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Paul Merrell

ByteDance Caves To Trump, Agrees To Sell 100% Of TikTok To Microsoft | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • hina’s ByteDance has agreed to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House, after President Donald Trump said on Friday he had decided to ban the popular short-video app, two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday. ByteDance was previously seeking to keep a minority stake in the U.S. business of TikTok, which the White House had rejected. Under the new proposed deal, ByteDance would exit completely and Microsoft Corp would take over TikTok in the United States, the sources said. Some ByteDance investors that are based in the United States may be given the opportunity to take minority stakes in the business, the sources added. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether Trump would accept ByteDance’s concession. ByteDance in Beijing did not respond to a request for comment. Under ByteDance’s new proposal, Microsoft will be in charge of protecting all U.S. user data, the sources said. The plan allows for another U.S. company other than Microsoft to take over TikTok in the United States, the sources added.
  • Bytedance has apparently gotten the "tap on the shoulder" from the CCP bigwigs who apparently aren't super thrilled about the optics of a mighty Chinese conglomerate kowtowing to the Trump Administration. Earlier today, it appeared that President Trump's late-night threat about banning TikTok had motivated ByteDance and Microsoft to speed up their talks. But as the New York afternoon wore on, a Dow Jones headline proclaimed that Microsoft and ByteDance had decided to abruptly stop negotiations.
Paul Merrell

Microsoft emerges as leading suitor for TikTok's U.S. business, as Trump plans to order... - 0 views

  • Microsoft is the leading suitor to potentially take over short-form video app TikTok as the Trump administration considers sidelining its Chinese parent company, according to a person familiar with the talks, the latest sign of the administration’s increasingly strident stance on China and its tech companies.President Donald Trump is considering signing an order forcing China’s ByteDance to sell off the U.S. portion of TikTok over national security concerns, according to people familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. One of the individuals confirmed Microsoft was in the lead to acquire the popular platform’s U.S. service.While the order was originally expected to be signed Friday, it could still fall through, the people warned. The president was also considering other approaches, including designating TikTok under an executive order that allows the president to exclude national security threats from U.S. networks.
  • If Microsoft does acquire TikTok, it would make it a major rival to Facebook, Google’s YouTube and other tech giants overnight, dramatically reshaping the U.S. social media landscape.
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    It's the old "offer you can't refuse ploy." If the sale to Microsoft goes through, watch that company screw up Tik-tok.
Paul Merrell

Apple Being Investigated By "Majority" Of States Over Claims Of Deliberately Slowing Ol... - 0 views

  • Right around the time that Apple stock was surging to new highs thanks to a better than expected earnings report and stock split, another story was surfacing: Arizona is leading a multi-state investigation into whether or not Apple is deliberately slowing its old iPhones, and whether such practices would violate deceptive trade laws.  A probe has been ongoing "since 2018" and investigators are focusing on data that shows "unexpected shutdowns" of old Apple iPhones and the company's potential slowing down of devices using power management software, according to Reuters.  Documents obtained last week from a Texas watchdog group showed that the Texas AG was also involved in the investigation. Sources told Reuters that a "majority of U.S. states", with AGs spanning both parties, are involved and are "teaming up" together in the probe. 
  • Apple agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle a related class action lawsuit earlier this year. 
Paul Merrell

4 Key Takeaways From Washington's Big Tech Hearing On 'Monopoly Power' : NPR - 0 views

  • Here are some key takeaways from the hearing:
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    Hearing was held by video-conference. Not much of substance came out of it. Still, the subcommittee has employed some high-power investigators who have spent hundreds of hours pawing through these companies' documents. I look for more substantive disclosures later.
Paul Merrell

Google's web app plans collide with Apple's iPhone, Safari rules - CNET - 0 views

