31 Dec 2016
by Admin
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Amazon’s Flying Warehouse Idea Isn’t Even Its Biggest Challenge


Amazon’s proposal for a roaming airborne warehouse might sound impossibly futuristic, but it’s not the reason its Prime Air project is still grounded in the U.S.


News of the company’s patent for an “airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery” circulated widely after it was unearthed Thursday by Zoe Leavitt, a tech analyst at the firm CB Insights. Excitement about the proposal ignores the boring reality: The biggest problem for the e-commerce giant to solve before it can start commercial drone delivery in the U.S. is government regulations, not technology.


The patent, which Amazon applied for in 2014 and was awarded in April, describes an airship that would hover over metropolitan areas above commercial airspace at 45,000 feet. It would house a fleet of drones as well as a select inventory of products routinely restocked by smaller shuttle ships. If a customer ordered something stored on a nearby airship, a drone would be instructed to “engage the item,” navigate to the delivery location and arrive “within minutes.”


The shuttles could also deliver workers to their jobs in the air ― if a human touch is even needed. The patent notes the possibility that the process could be fully automated or controlled remotely.



One of the benefits of an airborne warehouse is the ability to move around depending on weather or demand, according to the patent.


Amazon uses the example of a football game: An airship could be filled in advance with popular items, then hover above the field, conveniently displaying advertisements for the items it has in stock. Fans could potentially buy food or a jersey from their phones while watching the game, and a drone would deliver their order a few minutes later.


Logan Campbell, chief executive of drone consulting firm Aerotas, said that, while the idea is exciting, there are so many existing regulatory roadblocks that it’s pointless to speculate about the specific challenges of building an effective airship-based delivery system.


“It’s way, way, way too far out to actually say that we’ll be seeing a massive airship as the mothership to 100 drones in the near future,” Campbell said. “Right now it’s a crazy idea, and it’s a research project. It might turn into something, but it might not.”


“All good ideas start as crazy ideas, and then you kind of work them out,” he added.


Leavitt noted in a “Good Morning America” interview that companies often file lots of patents applications, and they don’t necessarily mean the company is putting resources into a particular project. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment Friday, and it’s unclear if it is seriously working on airships or if the idea is logistically, financially and technically sound.


While the airship idea brings to mind zeppelins zipping over science-fiction cityscapes, Amazon’s push for faster delivery with the help of drones is far from fantasy.


Earlier this month, it made its first Prime Air drone delivery from a British warehouse (firmly planted on Earth) to a customer two miles away. He received the test order, an Amazon Fire and popcorn, 13 minutes after making the purchase. 



However, in the U.S., Amazon has sparred with regulators and still faces challenges before it can use delivery drones at all. NASA has begun testing to develop a separate air traffic control system for drones, working in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, but isn’t expected to finish trials or make recommendations until 2019.


In the meantime, the FAA introduced its Part 107 rules to broadly regulate commercial drone use this summer, despite Amazon’s objections.


The rules currently make Amazon’s plans impossible, whether or not an airship is involved, and prohibit such drone operations as flying above 400 feet, in darkness, from a moving aircraft, over people’s heads and outside an operator’s sightline.


Campbell said Amazon has made impressive technological progress but hasn’t had similar success on the policy side.


“If we’re talking about consumers actually getting deliveries, then this has been overhyped,” Campbell said. “It’s not entirely Amazon’s fault; it’s regulations that are challenging. Amazon has tried to take on the FAA, and so far they have not made much progress.”


The FAA will grant narrow waivers from some of the Part 107 rules, and in August a startup that makes drones for the agriculture industry received an exemption to fly outside of an operator’s field of vision. Some experts believe the FAA rules are less a stumbling block for Amazon than a first step toward creating a better legal system for drones, according to Newsweek.

Delivering packages by drone at all seemed at first like “a loopy idea, far-fetched and the subject of instant mockery on Twitter,” as New York Times technology writer David Streitfeld wrote when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first mentioned it in 2013.


