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Tuesday
Nov132018

Report: Samsung working on TVs that you control with your mind

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If Samsung engineers get this right, you may never have to dive into your couch cushions for a lost TV remote again -- because you won't need one.

The Sun reports the South Korean tech company is working on TVs you control with your mind.

The paper notes Samsung is partnering with a Swiss company that provides technology solutions for the disabled to develop TVs that could use brain-monitoring and eye movement sensors to let users flip the channels, control the volume, and the like, all without even stressing their button-pushing fingers.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Nov122018

Uber announces 21 categories of sexual misconduct to report

Uber(NEW YORK) -- Uber announced a new system to identify sexual misconduct on its platform -- introducing 21 categories from staring and leering to non-consensual sexual penetration -- in a step toward transparency with customers and rehabilitating its public image.

"You've probably heard 'Do the right thing,' which we've really made an organizing principal for everything in the company," Uber's chief legal officer Tony West told a handful of reporters at a private event on Monday in New York City. "I've talked about the importance of acting with transparency, integrity and accountability in everything that we do."

"We believe if we improve the safety of the platform for women, we can do it for everybody," West said.

The company is preparing a "transparency report" for 2019, in which it will publicly detail incidents of sexual assault and harassment for riders and drivers.

The move deals with one pervasive problem with preventing sexual misconduct: data collection can be tricky because bad behavior is under-reported and can be loosely defined.

"People want to go down the rabbit hole of which statistics are accurate, if you don't have the same definitions to use, it can be challenge," said Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, who, along with the Urban Institute, worked with Uber to create the new taxonomy, or classification system.

"When we talk about sexual assault, words really matter. This is based in descriptive behavior," Houser said.

"Differences in definitions and methodology make statistics about sexual violence from different sources even harder to compare. There is no common definition of criminal sexual assault across the 50 states or in federal crime statistics, and there is no shared understanding of misconduct that may not be criminal in nature," West wrote in a Medium post with Houser.

The 21 categories range from the "non-criminal, non-touch behavior such as leering or flirting or inappropriate comments, all the way up to things that fall under state statutes for criminal sexual assault," Houser added.

Uber has faced a spate of bad publicity in the past few years, leading to the resignation of its founder Travis Kalanick from the CEO position last year. Former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was brought in to turn the company's culture around, and West is part of that effort.

In joining Uber, West, a former Obama administration associate attorney general, rejoined former Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe in Uber's upper executive ranks. As the company looks to recast its image, it has taken initiatives to confront its critics and present a sustainable corporate culture.

In May, Uber became one of the first companies to drop forced arbitration and confidentiality requirements for sexual harassment and assault cases. Last week, Google and Facebook also announced they would drop forced arbitration and allow victims to file lawsuits that become part of the public record.

Monday's Uber announcement was met with mixed responses by victims' advocates.

"I love what Uber is doing and saying here. We have to move beyond the usual employer 'training' about sexual harassment having to be 'severe or pervasive,'" Nancy Erika Smith, an employment lawyer who represented Gretchen Carlson and other women in their sexual harassment suits against Fox News Channel's Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, wrote ABC News in an email. "That phrase was made up by judges who effectively amended the law to say that 'some' sexual harassment is okay. We haven’t lessened harassment in the workplace by what we’ve been doing so far –- so I appreciate this effort to improve on the communication regarding unacceptable workplace behavior."

But the others say taxonomy is not enough.

"While classifying and ultimately reporting types of sexual misconduct is important, taking strong steps to prevent sexual misconduct ought to be the primary focus," said Doug Wigdor, a lawyer who represented women who had been raped by their Uber driver. "There are steps they could be taking to eradicate any definition of sexual misconduct that would be far more worthwhile -- panic buttons in cars, tamper-proof video cameras in cars, better background checks, interviews before hiring drivers."

"We all know when a woman is raped or touched inappropriately, it's a bad thing," Wigdor added. "The effort should be preventing these things in the first place, instead of focusing on what bucket it goes into."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Nov122018

Black Friday sales: All the best deals and how to save big

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 22 this year, which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- often thought of as two of the biggest shopping days of the year -- may be even sooner than you realized.

For years on Black Friday, retailers have opened their doors before the crack of dawn so that consumers can take advantage of some of the year's most notable sales. But now online shopping has become a welcome alternative.

In fact, more money was spent on Cyber Monday than Black Friday last year, according to ComScore.

To help you navigate the myriad door-busters and online sales available throughout the shopping season, "Good Morning America" will compile all the deals here. This list will be updated regularly, so check back often.

