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Comment Re:Who said what? (Score 1) 391

This story makes Slashdot look stupid, if we're being honest. The summary is bullshit. How did it make the front page?

Slashdot isn't stupid. Stories like this get hundreds of comments and likely thousands of more views than a story like "Cool new feature in latest KDE release."

Slashdot is now like almost every other site -- i.e., just about the advertising. Flamebait stories like this are the equivalent of TV news broadcasts running ads in the evening like, "This common snack food might kill your kids! Stay tuned through these commercials to hear the news at 11!" (And in those news stories you frequently find out that it's a relatively minor recall for something relatively minor; here you just realize that the reality is much less dire than it sounds too, but it's written to provoke a bunch of "SJWs are evil!" posts.)

Now, let's not kid ourselves -- this is nothing new on Slashdot. It's just "back in the day" the flamewars were over Emacs vs. vi or GNOME vs. KDE or whatever. Even if there was a lot of ranting there, though, it was at least vaguely interesting because you'd sometimes get some useful technical details coming out.

And even back then political stories tended to get a lot of discussion. But now they seem to be deliberately written to trigger flamewars. And the sad realization is that there's a much higher percentage of racist, misogynist, climate change-doubting bigots here than I'd like... and they're not only ready to rant, but people are ready to mod them up.

(And no, I'm not a "SJW" on a mission to call out people who simply disagree as bigots -- I'm talking about the ACTUAL misinformed ignorance here from people who just want to rant, and the folks who seem ready at the trigger to mod them up.)

Recently, I've been skipping a lot here and reading more over at Soylent. Yes, the news is roughly the same, and frequently they have stories a few days out of date too. And there's some bigotry there too. But at least it's not being driven deliberately by the editors there, as it is now here.

Comment Re:What about the NBA? (Score 1) 459

The problem with your link is that showing an IQ test gap doesn't necessarily prove a "significant difference in mental capacity between humans of different races." Correlation does not necessarily equal causation and all that jazz.

For one, many people have pointed out flaws in IQ tests. Do they really measure "general intelligence"? Are there components they don't track well? And are there aspects of test design that favor some socioeconomic or cultural groups over others?

But let's assume that IQ tests ARE actually a perfect measure of general mental capacity for just a moment. Even if that's true, your own link shows part of the problem -- from your link:

However, even small differences in average IQ at the group level might theoretically have large effects on social outcomes. For example, a randomly selected group of Americans with an average IQ of 103 had a poverty rate 25% lower than a group with an average IQ of 100. Similar substantial correlations in high school drop-out rates, crime rates, and other outcomes have been measured.

Now, one conclusion we might take from this is that the marginally lower IQ of race X leads to greater poverty, high-school drop-out, crime rate, etc. in race X compared to Y.

OR -- the causation could be the opposite. That is, maybe living in a local sub-culture that doesn't complete education as much (or doesn't have access to as high-quality education as others, see most inner city schools) and has greater poverty and other social problems could result in worse education and conditions for raising children, resulting in lower IQ test schools.

It seems that the latter is the larger factor in the explanation, based on a number of studies. If you take poor black kids and raise them in middle-class or upper-class white households, a large percentage of the "IQ gap" magically disappears. If you control for socioeconomic status and parents' education level, a lot of the supposed "gap" disappears. In addition to educational opportunity, a lot of this is also likely related to health and nutrition -- it is well-established in many studies that nutritional deficiencies, particularly at early ages, can cause significant differences in IQ. (And black and hispanic kids in the U.S. are known to have a greater rate of nutritional problems than other races.)

Once you factor in all of this stuff, you're left with MAYBE a few points of IQ difference between races at most. Maybe -- it's still inconclusive, and some adoption studies have suggested there's really no difference at all.

Point being -- at least when it comes to the observed racial differences, a much larger portion is likely based in cultural factors rather than genetics. At least that's what the studies on black and hispanic kids have shown. I haven't seen as many studies looking at whether the asian IQ advantage dissipates when environmental/cultural factors are taken into account, but there have been at least a few which show the effect is diminished in adopted kids or once asian kids are removed from their language or culture.

Comment Re:It's the cost of the labor, stupid (Score 1) 146

For most repairs, no skill is needed. Just go to Youtube, type in the product you are repairing, and a short description of what the problem is, and you will get a dozen videos showing exactly how to fix it.

