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Burgess gives Roosters a taste excitement

The next English star to hit NRL shores will arrive with a reputation for the brilliant and the baffling.

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Wigan’s Joe Burgess will link up with heavyweights Sydney Roosters at the end of the current Super League season, becoming the latest in a recent rush of overseas stars clamouring to join the world’s premier rugby league competition.

The English imports to enjoy success in the NRL recently have predominantly been of the bruising variety – think Canterbury enforcer James Graham, Wests Tigers hardman Gareth Ellis and South Sydney’s Burgess boys, who are no relation.

The 20-year-old Wigan winger is a tantalising mix of size and speed, and he scored a scintillating try to send Saturday night’s World Club Series clash with Brisbane into extra time.

In a brilliant 80-metre sequence, Burgess gave champion centre Justin Hodges a right-arm fend and sped away before exchanging passes with teammate George Williams to romp past Broncos fullback Jordan Kahu and score.

He was also guilty of making crucial errors, including two turnovers on his own tryline which left coach Shaun Wane far from impressed.

“He just needs to be better at that stuff (turnovers). That’s just not acceptable to me,” Wane said.

“He’s a good player but he needs to be smarter.

“When he lost the ball in contact today he was showing to me he wanted to fight and play the ball quickly and there were hands in and he just needed to calm down a bit.

“He was trying a bit too hard sometimes.”

Wane, meanwhile, insists the move to the Roosters is not weighing on Burgess’s mind as he navigates the current Super League season.

“He’s not an immature kid.

“He’s quite grown up,” Wane said. “I don’t think that’s the case (that he’s getting ahead of himself).

“I don’t think his mind is on Roosters, I definitely don’t think that.

“If he was doing that he’d be going to Workington, playing for the reserves.”

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Not all berries being checked

Not all imported frozen berries are being checked by Australian authorities despite concerns of a broader hepatitis A outbreak.

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Only berries linked to the processor at the centre of the controversy, Patties Foods, are subject to inspection and testing.

A second processor in NSW has been ordered to hold back its imports from distribution.

The revelation about checks came on Monday after the head of the agriculture department appeared to contradict Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s promises of more rigorous testing of imported frozen berries.

Mr Abbott last week said there would now be 100 per cent screening of “these sorts of imports” in response to concerns.

That did not align with what department secretary Paul Grimes told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.

“We have not made changes on surveillance rates for berries broadly at this stage,” he said.

Mr Abbott clarified later there would be greater surveillance only of the “relevant” frozen berries – those linked to Patties.

“There is no inconsistency with what has been said,” he told parliament.

Eighteen people have so far been diagnosed with hepatitis A linked to imported frozen berries, a week after a nationwide recall was issued for a range of products.

The department first heard about contamination concerns on February 13, after which it alerted the industry, importers and the Chinese government on various protocols.

China has launched an investigation into Australia’s contamination concerns, but it may be delayed because of New Year celebrations, department officials told the hearing.

The department is also preventing suspect mixed berries and raspberries from two factories from being sold in supermarkets, under holding orders that expire on June 1.

One importer in NSW who sourced suspect raspberries from the same Chinese factory as Patties was alerted last Thursday and ordered to hold them.

There are no plans to increase staffing to deal with imported frozen berries.

The division responsible for inspecting food risks shed 280 full-time jobs last year following a department restructure.

“The sorts of actions the department will be taking now are not on staffing, they are actually about what powers are available to it under (law),” deputy secretary Rona Mellor said.

Only a small number – five per cent – of all non-suspect imported berries are being tested.

“Isn’t this ringing alarm bells?” Greens senator Rachel Siewert asked.

Officials said there was no evidence of other contaminated berries coming into the country, and the two factories under scrutiny had temporarily halted production.

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Terror rising, PM outlines tougher laws

Dual citizens involved in terrorism and “hate preachers” such as Hizb ut-Tahrir are in the sights of federal government plans to toughen up national security.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned the threat from terrorism at home and abroad, amid the rise of groups such as Islamic State, is now much greater and becoming harder to combat.

In his first national security statement, delivered at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Canberra, Mr Abbott said the nation must also confront a growing threat from home-grown extremism.

“By any measure the threat to Australia has worsened,” he said on Monday.

The number of Australians fighting with terror groups such as IS, as well as known sympathisers and supporters of extremism, had dramatically increased, as had the potential threat from home-grown terrorism.

