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Sundial Interact Club hosts seniors in Domino & Checkers Knock Out. To become an annual event

PHILIPSBURG - On Saturday, 5 December 2015, the Sundial Interact Club in cooperation with the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise, held a domino and checkers knock out "chill day" for the elderly/senior men, and a spa / pampering day for the elderly/senior ladies.

The ladies were pampered by the 3rd form Care and Wellness students of the Sundial School. There were snacks and drinks available free of cost. Lunch was also provided.

There were no complaints, everyone enjoyed it and some didn't want to leave.

This project will be an annual event hosted by the Sundial Interact Club.

Many thanks go out to Ms. Marcellia Henry (President of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise), Ms. Jackie Morris (Care and Wellness teacher at the Sundial School), Ms. Elsa, the NIPA students and everyone else who helped make this project a success. We also have to thank Mrs. Peterson - Regales (Sundial School Principal) for allowing us to use the School premises to host this event.

Written by Sundial Interact Public Relations Officer Akiya Rogers and School Advisor Mrs. Tadimoeljo

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ILO: 1.7 million people joined the ranks of the unemployed in Latin America and the Caribbean

CARIBBEAN - The ILO’s 2015 Labour Overview indicates that the economic slowdown has caused a rise in unemployment, particularly among women and young people, and there are signs of increased informality. The situation is worrying and poses policy challenges to the countries of the region. Unemployment could rise again in 2016.

In 2015, the unemployment rate in Latin America and the Caribbean increased for the first time in five years to 6.7 per cent, causing at least 1.7 million people to join the ranks of the unemployed, according to the ILO's annual report released today, in which the impact of the slowdown on economic growth in the labour market is recorded.

The 2015 Labour Overview of Latin America and the Caribbean warned of a "turnaround" in the employment indicators, with a deterioration in the employment situation of women and youth, and indications of rising informality through "increased generation of lower quality jobs."

"The cumulative effects of the economic downturn that began three or four years ago and deepened during 2015, can be described as a crisis in slow motion," said ILO Regional Director, Jose Manuel Salazar, introducing the report on Thursday in the Peruvian capital. "This situation is worrying and poses numerous policy challenges for the countries in the region."

Because of slow growth forecasts for the region remain in the coming years, the ILO estimated that in 2016 the average unemployment rate for Latin America and the Caribbean could increase further to 6.9 per cent.

Salazar said that in 2015, similar to the economic slowdown, the reduced employment generation has been seen at different rates across the countries in the region. In some countries the unemployment rate has even reduced. But at the regional level there are countries such as Brazil, which significantly contribute to an increase in the average rate.

Thus, the main rise in unemployment occurred in South America where it increased from 6.8 per cent to 7.6 per cent, and the Caribbean increased from 8.2 per cent to 8.5 per cent. However, a fall was recorded in Central America and Mexico, from 5.2 per cent to 4.8 per cent.

The average unemployment rate for the region rose from 6.2 per cent in 2014 to 6.7 per cent in 2015. From this we estimate that regionally, unemployment increased by 1.7 million and therefore "the total number of people affected by a lack of jobs in Latin American and Caribbean is around 19 million," said Salazar.

The Regional Director also commented on the quality of jobs. There are indications of a slowdown in wage growth and a reduction in the generation of wage and salaried work, with an increase in self-employment, which can be associated with poor working conditions.

"These are signs that there may be increasing informality, which according to the latest available data has reached 130 million workers," he added.

More than half of those newly unemployed are women. The unemployment rate of women has increased from 7.7 per cent in 2014 to 8.2 per cent in 2015, according to the ILO’s Labour Overview, equivalent to 1.4 times the rate of men.

The regional report explains that the rate of labour participation of women resumed an upward trend, but the employment rate was more moderate. "The unemployment rate can be attributed to the greater influx of women into the labour market," says the document.

