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  • Indian American Wins Maker Faire Bay Area Editor’s Choice Award By Diana Rohini LaVigne, India-WestLink: http://www.indiawest.com/news/indian-american-wins-maker-faire-bay-area-editor-s-choice/article_ecb05ff4-39ee-11e4-b4ae-4f8ac9e17d9d.htmlSAN ...
    Posted Mar 3, 2017, 10:04 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne
  • First Ever Graduates of UC Berkeley's California Naturalist Certification Talk about Their Motivation By Diana Rohini LaVigne (UC Berkeley- The Jepson Globe)*Link: http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/jeps/globe/Globe2015_Vol25No1.pdfWhat do a former environmental lawyer, belly dancer, high school teacher ...
    Posted Mar 3, 2017, 9:45 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne
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A small list of various Articles published

Indian American Wins Maker Faire Bay Area Editor’s Choice Award

posted Mar 3, 2017, 10:04 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

By Diana Rohini LaVigne, India-West

SAN MATEO, Calif. — Shubham Banerjee’s DIY Braille Printer won the Editor’s Choice Award at Maker Faire, one of the world’s most prestigious grassroots invention showcases, here last month.

An ambitious 12-year-old Indian American, Banerjee noticed that Braille printers cost upwards of $2,000 and can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. He figured out how to build a Braille printer using inexpensive and readily available material: Legos.

“I love Legos. They are fun plus this is beneficial to so many,” the award winning inventor told India-West.

While many parents aggressively push their children towards entrepreneurship or to do things that will look good on a resume, Banerjee’s ascent into his role didn’t follow that path. He wanted to do something good and fearlessly moved ahead. When asked if his father was involved in his effort, he said, “Well, actually no. He hasn’t really helped at all.”

With over 1,100 maker entries participating in the fair, and over 200 presentations across eight stages and over 130,000 attendees hailing from 42 countries around the world, Maker Faire’s prestige is palatable.

“Our time at Maker Faire was excellent,” said Naresh Menon, co-founder and CEO of Micile, regarding his participation in last year’s fair. “One of the best parts of the event was seeing how many kids were interested in Micile. We had a steady stream of elementary and middle school-aged children who are starting to become interested in programming. They wanted to sit down and make their own apps right there. It was great being able to connect young children with an easy-to-use programming avenue; mainly because there are so few currently out there,” he told India-West.

“While amateur makers, students and parents found Micile to be a fun and practical learning environment, we were amazed by the number of entrepreneurs and developers who found it to be a great platform to launch their own business or product,” added Menon.

Maker Faire, having launched in 2006 in San Mateo, attracts top-notch celebrities such as television royalty, Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe and Myth Busters' Adam Savage. Maker Faire is also very kid-friendly by design with numerous kids’ stations and DIY zones around the faire grounds. Getting kids excited about science and technology and meeting fellow inventors seemed to be the over-reaching initiative of this two-day showcase.

First Ever Graduates of UC Berkeley's California Naturalist Certification Talk about Their Motivation

posted Mar 3, 2017, 9:45 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

By Diana Rohini LaVigne (UC Berkeley- The Jepson Globe)

*Link: http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/jeps/globe/Globe2015_Vol25No1.pdf

What do a former environmental lawyer, belly dancer, high school teacher, marathoner, choir singer, theater professional, journalist, surveyor, webmaster, wildlife biologist, Peace Corps alumna, filmmaker, microbiologist, and an actor have in common? They were all members of the California Naturalist training program, sponsored by the Jepson Herbarium. The Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley held its first course for the new UC California Naturalist training that officially granted certification to 20 naturalists on November 6, 2014. 

The UC California Naturalist Program promotes environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action. The Jepson Herbarium’s California Naturalist classes met weekly at UC Berkeley and hosted several field trips both during class and on the weekend. Aspiring Naturalists applied for admission into the program that entailed a 40-hour course that combined classroom and field experience in science, problem solving, communication training, and community service to explore the unique ecology and natural history of the Bay Area. In addition to the coursework, California Naturalists participated in 40 hours of volunteer service in one of four areas: program support, interpretation/education, restoration/conservation, and/or citizen science. UC academic credits were available to all students in the class. 

