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May 2016

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Which Electric Vehicle should you buy?

Buying an electric vehicles (EV) is the way of the future. If you are looking for a new slick ride that is environmentally-friendly, there are a variety of well-built cars showing up on the market.

Picking through the plethora of EVs can be time-consuming and confusing, but considering a few main factors will help to narrow your search and find the perfect vehicle for you. The first thing you have to do is narrow down what type of EV you are looking for. There are several types of EVs, including Battery EVs Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles, Hybrids, and Fuel-cell EVs.

Battery EVs drive entirely on a battery and electric drive without a conventional internal combustion engine. They need a charging station and can also recharge their batteries through regenerative braking. Plug-in Hybrids run mostly on battery units, but are also equipped with an internal combustion engine that can recharge the battery or replace the electric drive if needed. Hybrid vehicles do not have a plug-in system and instead batteries are recharged from an electric motor driven by the engine in the vehicle. Fuel-cell EVs are the newest technology on the market and instead have a battery cell that creates energy from hydrogen and oxygen instead of a traditional battery charging pack.

Does that make sense? Next you have to consider how often you will be using the vehicle. If you drive a far distance, a Battery EV might not be the best option because it cannot drive more than 180 km without a recharge. A plug-in hybrid is a better alternative in this case because it has a back-up engine.

Your choice will also depend on the availability of charging stations in your region. If public charging stations are available, it is possible to charge a Battery EV during the day, but if not it may be better to have an internal combustion engine in the car for emergencies. Fuel-cell EVs were just released in February 2015 and there are currently only two hydrogen refuel stations in Canada. If you have money to invest though, this technology is due to become the future of EVs.

Currently, Plug-in Hybrids and Hybrids lead the EV market. As the popularity in EVs rise in the next 10 years, Battery and Fuel-cell EVs will take over because these two types of EVs are fuel-saving and have low environmental impact. However, they are more expensive than the other options. At the Green Living Show this year, the Chevrolet Volt, which is a plug-in hybrid, won the 2016 Green Car Award.

The Chevrolet Volt is $25,720 and is available for up to a $7,500 rebate from the government upon purchase. The Volt allows you to drive 85 km on the battery and up to 675 km with a full charge and a full tank of gas. The vehicle is also very sleek and looks like a regular vehicle, which is appealing to a buyer who is new to the world of EVs. The Ford Fusion Energi is another Plug-in Hybrid that can drive 60 km and ranges from $23,673 to $39,280. The electric battery also has a plug-in capability to charge the battery using a 120-volt outlet, which gives it more accessibility.

The Tesla Model X is the most well-known battery powered vehicle and sets the bar for Battery EVs. The Model X is $100,300 and is the arguably the best EV on the market. It can drive 412 km because of a supercharger network that can charge in a matter of minutes as opposed to hours. This helps extend the reach of the battery powered EV substantially. The Nissan Leaf is another contender as a battery-powered EV and is $32,698. It can drive up to 172km with a fully powered battery. You can also start charging the EV remotely through an app on your phone when it is plugged in.

EVs are the way of the future and are the most worthy investment if you are interested in buying a car. These vehicles are environmentally friendly, cost-saving, and have a variety of features that leave their fuelled competitors in the dust. Looking through the different options has me excited for the future of cars. EVs only seem to get better and better as larger companies such as Tesla and Chevrolet invest in a greener future for Canada.

What is your favourite EV? Post in the comments below.

How to be the best maid of honour you can be

Most women dream about being a bride and getting married, but I’ve always hoped to be asked to be a maid of honour. It is flattering to know that one of your girlfriends adores you so much they would be willing to have you stand by their side during one of the most memorable moments of their lives.

My dream came true when a long-time friend asked me through a hilarious Ryan Gosling meme:

ryan gosling

I responded by calling her on the phone, crying tears of happiness.  Now that the initial buzz has worn off, I’m ready to do the best job possible for my bride.

Being a great maid of honour takes work. You have to be attentive and available for a variety of tasks and traditions that are important and memorable. The first and foremost job of a maid of honour is to be there for moral support. Frankly, many men are not interested in planning their weddings and even though I am classified as a tomboy oftentimes, I love looking through beautiful dresses. When the day approaches, being available for those stressful moments and last minute cancellations is essential and can make all the difference between a great maid of honour and a flop.

