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Church & Wellesley - Yorkville - Annex : Innovation + Job News

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Interac joins MaRS's fintech cluster to further financial technology innovation

Six months after the launch of the country’s first fintech cluster, MaRS announced on August 18 that Interac has become the latest major player to join its collaborative network for startups and already-established companies working on developing new financial technologies.

As a part of the agreement, the Interac Association and Acxsys Corporation, the two organizations behind Interac, the payment system that powers almost all the debit cards in Canada, will join MaRS’s financial technology cluster. According to Adam Nanjee, the head of cluster, Interac will work with startups that are based in MaRS’s College and University campus to collaborate on new technologies like crypto-currencies.   

“This partnership indicates that there’s strong interest from Canadian financial services providers to help facilitate innovation,” said Nanjee when asked to touch on the significance of partnership. “For our cluster this engagement is critical — building a global fintech hub requires players in all sectors of financial services – from the banks to the payment networks.”

For Torontonians not immersed in the city’s startup community, Nanjee says it’s partnerships like this that will help continue build Toronto’s reputation as an important financial hub.

“This type of collaboration positions our city to become a global leader in financial services innovation on par with international fintech hubs like New York, London and Hong Kong. Creative new products, digital channels and experiences are developing here at MaRS where financial institutions are working alongside startups and this is something we should be proud of”

Previously, other financial institutions and companies, including CIBC, PayPal, Moneris and UGO, have partnered with MaRS to join the FinTech cluster.

The initiative, which is one of  its kind in Canada, provides local area startups with access to the regional innovation centre’s suite of resources, as well as facilitates access to startup capital and the centre’s already established partner and customer networks.

MaRS also has two other clusters located within its building. One is devoted to legal technology; the other is focused on retail and digital commerce technology. They provide many of the same services and resources.

U of T study finds ecosystem disaster in non-native species

In 1890, a pharmacist named Eugene Schieffelin released some 60 European starlings into New York's Central Park. He did so because the group he was part of, the American Acclimatization Society, wanted to make it so that the the skies of North America were filled with the sights and sounds of all the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.

Schieffelin and company got their wish and then some.

More than 100 years later, the European starling is everywhere, including Toronto. Free of its ancestral predators, the species has managed to grow unchecked, much to the detriment of North America's native wildlife and even to human activities like farming.

However, the European starling is only the most famous example of an invasive species being introduced to North America. Either by design or mistake, countless other non-native plants and animals have found their way into North America.

One such species is the European fire ant (myrmica rubra, for those that enjoy their Latin taxonomies). Colonies of this aggressive ant are often found near water, and they've become a common sight in the Don Valley and on the Toronto Island. A chance encounter with one of these ants often ends with a nasty bite.

What could be worse, is that this ant—and other invasive species like it—could be working together with other invaders to increase the rate at which they both spread across a new ecological system.

Megan Frederickson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Kirsten Prior, a biology professor at the University of Florida, as well several postdoctoral fellows have spent the past year studying the European fire ant.

On a UofT-owned nature reserve an hour north of the city, the researchers used 42 plastic kiddie pools (pictured) to create siloed ecosystems. They filled each pool with soil and the seeds four different species of wildflowers—three of which were native to Ontario, and one, the greater celandine plant, which was not. They then released the European fire ant in about half of the pools and a native woodland ant in the other half, and let them go about their work over the winter.

When the team returned in the spring and summer, they found that the fire ants had dispersed all the species of wildflowers, but particularly the invasive greater celandine plant, to far greater effect than their North American cousins.

This finding seems to in part validate a theory called invasional meltdown, which suggests that the establishment of one invasive species can help facilitate the incursion of other non-native species.

“I’d say we have really good evidence for half of the story. Our experiment very clearly shows that this invasive species, the european fire ant, can help this invasive plant spread,” says Professor Frederickson. “What we don’t know if the reverse is also true.”

Frederickson and her team are working towards seeing if the greater celandine plant somehow helped the fire ants.
The term invasional meltdown was coined by evolutionary biologists Daniel Simberloff and Betsy Von Holle in a seminal 1999 paper.

