329 thoughts on “Open Thread For February”

  1. Astronomers have finally found the neutron star left by supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. This is a ten-mile-wide object at 170 000 light years distance, so it can only be observed by indirect effects.
    .
    Phobos and Deimos are mainly made of gravel, from the break-up of a previous, bigger moon.
    .
    This is fun. They don’ make gods as sturdy as they used to. Maybe He should eat some steroids to cope with all attacks?
    ” Marjorie Taylor Greene says pro-LGBTQ Equality Act is an ‘attack’ on God” https://www.rawstory.com/rep-greene-says-pro-lgbtq-equality-act-is-an-on-god-people-of-faith/

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    1. I regret to inform you that you are acronymically incorrect.

      At last count it was up to LGBTQIAAA+.

      I am not kidding.

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    1. I ordered some yaupon holly in 2016. Wanted to know if you could be a locavore caffeine junkie in Stockholm. Couldn’t quite get used to the flavour, which reminded me of ornamental indoor plants.

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      1. As a coffee slave, I have had problems adjusting to even ordinary tea.
        Of course, if you have been exposed to a particular taste since you grew up, a surprising number of tastes can become accepted. I am in particular thinking of the Roman alcoholic beverage used by legionaries, and apparently offered to Jesus on the cross.
        If we are to start a new trend, I would recommend the polynesian kava, which lacks the drawbacks of alcohol or marijuana. But I would probably not like it.
        Culinary habits are hard to break.

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  2. Illinois is becoming the first US state to abolish the cash bail for courts.
    .
    There seems to be a news blackout in the conservative British newspapers about the exodus of employees and capital from London City.
    .
    Greta Thunberg took a stand for the protesting farmers in India. Now, the Modhi supporters have started a hate campaign against her. I wonder if they will make her another George Soros?

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    1. If Greta had done her homework, she would realise that she has backed the wrong horse. But whatever – she would have needed to do a really deep dive into Indian history and castes and jatis and all of that to figure it out, which is probably expecting a bit much.

      My daughter: “Those farmers look really filthy dirty. It must be the poor photography.” Me: “No, they really are that filthy dirty.”

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  3. I never tasted coffee until I was 12 years old, and then it was Nescafe instant (‘real’ Australians were tea drinkers – only foreigners drank coffee). I decided the best thing I could do with it was to put a scoop of my mother’s home made vanilla ice cream into it to make it palatable enough to consume.

    Since then I have escalated to the full heights – grinding my own beans of a particularly strong breakfast blend. And drinking the breakfast blend all day long, naturally.

    But I’m still OK with tea too, as long as it is black with no sugar.

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    1. I have tried coffee twice in my life: in Montreal at age 20, and in Orleans at age 40. Both times I found it to be so bitter as to be undrinkable no matter how much cream and sugar I added.

      I came late to drinking tea. When I was growing up what we had access to was Lipton, for which Douglas Adams’ description, “a substance almost but not quite entirely unlike tea”, turned out to be rather apt. I was introduced to the real stuff by a professor (ethnic Chinese) in Berkeley, and found that I like it. I have also concluded that on this subject, as on many others, the English don’t know nearly as much as they claim; I prefer my tea straight, as the Chinese do. It works quite well with green tea. There are some black teas that are drinkable, too, but Earl Grey and English breakfast tea are not among them.

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      1. I’ve think I’ve spotted where you went wrong with the coffee – you should have put a big scoop of vanilla ice cream in it.

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      2. The substance North Anericans call “coffee” has little relation to the variants used in Scandinavia.
        I am told the Merican stuff is strong and bitter, as described by compulsive coffee users from Sweden who do by no means favor weak stuff.
        An unusual flavor; the sami like to mix cheese in the coffee. The practice originated with the mineral-free water reindeer herders found in springs, and they wanted something with more taste, cream not keeping when exposed to sub-zero temperatures.

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  4. Another young woman:
    At 22, Alice Ball came up with a reliable and safe way to treat leprosy. This was 110 years ago, long before antibiotics became available.

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  5. Nigel Planer – the hippie in “The Young Ones” – just turned 68.
    And princess Estelle turned nine today, which is weird as I recall her having been born some months ago….

