Did Flying Snails Cross Mexico?
|9:24:15 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"Pigs may never fly, but in the Gulf of Mexico, snails take to the skies. Or at least they used to. A new study suggests that two species of marine snails may have traveled between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans—all in the belly of a bird.
The two species are known as horn snails, and both look a bit like tiny black party hats. One, the Pacific horn snail (Cerithideopsis californica), lives in mangrove forests that hug the coast of Baja down to Panama, and the other, the Atlantic horn snail (C. pliculosa), resides in similar intertidal habitats along coasts from Texas to Panama. "Every time you take a step [in their habitats], you may be stepping on hundreds of them," says Peter Marko, a biogeographer at Clemson University in South Carolina.
The two snails used to be the same species, crossing between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans via a narrow strip of water that once separated North America from Central America. But about 3 million years ago, a land bridge sprang up near modern-day Panama, and the single species split in two, which scientists thought were separated for good.
The new study reveals that the two species continued to intermingle long after the land bridge formed. When researchers analyzed the DNA of 29 populations of horn snails, they dug up a surprising find. Genes from the Pacific Ocean snail had invaded the Atlantic Ocean snail and vice versa, hinting that no land bridge could keep the sister snails apart. Study co-author Mark Torchin, an ecologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and colleagues concluded that the mollusks had mixed and matched at least twice. A few Pacific snails colonized the Atlantic Ocean nearly 1 million years ago, and Atlantic snails traveled west just over 70,000 years ago, the group reports online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
How did they get across this land bridge? In the 1940s and '50s, the American scientist George Gaylord Simpson argued that small mammals may have colonized Madagascar by riding logs and other floating debris from Africa. "We kind of flipped that hypothesis around and looked at whether marine organisms crossed over land to colonize new oceans," Torchin says.
The horn snails, he suspects, found their own life rafts: shore birds. Although the group can't prove that the scenario is true, they think it could have gone like this: Nearly 1 million years ago, a wading heron gobbled a basking Pacific horn snail, shell and all. Luckily for this intrepid explorer, armored invertebrates can survive for days in the bellies of shore birds. Snug inside its unsuspecting taxi, the snail soared high above what was likely Mexico before being excreted in the Atlantic Ocean—a journey of about 200 kilometers or more. About 70,000 years ago, the researchers think, one or more Atlantic horn snails took their wagons west in the same way..."
Protoceratops Dinosaur Found With Its Own Tracks
|9:15:21 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"A fossil housed for half a century in a Polish museum has turned out to be the first dinosaur skeleton preserved in its own tracks, say scientists.
A recent examination of the 80-million-year-old specimen revealed a single footprint preserved in the rocks encasing the fossilised bones.
Polish and Mongolian fossil hunters first unearthed it in 1965 in Mongolia.
Scientists now report the results of its re-examination in the journal Cretaceous Research.
The dinosaur is a Protoceratops, and since this is one of the most common dinosaurs found in the rich fossil beds of the Gobi Desert, it was not deemed to be very significant. But the scientists say it is the first example of a dinosaur being preserved with its own footprints.
Polish palaeontologists Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki and Tomasz Singer spotted the footprint while they were preparing the fossil for display at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
His colleague, University of Colorado at Denver geologist Martin Lockley, told BBC Nature that this really was "a first".
"Generally, we find it very hard even to match dinosaurs with their footprints at the species level," he explained.
"We have a couple of examples in the literature where we say, 'we're almost certain that this footprint belongs to this species', but this is an animal actually dead in its tracks."
A single, preserved footprint can be seen in the rocks encasing the fossil. Prof Lockley suggests that some of the rock discarded when scientists prepare dinosaur skeletons could contain ancient clues about the lives of the extinct beasts..."
Woman Fighting for Right to Go Topless in Public Loses N.J. Court Battle
|3:49:35 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"A New York City woman fighting for her right to leave her shirt at home and go topless in public must cover up while in New Jersey, a state appeals panel ruled today.
Phoenix Feeley, 31, was twice arrested and charged by Spring Lake police in 2008 after she refused to put on a shirt while sunbathing at a beach, and then again took off a shirt given to her by police after being released.
She appealed the charges, arguing that if men are allowed to be in public without a shirt, women should be allowed to be in public without a shirt as well. But the court disagreed.
