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Today — January 17th 2020Your RSS feeds

Samsung Canada launches ‘Galaxy Days’ sale to clear out 2019 tech

Leading up to the big reveal next month for its flagship Galaxy S20, Samsung Canada has created a new sale called ‘Galaxy Days’ that discounts most of its 2019 product line.

The deal is on until January 20th and slashes pricing on some of its smartphones, tablets, wearables, smart home and audio products.

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 – $1059.99 (Reg. $1259.99)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+ – $1219.99 (Reg. $1419.99)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+ 1TB – $899.99 (Reg. $2209.99)
  • Samsung Galaxy A70 – $499.99 (Reg. $629.99)
  • Free Case with Samsung Galaxy Note 9, S9, S9+ purchase
  • Galaxy Tab S5e – $519.99 (Reg. $549.99)
  • Free AKG Y500 headphones with Galaxy Tab S6 Purchase (Reg. $199.99)
  • Galaxy Fit – $129.99 (Reg. $149.99)
  • Galaxy Fit-e – $49.99 (Reg. $69.99)
  • Free Galaxy Buds with Galaxy Watch Active 2 purchase (Reg. $89.99)
  • SmartThings Smart Bulb – $11.24 (Reg. $14.99)
  • SmartThingsCam – $112.49 (Reg. $149.99)
  • SmartThingsWiFi – $134.99 (Reg. $179.99)
  • Wireless Charger Pad – $71.99 (Reg. $79.99)
  • Wireless Battery Pack – $71.99 (Reg. $79.99)
  • Wireless Charger Duo Pad – $125.99 (Reg. $139.99)
  • Wireless Charger Stand – $99.99 (Reg. $109.99)
  • 30 percent off cases for the S10, S10+, Note 10, Note 10+, A10E, A50, and A70

Source: Samsung Canada

Billionaire Twitter CEO asks billionaire meme lord how to fix Twitter

Jack Dorsey, noted beard enthusiast and the CEO of Twitter, has asked Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, how he’d improve his social media platform.

The two billionaire tech entrepreneurs had a conversation through a video link in front of thousands of Twitter employees on Thursday, January 16th.

At one point during the chat, Dorsey asked for “direct feedback” from Musk regarding Twitter and what he would change about the controversial media platform if he was running it.

Though the two tech billionaires are likely somewhat out of touch with how the average person uses Twitter, Musk is one of the social network’s most popular users with over 30 million followers. To put this ridiculous number in perspective, Canada has a population of roughly 37 million.

What @elonmusk thinks Twitter could be doing better. #OneTeam pic.twitter.com/BvAUee7rmn

— Mary Kate (@_maryjordan) January 16, 2020

Through a video of the conversation posted by Twitter Moments curator Mary Jordan, Musk says that he thinks the social network needs to do a better job of differentiating between real and fake users.

“Is this a real person, or is this a bot net, or a sort of troll army, or something like that?,” said Musk.

“Basically, how do you tell if the feedback is real or someone trying to manipulate the system, or probably real, or probably trying to manipulate the system. What do people actually want? What are people actually upset about versus manipulation of the system by various interest groups?”

Though it’s undeniably fun to poke fun at the pair of billionaires, Musk has a point. Twitter has been plagued with fake ‘sock puppet’ accounts for years, and the issue is set to get worse as the next U.S. presidential election draws closer.

In the past, Dorsey has stated that he “likes how Elon Musk uses Twitter.” Musk called a British cave diver a “pedo guy” on Twitter back in 2017, resulting in a defamation lawsuit. The SpaceX CEO also tweeted about taking Tesla private in 2018, a move that got Musk in trouble with the SEC and that also cost him his job as the chairman of Tesla.

As of the third quarter of 2019, Twitter has 145 million daily active users, making it still one of the smaller major social networks when compared to other platforms.

Source: @_maryjordan Via: Input

Winter smog across Balkans prompts protests calling for change

Winter smog is an annual misery across the Balkans region of Europe.

Widespread reliance on coal and wood fires has a severe impact on air quality.

But this year, a growing number of citizens across the region are taking to the streets to demand government action.

Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports.

How Twitch viewers helped police narrow down location of possible child abuser in just hours

"Oh my God, this is the craziest thing I've ever seen."

That was a video game streamer's first thought on Dec. 16, when he spotted a video on social media — the disturbing video that would lead the Canadian to spend the next 24 hours tracking down evidence and providing it to police.

It resulted in a Calgary woman being charged for allegedly assaulting a child.

CBC News has agreed not to name the sleuthing streamer, so his employment won't be affected.

The video was originally posted to Twitch, a live-streaming platform for gamers.

It shows a woman playing the game Fortnite as she repeatedly slaps and then bites a screaming toddler, seemingly frustrated with the child for distracting her from the game.

The video then cuts to a few hours later, showing her roughly handling an infant before throwing the child onto the bed that she's sitting on while playing the game.

The streamer said he immediately sent the video to a contact at Twitch and then he searched on the user's social media for her location — it turned out to be Calgary — before calling the local police.

But he still felt like he hadn't done enough. So he decided to scour the site, downloading evidence just in case it vanished. 

"I would say probably within 60 minutes of my bringing it to the attention of Twitch staff, they had suspended this person's account," he said.

He wasn't the only one dismayed by what he'd seen. CBC News was contacted by concerned gaming fans, as far away as the United Kingdom, who said they had reported the video to Crime Stoppers or police. 

Police said that within two hours of first receiving tips about the video, officers were able to track the online gamer to a Calgary home, where officers found a woman, man and two children.  

CBC News is not naming the woman or her account username to protect the identity of the children.

The woman has been charged with one count of assault, and the children were taken away. Possibly more charges relating to other videos are on the way, police said.

Staff Sgt. Peter Siegenthaler, with the Calgary Police Service's child abuse unit, said police rely on tips from the public in cases like this.

"It's hard, because sometimes [online] videos have been circulated for years, and it's hard to determine the origin and time these videos are produced."