Attending appointments with the bride is important. Between trying on gowns and helping pick out flowers, if your bride wants you there, it is essential to prioritize your schedule. Each bride will have her own idea of which appointments she needs you to attend. Because this is the bride’s choice, it is important to set out expectations. Asking and communicating will help avoid disappointments or overdoing it. Helping with do-it-yourself projects for the wedding is a fun way to spend time with her and help out at the same time for the big day.

Certain brides will pick the maid of honour dress and others will let you decide. I’ve been asked to choose my own and I find it vital to make sure it is within the colour scope my friend loves and reflects her style. Compromising between a dress that fits your body well but still coordinates with the colour of the wedding is important.  But never forget, what the bride wants, the bride gets. It isn’t your wedding.

The bachelorette party and bridal shower are the main responsibilities for a maid of honour. Some family members will want to plan the bridal shower, so it is important to decide with the bride what events you will be planning. The bachelorette party is definitely a tradition for the maid of honour to organize. Some brides want an exciting and loud party in another city and others prefer a quieter event at a low-key bar. Getting pointers from the bride to plan an event that suits her will ensure a good time. Also, avoid the cheesy games. They are irritating and no one wants to hear the forced laughter these games incite.

On the big day, make sure to be fully available to the bride for any last minute errands that need to be done. Being well prepared in advance will help. The maid of honour is the go-to person on the wedding day so the bride can enjoy her wedding without being bothered with the little things. Be an impromptu wedding planner if needed.

Everyone talks about the best man’s speech, but the maid of honour’s speech is just as important. It is a must-have at the wedding reception. Prepare in advance, because you don’t want to get tongue-tied in the moment. Speak from the heart and speak about the positives of both the bride and groom in a personalized manner. I would avoid making fun of the married pair unless it is very endearing- but you know the couple best.

Being a maid of honour is an unforgettable experience and the ultimate test of your friendship bond. Doing a good job will ensure your bride has a memorable wedding day and she will be so grateful if you can be supportive and helpful. This is an important milestone in a great friendship and will make memories for years to come. Also, don’t forget the most important part: have fun!

Have you been a maid of honour? Share your tips in the comments below.

What did you think of Jian Ghomeshi’s trial?

The last year has been eye-opening, and not in a good way. The case of CBC radio broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, who was accused of allegedly sexually assaulting and choking four women, really shed light on how messed up our justice system really is. It also demonstrated why so many women (and men) don’t report instances of sexual violence.

At the end of the day, Ghomeshi was found not guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking. The second round of the trials ended with an apology and a peace bond, which essentially is a contract that stipulates the accused must maintain good behaviour for a year and cannot contact the complainant. It is not an admission of guilt and it will result in no criminal record.

Ghomeshi was asked to apologize to the final complainant, Kathryn Borel. His apology mentions the power he held at the CBC and how, after serious consideration, he misunderstood how his actions could be interpreted: “I was a person in a position of authority and leadership, and I did not show the respect that I should have to Ms. Borel … I failed to understand how my words and actions would put a coworker who was younger than me, and in a junior position to mine, in an uncomfortable place.”

Borel decided to forego the trial after being presented with the option of a peace bond because it seemed “the clearest path to the truth.” In a statement following the trial, she said that “In a perfect world, people who commit sexual assault would be convicted for their crimes. Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of having done the things that I’ve outlined today. So when it was presented to me that the defence would be offering us an apology, I was prepared to forego the trial. It seemed like the clearest path to the truth. A trial would have maintained his lie, and would have further subjected me to the very same pattern of abuse that I am currently trying to stop.”

So, it’s over. After intense investigations by various media outlets, excruciating witness interviews, and hours of court time, the Ghomeshi trials are done.

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Women musicians lift the bar at CMW

Plato once said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” I spent last week listening to several women-led bands that played Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto, and I can say with certainty that Plato knew what he was talking about. Here are a few of the acts I saw at the festival — and the bands you should start to listen to asap!

