US to hold next year’s G-7 summit at Trump National Doral resort in Miami area

felixmizioznikov/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The United States plans to host next year’s Group of Seven, or G-7, summit at the president’s Trump National Doral Miami resort, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced Thursday.

The selection of a resort owned by the president’s own company is certain to draw criticism from Democrats in Congress who have criticized Trump’s mixing of personal and official business. In August, when reports first emerged that the Doral, Florida, club could host next year’s summit, and Trump voiced support for the idea, the House Judiciary Committee said it would investigate the proposal.

Mulvaney, who came to the White House briefing room to make the announcement, was asked repeatedly by reporters how the selection of Trump Doral for next year’s summit, which will take place June 10-12, was appropriate and how the president would not profit from the selection.

Mulvaney responded that Trump Doral would host the summit “at cost,” which, he said, meant it was millions of dollars cheaper – about half the cost – of another site that had been under consideration.

Democrats on Capitol Hill had previously filed a lawsuit against the president alleging his private businesses violate the Constitution’s emoulments clause, which prohibits US officials like the president from personally profiting from foreign governments. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Thursday that the decision to hold the G-7 summit at Trump’s Doral resort would now become part of that suit.

In August, when reports first emerged that the Doral, Florida club would host next year’s summit and Trump voiced support for the idea, the House Judiciary Committee said it would investigate the proposal.

The Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, said in a statement, “The Administration’s announcement that President Trump’s Doral Miami resort will be the site of the next G7 summit is among the most brazen examples yet of the President’s corruption. He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain. The Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution exist to prevent exactly this kind of corruption.”

Asked about the marketing opportunity that hosting an international diplomatic summit would present, Mulvaney said Trump didn’t “need much help promoting his brand.”

“I would simply ask you all to consider the possibility that Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is, and doesn’t need any more help on that,” Mulvaney said.

He later added that Trump was “not making any money off of this, just like he’s not making any money from working here. And if you think it’s going to help his brand, that’s great, but I would suggest that he probably doesn’t need much help promoting his brand.”

The president himself was the one who first suggested holding it there, Mulvaney said.

“We sat around one night, we were back in the dining room and — going over it with a couple of our advance team, we had the list (of potential sites),” Mulvaney said. “And he goes, what about Doral? And I was like, that’s not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about who made the final decision.

Trump was already facing multiple lawsuits based on the foreign emoluments clause, and ethics groups said this latest move fit a pattern.

“President Trump’s behavior in office is a continuing affront to the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause,” the president of the ethics watchdog group Constitutional Accountability Center, Elizabeth Wydra, said in a statement. “By treating the G7 summit like a commercial for his businesses, inviting foreign governments to line his pockets and hold their next meeting at his Doral, FL golf course next year, he mocks the Constitution he swore to uphold.”

The nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) dismissed Mulvaney’s argument the summit would have no impact on Trump’s brand, saying Trump used the federal government “as a public relations and marketing subsidiary of the Trump Organization.”

A spokesperson for CREW told ABC News that its “legal team has been looking into possibilities” of bringing litigation against the president over his G-7 decision, saying the group was “gathering more information.”

When asked at the site of the most recent G-7 summit, in Biarritz, France, about where the next one in the U.S. might be held, Trump told reporters that holding the summit in Miami would be “really fantastic” and that his club would be ideal because it was near Miami’s international airport and because each country could have its own “bungalow.”

“With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings — we call them bungalows,” Trump said then. “They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. It’s like — it’s like such a natural — we wouldn’t even have to do the work that they did here.”

Trump said he was “not at all” concerned about the ethical implications of using a diplomatic gathering to promote a club run by his own company. He said the U.S. Secret Service and the military were involved in the selection process, and that 12 sites had been under consideration.

G-7 summits are massive undertakings that attract hundreds of participants and thousands of law enforcement, support staff, journalists, and more – and sometimes thousands of protesters – and costs to the host country can amount to tens, or hundreds, of millions of dollars. Hosting the summit rotates among the group’s members, with the United States taking the helm next year.

As of Thursday, rooms at the Doral resort ranged from $337 to $637 per night for the days of the summit, according to the resort’s website.

The Miami area has been dealing with effects of climate change such as rising sea levels, but when asked by a reporter Thursday whether climate change would be on the agenda — particularly considering it would take place during a summer month — Mulvaney said it would not.

