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Internet Society Partners with Facebook To Expand Internet Connectivity in Africa

Slashdot - 1 hour 9 min ago
The Internet Society, a global non-profit organization dedicated to the open development, evolution and use of the Internet, today announced that it is partnering with Facebook to develop Internet Exchange Points (IXP) throughout Africa. From a press release: An Internet Exchange Point is where multiple local and international networks, ISPs and content providers interconnect their networks together to efficiently exchange Internet traffic through an arrangement commonly referred to as Peering. Currently, 42% of countries in Africa lack IXPs, which means that most of their domestic Internet traffic is exchanged through points outside their respective country, usually through satellite or submarine fiber across multiple international hubs to reach their destination. This can result in poor end-user experiences and discourages hosting content locally, which are some of the key factors towards the development of the local Internet ecosystem. Peering at IXPs helps keep domestic Internet traffic local by offloading traffic from relatively expensive international links onto more affordable local links. As a result, ISPs are able to offer improved Internet experiences for end-users and spur interest in hosting content locally. The Internet Society and Facebook will collaborate in promoting IXP infrastructure development, training and community engagement with the objective of increasing the number of IXPs and supporting the expansion of existing IXPs to meet the growing demand in Africa. Studies have shown that Internet users throughout Africa benefit from Peering as it enables faster, more affordable and reliable access to content.

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Trump Administration Asks For Public Input on Data Privacy

Slashdot - 1 hour 46 min ago
The federal government wants to know the best way to protect your privacy online. On Tuesday, the Department of Commerce released a request for public comments as it outlined the Trump administration's approach to consumer data privacy. A report adds: In the proposal, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a branch under the Commerce Department, recommended privacy regulations focused on giving users control over how their data is used by tech companies. The proposal comes a day before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is set to hold a hearing on consumer privacy, with companies like Apple, Google and Amazon testifying. The Commerce Department found public concern with how personal information has been used by tech companies and is taking a "risk-based flexibility" approach for privacy regulations. "The administration takes these concerns seriously and believes that users should be able to benefit from dynamic uses of their information, while still expecting organizations will appropriately minimize risks to users' privacy," the department wrote in the document.

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A Nuclear Startup Will Fold After Failing To Deliver Reactors That Run on Spent Fuel

Slashdot - 2 hours 28 min ago
Transatomic Power, an MIT spinout that drew wide attention and millions in funding, is shutting down almost two years after the firm backtracked on bold claims for its design of a molten-salt reactor. From a report: The company, founded in 2011, plans to announce later today that it's winding down. Transatomic had claimed its technology could generate electricity 75 times more efficiently than conventional light-water reactors, and run on their spent nuclear fuel. But in a white paper published in late 2016, it backed off the latter claim entirely and revised the 75 times figure to "more than twice," a development first reported by MIT Technology Review. Those downgrades forced the company to redesign its system. That delayed plans to develop a demonstration reactor, pushing the company behind rival upstarts like TerraPower and Terrestrial Energy, says Leslie Dewan, the company's cofounder and chief executive. The longer timeline and reduced performance advantage made it harder to raise the necessary additional funding, which was around $15 million. "We weren't able to scale up the company rapidly enough to build a reactor in a reasonable time frame," Dewan says.

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Qualcomm Accuses Apple of Stealing Trade Secrets and Giving Them To Intel

Slashdot - 3 hours 9 min ago
Mark Wilson writes: Chip-maker Qualcomm has today accused Apple of stealing trade secrets and sharing them with Intel. The company alleges that Apple wanted Intel to be able to improve its own chips so it could move away from using Qualcomm's. Qualcomm and Apple are already engaged in a legal battle, and with its latest accusations, the chip-maker wants the court to amend its existing lawsuit against the company. Apple stands accused of engaging in a 'multi-year campaign of sloppy, inappropriate and deceitful conduct'. In the new filings, Qualcomm says that upon Apple's request it allowed the iPhone maker deep access to its software and tools, but with strict limits on how those products could be used. It said, "Indeed, it is now apparent Apple engaged in a years-long campaign of false promises, stealth and subterfuge designed to steal Qualcomm's confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance of lower-quality modem chipsets, with the ultimate goal of eliminating Qualcomm's Apple-based business."

