It is the first work to show that sonothermogenetics can control behavior by stimulating a specific target deep in the brain — ScienceDaily


Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy have had some treatment success with deep brain stimulation, but those require surgical device implantation. A multidisciplinary team at Washington University in St. Louis has developed a new brain stimulation technique using focused ultrasound that is able to turn specific types of neurons in the brain on and off and precisely control motor activity without surgical device implantation.

The team, led by Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering and of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine, is the first to provide direct evidence showing noninvasive, cell-type-specific activation of neurons in the brain of mammal by combining ultrasound-induced heating effect and genetics, which they have named sonothermogenetics. It is also the first work to show that the ultrasound- genetics combination can robustly control behavior by stimulating a specific target deep in the brain.

Results of the three years of research, which was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN Initiative, were published online in Brain Stimulation May 11, 2021.

The senior research team included experts from both the McKelvey School of Engineering and the School of Medicine, including Jianmin Cui, professor of biomedical engineering; Joseph P. Culver, professor of radiology, of physics and of biomedical engineering; Mark J. Miller, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine; and Michael Bruchas, formerly of Washington University, now professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology at the University of Washington.

“Our work provided evidence that sonothermogenetics evokes behavioral responses in freely moving mice while targeting a deep brain site,” Chen said. “Sonothermogenetics has the potential to transform our approaches for neuroscience research and uncover new methods to understand and treat human brain disorders.”

Using a mouse model, Chen and the team delivered a viral construct containing TRPV1 ion channels to genetically-selected neurons. Then, they delivered small burst of heat via low-intensity focused ultrasound to the select neurons in the brain via a wearable device. The heat, only a few degrees warmer than body temperature, activated the TRPV1 ion channel, which acted as a switch to turn the neurons on or off.

“We can move the ultrasound device worn on the head of free-moving mice around to target different locations in the whole brain,” said Yaoheng Yang, first author of the paper and a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “Because it is noninvasive, this technique has the potential to be scaled up to large animals and potentially humans in the future.”

The work builds on research conducted in Cui’s lab that was published in Scientific Reports in 2016. Cui and his team found for the first time that ultrasound alone can influence ion channel activity and could lead to new and noninvasive ways to control the activity of specific cells. In their work, they found that focused ultrasound modulated the currents flowing through the ion channels on average by up to 23%, depending on channel and stimulus intensity. Following this work, researchers found close to 10 ion channels with this capability, but all of them are mechanosensitive, not thermosensitive.

The work also builds on the concept of optogenetics, the combination of the targeted expression of light-sensitive ion channels and the precise delivery of light to stimulate neurons deep in the brain. While optogenetics has increased discovery of new neural circuits, it is limited in penetration depth due to light scattering and requires surgical implantation of optical fibers.

Sonothermogenetics has the promise to target any location in the mouse brain with millimeter-scale resolution without causing any damage to the brain, Chen said. She and the team continue to optimize the technique and further validate their findings.

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Materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Original written by Beth Miller. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Queensland domestic violence cases still rising sharply, expert warns coercive control law will be no quick fix


Reports of domestic violence are still rising sharply across Queensland, with the latest figures revealing police responding on average to more than 400 cases a day.

Queensland police data shows that from July 1 last year to March 31 this year, officers responded to 113,779 domestic and family violence (DFV) occurrences, higher than the 107,000 cases reported across the 2020 calendar year.

Police said increased reporting is partly due to a heightened public focus on domestic violence, but one expert suspects there is also something more sinister at work.

The CEO of Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Heather Nancarrow, said the rising caseload amid widespread condemnation of DFV offences could be a sign some perpetrators are “intensifying their efforts to dominate and control”.

Dr Nancarrow warned that the Queensland government’s move to make coercive control a criminal offence “is not going to be the golden key”, saying controlling partners — almost always men — can be adept at using the law for their own ends.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a taskforce in February to consult on coercive control legislation, after months of campaigning by the parents of Hannah Clarke, who was murdered by her estranged husband along with her three children in February last year.

Dr Nancarrow said enshrining coercive control in the criminal code required careful drafting to ensure it did not bring about unintended consequences, as had occurred in the application of civil domestic violence orders (DVOs).

“I would say back in the ’80s we thought the law was the answer — it is for some women [but] it’s not going to be the golden key,” she said.

“There’s a risk they’ll see an offence of coercive control as the golden key and it will save lives. It may save some, but we can’t put all our hope into that as the answer.

“You hear that from service providers that women are reporting to them that when they see something on TV [about another DV incident] they’re told, ‘You’ll be next if you don’t toe the line’.

