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German group claims to have hacked Apple iPhone fingerprint scanner A group of German hackers claimed to have cracked the iPhone fingerprint scanner on Sunday, just two days after Apple Inc(NSQ:AAPL) launched the technology that it promises will better protect devices from criminals and snoopers seeking access.
If the claim is verified, it will be embarrassing for Apple which is betting on the scanner to set its smartphone apart from new models of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and others running the Android operating system of Google Inc (NSQ:GOOG).
Two prominent iPhone security experts told Reuters that they believed the German group, known as the Chaos Computing Club, or CCC, had succeeded in defeating Apple's Touch ID, though they had not personally replicated the work.
One of them, Charlie Miller, co-author of the iOS Hacker's Handbook, described the work as "a complete break" of Touch ID security. "It certainly opens up a new possibility for attackers."
Apple representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
CCC, one the world's largest and most respected hacking groups, posted a video on its website that appeared to show somebody accessing an iPhone 5S with a fabricated print. The site described how members of its biometrics team had cracked the new fingerprint reader, one of the few major high-tech features added to the latest version of the iPhone. (Reuters)
USDA will not take action in case of GMO alfalfa contamination The detection of a small amount of genetically modified material in a Washington state farmer's non-GMO alfalfa crop constitutes a "commercial issue" only and does not warrant any government action, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.
The Washington state farmer had complained in late August to state agricultural officials that his alfalfa hay had been rejected for export sale because of the presence of a genetically modified trait that makes the crop resistant to herbicide.
The event triggered a wave of concern from consumer and agricultural groups who have fought the government for nearly a decade to keep biotech alfalfa from contaminating conventional and organic supplies. (Reuters)
Aaron Alexis Had 'Secret Clearance,' Employer Says About Washington Navy Yard Suspect Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old suspect in Monday's shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, had "secret" clearance and was assigned to start working there as a civilian contractor with a military-issued ID card, his firm's chief executive told Reuters.
"He did have a secret clearance. And he did have a CAC (common access card)," said Thomas Hoshko, CEO of The Experts Inc, which was helping service the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a subcontractor for HP Enterprise Services, part of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Alexis, of Forth Worth, Texas, is suspected of opening fire at the Naval Sea Systems Command building in the Washington Navy Yard in a shooting that left 13 people dead, including the shooter. (Reuters)
U.N. rights team aims to probe chemical weapons in Syria: del Ponte U.N. human rights investigators hope to get into Syria soon to try to find out who carried out apparent chemical attacks and other war crimes, Carla del Ponte, of the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria, said on Monday.
Del Ponte gave no time frame for a visit but said that the team was in touch with U.N. chemical weapons inspectors and awaited their findings from the scene of an August 21 poison gas attack. She said the rights team's work would continue whether or not the United States carried out mooted punitive military strikes against the Syrian government over the attack.
"We are in touch with Syrian authorities to enter and we are on the right track," she told the Swiss Press Club in Geneva.
U.N. human rights officials declined to comment on how any air strike might affect a possible visit, but stressed the need for conditions to be right for the team to conduct their work.
The commission's confidential list of suspected Syrian war criminals was "getting longer", she said, but gave no details.
Del Ponte said Syria had sent a "positive signal" by letting U.N. chemical arms inspectors go to Damascus to collect samples in suburbs allegedly attacked with toxic substances on August 21, which are now being analyzed in European laboratories. The arms inspectors were not mandated to apportion blame for the attack.
That would be the job of the human rights investigators, said del Ponte, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor. The Geneva-based team has more than 20 experts, some of them specialists in military and ballistics issues. (Reuters)
Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.
At congressional hearings this week, while making the case for President Barack Obama's plan for limited military action in Syria, Kerry asserted that the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution.
"And the opposition is getting stronger by the day," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA's use of hidden intel evidence Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency. (Reuters)
Back at college, suspect called Boston bombs "crazy": classmate Working out at the gym at their sleepy New England college, two students chatted about how "crazy" it was that bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. Three days later, one of them was named a prime suspect.
Returning to campus on Sunday after being evacuated on Friday during a massive manhunt for the bombers, students at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth swapped recollections of seeing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, back in the dorm, at class and in the gym in the aftermath of the bombings.
