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03
DEC
12pm

SA flight academy embroiled in global saga after UK warning about providing training to China

The arrest of a Chinese hacker in Canada and a former US pilot now in custody in Australia have thrusted a local company into the international public eye.
A South African flight academy is embroiled in an international saga involving a convicted Chinese hacker, a former US marine and the UK issuing a treason-type warning that former military pilots should not provide training to China.
Australia has also warned that “it is a very serious crime” to leak its state secrets, after an investigation found there were legitimate concerns about former Australian defence personnel giving training to China.
The situation has even resulted in the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (Tfasa), which is based in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape and operational worldwide, consulting lawyers in the UK after reports recently surfaced there that it was in effect a headhunting agency for the Chinese government.
The academy also posted a lengthy statement on its website, reiterating it is not involved in any illegal activity.
DM168 understands that some people in the local aviation industry feel the academy has been singled out unfairly in terms of its dealings with Chinese clients.
No sensitive state information
Part of the academy’s statement says that “none of its trainers [is] in possession of legally or operationally sensitive information relating to the national security interests of any country, whether those from where its employees are drawn or in which it provides training.
“Tfasa also wishes to highlight that it has been in contact with the UK [Ministry of Defence] for many years and they are fully aware of the nature of the company’s business.”
The reason the academy seems to have cropped up in the saga is that two individuals it previously did business with, who are linked to China, have been arrested.
Su Bin, a pilot from China, was detained in Canada in 2014 for stealing sensitive military data. Daniel Edmund Duggan, a military pilot originally from the US and once based China, was arrested last month in Australia, where he reportedly has citizenship.
South Africa’s Department of Defence told DM168 on 1 December that Tfasa was a private academy and it had nothing to do with it. If wrongdoing was detected, it could be reported to law enforcement.
‘Eroding UK’s defence advantage’
The timing of Duggan’s arrest in Australia appears to be key to the international saga.
On 18 October, just three days before he was detained, the UK Ministry of Defence’s press office posted a ...
02
DEC
6am

Russia ‘open’ to talks on Ukraine but presses demands after Biden comment

KHERSON, Ukraine, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to talks on a possible settlement in Ukraine but the West must accept Moscow's demands, the Kremlin said on Friday, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be willing to speak with Putin on ending the war.
Putting on a united front in talks on Thursday at the White House, Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron said they would hold Russia to account for its actions in Ukraine but the U.S. leader also appeared to hold out an olive branch to Moscow while stressing he saw no sign of any change in Putin’s stance.
Biden has not spoken directly with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. In March, Biden branded Putin a “butcher” who “cannot stay in power”.
Now, after more than nine months of fighting and with winter tightening its grip, Western countries are trying to boost aid for Ukraine as it reels from Russian missile and drone attacks targeting key energy infrastructure that have left millions without heating, electricity and water.
Fighting is raging in eastern Ukraine, with the town of Bakhmut the main target of Moscow’s artillery attacks, while Russian forces in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions remain on the defensive, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its latest battlefield update.
In a bid to reduce the money available for Moscow’s war effort, the European Union tentatively agreed on Thursday on a $60 a barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil, according to diplomats. The measure will need to be approved by all EU governments in a written procedure by Friday.
In Moscow’s first public response to Biden’s overture, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests.”
Peskov said the U.S. refusal to recognise annexed territory in Ukraine as Russian was hindering a search for ways to end the war. Moscow has previously sought sweeping security guarantees including a reversal of NATO’s eastern enlargement.
‘NEVER AGAIN’
Putin has said he has no regrets about launching what he calls a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. He casts the war as a watershed moment when Russia finally stood up to an arrogant West after decades of humiliation following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an ...
02
DEC
6am

Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again

Dec 2 (Reuters) - Twitter Inc on Friday suspended Kanye West's account again, just two months after it was reinstated, after its owner Elon Musk said he had violated the platform's rules prohibiting incitement to violence.
Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, had welcomed the return of the rapper, now known as Ye, to the platform in October.
“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended,” Musk tweeted late on Thursday.
West’s account was suspended within an hour of Musk’s post, made in a reply to a Twitter user who had said “Elon Fix Kanye Please”. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Before suspending Ye’s account, which had over 30 million followers, Twitter had restricted one of his tweets. Reuters could not independently verify the contents of the post.
The social media platform restored the rapper’s account before the completion of its $44 billion takeover by Musk. Musk later clarified that he had had no role in bringing Ye back on Twitter.
Ye on Thursday tweeted a photo of Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel spraying water at the back of Musk’s head with a hose. He captioned the picture “Let’s always remember this as my final tweet #ye24”, before the account was suspended.
Musk responded that Ye’s account was suspended for incitement to violence, and not for posting “an unflattering pic of me being hosed by Ari”.
In November, Twitter reinstated some controversial accounts that had been banned or suspended, including satirical website Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin.
Musk also decided to reinstate former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account after a majority of Twitter users voted in favor in a poll to bring back Trump.
(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Hogue, Kim Coghill and Jan Harvey)
01
DEC
4pm