As the sleuthing streamer dug through the videos to download evidence, he discovered a different user who had also posted hours of concerning videos with a child.

The videos showed the person loudly berating the child while using expletives, at one point coughing into the child's eye and threatening to withhold medication if the child didn't stop interrupting her game. CBC News has seen those videos.

As with the first user's video, some of the time-stamps were as recent as mid-December.

The streamer reported those videos to police as well. That user has since deleted all of the videos from her channel.

Police in the U.S. city where that user lives initially said they were not investigating but have since said they have reached out to the streamer who saw the videos for more information.

An ethical obligation

The streamer who reported the videos to police said that while the internet can be a nasty place and vigilantism doesn't always pan out, he's extremely proud of how quickly the Twitch community rallied to help the children in the videos.

"People, in general, are a lot more inherently good than we tend to give them credit for.… I wouldn't have been able to live with myself had I simply let this go," he said. 

Nicole Letourneau​​​, chair of parent-infant mental health at Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation, said everyone should take direction from how the online community quickly took action in response to the videos.

"I think members of the public are ethically obligated to protect children of parents who don't protect children.… It just needs to be reported," she said. 

If you're someone who's finding that your kids are annoying you and you're playing a game, it might be a red flag that things aren't quite as they should be.- Nicole Letourneau, parent-infant mental health expert

She said this situation holds lessons for parents, too.

Letourneau studies how toxic stress can undermine the relationships between parents and children, and how different factors like mental illness or addiction can undermine a parent's ability to be attentive, responsive or nurturing to their child.

"A parent who is mentally well or doesn't have an addiction gets rewards from their children," Letourneau said. 

But in a situation where a parent isn't well, she said, that reward system isn't functioning properly, and the child becomes an interference — blocking the parent from enjoying gambling, substances, video games or browsing social media on their cellphone. 

"The early years for children are fleeting … everything seems to be tied in to positive early nurturing environments," Letourneau said. "If you're someone who's finding that your kids are annoying you and you're playing a game, it might be a red flag that things aren't quite as they should be."

7 Found Dead and 15 in Captivity at Religious Sect in Panama

MEXICO CITY — The bodies of six children and a pregnant woman were found in a freshly dug grave in a remote, predominantly indigenous community on the Caribbean coast of Panama, possibly the sacrificial victims of a ritual performed by a religious sect, the Panamanian authorities said Thursday.

The victims had been kidnapped from their homes by other members of the community, beaten and killed, said Rafael Baloyes, the chief prosecutor for the province of Bocas del Toro.

The woman was the mother of five of the children; the sixth child was a neighbor, Mr. Baloyes said. The children ranged in age from 1 to 17.

The authorities raided the community, Alto Terrón, on Wednesday after receiving a tip that people were being abused there, the prosecutor said, adding that officials saw a post on social media about someone being burned.

On their arrival, the police interrupted a haunting religious ritual unfolding inside a makeshift church.

“There were people held against their will, being mistreated,” Mr. Baloyes recalled. One of those detained was a nude woman.

The captives, who had been tied up and beaten, were going to be killed “if they did not repent their sins,” he said.

Fifteen people were rescued from captivity, officials said. Ten suspects — nine adults and one minor — were arrested and placed under investigation on charges of deprivation of liberty, homicide and sexual abuse, officials said.

One of the suspects was the grandfather of the children whose bodies were found in the grave.

The authorities also seized machetes “and other tools” that were presumably used against the victims, according to a statement from the Public Ministry of Panama.

The suspects are members of an evangelical church called the New Light of God, officials said.

Interviews with community members revealed that the sect began practicing rituals more than three months ago, Mr. Baloyes said, though the kidnapping and torture started only last Saturday, when a sect member claimed to have received a message from God.

Investigators have found no evidence of other victims or secret graves, the prosecutor added.

All the victims and suspects were residents of Alto Terrón, a community in Ngäbe Buglé, an indigenous administrative region with high rates of poverty. Officials said the community was located on a densely forested peninsula in western Panama, between the Caribbean Sea and the Chiriquí Lagoon.

Paulina Villegas contributed reporting

Canada Offers Compensation to Families of Victims of Plane Downed in Iran

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government will offer payments to relatives of the dozens of Canadian citizens and permanent residents killed when a Ukrainian airliner was downed by missiles launched by Iranian forces.

At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Trudeau said the payments are an interim measure and that Canada will not abandon its efforts to make Iran provide substantial compensation to the families of the victims.

He said that Iran bears full responsibility for the incident.

“I want to be clear: we expect Iran to compensate these families,” Mr. Trudeau said. “But I have met them, they can’t wait weeks. They need support now.”

Canada will provide each of the families with 25,000 Canadian dollars, about $19,000, to cover the cost of funerals and travel. The prime minister said that 57 of the victims were Canadian citizens and another 29 were permanent residents of the country.

Canada does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and relies on Italy as its representative there. Members of Canada’s Transportation Safety Board are participating in the investigation that Iran is leading into the downing.

For three days, Iran claimed that the airplane, Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, had crashed due to mechanical problems, despite the findings of various intelligence services that the plane was shot down. Iran then reversed its denial, admitting that a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — a powerful, hard-line military force — mistook the plane for a cruise missile.

Videos verified by The New York Times indicate that two missiles struck the airliner before it crashed.

In the week since the disaster, Mr. Trudeau and several senior members of his cabinet have been crisscrossing the country to meet with relatives of the victims and attend public vigils.

The prime minister has stayed out of a growing debate within the country over whether President Trump shares some of the responsibility for the deaths by creating a volatile situation in Iran that some argue led to the downing.

Canada expects the first remains of victims to arrive soon, Mr. Trudeau said. He also urged Iran to send the damaged cockpit voice and flight data recorders from the airliner to France for downloading and analysis.

Here are the leaked specs for the Samsung Galaxy S20 series with 5G

While Samsung doesn’t sell its Exynos 990 Galaxy flagship chipset in Canada, we’re still interested in this leak directed at the European and Asian markets, which comes from well-known leaker Ishan Agarwal.

