Monthly ArchiveJanuary 2021

ND physicist models brain’s network structure

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first_imgPerhaps social media websites like Facebook are always on our minds because our brains are structured in a way similar to these ubiquitous social networks. A recently published study by Notre Dame physics professor Zoltan Toroczkai on the fundamental wiring of the neurons that make up the complex structure of the brain suggests this may be the case. Toroczkai, an expert in the study of large-scale networks said he uses his unconventional background  as a physicist to investigate the structure and dynamics of a wide range of networks. “Social systems, such as Facebook, are an example complex networks,” Toroczkai said. “With technological advances we are even more connected, more information is flowing. “So you can think of the social network as another large network that evolves due to the information in it. From a top-level perspective, this is not different from what happens in the primate brain.” The challenge to Toroczkai lies in adapting the statistical methods of the physicist to interpreting and understanding the underlying phenomena in these systems.  “In the brain, the neurons can almost arbitrarily be connected, humans can almost arbitrarily be connected – the connections between real-world networks, such as social networks and neuronal networks, are not like the ones in a crystalline solid,” Toroczkai said. “They are much more complicated. So there is a challenge for a physicist to develop the methods that we use to study regular materials and apply them to different types of networks.” In his recent finding, Toroczkai said he collaborated with a group of researchers, including biologists from France, to analyze a wealth of data obtained from thorough retrograde tracing experiments on Macaque monkey cortexes. They injected a chemical dye into the brain of the monke, and after affew weeks, the tissues are dissected to reveal the path that the tracer took through the dense network of neurons, which allows one to make some sense of the structure, he said. “The primate brain has an extremely large number of elements,” Toroczkai said. “If you think about the neocortex, which is basically a couple-millimeter-thick sheet that is lining your brain, it’s about the size of a napkin in the typical primate brain. It’s very small, and yet it has about 100 billion neurons and they are not isolated. tThey are interconnected in a very complicated network-it is estimated that there are about 100 trillion connections in this area.” This complicated network in the cortex can be divided into 29 functional areas, such as those controlling motion and sensory perception, in order construct a model, Toroczkai said. In doing so, he said he noticed that certain patterns emerged from the data related to density of connections and distance.    “We said that this network should be subject to a physical constraint,” Toroczkai said. “I mean that when the brain develops, the neuron is growing these axons, and there’s a growth process that eventually stops. “The longer you want to grow, the more effort you have to put in. These neurons are grown chemically during development, so I said that there should be some sort of exponential cost-some grow long and some grow short. And the simplest model you could think of, if you’re a modeler, is exponential decay. And that’s exactly what it was. So we used this wiring along with the geometry of the cortex to come up with this simple model.” The result, Toroczkai said, was very surprising-the model turned out to be extremely simple, yet it largely explained much of the structural interconnectivity between the different functional areas of the cortex. “It has only one parameter, which you also get from the data, and you get a network that looks very much like the one in the brain,” he said. “It tells you that the large-scale network between the different areas of the brain can be explained by physical principles, based on entropic cost of wiring.” The next step in further elucidating the workings of the brain would be to look at dynamic processes, such as neuronal signaling and resulting behaviors, Toroczkai said. To that end, he said he will loos forward to future cross-disciplinary collaborations to which he can add his unconventional approaches and insights. “Here we had a collaboration between biologists and physicists,” Toroczkai said. “As a physicist our goal is usually to simplify a problem-to reduce it to the essential components. We are not looking for the differences between things in the world, we’re are looking for things that are common, invariant.” Contact Henry Gens at [email protected]last_img read more

