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Nokia Investigating Reported Cell Phone Explosions 379

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the pants-on-fire dept.
Iphtashu Fitz writes "C|Net's news.com is reporting that a man in the Netherlands suffered burns to his leg when the Nokia phone in his pants pocket exploded. This is the second reported incident of Nokia phones exploding, the first one being back in August when a Dutch woman's phone exploded in her hand. Nokia blamed the first incident on a third party battery that the woman was using and warned customers to only use Nokia parts and accessories with their phones. However this most recent explosion involved a new Nokia phone with a Nokia battery installed."
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Nokia Investigating Reported Cell Phone Explosions

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  • This is scary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l810c (551591) * on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:08PM (#7179688)
    I've had my most recent Nokia for 2 years. It can get Really Hot when I talk for a long time(>20 minutes). It actually gets uncomfortable to hold to my ear.

    Is it about to explode? Any links on what signs to look for before your cell phone battery explodes? A search for 'exploding battery' on Nokia.com didn't return any results. Seems like they should take a more proactive approach and at least issue a warning. I couldn't find any.

    • Re:This is scary (Score:3, Informative)

      by sirvulcan (700310) *
      my phillips xenium got quite hot after long calls.. none of my nokia's get hot on long calls (3310 && 8210). Although i think i might keep a closer eye on them now> An offical warning would be reasonable
    • by Richard_L_James (714854) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:13PM (#7179725)
      > It can get Really Hot when I talk for a long time(>20 minutes).

      Does this have anything to do with the type of calls you are making ??

      • by lgftsa (617184) on Friday October 10, 2003 @01:00AM (#7180585)
        Yes, long distance calls use more power, as they have transmit the signal further.

        Talking loudly can mitigate this, as the AGC(automatic gain control) detects the higher volume, and so doesn't need to amplify the radio signal quite as much. Not a big saving, but every bit counts.

        You can also (if you have a phone with an external antenna) lean the tip of the antenna against a metal object(street sign, light post, scaffolding, etc) and the signal will be inducted into the object and act like a really big antenna. You can see this on those car antennas which are mounted on rear windows without drilling a hole - they use electromagnetic induction as well.

        Finally, if the signal is really boarderline, you can try changing the polarization of the signal from vertical to horizontal by holding the phone parallel to the ground. This is a trick used by people on the edge of TV coverage areas, and especially on campervans and RVs. Some antennas are even motorized so you don't have to get out and fool about with a spanner and the U-bolt.

        If nothing else works, try circular polarization. This is tricky, as you have to spin around with the phone's antenna as the center of rotation.
    • by Lost Penguin (636359) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:36PM (#7179894) Homepage
      "Any links on what signs to look for before your cell phone battery explodes?"

      If the caller ID says "Mossad", do not answer.
    • Re:This is scary (Score:3, Informative)

      by dattaway (3088)
      What type of battery? Lithium batteries can be interesting if they are overcharged. Dendrites may form on the plates if they overcharge, leading to a possibility of a short circuit. Its been said that lithium batteries can store close to the energy density of gasoline. You know where this is going?

      All lithium laptop batteries I have seen have a little controller that meters the charge to prevent overcharging. They might skip this component for each battery cell in smaller batteries, such in cell phone
      • Re:This is scary (Score:4, Interesting)

        by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @11:29PM (#7180197) Homepage
        Its been said that lithium batteries can store close to the energy density of gasoline.
        Not quite. But it's getting up there ...
        NiMH batteries appear to have a different failure mode than lithium from overcharging. They just seem to degrade in performance.
        Actually, a NiMH or NiCd cell can also short itself out, especially if damaged in some way (like dropped.) This creates a `hot smoker' where the battery will get *very* hot (NiCds have lower internal resistances than NiMHs, so they get even hotter) and can even cause fires. But they don't usually explode ...
        • Actually, a NiMH or NiCd cell can also short itself out, especially if damaged in some way (like dropped.) This creates a `hot smoker' where the battery will get *very* hot (NiCds have lower internal resistances than NiMHs, so they get even hotter) and can even cause fires. But they don't usually explode...

