Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Afghan forces in deadly battle with Taliban


Taliban launches one of the largest attacks of spring offensive in Helmand province as bomb kills seven police in Herat.

A co-ordinated Taliban assault on checkpoints in southern Afghanistan has killed five police officers and 25 Taliban fighters, local officials have said.
Omar Zwak, the provincial governor's spokesman, said that there were 500 to 1,000 Taliban fighters involved in fighting in Helmand province, which raged for 24 hourss.
However, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) issued a written statement which said that it had not seen anywhere near that number of Taliban fighters.
"Our reporting shows there were about 10 groups of four to five fighters each doing drive-by shootings against five police checkpoints," the ISAF statement said. ISAF also denied that the checkpoints were overrun.
'Success without NATO
Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, spokesman for the Taliban, told Al Jazeera that a group of local Taliban had captured three government checkpoints during the attacks.
He said the Taliban had killed a number of Afghan security forces, including two top Afghan police commanders in the area as part of its spring offensive.
Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said that amid the conflicting reports it was agreed that it was the largest Taliban attack since the group launched its offensive in April.
Glasse said it was significant that Afghan security forces did not ask for NATO assistance.
"This, of course, is the year that Afghan security forces take control of security of the entire country, NATO watching to see how they'll do," she said.
"The Afghan provincial government spokesman in Helmand province told Al Jazeera that actually this is a success, they've pushed back the Taliban and it shows that the Afghan security forces can do well on their own."
Bomb kills police
The fighting came as officials said that a powerful roadside bomb killed seven policemen in the Chishti Sharif district of Herat province in western Afghanistan.
The policemen died when their vehicle hit the explosive device planted in the road on Tuesday morning, police said.
The officers were from the Afghan Public Protection Force, a government-run force that provides security for international supply convoys, aid groups and foreign-funded reconstruction sites.
The blast ripped through the vehicle as the men were heading to Obe district in Herat, where India is rebuilding a major hydroelectric dam.
Sher Agha, the district police chief, said that the explosion was so strong that the police truck was obliterated in the blast and there were no survivors.
There was no claim of responsibility for the deadly assault on the policemen, who were guards of the Salma dam project and were on their way to Herat city.

Nigeria military shells fighters' camps


At least 21 people killed in Borno state after soldiers shelled suspected camps, official says.


The military announced a 'massive' deployment of troops to the violence-wracked northeast in late April [AFP]
A security official in northeast Nigeria says soldiers have shelled suspected camps of armed groups in the region, killing at least 21 people.
The official said on Friday that the fighting happened on Thursday in the Sambisa Forest Reserve, just south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
The official said that soldiers would remain in the area to secure it.
The official also said that Nigeria's government shut off mobile phone service to parts of northeast Nigeria as soldiers moved in to enforce an emergency declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan over three states there.
Phone service was restored on Friday, but the official said the phones likely would be shut off again.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak publicly about the operation

Nigeria to free Boko Haram members


Military says it will release a number of Boko Haram members, including all women, in what it calls a peace bid.


Nigeria has announced it will release a number of Boko Haram members, including all women, in what it called a peace bid as its military waged operation in the country's northeast to clamp down on the armed group.

The news of the prisoner release was announced on Tuesday shortly after the government relaxed the curfew in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and a stronghold of Boko Haram, which has been fighting the government to enforce Islamic laws.

"The (prisoner release) measure, which is in line with presidential magnanimity to enhance peace efforts in the country, will result in freedom for suspects including all women under custody," a statement by defence spokesperson Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade said.

Olukolade's statement said President Goodluck Jonathan had ordered the prisoner releases on the recommendation of a panel he set up to seek a political solution to the conflict.

Jonathan offered an amnesty on Sunday to fighters who surrender, a sign he is keen to keep channels for a peaceful way out of the conflict open as far as possible.
Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the base of the military offensive, said the detained Boko Haram suspects will be released to the state governors "for rehabilitation and eventual release back to the community".
Our correspondent is also reporting that all women connected to Boko Haram activities will also be released.
In his latest video this month, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau accused security forces of detaining the wives and children of its members.
Earlier, the city residents were able to go outside their homes during the day after the army issued a statement late on Monday easing the curfew from 7am local time (06:00 GMT) until 5pm (16:00 GMT).
Nigeria's military on Saturday imposed a 24-hour curfew in parts of the northeastern city, as soldiers poured in the region that saw people fleeing from their homes.
The country launched the sweeping operation last week, deploying thousands of troops across three states - Adamawa, Borno and Yobe - where President Jonathan declared a state of emergency a week ago after the fighters seized territory and chased out the government.
The military said dozens of fighters had been killed in the offensive targeting all three states put under emergency decree.
About 120 of the fighters have also been arrested and are being interrogated, the military said in a statement.

Nigeria eases curfew in northeast



Nigeria has relaxed a curfew in parts of the northeast where its troops are mounting their biggest offensive yet against fighters from the group Boko Haram.
The army has sent thousands of extra troops to try to dislodge the well-armed fighters from territory they control around Lake Chad, along the borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
A round-the-clock curfew had been imposed since Saturday over large parts of the city of Maiduguri and other parts of Borno state, at the heart of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The curfew had raised fears of a humanitarian crisis if food supplies were unable to get through.
Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, a spokesman for Nigerian forces in Borno, said the curfew had been relaxed and would start at 6pm and end at 7am.
Traffic remained at a trickle in Maiduguri, as many frightened residents remained in their homes.
Bases bombarded
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency one week ago in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, sending thousands of extra troops to the region.
War planes were used to destroy fighter bases in remote rural areas on Friday.
The military said it had re-established control in five remote towns in Borno considered to be Boko Haram strongholds.
The military has "secured the environs of New Marte, Hausari, Krenoa, Wulgo and Chikun Ngulalo after destroying all the terrorists' camps," a defence ministry statement said.
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, but has changed its demands several times.
Attacks carried out by the group and its conflict with security forces are estimated to have cost around 3,600 lives since 2009.
Jonathan offered an amnesty on Sunday to any Boko Haram fighters who lay down their weapons and surrender, although analysts say the state of emergency will further complicate efforts to resolve the conflict through dialogue.
The US, EU and rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are concerned the state of emergency will enable Nigeria's military to commit abuses against civilians.
The UN emergency relief agency and Niger's Red Cross said in a report that around 1,500 people had fled across the border into Niger in the past two weeks, but it had not yet been established what their nationalities were.

