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Pentagon researches hi-tech tank

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 20 Agustus 2014 | 23.59

19 August 2014 Last updated at 11:31

The research arm of the US military is looking at designs for new hi-tech tanks, focusing less on armour and more on mobility and speed.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) says it wants to "revolutionise" tank design.

The body says advancements in weaponry in recent years have made heavily armoured tanks less effective.

The next generation of tanks will instead be better able to avoid attacks in the first place.

"It's about breaking the 'more armour' paradigm and revolutionising protection for all armoured fighting vehicles," said Kevin Massey, Darpa program manager.

"Inspired by how X-plane programs have improved aircraft capabilities over the past 60 years, we plan to pursue groundbreaking fundamental research and development to help make future armoured fighting vehicles significantly more mobile, effective, safe and affordable."

The agency is planning to award contracts to companies and researchers in these fields over the coming months.

It expects new tanks to be more mobile and agile, allowing them to dodge attacks, cover all types of terrain and avoid detection.

The objective is to make tanks half the weight and twice as fast.

It also wants more technology for tank crews, with aids like driver assistance and automation of some functions, "similar to the capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits".

Darpa says it hopes to start work on developing the new technology before April next year.

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Taxi firm Uber to deliver groceries

20 August 2014 Last updated at 16:27

Taxi and private car hire service Uber has launched a grocery delivery service in the US.

The Corner Store facility is available as an option via its main smartphone app and covers more than 100 items.

The products are competitively priced against high street stores, and there is no delivery fee.

The service is an "experiment" limited to Washington DC at this time, but it makes them the latest in a series of tech firms to move into the sector.

Amazon operates AmazonFresh, a same-day "fresh produce and grocery" delivery service, in California and Seattle.

Google offers Shopping Express, a fast-delivery service from Whole Foods, Costco and other stores, that was launched in San Francisco and is now being expanded to New York and Los Angeles.

And Instacart charges a fee to send "personal shoppers" to pick up and deliver a wide range of goods from selected stores promising a one or two hour turnaround. It operates in several US cities including Connecticut, Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia.

One retail analyst suggested that Uber might hope to benefit from giving its drivers - who work on a freelance basis - jobs to do during quiet times of the day.

However, he questioned whether the business model stacked up.

"The biggest hurdle that a lot of these delivery companies have is how can you make the economics of last-mile grocery deliveries add up?" Stephen Mader, director of digital retail at the Kantar consultancy, told the BBC.

"On average, Uber's price points are on a par with what you would find in a physical store such as Walgreens, so what it is trying to do is take the pricing equation out of it from the shopper's perspective.

"But long-term this is most likely not going to be economically feasible unless Uber starts to figure out other ways to monetise this, through adding delivery fees or charging advertising fees to brands that take part in the programme."

Nappies and nail polish

On its blog, Uber says the Corner Store test is only set to last a few weeks, but adds: "The more you love it, the more likely it will last."

It is available Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 21:00 local time, and is limited to addresses based in two zones of the city.

Two categories of products are on offer, with available goods including baby nappies. chewing gum, shaving gel, envelopes and nail polish remover.

Unlike other same-day services, there are no fresh food products, but Uber is inviting users to suggest goods they would like to see added to the list.

At present, there is no minimum purchase meaning a consumer could order the home delivery of a chocolate bar for as little as $1 (60p).

"It's disruptive - shoppers now expect either a retailer or a third-party delivery service to have the ability to get a product to them as fast as conveniently possible," commented Mr Mader.

Big valuation

While the test is the first of its kind for Uber, the firm has used its drivers to deliver ice creams, cocktails, Christmas trees and kittens as part of past promotional campaigns.

In April it also launched UberRush, a package delivery service in New York that uses couriers to make drop-offs by foot and bicycle.

But while the company's main car pick-up service is now active in more than 160 locations - most recently expanding to the Indian cities of Ahmadabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Calcutta earlier this week - there have been questions about whether its valuation is justified.

