Govt explores case for new public broadcaster

Govt explores case for new public broadcaster

The Government will explore the case for a new public broadcaster cobbled together from the existing two, Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, Marc Daalder reports

The Government will complete a business case examining the possibility of creating “a new public media entity as an independent multiple-platform, multi-media operation,” Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi has announced.

Final decisions about Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand won’t be made until the case has been reviewed by Cabinet. Faafoi said he expected to receive the report, which will be written by consultancy firm PwC, around the middle of 2020.

The announcement comes as Three, the country’s private, free-to-air broadcaster, has begged for the Government to rein in TVNZ. TVNZ competes commercially with Three but has not had to pay dividends this year. MediaWorks has put Three up for sale but intends to keep hold of its profitable radio division.

There are also worries that, if it cannot find a buyer, MediaWorks will simply shut down Three.

NZME and Stuff, which between them own the vast majority of the country’s newspapers and the other half of New Zealand’s for-profit radio stations, have also been encouraged to merge by New Zealand First. The first attempted “StuffMe” merger was canned by the Commerce Commission over concerns about media diversity.

Faafoi referenced the fraught media environment in his announcement on Friday.

“It’s well known that New Zealand’s media sector, both public and private, is facing unprecedented challenges with competition from the likes of Google and Facebook, declining revenue shares, and changes in when and how audiences access their information and entertainment,” he said.

“The Government must ensure New Zealanders have a strong independent public media service for decades to come, which means ensuring public media assets are fit for the future and able to thrive amid the changing media landscape.”

Faafoi said that NZ On Air, which funnels some Government money to commercial and non-commercial media outlets alike, will continue to operate. It was not immediately clear whether Faafoi planned to boost funding to NZ on Air. New Zealand has the second-lowest per capita public subsidy for public broadcasters in the world, at about $20 per person. Only the United States, which funds public broadcasters to the tune of $3.50 per person, is lower.

Newsroom will update this article as more information becomes available.

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Mum stabbed toddler son to death after being tormented by Ryanair pilot fiancé – Mirror Online

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A mum stabbed her 23-month-old son to death after she suffered a mental breakdown triggered by her bullying and cheating Ryanair pilot fiancé.

Former flight attendant Magda Lesicka, 33, was subjected to relentless psychological torment by Peter Chilvers, a flight captain with the budget airline, as she felt trapped in the toxic relationship, a court heard.

Lesicka, who met Chilvers while also working for the Dublin-based carrier, inflicted a sustained attack on their son, James Chilvers, at her home in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, on August 26, 2017.

She tried to kill herself after knifing the boy multiple times.

Chilvers had inflicted a campaign of cruelty against Lesicka, forcing her into degrading sexual acts and into eating hairs he plucked from his head, while he had an affair with another flight attendant, Lisa Spencer, who is now his partner and mother to his two young daughters.

#nature

Lesicka, a Polish national, was jailed for 15 years last year after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, the Manchester Evening News reports.

She was sentenced on the basis that her mental illness emerged suddenly and without any warning, and she had no memory of committing the offence.

Chilvers, 33, from Northwich, Cheshire, denied any wrongdoing and subsequently went on trial at Manchester Crown Court where a jury convicted him last month of controlling or coercive behaviour.

Reporting restrictions were lifted on the case on Thursday as Chilvers was jailed for 18 months, allowing the facts to be reported for the first time.

Abortion

The former couple were dealt with in separate hearings.

Chilvers, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, returned home from a flight to Tenerife in the early hours when Lesicka fell injured into his arms, the court heard.

As he rushed her to hospital he had no idea she had killed James.

Police found the toddler dead in an upstairs bedroom at the family home after concern was raised for him.

At Lesicka’s sentencing hearing in Preston in July last year, the court heard she suffered “deliberate, relentless and ultimately overwhelming psychological torment”.

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Chilvers was violent towards her, repeatedly threatened to kill her if she removed their son from his care, carried out bizarre acts of cruelty, isolated her from her friends and restricted her finances.

On one occasion, he squeezed her nose tightly so she couldn’t breathe.

He also nicknamed her “sheep” and referred to himself as a “sheep owner”, the court heard, while Lesicka told the jury the pilot would pick errant hairs from his forehead and force her to swallow them.

He demanded they continue to live together at a new home he bought in the Cheshire village of Wincham, jurors heard.

Abuse

The pilot warned her in a “visceral” 33-minute phone call – played in court – on August 26 that she did not have the financial resources to win a custody battle and shouted: “I want James to have brothers and sisters… not a half-brother and sister with a f***ing moron that you find.”

The pilot had downloaded an app on to his mobile phone which enabled him to record his calls.

The court heard Lesicka had been planning to leave Chilvers in the days before she killed their son.

The couple had been in relationship since 2010 but Chilvers cheated on Lesicka from 2014 with another Ryanair cabin crew member.

Her fear of him was revealed in court, which heard Lesicka made internet searches about “taser UK law”, “self defence weapons UK” and “killing in self defence” in the days before James’ death. She later contacted domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid.