In their ruling, the judges argued there was no constitutional right for women to appear topless at a public beach, and that covering the female breast is important to safeguard "the public's moral sensibilities."
Feeley is no stranger to top-free controversy. In 2005, she was arrested in New York City for walking down a street without a shirt. She sued the city, pointing to a New York Supreme Court ruling saying woman can go topless in public. The city later paid her $29,000 to settle the suit."
Syria Defies Arab League, Fires on Villages
|2:59:56 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"Syrian rights activists say security forces have opened fire in northwestern villages Wednesday in an ongoing effort to crush dissent as the government rejected an Arab League demand for an end to the crackdown.
Rights activists say government troops fired heavy machine guns during raids on several villages in Idlib province near the Turkish border. They say security forces cut local communications, blocked roads and made arrests.
Syrian state news agency SANA says Syrian ambassador to the Arab League Youssef Ahmed rejected the body's latest statement on the Syrian crisis as a "hostile and unconstructive act."
Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo Tuesday and called on Damascus to stop violence in the country immediately and launch a national dialogue. SANA says Syrian envoy Ahmed told the meeting that Damascus is moving ahead with a reform process.
Syrian rights activists say security forces also fired tear gas at mourners who gathered in a Damascus suburb late Tuesday to pay respects to the family of a dissident killed last week. They say the attack happened after U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and diplomats of other nations offered condolences at the gathering and left the venue.
In other violence, SANA reported the killings of seven people by what it calls armed terrorist groups. It says five soldiers and a civilian were buried Wednesday after being attacked in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, while a bus driver was killed in an ambush in the central city of Hama.
The United Nations estimates that 2,600 people have been killed in Syria's six-month-long uprising against the 11-year autocratic rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government said Monday about 1,400 have been killed, half of them security personnel."
Dying Man Has New Lease on Life After His Immune System is Trained to Kill Cancer
|1:10:06 AM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"PHILADELPHIA — A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose.
Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors — and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.
At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.
A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.
Complete remissionThere was no trace of it anywhere — no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells.
A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.
“I have my life back,” he said.
Mr. Ludwig’s doctors have not claimed that he is cured — it is too soon to tell — nor have they declared victory over leukemia on the basis of this experiment, which involved only three patients. The research, they say, has far to go; the treatment is still experimental, not available outside of studies..."
Tropical Storm Lee Exposes Old Oil From BP Spill
|12:58:37 AM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"PORT FOURCHON, La. — BP PLC is sending cleanup crews back to Fourchon Beach because erosion from Tropical Storm Lee unearthed miles of tar balls, tar mats and abandoned cleanup equipment left from last year's oil spill.
Six task forces — 90 workers and 17 technicians — will work a seven-day-a-week schedule to clean up the beach, BP spokesman Curtis Thomas told The Courier.
"We knew this was coming," Thomas said. "That's why we've had this manpower on standby."
The cleanup will be phased in over the next week, Thomas said. He said tar balls were reported on other area beaches, but not to the extent that they appeared on Fourchon Beach.
In addition to the old oil, the erosion uncovered PVC pipes used to secure boom and snares used to absorb oil.
Forrest Travirca, a field inspector for the Edward Wisner Donation — a private land trust that owns about 9.5 miles of Fourchon Beach — said he found the oil Sunday while checking for damage from Tropical Storm Lee. About eight miles of the beach are affected, he said.
Travirca said at least four miles of the beach was littered with tar balls. He also gave the newspaper photographs of large numbers of chunks of tar — too big to be considered tar balls — broken off of buried tar mats.
The storm also caused extreme erosion to the beach, Travirca said. At Belle Pass, all of the sand washed off, leaving hard clay. Cleanup work increased the risk of erosion in spots where workers dug holes to unearth oil and left loose, sifted sand in its place, Travirca said.
Wisner officials have complained that the cleanup at Fourchon was superficial, failing to remove large tar mats buried in the surf and sand.
In April, a year after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and began leaking approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Travirca took a Courier and Comet reporter and photographer on a tour of Fourchon Beach, unearthing lots of pungent, black oil inches under the surface.
Kerry St. Pé, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, said that during any spill, as the oil degrades and begins moving into shore, it will begin combining with sand, becoming heavier and heavier. Eventually it will either make it to shore or become buried in the surf zone, where it remains until rough surf stirs it up..."