Now it’s considered all but a certainty, even if the timeline is hazy. Other companies are exploring or testing drone package delivery, including Google, Walmart and the United Parcel Service.  


Amazon holds a separate patent for a system of light poles that would serve as miniature drone docking stations. There’s no indication it’s any more viable than airships, but it seems to show a company rigorously exploring drone delivery from every angle.    


Considering how the company’s other out-there ideas have worked out ― like entirely upending the publishing industry ― it’s safe to say it’s too early to write off flying warehouses.

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Amazon’s Flying Warehouse
30 Dec 2016
by Admin
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Astronauts Take Mannequin Challenge To New Heights In International Space Station


It’s hard to look frozen when you’re floating, weightless in space. But the crew aboard the International Space Station somehow managed to do it — and in spectacular style.


European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted a video Thursday of himself and four colleagues doing the mannequin challenge, one-upping everyone on the planet who’d ever attempted the viral craze in the process.


Some clearly are hooking a foot or hand over some solid support to help them remain motionless as the cameraman floats by in the French astronaut’s video, above. Bizarrely, a crewmember holding a camera is also part of the outer-space “tableau.”


“We got the whole crew together and took the #MannequinChallenge to new heights,” crowed Pesquet on Twitter in English and French. “The result is kind of sci-fi spooky don’t you think?” he wrote on Facebook.


Pesquet said the crew had their “bit of fun in microgravity” on their day off Sunday. They certainly deserve a bit of fun. They’re on a six-month mission in the station.


A viewer embellished a second video with the mannequin challenge theme song, Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles.”  “You don’t have Premiere Pro in space?” the Twitter user quipped in French.



The sky-high stunt left everyone in the Twitterverse agog.




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Astronauts Take Mannequin Challenge
29 Dec 2016
by Admin
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Amazon Refuses To Comply With Police Request In Arkansas Murder Case


Amazon is opposing a judge’s order to turn over audio data from a murder suspect’s artificially intelligent speaker ― the Amazon Echo ― to authorities in Arkansas.


According to The Information, Bentonville police served two search warrants ordering Amazon to turn over “electronic data in the form of audio recordings, transcribed records, text records and other data contained on an Amazon Echo device” belonging to James Bates.


Bates is accused of killing 47-year-old Victor Collins, who was found dead in Bates’ hot tub in November 2015. During a search of the residence, authorities seized Bates’ Amazon Echo, which they suspect could have recorded “evidence related to the case,” court documents state.


The problem with the court order, Bates’ attorney, Kimberly Weber, told The Huffington Post, is that it’s “vague and full of supposition.”


The e-commerce giant agrees and has refused to turn any audio recordings over to police.


“Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course,” Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall told HuffPost.



Even if police are eventually able to get access to the data, it’s not clear what, if anything, they would actually learn.


According to Pearsall, Echo is a free-standing speaker that’s connected to the internet. It’s always on, and always listening for the “wake word” that activates the device. Once the wake word is spoken, the virtual assistant can respond to voice commands and provide information on news, weather, music and more.


“Utterances are not stored on the device,” Pearsall said. “They are securely stored in the cloud, and you can see and always delete each individual utterance associated with your account or delete all voice recording history with a big ‘delete all’ button.”


Authorities have not explained exactly what they’re looking for in the data from Bates’ Echo, but it appears they’re pinning their hopes on the possibility that it picked up a voice command the night of Collins’ death and went into “listen mode.” If this did indeed happen, it’s possible the Echo might have recorded something of evidentiary value.


Weber believes that this is unlikely. She says authorities are grasping at straws to make a case against Bates.


“My client is innocent,” she said. “There’s nothing on that device that’s going to harm his case.”

The legal case was opened on Nov. 22, 2015, when Bates called police and said he’d found Collins dead in a hot tub at Bates’ Bentonville home.


Questioned by police, Bates said he had invited Collins and two other friends over to his home the night before to watch a football game. The four men were drinking alcohol, and around 1 a.m., Bates went to bed, while Collins and another guest sat in his hot tub. Bates told police he awoke several hours later and discovered Collins floating facedown in the hot tub, according to an affidavit.


