Friday, 16th June 2023

Table of contents

1   Daily Current Affairs

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Status of transgenic crops in India

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Ceiling on Wheat Stocks - Edukemy Current Affairs

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UNDP's 2023 Gender Social Norms Index

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National Commission for Scheduled Castes

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Disinflation in India - Edukemy Current Affairs

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Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

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IBBI to form ‘common panel’ of insolvency professional

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e-RUPI vouchers - Edukemy Current Affairs

●  

Super-engineered vaccines created to help end polio

●  

Leptospirosis - Edukemy Current Affairs

●  

One-shot chikungunya vaccine - Edukemy Current Affairs

2   Daily Editorial Analysis

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The future of Finance Commission

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Daily Current Affairs

Status of transgenic crops in India


In News: Three States, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana, have deferred a proposal, approved by the Centre’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), to test a new kind of transgenic cotton seed that contains a gene, Cry2Ai, that purportedly makes cotton resistant to pink bollworm, a major pest.

About

Transgenic crops are plants that have been modified by introducing genes from other organisms using genetic engineering techniques. These genes are typically sourced from different species, including bacteria, viruses, animals, or even other plants.

Genetically modified (GM) crops have gained attention in India with various crops undergoing trials. The regulation of transgenic crops in India involves a thorough assessment process and is subject to ongoing litigation.

Limited Commercial Cultivation:

  • Cotton is currently the only transgenic crop commercially cultivated in India.
  • Other crops, including brinjal, tomato, maize, and chickpea, are in different stages of trials employing transgenic technology.

Approval Process:

  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex technical body responsible for evaluating GM seed proposals, plays a crucial role in the approval process.
  • The GEAC approves the environmental release of transgenic crops after rigorous evaluation and testing.
  • The Mustard hybrid DMH-11 and its parental lines were approved for seed production and testing, moving closer to full commercial cultivation.

Supreme Court Litigation:

  • There is ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court regarding the permissibility of allowing transgenic food crops in farmer fields.
  • Activist Aruna Rodrigues and Gene Campaign, an NGO, have filed petitions challenging the release of transgenic crops due to concerns over herbicide use and ecological harm.

Previous Instances:

  • In 2017, the GEAC initially approved GM mustard but later imposed additional tests, delaying its release.
  • In 2010, the GEAC approved GM brinjal, but the government placed it under an "indefinite moratorium."

Regulatory Process of Transgenic Crops in India:

  • Safety Assessments:
    • The development of transgenic crops involves the insertion of transgenic genes into plants to achieve desired traits.
    • Before further testing in open plots, transgenic crops undergo multiple safety assessments by committees.
    • The assessments aim to ensure that transgenic crops are better than non-GM variants in claimed parameters without posing ecological harm to other species.
  • Open Field Trials:
    • After safety assessments, transgenic plants undergo open field trials in different geographical conditions and crop seasons.
    • These trials assess the suitability and performance of transgenic crops across various states.

Resistance from Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Telangana:

  • Cotton Seed Development: Hyderabad-based Bioseed Research India has developed Cry2Ai transgenic cotton seed, which confers resistance to pink bollworm. The GEAC recommended testing Cry2Ai cotton in farmers' fields in Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Haryana.
  • State Approval Challenges: Agriculture being a State subject, companies seeking to test their transgenic seeds require approvals from respective states. Only Haryana granted permission for the trials, while Gujarat and Telangana rebuffed the GEAC's proposal.
  • GEAC's Response and Activist Concerns: The GEAC asked the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) to organize capacity-building activities to apprise state governments about GM crops and the regulatory framework. Activist groups raised objections, considering the GEAC's approach biased, as they believed it pressured states to furnish reasons for disapproval.

Potential Changes in the Regulatory Process:

  • Notified Testing Sites Proposal:
    • To address the issue of differing attitudes towards GM crops among states, the GEAC is considering a proposal by the DBT.
    • The proposal suggests declaring specific regions across India as "notified testing sites" (42 proposed sites).
    • If implemented, companies and institutions conducting GM crop trials in these locations would not require state-level permissions.

The status of transgenic crops in India is predominantly limited to cotton, with other crops in various stages of trials. The regulatory process involves stringent safety assessments and open field trials before commercial cultivation approval. Ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court and resistance from some states pose challenges to the widespread adoption of transgenic crops. The proposal for notified testing sites may streamline the approval process and facilitate further research and development in the field of transgenic crops in India.