The first band was playing at the Garrison on Dundas St. West. No Sinner, from Vancouver, filled the venue with deep growling rock n’ roll with singer, Colleen Rennison roaring into the mic. No Sinner was one of my favourites at Canadian Music Week because they brought a refreshing and classic sound amidst the keyboard loving shoegaze that has overtaken popular music. Instead, No Sinner brought bluesy rock to Toronto, showing that western Canadian bands can compete with the overwhelming presence of Toronto bands at CMW.

Rennison is a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage and doesn’t think that gender should be a factor within the music industry. “You just have to rise to the occasion regardless of what’s between your legs,” said Rennsion. “The other day, I arrived at the venue before the band and I was trying to get some information from the promotor and he assumed I was someone’s girlfriend in the band. After they saw sound-check, they change their tune.”

No Sinner is due to release their upcoming album, “Old Habits Die Hard” on May 20 and they played their new song, “Hollow” at the CMW show. It is a passionate track about heartbreak and you can really feel Rennison’s pain in her thriving vocals. “So much of what the album is about is the human condition, being an enemy to yourself and the consequences of that,” said Rennison. The whole show had a very visceral feel to it, as if you could experience her pain in yourself. No Sinner is well worth seeing live.

From the Garrison, I jetted to the Mod Club on College St. to see The Wet Secrets perform their set for a packed audience. The band, hailing from Edmonton, is an alt-rock band that uses horns, percussion, coordinated dance moves, and marching band uniforms. The act features two women members, Emma Frazier on the trombone, and Kim Rackel on the trumpet. The band won the Peak Performance Project Award in 2014 where they were given a $100,000 award.

I caught up with Frazier at CMW after their show at the Mod Club. “The show was great. It was an amazing crowd and good energy.” She also explained that in addition to being in a band together, Rackel and Frazier also perform in a burlesque troupe in Edmonton. The two musicians use a set of coordinated dance moves in their marching band outfits and the performance often has sexual undertones. “Getting on stage is fucking rad. I don’t think it should really be a problem. If I’m sexualized, that’s their problem and not mine. I just like performing,” said Frazier.

Other women-led bands that performed CMW included Nao, from the U.K, who performed at the Mod Club as well. Nao is an electronic D.J who has developed a large following because of her well-developed snyth-pop sound. The show was packed and Nao delivered. Adee from Sweden also played at the Nightowl, which was a smaller venue. She brought an R&B sound mixed with hip hop riffs and got an audience member to join her on stage to sing. She was lively and positive about the small crowd attending her gig.

CMW was a wild ride and watching several female bands perform was enlightening. There are so many talented women performers out there and seeing the variety of styles in their music had my body grooving. Take a listen to these ladies and remember, support women in music! I will definitely be attending CMW next year to see the next wave of women to light up the stage in Toronto.

Write your councillor! Non-profits may have to register as lobbyists

Non-profits and small community groups in Toronto are growing angrier as City Council continues to discuss the possibility of requiring them to register as lobbyists in order to speak with their local councillor.

A request for a report on whether non-profits should register as lobbyists was approved in City Council last week. When a business representative wants to lobby, they must sign up in the Lobbyist registry and adhere to a set of strict requirements to be applicable. Within three days of meeting an official, it is necessary to update the registry to keep lobbyist meetings transparent or a $100,000 fine will ensue. Registration and complying with the set of standards requires extra resources and manpower, and many non-profits have a limited set of means for additional costs.

The Lobbying bylaw motion states, “City Council request the City Manager, in consultation with the Lobbyist Registrar and the City Solicitor, to review the requirements for not-for-profits organizations and labour unions…. and their associations to register, and report to Executive Committee with amendments to Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 140, Lobbying as required.”

The Lobbying registry exists to track financial information of companies that are interacting with city officials and maintains transparency. Lobbying groups are financially viable and registering is possible with their deep pockets. Non-profits that are looking for research grants outside of the formal application process are also already required to register, and demanding other non-profits to take part additionally is unnecessary. Including non-profits as lobbyists increases the scope of political control over other types of advocacy groups and questions the concept of open communication between groups with no financial investment. Is this democracy?