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Facebook's Plan To Let Companies It Buys Live Independently is Over

Slashdot - 3 hours 48 min ago
Jon Russell, writing for TechCrunch: Mark Zuckerberg was quick to realize that Facebook, the largest social network in the world, doesn't have a monopoly on all users nor can it bank on holding its position as top dog forever. Thus he instituted a policy of buying up promising rivals and integrating them into the Facebook 'group' in a strategy designed to be a win-win for all. But by leaving Facebook in abrupt fashion this week, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger -- the founders of Instagram -- have shown that the social network's vision of letting acquired businesses operate independently simply isn't feasible. [...] The original idea is a best-of-both-worlds approach: a company's finances are infinitely secured and it can grow as needed inside the Facebook 'family,' with access to resources like engineering, marketing, admin, etc. That was also the plan for WhatsApp, but founding pair Jan Koum and Brian Acton managed four and three and a half years, respectively, at Facebook following their $19 billion acquisition in 2014. VR firm Oculus, another billion-dollar purchase, lost co-founders Palmer Lucky (political scandal) and Brendan Iribe (reshuffled) three years after its deal.

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Tencent Security Researcher Fined For Hacking Hotel WiFi and Publishing Internal Network Credentials Online

Slashdot - 4 hours 29 min ago
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for ZDNet: Singapore authorities have fined a Chinese security researcher with SGD$5,000 (USD$3,600) for hacking into a local hotel's WiFi system without authorization and then publishing a blog post about it, revealing passwords for the hotel's internal network. The incident took place at the end of August, this year, when Zheng Dutao, 23, of China, visited Singapore to attend the Hack In The Box conference that took place in the city. Zheng took it upon himself, without asking for permission first, to hack into the WiFi network of a Fragrance Hotel branch, where he checked in for the conference's duration. The researcher, who works for Chinese internet giant Tencent, hacked into the hotel's internet gateway system, an AntLabs IG3100 device that controls access to the WiFi network for staff and guests alike. He discovered that the device was using a factory default Telnet password, which he used to gain access to a limited shell on the device. [...] The researcher didn't report the security issues to the hotel but instead wrote a blog post about his findings, which he later shared online.

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Swiss Soccer Fans Protest Esports by Throwing Tennis Balls and Game Controllers On the Field

Slashdot - 5 hours 9 min ago
Soccer fans in Switzerland protested against increased investment in esports by throwing tennis balls and game consoles on the field during a Swiss Super League match. From a report: The fans reportedly threw tennis balls and game controllers onto the field, forcing the referee to stop the game between Young Boys and FC Basel for two minutes while everything was cleared away. The Young Boys protesters then held up a giant banner with a pause button symbol, while Basel fans also raised their own sign supporting the protest. One of the banners read "Scheiss esports," which roughly translates to "esports are s---." European soccer clubs are increasingly getting involved in esports leagues. While Young Boys doesn't have any skin in professional gaming yet, Basel has its own "FIFA" team.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai Is Headed To Washington This Week To Discuss Censorship, China

Slashdot - 6 hours 9 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google CEO Sundar Pichai will be present at a private meeting with top Republican lawmakers this Friday to discuss the company's controversial plans to relaunch a search product in China and perceived liberal bias of search results, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. According to the WSJ, Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to meet with state attorneys general on Tuesday to discuss Google's alleged censorship of conservatives. Tech firms have denied the existence of liberal bias in products, and Google has pushed back against key Trump inaccuracies, but it sounds as if Pichai will be forced to answer questions nonetheless. The meeting is being organized by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Late last week, Pichai sent an email to employees, which was obtained by The New York Times, in which he stated outright that Google has never influenced search results for political purposes and has no plans to do so in the future. Pichai also plans to attend a public hearing later this year held by the House Judiciary Committee following the November midterm elections, after Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page notably declined to show up to a Senate Intel Committee hearing on election interference earlier this month. In addition to mending relationships over Page's absence, Pichai will also be addressing Google's plans to relaunch a search product for the Chinese market, a move that has resulted in widespread criticism given the likelihood such a product would be heavily censored and would aid in China's use of information control to maintain social and political order.