Aid

Lesicka phoned Greater Manchester Police and two police officers were sent to her address on August 25 where she showed them bruises to her arms and thigh.

She was informed the next day – the day of the killing – that Chilvers would be arrested after he flew back to the UK and a scared Lesicka said she did not want that to happen.

However she was told it was police policy to take positive action over such allegations.

The Crown accepted Lesicka’s defence that she killed James following a breakdown induced by the “deliberate, relentless and ultimately overwhelming psychological torment” inflicted by Chilvers who had portrayed a “landscape of unending misery if she did not comply with his demands”.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Dove told Lesicka: “As a tragic, innocent victim he (James) was caught, caught between two warring parents.

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“Whatever the rights and wrongs of that dispute, the last thing that should have happened was that he should have lost his life – killed by a parent.”

At Manchester Crown Court last month, Chilvers was found guilty of controlling or coercive behaviour between December 2015 and August 2017, as well as counts of common assault and damaging property.

The trial heard that Chilvers had been violent towards his partner after finding out she had had an abortion without telling him.

Rob Hall, prosecuting, told Chilvers’ trial: “(Lesicka) could not cope with being trapped in an abusive, humiliating and dishonest relationship with the father of her son.”

He said Chilvers’s intention may have been to aid any forthcoming legal proceedings over his son’s future but instead he had inadvertently confirmed his “bullying, controlling, self-centred nature”.

Lesicka had described their relationship as a “living hell”.

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Chilvers told her he wanted to stay with her for their son’s sake.

Police had told Lesicka that they would arrest Chilvers on the night of August 26, 2017, once he returned home following a flight from Tenerife.

But she begged the force not to arrest him and to just log her complaint.

Lesicka killed James the night that police said they would arrest Chilvers.

Her solicitor, Timothy Roberts QC, told the court that pressure “had caused her crack”.

When she was sentenced, Mr Justice Dove told her: “James Chilvers was not quite two years old when he was brutally stabbed to death by you.

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“It was a sustained attack with a knife in which multiple blows were struck whilst he was on his bed at home.

“There was no conceivable outcome other than he would be killed.

“His unique presence in the world was taken from us.

“Who knows what he might have grown up to achieve?”

Speaking of her mental illness, Lesicka’s barrister Mr Roberts said: “It was not a condition that had been previously diagnosed.

“It was not a condition that was wilfully exacerbated by the defendant.

“The significant feature of this case is this accused has never had any mental health difficulties at all in her life.

“The onset of this particular abnormality was very rapid and sudden.

“It was induced by the deliberate, relentless and ultimately overwhelming psychological torment inflicted on her by Peter Chilvers.

“It was imposed upon her repeatedly.”

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Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

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Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

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How I Came to Own the Largest Virtual Assistant Agency on the African Continent

The year was 2008. I had started my own business due to a request from an ex-client at a previous full-time position.

Now what was I to do? I had already accepted and started a full-time post at another corporate and didn’t want to miss that opportunity.

And there, an entrepreneur was born. Back then I had not heard of the term “Virtual Assistant” and yet, that was apparently what I was offering my clients. To me I was offering marketing support on an ad hoc basis and loving the idea of running a side hustle whilst working.

It took quite a bit of juggling, yet with the help of an assistant I was able to do this quite successfully. And then that business folded. The emotional attachment I had to that brand was natural for a first time business owner.

It took me quite a few years to get beyond what I perceived was an absolute failure. Little did I realise then, but know now, was that failure should be embraced and seen as an opportunity to learn and to grow.

Out of what was left of that business I did learn a few business lessons. One of the things I learned was that although outsourcing was at its infancy stage, especially in South Africa, there was still a demand for it. Virtual assistance was only surfacing in our market, even though our international counterparts had been making use of this service for 2 decades by that stage.

Fortunately I forged ahead. For some reason I just had this feeling that I needed to make this work. Now to really understand the full picture, I had no idea of really running a business, the importance of having proper contracts in place, a decent invoicing system, a marketing plan or any of those essentials required to run a successful business.

I was of course up for the challenge! Building my business was my learning ground.

I was thrown into the deep end when it came to sales and discovered a natural love for this environment. Having always worked in a sales and marketing arena on the admin side certainly did open doors for me in terms of growing my business.

Then I discovered that having the ability to market oneself was a huge blessing. As it turns out, one of the key skills lacking in this industry is the ability to craft a winning marketing plan to gain new clients. I’m very grateful for those Virtual Assistants-turned Coaches and Trainers who were willing to share their expertise with the rest of us. Being able to learn from them helped pave the way to a successful agency.

…and the interest to join my team.

I started realising the value I could bring by helping other entrepreneurs and business owners with managing their day and time. At the end of the day I truly want to see everyone around me succeed, whether it be colleagues or clients.

How much the landscape has changed since 2008, when apps like Slack and Dropbox were unknown. And now we can hardly run our businesses without it.