Tsarnaev was working out in the gym from 8 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, listening to music on his iPod, when he struck up a conversation with fellow sophomore Zach Bettencourt.
"It's crazy this is happening now," Bettencourt recalled Tsarnaev telling him when the bombings came up. "This (these bombings) is so easy to do. These tragedies happen all the time in Afghanistan and Iraq." (Reuters)
FBI's handling of Boston suspect comes under scrutiny U.S. lawmakers asked on Sunday why the FBI had failed to spot the danger from one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, and they complained it was one of a series of cases in which someone the agency had investigated had later taken part in attacks.
House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote to the FBI and other officials asking why Tamerlan Tsarnaev did not raise suspicions after Russia asked the bureau to investigate him two years ago.
"Because if he was on the radar and they let him go, he's on the Russians' radar, why wasn't a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag?," McCaul, a Texas Republican, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "And I'd like to know what intelligence Russia has on him as well."
The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev, the elder of two ethnic Chechen brothers suspected in the Boston bombing, in 2011 shortly after Russia's Federal Security Service asked the agency to look into him as a possible Islamist radical who might soon travel to Russia.
Asked on Sunday about lawmakers' concerns, the FBI said it had no further comment beyond a statement it issued on Friday night when it said it "did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign" after speaking to Tsarnaev and checking his travel records and Internet activity. (Reuters)
First magic mushroom depression trial hits stumbling block The world's first clinical trial designed to explore using a hallucinogen from magic mushrooms to treat people with depression has stalled because of British and European rules on the use of illegal drugs in research.
David Nutt, president of the British Neuroscience Association and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said he had been granted an ethical green light and funding for the trial, but regulations were blocking it.
"We live in a world of insanity in terms of regulating drugs," he told a neuroscience conference in London on Sunday.
He has previously conducted small experiments on healthy volunteers and found that psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, has the potential to alleviate severe forms of depression in people who don't respond to other treatments.
Following these promising early results he was awarded a 550,000 pounds ($844,000) grant from the UK's Medical Research Council to conduct a full clinical trial in patients. (Reuters)
Insight: Evidence grows for narcolepsy link to GSK swine flu shot Emelie is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. When she wakes up, she's often paralyzed, unable to breathe properly or call for help. During the day she can barely stay awake, and often misses school or having fun with friends. She is only 14, but at times she has wondered if her life is worth living.
Emelie is one of around 800 children in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe who developed narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder, after being immunized with the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in 2009.
Finland, Norway, Ireland and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy cases, too, and people familiar with the results of a soon-to-be-published study in Britain have told Reuters it will show a similar pattern in children there.
Their fate, coping with an illness that all but destroys normal life, is developing into what the health official who coordinated Sweden's vaccination campaign calls a "medical tragedy" that will demand rising scientific and medical attention. (Reuters)
Judge in San Francisco lets biggest medical pot shop stay open A federal magistrate judge on Monday ruled that a medical-marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest can continue to operate, at least for now, in Oakland and San Jose despite a bid by federal prosecutors to shut it down.
The ruling marks the latest move in a tug-of-war between local and federal authorities over medical marijuana dispensaries and over Harborside Health Center, which was featured on the Discovery Channel reality TV show "Weed Wars." (Reuters)
Iran to conduct navy drill in Strait of Hormuz in December Iran will begin six days of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz at the end of this week, an Iranian naval commander said on Tuesday, an exercise meant to showcase its military capabilities in what is a vital oil and gas shipping route.
The "Velayat 91" drills will be held from Friday to Wednesday across an area of about 1 million square kilometres in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, said Habibollah Sayyari, according to Iranian media.
Iranian officials have often said that Iran could block the strait - through which 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports pass - if it came under military attack over its disputed nuclear programme. (Reuters)
Project Longevity: Justice Department, Connecticut State Officials Target Gun Violence The Obama administration is taking a cautious step toward confronting the politically tricky subject of gun violence with an initiative focused on prevention due to be unveiled on Tuesday.
It will not be the gun control launch that some of President Barack Obama's supporters hoped for after Obama won a second four-year term in a Nov. 6 election.