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  6. Sam J Lundvall-Swedish translator and publisher of Science Fiction- turns 80 today.
    He played a major role in making a lot of SF available , I think most school libraries in Sweden had several titles from his publishing house.

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  7. The film Lords Of Chaos is inspired by real events in Norway: the birth of Black Metal, and young men going completely out of control.

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  8. “Ardi” a 4.4 million year old skeleton of ardipithecus ramides has a different kind of hand structure, closer to the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans. This gives clues to the time when a more upright walk evolved.
    .
    Camilla ice cream?
    In “Family Guy” Stevie sets his time machine to the moment just before Curt Cobain shot himself. Stevie tells him there are other ways of handling grief, and hands over a huge jar of Häagen- Dazs.
    He returns to the current time and is happy to find a recent album with a fat Curt Cobain on the cover.

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  9. Another cherished legend shattered.

    Historians have been busy searching out and putting together multiple pieces of evidence in the form of documentary records from the time, and there is clear agreement from multiple sources, including by Sam Houston, corroborated by multiple written records made by Mexican eye witnesses.

    Davy Crockett did not die fighting at the Alamo. He died at the Alamo, all right, but not while engaged in fighting.

    After the Mexicans breached the walls and it was clear the battle was lost, Crockett and six other defenders laid down their weapons, surrendered and “asked for quarter”, which I guess means they asked not to be killed. But they were summarily executed by some Mexican officers, who stabbed them with swords.

    I guess this might be old news (or oldish – I think further evidence has since emerged), because the 2004 film The Alamo, in which Billy Bob Thornton did a fine acting job as Crockett, depicts Crockett (alone) being captured alive and then executed on the order of Santa Anna, who had ordered that no prisoners should be taken (also apparently historically correct), although he angers Santa Anna by insulting him, rather than asking for quarter. This contradicts the 1960 film with John Wayne in the role of Crockett, which portrays Crockett being killed in the fighting. The 2004 film is quite a thoughtful portrayal of the whole thing, and Thornton really is brilliantly understated in the role of Crockett, so it’s worth watching if the chance presents itself – as close to real history as Hollywood is ever likely to get. And Thornton was made up to look much more like the real person and was a very close likeness, whereas Wayne looked nothing like him.

    The 2004 film clearly displeased many Alamo enthusiasts and the critics didn’t like it either. I did, but I’m obviously weird, because it was one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. That’s what you get for trying for historical accuracy in a Hollywood film.

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  10. Spell check changed vanilla ice cream to camilla, which sounds like some cheap knock-off brand from I dunno, Japan?
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    +17° in Kalmar today, which is what Umeå gets in May.
    Martin will need shorts soon.
    -There are still more than a million Texans without power. Others owe the power comoanies more than ten tbousand dollars as the companies jacked up the price nearly a thousand per cent during the period of scarcity.
    The governor:”they should have read the fine print “.

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  11. Theology humor at Youtube.
    “The Vicar of Dibley in lockdown”

    The part where she has a zoom meeting with a Sunday school class is great….especially the “why did Jesus not raise more people from the dead, after Lazarus?” question …. the kids think the screen is frozen as she tries to find an answer.

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  12. First Aid Kit is releasing a live album from two Leonard Cohen tribute concerts
    .
    Jeez, people do not understand that if they have symptoms they need to stay home, even if it appears to be typical cold symptoms.
    And the prospect of a vaccine in the near future makes people relax too soon.
    I was met by a headline “WE (in the county) ARE AMONG THE WORST REGIONS ANYWHERE!”
    .
    I realise that for once I have an advantage from being hypocondriac and a pessimist. I assume every case of a sore throat is Ebola and I assume I will get covid the week before I am due for a shot. If I could, I would stay in a bunker.

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    1. Oh, we had one 62 year old guy who works as a Quality Assurance Manager, who tested positive and then still went to work the next day. Authorities are still trying to find out from him why he did that. I wouldn’t bother, I’d just charge him with knowingly and wilfully endangering the safety of other people.

      I do sometimes wonder how some peoples’ minds work. Or if they do.

      “US study finds coronavirus spreads rapidly in gyms when masks are not worn.” This is like saying “US study finds that the sun always rises in the east.” We have had months of people whining about the gyms all being shut. Now they know why, or should.