We went from running an ad on an online directory, to creating a full-blown marketing campaign using platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. These platforms have brought the four corners of the world closer together, allowing us to engage and improve the lives of those around us, no matter where we find ourselves.

Now we can revel in the delight of working remotely. You could very easily go for a cup of joe and sit at the coffee shop for a couple of hours getting your work done and your client would be none the wiser, as the quality of work still remains high.

I’m so grateful that I was placed on this path in 2008, with an innocent request from a client to handle his account. If it weren’t for him, who knows where I would find myself today.

Learn more about Karen and her business here!

Karen Wessels is a business woman and co-founder of VA Connect, the largest Virtual Assistant Agency on the African continent.

Karen comes from a sales, marketing and admin focused background, so she really gets how to build a business successfully from the ground up.

Karen hosts regular sales strategy workshops to assist other entrepreneurs with building and growing their businesses. Her passion for people and helping them succeed is the essence of VA Connect. As a working mom she understands the need for an extra pair of hands and has built this agency around that vision.

VA Connect’s exclusively South African VA’s are in high demand and they service an international client base. For more details on how VA Connect can add time to your day and get you working ON your business instead of IN your business, then visit their website.

Latest posts by Karen Wessels (see all)

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Kelantan Village Now An Insta-Destination With Rainbow Seaside Homes You Can Visit for FREE!

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If you are traveling on a budget to Kelantan, then this village is a must-visit location that you should add in your itinerary.

As reported by Harian Metro, Kampung Sungai Budor used to be what you imagine a typical seaside village would look like, you know, with wooden walls and windows and all.

It all changed after villagers started to paint their houses in a rainbow theme! Not only did it change the landscape of their settlement, but it has also made the village one of the most popular attractions in the state. While only 6 houses so far have received the treatment due to financial constraints and others are still undergoing the process, the plan is to paint a total of 150 houses in the same manner!

Source: Facebook

Fuiyoo!! So festive!

This charming idea was executed by the Kelantanese Women’s Association with the cooperation of the Municipal Council of Kota Bharu-Islamic City (MPKB-BRI) and the National University of Malaysia (UKM), as a way to turn the village into a tourist attraction.

One of the villagers, Wan Nazimah Wan Mohamad, 57, said that the transformation started with changing their time-worn wooden walls and zinc in March 2018 and the whole process ended in June with colourful paint jobs in the same year.

“Since then, tourists nationally and internationally streamed into our village every so often to appreciate and take pictures of our photogenic village and share it on their social media.”

Look! They even painted their roofs! Haha!

“Even with just (6 houses), we still became one of the main tourist attractions in this state as visitors would drop by every month from various countries including the Philippines, Japan, and China.”

“For houses that haven’t gotten the chance to be painted, some villagers took their own initiative and painted their houses on their own gradually.”

At the same time, the villagers cooperated with each other to ensure that the settlement area is always clean and welcoming.

Reckon Willy Wonka would’ve jumped out of one of the houses! Hopefully, in the future, they will manage to complete their 150 house vision. Can’t wait!

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Death Stranding Review: Tomorrow is Here | Screen Rant

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America

Evaluating was always going to be difficult. It’s a game that has been built up for so many years, and by so many fans of a director with ambitious vision, freed from the shackles of a company that many believe restricted his creativity. It has celebrities scattered throughout its cast, an incredible ensemble soundtrack that’s being released as an album, and so much extraneous activity that it feels like a game that’s been out for a year and a half already. Superseding that, however, is the belief, partly stirred up by Hideo Kojima himself, that Death Stranding will change gaming.

Whether or not Death Stranding has effected the sort of change consumers expected it would is entirely subjective, but after playing through the game in its entirety, it feels impossible to come away with anything but the lingering sense that something in gaming’s paradigm is shifting. It is by no means a perfect game, but Death Stranding is an important one. In fact, Death Stranding is one of the most important video games released this decade. It’s a must-play that manages to leave a lasting impression, in spite of – or perhaps due to – its stumbles.

The story of Death Stranding is not ideally experienced while distracted. There’s a lot going on, and most of it doesn’t get unpacked for the player until the game is approaching its climax. Players take on the role of Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus), a deliveryman who treks across a hellish, ghost-infested post-apocalyptic landscape to bring packages to the few remaining humans that have found shelter across the country. America has been shattered, the rest of the world presumably in a similar state of disarray, and humanity is barely clinging to its last vestiges of life.

BBs

That’s about as contained as the story ever gets. Things begin to unravel quickly, with the realization that the technology used by humans to combat supernatural forces – BTs, or Beached Things – involves half-dead, half-living babies called BBs that can detect their presence. From there, things get decidedly weirder, somehow: there are multiple dimensions, a new spin on the acid rain convention, and characters intimately connected to death.

