The Victorian Government has offered cash incentives of up to almost $2,500 to encourage more job seekers to take up seasonal work.
The government has committed $10 million for sign-on bonuses for workers who complete at least 10 days of work in one month.
The payments will be spilt, with $810 paid after two weeks of work and a further payment of $1,620 after an additional six weeks of work has been done.
Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas said the difficulty facing growers right now sparked the need for further enticements for job seekers to take up fruit picking jobs.
Ms Thomas said the payments had been split in case workers could not handle the entire eight weeks of work to get the full bonus amount.
“It’s hard work and some people may want to give it a go and find out after two weeks that perhaps they are not able to continue because it is hard physical work.”
Mooroopna grower Peter Hall said while he welcomed any assistance from the state government, Australians had always been reluctant to take up fruit harvesting work.
“The real issue for our industry, and I think for agriculture generally, is getting a sustainable workforce that enjoys and welcomes harvest labour and the demands of that.”
Mr Hall said to some extent the cash incentives came too late in the season for some growers with pears about to finish up.
“Whether or not they are going to be able to offer enough work for someone to do that and complete that to get the payment is probably debatable as well.”
While finding workers to come work in orchards has always been an issue for growers, Mr Hall said this year had been challenging.
“It’s very tense for farmers to watch this happening,” he said.
Food manufacturer SPC, which sources fruit and vegetables from the Goulburn Valley, has also welcomed the announcement.
CEO Robert Giles said it was great to have something like this in place while growers waited for Pacific Islander workers to come.
“I like the way they have structured it. I think it’s clever. It encourages people to start and give them something for 10 days and then encourages them to stay longer.”
SPC has seen strong demand for its products and has increased its fruit intake from the Goulburn Valley by 40 per cent this year.
Mr Giles said challenges with getting fruit off trees could have a flow-on effect on their production line.
“We start making choices about which products we can keep and which ones we have to work with our customers on phasing out.
“I would hate for that to give the opportunity for international products to come into the market to fill the gap,” he said.
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Glen Johnson doesn’t believe Liverpool are getting the best out of Thiago Alcantara because he’s not being played in the correct role.
Liverpool signed Thiago from Bayern Munich in the summer transfer window, and the midfielder has performed well this season.
But this campaign the Reds haven’t been the same team that ran away with the title last season, and Johnson believes Thiago can offer the club more in a slightly different role.
“When Liverpool were linked with Thiago before they signed him, I was happy and thought he’d be fantastic,” Johnson told Betting Expert.
“He’s world class but he has to have a floating role where he can do what he wants.
“I would prefer to see him when Henderson and Fabinho are there to anchor the midfield and let him wander around and dissect the game as he sees it because some of his passing and vision is something that no other player has; it’s the sort of thing you can’t teach.”
Johnson isn’t the only one to suggest Thiago needs to be played in a different role if Liverpool are to get the best out of him.
Robert Huth told Compare.Bet: “They are such an amazing machine Liverpool, when they have all the players available they’re literally 11 machines on a pitch.
“When you take a few out, you lose that sort of momentum, like Henderson playing at centre-back – people not playing in their positions.
“While it might be doable for the short–term, ultimately you want all your best players playing in their best positions and that hasn’t come.
“Where Liverpool used to be really threatening on the counter, winning the ball high up, having Thiago in there now, as great a player as he is, he just doesn’t have the energy.
“I mean [he’s had an] amazing career for sure, but he’s not going to be flying around like Henderson does, like Wijnaldum does, like all the other players.
“They need a real high energy player to break the lines when they win the ball.
“All that sort of thing is missing. Like Klopp used to say, it’s heavy metal football and they’d just blow teams away, but that sort of energy is missing at the moment.”
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While there isn’t the same expectation placed on the Wallabies as there is the Australian cricket team when touring sides arrive, there is a belief the men in gold should beat northern hemisphere opposition on home turf.
The Wallabies managed just one win from Dave Rennie’s first six matches in charge, and only points difference last year stopped Fabien Galthie’s side from claiming the their first Six Nations title since 2010.