I would disagree with this. For anything beyond the most basic repairs, you'll probably encounter various "bumps" along the way in trying to replicate what someone on Youtube does, or realize that they skipped a few essential explanations about things (often basic stuff that anyone familiar with that type of repair would know already), etc.

I agree that Youtube is a great resource for this sort of stuff, but it's like saying, "Baking bread doesn't require any skill. Just watch a Youtube video." Except you probably will encounter some problems and unanswered questions the first time you try to bake a loaf of bread, and you'll probably get much better results on your 5th loaf than your 1st, simply from the experience of doing it a few times. Also, you'll probably get better results if you already know something about baking something else (e.g., cakes, biscuits, whatever), than if you've never baked anything before.

A lot of repairs are similar, except unlike baking bread, you want to get it right the first time... which means you often end up doing a lot more troubleshooting and sorting out minor issues if you're unfamiliar with that type of repair. The "skills" required are often quite minimal, but they do come from experience -- and the next time you have to do something similar, you'll probably spend 1/4 the time doing it, because you have "skill" (however basic).

Comment Re:It's the cost of the labor, stupid (Score 2) 146

But don't kid yourself: you don't really stick to that most of the time. If you repaired and maintained your home and your car the way people used to, you wouldn't have any time for anything else.

Well, first off, most homes and cars don't need to be "maintained... the way people used to" because of advances in both design/materials and tools for maintenance. For example, most people used to have lots of wood trim on exteriors of houses (if not complete wood siding) that needed to be repainted on a regular basis to avoid rot. Nowadays, few homes are built with materials that need that level of maintenance. Moreover, paint quality has improved significantly over the years, so a good paint job can probably last at least many years longer than they used to. The quality of cheap tools that also speed up the painting process has improved significantly too.

Same thing with cars. Cars used to need much more frequent maintenance than today. Nowadays, many cars can run for several years with only periodic oil changes and tire rotations -- both of which are trivial to perform with just a few simple tools. (Well, except for some new cars where they make it a pain in the neck to perform oil changes without a lift.)

So, first thing is that people don't NEED to maintain stuff the way they used to. Secondly, your statement is more than a bit of hyperbole. After all, how much time exactly do you hire people to repair your home and your car each week? Do you seriously think it's enough that "you wouldn't have any time for anything else"?

Then you have to deal with the inefficiency of hiring people for repairs. Several problems there -- if you've ever actually owned a home (or a car, for that matter), you probably realize that the majority of maintenance people out there SUCK. Either they're incompetent or they're in a hurry and skip steps or they use cheap materials or methods that you'd never use if you actually wanted a repair to last, etc. So, it's not only the time investment in researching someone to hire, scheduling them to come over and do the repair, and paying them -- but then you need to budget in the extra time to call them back and complain and get them to come back to fix the stuff they forgot, or the time and money it takes to hire a new person a year or two later to come back and "do it right." Seriously -- even the competent contractors I know are a problem, because they tend to be busy because they do good work... which means they're always short on time and they just forget stuff. It's very rare to find someone who's actually competent AND takes pride in their work AND who will call you back quickly -- if you do find them, they are worth their weight in gold.

And here's the thing -- you can prevent some of that latter inefficiency if you have some clue what you're talking about and have enough expertise to have some idea what to expect in terms of maintenance -- and that usually comes from doing it (or related jobs) yourself. Then you can hire someone and at least have a clue whether they seem competent enough to do the job, and you won't pay them until you've checked it over and realized the five things they messed up that will actually cause the problem to recur.

Bottom line -- if you want to hire people to do all of your maintenance, that's fine too. But if you really want your repairs to be "done right" (particularly on a house), be prepared to spend more time selecting a good person to do the job and/or pestering the sub-par person you hired to redo it than the job probably would actually take if you did it yourself. And yes, while I'm not in these services myself, I have family members in construction and various home services... they'd tell you the same thing.