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Gut-Brain Connection Could Lead To a 'New Sense'

Slashdot - 9 hours 9 min ago
A new study has revealed a "fast-acting neural circuit allowing gut cells to communicate with the brain in just seconds," reports New Atlas. Diego Bohorquez, senior author of the study, says "these findings are going to be the biological basis of a new sense. One that serves as the entry point for how the brain knows when the stomach is full of food and calories." He says it "brings legitimacy to [the] idea of the 'gut feeling' as a sixth sense." The study has been published in the journal Science. From the report: Remarkable new work from a team of researchers at Duke University has now revealed a previously unknown direct circuit between the gut and the brain that could allow for fast sensory communication that doesn't relay on laborious hormonal signaling. The research began with a big discovery in 2015 revealing that enteroendocrine cells, the cells in our gut thought to be the primary sensory receptor that communicate with the brain, actually contained nerve endings that seemed like they could directly synaptically communicate with vagal neurons and subsequently, the brain. The new study first revealed that direct, and near instant, communication occurred between the gut and brain. A mouse was administered with a rabies virus that had been engineered with a green fluorescent tag. Tracing the signal of communication as the gut informed the brain of this virus revealed an immediate response in the vagus nerve. In under 100 milliseconds a single signal was seen to travel from the gut to the brainstem. In order to understand this new neural circuit, the team grew enteroendocrine cells in a lab dish alongside vagal nerve neurons. Not only did these two elements rapidly demonstrate communication, but it was discovered that glutamate, a foundational neurotransmitter, modulated the rate of transmission. What this experiment impressively revealed was that enteroendocrine cells don't solely signal to the brain via hormonal triggers, but also can directly communicate via neural synapses.

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Facebook Is Not Protecting Content Moderators From Mental Trauma, Lawsuit Claims

Slashdot - 12 hours 9 min ago
A former Facebook contract employee has filed a lawsuit, alleging that content moderators who face mental trauma after reviewing distressing images on the platform are not being properly protected by the social networking company. Reuters reports: Facebook moderators under contract are "bombarded" with "thousands of videos, images and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide and murder," the lawsuit said. "Facebook is ignoring its duty to provide a safe workplace and instead creating a revolving door of contractors who are irreparably traumatized by what they witnessed on the job," Korey Nelson, a lawyer for former Facebook contract employee Selena Scola, said in a statement on Monday. Facebook in the past has said all of its content reviewers have access to mental health resources, including trained professionals onsite for both individual and group counseling, and they receive full health care benefits. More than 7,500 content reviewers work for Facebook, including full-time employees and contractors. Facebook's director of corporate communications, Bertie Thomson, said in response to the allegations: "We take the support of our content moderators incredibly seriously, [...] ensuring that every person reviewing Facebook content is offered psychological support and wellness resources."

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Mosquitoes Genetically Modified To Crash Species That Spreads Malaria

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a controversial new kind of genetic engineering can rapidly spread a self-destructive genetic modification through a complex species. The scientists used the revolutionary gene-editing tool known as CRISPR to engineer mosquitoes with a "gene drive," which rapidly transmitted a sterilizing mutation through other members of the mosquito's species. After mosquitoes carrying the mutation were released into cages filled with unmodified mosquitoes in a high-security basement laboratory in London, virtually all of the insects were wiped out, according to a report in Nature Biotechnology. The mosquitoes were created in the hopes of using them as a potent new weapon in the long, frustrating fight against malaria. Malaria remains one of the world's deadliest diseases, killing more than 400,000 people every year, mostly children younger than 5 years old. What's encouraging is that the mosquitos reportedly did not appear to further mutate in a way that would diminish the effectiveness of the engineered mutation. "But the researchers stressed that many years of additional research are needed to further test the safety and effectiveness of the approach before anyone attempts to release these mosquitos or any other organisms created this way into the wild," reports NPR.

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Uber Drivers and Other Gig Economy Workers Are Earning Half What They Did Five Years Ago

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 10:05pm
According to a new study by the JPMorgan Chase Instittue, drivers who transport people via apps (e.g. Uber, Lyft, Uber Eats, Postmates) made 53 percent less in 2017 than they did in 2013. Recode reports: The average monthly payments to those who worked for a transportation app in a given month declined to $783 from $1,469. Meanwhile, people working for leasing apps -- Airbnb, Turo, Parklee and other apps that let you rent assets like your home, car or parking space -- saw their incomes from those platforms rise 69 percent to $1,736 on average. This is happening as online gig work has become more popular, thanks in large part to the growth in the number of transportation jobs. The share of the working population that has participated in the online gig economy at any point in a year rose from less than 2 percent in 2013 to nearly 5 percent in 2018. There are a number of potential reasons why the average pay for gig economy drivers has gone down. It could be any or all of the below, according to JPMorgan: drivers on average are working fewer hours; demand hasn't increased to meet the increased number of drivers; trip prices have fallen; or platforms are paying drivers lower rates.