Limiting access to local councillors and government agencies will create competition for the attention of decision-makers and prevent those people from helping the important causes of non-profits. Comparing non-profits with lobbyists and placing them under the same regulations limits the ability for important groups to effect change without a substantial financial backing.

The motion decreases the level of communication between concerned constituents and non-profits looking to make a difference, and is dangerous to the democratic system in Toronto. This is not the first time city council has discussed adding non-profits to the lobbying law, but hopefully it is the last.

Email your local councillor if you are a concerned citizen or non-profit, and help Toronto cross this motion off the list permanently.

Do you want an extra 525 km of bike paths in Toronto?

Cycling is all the rage in Toronto and City Council will potentially be hopping on the bandwagon at the June 7 council meeting with a 10-year bike plan that has cyclists soaring.

Cyclists can look forward to 525 km of bike pathways throughout the city! These pathways will involve new infrastructure at Kipling Ave., Yonge St., Bloor St., Danforth Ave., Jane St., Kingston Rd., Midland Ave., and Lake Shore Blvd. W. It also includes 40 km of trails that travels through the West Toronto Railpath and connects paths to the Don Valley Parkway and Humber Valley.

The types of cycling lanes will vary: 280 km of cycle tracks will be directly on fast and busy streets, 55 km of the bike lanes will be sidewalk-level trails on major streets, and the remaining 190 km will be along quieter streets. Within the network, 100 km of the cycling routes will be on major arterial roads and studies will be undertaken to evaluate the best streets for the bike lanes.

The Bloor St. bike lanes that were approved in the last city council meeting are one of many feasibility assessments that would be required for this new cycling plan to go forward.  It will decide if the cycling network should be placed directly on Bloor St. or other major arterial roads in Toronto. The pilot project from Avenue Rd. and Shaw Rd, will assess whether the busy street can manage cycling traffic safely on the street and will use a mix of sidewalk bike lanes and routes directly on the street.

The 10-year cycling plan will cost about $153 million from 2016 to 2025, representing a $56.5 million increase in the Capital Plan for Transportation Services. The cycling network plan for 2016 was estimated at $13.5 million with an increase of $4 million in the budget.

Transportation Services has developed five funding concepts to support the program and they range from $8 million per year with 122 km of cycling routes being laid out on Toronto’s streets to $25 million per year with 247 km of track. As the annual investment increases, the amount of buffered bike lanes, which are cycling routes on lifted sidewalks, would increase as well. The last three scenarios have substantially more track built in the timeline and several more buffered bike lanes, but will cost more.

City council had a bike plan in 2011 for 495 km of bike lanes, but failed to meet this goal, only completing 495 km of the bike lanes by the allotted timeline. Cycling is fast becoming a higher priority in the city, but it remains to be seen if the new plan will be adopted. Bike lanes are essential because they help the city relieve congestion and keep people safe.

Hopefully, city council will work harder to meet cycling route goals within the 10 year plan if it goes forward and Toronto may just be put on the map for the best city for cycling.

Do you agree with the 10-year cycling plan? Share in the comments below.

 

How to successfully market your non-profit online

It can be challenging running a charity or not-for-profit organization in the digital age. With so much information available on the Internet, how do you get your message across? How do you make people care about your cause?

Last week, Women’s Post attended Digital Leap 2016, a digital marketing conference for non-profits. The one-day conference was hosted by Stephen Thomas, a Canadian agency that produces and develops marketing campaigns for charities and not-for-profit organizations. The focus of the conference was three-fold: how to embrace the digital realm, how to be brave enough to think outside the box, and how to optimize and brand your work.

For not-for-profits and charities, the concept of a digital campaign can be difficult. Even more questions arise: Where do you start? How do you drive people to your website? How do you ensure people take more than 30 seconds looking at your work?

The first thing to remember is that it is all about content. A banner or square advertisement on a webpage doesn’t get nearly as many hits as marketed content. Peter Coish, founder and lead strategist of Toronto marketing firm Kuration, asked the following question at the beginning of his keynote speech: “How many people actually click on a banner advertisement…on purpose?”

The answer was almost no one. Curated and original content is the key to a campaign’s success. The content must be entertaining, but it also must inform and activate. Make a plan that outlines your organization’s goals, target audience, and campaign themes so that content isn’t being created in the last minute. Digital marketing takes time and if you don’t plan accordingly, it won’t be successful.