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  13. Swedish film Red Dot (2021): They don’t come much darker than this. I can’t fault anything about the direction, filming or acting, particularly by the female lead Nanna Blondell who give a fine performance, but the story is just…well, the plot is quite clever in its own way, but I honestly wish I hadn’t watched it. And if I had ever had any desire to go to northern Sweden in winter (which is truly laughable – I think I’m dying if the temperature dips below +16C these days), I certainly haven’t now.

    Wikipedia tells me that Nanna Blondell will appear in the Marvel movie Black Widow (if we ever get to see it).

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    1. If you want to see aurora borealis, northern Sweden in winter is a good place to go. But aside from that and winter sports, I expect there is not much for tourists to do. The Fairbanks area, at a similar latitude in Alaska, also has some hot spring fed swimming pools that you can swim in even when the air temperature is -40 (the water temperature in these pools is closer to +40 C), but I am not aware of any such in Sweden. And the cross-country skiing is probably better in March or April, when you have enough daylight to enjoy it.

      A couple of factors make cold weather in places that routinely experience winter weather more tolerable than similarly cold weather in a place like Hong Kong. First, it’s drier, so you do not feel the cold as intensely. Second, unlike Hong Kong (or Florida or much of Texas), buildings in these places have heating systems that work, so there are places you can go to get out of the cold.

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      1. Not to be rude or impatient, but how many times do I need to repeat this? Winter in HK is cold and dry, and with a strong, cold, very dry NE wind blowing in from across the Chinese mainland – it is the only time of year that HK is dry, and with low humidity. It is so dry that my skin cracks, and the cracks won’t heal, which is more than a little irritating. As soon as more humid weather arrives in the second half of February, the cracks heal up like magic in the space of a few days.

        That is why the people in the movie went to northern Sweden – to ski and see the northern lights. They were out of luck, in more ways than one, but they did break every rule in the book, which predictably always ends badly. (Diving into the den of a hibernating bear to hide is never going to be a good idea. Neither is walking/running across thin ice. And on and on it goes in that film – every disaster is telegraphed; well, almost, except for the twist in the tail, which I won’t reveal so as not to plot-spoil, in case someone is silly enough to want to watch it.)

        I have read about problems with bacteria in hot springs (in Yellowstone?) Does that always apply?

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  14. Researchers can monitor the prevalence of sars-cov-2 in the sewage, and the latest values for Stockholm are sky high.
    Martin, stay indoors! Or get one of those cool hermetically sealed suits CDC people are using in films like Outbreak.

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    1. In HK they have narrowed the sampling and testing down to individual residential buildings. If they detect SARS-CoV-2 in the sewage for three days straight, it means it is coming from a resident of the building, not some transient visitor. So then they enforce mandatory testing of all residents of the building.

      Sound like a brilliant idea? So far they have found three infected people in one building, and absolutely none at all in any of the other buildings they have tested. I think they have stopped doing it now; it was consuming resources and wasn’t helping in finding ‘invisible’ infected people.

      Now they are locking down particular districts where high numbers of people have sought medical attention and have tested positive, and mandatorily testing all residents of the district. That is not working either.

      Yesterday there was a super-spreader event in a very up-market shopping mall – most cases in one Chinese restaurant, but a linked case in a watch shop. The super-spreader was a woman employed to clean up tables in the restaurant, who had a persistent cough but went to work anyway, and no one in the restaurant told her to go and get tested, or even just to take time off work and go home. So they have locked down the whole shopping mall, and are mandatorily testing all of the staff of restaurants and shops in the mall. Predictably, they won’t find any positives, or very few. Meanwhile, a lot of customers in the restaurant will have been infected and have gone away again. And they are not going to identify themselves and volunteer to be tested, because if they test positive it means being locked up in isolation in a negative pressure infectious disease ward in a hospital (which is a horrible environment – I speak from personal experience).

      The government has introduced a requirement for people to download an app onto their phones, and when they visit a restaurant they are supposed to scan a QR code. If they say they don’t have a phone, they have to fill in a paper form with their identification and address. Restaurant staff are required to enforce people doing this, but restaurant staff have no legal power to enforce it. If people just say “no” or ignore them and walk away, there is nothing they can do. And that is what people are doing, because they don’t want to risk testing positive.