Black Friday deals

Best Buy: The electronics retailer offers free shipping until Dec. 25. On Black Friday, deals include $200 off the Toshiba 43-inch 4K Smart TV and the Samsung 65-inch 4K Smart TV, $130 off the Samsung 11.6" Chromebook and $100 off the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch. There will be up to 40 percent off major appliances, too.

Kohl's: Some of Kohl's biggest deals include 60 to 70 percent off luggage, buy-one-get-one 50 percent off on top toy brands, and Chelsea Square three-piece bedding sets starting at $29.99. Some deals also include Kohl's cash incentives, including the Samsung 55-inch 4K TV for $549.99, the LG 49-inch 4K TV for $329.99, and the Nest Thermostat for $179.99.

Macy's: Stores open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with door-busters until 1 p.m. Some of the best deals include up to 65 percent off select bedding collections, 40 percent off women's shoes and boots and 60 percent off designer coats. Apple Watch Series 3 will be $80 off, the Shark Ion Robot vacuum will be $250 off and there will be free gifts with select purchases, including Hugo Boss Weekender Bag or a Jimmy Choo duffel with specific fragrance purchases.

Target: Stores open at 7 a.m., and for online shoppers, there will be free two-day shipping until Dec. 22. Some of the best deals include the Element 55" Smart 4K UHD TV for $199.99, the Samsung 65" 4K HDR UHD Smart TV for $799.99, and Nintendo Switch Mario Kart 8 Deluxe bundle for $299. The Instant Pot Duo 6 qt., 7 in one pressure cooker will sell for $69.96, Hatchimals Surprise will go for $34.99, and the Amazon Echo will sell for $69. Some of the door busters will also include a free Target gift card with purchase, including the iPhone XS, which comes with a $250 Target gift card, pending activation.

Walmart: The retailer will offer big markdowns on a number items, particularly in toys and tech. Some examples include a 65" Class 4K Roku Smart TV for $398, an Apple iPad (6th generation) for $249 and Ryan's World Giant Golden Egg for $34.82. Walmart gift cards, worth $300 and $400, are also offered for select phone purchases.

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Monday
Nov122018

How to impress Outdoor Voices CEO Tyler Haney in an interview

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "Sixty seconds, name as many pastas as you possibly can."

If you ever have an interview with Outdoor Voices founder and CEO Tyler Haney, there’s a good chance she might quiz your pasta knowledge.

It's her go-to question.

"It's actually the most weird question, but people can run with it ... it's the reaction that I'm really looking for with that question," Haney told ABC News’ chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis.

Her recreational activewear company isn’t exactly in the food space, but she said that the way a person reacts is often a good indicator of their mindset, which is the of the utmost importance when she is hiring.

"It's this nimbleness, this fluidity and this ability to kind of react to change and not be rigid," she said."

In only four years, the 30-year-old CEO has made an impression in the fashion industry, raising more than $56 million from investors like Google Ventures and attracting former J.Crew CEO and venture capitalist Mickey Drexler as chairman of the board.

She said her goal isn't creating fashion but rather creating a product meant to be sweat in, something inspired by her active childhood in Boulder, Colorado.

She described herself growing up as the "ultimate tomboy," playing an array of sports and following college basketball. She cheers for the Kansas Jayhawks, her parents' alma mater.

"I played every sport imaginable," she said. "I had a bowl cut. I might bring that look back -- I was kind of into it. But I've always wanted to own a sports team. I'm obsessed with sports."

As a child, she had dreams of going to the Olympics, and for awhile was very serious about track and horseback riding, even serving as the groom for the U.S. Equestrian Team at the World Cup in Germany. But as she got older, her focus shifted.

"I took a year off after high school ... that was the moment that I was like, 'I'm not going to pursue either hurdles or horses more seriously,'" she added.

Instead, she decided to do something new and move to New York City.

"My family is mostly on the West Coast, and they were like, 'Are you crazy, going to the East Coast?'" she said. "But I made it happen and worked in restaurants actually for my first year off here."

After her year off, she decided to pursue a business degree at Parsons School of Design.

While Haney didn't necessarily have an interest in apparel, both of her parents were designers and she had a lifelong love of building and creating. It was there where she first had the idea for Outdoor Voices.

"I'm on the West Side Highway running a very recreational jog, and I look down and I'm wearing these macho clothes like muscle mapping and neon brights," she said, "and I think, 'I feel like an imposter,' and I said, 'I want to build an outfit for this type of exercise, casual exercise, exercise I'm doing on a daily basis.'"

Her first step was learning how to make the product.

Haney said she had "no idea how to make clothing" but spent countless hours in the garment district of Midtown Manhattan and on Google to find pattern makers and specific materials for prototypes.

