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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Qatar Cats

A street cat lies on a step in Qatar.

Eid Mubarrak!

It is Eid today in Qatar, the end of the month of fasting, and like much of the population we have been out visiting friends.

While out I spotted some of Qatar's many cats, and snapped the pictures above and. Many of these are feral, and are normally tolerated by the local population. While disliking dogs, which they see as dirty, many Muslims like cats, perhaps because Mohammed himself was supposed to have been fond of them.

Liking doesn't always extend to taking care of them, and many scrounge a living from dustbins and occasional handouts.

Cats can breed fast. According to Feralcat.com, two breeding cats can, in theory at least, lead to an increase of 420,000 in the cat population. Fortunately, the Qatar government, in conjunction with the Qatar Cat Coalition, has a programme of capturing, neuturing and releasing them.

There are lots of abandoned pets in Qatar. If you are an animal lover you might want to check out the Qatar Animal Welfare Society, also known as QAWS.

Also see Qatar Pets: Essential Information for people looking to bring pets to Qatar


Doha street scene.



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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Qatar Islamic Arts Museum

I run across this movie of the Islamic Art museum on You Tube. There's lots of information, not just about the museum but about calligraphy in Qatar. The movie is quite long, but the section about Qatar ends after about seven minutes. (I'd cut it, but the quality would suffer after being uploaded and compressed a second time!)





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Friday, September 26, 2008

The E-Cigarette

I may be posting a bit less about Qatar in the next month or so as I am currently working on a new project - a website selling Electronic cigarettes. (I have just added an ad to the side of the the blog).


The website sells these cigarettes that are basically designed to help people stop smoking. However they resemble cigarettes in appearance, and they can also be 'smoked'. However, instead of inhaling smoke, you inhale vapor.

The vapor contains nicotine, which is indeed bad for you, but it does not contain any tobacco, tar or other of the hundreds of chemicals which you will find in a normal cigarette.

One friend who trialled it also got a kick out of smoking it in the office. When people approached him to tell him off for doing so, he took great pleasure in pointing out that it wasn't actually a real cigarette.

We are currently looking into ways to post them to Qatar & The Middle East, should there be any demand. Let us know if you are interested!

Update: There are several more sites about electronic cigarettes which you may be interested in. E-Liquid deals with the nicotine liquid used in electronic cigarettes, while Halo Electronic Cigarettes retails e-cigs in Australia and Denshi Tobacco retails electronic cigarettes in Japan.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Qatar Natural History Group Launches Website

There is a new website on the Qatar net - Qatar Natural History Group has launched its own dedicated website with a sign up form for new members. There is more information about the website from the QNHG below:

QNHG Website

The main purpose of the site is to serve as a source of information and communication within the group. In the first pass it will mainly be information from the Committee to the members about future events, but also serve as a data base with archived newsletters, information on field trips and other events, our library and other types of relevant information. An additional use of the web site is for Membership sign up and registration of member email addresses on the website email system. Membership will also automatically expire at the end of September and will have to be renewed each year.

Membership Registration Instructions:

* Log on to the website and click on the "Membership Sign-up" tab.
* This will bring you to a page with instructions on the sign-up process.
* Read these instructions and click on the yellow "online application form".
* This will bring you to a page where you create your own personal account with your name and email address.
* Complete the registration form and click "create new account" to create your account.
* Upon creation you will be sent a confirmation email by the website.

Paying your Membership Dues

* You must meet up at a QNHG meeting to pay your yearly dues before your membership will be activated.
* This year we have Single Membership at 30 QAR and Dual/Family Membership at 60 QAR (please bring the right amount).




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Beach party!!!

The Intercontinental sent us through this flier, and I thought I had better add it for those of you who like to party! The beach party will be held on Thursday October 2nd - click on the image for a larger sixze and for more information.






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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Calling all Qatar Writers!

Service for Freelance Writers & Editors in Qatar & The Middle East

We have now launched the latest section of our website: a directory of freelance writers for Qatar & the Middle East. Writers can now submit their details via a form which will automatically update our list of writers; Editors can browse thorough the list to find writers with the skills and knowledge they need. Like the rest of our website this is all completely free.






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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The future of Qatar?

Arab disco
The New York times carried a fascinating article about the contradictory culture of Dubai two days ago. (You can read the article here, but you will have to sign up first (for free)).

The article explores the nature of Dubai, an Islamic city where you can drink alcohol and party till night. Western freedom lives side by side by mosques open 24 hours a day. Unlike many other Islamic countries, it is a place where people can choose to enjoy the vices of the West or to follow their religion to the full without the repression that exists elsewhere.