The San Francisco-based business sold a $1.2bn (£721m) stake to Google Ventures, Fidelity Investments and others in June, valuing Uber as a whole at about $18bn (£10.8bn).

This was despite the fact it has relatively few assets - it does not own the cars it uses - and it has faced opposition from several regulatory authorities.

Proving it could profitably expand to other sectors would help justify its valuation and potentially allow it to seek a flotation, which would in turn reward its investors' for their faith in the five-year-old business.

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EE top in UK mobile performance

19 August 2014 Last updated at 00:00

EE has again been ranked top overall in research comparing the performance of the UK's four mobile networks, with Vodafone coming last.

Research firm RootMetrics tested UK networks for the speed and reliability of their voice, data and text services in the first half of 2014.

EE was ranked first overall, followed by Three, O2 and finally Vodafone.

But RootMetrics said all networks showed signs of improvement compared with last year.

RootMetrics' research is based on more than 920,000 tests of the networks' services, conducted across the UK in the first six months of the year.

It rated the performance of each operator out of 100 in a range of categories - overall performance, call performance, mobile internet, text, network reliability and network speed.

It said mobile internet performance is "currently a two-horse race" with EE and Three scoring 85.5 and 82.7 respectively, putting them well ahead of O2 (68.1) and Vodafone (67.0).

'Massive investment'

EE came out best in terms of calls and texts, but RootMetrics said all four networks showed strong results in both these categories.

EE outshone its rivals in terms of network speed, but was matched by Three on reliability.

"Today's results, along with last week's report from Ofcom, show that EE is providing the best mobile experience to businesses and consumers across the UK," said Olaf Swantee, EE's chief executive.

"We continue to invest in getting even better, and setting new standards for performance and reliability."

In a statement a spokeswoman for Vodafone said the company was spending £1bn this year alone on improving mobile coverage and network quality.

'Gap narrowing'

"Regular independent testing of our network shows that our customers are experiencing a significantly improving network every day due to our massive ongoing investment," she said.

Last week research from Ofcom showed EE had the best services across the UK, while Vodafone has the worst quality of calls for mobile phone customers in rural areas.

But Matthew Howett, an analyst with research firm Ovum, said EE had benefited from a significant head-start in the rollout of 4G, and RootMetrics' research suggested its rivals were catching up.

"It seems as though the gap is narrowing in terms of the main operators in the UK," he told the BBC.

"All of the networks will be in a fairly similar position this time next year, because they will be deploying 4G more widely. There will be better coverage of data, particularly in the rural areas, and things look to be getting better for Vodafone."

An O2 spokesperson said: "This report represents just one of the many testing houses operating in the marketplace. Our own extensive independent network tests, carried out by Spirent Communications between May and July this year, show O2 as number one in 17 out of the 20 key cities tested for voice-call performance and top in 12 out of 20 for data performance.

"As we continue to roll out our 4G service an modernise our 2G and 3G networks at the same time, the results from the Spirent survey demonstrate that our investment of £1.5bn over the next three years will help us to deliver faster speeds and greater coverage across the UK, ensuring our customers continue to have a great network experience."

Bryn Jones, Three's chief technology officer, said: "A reliable network is an essential part of delivering an enjoyable experience for our customers.

"We've invested heavily to ensure our customers can rely on a consistent service and as our 4G rollout progresses, we will continue to focus on delivering the best mobile experience possible."

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HTC unveils cheaper Windows M8 phone

19 August 2014 Last updated at 16:33 By Joe Miller Technology reporter

The handset maker HTC has unveiled a new smartphone that runs a Windows Phone operating system.

The modified One M8 is being sold at roughly half the price of the same handset running Google's Android.

This is the first time the struggling manufacturer has released a Windows smartphone in more than two years.

One analyst said the new device was "almost certainly financially supported" by Microsoft, in an attempt to gain a foothold in the US market.

The new phone, which comes with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed, is available exclusively through US network provider Verizon.

When bought with a 24 month contract, it is priced at $99 (£60), approximately 50% cheaper than the Android One M8.