Looking at Agarwal’s tweet (seen below), each of the leaked phones say ‘5G.’ It’s unclear if the devices will come to Canada with these exact specs. If the specs are different, they’ll likely still be very similar.

Exclusive: Full specifications of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Series are here! Some interesting details: Exynos 990 for all three phones in European and Asian Markets. 40MP (?!) Front Camera for S20 Ultra! Checkout the image!
LINK(Please add link in credits): https://t.co/az6WmSkNK7 pic.twitter.com/XsDfaINkbE

— Ishan Agarwal (@ishanagarwal24) January 17, 2020

What’s noteworthy about this tweet is the 6.9-inch display and 20:9 aspect ratio listed for the Galaxy S20 Ultra, indicating that the phone is going to be very tall.

Additionally, the handset will reportedly feature a 5,000mAh battery and a massive 40-megapixel wide-angle front camera. The device is tipped also to feature a 108-megapixel primary shooter and another camera with 10x optical zoom and up to 100x digital zoom.

All three handsets will feature screens with a 120Hz refresh rate and an ‘Infinity-O’ display.

What’s missing from these specifications is how much RAM the phones will feature. Past rumours indicate the S20 Ultra will sport up to 16GB of RAM, and that the S20+ is set to feature up to 12GB of RAM.

In Canada, both devices will almost certainly feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor instead of its Exynos 990 chipset.

Source: Ishan Agarwal (@ishangarwal24) 

Tay Valley men charged after OPP raid uncovers weapons and cache of stolen goods

Ontario Provincial Police. Postmedia

Two Tay Valley Township men face a host of charges after a provincial police raid uncovered a cache of allegedly stolen goods, including firearms and ammunition.

Also recovered in the raid early Thursday afternoon were all-terrain vehicles and utility-terrain vehicles, a 16-foot enclosed trailer, a snow machine, a snow plow blade and chainsaws.

In all, police estimated the valley of the recovered goods at about $125,000.

The men are to appear in court in Perth Feb. 26 on charges including unauthorized possession of a firearm and four counts of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.

The raid on the property on Christie Lake North Shore Road, southwest of Perth, included officers from a number of detachments as well as the OPP’s tactics and rescue unit, emergency response team, and canine unit.

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French Strikers Shut Down the Louvre, Setting a New Target in a Pension Fight

PARIS — Visitors were turned away from the Louvre on Friday after strikers protesting the French government’s planned pension overhaul blocked entrances to the museum, leaving tourists from around the world befuddled and frustrated.

The Louvre — the world’s most visited museum — was the latest target in the 44-day standoff between the government of President Emmanuel Macron and the labor unions opposed to him, with strikes that have caught commuters, business people and tourists in the middle.

About 100 protesters prevented visitors from entering the museum, including through the famed glass pyramid that sits in the Louvre’s central courtyard, where they waved union placards and chanted slogans against President Emmanuel Macron as tourists looked on glumly.

“Closing the Louvre to prevent tourists from visiting is very important because it’s the most visited museum in the world,” said Christophe Benoit, 52, a protesting employee of France’s Culture Ministry, although he acknowledged that some visitors were “very angry.”

“We do understand that, but we feel like there is no other way to make our voices heard,” Mr. Benoit said.

Not everyone was convinced. One crestfallen visitor, who gave only her first name, Chantal, said she had come from a Paris suburb to see the Leonardo da Vinci retrospective, the museum’s latest blockbuster show, which is fully booked far in advance.

“I’d been planning this visit for three months,” she said, expressing irritation that her daily commute had already grown considerably longer because of the transportation strikes. “The tickets were already bought, and it took me an hour on public transit to get into Paris, so it’s a waste of time.”

Others, especially foreign visitors who haven’t followed France’s strikes, were more puzzled than angered.

“I don’t really understand why they are striking,” said Giuliana Maletese, a student visiting from Italy. “I just hope we’ll be refunded because we already bought our tickets online.”

Labor unions, noting that Mr. Macron had given his victory speech in front of the glass pyramid after the 2017 presidential election, said in a statement that they now stood there “staunchly opposed” to his “disastrous” pension overhaul, which aims to unify 42 different public and private plans into one state-managed, point-based system. The unions also protested working conditions at the Louvre because of staff and funding cuts, the statement said.

A Louvre spokeswoman said on Friday evening that tourists who had booked tickets in advance would be reimbursed. But she acknowledged it would be much harder to restore reservations for visitors who had missed their time slot for the da Vinci show.

It was unclear how long the protesters, a mix of Louvre employees and strikers from other sectors, would continue to block entrances.

Protesters have also staged smaller-scale actions, like closing some of the museum’s exhibition rooms, according to Christian Galani, 45, one of those demonstrating on Friday.

“It’s the first time we’ve completely shut down the museum, which makes things much more visible,” said Mr. Galani, who works night shifts at the Louvre as a security guard.

Train conductors, teachers, dock workers, energy workers, opera dancers and others have gone on strike and taken to the streets of Paris and other major cities over the past weeks to protest against Mr. Macron’s pension overhaul, which would abolish some special retirement plans and which protesters worry will lower their retirement payouts.

About 187,000 protesters marched around France on Thursday, the latest day of demonstrations, down from 452,000 the previous week, according to the Interior Ministry. Union figures, while higher, have shown a similar dip.

Public opinion is still mostly in favor of the protest movement, but support is waning. Transportation disruptions have also become less severe as railway workers, hardly mollified by government concessions but unable to forego pay any longer, are returning to work.

Train traffic was almost normal around the country on Friday and some metro lines in Paris were back up and running, albeit slowly — a stark improvement from the first weeks of the strikes, which had ground transportation to a near complete halt.

Eva Mbengue contributed reporting.

