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As many as 20 000 people in Bulgaria drive without having a valid license, police say.

An inquiry from drivers' associations, cited by BGNES wire service, has shown an increase in the number of cases registered by police of people using a motor vehicle without valid documents in 2014, compared to the previous year.

As many as 25 100 offences of people with no driving licenses were registered in 2014, BGNES quotes Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova as saying in the reply, citing data from police authorities.

In 2013, the number was 18 881.

In the first ten months of last year alone, 18 136 cases were registerd of drivers with no valid documents or none at all. This includes people whose license allows them to drive other vehicles but not the one they were driving when stopped by police.

The latest data comes as the Bulgarian government is trying to step up its fight against the issuance of fake driving licenses, amid a high-level scandal in the country's road transport administration agency.

 

Chavdar Nikolov, a cartoonist whose contract with private NOVA TV station was terminated and his video cartoon of Bulgaria's Prime Minister removed, has signed with Slavi's Show, one of the most watched evening talkshows in the country.

The host, Slavi Trifonov, is widely thought to be seeking a way into politics through a six-point referendum on the political system of Bulgaria that is due later this year.

On Friday, Trifonov announced that Nikolov had joined his team, also airing a video cartoon by him mocking Borisov over the Electoral Code of Bulgaria.

Dnevnik quotes Nikolov as saying he is to release one video cartoon on Slavi's Show every week (the show itself is aired on weekdays).

In April, NOVA removed a video cartoon of Borisov mocking his attitude to "migrant hunters" along Bulgaria's southern border.

It also terminated Nikolov's contract unilaterally and closed his channel on video sharting platform Vbox7, sparking outrage from the public and from activist organizations.

Bulgarian Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova said on Sunday that the country would continue to use its current tourist logo for the moment.

Last week, a special jury in charge of picking a new logo in a nationwide competition said it had turned down all seven entries shortlisted.

Angelkova told private NOVA TV's breakfast show the rose, which has been in use since 2004, will continue to be the tourism trademark of Bulgaria as it turns out difficult to find a commonly accepted national symbol everyone would unite around.

She added that even the public's top choice, which had been singled out in a poll on the Tourism Ministry's website, had not gathered enough support from the jury.

The rose, however, is not Bulgaria's latest logo as the 2013 version was not positively acclaimed by officials.

Angelkova earlier this week admitted it had been widely described as "fried eggs".

A nationwide contest to propose a new logo had been launched to avoid similar situation under a project that uses EU funding.

Bulgaria marks the 140th anniversary of the 1876 April Uprising for the liberation of Bulgaria.

Celebrations will be held in different towns and cities across the country, but it will be Panagyurishte, in central Bulgaria, where where the key commemorative events will take place attended by state officials. This year's festivities coincide with the Orthodox Easter.

Panagyurishte will hold a beating retreat and fireworks, but also a reenactment of events that began as the uprising was declared.

Parliament Speaker Tsetscha Tsacheva will deliver the official speech to mark the anniversary.

The April Uprising was an insurrection organized by Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire from April to May 1876, whose indirect result was the establishment of Bulgaria as an independent nation in 1878.

The 1876 uprising was the last and biggest in a string of Bulgarian revolts, but spread only in parts of the Bulgarian territories.

In November 1875, activists of the Bulgarian Central Revolutionary Committee met in the Romanian town of Giurgiu and decided that the political situation was suitable for a general uprising. The uprising was scheduled for April or May 1876.

The territory of the country was divided into five revolutionary districts with centers in Vratsa, Veliko Tarnovo, Sliven, Plovdiv and Sofia.

The uprising started, but was quelled by the Ottoman authorities as detachments of regular and irregular Ottoman troops (bashi-bazouks) were mobilized and attacked the first insurgent towns as early as April 25th.

By mid-May, the insurrection was completely suppressed. At least 15 000 people were killed in the suppression of the uprising by the Ottomans.

Some 80 villages and towns were burned and destroyed and 200 others were plundered. The atrocities which accompanied the suppression of the insurrection reached its peak in the northern Rhodopes.