Instead, U.S. Justice Department and Connecticut state officials will announce what one law enforcement official called a statewide approach that targets repeat criminals, creates alternatives for potential gang members and rallies neighborhoods against violence. (Reuters)
Gaza ceasefire holds but mistrust runs deep A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held firm on Thursday with scenes of joy among the ruins in Gaza over what Palestinians hailed as a victory, and both sides saying their fingers were still on the trigger.
In the sudden calm, Palestinians who had been under Israeli bombs for eight days poured into Gaza streets for a celebratory rally, walking past wrecked houses and government buildings.
But as a precaution, schools stayed closed in southern Israel, where nerves were jangled by warning sirens - a false alarm, the army said - after a constant rain of rockets during the most serious Israeli-Palestinian fighting in four years.
Israel had launched its strikes last week with a declared aim of ending rocket attacks on its territory from Gaza, ruled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which denies Israel's right to exist. Hamas had responded with more rockets. (Reuters)
Sandy curtails nuclear plants, oldest under alert Hurricane Sandy slowed or shut a half-dozen U.S. nuclear power plants, while the nation's oldest facility declared a rare "alert" after the record storm surge pushed flood waters high enough to endanger a key cooling system.
Exelon Corp's 43-year-old Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey remains on "alert" status, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said early Tuesday. It is only the third time this year that the second-lowest of four emergency action levels was triggered.
"Oyster Creek is still in an alert but may be getting out of it as long as water levels continue to drop," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told Reuters.
The alert came after water levels at the plant rose more than 6.5 feet above normal, potentially affecting the "water intake structure" that pumps cooling water through the plant. (Reuters)
Officials concede gaps in U.S. knowledge of Iran plot Iran's supreme leader and the shadowy Quds Force covert operations unit were likely aware of an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, but hard evidence of that is scant, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
The United States does not have solid information about "exactly how high it goes," one official said.
The Obama administration has publicly and directly blamed Iran's government for seeking to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, and has warned Tehran it will face consequences. The accusation has heightened tensions in the volatile, oil-rich Gulf.
Tehran has called the accusation a fabrication designed to sow discord in the region.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said their confidence that at least some Iranian leaders were aware of the alleged plot was based largely on analyses and their understanding of how the Quds Force operates. (Reuters)
Quake raises safety concerns as nuclear plant shut The largest earthquake to hit the East Coast of the United States in 67 years raised concerns on Tuesday about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants.
The 5.8 magnitude quake's epicenter was just a few miles from the two-reactor North Anna nuclear power plant operated by Dominion Resources in Mineral, Virginia, 80 miles southwest of Washington.
The plant lost power and automatically halted operations after the quake. While a Dominion spokesman reported no "major" damage to the facility, three diesel generators were required to kick in and keep the reactors' radioactive cores cool. A fourth diesel unit failed.
While nuclear power plants can operate safely on back-up power, failure of generators was a key reason for the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant after a 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami in March.
"Nuclear power plants lose a significant margin of safety when they're forced to rely on these emergency back-up systems," said Paul Gunter, director of reactor oversight at Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear lobby group. (Reuters)
Amazon protests California Web-sales tax plan Amazon: tax effort is "unconstitutional" -- U.S. states may be eyeing budget deficits - Amazon.com Inc warned its 10,000-plus California sales affiliates on Wednesday that it may be forced to sever ties with them should the state begin taxing their online sales.
The wealthiest U.S. state became the latest -- on the heels of Illinois and Connecticut -- to be dropped by Amazon from its nationwide sales-affiliate program, which relies on in-state websites to drive its own online business.
Its affiliates, paid a fee when they funnel traffic to Amazon that results in a sale, have found themselves in the middle of a battle between Amazon and several states that argue the online retailer has a duty to collect sales taxes when those affiliates operate within their state.
U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition: report The State Department has secretly funded Syrian opposition groups, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
The cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million since 2006 to a group of Syrian exiles to operate a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, and finance activities inside Syria, the Post said.
Barada TV began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria that began last month as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad the Post said.
The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after political ties with Damascus were frozen in 2005, the newspaper said.
