IUCN’s latest Red List update comes with good and bad news

December 14, 2020 by  
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The latest IUCN Red List has declared 31 more species extinct, and about 30% of plant and animal species on the Red List are at risk of extinction. While much of the news is grim, there were a few bright spots, with several species showing signs of recovery for their populations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature regularly updates the list to reflect ongoing changes in plant and animal populations. The newly declared extinct species included three species of Central American frogs, which have been decimated by chytridiomycosis disease. Seventeen kinds of freshwater fish endemic to the Philippines also made the list. These fish were lost due at least in part to human errors: introducing predatory fish species to the lake and overfishing. The lost shark joined the list this year as critically endangered (possibly extinct). This rare species dwelled in the extensively fished South China Sea and hasn’t been recorded since 1934. It may have already been extinct for decades. Related: Right Whales now ranked as critically endangered species “The growing list of extinct species is a stark reminder that conservation efforts must urgently expand,” said Bruno Oberle, director-general of the IUCN, in a statement. “To tackle global threats such as unsustainable fisheries, land clearing for agriculture , and invasive species, conservation needs to happen around the world and be incorporated into all sectors of the economy.” Last Thursday’s release showed more than 35,700 species as threatened with extinction. This includes more than 30% of oak trees. A whopping 45% of the protea family — plants with massive, prehistoric-looking flowers that grow mostly in the Southern Hemisphere — were listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Every type of freshwater dolphin is also now classified as endangered. On the plus side, populations of at least 26 species have increased. The European bison was upgraded from vulnerable to near threatened. The IUCN emphasizes that when people commit to conservation, it makes a difference. “The conservation successes in today’s Red List update provide living proof that the world can set, and meet, ambitious biodiversity targets,” said Jane Smart, global director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group, in a statement. “They further highlight the need for real, measurable commitments as we formulate and implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.” + IUCN Via Huffington Post Image via Fernando Trujillo / IUCN

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IUCN’s latest Red List update comes with good and bad news

EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

December 14, 2020 by  
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Like an evil troll throwing a curse over its shoulder before being banished from the kingdom, President Donald Trump’s EPA finalized a rule that could make it harder for Biden to address pollution and climate change. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced the new rule. “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes,” said Wheeler, as reported by CNN . But critics say the change ensures that the EPA will continue to put the economy over environmental and public health interests. It allows the agency to disregard positive side effects of decisions, such as saving lives from being lost to air pollution, while fully weighing the economic impact. Related: Exxon’s leaked documents reveal devastating pollution plan During Trump’s four years in office, his administration managed to roll back more than 100 public health and environmental rules, putting the welfare of corporate polluters over that of the people. “For four years, this administration has waged war on public health by kowtowing to polluters,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, as reported by Common Dreams . “Now, on the way out the door, this amounts to sabotaging the efforts of the incoming administration to protect Americans from dirty air.” Poor air quality is especially troubling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found an association between air pollution and increased mortality from COVID-19 infection. Individual-level COVID-19 data isn’t publicly available, so the study couldn’t state a definite cause and effect, but the implication is clear. Yet this new EPA rule was proposed in June and passed at a time when COVID-19 deaths are at a high and still rising. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone tweeted his disgust: “This rule will distort @EPA analysis by discounting the health benefits of air pollution standards & prioritizing the financial costs to polluters above health costs to the public. It’s a betrayal both of the #CleanAirAct and of EPA’s mission to protect human health .” Via Common Dreams and CNN Image via Johannes Plenio

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EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