Youth unemployment also increased, following several years of a decreasing rate, meaning that "the trend has changed" for this group as well. As is the case with the general employment rate, the youth unemployment rate varied between countries and an improvement has been observed in about half of the countries in the region. The average for Latin America and the Caribbean saw a rise from 14.5 per cent to 15.3 per cent.

"Unless policies are put in place to boost the quantity and quality of youth employment, the emerging economic situation could further aggravate this situation," warns the report.

The ILO’s Labour Overview states that in the short term, the situation of higher unemployment and informality should be managed with social and labour market policies specifically aimed at protecting jobs and incomes.

The Regional Director of the ILO warned however that there must also be measures to "address long-standing structural problems." He stated that "the slowdown is evidence once again that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean continue to depend excessively on the dynamics of the global economy, and therefore still need to develop sources of economic growth from within the region."

"In the medium and longer term it is necessary to design and implement productive development policies to diversify production structures, promote increased productivity and business growth, creating more and better jobs to generate inclusive growth" said Jose Manuel Salazar.

He stressed that to achieve progress in this direction, it will be essential to promote social dialogue between governments, employers and workers in different countries. "Dialogued answers that are the product of a shared vision are needed," says the ILO’s 2015 Labour Overview.

In 2015, the Labour Overview, based on official sources from each country, now includes unemployment rates at the national level, which are available for most countries up until the third quarter of this year. Until last year, the available indicators were urban, mainly from the larger cities.

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VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne presents Guide to Doing Business for Suriname

SURINAME - The Guides to Doing Business of law firm VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne have been expanded with Suriname. This online guide, fully updated earlier this year, is a basic guideline for the corporate legal landscape of the Dutch Caribbean and, from now on, Suriname as well.

This seventh Guide to Doing Business was compiled by the Suriname Desk of VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne. This specialized team assists local and international clients with interests in Suriname, and regularly publishes on legal and economic topics relevant to Suriname. The Guide to Doing Business in Suriname is an additional service.  

Entrepreneurs and investors can use the online Guide to Doing Business (accessible via the direct link www.doingbusinesssuriname.com) as a reference and as a first step in gaining insight in the legal aspects of doing business in Suriname. The seven Guides to Doing Business together currently attract more than 4,000 visitors a month.

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Foundations and other such entities, not excluded from paying profit tax

PHILIPSBURG - The Tax Department would like the public to know that there has been a change in the tax legislation for all Foundations, Associations, and Trusts (FA & T), as of January 1, 2015, these entities have to pay profit tax.

This profit tax legislation regarding the FA & T entities is valid even if the FA & T is not conducting a business. The profit tax is excluded from those FA & T entities that deal exclusively with serving a general public interest. (See article 1 of the Profit Tax Ordinance, as amended in A.B. 2014-7.)

The Tax Department said that FA & T entities must file their Profit Tax returns as of fiscal year 2015. The provisional Profit Tax return must be submitted before April 1, 2016 and the final Profit Tax return must be submitted before July 1, 2016.

A copy of the financial statements for the relevant year must be submitted with the final tax return, said the Tax Department. The tax forms will be available online as of February 1, 2016 via http://onlineservices.sintmaartengov.org. Failure to file the tax returns can result in a fine of up to NAf 2.500.

The Tax Administration urges all Foundations, Associations and Trusts that have not yet registered at the Tax Administration, to do so as soon as possible, in order to avoid fines. 

For more information, you can contact the Tax Administration, Inspectorate Department, Vineyard Building, Buncamper road 33, at 542-2143, 542-5301, 542-5304, 542-3839 or via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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USM Event Management class hosts Eco-Friendly Island (EFI) Panel Discussion on Saturday

POND ISLAND - The University of St. Martin Event Management class will be hosting a panel discussion on the topic “Sustainability”. Sustainability is a trending topic within the Tourism Industry, particular the word Eco-Friendly.

On St. Maarten/St. Martin the community is becoming more aware of the dangers and implications of a destroyed environment. Issues concerning the state of the island’s environment have been the topic of discussion in several parliamentary meetings, which led to the motivation to hold a discussion on this topic.

