Rye Development, a company based in West Palm Beach, Fla., that is working on several projects in the Pacific Northwest.

geothermal power; old coal power plants as sites for large batteries; and old coal mines for solar farms. Such conversions could reduce the need to build projects on undeveloped land, which often takes longer because they require extensive environmental review and can face significant local opposition.

“We’re in a heap of trouble in siting the many millions of acres of solar we need,” Mr. Reicher said. “It’s six to 10 million acres of land we’ve got to find to site the projected build out of utility scale solar in the United States. That’s huge.”

Other developers are hoping the government will help finance technologies and business plans that are still in their infancy.

Timothy Latimer is the chief executive and co-founder of Fervo Energy, a Houston company that uses the same horizontal drilling techniques as oil and gas producers to develop geothermal energy. He said that his firm can produce clean energy 24 hours a day or produce more or less energy over the course of a day to balance out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power and spikes in demand.

Mr. Latimer claims that the techniques his firm has developed will lower the cost for geothermal power, which in many cases is more expensive than electricity generated from natural gas or solar panels. He has projects under development in Nevada, Utah, Idaho and California and said that the new loan authority could help the geothermal business expand much more quickly.

“It’s been the talk of the geothermal industry,” Mr. Latimer said. “I don’t think we were expecting good news a month ago, but we’re getting more ready for prime time. We have barely scratched the surface with the amount of geothermal that we can develop in the United States.”

For all the potential of the new law, critics say that a significant expansion of government loans and loan guarantees could invite more waste and fraud. In addition to Solyndra, the Energy Department has acknowledged that several solar projects that received its loans or loan guarantees have failed or never got off the ground.

A large nuclear plant under construction in Georgia, Vogtle, has also received $11.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. The plant has been widely criticized for years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns.

“Many of these projects are funded based on political whim rather than project quality,” said Gary Ackerman, founder and former executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, a coalition of more than 100 utilities and other businesses that trade in energy markets. “That leads to many stranded assets that never live up to their promises and become examples of government waste.”

But Jamie Carlson, who was a senior adviser to the energy secretary during the Obama administration, said the department learned from its mistakes and developed a better approach to reviewing and approving loan applications. It also worked more closely with businesses seeking money to ensure that they were successful.

“It used to be this black box,” said Ms. Carlson, who is now an executive at SoftBank Energy. “You just sat in purgatory for like 18 months and sometimes up to two years.”

Ms. Carlson said the department’s loans serve a vital function because they can help technologies and companies that have demonstrated some commercial success but need more money to become financially viable. “It’s there to finance technologies that are proven but perhaps to banks that are perceived as more risky,” she said.

Energy executives said they were excited because more federal loans and loan guarantees could turbocharge their plans.

“The projects that can be done will go faster,” said William W. Funderburk Jr., a former commissioner at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power who now runs a water and energy company. “This is a tectonic plate shift for the industry — in a good way.”

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Iran Deal Tantalizingly Close, But U.S. Faces New Hurdles

The Biden administration faces new and potentially insurmountable domestic political hurdles to forging a lasting agreement.

Last week’s attack on author Salman Rushdie and the indictment of an Iranian national in a plot to kill former national security adviser John Bolton have given the Biden administration new headaches as it attempts to negotiate a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

A resolution may be tantalizingly close. But as the U.S. and Europe weigh Iran’s latest response to an EU proposal described as the West’s final offer, the administration faces new and potentially insurmountable domestic political hurdles to forging a lasting agreement.

Deal critics in Congress who have long vowed to blow up any pact have ratcheted up their opposition to negotiations with a country whose leadership has refused to rescind the death threats against Rushdie or Bolton. Iran also vows to avenge the Trump administration’s 2020 assassination of a top Iranian general by killing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iran envoy Brian Hook, both of whom remain under 24/7 taxpayer-paid security protection.

Although such threats are not covered by the deal, which relates solely to Iran’s nuclear program, they underscore deal opponents’ arguments that Iran cannot be trusted with the billions of dollars in sanctions relief it will receive if and when it and the U.S. return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, a signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama administration that President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

“This is a tougher deal to sell than the 2015 deal in that this time around there are no illusions that it will serve to moderate Iranian behavior or lead to greater U.S.-Iran cooperation,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“The Iranian government stands to get tens of billions in sanctions relief, and the organizing principle of the regime will continue to be opposition to the United States and violence against its critics, both at home and abroad,” he said.