The number of Bulgarians who died has been much disputed by historians, most of them agreeing it was somewhere between 15 000 and 30 000.

Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world, including in Bulgaria, are celebrating the greatest Christian holiday, Easter, the resurrection of Christ.

Orthodox Christians traditionally mark Easter on a Sunday between April 04 and May 08.

Bulgarian worshippers flocked to churches Saturday night to hear the Holy Mass that celebrates the coming of Easter.

At midnight sharp, when the mass was over, as is the ritual, the believers go around the church three times, with their candles burning.

There is a belief that if you have been a good Christian, your candle will not go out no matter how strong the wind might be, because you have no sins.

After all church ceremonies are over, or on the next morning Bulgarians gather around, exchange their colored eggs and carry out the ritual of cracking them.

On Easter people great each other with "Christ Is Risen" while the reply is: "He Is Indeed Risen."

On Sunday, all eparchies in Bulgaria serve the so-called "Second Resurrection" mass.

The mass at the Sveta Nedeliya Cathedral in Sofia was led by newly elected Patriarch Neofit.

In an Easter message released by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Neofit said that, in spite of the doubt and rejection to which key values are being put by the modern times, the love of Christ defeats evil and death.

Earlier this week, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians left the capital Sofia (the biggest city) heading for their hometowns to celebrate a four-day-long Easter holiday. 

Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov proceeded to the final of the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open tennis tournament after defeating Ivo Karlovic from Croatia on Saturday.

The second-seeded Dimitrov scored a 7-6(0) 7-6(2) win over third seed Karlovic and will meet the winner of the semi-final match between Federico Delbonis or Diego Schwartzman in the final, which starts at 5 pm Sofia time (1400 GMT) on Sunday.

The Bulgarian tennis player had scored two victories over Delbonis in as many matches.

Sunday’s match will be the eighth ATP World Tour final for Dimitrov and his second final in 2016.

 

Bulgaria’s government debt increased to EUR 13.35 B at the end of March, compared with EUR 11.60 B a month earlier, according to data from the Finance Ministry.

The increaseof EUR 1.75 B in nominal terms reflected the issuing of a EUR 1.994 B dual-tranche bond on March 14. The deal comprised a EUR 1.144 B seven-year tranche and a EUR 850 M 12-year tranche.

The transaction increased the government’s foreign debt to EUR 9.86 B at end-March from EUR 7.89 B at the end of the previous month, figures show.

Domestic government debt totalled EUR 3.49 B at end-March, a decrease compared with EUR 3.70 B at the end of February.

The government debt-to-GDP ratio was 29.3% at the end of March, compared with 25.7% a month earlier.

Eurobonds issued in international capital markets made up about 57% of total government debt at the end of March, followed by government securities issued on the domestic market (26%) and loans (17%).

By end-March government guaranteed debt totalled EUR 287.3 M in nominal terms, including domestic government guarantees of EUR 31.8 M.

In nominal terms, debt decreased by EUR 17.6 M compared to end-February as a result of disbursements of external government debt, the Finance Ministry said in a monthly debt bulletin for March.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden have proposed to the European Commission to extend temporary controls at the internal borders of the Schengen Area to tackle migration flows more efficiently, Die Welt reported on Saturday.

The proposal has been made in a letter to the European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The six countries called on the Commission to propose to the European Council to permit to maintain or introduce controls at internal Schengen borders from May 13 for a period of six months, if EU member states believe such move was necessary, according to the German newspaper.

Eight of the 26 member states of the Schengen Area have introduced border checks since last September, including Austria and Germany, to stem the flow of migrants. Under current rules, such border checks can be introduced only temporarily and can’t be extended beyond May 12, unless the European Commission finds that EU’s free-travel area is at risk because of a country’s failure to protect the area’s external borders.

The closure of the Western Balkan migration route to Germany and Sweden and the start of sending back migrants and refugees from Greece to Turkey under a deal between the EU and Ankara reached in March have significantly reduced the number of migrants reaching central and western Europe. Yet, the number of migrants arriving in Greece and Italy by sea has increased in the first four months of 2016, compared to a year earlier, according to data from the International Organisation for Migration.