It would not be the first time the president has used a Trump property to host world leaders. China’s President Xi Jinping and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have both joined him at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, also in South Florida. Trump’s visits to that resort — which he frequents in the winters — have also come under scrutiny from Democrats on Capitol Hill.

There was an initial list of about a dozen sites, and advance staff visited just under 10, including sites in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, Mulvaney said. That list was further narrowed to four sites, including one in Hawaii, two in Utah, and Trump Doral, he said. “It’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event,” Mulvaney said an advance staff team member told him.

“We use the same set of criteria that previous administrations have used,” he said. Asked if the White House would reveal the documentation of how the decision was reached, Mulvaney said “absolutely not” but did say relative cost numbers might be made available.

When Trump discussed Doral in August, focus turned to a previous case of bedbugs at the resort. The president at the time criticized Democrats for spreading what he called a “false and nasty rumor,” tweeting, “No bedbugs at Doral.”

But in fact, a possible bedbug infestation was the subject of a 2016 lawsuit, in which a New Jersey man who sued for $15,000 in damages alleging that he woke up covered in bites and sores after a night in one of the resort’s villas. In a court filing responding to the lawsuit, lawyers for the resort denied all of the allegations. The resort settled the suit out of court.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Thousands of Chicago teachers go on strike after failing to reach contract deal

recep-bg/iStock(CHICAGO) — Thousands of Chicago Public School teachers went on strike Thursday, fighting for working conditions “that respect educators and provide Chicago’s students with the schools they deserve.”

The strike follows months of failed negotiations between teachers and the city’s public school system.

Picket lines went up at 6:30 a.m. local time at Chicago’s public schools, with speakers expected throughout the morning and a mass rally in the afternoon.

Classes were canceled for all 514 schools in the nation’s third largest district. More than 300,000 students were enrolled in the city’s public school system in the 2018-2019 school year.

Teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes, adequate staffing and better wages, according to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which represents some 25,000 teachers and education workers.

Some of those working for the district earn less than $30,000 a year and more than 1,100 can’t afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in any of the city’s zip codes, the union noted.

CTU and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) began negotiating a new contract on Jan. 15, months ahead of the union’s contract expiring on June 30.

CPS has said that it offered improvements to the “already historic offer we’d previously made,” but CTU rejected the proposal.

“All in all, our offer includes over 80 changes to the collective bargaining agreement on issues requested by the union,” according to a joint statement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Janice Jackson, CEO of CPS, last Friday. ” We have bent over backwards to meet CTU’s concerns.”

Teachers feel differently.

“There is a pent up frustration from our membership about what conditions are like in our schools,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said at a press conference Thursday.

Andrea Parker, a CPS teacher, told ABC Chicago station WLS-TV that while she’s disappointed she won’t be teaching, she feels like she and her colleagues “are only the few fighting for our students.”

More than 1,300 classrooms are overcrowded, according to CTU, despite the district’s cap. Almost 25 percent of elementary school students were placed in overcrowded classrooms, with some kindergarten classrooms topping 40 students, according to the union.

Lightfoot and Jackson said they would offer additional support for overcrowded classrooms. They also said they would raise teachers’ salaries by 16 percent, or around $19,000.

The union said that under the mayor’s proposed contract, “most of those workers would still be earning poverty wages.”

The American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teacher’s labor unions in the country, tweeted in support of Chicago teachers.

“Our educators are on a righteous path, fighting for what is right,” the tweet read. “It’s time we gave them what they need to teach.”

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Strange yellow organism known as the ‘blob’ gets new exhibit at Paris zoo

Gwengoat/iStock(PARIS) — A surprising species of unicellular being that’s neither plant nor animal will be unveiled at the Paris Zoo for the first time on Saturday.

The curious single cell biological wonder — called “the blob” — has a bright yellow color and is capable of complex behavior, including sensing food and moving.

“While he has no mouth, neither stomach, nor eyes, the blob is perfect at detecting the presence of food and ingesting it,” the Paris Zoo said in a translated tweet.

The zoo also said the blob, which has 720 sexes, does not have a brain or legs, but it “moves at the speed of one centimeter an hour, four if it sprints.”

“The blob is difficult to place in the tree of life,” Bruno David, the director of the Paris Museum of Natural History and Zoological Park, said in a statement. “[It] teaches us a lot about the richness of life on Earth.”

Dr. Audrey Dussutour, a researcher with the CNRS (translated to: National Scientific Research Center) who has studied blobs and works with the zoo, tweeted a short poem about the algae-like organism, also known as a eukaryotic protist.