Iran has denied any link with Rushdie’s alleged attacker, an American citizen who was indicted for attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty in the Aug. 12 stabbing at a literary event in Western New York. But Iranian state media have celebrated Iran’s long-standing antipathy toward Rushdie since the 1988 publication of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which some believe is insulting to Islam.

Media linked to Iran’s leadership have lauded the attacker for following through on a 1989 decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie to be killed that was signed by Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

And the man who was charged with plotting to murder Bolton is a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Justice Department alleges the IRGC tried to pay $300,000 to people in the United States to avenge the death of Qassam Suleimani, the head of its elite Quds Force who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in 2020.

“I think it’s delusional to believe that a regime that you’re about to enter into a significant arms control agreement with can be depended on to comply with its obligations or is even serious about the negotiation when it’s plotting the assassination of high-level former government officials and current government officials,” Bolton told reporters Wednesday.

“It certainly looks like the attack on Salman Rushdie had a Revolutionary Guard component,” Bolton said. “We’ve got to stop this artificial division when dealing with the government of Iran between its nuclear activities on the one hand and its terrorist activities on the other.”

Others agree.

“Granting terrorism sanctions relief amid ongoing terror plots on U.S. soil is somewhere between outrageous and lunacy,” said Rich Goldberg, a former Trump administration national security council staffer and longtime deal critic who is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has also lobbied against a return to the JCPOA.

While acknowledging the seriousness of the plots, administration officials contend that they are unrelated to the nuclear issue and do nothing to change their long-held belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be more dangerous and less constrained than an Iran without one.

“The JCPOA is about the single, central challenge we face with Iran, the core challenge, what would be the most threatening challenge we could possibly face from Iran, and that is a nuclear weapon,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said this week. “There is no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would feel an even greater degree of impunity, and would pose an even greater threat, a far greater threat, to countries in the region and potentially well beyond.”

“Every challenge we face with Iran, whether it is its support for proxies, its support for terrorist groups, its ballistic missiles program, its malign cyber activities — every single one of those — would be more difficult to confront were Iran to have a nuclear weapons program,” he said.

That argument, however, will be challenged in Congress by lawmakers who opposed the 2015 deal, saying it gave Iran a path to develop nuclear weapons by time-limiting the most onerous restrictions on its nuclear activities. They say there’s now even more tangible evidence that Iran’s malign behavior make it impossible to deal with.

Two of the most outspoken critics of the deal, Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have weighed in on what the Rushdie attack should mean for the administration.

“The ayatollahs have been trying to murder Salman Rushdie for decades,” Cruz said. “Their incitement and their contacts with this terrorist resulted in an attack. This vicious terrorist attack needs to be completely condemned. The Biden administration must finally cease appeasing the Iranian regime.”

“Iran’s leaders have been calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie for decades,” said Cotton. “We know they’re trying to assassinate American officials today. Biden needs to immediately end negotiations with this terrorist regime.”

Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, the administration must submit any agreement with Iran for congressional review within five days of it being sealed. That begins a 30-day review period during which lawmakers may weigh in and no sanctions relief can be offered.

That timeline means that even if a deal is reached within the next week, the administration will not be able to start moving on sanctions relief until the end of September, just a month from crucial congressional midterm elections. And, it will take additional time for Iran to begin seeing the benefits of such relief because of logistical constraints.

While deal critics in the current Congress are unlikely to be able to kill a deal, if Republicans win back control of Congress in the midterms, they may be able to nullify any sanctions relief.

“Even if Iran accepts President Biden’s full capitulation and agrees to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, Congress will never vote to remove sanctions,” the GOP minority on the House Armed Services Committee said in a tweet on Wednesday. “In fact, Republicans in Congress will work to strengthen sanctions against Iran.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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CDC Director Announces Shake-Up, Citing COVID Mistakes

The agency has long been criticized as too ponderous, focusing on collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats.

The head of the nation’s top public health agency on Wednesday announced a shake-up of the organization, saying it fell short responding to COVID-19 and needs to become more nimble.