European allies working towards special tribunal; EU closes in on $60 price cap for Russian oil

Ukraine’s Central Bank may cut its economic outlook following Russia’s recent attacks on the country’s energy system, its governor said. European Union states are starting to coalesce around a plan to cap the price of Russian crude oil at $60 a barrel ahead of a Monday deadline.
Elon Musk risks giving a helping hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin if Twitter is unable to root out propaganda about the war in Ukraine, one of the European Union’s officials warned. Ukraine’s president has urged Musk to visit his war-torn nation to see first hand the damage done by Russia’s invasion.
Another 50 Ukrainian and Russian prisoners were swapped, officials said on Thursday. French President Emmanuel Macron, who is meeting President Joe Biden at the White House, said he plans to talk to Putin “in the coming days”.
Key developments
EU closes in on $60 price cap for Russian oil as deadline looms
Xi urges calming war in Ukraine in talks with Europe’s Michel
Russia’s labour-starved economy pays price of Putin’s call-up
Zelensky invites Musk to Ukraine to see devastation
On the ground
Ukraine said the risk remains that Russia will launch new missile attacks against energy infrastructure. Air raid sirens went off across much of the country early on Thursday afternoon as three Russian MiG-31 fighter jets, often used to carry Kalibr missiles, took off from Belarusian airspace and headed for Russia.
Separately, Russian forces made 16 air strikes against Ukraine-controlled territory, including Bilohirya in Zaporizhzhia, the country’s Defence Ministry said on Telegram. Russian troops also attacked Ukrainian positions in the Kharkiv region with rockets and shelled recently liberated Kherson with multiple launch rocket systems. Ukrainian forces saw Russian troops evacuating their units from some occupied areas in Zaporizhzhia.
Zelensky discusses grain initiative with Senegal’s Sall
Ukraine’s president and Macky Sall, president of Senegal and chairman of the African Union, held talks about the implementation of the “Grain from Ukraine” initiative launched last week, and other matters.
Germany’s Scholz would welcome increased Nato role
Germany’s chancellor said he would welcome an increased role by Nato to coordinate the security of allies’ critical infrastructure, particularly subsea links.
Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Olaf Scholz added that an offer to send anti-missile Patriots to Poland still stands.
Separately, asked whether Germany was doing enough to reduce dependencies on Beijing in light of a recent contentious deal with the Hamburg port, Stoltenberg said each country “has to find the balance between economic ...
01
DEC
2pm

Ukraine Latest: Macron Says It’s Up to Kyiv When to Negotiate

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron said at a White House news conference that the timing and terms of negotiations over an end to the war in Ukraine must be up to Ukrainians. President Joe Biden said he’d be interested in talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin only if he’s really looking for a way to end the war.
Ukraine’s Central Bank may cut its economic outlook following Russia’s recent attacks on the country’s energy system, its governor said. European Union states are starting to coalesce around a plan to cap the price of Russian crude oil at $60 a barrel ahead of a Monday deadline.
Elon Musk risks giving a helping hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin if Twitter Inc. is unable to root out propaganda about the war in Ukraine, one of the European Union’s officials warned. Ukraine’s president has urged Musk to visit his war-torn nation to see first hand the damage done by Russia’s invasion.
(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)
Key Developments
EU Closes In on $60 Price Cap for Russian Oil as Deadline Looms
Cargill Starts Shipping 2022 Harvest From War-Torn Ukraine
Russia’s Labor-Starved Economy Pays Price of Putin’s Call-Up
Zelenskiy Invites Musk to Ukraine to See Russia’s Devastation
On the Ground
Ukraine said the risk remains that Russia will launch new missiles attacks against energy infrastructure. Air raid sirens went off across much of the country early Thursday afternoon as three Russian MiG-31 fighter jets, often used to carry Kalibr missiles, took off from Belarusian airspace and headed for Russia. Separately, Russian forces made 16 air strikes against Ukraine-controlled territory, including Bilohirya in Zaporizhzhia, the country’s Defense Ministry said on Telegram. Russian troops also attacked Ukrainian positions in the Kharkiv region with rockets, and shelled recently-liberated Kherson with multiple launch rocket systems. Ukrainian forces see Russian troops evacuating their units from some occupied areas in Zaporizhzhia region.
(All times CET)
Macron Says Negotiating Is Up to Ukraine (8:10 p.m.)
Macron said that only Ukraine can decide when the conditions have been met to start negotiating a peace settlement with Russia.
“We will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise that is not acceptable to them,” Macron told reporters after meeting with Biden in the White House. “We have to let Ukrainians decide the moment and the conditions that they will negotiate.” Although the French president has strongly supported Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, he drew strong criticism with his previous calls not to ...
01
DEC
2pm