  • Google and Apple, which already battle over mobile operating systems, are opening a new front in their fight. How that plays out may determine the future of the web. Google was born on the web, and its business reflects its origin. The company depends on the web for search and advertising revenue. So it isn't a surprise that Google sees the web as key to the future of software. Front and center are web apps, interactive websites with the same power as conventional apps that run natively on operating systems like Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS.  Apple has a different vision of the future, one that plays to its strengths. The company revolutionized mobile computing with its iPhone line. Its profits depend on those products and the millions of apps that run on them. Apple, unsurprisingly, appears less excited about developments, like web apps, that could cut into its earnings.
Paul Merrell

Is Apple an Illegal Monopoly? | OneZero - 0 views

  • That’s not a bug. It’s a function of Apple policy. With some exceptions, the company doesn’t let users pay app makers directly for their apps or digital services. They can only pay Apple, which takes a 30% cut of all revenue and then passes 70% to the developer. (For subscription services, which account for the majority of App Store revenues, that 30% cut drops to 15% after the first year.) To tighten its grip, Apple prohibits the affected apps from even telling users how they can pay their creators directly.In 2018, unwilling to continue paying the “Apple tax,” Netflix followed Spotify and Amazon’s Kindle books app in pulling in-app purchases from its iOS app. Users must now sign up elsewhere, such as on the company’s website, in order for the app to become usable. Of course, these brands are big enough to expect that many users will seek them out anyway.
  • Smaller app developers, meanwhile, have little choice but to play by Apple’s rules. That’s true even when they’re competing with Apple’s own apps, which pay no such fees and often enjoy deeper access to users’ devices and information.Now, a handful of developers are speaking out about it — and government regulators are beginning to listen. David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder of the project management software company Basecamp, told members of the U.S. House antitrust subcommittee in January that navigating the App Store’s fees, rules, and review processes can feel like a “Kafka-esque nightmare.”One of the world’s most beloved companies, Apple has long enjoyed a reputation for user-friendly products, and it has cultivated an image as a high-minded protector of users’ privacy. The App Store, launched in 2008, stands as one of its most underrated inventions; it has powered the success of the iPhone—perhaps the most profitable product in human history. The concept was that Apple and developers could share in one another’s success with the iPhone user as the ultimate beneficiary.
  • But critics say that gauzy success tale belies the reality of a company that now wields its enormous market power to bully, extort, and sometimes even destroy rivals and business partners alike. The iOS App Store, in their telling, is a case study in anti-competitive corporate behavior. And they’re fighting to change that — by breaking its choke hold on the Apple ecosystem.
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  • Whether Apple customers have a real choice in mobile platforms, once they’ve bought into the company’s ecosystem, is another question. In theory, they could trade in their pricey hardware for devices that run Android, which offers equivalents of many iOS features and apps. In reality, Apple has built its empire on customer lock-in: making its own gadgets and services work seamlessly with one another, but not with those of rival companies. Tasks as simple as texting your friends can become a migraine-inducing mess when you switch from iOS to Android. The more Apple products you buy, the more onerous it becomes to abandon ship.
  • The case against Apple goes beyond iOS. At a time when Apple is trying to reinvent itself as a services company to offset plateauing hardware sales — pushing subscriptions to Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, and Apple Arcade, as well as its own credit card — the antitrust concerns are growing more urgent. Once a theoretical debate, the question of whether its App Store constitutes an illegal monopoly is now being actively litigated on multiple fronts.
  • The company faces an antitrust lawsuit from consumers; a separate antitrust lawsuit from developers; a formal antitrust complaint from Spotify in the European Union; investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice; and an inquiry by the antitrust subcommittee of the U.S House of Representatives. At stake are not only Apple’s profits, but the future of mobile software.Apple insists that it isn’t a monopoly, and that it strives to make the app store a fair and level playing field even as its own apps compete on that field. But in the face of unprecedented scrutiny, there are signs that the famously stubborn company may be feeling the pressure to prove it.
  • Tile is hardly alone in its grievances. Apple’s penchant for copying key features of third-party apps and integrating them into its operating system is so well-known among developers that it has a name: “Sherlocking.” It’s a reference to the time—in the early 2000s—when Apple kneecapped a popular third-party web-search interface for Mac OS X, called Watson. Apple built virtually all of Watson’s functionality into its own feature, called Sherlock.In a 2006 blog post, Watson’s developer, Karelia Software, recalled how Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs responded when they complained about the company’s 2002 power play. “Here’s how I see it,” Jobs said, according to Karelia founder Dan Wood’s loose paraphrase. “You know those handcars, the little machines that people stand on and pump to move along on the train tracks? That’s Karelia. Apple is the steam train that owns the tracks.”From an antitrust standpoint, the metaphor is almost too perfect. It was the monopoly power of railroads in the late 19th century — and their ability to make or break the businesses that used their tracks — that spurred the first U.S. antitrust regulations.There’s another Jobs quote that’s relevant here. Referencing Picasso’s famous saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” Jobs said of Apple in 2006. “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Company executives later tried to finesse the quote’s semantics, but there’s no denying that much of iOS today is built on ideas that were not originally Apple’s.
Paul Merrell