Concerned about prospects of resumed migration pressure at its borders, Austria re-introduced checks on its border with Hungary earlier this week and said it would impose border checks at the Brenner Pass on its frontier with Italy by the end of May.

 

Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry has warned against operating drones in the skies above Sofia and several adjacent areas next week to avoid collision with military aircraft flying low-altitude training missions in preparation for Army Day parade.

No unmanned aerial vehicles should be operated within the boundaries of Sofia, Vakarel, Dolni Pasarel, Breznik, Dragoman and Mirovyane from 9.00 am until 11.30 am and from 2.00 pm until 3.30 pm on May 3, 4, and 5, the Defence Ministry has said in a statement.

The ban will also apply from 9.00 am through 11.30 am on Army Day, May 6.

 

 

Roaming charges in the EU for making calls, sending SMS or surfing online fall on Saturday as a prelude to their abolition from the middle of next year.

As of 30 April 2016, users of mobile devices will only pay a small charge on top of their domestic prices: up to EUR 0.05 per minute of outgoing call made, EUR 0.02 per SMS sent, and EUR 0.05 per MB of data when travelling in the EU.

This maximum roaming charge is about 25% of the current roaming caps for calls made and data, and 33% of the current roaming cap for SMS.

These charges will apply until 15 June 2017, when Europeans will start  paying the same price irrespective of whether they use their mobile devices at home or somewhere else in the EU.

This is not only about Europeans saving money, this is about bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market,”European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip commented in a statement.

Prices that consumers pay for roaming across calls, SMS and data have decreased by more than 80% when the EU first took action to tackle excessive roaming charges. Data roaming is now up to 91% cheaper compared to 2007, and the volume of the data roaming market has grown by 630%, according to European Commission data.

An operation by the Bulgarian authorities that led to the dismantling of an illegal workshop for counterfeiting of 100 euro banknotes has drawn praise from Europol.

The authorities, in close cooperation with Europol, seized EUR 24,000 in counterfeit EUR 100 notes ready for distribution as well as engravings for fake notes amounting to more than EUR 500 000 during the operation conducted in the area of Pleven, in northern Bulgaria, last week. Three members of the organized crime group have been detained in police custody.

“This seizure of fake banknotes is one of Europe’s most significant in recent years on account of the quality of the forged notes detected in circulation in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain,” Europol said in a statement

Europol Director Rob Wainwright commented that the organized crime group had “huge production potential” both in terms of the volume of fake euro notes but also on account of their quality.

“I am pleased to see Bulgaria's determined fight against organised crime and such operations are an important contribution to the protection of the euro,” Wainwright said in the statement.

 

Two recent studies point to Eastern Europe and Bulgaria in particular as an increasingly attractive destination for companies looking to outsource software, according to an article posted on ZDnet website.

Five of the top 20 countries listed as attractive software outsourcing destinations on A.T. Kearney 2016 Global Services Location Index are in Eastern Europe. A total of 55 countries are ranked in the study according to labour costs, skills and availability of workforce, and business environment.

Even though labour costs in Eastern Europe are not as low as those in China or India, which are the two top destinations for outsourcing software, the region “can argue that it provides better product quality, a proximity to Western Europe, cultural affinity, a better business environment, and high-level skills,” the article on ZDNet reads, citing data from the AT Kearney study.

ZDnet is a business technology news website published by CBS Interactive.

Based on labour costs alone, Bulgaria is ranked 12th in the study, behind Poland (10th) and ahead of Romania, (13th), Russia (17th) and Latvia (18th).

Another study, Tholons 2016 Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations, has ranked Bulgarian capital Sofia among the cities in Eastern Europe which are considered attractive for outsourcing software, according to ZDNet.

Sofia is 52nd, one position behind Tallinn and ahead of Ljubljana(54th) and Belgrade (95th). Romania’s capital Bucharest is ranked 41st. The Eastern European country with most entries in the city  ranking is Poland, with Krakow in 9th position, Warsaw in 25th, and Wroclaw 58th.