Regulator Opens Investigation Into Juventus Football Club

(Bloomberg) -- European football’s top regulatory body, UEFA, said it has opened a formal investigation into Juventus FC for potential breaches of its club licensing and financial fair play rules.
In a statement Thursday, it said its investigation will focus on the alleged violations made public recently as a result of proceedings led by Italian regulators and the public prosecutor in Turin. Earlier this week, Juventus Football Club Spa Chairman Andrea Agnelli and the team’s entire board of directors resigned amid a probe into alleged wrongdoing related to the company’s financial filings.
UEFA said in its statement that it concluded a settlement agreement with the Italian club in August. But if it now finds that the club’s financial situation was significantly different from that presented at the time, it “reserves the right to terminate the settlement agreement, take any legal step it may deem appropriate, and impose disciplinary measures in accordance with the applicable UEFA CFCB Procedural Rules.”
A spokesperson for Juventus declined to comment.
Juventus is one of the leaders of a European superleague, which is a direct threat to UEFA. Its first incarnation, which was toppled within 48 hours after criticism from fans and politicians, envisaged a rival competition to UEFA’s Champions League.
–With assistance from Daniele Lepido.
01
DEC
6am

UN seeks record $51.5 bln for ‘shockingly high’ humanitarian aid needs

GENEVA, Dec 1 (Reuters) - The United Nations and partners on Thursday appealed for a record $51.5 billion in aid money for 2023, with tens of millions of additional people expected to need assistance, testing the humanitarian response system "to its limits".
The appeal represents a 25% increase on 2022.
The U.N. Global Humanitarian Overview estimates that an extra 65 million people will need help next year, bringing the total to 339 million in 68 countries.
That represents more than 4% of the people on the planet or about the population of the United States.
“Humanitarian needs are shockingly high, as this year’s extreme events are spilling into 2023,” said U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, citing the war in Ukraine and drought in the Horn of Africa.
“For people on the brink, this appeal is a lifeline.”
Over 100 million people have been driven from their homes as conflict and climate change fuel a displacement crisis.
Nine months of war between Russia and Ukraine have disrupted food exports and around 45 million people in 37 countries are currently facing starvation, the report said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major setbacks in child vaccination programmes and thwarted efforts to end extreme poverty, fuelling other diseases such as cholera, Griffiths said at the launch on Thursday.
For the first time ever, ten countries have individual appeals of more than $1 billion – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.
But donor funding is already under strain with the multiple crises, forcing aid workers to make tough decisions on priorities.
The United Nations faces the biggest funding gap ever, with its unmet funding at 53% in 2022, based on data through to mid-November.
“The humanitarian response system is being tested to its limits,” Griffiths said.
Unlike in other parts of the U.N. where fees depend on countries’ economic size, humanitarian funding is voluntary and relies overwhelmingly on Western donations.
The United States is by far the biggest donor, giving over $14 billion so far this year, while other major economies like China and India have given less than $10 million each.
By Emma Farge
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Mark Potter and Nick Macfie)
01
DEC
6am