Solar-powered luxury home celebrates contemporary style at Lake Huron

July 9, 2020 by  
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On the banks of Lake Huron in a remote Canadian town, South African architecture firm SAOTA completed a contemporary summer house that’s strikingly different from the region’s “cabin country” vernacular. Carefully sited to keep the design unobtrusive, the luxury residence maximizes connections to the outdoors with full-height glazing and a layout that optimizes lakeside views. Durable weather-resistant materials, energy-efficient systems and a 15-kW solar array help minimize the home’s environmental footprint to meet the project’s sustainability targets. Located about an hour’s drive from London, Ontario, the Lake Huron vacation home departs from the traditional, “somewhat conservative” homes that dot the lakeside with a contemporary design emphasizing clean lines, horizontal massing and a minimalist exterior palette featuring a ceramic-paneled system strong enough to withstand the extremes of the Canadian climate. Despite the home’s eye-catching appearance, the architects allowed the surrounding landscape to largely dictate the design; the building is set back on the property toward the street to preserve a natural bluff located between the lake and forest, while existing mature fir trees were retained to help screen the house from view. Related: SAOTA’s Benguela Cove design takes rooms with a view seriously “The way in which the building is largely obscured from the street and in turn screens views of the lake helps build suspense on arrival, only to satisfy the sense of anticipation via the large pivot door,” the architects explained. “An indoor/outdoor volume to the south anchors the building and maximizes the site’s lakeside views while allowing the living spaces to occupy the foregrounds.” Full-height glazing fills the home with natural light while extended roof eaves protect the interiors from solar glare. For optimum building performance, a commercial-grade automation system was installed to control and monitor the home’s functions while the 15-kW solar array that powers the home feeds surplus energy to the grid for credit and later use. In addition to an Ecoflo septic system, an underground stormwater system capable of handling a 100-year storm was installed onsite as well.  + SAOTA Images via SAOTA

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Solar-powered luxury home celebrates contemporary style at Lake Huron

Prefab, floating waterlilliHaus is completely self-sustaining in Brazil

June 15, 2020 by  
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Brazilian construction company SysHaus has recently installed a new prefab home that generates its own energy as it floats on an idyllic São Paulo lake. Dubbed the waterlilliHaus, the plug-and-play home is the floating version of the lilliHaus, the largest option in SysHaus’ lineup of prefab homes. The waterlilliHaus measures 3.2 meters wide by 12 meters in length and is mounted atop a floating catamaran that can be moored or sailed at speeds of up to 4 knots. Modern, eco-friendly and adaptable, the prefab home series produced by São Paulo-based SysHaus comes in a range of sizes from the compact 9.6-square-meter nanoHaus to the 38.4-square-meter lilliHaus. All homes are prefabricated in a controlled factory environment with automated, computer-controlled machines to ensure quality, traceability and waste minimization. The units can be assembled in less than two days and can even be delivered with all of the furnishings and equipment pre-installed.  Related: This eco-friendly prefab home was built in just 28 days In keeping with the startup’s commitment to sustainability, all Syshaus units can be designed for off-grid use, such as the recently installed waterlilliHaus that was delivered by truck and then craned atop a catamaran at the lake. Topped with rooftop solar panels, the floating home generates all of the energy it needs. Blackwater and graywater is collected and filtered through a three-phase biodigester system; the water is cleaned before it is returned to the environment. Rainwater is also collected and treated for drinking water. To reduce energy demands, the waterlilliHaus is punctuated with operable openings to take advantage of natural ventilation and the stack effect . Energy-efficient lighting, appliances and other electrical systems can be hooked up to a centralized smart home system for remote monitoring. The smart home system can be programmed to adapt to the user’s daily routines for energy-saving automation purposes. + SysHaus Images via SysHaus

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Prefab, floating waterlilliHaus is completely self-sustaining in Brazil

A contemporary German home celebrates energy-saving, seasonal living

April 28, 2020 by  
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Architecture firms Jurek Brüggen and KOSA architekten teamed up to design Haus am See — German for “House by the Lake” — a minimalist home crafted for seasonal living. Located on the highest point of Werder Island near the border of Germany and Poland, the contemporary residence has been deliberately stripped down to a restrained palette of exposed concrete and wood in striking contrast to its more ornate neighbors. The Haus am See is located among four other houses with very different architectural styles, including Neo-Gothic Belvedere, Art Deco, Neo Classical and a bungalow design from the German Democratic Republic era. In contrast, the new residence has no ornamentation; the building consists of a lower, bunker-like concrete volume and a wooden pavilion on the roof that looks out over views of the Havel River. All the construction materials are left exposed and unpainted. Related: Green-roofed Stonecrop home rises from rural English landscape The interior is likewise minimalist ; however, it feels much warmer thanks to the use of light-colored timber surfaces throughout. The wooden staircase that leads from the ground floor to the roof doubles as a bookshelf. Large windows and sliding doors provide a constant connection to the outdoors, including the garden with a stone outdoor pool. To reduce energy costs, the architects designed the home to follow the concept of seasonal living. In winter, the residents can close off the pavilion using folding doors and a sliding window, thus condensing their living area to the ground floor, which is partly buried into the slope to take advantage of the earth’s thermal mass . In summer, the home’s living space is doubled with the use of the pavilion and terrace. “The seasonal living concept brings a millennia-old cultural technique into the present day,” the architects explained. “In contrast to conventional energy-saving houses, which isolate themselves from their surroundings, it shows how we can effectively conserve resources while living sustainably in connection with the environment. The seasonal concept is a strategy for sustainable living in a time of excessive insulation regulations.” + Jurek Brüggen + KOSA Images via Jurek Brüggen

