Archive for March, 2012

Nuclear power plant, Anglesey

RWE and E.On were planning to invest in a new nuclear power station in Anglesey

There has been a setback to the government’s plan to attract investment in new nuclear power stations.

That is after RWE Npower and E.On announced they will not develop new nuclear power projects in the UK.

The two were planning to invest in new plants in Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn, near Bristol, under a joint venture called Horizon Nuclear Power.

The government says it is disappointed but there remains “considerable interest” in the project.

The firms blamed problems raising finance for power projects and costs associated with decommissioning nuclear power plants in Germany.

They formed Horizon Nuclear Power, based in Gloucester, in 2009.

It was working on plans for new nuclear power stations at Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey and at Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire.

They are two of eight new projects named by the government to replace old power plants which are due to close by the end of the decade, and which make up about a quarter of the UK’s generating capacity.

But last May Germany decided to close down its nuclear power stations by 2022, following the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear facility.

For RWE and E.On, which own most of Germany’s power stations, it was an expensive decision and undermined their enthusiasm to invest in nuclear power elsewhere.

Looking for investors”It’s a big deal that they are pulling out,” Malcolm Grimston, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank, told BBC News.

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“Start Quote

Company sources say there is a make-or-break decision to be made towards the end of the year by ministers on nuclear subsidies”

image of Robert PestonRobert PestonBusiness editor

“If you look at the utilities in Europe then they are two of the biggest. There aren’t that many huge players out there who could take over.”

RWE and E.On want to find another company, or consortium, to take over the project.

Volker Beckers, chief executive of RWE Npower, said: “We continue to believe that nuclear power has an important role to play in the UK’s future energy mix.

“We are therefore looking to ensure that work on development, including grid connection, can be taken up quickly by other potential investors.”

Energy Minister Charles Hendry said: “E.On and RWE’s withdrawal is clearly very disappointing, but the partners have clearly explained that this decision was based on pressures elsewhere in their businesses and not any doubts about the role of nuclear in the UK’s energy future.

“The UK’s new nuclear programme is far more than one consortia and there remains considerable interest.

“Plans from EDF/Centrica and Nugen are on track and Horizon’s sites offer new players an excellent ready-made opportunity to enter the market,” he said.

The UK’s Nuclear Industry Association said: “We are confident that other investors will emerge to carry on the Horizon project.”

But analysts are now questioning whether firms can make money out of nuclear power in the UK.

“How commercially viable these plants are is very questionable,” Rhys Kealley, lead analyst at Datamonitor, said.

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“Start Quote

The government must urgently do everything possible to get Project Horizon back on track by finding a buyer to take over the project”

Kevin CoyneUnite union

“Even Centrica, who are partnered at the moment with EDF in a similar venture, is reluctant to make a commitment and they will be making a final decision on that some time before the end of the year.”

The move by the German firms follows the decision last September by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) to pull out of a deal to develop a new nuclear power station.

The energy company sold its 25% stake in NuGeneration to partners GDF Suez and Iberdrola.

It said it wanted to focus on renewable energy, as do its German rivals.

RWE says it will continue to invest in low carbon technologies. It has also invested £1.6bn in gas-fired power stations in the UK.

E.On says it will concentrate on projects with quicker results than nuclear, which takes 10 years to start generating electricity.

‘Make-or-break’The future of nuclear power may become clearer in May when the government announces its plan to reform the energy market.

Measures will be introduced to encourage investment and create a balanced range of electricity sources.

BBC business editor Robert Peston says sources at the energy companies describe this as “a make-or-break decision” as to whether the government is prepared to abandon its previous position that there won’t be any substantial subsidies for nuclear, either from taxpayers or customers.

Labour stressed that nuclear power was vital to “to make us less reliant on volatile fossil fuel prices, increase our energy security, and keep prices down for families”.

“RWE and E.On’s decision… underscores the importance of the government’s electricity market reform delivering a framework that will provide certainty and confidence for other potential investors,” said Caroline Flint, shadow energy and climate change secretary.

Greenpeace’s policy director Doug Parr said: “The government’s energy strategy is crumbling.

“Not even the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money they have offered as incentives to the German and French nuclear industry are enough to make a new generation of power stations economically viable.”

‘A shambles’Unions have been highly critical of government policy as well.

Gary Smith from the union GMB, which represents workers in the nuclear industry, told the BBC: “I think it is clear, the government’s energy policy is in absolute tatters. It’s a shambles.

“Britain is being left as an also-ran in the energy market internationally and the nuclear specifically.”