Qatar is often compared to Dubai and there are many similarities. Both are exploding with growth, although Qatar is lucky enough to fund its growth with oil revenue rather than with debt. Both are also experiencing a dramatic change in culture.

There is also conflict. There are both conservative and liberal elements in the country: those who want to continue to modernise and extend freedoms to those who want it, and those who want Qatar and Qatar residents to conform more strictly to an Islamic way of life.

Expatriates often experience this first hand. In malls you can see young people dressed in the trendiest and latest fashion, wearing clothes that might once have got you arrested but now seem to do little more than draw the occasional disapproving stare. Yet in the same mall you will also see women covered black from head to toe, some with even their eyes covered.

In Doha, at least outside Ramadan, expatriates can go to bars and clubs and dance and drink to the early hours of the morning. Or you can go to the Islamic Guest Centre and be warned about the dangers of listening to music and of hanging pictures of people or animals on your wall.

For expatriates at least, there is freedom to choose the way you want to live. But there is also a clash of cultures. Only time will see whether freedom and conservative Islam can continue to live together.

The photo of the Arab lady is by Yosita 82
Also see: Qatar's Future: 11 Predictions


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Monday, September 22, 2008

Doha Yoga and Fitness

Yoga pose One of the newer websites on the Qatar net is Doha Yoga and Fitness. Run by Tammie, a a yoga coach and licensed nurse, Doha Yoga and Fitness teaches the Vinyasa style of Hatha Yoga, a system of Yoga which was introduced by Yogi Swatarama in fifteenth century India. Swatarama saw Hatha Yoga as a stage of physical preparation which would prepare the body for higher meditation.

For more information about Hatha Yoga or about the courses visit Doha Yoga and Fitness.

For more activities to do in Doha see our list of Qatar Clubs.



Picture by: MyYogaOnline


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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Police Clearance for Qatar

Police Clearance CertificateAfter being accepted for a job in Qatar, you may be asked to provide a police clearance certificate. This relatively new requirement was brought in about 2 1/2 years, and at the time meant no end of hassle for those already in Qatar who now required one.

In our latest website article we look at how to obtain a police certificate, and what to do with it after you have got it. The piece was written in response to a question on the forum here: Required UK Documents for Qatar by Plaxis, and we have incorporated some of the information he eventually found out on the British side of things, while the British Embassy were kind enough to provide us with the information on the Qatar side of things.



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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Disabled Travels

A powerchair userThis is a guest post by Jean Rasbridge, a disabled traveller who works for a UK Power Chair company.

I recently had a very pleasant stay with family who are working in elegant Qatar - I had been apprehensive about the journey itself, as well as travelling to a totally new country where I could not even say "Good Morning" ( I am ashamed to say). However I need not have worried, my fears about a non-disabled friendly trip and reception were unfounded.

I travelled from Terminal 3 at Heathrow, and was escorted from the check in desk by very friendly airline staff, to a quiet waiting area, and when the flight was called was accompanied again to boarding. My travel Power Chair was put into the hold after I was ensconced in a front seat, and the journey passed smoothly. On arrival my son had arranged for an amazing service! A lift brought the chair to the door of the plane, and I was then met by a member of a Visa handling service called Al Maha, and taken to a charming area where I was offered fresh juice, tea or coffee whilst the formalities were completed on my behalf without any anxiety on my part.

I was then taken through Customs, and my baggage retrieved and put onto a portered trolley whilst I sat comfotably in my little Power Chair, and then was then happily reunited with my family - a really stress free journey.

The small power chair I took with me for this journey can be taken apart easily and put into vehicles - and the dry cell batteries are safe for transport. The heaviest part is 27 Kg, so it is acceptable for carriers to transport either as a whole unit at under 50 kg, which most airlines will carry. However, it is important to check with your carrier before you book. I have often taken scooters on plane trips, but this is so much more manouevrable inside than a scooter. It has an off board charger and a range of up to 10 miles

I found Doha a really lovely place to visit (apart from the dust perhaps) - from the elegant promenade which was very wheelchair user friendly, the exciting souks with their unusual smells and scents, the beautifully embellished mosque, to the 5-star hotels which were also disabled friendly. The very modern and stylish malls were also designed for wheelchair access, though I did not see another single user! Most amazingly, in a country famed for its crazy driving, I did not see one disabled parking space that had been taken by an able driver.

While Doha was navigable, I can't say the same about the sand dunes - but then I guess that's not the government's fault.

I am looking forward to another trip, before too long...



