Building the World

September 28, 2018
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Coastal Cities, Flooding, and Climate Change

Flooding in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photographer: Gul Cratt, 2006. Image: wikimedia.

Many of the world’s great cities were built as ports, welcoming ships, trade, and opportunity. Singapore is an example. So is New York. Coastal cities must contend with typhoons, hurricanes, rains, and flooding. With climate change, so-called “thousand-year floods” are happening more frequently than such a name might indicate. During Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy, New York saw Wall Street underwater. Another problem? Sea-rise. Here are some of the cities that may suffer inundation: Shanghai, Osaka, Alexandria, Miami,  Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam. Dhaka (19 million) is especially threatened, with danger beyond the capital city: Bangladesh may see 17% of land underwater and 18 million people displaced. Jakarta (10 million) is the fastest-sinking city in the world with 13 rivers merging into Indonesia’s Java Sea on which the coastal capital is located.

Copenhagen rebuilt for climate change . Image: wikimedia

How can coastal cities defend themselves against rising seas and flooding from storms? One approach is rethinking city surfaces from hard asphalt to spongy grass. Copenhagen decided to redesign the city after receiving six inches of rain in two hours during a 2011 storm. Over 300 projects from large parks and greenways, to tiny garden plots with bioswales to absorb rainwater, began the transformation. New York followed suit, forming a partnership with Copenhagen to exchange ideas and measure results. Copenhagen and New York may be cities of different size, but the problems of sea-rise and flooding threaten all coastal cities (and, of course, island states and nations).

But it’s not just physical infrastructure that makes a city resilient. It’s also another kind of infrastructure: governance. The Sustainable Solutions Lab (SSL) in a 2018 report “Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding” recommended a joint state-municipal commission to deal with increasing climate impact. Governance suggested: 1) reform existing tools including acts and laws; 2) coordinate water/sewer, transport, energy, and telecommunications to a common standards; 3) combine scientists and government agencies in a climate advisory team; 4) establish governance and district-scale flood protection. University of Massachusetts Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab‘s previous reports on Boston included financing solutions to climate change, and a feasibility study of harbor barriers.

Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding. Sustainable Solutions Lab. Image: Boston’s Zakim Bridge.

Coastal cities might look to Boston’s approach as one model that cities can enact. Cities have a unique capability to address climate change.

According to Michael Bloomberg, three-time mayor of New York, cities can respond faster to climate change because they can pass laws quickly, decide upon structural change, fund urban design initiatives, and coordinate governance. The Global Covenant of Mayors, representing 9,149 cites housing 780,804,596 people worldwide, signed a Climate & Energy agreement to bring cities together to respond to climate change. Bloomberg and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Ṧefcovič co-chair the board; Christiana Figures, architect of the Paris Agreement and founder of Global Optimism, serves as vice-chair. The mission combines initiatives with inclusion to achieve a just, low-emission, resilient future. Cities may be the first responders to climate change.

Barron, James. “New York’s Next Nickname: The Big Sponge?” 27 September 2018. The New York Times.https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/27/nyregion/new-york-flooding.html

Glennon, Robert. “The Unfolding Tragedy of Climate Change in Bangladesh.” 21 April 2017. Scientific American. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-unfolding-tragedy-of-climate-change-in-bangladesh/.

Global Covenant of Mayors. https://www.globalcovenantofmayors.org

Holder, Josh, Niko Kommenda, Jonathan Watts, “The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming.” 3 November 2017. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2017/nov/03/three-degree-world-cities-drowned-global-warming/.

Kruel, Stephanie, VHB; Rebecca Herst, Sustainable Solutions Lab; David Cash, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston, “Governance for a Changing Climate: Adopting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding.” https://www.umb.edu/editor_uploads/images/centers_institutes/sustainable_solutions_lab/Governance-for-a-Changing-Climate-Full-Report-UMB-SSL.pdf

Lin, Mayuri Mei, and Raki Hidayat. “Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” 13 August 2018, BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44636934/.