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A contemporary German home celebrates energy-saving, seasonal living

In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

February 6, 2020 by  
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It all started with a flat tire. A man cycling through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was charmed by the historic town but really wished it had a bike shop to fix his flat. This cycling mishap has morphed into Avant Cycle Cafe , a community hub that combines a full-service bike shop with excellent coffee and pastries. “Cyclists have a natural inclination to coffee,” managers Ann Esarco and Andrew Gruber told Inhabitat. “When the two worlds came together, it was just a natural fit.” The city of Lake Geneva sits 10 miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin. Its population of about 7,700 swells in summer, when droves of people from Chicago come for boating and other warm-weather sports. The architecture is another draw. The area saw an upsurge in construction at the end of the 19th century, and many Victorian mansions still stand. This makes the town and environs a compelling place to explore on foot or by bike. Local sourcing at Avant Cycle Cafe The cafe’s menu focuses on hot drinks and treats. Avant Cycle Cafe serves cider made from locally grown apples and has a case full of baked goods. Don’t expect to just order a regular coffee. You can choose from drip, pour over or French press, plus the full range of espresso drinks. You might also be surprised to find that a cafe in a small town in the famous dairy state of Wisconsin offers almond, soy, oat and coconut milk alternatives . Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike This is no ordinary coffee, either. Avant Cycle Cafe sources its beans from Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery . Owner Jeremiah Fox started roasting his own coffee on his stovetop in 2012. Now, the coffee entrepreneur, who is visually impaired, uses his other senses — hearing, taste and smell — to fine-tune his commercial roast profiles. Talking timers and special tactile points on the controls of his machinery allow him to adjust the air flow and temperature for his small-batch coffee. Fox uses electricity for a clean air process, versus roasting with gas, which pollutes both the beans and the air with hydrogen sulfide. According to Fox, his process also makes for coffee that’s easier on customers’ stomachs. Building a cycling community Tourism is seasonal. While some people do visit in winter, summer is high season for Lake Geneva. Avant Cycle Cafe values its summer customers and is happy when they return for more coffee and another bike rental. Both tourists and locals join a series of summer Sunday breakfast rides, where groups pedal together to area restaurants, diners and cafes . The rides are casual with a no-drop policy, meaning nobody gets left behind. Once, the group rode out to see Fox’s coffee roasting operation in the nearby town of Elkhorn. The rides are usually 12 to 15 miles each way. Avant Cycle Cafe believes in cultivating local community year-round, not just when the sun is shining and tourists fill hotel beds. “Our locals are fantastic,” Esarco and Gruber said. They even have one customer who comes in three times a day. In addition to the cafe and bike shop, an upstairs area called The Loft is a rustic, bright and cozy room open to customers for studying and relaxing. It can also be reserved for private events like engagement parties, bridal showers and youth group meetings. This year, Avant Cycle Cafe is hosting a weekly Tuesday night program called 13 Weeks of Winter. “It’s an effort to engage the community in providing entertaining and enriching activities when most people aren’t even thinking of cycling,” Esarco and Gruber explained. While some topics are very on-point, such as a talk by cycling icon Lon Haldeman, an intro to bike maintenance and learning opportunities about the history of coffee, others draw on the community’s wider expertise. Local art gallery ReVive Studio will lead a mosaic pendant class in March. Another night, people can come for Reiki healing. The Chili for Charity contest brought together 10 local restaurants and recently raised more than $1,000 for local organizations. As Esarco and Gruber put it, “Cycling and coffee is just the meeting ground. The community expands out from there.” What’s next for biking in Lake Geneva? Workers at Avant Cycle Cafe are actively making Lake Geneva a better biking town. They’ve begun working with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which takes disused railroad tracks and converts them to multi-use trails for hiking and cycling. They are also lobbying elected officials to incorporate bikes into urban planning . “Our aim is to include a marked bike lane on the renovations to Highway 120 from just outside Lake Geneva to the White River State Trail ,” Esarco and Gruber said. This 19-mile trail follows a former rail corridor and is only a few miles from Lake Geneva, so a marked bike lane would greatly improve safe access. Avant Cycle Cafe just started selling and servicing e-bikes , which could give some would-be cyclists an extra boost of confidence. This summer, the cafe will also be offering private, guided tours around the lake. “It’s been wonderful to be in a position to get more people on bikes, having fun and riding around beautiful Lake Geneva,” Esarco and Gruber said. “We want to make Lake Geneva the place to be for cyclists.” + Avant Cycle Cafe Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