A months-long investigation ensued, and the Arkansas State Crime Lab ruled Collins’ death a homicide by strangulation, with a contributing cause of drowning, Fayetteville’s KFSM News reported.


Bentonville police arrested Bates in February on suspicion of first-degree murder. Bates, who has denied the charges, is scheduled to appear in court in March for a discovery hearing.


“This was an accident,” Weber told HuffPost. “The deceased was a friend of my client, and the injuries he sustained are consistent with someone trying to get out of a hot tub and not doing too well. It was clearly a horrible, horrible tragedy.”



Contacted by HuffPost on Wednesday, Bentonville police Chief Jon Simpson said he would not “address questions prior to the trial.” Simpson directed inquiries to Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith.


According to Smith, it is “incumbent on law enforcement officers” to examine data collected by Bates’ Amazon device.


“Obtaining a search warrant from a judge based on probable cause is the constitutionally authorized means for law enforcement to conduct searches of homes, property or computer devices like the Amazon Echo,” Smith said in an email to HuffPost. “Since law enforcement officers followed the constitutionally mandated procedures to obtain a lawful search warrant in this case, I am hopeful that Amazon will agree to fully comply with it.”


The standoff between Amazon and Bentonville police is only the latest wrinkle in an ongoing push-and-pull between law enforcement and the tech industry over the use of personal devices in criminal cases.


A similar case made headlines in the past year when Apple refused to comply with a court order demanding that it help authorities to access an iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in the December 2015 San Bernardino attack. In that case, the phone was eventually unlocked with the help of an unidentified third party.


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Amazon Refuses To Comply With Police
27 Dec 2016
by Admin
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Hey, Product Manager: Your Customers Are Furious!

Do you remember the first time a customer yelled at you? I know I do. I was a senior product manager and the company was working on a new network optimization device — one we promised would save costs and reduce congestion. Two big problems popped up. The first was that we delivered the product months late. The second (and worst) was that it crashed the customer’s test network.

Fortunately, it was just a sandbox environment, and the technology issues were eventually resolved. But in that moment, the customer was ticked off. Big-time angry. It was not an easy conversation. However, I learned an important lesson — an angry customer is a valuable one.

If a customer is hurling complaints your way, this is good news for a product manager. It means they care. They feel invested in your product and want to see it improve.

Another reason to embrace the criticism? It tends to be rare. In fact, one researcher found that only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers actually speak up. The majority are stewing in silent frustration.

Quiet customers are the ones product managers should be worried about. If there are no critical emails, no frustrated phone calls, no riled-up comments… you have to wonder if they have grown apathetic.

Customer apathy is a troubling sign. Because even if your customers do have issues, they do not feel it is worth the effort to speak up. And you cannot fix problems that you do not know about.

So if a customer is angry at you — awesome!

Respond immediately
Do not make your customers wait — this will only add to their frustration. Instead, respond while the problem is still fresh in their minds. Interactions with urgency move people and organizations forward. So when customers ask for help, get back to them as quickly as you can.

Get details
Great product managers ask questions. Lots of them. And if it is software related, get screenshots if you can. You cannot really help the customer until you understand the issue at hand. Once you gather the right details, you can pass them on to other teams that might need to jump in on a fix.

Stay open-minded
It can be hard to admit, but you do not know everything about your product. That is why customers are so valuable — they offer a unique perspective. So lay down your defenses. Be open to their criticism on what is missing and what needs to be improved.

Be flexible
Sometimes a customer issue can throw your whole day off. And that is okay. Do not be so tied to your to-do list that you cannot move on an urgent request. If a customer is speaking out about something important, it is worth prioritizing.

Say “thank you”
Your customers deserve a sincere “thank you” for speaking up. After all, they are the reason you are in business. Be appreciative of their feedback and the opportunity it presents — the chance to improve your product.