University of Massachusetts Boston, “Governance for a Changing Climate” 28 September 2018. https://www.umb.edu/news/detail/umass_boston_report_laws_revamp_for_good_governance_in_climate_change_era.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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July 20, 2018
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Two paths diverge: road or rail?

“Night lapse of the 401” by Kennymatic, 2008. Image: wikimedia

Road ahead? Concrete decisions may determine the future of cities. Many urban centers are opting for surface transport: whether fuel-powered or electric, whether driven or driverless, whether bicycles or pedestrians, the future looks paved. Rome built its legendary roads with a special concrete strengthened by a mix-in of volcanic ash; in modern times, basaltic rock has shown to be effective carbon dioxide absorbent, turning the unwanted gas into stone so hard it’s being used to build roads, and towers. So settled on surface are some cities that even New York City, where the subway is in need of expensive repair, may consider just paving over the tunnels for underground vehicular lanes. It was in 1939, at the World’s Fair, that General Motors showcased the concept of “magic motorways” and in 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower, when returning from Germany where the general had glimpsed the Autobahn, opened U.S. Federal Highway System for bidding.

Buffalo Metro Rail Station, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York. Image: wikimedia commons

Rail, known to be the fastest and most environmentally efficient way to move people, and goods, may be better. Las Vegas is betting on light rail: the $750 million project will bring trains along a route named the Maryland Parkway; real estate development is planned to link, and the stops will include Sunrise medical area and UNLV. It can be noted that former UNLV president, Don Snyder, serves as chair of the community advisory group. Then there’s the Windy City, where a plan to run a Chicago HyperLoop to O’Hare Airport, inked by Mayor Ron Emanuel and HyperLoop Advocate Elon Musk, may zoom from midtown to out of town in just 12 minutes.

Transport systems are expensive, and need to be rebuilt when in disrepair. Many existing roads and bridges are crumbling in highway systems that need repair. Cities have the power to determine transport: linking public transit to affordable housing, or community educational and medical facilities, must be part of the plan. The United States may spend a considerable sum to rebuild American transport infrastructure; what is your vision?

Badger, Emily. “Pave Over the Subway? Cities Face Tough Bets on Driverless Cars.” 20 July 2018. The New York Times.

Marroquin, Art. “Light-rail line could spur development along Maryland Parkway.” 19 June 2018. Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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February 25, 2018
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Olympics: Speed and Innovation

Speed Skating Pictogram: wikimedia.

PyeongChang’s Olympics saw gold, silver, bronze, and a glimpse into the future. Some parts of the Olympic and Paralympic Games received 5G coverage. KT and Intel were among the providers; after the Olympics, AT&T will debut 5G in Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco.

Every era of civilization might be characterized by its predominant mode of transport; perhaps the Internet is the road of our time, it’s new fast lane: 5G. Three decades after COMSAT launched satellites, AT&T began developing an industry standard for interoperability of wireless communication with partner Nortell. As a result, GSM became the standard. Today’s interoperability certification is TETRA. The result? Driverless cars, smarter cities. Should the United States Interstate System open a tetra lane for autonomous vehicles? The Critical Communications Association (TCCA), coordinating public safety and disaster response, might suggest, next to the tetra lane, a sportsway with charging stations, segway and bike lanes, and walking routes. Boston might consider building the first link, in cooperation with the Central Artery, part of the Interstate: nickname, 5Greenway.

Instant takes time. The first idea for 5G dates to April 2008 when NASA and Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (m2mi) partnered, termed by some as the “commercialization of space.” The Memorandum of Understanding was only the third in NASA’s history. Stated goals included: “Under the agreement, NASA and m2mi will cooperate to develop a fifth generation telecommunications and networking system for internet protocol-based and related services. The cooperative effort will combine NASA’s expertise in nano sensors, wireless networks, and nano satellite technologies with m2mi’s unique capabilities in software technology, sensors, global system awareness, adaptive control and commercialization capabilities. Fifth Generation, of 5G, incorporates Voice Over Internet Protocol, video, data, wireless, and an integrated machine-to-machine intelligence layer, or m2mi, for seamless information exchange and use.” In December 2017, 5G was approved by the 3GPP international wireless consortium. The United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union will consider the system in 2019.

