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The Dark Side of the Internet: Truth and Myths about the Forbidden Part of the World Wide Web

Illegal content, sale of weapons, illegal drugs … Many forums in which people communicate, feeling more or less calm, from the attention of supervising government bodies. All this is a dark web – a region of the Internet partially hidden from prying eyes (it is called DarkNet), with its help, many stories were untwisted, information scattered around the planet like sparks of a forest fire, the careers of the most influential people in the world were built and collapsed. Yes, this is an interesting but disturbing corner. If you plan to research it, check out some information that might be helpful.

Image Source: bbrief.co.za
Image Source: bbrief.co.za

Legality of visit

As a matter of fact, there is nothing illegal about surfing the dark web. The idea that a person commits a crime simply by going to a website that sells illegal goods is absurd. Now, if you make a deal on this list, then yes. Visitors do this at their own risk. Not all site owners and visitors are criminals. For example, many blogs, forums and other sites are locked into politics and sports.

Another question is that some discussions are extremely disliked by the top officials of different countries and they begin a natural hunt for those who posted “unnecessary” information, weaving various crazy laws here. In any case, it should be understood that this network was specially created for people interested in their anonymity. The key to visiting it is common sense. If some actions are considered illegal in everyday life, then in a hidden network, they will not become an example of decency.

Onion router

Most browsers can only view sites with certain top-level domain names. Such, for example, .com, .org, etc. However, the resources discussed in this article have an .onion pseudo-domain. And you can view them only thanks to special software – Tor or I2P .

These are anonymity programs where user identities and locations are protected by encryption technologies. Requests are routed through multiple servers, making tracking extremely difficult.

Tor browser logo. Image source: torproject.org
Tor browser logo. Image source: torproject.org

It complicates but does not make it impossible. Therefore, especially careful guys insure themselves additionally by accessing the Internet through a virtual private network – VPN. And even that is not all. Simply typing a topic in a search engine and running through the results will not work. The visitor needs to know what exactly he is looking for. To do this, you can go to special sites to see a list of closed websites.

Caution scammers

The vast majority of illegal transactions are paid for with Bitcoin. As a decentralized form of currency, the payer is very difficult to be traces. However, to enhance peace of mind, mixing services were invented to make transactions completely anonymous. Hence the many scammers.

In the dark network, thousands of sites offering their goods. Prohibited goods, keys and passwords for programs, bank card numbers, personal information of citizens … And all merchants claim that they are the most honest and correct. Not always, but it often happens that the purchase never reaches the customer. And you won’t do anything special. By ordering a prohibited product, the buyer himself becomes a criminal. You cannot run to the law enforcement agencies, a revealing cry will not help. The seller will simply change his nickname on one of the shadow exchanges, calmly continuing his business.

Cybercrime

One of the most famous sites, at one time, was the Silk Road resource, offering fake identifiers, various substances of synthetic or natural origin, the use of which is addictive, etc. Its owner, using the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, has become, if not a folk hero, then a very famous figure in certain circles. In late 2013, the FBI managed to shut down the site and arrest the founder. It turned out to be the American Ross Ulbricht, who is still serving time without the possibility of parole.

In 2015, Daniel Moore and Thomas Reid, IT professionals at King’s College London, conducted research on the dark web for several weeks. About 3000 sites were examined, and 57% of them contained illegal materials.

Image source: spycloud.com
Image source: spycloud.com

AlphaBay and Hansa online sites have offered over 350,000 illegal items. It was estimated that in 2014 alone, the turnover of these resources amounted to more than $ 1.5 billion. By the joint efforts of the law enforcement agencies of the USA, the Netherlands and Europol, the trade was covered up, and some of the participants were arrested.

However, one should not think that everything is so bad. For example, the dark web has its own version of Facebook. If social networks are persecuted or monitored in the country, then it will not take long to look for an alternative. Representatives of intelligence and reporters of various kinds meet with their informants there, protecting the wards from hostile governments. And quite legal programs cooperate with the closed zone. Having met there, the parties can go to Telegram or Jabber to clarify questions and clarify details.