The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC leaders call it a “reset”— come amid criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.

The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes on Wednesday. It’s a CDC initiative, and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.

The Atlanta-based agency, with a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 employees, is charged with protecting Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health threats. It’s customary for each CDC director to do some reorganizing, but Walensky’s action comes amid a wider demand for change.

The agency has long been criticized as too ponderous, focusing on collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats. Public unhappiness with the agency grew dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts said the CDC was slow to recognize how much virus was entering the U.S. from Europe, to recommend people wear masks, to say the virus can spread through the air, and to ramp up systematic testing for new variants.

“We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary,” said Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health.

Walensky, who became director in January 2021, has long said the agency has to move faster and communicate better, but stumbles have continued during her tenure. In April, she called for an in-depth review of the agency, which resulted in the announced changes.

“It’s not lost on me that we fell short in many ways” responding to the coronavirus, Walensky said. “We had some pretty public mistakes, and so much of this effort was to hold up the mirror … to understand where and how we could do better.”

Her reorganization proposal must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services secretary. CDC officials say they hope to have a full package of changes finalized, approved and underway by early next year.

Some changes still are being formulated, but steps announced Wednesday include:

—Increasing use of preprint scientific reports to get out actionable data, instead of waiting for research to go through peer review and publication by the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

—Restructuring the agency’s communications office and further revamping CDC websites to make the agency’s guidance for the public more clear and easier to find.

—Altering the length of time agency leaders are devoted to outbreak responses to a minimum of six months — an effort to address a turnover problem that at times caused knowledge gaps and affected the agency’s communications.

—Creation of a new executive council to help Walensky set strategy and priorities.

—Appointing Mary Wakefield as senior counselor to implement the changes. Wakefield headed the Health Resources and Services Administration during the Obama administration and also served as the No. 2 administrator at HHS. Wakefield, 68, started Monday.

—Altering the agency’s organization chart to undo some changes made during the Trump administration.

—Establishing an office of intergovernmental affairs to smooth partnerships with other agencies, as well as a higher-level office on health equity.

Walensky also said she intends to “get rid of some of the reporting layers that exist, and I’d like to work to break down some of the silos.” She did not say exactly what that may entail, but emphasized that the overall changes are less about redrawing the organization chart than rethinking how the CDC does business and motivates staff.

“This will not be simply moving boxes” on the organization chart, she said.

Schwartz said flaws in the federal response go beyond the CDC, because the White House and other agencies were heavily involved.

A CDC reorganization is a positive step but “I hope it’s not the end of the story,” Schwartz said. He would like to see “a broader accounting” of how the federal government handles health crises.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Syria Denies It Is Holding American Journalist Austin Tice

By Associated Press
August 17, 2022

In May, President Biden met Tice’s parents and reiterated his commitment to working toward “Austin’s long overdue return to his family.”

Syria denied on Wednesday it is holding U.S. journalist Austin Tice or other Americans after President Joe Biden accused the Syrian government of detaining him.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Damascus “denies it had kidnapped or is holding any American citizen on its territories.”

“The U.S. issued last week misleading and illogical statements by the American president and secretary of state that included baseless accusations against Syria that it had kidnapped or detained American citizens including former U.S. Marine Austin Tice,” the statement said.

President Biden’s comments last week came in a statement released by the White House to mark the 10th anniversary of Tice’s abduction, which took place when he was in Syria covering its lengthy conflict. President Biden’s remarks were the clearest indication so far that the U.S. is certain Tice is being held by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Government of Syria,” President Biden said in his statement last week. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”

State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. government has pushed Syria to return every American. On Tice’s case specifically, he said, the Biden administration has “engaged extensively — and that includes directly — with Syrian officials and through third parties.”

“Syria has never acknowledged holding him,” Price said of Tice, adding that “we are not going to be deterred in our efforts. We are going to pursue every avenue for securing Austin’s safe return.”

The Syrian Foreign Ministry denied in its statement having any secret contacts with U.S. officials on the missing Americans, adding that “any official dialogue with the American government will only be public based on the respect of Syria’s sovereignty.”

In May, top Lebanese security official Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim met with U.S. officials in Washington as part of mediation efforts between the U.S. and Syria for Tice’s release. Ibrahim, the chief of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate, has mediated complicated hostage releases in the past.

