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Autonauts is a game about how robots are only as clever as their creator

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 15:30

Autonauts starts simply enough. Craft a bot, train it to chop down a tree, watch it trundle off to do your bidding. What could go wrong? Well, it turns out, quite a lot - because these robots are only as smart as you tell them to be.

"We had something like this the other day," creator Gary Penn tells me. "The Scunthorpe problem." You can teach a machine how to do something and it will do it to the letter - without human intuition to stop when necessary. In the most recent case, it was developer Denki's own profanity filter used to double check the names players give to Autonauts bots. Such systems are notorious for deciding certain clusters of letters - such as those in the name of that particular North Lincolnshire town - are enough to set their ones and zeroes flashing.

But Penn is a veteran of dealing with such things. Starting as a games journalist, he later worked at DMA Design, the studio which would become Rockstar, making Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings - perhaps the closest game to Autonauts on his CV. After that, he helped found Denki, the team behind the Xbox 360 and mobile puzzler Quarrel - a brilliant kind of Scrabble meets Risk. That game hit the Scunthorpe problem, too.

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Categories: Video Games

EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Regulations On Clean Water

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: President Trump's administration has rescinded an Obama-era policy that expanded federal oversight and the threat of steep fines for polluting the country's smaller waterways (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), furthering his deregulatory efforts in the 14 months that remain before the next election. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday signed a final rule that limits the scope of federal clean-water regulations in an effort to clear up confusion for landowners whose property sits near water sources that feed into the country's network of major rivers. The Obama administration in 2015 had expanded federal oversight upstream, it said, to better protect wildlife and the country's drinking-water supply from industrial runoff and pollution. Mr. Wheeler called that expansion an overreach, saying it grew to cover dry land in some cases. Farmers, property developers, chemical manufacturers and oil-and-gas producers -- some of whom are key voter groups for the 2020 election -- have voiced opposition to it, with many saying it overreached by intruding on property owners' rights. Court battles following the Obama-era rule have led to fractured rules across the country. Amid the legal challenges, the regulation is in place only in 22 states, though the Trump administration's decision could spark its own series of court fights. Thursday's rule "restores regulatory text that existed before the 2015," the report notes. "Property that is no longer covered by the 1972 Clean Water Act remains protected by state rules. Major waterways, such as most rivers and lakes, were already under protection of the Clean Water Act and still will be after the rollback."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

PES 2020 review - a brilliant, broken and bizarre game of football

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 14:00

PES 2020 is a weird game. At times I couldn't help but think, is this the best PES ever? Gameplay wise, I mean. The ball... PES 2020's ball is a thing of beauty, the best video game football I've ever virtually kicked. It feels weighty, it bounces realistically and travels through the air in delicious arcs David Beckham birthed in his pomp.

The animations... PES 2020's player animations are a joy to behold. Outside of the boot flicked through balls to overlapping full-backs, no-look crosses, deft chips, and, when players collide, realistic scraps for possession. The fluidity of motion in this game is something else. It's rare that you'll see a player do that jarring sports video game thing of sliding into place to force an animation to meet the ball, or jerk unnaturally as he realises his atoms should be in one position over another.

But then, there's a lot that's not great about the on-pitch action in this year's PES. I'd even go as far as to call some aspects of the gameplay broken.

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Categories: Video Games

Five of the Best: Maps

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 13:00

Welcome to another week of Five of the Best, a series celebrating the lovely incidental details in games we tend to overlook. So far we've celebrated hands, potions, dinosaurs, shops and health-pick-ups - an eclectic and specific bunch! The sprinkles of charm games are tastier for. Here's another five for your Friday lunchtime. Today...

Maps! Lovely old maps where be dragons. The spellbinding tease before a story. Maps promising ornate cities, bushy forests and bumpy mountains. Maps with dark caves, smouldering volcanoes and strange beasties. Maps of great adventure and excitement yet to be had.

The first map I really remember was The Hobbit. I'm sure it's the same for many of you. That simple map drawn by a dwarf. That simple map followed by dwarves and hobbit and wizard, there and back again. It's not the fanciest map - it's not as detailed and sprawling as The Lord of the Rings' map - but it had all the mystery and intrigue it needed to glue my eyes to it, to wonder when - if - we'd ever get to the end, to Smaug.