      That is the problem with a disease that kills some, while hardly affecting many others.

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  15. James Lovegrove have written a few Conan Doyle pastiches.
    In one, Sherlock Holmes goes steampunk, in three others he deals with Lovecraftian entities.
    I have not read any of the books but, considering that Lovecraft’s writing skills were lagging far behind his imagination, I expect the Lovecraft-Doyle pastiches to be far better than the real Lovecraft.

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  16. File under Things I Didn’t Know – China banned corporal punishment of children in 1986 (including parents hitting their children). It didn’t work, obviously. I doubt it ever does anywhere.

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    1. You need to let the teachers maintain authority in some way- without slapping the kids- when they are facing a kid that is acting out and throwing a fit. There are many cases where pupils keep disrupting the classes -to the disadvantage of pupils that need peace and quiet- without facing any consequences they are concerned about.
      And a single kid with some kind of abbreviation disorder -ADHD or whatever- can sabotage everything for months until the school finally provides a special teacher for that single kid.
      Obviously there should be a plan at hand to provide education
      for special needs kids, but the resource-starved scools lack the means to do it.
      And too many parents think it is the job of the school to raise the kids and reach them manners.

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      1. It’s not (yet) illegal to slap your own children in HK, but it’s coming. Unusual that the Mainland was so far ahead of HK on this, but they have twigged that it hasn’t worked, particularly in the rural areas, so they are going to have another go at it. I predict it still won’t work.

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    1. Before you die (obviously) you can arrange to send people emails after you have died. Seems like a fun thing to do (?). Apparently one guy in America got an email from his friend telling him to hurry up and clean out his attic, several months after his friend had died. Thing is, his friend died very young and unexpectedly, so this looks like it was not deliberate – his friend just programmed to send him nagging emails about his attic, and then died unexpectedly, but that didn’t stop the emails from being sent.

      Some people are doing this with Twitter messages as well.

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  17. Projecting ancient ancestry in modern-day Arabians and Iranians: a key role of the past exposed Arabo-Persian Gulf on human migrations.
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.24.432678v1

    The title is gibberish to me, and the abstract not much better. Basically, people are still searching for the putative ‘ghost population’ of Basal Eurasians, who are thought to have split from other Eurasians after the main out of Africa event, but before they interbred with Neanderthals ~55,000ya. There was another ghost population, Ancient North Eurasians, a putative ancient Siberian group, but they were found to be real with the discovery of the remains of Mal’ta Boy.

    But they have never found a Basal Eurasian, and don’t even know where they might have existed. (At least one prominent population geneticist has suggested that perhaps they never did exist, they were just a ‘construct’ (hate that word).) In this paper the authors are suggesting that they might have existed in the region of the Persian Gulf – so maybe they haven’t been found because any remains still existing might now be underwater.

    Another possible reason: the conditions for preservation were much better in Siberia than around northern Africa.

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  18. Margareta Cho is a stand-up comedian of Korean descent. The Americans tends to lump all asians under the label “Chinese “, one network the worked for asked her if she could be “more Chinese”.

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  19. …and in addition, Cho noticed how (white) authorities react to perceived racism .
    “They are telling asians how to respond to racism they encounter, because they are too afraid to tell the blacks”.
    -Once a member of an audience called her a “chink”. She responded “I am Korean. I am not a chink, I am a gook. You could at least keep your racist terminology straight”.
    .
    One of her first gigs was as a comedian on a lesbian cruise out the west coast. Every evening, there was this prim British lady supervising horse races (presumably viewed by TV, as ships rarely have horse race tracks). She would assign names to horses by popular vote, reading out the votes.
    “Horse number two…’No Dicks For Me “. “That sounds rather rude. No Dicks For Me Thank You”.

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    1. Liberal whites are really really good at explaining racism to Asians who are subjected to it and how to respond to it, as if the people concerned don’t know and need to be educated about it. They have tried the same with blacks, but didn’t get a friendly response – funny thing, that.

      Conservative whites just insist there isn’t any.

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    2. No dicks for me Argentina,
      The truth is I just don’t like you.
      All through my wild days,
      My mad existence,
      I’ve stayed a lezzo,
      So keep your distance.