Next Olympics: 2020 Tokyo. Japan launched high speed train system Shinkansen for the opening of the 1964 Olympics. Speed has always been a winning characteristic of Olympic gold. What kinds of speed, including 5G, will we see in 2020?

3gpp. “First 5G NR Specs Approved.” 22 December 2017. http://www.3gpp.org/news-events/3gpp-news/1929-nsa_nr_5g.

3gpp. “Drafting and publication of GSM Specs…in the pre-3GPP era.” 3gpp: The Mobile Broadband Standard. http://www.3gpp.org/specifications/gsm-history/.

Goldman, David and Betsy Klein. “What is 5 G?” CNN.com. 29 January 2018. http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/29/technology/what-is-5g/index.html

m2mi. Machine to Machine Intelligence Corporation, “Safe, more livable, and efficient Smart Cities: The Internet of Things.” http://www.m2mi.com/

NASA. “NASA Ames Partners with M2Mi For Small Satellite Development.” 24 April 2008. https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/apr/HQ_08107_Ames_nanosat.html.

“Olympic Visions: PyeongChang 2018.” 10 February 2018. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2018/02/10/olympic-visions/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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December 22, 2017
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Sinking Cities

Jakarta: originally Jayakarta or “Victorious City.” Muhammad Rashid Prabowo, photographer, Wikimedia commons.

Jakarta is sinking; sections of Indonesia’s capital city have lost 2 inches per year. Buildings in this dense city of 10 million people weigh down coastal land. Residential and business development increased demand for drinking water. Drilled wells, legal and illegal, caused the city to sink further. Draining urban underground aquifers is “like deflating a giant cushion.” Experts warn Jakarta must fix the problem within this decade. Climate change is worsening the situation: sea-rise could bring water even closer, as much 36 inches. Other cities may take note. Subsidence plagues Mexico City, built on a drained lakebed. Boston, shaped by landfill, contends with subsidence as well as sea-rise. New York is vulnerable to storm surge. The Erie Canal linking New York to the Great Lakes may hold promise as inland waterways play a new role in water protection. Inland Waterways International may offer innovations.  Coastal cities might find guidance from the Urban Harbors Institute in Boston. The East Coast of the United States is particularly vulnerable to sea-rise because of the steep sea-level slope just offshore that keeps the Gulf Stream channeled. Climate scientists place New  York, Boston, Norfolk, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami on the watch list. Put a price on it? Coastal storm “Sandy” flooding New York and New Jersey in 2012 cost $50 billion. Sea-level rise brings inundation, flooding, erosion, wetlands loss, saltwater intrusion, and damaged sanitation systems. Meanwhile, Jakarta is sinking faster than any city on the planet. As goes Jakarta, so may go other coastal communities. When the problem is solved, Jakarta will give new meaning to its original Javanese name: Jayakarta or “Victorious City.”

Brown, Sally, Robert J. Nicholls, Collin D. Woodroffe, Susan Hanson, Jochen Hinkel, Abiy S. Kebede, Barbara Neumann, Athanasios T. Vafeidis. “Sea-Level Rise Impacts and Response: A Global Perspective.” Coastal Hazards, edited by Charles W. Finkl. Springer, 2013.  http://www.springer.com/us/book/9789400752337/.

Climate Central. “These U.S. Cities Are Most Vulnerable to Major Coastal Flooding and Sea Level Rise” 25 October 2017. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/us-cities-most-vulnerable-major-coastal-flooding-sea-level-rise-21748. 

Crowell, Mark, Jonathan Westcott, Susan Phelps, Tucker Mahoney, Kevin Coulton, Doug Bellow. “Estimating the United States Population at Risk from Coastal Flood-Related Hazards.” Coastal Hazards, edited by Charles W. Finkl, pp. 245-66. Springer. DOI:10.1007/978-94-007-5234-4.