James Webb Telescope Completes Mirror-Coating Milestone
|12:48:06 AM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating Inc. in Moorestown, N.J.
The telescope's mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared light from the mirrors into the observatory's science instruments. The coating allows the Webb telescope's "infrared eyes" to observe extremely faint objects in infrared light. Webb's mission is to observe the most distant objects in the universe.
"Finishing all mirror coatings on schedule is another major success story for the Webb telescope mirrors," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "These coatings easily meet their specifications, ensuring even more scientific discovery potential for the Webb telescope."
The Webb telescope has 21 mirrors, with 18 mirror segments working together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. The mirror segments are made of beryllium, which was selected for its stiffness, light weight and stability at cryogenic temperatures. Bare beryllium is not very reflective of near-infrared light, so each mirror is coated with about 0.12 ounce of gold.
The last full size (4.9-foot /1.5-meter) hexagonal beryllium primary mirror segment that will fly aboard the observatory recently was coated, completing this stage of mirror production.
The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
Mirror manufacturing began eight years ago with blanks made out of beryllium, an extremely hard metal that holds its shape in the extreme cold of space where the telescope will orbit. Mirror coating began in June 2010. Several of the smaller mirrors in the telescope, the tertiary mirror and the fine steering mirror, were coated in 2010. The secondary mirror was finished earlier this year..."
-- NJ FTW! =)
Peace of Mind: Near-Death Experiences Now Found to Have Scientific Explanations
|12:41:21 AM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011|
"Near-death experiences are often thought of as mystical phenomena, but research is now revealing scientific explanations for virtually all of their common features. The details of what happens in near-death experiences are now known widely—a sense of being dead, a feeling that one's "soul" has left the body, a voyage toward a bright light, and a departure to another reality where love and bliss are all-encompassing.
Approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population says they have had a near-death experience, according to a Gallup poll. Near-death experiences are reported across cultures, with written records of them dating back to ancient Greece. Not all of these experiences actually coincide with brushes with death—one study of 58 patients who recounted near-death experiences found 30 were not actually in danger of dying, although most of them thought they were.
Recently, a host of studies has revealed potential underpinnings for all the elements of such experiences. "Many of the phenomena associated with near-death experiences can be biologically explained," says neuroscientist Dean Mobbs, at the University of Cambridge's Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Mobbs and Caroline Watt at the University of Edinburgh detailed this research online August 17 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
For instance, the feeling of being dead is not limited to near-death experiences—patients with Cotard or "walking corpse" syndrome hold the delusional belief that they are deceased. This disorder has occurred following trauma, such as during advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis, and has been linked with brain regions such as the parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex—"the parietal cortex is typically involved in attentional processes, and the prefrontal cortex is involved in delusions observed in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia," Mobbs explains. Although the mechanism behind the syndrome remains unknown, one possible explanation is that patients are trying to make sense of the strange experiences they are having.
Out-of-body experiences are also now known to be common during interrupted sleep patterns that immediately precede sleeping or waking. For instance, sleep paralysis, or the experience of feeling paralyzed while still aware of the outside world, is reported in up to 40 percent of all people and is linked with vivid dreamlike hallucinations that can result in the sensation of floating above one's body. A 2005 study found that out-of-body experiences can be artificially triggered by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction in the brain, suggesting that confusion regarding sensory information can radically alter how one experiences one's body.
A variety of explanations might also account for reports by those dying of meeting the deceased. Parkinson's disease patients, for example, have reported visions of ghosts, even monsters. The explanation? Parkinson's involves abnormal functioning of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can evoke hallucinations. And when it comes to the common experience of reliving moments from one's life, one culprit might be the locus coeruleus, a midbrain region that releases noradrenaline, a stress hormone one would expect to be released in high levels during trauma. The locus coeruleus is highly connected with brain regions that mediate emotion and memory, such as the amygdala and hypothalamus..."
Eel Removed From Man's Bladder After Entering Penis During Beauty Spa
|7:08:04 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
"Zhang Nan was bathing with live eels to cleanse his skin when one rogue serpent took a liking to his manhood.
The eel treatment in question is a similar concept to the popular London spas that offer fish pedicures.
Thinking that the eels would make him look ten years younger, Nan dived into the water and let them feast upon layers of dead skin.
But after laying in the spa bath, Nan felt a sharp pain and realised a small eel was working its way up his urethra and into his bladder.