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Categories: Video Games

A new Pokémon is flying around the Sword and Shield website

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 12:36

Pokémon Sword and Shield's marketing campaign has already been a wild ride: so far we've had Pokémon wearing teapots, Jacob Rees-Smogg, and a cream-inspired Pokémon that definitely hasn't spawned a load of NSFW fan art.

Today, the weirdness has taken a more mysterious turn, as the Pokémon Sword and Shield website has been taken over by a pixellated Pokémon. Damn hackers.

If you visit the website, you'll be presented with the usual images - along with a glitchy little fellow in the bottom right corner. If you try to catch the Pokémon with your cursor, however, it darts out the way, before eventually crying out and opening up a half-completed Pokédex entry:

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Categories: Video Games

Steam should now recommend a better spread of games to you

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 12:32

Steam has an issue with discoverability because there's loads there and things get buried. But Valve is working on improving it. Case in point: an update rolled out yesterday to improve the diversity of games being recommended to you.

There were a few problems with how it worked before, apparently. There weren't enough games showing in the 'More Like This' section; the 'Recommended for You' algorithm tended to prefer popular games; and the 'Similar by Tags' section was dominated by top-rated games - a list which doesn't change much.

The upshot was repetition, so Valve made some changes and rolled them out to five per cent of the userbase in the past few weeks. The result was people discovering and engaging with more games suited to their tastes, so it was a success, and as such has been rolled out to everyone else.

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Categories: Video Games

Anthem joins EA Access

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 11:41

Remember Anthem? It's been over seven months since BioWare's underwhelming multiplayer first launched, but the game has already found itself added to the EA Vault, and is now available for EA Access and Origin Access subscribers.

If you're a standard subscriber, you'll be able to get your hands on the standard edition on all three platforms where Anthem has been released (PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4). If you have the PC-only Origin Access Premier tier, however, you can access the Legion of Dawn edition - which gets you extra armour sets, a weapon and a soundtrack. The basic EA Access subscription costs £3.99 per month, while the monthly cost for the PC premier version is £14.99.

Games added to EA's Vault have typically been out a fair while, when they're no longer a hot commodity. Given Anthem's disappointing launch and concerning news such as lead producer Ben Irving's departure, its addition to the Vault doesn't come as much of a surprise. BioWare's still working on improving Anthem with updates and events, and its introduction to the Vault should bolster player numbers, but it feels like Anthem needs a more major re-launch if it wants to really win back its audience.

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Categories: Video Games

This year's Game Awards dated, and it's a wee bit later than usual

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 11:19

The Game Awards, hosted and organised by Geoff Keighley, has steadily become a fixture on the annual gaming calendar. This year will be its fifth and will air a few days later than usual, on Thursday, 12th December. It's usually a late night in the UK, what with the US time difference.

Keighley hasn't said what will be there but expect some genuine exclusives - he has a knack for securing them and the wind in his sails. Last year, Keighley managed to convince Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo - Shawn Layden, Phil Spencer and Reggie Fils-Aime, respectively - to get on stage in a show of solidarity for gaming together. It was a remarkable and welcome sight.

EA also used the stage to tease Dragon Age 4, and I squealed with excitement. It's still my desktop image, that one of the elf and the shadowy wolf. I wonder if we'll see more this year...

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Categories: Video Games

The Double-A Team: Fracture wanted to make the earth move for you

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 11:00

The Double-A Team is a newish feature series honouring the unpretentious, mid-budget, gimmicky commercial action games that no-one seems to make any more.

Last week, we had a ramble through Shadowrun. This week we exhume Fracture.

(Oh, and we have an archive of the existing Double-A Team pieces now. Enjoy!)

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Categories: Video Games

SpaceX Says It Will Deploy Satellite Broadband Across US Faster Than Expected

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 11:00
SpaceX says it plans to change its satellite launch strategy in a way that will speed up deployment of its Starlink broadband service and has set a new goal of providing broadband in the Southern United States late next year. Ars Technica reports: In a filing on August 30, SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to "adjust the orbital spacing of its satellites." With this change, each SpaceX launch would deploy satellites in "three different orbital planes" instead of just one, "accelerating the process of deploying satellites covering a wider service area." "This adjustment will accelerate coverage to southern states and U.S. territories, potentially expediting coverage to the southern continental United States by the end of the next hurricane season and reaching other U.S. territories by the following hurricane season," SpaceX told the FCC. The Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons each begin in the spring and run to November 30 each year. SpaceX said it already planned to "provide continual coverage over northern states after as few as six more launches," but said it needs a license modification to speed up deployment in the Southern U.S. SpaceX's filing stresses the importance of quickly getting service to parts of the U.S. where broadband coverage is limited. "With this straightforward adjustment, SpaceX can broaden its geographic coverage in the early stages of the constellation's deployment and enable service initiation to serve customers earlier in the middle latitudes and southern-most states, and critically, those often underserved Americans in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands," the company told the FCC.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Blasphemous review - a grotesque but surprisingly clean take on Souls and Castlevania

