.

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Photo by Jason Betz from Unsplash.com

#QueerInFaith

Religious freedom laws may be linked to poorer self-reported health among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or are unsure of their sexual orientation – a group known as sexual minorities.

This is according to an analysis led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for LGBT Health Research. The study, published online in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, focused on Indiana in the US. It found that after the passage in Indiana of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015, sexual minorities increasingly reported poor health on a national survey. Such laws are often invoked by courts to support those who want to deny services to members of particular groups due to conflicts with their personal religious beliefs.

In the Philippines, for instance – and to contextualize – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has been one of the staunchest opponents of passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI people.

In 2015, it actually gave a “partial support” to the passage of an anti-discrimination bill (ADB). However, this support is limited by CBCP’s desire for it to still be allowed to discriminate, particularly in: 1) determining who should be admitted to priestly or religious formation, who should be ordained and received into Holy Order, or who should be professed as members of religious communities and orders; and 2) for Catholic schools to be allowed to discriminate on who they can admit or retain.

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The CBCP also stressed its “love the sinner, hate the sin” position by claiming its “disapproval of homosexual acts (that) remains part of the Church’s moral teaching.”

In the aforementioned American study, the researchers – which included John R. Blosnich, Ph.D., M.P.H., Robert W.S. Coulter, Ph.D., M.P.H., Jordan M. Sang, M.P.H., and Christina Mair, Ph.D. – used data from 21 states that participated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Across the participating states, the team focused on the health of the nearly 5,000 participants who identified as sexual minorities. In particular, the team analyzed the number of “unhealthy days,” which the CDC characterized as the total number of days in the past 30 that people reported that their physical and mental health were not good.

The researchers found that, among residents of the 21 states, only Indiana saw a significant increase in the percent of sexual minority people reporting unhealthy days over the course of 2015. In the first quarter of the year, 24.5% of sexual minorities surveyed reported that their health was poor for 14 or more days each month. In the final quarter of the year, following public discussion and Indiana’s passage of the RFRA, 59.5% of sexual minorities reported poor health in 14 or more days per month. By contrast, heterosexual people in Indiana did not have any increase in unhealthy days across the same period.

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Research shows that sexual minority populations have greater rates of poor mental health, including depression and anxiety, which are attributed to the discrimination, harassment and stigma that they often endure. They also face a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

“The Indiana case suggests that the character of the RFRA law might be an important factor in its broader impacts on public health,” study co-author Erin Cassese, Ph.D. was quoted as saying. “Some RFRAs are stronger than others, and Indiana’s RFRA law ‘has teeth’ in the sense that it can be used in private litigation, including cases where businesses wish to deny services to sexual minorities. It also permits courts to grant compensatory damages against whomever brings the suit – making a court challenge to a service denial a much riskier proposition.

In the end, this research adds to a growing body of research demonstrating that experiences of discrimination are associated with poor health outcomes in a range of minority populations, Cassese added. It also “suggests negative health outcomes might be a consequence of this type of policy, and thus warrant some consideration by policymakers.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

7 Life changes that will improve your mental health for good

No matter how major or minor the problem may be, there will be somebody close by who can help you to heal. Never keep your problems bottled up inside you; stay positive and be open with your friends and family.

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The ongoing topic of mental health has been in the public eye for a number of years now; the importance of maintaining a well-balanced life that helps to keep your ongoing state of mind healthy is ever growing. Mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health so it is fundamental that people learn how to change their lifestyle to improve their overall mindset.

Whether you have been through a traumatic incident over the recent months or you need to remove toxic people from your life, there are several ways to conquer ongoing mental health battles. Even if you don’t think you are suffering from any major mental health traumas, all of the ideas mentioned below will help you to maintain a healthy state of mind.

If you have a history of mental illness in the family or you are worried that your past experiences will cause you to suffer, you might want to start incorporating some of these methods into your day to day lifestyle. The most important thing to remember is to stay positive and look for the best in every situation. If you can stay humble and grateful for the amazing things you do have in your life, you will find it so much easier to maintain a happy and health state of mind throughout your entire life.