Thus, in the long run, it's probably more time and energy efficient (not to mention efficient from a monetary standpoint) to at least learn how to do most smaller jobs yourself. The small stuff is particularly time and money inefficient for hiring out -- a lot of minor repairs I've done take 20 minutes to run to a hardware store and 10-15 minutes to swap out a bad switch or plumbing seal or whatever. If I hire an electrician or plumber to do that, I have to waste time calling someone, waiting for a call back, then scheduling a time window for them to show up (and many are never on time), often having to be home while they do the repair.. maybe have to run to the hardware store themselves while I wait at home, etc. And for wasting all of that time getting someone in, I need to pay $100 in labor or whatever. I have better things to do with my time and money.

Comment Re:How much do they vary? (Score 5, Informative) 235

One of the reasons the Hebrew text was stable was because they used checksums when copying. Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is also used as a number. That made it easy to calculate checksums for each line of text.

Actually, there were a number of reasons for the stability. The "checksums," as you put it, were more associated with medieval Kabbalistic practices that date from probably more than a millennium after the "stable" version had basically been established. (And I'm not sure any scribes actually did this sort of "checksumming" in this way on any scale; only the "Bible code" wackos today seem to think so.)

Instead, you had a confluence of a number of factors:

(1) A tremendous set of ritualistic requirements for copying came about at a very early stage, which made copying the Torah distinct from any other scribal task. Scribes were required to take extra care with everything from ink quality to page layout. And they were to make verbal checks when copying every word, as well as other various checks (but mostly involved counting words and letters, not "summing" them).

(2) A rabbinical tradition was already in place nearly 2000 years ago which created a giant commentary on top of the actual text. Rabbis emphasized that even a single error in a single letter could create problems in accurate commentary, and the commentary itself often depended on tiny details of wording. (Remember all those stories of Jesus where he criticizes the "elders" and such for paying too much attention to details of the text so they forgot the broader meaning... that's what he was talking about. It was a new fad at that time, which caught on.) Hence, even if an error in copying occurred in the text, you could spot it by the fact that it disagreed with the commentaries by learned rabbis. (It's sort of like if you had documentation for code that explained every single operation in detail. Even if the original code became corrupted, you could reconstruct it from the documentation.)

(3) Finally, you had the fact that a lot of Jews were slaughtered by the Romans and other folks in the early centuries of the first millennium, around the time many of these exacting traditions had developed. Thus, any competing editions/variants were likely to be lost (burned down with synagogues, etc.), with only a few official copies preserved. Those few copies -- whatever their source -- then became the dominant text once the others had been lost.

So yeah, scribes could check the text in many ways, but there were various events and ideologies that helped that process along.

Comment Re:And they discovered that Slashdot has gone to H (Score 3, Informative) 235

The science behind this is pretty amazing, and could lead to being able to read other ancient burned documents like those found at Herculaneum from the time of its destruction by Vesuvius.

Just to note -- the computer techniques for reconstructing text from scrolls here were actually developed within a project for analyzing the scrolls from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. This biblical scroll application was just another use of this computer analysis technique, showing its power to deal with even very badly burned and less intact fragments.

Comment Re:How much do they vary? (Score 5, Interesting) 235

You make an assertion that there are "dramatic" changes in the text, but is that true?

This is a good point. The Hebrew text of the Bible is remarkably stable in copies dating back almost 2000 years. Anyone who has spent time tracing families of manuscript sources in, for example, medieval Europe will realize how unstable many sources are compared to the Hebrew text. Copyists in most medieval treatises frequently made errors or omissions or even inserted their own variations, corrections, or commentary.

That said, rabbis are pretty aware of the variations in ancient sources --- perhaps most notably, the differences between the Masoretic text (the standard Hebrew edition dating to medieval times) and the Septuagint (an ancient translation of the Hebrew text into Greek), as well as the Samaritan Pentateuch (a rendering in the Samaritan alphabet of the first books of the Bible, which has lots of mostly minor variants). These variants are important to rabbinical commentary and exegesis.

Comment Re:Older = Better (Score 3, Insightful) 235

Well, the closer it is to the original

Actually, something left out of the summary is the textual significance of this find. Some of the researchers involved have noted that this is the earliest text found so far that is identical to the Masoretic text, a medieval version which is the standard Hebrew edition often used today (not only in the original but as the basis of many modern translations, etc.).