“Since they wrote this paper in 1999 people have been interested in looking for examples, and there are a handful examples out there but not a whole lot. There’s some debate in the field on how common and important this phenomenon might be—and it's one of the reasons we were interested in doing this study,” says Professor Frederickson.

In the press release that announced the study's findings, Professor Frederickson's colleague Kirsten Prior succinctly stressed the importance of their research. “Invasive species are a leading threat to natural ecosystems, and can have impacts on society,” she said.

“Research on how ecosystems become invaded and the consequences of invasion is important. It sets us on the right path to develop solutions to reduce the spread and impact of these harmful species.”

Source: University of Toronto
Photos: J.G. Sanders, K.M..Prior.

Ontario Health Innovation Council releases Catalyst Report

Released shortly before the holiday shuffle—and subsequently missed by most people—the Ontario Health Innovation Council (OHIC) Catalyst report lays out six recommendations the province should follow to become a innovative healthcare entity.

The goal of the report's authors was to find ways to improve the quality, speed and delivery of Ontario's healthcare services while also finding ways to transform the province into a bastion of medical innovation.

The most interesting recommendation is the third one, which suggests that the province create a fund for made-in-Ontario technologies. The proposed four year, $20-million fund should be used to help speed the adoption of technologies that are developed within Ontario's borders, says the report's authors.

Another of their recommendations calls for the province to create an office for the “Chief Health Innovation Strategist,” who, if the government goes through with the appointment, will be responsible for identifying the province's most pressing medical needs and aligning the medtech sector's efforts to develop solutions for those needs.

Following the release of the report, MaRS published a statement endorsing the report's recommendations. “We believe that implementing these recommendations will position Ontario as a global health innovation powerhouse, while improving citizen health, and growing Canada’s new health economy,” said Dr. Ilse Treurnicht in the organization's press release.

The full report can be read here.

Source: Ontario Health Innovation Council. 

Who's hiring in Toronto? MaRS, InterAccess, TIFF and more...

MaRS is attempting to fill several senior positions at its headquarters on College St. They're hiring a new director of real estate finance, director of finance, investment director, investment manager and construction project manager. Each position has different required qualifications, but the common theme is that MaRS really does want the best of the best; all of the positions require about five to ten years of experience in a relevant field. The deadline to apply for these positions varies between January 9 and 12, so brush up those resumes and cover letters and send them along.

An organization called InterAccess is hiring a manager of education and outreach. According to their website, they're a “public gallery, educational facility and production studio dedicated to the creative use of technology, electronic art and new media culture.”

The person that takes on this role will be required to develop new educational programs for the organization, as well as help find and develop sponsorship opportunities for InterAccess. Two to three years in a related field is required to apply for this position. The deadline to apply is January 16.

For those interested, InterAccess is also hiring a general manager and program coordinator.

Similar to the previous position, the Toronto International Film Festival is hiring a senior manager for their adult learning program.

The main responsibilities that come with this role are managing and developing the festival's Reel Talk, Books on Film and Food on Film programs. Additionally, as one would expect with a position of this nature, much of it involves being a spokesperson for the organization and its programs. Five to seven years of experience in a related field is a must. The deadline to apply is January 9.

Finally, looking to do something different this new year? Why not become an organic farmer for a season!

The Sleepy G Farm is one of many farms outside of Toronto looking for help this summer. The work is sure to be demanding, but, if Hollywood is to be believed, it will also likely be incredibly rewarding. Besides being able to partially disconnect from technology for several months, successful candidates will be given the chance to learn cool skills like blacksmithing, animal care and pasture management.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!

Local coding academy sets its sights on nationwide expansion

As digital literacy becomes as important as reading and writing to securing a job in the modern workplace, one Toronto coding school has taken a significant step towards becoming Canada's de facto place to learn how to code.

On December 18, the Konrad Group, a local digital consulting firm that counts the CBC, Nestle and Salesforce as some of its clients, announced that it had acquired Toronto-based coding academy BrainStation for an undisclosed sum.