650 Parliament residents to begin returning home March 2, management says

Nearly a year and half after 1,500 people were forced out of their homes at 650 Parliament St. due to a six-alarm fire, residents learned they will finally get to return to their homes.

The management for the highrise building in St. James Town announced Friday a reoccupancy schedule, saying residents can begin moving back March 2.

“To ensure that the return is safe and orderly, a re-occupancy protocol has been established that will see the building repopulated from the top floors down — two floors returning per week — in a procedure that we expect will take approximately 11 weeks,” said a notice posted on the Wellesley-Parliament Square website.

The process is expected to wrap up in May.

The notice says rental rates will be the same for all tenants, and will only be applied on the first day of the new month following their return.

The Aug. 21, 2018 fire caused no serious injuries, but Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop described the damage as “absolutely the worst” devastation to a building’s entire electrical system that he has seen.

Many potential return dates have been proposed, only to be pushed back multiple times, due to the amount of restoration work required.

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Some Tesla cars reportedly accelerating without warning

A petition in the U.S. is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to look into Tesla’s cars to investigate an issue reportedly causing the company’s vehicles to accelerate without warning.

The petition includes Tesla’s Model S (2012-2019 models), the Model X (2016-2019) and the Model 3 (2018-2019), amounting to a total of 500,000 vehicles.

There are 127 consumer complaints regarding 123 vehicles and 110 crashes resulting in 52 injuries, according to Reuters.

While this petition might not reach Canada, it’s still alarming that Tesla’s cars are going rogue and accelerating without user input.

While it’s scary that Tesla cars are having this issue since they can drive themselves, forced acceleration is a problem other car manufacturers’ vehicles experience occasionally.

There’s even a whole Wikipedia article dedicated to the problem, so as terrifying as this issue is, it’s actually relatively common.

Source: Reuters

'Not the level of service our customers are expecting': Apologies once again offered after latest LRT issue

It wasn't a good day for OC Transpo or Rideau Transit Maintenance, the affiliate of the Rideau Transit Group contracted to maintain and repair the $2.1-billion rail system.

LRT maintenance workers are double-checking parts of the overhead catenary system along the 12.5-kilometre transit system after Thursday’s wire break near St. Laurent Station.

It wasn’t a good day for OC Transpo or Rideau Transit Maintenance, the affiliate of the Rideau Transit Group contracted to maintain and repair the $2.1-billion rail system.

First the overhead wire snapped around 10:50 a.m., stopping an eastbound train and shutting down the LRT line east of Hurdman Station in both directions. The outage lasted for the rest of the day. Transpo redirected 70 buses to run replacement transit service between Hurdman and Blair stations.

Diagrams at the LRT press conference, January 17, 2020. This shows the OCS cable structure that failed in yesterday’s issue. Jean Levac / Postmedia News

There were backups at Hurdman Station during the afternoon commute as people were forced to get off trains and transfer to the R1 replacement bus service. Then, a group of customers were stuck in an elevator at the station for more than a half hour before they were freed by staff.

Regular LRT service returned Friday morning.

Transit officials were back at the microphones Friday morning explaining what happened, this time with Mayor Jim Watson and transit commission chair Allan Hubley.

Everyone was once again apologizing for a problem on the LRT system.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson at the LRT press conference, January 17, 2020. Jean Levac / Postmedia News

“I want to sincerely apologize,” Watson said at Transpo headquarters on St. Laurent Boulevard. “This is not the level of service that our customers are expecting and it’s certainly not the level of service that we want to be offering to those men, women and children who rely on OC Transpo.”

The exact cause of the broken wire was still under examination, but officials have been focusing on a connection of two kinds of overhead infrastructure that powers the trains. The train-top pantograph, which is the device that connects the train to the power cables, snagged on the overhead infrastructure.

The overhead power cables change from hanging, like in open-air stations and stretches in between stations outside of the tunnel, to a fixed system on the ceiling inside the tunnels.

Power automatically was cut to the broken wire when it broke.

The damage included bent support bars, marred power insulators and a portion of the overhead wire-support structure affixed to the ceiling of the St. Laurent tunnel. Eighty metres of overhead wire fell.

RTM and Transpo notched a bit of a win by finishing the repairs in time for service launch Friday morning. There was little optimism that the catenary system could be fixed by 5 a.m., but workers toiled through the night to remove and replace the damaged infrastructure before testing train movements.

Peter Lauch, the CEO of RTM, explained in detail how the repairs were done.

After workers cut the damaged wire from the train, they moved the train east to Blair Station and then back the other way to the maintenance and storage facility on Belfast Road to be inspected and repaired. Other workers at the facility were putting together replacement pieces for the damaged infrastructure near St. Laurent Station. Workers at the St. Laurent tunnel removed about 35 metres of damaged overhead power infrastructure. Once the supporting infrastructure was in place, workers fixed the overhead wire and tested the repairs with low-speed trains.

Lauch said workers are checking the connection points between the hanging wire and fixed-support infrastructure to make sure they won’t cause similar problems.

It’s the first time an overhead wire broke on the LRT system. Officials said that kind of problem can happen and they agreed it’s serious.

Watson said he believes the LRT system overall is “working well” but he added that there are too many times when problems are impacting many customers negatively.

“I wish I could guarantee the people of Ottawa that there will never be a mechanical issue on the system. I can’t do that in all honesty,” Watson said.

“But what we can do is strive to do better and to ensure that fewer and fewer of our passengers are put in a very untenable, uncomfortable, frustrating situation as they found themselves in (Thursday).”

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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En route to Berlin, Haftar holds talks with top Greek officials

Athens, Greece - Angered by its exclusion in Libyan peace talks to be held on Sunday in the German capital, Greece scored a diplomatic win when Libyan renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar paid an unexpected visit to Athens, on his way to the UN-sponsored talks in Berlin.

Greece asked to be included in the Berlin Process, as the event is called, saying it has vital interests at stake.

More:

The Council of Ministers in Tripoli signed a maritime jurisdiction agreement with Turkey last year that claims waters Greece also sees as part of its own jurisdiction.

Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi, is at war with the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj, based in Tripoli.

Nikos Dendias, Greek foreign minister, said Haftar on Friday agreed that a ceasefire deal had to recognise "the invalidity of the illegal memoranda between Turkey and the Sarraj government".

The Greek government says Haftar has committed to negotiating a new maritime deal with Greece.

"Since we are not [at the Berlin talks], we expect Germany, the host country, to be the guardian of the European position on Libyan matters," Dendias said. 

The Berlin Process began in 2015, when Greece was out of favour in Europe.

That was when the left-wing Syriza government faced down its European creditors, insisting on better terms of repayment of 195 billion euros ($216bn) in emergency loans.

The European Union denounced the Turkish-Libyan deal in December and issued a strong statement in Greece's favour.

The agreement "infringes upon the sovereign rights of third states, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third States," the EU summit conclusions said.

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Russia, the United States, Israel and Egypt also denounced the deal at the time, saying it raises tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Germany has invited several other EU members, Gulf states, the US, Russia and China to attend talks, but refused to divulge why it did not invite Greece.

Haftar also met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has threatened to veto any peace agreement that displeases Greece. 

"I want to be clear. Greece will never accept a political solution for Libya that doesn't scrap the illegal 'Turkey-Libya memorandum of understanding'," Mitsotakis tweeted on Thursday.

"We will veto it before it reaches the Summit. We will veto it at the foreign minister level."

It was unclear whether Greece would enjoy any opportunity to veto a UN peace agreement on Libya.

"If there is a peace agreement on Libya and Germany brings it to the European Union for ratification, that is when Greece could have an opportunity to exercise a veto," international relations expert Kostas Yfantis told Al Jazeera.

Mitsotakis also spoke on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"He asked Ms. Merkel and other EU representatives present at the talks to implement the decision of the last European Council," his office said, a reference to the denunciation of the Libya-Turkey agreement.

Greek-Turkish conflict simmers

Greek-Turkish acrimony over maritime jurisdiction goes back to 1973 when Greece discovered oil in the north Aegean.

The two countries nearly came to war when Turkey sent a state exploration vessel, the Sismik, into north Aegean waters in 1987. 

The stage is now set for a similar confrontation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said the state exploration vessel, Uruc Reis, would this year begin to conduct seismic tests in the Turkish portion of the maritime jurisdiction agreement struck with Tripoli.

Turkish vessels have already spent a year looking for oil and gas in waters claimed by EU member Cyprus. The EU and the US have called those explorations "illegal".

"The European Council unequivocally reaffirms its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus regarding these actions by Turkey," the EU said last month, in reference to Turkish explorations offshore Cyprus.

Unlike Cyprus, however, Greece has not agreed its maritime jurisdiction with neighbours Albania, Italy, Libya, Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey.

SyrupCast 210: Samsung S20 leaks and CES 2020

This week on the SyrupCast, MobileSyrup’s Patrick O’Rourke, Bradley Bennett and Dean Daley breakdown the recent barrage of Samsung Galaxy S20 leaks and chat about Brad’s experience at CES 2020 in Las Vegas.

The team is also testing a few new segments as we revamp the podcast for 2020. This new arrangement isn’t set in stone, so it will likely change and evolve over the next few weeks.

Let us know what you think of the new segments, or if you have something specific you want us to discuss next week by tweeting @Patrick_ORourke.

Listen to the show below, or subscribe on your favourite podcasting platform.

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Welcoming Winter’s Cold Embrace

As I mentioned in last week’s Canada letter, the terrible aftermath of the missile strike on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 took me to Edmonton as it was reeling from the loss of 27 residents.

Despite their shock and grief, those who knew the victims and the members of the city’s Iranian community received me with an exceptional graciousness and generosity.

[Read: Plane Crash Leaves Iranian Diaspora in Canada Grief-Stricken]

Image
Credit...Todd Korol/Canadian Press, via Associated Press

After I finished my article (for those of you reading it now: it was published before Iran admitted that its missiles brought down the airliner), I went for an evening run in the expansive river valley that is Edmonton’s defining geographic feature.

It was the start of a cold spell that this week caused a rail to crack on Edmonton’s transit system, brought a general chill to the prairies and delivered significant, and unaccustomed, snowfall to southern British Columbia.

There was already a fair amount of snow in Edmonton. So heading out of the hotel, I was a bit concerned about whether the trails down in the valley would be passable. But that worry lifted when I came to the dramatic stairway next to the relatively new funicular that runs down to the valley. All of its 156 steps had been thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. Ottawa, where I live, doesn’t even try to clear many outdoor stairways with as few as a half dozen steps and simply chains them off for the winter.

Down in the river valley, every path — and there are many — had been plowed. Again, that’s novel to someone from Ottawa.

None of what I found was random. For the past eight years or so, Edmonton has been rolling out an official strategy to encourage its residents to embrace winter rather than hibernate.

This week, I spoke with Isla Tanaka who is Edmonton’s “winter city planner,” a post she believes no one else holds in the country.

Like several other Canadian communities, she told me, Edmonton was part of a winter cities movement during the 1980s that fizzled out with few achievements.

In 2012, Ben Henderson, a city councilor who came from Edmonton’s vibrant theater community, began pushing for a renewed effort and headed off on a winter tour of Scandinavian cities to see how they approach the season.

A key takeaway, Ms. Tanaka said, was “that you have to remind people every year that winter can be fun.”

A citizens’ group tasked with developing the city’s official winter strategy came up with 64 programs to roll out over a decade.

They span a wide range. Some of them involve thinking about using color to make public spaces more appealing during the darkest period of winter. Ms. Tanaka and her colleagues work with restaurants on designing outdoor patios that can be open year-round (at least two were serving outside during this week’s deep freeze). New facilities with washrooms down in the river valley that don’t have to be shuttered in winter are opening. And the city now considers things like shelter from the winter winds when placing skating rinks and toboggan hills.