          I had that happen to me once carrying a couple in my pocket, they shorted with my keys, and the first I knew of it was when I realised my leg felt like it was burning. The things had got to being nearly

    • Re:This is scary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by a.koepke (688359) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @11:24PM (#7180168)
      I used to work for Radioshack/Tandy Electronics and have good experience with batteries. All rechargeable (and normal Alkaline) batteries heat up when large amounts of power are drawn from them. When you are on a call the phone is using the most power.

      We has remote control cars that took 10 NiCad AA batteries and lasted about 20 minutes. When you took out the batteries they were really hot due to how quickly the power had been drawn out of them.

      It is quite normal for a battery to heat up when it is put under a high load or used for an extended period of time. When its both, as in >20 minute call, I can understand that it would heat up quite a bit.

      The thing about this incident that I find concerning is that this phone exploded in the guys pocket when battery consumption is at its lowest. The other case mentioned was while the person was on the phone and if there is a defect that is when it would be most likely to show due to it being when the battery is under the highest load.
    • Re:This is scary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cyril3 (522783) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @11:48PM (#7180300)
      what signs to look for before your cell phone battery explodes

      Given that it has happened twice so far after they sold X million phones I'd worry more about lightning strikes if I was you.

    • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Friday October 10, 2003 @12:44AM (#7180529) Homepage Journal
      According to this article [buchmann.ca] the mobile phone companies prefer "venting with flame".

      Coincidently I was looking at this stuff a couple of days ago. My Nokia 8250 had started turning itself off when in use. I wasn't sure whether it was the battery dying or the phone so I went to borrow a spare battery to test with.

      When I opened the phone I noticed that rather than being flat the battery was bulging out as if it was pregnant. The bulge was enough that it was difficult to get the battery cover back on.

      I now have a whole new phone (another Nokia, a 7250i).
    • by boer (653809)
      Accoding to this news [itviikko.fi] (sorry, in Finnish) from today, Nokia denies that any original Nokia battery had ever exploded. Cheap third party batteries are a growing problem, because they usually lack safety components that prevent the battery from overheating when it's dropped or short circuiting.
    • by dtmos (447842) on Friday October 10, 2003 @05:07AM (#7181259)
      The heat you feel in a cell phone after talking on it for a time likely is due to the heating of the radio frequency (RF) power amplifier (PA) in the phone's transmitter, not the battery.

      The PA must generate (depending on the type of phone you have--GSM, CDMA, etc.--the range to the cell tower, and other factors) somewhere between 0.2 and 1.0 Watts of RF power output. For lots of good reasons, and despite the best efforts of lots of engineers at lots of places, the conversion efficiency of battery power to RF power of cell phone PAs is around 35%--meaning that approximately two-thirds of the battery power consumed by the PA is converted to heat, instead of RF power, as you talk. Since everyone likes a small, light-weight cell phone, there is no dedicated heat sink (or external fan!) for the phone's PA; instead, most designs usually use the cell phone's frame to conduct the waste heat away from the PA. The frame, of course, conducts the heat to the outside world, which in this case includes your ear.

      In many cases, to avoid the loss of an RF transmission line from the bottom to the top of the phone (which would result in even more inefficiency) the PA is placed next to the antenna, near the top of the phone--thus exacerbating the ear-heating effect. Since the heat generated by the PA has remained more-or-less constant over the years but the mass of the phone has decreased, the temperature the phone reaches in this situation has increased, making it more noticable. Handling this temperature rise is part of cell phone design, and one of the many tradeoffs that occur in them. Keep in mind that, since it is produced by energy stored in the battery that could otherwise be used to extend talk or standby time--two selling factors near and dear to the hearts of cell phone manufacturers--designers would eagerly reduce generated heat if they could do so without violating other design parameters, like product cost.

