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FILE PHOTO - A man runs on a crosswalk at a business district in central Tokyo
FILE PHOTO – A man runs on a crosswalk at a business district in central Tokyo, Japan September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government is expected to keep its view of the economy as “recovering at a moderate pace” in its monthly report for March but not risks from overseas, the Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday.

The government will carefully examine the economic situation over the coming few months, while keeping its view that the economy remains on the recovery path, the report said.

The Nikkei last week reported that the government was considering a slight downgrade to its view of the economy as exports and production fell on slowing demand from China.

In February, the government said the economy was in a moderate recovery but a series of weak data on corporate sentiment, capital expenditure and exports shows the U.S.-China trade war is hurting the outlook for the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s exports and factory output have weakened as demand was hit by slowing global growth and the China-U.S. trade war.

The Bank of Japan last week kept its monetary policy unchanged but cut its view on overseas economies to say they are showing signs of slowdown. It also revised down its view on exports and output. [nL3N2115QE ]

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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FILE PHOTO: NFL: NFL Honors-Red Carpet
FILE PHOTO: Feb 2, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tyreek Hill during red carpet arrivals for the NFL Honors show at the Fox Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports – 12098140

March 19, 2019

The investigation into allegations of battery against Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill remains open.

Steve Howe, the district attorney in Johnson County, Kan., acknowledged in a written statement Monday that his office “has received numerous requests for information” about the status of the investigation into Hill but could provide no additional details.

“While we understand the public’s concern, the investigation is still ongoing. It would be irresponsible to make definitive ‘official’ statements before the investigation is complete,” according to the statement.

The 25-year-old Hill has not been charged with any crimes.

Hill is under investigation for an alleged battery incident involving a juvenile, according to multiple published reports. The Kansas City Star reported that Hill’s 3-year-old son suffered a broken arm in the incident.

The report from police in Overland Park, Kan., where Hill lives, is dated March 14. It is unclear if the incident occurred that day.

Overland Park police also responded to the same address on March 5 to investigate a report of child abuse or neglect. Hill’s name is listed on the report.

His fiancee, Crystal Espinal, is listed on the March 14 report under the category of “others involved.” The Star reported that Espinal is pregnant with twins and that she is the mother of the 3-year-old whose arm was broken.

Hill reportedly choked and punched Espinal when she was pregnant in December 2014. Hill was arrested and dismissed from the Oklahoma State football team.

Hill later pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation and received three years’ probation.

The Chiefs issued the following statement last week regarding Hill:

“The club is aware of the investigation involving Tyreek Hill,” the Chiefs said in a statement to The Kansas City Star. “We’re in the process of gathering information and have been in contact with the league and local authorities. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”

–Field Level Media

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The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles
The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

March 19, 2019

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Netflix Inc will not make its programming available through a coming TV service expected to be unveiled by Apple Inc, Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on Monday.

“We prefer to let our customers watch our content on our service,” Hastings told reporters at a briefing at the company’s offices in Hollywood.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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FILE PHOTO: The British flag flies next to European flags at the European Commission in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: The British flag flies next to European flags at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 19, 2019

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Leaving the European Union is making it harder for fintech firms in Britain to recruit top talent, a report said on Tuesday, threatening to slam the brakes on a 7 billion pound ($9 billion)growth sector just as EU states step up competition.

The Fuelling Fintech report from TheCityUK, which promotes Britain as a financial center, and recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson, said fintech and other financial services firms must work harder to secure the skills they need.

Fintech employs 60,000 people and investment grew by 154 percent in 2017.

The report offers ways to generate more “home grown” tech talent as immigration faces curbs after Brexit.

“Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, there has been a significant decrease of graduates coming to the UK from France and Germany in particular,” said Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK.

Up to a fifth of the skills needed in recent years has come from EU countries, and UK hirers are now seeing a net migration of tech graduates back to the bloc.

Companies struggle to fill roles in coding, cloud computing, machine learning, software development, cyber, artificial intelligence and blockchain, the report said.