In May, President Biden met Tice’s parents and reiterated his commitment to working toward “Austin’s long overdue return to his family.”

In the final months of the Trump administration, two U.S. officials — including the government’s top hostage negotiator, Roger Carstens, a former Army Special Forces officer — made a secret visit to Damascus to seek information on Tice and other Americans who have disappeared in Syria. It was the highest-level talks in years between the U.S. and Assad’s government, though Syrian officials offered no meaningful information on Tice.

Tice went missing shortly after his 31st birthday on Aug. 14, 2012, at a checkpoint in a contested area west of the capital of Damascus. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying, “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since.

Tice is one of two Americans who went missing in Syria. The other is Majd Kamalmaz, a psychologist from Virginia, who vanished in Syria in 2017.

Tice is from Houston and his work had been published by The Washington Post, McClatchy newspapers and other outlets. He went to Syria to cover the conflict that started in 2011. The war has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced nearly half of the pre-conflict population of 23 million. More than 5 million of those are outside the country.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Murkowski Advances In Alaska Senate Race, Palin In House

Alaska’s ranked choice voting means the top four vote-getters in a primary race, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski advanced from her primary along with Kelly Tshibaka, her GOP rival endorsed by former President Donald Trump, while another Trump-backed candidate, Republican Sarah Palin, was among the candidates bound for the November general election in the race for Alaska’s only House seat.

Murkowski had expressed confidence that she would advance and earlier in the day told reporters that “what matters is winning in November.” Tshibaka called the results “the first step in breaking the Murkowski monarchy’s grip on Alaska.” Tshibaka also said she was thankful “for the strong and unwavering support President Trump has shown Alaska.”

A Murkowski has held the Senate seat since 1981. Before Lisa Murkowski, who has been in the Senate since late 2002, it was her father, Frank Murkowski.

Under a voter-approved elections process being used for the first time in Alaska elections this year, party primaries have been scrapped and ranked choice voting is being used in general elections. The top four vote-getters in a primary race, regardless of party affiliation, are to advance to the general election.

The other two places in the Senate race were too early to call.

Murkowski voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Trump was acquitted. But he has had strong words for Murkowski, calling her “the worst” during a rally last month in Anchorage.

Murkowski said that if Tshibaka derives her sole strength from Trump’s endorsement, “what does that really say about her as a candidate with what she has to offer Alaska? Is it just that she will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump? I don’t think that all Alaskans are really seeking that. Not the ones that I’m talking to.”

Kevin Durling, a co-chair of Tshibaka’s campaign, said Trump’s endorsement of Tshibaka was an added bonus for him. He said Tshibaka’s commitment to business and family and her values were important to him. He expressed frustration with Murkowski for the impeachment vote and for her support of the nomination of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

In the House primary, Democrat Mary Peltola, Palin and Republican Nick Begich advanced to the November election. It was too early to call the fourth spot. The winner of the November race will be elected to a two-year term.

Peltola, Begich and Palin were also competing in a special election to serve the remainder of the late-Rep. Don Young ‘s term, which ends early next year. Young died in March.

The special election was voters’ first shot at ranked voting in a statewide race. The winner of the special election may not be known until at least Aug. 31. If successful, Peltola would be the first Alaska Native woman elected to the House.

There also were several write-in candidates in the special election, including Republican Tara Sweeney, who was also competing in the House primary. Sweeney was an assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Interior Department during the Trump administration.

The special election was on one side of the ballot; the other side contained primary races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor and lieutenant governor and legislative seats.

Palin, in a statement Tuesday evening, called this “the first test case of the crazy, convoluted, undesirable ranked-choice voting system.”

Supporters of ranked voting have said it encourages positive campaigning but the House race has at times taken on harsh tones.

Begich, a businessman from a family of prominent Democrats, has come out hard against Palin, seeking to cast her as someone chasing fame and as a quitter; Palin resigned during her term as governor in 2009.

In one Begich ad, the narrator says Alaska has faced “years of disasters,” including fires and COVID-19. “Sarah Palin is one disaster we can actually avoid,” the narrator says.

A narrator in one of Palin’s ads refers to Begich as “negative Nick” and says Palin wants to serve in Congress “to carry Don Young’s torch.”

