Day: January 8, 2020


Judge orders GOOGLE to turn over Jussie Smollett's emails, data…

ÇHICAGO (AP) — A judge has ordered Google to turn over a year’s worth of Jussie Smollett’s emails, private messages, photographs and location data to a special prosecutor who is looking into why prosecutors abruptly dismissed criminal charges against the actor.

On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that it had obtained two search warrants submitted by special prosecutor Dan Webb and signed off by Cook County Judge Michael Toomin last month.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office filed and quickly dropped 16 counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett for allegedly staging a January 2019 attack in downtown Chicago and lying about it to police. Toomin appointed Webb months later and the warrants offer the first public hints about what he has been investigating.

When the charges were filed, Chicago police alleged the black and openly gay Smollett — unhappy with his salary and hoping to promote his career — paid two brothers to stage what appeared to be a racist and homophobic attack, in which one of the men looped a rope fashioned as a noose around his neck.

In the warrants, Webb seeks information from the Google accounts of Smollett and his manager, including unsent draft emails and deleted messages. He also requests files from their Google Drive cloud storage services, Google Voice texts, and web browsing history.

Webb has not publicly discussed the investigation and Smollett has maintained his innocence. But the fact the warrants seek data between November 2018 and November 2019 suggests investigators could be trying to support the original police allegation that Smollett planned and helped stage a fake attack.

It remains unclear if Google has turned over the information. In approving the warrants, Toomin ordered Google not to disclose the order, saying that doing so “may jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation”. A Google spokesman told the Tribune that he could not comment on requests for records from law enforcement.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed the department is conducting ’follow-ups” of its initial investigation but he declined to comment further. An attorney who tried to block the appointment of the special prosecutor and another attorney representing Smollett in a federal civil case did not immediately return calls for comment.

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Bieber Says He Has Lyme…

Home Celebrity Not So Yummy: Justin Bieber Says He Has Lyme Disease and Chronic…

Justin Bieber is responding to TMZ and other reports that he looks bad, etc. He says on Instagram that he has Lyme disease and chronic mono.  He should know that the Global Lyme Alliance in New York is on this and can help him. I don’t know if it can make his lyrics any better, but you never know. Also, I’m no doctor, but all that ink has probably seeped into his bloodstream.

Here’s his statement:


While a lot of people kept saying justin Bieber looks like shit, on meth etc. they failed to realize I’ve been recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, not only that but had a serious case of chronic mono which affected my, skin, brain function, energy, and overall health. These things will be explained further in a docu series I’m putting on YouTube shortly.. you can learn all that I’ve been battling and OVERCOMING!! It’s been a rough couple years but getting the right treatment that will help treat this so far incurable disease and I will be back and better than ever NO CAP


Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News. He writes for Parade magazine and has written for Details, Vogue, the New York Times, Post, and Daily News and many other publications. He is the writer and co-producer of “Only the Strong Survive,” a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals.

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WARNER BROS. Using AI to Pick Movie Scripts…

The studio has made a pact with Cinelytic to use its project management system that was launched last year.

Resistance is futile. Warner Bros. has become the latest studio to publicly embrace artificial intelligence.

The movie division, headed up by chairman Toby Emmerich, has signed a deal with Cinelytic to use the latter’s AI-driven project management system that was launched last year.

Under the new deal, Warners will leverage the system’s comprehensive data and predictive analytics to guide decision-making at the greenlight stage. The integrated online platform can assess the value of a star in any territory and how much a film is expected to make in theaters and on other ancillary streams.

Founded four years ago by Tobias Queisser, Cinelytic has been building and beta testing the platform for three years. In 2018, the company raised $2.25 million from T&B Media Global and signed deals with Ingenious Media (Wind River) and Productivity Media (The Little Hours). STX, which endured a number of flops in 2019, including Playmobil and Uglydolls, became a Cinelytic client in September.

While the platform won’t necessarily predict what will be the next $1 billion surprise, like Warners’ hit Joker, it will reduce the amount of time executives spend on low-value, repetitive tasks and instead give them better dollar-figure parameters for packaging, marketing and distribution decisions, including release dates.

The platform is particularly helpful in the festival setting, where studios get caught in bidding wars and plunk down massive sums after only hours of assessment (as happened with New Line’s $15 million acquisition of Blinded by the Light out of last year’s Sundance Film Festival). The Cinelytic AI’s insight might also have altered decision-making on some of Warners’ misfires from 2019, such as The Kitchen, Shaft and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

“The system can calculate in seconds what used to take days to assess by a human when it comes to general film package evaluation or a star’s worth,” says Queisser.