Graduates of the program had a wide variety of reasons to join the course; all had one common thread. They all aspire to motivate, impact, and educate others in life sciences, citizen science, and their role within nature in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was their personal stories that told the real story of this diverse and fascinating group of people that came together to celebrate, study, and experience nature’s greatest gifts. 

“I want to help my students to develop their own environmental consciousness.” Amber Lancaster, San Francisco, High School Science Teacher, June Jordan School for Equity 

“I want to share an appreciation of nature with children and visitors to Devil’s Slide Trail Park.” Kathy Gesley, Palo Alto, Trail Ambassador 

“I want to inspire youth to carry on the task of protecting the earth’s living creatures.” Diana Rohini LaVigne, San Francisco, Chief Communications Officer, Life Chiropractic College West 

“I want to help others discover the value of natural spaces and inspire interest in their conservation.” Melissa Hong, Alameda, User Experience Designer 

“I want to help people appreciate the world in a whole new way.” Adrian Cotter, Oakland, Cocurator San Francisco Natural History Series 

“I want to do a better job as a docent at the botanic gardens where I volunteer and perhaps branch out a bit beyond botany.” Barbara Steuart, Berkeley, Volunteer Docent, UC Berkeley Botanic Garden, East Bay Regional Parks, Tilden Botanic Garden 

“I want to create engaging, fun, and interactive digital multimedia that uses the best of storytelling, science, and outdoor exploration to spark a new generation of nature stewards.” Catherine Lynn Butler, Richmond Heights, Chief Storyteller, Greenexus LLC 

“I want to continue with citizen science projects, future bioblitzes, and, perhaps, bring CA Naturalist activities to the school where I currently volunteer.” Patricia Denn, Oakland, happily retired Clinical Microbiologist 

“I want to help others to realize and embrace our integral relation to the natural environment, inspiring environmental consciousness and stewardship.” Shawna Casebier, San Francisco, California native, Aspiring Life & Soul Alignment Coach

Applications for future trainings will be available soon. For more information, please visit ucjeps.berkeley.edu/ workshops/2015/CalNat/. 

Man on Wire-- A Philippe Petit Exclusive (LifeStyles Magazine)

posted Mar 3, 2017, 9:15 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

Read more about the one on one interview between Diana Rohini LaVigne and the man who crossed the Twin Towers on a high wire, Philippe Petit. 

Focused on Women’s Health: Jagdip Powar

posted Oct 21, 2013, 10:23 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

    • By Diana Rohini LaVigne

Jagdip Powar, MD, Packard Children’s Healthcare Alliance (Palo Alto, CA)


    Focused on Women's Health

    Jagdip Powar

    MD, Packard Children’s Healthcare Alliance  (Palo Alto, CA) 