Along the way, other characters make connections with Sam, from the sublimely-portrayed Deadman (Guillermo del Toro) to the mysterious Fragile (Léa Seydoux). It’s a superstar cast and it shows before other juggernauts like Mads Mikkelsen even turn up. Nearly every major character in Death Stranding resonates and settles the complex, sometimes ridiculous narrative into something that still evokes emotional responses at each turn. For a game that only gets more complicated the longer its tale gets, that’s an impressive feat.

Connection is at the heart of the story of Death Stranding, and it is the channel through which all other elements of the game travel as well. Much of the game is about bringing together a society that is divided, whether that’s on a grand scale – an entire country – or a smaller one, like families or lovers. To that end, players will often find themselves completing tasks that seem menial with the threat of extinction hanging over humanity’s head: transporting keepsakes or, in some cases, pizza, in order to bring a bit of happiness to the bleak grays of humankind’s death rattles.

This gameplay shakes out into two distinct patterns, the first of which is delivery and human connection. The travel to deliver items is never easy. Players will have to navigate rough terrain, not to mention enemies – supernatural and not – hellbent on killing Sam. Sam can’t die, though. He’s a repatriate, which means he can emerge from the world of the dead and back into the realm of the living by following “strands” that lead him back. Just because he can’t die doesn’t mean there aren’t tangible consequences, though, and the game does an excellent job of making every misstep feel important. Craters are left in the wake of failed attempts, and the world can begin to feel very grim indeed as the landscape gets torn apart with every major mistake.

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During the journey, players will also be able to connect online to see what others have done to the landscape before them, making their journeys easier. Players can build structures across the map that help them and carry over to other players’ maps, too. For instance, building a bridge to cross a particularly strong river will let other players cross that same area when they get to it. Players can also “like” other structures or vehicles that have been left behind, building a sense of connection. It seems simple, but those likes feel good – something that the game even builds into its lore – and while playing, some usernames will make repeat appearances, making it seem as though a friendship has been forged.

And maybe it has. During our playthrough, it felt very much like was a multiplayer game despite the fact that players can’t team up in real-time. One of the early elements that can feel frustrating in Death Stranding is how often the game tasks Sam with backtracking from one hard to reach settlement to another. That serves a purpose, though. As the game’s plot unfurls and players begin to better understand the world, they can also grow to appreciate how the journey changes even though it ostensibly takes place in the same area. Sometimes, new structures are there that make travel easier, all thanks to the work of others. There’s a tangible sense of progress, as if humanity really is rebuilding in some way, and players are all connected in that effort. The community’s triumph is Sam’s triumph. It’s an intoxicating feeling.

Of course, the game is more challenging and involved than just that rebuilding effort. The world itself is trying to stop players from dragging America out of the depths of hell. The rain erodes player gear and is fatal to those who are exposed to it for too long. There are mountains, rivers, and steep terrain that must be traversed slowly, painfully, laboriously – and it’s all time-consuming. Nothing comes easy. Nor should it – Death Stranding imagines a world being built-up from something close to zero. It’s ingrained in every mechanic, too. Players will have to make sure their boots are constantly replaced, as they’ll slowly fall apart. Gear will have to be built and rebuilt with each successful delivery. Large packages will make Sam’s gait unsteady, his movements more difficult, and that will drain his stamina. These are all elements that will feel overwhelming, or unfair, or even just unfun. But with a little time, the game’s rhythm is established, and these previously frustrating elements combine into something memorable.

Guillermo del Toro

Then come the BTs. Several areas of the game are terrorized by these nearly-invisible otherworldly entities, made from the dead of our world. Early on, they will be almost infallible. Players will be able to detect them by proximity, and hold their breath to try to throw them off their location, and…that’s it. The BTs are horrors, here to remind Sam at regular intervals that no matter how optimistic things can get, no matter how high they’re riding off the “likes” of their scattershot community, the world is still doomed. The first several encounters with BTs are among some of the most tense, memorable moments in recent gaming history.

Eventually, Death Stranding begins to offer players other methods of dealing BTs as Bridges, the organization Sam works for, uncovers the mysteries of their existence. As that happens, BT segments evolve from pure horror-inspired events into a mixture of stealth, horror, and strategic action. In both instances, Death Stranding just works. It’s another journey, one that goes from ignorance and fear of the unknown to understanding – like humans discovering fire.

It’s difficult to convey how effective Death Stranding is at delivering its messages without diving too deeply into spoilers. However, the journey, for all its frustrations – the slow, plodding pace of the early game and the obtuse beginnings of its story – still serves as a worthy foundation for the excellent experience that follows. Death Stranding probably isn’t a game for everyone. There will be some who are turned off by to really get going and that’s fine. It’s not a game that’s trying to appeal to every key consumer demographic.

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What Death Stranding is, though, is a game that pushes the medium forward. So much of Death Stranding is memorable, from its characters to its gameplay sections to its stellar soundtrack. It genre-hops in the same way that did so successfully a few years ago. While navigating between stealth, adventure, survival, and gunfighting elements, Kojima’s latest title balances them all into something that feels new. The game is incredibly ambitious, and it is unapologetic about the design elements it feels are integral to telling its story.

