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Women Opt For Cosmetic Surgery To Attract NRI Grooms

Posted on 2003/12/26 8:48:02 ( 922 reads )


AHMEDABAD, INDIA, December 21, 2003: Before lining up prospective grooms, many girls in Gujarat are lining up at clinics of dermatologists and plastic surgeons. When it began four years ago, the trend was restricted to the rich, but now even middle-class brides-in-the making submit to the scalpel to seek beauty. And one reason driving this need to look good is the demanding NRI groom and the very Gujarati urge to settle abroad, says this article. Dr. Naina Sharad, a plastic surgeon of Ahmedabad, says she gets five to six girls in their early twenties every month. "They want facial corrections, breast enhancements, liposuction for the hips and thighs," she says. "They'll pay anything for flawless skin and sharp features." Facial-correction surgery might cost anything from US$ 400 -$1,000 per task, and skin treatments US$ 100- $700, adds Sharad. Gujarat Plastic Surgeons' Association president Dr. A. Chadha says that in a recent meeting, the members reported an increase in the number of young patients coming in for cosmetic surgery. He adds that the trend is worrisome as girls gave primary importance to their appearance for non-medical reasons. Non-invasive skin treatments too can go wrong. "My face looked like a watermelon," regrets one young woman, whose skin developed hyperpigmentation after she underwent "chemical peeling" for fairness despite warnings. She had to go to the US for a second round of treatment. Psychologist Aparna Mitra explains the belief system that drives the young to take such risks: "Good looks can get you a job, make your presence felt, and get you a rich and handsome husband." Sadly, points out Dr. Bilwani, who heads Gujarat Burns Hospital, parents are more than willing to support this, even foot the bill.

Hindu Pilgrims Leave for Pakistan

Posted on 2003/12/26 8:47:02 ( 947 reads )


WAGAH, PAKISTAN/INDIA BORDER, December 22, 2003: For the first time after 1997 a group of 49 Hindu pilgrims today crossed over to Pakistan to pay obeisance at the various Hindu temples in the neighboring country. The Hindu pilgrims group led by Sant Yudishtra Lal from Chattisgarh before crossing over to Pakistan said that after a gap of more than five years the Union Ministry of External Affairs has allowed the Jatha of Hindu pilgrims to visit Hindu Temples in Pakistan. Earlier the Pakistan Government had refused to provide security cover to the visiting Hindus in Pakistan due to threat perceptions from the fundamentalist groups in Pakistan. Yudishtra Lal said during the 10-day visit the pilgrims will pay obeisance at various Hindu Temples including Hayat Pitafi, Sadhu Bella, Shadani Darbar and other temples of Lord Siva in Sakar Sind area. It may be mentioned here that two months back in October this year the Pakistan High Commission had denied visas to 50 Hindus to visit Pakistan when the Union Ministry of External Affairs permitted them to visit Shadani Darbar, Hayat, Bedani, Sakar Sind to observe the 296 birth the anniversary of Saint Sharda Ram in Pakistan.

Rajagopura Maha Kumbhabhishekam for Australia Temple

Posted on 2003/12/26 8:46:02 ( 967 reads )


HELENSBURGH, AUSTRALIA, December 23, 2003: The Rajagopurams for Lord Venkateswara, Lord Siva and Goddess Thirupurasundari have now been completed. The Ashtabhandana Maha Kumbhabhishekam celebration of Sri Venkateswara Temple, in Helensburgh, is taking place on Sunday the 1st of February, 2004, between 5:30 a.m. and noon. Consecration ceremonies will take place from Thursday January 29 to Saturday January 31. Construction of the main Sri Venkateswara temple started in 1978 when a small group of people had a vision to build a Hindu temple according to Vedic principles. The Maha Kumbhabhishekam for the temple was held in June 1985. Masons and Sthapathi arrived from India to work on the recent 4-year project constructing the Rajagopurams and cultural hall. For more information about the temple you can visit their website at "source."