According to Jason Field, one of BrainStation's co-founders, the company plans to use its newfound resources to expand into five other Canadian cities by the end of 2015. First on the list are other cities in Ontario like Waterloo, London and Ottawa.

But that's not all. With it's new owner boasting a presence in the United States and Costa Rica, BrainStation also has the opportunity to become a global brand down the line should its owners decide that's the path they'd like to follow.

Additionally, Field says the school plans refocus its efforts on becoming a go-to centre for digital literacy, not just a place where someone can learn to code.

“Now that we have the financial capability, we’re going to build our programs to be not just about coding, but about digital literacy in general,” he says.

“Each community needs different things, and as we continue to develop we envision that we’ll have eight to ten curricula built out. Depending on the city, maybe web development is the only one that's feasible, but it’s still something that community should have access to. It shouldn’t be the most populated cities getting all the love.”

BrainStation is hosting an open house on January 13 at its new space to talk about some of its plans for the new year. 

Source: BrainStation

Sir Richard Branson co-launches local startup seed fund

It's not often that a knight visits Toronto, but on Friday of last week that's exactly what happened as Sir Richard Branson came to town to co-announce a new partnership between his charity, Virgin Unite, and MaRS.

The partnership will see Branson and company seed $1-million towards a new social impact investment fund that will be overseen by MaRS. An additional $500,000 is in the process of being added to fund by various individuals, companies and organizations. Once MaRS closes the fund sometime in the new year, Tim Jackson, lead executive at the Centre for Impact Investing at MaRS, says he expects it grow to somewhere between $3-million and $5-million.

According to Jackson, MaRS will use the fund to invest in early stage startups—that is, startups that are seeking seed or Series A funding—that are for-profit but have a component of social good as a part of their mandate. He listed companies like SunFarmer and Lucky Iron Fish as examples of the type of startups the fund will target. The latter, for instance, is a company that is attempting to solve iron deficiency in Cambodia.

“We’re trying to get rid of this mess that you have to decide between social good and return,” says Jackson, explaining the rationale behind the fund. “We believe that you can accomplish both, and we also view this as a demonstration fund.”
“Every entrepreneur that needs capital will tell you that there’s not enough capital, so while $3 to $5-million is not a lot of money, we think this fund will open up the wallets of other investors who will say I want to get into the impact investing space.”

For his part, Sir Richard Branson said in a press release after the event, “I strongly believe that entrepreneurs have a key role in tackling environmental and social issues with solutions that will last for the long run and help create jobs. Our partnership with MaRS will support inspiring entrepreneurs with the mentoring, training and investments they need to succeed.”

Source: MaRS

A University of Toronto researcher wants Ghostbuster backpacks to spray your roof

It used to be that it was only feasible to harness portable solar power on a scientific calculator. However, thanks to a major breakthrough by a group of researchers from the University of Toronto, almost any surface, including ones that aren't so smooth and symmetrically shaped, could soon be used to exploit the power of the sun.

It’s all possible thanks to a new manufacturing process called sprayLD. The system allows a light sensitive substance called colloidal quantum dots (CQDs) to be sprayed upon a flexible film that can then be applied to almost any surface. According to the press release that accompanied the announcement, a car roof coated with a film of CQDs could produce enough energy to power three 100-watt lightbulbs.

Illan Kramer, the researcher that led the team that developed the technology, said in a press release, “My dream is that one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof.”

If such a future does come to pass, it will be because of the manufacturing technology Professor Kramer and his colleagues have developed. In contrast to films created by its predecessor, atomic layer deposition (ALD), films created with sprayLD are fast, easy and inexpensive to produce. In fact, Professor Kramer and his team built their prototype using parts already available and relatively inexpensive. The manufacturing system Kramer and company have developed is so effective that films produced with sprayLD show little to no loss in solar-cell efficiency over their ALD counterparts.

Now this technology just needs to make its way to mobile devices. I can't be the only one who has had enough of their smartphone lasting less than a day.

Source: University of Toronto

Photo courtesy of Marit Mitchell.

Industrial Biocatalysis Network aims to develop Earth-friendly plastics

Plastics! Plastics! Plastics! It turns out they don't have to be environment destroyers. 