“There is a risk that those talented migrants with the skills needed by the UK will leave before these skills can be replaced by home-grown talent,” Celic said.

(GRAPHIC: TheCityUK/Odgers Berndston Report – https://tmsnrt.rs/2ObgELT)

The report recommends copying pharmaceuticals and manufacturing by forging long-term partnerships with academia to create a pipeline of skilled people – and also looking beyond graduates.

Better data gathering on the skills needed and better retraining of existing employees are also needed, the report said.

Britain has emerged as a leading fintech hub in Europe in recent years but now faces increased competition from EU cities such as Berlin, Paris and Luxembourg that can offer access to the bloc’s vast single market. Britain’s future access to the EU market could remain unclear for some time to come.

“The current shortage of tech talent is a strategic issue for the UK’s financial and related professional services industry, yet little has been done to quantify our current and future skills need,” said Nathan Bostock, chief executive of Santander UK bank and chair of TheCityUK’s working group on trade and investment.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un en route to the Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi
Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un en route to the Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kham

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two senior U.S. senators called on Monday for the Trump administration to correct a slowing pace of U.S. sanctions designations on North Korea, saying there had been a marked decline in the past year of U.S. engagement with Pyongyang.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Ed Markey called for a recommitment to robust enforcement of U.S. and United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

The senators, the chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, complained that the pace of sanctions designations on North Korea had “slowed considerably” in the past year of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the country.

They cited research by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank saying that the Trump administration had sanctioned 182 persons and entities for North Korea sanctions violations since March 31, 2017, but only 26 since Feb. 23, 2018, “despite ample evidence of illicit behavior from Pyongyang and its enablers.”

The letter pointed to a 2019 U.N. report which found that North Korea had continued to defy U.N. sanctions with a massive increase in smuggling of petroleum products and coal and violation of bans on arms sales.

While welcoming U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, the senators’ letter said “the status quo is unacceptable and is contrary to the administration’s ‘maximum pressure and engagement’ doctrine.”

U.S.-North Korea engagement has appeared to be in limbo after a second summit in the past year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down last month over conflicting demands for sanctions relief and denuclearization.

The State and Treasury Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Senators’ letter.

Pompeo said in a radio interview on Monday that the administration had “the toughest economic sanctions in history,” on North Korea “but the most promising diplomatic engagement in history” with the country as well.

Speaking to B98 FM in Kansas, Pompeo said Washington aimed to reengage with Kim. Pompeo said on March 5 that he was hopeful he could send a team to North Korea “in the next couple of weeks,” but there has been no sign of such direct engagement since the Feb. 27-28 summit.

The State Department said the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who has led working-level talks with Pyongyang, would travel to London on Tuesday to meet British, French, and German counterparts to discuss coordinated efforts to advance North Korean denuclearization.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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FILE PHOTO: MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workouts
FILE PHOTO: Feb 15, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) looks on during a spring training workout at the Camelback Ranch practice fields. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports – 12167057

March 18, 2019

For the first time since 2010, Clayton Kershaw won’t be the Opening Day starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The left-handed Kershaw was ruled out of the March 28 opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday due to the persistent shoulder inflammation he has dealt with all spring. He has yet to pitch in a spring training game.

“Talking to Clayton and, obviously, looking at the schedule, he’s not going to start Opening Day,” Roberts told reporters. “To build him up and when he’s ready to pitch for us is when he’s going to pitch for us. He’s supportive and he understands he wants to put himself in the best position to help himself and the ballclub.

“When’s he’s built up to where he feels he can help us, then it’s moot. We’re all on the same page.”

Kershaw has started a club-record eight straight openers. The last Opening Day starter for the Dodgers not named Kershaw was Vicente Padilla in 2010.

Roberts said it was unlikely Kershaw will begin the season on the active roster.

Kershaw last pitched Sunday when he threw a bullpen session. He is scheduled to throw batting practice on Wednesday.

