Welcome to the Endeavor Editors Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a weekly roundup – on news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.
Current Affairs June 2021 – Week 2
1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy
G7 adopts Global Infra Plan in a pushback to China’s ‘Belt and Road’
G7 leaders adopted a rival plan to oppose China’s Belt and Road Initiative by helping build infrastructure in poorer nations in a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership. The adoption of the US-inspired “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project came after President Joe Biden and leaders met to address “strategic competition with China and commit to concrete actions to help meet the tremendous infrastructure need in low- and middle-income countries”, the White House said. China has been widely criticized for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt as part of its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen money lent for projects stretching across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even Europe. China denies any ulterior motives to the vast investment project. For details visit.
South Korea can now build missiles able to reach Beijing, with the US blessing
For decades, the US kept tight limits on how far and how potent South Korea’s ballistic missiles could be, reflecting concerns that Seoul might unilaterally raise tensions with nearby China, North Korea, and Russia. But last month, the Biden administration removed the final limits on Seoul’s missile program, abolishing what had been a roughly 500-mile cap on South Korea’s ballistic missile range. It is a key change: Seoul’s missiles, in theory, can now fly far enough to strike Beijing, Moscow, or anywhere else. For details visit.
In U.S.-China relations, the threat of conflict is present but not inevitable
Rising tensions between the U.S. and an increasingly powerful China have led to some concerns they could potentially escalate into armed conflict. But as WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains, there are more forces working against conflict rather than toward it.
China’s New Power Play: More control of Tech Companies’ troves of Data
The Chinese government is calling on big tech companies like Tencent, online retailing giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. to open up the data they collect from social media, e-commerce, and other businesses, according to official documents and interviews with people involved in policy-making. The complex new web of laws and regulations around sharing digital records is being driven by the huge growth in data held by China’s tech giants and a belief that the government should be able to access it. The efforts are also part of Mr. Xi’s quest to rein in the increasingly powerful tech sector, which has pushed back on some of Beijing’s previous data-sharing efforts. The most recent law passed, will make it harder for companies to resist such requests. For details visit.
Red Lines: China takes aim at Data from Big Tech
As the Chinese government targets its Big Tech giants in a sweeping antitrust crackdown, one big question is whether valuable proprietary data from the likes of Alibaba and Tencent will be essentially nationalized.
Bitcoin ruling roils crypto world seeking regulatory clarity
International banking regulators’ decision to classify Bitcoin as the riskiest of assets dragged cryptocurrencies further into the mainstream financial world. It also made it extremely costly for banks to hold digital tokens on their balance sheets, potentially delaying crypto’s wider adoption. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision proposed that a 1,250 per cent risk weight be applied to a bank’s exposure to Bitcoin and certain other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin jumped on the announcement, then erased the gains. For details visit.
IMF sees legal, economic issues with El Salvador Bitcoin move
The International Monetary Fund said it has a number of economic and legal concerns regarding the move from El Salvador to make bitcoin a parallel legal tender. El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, with President Nayib Bukele touting its use for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home. Adoption of bitcoin as legal tender raises a number of macroeconomic, financial, and legal issues that require very careful analysis,” said Gerry Rice, an IMF spokesman, during a scheduled press briefing. El Salvador’s law means bitcoin will have equal footing with the dollar, which became its official currency 20 years ago. For details visit.
El Salvador President calls for a volcanic geothermal Bitcoin mining plan
Nayib Bukele, the President of El Salvador has instructed the country’s geothermal electrical company, LaGeo, to put together a plan for establishing Bitcoin mining facilities.
Naftali Bennett defeats Netanyahu in Polls to become Israel’s PM
Israeli politician Naftali Bennett ousted the long-running Benjamin Netanyahu to become Israel’s Prime Minister. The right-wing leader will lead a newly-instituted eight-party coalition to form the government, along with centrist Yair Lapid. The two will take turns as the Prime Minister, with Bennett taking the first period of two years, and Lapid succeeding him in 2023. It is the first time in Israel’s political history that a party that represents the Arab minority will also be a part of the government. The coalition, consisting of left-wing, right-wing, centrist, and Arab parties, is expected to have differences due to their divergent interests. For details visit.