On November 28, the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and Concordia University announced the formation of the Industrial Biocatalysis Network (IBN). Funded through a $5-million grant by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the partnership will see some of Canada's leading bio-chemical engineers try to find enzymes that produce byproducts that enable the creation of environmentally-friendly chemicals and plastics.

The team is being lead by Professor Elizabeth Edwards, a member of UofT's Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry. The study is excepted to take five years and will involve several partners from Canada's manufacturing industry.

 Professor Edwards and her colleagues decided to embark on this project after completing a study that saw them sequence thousands of different enzymes. “Rather than doing more sequencing, we decided we wanted to focus on what these enzymes actually do,” she says. “We want to find out what their jobs are and how we can put them to use.”

Part of the reason several universities have partnered on this project is to avoid potential overlap and to increase the speed at which the research team is able to zero in on promising leads. “There are thousands of reactions we could potentially look at... and the goal of this network is to help prioritize what we look at. That’s the value of a network: communication and exchange of information and knowledge,” says Professor Edwards.

With even more evidence that the world is going through a period of significant climate change as a result of human activity, Edwards and her team are all too aware of the importance of their research. “There are more people than twice as many people on the planet than when I was born. The pressures on us to adapt are immense, so much so that I don’t like to think where we’ll be if we don’t,” she says. “Everyone feels this pressure and everyone aspires—and deserves—a great standard of living, so we need to come up with solutions that are different from the ones we've used in the past.”

Source: University of Toronto

Photo courtesy of Sara Collaton.

Toronto startup leads search for ebola treatments

Since its resurgence at the end of last year, ebola has claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 people in West Africa. Its return has sparked panic throughout the world and left researchers and officials scrambling to find a cure. 

Enter a Toronto-based startup called Chematria. The company may hold the key to stopping the disease before it spreads any further. 

Chematria has developed software that allows a supercomputer to analyze how thousands of different drugs might affect a disease like ebola. What’s game changing about the software is that allows researchers to skip the time consuming step of physically synthesizing and testing drugs. 

“We are going to explore the possible effectiveness of millions of drugs, something that used to take decades of physical research and tens of millions of dollars, in mere days with our technology,” says Dr Abraham Heifets, one of Chematria’s co-founders and its CEO. 

The company’s research is possible because it has access to IBM’s Blue Gene/Q, one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Chematria, which is based at the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, has access to the supercomputer through the Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Partnership (SOSCIP), an agreement that grants 11 Ontario universities and their host of researchers access to IBM’s suite of supercomputers.

Although clinical trials will likely remain an important part of drug testing, Chematria’s research has the ability to dramatically reduce the time it takes to hone in on the drugs that have the best chance at treating a disease or illness. If the company is successful, the face of medicine could be changed forever. 

Source: Chematria

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Top Hat, City of Toronto, Metro News and more

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is looking for a community operations coordinator. This multifaceted role involves a variety of responsibilities, including providing the foundation with data management support, business management support, as well as helping with the onboarding and management of volunteers. Despite the the long list of responsibilities, only a minimum of one to two years in a related field is required to apply.

Top Hat, a Toronto-based startup that creates interactive learning software for classrooms around the world, is looking to fill a variety of positions. Those with a background in software development should check out the company's postings for a full stack developer and a senior quality assurance and test engineer. Those with more of marketing background should look into the company's marketing operations manager posting. Check out Top Hat's website for a full list of positions they're looking to fill.

Journalists looking for a new job should navigate over to Metro's website. Like Top Hat, Canada's second largest daily newspaper is in the process of filling a variety of positions. In Toronto, Metro is seeking two reporters/photographers and a single digital campaign specialist. Those living outside of Toronto are also in luck; Metro is hiring in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Ottawa, as well. For the reporter position, Metro is looking for candidates that have at least four years of experience in the newspaper industry, are well versed in CP style and have familiarity with web content management systems.

Finally, the City of Toronto is looking for someone to take over as the manager of events at Yonge-Dundas Square. The person that takes on this role will be expected to oversee all aspects of the square's yearly events schedule. Major responsibilities include and hiring and managing event coordinators and responding to public protests with "tact and respect towards participants".