Apple CEO rejects 'tax evasion' charges


Tim Cook tells US Senate hearing that Apple does not use 'tax gimmicks' to avoid paying more taxes.


In a testimony before the US Senate, Tim Cook said Apple paid nearly $6bn to the US treasury in 2012 [AFP]
The chief executive of Apple has defended his company's tax practices over claims it is among the largest tax avoiders.
In a testimony before the US Senate on Tuesday, Tim Cook said that Apple paid nearly $6bn to the US treasury last year.
"We pay all the taxes we owe," Cook said. "Every single dollar. We not only comply with the laws, but we comply with the spirit of the laws."
A defiant Cook also rejected accusation that his company used "tax gimmicks" to avoid paying more in taxes.
"We don't move intellectial property offshore and use it to sell our poducts back to the US to avoid taxes," he said.
According to a report issued on Monday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Apple is holding almost $102bn of its $145bn in cash overseas.
The report also found that an Irish subsidiary that earned $22bn in 2011 paid only $10m in taxes.
Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's deputy prime minister, said on Tuesday that the country is not to blame for the low rate of tax paid by Apple because they were "not issues that arise from the Irish taxation system".
"They are issues that arise from the taxation systems in other jurisdictions and that is an issue that has to be addressed first of all in those jurisdictions."
Tax burden
While Apple claims to be the biggest US corporate taxpayer, it is also "among America's largest tax avoiders," said Senator John McCain, the panel's senior Republican.
Republicans want to cut the corporate tax rate of 35 percent and ease the tax burden on money that US companies make abroad, saying the move would encourage companies to invest at home.
The strategies Apple uses are legal, and many other multinational corporations use similar tax techniques to avoid paying US income taxes on profits they reap overseas.
But the report found that Apple uses a unique twist, and politicians are raising questions about loopholes in the US tax code.
The report estimates that the California-based company avoided at least $3.5bn in US federal taxes in 2011 and $9bn in 2012 by using the strategy. It paid $2.5bn in federal taxes in 2011 and $6bn in 2012.
Apple uses five companies located in Ireland to carry out its tax strategy, according to the report.
While all five companies were incorporated in Ireland, only two also have tax residency in that country, allowing three companies to not be required legally to pay taxes in Ireland.
Shifting profits
The report says Apple capitalises on a difference between US and Irish rules regarding tax residency.
In Ireland, a company must be managed and controlled in the country to be a tax resident. Under US law, a company is a tax resident of the country in which it was established.
The subcommittee said Apple's strategy of not declaring tax residency in any country could be unique among corporations.
"Apple wasn't satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven," Senator Carl Levin, the subcommittee's chairman, said in a statement.
The subcommittee report also noted that Apple has been setting aside billions for tax bills it may never pay.
As previously reported by the AP news agency, the overlooked asset that Apple has been building up could boost its profits by as much as $10.5bn.

Myanmar jails Muslims over religious violence

Seven defendants found guilty of Buddhist monk's murder, which sparked widespread sectarian violence in central region.


So far no Buddhists have been convicted in connection with the unrest in Meiktila [AFP]
A Myanmar court has sentenced seven Muslims to prison terms in connection with religious violence in March that left dozens of people dead, a justice official said.
The defendants were sentenced on Tuesday and face imprisonment ranging from two to 28 years, sparing them the death penalty.
They were accused of the murder of a Buddhist monk in the central town of Meiktila that sparked unrest across the region, mostly targeting Muslims.
The main suspect received life imprisonment - equivalent to 20 years - and four more years for other charges, according to Ye Aung Myint, a government prosecutor in Mandalay region.
One of the co-accused was handed 10 years for the murder, and 18 years for other crimes including arson and damage to public property.
Family members of the accused broke down in tears at the court after hearing the verdict, Thein Than Oo, defence lawyer, said. "Whether they appeal depends on their relatives," he said.
According to the government, at least 44 people were killed and thousands left homeless after the wave of violence, which was apparently triggered by a quarrel in a gold shop.
Three Muslims including the gold shop owner were jailed for 14 years in April for assaulting a Buddhist customer.
Sectarian fractures
So far no Buddhists have been convicted in connection with the unrest in Meiktila, but Ye Aung Myint insisted that both sides were being treated equally.
"We are sentencing people according to the law based on evidence presented at trial. We have no bias at all based on religion," he said.
A total of 87 people have been arrested in the Meiktila area including about 38 Buddhists, he said.
Attacks against Muslims - who make up an estimated four percent of Myanmar's population - have exposed deep fractures in the formerly junta-run country and cast a shadow over widely-praised political reforms.
Some monks were involved in the clashes, while others have led a nationalistic campaign calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned shops.
President Thein Sein, who sent the army to restore order, has vowed a tough response against those behind the violence, which he attributed to "political opportunists and religious extremists".
It followed Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the western state of Rakhine last year that left about 200 people dead, mostly minority Muslim Rohingya who are denied citizenship by Myanmar.
The verdicts come as rights group Physicians for Human Rights released a report detailing "horrific" violence in Meiktila targeting Muslims.
It quoted eyewitnesses who described a Buddhist mob, including monks and assisted by the security forces, hunting down and killing at least 20 children and four teachers from a Muslim school and injuring many more.
Witnesses recounted seeing one student being decapitated and another being set on fire, according to the US-based group.

120 Insurgents Arrested At Burial Of Boko Haram Commander

Soldiers apprehended 120 members of the Boko Haram group who were ironically making arrangements for the burial of one of their commanders killed in confrontation with the military.
 