Students delve into solidarity

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first_imgStudents, faculty and staff gathered in the student center at Saint Mary’s College on Friday to hear volunteer groups talk about solidarity from both local and global perspectives as part of the Justice Fridays lecture series.Students stated that their definition of solidarity was unclear before their experiences, but many, including sophomore Tere Valencia, said their lives were positively impacted after their service.“[Solidarity is] a connection with people and not just people we understand but people who we want to understand and find justice with,” she said. “It is finding peace and a movement that unites and creates a reaction within us.”The first group of students presented their experiences from a fall break Peru pilgrimage that involved travel to Lima, Piura and Matucana, where they visited residents and built a home for a local family.Senior Sarah Lipinski said she was one of the students who traveled to Peru.“[I] felt the presence of Christ in every interaction we had,” she said. “A little village [was] trying to do so much for one another.”Junior Haleigh Ehmsen, who also participated in the pilgrimage, said the experience was faith-based.“We were the hands and feet of Christ,” she said.The students described the people of Lima, Piura and Matucana as immensely kind and loving toward one another.Junior Anne Cahill said language was not a barrier during the pilgrimage and “being human connected us.”“It was a very humbling experience being in those people’s homes,” Cahill said. “They embraced us as almost a part of their family.”The second group to present shared local experiences of discovering solidarity from St. Adalbert’s Church and the community center, La Casa de Amistad. As part of the Justice 305 course, Church In the City – which is offered every fall for one credit hour – the students did a home stay during the weekend and experienced life through the perspective of another family, according to the SMC bulletin.“We have heard about [families in need], but it hasn’t really affected us until we see it in the light,” Valencia said. “And whether it’s with ourselves or with our community, going five minutes away from Saint Mary’s really taught me that you don’t have to necessarily go abroad to get an impact although it is so great to do so.”Valencia described her experience as both having an emphasis on understanding others and working together to seek understanding.“Like the group that went to Peru, this group found solidarity to have a focus and purpose of understanding people from all walks of life,” she said.Sophomore Maria Hernandez also shared her discoveries on working with immigrants.“[I was] able to meet other people who trust me with their [immigration] stories with a purpose to educate me so I can go forth and be the voice for them.”“This experience gave me a face to immigration,” Valencia said.Tags: Church in the City, Justice Fridays, La Casa de Amistad, Peru pilgrimage, solidarity, St. Adalbert’s Churchlast_img read more

Saint Mary’s supports LGBTQ youth with Spirit Day

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first_imgAlthough Saint Mary’s colors are blue and white, students will don purple attire Thursday in support of Spirit Day, which raises awareness about bullied LGBTQ youth.Senior Courtney Lamar, president of the Student Diversity Club, said the Saint Mary’s community hopes to demonstrate unity by wearing purple.“We work to support all identities on campus,” Lamar said. “Spirit Day is particularly important because we want to uplift those who have been bullied and put down for being who they are.”Senior Angela Bukur, Student Diversity Club vice president, said wearing purple requires little effort but sends a powerful message.“This will help to show support and spread awareness on campus,” she said. “Since this issue isn’t talked about often, this is a start towards taking a stand against LGBTQ youth bullying. I believe that we must start small in order to eventually have it turn into a movement.”Spirit Day is especially important because LGBTQ youth are bullied at much higher rates than other students, Bukur said.“74.1 percent of LGBTQ students are verbally harassed because of their sexual identity, and 55.2 percent are verbally harassed because of their gender identity,” she said. “I want the Saint Mary’s campus to come together to show them that they’re not alone.”Lamar said she and Bukur collaborated to ensure that Spirit Day fosters a comfortable environment on campus, both for students of the College and for others affected by bullying.“Students can benefit from this cause by creating a safe space for their peers,” Lamar said. “Supporting Spirit Day will help LBGTQ youth by showing them that they have a support system here at Saint Mary’s, and it shows that we care about the problems they face daily.”Bukur said another goal of Spirit Day is to heighten students’ awareness of the hardships confronting those who identify as LGBTQ.“I believe this is an important issue because it’s not talked about often,” Bukur said. “Although same-sex marriage was legalized this summer, there are still many other issues facing the LGBTQ community.”Bukur said she and Lamar worked alongside president of Sociology Club, senior Cara Firestein, to promote Spirit Day as a campus-wide event.“One of our hopes is that people will be prompted to learn more about the bullying that LGBTQ youth are often subject to, so that they can help to prevent it in the future,” Firestein said. “Bullying happens far too often, especially among LGBTQ youth. Until people begin standing up against this mistreatment, progress will not be made.”Firestein said she hopes students recognize today’s significance as they strive to end intolerance against the LGBTQ community.“It is incredibly disheartening to know that LGBTQ youth are bullied at such high rates for simply being true to themselves,” Firestein said. “I think that having events like Spirit Day on campus helps to promote further awareness, compassion, acceptance and diversity among our student body.”Bukur said she hopes today reinforces the importance of acceptance.“The goal of celebrating Spirit Day is to educate students on the issues facing the LGBTQ community,” Bukur said. “I would really like for people to begin to take a stand to change the way LGBTQ youth are treated.”To pledge to wear purple in support of bullied LGBTQ youth, visit glaad.org/spiritday.Tags: LGBTQ, purple, spirit day, Student Diversitylast_img read more