    Jagdip Powar, MD, FACOG, is a medical doctor practicing Obstetrics in Palo Alto, California and has over 35 years of experience and many accolades to his name.  He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Stanford University Medical School and Deputy Chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
    Dr. Powar was born in 1951 to Indian parents in Burma where his father worked as an eye specialist in the army.  The family lived in Rangoon where he attended the Methodist School till 1963 when they moved to India where he completed high school.  He obtained his medical degree from The Armed Forces Medical College in Poona in 1974 and moved to Zambia to join his parents who were working in that country at the time.  During his time in Zambi, Dr. Powar worked as a medical officer at a government hospital providing first line care to patients in very challenging conditions in the fields of women’s health and Orthopedics.  He immigrated to the United States in 1974 and completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Connecticut in 1980.
    After completing his residency, Dr. Powar initially worked for the Permanente Medical Group but felt that their model of medical practice did not suit him.  He began a private practice at Stanford Hospital in 1982 and turned it into one of the most successful practices in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He did this by emphasizing a personal approach, attention to detail and a relentless devotion to detail.  He has been repeatedly named to several “best of” lists, including Best Doctors of the Silicon Valley and Most Compassionate Doctors in America and gets the highest ratings from online reviewers.  Professionally, Dr. Powar has been honored by Stanford Residents as Best Professor in 1992 and 1996, was President of Medical Staff and Member of the Board of Directors at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford from 1995 to 1998 and was elected to the position of Deputy Chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford in 2010, a position that he still holds.  He currently runs a much respected medical practice at Stanford as part of the Packard Children’s Healthcare Alliance and attracts patients from all over Northern California and abroad, including countries located in the Pacific Rim, the Middle East and Asia.
    One of his most treasures accomplishments was becoming President of Medical Staff and Member of the Board of Directors at Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.  He notes that these are highly prestigious positions and have been historically unattainable to most American physicians; let aside a foreign medical graduate such as himself.
    But his accomplishments, he attributes to the main influence of one person. “I was greatly influenced by my father, who encouraged me to follow my dreams, regardless of how unattainable they seemed to be. I was also influenced by my teachers both in the U.S.A. and India, who taught me to never compromise on my beliefs and principles,” Dr. Powar shared.
    And perhaps it was in that spirit of following dreams that Dr. Powar didn’t just get a medical degree while in school, he became a glider pilot as well. While most medical students were probably struggling to keep up, he trained and received his pilot’s license in parallel with his medical degree.
    With such an amazing career that spans over 3 decades, Dr. Jagdip Powar is clearly soaring to legendary heights in helping others learn more about Obstetrics and Gynecology while helping women stay healthy.

Giving Brain Power Away: Rishi Desai

posted Oct 21, 2013, 10:08 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Oct 21, 2013, 10:21 AM ]

    • By Diana Rohini LaVigne
Rishi Desai, Pediatrician, Khan Academy (San Francisco, CA)

  • Giving Brain Power Away

    Rishi Desai

    Pediatrician, Khan Academy (San Francisco, CA)

    Award-winning educator Rishi Desai is a medical educator at the Khan Academy, a free online education platform and nonprofit organization.  Desai is trained as a pediatric infectious disease physician and has worked at prestigious academic centers across the country, including hospitals affiliated with UCSF, Harvard University, Boston University, USC, and Stanford University.  

    He also spent two years working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer where he worked on disease outbreak investigations.  Desai had an accelerated early education, completing high school and receiving his BS in Microbiology from UCLA by the age of 18.  He has always had a love for learning and has taught students at every stage of his career.  He has won numerous teaching awards for medical education, and his passion for teaching brought him to the Khan Academy.  He is now the primary content creator for Khan Academy Medicine. 
    He spoke about being blissful to have healthy, happy parents and a kind, beautiful wife (to be) in his life.  His friends and family make him laugh on a regular basis and enjoys living in one of his favorite cities in the world. Desai added, “I am most influenced by Camille, my fiancé, who has taught me what it means to love another person, and reminds me to be kind and to think critically about what I believe and why, my mom who is the most creative and hard-working person that I know, my dad who teaches me to be patient, level-headed, and careful with money, and finally my maternal grandmother (Shobna) who has passed, but still inspires me every day.”
    So what don’t we know about this man who wears his heart on his sleeve? He offered, “I have a tradition of getting a haircut in every new country that I visit, as long as I leave the airport.  My favorite haircut was in Uganda where I basically got it all shaved off for a short while.”   Dr. Rishi Desai is clearly cut above the rest in so many way and someone to watch!

An Authority on Footprints: Projjal K. Dutta

posted Oct 21, 2013, 10:04 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

  • By Diana Rohini LaVigne
Projjal K. Dutta, Director, Sustainability Initiatives, NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York, NY)

  • An Authority on Footprints

    Projjal K. Dutta

    Director, Sustainability Initiatives, NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York, NY) 

    Award-winning sustainability expert Projjal K. Dutta is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s first ever Director of Sustainability. He attended MIT and is a regular expert speaker on the environment.