Hideo Kojima promised the world that he’d be delivering a new genre, and his friends and those who had tried the game in its infancy dared to dream that Death Stranding could be revolutionary. It’s not the best game ever made, but it’s one of the best experiences in modern gaming. Death Stranding delivered on its impossible promise in a breathtaking way, and it’s a must-play for everyone who has ever held a game controller and wondered about what comes next.

Next: Death Stranding Coming To PC Summer 2020

Death Stranding will be available on November 8, 2019 for PlayStation 4 and in summer 2020 for PC. Screen Rant was provided a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.

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‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’ is being adapted into a film; Raya Martin directs

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The producers of Heneral Luna and acclaimed director Raya Martin (Buenas noches, España!) have teamed to film the upcoming adaptation of F.H. Batacan’s seminal mystery crime-thriller, Smaller and Smaller Circles. If that doesn’t give you the cinephilic tinglies, you might want to consider getting yourself checked.

But you already know this. T.B.A. (three of the country’s top independent film outfits一Tuko, Buchiboy, and Artikulo Uno一merged) has been hard at work producing great films. Look no further than , a film that still celebrates commercial success nearly a year after its initial release. Next on T.B.A.’s roster is Martin’s iteration of the greatly beloved literary work, Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles一and we have some exclusive details.

The film is set in the 90’s, and pivots around two Jesuit priests (Sid Lucero and Nonie Buencamino) investigating a string of gruesome child murders (let’s paint you a picture: the victims’ faces are sliced一with steady, almost-clinical precision一from ear to ear). It’s obvious that the culprit fits the “serial killer” profile, which, in the novel, is hardly an idea at all for the authorities. Hannibal Lecter lives exclusively stateside, supposedly. For the protagonists, however, that’s certainly untrue. What follows is an implosion to the dark, twisted mind of an unremorseful murderer; the film whirling, inevitably, through the politics, corruption, and fatalism of its milieu.

Carla Humphries as Joanna Bonifacio.

 Here’s the full synopsis:

In the teeming slums of Payatas, a killer preys on young boys leaving their eviscerated bodies in the garbage. Two Jesuit priests are tasked to solve the murders as they explore the cramped urban landscape of Manila—a trap where there is no way out for a killer and his victims.  

I have recently bumped into Ria Limjap, one of the film’s screenwriters, who, when asked about the country’s police force, as depicted as gravely lacking in the novel, said: “Of course [the film] is still relevant. Though I’m not a very political person, I think [the film] should be an awakening. The inefficiency and incompetence that we all have to deal with do not make us feel empowered.”

Smaller and Smaller Circles stars Lucero and Buencamino as Fr. Jerome Lucero and Fr. Gus Saenz, respectively, and Carla Humphries as journalist Joanna Bonifacio. Ricky Davao, Christopher De Leon, Junjun Quintana, Bembol Roco, T.J. Trinidad, and Jess Mendoza make the film’s stellar main cast. The film is co-written by Moira Lang and Ria Limjap. The film will open in Philippine theaters later this year.

Check out some exclusive behind-the-scenes photos:

This is a project that I’ve known for quite a long time now and have been itching to share with you, cinephiles. For one, the film, while no traditional story, marks Raya Martin’s first foray into a more “conventional” form of filmmaking (if you’re at all familiar with Martin’s filmography, you know SASC is something entirely different for the filmmaker). For another, it’s a unique story that I think we all need to hear. Expect that I’ll be tailing this news as it develops.

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This startup just raised $8 million to help busy doctors assess the cognitive health of 50 million seniors

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All over the globe, the population of people who are aged 65 and older is growing faster than every other age group. According to United Nations data, by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65, up from one in 11 right now. Meanwhile, in Europe and North America, by 2050, one in four people could be 65 or older.

Unsurprisingly, startups increasingly recognize opportunities to cater to this aging population. Some are developing products to sell to individuals and their family members directly; others are coming up with ways to empower those who work directly with older Americans.

BrainCheck, a 20-person, Houston-based startup whose cognitive healthcare product aims to help physicians assess and track the mental health of their patients, is among the latter. Investors like what it has put together, too. Today, the startup is announcing $8 million in Series A funding co-led by S3 Ventures and Tensility Venture Partners.

We talked earlier today with BrainCheck co-founder and CEO Yael Katz to better understand what her company has created and why it might be of interest to doctors who don’t know about it. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: You’re a neuroscientist. You started BrianCheck with David Eagleman, another neuroscientist and the CEO of NeoSensory, a company that develops devices for sensory substitution. Why? What’s the opportunity here?

YK: We looked across the landscape, and we realized that most cognitive assessment is [handled by] a subspecialty of clinical psychology called neuropsychology, where patients are given a series a tests and each is designed to probe a different type of brain function — memory, visual attention, reasoning, executive function. They measure speed and accuracy, and based on that, determine whether there’s a deficit in that domain. But the tests were classically done on paper and it was a lengthy process. We digitized them and gamified them and made them accessible to everyone who is upstream of neuropsychology, including neurologists and primary care doctors.