The financial backing has continued under President Barack Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad, the Post said. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years. (Reuters)
WRAPUP 13-Radiation leaking from Japan's quake-hit nuclear plant Radiation leaked from
a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor north of Tokyo on Saturday,
the government said, after an explosion blew the roof off the
facility in the wake of a massive earthquake.
The developments raised fears of a meltdown at the plant as
officials scrambled to contain what could be the worst nuclear
disaster since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 that shocked the
The Japanese plant was damaged by Friday's 8.9-magnitude
earthquake, which sent a 10-metre (33-foot) tsunami ripping
through towns and cities across the northeast coast. Japanese
media estimate that at least 1,300 people were killed.
"We are looking into the cause and the situation and we'll
make that public when we have further information," Chief
Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said after confirming the
explosion and radiation leak at the plant. (Reuters)
EXCLUSIVE-Cyber bill would give U.S. emergency powers * Tech companies skeptical of costs, requirements
* Senate majority leader pushing cybersecurity proposal
* Cybersecurity expert says bill is "pretty vanilla stuff" - Proposed cybersecurity legislation circulating on Capitol Hill would give the president the power to declare an emergency in the case of big online attacks and force some businesses to beef up their cyber defenses and submit to scrutiny.
The draft bill, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, allows the president to declare an emergency if there is an imminent threat to the U.S. electrical grid or other critical infrastructure such as the water supply or financial network because of a cyber attack.
Industries, companies or portions of companies could be temporarily shut down, or be required to take other steps to address threats.
The emergency declaration would last for 30 days, unless the president renews it. It cannot last more than 90 days without action from Congress.
The draft is a combination of two cybersecurity bills which were merged into one at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "It (the draft bill) is something that we hope to be able to pass before the end of the year, if we can," Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle told Reuters. (Reuters)
U.S. Nuclear Weapons Have Been Compromised by Unidentified Aerial Objects Ex-military men say unknown intruders have monitored and even tampered with American nuclear missiles. Group to call on U.S. Government to reveal the facts - Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. Six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about these events at the National Press Club and urge the government to publicly confirm their reality.
One of them, ICBM launch officer Captain Robert Salas, was on duty during one missile disruption incident at Malmstrom Air Force Base and was ordered to never discuss it. Another participant, retired Col. Charles Halt, observed a disc-shaped object directing beams of light down into the RAF Bentwaters airbase in England and heard on the radio that they landed in the nuclear weapons storage area. Both men will provide stunning details about these events, and reveal how the U.S. military responded. (Reuters)
Cybersecurity bill on list for passage this year Capitol Hill staffers have made progress stitching together cybersecurity proposals into a huge bill, aides said, with Senate leadership putting it on their short list for passage this year.
But stiff industry opposition and partisan tensions still make it unlikely comprehensive legislation will pass in 2010.
The legislation would require companies who sell the government USD 80 billion in hardware and software each year to bake in a certain level of security -- a potentially expensive prospect.
Senate Majority Harry Reid has put the measure on his list of top-priority bills to get through the Senate this year, the sources said.
The bill is a priority because leaps in technology have increased industrial productivity, but also left businesses and the US government vulnerable to foreign spies, such as the 2008 breach of US military computers using a single compromised thumb drive and identity thieves who have stolen untold numbers of consumer credit card numbers. (Reuters)
COLUMN-In drug war, the beginning of the end? Bernd Debusmann Between 1971, when Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs, and 2008, the latest year for which official figures are available, American law enforcement officials made more than 40 million drug arrests. That number roughly equals the population of California, or of the 33 biggest U.S. cities.
Forty million arrests speak volumes about America's longest war, which was meant to throttle drug production at home and abroad, cut supplies across the borders, and keep people from using drugs. The marathon effort has boosted the prison industry but failed so obviously to meet its objectives that there is a growing chorus of calls for the legalization of illicit drugs.
In the United States, that brings together odd bedfellows. Libertarians in the tea party movement, for example, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of former police officers, narcotics agents, judges and prosecutors who favor legalizing all drugs, not only marijuana, the world's most widely-used illicit drug. - "Taking all this together, there is reason to believe that we are at the beginning of the end of the drug war as we know it," says Aaron Houston, a veteran Washington lobbyist for marijuana policy reform.