Dussutour explained that while the “Physarum polycephalum,” aka the blob, has long been studied, this is the first time it will be on exhibit at a zoo.

The new area within the Paris Zoo dedicated to the blob will open to the public on Saturday.

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019

20-year-old in custody for Brooklyn street festival shooting that killed 1, injured 11

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Three months after gunfire shattered a neighborhood block party, killing one person and injuring 11 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., police say they have a suspect in custody.

Brooklyn resident Kyle Williams, 20, has been charged with murder, attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment in connection with the shooting, which took place during the neighborhood’s annual Old Timers Day event at Brownsville Playground on July 27.

Williams, who had no prior criminal history, was taken into custody on Wednesday following a wave of tips, authorities said.

“This was an important case to make,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Thursday morning. “You think about what happened that night — there’s a crowd of hundreds of people [at a] “family event.”

“It was important that we all work together to make sure we were able to identify who the shooter was and bring them to justice,” O’Neill said.

The incident, which police at the time said may have been gang related, left the neighborhood badly shaken. The shots may have been an exchange of gunfire between two or more suspects, authorities said.

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Dad shot dead by home intruders; wife, 2 young kids survive unharmed: Sheriff

kali9/iStock(KATY, Texas) — A 29-year-old man was shot dead by intruders in his Texas home, though his wife and young children, who were also there, escaped without injury, authorities said.

Authorities rushed to the house in Katy, near Houston, just after midnight Wednesday morning, where they found neighbors performing CPR on resident Brenton Estorffe, said Jessica Reyes, spokeswoman for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

Responders took over and 29-year-old Estorffe was pronounced dead at the scene, Reyes said.

The young dad was killed in a home invasion when intruders shot their way into the back of the house, Reyes told ABC News on Thursday.

Estorffe’s wife and his 1-year-old and 3-year-old children were home at the time but all three were not hurt, said Reyes.

The intruders fled without stealing anything, Reyes said, and investigators are working to determine a motive.

The victim’s wife reported two male suspects, but investigators do not have any additional suspect information, said Reyes.

“We have a homeowner here in Fort Bend County who’s no longer with us. A father of two small children, breaks your heart,” Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said, according to ABC Houston station KTRK. “Pray for this young wife and her two small children because they are without their father. He was there to protect his family.”

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Report: Amanda Bynes offered — and turned down — spot on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

ABC(LOS ANGELES) —  Amanda Bynes was apparently in talks to compete on this season’s Dancing with the Stars and almost joined this year’s lineup.  Almost.

Entertainment Tonight reports that the 33-year-old actress has been offered a spot on the show every year, but always passed.  A source told ET that this year, however, “She entertained the conversation more than other times.”

The source claims DWTS sweetened the deal this year by being more accommodating and ponying up more cash.  Despite the new and improved offer, Amanda passed again.

The source claims, “In the end, it’s not the type of comeback she’s looking for.  If she were to go back into showbiz, she’d want to have a steady acting role.”

Bynes talked with PAPER magazine about a potential comeback last year and said she wanted to act again.  

This is the first year Bynes has a little more control over the comings and goings in her life.  Now that she’s moved on from rehab and into a sober home, she isn’t restricted by curfews.  So, it is possible that we’ll see some casting news about her soon.

As for seeing her do a Viennese Waltz on DWTS?  Not so much.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Dramatic footage shows Extinction Rebellion protesters clash with commuters during busy London rush hour

Frederic Prochasson/iStock(LONDON) — Dramatic scenes played out at a busy London subway station Thursday morning, as climate change protesters and commuters clashed during rush hour.

Video footage from London’s Canning Town station shows activists from the group Extinction Rebellion protesting on top of a stationary train before being physically dragged onto the platform by a frustrated commuter. Other commuters on the platform are seen intervening to stop the potentially dangerous situation.

Eight arrests have been made in connection with the incident at Canning Town and the Stratford and Shadwell stations, British Transport Police said.

Extinction Rebellion has been protesting at various sites in the U.K. capital since the beginning of last week. Police banned the group from assembling within London under Section 14 of the Public Order Act Monday, meaning anyone who fails to comply is liable for arrest and prosecution. The group is now targeting public transport hubs in recent days.

Over 1,400 arrests have been made in connection with the protests, police said.

Extinction Rebellion described its protests as “an act of conscience” in the face of “impending disaster” in a statement sent out to the media following the incident.