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 09:00

Guilt! Ecstasy! Agony! The corruption and correction of the flesh! Blasphemous is all of these things and m- no, wait. Blasphemous is only these things: all else is heresy, fit to be thrown on the pyre. A gruesome pixelart hybrid of Castlevania and Dark Souls, it casts you as the Penitent One, a musclebound chap in a pointy helmet, who must cleanse a fallen civilisation on behalf of a quasi-Catholic deity known as the Miracle.

You wake up on a charnelpile deep in a crumbling vault, immediately get into an argument with an ogre wielding a candelabra and, well, everything goes downhill from there. Right the way down, that is, to the bottom of a church bell large enough to encompass an entire level, in what feels like a nod to Soul Reaver's Silent Cathedral. Here you'll encounter toxic mist, goblin folk who are annoyingly good at jumping over your swings, and spectral fencers who vanish after every thrust. And then all the way back up, through slippery chasms where both the wind and the statuary are your enemies, to a convent where an undead abbess has been taking lessons from bullet-hell shooters.

It certainly covers some ground, does Blasphemous, and given a little tolerance for spike pits and irredeemable squalor, there's fun to be had massacring the denizens of this unholy world. Inspired by Francisco Goya's torrid religious paintings and the Gothic monstrosities of the developer's native Seville, Cvstodia is a place of twisted steeples, bloodied gold and the unrelenting spectacle of bodies in pain. The enemies live up to the spaces that contain them, their lavishly animated sprites a mash of bone, chains and sacral cloth. Some can be taken down with combos and evasive slides; others must be parried or jumped over before you can land a blow; still others hang back off-screen, activating terrain traps till vengefully quashed. Full to bursting with wickedness, Cvstodia's inhabitants don't so much die as crescendo, shredding themselves with a screech or erupting into oily flames.

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Categories: Video Games

Andrew Yang Announces Universal Basic Income Pilot Program At Debate

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 07:30
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced at Thursday's primary debate that his campaign will use funds raised from his supporters for a pilot program meant to resemble his universal basic income proposal. The Hill reports: Under the Freedom Dividend Pilot Program, at least 10 American families will receive $1,000 a month, or $12,000 a year. Participants can enter the giveaway on Yang's campaign website. Three people are already receiving the dividend, and his campaign said in a news release that they are "already noting the benefits of having an extra $1,000 per month -- from being able to make home improvements, to fixing a car needed for work, to affording medical care for family members." "The campaign is excited to work together with our supporters to help create more stories about what the Freedom Dividend means for American families. It will enable and empower citizens to pay their bills, switch jobs, take care of loved ones, and plan for the future," campaign manager Zach Graumann said in the Thursday night release.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

CRISPR Gene-Editing May Offer Path To Cure For HIV, First Published Report Shows

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Chinese scientists have published the first report in a scientific journal of an attempt to use CRISPR-edited cells in a patient -- a 27-year-old man who is HIV-positive. While the treatment did not rid the man of the AIDS virus, the researchers and others are calling the report promising. That's because it indicates that so far the gene-editing technique seems to safely and effectively make the precise DNA change intended. The case was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the new report, the researchers attempted to use CRISPR to recreate the experiences of two men known as the Berlin patient and the London patient. In those cases, HIV-positive men were declared effectively cured after they received stem cell transplants from people born with variations of a gene known as CCR5 that makes people naturally resistant to HIV. The variation disables a molecular gateway HIV uses to enter and destroy key immune system cells. In the new case, [Hongkui Deng, a professor of cell biology at the Peking University] and his colleagues used CRISPR to edit the CCR5 gene on stem cells to recreate the naturally occurring protection against HIV. They then used the edited cells to perform a stem cell transplant for the patient. The man also had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood cancer. The transplant appears to have put the patient's leukemia into remission, the researchers reported. He suffered no apparent adverse side effects from the gene-edited cells, which have persisted in his body for more than 19 months, according to the report. "The approach did not reduce levels of HIV in the man's body because only about 5% of his white blood cells carried the edited CCR5 variation," the report adds. "So Deng says his team plans to focus on finding ways to boost that closer to 100%, which is what would be needed to eradicate the virus." Regardless, the findings are important positive outcomes that suggest the approach is safe and could work.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