According to the union, Unite, the proposed nuclear power station at Wylfa could generate 5,000 jobs on Anglesey and support jobs at the Springfields fuel plant in central Lancashire.

Unite national officer Kevin Coyne said: “Britain needs Project Horizon to succeed for the sake of our future energy needs and thousands of skilled jobs which would be created as a result.

“The government must urgently do everything possible to get Project Horizon back on track by finding a buyer to take over the project.”

The Prospect union, which represents some of the 120 highly-skilled employees working at Horizon’s headquarters in Gloucester, as well as staff at the existing Wylfa site, expressed concern about the broader economic consequences.

“At a time when we face the closure of several large coal-fired power stations between now and the end of 2015, the Horizon venture was to be a major contributor in achieving a new UK fleet of nuclear power stations to provide a secure low-carbon energy supply for the future,” said Mike Clancy, general secretary-designate of Prospect.

Map of nuclear sites


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  • Fashion 2012

    Designers had models wearing floor length dresses in shades of yellows, greens and blues this year. Models were sporting dresses in chiffon that glittered with sequins and sparkled with jewels.

    There were also a great many dresses in shades of white, fawn and cream this year at the Fashion shows for 2012. Models were wearing fitted knee length dresses with sleeveless cuts. The concept of a sleeveless lace bodice that ended in a swirling chiffon skirt was also launched at the ramp. Many models were wearing ankle length dresses with thigh high gashes in the front and a deep revealing cleavage that gives one the chance to show off your collar bones.

    Designers had models wearing caftan like chiffon gown that revealed a sexy pair of legs and created swirls and hues of yellow around you. The next set of models in the fashion show was seen wearing burnt orange gowns and dress. One particular dress that caught my eye had a deep rectangular cut with no sleeves and a pencil skirt that hugged your thighs snugly. The dress was finished off with a thinly orange metallic belt. The belt added sparkle to the dress. One model was sporting a halter neck heavily beaded and sequined dress that hugged your body all the way to your ankles and also brought out your curves in an appealing manner.

    The next color that Fashion Designers had introduced this year was emerald green in both silk and chiffon. Some of the fabric used had a shimmery texture while the other had silver thread weaved in it. The designer had women wearing loosely fitted ankle length dresses with just a thin belt encircling their waist to enhance their figure.

    While many designers have introduced their clothing lines keeping only summer Fashion 2012 trends in their minds, some have introduced clothing lines for winter’s collection too. Fur coats and checkered coats have been much encouraged by various designers. Man and women both have been seen wearing fur coats in shades of grey and dirty brown with golfer’s caps adorning their heads.

    Plum and orange colors have been encouraged by designers in the fashion industry for this season. Similarly, models and fashion freaks have been asked to wear huge shades this winter in purples and browns etc. Neck ties and bows have also been worn by fashion freaks this winter with the start of 2012.

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See the Runways in Motion

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Obidos, Portugal (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)Obidos, Portugal (Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto)
There’s no better place to vacation under the radar than in a secret European village. On winding cobblestoned streets you can easily lose yourself in centuries-old charm and fall into step with slower-paced locals. Here are 10 enchanting villages most U.S. travelers haven’t yet stumbled upon.

Obidos, Portugal

Taken from the Moors by Portugal’s first king in 1148, Obidos is a medieval fortress and walled village that you enter, as in olden times, through the enormous and intricately painted southern gate of the Church of Santa Maria. Honeysuckle flowers spill from window boxes on whitewashed houses along narrow, winding streets. Restaurants, shops, and coffee bars inhabit spaces whose architectural features span centuries.

If You Go: You can sleep in the Obidos Castle, the first pousada to be adapted and restored from a historical monument. Book a guided walking tour or rent a bicycle at the Tourist Office. Highlights include the Parish Church of Santa Maria, the pretty Chapel of Sao Martinho, and, outside the town walls, the Church of the Senhor da Pedra.

Getting There: Obidos is 55 miles north of Lisbon. The drive on the A8 Motorway takes 40 to 50 minutes. You can arrive by bus, train, or airport taxi.


George Zimmerman’s father told an Orlando television station that Trayvon Martin threatened to kill his son, then beat him before he shot and killed the 17-year-old in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26.

“It’s my understanding that Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him,” Robert Zimmerman told WOFL. “Martin said something to the effect of, ‘You’re going to die now’ or ‘You’re going to die tonight.’ He continued to beat George. At some point, George pulled his pistol. Did what he did.”

“He was punched in the nose. His nose was broken,” the 64-year-old Zimmerman continued. “He was knocked to the concrete. Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him. In the face. In his nose, hitting his head on the concrete.”