A.T. Kearney principal Johan Gott has listed before ZDNet several advantages, which Eastern Europe has, compared with more traditional outsourcing destinations. These advantages include much more benignbusiness environment than in India, the length of experience of Eastern European staff, the quality of their work, high-quality higher education systems as well as availability of professionals who speak English, French, and German. 

You can read the whole article “Software outsourcing to Eastern Europe: Which countries work best?” here.

 

The highest ranking Bulgarian male tennis player Grigor Dimitrov proceeded to the semifinals of the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open.

It took him slightly less than one hour and twenty minutes to reach his second consecutive semifinal in Istanbul.

In a match from the third round played on Friday, Dimitrov defeated Jiri Vesely from the Czech Republic with 7:6 (1), 6:1.

Vesely came in the lead with 5:2 in the opening set, but the Bulgarian managed to recover by winning three consecutive games and equalising the score.

Dimitrov was more concentrated at the end of the set and won convincingly the tie-break.

In the second set, the Bulgarian achieved a break and came in the lead with 3:1. He easily claimed the final victory after achieving another break in the sixth game.

Thus Dimitrov scored his second victory over Vesely in the second encounter between the two players.

In the semifinal, the Bulgarian will face Ivo Karlovic from Croatia.

This will be the fourth encounter between the two, with Karlovic having won on two occasions, while Dimitrov has scored only one victory.

A cash machine has been stolen from the foyer of a bank located in the centre of the Bulgarian town of Velingrad, metres away from the building of the municipality.

The signal for the theft was submitted by security guards early on Friday morning.

The robbers have broken into the building of the bank which is located on the main pedestrian street of Velingrad.

According to preliminary information, the cash machine was tied with steel ropes and was dislodged from its place with the help of a powerful sport utility vehicle.

Tthe amount of money contained in the cash machine is not clear, but it is believed that the ATM has been loaded with maximum amount in view of the Easter holiday.

Police is working on identifying the perpetrators. Authorities have seized recordings from the security cameras in the area and are looking for possible witnesses of the theft.

This is not the first case of a cash machine being stolen on a major holiday.

Cash machine loaded with BGN 200 000 was stolen in the town of Dupnitsa on Christmas Eve.

Based on preliminary data and figures, Bulgaria’s finance ministry estimates that budget surplus will exceed BGN 2.3 B at the end of April, which is 2.6 % of projected GDP.

Higher revenues and shrinking expenditures continue to contribute to the improving budget stance compared to the same period last year.

The forecast of the ministry expects revenues to exceed BGN 12.1 B at the end of April, recording an increase of BGN 861.3 M compared to the first four months of last year.

Expenditures are estimated to exceed BGN 9.8 B, which will be a decrease of BGN 780.1 M compared to the same period last year.

The finance ministry also released its figures on the consolidated fiscal programme performance data as of March 31.

According to it, the consolidated fiscal programme balance at the end of March was positive, with the budget surplus exceeding BGN 1.8 B, which is 2.1 % of projected GDP. For comparison, budget surplus in the first quarter of last year amounted to BGN 255.9 M.

By the end of March, revenues and grants exceeded BGN 9 B, which represented an increase by more than BGN 1.3 B compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Expenditures exceeded BGN 7.2 B, registering a decrease of BGN 305. 7 M compared to the same quarter last year.

As of the end of March, Bulgaria’s fiscal reserve amounted to BGN 11.9 B, while government debt exceeded BGN 13.3 B, amounting to 29.3 % of the projected GDP.

A helicopter carrying eleven passengers and two crew members crashed off the western coast of Norway on Friday.

Eleven people have been found dead, while two are still missing. Eleven of the people on board were Norwegian, one was British and one Italian.

Initial reports suggested that some of the people travelling on the helicopter have been rescued, but one of the rescue officials later said that there are no signs of any survivors.

The accident occurred near the island of Turoy west of the city of Bergen. The Eurocopter 225, which was en route from Gullfaks oil field to Bergen, has been totally destroyed.

Witnesses claim to have seen a powerful explosion and people in the sea. Leisure boats could be seen rushing to the site of the accident.