2. Current Affairs – India
India COVID update
DGCI gives regulatory approval for clinical trials of Colchicine, the drug expected to reduce cardiac complications
Colchicine when administered in combination with standard care has the potential to act as an important therapeutic intervention for Covid patients with cardiac comorbidities. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Laxai Life Sciences Private Limited have received the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DCGI’s) regulatory approval to conduct clinical trials of the drug Colchicine, news agency PTI reported. For details visit.
GST Council Meeting Highlights: No tax on black fungus drug Amphotericin B; rates unchanged for COVID-19 vaccine
The Goods and Service Tax Council, on the recommendation of the Group of Ministers (GoM), slashed the GST rates on a number of items crucial in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. These include essential medicines, oxygen, oxygen generation equipment and related devices, and diagnostic and testing machine kits. The new rates will remain in effect till at least September 30. For details visit.
Covid update: UK & Delta variant ‘concern’; India’s death data; vaccines & allergies
From lowest daily cases to unlock delay in Britain, here are the top updates on coronavirus. India recorded 84,322 new cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest in 70 days. This is the fifth consecutive day that cases in India remained below the one-lakh mark. Also, the Centre refuted claims of a report that India’s Covid-19 deaths could be ‘five to seven times higher than official numbers. The Centre said the report is based on the extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence. Meanwhile, UK PM Boris Johnson hinted at delaying the unlock process in the country from June 21. Johnson highlighted that the Delta variant of the virus, first detected in India, is more transmissible and the cases are rising. Watch the full video for more updates on the pandemic.
How the world’s finest minds, including from India, are hunting the origin of coronavirus
3. Current Affairs – Economy
FM asks ministries to front-load CAPEX; explore PPPs for viable projects
Finance Nirmala Sitharaman has asked various ministries to try to spend more than their capital expenditure targets as well as explore public-private partnerships for viable projects. While reviewing the capital expenditure performance of the ministries and their CPSEs, the finance minister emphasized that enhanced capex will play a critical role in revitalizing the economy post-pandemic and encouraged the Ministries to front-load their capital expenditure. Union Budget for 2021-22 has provided a capital outlay of Rs 5.54 lakh crore, an increase of 34.5 percent over the Budget Estimate of 2020-21. However, efforts from the budgetary side to increase the capital expenditure have to be complemented by the public sector enterprises, Sitharaman added. For details visit.
India’s agriculture exports jump 17.34% to $41.25 billion in FY21
Growth in agricultural exports, despite pandemic disruptions, has been driven by the government’s policy-level interventions as well as the expansion of products into new markets, Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said. After remaining stagnant for the last three years, the export of agriculture and allied products during 2020-21 grew 17.34 percent to $41.25 billion. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, they hovered around $38 billion, thereafter declining to $35.16 billion in 2019-20. In the first two months of the current fiscal year, there was a 43 percent jump, Wadhawan told media persons in a virtual briefing. For details visit.
ICRA projects GDP growth at 8.5% in FY2022
With a decline in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases and the easing of restrictions, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) will grow at 8.5 percent in FY2021-22, according to credit rating agency ICRA Ratings. “The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 and the ensuing state-wise restrictions was seen across a variety of high-frequency indicators in April-May 2021. Now that the fresh cases have moderated, and restrictions are being eased, we have placed our baseline GDP growth forecast for FY2022 at 8.5 percent,” ICRA Chief Economist Aditi Nayar said. For details visit.
Phased unlocking to help recover two-thirds of lost jobs: CMIE
The phased unlocking across the country is expected to recover about two-thirds of the lost jobs or 17 million of the 25 million non-farm jobs lost since January even as the unemployment rate continued to inch higher and stood at 13% as of June 6, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy said. According to CMIE, while quick recovery is expected in the informal jobs lost in the unorganized sectors because of the local lockdowns, only a strong economic recovery will help to revert to the employment levels of 2019-20. For details visit.
4. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance
Second Covid wave harsh for vehicle financiers as collections drop
With Ola cabs, school buses off the road, limited mobility of commercial vehicles, and buyers of passenger vehicles struggling with incomes, vehicle makers are staring at a significant asset quality hit. The second Covid wave will have a significant impact on the asset quality of vehicle financiers due to their borrowers’ reduced capacity utilization, higher operating costs, and moderating cash flows. According to India Ratings and Research, these lenders’ collection efficiency for the first fortnight of May could be lower by 5-7 percent on top of a similar decline in April over March 2021. For details visit.
Cheque bounces hint at asset stress at NBFCs
High cheque bounce rates in May are indicating asset quality troubles for non-bank financing companies (NBFCs). Cheque bounce rates tracked by the National Payments Corporation of India’s (NPCI) e-NACH (National Automated Clearing House) platform rose by more than 250 basis points in value in May over April. A halt in physical collections by non-bank lenders, strict lockdowns, and restrictions have caused a severe dip in NBFCs’ loan collection efficiencies, which fell 10-15 percent between April and May. For details visit.
5. Current Affairs – Business
India Inc lines up extensive CAPEX plan led by PLI scheme, the commodity boom
Indian companies in the steel, cement, consumer electronics, and electric mobility space have drawn up extensive capital expenditure plans for this fiscal year, as plants are running at near-full capacities and they expect the pace of economic activity to pick up. Capacity expansion, deferred capex from last year, and investments driven by the government’s production-linked incentive scheme will be the three key capex drivers this year. Companies such as ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel, Vedanta, Hindalco, Grasim, Ceat, and Mahindra & Mahindra have significantly increased their capex plans for FY22, compared with the preceding years. For details visit.
300% increase in freight costs plague SMEs
Drip Capital recently released a research paper around the ‘Global Shipping Crisis’ talking about the detrimental impact of the rising tide of freight costs on SMBs. Based on the shipping and logistics crisis plaguing the industry since the onset of Covid freight costs have skyrocketed 300% worsening the situation for Indian SMEs who are navigating their business amidst the global pandemic. This competitive environment severely affected the SME exporters who were burdened by these high costs. The primary pillars of the global shipping crisis are a significant fall in the availability of containers, reduced workforce, fewer shipping vessels operating, and erratic movements in demand for various commodities. For details visit.
Tata Motors to double capex of India business up to Rs 3,500 crore on a robust turnaround of PV unit
Tata Motors has lined up Rs 3,000 – Rs 3,500 crore capital expenditure for FY22 for its India business following a sustained multi-quarter rise in sales especially for its SUVs and cars where its dealers are struggling to meet retail demand. The outlook on capex for FY22 marks a massive jump from the guidance provided in previous quarters for FY21 which was supposed to be in the vicinity of Rs 1,500 crore for the India business unit. The company eventually dialed up its capex for FY21 closing the year with a spend of Rs 1800 crore. Tata Motors was one among a handful of outliers in India’s passenger vehicle (PV) industry recording a growth in sales during FY21. The maker of Nexon and Safari recorded a growth of 69 percent in volumes in FY21 to 222,025 units compared to FY20. Tata Motors’ growth came at a time when the rest of the industry saw a drop of 2 percent. For details visit.
Telcos target MSMEs for future growth
India’s top telcos Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (Vi) along the likes of Tata Teleservices are focussing on the medium and small-scale enterprises (MSME) as these businesses get digitized and become better revenue options than the larger established corporates with fixed network service providers. India’s largest telco Jio, in its just-released annual report for FY20-21, called MSMEs the bedrock of the Indian economy which lacks access to integrated digital services and the know-how to adopt. This is no surprise to analysts who estimate that with stability in the mobile customer segment, stickiness amongst the large corporates, the MSME segment remains untapped and will be the revenue generator post the pandemic. For details visit.