The often enigmatic rugby nation were the only team to topple Eddie Jones’ England side – a feat the Wallabies haven’t achieved in their last seven attempts – during the Six Nations and their young core is the envy of every other European nations.
“I think it would be a really, really good result for Australia to win that series,” Mehrtens said. “No matter what team they bring out, I think that would be a really good result.
“And I don’t think there is any shame in losing a 2-1 series to France the way they are these days. 3-0 wouldn’t be acceptable but I think winning at least one Test, getting on the front foot and winning the first Test would be a really important one because it could make or break the French tour.
“I wouldn’t be expecting an Australian victory in that series. If that were to happen, it would be an over-achievement.”
Mehrtens will add a New Zealand perspective to Nine and Stan Sport’s coverage of Wallabies Tests and Super Rugby matches this year.
He will be joined by fellow panellists Tim Horan, Drew Mitchell, Justin Harrison, Allana Ferguson and Morgan Turinui.
Nick McArdle and Roz Kelly will be the hosts on rugby’s new broadcaster and the lead callers will be Sean Maloney and Andrew Swain.
Discussions are ongoing with Sonny Bill Williams about a commentary role but the cross-code superstar is yet to sign.
Before the Wallabies can worry about taking on France, there is an entire Super Rugby season to play.
The Waratahs are considered a big chance of claiming the wooden spoon after Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons and Ned Hanigan departed but Mehrtens believes the absence of expectations may set Rob Penney’s side on the right path.
“When you look back to the Crusaders and the likes of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter who were huge figures in the game – when they left the younger players rebuilding stepped up and grew and took control of their own culture and their own methods and it’s ended up being very, very successful for the Crusaders,” he said. “It’s an exciting period of building for the Waratahs.
“You still have to get results but ultimately, the leniency that people show towards a rebuilding team at times allows you to judge them on what they’re delivering on the field performance wise or heart wise, rather than just looking at results.
“That’ll be good for them.”
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 enforced lockdown in Western Australia has seen the Brumbies postpone their trial with the Force until next Tuesday.
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Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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Olympique de Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas said on Tuesday that he had offered his resignation, citing a disagreement over the Ligue 1 club’s sporting policy.
“I submitted my resignation saying that I did not agree with the sporting policy. I don’t want anything from OM. I don’t want money,” Villas-Boas told a news conference.
Villas-Boas, who said last month he would leave when his contract expired at the end of the season, said he had not heard back from the board yet.
“The board has not answered to me yet. What happened last weekend has nothing to do with it,” the Portuguese said, referring to Saturday’s incidents in Marseille, where some fans broke into the club’s training centre amid protests against president Jacques-Henri Eyraud.
Marseille manager Andre Villas-Boas offered his resignation in a press conference earlier today 😱
“I’m waiting for an answer, it could be no and then we would continue. I don’t want any money, I just want to leave.
“We ended the transfer window with a new player (Olivier Ntcham from Celtic Glasgow). He is a player that I had said no for,” Villas-Boas added.
Marseille, who were knocked out in the group stage of the Champions League, are ninth in Ligue 1, 16 points behind leaders Lille with two games in hand.
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Since announcing her split from ex Brad Pitt in 2016, Angelina Jolie has kept her head held high as she privately struggled with the fallout of their divorce.
But now, the actress candidly admits to British Vogue that the past few years have been “really hard” for her and their six children, Maddox, 19, Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 14, and 12-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox.
At one point in the interview, she is asked, “Do you feel as if you’re at a happy stage in your life?” to which she responds, “I don’t know.”
“I’ve been focusing on healing our family,” the Mr. & Mrs. Smith actress continues. “It’s slowly coming back, like the ice melting and the blood returning to my body.”
And though the 45 year old is unsure about her happiness at this time, she expresses excitement for her 50s, saying, “I feel that I’m gonna hit my stride in my 50s.”