Fifty per cent of your content should contain relevant information about your cause or organization, but according to Alice Ferris, founding partner of GoalBusters Consulting, “sometimes, you just need a picture of a squirrel.” It’s important to make sure your content is entertaining and interesting. If you don’t, people won’t follow your work on a regular basis.

Now you have great content, what’s next? Getting your message across to the general public is the next challenge. There is so much noise on social media nowadays that organic reach is not really possible. It is necessary to spend some money pushing out your content on the Internet. This may mean buying Facebook advertisements and creating sponsored posts to bring new readers and donors to your cause. Knowing your audience is key: do they consume media on their mobile phones or do they watch a lot television? That will make a difference on how you spend your advertisement budget.

At the same time, Coish says that email is your biggest resource. Contacting your supporters directly — or people who are interested in your organization’s work — is the most productive and effective way to reach your audience. Don’t completely rule out traditional media as well. Mail is now considered a novelty, so if someone gets a personal letter with information about a specific cause, there is a higher likelihood they will actually read it.

Lastly, it’s important to be authentic. As Simren Deogun, Director of Digital Innovation at Stephen Thomas, says: “These are real missions and real causes and we are trying to create real change. Be real and authentic. That is almost more important than anything else.”

“Digital is not the future,” Deogun said in her panel. “It’s happening around you. From the small charity with three employees to the multi-million non-profit, it’s the fight. It’s not size that drives their bravery.”

It takes a lot of courage to approach your CEO or charity founder and propose a digital campaign. It requires a lot of creative thinking, knowledge of the return, and an ability to take a risk. While making your proposal, remember to take your audience into account and tailor your content to their interests. If you plan, write informative yet entertaining content, and drive your cause out on the appropriate social channels, there is nothing you can’t do!

Do you have any tips for digital campaigns? Post them in the comments below!

Women’s Music Panel at CMW tackles wage gap

Canadian women have fought for generations so that musicians of all genders are able to pursue their dreams and goals in music, but pay gaps and limitations still persist.

“Power Playing: Advice for Top Women In Music for the Emerging Generation” was a panel hosted by Canadian Music Week that focused on female journalists, publicists, and musicians. It featured six women that are in executive positions in the music industry and addressed the successes and issues of working women. The women on the panel did not hold back and I learned the discrepancies continue to persist in the music industry today.

Moderator and founder of Women in Music Canada, Samantha Slattery emphasized that women continue to make less money than men in the music industry. She explained that for every dollar that a male employee makes, a woman in the music industry makes 73 cents. Women continue to be compensated unfairly for their contributions and have a difficult time climbing up to executive roles.

“Women need to do a better job advocating for themselves and each other,” said panelist and senior director of Live Nation, Melissa Bubb-Clarke. “It is important to chalk it up to business objectives. Anytime that you can bring it back to a financial contribution, ask yourself what is my return on my investment and how should I be compensated for that?”

Bubb-Clarke explained that she received a bonus check that was lower than she believed she deserved for her contribution and returned it.  She was uncertain she would be receiving any check at all after making such a bold move, but learned an important lesson when she was given a bonus check with double the amount the next day.  Interestingly, Bubb-Clarke and most of the other women on the panel, began their careers in administration and landed their jobs internally only to climb in the company from there.

A recent initiative was launched by MTV called the 79 percent clock. The clock is a daily reminder for women that because of the wage gap we still experience today, 21 per cent of our workload is free when compared to men’s average salaries in the same job. It is also possible to calculate your workload on the website by plugging into the app when you start and complete work.

“Working for Women in Music Inc., I have a lot of conversations with women about insecurity. They need to realize they are worth more,” said president of Women in Music Inc., Jessica Sobhrai. “If you truly believe you deserve more and they say no, it isn’t the company for you and there is no room for growth. It’s knowing your value.”