Roberts didn’t announce an Opening Day starter on Monday, but right-hander Walker Buehler is definitely in the mix.

However, Buehler also hasn’t pitched this spring due to his own shoulder issues. He is scheduled to pitch three innings on Tuesday.

Kershaw, who turns 31 on Tuesday, has pitched nearly 2,100 innings and struck out 2,275 batters in his decorated 11-year career. He is 153-69 overall with a 2.39 ERA and has won three National League Cy Young Awards.

Kershaw was 9-5 last season with a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts but has experienced back issues in each of the past three seasons. He has guided the Dodgers to two consecutive appearances in the World Series.

Buehler, 24, went 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA in 24 appearances (23 starts) last season while finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Veteran left-hander Rich Hill also is a candidate to start the opener. The 39-year-old Hill was 11-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) last season.

–Field Level Media

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FILE PHOTO: The SoftBank Group logo displayed at the SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Chip designer Nvidia Corp said on Monday it has partnered with Softbank Group Corp and LG Uplus Corp to deploy cloud gaming servers in Japan and Korea later this year.

Nvidia makes graphics chips for PCs and laptops that help video games look more realistic. Now the company is putting those same chips inside servers in data centers so that gamers who do not have an Nvidia chip in their computer can stream games from the data center.

Nvidia said at a conference in San Jose, California, that it has created a “pod” of its graphics cards that can support up to 10,000 gamers streaming games at once.

The company said Softbank and LG Uplus would use the cards for services to let customers stream games over 5G networks, the next generation of wireless data networks.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; editing by G Crosse)

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Vietnamese who live in Japan celebrate Vietnamese New Year at a Catholic Church in Kawaguchi, near Tokyo
Vietnamese who live in Japan celebrate Vietnamese New Year at a Catholic Church in Kawaguchi, near Tokyo, Japan February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

By Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki

TOKYO (Reuters) – When a young Vietnamese woman found out late last year that she was pregnant after arriving in Japan on a “technical trainee” visa, she was given a stark choice: “Have an abortion or go back to Vietnam.”

But returning home would leave her unable to pay back the $10,000 she borrowed to pay recruiters there.

“She needs to stay to pay back her debts,” said Shiro Sasaki, secretary general of the Zentoitsu (All United) Workers Union, who has advocated on her behalf and said such threats were common.

Buoyed by hopes of higher wages but burdened by loans, Vietnamese youth – the fastest-growing group of foreign workers in Japan – will be among those most affected by a new scheme to let in more blue-collar workers that kicks off in April.

“Trainees from China have been declining as wages there rise with economic growth, while in Vietnam, unemployment is high for youth with high education levels, so many young people want to go abroad to work,” said Futaba Ishizuka, a research fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies, a think tank.

The technical trainee program is widely known as a back door for blue-collar labor in immigration-shy Japan. Reported abuses in Japan include low and unpaid wages, excessive hours, violence and sexual harassment. In Vietnam, unscrupulous recruiters and brokers often charge trainees exorbitant fees.

Such problems will persist and could worsen under the new system, aimed at easing a historic labor shortage, according to interviews with activists, academics, unionists and trainees.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country’s social fabric, has insisted that the new law, enacted in December, does not constitute an “immigration policy.”

That worries critics.

“In fact, Japan is already a country of immigrants. But because they say it is not an ‘immigration policy’ and the premise is that people will not stay, they only take temporary steps,” said Japan Civil Liberties Union director Akira Hatate. “The needs of society are not met, and the needs of the workers are not met.”

GROWING NUMBERS

The trainees system began in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to workers from developing countries. But persistent abuses developed early on, experts say.

Those issues were spotlighted last year during debate over the new law.

Among the high-profile cases was that of four companies’ using trainees for decontamination work in areas affected by radiation after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Two firms, also accused of not paying appropriate wages, were banned from employing trainees for five years; the others got warnings from the justice ministry.

