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Royal Caribbean Confirms Holiday Cruise Schedule and is on track for December 17 return

PORT ST. MAARTEN – A Port St. Maarten delegation from the Cruise Business Unit met recently with Royal Caribbean International (RCI) representatives in Miami, Florida, to provide an update on the progress of current recovery efforts in destination Sint Maarten.

During the discussions, Royal Caribbean reiterated its commitment to the destination and provided a schedule of the vessels that will call on Sint Maarten starting in mid-December, just in time for the peak family travel season. 

Grandeur of the Seas will be the first cruise ship bringing guests to rediscover the marquee destination on December 17, followed by daily visits across six vessels, including two of the world’s largest cruise ships. 

The ships and dates are as follows: Independence of the Seas, December 25 and 29; Jewel of the Seas, December 26; Freedom of the Seas, December 27; Adventure of the Seas, December 31; and Harmony of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas on January 2 and 3, 2018 respectively.

Celebrity Cruises has also announced that Celebrity Eclipse will be returning to the island on February 4, 2018. For more information on Royal Caribbean’s and Celebrity Cruises’ most current Caribbean itineraries, visit RoyalCaribbean.com and CelebrityCruises.com.

The first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to return to the island, Grandeur of the Seas, debuted in 1996 and underwent a comprehensive revitalization in May 2012.  As part of the Vision Class, the vessel has 11 decks and carries 2,446 guests and 760 crew members.

The famed Oasis Class sister ships Harmony of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas -- sailing with nearly 6,000 new visitors each week -- will return to weekly calls on Sint Maarten in the New Year.  Touted amongst the world’s best family vacations, Harmony and Oasis will introduce a new generation of adventure-seeking travelers to Sint Maarten.

"Royal Caribbean is a true partner of St. Maarten. We continue to prepare with anticipation for the return of Grandeur of the Seas on December 17. Port St. Maarten, our merchants, tour operators, vendors, taxi drivers, all of us are grateful to RCCL for its continued commitment to St. Maarten and confidence in our product.

“We will be ready, we will be creative and we will re-invent our product to meet the expectations of cruisers, while still providing the best experience under the Caribbean sun," stated Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher. 

Port St. Maarten representatives, have had various discussions with cruise representatives over the past weeks with regard to the readiness of the island to receive cruise passengers and being able to provide the unique destination experience.

“Reassurance was given by Royal Caribbean about its vessels returning to the destination.  The Oasis Class ships are again visiting Sint Maarten in January, marking the return to full operations as the Island further enhances its offerings to cruise passengers.

“The Island has a unique opportunity to show the cruise lines how committed we are in assuring great and memorable experiences to passengers as we recover from hurricane Irma damages. The cruise line expects all of us to step up to the plate and offer the true Sint Maarten experience, which we will.

“Port St. Maarten will continue communicating with all key stakeholders throughout this process to share the feedback based on the continuous calls, emails and face to face meetings with cruise executives. As a destination, we have a great relationship with the cruise industry and will listen to their feedback to assure we maintain our status as a marquee port of call.

“The future within the cruise industry is promising, however we must push to re-invent and upgrade our product offerings which will translate into cruise passengers increasing demand to “Rediscover” Sint Maarten.  We commend the community and private sector for their efforts thus far, and we must continue the drive to keep pushing,” Port St. Maarten representatives stated over the weekend.

Royal Caribbean International sails 24 of the world’s most innovative cruise ships to the most popular destinations in Bermuda and the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and New England, Alaska, South America, Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. Royal Caribbean has been voted “Best Cruise Line Overall” for 14 consecutive years in the Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards.  Media can stay up-to-date by following @RoyalCaribPR on Twitter, and visiting RoyalCaribbeanPressCenter.com. For additional information or to make reservations, vacationers should call their travel agent; visit RoyalCaribbean.com; or call (800) ROYAL-CARIBBEAN.

Royal Caribbean International is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) is a global cruise vacation company that owns and operates three global brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.  We are a 50 percent joint venture owner of the German brand TUI Cruises, a 49 percent shareholder in the Spanish brand Pullmantur and a minority shareholder in the Chinese brand SkySea Cruises. Together, these brands operate a combined total of 48 ships with an additional twelve on order.  They operate diverse itineraries around the world that call on approximately 535 destinations on all seven continents.  Additional information can be found www.rclcorporate.com.