It turns out that the desire of the mighty of this world to control everything and everyone stumbles upon the desire of certain groups of people, if possible, to avoid this attention. On the other hand, we must not forget the proverb: “if the sun rises in the sky, then someone needs it.”

There are big doubts that a number of governments do not use, one way or another, the dark web to solve their, perhaps, not very beautiful tasks.

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Underworld

Designing people: GMO generation

Many of us are born with qualities that help us better compete in society: beauty, intelligence, spectacular appearance or physical strength. Due to the success of genetics, it begins to seem that soon we will become available to something that was not previously subject to – to “design” people even before they were born. 

To ask the necessary qualities, if they are not given by nature, predetermining the opportunities so necessary in life. We do this with cars and other inanimate objects, but now that the human genome has been decoded and we are already learning to edit it, it seems that we are getting closer to the emergence of so-called “designer”, “designed” children. Does it seem that way or will it soon become reality?

Lulu and Nana from Pandora’s Box

The birth of the first children with a modified genome at the end of 2019 caused a serious resonance in the scientific community and among the public. He Jiankui, a biologist at the Southern University of Science and Technology, China  (SUSTech)   – On November 19, 2018, on the eve of the second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, in an interview with the Associated Press,  announced the birth of the first children in history with an edited genome.

The twin girls were born in China. Their names, as well as the names of their parents, were not disclosed: the first “GMO children” on the planet are known as Lulu and Nana. According to the scientist, the girls are healthy, and interference with their genome has made the twins immune to HIV.

The event, which may seem like a new step in the development of mankind, or at least medicine, as already mentioned, did not cause positive emotions among the scientist’s colleagues. On the contrary, he was condemned. Government agencies in China began an investigation, and all experiments with the human genome in the country were temporarily banned.

He Jiankui /  ©  apnews.com/Mark Schiefelbein

The experiment, not appreciated by the public, was as follows. The scientist took sperm and eggs from the future parents, carried out in vitro fertilization with them, he edited the genomes of the resulting embryos using the CRISPR / Cas9 method  . After the embryos were implanted into the lining of the woman’s uterus, the girls’ expectant mother was not infected with HIV – unlike the father, who was a carrier of the virus.

The CCR5 gene , which encodes a membrane protein used by the human immunodeficiency virus to enter cells, was edited  . If it is modified, a person with such an artificial mutation will be resistant to infection with the virus.

Lulu and Nana /  ©  burcualem.com

The mutation that He Jiankui tried to create artificially is called  CCR5 Δ32 : it is also found in nature, but only in a few people, and has long attracted the attention of scientists. Experiments in mice in 2016 showed that  CCR5 Δ32  affects the functioning of the hippocampus, significantly improving memory. Its carriers are not only immune to HIV, but also recover faster after a stroke or traumatic brain injury, have better memory and learning abilities than “ordinary” people.

However, so far no scientist can guarantee that  CCR5 Δ32  does not carry any unknown risks and that such manipulations with the CCR5 gene   will not cause negative consequences for the carrier of the mutation. Now the only negative consequence of such a mutation is known: the organism of its owners is more susceptible to West Nile fever, but this disease is quite rare.

Meanwhile, the university where the Chinese scientist worked disowned its employee. The alma mater stated that they did not know about He Jiankui’s experiments, which they called a gross violation of ethical principles and scientific practice, and he was engaged in them outside the walls of the institution.

It should be noted that the project itself did not receive independent confirmation and did not pass peer review, and its results were not published in scientific publications. All we have is just a scientist’s statements.

He Jiankui’s work violated the international moratorium on such experiments. The ban is established at the legislative level in almost all countries. Colleagues of the geneticist agree that the use of CRISPR / Cas9 genomic editing  technology  in humans carries enormous risks.

But the key point of criticism is that the work of the Chinese geneticist has nothing innovative: no one has undertaken such experiments before due to fear of unpredictable consequences, because we do not know what problems modified genes can create for their carriers and descendants.

As the British geneticist Maryam Khosravi said on her Twitter account: “If we can do something, it does not mean that we have to do it.”