A labor ministry survey published in June showed more than 70 percent of trainee employers had violated labor rules, with excessive hours and safety problems most common. That compared to 66 percent for employers overall.

The Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT), a watchdog group, was set up in 2017. This month, it issued a reminder to employers that trainees are covered by Japanese labor law. It specifically banned unfair treatment of pregnant workers.

Harsh conditions led more than 7,000 trainees to quit in 2017, experts say, many lured by shady brokers promising fake documentation and higher-paying jobs. Almost half were from Vietnam.

Because trainees are not permitted to switch employers, leaving their jobs usually means losing legal visa status. A few go to shelters run by non-profit groups or get help from unionists; many disappear into a labor black market.

“The situation is completely different from what they were told back home,” said Shigeru Yamashita, managing director of the Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan. “They have debts they cannot repay with their salaries at home, so the only option is to flee into the black market for labor.”

ADDRESSING SHORTAGES

The new law will allow about 345,000 blue-collar workers to enter Japan over five years in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face acute labor shortages. One category of “specified skilled workers” can stay up to five years but cannot bring families.

A second category of visas – currently limited to the construction and shipbuilding industries – allows workers to bring families and be eligible to stay longer.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Phuong, 29, left her husband and elementary-school-age child home in Vietnam to work as a trainee in a knitwear factory in Mitsuke City in northern Japan.

The textile industry was not included in the new visa program after coming under fire for the high number of labor violations in its trainee programs.

Now she wishes she could bring her family and stay longer than three years.

“Life in Japan is convenient, and the air is clean,” she told Reuters in careful Japanese during a break from work.

For-profit employment agencies and individuals can register as liaisons between recruiters and employers. These “registered support organizations” will not need licenses.

Immigration authorities will provide oversight of the new foreign workers; the labor ministry’s immigration bureau will become an agency on April 1, a bureaucratic distinction that gives it more clout.

On Friday, the justice ministry issued fresh rules for the new system, including a requirement that foreign workers be paid at least as much as Japanese employees.

But Sasaki said the agency’s focus would be residence status, not labor conditions.

Some companies have woken up to the risk of losing investors if they or their suppliers violate workers’ rights, said Japan Civil Liberties Union’s Hatate.

But the rush to implement the new law has left local authorities worried that too little has been done to support and integrate more foreigners.

“If there is not a proper framework to accept them and they are thought of as purely a way to fill the labor shortage, for certain there will be major problems,” Yuji Kuroiwa, governor of Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, told Reuters.

Takashi Takayama, whose Vietnamese name is Cao Son Quy, fled Vietnam as a refugee in 1979. He recalled how foreigners were laid off in droves after the 2008 global financial crisis and fears a similar scenario when demand for labor eases after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“When the Olympics are over, I think a tragic event will occur,” Takayama said at a Vietnamese New Year celebration at a Catholic church outside Tokyo. “I don’t want to see that.”

(Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China January 10, 2019. Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Jonathan Landay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In fallout from a feud over U.S.-Taliban peace talks, a senior U.S. diplomat has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that U.S. officials will no longer deal with his national security adviser, four knowledgable sources said on Monday.

The decision to end U.S. contacts with Hamdullah Mohib will almost certainly raise tensions between the allies over Kabul’s exclusion from negotiations that have mainly focused on a U.S. troop pullout and how the Taliban would stop militant groups from using Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks.

Mohib had launched a blistering public attack last Thursday on the chief U.S. negotiator, Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.

The following day, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale told Ghani by phone that Mohib would no longer be received in Washington and U.S. civilian and military officials would not do business with him, the sources said.

“Hale called Ghani and told him that Mohib is no longer welcome in D.C. The U.S. will not deal with him in Kabul or in D.C. any more,” said a former senior Afghan official, who like the other sources requested anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

Kabul fears that Washington is intent on finalizing a U.S. troop pullout to fulfill a vow by President Donald Trump, undermining its ability to reach a political pact with the Taliban that preserves gains, such as women’s education, won since the 2001 U.S. invasion ended the militants’ harsh version of Islamic rule.