 

 

https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/explained-what-is-the-status-of-transgenic-crops-in-india/article66968448.ece

Keywords: GS-3, environment
Daily Current Affairs

Ceiling on Wheat Stocks - Edukemy Current Affairs


In News: The Government has imposed limits on the stock of wheat that can be held by traders, wholesalers, retailers, big chain retailers and processors. The objective is to manage the overall food security and to prevent hoarding and unscrupulous speculation

About the orders issued by the government on wheat stocks:

  • The permissible stock that traders/wholesalers can hold is 3,000 metric tonnes. Retailers and big chain retailers can hold up to 10 metric tonnes at each of their outlets, while the latter can hold up to 3,000 metric tonnes at all their depots combined.
  • The mentioned entities are expected to declare their stock positions and update them regularly on the Department of Food and Public Distribution’s portal.
  • If the stock held by them is higher than the limit, they will have 30 days from the day of issue of notification to bring the same under the prescribed limits.
  • The government has also decided to offload 15 lakh tonnes of wheat from the central pool via the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) to flour mills, private traders, bulk buyers, and manufacturers of wheat products through e-auction, to control the retail prices of wheat.
  • The order stood effective with immediate effect until the end of March next year.
  • Government is also planning to offload rice under OMSS to moderate its prices

Why has the government issued these orders on wheat stocks?

  • The orders have been issued in the backdrop of rising concerns about the overall wheat output taking a hit after the unseasonal rains and hailstorms towards the end of March and early April alongside hotter temperatures in February.
    • High temperature during flowering and maturing period leads to loss in yield. About 23 lakh hectares of wheat crop has been damaged in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Lower production leads to higher prices of the crop which could in turn create conditions for local prices exceeding the government’s purchase prices and thus, creating difficulty for the government to stock up supplies.

Source:

https://www.thehindu.com/business/agri-business/explained-why-did-the-govt-impose-a-ceiling-on-wheat-stocks/article66969902.ece

Keywords: GS-3 Food Security
Daily Current Affairs

UNDP's 2023 Gender Social Norms Index


In News: The report by the UNDP on 2023 Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI), titled "Breaking down gender biases: Shifting social norms towards gender equality", reveals that biassed gender social norms continue to impede progress towards achieving gender equality and violate human rights.

About Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI):

  • The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) quantifies biases against women, capturing people’s attitudes on women’s roles along four key dimensions: political, educational, economic and physical integrity.
    • Each dimension is characterised by one or two indicators of biases against women.
    • Each indicator takes a value of 1 when an individual has a bias and 0 when the individual does not.
  • The GSNI captures beliefs on gender equality in capabilities and rights. First introduced in the 2019 human development report, it differs from achievement-based objective measures of gender equality, which assess gender gaps in terms of outcomes.
  • By focusing on beliefs, biases and prejudices, it provides an in-depth account of the root causes of gender inequality that hinder progress for women and girls. The GSNI is calculated using data from the World Values Survey

Key Highlights of the GSNI-2023:

  • The index, covering 85% of the global population, reveals that close to 9 out of 10 men and women hold fundamental biases against women.
  • Nearly 90% of people still hold at least one bias against women and 25 per cent of people believe it is justified for a man to beat his wife.
  • Countries with greater bias in gender social norms also show a lower presence of women in parliament.
  • Indigenous women, migrant women and women with disabilities have meagre political representation, demonstrating how overlapping biases can further reduce opportunities for women.
  • The recent increase in education achievements has not translated into better economic outcomes and opportunities for women.

Source: 

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/world/prejudices-against-women-didn-t-reduce-in-last-decade-90-people-still-hold-gender-bias-un-89994

Keywords: GS -2 Issues Related to Children and Women
Daily Current Affairs

National Commission for Scheduled Castes


In News: NCSC sends notice to food delivery company Zomato for airing a casteist advertisement featuring a Dalit character.

About NCSC:

  • National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) is a statutory body established under Article 338 of the Constitution of India.
  • The body is responsible for safeguarding the rights and interests of Scheduled Castes(SCs) besides ensuring effective implementation of constitutional provisions and other laws related to SCs.
  • It also provides recommendations and advice to the government on policies, legislation, and development programs for Scheduled Castes.
  • It consists of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and five members appointed by the President of India.
  • Chairperson and members have the same powers as a civil court while investigating complaints.
  • It conducts inquiries and investigations into specific complaints of atrocities or discrimination against Scheduled Castes.
  • It can also take suo motu cognizance of matters related to Scheduled Castes' welfare and initiates appropriate action.
  • It can summon witnesses, examine documents, and issue summons and warrants during its investigations.
  • It collaborates with other organizations and authorities to promote the welfare of SCs beside providing legal aid and support SCs facing discrimination or injustice.
  • It organizes awareness campaigns, workshops, and seminars to educate people about the rights of Scheduled Castes.
  • Overall, it is the cradle of social integration and equality for Scheduled Castes besides working towards eliminating caste-based discrimination and promoting social harmony.