Press corner | European Commission - 0 views

  • The European Commission has opened formal antitrust investigations to assess whether Apple's rules for app developers on the distribution of apps via the App Store violate EU competition rules. The investigations concern in particular the mandatory use of Apple's own proprietary in-app purchase system and restrictions on the ability of developers to inform iPhone and iPad users of alternative cheaper purchasing possibilities outside of apps. The investigations concern the application of these rules to all apps, which compete with Apple's own apps and services in the European Economic Area (EEA). The investigations follow-up on separate complaints by Spotify and by an e-book/audiobook distributor on the impact of the App Store rules on competition in music streaming and e-books/audiobooks.
  • iPhone and iPad users can only download native (non web-based) apps via the App Store. The Commission will investigate in particular two restrictions imposed by Apple in its agreements with companies that wish to distribute apps to users of Apple devices: (i)   The mandatory use of Apple's own proprietary in-app purchase system “IAP” for the distribution of paid digital content. Apple charges app developers a 30% commission on all subscription fees through IAP. (ii)  Restrictions on the ability of developers to inform users of alternative purchasing possibilities outside of apps. While Apple allows users to consume content such as music, e-books and audiobooks purchased elsewhere (e.g. on the website of the app developer) also in the app, its rules prevent developers from informing users about such purchasing possibilities, which are usually cheaper.
Paul Merrell

Apple iPhone 5G Launch Could Be Delayed Due To Coronavirus | Zero Hedge - 4 views

  • The much anticipated iPhone 5G - and the next obvious cash cow for smartphone technology company Apple in its long line of smartphone cash cows - may be put on hold due to spillover effects from the coronavirus. Bank of America put out a note on Friday morning, citing a conversation with an expert on the company's supply chain, that said the product launch may wind up being pushed back.  The expert said that  “the iPhone 5G launch in the fall could see a month of delay.” He also warned that the launch of the iPhone SE2 would be delayed by "a few months" due to supply issues and weaker demand as a result of coronavirus. 
Paul Merrell

Apple Suffers "Doomsday" Plunge In iPhone Shipments Across China | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives called the decline of iPhone sales in China a "doomsday type" like decline. Ives said the fall was an "unprecedented" drop and was "not surprising given the essential lockdown that most of China saw" in February. Wedbush expects Chinese demand to come back online in the second half of the year. * * * We've explained that economic paralysis in China started in early February and continues to this day. Alternative data first showed us the incoming economic crash developing in early February, only to be confirmed weeks later. Twin shocks plague the Chinese economy, which is a supply shock with manufacturers operating at less than full capacity, along with a demand shock, where consumers have been confined to their homes in forced quarantine, unable to spend.  So, on Monday morning, when new data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) reveals Apple smartphone sales in China were halved in February, this really shouldn't surprise ZeroHedge readers, considering they've been well informed about what would happen next. 
  • And it wasn't just Apple with plunging activity, all mobile phone brands operating in China saw shipments halved over the month.  CAICT said 6.34 million devices were shipped last month, down 54.7% from 14 million in the same month the previous year. This was the lowest level of February shipments since 2012, when the CAICT data first became available.  Android brands, including Huawei and Xiaomi, accounted for most of the drop, collectively saw shipments at 5.85 million units for the month, compared to 12.72 million units last year. Apple shipped 494,000 last month, down from 1.27 million in February 2019.
Paul Merrell