U.S. Women Now Outnumber Men in High-Paying Professions

Posted on 2003/12/26 8:45:02 ( 921 reads )


CHICAGO, U.S.A., December 22, 2003: For the first time since tracking began 20 years ago, U.S. women outnumber men in higher paying, white collar managerial and professional occupations. The gap will continue because of a self-perpetuating cycle of workplace gains for women, according to international outplacment firm Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "As a growing number move into upper management roles, those further down the ladder will reap the benefits by increasingly being targeted for advancement," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that, as of Nov. 30, women represent 50.6 percent of the 48 million employees in management, professional and related occupations. In 1983, the first year the government began recording gender data for its occupational statistics, women accounted for 40.9 percent of managers and professionals. "At the computer, women are just as productive as men," said Challenger. "This fact alone has opened up a world of opportunity for women and is bringing an end to outdated concepts like the glass ceiling."

Expatriate Musicians Find a Platform in India

Posted on 2003/12/26 8:44:02 ( 969 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, December 23, 2003: For years they were not considered good enough to perform in India. But expatriates who have been quietly and diligently learning Indian musical traditions abroad for years have now found a big platform here, thanks to the Hamsadhwani festival. The annual event, which began here this weekend, has come to be known as the non-resident Indian (NRI) music festival and hundreds attend the concerts. "The urge to be recognized by India brings us all here," says dancer Durga Mani. Durga, for instance, was born and brought up in Singapore. She is doing a bachelor of contemporary arts from an Australian college, specializing in dance. Every year she spends a couple of months in Kolkata with the Dancers' Guild to work with a new group. She also learns from Krishnaveni Laxman, her guru at the Kalakshetra dance school in Tamil Nadu. She had performed a few years ago for Hamsadhwani. This year, Durga told IANS, "I am a little nervous." Durga's performance will be accompanied on the violin by Sasidharan, her fiance who is from Malaysia, and S. Selvapandian, also from Singapore. "In Malaysia, Indian classical music and dance has more forums than in Singapore," says Durga. "So to be able to perform before an Indian audience is important for us."

A visit to India in December has become a ritual for some of these non-resident Indians who live and work abroad but want to keep the Indian traditions alive - especially music and dance. In Chennai, for long people who learnt bharatanatyam, violin, mridangam, carnatic music, and other southern Indian performing arts abroad were not considered good enough to stage performances in India.

Ten years ago, however, the organization called Hamsadhwani began to change that. It began providing a platform for NRI artistes in Chennai, arranging small concerts where they could come and perform. Today the organization has 300 members and 2,000 NRI artistes are associated with it. "From just four concerts a year, Hamsadhwani today organizes 30 concerts every year," says R. Ramachandran, secretary of the festival and the spirit behind the movement. The performers are paid US$65 per performance and accompanying artistes -- often they too are from abroad -- are also paid. Expenses have become huge, but Hamsadhwani is soldiering on, says Ramachandran. A lifetime membership of $217 is now taken from NRI patrons and artistes who want to perform on the Hamsadhwani platform.

An artiste can come in to India every year and perform to a discerning Indian audience. The festival began this year on the lawns of a youth hostel, with Seshampatti Sivalingam and Washington-based teenager Rohan Krishnamurthy. Rohan, 16, has been making ripples in the Carnatic music world with his mridangam performances since he was 10. He not only comes to India every December for Hamsadhwani but has become a much sought-after accompanist in many a festival here.

The event will go on till January 7 and among those who will perform will be singer Shobha Shekhar from Australia. She has not only gained acclaim on the Hamsadhwani platform but nowadays is also invited to perform at the prestigious Music Academy here. US-based Anuradha Sridhar and Lalgudi Srimathi Brahmanandam will perform a violin duet. Geeta Sundaresan, a vocalist, hails from Muscat; Jayalakshmi Shekhar, who plays the veena, is from Malaysia; and the Iyer brothers - Ramnath and Gopinath - run a music school in Sidney. Singer M. Yogeshwaran is from Britain while singer Sankar Ramani is from the US. Ganga Grace, a bharatanatyam dancer, is a Croatian who lives in Germany.