We created a tech solution that provides clinical decision support to physicians so they can manage patients’ cognitive health. There are 250,000 primary care physicians in the U.S. and 12,000 neurologists and [they’re confronting] what’s been called a silver tsunami. With so many becoming elderly, it’s not possible for them to address the need of the aging population without tech to help them.

TC: How does your product work, and how is it administered?

YK: An assessment is all done on an iPad and takes about 10 minutes. They’re typically administered in a doctor’s office by medical technicians, though they can be administered remotely through telemedicine, too.

TC: These are online quizzes?

YK: Not quizzes and not subjective questions like, ‘How do you think you’re doing?’ but rather objective tasks, like connect the dots, and which way is the center arrow pointing — all while measuring speed and accuracy.

TC: How much does it cost these doctors’ offices, and how are you getting word out?

YZ: We sell a monthly subscription to doctors and it’s a tiered pricing model as measured by volume. We meet doctors at conferences and we publish blog posts and white papers and through that process, we meet them and sell products to them, beginning with a free trial for 30 days, during which time we also give them a web demo.

[What we’re selling] is reimbursable by insurance because it helps them report on and optimize metrics like patient satisfaction. Medicare created a new code to compensate doctors for cognitive care planning, though it was rarely used because the requirements and knowledge involved was so complicated. When we came along, we said, let us help you do what you’re trying to do, and it’s been very rewarding.

TC: Say one of these assessments enables a non specialist to determine that someone is losing memory or can’t think as sharply. What then?

YZ: There’s a phrase: “Diagnose and adios.” Unfortunately, a lot of doctors used to see their jobs as being done once an assessment was made. It wasn’t appreciated that impairment and dementia are things you can address. But about one-third of dementia is preventable, and once you have the disease, it can be slowed.  It’s hard because it requires a lot of one-on-one work, so we created a tech solution that uses the output of tests to provide clinical support to physicians so they can manage patients’ cognitive health. We provide personalized recommendations in a way that’s scalable.

TC: Meaning you suggest an action plan for the doctors to pass along to their patients based on these assessments?

YZ: There are nine modifiable risk factors found to account for a third of [dementia cases], including certain medications that can exacerbate cognitive impairment, including poorly controlled cardiovascular health, hearing impairment and depression. People can have issues for many reasons — multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s — but health conditions like major depression and physical conditions like cancer and treatments like chemotherapy can cause brain fog. We suggest a care plan that goes to the doctor who then uses that information and modifies it. A lot of it has to do with medication management.

A lot of the time, a doctor — and family members — don’t know how impaired a patient is. You can have a whole conversation with someone during a doctor’s visit who is regaling you with great conversation, then you realize they have massive cognitive deficits. These assessments kind of put everyone on the same page.

TC: You’ve raised capital. How will you use it to move your product forward?

YK: We’ll be combining our assessments with digital biomarkers like changing voice patterns and a test of eye movements. We’ve developed an eye-tracking technology and voice algorithms, but those are still in clinical development; we’re trying to get FDA approval for them now.

TC: Interesting that changing voice patterns can help you diagnose cognitive decline.

YK: We aren’t diagnosing disease. Think of us as a thermometer that [can highlight] how much impairment is there and in what areas and how it’s progressed over time.

TC: What can you tell readers who might worry about their privacy as it relates to your product?

YK: Our software is HIPAA compliant. We make sure our engineers are trained and up to date. The FDA requires that we put a lot of standards in place and we ensure that our database is built in accordance with best practices. I think we’re doing as good a job as anyone can.

Privacy is a concern in general. Unfortunately, companies big and small have to be ever vigilant about a data breach.

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Downton Abbey, like plantation houses, delivers fantasy over brute reality | Michael Henry Adams

The American south may seem a long way from the estates of England, but in both places a veil of caprice covers harsh truths

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The son of a Scottish immigrant who worked as a servant, Donald Trump could hardly wait for his banquet at Buckingham Palace. A seat next to Elizabeth II conferred a sense of accomplishment little else could.

To many, such behavior from an American president appeared downright unseemly. But how could we scoff? How else have so many of us been eagerly awaiting the return of Downton Abbey?

TV and film can be transporting, giving us glimpses of lives we can only imagine imperfectly. Decades before Julian Fellowes creation came forth to conquer America, PBS offered a steady diet of British clotted cream. Royals, aristocrats, castles, servants, sex. Such is the stuff of which Downton daydreams are made.

We make our own fantasies too. As a boy, watching Gone With the Wind, I saw plantation houses for which I thought I could sell my soul. It seemed such an alluring way of life.

No wonder people complain of being lectured about slavery when they visit Savannah or Charleston. They, like me, have imagined themselves in the masters place. No work to be done, fanned on white-pillared porches, sipping cooling drinks, pondering pleasures to come. Is it surprising so many, confronted by the nightmare behind the reverie, recoil in unacknowledged shame?