There is a growing concern among the community in pollution, landfills, beaches and mass development to name a few. What are being done, what can be done and how will it be done to make St. Maarten/St. Martin an Eco-Friendly Island.

The panel consists of former Minister of VROMI and Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Claret Connor, Director of Saint Martin International Affairs, Mr. Alex Richards, Manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, Tadzio Berevoets and Laura Bijnsdorp of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC).

Each panelist will provide their views on various topics such as Climate Change, Over Development, Pollution, Recycling, etc… The audience will also have the opportunity to pose questions to the panel.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, December 12 from 2:00 – 5:00pm at the University of St. Martin Lecture Hall. The general public is invited to attend. 

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Emergency Closure of Link 1 at 9.00PM Wednesday night. Traffic diversion on Thursday at Zagersgut Road

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Development and Infrastructure (Ministry VROMI), announces that the Link 1 will be closed for one hour from 9.00pm through 10.00pm tonight (Wednesday) due to utility repairs executed by N.V. GEBE.

Motorists commuting from the Philipsburg, Belair and Cay Hill areas seeking access to Cole Bay can reroute through Cay Hill via the Welgelegen Road unto the Tiger Road and exit on A. J. C. Brouwers Road.

Ministry VROMI apologizes for any inconvenience this short notice of the road closure may cause.

Traffic Diversion on Thursday morning from A.T. Illidge Road on Zagersgut Road diverted to Coralita Road

Ministry VROMI announces a temporary road closure on Thursday, December 10 from 8.00am due to scheduled GEBE works on part of the Zagersgut Road.  Only one lane will be available for traffic on part of the Zagersgut road up to the Coralita Road intersection.  

Traffic coming from the A.T. Illidge Road will be able to travel on Zagersgut Road up to the intersection at Coralita Road where motorists will be diverted to continue on Coralita heading towards Bush Road/Airport.

Motorists must pay attention to the traffic signs that will be erected and to drive with caution.

Motorists will have to pay keen attention on the ongoing GEBE works that will be taking place on the right side of the road Zagersgut Road in the vicinity of Lydia’s Flower Shop.

Ministry VROMI apologizes for any inconveniences this may cause.

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National Institute of Arts Holiday Spectacular set for Wednesday

PHILIPSBURG - On Wednesday December 9, National Institute of Arts presents an encore performance of NIA Holiday Spectacular. This is a showcase featuring some of St.Maarten’s most acclaimed performers in a wide variety of genres. 

The NIA Holiday Spectacular is part of the Black Box Series, created especially to bring to the stage a new voice in entertainment with the focus is on artistry. The works are eclectic, and features each artist personal voice.  

On Wednesday December 9th there will be repeat performances by LaVaune Henry and Clara Reyes show casing a segment of the production they performed in Holland for St.Maarten’s Day presentation, followed by a spectacular performance by Peter J. Gittens on Piano accompanied by Saxophonist Cecile Griffiths and an electrifying performance by Tap Dancer Frances Nielah Bradley. 

The evening also features the 11-person choir Arias directed by Helen Hart.   Other performers include Brandon and Pamela potmis better known as the Potmis Steel Pan Duo.   The evening will ne enriched by the mesmerizing voice of Kirti Jaisanghani with her rendition of Temple songs from India, as well as by the the incomparable talent of Bharatanayam dancer extraordinaire Aparna Samaga.

NIA Holiday Spectacular is also proud to announce the presence of gospel vocalist Rosanna Castillo and the always-majestic performance of Carlson and Fefe accompanied by Mr. Jan Beaujon.

The evening will not be complete with out the virtuoso performance on piano and guitar of the Venezuelan Band Cacao under direction of Franco Nasi.

NIA holiday spectacular will take place Wednesday December 9 at the National Institute of Arts located at the John Larmonie Center in Philipsburg.   For ticket, reservation, and more information please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 721-543-0600. Seating is limited; please book your space early. 