Swiss have frozen $8 bln in financial assets under Russia sanctions

ZURICH, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Switzerland has frozen financial assets worth 7.5 billion Swiss francs ($7.94 billion) as of Nov. 25 under sanctions against Russians to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Thursday.
SECO, the agency overseeing sanctions, also said that 15 properties in six cantons are also “blocked”. It did not name the cantons.
Up until June 3, SECO had been notified of existing deposits held by Russian nationals, and individuals and legal entities in Russia, amounting to 46.1 billion francs, it said.
This was far below the 150 billion to 200 billion Swiss francs of Russian wealth that the Swiss Bankers Association has estimated Swiss banks hold.
SECO officials said the discrepancy could reflect the fact that Russians who are also Swiss or EU citizens, or have residence there, are not covered by the measures.
Only bank deposits of at least 100,000 francs – and not securities portfolios – are subject to reporting, they added. Officials were looking into 30 cases of possible violations of reporting rules, one of which was with federal prosecutors.
Neutral Switzerland has routinely adopted European Union sanctions that aim to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special military operation”.
But pressure has mounted on Switzerland – a popular destination for Russia’s elite and a holding place for Russian wealth – to more quickly identify and freeze assets of hundreds of sanctioned Russians.
As of July, Switzerland had frozen Russian financial assets worth 6.7 billion Swiss francs.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a plan to confiscate frozen Russian assets, but Switzerland has no legal basis at this stage to take such a step.
(Reporting by Paul Carrel and Michael Shields, editing by Rachel More and Miranda Murray)
30
NOV
9pm

Heaviest Ukraine fighting rages in east, NATO seeks to sustain support against Russia

Dec 1 (Reuters) - Russian forces tried to advance in eastern Ukraine and trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on Kherson in the south, the Ukrainian military said, as Western allies sought to buttress Ukraine and its neighbours against Moscow.
Russian forces attempt eastern push, shell south, Ukraine says
U.S. missile contract awarded to help Ukraine
NATO pledges support to Russia’s neighbours
In Washington, a $1.2 billion contract for six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) for Ukraine was awarded to Raytheon, the Pentagon said.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday his country needed U.S.-made Patriot missile defence systems to protect its civilian infrastructure, which has been under heavy attack by Russia at the start of winter.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin had focused “his ire and his fire” on Ukraine’s civilian population and warned Russia that its strategy would fail to divide Ukraine’s supporters.
“Heat, water, electricity . these are President Putin’s new targets. He’s hitting them hard. This brutalisation of Ukraine’s people is barbaric,” Blinken told a news conference in Bucharest following a two-day NATO meeting.
At the NATO foreign ministers meeting, allies on Wednesday pledged to help Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina as they face pressure from Russia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and ministers said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the outcome showed NATO was “absolutely not interested in a political and diplomatic solution in Ukraine”.
Russia invaded Ukraine nine months ago in what it calls a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists it considers dangerous. Ukraine and Western allies accuse Russia of an unprovoked, imperialist land grab.
Ukraine ordered all of Kyiv’s embassies abroad to strengthen security after two letter bombs were sent to the Ukrainian ambassador in Madrid and an arms company in Spain that manufactures rocket launchers donated to Ukraine. Spanish police said they were are examining a possible link between the two bombs, one of which injured an embassy security officer.
BATTLEGROUND
In the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, site of the heaviest fighting, Russian forces tried to make further advances and shelled several towns, including Bakhmut and nearby Soledar and Opytne, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a Wednesday night statement.
On the southern front, it said Russian forces took up defensive positions and trained tank, mortar and artillery fire on Ukrainian positions and on the regional capital of Kherson, abandoned by Russian troops earlier in November.
Other battleground activity was reported ...
30
NOV
2pm

Germany and Norway want NATO to protect subsea infrastructure after Nord Stream attacks SOURCE: REUTERS

BERLIN, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The leaders of Germany and Norway said on Wednesday they would jointly ask NATO to coordinate the protection of Europe's subsea infrastructure in light of the suspected attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipeline network.
By Andreas Rinke and Matthias Williams
European countries have stepped up vigilance around critical installations after the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, ruptured in September and spewed gas into the Baltic Sea.
The incident became a flashpoint in the energy standoff between the West and Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Russia denies sabotaging the pipelines and sought to blame Britain for the incident. London denied involvement.
Investigators found traces of explosives at the scene and suspect the pipelines were deliberately blown up.
Standing alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere at a briefing, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said involving NATO would send a signal to the outside world.
“We take the protection of our critical infrastructure very seriously and nobody should think that attacks would remain without consequences,” he said.
“Pipelines, telephone cables, Internet connections are lifelines for our states and must be especially protected,” he said.
Norway has played a crucial role in bringing gas to Europe after Russia reduced exports. Scholz said Norway now supplies around half of Germany’s needs.
Norway is producing gas at full capacity and will continue to do so in the coming years, Stoere said. “We have a particular responsibility to ensure secure supplies of gas to Europe, which is crucial to uphold,” Stoere said.
In an emailed statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he welcomed Germany and Norway’s proposal.
“We have stepped up our efforts after the recent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, and it is vital to do even more to ensure that our offshore infrastructure remains safe from future destructive acts,” he said.
Speaking at the Berlin Security Conference on Wednesday evening, Scholz also said Germany wanted to tap into its 100 billion euro special defence fund this year to buy F35 fighter jets LMT.N and retrofit Puma infantry fighting vehicles.
He added that Russia could no longer win the war in Ukraine on the battlefield.
Foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a transatlantic military alliance set up after the Second World War, met in Bucharest on Wednesday and gave reassurances of support to Russia’s neighbours.
The focus of the meeting was on the Western Balkans region, in particular Bosnia, and on ...
30
NOV
1pm