By the way, in October 2018, even before the shocking statement of the Chinese scientist, Russian geneticists from the Kulakov National Medical Research Center of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology also announced the successful change of the CCR5  gene  using the CRISPR / Cas9 genomic editor   and obtaining embryos that are not subject to the effects of HIV. Naturally, they were destroyed, so that it did not come to the birth of children.

40 years before

Fast forward four decades. In July 1978, Louise Brown was born in the UK – the first child born as a result of in vitro fertilization. Then her birth caused a lot of noise and indignation, and went to the parents of the “test-tube baby”, and the scientists, who were nicknamed “doctors of Frankenstein.”

Louise Brown. In childhood and now /  ©  dailymail.co.uk

But if that success frightened some, it gave others hope. So, today on the planet there are more than eight million people who owe their birth to the IVF technique, and many of the prejudices that were popular then have been dispelled.

True, there was one more concern: since the IVF method assumes that a “ready” human embryo is placed in the uterus, it may be genetically modified before implantation. As we can see, after a few decades, this is exactly what happened.

IVF procedure /  ©  freepik.com

So can a parallel be drawn between the two events – the birth of Louise Brown and the Chinese twins Lula and Nana? Is it worth arguing that Pandora’s box is open and very soon it will be possible to “order” a child created according to a project, that is, a designer one. And most importantly – will the attitude of society towards such children change, as it has practically changed towards children “from a test tube” today?

Embryo selection or genetic modification?

However, it’s not just genome editing that brings us closer to a future where children will have pre-planned qualities. Lulu and Nana owe their birth not only to CRISPR / Cas9 gene editing  technologies  and IVF, but also to preimplantation genetic diagnosis of embryos (PGD). During his experiment, He Jiankui used PGD of edited embryos to detect chimerism and off-target errors.

And if editing human embryos is prohibited, then preimplantation genetic diagnostics, which consists in sequencing the genome of embryos for some hereditary genetic diseases, and the subsequent selection of healthy embryos, is not. PGD ​​is a kind of alternative to prenatal diagnostics, only without the need to terminate pregnancy in case of genetic abnormalities.

Experts point out that the first “legitimate” designer children will be obtained precisely through the selection of embryos, and not as a result of genetic manipulation.

In the process of PGD, embryos obtained using in vitro fertilization are subjected to genetic screening. The procedure involves removing cells from embryos at a very early stage of development and “reading” their genomes. All or part of the DNA is read to determine which variants of genes it carries. Afterwards, the parents-to-be will be able to choose which embryos to implant in the hope of pregnancy.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) /  © vmede.org

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis is already being used by couples who believe they carry genes for certain inherited diseases to identify embryos that lack those genes. In the United States, such testing is used in about 5% of IVF cases. It is usually performed on three to five day old embryos. Such tests can detect genes that carry about 250 diseases, including thalassemia, early Alzheimer’s disease and cystic fibrosis.

However, today PGD is not very attractive as a technology for designing children. The procedure for obtaining eggs is unpleasant, carries risks and does not provide the required number of cells for selection. But everything will change as soon as it becomes possible to obtain more eggs for fertilization (for example, from skin cells), and at the same time, the speed and cost of genome sequencing will increase.

Bioethicist Henry Greeley of Stanford University in California states, “Almost everything you can do with gene editing, you can do with embryo selection.”

Is DNA Destiny?

According to experts, in the coming decades in developed countries, progress in technologies for reading the genetic code recorded in our chromosomes will give an increasing number of people the opportunity to sequence their genes. But using genetic data to predict what kind of person an embryo will become is harder than it sounds.

Research into the genetic basis of human health is certainly important. Still, geneticists have done little to dispel simplistic ideas about how genes affect us.

Many people believe that there is a direct and unambiguous connection between their genes and traits. The idea of ​​the existence of genes directly responsible for intelligence, homosexuality, or, for example, musical abilities, is widespread. But even using the example of the aforementioned CCR5 gene  , a change in which affects the brain, we saw that everything is not so simple.

There are many – mostly rare – genetic diseases that can be accurately recognized by a specific gene mutation. As a rule, there really is a direct connection between such a gene breakdown and the disease.