Continue reading the main story

Microsoft needs to kickstart the whole Windows Phone ecosystem. Its apps do not get updated at the same frequency as Android or iOS equivalents."

End Quote Daniel Gleeson Analyst, IHS Technology

"Consumers love the HTC One M8 and today's introduction extends that enthusiasm to new audiences hungry for choice in their mobile experience," said Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas.

He added: "Microsoft shares our vision, and that's why we committed to bringing the Windows Phone platform to the HTC One M8."

Android losses

The Taiwanese firm, which originally made its name selling early versions of Windows phone handsets, has preferred Android devices in recent years.

However it has recently lost out to rivals such as Samsung, and while its flagship handset, the HTC One, received good reviews, these did not translate into strong sales.

In April, HTC posted losses of 1.88bn Taiwanese dollars (£37m; $63m) for the first three months of 2014, compared with a profit of T$85m a year earlier.

Shares in HTC have dropped by 38% in the past year.

Microsoft 'desperate'

Daniel Gleeson, an analyst at the consultancy IHS Technology, told the BBC the move was a "big thing for Microsoft as they want a big push for Windows phones in North America".

"Microsoft are desperate for other manufacturers to develop Windows smartphones, and they almost certainly financially supported HTC to make this phone," he added.

"Microsoft needs to kickstart the whole Windows Phone ecosystem. Its apps do not get updated at the same frequency as Android or iOS equivalents."

As for the pricing of the phone, Mr Gleeson said, this was an attempt by HTC and Microsoft to position themselves as a cheaper alternative to the upcoming new iPhone.

Earlier on Tuesday, HTC's chief executive Peter Chou unveiled another new phone in Tokyo, aimed at the Japanese market.

The updated J Butterfly model, the HTL23, features a plastic body, but is otherwise similar to the Android One M8.

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Police 'breach social media rules'

19 August 2014 Last updated at 10:05

Hundreds of police officers have been investigated for breaching social media guidelines, research has revealed.

Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association found officers made racist comments online and asked crime victims to become Facebook friends.

Of 828 cases in England and Wales from 2009 to February this year, 9% ended in resignation, dismissal or retirement.

The College of Policing said there was "no place... for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public".

About a seventh (14%) of the cases reported resulted in no further action at all. The majority of other cases were dealt with through advice being offered to the officer in question.

Examples of cases uncovered

  • A community support officer with Devon and Cornwall Police who received a final written warning after posing with weapons on Facebook
  • A sergeant with the same force who was given a written warning after making remarks about senior officers on the site
  • A civilian officer in central London who posted a comment online about Muslims in London failing to observe a two-minute silence
  • Two special constables who had to resign from Northamptonshire Police after they were pictured on a website in a "compromising position"
  • A Gwent Police officer who was given a written warning after he "inappropriately" asked a female member of the public to be his friend on Facebook during a house visit
  • Another PC from the force who received the same punishment for using Facebook to send an "abusive" message to a member of the public
  • A member of civilian staff in Lancashire who resigned over their "excessive and inappropriate use of the internet during working hours" - including online auction sites, internet banking and social networking
Continue reading the main story

Forces must ensure officers are effectively trained and aware of the latest social media protocols"

End Quote Steve White Police Federation of England and Wales chairman

Various forces also said staff were investigated for comments deemed homophobic, racist or "religiously aggressive".

Greater Manchester Police reported the most investigations, with 88 over the period in question. West Midlands was second highest with 74, while the Metropolitan Police recorded 69.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said: "People working in policing must always be mindful of the high standards that the public expect from us.

"Our code of ethics, which was launched last month, sets out the standards which everyone in the service should strive to uphold whether at work or away from work, online or offline."

He said most police officers and staff "uphold these high standards" and that social media can be a "really useful way of us talking to the people that we serve".

But he added: "There is no place in policing for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public."

"Everyone in policing has to remember that if you're not prepared to put it in a local newspaper with your name at the bottom, then don't say it on social media."