 

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/national-commission-for-scheduled-castes-notice-to-zomato-delhi-police-youtube-over-casteist-advertisement/article66964808.ece

 

Keywords: GS-2: Polity: Important Bodies
Daily Current Affairs

Disinflation in India - Edukemy Current Affairs


In News: RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das states that India's disinflation process will be slow and protracted.

About Disinflation in India:

  • India has been experiencing a gradual disinflation in recent years which in economic terms is a decrease in the rate of inflation or a period of slowing inflation.
  • In this regard, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been implementing monetary policy measures to target inflation rates of 4% over the medium term.
  • The benchmark set by the RBI has been slow and protracted in recent years thus taking time to reach the desired inflation target.
  • Inflation projections for the current financial year indicate a rate of 5.1%, which is lower but still above the target.
  • Although the Retail inflation data has been showing a cooling trend, the analysts expect inflation to remain sticky and pose challenges in the coming months.
  • Role of MPC:
    • The RBI's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), headed by Governor plays a crucial role in managing inflation and ensuring price stability.
    • The MPC aims to strike a balance between controlling inflation and supporting economic growth.
    • RBI uses policy decisions, such as rate hikes or pauses to maintain stability in the financial system.
  • While disinflation is necessary to control prices, policymakers also consider the potential impact on economic growth and employment.
  • Achieving disinflation requires a combination of monetary policy measures, fiscal discipline, structural reforms, and supply-side interventions.
  • In this regard, the government's efforts to improve productivity, ease supply constraints, and promote investment can contribute to the disinflationary process.
  • Overall, Inflation management and disinflationary measures are essential for maintaining macroeconomic stability and supporting sustainable economic growth in India.

 

https://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/indias-disinflation-process-to-be-slow-protracted-says-cenbank-chief/article66965158.ece

 

Keywords: GS-3: Government polices
Daily Current Affairs

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action


Why in news? This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

About:

  • The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) is a significant human rights document adopted by the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria, in 1993.
  • It acknowledges the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights, emphasizing that civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights are all integral parts of the universal human rights framework.
  • The declaration recognizes the importance of respecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals.
  • Fight against impunity, including the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • The declaration reaffirms the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948.
    • UDHR, sets out a common standard of human rights for people worldwide, regardless of their nationality, race, religion, or other status.

 

 

https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2023/06/dont-give-veteran-rights-activist-urges-younger-generations

Keywords: General Studies –3 Environment & Climate Change
Daily Current Affairs

IBBI to form ‘common panel’ of insolvency professional


Why in news? The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) will create a “common panel” consisting of registered insolvency professionals (IPs).

About:

  • The purpose of this panel is to allow the authority to choose IPs from the list to oversee various cases of resolution or liquidation.
  • At present
    • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) is required to recommend the IP's name only after receiving reference from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in a corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP).
  • Proposed move
    • The proposed move will "avoid administrative delays" in the appointment of IPs and help expedite insolvency resolution.
    • This list of IPs will also be submitted with the Debt Recovery Tribunal for handling individual insolvency cases.
    • The board will prepare a common panel of IPs for appointment as IRP (interim resolution professional), liquidator, RP (resolution professionals) and BT (bankruptcy trustee) and share the same with the AA (adjudicating authority)".

 

 

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/ibbi-to-form-common-panel-of-insolvency-professionals/articleshow/100974639.cms

Keywords: General Studies –3 Economy
Daily Current Affairs

e-RUPI vouchers - Edukemy Current Affairs


Why in news? Recently, The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed non-bank Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers to issue e-RUPI vouchers.