The most common diseases or medical predispositions – diabetes, heart disease, or certain cancers – are associated with several or even many genes and cannot be predicted with any certainty. In addition, they depend on many environmental factors – for example, on a person’s diet.

But when it comes to more complex things like personality and intelligence, we don’t know much here about which genes are involved. However, scientists do not lose their positive attitude. As the number of people whose genomes have been sequenced increases, we will be able to learn more about this area.

Meanwhile, Euan Birney, director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, hinting that decoding the genome will not answer all questions, notes: “We must get away from the idea that your DNA is your destiny.”

Conductor and orchestra

However, this is not all. Not only genes are responsible for our intelligence, character, physique and appearance, but also epigens – specific tags that determine the activity of genes, but do not affect the primary structure of DNA.

If the genome is a set of genes in our body, then the epigenome is a set of tags that determine the activity of genes, a kind of regulatory layer located, as it were, on top of the genome. In response to external factors, he commands which genes should work and which should sleep. The epigenome is the conductor, the genome is the orchestra, in which each musician has his own part.

Such commands do not affect DNA sequences, they simply turn on (express) some genes and turn off (repress) others. Thus, not all genes that are on our chromosomes work. The manifestation of a particular phenotypic trait, the ability to interact with the environment, and even the rate of aging depend on which gene is blocked or unblocked.

The most famous and, as it is believed, the most important epigenetic mechanism is DNA methylation, the addition of CH3 group by DNA enzymes – methyltransferases to cytosine – one of the four nitrogenous bases in DNA.

Epigenome /  ©  celgene.com

When a methyl group is attached to the cytosine of a gene, the gene is turned off. But, surprisingly, in such a “dormant” state, the gene is passed on to the offspring. Such a transfer of characters acquired by living things during life is called epigenetic inheritance, which persists for several generations.

Epigenetics – the science called the little sister of genetics – studies how turning genes on and off affects our phenotypic traits. According to many experts, it is in the development of epigenetics that the future success of the technology for creating designer children lies.

By adding or removing epigenetic “tags”, we can, without affecting the DNA sequence, fight both diseases that have arisen under the influence of unfavorable factors, and expand the “catalog” of the planned child’s design characteristics.

Is the Gattaki scenario and other fears real?

Many fear that from editing the genome – in order to avoid serious genetic diseases – we will move on to improving people, and there it is not far before the emergence of a superman or the ramification of humanity into biological castes, as Yuval Noah Harari predicts.

Bioethicist Ronald Greene of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire believes technological advances can make “human design” more accessible. In the next 40-50 years, he says:

“we will see the use of gene editing and reproductive technologies to improve humans; we can choose the color of eyes and hair for our child, we want improved athletic ability, reading or numeracy skills, and so on.”

However, the emergence of designer children is fraught with not only unpredictable medical consequences, but also deepening social inequality.

As bioethical scientist Henry Greeley points out, a 10% to 20% achievable health improvement through PGD that complements the benefits already generated by wealth could lead to a widening gap in the health status of rich and poor, both in society and between countries.

And now, terrible images of a genetic elite, like the one depicted in the dystopian thriller Gattaca, arise in the imagination: the progress of technology has led to the fact that eugenics has ceased to be considered a violation of moral and ethical norms, and the production of ideal people is put on stream. 

In this world of humanity is divided into two social classes – “fit»  (the valid)  and “worthless»  (in-the valid) . The former, as a rule, are the result of the parents’ visit to the doctor, and the latter are the result of natural fertilization. All doors are open to “good”, and “unfit”, as a rule, are overboard.

Still from the film “Gattaca” (1997, USA)

Let’s return to our reality. We noted that it is not yet possible to predict the consequences of interference with the DNA sequence: genetics does not provide answers to many questions, and epigenetics is actually at an early stage of development. Each experiment with the birth of children with a modified genome is a significant risk that in the long term can turn into a problem for such children, their descendants and, possibly, the entire human species.

But the progress of technology in this area, having saved us, probably from some problems, will add new ones. The emergence of perfect in all respects designer children who, having matured, become members of society, can create a serious problem in the form of deepening social inequality already at the genetic level.