“This is disruption with a purpose since we will all encounter far greater disruption in the future if we don’t radically change our society,” spokesperson Valerie Milner-Brown said. “We can already see the horrifying early effects of the Climate and Ecological Emergency in parts of the Global South and it’s clear that this will be coming our way soon. Government needs to start taking seriously the deep concerns of tens of thousands of experts and scientists globally, so that we can create a society that is built to put resilience and community before profit.”

The group later put out a statement describing the episode as “regretful.”

“We would like to express our sadness that events escalated this way,” the statement said. “We are aware that one of our activists responded in self defence in a moment of panic when confronted by a threatening situation. He acknowledges his accountability for this action and we offer gratitude for members of the public who helped to protect him. To those that engaged in violence, we acknowledge that we disrupted your life today.”

 

 

The group has received public backing from a number of celebrities, including the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, the author Margaret Atwood and the U.K. prime minister’s father, Stanley Johnson.

 

 

Extinction Rebellion UK have three main demands: that the government should “tell the truth” about climate change, that greenhouse gas emissions should reach net zero by 2025 and a “Citizen’s Assembly” should be created to lead decisions on climate change.

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019

All Emilia Clarke wanted for ‘Last Christmas’ was co-star Henry Golding

Universal Pictures(LOS ANGELES) — Turns out Emilia Clarke wasn’t acting when making all those heart eyes at Last Christmas co-star Henry Golding.  She admits she had a big fat crush on him, which explains their crazy chemistry.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, the Game of Thrones star revealed she was smitten the second she first laid eyes on him when watching Crazy Rich Asians.  When he first came on screen, the actress said the first thing that came to her mind was, “Aw, god! Good Lord, that’s the single most attractive man I’ve ever seen in my life.”

It turns out Crazy Rich Asians did more for Golding than win him Emilia’s heart.  Director Paul Feig said that Golding wasn’t exactly on the studio’s radar when casting Last Christmas.  

“The studio didn’t know if he was going to be a star or not. Finally when Crazy Rich opened and did so well, it was like, ‘Hey, I got a great guy for this role,’ and then here comes Henry,” Feig revealed to ET.

Last Christmas, which features music by the late George Michael — who gave the film his blessing before his untimely death — opens in theaters November 8.

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019

Doctor uses TikTok to warn kids about vaping — and they’re listening

Paolo_Toffanin/iStock(NEW YORK) — When 29-year-old Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, a second-year family resident at the University of Minnesota Medical School, first found out about TikTok, she did what every other millennial did and downloaded the app to try it out.

“I had seen other TikTok videos on other social media platforms and they were always really funny and creative and made me laugh a lot,” she told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

She’s only been on the app for six months, but she caught on to the trend quickly by first using the app to depict how chaotic life is as a resident.

Perhaps what helped her gain a larger following was when she started sharing informational videos about medical facts.

“I realized the most likes and the most comments were on these specific medical videos,” she said. “The demographic that was using TikTok maybe was not getting as much health information at home or at school and was seeking it out in other places.”

Now she takes her office to the app to talk about things like tuberculosis, mental health and even sex education.

And she still tries to teach her followers a thing or two about health while keeping it fun.

“It’s been a great way for me to understand what health topics are important to youth and young adults,” she said.

She added, “I share health information the way I would to one of my friends. I really think that’s the most effective way about talking about a health topic and getting people to listen.”

Recently, Leslie’s videos have been focusing on a more serious topic: vaping.

In a story first reported by Rolling Stone, the doctor was featured after she started sharing TikTok videos about the epidemic.

In one video that has over 600K views, Leslie shows a lung X-ray, explaining in detail how lungs look like for someone who vapes.

“If you’re thinking about quitting, now’s the time to do it,” she says in the video.

She told GMA, “I have been following all the reports on this new disease related to vaping and thought it would be really important for teens who are on TikTok to hear so I decided to take that information and spread it on TikTok in a palatable and easy to understand way.”

Vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. has reached an all-time high with more than two dozen deaths confirmed, and more than 1,000 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette products reported in 49 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recently, the CDC found that most patients with vaping-related illnesses report a history of using THC vaping-related products which suggest they were either obtained off the street or from other informal sources.

So far, the response to Leslie’s videos has been overwhelmingly positive. And teens are taking note.

Martin Wolk, a teen who follows Leslie on TikTok, was inspired to quit vaping after being an avid smoker for five years.