About:

  • e-RUPI is a contactless cashless voucher which a user gets on his or her phone in the form of an SMS or QR code.
  • The users will be able to redeem the voucher without needing a card, digital payments app, or internet banking access, at any centre that accepts it.
  • The system is pre-paid in nature and hence, assures timely payment to the service provider without the involvement of any intermediary.
  • The cap on the amount for e-RUPI vouchers issued by the government has been set at Rs 1,00,000 per voucher.
  • The central bank has also allowed the use of the e-RUPI voucher multiple times (until the amount of the voucher is completely redeemed).
  • It ensures an easy, contactless process that is operable on basic phones also.
  • For instance
    • If the central government wants to cover a particular treatment of an employee in a specified hospital, it can issue an e-RUPI voucher for the determined amount through a partner bank. The employee will receive an SMS or a QR Code on his feature phone/smartphone. He/she can go to the specified hospital, avail of the services and pay through the e-RUPI voucher received on his phone.

More Information

  • At present, purpose-specific vouchers are issued by banks on behalf of central and state governments and to a limited extent on behalf of corporates.
  • Now, it is proposed to expand the scope and reach of e-RUPI vouchers by
    • permitting non-bank Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers to issue e-RUPI vouchers and
    • enabling the issuance of e-RUPI vouchers on behalf of individuals,
  • It is also proposed to simplify the process of issuance and redemption.
  • These measures will make the benefits of e-RUPI digital voucher accessible to a wider set of users and further deepen the penetration of digital payments in the country.

 

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/save/purpose-specific-prepaid-e-rupi-vouchers-can-now-be-issued-for-individuals-by-ppis/articleshow/100838589.cms

 

Keywords: General Studies –3 IT & Computers, Mobilization of Resources
Daily Current Affairs

Super-engineered vaccines created to help end polio


Why in news? Scientists have “super-engineered” polio vaccines to prevent them from mutating into a dangerous form that can cause outbreaks and paralysis.

About:

  • The original or "wild" poliovirus is currently limited to small pockets of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the oral vaccines play a pivotal role in eradicating polio worldwide.
  • However, the oral vaccine has genetic instability, with just one mutation capable of reversing its safety and causing paralysis.
  • There are now more cases of "vaccine-derived polio" than of the wild poliovirus.
    • These cases occur when the weakened virus in the vaccine reverts to a form that can cause disease.
  • So, the researchers have genetically altered the weakened virus even further to make it much harder for it to start causing paralysis again.

Poliomyelitis (Polio)

  • It is an infection caused by a virus (poliovirus).
  • It is a serious, highly contagious disease that can affect a person’s nervous system.
  • There are three types of wild poliovirus:
    • WPV 1: still exists but efforts are going on to eradicate it.
    • WPV 2: eradicated.
    • WPV 3: eradicated.
  • Spread:
    • The virus is transmitted person-to-person mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, through contaminated water or food).
    • Polio typically affects children aged 5 years or younger. It can result in muscle weakness, permanent disability, and even death.
  • Prevention and Cure:
  • There is no cure, but it can be prevented through Immunisation.

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-65860202

Keywords: General Studies –2 Health, General Studies –3 Science & Technology
Daily Current Affairs

Leptospirosis - Edukemy Current Affairs


Why in news? Leptospirosis (commonly referred to as “rat fever”) has emerged as an important infectious disease in the world recently.

About:

  • It is a potentially fatal zoonotic bacterial disease that tends to have large outbreaks after heavy rainfall or flooding.
  • The disease is more prevalent in warm, humid countries and in both urban and rural areas.
  • Causes the disease:
    • The disease is caused by a bacterium called Leptospira interrogans, or leptospira.
    • It is a contagious disease in animals but is occasionally transmitted to humans in certain environmental conditions.
    • The carriers of the disease can be either wild or domestic animals, including rodents, cattle, pigs, and dogs.
    • The cycle of disease transmission begins with the shedding of leptospira, usually in the urine of infected animals.
  • Humans become part of the cycle when they come in direct contact with this urine or indirectly, through soil and water that contain leptospira bacteria.
  • Symptoms:
    • In milder cases, patients could experience a sudden onset of fever, chills, and headache – or no symptoms at all.
    • But in severe cases, the disease can be characterised by the dysfunction of multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, and the brain.
  • Prevention:
    • Preventing leptospirosis requires effective health education, community empowerment, and the adoption of preventive measures.
    • Proper waste management, improved sanitation facilities, and control of stray animals is crucial in preventing the disease.

 

 

https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/leptospirosis-signs-symptoms-risk-precautions-explained/article66960475.ece

Keywords: General Studies –2, 3 Health, Government Policies & Interventions
Daily Current Affairs

One-shot chikungunya vaccine - Edukemy Current Affairs


Why in news? According to the first phase 3 trial of the preventive published in The Lancet journal – a single-dose vaccine (VLA1553 vaccine) for chikungunya was found safe and produced a strong immune response against the viral disease.