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!  

Canada's top 100 corporate research and development spenders

On Friday, Research Infosource Inc. released its annual list of Canada's top 100 corporate research and development spenders.

According to the report, Canadian corporate R&D spending increased by 4.1 per cent in 2013 from $12-billion to $12.5 billion.

“4.1 per cent year over year growth is pretty reasonable. Having said that, we’ve seen stronger growth in previous years," says Ron Freedman, the CEO of the company that compiled the report.

Freedman adds that 57 of the list's top 100 companies managed to increase their R&D spending, while 41 companies decided to decrease their R&D spending. Compared to previous years, this represents a slightly worse performance by Canada's corporations.

Indeed, the report's findings will likely reinforce the commonly held opinion that Canadian companies do not spend enough on research. However, Freedman is quick to point out that more, in this case, is not always better.

"Bombardier’s R&D spending went up this year, but the fact is that a large portion of that spending was bad spending. It was spending that was put toward correcting mistakes in the design of their new aircraft. It’s money that they should not have had to spend."

Check out the full list of Canada's top 100 R&D spenders on Research Infosource's website.

Source: Research Infosource Inc. 

NXNE announces it's moving its festival headquarters to MaRS

After more than a decade at the Hyatt Regency hotel, the North by Northeast music and arts festival (NXNE) is moving its festival headquarters to MaRS.

NXNE announced the partnership last week, as well as the fact that Pitchfork Media would be taking part in the festival in 2015. The partnership will see the MaRS complex, located at 101 College St, host several of NXNE's most important functions, including its delegate registration, keynote address and all of its interactive panels.

The decision to leave the Hyatt Regency comes after NXNE saw its 2014 interactive panels draw greater crowds and a more varied and accomplished list of speakers.

"Last year we realized that we needed a space that better reflected the level of talent we were bringing in," says Christopher Roberts, NXNE's festival director. "We wanted something that made more of a statement, and something that reflected the mandate of what our conference wanted to do and achieve. Looking through that lens at Toronto's landscape, there really were no other options: MaRS was the perfect marriage of our mandate and what we wanted the conference to be."

As for how the change of locale will affect the festival, Roberts says he hopes attendees feel a new energy when they visit the complex in June.

"I think because its venue where there’s already a culture of people trying to create, rethink and retool ideas, that that energy will permeate to the rest of the conference. You will see a band playing in one corner and someone will be discussing their startup in another. That’s the energy and buzz I want to create, and I think that MaRS already has a great ecosystem to help foster that kind of environment."

NXNE 2015 takes place June 17 through 21. 

Source: Christopher Roberts

Who's Hiring in Toronto? SickKids Foundation, Canada's National Ballet School and more

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, a non-profit devoted to preserving Ontario's Greenbelt, an area surrounding the Golden Horseshoe, is hiring a research and policy analyst. As the title suggests, the role involves significant amounts of research, though there's a major outreach component as well. Specific requirements include engaging with a variety of government and non-government organizations.

The SickKids Foundation has two new openings this week.

First, they're seeking an associate graphic designer. The position requires three to five years of experience in digital marketing or communications, and will see that the person that takes on this position help the non-profit with its fund raising initiatives on behalf of Sick Kids Hospital.

The foundation is also seeking to hire an associate events director. The role has a significant emphasis on building and mentoring a team, as well as building new and existing events. This position requires five to seven years in a related leadership role.

On the culture side, Canada's National Ballet School is hiring a digital media co-ordinator. The role involves creating audiovisual material that will help with the school's promotional, marketing and educational needs. Three-plus years of related media experience is a requirement of this position, as well as expertise with programs such as Sony Vegas and DVD Architect.

Finally, the National Reading Campaign is looking for someone to join its board of directors as an executive director. Much of the role involves working with a volunteer board, and managing the campaign's initiatives. Candidates living in Toronto are preferred, though those living outside of the city with an exceptional skill sets will also be considered.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!  