Only a shadow of the elder Zimmerman’s face is shown in the televised interview, because of fears for his and his 28-year-old son’s safety.

The comments came on the same day a surveillance video, taken at police headquarters the night of the killing, was broadcast by ABC News.

The tape shows Zimmerman, with his hands cuffed, exit a patrol car, with an officer inspecting the back of his head. Zimmerman does not appear to have any substantial injuries, though the video does not show a close-up of the neighborhood watchman.

“The injuries that made it sound as though he really should have been on a stretcher are not apparent in this tape at all,” Marcia Clark, special prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, told CNN. “He moves freely. He moves fluidly, not like someone who has just been through a beating in any way, shape or form, someone whose head has been pounded on the pavement as hard as described, someone whose nose was broken and bleeding. That tells you a great deal.

Galactic image (VDFS)Earth sits just in the galactic plane which appears as a very dense but very long strip of stars arcing across the sky. The galactic centre and the surrounding bulge of stars is here pulled out to show more detail

Scientists have produced a colossal picture of our Milky Way Galaxy, to reveal the detail of a billion stars.

It is built from thousands of individual images acquired by two UK-developed telescopes operating in Hawaii and in Chile.

Archived data from the project, known as the Vista Data Flow System, will be mined by astronomers to make new discoveries about the local cosmos.

But more simply, it represents a fabulous portrait of the night sky.

“There are about one billion stars in there – this is more than has been in any other image produced by surveys,” said Dr Nick Cross from the University of Edinburgh.

“When it was first produced, I played with it for hours; it’s just stunning,” he told BBC News.

Dr Cross has been presenting the new work to the UK National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) here in Manchester.

The image concentrates on the dense plane of the galaxy, which means it renders as a very long, very thin strip.

That makes it is virtually impossible to show in a meaningful way on this page.

Dr Cross and colleagues have though produced an online interactive tool that allows the user to zoom in to particular areas. Even then, these smaller fragments of sky will contain thousands of stars.

The project has been 10 years in the making. It combines data from the UKIDSS/GPS sky survey acquired by the UK Infrared Telescope in Hawaii with the VVV survey data acquired by the Vista telescope in Chile.

These astronomical facilities view the sky at infrared wavelengths, enabling them to see past the dust in the Milky Way that would ordinarily obscure observations made at optical, or visible, wavelengths.

UKIRT is responsible for the right end of the image; Vista produced the left, including the more extensive block of coverage which traces the centre of the galaxy and its surrounding bulge of stars. (Black squares in the image are data gaps that are in the process of being filled).

Researchers at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge processed and archived all the data that underpins the big picture, and have made it available to astronomers around the world for future study.

ZoomZooming into particular regions reveals the detail of thousands of stars

“There are many uses for this picture,” said Dr Cross. “It will help us really understand the true nature of our galaxy, to see where everything is.

“Some researchers will use it to find star forming regions; there’ll be lots of these along the plane of the galaxy.

“Finding globular clusters will be another use. These are groups of very old stars that formed right at the beginning of the galaxy. We can study their distribution in this image and that tells us something about how the Milky Way started off.

“And it will be particularly useful to study anything that is extended. Here you can look at things on the large scale, to understand how they are related to each other; to look at things that might be across multiple images in a catalogue.

“These are the big objects like clusters, and nebulae – the gas clouds where stars are forming.”

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Marco Rubio

Mr Rubio only won election to the US Senate in the 2010 mid-term elections

Florida senator and conservative favourite Marco Rubio has endorsed Mitt Romney in the race for the US Republican presidential nomination.

Mr Rubio, speaking on Fox News, said Mr Romney would be an impressive president and an improvement over the “disastrous” Barack Obama.

He would not be drawn on frequent speculation that he could be named as Mr Romney’s vice-presidential pick.

On Thursday former President George H W Bush will also endorse Mr Romney.

Marco Rubio is popular among very conservative and Tea Party voters who have remained sceptical of Mr Romney throughout his candidacy.

In addition, his Hispanic roots are thought by analysts to offer a key opportunity to win the support of crucial Latino voters.

Speaking to Fox News host Sean Hannity, Mr Rubio said: “I am going to endorse Mitt Romney.

“Not only is he going to be the Republican nominee, he offers a stark contrast to this president’s record.”

He brushed off concerns that Mr Romney had struggled to dominate the lengthy primary process, and said he had no doubt the former governor of moderate Massachusetts would campaign and govern as an authentic conservative.

“This primary has been excellent because it has meant people take position on issues that we can hold them accountable to,” he added.