Kemp, Andrew C. and Benjamin P. Horton. “Contribution of relative sea-level rise to historical hurricane flooding in New York City.” Journal of Quaternary Science 28.6:537-541.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater.” 21 December 2017. The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/21/world/asia/jakarta-sinking-climate.html

Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.” 11 June 2013. http://www.nyc.gov/html/sirr/html/report/report.shtml/

Yin, Jianjun, Michael E. Schlesinger, ad Ronald J. Stouffer. “Model projections of rapid sea-level rise on the northeast coast of the United States.” Nature Geoscience. 15 March 2009. DOI:10.1038/NGEO462. http://www.meteo.mcgill.ca/~huardda/articles/yin09.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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August 11, 2017
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Grid Luck

Denmark, state banner from 14th century, location of world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial charging station. Image: wikimedia commons.

Batteries in electric cars could help to balance the grid. In 2017 electric vehicles drew 6-terawatt-hours; by 2040, draw will expand to a predicted 1,800 terawatt hours. Tokyo-based automaker Nissan is conducting trials in Denmark where car fleet operators earn $1,530 (€1300 Euro) per year via two-way charge points. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure could be a sign of the future. Major highway systems take note.

It may be time for a systems view of electric vehicles, predicted to account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, Electric cars will transform highways like the U.S. Interstate Highway system – more than 45,000 miles, and even more dramatically the service areas nearby. Should the Pan-American Highway, 30,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, be the first to offer a network of V2G? Canada and the United States could rebuild the Alaska Highway for a new era. On a local level, commuter rail stations are adding charging stations; shopping centers are dotted with ChargePoint and Tesla pods. Every one of these installations is an opportunity for rebuilding the automotive energy system.

If the Nissan/Enel/Nuvve commercial vehicle-to-grid hub of 10 stations proves successful, Ernesto Ciorra of Enel predicts: “With V2G we can enhance grid stability, further enabling the integration of renewables. V2G is one of the sustainable innovation areas that is taking us towards a low-carbon society for the benefit of present and future generations.” As the number of electric vehicles increases is the future of gridlock, grid luck?

For more:

“Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe’s Power Grids.” By Jessica Shankleman, 11 August 2017, Bloomberg.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-11/parked-electric-cars-earn-1-530-feeding-power-grids-in-europe

“Nissan, Enel and Nuvve operate world’s first fully commercial vehicle-to-grid hub in Denmark.” Nissan Newsroom Europe, 29 August 2016/ID: 149186. http://newsroom.nissan-europe.com/eu-gb/media/pressreleases/149186

“Electric Cars Will Total More Than 50% Of All New Car Sales By 2040,BNEF Forecasts.” By Steve Hanley.  CleanTechnica, 6 July 2017.https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/06/electric-cars-will-total-half-new-car-sales-2040-bnef/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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May 12, 2017
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Mothers Walk for Peace

Image: Photographer, Rebecca Eschler, 2008. Wikimedia commons.

A higher purpose, above ground; a safer world, below. Why not send cars and trucks underground, where new roads for autonomous vehicles might be easier to build? Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame, envisions cars positioned on platforms that descend to traverse networks below ground. A similar design was earlier suggested by David Gordon Wilson of MIT whose palleted highways would increase speed and decrease accidents. Tunnels have changed transport around the world: the Channel Tunnel and the Mount Blanc Tunnel are recent examples. Boston depressed the Central Artery, resulting in a Greenway atop with a special park called the Mothers’ Walk. Nearby, walk towards a better world with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute for the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Will Elon Musk’s underground highways promote a cleaner, safer environment with more parks above where people can walk and nature flourish? It’s an exciting idea with a name that belies the innovation: The Boring Company.

For more: mothersdaywalk4peace.org

For Elon Musk, watch the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpDHwfXbpfg

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 12, 2017
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The New Atlantis

Visage au dessus de l’ocean” by photographer, Rukaeru. Image: wikimedia commons.