February 6, 2020 by  
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It all started with a flat tire. A man cycling through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was charmed by the historic town but really wished it had a bike shop to fix his flat. This cycling mishap has morphed into Avant Cycle Cafe , a community hub that combines a full-service bike shop with excellent coffee and pastries. “Cyclists have a natural inclination to coffee,” managers Ann Esarco and Andrew Gruber told Inhabitat. “When the two worlds came together, it was just a natural fit.” The city of Lake Geneva sits 10 miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin. Its population of about 7,700 swells in summer, when droves of people from Chicago come for boating and other warm-weather sports. The architecture is another draw. The area saw an upsurge in construction at the end of the 19th century, and many Victorian mansions still stand. This makes the town and environs a compelling place to explore on foot or by bike. Local sourcing at Avant Cycle Cafe The cafe’s menu focuses on hot drinks and treats. Avant Cycle Cafe serves cider made from locally grown apples and has a case full of baked goods. Don’t expect to just order a regular coffee. You can choose from drip, pour over or French press, plus the full range of espresso drinks. You might also be surprised to find that a cafe in a small town in the famous dairy state of Wisconsin offers almond, soy, oat and coconut milk alternatives . Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike This is no ordinary coffee, either. Avant Cycle Cafe sources its beans from Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery . Owner Jeremiah Fox started roasting his own coffee on his stovetop in 2012. Now, the coffee entrepreneur, who is visually impaired, uses his other senses — hearing, taste and smell — to fine-tune his commercial roast profiles. Talking timers and special tactile points on the controls of his machinery allow him to adjust the air flow and temperature for his small-batch coffee. Fox uses electricity for a clean air process, versus roasting with gas, which pollutes both the beans and the air with hydrogen sulfide. According to Fox, his process also makes for coffee that’s easier on customers’ stomachs. Building a cycling community Tourism is seasonal. While some people do visit in winter, summer is high season for Lake Geneva. Avant Cycle Cafe values its summer customers and is happy when they return for more coffee and another bike rental. Both tourists and locals join a series of summer Sunday breakfast rides, where groups pedal together to area restaurants, diners and cafes . The rides are casual with a no-drop policy, meaning nobody gets left behind. Once, the group rode out to see Fox’s coffee roasting operation in the nearby town of Elkhorn. The rides are usually 12 to 15 miles each way. Avant Cycle Cafe believes in cultivating local community year-round, not just when the sun is shining and tourists fill hotel beds. “Our locals are fantastic,” Esarco and Gruber said. They even have one customer who comes in three times a day. In addition to the cafe and bike shop, an upstairs area called The Loft is a rustic, bright and cozy room open to customers for studying and relaxing. It can also be reserved for private events like engagement parties, bridal showers and youth group meetings. This year, Avant Cycle Cafe is hosting a weekly Tuesday night program called 13 Weeks of Winter. “It’s an effort to engage the community in providing entertaining and enriching activities when most people aren’t even thinking of cycling,” Esarco and Gruber explained. While some topics are very on-point, such as a talk by cycling icon Lon Haldeman, an intro to bike maintenance and learning opportunities about the history of coffee, others draw on the community’s wider expertise. Local art gallery ReVive Studio will lead a mosaic pendant class in March. Another night, people can come for Reiki healing. The Chili for Charity contest brought together 10 local restaurants and recently raised more than $1,000 for local organizations. As Esarco and Gruber put it, “Cycling and coffee is just the meeting ground. The community expands out from there.” What’s next for biking in Lake Geneva? Workers at Avant Cycle Cafe are actively making Lake Geneva a better biking town. They’ve begun working with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which takes disused railroad tracks and converts them to multi-use trails for hiking and cycling. They are also lobbying elected officials to incorporate bikes into urban planning . “Our aim is to include a marked bike lane on the renovations to Highway 120 from just outside Lake Geneva to the White River State Trail ,” Esarco and Gruber said. This 19-mile trail follows a former rail corridor and is only a few miles from Lake Geneva, so a marked bike lane would greatly improve safe access. Avant Cycle Cafe just started selling and servicing e-bikes , which could give some would-be cyclists an extra boost of confidence. This summer, the cafe will also be offering private, guided tours around the lake. “It’s been wonderful to be in a position to get more people on bikes, having fun and riding around beautiful Lake Geneva,” Esarco and Gruber said. “We want to make Lake Geneva the place to be for cyclists.” + Avant Cycle Cafe Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