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Friday, September 19, 2008

Doha's Industrial Area


The Industrial Area in Qatar

This is the industrial area; a drab and dreary district on the edge of Doha, where all the industry, garages and factories that might spoil the beautification of Doha has been placed. We visited it one Friday morning, a rare interval of peace in the area's hectic week. At busy times - which is most of the time - queues back up for half a kilometre along the wall, an unpleasant bullying mass of pickup trucks, tractors and giant lorries which often grind great holes into the roads. At present it is in better condition, although that will not be much consolation to the man who died after his car fell into one of the holes. For much of the year it is dusty, a dust that gets into your throat and your lungs, but on the rare occasions it rains there are floods - at such times, it is best to study the movements of the cars in front of you to avoid those holes.

A long and dusty road in The Industrial Area


It's not just heavy industry which is removed from Doha. As more and more cheap accommodation has been mowed down in Qatar, many of the poorer sections of the population have been forced, through lack of accommodation in the center, to remove themselves from below the eyes of the rich and to join the factory workers who live here.


Clothes hung to dry

If you live here, chances are that at some point you will be forced to visit the Industrial area - and, despite or perhaps because of the contrast with the more modern areas of Doha, it makes a fascinating visit, if not always a very pleasant one.

Heavy machinery

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The National Anthem of Qatar


This is not our first post on the Qatar National Anthem - we have the tune of the anthem, with the lyrics below - but it is not very satifying not being able to listen to the words. So we have provided movies of the anthems below. The first one is not great quality, having being downloaded from YouTube, edited, and then uploaded again (and being recompressed) but we chose it because the sound was clear. The second was recorded by us at the recent world cup qualifying match between Bahrain and Qatar. As this was a totally original movie we were able to host it on Vimeo, which often provides better quality movies than YouTube.

Qatar National Anthem at the Asian Games



The National Anthem of Qatar at the Bahrain v. Qatar Game


A Qatar Football Crowd sings the Qatar National Anthem from qatar visitor on Vimeo.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Former Qatar Islamic Dean talks about terrorism

In this movie the former Dean of Islamic studies, a man who is often quoted in Qatar and who has been a voice for moderation and reason, talks out about terrorism in Arabic culture.


More movies tomorrow - this time they will be ours!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mobile phones, Inflation and Press Freedom

There are a number of interesting stories in the rounds today.

Vodafone have gained the fixed line licence after winning the mobile licence several months ago. No-one seems to be very surprised, and in contrast to the first round only two companies actually bothered to bid against them. The company got the licence for a song too - they only paid QAR 10 million for the fixed licence, as opposed to QAR7.72 billion for the mobile licence.

Surprisingly, Qtel do not seem to be too concerned - I hear from a friend that works there that the employees are more concerned with their inter-departmental football matches.

Vodaphone, in the meantime, might do best financing their operations by borrowing in riyals. Despite the fall in the value of the dollar, which has been labelled by us as well as others as one of the main causes of rising prices, inflation has continued to grow and now stands at an incredible 16.59 percent. See Arabian Business for the full story.

Those thinking of coming to Qatar on a contract might do well to check if their salary is indexed linked, and start asking hard questions about what price rises they might have if any - the salary/bonus at the end of contract could be worth a lot less than it is at the start. Especially if the Qatar Central Bank continues to play with price control measures instead of doing what they need to do - raise interest rates.

Finally there is the opening of the Doha Medium Freedom Centre, which will be building a monument to journalists. Things have already been busy with Qatar flying women journalists from abroad after they have been threatened. Ironically, since the opening of the Centre has been announced several journalists have been taken to court for the stories they have written.

This included one journalist, sentenced to jail in absentia, for defamation of Hamad hospital. The journalist covered the story of a patient who had "come back to life" at Hamad hospital after being declared dead. The sentence was despite the fact that the woman who had supposedly fabricated the story had obtained documents, photographs and a taped recording of the man.

Still, I am sure all these journalists will feel happier when they can see the centre's monument. Hopefully, it will be in view of Doha's prison!

Qatar News



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Doha Tennis Open

The Qatar Tennis Open is being held at the Intercontinental from the 15th - 29th October - click on the brochure below for more information.

Also see: Qatar Tennis




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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Garangau

It's a great night for kids tonight, as today is the fourteenth day of Ramadan, which means - Garangau! Garangau will be well underway as I write, starting as it does after Iftar (the breaking of the fast) - although my own daughter's school will be celebrating tomorrow, and has asked children to be sent in traditional dress. (What is traditional British dress?) It's also a day when the school relaxes its normal rules on sweets - last year my daughter came home with a huge bag of them, including many nuts covered with a sticky sweet icing - the sweets lasted until I surreptitiously threw them away a couple of weeks later. It's not actually a particularly religious festival, despite the words of the traditional Garangau song (see below), and children of virtually all nationalities and religions join in. 