Second annual IDEA week to promote innovation through speakers, competition

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first_imgLUCAS MASIN-MOYER | The Observer Bryan Richie, Notre Dame vice president and associate provost for innovation, speaks at Tuesday’s IDEA Week press conference.As part of this desire to bring new ideas to the region, Buttigieg and the city of South Bend have partnered with the city of Elkhart and Notre Dame to host IDEA Week 2019, the second-annual staging of a week-long event that, according to the event’s press release, “celebrates innovation, entrepreneurs and the incubation of new ideas.” The week will run from April 8 to April 13.At a press conference held at the Pepsi Stadium Club at Four Winds Field in South Bend, Buttigieg; Notre Dame Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves; Bryan Ritchie, Notre Dame vice president and associate provost for innovation; Susan Ford, the president of SEMMA Health, South Bend; and Amish Shah, the CEO of Kem Krest in Elkhart detailed the plans for this years’ event.Ritchie announced scientist Bill Nye and Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired magazine, will serve as IDEA Week’s keynote speakers.Ritchie said Nye will bring help bring key insights on science and technology to the event.“[Nye is] a man with a mission to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work,” Ritchie said. “Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.”In addition to these speakers, IDEA Week, which had 18,000 people attend at least one event last year, will host the McCloskey New Venture competition which, according to the press release, will “offer prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, meetups, workshops additional technology experiences and various social activities.”Country music singer Tim McGraw will also perform at Purcell Pavillion on April 13 as part of IDEA Week and attendees will have the opportunity to test out autonomous vehicles.Ritchie said more events will be announced in the coming months.Buttigieg said IDEA Week will provide South Bend residents the opportunity to collaborate with visitors from around the country on projects.“South Bend, and the region around us, is exactly the kind of place we can pioneer and develop innovate solutions for the private, public, academic and social sectors,” he said. “And IDEA Week is a fantastic platform for us to gain new ideas and show off all of the things we’re proud of.”Affleck-Graves said IDEA week, and the overall growth of business in South Bend, will help the University.“It’s these new ideas and the innovation that’s going to grow our region, and as the region grows, Notre Dame is going to benefit. … It’s our future, we’re not a company that can move anywhere else,” he said.Affleck-Graves further added that IDEA Week represents a new era of collaboration between the city and the University.“Having lived here for 33 years in this region, the last few years have been the first time that I’ve felt we’ve come together … the most gratifying thing for me is to see corporations and individuals and [nonprofits] all working for the common good and working for a common goal,” he said.Tags: Bill Nye, Idea Week, IDEA week 2019, Kevin Kelly, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, McCloskey New Venture Competition, Tim McGraw South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is trying to rebrand the city as a center for innovation.“We have increasingly positioned ourselves as what we’re calling the ‘beta city,’” Buttigieg said. “The kind of place where an idea, whose time has come but nobody knows it yet, is ready to be tested in a place that is big enough to be complex, big enough to be worth trying to solve a problem here, big enough that it matters if something works here, but still small enough that we can try something from the first time.”last_img read more