U.S. State Department Releases Fifth Annual Report on Religious Freedom

Posted on 2003/12/25 8:49:02 ( 869 reads )


WASHINGTON, U.S.A., December 19, 2003: The U.S. State Department released its fifth annual report on international religious freedom on Thursday, December 18. The executive summary is at "source" above, and the complete report can be reached through related links. Six countries, Burma, China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam were named as countries that have "totalitarian and authoritarian attempts to control religious belief or practise." Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are labelled as countries that practise state hostility toward minority religions. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency which authored the report, says, "The State Department should designate Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam as countries of particular concern (CPCs)." That list was established in 1998 and has not changed since. The six CPCs are: Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan. In the past, the commission had recommended India be added to this list of "countries of particular concern," an unwarranted recommendation for a country with a history of thousands of years of religious tolerance and a democracy far removed from the repressive regimes of the six named CPCs.

In this report, India is put under the heading of "State Neglect of the Problem of Discrimination Against, or Persecution of, Minority or Nonapproved Religions." This is a new classification for the report, which previously just had the officially designated CPCs and the recommended list of countries to add. Apparently the commission thought better of this approach and developed more categories:

The executive summary states: "India. The Government at times failed to act effectively to counter societal attacks against religious minorities and attempts by state and local governments to limit religious freedom. This failure resulted in part from the legal constraints inherent in the country's federal structure, and in part from the law enforcement and justice systems, which at times are not effective. Two state-level anti-conversion laws were passed during the reporting period. The ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks on religious minorities may be seen by some extremists as a signal that such violence may be committed with impunity. As of the close of the reporting period, no convictions had been obtained in connection with the 2002 attacks in Gujarat, in which as many as 2,000 Muslims were killed. Victims of the Gujarat riots blamed Hindu nationalists for sabotaging efforts to prosecute Hindus involved in the riots."

The lengthy main report on India, which HPI has not examined completely, appears to be consistent with the so-called "secularist" view within India. For example, the dispute over history texts in Indian schools is stated in this manner. "Secularists warned the rewritten 'history' spreads misinformation to support Hindu nationalist political aims, including false claims that the origins of Hinduism are purely in India." The characterizations of "false claims" in reference to the Aryan Invasion theory of India, now debunked, shows the report's authors are not cognizant of the details of the historical issues, but likely taking their views from "secularist" sources in India, which are hostile toward Hindu religion.

All HPI readers are encouraged to read this report. At the same time, one should not overestimate the power of this commission, as each of their yearly reports contains a section complaining that the State Department regularly ignores their recommendations. India-born Preeta D. Bansal was appointed to the commission in 2003. She is a highly respected lawyer. Her biodata is here.

South African Hindu Family Finds Hindu Deities in the Ocean

Posted on 2003/12/25 8:48:02 ( 1036 reads )


CHATSWORTH, SOUTH AFRICA, December 21, 2003: A Chatsworth family who are hooked on fishing have landed a "divine" catch in Durban Harbour. Seema Pillay, 26, husband Vellen, 30, and son Kyle, 7, were on their weekly fishing trip when they stumbled upon statues of Hindu deities in the water at Maydon Wharf. "We had been looking for a good fishing spot, as we had no luck the entire morning," said Seema, a receptionist for an engineering company. "We were at a place known as Hot Waters Steam at Maydon Wharf. The tide had just gone out when we saw the colorful statues in the sand in the water. We were surprised and cannot understand who would throw away the statues," she said.

The statues are of the deities Hanuman, Saraswati, Kali and Nataraja. She said people who had heard about the find had been calling their home claiming ownership of the statues. "Someone said that Christians were converting Hindus and making them throw away their statues and Godlamps. "I think the statues could have been stolen from a temple. They are heavy and we have no place for them. "If we do not find the owners, we shall give the statues to a temple," she said.