Garangau Song

"If you give us some sweets and nuts God will reward you, and take you to Mecca, the place every Muslim wants to go.' (Source: Marhaba Autumn 2008). 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

American Women's Association Meeting

Posted at the request of Indorachel.

AWA GENERAL MEETING
Location : Al Rayyan Hotel , Dafna-Diplomatic District ( Opposite City Center )
Time : 10 - 12 am
Date :
- 13 October
- 10 November
- 8 December

we also have

AWA ANNUAL BAZAAR

Location : Intercon Hotel
Time : 10 - 12 am
Date : 8 November 2008


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Shelters

Although Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world (if not the richest country in the world) not everyone can afford a luxurious place to relax, as these pictures of worker's shelters from Doha's industrial area show.

Worker's shelter in Qatar.A shelter built out from the side of a wrecked car.


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Friday, September 12, 2008

The History of Qatar

History in Qatar is not as well chronicled as it might be in some countries, with still little known of its early past, and with records sparse until the arrivals of the Europeans. Nevertheless, now is a time when the boundaries of what we do know are being pushed back, with many new archeological discoveries being made. Some of these discoveries now suggest that human life in Qatar existed some 700,000 - 800,000 years ago. 


Later history should be easier to piece together, but is not helped by often contradictory information from secondary sources. What is clear, though, is that Qatar was a place of haven for Christians, even after the early adoption of Islam by the then ruler of Qatar, Al Tamimi. 

Later on, Qatar entered a bloody period in its history, with constant battles - both on sea and on land. One particular enemy was Bahrain, and indeed the enmity between these two countries was only finally solved in 2001 after a judgement by the World Court in 2001. The court case, which has been called the longest in history, was itself spurred by a skirmish between Bahrain and Qatar when gunboats opened fire and prisoners were taken. 

In our latest article, Qatar History, we have provided an overview of the history of the peninsula. Of course, no overview can do justice to the detail of such a vast period of time, so we have linked to more detailed articles for many of the different sections. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Qatari Football Supporters

Enthusiastic football supporters at the Bahrain-Qatar world cup qualifying match in Al Sadd football stadium, Doha. A heady start saw Qatar scoring in the first few minutes of the game and dominating the first half of the match, with Bahrain going down to ten men prior to half time. Qatar proved distinctly lacklustre in the second half, and Bahrain both outplayed Qatar and equalized in the second half, despite their numerical advantage.


Also see: Qatar Football & Qatar Tennis


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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

AWA dinner

Come celebrate Ramadan Kareem and enjoy fabulous live entertainment and buffet dinner at the InterContinental Hotel Tent Site.

Saturday, Sept. 12th, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Cost is 200 QR per person

Family and friends of AWA are welcome.

Dinner includes dinner buffet, soda, juice, tea, coffee, service charges, tips and entertainment.

Don’t miss your chance!!!

Meet with Cheryl Stephenson at Villaggio, Paul’s Café and Coffee

September 10, Wednesday at 3 pm to 4:30pm to purchase Ramadan Tent tickets.

If this time is not convenient, please contact Cheryl to make special arrangements

Cheryl Stephenson

Email: stephenson_cheryl@yahoo.com 557-1206

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Turning the Desert Green in Qatar

The Supreme Qatar Desert Development Council (SQDDC) has released its plans for the development of the desert, according to a report in the Qatar Times today. The SQDDC plans call for a greening of the desert which will, in time, return the desert to a much more hospitable environment. Qatar, like much of the Middle East, was once thought to have been a much greener place than it is now, and recent finds of hunting tools designed to kill animals such as aurochs and elephants have lent weight to this theory.

Qatar Newspaper Clipping
The development of the desert, said Dr Lotfi Al Baloushi, head of the SQDDC, will also involve the building of a new urban area, which will be called Desert City. Virtual images have been released by SQDDC of what the Qatar desert will look like by 2010 - including one where a larger than life Qatari strides across grass with the giant sand dunes at Messaieed (now covered in a verdant green) in the distance. However, one United Nations desert scientist who we contacted, Icelander Dr. S. Keptical, said the plans were over-ambitious.

A Qatari strides through the Qatari Countryside of the future.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Dinosaur house

I have been watching this building on Wholesale Market Street come up for the last few months- I have always wondered what it was: a museum, maybe, or a fancy restaurant. Today I decided it was finally ready to shoot. After I had taken the photograph some men wandered out of the house - painters, it turned out. We communicated in broken Arabic and English - a museum? I asked. No, a villa, was the reply.