The number of high priority investigations had risen to 400 – double what it was 12 months ago.

“Even if the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq stopped today, there is now an Australian cohort of hardened jihadists who are intent on radicalising and influencing others,” Mr Abbott said.

Under proposed changes, the Citizenship Act will be amended to strengthen the power of authorities to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals.

But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government couldn’t forcibly repatriate anyone if their birth country wouldn’t take them back.

“In that case we’re not able to send them back and they would have to remain in Australia,” he told ABC TV.

“We need to look at the ways in which we can reduce the threat level of that person to our society.”

While there are already limited powers that allow citizenship to be revoked, there have been just 16 cases since 1949.

Australian nationals would also risk losing privileges – including restricting travel, denying access to consular services and access to welfare – if they were found to be involved in terrorism.

Immigration department boss Michael Pezzullo said the government was looking to expand the grounds upon which revocation of citizenship could occur.

The department will also conduct a review that will include recommendations on strengthening the legal and policy framework around visas and citizenship.

Mr Abbott again singled out the Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying terrorism advocacy laws would be strengthened to target “hate preachers”.

“Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity,” he said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar said his organisation had operated in Australia for over two decades without contravening a single law.

“Tony Abbott says he will take action against `hate preachers’, naming my organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir. But we have already been scrutinised for 15 years,” he wrote in a comment piece published on Monday by The Guardian.

“Every investigation has produced nothing untoward, nothing prosecutable.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the proposed measures deserved careful consideration, but liberties of citizens should only be reduced when existing arrangements proved inadequate.

But Australian National University terrorism expert Clarke Jones says the proposals are unlikely to make Australia more secure.

“New measures may even go the other way and exasperate the underlying causes of violent extremism,” he said.

Mr Abbott also said the national terror alert system would be upgraded and a national counter-terrorism co-ordinator would be appointed.

New programs would also be introduced to counter terrorist “propaganda” and the ability of IS to churn out up to 100,000 social media messages a day.

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West Indies say sleeping giant Gayle ready to fire

Gayle managed a scratchy 36 from 65 balls in the opening loss to Ireland and scored four in Saturday’s big win over Pakistan.

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Though the win over Pakistan was a relieving return to form for the under-pressure islanders, Gayle’s second World Cup failure overshadowed it, with board president Dave Cameron re-tweeting a post from a Twitter user suggesting the 35-year-old should quit.

“Gayle goes… Can’t buy a run. Let’s give him a retirement package … Can’t fail repeatedly and still front up based on reputation,” read the post, re-tweeted by Cameron during play.

Cameron later tweeted an apology but it did little to dismiss the impression that tensions still exist between players and administrators months after a contracts dispute scuppered a lucrative tour of India.

Given the hard-hitting Gayle has not scored a one-day century in 19 innings, his last coming in mid-2013, the tweet may have had some currency among West Indies fans.

On the eve of West Indies’ third World Cup match against Zimbabwe in Canberra, Holder said he was “fully confident” the opener was primed to turn things around.

“Chris is awake. I can assure you he’s awake. He was awake from the beginning of the tournament,” Holder told reporters at Manuka Oval.

“Every time I see Chris Gayle, I expect to see one Chris Gayle, and that’s a positive Chris Gayle.

“Although he hasn’t been getting runs, we still have a lot of confidence in him. I just hope that he can come tomorrow and just get us in and just take it as deep as possible for us.”

West Indies’ top order has failed in both their World Cup matches, but the team has still posted 300-run scores due to rescue efforts by the middle order.

West Indies have won their last seven matches against Zimbabwe and should be too strong for the Africans at Manuka Oval if their batsmen and bowlers gel.

“I think we still have room for improvement,” fast bowler Holder said.

“If we can get a few more contributions going deeper into the innings in terms of the top order, I think we can get close to 350 plus, and I think that is not beyond us because of our firepower in the middle and the end.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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La Liga will be decided on final day, predicts Ancelotti

Real took full advantage of Barca’s 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga on Saturday and their 2-0 success at Elche lifted them to 60 points with 14 games left, with Barca on 56, three ahead of third-placed champions Atletico Madrid.

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La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo struck again for Real after Wednesday’s effort at Schalke 04 in the Champions League, suggesting the Portugal captain’s brief goal drought is over, and Ancelotti’s side have gone three straight games without conceding a goal.