New Device Harvests Energy In Darkness

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 04:10
In new research published on Thursday in the journal Joule, Dr. Raman, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, demonstrated a way to harness a dark night sky to power a light bulb. The New York Times reports: His prototype device employs radiative cooling, the phenomenon that makes buildings and parks feel cooler than the surrounding air after sunset. As Dr. Raman's device releases heat, it does so unevenly, the top side cooling more than the bottom. It then converts the difference in heat into electricity. In the paper, Dr. Raman described how the device, when connected to a voltage converter, was able to power a white LED. The prototype built by Dr. Raman resembles a hockey puck set inside a chafing dish. The puck is a polystyrene disk coated in black paint and covered with a wind shield. At its heart is an off-the shelf gadget called a thermoelectric generator, which uses the difference in temperature between opposite sides of the device to generate a current. A similar device powers NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars; its thermoelectric generator derives heat from plutonium radiation. Usually, the temperature difference in these generators is stark, and they are carefully engineered to separate hot and cold. Dr. Raman's device instead uses the atmosphere's ambient temperature as the heat source. The shift from warm to cool is very slight, meaning the device can't produce much power. His puck-in-a-dish is elevated on aluminum legs, enabling air to flow around it. As the dark puck loses warmth to the night sky, the side facing the stars grows colder than the side facing the air-warmed tabletop. This slight difference in temperature generates a flow of electricity. When paired with a voltage converter, the prototype produced 25 milliwatts of power per square meter. That is about three orders of magnitude lower than what a typical solar panel produces, and well short of even the roughly 4-watt maximum efficiency for such devices. Still, several experts said the prototype was an important contribution to a new and relatively unusual space in the renewable energy sector.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Huawei Starts Selling Laptops With Linux Preinstalled

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 03:30
Huawei is now selling the Matebook 13, Matebook 14, and Matebook X Pro to consumers in China with Deepin Linux preinstalled. "Deepin is a Chinese-domestic distribution, with their own desktop environment -- appropriately also called Deepin," notes TechRepublic. From the report: Huawei is passing along the savings to consumers as well, with the Matebook 13 and 14 models receiving a 300 yuan ($42 USD) price cut, though the Linux version of the MateBook X Pro is listed at 600 yuan ($84) higher. This pricing should be considered tentative, as the products are listed on VMALL, Huawei's ecommerce marketplace in China, though only allow users to be notified when they are in stock. It is possible that Huawei may lose the ability to purchase Windows licenses from Microsoft due to their placement on the "entity list," restricting companies dealing in U.S.-origin technology from conducting business with Huawei, constituting an effective blacklisting by the U.S. government. Sales of Linux laptops to consumers -- by Huawei, and in general -- could result in better driver support for fingerprint readers and other hardware with inconsistent Linux support. Huawei has yet to announce any Linux versions available in the West.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

GNOME 3.34 Released

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 02:50
Red Hat developer Matthias Clasen has announced the release of GNOME 3.34, bringing many performance improvements and better Wayland support. Phoronix reports: Making GNOME 3.34 particularly exciting is the plethora of optimizations/fixes in tow with this six-month update. Equally exciting are a ton of improvements and additions around the Wayland support to ensure its performance and feature parity to X11. GNOME 3.34 also brings other improvements like sandboxed browsing with Epiphany, GNOME Music enhancements, GNOME Software improvements, and a ton of other refinements throughout GNOME Shell, Mutter, and the many GNOME applications. More details can be found via release announcement and release notes.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