Adds Tonis Kiis, senior vp distribution: “We make tough decisions every day that affect what — and how — we produce and deliver films to theaters around the world, and the more precise our data is, the better we will be able to engage our audiences.”

Still, Hollywood fancies itself as a town that operates on gut instinct rather than algorithms, for better or for worse. And unlike Silicon Valley, the industry has been slow to use AI for more menial tasks like script breakdowns, fearful that it will take away jobs and make humans obsolete. Queisser counters that narrative.

“Artificial intelligence sounds scary. But right now, an AI cannot make any creative decisions,” says Queisser. “What it is good at is crunching numbers and breaking down huge data sets and showing patterns that would not be visible to humans. But for creative decision-making, you still need experience and gut instinct.”

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she's cancer-free!

The declaration comes after the 86-year-old justice, who has risen to an iconic status among liberals in recent years, dealt with a series of health issues over the last 12 or so months.

An appointee of President Bill Clinton, she missed oral arguments for the first time last January as she recovered from surgery to remove two malignant nodules in her left lung, which were discovered inspecting damage to her ribs from a recent fall.

She returned to the bench in February before receiving the pancreatic cancer diagnosis in August. Ginsburg had already beat the disease twice before, having been treated for colorectal cancer in 1999 and an earlier bout of pancreatic cancer in 2009.

She was hospitalized again just before Thanksgiving last year with “chills and a fever,” but was released a day later.

Her interview with CNN comes as the court is set to resume oral arguments next week, and could rule this year on a slate of hot button issues that include the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the fate of the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights and President Donald Trump’s financial records.

Ginsburg’s professed bill of clean health — which CNN noted she delivered while “sounding energized and speaking animatedly” — is sure to soothe fears on the left that she will remain in her seat on the court for the foreseeable future.

While Ginsburg was still recovering from lung cancer about a year ago, POLITICO reported that the White House had begun preparing for her possible death or departure from the court.

She has repeatedly batted down concerns regarding her health while maintaining an active schedule of public appearances and keeping up with court duties. She joked to NPR in July by recalling: “There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive.”

Groups on both sides of the aisle have taken immense interest in her health, as an open seat would allow Trump to make his third appointment to the highest court in the land, but his first appointment to replace a liberal justice on the bench — an appointment that would further tilt the balance of the court for decades.

Despite blocking a Supreme Court nominee from former President Barack Obama in an election year in 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would move to confirm a Trump nominee should a seat on the court open up in 2020.

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'Worst' Ever Seen…

Members of Congress were briefed today on Iran, and Senator Mike Lee (R- UT) wanted to make it clear to reporters afterwards that he was pissed off.

Lee erupted on what he called an “insulting and demeaning” briefing that he deemed “probably the worst briefing at least on a military issue I’ve seen.”

He said the briefing was the deciding factor in him coming around to support the War Powers Act resolution being pushed by Democratic colleague Tim Kaine.

Lee, flanked by Rand Paul, said, “We were told over and over again it was this action was necessary, this was a bad guy, we had to do it,’ and we can’t have division, we can’t have dissension within our ranks, within our government, or it sends the wrong signal to the Iranians. And I just think that’s completely wrong.”

Lee said the briefers were asked what would trigger the need for the White House to seek authorization for the use of military force from Congress. “At one point, I believe one of the briefers said something along the lines of, ‘I’m sure we could think of something.’ But they struggled to identify anything.”

Lee said he’s personally still “agnostic” on whether the strike on Qasem Soleimani was justified:

“I still haven’t had the questions answered that I came into that briefing expecting to ask. They left after 75 minutes. I understand these are busy people, they’ve got a lot of demands on their time. They are appearing before a coordinate branch of government… responsible for their funding, for their confirmation, for any approval of any military action they might undertake. They had to leave after 75 minutes while they were in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find that absolutely insane.”

You can watch part of his remarks above, via Fox News.

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House to vote Thursday to curb President's war powers…

“There was no raw evidence presented that this was an imminent threat,” Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told reporters after the briefing.

“I didn’t hear anything in the briefing that there was a lawful basis for the attack and that the threat was imminent,” added Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who supports defunding any military action against Iran unless Congress first approves it. “The absence of approval from Congress and consultation with Congress resulted in, I think, a very reckless decision that undermines American national security interests and the security of our country.”

Democrats said the Trump administration’s justification — or lack thereof — bolstered their case for an aggressive House response to put a check on Trump’s war-making powers. And many were outspoken in their calls for urgent action by the House to repudiate Trump and pressure him for a more clear strategy as soon as this week.