'Incredibly useful'

The college's code of ethics urges officers to "use social media responsibly and safely".

It also suggests they "ensure that nothing you publish online can reasonably be perceived by the public or your policing colleagues to be discriminatory, abusive, oppressive, harassing, bullying, victimising, offensive or otherwise incompatible with policing principles".

And it also says officers should not publish online or elsewhere, or offer for publication, any material that might undermine their own reputation or that of the policing profession.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Social media is an incredibly useful tool for engaging with local communities and gathering intelligence.

"Forces must ensure officers are effectively trained and aware of the latest social media protocols.

"It is important to acknowledge that the majority of police officers perform their duties with the utmost integrity, discretion and in accordance with the high standards of behaviour rightly expected of them by the public."

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Islamic State shifts to new platform after Twitter block

19 August 2014 Last updated at 14:24

A sustained clampdown on the Twitter presence of Islamic State (IS) has forced the hardline jihadist group to explore less well-known social media platforms, setting up a string of accounts on the privacy-focused Diaspora.

Since IS began a series of spectacular land-grabs in Iraq in June, a long list of Twitter accounts run by the group have been shut down - apparently in response to the widely-acknowledged success of its social media offensive.

The Twitter squeeze reached its peak last week - coinciding with mounting international pressure on the group - when back-up IS accounts were being taken down almost as soon as they were being launched.

Appearing to give up on Twitter, IS has now launched a string of accounts on Diaspora relaying news from its various "provinces" in Iraq and Syria. The first of these started posting on 14 August, although they were not widely publicised until two days later.

Since then, the Diaspora accounts have been used to release IS statements, pictures and updates on operations. The group's army of supporters have given these wider circulation on Twitter, proving that IS doesn't need its own accounts there to reach a wide audience.

IS first experimented with Diaspora around a month ago, setting up accounts there for its central media wing, al-Itisam, and its multilingual media outfit, al-Hayat Media Center, after they were evicted from Twitter.

Around the same time, IS launched accounts on two other marginal social media platforms - Friendica and Quitter - both of which also claim a greater emphasis on privacy and data protection than Twitter.

But the IS accounts there soon suffered the same fate as on Twitter, while its presence on Diaspora has endured for nearly a month.

The relative resilience of Diaspora appears to have dictated its choice as the preferred alternative to Twitter for the new IS accounts set up in the past few days.

Diaspora is a decentralised online social network, started with crowdfunding by four New York students in 2010. It relies on its users to set up communities on their own servers or "pods" using the Diaspora software.

As such, it does not operate through a central website, but through a series of interconnected sites whose members can interact with accounts on other pods. IS has chosen to set up shop on one of the most active pods, hosted in the US.

The loss of Twitter as a place where IS can publish material directly is a blow for the group. But it does not prevent it from spreading its message.

The group has thousands of supporters on Twitter who are active amplifying its message, rallying support and waging psychological warfare. During the Brazil 2014 World Cup, for example, they hijacked popular football hashtags to broaden the reach of the IS message.

Their latest campaign, primarily in English, has been aimed at taunting the West - sometimes with black humour, sometimes with gruesome imagery - warning that any weapons sent to the aid the Kurds in their offensive against IS would end up in IS hands.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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Google cars 'designed to speed'

19 August 2014 Last updated at 11:56 By Joe Miller Technology Reporter

Google's self-driving cars are programmed to exceed speed limits by up to 10mph (16km/h), according to the project's lead software engineer.

Dmitri Dolgov told Reuters that when surrounding vehicles were breaking the speed limit, going more slowly could actually present a danger, and the Google car would accelerate to keep up.

Google's driverless prototypes have been widely tested on roads in the US.

The UK will allow driverless cars on public roads from 2015.

Google first announced its driverless car division in 2010, and has been testing its technology in modified cars built by other manufacturers.

The cars have travelled on more than 300,000 miles of open road, mostly in California.

In May, the US tech firm said it would start building its own self-driving cars.