“As there’s increasing acknowledgement of the problem of the domestic violence … the men who feel threatened by equality may increase their efforts around control and superiority.”

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) is currently conducting a broad review of its DFV responses and how Gold Coast officers responded in the case of a woman who was killed last month.

Dr Nancarrow said the “gold standard” on coercive control legislation was the Scottish approach that enacted a new law but also took a “broader systemic response”.

QPS has taken a similar approach in partnering DFV service providers and government agencies in eight high-risk DFV teams now operating across Queensland.

Police domestic and family violence and vulnerable persons unit manager, Inspector Ben Martain, said they were working with ANROWS in developing training for officers across the state on how to better identify coercive control in DFV cases.

Inspector Martain said it was an “extraordinarily complex” area in which police themselves were subject to lies and manipulation.

“There is an increasing number of high-risk perpetrators that are coming across our books,” he said.

“We know perpetrators in some instances can be very talented in downplaying their own conduct and casting blame on aggrieved persons.

“That’s about being alive to the fact that often it is respondents [perpetrators] who contact police. They try to get in first and make a whole range of allegations.”

Too often, women are being misidentified as perpetrators on DVOs — particularly Indigenous women.

Dr Nancarrow worked closely with Inspector Martain and QPS last year in a study focused on how best to identify the people most in need of protection in DFV matters.

The study was in response to the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board’s finding in 2017 that almost half of the women who had died in a DV context had, at one point, been treated as perpetrators.

The latest Queensland statistics indicate 77 per cent of DVOs were issued to protect women, with 73 per cent of perpetrators identified as male.

But Dr Nancarrow said men were more likely to be perpetrators in “90-something per cent” of cases.

She agreed identifying coercive control in DFV cases would often prove “difficult” for police.

“It’s about removing a person’s autonomy.

“Helping police understand the insidious nature of coercive control is challenging because we need to be able to help them understand and empathise with circumstances where one person … international literature says it’s almost exclusively men perpetrating this kind of coercive control over women.

“It relates to a broader context of male power assumed in relationships that the man should be in control of the relationship and of his partner.

“There are many, many men who don’t adhere to this very rigid male role stereotype, but it’s the ones who adhere to this … who are the ones perpetrating coercive control and abuse.

“It does relate to that sense of entitlement to dominate and control your partner.”

Dr Nancarrow said this could be particularly difficult for male police officers to recognise.

“If you’ve never experienced that threat of something hanging over you when it’s not a specific action as women do.

“Women can list the number of things they do every day when they wake up and when they go out and what they do to protect themselves to be safe.

“Men typically don’t have that same level of awareness of personal safety.”

Inspector Martain said since late March, QPS had established specialist DFV coordinators within the police communications centre in Brisbane as another tool for officers in the field.

He said they were wanted to get better at correctly identifying the person most at risk, and sometimes possibly looking beyond the fact that they are responding to an incident in which a woman has resorted to violence.

Inspector Martin said they were also alerting officers to the fact that in many instances “victims don’t realise they are victims of coercive control”.

Dr Nancarrow said police responses in Indigenous community domestic violence call-outs could benefit from considering whether the legal response was always the best option, particularly given the continuing high rates of Indigenous incarceration.

Inspector Martain said rural, remote and Indigenous communities were a particular challenge because officers could be young and inexperienced, and “because in many instances the only agency that is there is the Queensland Police Service”.

“But absolutely it is about working with the community. This is a problem that we can’t arrest our way out of,” he said.

Queensland’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, headed by Justice Margaret McMurdo, will offer its findings on coercive control legislation to the state government in October.

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Aerial firefighting in the Mallee uses tactical firebombing, reconnaissance to control wildfires


The Mallee towns in Victoria’s north-west are no strangers to the increased fire danger that summer brings to their communities.

Fires in the wide expanse of the sparsely populated Mallee are ferocious for the dryland farming region.

Wildfires spread quickly through the surrounding Big Desert and Murray Sunset National Parks and it takes a specialised team of highly skilled firefighters to control them.

Summer fires are a regular reminder of the harshness of cutting out a living in the semi-arid Mallee landscape, with fires igniting during harvest or from dry lightning events every year.

However, specialist fire reconnaissance aircraft with tactical Air Attack Commanders work together with a committed team of Forest Fire Management crews, Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers and local farmers who are all equipped to tackle fires with a moment’s notice.

CFA District 18 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gavin Wright coordinates 1,600 trained CFA volunteer firefighters across the Mallee district.

He has great faith in the region’s firefighters, some of who are third-generation volunteers, but he is also thankful for the expertise of the specialist fire incident controllers at Forest Fire Management.