“Though we were on the trampoline the other day, and the children said, ‘No, Mom, don’t do that. You’ll hurt yourself,'” she adds. “And I thought, ‘God, isn’t that funny?’ There was a day I was an action star, and now the kids are telling me to get off the trampoline because I’ll hurt myself.”
Another vaccine has been shown to protect against COVID-19 — and this time with only a single dose.
On 29 January, the pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J) of New Brunswick, New Jersey, announced that its vaccine was 66% effective overall in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after a single shot. The vaccine was tested in a phase III trial involving nearly 44,000 participants in the United States, Latin America and South Africa.
An effective single-dose vaccine would be a welcome boost to efforts to quell the pandemic — it would offer faster protection than most of the vaccines approved for use so far, which are administered in two shots given weeks apart.
But although the vaccine was 72% effective in the United States, it was only 57% effective in South Africa, where a variant of the virus that can evade some immune responses has been spreading. The vaccine was 66% effective in Latin American countries, including Brazil, where other worrisome variants have been discovered.
These data echo findings announced by Novavax, a company in Gaithersburg, Maryland, that reported its coronavirus vaccine was less effective in a trial conducted in South Africa than in the UK arm.
These vaccine studies illustrate the implications of emerging coronavirus variants, said Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. “Now we have the real-world, clinical consequence, and we can see that we are going to be challenged,” he told reporters at a press briefing. “It’s really a wake-up call for us to be nimble and to be able to adjust as this virus will continue for certain to evolve.”
Although J&J’s vaccine was less effective in South Africa, protection specifically against severe COVID-19 held steady at 85% across all the geographic regions studied, said Mathai Mammen, global head of Janssen Research and Development, a subsidiary of J&J. The company plans to conduct further studies to evaluate the effect of variants on efficacy, he said, and to look at the vaccine’s impact on disease transmission.
The vaccine’s overall efficacy is well below that of some other coronavirus vaccines: vaccines produced by Moderna in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Pfizer of New York City were both about 95% effective. But the results are still encouraging, says Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, UK. “As with any vaccine, it’s about how you deploy it,” he says.
J&J will apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency-use authorization in the coming days, and will then apply to other regulators including the European Medicines Agency.
A fresh source of vaccines will be welcome: despite a steady trickle of promising results since last November, limited supplies and surging coronavirus infections have left many countries counting on additional vaccines to break onto the market. J&J aims to produce one billion doses of its vaccine by the end of the year.
Most other authorized COVID vaccines rely on two shots to provide protection: an initial dose followed some weeks later by a “booster” to stimulate the immune system’s memory cells. The result is a powerful immune response, but the two-dose requirement halves the number of people who can be vaccinated with existing supplies.
And bringing vaccine recipients back for their second dose can be a logistical challenge, particularly with people who are homeless, use substances, or who live in rural areas, says Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “The J&J vaccine offers a whole set of potentially easier logistics,” she says, “particularly for certain patient populations that are hard to reach.”
The vaccine works in a similar way to the one produced by AstraZeneca of Cambridge, UK, and the University of Oxford, UK — it uses a harmless virus to shuttle the genetic code for a coronavirus protein called spike into human cells. This means that the J&J vaccine can be stored in normal refrigerators, making it much easier to work with than the RNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, has to be stored at very cold temperatures and only remains stable at room temperature for a short time. “You have to be so precise with calculating who you are going to vaccinate,” says Kuppalli. “Once you thaw the vaccine, you only have six hours to give it.”
These logistical hurdles have contributed to slow vaccine roll-out in some countries, while others are still struggling to obtain enough doses. J&J has pledged to provide its vaccine on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic, and in December the company entered into an agreement-in-principle to provide hundreds of millions of doses to COVAX, an effort to distribute vaccines to lower income countries.
J&J is now conducting a separate trial to test the efficacy of a two-dose regimen of its vaccine.
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“We are following the rules and the protocols right now and the protocols say that he cannot be involved at the moment,” Arteta told reporters after Saturday’s stalemate when asked why the Gabonese striker was in quarantine.