South African Indians Warned About Diabetes

Posted on 2003/12/25 8:47:02 ( 870 reads )


SOUTH AFRICA, December 21, 2003: An medical expert has warned South African Indians to be vigilant of their lifestyle and diet as they are very prone to diabetes and heart-related diseases. Dr Ramachandiran Cooppan of the Harvard Medical School said in Durban and Pietermaritzburg this week that South African Indians "share similarities with Indians from India. People with a family history of diabetes should consider themselves as having the disease until proven otherwise," he said. He said most Indians had somebody in their families with either diabetes or heart disease. "Our lifestyle and food leads to this disease. It's also on the rise among Africans as they move from rural to urban areas, which leads to a change in lifestyle." Cooppan said there was a new concern for children and teenagers being diagnosed with type II diabetes, which was normally found in the elderly. A lack of physical inactivity led to weight gain, resulting in diabetes. "Parents must encourage their children to take part in physical activities and healthy, balanced diets. Inactive TV watching has to be monitored and limited by parents." Of the two types of diabetes, type I was less common but more serious. "Type I has identifiable symptoms, where the patient gets unusually thirsty, urinates frequently, loses weight and is constantly hungry. Normally young people who are less than 30 years old get this type of diabetes." The main problem with type II diabetes was that there were no symptoms until it had progressed for years in the body. "Once it has progressed, diabetics have problems with feet infections, leading to amputations. This can be prevented. Diabetics have to work closely with foot specialists. "People need to check blood-sugar level regularly. If picked up early, the patient can deal with it by a change in lifestyle." He said diabetics had to lose weight and consult a nutritionist to cultivate good eating habits. He believes diabetes can be prevented by avoiding smoking and alcohol and eating in moderation.

Devotees Stop Attack on Bangladesh Hindu Temple

Posted on 2003/12/24 8:49:02 ( 953 reads )


DHAKA, BANGLADESH, December 21, 2003: Local residents foiled an attempt by suspected Islamic militants to demolish a 200-year old Hindu temple in the port city of Chittagong in southern Bangladesh, officials said today. At least six Hindu residents of the temple were injured in the overnight attack carried out by an unidentified group of militants armed with shovels and crowbars. Witnesses said clashes broke out between the attackers and local residents after part of the temple's wall had been dismantled. The temple in downtown Chittagong dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali is popular with the local minority Hindu worshippers. The attackers were apparently after the temple's surrounding highly priced land. Stiff resistance from the residents in the port city 240 kilometres southeast of the capital Dhaka forced the attackers to retreat, sources said.

Sri Lanka's Tea Wokers Get Citizenship

Posted on 2003/12/24 8:48:02 ( 895 reads )


DAMBATENE, SRI LANKA, December 20, 2003: Like their ancestors who worked for the British tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton, the 200 workers at the Dambatene tea plantation have spent their lives toiling in the lush fields that sprawl over this tropical island off the southern tip of India. And like the tea workers -- nearly all Hindus -- for centuries before them, the Dambatene workers were the stateless of Sri Lanka -- among hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamils descended from Indians who were brought as workers during British colonial rule. Unable to own property, denied government jobs and living without the basic documents of the modern world -- passports, birth certificates, marriage papers -- they survived on the fringes of society. The national census listed 860,500 Tamils in the stateless category in 2001. But, as Sri Lankans struggle to bring peace after two decades of ethnic war, stateless Tamils are finally gaining citizenship under a law passed by Parliament in October. The stateless tea workers are descendants of Tamil laborers who were brought to the island, then known as Ceylon, in the 1700s by British planters. After Britain granted independence in 1948, plantation workers were denied citizenship in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's government remained reluctant to grant citizenship to people of Indian origin. However, before the 2001 Parliament elections, the Ceylon Workers Congress traded its political support for a promise by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's party to give citizenship to stateless Tamils.

Little-Known Stories Show Christmas Has Some Contentious --and Pagan -- Origins

Posted on 2003/12/24 8:47:02 ( 860 reads )

Religion News Service

USA, December 24, 2003: This interesting piece on the origins of Christmas appeared in the Religion News Service and is written by Yvonne Betowt: Did you know Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas an official holiday? That happened in 1836, 71 years before the last state -- Oklahoma -- followed suit in 1907. Christmas is the only legal national religious holiday in the United States. While it has been less than 100 years since all 50 states recognized Christmas as an official holiday, Dec. 25 has been celebrated for centuries by Christians as Jesus' birthday. But until 245 A.D., when a group of scholars tried to determine the date of Christmas, the question had never been addressed, according to a 1995 article by Victor M. Parachin in the Christian Reader. However, the project by the early church theologians was denounced by a church council, which thought it wrong to celebrate Jesus' birthday "as though he were a King Pharaoh." That didn't prevent the scholar-theologians from continuing their quest to determine the day Jesus was born. They originally listed four dates -- Jan. 1 and 6, March 25 and May 20 -- as possibilities, according to Parachin's research.