Pelosi announced within hours of the briefing that the House would vote to rein in Trump’s war powers, a measure of the widespread dissatisfaction within the caucus about the presentation. It also shows a huge shift in the caucus’s mood from 24 hours earlier, when Democrats halted plans to vote after reports of a missile strike against U.S. forces that put all of Washington on edge.

The 5-page resolution, led by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), would halt U.S. military actions against Iran without specific congressional approval. In a nod to the caucus’s moderates, it does not directly criticize Trump or his top officials.

It’s unclear how many House Republicans will agree to the resolution, with GOP lawmakers under pressure to show their loyalties to Trump. But at least two Senate Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have said they plan to support a similar measure in the Senate.

Lee, a prominent anti-interventionist, ranted to reporters after the Senate’s separate meeting on Iran that it was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen,” saying he was unsatisfied with the “legal, factual and moral justification” for the attack.

Democrats were able to move forward on the resolution — which ran into some initial hurdles within the caucus — after they largely agreed that White House’s attempt to justify the attack fell flat. Wednesday’s briefing, lawmakers said, exposed what they called a lack of strategy and even a lack of unity within the Trump administration over whether Soleimani’s killing was justified by military necessity.

“The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State are sitting right next to each other, and they both lay out the three points of their Iran policy, and they don’t even all line up,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said, visibly fuming as he exited the briefing. “So this administration has no strategy to deal with Iran.”

“I didn’t hear any justification” for Soleimani’s killing Moulton added.

The reaction from lawmakers like Moulton — who served four tours of Iraq before he was elected — is a sign that the vast Democratic caucus is unified against Trump as they push to limit Trump’s war powers against Iran.

And with the caucus increasingly agitated at the administration’s response, House Democrats are weighing several options to limit Trump’s military authorities beyond the resolution curbing the president’s military powers.

Pelosi also confirmed Wednesday that the House “may soon consider” two bills being pushed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus from Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee, both of California.

Khanna’s measure would block funding for offensive military operations against Iran without congressional approval. Lee’s resolution would repeal a 2002 war authorization passed ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“The Administration must work with the Congress to advance an immediate, effective de-escalatory strategy that prevents further violence. America and the world cannot afford war,” Pelosi said in her statement.

Inside the briefing room, there was audible grumbling by some Democrats as administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, delivered their presentations and took questions.

One of those questions came from House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) as he demanded to know the legal rationale for the strike.

“Over and over and over, the question was asked, and nothing more was given to us about this,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), another progressive leader, said about the claims of an imminent threat.

Trump also delivered an address Wednesday to show his attempt to de-escalate the situation, telling the nation that Iran is likely “standing down” following yesterday’s missile strikes. He also announced new sanctions on Iran instead of further military action.

“The basic theme of it was the administration essentially saying, ‘Trust us,'” said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). “I’m not sure who I trust or what I trust when it comes to these issues because we’ve been told so many different things that just bother me.”

Heather Caygle contributed to this story.

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MAG: Did TWITTER Diplomacy Stop War?

For all the Sturm und Drang about the toxic culture of Twitter, it seems possible that the leaders of both Iran and the United States turned to the social media site Tuesday to help ensure that a tense night in the Middle East didn’t escalate into all-out war.

After a week when Twitter seemed to bring out the worst impulses of President Donald Trump’s bombast—including an ill-conceived (and potentially illegal) threat over the weekend to bomb Iranian cultural sites—both Trump and Iran’s English-speaking foreign minister tweeted out Tuesday night that neither wished to escalate tit-for-tat attacks into a true war. Their exchange, what Middle East expert Ilan Goldenberg called “real time deescalatory twitter,” came in the hours after Iranian rockets targeted Iraqi bases that housed US and allied personnel, apparent retaliation for the US assassination of Iran’s Quds Force leader, General Qasem Soleimani, in a Baghdad airstrike.

The tweets proved a remarkable modern-day answer to the long-running challenge world leaders have faced in struggling to communicate between nations during unfolding crises—communications necessary both to understand adversaries’ intentions and to telegraph their own.

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, leaders sweated as communications moved slowly—ever so slowly—between Washington and Moscow. It took the US Embassy in Moscow nearly 12 hours to encode one 2,750-word message from the Soviet Union, the equivalent of about five typed pages.

Communicating quickly with world leaders other than Russia has long proved challenging for US leaders.