"I took the first shelf of the bunk bed out, and I kept my rolls of fabric underneath," she said. "I would do mockups just so that I would have something to bring to the pattern makers and be like, 'Hey, this is kind of the cut that I want.' But, ultimately, I worked with pattern makers in Midtown to make the first samples."

With an initial investment from friends and family, plus her own savings, Haney was able to launch Outdoor Voices in 2014.

Today the company has eight retail locations and three more in the works and a growing roster of employees, all of whom were interviewed by Haney herself.

When it comes to that process of interviewing and hiring, she recalled the worst advice she's received along the way: "Hire for experience."

Instead, Haney looks for a certain "mindset" -- someone who's willing to be dynamic and not only has the technical capabilities but also understands the company's culture.

"When you're changing the conversation and creating a new company that doesn't exist, experience doesn’t always translate," she said. "While experience is important, I've put mindset ahead of it as a criterion I look for when I'm hiring."

Hear more from Outdoor Voices founder and CEO Tyler Haney on Episode 93 of the "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis" podcast.

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Monday
Nov122018

Gas company to provide Thanksgiving dinner to thousands affected by gas disaster

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The gas company that serves thousands of Massachusetts residents who were displaced from their homes as a result of a string of gas explosions is making sure those customers have a hot meal to gobble up on Thanksgiving Day.

Columbia Gas announced Sunday on Twitter that it plans to serve Thanksgiving dinner to communities in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

Customers can either pick up the meal or sit down to enjoy it with fellow members of the community, but must reserve the meals beforehand.

As of Sunday, 3,700 meals had been reserved, according to Columbia Gas. The utility company plans to provide up to 20,000 meals, ABC Boston affiliate WCVB reported. The meals will be served at a temporary trailer park where some residents are being housed, as well as a hall in Lawrence, according to the local station.

In September, dozens of homes caught fire -- some from explosions -- killing one person and injuring 12 more.

The explosions were caused by overpressurized gas lines, officials said at the time. At least 12 homes were destroyed and about 100 more sustained damage.

More than 7,500 people are currently living in temporary housing, WCVB reported.

The state has fined Columbia Gas over the past seven years for safety violations such as improper pressure testing, according to WCVB.

Columbia Gas hopes to have gas fully restored in all structures by mid-December, WCVB reported.

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Saturday
Nov102018

Singles' Day highlights competitors' shift from online back to brick-and-mortar

Beimeng Fu/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Nov. 11 marks Singles' Day in China, a day when sales have nearly doubled those from Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. -- combined!

So what's next for one of the most popular days in the country? Now that the world’s biggest shopping spree has arrived, the message is clear: brick-and-mortar retail isn’t old school, but rather a new battlefield for the e-commerce giants.

Alibaba, the undoubted front-runner that invented the consumerism extravaganza 10 years ago, is focusing on translating its online success offline across some 200,000 smart stores in more than 400 cities with more than 20 business units, including Ele.me, Alibaba’s food delivery platform.

It also has partnerships with local and international brands such as L’Oréal, Starbucks, McDonald's, Marriott and Hilton, all with promotional in-store or home-delivery events on Sunday and its run-ups.

If 2017 was a year for testing the water, this year is about bringing the game up to the next level.

JD.com, Alibaba's biggest rival -- despite reported scandals of a rape case by its owner, Richard Liu, and a controversial marketing campaign -- is showing no sign of retreat.

It extended the length of its “Singles’ Day Period” to 27 days. That's up from 12 days last year, when it revealed for the first time its sales figure of $19.14 billion, a fraction of Alibaba’s.

Pinduoduo, China’s newest force in e-commerce, which just had its Nasdaq debut in July, is also expected to threaten Alibaba’s online dominance.

However, online success risks getting lost in translation into physical retail. At Hema, Alibaba’s cashless supermarket chain and critical offline venture, posters and fliers detailing special promotions can be found during the days leading up to the big day, but the scene is relatively quiet.

“How special can a supermarket promotion event get?” asked a shopper who was buying grocery in a Beijing branch Thursday.

The chain is ahead of its U.S. counterparts with features such as free 30-minute deliveries and facial-recognition payment. A look into the future, too: online orders are being carried in a shopping bag placed on a conveyor belt on the ceiling toward the back area for delivery.

At a pilot branch in Shanghai, it even made robot restaurant a reality, Business Insider reported. Within just a few clicks on its app, seafood and other fresh produce are offered without the necessity to interact with a waiter.

Alibaba has invested more than $10 billion in traditional brick-and-mortar retailing since 2016, before Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, according to the New York Times.