“If we don’t design these spaces to be comfortable in the winter, people won’t go outside,” Ms. Tanaka said. That’s particularly an issue in the city’s downtown, where the outdoors competes with a heated, indoor “pedway” network linking most buildings.

Ms. Tanaka said that Edmonton found that consistency was the key to encouraging winter cycling. If cycling routes and paths aren’t cleared promptly and regularly after every snowfall, she said, riders quickly put their bikes away for the winter.

For Ms. Tanaka, the biggest surprise has been the public’s embrace of winter. She and others initially thought that winter would be a hard sell.

“But that came really, really fast,” she said. “Maybe people were ready to be outside.”

While other cities, of course, have many programs to encourage citizens to get outdoors in the winter, Ms. Tanaka said that she is not aware of any with as comprehensive a plan as Edmonton’s. And increasingly, she’s hearing from other cities looking for winter advice.

Winnipeg, Ottawa and neighboring Gatineau, Saskatoon and, above all, Quebec City all hold winter carnivals with a variety of events. And they all have, as do other cities, season-long outdoor winter activities, even if they don’t follow Edmonton’s comprehensive approach.

The Times’s Travel section this week features a tour of some of Quebec’s skating trails by Elaine Glusac.

[Read: Where Trails Are for Skating, Not Hiking]

Here in Ottawa, where plans often get fragmented between two municipalities in two provinces and the federal government’s National Capital Commission, volunteers have driven some of the recent efforts to get more people out in winter.

In particular, Dave Adams, a cross country skier, began grooming a trail for his sport along the Ottawa River in a more or less solo effort. Now in its fourth year, the trail has become almost as much of an institution as skating on the Rideau Canal. Two more volunteer-based trails will appear elsewhere in the city this year.

Looming over all of this, of course, is climate change and erratic weather. Last winter, it was often too cold for comfortable skating on the canal in Ottawa. This year, a series of thaws means that the ice still isn’t thick enough for its opening.

But for now, at least, much of Canada is a wintry place. Edmonton’s recognition of that reality is one of its strengths.


Trans Canada


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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Pompeo breaks silence on alleged threats to envoy in Ukraine

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72 hours of silence over alleged surveillance and threats to the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, saying he believed the allegations would prove to be wrong but that he had an obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.

In interviews with conservative radio hosts, Pompeo said he had no knowledge of the allegations until earlier this week when congressional Democrats released documents from an associate of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer suggesting that Marie Yovanovitch was being watched. He also said he did know and had never met Lev Parnas, the associate of Rudy Giuliani who made the claims.

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Pompeo, who was travelling in California when the documents were released, had been harshly criticised by legislators and current and former diplomats for not addressing the matter. The documents provided by Parnas suggested there may have been a threat to Yovanovitch shortly before she was abruptly recalled last spring.

"We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there," he said in a radio interview with Tony Katz, an Indianapolis-based broadcaster.

"I suspect that much of what's been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we'll obviously do that," he said.

"It is always the case at the Department of State that we do everything we can to ensure that our officers, not only our ambassadors but our entire team, has the security level that's appropriate," he added. "We do our best to make sure that no harm will come to anyone, whether that was what was going on in our embassy in Baghdad last week or the work that was going on in Kyiv up and through the spring of last year when Ambassador Yovanovitch was there, and in our embassy in Kyiv even today."

Pompeo made similar but less specific comments to conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.

Until he spoke, the State Department had declined repeated requests to offer any public defence of Yovanovitch, drawing fire from many.

The allegations, if true, are central to the impeachment inquiry into Trump, who faces a charge that he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump says the inquiry is a "hoax".

At the time, Trump's allies were trying to have Yovanovitch, who was seen as a roadblock to a Biden investigation, removed from her post. She was recalled in late May ahead of the end of her tour.

Yovanovitch returned to Washington, DC, after being told in a late-night phone call to get on the next plane home for her own safety by the director-general of the Foreign Service, according to witness testimony in the impeachment inquiry. The nature of any possible threat was not specified and remains unclear, although the Parnas documents suggest the surveillance was a prelude to some kind of action.

'Hundreds of thousands' killed by counterfeit medicine in Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) says hundreds of thousands of people are killed by fake medicine every year in Africa.

The medical trade in West Africa alone is worth $200bn, with the counterfeit drugs coming from China, India and Nigeria.

Now, West African leaders are meeting in Lome to sign an agreement aiming to crack down on the trade.

Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque reports from Senegal's capital Dakar.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Review: The best tablet, until you want to work

If you’re looking for a tablet, there are a few options on the market.

If you’re aiming for something cost-effective and reliable, Apple’s entry-level iPad is always a great bet. However, when you want to step up and use a tablet for more than just browsing the web and watching movies, then there are a few more to choose from.

Samsung’s latest Galaxy Tab S6 tries to hit the sweet spot as a ‘do-everything device.’ It comes with a stylus and users can buy a keyboard case. This means that with the right setup, this tablet is very capable.

However, it can’t do everything perfectly and more often than not, it fails, resulting in a frustrating experience. The Tab S6’s apps are stuck in a tablet world — or even worse, the smartphone world — so doing work on a real laptop instead ends up making a lot more sense.

That said, there is a lot to like about what the Galaxy Tab S6 has to offer.

The nerd stats

When it comes to the setup for the Tab S6, Samsung has positioned it directly against Apple’s iPad Pro lineup in terms of power, price and functionality.

The device features a fantastic looking 10.5-inch AMOLED screen with a 1600 x 2560 pixel resolution. Text and images are sharp and the black levels and contrast are fantastic. In terms of tablets, It’s one of the best screens around. The screen also has a less square ratio than Apple’s iPads, which I found more useful with several apps.

Inside the Tab S6 is packing the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8150 mobile processor. This chipset has eight cores, although there are three different clock speeds ranging from 2.8GHz at the highest end down to 1.7GHz. The battery is a 7,040mAh cell and in my usage, lasted for a few days with moderate use.