Seniors discuss plans for postgraduate service

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first_imgWhile a large number of graduating Notre Dame seniors may decide to enter the workforce or pursue a tertiary degree upon graduation, other seniors decide to pursue a year of service spanning an array of programs and activities.Gemma Stanton, who is graduating with a civil engineering degree and minors in resiliency and sustainability of engineering systems and Catholic social tradition, is spending her year at Bethlehem Farm in Alderson, West Virginia.“Their mission statement is to transform lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices,” Stanton said. “I’m going to help volunteers who come with home repair sites — teaching them how to use tools, as well as being there to help them out on sites.”Stanton said she chose the program at Bethlehem Farm because of its emphasis on sustainability.“Senior year I started looking at the application processes and what stuck out to me about Bethlehem Farm was that I knew what I would be doing would be really tied to sustainability, which I knew I wanted,” she said.This feature is also important to Stanton, as she completed coursework on this subject during her time at Notre Dame.“An exciting thing about Bethlehem Farm is that they just got a couple of grants to do sustainability audits of houses, so they’re going to be analyzing how the homes they go into are sustainable and how we can make them better, not just safer or warmer but also more sustainable,” she said. “I think the things I’ve learned are going to be useful for having a technical background and that perspective on it. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I like solar panels,’ but I can actually do some math and figure out how many solar panels are needed to power a house.”Maria Heiman, who studied accountancy with a minor in poverty studies, is also embarking on a year of service. Heiman will be working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in Minneapolis.“I will be working with individuals experiencing homelessness and providing resources like transportation and opportunities to get them to stable housing and stable employment,” she said.Heiman said she has always wanted to do some form of service, especially at this time in her life.“A year of service was something that I always felt called towards. For me, I always wanted to give myself to something greater,” she said. “I thought as long as I’m young and flexible and had the opportunity, I thought if I don’t do it now, I might never do it. Living in community with others also was something that I unknowingly was looking for. Being at Notre Dame and being around people who are always cheering you on and always being there for you in that aspect was something that I was searching for and hopefully have found with JVC. Also, I would say the spirituality component, too. I am always looking to increase my faith life, so I found a great opportunity to do that within the Jesuit order that I am not as familiar with.”Heiman’s coursework at Notre Dame also influenced her placement within the JVC, she said.“Part of what I’m doing with my placement is starting up a financial readiness program there. Obviously my business coursework will help me in that aspect, but I think a Notre Dame education overall is what I’ll bring the most to JVC,” she said. “I am excited. I think just being able to be in a new territory and find my place in that community, not just the JVC community, but the broader region.”Tags: Commencement 2019, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, service, sustainabilitylast_img read more