The bubble-shaped vehicles will seat two people, propulsion will be electric, and to begin with they will be limited to 25mph (40km/h) to help ensure safety.

In July, the UK government announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year.

In addition, ministers ordered a review of the UK's road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines.

This will cover the need for self-drive vehicles to comply with safety and traffic laws, and involve changes to the Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales.

Commenting on Google self-drive cars' ability to exceed the speed limit, a Department for Transport spokesman said: "There are no plans to change speed limits, which will still apply to driverless cars".

In a separate development on Monday, the White House said it wanted all cars and light trucks to be equipped with technology that could prevent collisions.

Radio signals emitted by the vehicles would allow them to "talk" to each other, and alert drivers to potential accidents.

How do driverless cars work?

The label "driverless vehicle" actually covers a lot of different concepts.

Indeed, the cruise control, automatic braking, anti-lane drift and self-parking functions already built into many vehicles offer a certain degree of autonomy.

But the term is generally used to refer to vehicles that take charge of steering, accelerating, indicating and braking during most if not all of a journey between two points, much in the same way aeroplanes can be set to autopilot.

Unlike the skies, however, the roads are much more crowded, and a range of technologies is being developed to tackle the problem.

One of the leading innovations is Lidar (light detection and ranging), a system that measures how lasers bounce off reflective surfaces to capture information about millions of small points surrounding the vehicle every second. The technology is already used to create the online maps used by Google and Nokia.

Another complementary technique is "computer vision" - the use of software to make sense of 360-degree images captured by cameras attached to the vehicle, which can warn of pedestrians, cyclists, roadworks and other objects that might be in the vehicle's path.

Autonomous vehicles can also make use of global-positioning system (GPS) location data from satellites, radar, ultrasonic sensors to detect objects close to the car and further sensors to accurately measure the vehicle's orientation and the rotation of its wheels, to help it understand its exact location.

The debate now is whether to allow cars, like the prototype unveiled by Google in May, to abandon controls including a steering wheel and pedals and rely on the vehicle's computer.

Or whether, instead, to allow the machine to drive, but insist a passenger be ready to wrest back control at a moment's notice.

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Google removes 12 BBC News links

19 August 2014 Last updated at 18:17 By Edwin Lane Technology reporter, BBC News

Google has removed a total of 12 BBC News stories from some search results since controversial EU "right to be forgotten" laws came into force in May.

The stories range from coverage of a court case on bomb-making in Ireland 13 years ago to a dispute over a lost dog.

Google notified the BBC of each of the removals, but it did not disclose who had made the removal requests.

The stories will no longer appear in the results of certain search terms.

Only searches made in Europe are affected under the law.

Previously Google said it had been inundated with requests from individuals to remove web pages since the ruling by the European Court of Justice three months ago.

Last month the search giant told regulators that it had received more than 91,000 requests to remove a total of 328,000 pages from its search results.

It said it had approved more than 50% of those processed, but did not say how many had been processed so far.

'Idiot' car thief

The "notices of removal" issued to the BBC by Google said the web pages would not appear in the results returned for "search queries for names or other personal identifiers".

"Please note that in many cases, the affected queries do not relate to the name of any person mentioned prominently on the page," the notices continued. "For example, in some cases, the name may appear only in a comment section."

Of the 12 BBC pages removed by Google, four include comments sections, including a blog by the BBC's then-business editor Robert Peston, which was removed in July.

Others typically feature court cases, including one dating from 2001 which involved three men accused of possessing bomb-making equipment in Ireland.

Two stories relate to the high-profile case of a British woman found guilty of running "one of Europe's biggest prostitution rings" in 2003.

Other stories taken down covered a wide range of incidents. Google removed a 2002 story concerning a dispute between two Somerset families over the ownership of a wire-haired terrier called Wellie.

Another removed story concerns a car thief branded an "idiot" by his own barrister, while yet another features an 18-year-old Bristol student convicted of drink-driving after crashing his Mini into the steps of his university campus.