In turn, whenever the Soviet Embassy in Washington needed to send a message back to Moscow, they relied on a bicycle messenger from the local DC office of Western Union. “After he pedaled away with my urgent cable, we at the embassy could only pray that he would take it to the Western Union office without delay and not stop to chat on the way with some girl,” Ambassador Anatoly Dobrydin recalled years later in his memoirs.

When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev finally offered a deal to bring the crisis to a close, he was deeply worried about the speed of unfolding events. Instead of transmitting through normal channels, he had the letter read out loud over Radio Moscow to speed Washington’s receipt.

In the years following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and Soviet Union looked for ways to improve their direct links of communication. They ultimately settled on teletype machines, installed in the Pentagon and the Kremlin, that came to be popularly known as the Hotline or “the red phone,” even though there never were, and still aren’t, actual phones involved. In fact, planners at the time realized—in a lesson that still applied Tuesday night with Iran—the importance of writing things down to avoid any mistranslation, garbled messages, or misunderstandings. They understood that speaking precisely in a crisis was key, and—again in a lesson that seems tailor-made for the Trump era—they knew the unpredictability of an unscripted phone call.

Yet even the new Hotline was hardly a direct link. The telegraph circuit bounced from Washington to London to Copenhagen to Stockholm to Helsinki before finally reaching Moscow, while a second backup line ran through Morocco. (The criticality of the backup line has been proven at least three times: once when a Finnish farmer severed the primary cable while plowing his field, once after a Baltimore manhole fire knocked out it out, and a third time when a bulldozer in Denmark cut it during a construction project.) The “MOLINK” communication system, as it’s known in military parlance, was used for the first time during another Middle Eastern crisis, the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, when President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin exchanged 19 messages, explaining each of their respective actions to ensure that the two superpowers didn’t get drawn into the regional conflict.

In the years since, the Hotline has been ever ready for a crisis, monitored 24 hours a day, and continuously tested every hour, using dummy messages that have included everything from sports scores to Shakespeare quotes. Tradition holds that twice a year, on New Year’s Day and August 30—the Hotline’s birthday—Moscow and Washington exchange formal greetings. In the decades since its creation, the Hotline has been upgraded continuously to rely on satellites, then faxes, and most recently email.

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Israel unveils 'laser-sword' to ward off threats…

The Defense Ministry has made a technological breakthrough in the development of lasers that can intercept aerial threats, including rockets and antitank guided missiles, it announced Wednesday.New laser technology “makes the security apparatus more lethal, more powerful and more advanced,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday evening.Speaking about this new addition to the existing tools of war employed by Israel, he said that “we will add a laser sword when dealing with threats from the North or the South.”The enemies of Israel better not test our resolve or our abilities,” Bennett said.Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development, said: “We are entering a new age of energy warfare in the air, land and sea. The R&D investments made by the DD [Directorate of Defense] R&D in recent years have placed the State of Israel among the leading countries in the field of high-energy laser systems.”The ministry has been working for more than 10 years on powerful laser technology to enable the development of platforms to intercept a variety of threats, he said. It has carried out a number of successful interceptions of targets, including mortar shells, drones and antitank missiles, at a variety of ranges over the years.“This is a dramatic solution to rocket fire,” said Dubi Oster, head of the DDR&D Optronics Department. “We have been working on this for years. But it is challenging to get a good-quality beam to stay the size you need at the range you need… for example, a beam the diameter of a coin from here [in Tel Aviv] to Herzliya.”While most developments over the years – both in Israel and abroad – have been ineffective, significant achievements have been made over the past year and a half as a result of collaboration between the ministry and defense companies, including Rafael and Elbit Systems, as well as academic institutions. The breakthrough recently made by the ministry is based on the precision of the laser beam, which can be focused on long-range targets and which can overcome atmospheric disturbances such as clouds and dust storms.According to Oster, the ministry was able to take several laser beams and, with an advanced algorithm, connect them to get one strong beam that is able to intercept and take down a variety of threats. Based on high-energy electric lasers rather than chemical laser technology, the robust system will complement the other layers of Israel’s aerial defenses and will be a strategic change in the defense capabilities of the state, the ministry said.According to Rotem, some of the advantages of the high-energy lasers include the ability to continually use the system at lower cost, higher effectiveness and with efficient management. They will also allow for a decrease in the number of missile interceptors used and the future potential to intercept a variety of threats, including unmanned aerial vehicles, drones and guided rockets.“During a war, missile interceptors will at one point run out, but with this system, as long as you have electricity, you have a never-ending supply,” he said.Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field/ Courtesy Artistic depiction of how innovative laser defense system would function on the battle field/ Courtesy “This is a weapon that you can’t see or hear,” Rotem said, adding that while it is not free since it runs on electricity, every interception will only cost a few dollars, as opposed to interceptor missiles that can run into the thousands.The use of two different and complementary technologies – kinetic air-defense-like systems, such as the Iron Dome, and laser platforms – “is a game-changer,” Rotem said.As a result of the breakthrough, the ministry has launched three programs for the development of high-energy laser demonstration systems in cooperation with the two companies: a ground-based laser system to complement the capabilities of the Iron Dome, development of a maneuverable platform-mounted laser system to defend troops in the field and the development of a laser demo system mounted on an air platform to intercept threats above cloud covers and for the defense of wide areas.“This is one system with many options – the weapon of the future,” Rotem said.Throughout the year there will be several trials of the demos’ capabilities, the ministry said. If effective, they will be deployed to the Gaza border area.“This technology enables the development of highly effective operational systems that will serve as an additional layer of defense to secure the State of Israel by air, land and sea,” the ministry said.