“We have to respect that and the doctor is managing the situation.”
Pressed on whether Aubameyang was in quarantine due to visiting a particular country or having been exposed to coronavirus, the Arsenal boss added: “It’s because he had a family issue that he had to attend to and these are the consequences of that.”
It remains to be see exactly when Aubameyang – who has scored eight goals in 20 appearances across all competitions so far this season – will be able to return.
Arsenal are back in Premier League action against struggling Wolves at Molineux on Tuesday night before meetings with Aston Villa and Leeds.
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“I have always had it in my contract if I want to fight I can. [Raiders chief executive] Donnie [Furner] has always known I’ve been keen to jump in the ring to see how I go. I just couldn’t ever get it done.”
Papalii will jump in the ring on February 12 against former prop Ben Hannant, and the Townsville charity fight night has proven a blessing for the Raiders.
The game’s best front-rower has already shed five kilograms, courtesy of early morning road runs and evening sparring sessions in his garage with good friend Steve Babic.
He looked a picture of health when he reported for day one of pre-season training during the week after an extended break following another brilliant individual 2020 campaign.
Papalii is down to 117kg, a far cry from the 126kg he ballooned out to after the 2017 World Cup with Samoa.
If Stuart loved the look of a slimmer Papalii, he would have been even happier when he heard about Hannant being his front-rower’s opponent.
Hannant, a father of eight, whose boxing credentials extend to a one-off school-yard scrap when he was in Year 9, only took the fight after Melbourne man mountain Nelson Asofa-Solomona failed to sign on. Brisbane’s Matt Lodge, Gold Coast’s Jarrod Wallace and even one-time Raiders teammate Joey Leilua were all tossed up as possible opponents for Papalii.
Having to go three rounds with Leilua would have been comical, said Papalii, “because I would have laughed the whole time”.
There was no way Papalii was about to dismiss Hannant, especially given he is also an unknown in the ring. The pair played in the same Prime Minister’s XIII team in 2013.
“It will be an even fight,” Papalii said. “People might see it otherwise, but just because my cousin can box [professional heavyweight Alex Leapai] doesn’t mean I can.”
Stuart was reluctant to comment on Papalii’s boxing ability, but happy to declare him the “best front-rower in the game”.
“‘Papa’ is the best prop in the game and, if he isn’t, name me a better one?” Stuart said.
“People think I’m biased towards my players – I probably am – but, in my mind, he is the best front-rower in the game.”
Papalii helped Queensland cause a boilover in last year’s Origin series, then spent time with his family and worked on his golf handicap, which is now down to 12. The famous mullet has remained and will so all year because of a bet with teammate Corey Harawira-Naera.
“I have a deal with Corey that we need to keep it for two years and the first person to cut his hair will need to be shave it down to the skin the next haircut,″ said Papalii, whose wager has been going eight months.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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Tired of sitting at a desk, Cianna Fitzpatrick decided to swap school shoes for steel capped boots.
Six young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have started building apprenticeships
The apprentices are helping to build social and affordable housing in Tasmania
The program is part of initiatives run through the Catholic Church
Becoming an apprentice carpenter meant a steep learning curve for the 16-year-old from Clarendon Vale, in Hobart’s east.
“Carpentry … I thought it was laying carpets and doing that kind of stuff,” Cianna said.
“But once I’d actually done some work experience I figured out that it’s actually building the frames of a house, the soul of a house, as I call it.”
Cianna was one of six new apprentices to start their on-the-job training this week, as part of initiatives run through Catholic organisations in Tasmania.
The group builds social housing and houses for people on low incomes with St Joseph Affordable Homes.
Cianna said it gave her a good feeling to be helping other people move towards home ownership.
“Contributing to that just makes me feel really happy and excited that putting a roof over someone’s head will make them feel really good,” she said.
Changing mindsets and futures
The apprentices were selected through the Catholic Church’s youth employment and life skills coaching program Build Up Tassie, which helps young, disadvantaged Tasmanians.