    At his MTA position, he has two primary responsibilities which are to reduce the environmental footprint of the MTA and to verifiably measure the carbon benefits that accrue to the region, due to the MTA. In a carbon-constrained future this could generate resources.
    Dutta was instrumental in the measurement and verification of MTA’s carbon footprint and its registration with the Climate Registry. He has played a leadership role in the transit industry’s effort to quantify its carbon benefits. He has lectured at at Harvard, Yale and Columbia Universities and written extensively on the subject of ‘carbon avoidance.'
    This accomplished environmentalist has more than 20 years of experience in projects ranging in scale from urban to residential, with a particular emphasis on sustainable design. Before joining the MTA, he worked as a sustainable architecture consultant. He graduated from MIT; his award-winning thesis explored the construction of low-cost housing from waste packaging. His built projects have been featured in publications in the U.S. and abroad. With all his accomplishments, it is being an advocate for the environment for the future that he cherishes the most.
    His influences are just too many to list. “From everyday people that I work with to great men and women of history,” he said.
    Although Dutta is looking to minimize waste on most days, he has a luxury that keeps him busy too. He has 8 different coffee machines at his home. From coffee to carbon, Projjal K. Dutta knows his stuff and is someone who is making meaningful changes for the environment in New York City.
    For more information on his work, visit mta.info/sustainability or follow him on Twitter @projjal.


Kailash Kher and Band Perform to Sold-out Crowd

posted Jul 7, 2012, 6:25 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

By Diana Rohini LaVigne

(Hayward, Calif.) - Singer Kailash Kher performed to a sold-out crowd at Chabot College here April 28, along with his seven-person band Kailasa, presented by AAA Entertainment and Jai Entertainment in conjunction with the artist’s promotional tour for his new album, “Rangeele.”

As Kher took to the stage, it took less than one minute to win over the crowd with his soul-moving voice, beautiful lyrics and musical sensibilities. He connected with his audience in a meaningful way and even asked the lighting crew to turn on the house lights in between songs so he could see the faces of the people in the crowd. During one song, he invited ten young women onto the stage to dance to the music, and during another, he wanted everyone in the audience to sing along with him. Finally, during the last song, he asked everyone to stand up and move to the music, to which everyone happily obliged.

Kher’s performance was a mix from his older Bollywood body of work and his newly released CD. Two amazing songs from the new Rangeele CD were “Tu Kya Jaane” and the title track, “Rangeele.” Both were upbeat and very well received, but the older songs like “Tauba Tauba,” “Allah Ke Bande” and “Teri Deewani” really resonated with the packed house at an even deeper level. This was evident by some chanting “we love you” to the artist and his band and plenty of whistling and hooting. 

Kher marks a turning of the tides of sorts for Indian American audiences in recent years, from the obsession for just Bollywood-style concerts complete with film star appearances, dancers and ornate stage and lighting arrangements, to more traditional band concerts without such of bells and whistles. This talented artist, who performed with minimal lighting and a basic décor of a projection of spinning shapes behind the band, noted this change during the concert and briefly reflected on the changing desires of audiences globally. It was clear that people were here for his music and not the typical Bollywood-style show. 

Kher’s music was contagious and as was the rambunctious dancing in the auditorium. It was a concert that got people dancing and singing and brought together the Indian American community to share in Kher’s musical exchange. It’s no wonder so many are already talking about his next Bay Area visit. For more information on Kher and the new CD, visit http://www.kailashkher.com/.

Fundraiser Held in Fremont for Congressman Honda

posted Jul 7, 2012, 6:22 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Jul 7, 2012, 6:25 PM ]

By Diana Rohini LaVigne

(Fremont, Calif.) - Indo-American Community Foundation founder Jeevan Zutshi and his wife Usha opened their home here Feb. 5 to bring together key community leaders to support Congressman Michael Honda with his campaign. 