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CARDI B 'Filing for Nigerian Citizenship' Amid Growing U.S. Tension with Iran…

Cardi B Says She’s Applying for Nigerian Citizenship |

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New plan keeps autonomous vehicle standards voluntary…

The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled its most recent round of guidelines for autonomous vehicle makers that rely on voluntary standards despite calls for specific regulations.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the proposed guidelines in a speech at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, saying in prepared remarks that “AV 4.0” will ensure U.S. leadership in developing new technologies.

But the guidelines fall short of expectations of auto safety advocates and the National Transportation Safety Board. In November, the NTSB, which investigates crashes and makes safety recommendations, condemned a lack of state and federal regulation for testing autonomous vehicles.

The NTSB said Chao’s department failed to lead in regulating the new technology and put autonomous vehicle advancement ahead of saving lives.

In her remarks, Chao said that AV 4.0, a joint effort between her department and the White House, unifies autonomous vehicle work across 38 federal departments and agencies. It also establishes a list of government principles and says that safety is her department’s No. 1 priority.

“It recognizes the value of private sector leadership in AV research, development and integration,” she said.

The principles include protecting users and communities, promoting efficient markets by protecting intellectual property and modernizing regulations, and facilitating coordinated standards and policies.

“The goals are simple, clear and consistent,” she said. “Improve safety, security and quality of life for all Americans.”

Other areas of focus include security and cybersecurity, ensuring privacy and data security and enhancing mobility and accessibility.

But the guidelines offer few specifics on how the government will accomplish the goals or put the principles into force.

While the guidelines say that the U.S. government “will promote voluntary consensus standards,” there are few details on what the standards should say.

“Voluntary consensus standards can be validated by testing protocols, are supported by private sector conformity assessment schemes, and offer flexibility and responsiveness to the rapid pace of innovation,” the document says.

The government will enforce existing laws to ensure companies don’t make deceptive claims about the capabilities or limitations of autonomous vehicle technology, according to the document.

The guidelines will be published in the Federal Register, followed by a public comment period.

Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, called AV 4.0 a “regurgitation” of voluntary standards that have not held the industry accountable.

“I would say it’s high on promises and light on detail,” she said Wednesday. “This is a science experiment playing out in real time on our roadways without any safeguards or assurances.”

The Trump administration, she said, seems to think that innovation and regulation can’t exist at the same time. Her group wants to see the government set minimum standards, like it did with the requirement for seat belts, and let the industry go beyond them.

“Regulations should inspire innovation,” Chase said.

AV 4.0 comes less than two months after the NTSB criticized another federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for failing regulate autonomous vehicle testing on public roads. The criticism came just before the board found that a distracted human safety driver was the main cause of a fatal 2018 Arizona crash involving an Uber autonomous test vehicle that ran down a pedestrian.

Among the NTSB’s recommendations were that NHTSA require car developers to submit safety reports, and that NHTSA review the plans to make sure companies have safeguards in place that require human safety drivers to pay attention to the road.

Currently the reports are voluntary and only 16 of about 80 companies testing self-driving vehicles have filed them, according to the NTSB.

“The manufacturers are not going to be objective in evaluating their own safety assessments,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at a Senate hearing in November. “There needs to be a federal look at these assessments to make sure that they are done properly.”

NHTSA is the government’s road safety agency and part of Chao’s department. Its acting administrator, James Owens, told senators that the agency will review the NTSB recommendations.

The agency previously has said it doesn’t want to stand in the way of innovation in autonomous vehicles because they have tremendous life-saving potential.

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