Following the onslaught, the terrorists were said to be fleeing towards Chad and Niger Republics but they are being contained by troops at the borders.
A statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade on the development said: “The Special Forces have now secured the environs of New Marte, Hausari, Krenoa, Wulgo and Chikun Ngulalo after destroying all the terrorist camps sited in the vicinity of these localities. The troops are already interacting with locals and citizens assuring them of their safety and freedom from the activities of insurgents.
“Terrorists fleeing towards Chad and Niger Republic are being contained as they have had encounter with Multi-National Joint Task Force in various locations towards the border. Advancing troops also observed a few shallow graves believed to be those of hurriedly buried members of the terrorist groups. In Maiduguri, about 120 terrorists were arrested as they organized burial of one of their commanders who died in an encounter with Special Forces the previous day.
“The arrested insurgents are in custody of the Joint Task Force where they are being interrogated”.
Meanwhile, Defence Headquarters said it has observed the use of photographs purportedly taken in the areas covered by the operations and “wishes to state that the photographs are questionable as they do not reflect any related reality of the social or geographical environment.
Following relative peace witnessed in some parts of Borno and Yobe states, the JTF has relaxed the curfew in order to ease the hardship being faced by the people, especially the poor masses.
A press statement signed by the JTF Spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa and issued to newsmen in Maiduguri said: “The 24-hour curfew earlier imposed in Gamboru-Customs Area, Mari Kuwait Area of University of Maiduguri, Bakin Kogi Area, Kasuwan Shanu-Kofar Biyu Area have been relaxed from 6am to 7pm”.
Other areas/wards where the 24hours curfew have been relaxed include Ruwan Zafi-Customs Area, 202 Housing Estate, Bama Road, 303 Housing Estate Bama Road, Dikwa Low-cost Housing Estate.
Also affected are Simari-Zannari-Kwanan Yobe Area, 505 Abba Gana Terab Housing Estate, Muna Garage Road, Chad Basin Muna Garage Road, Baga Road Federal Lowcost Area, Bolori, Jajeri and Umamari Area.
In a related development, the Special Adviser to Governor Ibrahim Gaidam on Press Affairs and Information, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego said: “In view of the relative peace in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital and its environs, the curfew has now been relaxed from 6am to 6pm.”
The statement said, “In view of the need to sustain the relative peace that all parts of the state currently enjoy, His Excellency the Executive Governor Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam has approved an adjustment of the hours during which public movement is restricted around the state”.
Consequently the statement added that, restriction on movement now starts from 6.00PM to 6.00AM daily throughout the state with effect from today Monday 20th May 2013.
The decision for this adjustment according to Bego follows a meeting that His Excellency the governor had with heads of law enforcement agencies in the state.

Gaidam therefore urged the public to continue with the exemplary support and cooperation with security agents to ensure lasting peace, even as he enjoined the public not to relent in prayers for the restoration of peace in the state and the country in general.

Real Madrid announce Mourinho exit


Jose Mourinho will leave Madrid at the end of the season after three years in charge
Jose Mourinho will leave Madrid at the end of the season after three years in charge
Jose Mourinho will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, the nine-time European champion's president Florentino Perez announced at a news conference on Monday.
By his own admission Mourinho, who won one La Liga crown and a Copa del Rey with Real after taking charge in 2010, has endured what he has called his "worst season" in management.
"The club and manager agree that the timing is right to bring the relationship to an end," said Perez.
"On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to thank Jose Mourinho for all his hard work over the last three years."

Mourinho will stay on for Real's remaining league fixtures, with an away trip to Real Sociedad on May 26 and a final home game at the Bernabeu on June 1 against Osasuna.
Real will finish second in La Liga this year, trailing champions Barcelona by 12 points after 36 rounds.
The parting of ways comes three days after Mourinho was sent off as Real lost the Copa del Rey final 2-1 to Atletico Madrid, a first defeat by their neighbors in 14 years.
Real president Perez explained that the decision was a "mutual agreement", so paving the way for Mourinho to make a return to England's Premier League.
"I know in England I am loved," said the Portuguese last month. "I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one."
The 50-year-old has been heavily linked with a return to former club Chelsea, where he won two Premier League titles and one FA Cup between 2004 and 2007.
This year's Europa League champions will be without a coach on June 1, with the contract for interim manager Rafa Benitez expiring at the end of May.
The decision to part ways via "mutual agreement" means neither Real nor Mourinho will have to pay one another millions of dollars in compensation had either of them broken the terms of their contract.
After winning La Liga last year, Mourinho had signed a new four-year deal with the Merengues.
The compensation package was believed to be a potential obstacle to his return to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich paid Mourinho and his coaching staff some $27 million after his contract ended early in 2007.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti, who formerly led Chelsea himself, is rumored to be Mourinho's replacement.
On Monday, Perez denied that any deal has been agreed to replace the former Inter Milan and Porto manager.
"We have no pre-contract signed with any managerial candidate," he said. "It's something we'll have to look at in the coming days."
Ancelotti confirmed on Sunday that he had asked to leave the French champions, while the club's Qatari owners suggested he already had an agreement in place with Real.
Desperate to be crowned champions of Europe for a record tenth time, with their last success dating back to 2002, Real Madrid turned to Mourinho just days after he lifted the Champions League with Inter Milan, ending a barren 35-year run for the Italians.
Yet the Portuguese was beaten in the semifinals of the competition each year with Real, who were knocked out by Borussia Dortmund last month.
Without a trophy in the two years prior to his arrival, Mourinho did at least return silverware to the club - winning the Copa del Rey in his first season in charge.
In 2012, he guided Real Madrid to their first league crown in four years and amassed a record tally of 100 points along the way, so eclipsing the previous best held by great rivals Barcelona.
A new deal soon followed but matters soured this season as Mourinho clashed with several star players, notably goalkeeper Iker Casillas -- who was demoted from the first team in recent months -- Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
During his 176 games in charge, Mourinho has led Madrid to 127 victories - losing just 22 games along the way.