      The type of heating you're experiencing sounds completely normal and safe to me. I would expect that heating of the battery itself would be unrelated to whether you talked on the phone or not. Rather, it would occur either (a) during charging with a defective or improperly designed charger, or (b) randomly, as a cell shorts out and its stored energy heats itself (and its neighbors) up, and the built-in protection circuitry either fails or (in off-brand batteries) is nonexistent. You can protect yourself against both of these possibilities (to below the lightning-strike and meteorite-collision probability levels) by simply buying and using name-brand batteries and chargers.
  • Hey... (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Human Cow (646609) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:10PM (#7179692) Homepage
    Is that an exploding cell phone in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?
    • He had his cellphone in his Pocket and burned Just His Legs. I'll not be slipping my Nokia in my pocket again. My wife and I would like to have one more child.
    • BANG!

      AHHHHHHHHHH!

      Exploding cell phone it is then.
    • I wonder if there's a custom nokia class for this "explosion" technology for java. This could really tickle a game up a bit - you know, add to the experience. "You lose the level - you lose your hands ;-)"
  • Verizon (Score:5, Funny)

    by damiena (263598) <neimad915 @ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:10PM (#7179696)
    Can you hear me now?

    *BOOM*
  • N-Gage (Score:2, Funny)

    by BigDork1001 (683341)
    One things for sure, the N-Gage sure isn't exploding off the shelves.
    • If the N-Gage actually exploded, at least it would be useful as a demolition device. As is, it sucks as both a game device AND a cell phone.

      Is it really a bust? My local Gamestop was telling me they had about a gazillion preorders...

  • Big Deal!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by whiteranger99x (235024) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:12PM (#7179710) Journal
    So you can say the message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.....

    They've been doing that in Mission Impossible for YEARS! :P
  • by wrinkledshirt (228541) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:12PM (#7179714) Homepage
    ...you know those two poor souls would be getting sued by the company right about now.
  • IMPORTANT (Score:5, Funny)

    by I don't want to spen (638810) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:13PM (#7179718) Journal
    Don't set your ring tone to the 1812 overture ....
  • Okay... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Pig Hogger (10379)
    What's the DTMF sequence to make the phone explode, so I can blow the next telemarketer's phone?????
  • news report... (Score:2, Informative)

    by dilvie (713915)
    I saw a local news report last night about the same thing. In Utah. I don't remember what channel it was on, but I assumed it was an isolated incident. Maybe there's something more to it...
  • That hurts, (Score:2, Funny)

    by TLouden (677335)
    now Nokia can't use explosions as an excuse to sell more of their parts. And they thought putting 'prizes' in some of the phones would help them sell more.
  • by MavEtJu (241979) <slashdot@mav[ ]u.org ['etj' in gap]> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:16PM (#7179747) Homepage
    Does anybody know what is actually exploding? Is it the battery? Is it the CPU? Is it one of the memory chips? "The telephone is exploding" is almost as vague "his house blew up".
    • Most definetely the battery. Lithium Ion batteries are known to explode when they go out of the normal operating specs. ALL LiIon batteries have control circuits which keep the dis/charging within the safe bound (keeping from overcharging/discharging). LiIon batteries are very explosive when they are not in a controlled environment, so it seems that the control circuit simply failed.
  • I never wanted a cellphone before, but if I'm promised pyrotechnics...
  • This sounds like ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by switched4OSX (668686) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:17PM (#7179754)
    what the Isreali Mossad used to (and probably still do) to suspected terrorist phones. Inside agent would swap his phone with one modified with plastic explosives. Then they would call the terrories, and when he put his ear to phone it would blow it off.
  • hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by the_other_one (178565) * on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:18PM (#7179765) Homepage
    Perhaps they should ban these things on airliners.
    At least untill they have safe alchohol filled fuel cells.
    Instead of these new fangled battery things.
  • by toupsie (88295) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:19PM (#7179770) Homepage
    I have a Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse that is powered by double-a batteries. On night, I was surfing the web and heard a loud POP. No, I wasn't surfing porn. I spent 5 minutes wondering where this loud sound came from. I looked at my tangled mess of power strips plugged into power strips. I looked all over and found nada. Then thinking I had just imagined the sound or had my ear pop for some reason, I went back to surfing but my mouse wouldn't work. Sure enough, one of the brand new, brand name double-a batteries exploded in the mouse. It destroyed the inside electronics of the mouse. Thank Microsoft uses a sturdy plastic in them or it could have been a very painful right hand.