Celebrity Cruises' iconic "X" is the mark of modern luxury, with its cool, contemporary design and warm spaces; dining experiences where the design of the venues is as important as the cuisine; and the amazing service that only Celebrity can provide, all created to provide an unmatchable experience for vacationers’ precious time. Celebrity Cruises' 12 ships offer modern luxury vacations visiting all seven continents. Celebrity also presents incredible cruise tour experiences in Alaska and Canada. Celebrity is one of five cruise brands operated by global cruise vacation company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL). For more information, dial 1-800-437-3111, visit www.celebritycruises.com, or call your travel agent.

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Friday was Alcohol Reduction Day

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Friday, November 17 marked the 2nd Annual Caribbean Alcohol Reduction Day under the theme, “Drink Less, Reduce your Cancer Risk.”

This awareness day has been organized by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) with the support of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The harmful use of alcohol, along with tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, is recognized as one of four major common risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the HCC says.

HCC adds that, yet alcohol has received comparatively less attention than the other three risk factors. Alcohol contributes to cancer, liver and heart disease, mental illness, violence, accidents and injuries.

Alcohol consumption causes many cancers including: Mouth cancer, Pharyngeal cancer (upper throat), Oesophageal cancer (food pipe), Laryngeal cancer (voice box), Breast cancer, Bowel cancer, and Liver cancer.

Globally the harmful use of alcohol is linked to 3.3 million preventable deaths annually. Excessive drinking of alcohol is a major health risk, occurring particularly increasingly among Caribbean youth resulting in alcohol related violent deaths among the top five causes of death in the region and the commonest cause of death among young men.

Young women are especially vulnerable; alcohol consumption disproportionately increases the risk of breast cancer between menarche and first birth.

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), calls on the community to minimize and monitor the contributing factors to their risks that may lead to cancer and increase their awareness and alertness on the risks of excessive alcohol consumption and other risk factors that may lead to cancer and other NCDs according to available health information.  It is recommended to take steps in monitoring and managing one’s intake and consumption that leads to living a healthy life – apply healthy lifestyle behaviours to minimize one’s risks of NCDs particularly cancer.

The HCC is a regional network of Caribbean health Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations with the remit to combat chronic diseases (NCDs) and their associated risk factors and conditions.

HCC membership presently consists of more than 65 Caribbean-based health NGOs and over 55 not-for-profit organisations and, in excess of 200 individual members based in the Caribbean and across the globe.

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Governor receives formation progress report. Screening of candidate ministers started

HARBOUR VIEW – On Friday, November 17, 2017, His Excellency the Governor of Sint Maarten, drs. E.B. Holiday, met with and received an update from formateur Mr. Franklin Meyers as a follow-up to the formation assignment of November 7, 2017.

During the meeting the formateur updated the Governor on the progress of matters related to the formation of the interim government. The formation of the interim government is supported by a coalition consisting of the United Peoples Party, the Democratic Party and Member of Parliament C.E. Brownbill, which with eight (8) seats represents a majority in parliament.

The supporting parties have agreed on the division of the portfolios and selected persons for the screening as candidates for the posts of Prime Minister, Ministers, Minister Plenipotentiary and acting Minister Plenipotentiary.

As a result the formateur has submitted the information of selected individuals and the screening of candidates has started.

The screening covers a background review of (a) the personal and professional credentials, (b) the financial position, (c) the fiscal (i.e. tax and social security premiums) compliance, (d) the judicial background including possible suspicious transactions, (e) the security background and (f) if necessary, the health condition of the candidates.

The purpose of the screening is to assess the integrity, independence and solvency of the candidates as well as the stability of the new government.  

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Doncher appoints local professionals to first full board of Tourism Authority

POND ISLAND - Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Thursday appointed the first full board of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) foundation and immediately tasked the group to formulate a plan that would eventually result in the incorporation of an independent governing body (Zelfstandig Bestuursorgaan, ZBO).

Finalizing a process that started months ago and stressing country above politics, the Minister appointed seven local professionals to the board whom she described as “energetic, knowledgeable, forward and creative thinkers with vast knowledge over various sectors.”

Valya Lake-Pantophlet was appointed as Chairperson of the board by the Minister. Lake-Pantophlet is the Current Head of the Department of Economic Licenses and former Executive Director of the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA).

Anastacio Baker, current Executive Director of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce, was appointed Vice Chairperson and Treasurer, Law Consultant Eunicio Martina was appointed Legal Council on the board, local commercial airline executive Jeff Oliver was appointed Assistant Treasurer, local entrepreneur in the hospitality field and current Executive Secretary to the Minister Martina Browne was appointed  as Secretary to the board, Cherinah Franken of the Product Development section at the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau was appointed a board member and Cecil Nicholas expert in the field of transportation and logistics was also appointed as a board member. 