A report  published by Canadian Music Week went on to say that women who work in the music industry work five hours more than the average Canadian, with a starting pay of 24,000 per year and 75 per cent of female employees are under 40. A low salary and long working hours create difficult criteria if you have a family. “It is a 47/7 job. It gets tricky for women in their 30’s who want to have a family,” Panelist and Director of Operations from Toronto-based music public relations company known as the Feldman Agency, Olivia Ootes said. “If we want people to stay in the entertainment industry, we need to change standards.”

Though issues of gender equality persist in the music industry, the women on the panel were hopeful and positive about the changes that were underway for the upcoming generation. Bubb-Clarke noted that women in executive positions have worked hard to carve out the path for future women leaders in music.

Though there are still struggles for women in the workplace, if we keep pushing into the executive roles in the industry and demanding fair pay, the standards will change for future generations. As the Spice Girls once said, “Girl Power!”.

 

Embracing my vulnerability in “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown

I would like to begin by saying that I am not a fan of self-help or motivational books. I have nightmares of being the woman in that aisle of the bookstore crying, while searching through the stacks for a solution to my problems. I feel the same way about motivational speakers and the false sense of happiness that is often advertised. After saying all of that, there is one book that has snuck its way into my life and has undoubtedly changed me for the better.

Rising_Strong_by_Brene_Brown_Book_Summary

Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution by Brené Brown was purchased by my cousin and given to me for Christmas. I admittedly let the book become a coffee table decoration for about six months and, after an especially hard day, decided to take a glance. I began to read the book and found that Brown’s concept resonated very strongly with me. It didn’t advocate for the easy route out or a simple tell-all solution as many self-help books do, but instead demanded hard work and acceptance.

Rising Strong begins by explaining the importance of vulnerability. People are often taught to reject feelings that aren’t necessarily comfortable. They are told to tuck these emotions away by laughing it off or drinking it down. Brown recommends looking these feelings in the eye, and by doing so embrace our inherent human vulnerability. She also lightens the mood by saying “people who wade into the discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses”.

Once this idea of vulnerability is introduced, the idea of embracing it becomes overwhelming. How do I embrace such a scary emotion? How do I even begin to look at myself and my darker truths? How do I become this badass? Brown gives a set of steps to follow that are simple and direct. This is what appeals to me about Rising Strong: the path to self-realization isn’t ambiguous or complex. Instead, the presentation of the steps is straight-forward and unpretentious.

It begins with “The Reckoning”, which is the realization that if you are vulnerable, you will get knocked down. You will fail and life will hurt. This is the trade-off to living a fully authentic life. Brown’s next step is “The Rumble”, which is when you decide to embrace the uncomfortable feelings of being knocked down. “The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity,” she writes.

The book helps you to learn how to question the common self-damaging narratives we create and how to understand that parts of those stories are merely assumptions created out of insecurity and fear. “The Revolution” is when you rise up and are truly stronger for having faced some of your issues.

An essential component to Rising Strong includes learning how to question whether we judge others too often by asking yourself the simple question:

“Do you think people do the best they can?”

Brown explains that setting high expectations of ourselves in turn causes us to hold these same standards for people around us and it is bound to cause disappointment. Instead, understanding and empathizing with others helps to create appropriate boundaries and expectations in our relationships.

Brown has a Phd in Social Work from the University of Houston and has published a series of motivational books. The companion read to Rising Strong is Daring Greatly, and the series has sparked Brown to create workshops (including a free workshop on trust!) and a community to continue discussing her method. Brown was arguably popularized by her TEDx talks on vulnerability and shame. She has also been on Oprah.

Rising Strong is filled with examples and details of how to obtain a sense of self-assurance and an understanding of living an authentic life. I would definitely recommend reading this novel if you have often felt lost and afraid of your own vulnerability. There is nothing stronger than embracing your own emotions, and Brown will show you a way to do this that will make you a stronger and more badass woman.

Will John Tory’s meeting with Black Lives Matter be productive?

Toronto Mayor John Tory will soon be publicly meeting with members of Black Lives Matter to discuss racism and equity, especially in reference to police activity.

Black Lives Matter has been protesting the treatment of black citizens by police officers across North America.

The last time the mayor met with representatives and supporters of this group in a private setting, it led to a lot of shouting and name calling. Tory said he couldn’t get a word in. Suffice to say, it wasn’t exactly productive.

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