McKenna Hall undergoes two-year renovation project

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first_imgDriving down North Notre Dame Avenue, people may notice an empty construction site in place of a former hub for various types of debate and discussion on campus.That’s because McKenna Hall, Notre Dame’s on-campus conference center and former home of the Institute for Latino Studies, is undergoing a two-year reconstruction project and isn’t projected to reopen until fall 2021. The original hall, built in 1966, was demolished July 22 to begin the construction. Anna Mason | The Observer McKenna Hall, the University’s conference center situated on Notre Dame Avenue across from the Morris Inn, is currently undergoing an extensive renovation. The revamped building will open in 2021.With an original area of 64,000 square feet, McKenna will be expanded to have roughly 85,000 square feet, according to Mike Daly, project manager for the reconstruction.The renovated hall will continue to serve as a conference center, but will also house the Notre Dame Enrollment Division, comprised of the Office of Outreach and Engagement Recruitment, the Office of Pre-College Programs, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the Office of Financial Aid, the Office of Student Accounts, the Office of Student Employment, the Department of Strategic Services, the Department of Recruitment and Communications and the Department of Division Research.“The additional square footage allows for the entire Enrollment Division to be added into the building,” Daly said in an email. “The amount of space dedicated to the conference portion of the building will be similar to what the original McKenna Hall contained.”With regard to the timing of the reconstruction, Daly quoted the adage “there is no time like the present.”“We know that to wait for a later date in the future to build the building we would see some amount of inflation,” Daly said. “The Enrollment [Division] that is going to be accommodated are presently located in several buildings and to get them in a single facility is appealing. The last point is that while the existing McKenna Hall has served the University well, it was time to make significant investments into the technology that was in the building.”In addition to the conference center, McKenna also housed the Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. That group is currently situated in Bond Hall, which previously served as home of the University’s architecture program before the School of Architecture moved to Walsh Family Hall.There currently are no plans for Latino Studies to move back into McKenna Hall when it reopens in 2021, Daly said.Daly said the tunnel running under Notre Dame Avenue between McKenna Hall and the Morris Inn will reopen once the construction is complete.“The pedestrian tunnel from the Morris Inn will be connected to the new building much like it does at the existing building now,” he said. “Presently, it is blocked off and a small portion will be removed, then rebuilt once the new building is in place.”The construction site is self-contained and Daly noted he does not anticipate it will significantly impact students, faculty or staff. VenueND, Notre Dame’s reservation and event services team, is working to provide alternative venues for conferences and special events during the construction, he said.“We do expect to see a bit more construction traffic on Notre Dame [Avenue] as that is how the contractors will access the site, but there is room on the site to contain all of the construction-related equipment and deliveries,” he said. “Pedestrians can still move east and west along the north side of the site so pedestrian traffic should not be impeded.”Tags: Bond Hall, Institute for Latino Studies, McKenna Conference Center, McKenna Halllast_img read more

College seeks to promote dialogue

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first_imgDialogue can be difficult to manage while still maintaining respect. However, by replicating the format of Conversation Cafes, an organization started in Seattle, Saint Mary’s has sought to find a way to engage students and promote productive dialogue. The President’s Council on Inclusivity and Multicultural Diversity along with the help of director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership, Mara Derakhshani and others helped to make this opportunity possible.“Our hope is always to encourage mutual understanding and dialogue across difference to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus,” Derakhshani said.There are specific rules and formats of Conversation Cafes designed to help make it successful. In the first two rounds of conversation every participant is welcome to talk, however participants pass around a talking object and are asked not to interrupt one another. In the last round, discussion is opened up to cross conversations for anyone to talk and share their opinions.“In the Conversation Cafes, we are hoping to create a safe space where everyone feels free to express their perspective and feels listened to non-judgmentally.” Derakhshani said. “The goal is to foster respectful civil discourse and create a welcoming community for all.”Director of the Office for Civic and Social Engagement Rebekah Go has advertised and helped students preregister for this event. This year there are around 70 participants: a mix of faculty, students and staff. The conversations take place on November 6 and 7 at four different time slots throughout the day.“What we really want is a mix of people whose experiences are different, so we did try and place people in different groups given their preferred time slots,” Go said. “We generally kept groups to nine people or fewer plus a facilitator.”Faculty and staff will participate as well as serve as facilitators throughout the conversation, making the purpose of the event known while enforcing rules and guidelines.In the 2017 and 2018 cafes’ success was found through the controversial topics such as the potential divisions caused by the 2016 election and the overall inclusivity of the campus.“The last two rounds of Conversation Cafes encouraged participants to discuss ways in which the campus was welcoming and inclusive generally,” Derakhshani said. “This year, we are focusing more specifically on the Catholic identity of the College and hoping that participants will share what it means to them to be/work at a Catholic college and how that impacts their lives.”This year’s Conversation Cafes prompt focuses on the College’s Catholic identity.“Speaking from your own personal perspective and identity, what does it mean to you that Saint Mary’s College is a Catholic institution?” the prompt reads. “In what ways does the College’s Catholic identity enhance, or perhaps limit, your experience here? In what ways do you believe the College’s identity affects how welcoming a community Saint Mary’s is?”The current conversation originally was brought to attention by the Better Together clubs’ interfaith conference in the spring of 2018.“We want to discuss how our Catholic character on campus and how that can feel inclusive or exclusive to people of other faith backgrounds,” Go said. “Anytime we increase dialogue on difficult or controversial topics that is a good thing, but I would hope that people from these conversations are also able to understand perspectives they hadn’t previously thought of and able to then integrate that new learning into how they relate to people and their peers.”Tags: Conversation Cafes, dialogue, saint mary’slast_img read more