Previous finds have shown that a set of "proto-Masoretic" variants begins to emerge as a standard around 2000 years ago (before that, there were wider textual variants). But previous fragments actually identical to the Masoretic were only known to date to centuries after this one. Depending on whose dating you believe, this scroll places the origin of this standard text version perhaps back to 1700-2000 years ago.

It's also significant because it's a biblical fragment recovered from an ark in a synagogue, where it may have actually been used, as opposed to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were preserved in desert caves and might represent a less 'standard" source tradition.

Again, a lot of this is speculative, but in this case the find is actually significant in pushing back the date when a "standard" Hebrew text may have begun to emerge.

Comment Re:these new companies trying to get around old la (Score 4, Interesting) 259

It's funny, I clicked through thinking nobody could be stupid enough to defend the laws written by auto dealers to prop up auto dealers' businesses.

It's clear GP doesn't know the real history behind auto dealers and franchise laws. In case others don't -- car dealers came into existence a LONG time ago (early 1900s), back when a number of factors existed that no longer apply now. There were no highways back then; manufacturers needed somebody local to coordinate distribution. Communication was more difficult in case there would be problems with a direct sale. And there were only a few major auto manufacturers, so there was concern about monopolistic behavior (whereas individual dealerships could both inform manufacturers of local market costs and potentially compete with each other to ensure low prices). Today, distribution and communication are easy, there are quite a few domestic and foreign manufacturers competing, and one can see list prices for cars on the internet instantly from across the country, so the value of local competition is greatly diminished.

But perhaps the greatest reason for dealerships back in the early days was maintenance. Cars were relatively new machines and needed very frequent maintenance compared to today. Few independent mechanics had the expertise in the early days, so manufacturers needed people throughout their sales area to provide service. Nowadays, many cars can run for years only needing a periodic oil change, and dealer shops are largely known for being overpriced (often many times the cost independent shops) and often no more competent than the average independent shop.

This explains why dealerships existed. Why they were granted special legal status often had to do with wars with manufacturers, e.g., during the Great Depression when manufacturers continued churning out cars and effectively forced dealers to take inventory they didn't want.... basically under threat that the manufacturer could "cut them out" if they really wanted to sell cars more directly. So dealers banded together and got laws passed to protect themselves from abuses by manufacturers.

That's really why we have a lot of these laws -- they weren't meant to protect consumers. They were dealerships trying to protect themselves against manufacturers back in the day. Nowadays, there's little justification for dealers anymore, so they're just trying to protect their own businesses from going extinct.

Oh, and GP's worried about price-fixing from manufacturers? Seriously? In a day when you can instantly see the price of a car anywhere in the country? If you allowed the possibility of direct sales, most manufacturers probably wouldn't want to destroy their dealer network, since there are all sorts of kickback schemes going on there, the value of maintenance contracts, etc., plus local presence creates more publicity.

Anyhow, the thing is -- monopolistic concerns mostly become an issue if there are few choices. There are lots of car manufacturers, lots of models, and even lots of used cars. Consumers have a LOT of choices. If manufacturers suddenly start jacking up prices, fewer consumers will buy. Maybe they'll switch models or even brands entirely. That's how the market works. I can't possibly see how propping up the car dealership franchises will lead to lower retail prices these days. They were a necessary part of distribution back in the day, but nowadays they're just a middleman who adds a LOT of overhead to the whole transaction and tries to sell you service you don't want (since that's where they can actually make more money).

Comment Re:Imbalance (Score 2) 436

That's NOT the quote most people consider the threat (though it's also perhaps in poor taste). The more concerning quote was: "Hillary wants to abolish --- essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."

Trump later downplayed this in various ways, but what it SOUNDS like is a suggestion that if Hillary packs courts with judges that deny rights, that the " Second Amendment people" (gun advocates?) could do something that others couldn't... Which could be interpreted as a call for assassination.

Obviously Trump didn't explicitly say that. But you have to admit that this quote sounds pretty bad the way it came out.

Comment Re:Sure they do... wait, no (Score 1) 187

It depends on how you look at it. Selection is great when you've not already watched all the material of interest, but to keep customers on board they need new content on a continuous basis.

The thing is -- there are different types of "new" content. There's "new" content in the sense of "made recently." But there's also "new" content in the sense of "we didn't have this product before."