Warning against using dry shampoos after major recall in US over concerns about carcinogen contamination

An independent laboratory in the US has raised alarm about the safety of some personal care products after finding certain dry shampoos contain levels of benzene up to 170 times the FDA-imposed limit of two parts per million. Previously, it found benzene in hand sanitiser, body sprays and spray-on sunblock. Consumers in South Africa have reason to be concerned.
It’s known to be found in cigarette smoke and petrol fumes. It has an industrial application, used to manufacture plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, detergents and pesticides. And it’s produced naturally by fires.
But it’s also finding its way into dry shampoos — used as a quick fix between hair washes — hand sanitisers, body sprays, deodorant, bottled water and, ironically, because it’s a known carcinogen, even in sunscreen.
Depending on the amount, route and length of exposure, compounded by age and other medical risk factors, benzene is creeping into consumer products — some at levels the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has characterised as “life-threatening”.
Why worry?
Aerosol consumer products use propellants that are derived from fossil fuels, and while product labels will never stipulate “benzene” — as manufacturers would not willingly add benzene to products as an ingredient — contamination is a growing concern.
This taint is likely due to the presence of inactive petroleum-derived ingredients such as propane, isopropane, butane or polyacrylic acid. The benzene could also come from ethanol produced without adequate purity control.
On 18 October, Unilever issued a major recall of 19 popular dry shampoo aerosol products in the US and Canada after detecting elevated levels of benzene, citing an “abundance of caution”.
The products included popular brands such as Dove, Bed Head and TRESemmé.
Now, an independent laboratory in the US, known for its consumer activism, tested and detected high levels of benzene in several brands and batches of dry shampoo products — some with levels of up to 170 times the FDA limit.
The analysis of 148 batches of dry shampoo spray from 34 companies found that 70% contained quantifiable levels of benzene, and 11 samples tested by Valisure showed above 10 times the FDA limit.
Valisure is demanding that the contaminated batches be recalled and for the FDA to better define limits for benzene contamination in cosmetics and other regulated products.
Exposure to benzene, which is classified as a human carcinogen, can occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO agency, says benzene exposure causes acute myeloid leukaemia. ...
30
NOV
7am

Brussels bombings trial starts with mammoth jury selection

BRUSSELS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Around 700 Belgians arrived in court on Wednesday for a mammoth process to select a jury for the trial of 10 men accused of involvement in the 2016 bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people.
Belgium’s largest ever trial began with hundreds of potential jurors filing through airport-style security checks and into eight waiting rooms with morning rush hour traffic snarled up outside by police searches of vehicles.
After a half-hour delay, presiding judge Laurence Massart addressed the court to assign translators and asked the defendants to identify themselves and confirm their lawyers.
They are variously charged with murder and attempted murder in a terrorist context and leading or participating in the activities of a terrorist group over the twin bombings at Brussels Airport and third bomb on the metro on March 22, 2016.
Osama Krayem, a Swedish national accused of planning to be a second metro bomber, refused to answer any questions. The eight others present gave the requested information. One defendant, presumed killed in Syria, is being tried in absentia.
In accordance with Belgium court procedure, the defendants have not declared whether they are innocent or guilty.
The Brussels bombings trial has clear links to the French trial over the November 2015 Paris attacks. Six of the Brussels accused were convicted in France in June and the large glass box housing most defendants is similar to that used in Paris.
However, unlike the French trial which was decided by judges, the Brussels case will be settled by a jury, with 12 people and 24 replacements who must sit through a potentially harrowing trial set to last until the end of June.
The court summoned 1,000 Belgians for jury service, accepting the appeals of around 300 to be exempted. The others were obliged to come on Wednesday, risking a fine of up to 8,000 euros ($8,290) if they did not.
Many appeared before the judge, one by one over hours, seeking to be excused, some emotional – some, such as Brussels metro operator workers, those with medical certificates and top Belgian 400 metre runner Kevin Borlee, Massart accepted. Many others she declined.
The main proceedings of the trial are due to start on Monday.
By Philip Blenkinsop
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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