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SHTA: Electoral reform, Government stability and effective Government

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) has taken notice of the discussions in the community regarding these three (3), intermingled, but different issues. SHTA would like to stress that in addressing any of these issues, cause and effect must be judged independently.

At present there are four discussions: We are experiencing a period of political instability; The instability is due to ship-jumping; This is not what people voted for.

And the conclusion that is drawn from the aforementioned: this is all bad.

The SHTA would like to briefly touch on each of these points.

We are experiencing a period of political instability

Is this really the case?
Parliament is politics. This is not to be confused with Ministers who are appointed by Parliament. In 2010 we voted in our first Parliament and they sat in their chairs for 4 years. In 2014 we elected a new Parliament, most of whom largely remain in their seats today.   During each Parliament various coalitions were formed, each of which appointed Ministers. After every reshuffle of allegiances a set of appointed Ministers are sent packing. Nothing prevents the current 15 members from running for re-election. Thus this is not really a picture of instability. Conclusion: Indecisive and ineffective, Yes. Unstable? Not really.

While there is this “stability” within the elected body, the changing of the executive body every few month’s does result in an unstable government, reduced decision making and further inefficient execution of the people’s business.  Thus the conversation needs to be broadened from Parliament alone to about stabilizing all of Government.

The instability is due to ship-jumping

Somehow the perceived instability, is due to “ship-jumpers”; those that feel their conscience no longer allows them to remain loyal to the party they were elected with. Their right to do so is protected in our Constitution.
Is this something we want to prevent?
If voters don’t want elected officials to act according to their individual conscience, it is simply a matter of not voting for them. Imagine our highest elected representatives being forced by law to cast aside their principles for the good of the Party.

This is not what the people voted for

Again, it misses the point. It may not be what the voters expected when they voted, but this Parliament was elected by the voters according to the rules as they are defined by our Constitution and laws. The people got exactly what they voted for according to our laws.

This is all bad

Supposedly this is bad; bad for business and the economy; bad for society; bad for progress; bad for everything. This too needs to be considered carefully. Is it really bad? Would we be better off if that initial carnival coup in 2011, didn’t happen? Would we have had more sustainable development?  A higher standard of living? Access to better medical care?

Maybe, maybe not.

Ineffective Government

That we don’t have the above mentioned improvements is in fact due to an ineffective Parliament, not instability or ship-jumping. In fact, ship-jumpers tend to indicate that they are disappointed with the slow change and not being able to do more for the people.

Our current ruling coalition seems to want to, if not get rid of, at least postpone, the February elections. This in order to introduce electoral reform that will prevent ship-jumping, because ship-jumping is bad (the reasoning explained above). They are steering us right into what will be called a Constitutional crisis.

Ship-jumping

We need to consider carefully whether we want to hold a couple of ship-jumpers responsible for our ineffective government. That ineffectiveness can easily be attributed to the 15 members equally. Nobody just jumps off a perfectly good ship. Could Parliament/Government have been more effective in moving us forward? Absolutely. Did a couple of ship-jumpers prevent them from doing so? That is hard to believe and frankly an insult to taxpayers intelligence.

As per November 2015 we have a new majority in Parliament. They have sent home the Ministers who promptly called for a dissolution of Parliament and new elections. The Ministers go home, new Ministers are appointed and the new political leaders inform the population that they will “let us know” what their decision is. The argument being that we shouldn’t have elections until Parliament decides how to deal with electoral reform/ship-jumping. Of the current 15 members of parliament 5, no less than 1/3, have at some point jumped ship. That alone doesn’t bode well for a desirable outcome.

The espoused way of dealing with ship-jumpers appears to be to try to prevent it legislatively by forcing those that didn’t muster enough votes for an outright seat to have to give up their seat to the party if they decide to become independent. That reasoning is just plain flawed.

Here are just a couple of issues that will come up:

What would happen in parties where no-one had an outright seat?

What happens if the seat is a residual seat?

Does the person jumping get to at least take their personal votes away from the party?