The rescue operation continues, with authorities seaching a wide area of the sea for any survivors.

All passengers on board the helicopter were employees of the Norwegian oil and gas company, Statoil. The company has temporarily grounded all helicopters of the same type.

According to the latest figures of Eurostat released on Friday, Bulgaria registered the second largest decrease in its unemployment rate in March 2016 preceded only by Cyprus.

Compared to the same month in 2015, the unemployment rate in Bulgaria in March decreased from 10 % to 7.3 %. Compared to the previous month, the unemployment rated dropped by 0.1 %.

A total of 244 000 Bulgarians were unemployed in March, which represented a decrease of some 91 000 people compared to the same month last year.

Bulgaria’s unemployment rate was below the EU average which stood at 8.8 % in March. This was the lowest unemployment registered in the EU since April 2009.

The EU’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.9 % compared to March 2015 and dropped by 0.1 % compared to February 2016. A total of 21 419 000 Europeans were unemployed in March.

The lowest unemployment rate was registered in the Czech Republic (4.1 %), followed by Germany, while the highest was recored in Greece (24.4 % the figures from January), followed by Spain.

Compared with March 2015, the unemployment rate decreased in all 28 member states of the EU, except Austria, Latvia and Finland where it registered slight growth.

Bulgaria’s youth unemployment rate of people aged under 25 was also below the EU average. Compared to March 2015, it dropped from 22.3 % to 18.5 %, retaining its level from February 2016.

A total of 30 000 Bulgarian youth were unemployed in March, which represented a drop by 13 000 people compared to the same month last year.

In the EU, the youth unemployment rate dropped from 20.9 % to 19.1 %. A total of 4 287 000 European youth were unemployed in March.

The lowest youth unemployment rate was registered in Germany, followed by the Czech Republic and Malta, while the highest was recorded in Greece, followed by Spain, Croatia and Italy.

In Bulgaria, unemployment continued to be higher among men than women. In March, 7.5 % of Bulgarian men and 7.1 % of Bulgarian women were unemployed.

The opposite trend is visible in the EU, where 8.6 % of European men and 9 % of European women were unemployed in March.

Retired midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has expressed readiness to return as a player in Bulgaria’s men national football team if he manages to get back in shape.

The news comes shortly after Petrov said earlier this week that he is considering to renew his professional career in his last professional football club Aston Villa.

After being diagnosed with acute leukaemia in 2012, the player had to retire prematurely in 2013.

Undergoing a treatment, which ended at the beginning of last year, Petrov managed to overcome the disease and since then has been in remission.

Earlier this week, Petrov revealed that he has been on a secret training programme with the under-21 team of Aston Villa and has readiness to start with the first team in the new season.

Upon hearing the news, Bulgaria’s head coach Ivaylo Petev said that Petrov is also welcome to come back to the national team where he be a great inspiration for the younger players.

He is not only former captain of the national team, but also holds the record for most appearances with the national team.

As a former captain of Aston Villa, Petrov could also serve as inspiration for the team which from next season will be playing in the Championship after being relegated from the Premier League.

The Bulgarian is firm that Aston Villa remains his priority despite having received offers from other British managers.

According to British media, Celtic, where Petrov used to play before moving to Aston Villa, is another option for him.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov slightly lifted the veil on his party’s candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections which are scheduled to take place in the autumn.

However rather than naming any of the possible candidates, Borisov pointed to those who will not run in the elections.

In an interview for the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on Friday, the Bulgarian prime minister said that neither the incumbent mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova nor the mayor of Burgas, Dimitar Nikolov, will run in the elections.

The same goes for Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev.

According to him, all three of them are capable of contesting and winning the elections, but they are more important in their current positions.

Recently, Borisov said that neither he nor his deputy Tsvetan Tsvetanov will run for president.

It is still unclear whether incumbent President Rosen Plevneliev will run for second term.

Borisov has said that the presidential candidate of GERB will be announced in the summer.

Last week, Vice-President Margarita Popova said that she has been considering for some time the option of running for president.

Borisov said that the adoption of the amendments to the Electoral Code has once again proven that a coalition between GERB and the second largest opposition party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), is not possible.