India's palace hotels fit for a king

The spectacular sandstone exterior of the Umaid Bhavan palace in the state of Rajasthan, northwest India. Still the primary residence of the royal Maharaja of Jodhpur, a third of the facility was transformed into a hotel in 1972. The spectacular sandstone exterior of the Umaid Bhavan palace in the state of Rajasthan, northwest India. Still the primary residence of the royal Maharaja of Jodhpur, a third of the facility was transformed into a hotel in 1972.
Drawbridges, moats and towering turrets that bear menacing defensive positions -- royal households have traditionally taken to fighting off outsiders with an array of medieval deterrents.
In the Indian city of Jodhpur however, one regal residence has parted with ancient convention and opened its doors to visitors from across the globe.
For the princely sum of $450 a night, travelers can snap up a basic suite in the spectacular Umaid Bhavan.
The elaborate 347-room palace is home to the Maharaja of Jodhpur, and is one of the largest private residences in the world.
After the Indian government abolished privy purses (a regular allowance the state gave royal families) in 1972, the Maharaja sought to cut costs and converted a third of the palace into a luxury hotel.

This section of the building now contains 64 luxury suites operated by hotel giant, the Taj Group.
"It's as if you are stepping back in time and you can have that same experience but with air conditioning, with WiFi and your Grohe shower head," said Raymond Bickson, managing director and CEO of the Taj Group.
Across India, many other former royal households and stately buildings have opened up in a similar way, taking advantage of the country's burgeoning tourist trade.
The practice has helped maintain the architectural splendor of the palaces in question whilst providing an authentic way for travelers to experience India's rich cultural heritage -- if they have the money.

English-language manual helps the fight back for Hong Kong kung fu

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
May 21, 2013 -- Updated 0346 GMT (1146 HKT)
Lam Chun-fai Sifu with his son Oscar display one of the Hung Kuen kung fu stances
Lam Chun-fai Sifu with his son Oscar display one of the Hung Kuen kung fu stances
It's the staple of almost every kung fu action film ever made: the hero is targeted for revenge after teaching the deadly and closely guarded secrets of the martial art to outsiders and, even worse, foreigners.
But ask Lam Chun-fai Sifu -- the 73-year-old practitioner of the 300-year-old kung fu style known as Hung Kuen -- and he will tell you that making the martial art accessible to foreigners is the only way to save it from extinction.
The son of a student to Wong Fei Hung, one of the legends of the fighting style and the subject of countless films, Lam Sifu (sifu is a Cantonese term that means 'master') says the fighting art may be growing fast overseas, but struggles in the region where it was born.
To counter the decline, he has co-authored the world's first English-language manual on the ancient kung fu style that he has taught for 60 years and has been his family's trademark for more than three generations.
Called Hung Kuen Fundamentals: Fok Fu Kuen, the manual outlines scores of moves and stances that were hitherto only taught and transmitted orally.
While there are dozens of fighting styles in kung fu (the northern styles represented by fast, high kicks and rapid, fluid movements), Hung Kuen is a southern Chinese fighting art characterised by strong stances and fast footwork. One practitioner famously destroyed the bamboo planks in a demonstration platform simply by shifting his feet in the 'hard stances' of Hung Kuen.
Lam Sifu, meanwhile, teaches a steady stream of foreigners the ancient fighting art in the cramped living room of his tiny apartment on the 7th floor of a tenement block in Hong Kong's North Point.
In terms of Hong Kong kung fu, it's about as traditional as it gets, right down to the name 'Di Dat Clinic' which translates as 'Hit Fall Clinic'; a name unchanged from the days when kung fu masters, so used to treating the training accidents of their students, were the first stop for neighborhood trauma injuries and broken bones.
Using a spear against his sword-wielding son Oscar, Lam Sifu is a blur of threshing weapons amid the armchairs, ornaments and computer printers in his urban home.
"Training in a small area like this is very good for control," he says in a space so cramped it looks like two men having a knife fight in a telephone booth. For his long-standing foreign students -- Hung Kuen teachers from Italy, the Czech Republic and Germany -- the turn of fighting speed still draws a gasp of admiration.
"Many students in Italy like traditional kung fu and especially this style which is the origin of the martial art," said Massimo Iannaccone, who runs an academy in Rome but perfects the art in Lam Sifu's living room on trips to Hong Kong.
Pavel Adamek, who teaches Hung Kuen in Prague, Czech Republic, says his students are drawn as much by the Eastern philosophy associated with the martial art as they are by learning a fighting style.
"It's very popular in the Czech Republic -- people there are really looking for something more than fighting arts. They want to train their bodies and their minds -- this style is really very good for that," he said.
While there may be more dedicated practitioners overseas than in Hong Kong, Lam Sifu's co-author Hing Chao, who also studies the Hung Kuen style, said that the form remains a potent cultural symbol in Hong Kong.
"It's rooted in a very specific Hong Kong identity as well," Hing said. Both he and Lam Sifu believe the style is so important as a cultural symbol, the government should recognize it as part of Hong Kong's intangible cultural heritage.
Training in a small area like this is very good for control
Lam Chun-fai Sifu
Hing, who has studied the interaction between the media, entertainment and the martial arts, says that Hollywood sometimes gives a lopsided view of Chinese martial arts, focusing on various personalities such as Ip Man, Bruce Lee's famous teacher, to the exclusion of all other equally famous teachers and styles.
Despite this, he says its popularization in film sometimes unconsciously transmits positive aspects of kung fu culture.
"Besides the fighting, one of the reasons that Bruce Lee has been such a global celebrity until to today is because a lot of messages strike a chord and resonate among the marginalized," Hing says.
"Why would, for instance, a Black African community in the U.S. look on Bruce Lee as a hero? Because embedded in these films are messages of righteousness. Of someone who is disadvantaged but through dedication to kung fu can become empowered and through his own empowerment help the rest of the community.
"This is very positive and I would say the Bruce Lee path represents one of the best interactions between film and martial arts -- it's something we don't often see these days."
While foreigners may be beating a path to the kung fu clinic's door, local interest in Hong Kong is only just gaining ground after a long hiatus.
Lam Sifu says modern distractions like videogames are sapping young people of the ability to focus on demanding martial art forms like Hung Kuen which can require learning as many as 300 movements in a single set.
"These days pupils can't stand any hardship. They say practicing is tiring and they give up easily," he says.