The EU's White Paper on AI: A Thoughtful and Balanced Way Forward - Lawfare - 0 views

  • On Feb. 19, the European Commission released a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence outlining its wide-ranging plan to develop artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe. The commission also released a companion European data strategy, aiming to make more data sets available for business and government to promote AI development, along with a report on the safety of AI systems proposing some reforms of the commission’s product liability regime. Initial press reports about the white paper focused on how the commission had stepped back from a proposal in its initial draft for a three- to five-year moratorium on facial recognition technology. But the proposed framework is much more than that: It represents a sensible and thoughtful basis to guide the EU’s consideration of legislation to help direct the development of AI applications, and an important contribution to similar debates going on around the world. The key takeaways are that the EU plans to: Pursue a uniform approach to AI across the EU in order to avoid divergent member state requirements forming barriers to its single market. Take a risk-based, sector-specific approach to regulating AI. Identify in advance high-risk sectors and applications—including facial recognition software. Impose new regulatory requirements and prior assessments to ensure that high-risk AI systems conform to requirements for safety, fairness and data protection before they are released onto the market. Use access to the huge European market as a lever to spread the EU’s approach to AI regulation across the globe.
Paul Merrell

UK Government Approves Net Censorship - British Free Speech Dies | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • The United Kingdom has become the first Western nation to move ahead with large-scale censorship of the internet, effectively creating regulation that will limit freedom on the last frontier of digital liberty. In a move that has the nation reeling, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled rules that will punish internet companies with fines, and even imprisonment, if they fail to protect users from “harmful and illegal content.”
  • Couched in language that suggests this is being done to protect children from pedophiles and vulnerable people from cyberbullying, the proposals will place a massive burden on small companies. Further, they will ultimately make it impossible for those not of the pervasive politically correct ideology to produce and share content.
Paul Merrell

Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit - The New York Times - 2 views

  • Facebook said on Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology in Illinois, giving privacy groups a major victory that again raised questions about the social network’s data-mining practices.The case stemmed from Facebook’s photo-labeling service, Tag Suggestions, which uses face-matching software to suggest the names of people in users’ photos. The suit said the Silicon Valley company violated an Illinois biometric privacy law by harvesting facial data for Tag Suggestions from the photos of millions of users in the state without their permission and without telling them how long the data would be kept. Facebook has said the allegations have no merit.Under the agreement, Facebook will pay $550 million to eligible Illinois users and for the plaintiffs’ legal fees. The sum dwarfs the $380.5 million that the Equifax credit reporting agency agreed this month to pay to settle a class-action case over a 2017 consumer data breach.
Paul Merrell

Vowing to Deliver High-Speed Broadband for All, Sanders Plan Would Enshrine Internet as... - 2 views