When Netflix streaming first came out, I was hopeful that they'd keep doing more of the latter. There were lots of old, classic films, which I frankly prefer over a lot of new stuff. There are still several hundred old movies I'd be interested in seeing but haven't gotten around to it -- and those are just the "classics" I know about... inevitably, when I watch some of them, I'll discover some other related ones to watch.

All of this was the reason I originally subscribed to the DVD service 15 years or whatever ago.

Anyhow, originally my hope was that Netflix streaming would go more in the direction of what Amazon seems to have done, i.e., creating a huge streaming catalog. Frankly, I'd have been happy to pay a premium for streaming some of the more obscure stuff, or pay for a different tiered system or whatever.

But instead, Netflix has narrowed its focus in streaming, and a lot of the old more obscure content is gone. But even more worrying is that the DVD service no longer stocks a lot of the more obscure stuff.

They also must keep their price low. So far, the market is speaking and it is telling Netflix that it likes original content. Netflix is very smart to continue this path.

Sure, it's very smart from the perspective of business and profits -- so far, it's catering to the majority of customers. The question is -- just how much is it worth to people to watch "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" or whatever? How much will people put up with in dropping of other content and still pay prices for just a few shows?

I know I'm certainly not representative of most consumers. Lately, I've been doing a lot more "one-time" rentals from Amazon for the more obscure stuff that Netflix doesn't have, and watching a lot less Netflix. At some point there may be a place where Netflix is no longer worth it for me. Getting to see "House of Cards" or whatever come up with a few new episodes once per year may not be worth the recurring monthly charge.

Netflix is hoping that its original content will grow to the point that people become "addicted to it" before the rest of the catalog drops to the point where no one wants to pay for it. But just like there were plenty of people back in the day who weren't willing to fork out extra money each month for HBO just to see "The Sopranos" and "Sex in the City" or whatever, there may be many Netflix subscribers who don't care so much about the specific original content from Netflix... at least not enough to sustain a subscription.

Anyhow, bottom line is that this isn't what sold a lot of people on Netflix in the beginning, which was a large selection of all sorts of stuff. If they effectively become "just another cable channel" with a particular selection of shows, it's a big gamble with a large number of their customers. And Netflix has arguably undermined the whole "must-see TV" culture on a particular schedule which traditionally sustained new content. Yes, it still exists -- but a lot of people now just "binge watch" when they have time rather than the buzz created with "Did you see what happened on X last night??" Without that high-priority "I need to see what my coworkers and friends are watching TONIGHT" mentality, will subscribing for annual updates to original content be sustainable for them? Or will people be increasingly inclined to just watch whatever whenever, so they don't need to be subscribed to have the new content "right now" (except for a few hardcore fans)? Or will you have people subscribing for only a month to binge watch the new series of X favorite show and then unsubscribing from Netflix for the rest of the year?

Comment Re:Heading the wrong way (Score 1) 187

You have to pick or choose which shows you care to stop watching OR just go back to subscribing to the bloated service that was cable TV

Except that no longer works -- with "original content" created by Netflix, Amazon, etc., there will be increasingly more shows only exclusively available by streaming only... and from only one particular provider.

because it's getting to the point where the prices are even if you want a good selection of shows.

Welcome to the world of "unbundling." Seriously. For years, a lot of people here were hugely critical of cable TV companies because they wanted to just purchase a set of channels they actually wanted. They wanted things "unbundled."

Well, guess what -- this is the future of the "unbundled" world. Instead of paying $80/month to your cable company, you pay $9.95/month to a multitude of streaming services each with their own "exclusive" content and some overlapping hodge-podge of old stuff that's cheap to license. (Kinda like what most cable channels used to look like individually -- a few original shows, and a bunch of old cheap re-runs... except before you tended to pay less than a $1/month for each of those channels, since more cable revenue went to things like sports.)

I miss the days it was just Netflix and Netflix had just about everything.

Was that ever reality? Netflix streaming always had only a subset of quality content. In the early days of streaming, it had an odd mixture with a lot of really good old movies and only crappy new ones. The market demanded more new content, so recent TV series and movies started to be added, while the good "old stuff" gradually thinned out. The overall selection has gone up and down a bit over the years in various areas, but it was never very complete.