Murrayville farmer Trevor Wyatt is a 40-year CFA veteran and has been the local CFA Group Officer on the ground at every fire that has burned across the Mallee since the 1980s.

He says the hardest fires to tackle start during February, as it is the worst month for dry lightning events that can ignite multiple fires across the expansive national parks that surround the small farming region, leaving the town and surrounding farms vulnerable.

“Most are farmers who are equipped with their own private firefighting units.”

But when major fires do start in the national parks, fire-spotting aircraft are first on the scene, reporting the fire soon after ignition.

The use of air reconnaissance aircraft after thunderstorms allows Forest Fire Management and CFA teams to launch a full tactical ground and air response much earlier than could have been achieved without air surveillance.

Nathan Christian is an air attack supervisor for Forest Fire Management and says early detection of fires in the Mallee is particularly important due to its isolation and the difficulty getting crews and equipment to the fireground.

Mr Christian’s role is a difficult one and requires the coordination of multiple aircraft, ground crews and firefighting assets.

The air attack platform ensures the safe and efficient tactical delivery of waterbombing activities from their vantage point far above the fireground.

“You’re monitoring up to five radios in the aircraft … at a time when flying conditions get pretty rough.”

Although the use of modern fire trucks, tactical aircraft combined with technical skills and knowledge of highly trained fire crews, Mr Wright says the success of the Mallee fire response comes down to an age-old ethos, one that has been around for over 150 years, where people just band together in a cooperative effort to put out the fires.

Mr Wyatt says the introduction of bushfire air attack platforms have been a godsend, as they can see the whole picture of the fire from the air, a perspective that ground crews cannot, providing much needed tactical guidance of the whole operation.

Bushfire air attack pilot Andrew Mason flies both air attack reconnaissance aircraft and waterbombers across the Mallee and south-eastern South Australia.

He understands the dangers of the job.

Mr Wyatt also understands the risks, but the need to protect lives and livelihoods takes precedence over fear.

“Being a volunteer is a risky business when fighting big fires, but having the planes to drop water straight on the head the fire gives crews a better chance of controlling them,” he said.

Mr Wyatt described a recent fire as a particularly challenging one.

“It was one of the dirtiest fires I’ve ever been to,” he said.

Over the 40 years Mr Wyatt has be a CFA volunteer he said fighting wildfires with aircraft has been one of the biggest advances.

“Since we’ve started using planes, they save us so much time it’s just unbelievable,” he said.

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Delorean takes full control of SA gas project



Perth-based Delorean Corporation has struck an agreement with Clean Peak Energy to acquire its 70 per cent stake in the Salisbury Bioenergy project.

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North Korea warns of ‘crisis beyond control’ in heated statements aimed at US and South Korea


In one statement, North Korea chided US President Joe Biden for saying, in a speech to Congress Thursday, Pyongyang’s nuclear program presents “a serious threat to America’s security and world security.”
A separate statement accused the US of engaging in “political chicanery” last week, when the State Department called North Korea “one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world.”

And a third statement attributed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned South Korea would face consequences after North Korean defectors used balloons to send leaflets into North Korean territory.

The comments come after Biden’s press secretary said Friday the administration had completed a months-long policy review on North Korea. Washington plans to pursue a “calibrated, practical approach” that differs from the Trump administration’s strategy of pursuing a grand bargain or the Obama administration’s focus on “strategic patience.”

Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, are scheduled to meet in Washington later this month.

North Korea’s statements were more focused on what it saw as insults from Biden, the State Department and the South Korean government, and all employed the bombastic language often seen in North Korean statements of opposition or displeasure.

Responding to the State Department’s comments on human rights in North Korea, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the US “has no right to even discuss human rights.”

“The US, where innocent people lose their lives to social inequality and racism every day, where 580,000 people died of novel coronavirus, is itself a human rights wasteland,” the statement read.

Kwon Jong Gun, the director general of the Department of US Affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said Biden’s remarks on North Korea during his speech were a “big blunder” that was indicative of an “outdated policy from Cold War-minded perspective and viewpoint.”

“His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward the DPRK as it had been done by the US for over half a century,” Kwon said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Now that what the keynote of the US new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the US will find itself in a very grave situation.”

Kim’s statement came in response to an activist organization led by a North Korean defector released balloons into North Korea carrying money and anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets in an attempt to supply people inside one of the world’s strictest dictatorships with uncensored information about their country and the outside world.

Kim said North Korea could not hide its displeasure over the “sordid acts” carried out by the defectors, who she referred to as “human waste” and “dirty human scum.”