    Remember, batteries are full of energy -- DUH! One defect and BAM! you have a little bomb after prolonged use. One reason you shouldn't throw them in a fire unless you are really drunk and have track shoes on.

  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:19PM (#7179773) Journal
    Originally a tire company (!!!), Nokia has expanded quickly into other markets completely unrelated to the core of their business. Since they moved into the cell phone business, it seems to have become their top priority, however even this focus is slipping. They are turning towards building home entertainment appliances like set top boxes and TiVo-like devices. Unfortunately, like when they moved towards cell phones and their tire business suffered, their cell phone quality is sufferring because of this refocusing on new markets.
    • Uh, Nokia has been making TV stuff for years and years.
    • actually... (Score:4, Informative)

      by rebelcool (247749) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @11:40PM (#7180256)
      nokia started out as a paper company in 1865*


      *Kerin, Berkowitz, Hartley, Rudelius.
      Marketing: 7th edition.

    • by ma++i+ude (580592) on Friday October 10, 2003 @12:06AM (#7180376) Homepage
      (No, I don't work for Nokia. Yes, I'm a Finn.)

      Informative? Well, at least it's not informed. Nokia has been around in one form or another for over a century. Nokia is actually a fusion of three companies and three businesses: wood (since 1865), rubber (1898) and cables (1912). The name "Nokia" is actually a place in Finland. Yes, we all know it sounds Japanese.

      Through the years Nokia has bought other companies and expanded its business into new areas. In fact the company had practically nothing to do with electronics until the late 80's. The company has continued to narrow down its focus, unlike the parent suggested.

      Particularly under Jorma Ollila, Nokia decided to focus on electronics and especially communications and started to sell its other functions away. Most of newly formed companies wanted to be associated with the Nokia brand, so many chose names with suitable connotations. Therefore, you now have Nokian tyres [nokiantyres.com] (the 'n' at the end of the word is the genitive case, so the word actually means "Nokia's tyres"), NK cables [nkcablesusa.com] and Nokian footwear [nokianfootwear.fi]. Pretty much every Finn has a pair of (old 'Nokia' or new 'Nokian') rubber boots. Fine boots them. Used them in the army too.

      Anyway, calling Nokia simply a "cell phone company", or calling for Nokia to become one, is misinformed. Although mobile phones are definitely the most visible area to the consumer, the company provides a much wider range of communication solutions including mobile base stations and networks. In the consumer market they've made a few lemons though; the IP55 ADSL router, a rebranded Webramp, comes to mind, as does the N-Gage. :) But the MediaMaster was/is a fine product.

    • You're either a troll or a moron, I can't decide which.

      Nokia has been making mobiles for years, and they are no "also ran" in the field, they're practically market leaders, both in terms of technology and sales.

      I've owned three handsets in my time and two of them have been Nokias. The things are so damn good from all viewpoints - ergonomics, software, etc - that I'd never even consider anything else if I was recommending a dedicated mobile phone. (And, before you ask, I've played around with virtually eve
  • Sure hope he ain't singin' soprano with a cell phone exploding so close to the family blueprints.
  • Proposed Nokia ad:

    Is that a phone in your pocket, or... AGH, AGH, AGH!
  • On Purpose? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by interiot (50685) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:29PM (#7179839) Homepage
    Jason Kottke links to suggestions [kottke.org] that the Nokia phones detect batteries which aren't made by Nokia, and when it detects on, it puts the phone in maximum-current-draw mode to try to encourage the user to buy a Nokia battery, and this could be causing the exploding batteries.