A Qatar Villa - with a dinosaur on top of it!


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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Early Man in Qatar


Cave paintings of AurochsFurther archeological discoveries made in Qatar by a joint Qatari-Danish team suggest that man first moved to Qatar earlier than previously expected, the Gulf Times reported today. Hunting tools have been discovered which are believed to date from 700,000 to 800,000 years in the past. The tools, which were found on what is thought to have been the shores of a freshwater lake, included hand axes and cleavers used to kill large animals such as aurochs and elephants, as well as scraping instruments used to clean fur. A director of the Moesgard Museum in Denmark, Bo Madsen, quoted in the Gulf Times stated:

“not only are these tools the oldest traces of man in South Arabia, they are among the oldest in the whole world.”


The announcement follows on from the discovery of an ancient settlement in Qatar earlier this year. It must also lend weight to the theory that Qatar, as well as much of the rest of the Middle East, was once a much more hospitable place to live, with a milder climate and vegetation.

Also see: The Archeology of Qatar

Image from Wikipedia.

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Desert Greenhouse


The Sea Water Greenhouse

Qatar is considering introducing the innovative sea water greenhouse into its deserts: a desert greenhouse which utilizes sea and sun to provide a green alternative to desert farming. 

The Sea Water Greenhouse utilises, as is suggested by the name, sea water to cool greenhouses. In contrast to traditional desalination projects, which are both energy heavy and consume fossil fuels, the Desert Greenhouse uses the sun to distil the sea water. More sea water is used to cool the Greenhouse, resulting in a temperature 15 degrees lower than outside the Greenhouse. Meanwhile, a specially constructed roof allows light to pass though while removing much of the heat. The resulting rather steamy athmosphere - the greenhouse operates at around 90 % humidity has proved an excellent environment for growing plants. In the case of Qatar, solar power will be used to pump the water from the sea. 

This could have huge benefits for Qatar. In addition to the obvious benefits of increasing food self-sufficency and decreasing the use of water, there are environmental benefits. Seeping of water in test greenhouses in Tenerife helped previously damaged and arid areas to resume plant growth. And, of course, the reduced desalination needs will mean more fuel for Qatar's most beloved possession, their Landcruisers.


Diagram illustratiting how the greenhouse works

Saturday, September 06, 2008

High Speed Trains for Qatar

A high speed train in Action.

Plans for trains in Qatar are going ahead at full speed, according to Railway Gazette. Some expats have been sceptical of the trains programme proceeding, especially after the end of the Asian Games. Indeed some plans do never seem to take place - an obvious one being the new National Library, which was marked on the map when I arrived here three years and a half years ago but has yet to be built.

However, Qatar has now chartered Deustche Bahn for the preliminary stages of developing the railway i.e. planning. Plans include a railway link into Doha from the airport, an East coast rail link to Ras Laffan and Messaieed, a link to Saudi Arabia, "people movers" in some areas of Doha such as Lusail and possibly even a high speed link to Bahrain.

I don't know how many times people have said that Qatar really needs to develop its public transport system. Now it seems that they are really going to do it. Unfortunately, there are likely to be many years of worsening traffic congestion before the development is finished!

Also see our website article: Qatar Transport.

Image by Ben Harris Roxas



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Friday, September 05, 2008

Superior culture?

Walking through the centre of my home town, we did not feel safe. Although it was the middle of the day and we were with two small children, people were shouting and swearing around us, swigging cider from bottles, groping and snogging each other in front of us - some people were obviously drunk, others drugged up.

Then, a week or so later, a Qatari teenager, come to the UK to study English, was attacked by white thugs in a racist attack. He died a few days later.

While there is plenty of racism in Qatar, a racist attack like this simply wouldn't take place. I have walked through backstreets in Qatar at three in the morning without a qualm. But if it did happen, you would soon be whisked to hospital. Not, as in the case of young Mohammed, spending hours waiting in a police car, then hours again waiting for a hospital bed.


And I can imagine the reaction of the British if a young English boy was killed in an attack by Qatar youths. There would be aggression, a desire for revenge, perhaps some Qataris beaten up. 

I have seen none of that. The only interaction with Qatari youths I have had since the incident was at a coffee shop. They were a bit loud and boisterous, but happy to play with my two year old son when he trotted up to them. 

I would be spitting for revenge, crying out for the perpetrators to be found and hung, and sod my opposition to the death penalty. The distraught Father of the boy only said it was the will of God. 

We British are so proud of our culture, so superior, and so quick to criticize others, but at this moment I can only feel a sense of shame about my country and my people.


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