Ronaldo has 29 goals in Spain’s top flight, three ahead of great rival Lionel Messi of Barca, who drew a blank on Saturday after hitting top form since the turn of the year.

“This means that the team is defending well and neither today nor on Wednesday did we allow the opponent many chances,” Ancelotti told a news conference.

“It was a key game because of what happened (on Saturday) and so we could put some distance between ourselves and Barca,” added the Italian.

“With this attitude we will win a lot of games. We have an advantage but this league will be decided on the final day.”

Ancelotti, who is looking to improve on Real’s third-placed finish in La Liga last term, said he had been surprised by Barca’s stumble against seventh-placed Malaga, which ended the Catalan giants’ 11-match winning streak in all competitions.

Real’s Spain playmaker Isco, who has been on fine form in recent weeks, sounded a note of caution.

Real have two tough La Liga games at home to Villarreal and away at Athletic Bilbao before they take a 2-0 lead over Schalke into the Champions League last 16, second leg at the Bernabeu on March 10. The La Liga ‘Clasico’ at Barca is on March 22.

“There are a lot of matches left,” Isco told reporters. “Malaga did us a favour and we couldn’t let this chance slip.”

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Logano goes from rejection to redemption

While it was Logano’s maiden visit to Victory Lane in NASCAR’s showcase event, it was also just the second for team owner Penske, an American motor racing giant known to race fans as “The Captain” who has record 15 Indianapolis 500 winners.

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But success has been harder to come by in Florida, Penske and Logano coming together to form a Daytona dream team.

“It feels just like the way you dream it,” Logano said in Victory Lane.

Growing up in Connecticut, Logano dreamt of following in the tire track of four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, a three-time winner of the ‘Great American Race’ who ran his final 500 on Sunday.

Later he would come under the watchful eye of NASCAR driver, Mark Martin, who told tell anyone who would listen that the young Logano was a future champion.

Nicknamed “Sliced Bread”, an American term often used to described the next best thing, Logano was tipped for stockcar stardom.

He was hired by three-time Super Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs in 2009 to replace three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart who was forming his own team.

Expectations were unrealistically high for then 19-year old and even a victory in his rookie season was not enough to lighten the load.

After four seasons that produced only one more win in NASCAR’s top series he was set loose by Gibbs in favour of veteran Matt Kenseth.

“I think it’s no secret that I probably got thrown into this series too young – inexperienced, didn’t know what I had to do,” offered a reflective Logano. “The emotions you go through when you start to think about if you will have a job next year – it is hard.

“Especially for me because I poured all my eggs into one basket. I was banking on this…it is scary and you don’t know what will happen.”

The door opened at Team Penske for Logano when Kurt Busch, who was suspended for domestic violence on the eve of Sunday’s race, was fired.

Logano rewarded the team with one win in 2013 and five more last year earning a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs known as ‘The Chase’.

“Who would have ever guessed three years down the road (after being fired by Gibbs) that we would be Daytona 500 champions,” smiled Logano. “That is just crazy. Life is a roller coaster and you have to roll with the punches.”

(Editing by Steve Keating in Toronto.)

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Australian telcos may face mass SIM card recall

Three of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies have confirmed to Fairfax Media that they sold SIM cards made by Gemalto, a Dutch company at the centre of an alleged large-scale hack.

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Last week an investigative news website reported that US and British spies had hacked into Gemalto, the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards, allowing them to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile users around the world.

The Australian telcos may now be forced to recall large numbers of SIM cards produced by the company but none have said whether customers would be offered replacement SIMs, Fairfax Media reports.

The alleged hack on Gemalto would expand the scope of known mass surveillance methods available to US and British spy agencies to include not just email and web traffic, as previously revealed, but also mobile communications.

The Franco-Dutch company said on Friday it was investigating whether the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ had hacked into its systems to steal encryption keys that could unlock the security settings on billions of mobile phones.

The report by The Intercept site, which cites documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, could prove an embarrassment for the US and British governments.

It opens a fresh front in the dispute between civil liberties campaigners and intelligence services which say their citizens face a grave threat of attack from militant groups like Islamic State.

It comes just weeks after a British tribunal ruled that GCHQ had acted unlawfully in accessing data on millions of people in Britain that had been collected by the NSA.