Its diverse assets range from supermarkets, department stores, furniture stores, as well as numerous digitized convenient stores, among others. On Singles’ Day, two new Hema branches will open in Beijing, joining the quickly expanding family of almost 100 stores in over a dozen cities from Beijing to Shanghai to provincial capitals such as Haikou and Guiyang.

As online retail in major Chinese cities reaches a saturation point, businesses share a common view on the strategy behind online and offline integration, which may be a credit to Alibaba’s recently posted 54 percent quarterly revenue growth, according to the South China Morning Post.

“Together with our merchant partners, we have elevated our capability to serve our customers and the shopping festival has become a leader in creating the kind of lifestyle our consumers want,” Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s new chief, said at a Singles’ Day kick-off press conference in Beijing last month.

The company has yet to reveal numbers involving results from efforts for the online/offline conversion in the past two years, but the line hasn’t been particularly distinctive, especially for the country’s youth.

After all, making up 85 percent of all retail sales in China is physical retail, according to data released by Boston Consulting Group, which will witness the real fight in the long run.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov102018

Google drops forced arbitration in sexual harassment and assault cases: Why it matters

Zhang Yuanyuan/VCG via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson complained to then-CEO Roger Ailes about hazing from her male co-workers, he replied with even more harassment, according to a lawsuit she filed.

“I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better. Sometimes problems are easier to solve,” he said, according to a complaint she filed in New Jersey Superior Court in 2016.

The high-profile case eventually caused Ailes' to be ousted as CEO and chairman of Fox News after 20 years.

The only reason anyone outside of Fox knows about it? Carlson filed a lawsuit, instead of going through the secret process of arbitration.

"We wouldn't know anything at all" about Ailes' behavior and subsequent harassment cases at Fox if Carlson had been forced into arbitration, her lawyer Nancy Erika Smith told ABC News. Smith made the risky move of filing suit against Ailes personally, rather than the company.

On Thursday, one week after a global walkout of 20,000 Google employees, vendors, contractors and temp workers protesting the company's handling of sexual harassment and general equity cases, the tech company became the latest to reverse course and eliminate forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and assault — fulfilling one of their demands.

In doing so, Google joins Microsoft, Uber and Lyft in waiving forced arbitration in sexual harassment and assault cases, despite a Supreme Court ruling in favor of mandatory arbitration earlier this year. Many employee advocates argue that ending forced arbitration, which usually imposes confidentiality on the parties involved, is the first step toward ending sexual harassment in workplaces.

"It's literally mindblowing," said Smith, who currently represents two women who were paid sexual harassment settlements by former Fox News star Bill O'Reilly. "It's unbelievably important to ending sexual harassment."

Arbitration is a process outside of the court system that is common in American corporations. Instead of filing documents in court — which become part of the public record — and moving toward a jury trial, the outcome is decided behind closed doors and often included as a term for employment.

Employers favor arbitration because it often limits bad publicity and the amount of money in awards an employee will receive. Also, because the employer often wins.

"There’s a lot more ways to keep what happens in an arbitration secret," University of Michigan law professor Julian Davis Mortenson said. "Ligitation usually has much wider-ranging discovery, as in, 'Hey give me all the emails that relate to my claims,' 'Give me all the embarrassing stuff.'"

"Once you find the embarrassing stuff, it’s not bound by the same confidentiality requirements that arbitration has. As a rule, it's way easier to disclose stuff happening in trial than in arbitration," Mortenson said. "A lot of these trials play out in the court of public opinion."

Another thing that tilts the playing field toward employers is numbers. Arbitrators are staffed by companies, whose clients are corporations. Out of, say, 10 potential arbitrators, each side can nix a few and then rank the remaining to oversee their dispute.

"Employers are repeat players in the way that individual employees never can be. They get to know lots and lots about arbitrators. If you’re an arbitrator that rules for me this time, probably I’m going to nominate you next time. Employers can structure the agreements to make it likely the pool of arbitrators selected are employer-friendly — it’s like picking your jury," Mortenson said.

In harassment and discrimination cases, there's another factor: demographics.

"Arbitrators tend to be white men over 40 who come from a corporate or management background," said Doug Wigdor, a labor lawyer and arbitrator. He represented women who were sexually assaulted by their Uber driver.

Though Wigdor and Smith noted the progress made by allowing employees to sue for sexual harassment and assault, they also said it's just the beginning of a longer process.

"With sexual assault victims — that they have control of the forum to air their grievances is important," Wigdor said, commending the Google decision. "For an employer to tell an employee they can't work at this company unless they agree to arbitrate matters is cruel in this day and age. But why not the same for racial or disability or age discrimination or harassment?"