'I climbed into the bath and I could feel the eels nibbling my body. But then suddenly I felt a severe pain and realised a small eel had gone into the end of my penis,' the 56-year-old from Honghu, Hubei province said.
'I tried to hold it and take it out, but the eel was too slippery to be held and it disappeared up my penis.'
(OK, that's enough cringing now... it's horrible, though, we know...)
Rushing himself to hospital, the man underwent a three-hour operation to remove the six-inch eel which was dead by the time doctors found it.
Surgeon Jin Wang said that, because of the eel's slippery nature, it was able to make a smooth entry into the genitals of Nan.
'The diameter of the urethra in a man's penis is just a little narrower, but because eels are quite slippery, its body worked as a lubricant and so it got into the penis smoothly,' he said..."
Breaching The Blood-Brain Barrier: Researchers May Have Solved 100-Year-Old Puzzle
|7:00:33 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
"Cornell University researchers may have solved a 100-year puzzle: How to safely open and close the blood-brain barrier so that therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and cancers of the central nervous system might effectively be delivered. (Journal of Neuroscience, Sept. 14, 2011.)
The researchers found that adenosine, a molecule produced by the body, can modulate the entry of large molecules into the brain. For the first time, the researchers discovered that when adenosine receptors are activated on cells that comprise the blood-brain barrier, a gateway into the blood-brain barrier can be established.
Although the study was done on mice, the researchers have also found adenosine receptors on these same cells in humans. They also discovered that an existing FDA-approved drug called Lexiscan, an adenosine-based drug used in heart imaging in very ill patients, can also briefly open the gateway across the blood-brain barrier.
The blood-brain barrier is composed of the specialized cells that make up the brain's blood vessels. It selectively prevents substances from entering the blood and brain, only allowing such essential molecules as amino acids, oxygen, glucose and water through. The barrier is so restrictive that researchers couldn't find a way to deliver drugs to the brain – until now.
"The biggest hurdle for every neurological disease is that we are unable to treat these diseases because we cannot deliver drugs into the brain," said Margaret Bynoe, associate professor of immunology at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine and senior author of a paper appearing Sept. 14 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Aaron Carman, a former postdoctoral associate in Bynoe's lab, is the paper's lead author. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
"Big pharmaceutical companies have been trying for 100 years to find out how to traverse the blood-brain barrier and still keep patients alive," said Bynoe, who with colleagues have patented the findings and have started a company, Adenios Inc., which will be involved in drug testing and preclinical trials..."
Pediatricians Fact-Check Bachmann's Bashing of HPV Vaccine
|6:57:36 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
"Now the nation's pediatricians have waded deep and early into the race for the presidency. In a unusual instance of political fact-checking of a candidate's statements by physicians themselves, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a tough prescription for Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann: Get your facts straight on the HPV vaccine.
In case you missed it, she sparred with Texas Gov. Rick Perry Monday night over his executive order that would have mandated vaccination of state schoolgirls against human papillomavirus, a cause of cervical cancer.
"To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat-out wrong," Bachmann said. "Little girls who have a potentially dangerous reaction to this drug don't get a mulligan," she said. "You don't get a do-over."
Perry defended the decision but conceded that the legal mechanism to reach the goal should have been different.
But on the Today show Tuesday morning, Bachmann went further, telling Matt Lauer, that a mother had approached her after the debate to recount the problems her daughter had after being vaccinated against HPV:
She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn't know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions.
When Lauer pressed Bachmann on whether she would keep pushing on the issue, she answered that it has traction "with a lot of people and we'll see what people say."
Not with kids' doctors it doesn't. In an apparent first for the national pediatricians' group during a political campaign, the AAP called Bachmann out, though it stopped short of doing so by name..."
Really? The Claim: Fingers Wrinkle Because of Water Absorption
|4:53:01 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
"Anyone who has ever been out in the rain too long or soaked for hours in a tub knows the prunelike effect it can have on your hands and feet. Conventional wisdom suggests it is nothing more than the skin absorbing water.
But a number of questions have puzzled scientists. Why do “wet wrinkles” appear only on the hands and feet? And why are the most prominent wrinkles at the ends of the digits? Surgeons already know that cutting nerves in a finger prevents the wrinkling, suggesting the process is controlled by the nervous system.