AT&T To Lose 1.1 Million TV Subscribers As DirecTV Continues Nosedive

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 02:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T expects to lose about 1.1 million TV customers in the third quarter as it faces pressure from an investment group that says AT&T's increased focus on the TV business was a giant mistake. In an update to shareholders yesterday, AT&T CFO John Stephens "said the company expects an incremental 300,000 to 350,000 premium video losses above the previous quarter's premium video results," according to AT&T. Since that's an incremental increase over the previous quarter's loss, that will amount to a three-month loss of more than 1 million TV customers. In Q2 2019, AT&T reported a net loss of 778,000 subscribers in the "Premium TV" category, which includes its DirecTV satellite and U-verse wireline TV services. With AT&T expecting to lose that amount of subscribers plus another 300,000 to 350,000, the update to shareholders suggests the Q3 loss in the category will be between 1,078,000 and 1,128,000 subscribers. (An AT&T spokesperson confirmed to Ars that a projected loss of 1,078,000 and 1,128,000 subscribers in Q3 is accurate.) AT&T's update to shareholders attributed the expected loss to "aggressively managing costs with retransmission negotiations, some of which resulted in content provider blackouts; and from limiting promotional pricing." AT&T said it has been "holding a hard line in negotiations" with programmers to control costs, but the resulting blackouts of channels is driving TV subscribers away. What's not included in the projected loss is AT&T TV Now (formerly known as DirecTV Now). "AT&T also lost 168,000 subscribers of DirecTV Now/AT&T TV Now in the second quarter, but it didn't say how that service will fare in the third quarter," the report adds.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

ASUS ROG Phone II Proves To Be the Fastest Android Phone On the Market Currently

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 01:30
MojoKid writes: Gamer-targeted smartphones are beginning to pop up more often now, with devices like the Razer Phone 2, Xiaomi Black Shark, and the ASUS ROG Phone making waves in the market with performance enthusiasts. The latest release from ASUS, the ROG Phone II sports a specially binned chip from Qualcomm called the Snapdragon 855+. The higher performance SoC sports an octa-core CPU clocked at 2.96GHz, paired with an overclocked Adreno 640 GPU that can boost its performance up to 15 percent above spec. A generous 12GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and a 120Hz 6.59 FHD display trim out the rest of the ASUS ROG Phone II's specs. In addition, an enhanced on-board cooling system features a 3D vapor chamber, heat spreaders, and cooling pads that efficiently dissipate heat from inside the phone to the outside. It is designed to be above spec for the Snapdragon 855 chipset and necessary to keep 855+ stable during long gaming sessions. In benchmark testing, there's no question these system upgrades put up significantly better numbers than the average high-end Android phone on the market these days, such that the phone is about 10% faster than devices like Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 or the OnePlus 7 Pro. The ASUS ROG Phone II will be available later this month but pricing is still being determined.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Google Maps Shows Sunken Car Where Missing Man's Body Was Found

Slashdot - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 00:50
The remains of a man who went missing two decades ago in Florida have been found in a submerged car visible on Google Maps. The BBC reports: William Moldt, 40, was reported missing from Lantana, Florida, on November 7, 1997. He failed to return home from a night out at a club when he was 40 years old. A missing person investigation was launched by police but the case went cold. On August 28 this year -- 22 years on -- police were called to reports of a car found in a pond in Moon Bay Circle, Wellington. When the vehicle was pulled from the water, skeletal remains were found inside. One week later the remains were positively identified as belonging to Mr Moldt. A report by the Charley Project, an online database of cold cases in the U.S., said "a property surveyor saw the car while looking at Google Earth." "Amazingly, a vehicle had plainly [been] visible on a Google Earth satellite photo of the area since 2007, but apparently no-one had noticed it until 2019," according to the report. What appears to be a silver car submerged in the pond can still be viewed on Google Maps.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Weird, beautiful "mutant soap opera" adventure Mutazione is out next week

Eurogamer - Fri, 13/09/2019 - 00:35

Developer Die Gute Fabrik's strange, visually striking "mutant soap opera", Mutazione, will be making its way to PlayStation 4 and PC next week, on 19th September.

Mutazione, which is described as a character-driven adventure game "where the juicy personal drama is just as important as the high-stakes adventure", unfolds on a tropical island holiday resort, devastated by a meteor strike 100 hundred years earlier. In the time since, its inhabitants, who began to show signs of strange mutations following the incident, formed their own isolated community on the outskirts of society, where Mutazione's story takes place.

Players step into the shoes of 15-year-old Kai, who travels to Mutazione to take care of her ailing grandfather Nonno. But, says Die Gute Fabrik, "things aren't as simple as they seem... Nonno has other plans for Kai; secrets and betrayals simmer under the friendly community's surface; and there's a creepy bird-like figure who keeps on appearing in Kai's dreams."

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