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Greece Uses High-Tech Drones To Fight Tax Evasion In Holiday Hotspots

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 9:25pm
Greece is reportedly using drones to fly over boats running day trips on the Aegean in an effort to crack down on rampant tax evasion at holiday hotspots. Channel NewsAsia reports: With the black economy by some accounts representing about a quarter of national output in a country which depends hugely on tourism, Greek authorities are turning to high-tech to stamp out undeclared earnings. Finance ministry tax inspectors and the coast guard launched the drones project on Santorini, an island highly popular with tourists, to check on whether operators offering short day trips were issuing legal receipts to all their passengers. Based on data from the drones, authorities were able to establish how many passengers were on board, then cross-referenced it with declared receipts and on-site inspections. Nine tourist vessels checked were alleged to have not issued a number of receipts, totaling about $29,460. Their owners now face fines.

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Tech Giants Spend $80 Billion To Make Sure No One Else Can Compete

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 8:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Google parent Alphabet and the other four dominant U.S. technology companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook -- are fast becoming industrial giants. They spent a combined $80 billion in the last year on big-ticket physical assets, including manufacturing equipment and specialized tools for assembling iPhones and the powerful computers and undersea internet cables Facebook needs to fire up Instagram videos in a flash. Thanks to this surge in spending -- up from $40 billion in 2015 -- they've joined the ranks of automakers, telephone companies, and oil drillers as the country's biggest spenders on capital goods, items including factories, heavy equipment, and real estate that are considered long-term investments. Their combined outlay is about 10 times what GM spends annually on its plants, vehicle-assembly robots, and other materials. The splurge by tech companies is behind an upswing in capital-goods spending among big U.S. companies, which is seeing its fastest growth in years, according to a Credit Suisse analysis. The $80 billion tab also is a snapshot of why it's tough to unseat the tech giants. How can a company hope to compete with Google's driverless cars when it spends $20 billion a year to ensure it has the best laser-guided sensors and computer chips? There are a lot of physical assets behind all those internet clouds.

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Apple Completes Shazam Acquisition, Will Make App Ad-Free For Everyone

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 8:03pm
Apple has successfully completed its $400 million acquisition of Shazam, and the company announced it will be removing all ads from the app "soon." The Verge reports: The acquisition was temporarily held up because of an investigation by the European Union, which scrutinized the deal over potential antitrust concerns. But regulators gave it the thumbs up earlier this month. Shazam has been downloaded over 1 billion times around the world and is used over 20 million times every day, according to Apple's press release. The app has been around since the beginnings of the App Store and was one of the coolest early demos of what a mobile app could do. You'd hold up your phone, let it listen to a song playing nearby for a few seconds, and the track and artist information would just pop up on screen like magic. All these years later, it's now a feature that's available on many platforms and one we take for granted.

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Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 7:20pm
A visual prank exposes an Achilles' heel of computer vision systems: Unlike humans, they can't do a double take. From a report: In a new study [PDF], computer scientists found that artificial intelligence systems fail a vision test a child could accomplish with ease. "It's a clever and important study that reminds us that 'deep learning' isn't really that deep," said Gary Marcus, a neuroscientist at New York University who was not affiliated with the work. The result takes place in the field of computer vision, where artificial intelligence systems attempt to detect and categorize objects. They might try to find all the pedestrians in a street scene, or just distinguish a bird from a bicycle (which is a notoriously difficult task). The stakes are high: As computers take over critical tasks like automated surveillance and autonomous driving, we'll want their visual processing to be at least as good as the human eyes they're replacing. It won't be easy. The new work accentuates the sophistication of human vision -- and the challenge of building systems that mimic it. In the study, the researchers presented a computer vision system with a living room scene. The system processed it well. It correctly identified a chair, a person, books on a shelf. Then the researchers introduced an anomalous object into the scene -- an image of an elephant. The elephant's mere presence caused the system to forget itself: Suddenly it started calling a chair a couch and the elephant a chair, while turning completely blind to other objects it had previously seen. "There are all sorts of weird things happening that show how brittle current object detection systems are," said Amir Rosenfeld, a researcher at York University in Toronto and co-author of the study along with his York colleague John Tsotsos and Richard Zemel of the University of Toronto. Researchers are still trying to understand exactly why computer vision systems get tripped up so easily, but they have a good guess. It has to do with an ability humans have that AI lacks: the ability to understand when a scene is confusing and thus go back for a second glance.