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Saturday
Nov102018

Judge orders Amazon to hand over Echo recordings in double murder case

WMUR(FARMINGTON, N.H. ) -- Authorities in New Hampshire are hopeful a smart speaker will be smart enough to convict a double murderer.

Amazon was ordered by a judge on Friday to hand over recordings taken by an Echo device in the Farmington, New Hampshire, home where Christine Sullivan lived with her boyfriend. Sullivan was found murdered in the backyard of the home on Jan. 29, 2017, along with Jenna Pellegrini, who was staying at the home.

The bodies were left in the backyard, under a tarp, and a knife was buried nearby, police said.

Pellegrini, 32, had been stabbed 43 times and Sullivan, 48, was stabbed eight times and had her skull fractured, according to authorities.

Timothy Verrill, 34, was charged with first-degree murder for both women's deaths. He pleaded not guilty in February 2017.

Police testified at a bail hearing in August 2017 that Verrill knew Sullivan's boyfriend, Dean Smoronk, who owned the house, and that Verrill had access to the home's security code. Verrill was also seen on home surveillance video with both women before their deaths, according to Manchester ABC affiliate WMUR.

The ruling was handed down by Strafford County Superior Court Presiding Justice Steven M. Houran on Friday.

"Accordingly, the State's motion to search in lieu of a search warrant is granted," the ruling by Houran states. "The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability, FCC ID number ZWJ-0823, from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period."

The Amazon Echo device was seized by police from the home, according to court documents.

It's unclear whether there is any audio evidence on the device, but the court found probable cause that the speaker could have recorded "evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen."

An Amazon spokesperson told The Associated Press it would not release the recordings "without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us."

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Friday
Nov092018

Federal judge issues setback to Trump administration plans on Keystone XL pipeline

Andrew Burton/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge says the Trump administration did not consider environmental consequences of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a setback for the Trump administration and a win for environmental groups.

The judge put the pipeline on hold until the State Department conducts another review of the possible environmental impact of the project.

The Keystone XL pipeline would deliver crude oil from Canada and other parts of the U.S. to refineries in the Gulf Coast, covering more than 1,200 miles through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

The State Department initially denied the permit under the Obama administration citing the potential environmental impact, but shortly after President Donald Trump took office he revived the project and the administration reversed the previous denial and allowed the project to move forward.

But a federal judge in Montana ruled Thursday that the Trump administration's reversal ignored information about the pipeline's environmental impact to support reversing the Obama administration's decision.

Judge Brian Morris cited a finding in a previous case that "an agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, anymore than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate."

The judge put the pipeline on hold until the State Department fully evaluates the environmental impact, including the project's impact on climate change, cultural resources, and potential for oil spills.

Environmental groups who oppose the pipeline and filed the lawsuit say the ruling is a victory for advocates and a significant setback for the pipeline.

President Donald Trump called the ruling "a disgrace" on Friday.

The company building the pipeline, TransCanada, said in a statement they are reviewing the ruling but they "remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project."

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Thursday
Nov082018

People with food allergies now able to board early, clean seats on American

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- American Airlines will start allowing passengers with allergies to board planes early, effective Dec. 12.

The move comes in response to a complaint filed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in Jan. 17. The complaint was filed with the Department of Transportation regarding American Airlines’ policy prohibiting passengers with food allergies from preboarding aircraft at the same time as people with other disabilities.

Allowing passengers to pre-board would give them time to clean their seating area and reduce the potential exposure to allergens.

Delta Air Lines has had a similar policy in place for some time.

"Our agents and flight attendants are trained on how to best support customers with allergies in a number of ways – this includes refraining from serving peanut products on board when a peanut allergy is known, making cabin announcements to alert other customers of the allergy so they can refrain from opening personal peanut snacks in flight, and offering pre-boarding to customers with allergies so they can cleanse their immediate seating area," Savannah Huddleston, a Delta spokesperson, said.

"We encourage customers with known peanut allergies to notify Delta through Reservations before their flight so accommodations can be made."

Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE said the airlines' pre-boarding allowances are a good move.

“Any time a company takes action to address the needs of the food allergy community, FARE views this as an important step in the right direction," Gable said. "For families managing life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies, this policy change helps mitigate the risk of an allergic reaction. We hope to see the policy address all food allergens in the future.”

Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network told "GMA" "We know from studies that peanut allergen can stay on surfaces if not cleaned properly so this step allows patients and families to take an extra precaution to avoid any adverse reactions while in flight. I would also add that having epinephrine auto-injectors on all aircrafts would be an even better additional step."

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