“We regard the maneuvers committed by the human wastes in the south as a serious provocation against our state and will look into corresponding action,” she said.

Leaflet operations like these typically infuriate North Korea’s leaders. Pyongyang voiced its displeasure over a similar operation last year by demolishing a joint liaison office used for talks between the two Koreas. It’s illegal for average North Koreans to consume information that is not approved by the country’s powerful propaganda machine, and doing so can carry dire consequences.

North Korea claims sending leaflets is a direct violation of the agreement reached at the Inter-Korean summit in April 2018. As part of the deal, both North and South Korea agreed to cease “all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets” along their shared border. However, the text did not differentiate between government-led campaigns and those spearheaded by private individuals.

The South Korean government has since passed a controversial law making such leaflet releases illegal. Critics say the legislation limits free speech simply to appease North Korea. However, Kim said Pyongyang believed that Seoul gave “silent approval” to the defectors.

“Whatever decision we make and whatever actions we take, the responsibility for the consequences thereof will entirely rest with the South Korean authorities who stopped short of holding proper control of the dirty human scum,” Kim said.

Experts say that North Korea may be attempting to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul before Moon and Biden meet on May 21 by exploiting Moon’s desire for reconciliation in the final year of his presidency.

“The leafleting controversy is one way Pyongyang tries to divide Washington and Seoul by antagonizing South Korean domestic politics. Supporters of leafleting tend to exaggerate the effectiveness of sending bottles and balloons into North Korea. Meanwhile, proponents of the recent leafleting ban exaggerate the importance of such legislation to the safety of residents in border areas,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“Yet it is not an exaggeration to say that Moon’s ruling party adjusted domestic law in hopes of resuming inter-Korean engagement.”

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COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria infection control manager stood down after allegedly breaching protocols


The general manager of infection control at the agency running Victoria’s hotel quarantine program has been stood down after allegedly breaching their own protocols twice in the past two months.

Minister for Government Services Danny Pearson said he became aware of the reports last night and had stood aside COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria’s (CQV) general manager of infection prevention and control, Matiu Bush, pending a review into their conduct and behaviour.

“This issue with [Matiu] Bush goes more to [their] attitude and behaviour: there were infection control breaches, but they were of a very low level,” Mr Pearson said.

“Public confidence is paramount, and I don’t think the public would want to see someone in a senior leadership role continue to behave in this way, that’s why [they have] been stood down.”

The head of CQV, Emma Cassar, said the breaches were minor but disappointing.

She said the first incident involved Matiu Bush refusing to get tested at one quarantine hotel after a request by ADF personnel, but they were eventually tested at another site.

“[They] still met the requirement to have a daily test … but my understanding is the staff member did make comments about the fact [they] didn’t need to be tested at that site,” Ms Cassar said.

“We expect the highest standards from our staff, and this has fallen well short of that.”

Another incident involved the infection control manager getting a coffee from a coffee shop and coming back to a quarantine hotel without changing their mask or sanitising.

The leaked incident reports detailing the breaches were published in The Australian newspaper, which also published an internal report contradicting claims by the government that an outbreak at the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel in February was caused by a banned nebuliser.

Instead, the CQV infection control report said the “proposed working hypothesis” was that the leak was caused by a staff member who took an extended amount of time to swab a guest.

Ms Cassar on Wednesday said that was not her understanding.

“The working hypothesis is still as I understand, is that this was caused by the nebuliser,” she said.

The Victorian Opposition has called for all of the incident reports to be released to the public and said the state government had not learnt the lessons from previous hotel quarantine leaks.

“This is an outbreak waiting to happen, this is a lockdown waiting to happen, because the government hasn’t learnt the lessons and they still can’t get it right,” Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said.

Victoria recorded no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Wednesday for the 68th day in a row.

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Gun control in Australia 25 years after Port Arthur




35 people were killed in the nation’s worst mass shooting, which saw the introduction of world-leading gun control measures. Alexandra Alvarro reports.

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Ryan Giggs ‘may face up to five years in prison’ after charge of assault and coercive control


Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs could face up to five years in prison after he was charged with assaulting two women and coercive control.

Police were called to the 47-year-old’s home in Worsley, Greater Manchester, in early November following an alleged bust-up with his ex-girlfriend Kate Greville, and he was later released on bail.

But on Friday, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed the Welshman had been charged with assault and coercive control against Greville.

The “second woman” referred to is believed to be a friend.

And as reported by The Sun, coercive or controlling behaviour carries a maximum sentence of five years behind bars.



Ryan Giggs could face up to five years in prison
Ryan Giggs could face up to five years in prison

It is defined by law as: “An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim.”