M&M revamps its design set up, creates a new Global Design Organisation, and ropes in Pratap Bose to lead it
In a move to put design at the center of its future offerings from two-wheelers to trucks, Mahindra & Mahindra, the maker of XUV and Thar sports utility vehicles, announced creating a new global design organization for the automotive and farm equipment sector. To steer the new setup, the Mahindra Group also announced the appointment of Pratap Bose as the Executive Vice President and Chief Design Officer to lead its newly formed Global Design organization. Criticized for its polarising SUV design language, M&M is seeking to strengthen that part of its operation. The group has plans of launching over three dozen products across segments (Uvs, CVs, and tractors) in the next 5 years and will be investing close to Rs 17000 crore across the business in three years. For details visit.
6. Current Affairs – Technology
Fintech firms expect business as usual by July, says FACE survey
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic may not be as devastating for financial technology firms as the first wave, revealed a survey of top 20 firms by the Fintech Association for Consumer Empowerment (FACE). “It is interesting to note that the Covid-19 impact is different this time, compared to the same situation last year. While most players expected business to normalize by July, some aspects of the business are expected to be impacted for a longer period,” stated the online survey, taken by 100 senior executives of the top 20 fintech firms. For details visit.
ED action against crypto exchange WazirX underscores RBI’s concerns about virtual currencies
Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued a show-cause notice to cryptocurrency exchange WazirX and its directors Nischal Shetty and Sameer Mhatre for allegedly violating guidelines in connection with transactions worth Rs 2,790.74 crore. The notices were issued under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999, after the ED initiated an investigation on the basis of an ongoing money laundering probe into “illegal” Chinese-owned online betting applications, the ED said in a statement. This is the first instance of a major crackdown by an Indian agency on cryptocurrency firms. For details visit.
Explained: Nigerian govt joins Koo; what this means for Twitter’s India-made rival
Less than a week after banning American microblogging site Twitter indefinitely, the Nigerian government has joined its India-made rival, Koo. Shortly after the ban, Koo had announced that it was available in Nigeria and was working to add local languages on its platform. The Nigerian government’s decision to join Koo after banning Twitter reinforces its position as an alternative platform to Twitter. Even in India, the progress of Koo came against the backdrop of the Indian government’s several disagreements with Twitter. In the last almost six months, the Centre asked Twitter to remove several tweets and suspend accounts it deemed unlawful. Twitter did not comply with these requests on all occasions leading to friction between the two sides. According to the government, Twitter is also yet to comply with India’s new IT rules for digital media intermediaries. For details visit.
How Nigerian Govt’s Twitter ban became a boon for India’s Koo App
Alleged CoWIN leak involving 150 Mn Indians, just an attempt to grab Bitcoins: Experts
The rising interest around cryptos globally and Covid vaccination collided this week in India in a peculiar scam that misled Indian citizens into believing that their CoWIN user data had been stolen and was being sold on the dark web. But while initially, it raised a scare among Indians, the supposed leak turned out to be nothing but an attempt to grab Bitcoins from the Indian market, according to cybersecurity experts. For details visit.
‘CryptoPunk’ NFT sells for $11.8 million at Sotheby’s
A non-fungible token (NFT) of a digital artwork called a “CryptoPunk” sold for $11.8 million, auction house Sotheby’s said. CryptoPunks are a set of 10,000 pixel-art characters made by Larva Labs in 2017. The one sold by Sotheby’s — “CryptoPunk #7523” — is of the sought-after Alien variety with blue-green skin, and wearing a medical mask. The work is in the form of an NFT – meaning it is authenticated by blockchain, which certifies its originality and ownership. The NFT is sent to the buyer’s cryptocurrency wallet; no physical artwork changes hands. It was bought by the Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Meckenzie, who is the largest shareholder of digital sports company DraftKings, Sotheby’s said. Michael Bouhanna, Contemporary Art Specialist at Sotheby’s said the sale demonstrated continued strong demand for NFTs. For details visit.