Dry, Cool Weekend Ahead; Back To Spring Next Week With Highs In The 40s

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first_imgJAMESTOWN – High pressure has built back into the region once again leading to a good supply of sunshine this weekend. We stay cool however before warming back up again next week with some precipitation chances.Through the day today, clouds will be slow to part but once they do, the area will see a nice dose of sunshine this afternoon. However with a northerly wind aloft, that will keep us much cooler. Highs today will range 28 on the highest hills to 35 along the lower elevations.With a clearing sky tonight and a light wind, most people will likely dip quite a bit in the temperature department by tomorrow morning. Lows 14 valleys, 21 lakeshore.We will start to take on a more southernly wind flow on Sunday and with the aid of plentiful sunshine, we should be back into the mid 40’s once again. A developing coastal storm early next week will bring the chance for rain and wet snow showers Sunday night through the day on Monday with highs in the lower to mid 40’s.Earlier we had hinted at the potential for maybe some sleet or freezing rain with this feature on Monday but the new computer model guidance is keeping that line to our south. We should transition to plain rain showers for a period later in the day on Monday before coming to an end late Monday night.An area of weak high pressure temporally moves in for Tuesday before the high is scooted on out by waves of short troughs though much of the week.Much of the precipitation for Tuesday and Wednesday will be dependent on the track of a developing storm system. There currently remains some disagreements with the prime global models on this storm so we’ll have more details once we get the better quality data.WNYNewsNow is a proud Ambassador for the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation program.Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

COVID: Instacart Makes Changes Amid Worker Strike

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first_imgJAMESTOWN – Instacart is trying to increase safety measures for its workers who are worried about Coronavirus.The changes were a reaction to a nationwide strike on Monday.The grocery delivery service says it will provide hand sanitizers to its full-service shoppers. They select groceries at stores and then deliver them.Instacart also says it will make it easier for customers to set their own default tipping percentages. But, a nonprofit behind the strike says those concessions aren’t enough. The gig workers collective says it wants shoppers to get additional safety items and hazard pay.It’s also demanding a default tip of 10 percent and an extra five dollars an order.Demand is surging for Instacart deliveries as people try to avoid leaving home. The company is trying to hire another 300-thousand shoppers. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

County Clerk: Local DMV Operational, Not Open To The Public

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first_imgImage by New York State DMV.JAMESTOWN – The Chautauqua County Clerk says the state is extending some expiration dates for driving documents.Chautauqua County Clerk Larry Barmore, in an interview with WNYNewsNow Wednesday, said local DMVs remain operational but not open to the public.“We have half staff working each day,” said Barmore. “We have a lock box outside each DMV and you can drop stuff there 24 hours a day. You have to fill out all the proper forms, get everything you need and drop it in the drop box with your contact information, and when we get to it we will call you on the phone, get any information that we need plus a credit card payment from you, and then we mail everything back to you.”The state has extended all driver’s licenses, non-driver ID cards and vehicle registrations with an expiration date of March 1, 2020. The clerk says the state will eventually implement a deadline to renew those documents. “We are not renewing drivers’ licenses at this time,” said Barmore. “We are not upgrading licenses. If you have a standard license and you want a real ID license you can not get one right now.”Barmore says that vehicle registrations will still be processed through the mail.“Say you bought a car from an individual or a dealer, you need a MV82 form and you will have to fill that out. You will also need a copy of your driver’s license and an insurance card for that vehicle,” furthered Barmore.Barmore does note that vehicle inspections can still be renewed.“Garages that do inspections are considered a vital service and they are still open,” explained Barmore.The clerk says those with questions can call their local DMV. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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