The Intercept report said the hack was detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document and allowed the NSA and GCHQ to monitor a large portion of voice and data mobile communications around the world without permission from governments, telecom companies or users.

“We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques,” said Gemalto, whose shares sunk by as much as 10 percent in early trading on Friday, following the report.

The report follows revelations from Snowden in 2013 of the NSA’s Prism programme which allowed the agency to access email and web data handled by the world’s largest Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

A spokeswoman for Britain’s GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters) said on Friday that it did not comment on intelligence matters. The NSA could not be immediately reached for comment.

A European security source said that mobile devices were widely used by terrorist groups and that intelligence agencies’ attempts to access the communications were justified if they were “authorised, necessary and proportionate.” The source did not confirm or deny that the documents were from GCHQ.

The source also said Western agencies would sometimes hold on to data over time in order to decrypt the communications of specific intelligence targets.

The source added that wireless networks in Iran, Afghanistan and Yemen were viewed as having significance intelligence value.

These were identified by the Intercept as countries where Britain’s GCHQ intercepted encryption keys used by local wireless network providers.

Surveillance 

The new allegations could boost efforts by major technology firms such as Apple Inc and Google to make strong encryption methods standard in communications devices they sell, moves attacked by some politicians and security officials.

Leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such encryption into a mass-market feature could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks.

Gemalto makes SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards for phones and tablets as well as “chip and pin” bank cards and biometric passports. It produces around 2 billion SIM cards a year and counts Verizon, AT&T Inc and Vodafone among hundreds of wireless network provider customers.

The European security source said that an assertion by The Intercept that GCHQ had taken control of Gemalto’s internal network was speculative and not supported by documentation published by the website.

The Intercept, published by First Look Media, was founded by the journalists who first interviewed Snowden and made headlines around the world with reports on U.S. electronic surveillance programmes.

It published what it said was a secret GCHQ document that said its staff implanted software to monitor Gemalto’s entire network, giving them access to SIM card encryption keys. The report suggested this gave GCHQ, with the backing of the NSA, unlimited access to phone communications using Gemalto SIMs.

French bank Mirabaud said in a research report the attacks appeared to be limited to 2010 and 2011 and were aimed only at older 2G phones widely used in emerging markets, rather than modern smartphones. It did not name the source of these assertions.

Some analysts argued that if a highly security-conscious company like Gemalto is vulnerable, then all of its competitors are as well.

Gemalto competes with several European and Chinese SIM card suppliers. A spokesman for one major rival, Giesecke & Devrien of Germany, told Reuters: “We have no signs that something like that happened to us. We always do everything to protect our customers’ data.”

But while security experts have long believed spy agencies in many countries have the ability to crack the complex mathematical codes used to encrypt most modern communications, such methods remain costly, limiting their usefulness to targeted hijacking of individual communications.

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Govt crackdown will create ‘lone wolves,’ warns former terror suspect

The first person to be charged and later acquitted under Australia’s 2003 anti-terror laws has condemned the government’s plans to toughen up on national security and target “hate preachers.

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Zaky Mallah was jailed for two years over an alleged terror plot before being acquitted on appeal.

He told SBS he thought the government’s plan to strip passports from terror suspects would only breed discontent.

“In my opinion it will only create more lone wolves,” he said. “I mean, I’ve had my passport confiscated for seven years. I was a very angry young man. Luckily I didn’t turn into a lone wolf. But there are many people that will be very angry; very frustrated.”

Tony Abbott today spoke out against “hate preachers,” naming Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

“Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity,” he said.

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But group spokesman Wassim Doureihi said the government was seeking to “exaggerate the size and influence of Hizbut Tahrir to justify its scaremongering efforts.”

Today, the group blames what it calls “imperialist adventures abroad,” including like the Iraq war, for garnering recruits to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State, not the activism of groups like it.

Keysar Trad of the Islamic Friendship Association said he opposed the targeting of Hizbut Tahrir, despite disputing some of its positions.

“Anybody who creates hate speech, and divides society – certainly the law should be able to stop them creating hate speech,” he said. “But we need to be careful that when we introduce these laws that we don’t go too far as to curb legitimate free speech.”

Australia’s most senior Muslim leader, Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, would not comment on the government’s announcements today.

“I mean, I’ve had my passport confiscated for seven years. I was a very angry young man. Luckily I didn’t turn into a lone wolf. But there are many people that will be very angry; very frustrated.”