Zutshi, who has held dozens of receptions and fundraisers for many members of Congress and Senate in the past, felt strongly about supporting Honda not only because of his platform but also because of his reputation as an ethical representative. 
Honda for a decade has represented the 15th Congressional District of California, which includes a major chunk of Silicon Valley and will soon include parts of the East Bay due to redistricting. 
About 60 people attended the event — hosted by several Indian Americans — including Fremont Vice-Mayor Anu Natarajan, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, and other local officials.
After a short speech, Honda fielded questions about the death penalty, education equity and his professional history. During dinner, the attendees were able to speak with the congressman about particular issues in their districts.
Darshan Raunayar, a Nepalese American from Washington state who flew in from Seattle to meet the congressman and solicit support for his own candidacy for Congress (I-W, Jan. 27), spoke briefly about his platform to improve his district.

‘Launch Silicon Valley’ Attracts A-List of Funders, Innovators

posted Jul 7, 2012, 6:18 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

By Diana Rohini LaVigne

(Mountain View, Calif.) --With over 20 panelists and speakers and 30 startups launching their products during “Launch SV” at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus here, June 5 was a day filled with innovation driven discussions, presentations by pioneering technology startups and networking with the who’s who in Silicon Valley. 

Valley icon Vinod Khosla was interviewed by Eric Savitz, San Francisco bureau chief of Forbes Magazine, on the future of clean tech and his investing philosophy to an eager crowd.

AppEnsure, which won the Citrix Synergy Startup Challenge in May and will be part of the Citrix incubator program called Citrix Accelerator, has been looking for more potential customers and found Launch SV to be a valuable experience for them. 

Sri Chaganty, AppEnsure founder and CTO, told India-West that “we found about five fellow finalists who expressed need for our solution and were willing to be our Beta customers.”

Currently, AppEnsure’s development center is based in Hyderabad, where they have about 20 engineers, and once they finish their Series A financing round, they will expand engineering to Silicon Valley. 

Supply chain risk management startup company Razient’s CEO Gary Bahadur said that his company “is in customer acquisition mode. Our near term goals are to close ten to 15 enterprise clients in the next 12 months. Having several enterprise clients will prove out our model and allow us to gain faster traction and utilize the income from these clients to expand our staff and sales efforts.” 

He felt the attendees at the event were highly engaged, making it beneficial to presenting companies like his.

The June 5 event, co-presented by SVForum, Garage Technology Ventures and Microsoft, provided the next generation of emerging technology companies with the opportunity to pitch their products to Silicon Valley’s top VCs, angels, corporate business development executives, prospective customers and partners, bloggers and media. 

Another presenting company was AppSmyth, a startup that creates and delivers branded, customizable mobile apps to retail brands that allows them a best-in-class mobile marketing capabilities to their visitors. 

“We had interesting meetings with Enterprise Ireland as we expect to begin our European expansion in Ireland,” AppSmyth founder and CEO Ravi Grewal told India-West. “Also, we had a couple of interesting conversations with VCs which we will follow up on in the coming weeks,” the Indian American entrepreneur said.

Another presenting company was Nclaves, a life sciences startup that has developed an at-home patient monitoring technology. 

“We got two good contacts in corporate venture groups who are also interested in the health-at-home sector,” Nclaves CEO Kiran Kundargi informed India-West. 

During the past six years, over 100 startups leveraged SVASE’s annual event to launch their products and have raised over $145 million in venture capital, while securing customers and partners along the way.

“We are excited to have innovative startups like PredictGaze present at this year’s Launch SV product launch,” said Chris Gill, president of the SVForum board of directors. “Beyond the competition, PredictGaze will have the opportunity to network with some of Silicon Valley's most influential executives and deal makers as a way to build critical relationships that support their path forward.”

As PredictGaze CEO Saurav Kumar told India-West, “We met a few great people who tested our demo, especially the mobile games with the new head gesture-based technology. Most of the people made really positive comments and gave us great feedback on our technology and different possible ideas about customer development.” 

Founded in 1995 by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, The Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs is the largest and fastest growing nonprofit in Northern California dedicated exclusively to helping technology and life science entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses.