An angry customer does not equal a lost one. They are speaking loudly because they want to be heard. Address issues with speed, thought, and kindness — and these customers will stick around. There is usually constructive feedback within those critical comments. And if you are willing to listen, it will push you to create a better product and company.

How do you respond to tough customer feedback?

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26 Dec 2016
by Admin
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Ebikes: I Sing the Ride Electric

Let me make a prediction: You will buy an E-Bike, and like me, you will love having one.

2016-12-26-1482782513-3355061-WallerangM02Xpreview.png Wallerang Ebike

Over the last six months, I’ve been testing a wide variety of E-bikes and have come to believe strongly that E-bikes are in the future for many of us, specifically those over 50, but in time, for everyone. I’ve tested bikes from brands you know such as Trek, Specialized and Raleigh, and ones you haven’t such as Swedish Ebike company Wallerang (which turned out to be my favorite but more on that later).

An E-bike is two wheeled bicycle-like personal transport device that has a motor that is powered in part by a rechargeable battery. In some cases pedaling the bike engages the battery (pedal assist bikes) or even recharges it (although that is not always the case). Others have a throttle. Either way, a motor is engaged that helps power the bike faster, or makes hills or upwards grades easier. In cases where you might have dismounted and walked the bike up a hill, you can now cruise; where others passed you, you can now pass them.

Your friends may think of an Ebike as cheating or tell you that if you are not pedaling all the time, what’s the point. They do not get it: An Ebike allows you to bike more often, in more places — and for those who rately bike at all, it creates a compelling, easy reason to do so.

With an Ebike suddenly you can take rides and bike trips that seemed daunting or work commutes that you feared would make you sweaty, are manageable. It also gives a psychological boost – it increases when you might ride and how often and opens up a world of biking to those who thought it too much work. As I said, perfect for aging boomers who want the illusion of youth without the work.

My romance with Ebikes started about six months ago when I came into possession of a first generation Ebike by A2B. It has a throttle and goes up to 20mph. The battery is built into the stem and charges in a few hours. However, the bike is very heavy and clunky, closer to a moped than a bicycle. Still I have used it with great pleasure around Santa Monica and it is fun to run errands with. It also provided a great introduction to Ebikes and gave me a sense that what I was looking for did not need to be faster, but it needed to be lighter and look more like a bicycle. Also I was looking for it to maintain the same strength going up hills as did my A2B which, despite its weight, is quite powerful.

In California, where I live, Ebikes have become so popular that the legislature recently passed regulations defining motorized bicycles by class, according to speed and other features. Class 3 Ebikes go over 20 mph and are not permitted on ocean bicycle paths; class 2 ebikes (20 mph and under) are treated like regular bikes.

This is just one indication that the Ebike market has exploded. For further proof, a few weekends ago I attended the Santa Monica E-Bike Expo held at the Santa Monica Pier beach parking lot where I was able to inspect and try more than a dozen different brands of E-bike.
2016-12-26-1482783136-5254753-SpecializedTurboX.jpgSpecialized Ebike

Traditional bike brands such as Raleigh, Trek and Specialized (Specialized calls theirs “Turbo Bikes) have all introduced their own branded Ebikes. In addition there are many other specialized, American and European brands dedicated to Ebikes including Stromer, Tempo, Bulls, Gazelle, Kalkhoff, Riese and Mueller, Wallerang and Yuba. Each has its own distinctive positive attributes – as well as drawbacks. Which model is best for you, is a matter of how (and where) you will most use the bike (on trails, on city streets, etc..) as well as price, features (do you need it to haul cargo or kids) and some are distinguished by style.

There are those who will argue the virtues of whether the ebike is rear wheel powered hub or front and whether the chain is encased or not; how many gears and how you shift them, and the location of the battery. Is it a mountain bike, a road bike, for commuting or off road. For some it is purely an esthetic question of what looks the best. However, to me, what matters most is how you feel riding the bike.

As a caveat, I will note that there are many crowdfunded ebikes on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, most of which are priced at substantial less than the models I tested. Some of them require you to assemble them, and servicing them is more of a promise than a guarantee. As a result, my own survey is limited to the brands below all of which have US distribution and are serviced by the stores that sell them and/or their U.S. distributor or manufacturer.