The CEO of St Joseph Affordable Homes Ben Wilson said it was fortunate that the church’s entities could work together.
“Between those two entities we’ve merged an opportunity where we can not only provide the work-ready and work experience opportunities but we can guarantee a four year commitment of apprenticeship,” he said.
Montrose teen Connor Klemke was thrilled to have secure employment for the next four years.
“It’s made me proud and happy because I never saw myself doing this, two months ago, three months ago and now look at me,” Connor said.
During the pre-apprentice training, Connor loved the opportunity to try his hand at different trades before deciding which to pursue.
“I was set on being a concreter, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little boy,” he said.
“But then I started plumbing and, yeah, it’s awesome.”
Connor said he had adapted well in the transition from school life to full time employment.
“You adapt to the early morning wake-ups, making lunch, being out in the day, all day on your feet and in the sun.
“I’ve sort of had to adapt to the people I’m working with who are not the same age as me, so that’s made me mature a little bit.”
Program rewards enthusiasm
Build Up Tassie coach Adrian Broomhall said part of the recruitment process was an interview to assess the applicant’s “willingness to participate”.
“That, essentially, was our main criteria, the fact that they wanted to have a go,” he said.
“And that was about the only thing we held them accountable to through the early part of the program was ‘choose to turn up and try’.”
He said the apprentices’ enthusiasm and work ethic had impressed him.
“We’ve been really surprised by from our most recent group through the Build Up Tassie program and the St Joseph Affordable Homes Work Readiness program,” he said.
“We ran at a 96 per cent attendance rate, which is something we’ve never come across before, so we’re really pleased.”
“[We have] three carpenters, one plumber, one painter and one bricklayer.
“So they’ll work across all different stages of the building process and gain all sorts of different skills related to their trades,” he said.
“Our goal is not just for these apprentices to go through and tick off their trade qualification at the end, we want them to become mentor and advocates for other young people that have come from similar backgrounds, whatever that may be, to [encourage them to] simply have a go.”
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Fishing for samples from a raw sewage pond isn’t terribly pleasant work, but Ruby Lin hopes what she collects here will help avert a medical catastrophe.
Phage therapy involves the use of specific viruses to target bacterial infections
Some doctors hope it will play a major role in stopping deaths caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria
There have been promising results in clinical trials in Sydney, but the therapy has its drawbacks
While one virus claims thousands of lives across the globe daily, it’s hoped millions more could eventually be saved by other viruses.
Some of them are lurking in this sewage system at a Sydney nursing home.
Human waste is a rich source of organisms called bacteriophages — known as “hunt and kill viruses” for their ability to bind to bacteria and destroy them.
Increasingly, the viruses are of interest to doctors concerned about antibiotic resistance — a health threat predicted to cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050.
“We have a large population of elderly people and a lot of them are on antibiotics,” Dr Ruby Lin said as she sealed another sample from the pond inside a glass bottle.
“You will be able to extract a lot of bacteriophage from this sample.
“Our latest study has shown we are able to safely administer intravenously these phages to patients who are not responding to specific types of antibiotics.”
Phages are viruses that live naturally in substance such as soil and sewage.
They bind to bacteria, infect and kill them by injecting their DNA.
As superbugs become resistant to antibiotics, phages are seen as a promising alternative for patients who have run out of options.
On average, 290 people die in Australia each year as a result of infections from eight drug-resistant bacteria, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Last year, a report from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare found antibiotics were still being overprescribed and misused. That was causing dangerous bacteria to grow increasingly resistant to common medicines.
The report said there was little evidence that antibiotic resistance was diminishing and that it posed an ongoing and ‘substantial’ risk to patient safety.
Little girl’s ‘miracle’ cure
The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) laboratory that Dr Lin is part of is the first in Australia to run a clinical trial of phage therapy for people with superbug infections.
Dhanvi is one of 13 patients who received the treatment and her mother described the result as a miracle.