Together with the Head of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau Rolando Brison, the new board of the STA were given several tasks including setting up their operational structure, presenting an action plan to government for 2018 and ensuring that tourism partners and stakeholders are consulted and apprised of the role of the STA moving forward.

The purpose of the STA foundation currently will be to assist the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau in carrying out the tourism policy of the Government of St. Maarten as a tourist destination; to support the growth of St. Maarten’s land- and sea-based tourism by providing the public and private sectors with focused, sustainable and productive marketing; and the enhancement of the visitor experience. STA will also assist and guide in, and direct all matters related to tourism, whether upon initiative from the public sector or the private sector.

The Minister said eventually incorporating the ZBO is the priority. Immediately upon its incorporation, she explained, the ZBO will be solely responsible for and solely authorized to execute the aforementioned tasks. The Minister met with the board on Thursday to congratulate them on their appointments and stress the importance of the job in front of them.

“At this moment in St. Maarten with what has happened over the past few months and how our tourism product will have to rebound, the STA is extremely important moving forward,” She said. “When you look at Aruba and other destinations, they are ahead at all times because of their STA, the elimination of red tape and the freedom to be creative and dynamic in an ever-competitive market.”

“I have the utmost faith in all of you who come from various professional backgrounds. You are all professional people who love St. Maarten and I expect you will do your utmost to guide the STA into a position that will benefit St. Maarten and by extension its economy and its people,” she said, adding that the intention was the appoint the board around the same time Hurricane Irma struck the island.

She also urged the board members to always be above politics and put country first. “This should never be about politics and always about country first. That is what I believe in, that is how I approached my tenure. Work for your people. You are all professionals and I expect this to be your principled position at all times,” she said.

As for the Supervisory Council of the STA which consists of one member each from the airport, harbor, SHTA and timeshare association, the Minister explained that the terms of those members have expired, and their aforementioned entities will be notified that they have two months to nominate new persons or recommend the same member for re-appointment. 

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Brother shoots other brother in the face on Thursday morning

REWARD - Detectives are presently investigating a shooting involving two brothers. The shooting took place on Thursday morning at approximately 10.20 a.m. at their home in the Reward area. 

Immediately after receiving this information several police patrols, detectives, Forensic investigators and paramedics were sent to the scene to investigate what had taken place.

On the scene the investigating officers learnt from the victim, who was bleeding profusely from a wound in his face that he and his brother identified with the initial M. as last name, had gotten into an argument.

At one point the argument got out of hand at which time his brother shot him in his face. On the scene the victim was treated by paramedics and then transported in stable condition to the Sint Maarten Medical Center for further treatment.

The area was immediately closed off by other officers on the scene in order for the Forensic Investigators to collect evidence and the detectives to question potential witnesses.

The suspect in the shooting had already fled the scene on the arrival of the police however he was arrested later after he turned himself in. The suspect remains in custody for questioning and further investigation.

The investigation is ongoing and as more information becomes available the media will be informed. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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King and Queen to visit Sint Maarten on December 2

SINT MAARTEN - His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima will visit the islands of Saba, St Eustatius and St Maarten in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom from Thursday 30 November to Saturday 2 December.

The royal couple will be accompanied on this trip by the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops.

The first stop will be St Eustatius, on the afternoon of 30 November. On 1 December, the King and Queen will be on Saba to attend the festivities in connection with Saba Day and will also receive information about nature conservation projects.

Finally, the King and Queen will visit St Maarten on 2 December. There, the focus will be on the reconstruction of the island after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in early September.

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Supervisory Board and Management of Postal Services along with SMCU Union Address Serious Concerns

PHILIPSBURG – The St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU)

Supervisory Board of Directors and Managing-Director Postal Services St. Maarten N.V. (PSS), have jointly issued a press release on Wednesday with respect to the current situation that the country’s postal services is facing.

Supervisory Board of Directors (SBD)
“The SBD is truly saddened by the lack of social, political and financial responsibility being taken by Government. Over the years, we have been red flagging the financial realities at PSS to the competent authorities but to no tangible avail. The passage of Hurricane Irma has compounded the problem and further exposed the reality whereby PSS is in dire need of an immediate cash injection by its shareholder.  

“PSS is the only postal organization in the Dutch Caribbean that receives zero subsidy from Government. PSS started in October 2010 under our new constitutional status with zero start-up capital (equity) whilst inheriting a director without any employees. After a year, PSS obtained all former local NPNA employees with all their existing employment benefits and years of service. This transfer was ratified by the shareholder and yet even then no financial injection was received. 