There is another problem: we did not look at the topic under consideration through the eyes of a child. People sometimes tend to overestimate the capabilities of science, and the temptation to replace the need for painstaking care of their child, his upbringing and study with paying bills in a specialized clinic can be great. What if the designer kid, in whom so much money has been invested and who has so many expectations, falls short of those hopes? If, despite the intelligence programmed in the genes and a spectacular appearance, he does not become what they wanted to do? Genes are not destiny yet.

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In the US, there is a detainee on suspicion of the largest hacker attack on Twitter. He is 17

Graham Clark / © WFLA

On the night of July 16, Twitter was massively hacked. Fraudsters gained access to the accounts of celebrities and large companies and published records on them with a proposal to transfer bitcoins. Now the police have detained a group of hackers, whose “brain” was a 17-year-old teenager.

Graham Clark is now in the Hillsborough County Jail in Oregon, USA. He was the mastermind and brain behind the attack, reported on the WFLA , citing District Attorney Andrew Warren. The teenager faced 30 criminal charges, including for organized fraud and illegal use of personal data. Despite his age, he is going to be tried as an adult.

Shortly after Clark’s arrest, the US Department of Justice announced that he worked as part of the group, and told about the arrest of two more suspects. They were 22-year-old Nima Faseli and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard, who operated under the nicknames “Rolex” and “Chevon”, respectively. Faselli was charged with burglary, she faces up to 5 years in prison, and Sheppard – up to 20 for burglary and conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. Both will also have to pay a $ 250,000 fine if the charges are confirmed.

The group hacked Twitter accounts of large companies and famous personalities. Among the victims are Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Kanye West, as well as Apple and Uber. From their names, the attackers posted ads asking them to transfer bitcoins to a teenager’s account in Tampa. 

They also gained access to internal network administration tools. It is reported that in the course of their actions several hundred people were injured, and they received 400 transfers totaling $ 100,000 in just one day. Warren described their actions as “an intricately organized attack of unprecedented magnitude.”

Examples of posts published by scammers / © tjournal
Examples of posts published by scammers / © tjournal

́After the attack, Twitter deleted posts and temporarily restricted the ability to publish for verified accounts. Later, the company said that the hacker attack was carried out using social engineering, and also noted that after the hack, their access to the network’s internal tools was limited.

Shortly after the arrest of the hackers, Twitter issued a statement thanking the local police, the IRS, the Secret Service and the FBI for their investigation. 

“We appreciate the prompt actions of law enforcement agencies and will continue to cooperate with them as the case develops,” the company said. 

They also talked about being transparent and regularly updating information about the investigation. In addition, the network has removed restrictions on the publication of posts by popular accounts and on changing passwords for some users.

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Underworld

The case of pedophiles among the Anglo-Saxon elite continues to kill

Pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein was friends with the world’s most influential people and paid off with business partners with orgies involving teenage girls. A year ago, he passed away under suspicious circumstances, but now his case – one of the most scandalous in the history of the United States, Britain and the largest bank of the Federal Republic of Germany – has received a second wind and continued to grow overgrown with corpses.

It is well known that the United States is a country with a heavily armed population, so killings are not infrequent, five to ten times more than in Western Europe. However, there is a category of citizens whose lives, in spite of Hollywood films, are extremely rarely attempted in America – these are federal judges.

Since Harry Truman’s time, only four of them have been killed, and the last time this happened was over 30 years ago. This is easy to explain: the point is not even that such people are well guarded, but that such an attempt would be very expensive – the entire life spent in prison, and in states where the death penalty has not been abolished, it is even more expensive.

In other words, to take up arms against a federal judge, you have to be either a psycho, or someone who has nothing to lose, or someone who, on the contrary, risks losing too much.

A few days ago, such a man knocked on the door of Judge Esther Salas’ home in New Jersey, disguised as a delivery officer. A few minutes later, Salas’s son was killed, her husband was seriously wounded, and the judge herself escaped because she was in the basement at the time of the attack.

Despite the fact that all this happened during the day, the killer managed to escape. But the FBI soon identified the main suspect – Roy Dan Hollander. He is a well-known man in his own way – he periodically participated in TV shows from the standpoint of an anti-feminist and “public defender of men.” It is not known what claims he had against the judge, but it will not be so easy to find out.