Asian Business Conference Focused on Innovation and Opportunities in India

posted Oct 27, 2011, 1:35 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

By Diana Rohini LaVigne / Special to India-West 

Berkeley, California—The Berkeley Asian Business Conference 2010 held Saturday at the Haas School of Business focused on the shift of the global center of gravity towards Asia. With several panels throughout the day, the conference was standing room only at many of the panel and keynote programs.

Keynote Lim Siong Guan, Group President for the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, spoke about Asian trends.  “One trend is sure. Asia is reemerging and I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that Asia offers.”  He spoke about the opportunities coming from three elements; rapid urbanization, the aging population in Asia, and the rapid growth of high-net worth individuals. Suggesting that everyone looking to tap these three markets, Guan feels strongly about the need for a ‘living lab’ in Asia before tapping them.

The India Forum was a highlight of the day featuring four highly successful Indian visionaries as panelists and focused on the paradigm shift of India from outsourcing to innovation.

Moderator Seth Freeman, the CEO for EM Capital Management and has been working in the Indian market for the past six years, started off talking about some of the more notable Indian innovations including Tata’s Nano and Reva, the new electric car.

Working on several projects including a mobile to mobile free service, Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia discussed the challenges of launching his new mobile venture in India due to legislative challenges but seemed optimistic about the future opportunities in India.

So where is the global innovation moving? Vivek Wadhwa, UC Berkley Visiting Scholar and Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School, believed in the pharmaceutical industry that most of the innovation was happening in India. Wadhwa said,” There is a perception that innovation in India is only in traditional industries like technology, but many industries have their innovation and their R&D labs in India.”

He is seeing a lot of real start-ups, not just mom and pop shops, in India these days. “The magnitude of what is happening in India blows my mind,” said Wadhwa.

This begged the question about the lack of venture capital money going towards true start-ups in India and not just more mature mid-sized companies. Kanwal Rekhi, Managing Director at Inventus Capital and a founding father of TiE, offered, “Indian entrepreneurs don’t like to part with equity and can last longer than most companies without funding as they really understand how to bootstrap a company.”

Wadhwa noted that 9 out of 10 companies start with funds from family and friends, not venture capital.  Most companies only look towards venture capital funding when they want to take their company to the next level according to him.

India still presents many challenges for new and multinational companies but it seems corruption is not a major obstacle according to panelists. Panelist Dr. Prabhakant Sinha, Founder of ZS Associates, said, “Well, you don’t go to a vegetarian restaurant to order chicken. Which is to say that international companies are somewhat removed from the corruption cycle.  Locals don’t ask the multinationals to pay up.” He stated Infosys as one example of a multinational operating effectively in India without the burden of corruption knocking at their door.

But there are still challenges. For example, piracy still prevails in India. “In India, people think of software as coming for free and you pay only for hardware. This attitude must change in India.” Bhatia told the audience at the Asia Business conference.

Even with all the funding, Kanwal warned attendees that being an entrepreneur is really hard and told an example of a 40-year old man exclaiming he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and people responding with “What? Are you crazy?” Everyone seems to gives the entrepreneur a hard time in the beginning and throughout the process but when someone makes it big, everyone suddenly claims that they know you’d make it all along says Kanwal.

Whereas veteran entrepreneur Bhatia felt it was important to be in-country in order to build products for their desired market.  “You can’t just use a U.S. product or concept and put it in India and expect success. You must first adapt it to the emerging growth market specifically.” Bhatia said. He thinks students need emerging market experience to survive in today’s marketplace.

Wadhwa also hinted at the benefits of living in country. “You can’t solve some issues without living or spending significant time in India.  Silicon Valley is too focused on the next Facebook application, not true innovation.” Said Wadhwa.

The conference offered a variety of panels throughout the day-long program but did lack a strong Indian voice outside the India forum or Technology panel. Panels like Clean Technology, Consumer, Global Operations, and Finance had little representation for India despite India’s great influence in these areas.  Also under-represented were women at the conference with only one female speaker out of thirty-four speakers overall. But despite the lack of balance in these areas, the business conference presented plenty of up-to-date information that helped professionals and students alike to better understand the Asian market and opportunities.

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