Depending on what configuration you buy, you could have either 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. For this review, I used the lower end spec.

The tablet also runs Samsung’s One UI which is the company’s version of Android 9 Pie. For security, the Tab S6 features an in-display fingerprint scanner and facial recognition.

For Creativity

As I said above, Samsung is pushing this device to compete with the iPad Pro and its creative appeal.

To combat the Pro, Samsung includes a new magnetic S Pen with the tablet. It’s not as large as a regular pencil, but it’s pretty close. It feels nice to hold and is comfortable to use for a long time, but not so light that it feels cheap and fragile like the Galaxy Note’s pens.

It still offers all the S Pen features you’ve come to expect from Samsung: quick notes, smart select, screenwriting and more. There is even a button on the Pen that can be held to trigger one of these features or open an app quickly.

The Tab also has a built-in drawing app called ‘Penup.’ It offers users a slate of drawing tools that can actually be put to good use. I also think that the size of the tablet is easier to use on the go or in a relaxed position like sitting on a couch.

I’m a terrible artist, but the app includes a teaching mode that helps you learn how to draw, and through that, I was able to play around with a lot of the tools. Everything seemed responsive and worked well as a high-level sketching app. Penup also includes challenges where you can see what other people have drawn on Samsung tablets, and some of the results are incredible.

Overall, if you just want a good tablet to draw with occasionally, you can’t go wrong with the Tab S6. Its size and included stylus make it perfect for the drawing enthusiast who doesn’t want an iPad.

For Productivity

This section is going to be a little less glowing than the creativity one, even though in theory, the Tab has all the right parts to make a great laptop replacement. The way I keep thinking about it is that Samsung has all the puzzle pieces together, but some are from the wrong puzzle and others are in the wrong spot.

First up, if you want to do any serious typing beyond a few emails a day, you need a keyboard attachment. If not, having a dedicated wireless keyboard to use is a good option as well. Samsung knows this, and sells a keyboard case, but it costs $249 in Canada and isn’t very good.

Samsung’s keyboard case is two separate parts and the stand that sticks to back uses sticky silicon and a weak magnet to stay attached. While writing this review, it’s already fallen off about six times. Consumer reviews on Samsung’s website detail other people also experiencing this issue.

One of the most significant problems with using any keyboard with an Android tablet is that navigating apps that are designed for touch input becomes an odd act of finger gymnastics that seems like it should be easier than using a mouse, but in reality, it’s frustrating.

When I was in high school, my main computer was an iPad with a Smart Cover. While the on-screen keyboard did take up about half of the screen real estate, I think having my fingers already on the screen made typing and interacting with documents in real-time a lot easier than this mix of touch and keyboard.

Are you wondering if things can get worse? Well, you’re in luck. When you’re using Dex, which is Samsung’s desktop-like skin for Android, these issues are amplified. Navigating the desktop screen feels better with the trackpad since Dex uses a mouse pointer, but the positive aspects stop there.

You’re still stuck using apps that were designed for touch, but now with a mouse pointer, which is even worse. For instance, highlighting text in a Google Doc means I have to click and hold on a word and then drag the two large blue handles to highlight the rest of the sentence. When you’re in Dex, it’s also harder to interact with things via touch.

If you’re using Dex on an external monitor, then the tablet reverts back to tablet mode and the connected display becomes the Dex interface instead of being Dex across two screens. Take my word for it, this is also a lesson in patience as you battle the frustration of trying to work on both screens. It’s probably better to just use Dex on a single screen.

Overall, I wasn’t satisfied with my Dex experience, but I do think it might be worthwhile in moderation. For instance, if you just wanted to plug in and answer some emails or write a short document, this isn’t a terrible interface to do that with, but if you’re looking for the perfect device that offers both a tablet and a desktop-like experience, this isn’t it. It’s likely as close as you can get from the tablet side, and I love the idea behind it.

It’s also hard to recommend this as a productivity device because, for a similar price, you can get a more capable Surface tablet that’s running Windows 10.

As a tablet overall

As a tablet, the device shines. It has specs that make it fast and the screen is a perfect aspect ratio for watching content.

It also feels incredible to hold without a case. The Galaxy Tab S6 is sleek, premium and its weight is so light it feels like the future. As a feat of hardware, it's the most delightful feeling tablet I've ever held.

Gaming on it is also a joy, and tons of mobile games can benefit from its giant screen. The processor and RAM can push everything around smoothly so games feel fluid and responsive.

My only real issue is that it runs Samsung's OneUI. This version of Android has tons of extra features and gestures that are just slightly different from the rest of the ecosystem, making it seem like the only reason they're implemented is for Samsung to be different. If you use a Samsung phone, you won't notice this, but anyone coming from any other device will experience a learning curve.

All that said, I still like the Tab S6 a lot. Design-wise it's got a lot going for it -- the hardware makes up for the high price, but the software leaves something to be desired. I don't even entirely blame Samsung for this one since Android tablets are generally bad because apps don't support larger displays.

With as many gripes as I have with the Tab S6, I still think that it's a fantastic Android tablet --possibly even the best available right now. Still, It hasn't swayed me from recommending the base-level, $439 iPad to most people, especially since the Galaxy Tab S6 starts at $899 in Canada.</p>

"With as many gripes as I have with the Tab S6, I still think that it's a fantastic Android tablet -- possibly even the best available right now."

As Powers Jostle for Influence in Libya, Europe Finally Pays Attention

BRUSSELS — For more than eight years, the Libyan conflict has festered and the European Union has mostly looked away. Libya mattered, if at all, as a playground for terrorism and a source of the migrants disrupting European politics.

But with the recent involvement of Russia and Turkey on opposite sides of a nasty civil war, adding to the meddling of other neighbors, Europe has suddenly woken to the implications of a new Great Game, this time in North Africa, that is rapidly destabilizing its backyard. Belatedly, the Continent is paying attention.