NFTs are fuelling a boom in Digital Art. Here’s how they work | WSJ
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have exploded onto the digital art scene this past year. Proponents say they are a way to make digital assets scarce, and therefore more valuable. WSJ explains how they work, and why skeptics question whether they’re built to last.
7. Current Affairs – Politics
National BJP leaders in wait-and-see mode
The national BJP team has adopted a ‘wait and watch’ mode to address the situation in West Bengal after its national vice-president Mukul Roy and his son rejoined the TMC. This defection, according to many senior leaders, is symptomatic of a larger problem of dissent among the party leaders and workers. This comes even as there are speculations about the party banking on Nandigram MLA Suvendu Adhikari as the face of the party. Senior party leaders told ET that the BJP is waiting for the situation to play out in the state before the organization starts rebuilding itself again. For details visit.
Explained: Mukul Roy’s stint in the BJP, and why he has returned to Mamata
For details visit.
PM Modi, Yogi Adityanath discuss roadmap 2022; central reshuffle to induct UP leaders
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath discussed the roadmap for the 2022 assembly polls with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, amid heightened talks of a Cabinet expansion in the state. Several BJP leaders, however, maintained that only a minor expansion may take place, while the thrust was on giving organizational responsibilities to key people with the party in election mode in UP. However, there was a possibility for a major reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers when some leaders from UP may be accommodated. For details visit.
Spate of resignations in BJP Lakshadweep unit after sedition case against Aisha Sultana
Over a dozen leaders and workers of the BJP in Lakshadweep resigned from the party in protest over the filing of sedition charges against islander and filmmaker Aisha Sultana. The Kavaratti police had filed a case of sedition against Sultana based on a complaint from C Abdul Khader Haji, the chief of the BJP Lakshadweep unit. The complainant cited Sultana’s remarks during a discussion on a Malayalam TV news channel in which she referred to UT Administrator Praful Patel as a “bio-weapon”. The discussion pertained to the controversial proposals of the UT Administrator which have sparked public protests on the islands. In their resignation letter, the BJP office-bearers said Haji’s allegations against Sultana were “untruthful” and aimed at destroying her and her family’s future. For details visit.
8. Current Affairs – Sports
Explained: The complications of holding Euro 2021 in 11 countries during the pandemic
For the first time in sporting history, a multi-team event would be hosted in more than three countries. The Euro 2021 will travel to 11 countries, tracing the length and breadth of the continent. The tournament will be spread from Bilbao to St Petersburg, Dublin to Baku, binding diverse cultures and climes, ideals, and ideologies. But the now beleaguered UEFA president Michel Platini’s vision of a pan-European tournament has its supporters and naysayers. Platini, when announcing the tournament’s format, surmised two massive benefits of a pan-continent tournament. Fans and economy. At a time of economic uncertainty, UEFA did not want to burden a country without sufficient infrastructure. A load of expenses, instead, would be shared. His critics dismissed the idea as over-ambitious and just another ploy to leverage votes of the smaller nations. It posed both logistical hurdles—equipping one or two countries for a big tournament is easier than preparing nearly an entire continent to host a tournament as big as the Euros. For details visit.
French Open: Novak Djokovic Stuns 13-Time Champion Rafael Nadal In “Greatest” Roland Garros Display
Novak Djokovic handed 13-time champion Rafael Nadal only his third defeat in 16 years and 108 matches at the French Open to reach his sixth Roland Garros final in an epic showdown that even beat the country’s Covid-19 curfew. In their 58th career clash, Djokovic triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and stays on course to capture a 19th major and become the first man in over 50 years to win all four Slams twice. Djokovic, the 2016 champion in Paris who had also beaten Nadal at the 2015 tournament, will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final in what will be his 29th championship match at the Slams. For details visit.