According to him, a new opposition is emerging between the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), DPS and Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), one of the parties constituting the junior coalition partner – the Reformist Bloc (RB).

At the end of last year, DSB withdrew its support from the coalition government after the parliament failed to adopt all of the constitutional amendments concerning the judicial reform, which had been proposed by then Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov.

Since the resignation of Ivanov, DSB has been in opposition. However Health Minister Petar Moskov, who is member of DSB, has kept his position at the cabinet.

A network of electric bicycles will connect Bulgaria and Romania.

The network will be developed in the Bulgarian-Romanian cross-border region under a project financed by the Interreg programme.

Each tourist will be able to rent an electric bicycle for the duration of three hours and to explore the tourist sites along the two banks of the Danube river.

The project foresees the purchase of 240 bicycles, with half of them to be stationed in Bulgaria, the other half in Romania.

The bicycles will be distributed between sixteen Bulgarian and sixteen Romanian towns.

The electric bicycle allows riders to travel between fifty and seventy kilometers with minimum efforts.

The project is developed by two Bulgarian and two Romanian organizations, namely the Agency for Regional Development and Business Centre – Vidin (the lead partner), Vidin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Romanian Association for Electronic Industry and Software Oltenia, Local Employers’ Association for Small and Middle Enterprises Calafat.

The work on the E-bike Net project, which is funded by the V-A Interreg Romania – Bulgaria 2014-2020 programme, began in February.

The sixteen Bulgarian towns participating in the project are: Dobrich, Varna, Veliko Tarnovo, Pleven, Vratsa, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Svishtov, Mezdra, Balchik, Lom, Montana, Cherven Bryag, Dulovo, Oryahovo, Silistra and Vidin.

The Romanian participants are: Giurgiu, Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Calarasi, Constanta, Craiova, Alexandria, Medgidia, Mangalia, Caracal, Rosiorii, Turnu Magurele, Cernavoda, Navodari, Slatina, Oltenita and Calafat.

The bikes will be serviced by specially trained people, so-called operators, whose selection is forthcoming.

The project foresees the installation of charging stations in 35 points in each of the two countries. Each station allows for five bikes to be charged simultaneously.

The charging will last around four-five hours, with users paying for the consumed electricity. The price for renting the bicycle for three hours will be EUR 1.

The speed of the bike will be set by default to 25 km/h in order to limit accidents.

The project has a budget of EUR 762 085.

Heavy traffic and heightened police presence are expected across Bulgaria on Friday as people continue their trips on the first day from the Easter holiday - Good Friday.

Another 100 000 vehicles are expected to leave the Bulgarian capital on Friday.

The heaviest traffic is expected at the exits of Sofia, the Hemus, Trakia and Struma motorways, the I-1 (E79) road between Sofia and Kulata checkpoint at the border with Greece.

Between 8 and 14 o’clock two lanes will be provided at the exit of Sofia in the direction of Pernik in order to ease traffic along the busy route to Greece.

There is heavy traffic at the checkpoints along the borders with Greece and Romania.

Heavy traffic is also expected between the cities of Ruse to Varna due to the high number of Romanian tourists entering through Danube Bridge.

Upon entering Bulgaria, Romanian tourists are handed maps with alternative routes to the Black Sea resorts due to the repair works of the Asparuhov bridge in Varna.

A total of 180 traffic police crews will be regulating traffic on motorways and the main roads during the Easter holiday.

Analysts estimate that half a million Bulgarians will travel within the country or abroad during the Easter holiday.

Bulgarians are mainly heading towards relatives and friends, but a lot of tourist bookings have also been made.

Around 140 000 Bulgarians will spend the holiday abroad – mainly in Greece, Serbia and Romania.

More than 100 000 Romanians and around 60 000 Greeks are expected to visit Bulgaria.

The national railway company has provided nearly 20 000 additional places on trains over the holiday period.

Citizens and transport firms can obtain the latest traffic information from the free mobile application LIMA, the website of the Road Infrastructure Agency (api.bg) and the 24/7 telephone line 0700 130 20.








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