Do we then go back and recalculate the whole thing, possibly re-shifting many seats?

Do they get to take their votes to another party and add them to that total?

What if then there’s enough votes for another seat?

What would be the outcome if this is applied to our current Parliament? Where 2 members split from their respective parties right after the elections. Would they have split? Probably not. Would they have voted along the party lines? Not very likely either. The likely outcome would have probably been even more political instability and deal-making.  

The make-up of candidate lists for the next election would not benefit from this change either. Political leaders would try to limit the possibility of other party members winning outright seats, thus keeping “control”. This is not an incentive to populate your list with capable independent thinking people.

Electoral Reform

Given the above, why should elections wait for an adjustment that will not have the desired stabilizing effect? Why not just have elections and hope that this time the voters get it right?

However, the real question should be:

How can we voters increase the chance of electing an effective Government?

This is where elements of Electoral Reform could be in order. In our opinion there are some specific options that we could do right now to reduce the above misnomers and improve the effectiveness of Government:

Option 1

Reduce the number of Members of Parliament.

The fifteen (15) highest vote-getters are elected to Parliament, regardless of total Party votes.

Every voter gets to vote for each of the 15 different MPs, as in the US where you get a vote for each of the open positions.

This way nobody rides into Parliament on anyone else’s coattails and every voter has the opportunity to voice what they want Parliament to work for as a whole. You can vote from 1 to 15. You can vote party-lines if so inclined or just indicate who you think the best candidates for parliamentary seats are. Reducing the number of Parliamentarians would drastically reduce the cost of Government so even if they remain as ineffective at least it isn’t costing us as much.

Option 2

Reduce the number of Members of Parliament.

Impose a district voting system, where Parliamentary seats are assigned based on the number of voters per district and they run only within.

These options will have better results and are more practical than legislating against ship-jumping.  They are relatively easy to implement, easy to understand, and do not take away from anyone’s democratic rights. It would behoove us to simplify things, especially legislation, as opposed to trying to add little rules in order to close loopholes that were created by rules in the first place. These points and many others as yet undefined are missing from the discussion presently being held in Parliament, and in the Council of Ministers.  This is yet another sign of their ineffectiveness.

Today we are informed that an attempt will be made to postpone the called for elections, until there has been some form of electoral reform implemented. Government will be putting the Governor in an impossible position and risking that this decision is left to the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

SHTA strongly agrees with the new political parties in the protest against postponing elections.  In fact, we have recently done 2 surveys of our members who overwhelming disapprove of the postponement of elections. 

The very idea to postpone the elections is a very slippery slope. If Parliament would be allowed to postpone elections, this would be worrisome precedent.  Adding the very broad basis of “until there is electoral reform” is even more so.  What happens in 2018 if there hasn’t been any electoral reform, will Government then attempt to postpone that election as well? Indefinitely?  Expecting the beneficiaries of a broken system to fix the system is an unrealistic expectation and the only ones that will suffer for it are the people.

Going to the polls can NEVER be termed undemocratic. Going to the polls does not infringe on anyone’s right to elect representation. Deciding to postpone elections, could be termed undemocratic, that does infringe on the voter’s Constitutional rights.

For emphasis we hereby quote two important articles from our Constitution:

Art 35: Ministers shall refrain from debating and voting on issues, including appointments, suspensions and dismissals, that personally concern them, their spouses or relations by blood or affinity to the second degree, or in which they are involved as mandatories.

Article 53 1. Members of Parliament shall refrain from debating and voting on issues, including appointments, suspensions and dismissals, that personally concern them, their spouses or relations by blood or affinity to the second degree, or in which they are involved as mandatories. 

It appears that our political leaders cannot agree on what should happen. In such a case the only option is to go to the polls and let the voters decide. Not a Judge, not the Governor and not the Kingdom Council of Ministers. Let the voters decide and then we can all move forward. People have sacrificed their lives so that we have the possibility of voting. It is not just a democratic right, it’s a duty. See you at the polls!