Samsung Galaxy S4 named top smartphone by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports gave top marks to Samsung's Galaxy S4 phone.
Consumer Reports gave top marks to Samsung's Galaxy S4 phone.
A month after being released to mostly positive reviews, Samsung's flagship phone is getting some validation from Consumer Reports. The publication has run all its tests, kicked the phone's tires, and named the Android-powered Galaxy S4 its top rated smartphone.
The previous list-topper was the Optimus G, a solid $100 4.7-inch phone from LG that held Consumer Reports' No. 1 spot for several months. The Optimus G is now ranked as the No. 2 smartphone, followed by the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Apple iPhone 5.
Consumer reports bases its ratings on a number of extensive tests and rates the devices in categories including ease of use, display and voice quality, portability and battery life. The $200 Galaxy S4's weakest scores were in video quality and portability. Like all the other smartphones on the list, it also had mediocre scores for voice quality, a sacrifice that seems common in the smartphone market. The publication also lamented the lack of one-button phone access.
Consumer Reports specifically called out the S4's 5-inch, 1080p touch-screen, multitasking in split view, and a built-in IR feature as some of the handset's standout features. The abundance of features were seen as appealing to more advanced users without complicating the phone for more entry-level users. The publication said the device's camera was "among the best phone cameras for photo quality."
The Galaxy S4 is an update to Samsung's wildly popular S3 phone, which was one of the best selling smartphones of the past year. Samsung was the leader in the smartphone market in in the first quarter of 2013, according to research firm IDC, and it looks like its latest offering will help it hang on to that top spot for the time being.
Last week, Google announced a new version of the Galaxy S4 that will run a pure form of the company's Android mobile operating system. That unlocked and uncluttered phone will cost $649 when it becomes available at the end of June.

Should tennis be worried about the 'kissing disease'?

Roger Federer played at the Australian Open in 2008 not knowing he had mono. At the height of his powers, he surprisingly needed 4.5 hours to beat Janko Tipsarevic in the third round.