But earlier this month, in the lead-up to the security crackdown, Dr Muhammad said he wouldn’t “repeat the mistake” of voting for Tony Abbott.

Another Imam, Dr Amin Hady, responded to Tony Abbott’s call for more Imams talk more about Islam being a “religion of peace”.

“We did and we have done and we are doing about this matter, it is part of our job and it is our view,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the proposed measures deserved careful consideration, but liberties of citizens should only be reduced when existing arrangements proved inadequate.

But Australian National University terrorism expert Clarke Jones described the proposals as window dressing, saying they were unlikely to make Australia more secure.

“In reality, new measures may even go the other way and exasperate the underlying causes of violent extremism and further damage Australia’s already fragile social cohesion,” he said.

– With AAP

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Three million Aussies suffering anxiety: beyondblue

Three million Australians experience it, yet many still think anxiety is simply feeling stressed.

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 But anxiety is a treatable mental health illness that is more common than depression in Australia, says mental health charity beyondblue.

A new survey of 700 Australians found half believe anxiety is a part of someone’s personality.

And 40 per cent think anxiety is when a person feels stressed.

The findings have prompted beyondblue to revive its national anxiety campaign, which centres on a short film starring actor Ben Mendelsohn.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 26 percent of people experience an anxiety condition in their lives and nearly three million currently have an anxiety condition, making it more common than depression,” said beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman. 

Ms Harman says the charity wants to remind Australians that anxiety is a major mental health problem that can be treated successfully.

“You don’t have to put up with it,” she said.

“Anxiety is a debilitating condition that robs people of their peace of mind.

“It can stop people leaving their homes, holding down a job, maintaining relationships or doing everyday things because of irrational fears of what could happen.

“No one should have to live with the relentless worrying, panic attacks or compulsive rituals that often characterise anxiety conditions.”

MOST COMMON ANXIETY DISORDERS:

* Panic disorder: when a person has panic attacks, involving often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms.

* Generalised anxiety disorder: when a person feels anxious on most days, for a period of six months or more.

* Social phobia: when a person has intense fear of being criticised or embarrassed even in everyday situations.

* Specific phobias: when a person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation, eg having an injection or travelling on a plane.

* Obsessive compulsive disorder: when a person has ongoing unwanted thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. They often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviours, eg washing hands.

* Post-traumatic stress disorder: This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event, eg war, assault, accident, disaster.

(Source: beyondblue)

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Pacquiao hints at retirement

Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao hinted on Monday that his long-awaited fight against American Floyd Mayweather could be his last, saying he would head into the May bout with retirement on his mind.

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“It is coming close. We will announce it,” the 36-year-old told local television network ABS-CBN with a meek smile when asked about retirement. He gave no further details.

After years of failed negotiations, Pacquiao and Mayweather hammered out a deal to face each other in Las Vegas on May 2 that will finally give fans the chance to see the best “pound-for-pound” fighters of their generation face off.

Pacquiao said he agreed to take a smaller cut of the purse just so the fight could push through.

“If we only thought about our pride, there would not be a fight. If we had equal pay, the fight would not have pushed through so for the fight to push through, I agreed to it,” he said.

US media has reported that the undefeated Mayweather, who turns 38 this week, will receive 60 percent of the purse and stands to make some $120 million with the Filipino taking $80 million.

But more importantly for fight fans, the match will finally show which of the two boxers can really be called the best.

Pacquiao has held world championships belts in an unprecedented eight divisions, and will go into the Mayweather fight with a record of 57-5, with two draws and 38 knockouts.

Mayweather has a 47-0 record with 26 knockouts. He is homing in on the iconic 49-0 record of 1950s legend Rocky Marciano, who retired as an undefeated heavyweight champion.

Pacquiao, a devout Christian, said he was confident of winning because he had God on his side.

“God is with me and I believe the Lord will deliver him into my hands,” he said.

Pacquiao, who last year embarked on a much-criticised professional basketball career with a playing-coaching role for a Philippine team, said Monday he intended to play again in the local competition this week.

He said he expected to then head to the United States late in the week to resume full training under the guidance of his long-time mentor, Freddie Roach.

Pacquiao reiterated that he actually enjoyed being rated below Mayweather by oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

“I like being the underdog. I am more motivated,” he told ABS-CBN.

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