The SHTA is dedicated to bringing quality to all aspects of life on St. Maarten by promoting sustainable economic development for its members in cooperation with the social partners and the creation of a fair marketplace. For more information please contact our offices at 542-0108 or visit our website atwww.shta.com.

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COP21: digital map launched by UNICEF helps young people tell their climate change stories

INTERNATIONAL – A digital mapping project called ‘Act Now For Tomorrow,’ which was recently launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is helping young people around the world identify climate issues in their communities and find ways to address them.

“The global climate map is engaging 500 young people from 65 countries,” Zayn Abaakil, a UNICEF child engagement coordinator, told the UN News Centre in one of the conference halls of the UN climate change conference (COP21) where dozens of innovative climate projects are being showcased over the next two weeks.

The idea behind the project, she said, is for young people to show the link between climate issues and the impacts they see every day that are affecting their health and access to education.

The UN agency recently reported that more than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrences, while 160 million are in high drought severity zones.

“They see all the contributions from other young people,” explained Ms. Abaakil, and “they understand that the issue is a global one, that they are all connected around the same problem, but also learn from each other, look at the best practices that have been done from different places, and connect.”

Seven UNICEF youth ambassadors have travelled from all corners of the globe to attend COP21, display their findings, and exchange stories – this time in person. One of them is Andozile Simwinga, a driven18-year old Zambian student who said the impacts of climate change on his country are affecting his self-esteem.

“Things, they don’t actually move the way they’re supposed to move and young people are not happy the way they should be,” he said energetically.

Despite talking about an issue that clearly causes him distress, Mr. Simwinga couldn’t hide the enthusiasm he feels being in Paris and contributing to this global event.

“[The effect of climate change] has really made me feel low – I go out of my house every day and I look at the environment. People have cut down trees, there’s deforestation everywhere. I want to do environmental studies but what am I going to address? What am I going to talk about? What am I going to tell […] my children and also the future generations? We had trees here; we had different types of animals. So it really has affected my self-esteem.”

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Bellinda Raymond traveled from Malaysia to attend the Conference of Youth prior to heading to COP21. She described herself as an active citizen, someone who engages with members of her indigenous community, especially ahead of major weather events that have the potential to destroy homes and vital surroundings. She said her grandparents weren’t affected by climate change in the ways she is today.

“As an indigenous person, we depend on the forest and rivers for our daily life – and we also have our traditional system, also related to the climate. The weather is now unpredictable and we need to adapt to the environment that’s changing,” Ms. Raymond said.

Asked what the worse effect of climate change has been on her community, she answered floods.

“Because last time, when the rain came, it was still okay for us, but now just two hours of rain [and] it’s already flooding and has caused a lot of damage; people cannot go to work, and it’s difficult to access the outside.”

As youth ambassadors celebrated ‘Young and Future Generations Day’ at COP21 on Thursday, government delegations continued to negotiate a new climate agreement which the world’s people hope will be ambitious enough to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, and prevent further degradation of the planet.

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Kingdom delegation to attend UN Climate Conference in Paris. Aruba Prime Minister to take part in discussions

SINT MAARTEN/PARIS - Prime Minister Mark Rutte will attend the opening of the UN Climate Summit in Paris (COP21) on Monday 30 November, where he will speak on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Mr Rutte will also meet with other government leaders and attend presentations on various climate initiatives.

At different sessions during COP21 the Kingdom will also be represented by Prime Minister Mike Eman of Aruba, foreign trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen and environment minister Sharon Dijksma.

There were no mention of delegations from the other two Kingdom countries, namely Sint Maarten and Curacao, being present for the Climate Change conference discussions.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands advocates a legally binding and universal climate agreement setting out a balanced strategy for accelerated emissions reduction and adaptation to the impact of climate change. The long-term goal is to keep global warming below 2o C and work towards climate-neutral societies.

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The aim is to reach a new climate agreement that will come into force in 2020, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

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