Peltola, a former lawmaker who most recently worked at a commission whose goal is to rebuild salmon resources on the Kuskokwim River, has cast herself as a consensus builder.

She said one thing that would help her be a good representative is that she is “not a millionaire. I am just like every other regular Alaskan, and I understand the economic struggles that Alaskans face first-hand. My priorities are the priorities of everyday Alaskans.”

In a statement early Wednesday, she said while the results of the special election won’t be known for some time, “we are moving forward into the general election. We are going to build on this momentum and build a coalition of Alaskans that can win in November.”

In the race for Alaska governor, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy advanced, as did former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, and Democrat Les Gara. It was too early to call the fourth spot.

Dunleavy and his running mate, Nancy Dahlstrom, in a statement said this “is only the start of the race. We’ll dig into all the numbers as they come in over the next few days to find out where we need to shore up our campaign, and we’re looking forward to reaching every Alaskan and earning their vote between now and November.”

Walker is running with Heidi Drygas and Gara with Jessica Cook.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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The Biden Administration To End ‘Remain In Mexico’ Border Policy

President Biden and his administration are ending the “Remain in Mexico” border policy, that the Trump administration started.

Since 2019 migrants trying to win asylum in the U.S. have waited out their cases in Mexico, under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols.  

The policy, instituted during the Trump administration, included about 70,000 migrants, who critics say were sitting ducks in dangerous drug cartel-dominated Mexican border cities. 

The Biden administration sought to do away with the policy when it assumed control. But lawsuits by Republican-controlled states, namely Texas and Missouri, blocked winding down the policy until the Supreme Court sided with the White House in July.  

The U.S. government is still expelling the vast majority of migrants who cross the southwest border illegally under the pandemic-related public health order called Title 42.  

From October of 2021 until June, the Department of Homeland Security says it has recorded almost 1.75 million encounters with migrants along the southwest border. Many of those are repeat attempts to gain entry into the U.S.  

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spent billions along the border, deploying state police and the National Guard to try to enforce immigration laws at a state level.  

He’s also ordered the busing of some migrants, those who are allowed to stay after crossing into the U.S. under humanitarian exemptions.  

They are coming from cities like Del Rio or Eagle Pass, Texas, which have scant infrastructure to cope with migrant relief, to places like New York and Washington D.C.  

Reports show that in May and June the state spent more than a million dollars sending thousands of migrants out of Texas to, “bring the border to Biden.” 

KXA in Dallas reported that the trips amounted to $1,400 per person. 

An immigrant rights advocate in Washington says the idea behind the busing is mean-spirited and in reality has the opposite effect the governor intended.

Abel Nuñez is the executive director at Central American Research Center in D.C.

“It’s a political stunt. It’s a cruel political stunt because he’s basically weaponizing, you know, immigrants and aiming them at,” said Nuñuz. “The immigrants in the buses, when they realize, you know, that they’re kind of political pawns, on sort of a larger argument. They may not be happy about that, but they’re happy that they’re closer to their final destination.”

Source: newsy.com

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Iranian Operative Charged In Plot To Murder John Bolton

By Associated Press
August 10, 2022

Shahram Poursafi is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to a murder-for-hire plot against the former national security adviser.

An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed the country’s most powerful general, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to “eliminate” him, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Shahram Poursafi, identified by U.S. officials as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot.

Prosecutors say the scheme started more than a year after Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard force and an architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East, was killed in a targeted airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport in January 2020. After the strike, Bolton, who by then had left his White House post, tweeted, “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

Poursafi, 45, offered $250,000 to people in Maryland and the District of Columbia to carry out the killing, including providing a work address, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed in federal court in Washington.

In a statement, Bolton thanked the FBI and Justice Department for their work in developing the case.

“While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said it was “not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts.”

The unsealing of the complaint comes two days after negotiators seeking to revive the Iran nuclear accord in Vienna closed on a “final text” of an agreement, with parties now consulting in their capitals on whether to agree to it.

The 2015 deal granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for tight curbs on its atomic program. Since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement under President Donald Trump, Iran has sped up its nuclear enrichment program. Bolton has been among the most hawkish critics of the deal and efforts by the Biden administration to rejoin it.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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