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Implanted Device Helps Two People With Paralysis Walk Again

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 6:40pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: At least five people whose legs were completely paralyzed are walking again, two of them with no outside help, thanks to a specialized program of therapy and a pain stimulator implanted in their spines, researchers reported Monday. It's the latest and most dramatic advance in a new approach to treating spinal cord injuries developed at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. The reports show that electrical stimulation of the spine, when combined with a very intense and specialized training program, can re-educate the body and help move the legs even though signals from the brain are cut off. The stimulator is implanted into the epidural layer surrounding the spinal cord, and sends controlled signals into the bundle of nerve tissue. The team also employs intense training techniques to try to get the body to make sense of the signals. "There were three types of training sessions: stepping on a treadmill, over-ground standing, and over-ground walking, with each type of session performed daily," the team wrote in their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Two still need support and help from human trainers, but Marquis and another patient, 23-year-old Kelly Thomas of Citrus County, Florida, can walk alone using a walker or a cane. A second team at the Mayo Clinic reports somewhat similar results using the Louisville approach. In their study, published Monday in Nature Medicine, they report on one of two patients they have treated, who can walk with the assistance of physical trainers.

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Slack Buys and Shuts Down Intelligent Email App Astro

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 6:00pm
Slack has acquired email app company Astro to incorporate it into Slack channels. As a result, Astro is shutting down its Mac, iOS, Android, Alexa and Slack apps. They're no longer taking new users and existing ones will lose access on October 10th. Engadget reports: The company said that with over 50 million channels created to date, they're increasingly becoming the platform through which teams collaborate. "But we all know that email is still a very important tool in business communication," said Slack. "We've taken some steps to make it possible to integrate email into Slack, but now we're in a position to make that interoperability much simpler and much, much more powerful." Last year, Astro launched its Astrobot Slack app, which let users manage their emails and check their Office 365 or Google calendars from within Slack. It also allowed them to do one search to pull up results from both Slack and email. "As we explored with Slack how to bring together messaging, email and calendar, it became evident that we would have the biggest impact on workplace communications and realize our original vision by joining Slack," the company said.

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Google Revamps Search Engine To Include New Cards and Tags As It Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 5:20pm
As Google celebrates its 20th anniversary, it announced a range of new updates to its namesake search engine. The Mountain View company announced it was drawing on its artificial intelligence capabilities to provide smart videos in Google search with a new "Featured Videos" card. It will start to play videos in results, one after another -- but only show the short parts of videos that are relevant to your search. Google, the parent company of which is Alphabet, also introduced an activity card which would show pages a user has visited, at the top of search results. Users will have the ability to delete items from this activity card. The company also introduced "Collections," through which it will let users save content from the activity card to their collections. Google will then use things you've saved, and your history, in order to recommend new content for your collections. CNBC adds: Additionally Google is enhancing topics for certain things you search for. If you search for "pug," for example, you'll see a card where you can find little things to tap, like names, training details and how to buy or adopt a pug. Google will make sure that these cards at the top of search results will stay fresh based on what people publish online, Google vice president of product management Nick Fox said. Google is also redesigning its feed for recommended content, which appears in places like the Google app or the homescreen of Google's Pixel devices. It will now be called "Discover," and it will show videos, among other things, for the first time. [...] Google is bringing the Discover feed to the Google homepage on all mobile browsers in the next few weeks Moxley said. The Discover feed will remember preferences for the language you like different types of content to be in. For example, if you like recipes in Spanish, it will only show pages with Spanish-language recipes, but if you like your news in English, news articles will be in English. Google's image search is getting enhancements. There will be tags that show products, and other kinds of images, like stock images and do-it-yourself tutorials, so you'll be able find the sort of thing you're looking for faster. Google Images will get its new look on desktop computers starting this Thursday.

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Web-Based Office Suite Zoho Taken Offline By Registrar After Alleged Phishing Complaints

Slashdot - September 24, 2018 - 4:40pm
New submitter atxlakeshore writes: On Monday, ICANN-approved domain registrar Tierra.net turned off access to all Zoho domains, affecting 40 million customers worldwide. Zoho, a web-based office suite company, which provides customer relationship and invoicing services to small businesses, tweeted that the site was 'blocked' earlier in the day by Tierra.Net, which administers its domain name. Zoho customers affected by the disruption reached out to the registrar's support chat and email. Tierra.net then discussed Zoho's account details with these third parties, claiming that phishing attempts were originating from Zoho's webmail service, and these attempts necessitated blocking the company's domains. Zoho is a privately held India-based competitor to Google's G Suite platform, and maintains US offices in Austin, Texas. The dispute has resulted in calls for censure from ICANN. In a series of tweets, Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu said TierraNet blocked the domain without "ever notifying us of any issue." He also expressed frustrations at not being able to easily reach out to TierraNet executives.

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