Let me start with my favorite, Wallerang.

is a Swedish bike company from Gothenburg, Sweden. They like to call themselves a marriage of Scandinavian design and Japanese technology. They’ve set up U.S. headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA. The bikes are all purpose commuter bikes with a aluminum frame, a Shimano mid-step electronic gear shift (with an automatic setting). The frame is non-suspension but they do have models with front shocks. They are also built with a modular system allowing for a variety of cargo carrying choices front and back. But all of that is just justification for the fact that from the moment I rode their M.02X Smartbike, it just felt right. What is great is that you just get on and ride and the gear shifting and power assist are all automated. This was the Ebike for me.
Wallerang Smart bike (posed with model Therese)

The M.02X has a suspension fork is available as a step-through. This means you sit comfortably on the bike and on whatever terrain you ride. The power when climbing is strong. I liked the silent drive unit and the shifting with three easy to click buttons (and the fully automatic option) make riding simple. There is cycle computer that comes standard with gear, range and battery indication. From the moment I sat on the Wallerang I felt not just comfortable but like I wanted to go somewhere on this bike. The price, (around $3600) is steep. But if that is within your budget, I can say that there was no Ebike I liked more, no bike that I would be eager to use as often as possible on as many roads as possible.

My second favorite was Kalkhoff, which boasts its German engineering and its pedigree of having made bicycles for almost 100 years, making all their own components in Germany. They are premium commuter Ebikes with a dozen different styles including features such as electrical gear shifting and combination back pedal and disc brake, bike lock and battery lock. They have pioneered smart displays and Bluetooth enabled navigation. They are well made and have entry level bikes that retail in the US for under $1600 (although of course one covets the higher price models). If I was looking for an entry level Ebike in price, Kalkhoff provides good value.

As for the other Ebikes I tested: Raleigh makes a line of Ebikes that are moderately priced (for Ebikes) which is to say in the $1600-$2600 range. They handle well and produce a strong push when pedaled. However I found the bike somewhat stiff in its handling and not as comfortable as I would have liked. Specialized’s Turbo Ebikes are more in the $4500 price and above price range, but they make powerful mountain bikes to take you up hills (a claimed 530 watts of power!) and are attractive and well-made (personally they are more expensive than I’d spend but if money is not an issue I would recommend trying them).

Trek makes commuter bikes that begin around $3000, have a mid-drive motor, and have long range battery and come with Trek’s warranty. The Trek was stiffer ride, did the job well but it was more about efficiency than pleasure. I would say Trek is a safe reliable choice, but I wasn’t crazy about how the bike felt (again this is highly personal but I felt on the Trek as if my butt would wear out before the ebike did).
2016-12-26-1482783476-959895-YUBAIMG_55974edit.jpg Yuba SPicy Curry Ebike

Some of the brands you might not have heard of include Yuba which make cargo Ebikes and ones that can accommodate young kids as second (or even third) passengers. Priced in the $3-4000 range they weigh between 55-70 pounds, but are around six feet in length and really can haul your groceries or kids around town.

Gazelle Ebikes also in the $3-4,000 range, are a Dutch brand that has a retro look (leather seats and handles). Their ebikes are practical and have a spare simple design. The ride is comfortable and the bikes are not too heavy. More stylish are Farragut Ebikes which look like classic bicycles. The ride is somewhat stiff and I didn’t find them as comfortable or powerful as other brands but they are attractive.

Stromer is a Swiss ebike that is perhaps the most solid of those I tested. The Stromers are serious ebikes, they feel a little bit heavier (and they are more expensive) but it is fair to say they are the Cadillac of the crowd and the one many Ebike stores recommended to me for all around use.
Bulls Ebike

The Germans made a strong showing at the Ebike Expo. Bulls has been in the Ebike market since 2010, mostly in Europe, and has a wide variety of Ebikes from fat-tire off road models to commuter bikes – they are priced at middle and higher range ($3500 and above). The one I rode was an all-purpose model and it handled well. They have a wide range of drive systems and models but I didn’t feel they were as intuitive to use as I might have liked.