Giggs is currently serving as Wales manager, but it has been announced he will not be taking charge in this summer’s European Championships, with Robert Page taking temporary charge.

Giggs, meanwhile, has pleaded his innocence, and said in a statement: “I have full respect for the due process of law and understand the seriousness of the allegations.

“I will plead not guilty in court and look forward to clearing my name. I would like to wish Robert Page, the coaching staff, players and supporters every success at the Euros this summer.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said on Friday: “We have authorised Greater Manchester Police to charge Ryan Giggs with engaging in behaviour which was controlling or coercive and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.



Giggs' ex-girlfriend Kate Greville
Giggs’ ex-girlfriend Kate Greville

“A charge of assault by beating relating to a second woman has also been authorised.

“The CPS made the decision to charge Mr Giggs after reviewing a file of evidence from Greater Manchester Police.

“Criminal proceedings are active and nothing should be published that could jeopardise the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”

Giggs will appear at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 28th April.



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ACT police warn social media-fuelled teenage violence is becoming more common and harder to control


Police say it started with a flurry of aggressive social media messages between two groups of Canberra teenagers. It ended with a vicious brawl that left an 18-year-old dead and a teenager seriously injured.

The deadly clash at Canberra’s Weston Creek Skate Park in September is just one example of what cyber security experts fear is an emerging trend, where online disputes spill over into real-world violence.

Psychologists believe confrontations have developed from fundamental changes in the way teenagers interact, and police fear they have become increasingly difficult to prevent.

A young man dead, a teenager charged with murder

An ambulance at Dillon Close in Weston Creek where two men were stabbed in September.(

ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi

)

On a freezing September morning in the nation’s capital last year, police were called to reports of a stabbing at a suburban skate park, where they found two seriously injured young men.

Only one survived.

Both were the alleged victims of a violent confrontation involving as many as eight people – most of them teenagers.

Among the group was a 16-year-old boy, who is now charged with murder.

Exactly how and why a teenager’s life was taken is being contested before the courts, but police have said it started with an argument online.

A skate park at night time.
Experts say teenagers often meet at parks and quiet places to settle social media scores in the real world.(

ABC News: Luke Stephenson

)

ESafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said social media-fuelled clashes were becoming all too common.

“Increasingly what we’re seeing is that groups of people, including teens, are meeting online through social media or on chats, a conflict might arise, it escalates very quickly because it’s all via text,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“So, they’re meeting face-to-face at a high level of tension, and this is the worst-case scenario in terms of what happened in Canberra.”

Three teenagers, all on their phones, lean against a wall with graffiti on it.
Psychologists believe confrontations have developed from fundamental changes in the way teenagers interact.(

ABC News: Luke Stephenson

)

Children lacking face-to-face interaction

Child psychologist Brianna Thomas said it was not surprising that meet-ups could turn violent given social media’s addictive features and the vulnerability of young people.

Cyber security experts also said teenagers who spent too much time online risked diminishing their emotional intelligence and situational awareness.

The cyber watchdog says as technology changes, so does the way we interact — and there are serious concerns that generations of children are growing up without the ability to communicate face-to-face.

Three teenagers sit in a lounge room and stare at their phones.
Cyber security experts say prolonged social media use is changing the way teenagers interact with one another. (

ABC News: Luke Stephenson

)

“You’re not picking up verbal cues, physical cues and body language,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“Kids need balance, they need direction, they need limitations, and we need to start this young because by the time they get into the teenage years and they’re striving for independence, it’s very difficult to ratchet this time online back if we haven’t set those limitations early.”

Violence escalating: police

A man in a dark suit and red tie.
ACT Policing’s Scott Moller says social media-fuelled violence has been increasing in the past five years.(

ABC News: Selby Stewart

)

Police said social media-fuelled violence had escalated in recent years.

“Certainly, [that’s] a growing policing concern that we’re looking at now, it’s something that has certainly escalated over the last five years,” ACT Policing criminal investigations head, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller, said.

The speed at which anger can escalate out of control is not something that surprises Martin Fisk, who runs Menslink — a support service for young men.

“They feel ‘if somebody’s disrespected me online and I’m going to take revenge and take revenge physically, I can find where they live, I can find where they go to school,'” he said.

Mr Fisk said the goal of support groups like Menslink was to help young people see the world as it is, not as it appears behind a screen.

Police said much of that responsibility fell to parents.

“Know what your children are doing online because I know certainly my children are worried about their own privacy,” Superintendent Scott Moller said.

“But you need to be persistent and ensure you know what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.”

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