She was an active girl with a love of karate and swimming before being seriously injured in a car accident on an overseas holiday in January last year.
She had multiple fractures and wounds on her leg that would not heal.
“She told us she had a lot of pain in her left ankle and couldn’t walk at all,” her mother, Deyasini, said.
She was referred to see WIMR professor Jon Iredell to treat a serious bacterial infection that had taken hold in her leg.
“These things are hard to treat at the best of times, but when it is infected with something that’s antibiotic-resistant, you get to the point where the infection is virtually untreatable,” he said.
“Inevitably, there’s a risk of losing that leg and that’s what she was facing.”
Once doctors knew exactly what kind of infection she had, they did a worldwide search and found a phage that could match and potentially kill the bacteria.
“The doctor was really hopeful that if it worked so well in the lab environment, they thought it will work when they give it to my daughter,” Deyasini said.
The little girl was admitted to Westmead Hospital for two weeks so she could be monitored for any side effects while the treated phage was given intravenously.
But she sailed through the treatment without any problems.
“Within just a few months, she was able to walk,” Deyasini said.
“I think it’s a miracle.”
‘A race against time’
As well as chronic infections, phages could help patients with life-threatening infections that are not responding to antibiotics.
When Australian scientist Jeremy Barr was working in San Diego, he was involved in the first case of phage therapy for an antibiotic-resistant infection in the United States.
The patient, Tom Patterson, had picked up the infection while in Egypt.
After suffering septic shock and organ failure, the 69-year-old was placed in a coma.
Three days after receiving the phage therapy, he woke up.
“The patient made a really miraculous recovery,” Dr Barr said.
“A lot of the time, these patients have days, if not weeks, to fight back and kill the bacterial infection.”
Dr Barr said the challenge was finding a phage that matched the patient’s particular bacteria before it was too late.
“So for us researchers trying to implement phage therapy, it’s really a race against time before that pathogen wins against the patient’s own immune system.”
Running out of antibiotics that work was a “really terrifying prospect”, he said.
“The resistance is becoming more and more severe so we started to look for alternative therapies and phage therapies is one of those options.”
Turning back the clock
Phage therapy has actually been around for 100 years.
It was overtaken by the use of antibiotics in the 1940s, but is still routinely used in eastern Europe.
One of the drawbacks of phage therapy is that doctors need to find the specific phage that will work to kill off the particular bacteria a patient has.
Once the phage has been isolated, it needs to go through a “cleaning process” to ensure it does not release any toxins that might be dangerous for the patient.
Despite the complexities, ANU infectious diseases expert Peter Collignon believes it’s worth pursuing.
“The limitations are that because there’s lots of phages, they won’t work against every strain or even multiple strains,” Professor Collignon said.
“I am not sure it’s a silver bullet but it has got potential.”
For now, phage therapy is only available in Australia through clinical trials, like the one at Westmead.
It is unlikely to be used more widely in hospitals and clinics until the results of these current studies are known.
That is several years away.
Libraries could speed things up
Some Australians, like Frances Caratozzolo, are taking matters into their own hands to get phage treatment now.
The Melbourne fitness instructor is both self-injecting and drinking phages that she ordered from overseas.
She hopes they will help with a hip infection that has been refusing to heal.
“I spent thousands of dollars for my leg and nothing worked, so I thought this is the last resort,” she said.
After having a range of tests including an MRI, she turned to a facility in Georgia, Europe, that could ship the phages to her if she provided a sample of the bacteria strain.
“So far, so good. I have seen slight changes and it’s still in the early stages,” she said.
Researchers are also working on so-called phage libraries, which could speed up access here.
That involves labs building up banks of phages for particular bacterial infections, Professor Barr said.
“For instance, if the patient came in with a Staphylococcus aureus [golden staph] infection, if we had enough phages that targeted all of those, we could quickly select and isolate the ones that worked and build a personalised medicine model for the use of phages,” he said.
“It’s extremely exciting.”
*surname withheld at the request of the family.
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