Roger Federer played at the Australian Open in 2008 not knowing he had mono. At the height of his powers, he surprisingly needed 4.5 hours to beat Janko Tipsarevic in the third round.
Christina McHale, energy sapped and unable to train properly, knew something was wrong last year. Exercises she once did easily were becoming harder and getting through matches was proving difficult, too.
It was a surprise, since the young American prospect was considered a player with good stamina and has already earned a reputation for wearing down her opponents, not vice versa.
After a first-round victory at the French Open, McHale felt particularly exhausted.
"I won 6-4 in the third set, but I remember saying to my coach that I feel like I've just been hit by a bus," the 21-year-old recalled.
At first she thought it was a sinus infection. Then a couple of months later, following the Olympic tennis event at Wimbledon, McHale picked up a stomach bug and had to go to hospital. Her ordeal dragged on.
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"I kept going back to the doctors because I wasn't getting better," McHale said. "I was still feeling very low on energy and they were like, 'No, you should already be over the stomach virus.' So then they started doing more tests, and that's when they found out what it was."
The diagnosis was mononucleosis, a viral illness that can linger for weeks, months or even years. It has earned the nickname of the "kissing disease" because it can get passed from one person to another through saliva. Fortunately for McHale, her bout was coming to an end.
McHale, though, isn't the only tennis player in recent years to be afflicted with mono or the name it's also known by, glandular fever.
Others on the list
Top men's players Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Robin Soderling, Mario Ancic and John Isner have been struck down, while Heather Watson, like McHale a player with promise, revealed she had mono in April.
Jarmila Gajdosova, another promising player on the women's tour, announced last week on Twitter that she had mono.
Soderling and Ancic weren't as lucky as the likes of Federer, McHale and Watson, who hopes to return to action at the French Open, which starts this weekend. Indeed the severity of cases varies, as does an individual's capacity to fight off and cope with infections.
Soderling, the French Open finalist in 2009 and 2010, hasn't played since 2011 and it is looking increasingly likely that he won't ever come back.
The Swede with the massive forehand -- who handed Rafael Nadal his only defeat at Roland Garros -- started to feel unwell in the spring of 2011 and later said it was a mistake to compete at Wimbledon that year.
Ancic, hailed as a potential winner at Wimbledon after reaching the semifinals in 2004, attempted to play through his flu-like symptoms during a Davis Cup series against Germany in 2007.
He said he felt so dizzy in his singles opener he missed a ball completely, but he still contested the doubles a day later.
He was ready to play the deciding fifth rubber if needed, although with Germany already clinching the tie he was replaced by a young Marin Cilic.
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"God saved me," Ancic, known for his work ethic and willingness to play through injuries, said in an interview in 2007.
Ancic re-emerged on the tour but was never the same and a teary-eyed Croatian had to retire two years ago aged 26.
Andy Murray, the current world No. 2, feared he had mono four years ago, and it's an illness he's still wary of, telling the Daily Telegraph in March: "You can get run down and end up missing two or three months of the year because of an illness.
"Your immune system gets run down and then you lose weight. It's happened with a lot of guys with glandular fever the last few years so it's something everyone has to look into."
Continuous travel, training
Former pro Justin Gimelstob isn't surprised that tennis players are susceptible.
The players have to, at times, switch continents on a weekly basis, and they travel 10-11 months in a year.
Unlike golf, cricket or Formula One, others sports that require continual global travel, the players also push themselves to the limit physically.
The career of Gimelstob, who now commentates and serves as a player representative on the ATP World Tour's board of directors, was blighted by a back injury.
"I think that's the thing people don't understand -- the heightened intensity does damage to your body, immune system, energy levels, on the fitness of your muscles, ligaments, tendons," Gimelstob said.
"It's just a very tough sport. I truly believe that Nadal, Murray, (Novak) Djokovic and Federer, these guys aren't only the best tennis athletes in the world, they are some of the best athletes in the world.
"There's a whole culture of being tough and strong and pushing through pain and being a warrior.
"But I can tell you right now at 37 years old walking my dog, my body feels the brunt of probably doing a lot of things and pushing through barriers I probably shouldn't have. That's the product of an individual sport."
At first Leslie Findley, a consultant neurologist in England who has treated marathon runners, footballers and tennis players with mono, said it was a "myth" that those involved in tennis are more vulnerable than other athletes.
But he subsequently acknowledged that when factoring in their travel, the severity of the illness can intensify.
"We know people with fatigue illnesses related to the effects of viruses travel badly," he said.
"If you take someone with a chronic fatigue syndrome and stick them on an airplane at (London's) Heathrow to the United States they'll do an eight-hour flight. That can have a devastating effect on them for days afterwards."
Preventing mono can be difficult, but Findley said it's important that players heed warnings. If they suddenly develop a cold, fever, sore throat or stomach issues, it's vital to rest instead of continuing to train and play matches.
Stopping not easy
As Gimelstob pointed out and Findley knows through his own experience in working with sportsmen and women, that isn't always easy.
"When you and I have the flu, we go to bed and within a week or two we'd be back to normal," Findley said.
"Why these people get symptoms that go on for weeks, months and years is usually because -- and I'm now generalizing -- they don't stop when they have the first symptoms and tend to push through, and they're under stress."
Diagnosing mono isn't simple, either, said Findley.
He said there is a lack of specialists and that doing a battery of tests at the outset may not be efficient. He will usually spend nearly two hours talking to patients in a first consultation before making a clinical diagnosis.
"Then there are a limited number of blood tests that need to be done to make sure there is nothing else contributing to it," Findley said.
The women's tennis tour said in an email that player health and well being was a "priority." But the age of many of its pros is another reason why tennis players would appear to be at risk.
"Mononucleosis most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 15 and 24, which is our athlete population," said Kathleen Stroia, senior vice president, sport sciences and medicine & transitions, with the WTA.
The men's tour said in an email that mono "has not been of unusual concern for the players or the ATP Medical Services."
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"Professional athletes are not immune to illnesses which affect the general public in general," said Gary Windler, medical advisor to the ATP World Tour.
"While we are concerned about and take all injuries and illness seriously, and although some high profile players have suffered from glandular fever in recent years, the incidence of this particular illness amongst our players in general has not been unusually high."
McHale didn't think her tour needed to do more to help players.
"I think we're probably more susceptible to getting it because our bodies are more run down from traveling so much," she said.
"Also sometimes I take a water bottle -- they all look the same -- to the court and all of a sudden I'm like, 'This wasn't my water bottle.' Sometimes it gets transferred like that.
"I know a lot of my friends have gotten it. They're not athletes. For them it wasn't a big issue. It's amplified when you're an athlete."
Tough comeback for McHale
Her road back hasn't been smooth.
McHale, like others before her, didn't stop playing for a while. But after losing five straight matches, she finally decided to sit out the remainder of 2012 and not contest the European indoor swing. The losing streak rose to eight by the time this January's Australian Open ended.
As high as No. 24 in the world last summer, her health issues largely contributed to her ranking sliding to 55th.
She has resumed training fully and played for nearly three hours against 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani in Rome on Wednesday but knows she must be careful.
"They did tell me there's a chance I could get a relapse, so I have to take it easy if I'm feeling extremely exhausted," she said. "But I think I'm past that point. I don't feel any side effects of what I had. I feel like I'm fully over it now. I was lucky my case wasn't extremely bad like some others."

Opinion: Nigerians ask, are we at war?

Nigerian troops patrol the streets of the remote northeast town of Baga, in Borno State, on April 30.
Nigerian troops patrol the streets of the remote northeast town of Baga, in Borno State, on April 30.
 
 
The corpse of another man's mother always looks like firewood from afar, so says an African proverb. Until recently, terrorism, war and the accompanying human carnage in far-away countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and many other troubled countries meant just more news of the crazy world out there. Not because of my lack of empathy, but distance can be a ready-made palliative for pain.