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But how many people in the late 1920s, at the height of the government's fight against the likes of Al Capone, would have foreseen that alcohol prohibition would end in just a few years? Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933 and is now considered a failed experiment in social engineering.
Alcohol and marijuana prohibition have much in common: both in effect handed production, sales and distribution of a commodity in high demand to criminal organizations, both filled the prisons (America's population behind bars is now the world's largest), both diverted the resources of law enforcement, and both created millions of scoff-laws. (Reuters)
Canadian police find bears guarding pot crop A pair of marijuana growers in Western Canada appear to have been using bears to protect their illegal crop, but the well-fed animals proved to be a bit lax in their guard duties, police said on Wednesday. (Reuters)
U.S. says UAE BlackBerry ban sets dangerous precedent The United States said it was disappointed that the United Arab Emirates planned to cut off key BlackBerry services, noting that the Gulf nation was setting a dangerous precedent in limiting freedom of information.
"We are committed to promoting the free flow of information," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "We think it's integral to an innovative economy."
The UAE said over the weekend that it would suspend Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11 until the government could get access to encrypted messages.
Crowley said the United States was seeking additional information from the UAE about its security concerns, but urged the country to allow BlackBerry services to aid the free flow of information.
"It's about what we think is an important element of democracy, human rights and freedom of information and the flow of information in the 21st century," Crowley said, adding that the United States makes the same argument to Iran and China. (Reuters)
NY bomb attempt reignites security camera debate The thwarted Times Square car bombing has fueled the debate over security cameras and expensive surveillance for major cities, possibly providing a business opportunity to the security industry. - The bomb scare and quick capture of the suspect prompted U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York and others to ask for at least $30 million more in federal aid for video and security measures for New York City. That would be in addition to the $20 million in federal funding that has already been appropriated for 2010. (Reuters)
Halliburton agrees to buy Boots & Coots Halliburton (HAL.N) said on Friday it agreed to buy Boots & Coots (WEL.A), a company that provides pressure control services for oil and gas wells, in a stock and cash deal worth about $240 million. (Reuters)
U.S. air travelers complain about body scans The United States began testing the devices in a pilot program after the September 11, 2001, attacks, but the pace of use has increased since a passenger with a bomb hidden in his underwear tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. ... The complaints ranged from concern about genitals being seen and the use of the devices on children, to anger over passengers not being told they could request a pat-down search instead and potential health worries from the scans. (Reuters)
U.N. climate panel admits Dutch sea level flaw The U.N. panel of climate experts overstated how much of the Netherlands is below sea level, according to a preliminary report on Saturday, admitting yet another flaw after a row last month over Himalayan glacier melt. (Reuters)
Lobbyists for cap and trade face daunting task The U.S. Senate's stalled climate bill is getting a last big push from an unlikely ally -- a group of energy companies who say a carbon market will help them get financing for the next generation of energy production. (Reuters)
UPDATE 1-Glaxo shipped $1.4 bln of H1N1 vaccine in Q4 130 mln doses shipped Q4 vs reported 440 mln orders in Oct
* "Too early to say" what final total will be
* Shares down 2 percent - GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) shipped swine flu vaccine worth 835 million pounds ($1.36 billion) to governments in the last quarter of 2009 but the drugmaker said on Friday it was too early to say what the final total would be.
The quarterly total is less than the 1 billion pounds or so that many analysts had been forecasting.
The British company, which is the biggest supplier of H1N1 vaccines, has been hit in recent weeks by a series of order cancellations following slow uptake of the shots.
Belgium became the latest country to cut its order, cancelling a third of the supply originally booked from Glaxo earlier on Friday, in line with a similar reduction by Germany. (Reuters)
First defense against swine flu seasonal vaccine - U.S. health officials strengthened their recommendations for seasonal flu vaccines on Friday, saying all children aged 6 months to 18 years should be immunized -- especially because of the H1N1 flu pandemic (Reuters)
U.S. has bought 195 million doses of H1N1 vaccine The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has also contracted for 120 million doses of adjuvant, a compound to stretch the number of doses of vaccine needed, the department's Dr. Robin Robinson told a meeting of Food and Drug Administration advisers (Reuters)
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