Novak Djokovic wins French Open in dramatic comeback
Novak Djokovic won the French Open title after a thrilling match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, keeping tennis fans on the edge of their seat all the way through the end. The 34-year-old Serbian tennis champion made a notable comeback against Tsitsipas, who was ranked No. 5, after losing the first few sets. Djokovic pushed through and rallied against his competitor, offering fans a gripping finale to the Grand Slam tournament. For details visit.
Barbora Krejcikova wins the French Open
Unseeded but the sentimental favorite, Krejcikova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, to win the women’s singles title in Paris. For Krejcikova, 25, of the Czech Republic, the win marked the highlight of a late-blooming but suddenly exploding career, and capped a surprising tournament in which many of the strongest players withdrew, retired, or were defeated early in the competition. For details visit.
Sunil Chhetri overtakes Lionel Messi with a vital brace in India’s win over Bangladesh
India’s Sunil Chhetri, who struck a brace in his team’s 2-0 win over Bangladesh in Doha, overtook Argentina’s Lionel Messi on Monday to become the second-highest active international goalscorer with 74 goals. The 36-year-old striker, who helped India register a first win in the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers, is only behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (103) in the active international goalscorer list. For details visit.
9. Current Affairs – Opinion
For India, G-7 is an opportunity to expand ties with West
This week’s summit of the Group of Seven industrial countries hosted by the United Kingdom in the picturesque Cornwall region promises to be a definitive moment in the political evolution of the West. The summit, which will see the digital participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also marks an important step towards a new global compact between India and the West. In his first tour abroad as the US president, Joe Biden wants to reverse the global perception of a flailing West. President Biden, who declared that “America is back”, wants to demonstrate that the collective West is an enduring force to reckon with under renewed American leadership. For Delhi, the G-7 summit is an opportunity to expand the global dimension of India’s growing partnerships with the US and Europe. For details visit.
This festive season will be economy’s litmus test: Samiran Chakraborty, Citi
Samiran Chakraborty, Chief Economist-India, Citi is of the opinion that the pace of recovery is going to be a tad slower than what we had observed during the first wave. That is not because of the damage to the income or jobs of households. It is more because of the sentiment factor. RBI’s survey is showing that consumer confidence today is even weaker than what it was during the first wave. “In our data, we are not finding that the labor market disruption — in jobs or income — has been as large as in the first wave. The litmus test of everything will be by the time we get into the festive season. If the economy has mended enough by then and the vaccination process has gathered pace, then we might see the demand situation somewhat normalize. We have seen it globally in all countries that the moment vaccination gathers pace, consumer sentiment changes very substantially.” For details visit.
Can cryptos change the fortunes of the struggling asset management industry?
The outlook for the global asset management industry, plagued in recent years by unmerciful downward pressure on fees, is starting to look brighter. With meme stocks, decentralized finance, and non-fungible tokens capturing the headlines, money managers need to keep up with the zeitgeist. A new report suggests that the cryptocurrency markets offer a great opportunity for fund managers and wealth management firms to tap a new client base and seize a source of fresh revenue. The potential growth for an asset class that’s exploded in recent years means the fund management community needs to be poised to meet client demand, according to a study just published by investment bank Morgan Stanley and consultancy firm Oliver Wyman. For details visit.
What El Salvador’s bitcoin push means for the cryptocurrency
El Salvador’s new law means bitcoin will have equal footing with the dollar, which became its official currency 20 years ago. Making bitcoin “legal tender” means shops and businesses must accept it for goods and services, and they can choose to express prices in the currency. Taxes can also be paid using bitcoin, though its use will be optional. El Salvador said the bitcoin-dollar exchange rate will be set by markets. Yet no detail has been given on how this will work in practice and whether and how vendors and businesses will reflect pricing in real-time or maybe through other mechanisms. For details visit.
One chapter closes, another opens as Nigeria’s Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau blows himself up
Amid reports that Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau blew himself up to avoid capture by rivals, Shekhar Gupta tells you about the Nigerian terrorist group, its increasingly powerful offshoot, and if the problem of extremism in Nigeria and the wider Sahel region is over?
With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs June 2021 -Week 2. Hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.
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