On Sunday, after months of effort, Germany and the United Nations will gather most of the main actors to try to at least bring a sustained halt to the fighting and get outside powers to give Libyans the space to attempt to find some kind of political reconciliation.

It will not be easy, as potential oil and gas bonanzas intensify the jockeying. Increasingly, the fate of Libya’s precarious internationally backed government hangs in the balance.

“There has been a major reawakening of geopolitical interest in Libya,” said Ian Lesser, director of the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund and an expert on Turkey and the Mediterranean.

“That begins with issues of migration, energy, security and counterterrorism,” he added. “But it is just as much about the geopolitics of relations with Russia and Turkey. If they had not been so assertive, Libya would not have attracted such attention now.”

But Europe looks weak and peripheral. Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said, “Now the Europeans are worried, but it’s too late and we’re out of the picture.”

“Russia and regional powers are playing Europe in our own neighborhood,” she added.

The Libyan mess began with the 2011 overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi after intervention by European forces, with American help. Justified on humanitarian grounds, the war produced chaos when those same Western forces largely abandoned energy-rich Libya to warring militias.

Many weapons of the old regime spread all over the sub-Saharan region, feeding other militants and terrorist groups, and producing thousands of refugees and migrants seeking safety in Europe.

Libya remains a major transit and jumping-off point for sub-Saharan Africans hoping to make the crossing to Europe. Since the migration crisis of 2015-16, “the E.U. viewed Libya mainly through the prism of the migration problem,” said Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Individual European countries, at the same time, pursued their own, divergent interests in Libya, often at cross-purposes.

But the entry of Russian proxies into the conflict last year and, more recently, Turkey’s pledge to send its own forces into the mix, meant Europe could no longer ignore the matter.

It has also made the fissures in the Europeans’ approach to Libya more and more untenable as the civil war turns into a wider playground for outsiders.

On one side, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, France and now Russia support Khalifa Hifter, whose forces have laid siege to Tripoli, the capital, threatening the internationally backed government there.

On the other, Qatar, Italy and now Turkey support the Government of National Accord. Created by a 2015 United Nations-sponsored political deal, the government is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

The divisions between France and Italy have already split the European Union and weakened its positioning on Libya.

The new European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, has also brought new thinking and “a renewed energy and willingness to look at Libya as a crisis and a war in and of itself,” said Ms. Gazzini of the International Crisis Group.

In the last month, Mr. Borrell has repeatedly emphasized the dangers of Turkish military involvement in Libya and has criticized Europe’s preference for citing international law as a response to every conflict.

“We Europeans, since we don’t want to participate in a military solution, we barricade ourselves in the belief there is no military solution,’’ he told the European Parliament this week. “Nobody will be very happy if, on the Libyan coast, there is a ring of military bases from the Russian and Turkish navies in front of the Italian coast.”

He added in a Twitter message: “But this is something that could very much happen. We need to engage strongly, keep Libya united and find a peaceful solution to this conflict.”

That will not be so easily done.

Just last week, Russia and Turkey brought both Mr. Hifter and Mr. Sarraj to Moscow to get them to sign a permanent cease-fire agreement, another sign of Russian diplomatic activity to fill vacuums created by Europe and the United States.

But Mr. Hifter, who believes he can still take Tripoli, refused to obey his Russian backers and left Moscow without signing.

Some believe that he will agree to do so on Sunday in Berlin, and that his signature, sincere or not, will be a kind of gesture from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Dario Cristiani, a Libya expert with the Italian Institute for International Affairs and the German Marshall Fund, says he is deeply skeptical, raising the specter of another failed meeting.

“I don’t think Hifter is ready,” he said. “He still has the aim of entering Tripoli and having a full victory,’’ which is the less-than-quiet hope of his backers.

The Trump administration, which had supported the Sarraj government and the United Nations process, reversed course last April, after a meeting with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, according to the International Crisis Group.

But Washington is not very involved, and has just announced that it will sharply reduce the United States military presence in West Africa, intended to fight terrorism alongside the French, so the American influence will be further eroded.

A senior State Department official said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who altered his schedule to attend the high-level meeting, would urge three things: the continuation of a cease-fire; the withdrawal of all external forces; and a return to a Libyan-led political process facilitated by the United Nations.

But as with the European Union, there would appear to be little force behind those goals, and the messaging has stopped short of expressing support for the government of Mr. Sarraj.

Historical alliances in Libya and interest in gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean are at the heart of the problem, and have raised the stakes for the outside parties.

Migration aside, Italy, the former colonial power, and its energy giant, Eni, are key players in Libya. So stability matters for Rome, and the government has also tried to mediate between Mr. Hifter and Mr. Sarraj.

But with the trend of the fighting moving Mr. Hifter’s way, and Eni shifting to more commercial interests in the eastern Mediterranean, the Italian position has become more ambiguous.

“Russian influence started first and foremost on gas and oil infrastructure,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“If a situation unfolds whereby Russia and Turkey make peace, and Russia makes heavy investments in oil and gas infrastructure in Libya, that means that’s one more pipeline into Europe that’s in the hands of Russians,” he added. “That’s quite dangerous.”

For other Mediterranean neighbors, Greece and Cyprus, who stand to gain if gas exploration yields commercially viable finds, Libya is crucial.

But the potential economic boon is intensifying conflicts over national waters, especially as Turkey becomes more assertive.

The Turkish accord with the Sarraj government sets out an “exclusive economic zone,” which includes chunks of territorial waters that Greece considers its own.

The European Union has already sanctioned Turkey for drilling in Cyprus’s waters, and Athens has warned that it will respond if Turkey starts issuing drilling licenses in what it sees as Greek territory.

Despite the cacophony, the meeting in Berlin, if modestly successful, could begin turning the tide for European involvement in Libya, and ultimately for Libya itself, Mr. Megerisi said.

“It’s not that Europe is incapable, it seems that it’s unwilling,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. They do have tools at their disposal. They do have some cards to play.”

Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Athens, and Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola from Rome.

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