It wasn't until 349 A.D. that Dec. 25 was formally chosen as Christmas Day by Pope Julius. The date was already celebrated as the Natalis Solis Invicti in honor of the sun god, Mithras, by Roman citizens. They decorated their homes with greenery, exchanged gifts and gathered for festive meals on that date, observed just after the winter solstice. Many scholars believe Pope Julius picked Dec. 25 as Christmas Day to convert followers of Mithras, in addition to providing Christians with an opportunity to celebrate Jesus' birth. Christmas continued, however, to be a contentious issue.

In 17th century England and early America, English Puritans said the Bible offered no clear basis for celebrating Jesus' birth. In 1643, the English Parliament outlawed not only Christmas, but Easter and other Christian celebrations. But by 1660, Christmas had become such a popular holiday, the law was repealed. After the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620, their English misgivings about Christmas celebrations continued. In 1659, people in Massachusetts who celebrated Christmas were fined. The law was struck down in 1681 because the popularity of observing Christmas had grown immensely.

However, Christian groups remained divided over whether Christmas should be celebrated because of its ties to pagan observances. The Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Catholic and Anglican churches forged ahead with the celebrations while the Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers and Puritans continued to rail against it. Even today, some Christian groups, including many Churches of Christ and Seventh-day Adventists, do not acknowledge Christmas as a religious observance.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami created the modern-day festival of Pancha Ganapati to coincide with the Christmas celebrations for Hindus living in the West. It's a means to participate in the festive season without the trappings of another religion's holiday. Click here for the details.

Arumugam Navalar, Great Saiva Revivalist of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Honored on 181st Birthday

Posted on 2003/12/24 8:46:02 ( 1077 reads )


SRI LANKA, December 15, 2003: Tamils in several parts of the northeast observed the 181st birth anniversary of the Saiva-Tamil revivalist Sri Arumugam Navalar on Sunday. Sri Arumugan Navalar is chiefly remembered for his work to revive Saivism in Jaffna and South India. He is also considered one of the important pioneers of Tamil revival in the 19th century. Though Sri Arumugam Navalar's 181st birth anniversary falls on 18th December 2003 the Trincomalee District Young Men's Hindu Association organized his Guru Pooja on Sunday. The TDYMHA organized the event with the octogenarian Saivite activist Mr. P. Kandiah (Gandhi master). Attorney-at Law Mr. K. Sivapalan and Assistant Director of Education Mr. S.Vipunasekaram spoke of the services Navalar rendered to Saivism and Tamil language.

Many Tamils in South India and Sri Lanka are Saivaites. Sri Arumugam Navalar was born on 18th December 1822 in Nallur in Jaffnapeninsula at a time when several elite and middle class Tamils in Jaffna felt that Ceylon's British rulers were promoting Christianity and the English language at the expense of Saivisim and Tamil.

Navalar's original name was Arumugam. For his services rendered to Saivaism and Tamil language and culture, the head of the great Tamil monastery/temple complex in South India, Dharmapuram Aadheenam, conferred on him the title "Navalar" in recognition of his literary and debating skills. Since then he was known as Arumugam Navalar. At the age of twelve he completed his Tamil education under the traditional, non-formal education "Guru-Shisya" mode of learning. He later joined Jaffna Methodist English School, currently known as Jaffna Central College for his English education when Rev Peter Percival was its Principal.

Navalar emerged the champion of the Saiva renaissance movement of the nineteenth century, both in Jaffna and South India. He published several ancient Sangam literary works, which were found in Palmyra (Ola) leaf manuscripts. He also wrote learned commentaries to ancient and medieval Tamil grammars Navalar was versatile writer, eloquent speaker and efficient debater. Navalar wrote several books on Saivaism such as Saiva Vina Vidai, which is a Saivite catechism. Navalar developed a prose style even laymen could understand. Arumugam Navalar established schools in several parts of Jaffna peninsula to propagate Saivaism.