Now a paper in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution offers more evidence that wet wrinkles serve a purpose. Much like the tread on a tire, they improve traction.
In the study, an evolutionary neurobiologist and his co-authors examined 28 fingers wrinkled by water. They found that they all had the same pattern of unconnected channels diverging away from one another as they got more distant from the fingertips.
The wrinkles allow water to drain away as fingertips are pressed to wet surfaces, creating more contact and a better grip. Next is a plan to study whether pruney fingers are in fact better at gripping, and whether mammals in wet habitats are more likely to get them. Wet wrinkles have been confirmed only in humans and macaques.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Wet wrinkling may serve a purpose: better grip and traction."
-- Evolution FTW! Follow link for details and sources.
Orca - Sad Movies
|4:16:37 PM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
Mississippi 'Personhood' Law Could Ban Abortions And Birth Control
|1:47:52 AM, Tuesday, September 13, 2011|
"Mississippi voters will be allowed to decide on a ballot measure that defines "personhood" from the moment of fertilization, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week. The measure could potentially outlaw abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research across the state.
Measure 26, which will bypass the legislature and go straight to a popular ballot vote, redefines the term "person" as it appears throughout Mississippi's Bill of Rights to include "all human beings from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the proposal earlier this year, not based on its content or constitutionality, but because Mississippi state law says a ballot initiative cannot be used to change the Bill of Rights.
The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit in a 7-2 ruling, saying that it had no power to review any ballot initiative before the actual vote takes place.
"We didn't lose on the merits of the case, but what's disappointing is that it means the measure does go on the ballot that could later be held unconstitutional," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney on the case.
Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi, whose primary mission is to get Measure 26 passed, told HuffPost that he believes the ballot initiative is legal and valid because it does not alter the state constitution, but simply defines a particular word in it that should have been defined by the Supreme Court in the 38 years since Roe v. Wade.
"The court made the right decision," he said. "In the Roe decision, [Justice Henry] Blackmun said, 'We're not gonna answer the question of whether the fetus is a person,' and so in the 38 years since, we have had a tragic number of abortions. We think that God has already told us when life begins, and science has confirmed it, and the court has just not dealt with it, so we're hoping the people of Mississippi make the right decision."
Abortion-rights advocates say they worry that the language of the initiative is so broad and vague that its effects could go far beyond outlawing abortion. The measure could be interpreted to outlaw the birth control pill, for instance, because the pill can sometimes prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. They also say the measure could outlaw in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and emergency contraception for rape victims, as well as discourage doctors from performing a lifesaving miscarriage treatment when a woman is suffering from potentially-fatal pregnancy complications.
Kolbi-Molinas said the measure could have unintended consequences that reach beyond reproductive health rights altogether..."
-- Sooo if this were to pass, would a pregnant woman be allowed to vote twice? Once for herself and once for the fetus?
And shouldn't she then be entitled to receive two lots of social security? One for herself and one for the fetus?
And airlines will be able to charge pregnant women two airfares - one for the mother and one for the fetus?
How To See The Closest Supernova In A Generation!
|9:48:54 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011|
"After your death you will be what you were before your birth." -Arthur Schopenhauer
If only every star's death could be as glorious as a supernova, rocketing anywhere from thousands to millions of Earth-masses out of a star and into interstellar space. When we get one in our galaxy, like we do every few hundred years, the view from Earth can be spectacular.
The Crab Nebula, above, sprung from a supernova nearly a thousand years ago, in 1054. And while that supernova, and a handful of others since, have been visible from Earth with nothing more than the naked eye, we haven't had that pleasure since 1604. The remnant of that supernova, of course, is still visible today, although it looks no more impressive in visible light than the very end of a fireworks display.
While every astronomer would love to have the chance to see a supernova in our own galaxy, these aren't the sorts of things we can control. Instead, we have to be content to see what the Universe gives us to look at. We came close a generation ago, in 1987, when a supernova went off in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy just 160,000 light years away. Under ideally dark skies, the supernova was just barely visible to the unaided eye in the Southern Hemisphere.
For a generation since then, we haven't had a supernova occur anywhere near as close as that one. Which is too bad, because our telescope technology and coverage, today, is the greatest it's ever been.
But last month, on August 24th, the closest supernova since SN1987a went off in our neighbor galaxy -- the Pinwheel Galaxy -- just 21 million light years away..."
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