Suicide bombing, towns and villages getting blown up, allegations of extra-judicial killings by the police and the military, kidnappings, terrorist attacks on government establishments -- total confusion and a lack of solutions to the violence is no longer just news, but a terrifying daily reality show.
In the current wave of violence, especially in the northern and middle belt of the country, which has culminated in President Goodluck Jonathan declaring a state of emergency in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, one is at a loss as to where the country is headed in its near future.
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What has happened in Borno, a state in the northern part of Nigeria, in the past weeks is like full-scale war. A local official said recent attacks there, in the border town of Baga, left more than 185 inhabitants dead in unclear circumstances involving the military Joint Task Force (JTF), the peace-keeping government outfit that has been effectively inefficient in all the troubled zones. The army, however, said no more than 36 people were killed.
The burning embers of the Baga massacre had hardly cooled off when another attack was carried out in Bama, another town in the same state. According to the army, 55 people were killed by Boko Haram; casualties including women and children were burnt alive.
Following these deaths came yet another wanton killing of policemen and soldiers in another state. The dead, as usual, are a mixture of innocent civilians, military personnel, policemen and members of Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group that has been carrying out attacks since 2009.
The total break down of law and order and daily carnage made the governor of Borno, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, put the blame squarely on the doorsteps of his fellow politicians and the Nigerian government as the primary cause of the country's state of insecurity.
According to the governor, "Underneath the mayhem of Boko Haram lies the underlying cause which is extreme poverty and destitution ... until we address some of these issues the future is very bleak for all of us as the current crisis is just an appetizer of things to come. Very soon the youth of this country will be chasing us away."
The governor also gave his view of the current mindset of Nigeria's political ruling class: "The most important thing in Nigeria is about the last election and the next election, the only thing that is agitating our minds is how we can perpetuate ourselves in power. How much we can steal, how many mansions we can buy in Florida, Dubai and London, this is what agitates the minds of the elites of this country."
To hear this kind of finger-pointing and chilling words from one of those the rest of the country expects to resolve the conflict and bloodletting is quite enervating.
A previously proposed panacea to the madness was the proffering of amnesty to Boko Haram members by the federal government, which it has so far refused.
The whole amnesty idea to many observers bordered on the line of insanity and inanity. Two things -- the amnesty program that was first introduced to curb violence and pacify militants in the Niger Delta by the late President Umaru Yar'Adua and continued by Jonathan, cannot be said to be successful, as insurgency is still very much a clear and present danger in the Niger Delta. Secondly, it looks like crime pays in Nigeria when criminals and murderers are getting rewarded in the name of "amnesty" every time they put a gun or bomb to the government and people's temples.
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Wealthy Nigerians and multinational expatriates have become prisoners in a supposedly free country, constantly moving with heavily armed guards. For most, this has not proven effective as some of their armed guards have been outgunned by terrorists and criminals who mean business.
Politicians are sometimes the worse off, and one cannot help but reason that the poverty planted by the rich and the ruling class over decades of misrule has yielded thorns in the flesh of our country.
Despite the declared state of emergency (which has received a mixed reception), people are losing hope faster than a nailed tire.
The insecurity is spreading to other parts of the country. Lagos is now taking on a new look of security consciousness. Many churches in the city have fully armed policemen holding AK47s guarding entrances during Sunday services. And it is no longer odd to walk into a cafe or restaurant and find armed policemen guarding diners, with guns resting among cutlery.
The government seems to have keeled over and resorted to a full-blown military offensive, both land and air, against Boko Haram and its allies. It is too early to determine if this latest solution will abate the madness but it is horrifying for people to live with this kind of killing and uncertainty every day.
When we now appear in foreign news segments we are right there with Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq ... places that are in full blown war and used to seem so far away. And the question trembling in most people's lips now is -- are we also at war in Nigeria?
'Are you in Nigeria? Have you been affected by the violence? Do you think the country is at war and, if so, how can it be stopped? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

51 killed in mammoth Oklahoma tornado; 40 more bodies expected

Teachers lead children away from Briarwood Elementary School after a massive tornado destroyed the building in Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20. The death toll continues to climb as rescuers search for survivors. It was part of a tornado outbreak that began in the Midwest and Plains on Sunday, May 19. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/20/us/gallery/midwest-weather/index.html'>View more photos of the aftermath in the region.</a>
Teachers lead children away from Briarwood Elementary School after a massive tornado destroyed the building in Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20. The death toll continues to climb as rescuers search for survivors. It was part of a tornado outbreak that began in the Midwest and Plains on Sunday, May 19. View more photos of the aftermath in the region.
Clinging to the hope of finding more survivors, rescue workers scoured mountains of rubble Tuesday where houses and schools once stood.
But as they searched through the night and Tuesday morning, the sobering death toll continued to climb in this city far too familiar with nature's wrath.
The vicious tornado that ripped across central Oklahoma on Monday killed at least 51 people -- with about 40 more bodies expected to arrive at the Oklahoma state medical examiner's office, Amy Elliott of the coroner's office said. Roughly half of the expected bodies are children.
The official death toll will gradually rise from 51 as each of the bodies are processed, Elliott said.
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Already, at least 20 of those killed were children, including seven from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore -- the site of a frantic search Tuesday morning.
The school was in the direct path of the storm's fury. About 75 students and staff members hunkered down in Plaza Towers when the tornado hit, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.
At one point, an estimated 24 children were missing from the school, but some later turned up at nearby churches. It's unclear how many may still be trapped in the wreckage, and how many are dead or alive.
A father of a third-grader still missing sat quietly on a stool outside. Tears cascaded from his face as he waited for any news.
Even parents of survivors couldn't wrap their minds around the tragedy.
"I'm speechless. How did this happen? Why did this happen?" Norma Bautista asked. "How do we explain this to the kids? ... In an instant, everything's gone."
Across town, Moore Medical Center also fell victim to the tornado.
"Our hospital has been devastated," Mayor Glenn Lewis said. "We had a two-story hospital, now we have a one. And it's not occupiable."
So 145 people were rushed to three other area hospitals.
That number includes 45 children taken to the children's hospital at Oklahoma University Medical Center, Dr. Roxie Albrecht said. Injuries ranged from minor to severe, including impalement and crushing injuries.
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Even for a city toughened by massive tornadoes, Moore has never seen this kind of devastation.
The suburb recovered from a fierce twister in 1999 that killed six people there and dozens in the area. When that tornado struck, it had the strongest wind speed in history, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Tom Lamb said.
Another tornado ripped through Moore in 2003, Lamb said.
This time, the 2-mile-wide twister stayed on the ground for a full 40 minutes, carving a 22-mile path where thousands of residents live.
The twister first touched down in Newcastle, Oklahoma, before ripping into neighboring Moore.
An early estimate rated the tornado as an EF4, meaning it had winds between 166 and 200 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
The death toll has far surpassed anything the city has seen from a tornado -- and is expected to climb.
After the ear-shattering howl subsided, survivors along the miles of destruction emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision. Buildings were and homes were shredded to pieces. Remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other. What used to be a parking lot now looked like a junk yard.
"People are wandering around like zombies," KFOR reporter Scott Hines said. "It's like they're not realizing how to process what had just happened."
Hiding in freezers
Hines said rescuers found a 7-month-old baby and its mother hiding in a walk-in freezer. But they didn't survive.
At the devastated hospital in Moore, some doctors had to jump in a freezer to survive, Lamb said.
Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, described how the storm pummeled the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses.
"It was just like the movie 'Twister,'" he told KFOR. "There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere."
More trouble brewing
But the storm system that spawned Monday's tornado and several other twisters Sunday isn't over yet.
Northeast Texas, including Dallas, and southwest Arkansas are under the gun for severe weather Tuesday. Those areas could see large hail, damaging winds and possibly tornadoes.
A broader swath of the United States, from Texas to Indiana and up to Michigan, could see severe thunderstorms.
"We could have a round 3," Cabrera aid. "Hopefully, it won't be as bad."
Still digging
Plaza Towers Elementary School was one of countless buildings crushed by the tornado. The twister sucked up debris and swirled it several miles into the sky.
"The structures that were just demolished were picked up by the twister here and just jetted up into the atmosphere 20,000 feet," Cabrera said.
James Dickens is not a firefighter or medic. He's actually a gas-and-oil pipeline worker. But that didn't stop him from grabbing a hard hat and joining other rescuers at the school.
"I felt it was my duty to come help," Dickens said Tuesday after a long night of searching.
"As a father, it's humbling. It's heartbreaking to know that we've still got kids over there that's possibly alive, but we don't know."