Hollander’s body was found in a remote area north of New York. The official version of the cause of his death is suicide.

Esther Salas

The version with a lone psychopath, of course, has a right to exist. But there is another circumstance that turns this whole story into a continuous stream of conspiracy theories – Salas was engaged in the case of the pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, who, according to an equally official version, committed suicide while awaiting trial in his cell.

This case, dealt an incomparable blow to the reputation of the American political elite and the British monarchy. Let’s remember the main thing.

The secular lion and millionaire Epstein managed the assets of world famous brands and personified ostentatious wealth – the largest residence in Manhattan, private jet flights, regular parties on remote islands, friendship with the “cream of society”. He was one of the prominent sponsors of the Democratic Party, for which its top officials showered him with gratitude, as if not noticing one strange feature of the financier – he preferred to communicate with very young girls.

In 2005, part of the truth was revealed: Epstein was accused of having ties with minors and of persuading them to have sex. However, the millionaire got out – he made a deal with the investigation and served a little more than a year in exchange for forgiveness for all possible episodes and compensation for three dozen victims in civil suits.

The prosecutor who agreed to the deal was named Alexander Acosta. In 2019, when he was the Minister of Labor in the Trump administration, this deal “caught up” with him – against the background of a new scandal related to Epstein, he was forced to resign, and the agreement with the pedophile was deemed illegal since the victims knew nothing about him.

By this time, the Epstein case was not at all what it initially appeared to be. The lover of sex with minors “has grown” to a seasoned pimp who supplied “live goods” as part of lobbying activities. Parties, suites, islands, teenage prostitutes – all of this turned out to be not only the nouveau riche’s vacation, but also his business. Bribes for lucrative contracts and specific services.

How many businessmen and high-ranking politicians were involved in these orgies, only Epstein himself knew, but he had no shortage of rich and powerful friends. Among them, for example, former US President Bill Clinton, who regularly used Epstein’s plane and was once spotted on one of his two islands used for meetings with teenagers.

Two victims testified directly against Prince Andrew – the youngest son of Elizabeth II, who is now confused in his memories and refuses to cooperate with the investigation (but at the same time he is lying that he is meeting the American prosecutors).

A well-founded accusation of these two is enough to shake the political foundations of the Anglo-Saxon world.

But the list of Epstein’s close friends is not limited to them – it includes ex-Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, and ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair, and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed (the most influential Saudi in the world after his 84-year-old father, the king), and even Donald Trump.

True, the friendship with the latter fell on a period when the influence of the developer Trump was not as powerful (and suitable) as Clinton’s. After the very first case against Epstein, the current president stopped all communication with him, but even before that he was among those who publicly drew attention to the financier’s love for young people. The media that hate Trump do not care about this, so the documentary series “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” is sometimes edited in the spirit of a propaganda video – the revelations of the victims are given against the background of Epstein’s photographs with Trump, not Clinton or Andrew.

Be that as it may, Epstein is dead, and that he passed away of his own free will, there are reasonable doubts. And everyone in the United States (even if he himself never admits it) understands that the Democratic Party, opposition to Trump, and, especially, the Clintons, around which a full-fledged necropolis of people who died under suspicious circumstances, has already formed, is more interested in the silence of a pedophile.

Now the case of a super-influential pedophile has been closed, but cases of fraud remain – underage girls, as mentioned above, were part of dirty deals. One of them concerns the largest financial conglomerate in Germany – Deutsche Bank, which Epstein used to launder money thanks to connections in his leadership.

It is not known whether he thanked these “connections” of his the way he used to – orgies with minors on remote islands. But it is known that federal judge Esther Salas, who miraculously escaped death, was engaged in exactly this case.

At the same time, right now the scandal around Epstein and his influential friends has received a second wind. In early July, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of a media mogul, a close friend and, allegedly, Epstein’s accomplice, was arrested. She does not believe that the scandalous financier himself took his own life. And he is the only person who is able to shed light on the participants in pedophile orgies.

If, of course, she lives to see the trial, and is not found dead, after which the world will hear the official version of “suicide” for the umpteenth time.

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