1. Removing Toxicity

Getting rid of negativity in your life will help you to move on and become much more positive in your mindset. Whether you have a family member that keeps putting you down or you are with a partner who has domestic violence charges against them, when you feel unsafe in an environment it can begin to take its toll on your mental health. Make sure you find a way to get rid of the toxic elements that are holding you back from being happy. Talk to somebody you trust and there will be a way out of your current situation.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash.com

2. Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Lack of sleep can take a huge toll on your overall mental health, so if you aren’t getting enough sleep at night you need to make this a priority. Think about how you can set a calming atmosphere in your bedroom so that you can drift off peacefully. Operate a no phone policy in your bedroom when you are ready to go to sleep; the blue light from electronic devices can prevent you from switching off completely. Read a book, drink a caffeine free hot drink or take a long hot bubble bath to help you relax as a bedtime routine.

Photo by Simon Matzinger from Unsplash.com

3. Writing Down Your Feelings

Sometimes you can overthink certain situations in your head, which can lead to a lot of ongoing anxiety and troubled mental health. Grabbing a pen and paper and writing down exactly how you are feeling in that moment can really help you to lighten your load. You might come to a conclusion that you were overthinking silly situations in your mind and you will then be able to move on quickly. Even if you aren’t particularly creative, writing is the perfect outlet to let go of pent up feelings.

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4. Turning Things into a Positive

When something goes astray in your life or it doesn’t quite go to plan, it is very easy for this to become a negative in your mind. Perhaps you didn’t land the dream job you wanted or you haven’t managed to find the perfect house to live in yet. Whatever goes wrong in your day to day life, there will be a reason, so turn it into a positive. Perhaps a better job is round the corner or a better value house is just ready to be snapped up. Every cloud has a silver lining so always look on the bright side when you can.

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5. Changing Your Eating Habits

The food that you put into your body can have a huge knock on effect to your overall mood. If you are feeding yourself junk food that is full of saturated fat and refined sugar you are going to go through highs and lows, whilst feeling sluggish. Nourish your body and mind with delicious food and plenty of water every day and you will have a much better chance of standing up to those mental health demons. You will feel more energized and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

Photo by Mariana Montes de Oca from Unsplash.com

6. Exercising Regularly

The endorphins that are released when you undertake exercise are renowned for making people feel happy and uplifting their mood. No matter what type of exercise you enjoy, you can instantly put a smile on your face if you get your blood pumping. It’s even better if you can enjoy exercise with a friend.

Photo by Victor Freitas from Unsplash.com

7. Practicing Mindfulness

Whether you meditate for ten minutes each morning or really focus on the foods you are eating, mindfulness is an amazing tool for mental health. It can help you appreciate the beautiful world around you so you aren’t taking anything for granted. Write down all of the positive things you have going on in your life and you will soon find a reason to smile every single day.

Photo by Jared Rice from Unsplash.com

Sometimes it is easier said than done when it comes to keeping your mental health in check. More and more people are being diagnosed with mental health issues each day, so it is very important that you take these things seriously. Small and subtle changes to your lifestyle will help you to live a happier and healthier life overall, which will then have a positive impact on your overall state of mind. When you become anxious or worried about something, you should always try and talk to somebody who can help you through.

No matter how major or minor the problem may be, there will be somebody close by who can help you to heal. Never keep your problems bottled up inside you; stay positive and be open with your friends and family. There might be a sufferer just like you sat close by, so look around and believe that everybody is around to help you through.

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Health & Wellness

LGBT adolescents more likely than other kids their age to try to kill themselves

A study found that sexual minority youth were 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. Meanwhile, transgender adolescents were 5.87 times more likely, gay and lesbian adolescents were 3.71 times more likely and bisexual youth were 3.69 times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.

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LGBT youth have higher risk for suicide attempts.