Near-Death Experience Survivors Search for Answers

Posted on 2003/12/24 8:45:02 ( 1024 reads )


COLUMBIA, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES, December 19, 2003: Some things cannot be explained! Million in the United States claim to have near-death experience. They were actually declared clinically dead - but then, they regained consciousness. Their accounts of what happened during that event are strikingly similar. William Taylor, 61, who had a near-death experience. "In 1979 I had a cardiac arrest and suddenly found myself way out in space, and I could look back and see how everything is connected to everything else," he recalls. "There's just a warmth. I could see light in everything. I still could experience and think." Mr. Taylor says he made the decision to live. "There was a very powerful being there and this being said, 'It's your choice.' Mr. Taylor says it was difficult to talk about his experience afterwards, because no one believed him and says that it's often most difficult to talk about it with family or close friends. Mr. David LaMotte, a Protestant minister with 25 years of studies in near death experience has spoken with about a dozen people who've had such an experience and has read accounts of hundreds of others. "It has meaning for everyone, everywhere, in every way," he said. "They are open spiritually to love and knowledge. And they believe that all of us are related, no matter what part of the world you're in, no matter what race or religion - we're all related in the beauty and love of the Almighty," he says. Many scientific studies are under way to what happens during near-death, and in the meantime, William Taylor has a message for those who haven't experienced it. "It would be good if people could retain an open mind and not put things down just because they don't understand it or science can't explain it," he says. Maybe that's really where we go. Maybe we don't really die. Just think about some of that."

Ancient City Discovered off Tamil Nadu Coastline

Posted on 2003/12/21 8:49:02 ( 968 reads )


TAMIL NADU, INDIA, December 3, 2003: Located one mile off the Nagapattinam coast of Tamil Nadu, a submerged city believed to be 7,000 - 17,000 years old has been discovered. Interest in the submerged city was first sparked by English marine archaeologist Graham Hancock who explored the Poompuhar site in 2001 and declared that the city was older than Sumeria in Mesopotamia. Since then two organizations, the Indian Naval Hydrographic Department (INHD) and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have collaborated on expeditions to try and piece together the city's past. Rear Admiral K.R. Srinivasan, chief hydrographer to the Indian government says, "We have been able to locate a section of the city at a depth of 7 meters and will soon start operations to recover objects that will help ascertain its past." Glenne Milne, a geologist at the University of Durham agrees with Hancock's findings and the article says, "Video footage of the site shows that the submerged city near Poompuhar was far superior to constructions found in Harappan sites." This discovery may lead to other expeditions to locate other submerged towns and shipwrecks along India's coastline.

Religious Leaders Seek A Common Path

Posted on 2003/12/21 8:48:02 ( 1021 reads )


SEVILLE, SPAIN, December 18, 2003: More than 40 religious leaders from around the globe met in the southern Spanish city of Seville on Monday. Leaders representing Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism launched a new collaborative board, and discussed hostility and hospitality between the different faiths. While the media highlight religious conflict, "many important initiatives" are also being taken to promote understanding, said Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, director of the Jerusalem-headquartered Elijah Interfaith Academy. The conference established a board of directors for the Elijah Interfaith Academy, which will be advised by representatives of the five religions, Goshen-Gottstein said. Founded in 1996, the UNESCO-sponsored academy stages academic programs and other events to promote interfaith exchanges. "Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism find it easier to recognize the legitimacy of other religions," Goshen-Gottstein explained. Tolerance "is built into their fabric. But is harder" for Christians, Muslims and Jews. The region of Andalusia and the city of Seville hosted the meeting in the capital of Andalusia. Participants included Sheikh Mohammed Hisham Kabbani representing Islam, from the Islamic Supreme Council of America, representative for Hinduism Sri Ravi Shankar, US presiding Episcopal bishop Frank Griswold and representatives of the Dalai Lama.

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