Ontario spending $6.8m on campus-based accelerator programs

The provincial government continues to unroll elements of its youth jobs strategy. The latest announcement came recently from Reza Moridi, minister of research and innovation. The program is called Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLAs), and the goal is to help student entrepreneurs "harness their ideas, their vision and their enthusiasm and turn them into jobs for today and for tomorrow," he said in a statement outlining the initiative.

CLAs will provide funding to select post-secondary institutions across Ontario t"o create, improve and sustain a culture of entrepreneurship among students and youth in their regions, and to integrate these entrepreneurial activities with investors, industry, and other stakeholders in their region. The Toronto-area institutions to receive funding under the program:
  • The University of Toronto, which will receive just over $3 million in funding over two years. That money will be distributed across the university's existing accelerator programs: the Creative Destruction Lab (Rotman School of Management); the Hatchery (at the faculty of applied science and engineering); the Impact Centre (based in the faculty of arts and science); and UTEST (the university's Innovation and Partnerships Office). U of T’s Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will also be involved, coordinating efforts at the three different campuses.
  • Centennial College, which is partnering with ventureLAB (a non-profit regional innovation centre). Their goal is to help support the creation of 60 businesses in the coming two years, and they will be focusing their work on several priority neighbourhoods within Toronto, to try to reach youth who might not have ready access to accelerator opportunities otherwise.
  • Ryerson University is receiving $2 million from the CLA program, and will use the money to support existing entrepreneurial programs, as well as to create "new learning zones includ[ing] the Design and Fabrication Zone, focusing on early stage design and technology; a zone in the new Student Learning Centre; and the Biomedical Zone, to be formed in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital."
  • OCAD University, which is getting nearly $1 million to support its entrepreneurship and commercialization hub, called the Imagination Catalyst. (As we reported this spring, the Imagination Catalyst also includes a specific stream for social enterprise.)

Across the province the government is planning to put a total of $20 million into CLA programs over the next two years.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Research and Innovation, University of Toronto, Centennial College, Ryerson University, OCAD University

Flybits closes $3.75M in Series A financing

Toronto-based start-up Flybits—with the help of several private sector partners, the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, and Ryerson Futures—hopes to revolutionize the way that mobile technology integrates into our daily lives and into the texture of our cities.

They’ve created a platform that helps bring a huge variety of data and apps together into a seamless experience, and they’ve just closed a major round of Series A financing that will enable them to double their 16-staff complement within a year.

When people talk about the kind of apps they wish they had, says Flybits CEO and founder Hossein Rahnama, they often describe tools that are context-sensitive and responsive: in an ideal world, for instance, your alarm clock would not only know your schedule but also know if your boss was running late, and know when to wake you up to accommodate both of those facts. Flybits has created a platform that aims, eventually, to do just that: it’s a context-aware platform that integrates information from a wide variety of sources and apps, and customizes the information it provides to an individual user based on his or her needs.

We’ve heard about apps like these before: the fridge that emails you a grocery list based on what’s left inside, for instance. “If you want to develop these applications,” says Rahnama, “you typically need to go to an app developer…who builds a very monolithic, non-scalable application.”

What distinguishes Flybits is that it aims to build a platform that is flexible and user-driver, rather than developer-driven: one where, he goes on, “rather than enabling engineers to build apps we enable people to build apps for their own experiences; you own that experience, you built it for yourself.”

To make this all more concrete, says Rahnama, imagine a Toronto app for Pan-Am visitors. It would start as your airport assistant (understanding your itinerary), and as you took the Union-Pearson Express it would become your transit assistant; then once you arrived at Union it would serve as your navigator—one continuous experience that eliminates the need to switch from app to app, and which could deliver all the information in whatever language you (as a traveller to Toronto) find most useful.

So far Flybits’ focus has been focusing on serving corporate clients, to allow the start-up to monetize and grow. (Among those clients are the City of Ottawa, GO Transit, and the provincial ministry of transportation.) They plan to open a free, public-facing consumer platform sometime in 2015.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Hossein Rahnama, CEO and founder, Flybits
99 Church & Wellesley - Yorkville - Annex Articles | Page: | Show All
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