‘Humble origins’

Mr Rubio’s endorsement is the latest high-profile Republican figure to fall in line behind Mr Romney, who is widely seen as the inevitable eventual nominee.

In a statement, Mr Romney said his latest backer was a living example of the American Dream.

“From humble origins, he has risen to become one of the brightest lights in our political party.

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Delegate totals

  • Mitt Romney
  • Rick Santorum
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Ron Paul
  • 568
  • 273
  • 135
  • 50

See detail of all states won

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win

“He has been a leading voice in the US Senate and the country for the cause of restoring American greatness.”

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum remains in second place in the primary race, but is far behind Mr Romney with roughly half of the number delegates won.

Mr Santorum appeals to conservatives, in part because of his message of social conservatism, and has won a string of states in highly conservative and religious areas of the US.

But Mr Romney has now picked up the endorsement of two key party power-brokers in 24 hours – the elder statesman George H W Bush and Mr Rubio.

Mr Bush and Mr Romney will appear together on Thursday in Houston, Texas, Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said.

Another heavy-hitting conservative figure from Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush, gave Mr Romney his support a week ago.

Meanwhile, Mr Romney’s other mainstream rival Newt Gingrich is reported to be struggling to keep his campaign.

He has dramatically reduced his staff and cut his campaign events, reportedly to focus on winning the nomination at the Republican convention in Tampa in August.


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Image of Mohamed Merah next to a car, waving his hand in the air

Mohamed Merah died in a shoot-out with police at his flat in Toulouse

The mayor of Toulouse has said gunman Mohamed Merah’s burial in the city would be “inappropriate”.

Merah’s funeral was due on Thursday, but Mayor Pierre Cohen’s office said it had been delayed by 24 hours.

President Nicolas Sarkozy told French TV he should be allowed to be buried in France.

Merah, 23, killed seven people, including three children, in south-western France before he was shot dead in a siege at his home last week.

“Following Algeria’s last-minute refusal to accept Mohamed Merah’s body, Mayor Pierre Cohen feels that his burial within the city of Toulouse is inappropriate,” his office said on Thursday, according to French news agency AFP.

“Therefore he has asked the regional prefect to delay the burial by 24 hours and is raising the matter with the government.”

However, President Sarkozy told France’s BMFTV news channel that Merah’s burial in France should go ahead, AFP reports.

“He was French. Let him be buried and let’s not have any arguments about it,” Mr Sarkozy said.

Earlier, Algerian authorities had reportedly denied permission for Merah to be buried there.

Algerian officials cited security concerns as the reason for the refusal to bury him there, said Abdallah Zekri of the Muslim Council of France.

Family members had been hoping to escort Merah’s body to Algeria, where the family is originally from.

The family had planned to hold the funeral in a village in the province of Medea, about 80km (50 miles) south of the capital, Algiers, French media say.

A sign on the ground marks the place for municipal workers to dig in Cornebarrieu cemetery in Toulouse, where Mohamed Merah was due to be buried.Merah was due to be buried in this cemetery in a Toulouse suburb

The Reuters news agency said an Algerian government source had confirmed the decision not to allow the burial to take place in Algeria.


Police have found an abandoned car near Toulouse with possible links to Merah and the attacks, French media say.

The car was discovered by residents late on Wednesday in St Papoul, a village near the town of Castelnaudary, the Midilibre regional daily reported.

The grey Renault Clio contained parts of a Yamaha Tmax scooter identified as the same type thought to have been used by Merah to travel to the scenes of the murders, reports say.

The car’s owner has been identified as a man living in the same Toulouse block of flats as Merah, France 3 TV quoted a source close to the investigation as saying.

French newspapers say the discovery supports theories that Merah may have had an accomplice.

The killer’s elder brother, Abdelkader Merah, is said to have told investigators that a third man was present with the pair when the scooter used in the attacks was stolen, Le Parisien newspaper reports.

Abdelkader Merah is being held on preliminary charges of complicity with his brother.

Merah died in a police assault on his flat in Toulouse on 22 March after a 32-hour siege. He had killed three soldiers in two separate attacks before shooting dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school.

Merah is said to have told police he wanted to avenge Palestinian children and to attack the French army because of its foreign interventions.

His father, Mohamed Benalal Merah, has said he has hired an Algerian lawyer to sue French special police over his son’s death.


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Smoke billows above Baghdad after a blast near the secure Green Zone, 29 March
Smoke billowed above Baghdad after a blast near the secure Green Zone

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that arming either side in Syria will lead to a “proxy war”.