BMW (yes that BMW) makes an Ebike ($3,430) featuring Bosch motors with a 400 watt battery and shimano disc brakes and a top speed of 25 mph (making it a class 3 bike). The design is clean and there is a ten-gear system (a bit too much for me). There is an onboard computer that makes gear recommendations.

Another German company is Riese and Muller who make more than a dozen models (including folding bikes, some with multiple batteries allowing for an extended range, (also with Bosch motors) as well as cargo ebikes that carry their cargo in front. Their bikes have a distinctive look and appear well engineered (some look somewhat Rube Goldberg-esque). However, I am not sure about the extent of the US dealership service and support.

At whatever price point you choose, and for whatever best suits your needs there’s an Ebike for you. And biking with assist is better than not biking at all! As for me, I know I’m going to upgrade from A2B sooner rather later.

So in closing let me say: Happy Trails and I hope to be passing you soon!

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25 Dec 2016
by Admin
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These Online Resources Will Help You Save Money in 2017

Is saving more money on your list of new year resolutions for 2017? If so, you may want to try looking online for more ways to save. The world of the internet has been infinitely useful for all sorts of life’s problems and saving money is one of them. If you want to see your bank account grow without even moving from in front of your computer, check out these online resources.


Instead of sifting through the mail for coupons to clip, you can do it virtually with no hassle. Sites like this one allow you to search for coupons online before you start to make purchases. Browse their category section to see if there are available coupons for the objects you need or look through specific stores to see if you can save money where you already plan on shopping. They offer everything from clothes to furniture and their special promotions like the Cymax coupon allow for up to 70% off and often times free shipping too.


This new app is kind of genius and makes not only saving easier, but also investing too. The free app works by automatically rounding up your purchases and investing the change. While you will be responsible for any fees that are tied to specific investments, it is still virtually a win-win situation. It’s money that you will hardly miss and an ease of entry into the often confusing world of investing.


This app has been around for a while but more people are increasingly jumping on board. It works by keeping track of all your accounts and finances and creates budgets according to your lifestyle. You can use it to find out what your net worth is by keeping track of all income, debt and expenditures. It’s kind of like having a financial planner in your pocket and will help you hold yourself accountable for your finances.


This cash-back program helps save you money on everyday purchases with a 1-25% rebate on certain products. There are hundreds of different stores and programs that participate, many of which you probably already are spending money at. Before purchasing anything, make sure to browse the website and look at the top deals, promotions and places that participate. It could help you save money without very much effort.


This app is similar as it offers different variations of cash back options. Just do your shopping where you normally would and then browse Ibotta to see if they offer any rebates for the store you used and the products you bought. You can simply scan the bar codes and a photo of the receipt in order to get your cash back.


Spend too much money in restaurants? This app is here to help you manage your spending when it comes to food. It promotes the money saving habit of cooking for yourself by allowing you to download recipes, make meal plans and generate grocery lists. It will help keep you in check when your hunger tempts you to spend unnecessary money by eating out.


It’s kind of like a little robot who saves your money for you. With this app, you won’t even have to think about saving as the tool automatically stows away money when it thinks you won’t notice it. It’s probable that you won’t miss the money from your checking account and even more probable that you will be quite happy once you see how much of your money is being put away for a rainy day.

What online tools do you use to save money?

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24 Dec 2016
by Admin
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People Are Tweeting All The Bizarre Ways Their Pets Celebrate The Holidays

How do animals celebrate the holidays? Mostly by messing with your stuff and waiting for food to hit the floor, according to people sharing their experiences on Twitter.


The  hashtag is full of cute animals hoping for that turkey to fall off the plate or making wrapping presents even more difficult than it already is. There are even a few cats who seem mostly OK with the hats they’ve been forced to wear.


Here are a few of the favorite posts that we’ve seen so far:













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© 2017