This lake house in Chile was designed to complement the surrounding environment

July 29, 2019 by  
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The BEG House by Rudolphy + Bizama Arquitectos is located off of Lake Riñihue in the Los Ríos Region of Chile. With stunning views of the lake and the Andes Mountains to the south, the designers made sure to prioritize these vistas from each of the main spaces. Sunlight brightens the home through two large northern skylights and spreads through the use of circulation spaces. The walls to the south are made almost completely out of glass sliding doors, so the residents can either open them to enjoy the fresh air or close them while still receiving a majestic lake view. To provide even more light and ventilation, there are several interior courtyards built into the home as well. The region is known for rain, so the windows and glass doors separating the interior to the courtyards give one the feeling of being outside and enjoying the cool rain while staying comfortable and dry inside. These courtyards also allow for the merging of the property with the surrounding natural spaces for the home and the environment to work as one. Related: Contemporary A-frame home soaks up lakeside views in Mexico The dark color of the exterior of the house, constructed of pre-painted metal sheets, helps the structure blend into the environment with thoughtful pops of brightly-colored wood used as a slight contrast. The metal brings the walls and the roof together, and the slopes of the roof on the interior are built at different heights to mimic nature. The natural, organic shades of wood on the interior gives the residents even more connection to the setting while contrasting beautifully with the dark metal exterior. With the exception of the kitchen, the entire inside is unpainted to show off the light wood. The abundance of rain also nourishes the dense, rainforest shrubbery that surrounds the property, creating plenty of greenery to complement the lake views and make this home truly unique. + Rudolphy + Bizama Arquitectos Images via Rudolphy + Bizama Arquitectos

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This lake house in Chile was designed to complement the surrounding environment

Zero-carbon masterplan on the water aims to revitalize Bergens urban growth

July 22, 2019 by  
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In a bid to revitalize the Norwegian city of Bergen, London-based architectural practice Waugh Thistleton Architects has proposed Trenezia, a masterplan that would transform the coastal city into a shining example of zero-carbon urban development. The mixed-use development would consist of over 1,600 homes and be built on the waters of Store Lungegårdsvann, a bay that separates the city center from the southern boroughs of the city. Energy demands and the carbon footprint would be minimized through site-specific, environmentally responsible design and the use of carbon-sequestering timber as a primary construction material for all of the houses. Created in collaboration with local architects Artec, Urban System Design, Degree of Freedom and landscape design firm East, the zero-carbon Trenezia masterplan was created for the BOB, a Norwegian housing association with a goal of building sustainably in urban areas. In addition to promoting sustainable ideals, Trenezia aims to revitalize the city center, which the architects said is currently suffering from depopulation as people move to the outskirts to live in suburban family homes. Related: Industrial building is reimagined as a zero-carbon paragon for Paris 2024 Olympics Edged in by mountains and water, Bergen’s city center has little land left for development. As a result, the architects decided to build on the lake. “Perfectly placed between the historic town and the new cultural arts hub to the east, the Store Lungegårdsvannet Lake is the ideal site for a new cultural and residential center,” the team explained in a press release. A new boardwalk would span the lake and serve as a ‘central spine’ that connects the public-facing elements, which includes a swimming pool and sailing club, retail, performance spaces and cafes. More than 1,600 homes would be placed behind the boardwalk . The new homes would stress intergenerational interaction and offer a range of accommodation from family houses to co-living to student flats to sheltered housing both for private sale and rent. The homes, which will be built from timber, echo the gabled rooflines of Bergen’s iconic wooden houses that helped earn the city a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “The masterplan, by virtue of its form, responds to the local climate through the creation of solar corridors through the site to maximize sunlight and daylight into every home,” the architects said. “Residential fingers are separated by canals with individual and communal boat moorings and pontoons for residents, creating a comfortable environment where people can be healthy, happy and productive.” + Waugh Thistleton Architects Images by Darc Studio and Artec via Waugh Thistleton Architects

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Zero-carbon masterplan on the water aims to revitalize Bergens urban growth

While you were grilling, the world moved forward

July 8, 2019 by  
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While Americans were doing cookouts and lazing by the lake, the rest of the civilized world was moving forward on climate and other issues.

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While you were grilling, the world moved forward

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