He was speaking at the opening of an Arab League summit which is discussing a joint plan with the UN to end a year of violence in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to the plan and will spare no effort to make it succeed, Syrian state news agency Sana reported.

The summit is the first such meeting in Baghdad for at least two decades.

President Assad’s remarks were contained in a message to the world’s emerging powers – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – who are meeting in Delhi on Thursday.

He said he would work to enforce the peace plan but “terrorism” must stop as well, Sana reported.

The Syrian government blames the year-old anti-government uprising on foreign-backed terrorists and armed criminal gangs.


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Leaders attending the summit

  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
  • Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir
  • Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
  • Comoros President Ikililou Dhoinine
  • Libyan National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil
  • Lebanese President Michel Suleiman
  • The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah

The UN-Arab League plan, brokered by envoy Kofi Annan, would see a UN-monitored end to fighting, troops pulled out of opposition areas and access for humanitarian services.

Syria first agreed to the initiative on Tuesday but violence has continued.

A number of explosions were heard in central Baghdad as the summit was getting under way.

Two of the blasts occurred near the Iranian embassy, eyewitnesses said. There are unconfirmed reports that an explosion near the city’s secure Green Zone was an IED (improvised explosive device).

Fewer than half the Arab League’s 22 heads of state turned up for the summit, reflecting their suspicion of Iraq’s government and its close ties to non-Arab Iran. Iran is also Syria’s closest ally in the Middle East.

“Based on our experience in Iraq, the option to arm either side of the conflict will lead to a regional and international proxy war in Syria,” Mr Maliki said.

The Emir of Kuwait is attending rhe summit – the first visit by a Kuwaiti leader to Baghdad since Kuwait was invaded by Iraq under Saddam Hussein in August 1990.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the two Arab states most fiercely opposed to the Syrian government, have only sent envoys.

Arab League leaders and envoys gather for a group photo in Baghdad, 29 MarchArab League leaders and envoys posed for a group photo in Baghdad

The summit is being held in such tight security at the city’s former Republican Palace that the venue was not initially disclosed to journalists.

While expectations are not high for the talks, the fact that they are being held in the Iraqi capital at all can be seen as a sign of progress for Iraq, says the BBC’s Wyre Davies, in Baghdad.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria “to put commitments into immediate effect”.

“The world is waiting for commitments to be translated into action. The key here is implementation: there is no time to waste,” Mr Ban told the summit.

Mr Ban is due to meet key leaders to discuss how the UN can work with the Arab League to put the plan, brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan, into action.

‘Keep pressure on’

Washington has urged countries to maintain pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The US state department said it had “not seen the promises that Assad made implemented”.

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Annan’s six-point peace plan

1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people

2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians

3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause

4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists

6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully

“It’s incumbent on all of us to keep the pressure on Assad to meet the commitment that he’s made, and that’s our intention over the next few days,” a spokesperson said.

Syria has said it will not address any initiative from the Arab League, from which it was suspended last year.

The opposition in Syria is sceptical about the terms of Mr Annan’s plan, with some saying Mr Assad is merely stalling for time in order to continue his crackdown.

“We are not sure if it’s political manoeuvring or a sincere act,” said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council.

“We have no trust in the current regime… We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians.”

The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed during the year-long Syrian revolt.

Opposition activists say at least 40 people have been killed since government troops overran the opposition-held town of Saraqeb in the north-west at the weekend.

Corpses littered the streets as homes were burned to the ground and shops pillaged and looted, they said, in reports which could not be verified independently.

Much of Baghdad has been brought to a standstill for the summit, which is costing an estimated $500m (£314m) to stage.

The Iraqi government is hoping to re-establish itself in the Arab fold after years of violence and sectarian conflict, Wyre Davies reports from Baghdad.

Little progress is expected either on the Syrian front or on wider tensions between Shia and Sunni factions in the region, he notes.

But if the summit, which is expected to last for barely a few hours, passes off without incident and if there are no insurgent attacks elsewhere in the country, it will be seen as a resounding success, our correspondent adds.


Forget the Big Three … LeBron JamesChris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are now a 1920s-era JAZZ TRIO — or at least they played one Tuesday night … at Bosh’s blowout 28th birthday party in Miami.

It all went down at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center — James, Bosh and Wade took the stage and surprised the entire party with an impromptu jam sesh … and we’re told, they weren’t that bad.

Other guests included … Timbaland, Heat President Pat Riley, and the entire Heat squad. Grammy winner Chrisette Michele also performed.

Ain’t that just the bees knees …

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