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China Rising

Welcome to Naija Gist: Car bombings hit Russia's Dagestan

Welcome to Naija Gist: Car bombings hit Russia's Dagestan: Two blasts 15 minutes apart claim at least four lives near justice ministry offices in provincial capital Makhachkala. ...

Welcome to Naija Gist: China and India pledge to improve ties

Welcome to Naija Gist: China and India pledge to improve ties: Leaders of both countries will study ways to ease border tensions and boost bilateral trade after meeting in New Delhi. ...

Car bombings hit Russia's Dagestan


Two blasts 15 minutes apart claim at least four lives near justice ministry offices in provincial capital Makhachkala.

  
Most of the wounded were caught by the second of Monday's two explosions in Makhachkala [AFP]
At least three people have been killed and 12 more injured in back-to-back car bombings in the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Dagestan, Interfax news agency reports citing authorities.
The first bomb detonated on Monday in front of the Justice Ministry in the regional capital of Makhachkala.
As police descended upon the scene, a second car bomb was detonated by remote control, authorities said.
Most of the wounded and the dead were caught by the second explosion, the investigators said.
Police agencies gave differing death tolls, with the number ranging from three to eight. About 30 people were believed injured.
Images transmitted from the attack site depicted heavy damage.
Car bombs, suicide bombings and firefights are common in Dagestan, at the centre of an insurgency rooted in two post-Soviet wars against separatist rebels in neighbouring Chechnya.
Conflicting figures
Investigators initially said eight people were killed on Monday by the successive blasts, but Russian law enforcement officials later revised the figure down.
Twisted wreckage of a car could be seen near the building, which was cordoned off by police.
The main suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in the US, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, lived in Dagestan with his family about a decade ago and visited the region last year.
 
The visit by Tsarnaev, who was shot dead by US police after the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded 264 others, is being scrutinised by US investigators for signs of ties with fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered law enforcement authorities to ensure fighters do not attack the 2014 Winter Olympics next February in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which is close to the North Caucasus.
Fighters in the North Caucasus have often sought to increase casualties by setting off an initial blast to attract law enforcement officers and then detonating a second bomb.
Dagestan, an ethnically mixed, mostly Muslim region between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea, has become the most violent province in the North Caucasus, where armed groups say they are fighting to carve out an Islamic state out of southern Russia.
At least 405 people were killed in Dagestan in violence linked to the insurgency last year, according to the Caucasian Knot website, which tracks developments in the region.
Putin launched the second war in Chechnya as prime minister in 1999 and likes to take credit for preventing the region from splitting from Russia. But his 13 years in power have been marred by deadly attacks claimed by or blamed on the fighters.

China and India pledge to improve ties


Leaders of both countries will study ways to ease border tensions and boost bilateral trade after meeting in New Delhi.



India and China will study new ways to ease tensions on their ill-defined border after an army stand-off in the Himalayas, Chinese premier Li Keqiang has said during his first official foreign trip.
The number two in the Chinese leadership has offered India a "handshake across the Himalayas", saying the world's most populous nations could become a new engine for the global economy if they could avoid friction on the militarised border.
"Both sides believe that we need to improve the various border-related mechanisms that we have put into place and make them more efficient. We need to appropriately manage and resolve our differences," Li said at a joint news conference in New Delhi on Monday with Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister.
The two men appeared smiling and relaxed. India's foreign ministry said they got on well. There were small breakthroughs on trade, but no major agreements were signed.
China and India disagree about large areas of their 4,000km border and fought a brief war 50 years ago.
Among the measures being looked at to reduce the risk of confrontation is allowing higher level meetings between regional military commanders, an Indian official said.
While there has not been a shooting incident in decades, the long-running dispute gets in the way of improving economic relations between the neighbours, who account for 40 percent of the world's population and whose fast growing markets stand in contrast to the stagnant economies of the West.
'Simultaneous development'
Bilateral trade reached $66bn last year but both sides believe the potential is much greater.
India runs a $29bn deficit with China, a sore point that they sought to address in a joint statement, with specific reference to pharmaceuticals, information technology services and agriculture.
However, similar promises made in previous joint statements failed to slow the ballooning trade gap.
India's Essar Group conglomerate is nonetheless set to sign a $1bn loan deal with China's China Development Bank and China's largest oil and gas producer PetroChina during the trip, sources said.
They said the loan would be backed by the supply of refined products to PetroChina.
After a welcome ceremony at India's presidential palace, Li said he wanted to build trust and cooperation.
"World peace and regional stability cannot be a reality without strategic mutual trust between India and China. And likewise, the development and prosperity of the world cannot be a reality without the cooperation and simultaneous development of China and India," he said.
Li said he chose New Delhi as his first destination on his four-nation tour to show how important India is for China and also because he had fond memories of visiting as a Communist youth leader 27 years ago.
Andrew Leung, a China analyst, told Al Jazeera that despite the border dispute, India and China have a lot to gain from their relationship.
"China and India are leading the developing world and this is getting more and more evidence as China's economy will become the biggest in the world very soon and India to follow suit not much later," he said.
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