“The SBD continues to have sleepless nights as it seems that PSS is surely not a priority for Government except when it comes to the land speculation. The SBD was and is very concerned with the livelihood of the 24 employees and their families which is tied into the continuity of PSS.

“The SBD nor the interim managing-director sat around and waited for a miracle to happen as employments contracts have been grandfathered and a turnaround plan has been in effect. PSS’s concession is to disseminate the mail of our country, however, even that lately is to be circumvented with remarks on how voting cards can be distributed in the next parliamentary election. 

“The SBD remains of the opinion that PSS must receive an immediate cash injection as well as fully acquire the rights to the land which would enable a start in making PSS a viable company. Parliament also has an integral role as we have signaled repeatedly to have laws drafted to strengthen the postal organization. 

“PSS plays a significant role in the further development of our country amidst its present reality. The task of maintaining PSS to present by Interim Director Ms. A. Wilson and her management team, has been truly commendable despite all the odds stacked against PSS from its inception.  

Interim Managing-Director – A. Wilson
“PSS is tasked with the core responsibility of providing postal services locally, regionally and internationally. PSS has been designated by the Kingdom as the entity that provides postal services for this part of the Kingdom and has an exclusive local concession dated November 26, 2010 to carry out this task. PSS is a wholly owned government company, however, PSS has been functioning at a deficit for many years and while we have been trying to stay afloat, we can no longer function without the proper assistance from the Government.

“Our Government was to finally rectify the situation which remained just that, an empty promise. Nothing concrete that is beneficial to PSS has been forthcoming. Two former ministers were a while back brought in by PSS to assess the situation and one was appointed by Government to be the change manager. Despite such, PSS continues to struggle daily with its day to day operations as no follow up is forthcoming while only grand plans being promoted elsewhere.

“Our building is currently damaged, and we are functioning out of a temporary location that is not suitable to house our 24 staff members nor accommodate the high volume of clients. The building is what we can afford with the assistance of the regulator, however, we must admit to the dangerous situation where our clients are forced to wait outside right by the road with passing cars with limited protection from the sun or rain.

“Regardless of all of these challenges we still strive to provide optimal service to our clients, there is only so much we can do without concrete and credible assistance from our shareholder. Unfortunately, valuable time and resources are being wasted on individual personnel matters while the entire company is suffering. Basically, government is focusing on matters unrelated to their role as shareholders.  

“The PSS has 24 employees that we are responsible for and we will keep fighting to ensure that we can continue to provide a job for them and live up to our local, regional and international obligations. With mounting losses into the millions, we cannot keep doing what we are doing and is has become clear that we were setup to fail.  

St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU)

“After discussing the deteriorating financial situation of PSS N.V. with several stakeholders, it has become evident that the PSS is now on the verge of a total financial collapse, while our government has done absolutely nothing to remedy the situation.

“The employees of PSS N.V. are still working and serving the public, while our government refuses to take any action to better the financial situation of PSS. Our government has absolutely no interest in the wellbeing of the employees of PSS. A meeting with the Prime Minister has also yielded nothing.

“It is impossible to start a public service entity company like PSS with a deficit and expect the company to be financially viable without the government injecting the necessary capital into the company.

“The SMCU is hereby appealing to Government to intercede right now. The lack of action has taken a heavy toll on PSS and it cannot continue to be sustained by solely running on bank overdrafts,” concludes the joint press release.  

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Cruise sector Stakeholders Invited to Cruise Experience Sessions on Friday and Saturday

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten Management is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that the first cruise passenger experience on December 4th when the first commercial cruise ship returns to the destination, will be one of discovery for the guests to return on another cruise to the destination in the future.

"We want the world to know that we are open for business and the first ambassadors to greet our guests will be our various cruise stakeholders. I want to commend Port St. Maarten management for initiating these sessions to ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of the experience we want to provide our first guests after hurricane Irma.

“Port St. Maarten and St. Maarten in general pride ourselves on top standard and memorable experiences for cruise visitors, so we must all put our best effort forward not just in December but for the rest of the season. I look forward to high participation in the sessions from cruise stakeholders," Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher said on Tuesday. 

Port St. Maarten is organizing two stakeholders’ cruise experience sessions for Friday and Saturday, November 17th and 18th.  The sessions will be hosted at the Port Cruise Terminal Building Conference room and will be each 45 minutes. The times on Friday are from 9am to 10am; 10-am-11am; 11am-12pm; 2pm-3pm; 3pm-4pm; 4pm-5pm, and Saturday from 9am-10am; 10am-11am; 11am-12pm.