Netflix DVDs used to have "just about everything," though. Streaming ruined that, though. Frankly, I think much of Netflix's DVD service was kept alive by user laziness and apathy -- a decade ago, I knew so many people who got Netflix DVDs and they'd sit on the shelf for a month or two before anyone got around to watching them (or even sending them back unwatched). But they were paying $19.99 or whatever back then for the "standard" DVD service, so Netflix could rake in the profits by buying bulk DVDs.

And people were often completely irrational in terms of renting -- they'd think, "Oh yeah, that classic movie from the 1960s -- I should really watch that." And then it would sit on their shelf for a few weeks before being returned unwatched.

But Netflix could afford to buy a lot of obscure titles with all those subscribers funds rolling in from people who rarely got around to watching movies.

Streaming changed all that -- it turned it into something more like "channel surfing." Netflix DVDs was more like, "I bought those brussel spouts and kale, and they should be good for me, and I really should cook them tonight." Netflix streaming was more like, "Gosh... what sort of trash can I find here -- ooh, some potato chips in the back of the cabinet! That's so much easier than that vegetable stew... let's just eat the chips now" and suddenly they'd be streaming some crap show from the Food Network.

Meanwhile, the streaming gave Netflix new data -- they could actually see that few people ever bothered to watch those old cerebral "classics," while lots of people watched family/kids movies and crappy rom-coms. Of course, everyone knew this anyway, but now with data in hand, Netflix could start making decisions about what kind of stuff to invest in, and what licenses to just let lapse.

Comment Re:Kindergarten ? (Score 1) 228

Neglect for music and art has more to do with funding than any desire to cram more stuff in. There are schools where they can't even afford basic supplies like paper. How are they going to have instruments that students can use (as most can't afford a personal instrument)

Well, they could make their own instruments from recycled trash. Seriously -- they've figured out how to do it in much poorer countries. Kids could learn creativity in construction, crafting, and ecological responsibility along the way, as well as understanding the acoustics behind instrument construction (which can help you play better even with a "real" instrument, but most music students don't learn until perhaps grad school if ever). Oh, and you know... You can SING even without any instruments. Humans have been making music for thousands of years in much poorer circumstances than today...

Comment Re:School nurses (Score 1) 326

Schools are certainly not about to start storing syringes and vials of medications.

There are very few medications that need emergency treatment like epinephrine. We're talking about one special case here. And syringes can be pre-filled to correct dosage (and put in a special case/kit), so no need for "vials of medications."

The whole point of something like an epipen is that it can be administered by someone with no medical training whatsoever because there is a very high chance that whoever administers the epipen will not be a trained medical professional.

I already posted on this above, so i won't repeat myself. Actual studies show a very high chance that "someone with no medical training" will misuse an EpiPen. More than a syringe? I don't know, because no such studies are available.

That's a minor part of this problem. Most buyers of epipens are not schools but individuals. School districts might be getting ripped off but that's small potatoes compared with individuals getting ripped off.

Actually, no it's not just a "minor part of this problem." First, the amount of EpiPens purchased by schools, emergency personnel (e.g., ambulances, fire departments), etc. is not "small potatoes." It's a major market -- and many of these groups are probably better than individuals at keeping their stockpile current out of liability concerns (which means they purchase more often and likely in larger quantities than individuals). While not schools many emergency departments have reported saving tens of thousands of dollars PER YEAR not having to equip every emergency vehicle with EpiPens. (Perhaps even more important -- at least one news story talks about how many more people are now getting the life-saving drug. Previously, partly due to cost concerns, EpiPens were reserved for the most severe cases.)

Second, the forced adoption of EpiPens specifically in schools makes them a de facto "standard" and makes it even harder to lobby for accepting an alternative like a syringe or some other "kit." It makes it easier for schools to say, "No way we're doing it any other way. No other injectors allowed on school property. If you want your kid protected, you have to have them bring an EpiPen."

Claiming that broad government endorsement of EpiPen is "a minor part of this problem" is like claiming that school adoption of MS Windows products is "a minor part of the problem" standing in the way of open-source software adoption. When a school insists that you use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc., it creates a de facto standard. Even if more licenses are bought by individual home users than by the school, there's a significant influence here when a product is adopted officially.

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