About:

  • Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the chikungunya virus (CHIKV), which is endemic in some regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
  • First described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952.
  • Symptoms:
    • It causes symptoms such as fever, headaches, fatigue, and severe muscle and joint pain.
  • Transmission:
    • It is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.
    • It is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue virus.
  • Treatment:
    • There are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments

 

VLA1553 vaccine

  • VLA1553 vaccine was generally well tolerated across all age groups with most adverse events being mild or moderate.
  • The most common adverse events were headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, and pain at the injection site.
  • the vaccine is made from a weakened version of the live virus, so is likely to be unsuitable for people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

 

 

https://www.financialexpress.com/healthcare/pharma-healthcare/one-shot-chikungunya-vaccine-found-safe-effective-in-first-phase-3-trial-lancet-study/3127493/

Keywords: General Studies – 3 Scientific Innovations & Discoveries, Health
Daily Editorial Analysis

The future of Finance Commission


Exam View: Essence of Finance Commission; Issues before the new Finance Commission; A ‘just’ horizontal distribution; Managing excessive cesses and surcharges; Restraint on freebies.

Context: The government will appoint a Finance Commission in the next few months to determine how much of the Centre’s tax revenue should be given away to States (the vertical share) and how to distribute that among States (the horizontal sharing formula).

Background: Essence of Finance Commission

  • Post-reforms, fresh PSU investments have thinned out and the Planning Commission was abolished in 2014 with the result that the Finance Commission remains virtually the sole architect of India’s fiscal federalism.
    • Its responsibility and influence are, therefore, much larger.

Decoding the editorial: Issues before the new Finance Commission

A ‘just’ horizontal distribution

  • Terms of Reference (ToR):
    • The ToR of the previous Finance Commission (appointed in 2017) became contentious because it was asked to take into account the 2011 population figures in determining the expenditure needs of a State.
    • This was a departure from the standard practice until then of mandating Finance Commissions to use the 1971 population numbers.
    • States which had done well in stabilising population growth rates, typically the southern States, protested against this change in the base year, calling it a ‘penalty for good performance’.

  • Revenue deficit grants: A perverse incentive
    • In theory, revenue deficit grants have a logical rationale that every State in a country should be able to provide a minimum level of service to its residents even if it involves an element of cross-subsidisation.
    • Some states do not bother raising revenues on their own because the Finance Commission will compensate them.
    • Historically, Finance Commissions have struggled to determine how much a State’s deficit is due to its fiscal incapacity and how much is due to fiscal irresponsibility.
    • The net result is that every horizontal distribution formula has been criticised as being inefficient or unfair or both.
  • Fault Lines across States
    • These have deepened in recent years along political, economic and fiscal dimensions.
    • The southern States of the country are doing better in terms of infrastructure, private investment, social indicators and the rule of law, which has put them on a virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity and widened the north-south gap.
  • Recommendation:
    • The Commission should formulate the principles of ToR and Revenue Deficit in such a way as to alleviate to an extent the current nature of horizontal distribution, which is that richer States compensate poorer States.

Managing excessive cesses and surcharges

  • Raising revenues by raising taxes, would force Centre to part with 41 paise to States.
  • If it raises the additional rupee by way of a surcharge, it gets to keep all of it.
  • When the Constitution was amended in the year 2000 giving States a share in the Centre’s total tax pool, the implicit understanding was that the Centre will resort only sparingly to cesses and surcharges, and not as a matter of routine as has become the practice.
  • Recommendation:
    • The next Finance Commission should lay down guidelines for when cesses and surcharges might be levied, and also suggest a formula to cap the amount that can be raised.

Restraint on freebies

  • The restraints imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act should have acted as a check on such populist spending, but governments have found ingenious ways of raising debt without it appearing in the budget books.
    • It is not easy to unambiguously define a freebie, and any check on this will be contested as infringing on the sovereignty of elected governments.
  • Recommendations:
    • The next Finance Commission should bite the bullet in the interest of long-term fiscal sustainability and lay down guidelines on the spending on freebies.
    • The government should embolden the Finance Commission to formalise a mechanism for a restraint on freebies.

 

 

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-next-finance-commission-will-have-a-tough-task/article66969322.ece

Keywords: GS Paper-2: Centre-State Relations, Indian Constitution, Co-operative Federalism, Constitutional bodies.
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