    Of course, this is an allegation that'd be hard to prove without insider verification. Or possibly, with some astute multimeter readings.

    • Re:On Purpose? (Score:4, Informative)

      by tanveer1979 (530624) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:56PM (#7180009) Homepage Journal
      FUD, true FUD, nothing of this sort happened. The only way in the current batteries to find out wether it is a nokia, is to include extra circuits. I have disassembled enough batteries to know theydont have any such thing inside.

      And before you think that maybe the current characteristics can be used, it is not possible. Current, voltage etc will change with change with temp and also with time.

      Only thing may be that nokia batteries may come with current draw protection and may be more resistant to an inherent defect in the phones
      • I kind of assumed Motorola/Nokia etc's standard practice was to put microchips in the batteries...

        Hrm. I don't have a nokia battery with me, but a motorola battery here I guess seems to be microchip free (the lump felt turned out to be a diode).

      • Hmmm, what if there were an RFID tag in the battery and a reader in the phone. It could be embedded in the plastic shell and never be found even in disassembly.

        I'm that saying that's the case with Nokia, but it's a technical possibility, and there certainly enough companies out there snarky enough to do that.

        • Maybe yes. But why. No company would like gets its reputaion tarnished. Nokia has a big industry share.

          Lets get to the economics too. Adding such a thing with adequate protection mechanisms will require approximate 10000 gates microchip, plus some analog circuitry. This increase in cost does not justify this.

          Moreover batteries are not replaced much nowadays(in GSM). Battery life for a meduim user is around 18 months, and after that time many people change phones. And one thing what people discount is that

  • This is a rather extreme method of fighting off those people who talk very loud into their cellphone at the worst possible moment talking on and on and..

    I retract my previous statement.
  • "This is the second reported incident of Nokia phones exploding, the first one being back in August when a Dutch woman's phone exploded in her hand."
    Actually, there have been two cases reported *this week* by The Register [theregister.co.uk], as well as the one back in August, so it's not the second reported incident at all. ;)

    What I want to know is, when will we see the first exploding N-Gage?
  • by TheLocustNMI (159898) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:31PM (#7179854) Homepage
    ...are both very volatile power systems. Being an remote-control electric flight enthusiast, I have heard too many stories about NiMH cells exploding ("it sounded like a shotgun blast!") and LiON batteries burning up cars. They are fine if they aren't damaged or defective -- but a NimH or especially LiON cells that have been damaged can be VERY dangerous.

    Me, I'm waiting for nuclear-powered cellphones! Chernobyl in your pocket!
  • Think of the odds! (Score:5, Informative)

    by shplorb (24647) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:36PM (#7179892) Homepage Journal
    Q: How many phones do Nokia sell each year?
    A: Millions

    Q: How many of their phones explode each year?
    A: 1 or 2

    Q: How many cars are sold each year?
    A: Millions

    Q: How many people die on the roads each year?
    A: Thousands

    Conclusion: You have a greater chance of dying in a car crash than having your mobile phone explode.
    • But what if your mobile phone explodes in the wreck resulting from you failing to notice the light changing because you're dictating a shopping list to your spouse on the phone, resulting in you rear-ending the person in front of you at full speed?
    • Q: How many of the deaths due to auto accidents are preventable by the car manufacturer?
      A: None of them, presumably.

      Q: How many of the cell phone explosions are preventable by Nokia?
      A: All of them, presumably.

      That's why this is a big deal, or at least has the potential to be a big deal.
      • Q: How many of the deaths due to auto accidents are preventable by the car manufacturer?
        A: None of them, presumably.

        Well that's not what the Narrator [imdb.com] in Fight Club [imdb.com] would have us believe:

        Narrator: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average ou

      • Q: How many of the deaths due to auto accidents are preventable by the car manufacturer?
        A: None of them, presumably.

        Q: Do anti-lock brakes (ABS) save lives?
        A: Yes

        Q: Do car manufacturers fit ABS as standard to all cars?
        A: No

        Q: Should there be legislation to make ABS compulsory on all cars?
        A: ??