I came to this crossroads early, no longer able to overlook the anguish of my ancestors. I saw exquisite architecture and ideas of gracious hospitality but knew both to be built on the worst criminality.

Fortunately, thanks to green England, I was able to transfer my affections. The Forsyte Saga, Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, The Admirable Crichton. The Shooting Party, The Remains of the Day, Gosford Park. They became my refuge and taught me much. Entranced by an elegant aesthetic, reading countless books, even attending the Attingham Summer School to study famous country houses, I sought an elusive loveliness, untroubled by oppression.

I know I never escaped. I had only embraced a new quagmire of contradictory caprice.

At the very lightest level, all this means I know that Downton the whole phenomenon, the TV series, the film, the traveling exhibition, the merchandising is a ludicrous and ahistorical fancy.

I know, for example, that contrary to what we see on Fellowes screen, non-royal butlers did not wear white waistcoats and that waiters did not wear dinner jackets at all. I know ladies were never gloved while drinking or eating, candles were never used on a luncheon table and candle shades, now found only in royal residences, were in fact universal. For enthusiasts like me, its such esoterica which makes Downton so enjoyable.

But as in my love affair with the plantations of the American south, there was a wriggling worm in the bud.

How alike our ruling classes are. How nefarious the sources of their vast wealth, on which such beautiful homes were built.

In the UK, to take just one example, a house as sublime as Harewood, near Leeds, altered by Robert Adam, was funded by the infamous triangular trade. Even English currency came to be defined by slavery. With abolition by Britain in 1833 came compensation to 46,000 slave owners for 800,000 liberated Africans, until the banks were rescued in 2009 the largest government bailout in history.

There were other sources of income. Indian opium, imposed on China. Farms in Ireland. The wealth behind many of the estates of England was no less tainted than that which built plantations in Virginia, Alabama and Georgia.

Fellowes was careful to give his great house a more benign foundation. The Earl of Grantham, we are told, derives his affluence straight from his Yorkshire estates.

Hit hard by agricultural depressions, he takes an option not available to his tenants: he marries the daughter of an American millionaire. That said millionaire is an untitled Jew, a dry goods merchant from Cincinnati, is among storylines meant to show us what a good egg the earl really is, an unlikely egalitarian in tweeds. But hes an imprudent one too: by investing his wifes millions in a Canadian railway that goes bankrupt, Grantham places all his loved ones in peril.

Worse occurred in real life, of course. Much worse. Take the brutal, polluting mills and mines, like so many plantation fields, that often lay just outside the gates.

Of course, Downton isnt real. So, to stay in the realm of art, consider Shipley, the neo-Palladian masterpiece DH Lawrence invented for Lady Chatterleys Lover. There, Squire Leslie Winter talks of the miners who work his pits with all the condescension a planter might have for his slaves.

Chatting with the Prince of Wales, Winter quips: The miners are perhaps not so ornamental as deer, but they are far more profitable.

HRH replies: If there were coal under Sandringham, I would open a mine on the lawns and think it first-rate landscape gardening. Oh, I am quite willing to exchange roe-deer for colliers, at the price.

In the real world, many fine homes have been lost. Their deaths, like their lives, are all about the money.

In Lawrences book, the squire dies and his heirs tear down his hall to build semi-detached villas for workers. Lady Chatterley is shocked to learn such people are as capable of love as she is. One suspects Fellowes, the author of a novel called Snobs, no less, might feel a similar shock if told us ordinary people who love Downton, his facile but beautiful and seductive creation, are capable of sincere feeling too.

We are. And while we are equipped to daydream of such luxury for ourselves, or to pick nits with Fellowes staging while we swoon at his stars in their gorgeous firmament, we are also the heirs to those who did all the work, those who built the Downtons and the plantations.

We know a profound truth behind all their costly beauty and misery. Every stately home, in every land, belongs to us too.

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Climate change and the US south for a year

I crisscrossed a region my own that is mired in a culture of denial and delay. The conversation on the climate crisis has not changed fast enough

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Its 96 degrees in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina, a place where I spent much of my childhood. The sidewalk is too hot for dogs to walk on. The iconic wild horses, visible on Shackleford Banks, wade in the marsh, munching cordgrass. Ive been watching the horses since I was in elementary school, and now Im sharing them with my elementary school-aged daughters on summer vacation.

My girls love them, as I did. The legend is that the horses swam to safety from an old Spanish shipwreck. Its moving to watch the small, strong horses grazing on the dunes. For now, theyve survived the latest big hurricane, and theyre free.

The 100 or so wild horses have one square kilometer of high ground on which to weather hurricanes and sea level rise, and a shortage of fresh water endangered by encroaching salt water and storm surge. Some scientists recommend that the Shackleford horses be relocated, although they have been there for centuries.