Other stories removed include:

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Former Microsoft boss leaves firm

19 August 2014 Last updated at 20:29

Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has said he is stepping down from the board with immediate effect.

In a public letter, Mr Ballmer said he had become "very busy" since he quit the top job and that it would be "impractical to continue".

His decision to leave follows his recent purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.

"I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of my time," he wrote.

He said his departure would be immediate due to a "hectic" autumn including both the start of the NBA basketball season and his teaching of a new class.

Mr Ballmer left the chief executive role in February after more than 14 years at the helm, and has been involved in the company for more than three decades.

He still holds more Microsoft shares than any other individual, and on Tuesday he pledged to hold onto them for the "foreseeable future".

"I bleed Microsoft - have for 34 years and I always will," he wrote.

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Hospital hack 'exploited Heartbleed'

20 August 2014 Last updated at 12:54

The theft of personal data belonging to about 4.5 million healthcare patients earlier this year was made possible because of the Heartbleed bug, according to a leading security expert.

Community Health Systems - the US's second largest profit-making hospital chain - announced on Monday that its systems had been breached.

The head of TrustedSec - a cybersecurity firm - now alleges that the encryption flaw was exploited.

CHS has yet to respond to the claim.

The Heartbleed bug made headlines in April when Google and Codenomicon - a Finnish security company - revealed a problem with OpenSSL, a cryptographic library used to digitally scramble sensitive data.

OpenSSL is used by computer operating systems, email, instant messaging apps and other software products to protect sensitive data - users see a padlock icon in their web browser if it is active.

A fix was made available at the time, and software-makers that used OpenSSL in their products were urged to employ it.

If confirmed, this is the biggest identified breach relating to the bug.

Until now attacks on the UK's parenting social network Mumsnet and the Canadian tax authority were the biggest known Heartbleed-related intrusions.

Other examples may have gone undetected since hackers can exploit the problem without leaving a trace of their activity.

Patching Heartbleed

David Kennedy, chief executive of TrustSec, told the Bloomberg news agency that three people close to the CHS investigation had notified him that Heartbleed had been pinpointed as the vulnerability used to steal names, phone numbers, addresses, and social security numbers from the hospital group's systems.

He explained the hackers took advantage of the fact that Franklin, Tennessee-based CHS, used products made by Juniper, a firm that makes hardware and software to manage computer networks.

Like many of its competitors, it took Juniper several weeks to patch all its affected code after the Heartbleed alert was issued.

"The time between zero-day (the day Heartbleed was released) and patch day (when Juniper issued its patch) is the most critical time for an organisation where monitoring and detection become essential elements of [an] IT security programme," wrote Mr Kennedy on his company's blog.

"What we can learn here is that when something as large as Heartbleed occurs (rare) that we need to focus on addressing the security concerns immediately and without delay.

"Fixing it as soon as possible or having compensating controls in place days before could have saved this entire breach from occurring in the first place."

A spokeswoman for the CHS's security provider Mandiant was not available for comment.

TrustedSec previously helped uncover a security breach at Yahoo, and last year Mr Kennedy was called to give evidence to Congress about suspected vulnerabilities in the US government's healthcare website.

Another independent expert said the explanation given for the intrusion appeared incomplete but credible.

"The blog post is not very detailed and is attributed to an anonymous source," said Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London's computer science department.

"It's not conclusive evidence, but it's certainly plausible since the Juniper operating system was vulnerable to the Heartbleed attack, and the way that it's explained that the hackers got in is also plausible.

"It is interesting that the first breach happened in April, which was the same month that the Heartbleed vulnerability was announced, so it seems that well-organised hackers were making use of the flaw immediately after it came out."

CHS has indicated that the attacks originated from China and had resulted in the perpetrators obtaining log-in credentials belonging to its employees.

These were then used to steal records, it believes, in April and June this year.

The firm, which runs 206 hospitals in 29 states, is now in the process of notifying affected patients.

CHS has stressed that it believes no medical records or financial information have been transferred as result of the intrusion.

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