  • Vowing to take on the telecom giants that have monopolized the web for private profit, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday unveiled a $150 billion plan to make the internet a public utility, break up and tightly regulate corporate behemoths like Verizon and AT&T, and provide high-speed broadband for everyone in the United States.
  • It is outrageous that across the country millions of Americans and so many of our communities do not have access to affordable high-speed internet," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement. "Access to the internet is a necessity in today's economy, and it should be available for all." Sanders vowed that, if elected president in 2020, he will ensure that every American household has affordable and high-speed internet by the end of his first term.
  • Sanders' plan, posted on his website, would provide $150 billion in federal funding through the Green New Deal to help states and municipalities "build publicly owned and democratically controlled, co-operative, or open access broadband networks." The proposal also calls for: Reinstating the net neutrality protections that President Donald Trump's telecom-friendly FCC repealed in 2017; Using anti-trust laws to break up internet and cable monopolies; Ensuring that all public housing in the U.S. offers free broadband; Requiring all providers to "offer a Basic Internet Plan that provides quality broadband speeds at an affordable price"; and Guaranteeing that all new broadband infrastructure is "resilient to the effects of climate change" and "capable of managing high amounts of renewable energy."
Paul Merrell

China No Longer Needs US Parts in its Phones - 1 views

  • The Wall Street Journal reports Huawei Manages to Make Smartphones Without American Chips. American tech companies are getting the go-ahead to resume business with Chinese smartphone giant Huawei Technologies Co., but it may be too late: It is now building smartphones without U.S. chips. Huawei’s latest phone, which it unveiled in September—the Mate 30 with a curved display and wide-angle cameras that competes with Apple Inc.’s iPhone 11—contained no U.S. parts, according to an analysis by UBS and Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, a Japanese technology lab that took the device apart to inspect its insides. In May, the Trump administration banned U.S. shipments to Huawei as trade tensions with Beijing escalated. That move stopped companies like Qualcomm Inc. and Intel Corp. from exporting chips to the company, though some shipments of parts resumed over the summer after companies determined they weren’t affected by the ban. Meanwhile, Huawei has made significant strides in shedding its dependence on parts from U.S. companies. (At issue are chips from U.S.-based companies, not those necessarily made in America; many U.S. chip companies make their semiconductors abroad.) Huawei long relied on suppliers like Qorvo Inc., the North Carolina maker of chips that are used to connect smartphones with cell towers, and Skyworks Solutions Inc., a Woburn, Mass.-based company that makes similar chips. It also used parts from Broadcom Inc., the San Jose-based maker of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips, and Cirrus Logic Inc., an Austin, Texas-based company that makes chips for producing sound.
Paul Merrell

Era Ends for Google as Founders Step Aside From a Pillar of Tech - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Stanford graduate students who founded Google over two decades ago, are stepping down from executive roles at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, they announced on Tuesday. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, will become the chief of both Google and Alphabet.The move is an end of an era for Google. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have personified the company since its founding and have been two of the technology industry’s most influential figures, on a par with the founders of Apple and Microsoft, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Their early work on the Google search engine helped corral an unruly cloud of information on the World Wide Web. And their ideas about how to run an internet company — like offering generous employee perks like free shuttle buses to the office and making rank-and-file employees feel as though they have a stake in the company — became a standard for Silicon Valley.
Paul Merrell

Homepage - Contract for the Web - 0 views

  • The Web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available. It has changed the world for good and improved the lives of billions. Yet, many people are still unable to access its benefits and, for others, the Web comes with too many unacceptable costs. Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding the future of the Web. The Contract for the Web was created by representatives from over 80 organizations, representing governments, companies and civil society, and sets out commitments to guide digital policy agendas. To achieve the Contract’s goals, governments, companies, civil society and individuals must commit to sustained policy development, advocacy, and implementation of the Contract text.
Paul Merrell

Google Confirms Android Camera Security Threat: 'Hundreds Of Millions' Of Users Affected - 2 views

  • The security research team at Checkmarx has made something of a habit of uncovering alarming vulnerabilities, with past disclosures covering Amazon’s Alexa and Tinder. However, a  discovery of vulnerabilities affecting Google and Samsung smartphones, with the potential to impact hundreds of millions of Android users, is the biggest to date. What did the researchers discover? Oh, only a way for an attacker to take control of smartphone camera apps and remotely take photos, record video, spy on your conversations by recording them as you lift the phone to your ear, identify your location, and more. All of this performed silently, in the background, with the user none the wiser.
Paul Merrell