Studies by Princeton’s Climate Central and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Physics Institute of Potsdam University, reveal how sea level rise might affect coastal cities. Inundations will change the lives and livelihoods of people from Bangkok to Boston, San Diego to Singapore. Predicted loss of the Antarctic iceberg and Larsen C ice shelf may lead to a rise in sea levels. Might a new era of coastal cities emerge, combining ancient responses by areas like the Netherlands, with futuristic floating cities envisioned by Kiyonori Kikutake? Will New York become the New Atlantis?

For more, “Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level.” by Benjamin H. Strauss, Scott Kulp, and Anders Levermann, edited by James Hansen. PNAS, 3 November 2015, vol. 112, no. 44. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/44/13508.full.pdf.

Potsdam-Institut Für Klimafolgenforschunghttps://www.pik-potsdam.de/institut/mission

VIDEO: “Larsen C iceberg about to break off Antartic shelf.” The Guardian. 6 January 2017, NASA: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2015/may/15/antarctic-larsen-b-ice-shelf-nasa-video

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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September 17, 2016
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Auto-Mobile

What will soon be missing, in Uber cars? The Driver. Image of an Uber car (and driver) in Bogota, Colombia: wikimedia.

When driving your car, how many times do you look at the distance between your vehicle and others on the road? How about 1.4 million times — per second? That’s what Uber’s driverless cars do, and that’s why many believe autonomous vehicles will ultimately be safer. Uber made history this week, becoming the first commercial service to offer driverless cars. The chosen location? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fourteen cars are at the ready, each with two professional drivers, just in case, to serve 2,000 Uber customers who have signed up for the beta test drive. When the United States Federal Highway System was built, the goals were the same: seamless and safer roads and fewer accidents. The autonomous vehicle market is estimated to reach $42 billion by 2025.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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August 25, 2016
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Happy 100th, National Parks

 

Jason Lusk, photographer. "Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island."

“Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island.” Jason W. Lusk, Photographer, with permission and appreciation.

Happy 100th birthday to the United States National Park Service. Celebrations included illuminating the New York City skyline, inviting the public to gather at Brooklyn Bridge Park to change the color of One World Trade Center’s Spire as an iconic birthday candle. The 1916 Organic Act authorized the preservation of green space; the Second Century Commission recommended future approaches. One of the earliest green spaces created for public enjoyment might be the walking path of the New River of England, 1613; still in use, the route is recommended by the Ramblers Association. Boston’s Central Artery Project created a greenway through the heart of the city. Costa Rica, world leader in environmental protection, set precedent with Law 7788 on Biodiversity. Perhaps Benton MacKaye launched the Appalachian Trail, authorized after the architect’s essay in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects described the salutary effects of nature as “one of the admitted needs of modern times.”

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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July 14, 2016
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Antique Road Show: Paris bans Past to save Future

Deux Chevaux or 2CV. Cars made before 1987 banned in Paris to improve environment. Image: wikimedia commons.

Known for fine vintage fashion and cognac, for museums enshrining glories of centuries past, city of connoisseurs of aged fromage et vin, Paris will no longer welcome antique automobiles. July, month of the revolution, marked the change: no cars made before 1997 will be allowed on the boulevards on weekdays, between 8am – 8pm. Regulations will tighten soon: in 2020, cars built before 2010 will be restricted. In 2014, after smog veiled the Eiffel Tower, Paris banned half its autos on the road, alternating days by license plates, a practice followed in Mexico City and elsewhere. Effects were so dramatic that the city cancelled the plan after 24 hours after pollution cleared, perhaps in part responding to complaints of 3,859 drivers fined for driving on the wrong day. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, co-chaired a meeting of mayors in parallel with COP21. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, now brings together 7100 cities from 119 countries. Cities may be able to change policy faster than nations; St. Petersburg once demanded one stone as price of admission to the city. If cities can accelerate environmental improvement, ‘Banned in Boston’ could take on new meaning.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

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