The story is a familiar one that will be told in a thousand different ways as the atmosphere warms in the years to come: we must think creatively and quickly to save the things we love.

I wrote my Climate Changed column between hurricane seasons, in the wake of Hurricane Florence and before the start of Hurricane Barry. I close the column from Beaufort, a place where Florence brought a record storm surge; it caused $17bn in damage to the state. As my daughters and I drive over the bridge into Morehead City, I see bulldozers still clearing the last of the Channel Marker restaurant, a fixture of Atlantic Beach flooded during Florence.

I thought that Hurricane Florence might serve as a turning point in the conversation about the realities of climate change in a region still mired in a culture of denial and delay. After a year of research and reporting, I am not convinced that the conversation has changed fast enough, if much at all. Here in Beaufort, like Miami and Charleston, I encounter deniers, continued waterfront development, hurricane damage and blistering temperatures.

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A great blue heron is silhouetted by the reflection of the rising sun at Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh. Photograph: Alamy

 

If there is any part of the south where technology, tax dollars and public opinion are aligning to make changes, its Miami, even though new waterfront real estate is still being built. But for the most part, climate change discussions continue to fall along party lines in a divided nation. To many rural southerners, the bigger, well-funded environmental movements seem to be rooted in California and New England. The conversations appear to be taking place in the echo chamber of privileged believers.

I saw more of the south while reporting for this column than I ever saw in my 30 years of living there. My travel reinforced what I already knew: there is no one south. In 2019 it is multitudinous, diverse and still reckoning with its plantation economy and cruel social history. It has PhDs, evangelicals, Trump enthusiasts, environmentalists, artists and activists. Its this very tension that has often made the south the genesis of social movements; one hopes it might happen again, and soon.

Social and environmental racism, income inequality and poverty are as present as they have ever been, and are only weaponized by climate change, as I reported from Virginia and Natchez, Mississippi.

I found that in places like eastern North Carolina, the river parishes of Louisiana, Miami, and Mississippis Gulf coast, chronic exposure to natural disasters has resulted in psychological resilience, and created a desire in some to go down with the ship. In places like New Orleans, trauma strengthens the sense of community. As Tropical Storm Barry moved in to New Orleans, I emailed with former interviewees who shared forecasts and concerns. Im gritting my teeth, one wrote. But Im not evacuating. Home is sometimes more an emotional than a rational commitment.

In eastern North Carolina, where I grew up and write from, climate change was never a polite topic of conversation. I was told the same in a coffee shop in Mississippi, and by a minister in Georgia. Too many southerners are still dancing around the reality of climate change, and the cost of avoiding the conversation is going to be steep.

What does a better and more inclusive conversation look like? Non-traditional environmentalists can be critical allies in addressing the culture of climate change denial below the Mason-Dixon Line, like hunters in Arkansas and evangelical Christians in places like St Simons, Georgia. But too often, the perspectives and interests of frontline communities are ignored, further exacerbating the environmental racism so pervasive in the south.

When it comes to climate change preparedness in this region, part of the continued challenge is that the power structures of the old south remain in place. A Pew survey indicated that white evangelical protestants are the least likely to profess a belief in climate change. Power companies, developers and conservative politicians have a vested interest in deregulation and maintaining the environmental status quo, and many paint environmental concerns as nothing but liberal pagan ideas.

When I began this column, I felt more of a duty to listen to all sides, but frankly I do not believe that climate change is an issue of which one can pretend, or afford, to hear both sides. I believe that to deny climate change and delay productive action in 2019 is malicious and akin to governmental malpractice. A government that is not actively protecting its citizens from the future challenges of climate change (property loss, food system collapse, increased intensity of storms, flooded infrastructure, extreme heat, economic disruption) is not acting in the interests of its citizens. A politician who delays climate action is not acting in his or her constituents best interests, and may be going so far as to actually cause harm.

We do not need to hear another word from deniers, or cater to their anti-science position. Something the progressive south has always struggled to do: take the megaphone away from the people who want to live in the past.

Now that Ive seen more of the south, I cant help but feel losses and concerns in a specific way. As I began to write this final column, a fire raged through the Everglades, which I had driven through just months before. Storms threatened to challenge the already saturated Mississippi and its river control structures. I thought about the gators in the marsh, the last wild panthers darting to safety in the Everglades, the bartender who was kind to me in an ancient pub on Natchez-under-the-hill. The loss of life and landscape in climate change scenarios has always troubled me, but now it is real and urgent in a way it has never been before.

When the wild horses of Shackleford Banks weather storms, the dominant male gathers his harem on high ground or in the deep parts of the maritime forest, and they turn their backs to the wind and rain. A researcher observed that while wild herds are typically divided into harems, the divisions break down in extreme weather. The horses gave up their internal political dynamics, he said, staying together on the relatively highest ground of that site. That is how they survive.

To navigate the decades ahead, and save the places we love and call home, southerners will need to dismantle old political dynamics and build new, inclusive alliances.

 

 

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