  • Terrorism! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Aardpig (622459) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @10:57PM (#7180013)

    Obviously the work of the Teleban...

  • I misread the title as "Nokia Investigating Reported Cell Phone Exploits." I'd love to combine those - an exploit which would let you make others's cell phones explode.

    What's McBride's cell phone number?

  • A field test for the new weapon of the Bush administration. Created for the Homeland Security department by Nokia, the phones are programmed to explode when called by a source number, known only by the CIA, and in conjuction with a 2 beep tone. Once the tone plays the phone explodes and blows the head of the suspected terrorist.

    Perfecto!

    BTW, I'm a Bush fan; however, I simply couldn't resist.
    • you know why finns would help gwb?-)

      i do. we love conan o'brien ans his gwb jokes are hilarious(with the moving mouth), we cannot let them stop! though, now we have continued supply of arnold jokes too..

      anyways.. quick calculations show that nokia makes nearly 200 million phones nowadays per year, maybe they could change the battery type though.. but when talking i'd imagine bulk of explosion to go to your hand instead of your head(the battery is on the other side of the phone). i'd be intrested in also t
  • Damn it, I told my girlfriend that she just talked way too much on the phone...

  • 7210's are very old. Is it possible that the old battery just simply degraded to a dangerous level?

    It makes sense that there would be a short usable life for rechargable batteries.
  • Sorry! (Score:4, Funny)

    by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <(instascreed) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday October 10, 2003 @12:08AM (#7180385) Homepage
    The IDF deliveries to Fatah (et al.) got delivered elsewhere by mistake!

    Whoops! Next: Suicide murderers in Helsinki.

    (Where's Mannerheim when you need him?)
  • First exploding cell phone: "Only Nokia parts are reliable. Buy only from Nokia. Give us more money!"

    Second exploding cell phone: "Well, I guess Nokia parts aren't reliable either."
  • Too bad about the fellow getting burnt.

    At least now we can watch someone sue the pants off of Nokia.

    -Alex
  • I wondered where the designers of the PowerBook 5300 went...
  • Was it the charger? (Score:3, Informative)

    by apetime (544206) <ape...com@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 10, 2003 @12:53AM (#7180563)
    I remember seeing something about this on a TV show I saw while I was in Japan. The phones they tested all had 1st-party batteries, but the chargers they used were non-standard, like the little cases you can hook up nine-volts with, or quick recharging ones.

    I don't remember the details, but something about heat building up during the charging vaporized something inside, making the case rupture spraying acid all over the place. Apparently, the phone could still explode a few minutes after it had been disconnected.

  • Hmmm, sounds like he should have left that cellphone in his other pants...
  • Two TECHNICIANS lead Jack to the BURNT-OUT SHELL of a
    WRECKED AUTOMOBILE. Jack sets down his briefcase, opens it
    and starts to make notes on a CLIPBOARDED FORM.

    JACK (V.O.)
    I'm a recall coordinator. My job is
    to apply the formula. It's a story
    problem.

    TECHNICIAN #1
    Here's where the infant went through
    the windshield. Three points.

    JACK (V.O.)
    A new car built by my company leaves
    somewhere traveling at 60 miles pe
  • WOW ! Can you imagine the possibilities with this thing ?

    We will finally be able to play Street Lemmings with real people. As soon as we know the sms code for blowing someone up, all we have to do is to give the people on the street a backpack of bricks, an axe, a parachute and a few more things.
  • Admit, what code do you send to the phone to make it explode!
  • ..what is probably the more significant link in the article [com.com]. Worry less about 1-2 phones exploding per year, and more about the consequences 20 years down the line of putting a powerful microwave transmitter up to your head - to quote from the linked text:

    Voice-only devices are giving way to real heavy Internet-ready devices with a lot more guts that, at least theoretically, may not be that great to have right next to your head, said Bryan Prohm, a wireless industry analyst at market research firm Dataqu

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