This is according to “Estimating the Risk of Attempted Suicide Among Sexual Minority Youths: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, a study done by Ester di Giacomo, MD; Micheal Krausz, PhD; Fabrizia Colmegna, MD; Flora Aspesi, MD; and Massimo Clerici, PhD and which was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

For this study, the researchers pooled data from 35 earlier studies to show that sexual minority youth were more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers. Transsexual youth were at highest risk, nearly six times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers, researchers reported.

“Adolescents facing ‘non-conventional’ sexual identity are at risk of higher self-threatening behaviors, independent of bullying and other risk factors,” Dr.di Giacomo, the study’s lead author, was quoted as saying by Reuters Health. “I think that a difficulty in self-acceptance and social stigmatization might be keys for understanding such elevation in the risk of self-threatening behaviors.”

This may be because many LGBT youth have trouble accepting who they are because of the way they are seen by others, di Giacomo added.

The study noted that “suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents” and that “sexual minority individuals are at a higher risk of suicide and attempted suicide.”

Thirty-five studies reported in 22 articles that involved a total of 2 ,378,987 heterosexual and 113, 468 sexual minority adolescents (age range: 12-20 years) were included in the analysis. The study found that sexual minority youth were 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. Meanwhile, transgender adolescents were 5.87 times more likely, gay and lesbian adolescents were 3.71 times more likely and bisexual youth were 3.69 times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.

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Since the findings suggest that youths with non-heterosexual identity have a significantly higher risk of life-threatening behavior compared with their heterosexual peers, the researchers stressed that “public awareness is important, and a careful evaluation of supportive strategies (e.g. support programs, counseling, and de-stigmatizing efforts)… be part of education and public health planning.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Why it really is important to save up

Remember that even if you’re living it up right now and constantly have money pumping into your account – things change, and you may find yourself in completely different circumstances within the blink of an eye, all because you weren’t careful.

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We often hear so many things about the importance of saving money, and yet there is never an explanation as to why. So many people – especially in the modern world we now live in – want to live in the moment, and in doing so, means being a little impulsive at times and buying what they want, when they want, because they can. This is a freeing way to live because it banishes responsibility and stress and pressure, as there are no longer any rules to abide by. While this may sound rather nice, there is a reason that people make rules regarding their finances.

It’s easy to be blasé about it when you have a nice figure looking at you in your account, but when you don’t have that luxury and instead end up having to worry about scraping by until next month – everything changes. So remember that even if you’re living it up right now and constantly have money pumping into your account – things change, and you may find yourself in completely different circumstances within the blink of an eye, all because you weren’t careful.

Here are a couple of other reasons why you need to think about saving up, and how.

Your health

You never know what kind of situation you may end up in. You might be a fit and healthy young adult, and wake up one day and get involved in a car accident, or get diagnosed with an illness you never imagined you’d have. And while this is awful, you need to think about how you’re going to get the treatment you need without ending up in major debt that you’re having to pay off for the rest of your life. But this is where the Health Savings Account Guide comes into play. You are able to safely put your money away in the event of an unexpected emergency, but not only can the money be used to cover health care expenses, but it can be used in retirement too on a completely tax-free basis.

By saving up the money you have coming in now, you won’t have to worry about the risk of not being able to pay your way through schooling or college, because you have your future education funds that have been accumulating over time, giving you the freedom to learn whatever you want to learn, and build a career from the ground up.
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Your education

While you may not have any big career dreams right now, that could always change in the next few months or years, and you want to be able to have the opportunity to pursue whatever you like, without there being any money issues that are holding you back from following a certain path. So by saving up the money you have coming in now, you won’t have to worry about the risk of not being able to pay your way through schooling or college, because you have your future education funds that have been accumulating over time, giving you the freedom to learn whatever you want to learn, and build a career from the ground up.

Now that you have a couple of examples, you can understand why it’s important to be wise with your money and think about the potential of your future. Regardless of whether you have a plan right now or not – things change all the time, and something may arise where you’re so glad you had some savings to tap into.

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