“I was scrolling through her videos and watching her vaping videos and it was really informative,” Wolk told GMA. “She showed you damage to the lungs and I’ve never really seen like X-ray photos of damage to people’s lungs after vaping so it kind of scared me and I wanted to do something about it.”

Like many teens, Wolk started smoking in middle school after being drawn to the variety of flavors. He described how hard it was for him to quit, but how important it is for people like Leslie to use social media to reach youth about the issue.

“There are a lot of kids right now who are vaping and it’s good to reach them through social media which they are always on,” he said.

“I’ve been pretty surprised that a lot of followers are asking me pretty basic health questions,” Leslie said. “I really feel like continuing to make videos on TikTok will help address a lot of the questions that people have.”

As the CDC continues to investigate vaping-related illnesses and lung-related injuries, Leslie said that getting information to teens is critical and doctors like her will start to use platforms like TikTok to reach them.

“As time goes on it’s just going to be more popular that medical professionals are using social media as a way to spread public health information and get connected to large groups of people,” Leslie said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump directed me to work with Giuliani to push Ukraine on investigations: Sondland

drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. ambassador to the European Union will tell Congress that President Donald Trump directed him and others to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine to announce investigations, but that he was in the dark on the extent of Giuliani’s efforts and the political motive behind it, according to his opening statement obtained by ABC News.

Gordon Sondland, the Trump mega donor turned diplomat, has emerged as a central character in the impeachment inquiry led by three House committees for the role he played in leading Ukraine policy, at times outside official government channels.

While he denied in a September text message already obtained by Congress that there were “quid quo pro’s of any kind,” Sondland will tell committee staff and lawmakers Thursday that Ukraine announcing “anti-corruption” investigations “was one of the pre-conditions for securing a White House meeting with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy,” the country’s new president eager for U.S. support.

But Sondland will say that he, former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, while “disappointed,” had no choice but to work with Giuliani to do that: “The key to changing the President’s mind on Ukraine was Giuliani… My understanding was that the President directed Mr. Giuliani’s participation, that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the concerns of the President.”

Sondland Statement 191017 by ABC News Politics on Scribd

In a July 25 call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to “do us a favor” and work with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate an unfounded allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election and claims of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.

At least one week before the call, Trump had ordered nearly $400 million of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to be withheld — a fact that Ukrainian officials would learn later in August as Sondland, Volker and others continued to ask for an investigation announcement.

Sondland will say that he did not know the political nature of those investigations, that Giuliani never discussed the Bidens with him, and that he didn’t know the Biden connection to Burisma — insinuating that if he did, he would have opposed the effort.

“Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong. Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings,” his opening statement reads.

Instead, he will say he believed the administration was pushing for “a public embrace of anti-corruption reforms by Ukraine” as a precondition for the meeting.

“Nothing about that request raised any red flags for me, Ambassador Volker, or Ambassador Taylor,” Sondland will say.

Taylor, a career State Department official, is the top diplomat to Ukraine. Volker resigned as special envoy in late September after the extent of his role in facilitating Giuliani’s efforts was revealed.

But Taylor did raise a red flag in September. In text messages turned over to Congress by Volker and first obtained by ABC News, Taylor tells Volker and Sondland, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

In his testimony Thursday, Sondland will confirm that after receiving that message, he called Trump directly and asked him what he wanted from Ukraine.

“The President responded, ‘Nothing. There is no quid pro quo.’ The President repeated: ‘no quid pro quo’ multiple times. This was a very short call. And I recall the President was in a bad mood,” Sondland will say.

In those texts, Sondland and Volker also discussed working with Zelenskiy’s aides to have them announce an investigation, including into Burisma, in order to secure a White House meeting. On Aug. 13, they even help draft a statement for Zelenskiy to announce the investigations that, at Giuliani’s insistence, included specific references to Burisma and the 2016 election, according to a source familiar with Sondland’s testimony.

“We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections,” Volker’s draft says in part. Sondland responds, “Perfect,” and says it should be sent to Andrey Yermak, a top Zelenskiy aide.

In his testimony, Sondland defends that draft: “Requesting that parties align their public messaging in advance of any important leadership meeting is a routine way to leverage the power of face-to-face exchange.”

Sondland is the sixth person to testify in the impeachment inquiry led by the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees. Still the current E.U. ambassador, he was initially blocked from appearing for testimony by the State Department and White House. But he announced last week that he would comply with a subpoena and testify Thursday.

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Posted On 17 Oct 2019