Saturday session will be catering to companies that do not have a valid Port I.D. and will be given an opportunity to still participate. All attendees must have a valid photo I.D. at hand for entry into the port facility. Companies interested should register via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via  https://www.facebook.com/stmaartentourism/ and should indicate which timeslot they would like to attend.

Former cruise line executive Mico Cascais of Carnival Cruise Line, will be on hand to provide information and tips to prepare cruise tourism stakeholders on the alignment of the cruise guest expectations with the current story and the experience they need to deliver when the first guests arrive, as well as the significance of the first cruise ship call which will shape future calls to the destination.

Mico Cascais, is a 30 year veteran of the Cruise Industry both in Ship Board Management and Corporate Management. The past 19 Years Mico was responsible for the Shore Excursion Programs, Carnival Cruise Lines offered to all its guests worldwide having had many interactions with current stakeholders in St. Maarten over the years.

Additionally, Mico was also Chairman of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s (FCCA) Shore Excursion Committee for the past 18 years, traveling vastly through the Caribbean as part of this Committee.

Mico is currently the Principal of Mico Cascais, Inc. a company focused on reshaping the story and experiences cruise guests will enjoy when sailing in the Caribbean.

The two-day sessions will be for port employees who come in direct first contact with cruise passengers (security, information, other personnel), tour operators, taxi drivers, store owners (at the port and downtown), as well as other cruise passenger oriented businesses.

Viking Cruises has confirmed that the cruise ship Viking Sea will be the first commercial cruise ship to call at Port St. Maarten post-Irma on Monday, December 4th

Port St. Maarten Management is elated to be welcoming the first commercial cruise vessel return to the destination, and appeals to call stakeholders to finalize as much as possible clean-up and remodeling tasks prior to the vessels port call.

Viking Cruises, is considered the leader in river and small ship ocean cruising, offers destination-focused itineraries designed for experienced travelers who have an interest in geography, culture and history.

The cruise vessel Viking Sea that will be calling at Port St. Maarten on December 4 was built in 2016 and has a length of 745 feet and a beam of 94.5 feet; and carries 930 guests.

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Taxi holding space, green area in re-designed market development

POND ISLAND - Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Tuesday said St. Maarten will get marketplaces in Philipsburg residents can be proud of, long overdue suitable spaces for Philipsburg taxi's, an organized tour bus terminal and a green area in the heart of Philipsburg.

All three aspects are part of the Minister's vision to revamp and enhance the cruise visitor experience in Philipsburg while giving St. Maarten's capitol a much-needed face-lift which in turn enhances its tourism product.

She explained that instead of a jumbled marketplace, vending kiosks will be built at the location of the old fire station and near Walter Plantz square to accommodate the 57 current registered vendors.

The taxi holding area will come complete with a taxi dispatching station, thereby eliminating the often-chaotic situation of taxi's parked in front of the Court House at Captain Hodge Wharf.

Additionally, the area immediately behind the Court House will be turned into a "green area" that visitor and resident alike can enjoy. She said efforts are also underway to ensure that there is cultural and environmental significance embedded in the project.

"Instead of replacing what was there, we chose instead to revamp the area and address some long-standing issues that has plagued the area," the Minister said. "The taxi drivers have been calling for a permanent solution for a long time, so too have tour bus operators and we simply had to bring back more open and green spaces in the heart of Philipsburg. We believe it is a project that the people of St. Maarten will be proud of and one our cruise visitors will write home about," the Minister said.    

The Minister added that temporary vending spots will be placed in Philipsburg for the vendors by mid-December. She added that as soon as the Council of Ministers has completed reviewing the project, more details regarding its cost ect will be released. The project is part of the beautification plans for Philipsburg which were already budgeted for.

The Minister stressed that all images released so far of the re-development are artist impressions only, subject to change.

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Donation drive at the SMMC

CAY HILL - This Saturday the ‘Make SXM Great Again' foundation together with the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) have organized a donation drive catered to families in need.

After the passing of hurricane Irma the foundation, consisting of friends and former colleagues of the SMMC, organized several fundraisers to aid in gathering materials and supplies for those affected by the storm.

Recently, over 100 boxes were sent from Holland with all donated items.

The event will take place this Saturday November 18th at the SMMC between 1pm and 4pm. Families will receive various items for babies and children up to ten years of age. Items included are baby formula, diapers, hygiene products, clothing and shoes.

Representatives of the foundation ‘Make SXM Great Again' and staff of the SMMC will be present on Saturday to assist with this wonderful event. All persons are advised that the donations are for families with young children and babies.

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