YouTube is planning to delete all accounts that aren't "commercially viable" starting D... - 0 views

  • Content creators everywhere are starting to panic about an upcoming policy change over at YouTube that threatens to eliminate all accounts and channels on the Google-owned video platform that are deemed to no longer be “commercially viable.” In the “Account Suspension & Termination” section of YouTube’s “Terminations by YouTube for Service Changes,” guidelines, the company explains that, as of December 10, 2019, “YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service, if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.”
Paul Merrell

Federal Court Rules Suspicionless Searches of Travelers' Phones and Laptops Unconstitut... - 1 views

  • n a major victory for privacy rights at the border, a federal court in Boston ruled today that suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices by federal agents at airports and other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit, Alasaad v. McAleenan, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and ACLU of Massachusetts, on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were searched without individualized suspicion at U.S. ports of entry.“This ruling significantly advances Fourth Amendment protections for millions of international travelers who enter the United States every year,” said Esha Bhandari, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “By putting an end to the government’s ability to conduct suspicionless fishing expeditions, the court reaffirms that the border is not a lawless place and that we don’t lose our privacy rights when we travel.”
  • The district court order puts an end to Customs and Border Control (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asserted authority to search and seize travelers’ devices for purposes far afield from the enforcement of immigration and customs laws. Border officers must now demonstrate individualized suspicion of illegal contraband before they can search a traveler’s device. The number of electronic device searches at U.S. ports of entry has increased significantly. Last year, CBP conducted more than 33,000 searches, almost four times the number from just three years prior. International travelers returning to the United States have reported numerous cases of abusive searches in recent months. While searching through the phone of Zainab Merchant, a plaintiff in the Alasaad case, a border agent knowingly rifled through privileged attorney-client communications. An immigration officer at Boston Logan Airport reportedly searched an incoming Harvard freshman’s cell phone and laptop, reprimanded the student for friends’ social media postings expressing views critical of the U.S. government, and denied the student entry into the country following the search.For the order:https://www.eff.org/document/alasaad-v-nielsen-summary-judgment-order For more on this case:https://www.eff.org/cases/alasaad-v-duke
Paul Merrell

California's Attorney General joins the long list of people who have had it with Facebo... - 0 views

  • California’s attorney general has gone to court to force Facebook to hand over documents as part of an investigation into the company. Xavier Becerra filed a “petition to enforce investigative subpoena” with the Superior Court of California in San Francisco on Wednesday morning, arguing that Facebook’s response to his subpoenas has been “patently inadequate.” Citing a “lack of cooperation” not just with his office but also the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Xavier Becerra points out [PDF] that it took Facebook a year to respond to his initial inquiry to produce documents relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook allowed a third party to access vast amounts of personal information through its systems.
  • Not only that but Facebook flat out refused to “search communications involving senior executives,” meaning that it refused to search for relevant information in the emails and other communications of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, among others. “Facebook is not just continuing to drag its feet, it is failing to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and interrogatories,” the filing states.
  • The filing comes the same day that 7,000 pages of internal Facebook files were published online. Those documents were obtained and leaked amid a lawsuit between Facebook and a third-party app developer and were labelled as “highly confidential” by the antisocial network. The main upshot of those files is that they show Facebook used the data it gathered on millions of its users as a business weapon: it provided people's profile information to companies that, for instance, agreed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on adverts within Facebook, and it cut off developers that posed a competitive threat to its ever-growing stable of companies and services (or developers that wouldn't pay up, or were just too sketchy for the internet giant.) This confirms earlier reporting. CEO Zuckerberg also continues to avoid visiting London, or anywhere in the UK, out of fear he will be arrested for repeatedly failing to comply with a request by Parliament to answer questions about Facebook’s actions, as revealed in the tranche of documents.
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