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    3. There is a story that an interviewer once asked Ms. Cho to say a certain phrase in her native language. She replied by repeating the phrase in English. She was born in the US and never learned to speak Korean, so English actually is her native language.

      There are lots of stereotypes about how people of East Asian ancestry speak English. Some of these things are based on mistakes in grammar and pronunciation that native speakers of East Asian languages are likely to make, but are by no means exclusive to those languages; to take an Indo-European example, Russian does not have articles, so native speakers of Russian and Chinese are likely to have similar trouble with using articles in English. But people of Asian ancestry, if they are born in the US or immigrate as small children, generally learn American-accented English and speak it as well as native-born whites or European immigrants who come over as small children. There was another Korean-American comedian, Henry Cho (no relation to Margaret AFAIK), who incorporated this into his routine: most people do not expect an ethnic Korean to speak with a Southern drawl, which is what Mr. Cho learned growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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  20. And I get told that I couldn’t possibly be subjected to racism, because it only goes in one direction.

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    1. Some people do not want to understand human nature. Most people tend to regard their own kind, usually but not always based on ethnicity, in a more positive light than people from other, neighboring groups. It takes a significant amount of training and effort to overcome this tendency, particularly if you do not routinely come into contact with the other group. Han Chinese are not immune to this, and since they comprise the largest ethnic group on the planet, it is particularly easy for them to create a bubble that excludes other groups. And at least on the mainland, Han definitely have a reputation for being racist. My guess is that because of the history of Hong Kong, you probably encounter less, but not zero, racism compared to what you would experience in mainland China, given that Hong Kong Chinese are more likely to routinely encounter Westerners.

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      1. It has changed with time. During the colonial days I got more resentment in HK because of perceived preferential treatment, and there is still some hangover from that, whereas in the Mainland I had novelty value and still do to some extent. But that ‘novelty’ thing in itself is of course racism, just a different flavour. There is ‘positive’ racism which is dead in HK but still exists in the Mainland, whereby you really do get preferential treatment because you are foreign, but that makes me feel very uncomfortable. But that can also simply be hospitality, which can be pretty overwhelming in the Mainland, so it doesn’t do to be too touchy about it.

        My daughter estimates that I get about 20% of the racism in HK that she and her mother get in Australia; I’d say it’s more like 10%, but she notices things that I don’t. I’m a big boy, I can take it, whereas I simply can’t tolerate my soft hearted, gentle wife being so hurt by it – she has no defences. That’s one of the reasons I choose to live here, not there.

        When my wife and I were first married, I got a lot of very overt, aggressive racism from Chinese males in HK, but that diminished and died as she got older. My wife was very pretty when she was young, and she was still very young when we married, younger than the norm in that era. And the local guys *really* didn’t like it.

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  21. And now some lighter entertainment. Brandon’s Cult Movie Reviews just came out with Project Metalbeast (that should be a band, not a film) .
    Hint: if you create a metal werewolf, first bring Cesar Milan’s metalhead brother.

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  22. The actor Johnny Briggs (A Stitch in Time, Sink the Bismarck, Coronation Street) has passed away.

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  23. The next Space X Starship prototype will soon make a new ‘flip and land’ attempt. The aerodynamics is the hard part, the landing (which distroyed the previous vehicle) is regarded as a more tractable problem.

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    1. People who are into general aviation say that a good landing is one you can walk away from, and a great landing is one where they can use the plane again.

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  24. Tengmalm’s owl (sv. “Pärluggla”) is filling the night with its mating calls, it is one of the few birds to get started while the snow is still thick on the ground.
    .
    Jupiter and Mercury will be visible in the dawn light, I will check which other things you can expect in March. Leo dominates the pre-dawn sky, if you live to the south the galactic center is also energing over the horizon with many deep-sky objects to be seen through a telescope.

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  25. Holy @$&£!
    Former French president Sarkozy is going to prison for corruption.
    Just about every French president or PM has been crooked as a ….something very crooked. But this is the first one that has not been able to use connections to get out of trouble.

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  26. ”The Mad Aussie Who Stung Himself and his 9-Year-Old Son With a Deadly Creature FOR SCIENCE!!!”

    Named “survivor” in the 1997 Darwin Awards.

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