The former Afghan official said he saw the move as an effort to compel Ghani to “oust” Mohib, who became the president’s national security adviser after serving as his envoy to Washington.

A second source, a congressional aide, agreed that pressuring Ghani to end contacts with Mohib was “one way of looking at this” because the State Department provides funding for the Afghan president’s national security council staff.

The State Department declined to comment. The Afghan embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Simmering tensions over the Afghan government’s exclusion from the U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar, erupted with Mohib’s attack on Khalilzad, an Afghan-born U.S. diplomat, at a news conference in Washington.

He accused Khalilzad of giving the Taliban legitimacy while “delegitimizing the Afghan government.” He added that Khalilzad perhaps was trying to create “a caretaker government of which he would then become viceroy.”

Viceroy was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India.

The State Department responded with a strong statement quoting Hale as telling Mohib later Thursday that his comments “only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process.”

The latest round of peace talks ended on March 11 after 16 days. The sides reported progress, but no accord on a withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban’s counter-extremist assurances.

U.S. negotiators also are pressing the insurgents to accept a ceasefire and talks with Afghan society representatives, including government officials. The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani’s government, which they deride as a U.S. puppet.

In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Qatar, Faizullah Kakar, said that another country should not be negotiating on the use of Afghan territory by militants.

“It is the government that should be deciding, whoever the government is, that the territory is used or not used against another country,” he said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Erich Knecht in Doha; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday’s shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 18, 2019

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – After days of intense grieving for New Zealand’s worst-ever mass shooting, attention began to turn to how the country’s gun laws need to change and what warning signs might have been missed ahead of a gunman’s attack on two mosques that killed 50 people.

Bodies of the victims of Friday’s attacks in Christchurch were being washed and prepared for burial in a Muslim ritual process, with teams of volunteers flown in from overseas to assist with the heavy workload.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her Cabinet had made in-principle decisions on changes to gun laws which she would announce next Monday, saying now was the time to act on tightening access to firearms.

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition National Party, said he wanted to get details of the changes to see if there could be bipartisan support in Parliament. The National Party draws support from rural areas, where gun ownership is higher than in urban areas.

“We know that change is required. I’m willing to look at anything that is going to enhance our safety – that’s our position,” Bridges told TVNZ.

In addition to the 50 killed, dozens were wounded at the two mosques in the South Island city during Friday prayers.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, where police said he was likely to face more charges.

Andrew Little, the minister who oversees New Zealand’s intelligence agencies, said monitoring of online activity had been stepped up in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.

“There are people who have been online making statements who have been interviewed by the police; that will continue. There is a level of intervention, there is a heightened level of monitoring,” Little said on TVNZ on Monday night.

Ardern said there would be an inquiry into what government agencies “knew, or could or should have known” about the alleged gunman and whether the attack could be prevented.

“We have to know whether there have been failings, whether there have been gaps,” Little said on TVNZ. “We have to leave no stone unturned to not only deal with the perpetrator and ensure the criminal justice system gets to deal with him, but to understand how this could have happened in this country.”

More than 250 New Zealand police staff are working on the inquiry in the attacks, with staff from the U.S. FBI and Australia’s Federal Police working with local investigators.

In the wake of the deadly attack, other incidents were drawing scrutiny. A gun club in the northern town of Kaitaia burned down early on Tuesday morning, and police were treating the blaze as suspicious. A bomb hoax that closed Dunedin Airport on Sunday night and caused some flights to be diverted was under investigation, police said.

A black laptop bag was thought to have been bought onto the airfield by someone climbing over fences around the Dunedin airport. Police found a note written by the person who left the “hoax device,” which was dealt with by defense force experts.

“The insensitive nature of this act in light of recent events cannot be overstated,” police said in a statement.

(Writing by John Mair; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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