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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Government halves value-added tax on electricity bills
Friday, June 24, 2022

A FRESH reduction in value-added tax (IVA) on electricity has been announced in a bid to reduce costs to Spanish households, taking effect from Saturday this week (June 25).

Until earlier this year, IVA on the mains utility was at the maximum of 21%, the standard rate that applies to most goods and services in the country other than certain basics which attract the mid-range rate of 10% or bottom level of 4%.

Amid soaring costs of fuel worldwide, Spain's government opted to reduce IVA on electricity to 10%, offering some relief to households and small businesses, but as the price of power continues to escalate, it has now decided to cut the rate to 5%.

President Pedro Sánchez and his cabinet have long been looking at ways to reduce energy bills – and fuel across the board – given that this is causing spiralling price-led inflation.

Supermarket bills are now approximately 30% higher than in autumn 2021, largely as a result of more expensive fuel – electricity used by stores and in the production and manufacturing stages, and petrol and diesel for transporting goods, are being passed onto the consumer.

This is especially the case where adverse winter and early-spring weather conditions have affected local crops, leading to these having to be shipped in from other parts of the country.

In terms of fiscal measures, reducing IVA is the government's only weapon left against rocketing electricity bills, now that it has also cut tax on other elements of household energy – otherwise, consumers are at the mercy of wholesale power prices dictated by the cost per barrel of crude oil.

If these wholesale prices continue to rise globally, they could wipe out the effect of the IVA reduction, but in the meantime, the latter will at least help contain consumers' bills and stop them getting any higher.

Meanwhile, the next three years will see Spain's main electricity board investing heavily in wind power, gradually increasing the percentage of energy supplied to the end user from renewable sources that are not subject to the same price volatility as fossil fuel, nor have to be sourced from overseas territories which could be vulnerable to political and climate upheaval.

In practice, the IVA cut from 10% to 5% will not make a massive difference to households, especially when considering the cost to the government of implementing the move – between €430 and €430 million over the next three months – but the accrued saving will prove beneficial.

According to the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), an average household, taken as being one with two to four members, will be paying approximately €18.60 a month less on electricity than they would have been if IVA was still at 21%.

Before the first rate cut from 21% to 10%, at current prices, the average bill for a 31-day month based upon a consumption of 270 kilowatts per hour (kwH) and a power level of 4kw would have been €109.60, if their supply was direct from national energy board Iberdrola and not through a private-sector commercial retailer.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Sharp hike in property sales in past year despite Euribor rise caution
Tuesday, June 21, 2022

HOME sales and purchases went up by nearly a quarter in the first four months of 2022 based upon the same period the previous year, although April was far less buoyant than March, according to the latest National Statistics Institute (INE) figures.

This is likely to be because of natural caution on the part of buyers after the Eurozone interest rate was lifted for the first time in 11 years, returning to positive numbers after six years and two months below zero.

Despite this momentary shrinkage – about 20% fewer homes sold in April than in March – the INE reveals that pre-owned properties are continuing to sell well, with 26.3% more changing hands year on year in the first third of 2022.

New builds from January to April inclusive were also up on the same period in 2021, with 11.5% more sales.

Overall, the year-on-year increase was 23.1%, even in light of the European Central Bank's (BCE's) announcement that it intended to raise the Euribor and cease buying debt bonds.

 

April sees 14% rise in pre-owned home purchases

In total, and even with the rate rise, April saw 47,349 residential properties sold in Spain.

This is considerably higher than in the same month last year – 8,788 new builds (18.6% of the total) got new owners in April 2021, meaning the number of homes shifting has gone up by 3.4% in what was the 18th consecutive month of increases in sales.

And although the 38,561 pre-owned homes (81.4% of the total) sold in April this year was the lowest monthly figure since December 2021, it still represented growth of 14% on April 2021.

For both types of property, the increase between April last year and the same month this year was 11.9%.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lean April is not uncommon, with potential buyers, particularly holiday home owners, tending to start their property searches in summer.

As yet, data are not available for May, meaning April 2022 is the most recent full month on record.

According to the INE, approximately seven in 10 residential properties sold in April – 69.7%, in fact – were bought by physical persons, rather than companies or large investors.

 

Spring homebuying fever hits the islands: Sales up by a third 

The greatest year-on-year rise in homes bought in April was seen in the Balearic Islands, with four sold for every three in the same month in 2021 – a hike of 33.3%.

Almost as popular, the Canary Islands were not far behind, showing a 31% increase in sales, followed by the centre-northern region of Castilla y León, with home purchases up by just under 20%.

Inland regions reported the greatest fall in sales in April 2022 compared with April 2021 – the Madrid area being the second-hardest hit, with a drop of 2.7%, but considerably less than the plummeting figures in the northern region of La Rioja, where purchases were down nearly 10%.

The land-locked western region of Extremadura saw the third-greatest fall in transactions, at 2.4%.

Mainland coastal regions were midway between the two extremes.

 

What's happening with the Euribor

Homes bought outright in cash are not affected by the Euribor, or Eurozone interest rate, which is used for calculating mortgages in Spain.

These have been in freefall since 2011, and first dipped into negative figures in February 2016 – a scenario never seen before in the history of the common currency and which even led homeowners to question whether their banks would start refunding them, rather than the borrower paying interest on the capital owed.

Clearly, this was never going to be the case, and lenders normally set their mortgage rates at the Euribor plus X% - typically between 1% and 3% - meaning they would always be charging more than purely the capital repayment.

But it proved a welcome breather for homeowners after the 'boom years', when the rate had been climbing constantly, breaking historic-high records, and peaking at around 5.6% in early 2008.

The BCE has been maintaining the below-zero rates, and continually dropping or freezing them, to help stimulate monetary circulation in the common currency area during the latter years of the financial crisis and, more recently, during the pandemic; now, however, with price-led inflation across the continent, its strategy has reversed.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Spain's greatest Naval enigma: Ghostly galleon in 'The Goonies' found
Tuesday, June 21, 2022

A SPANISH shipwreck which inspired a blockbuster Steven Spielberg film has been found off the coast of the USA – a whole 329 years after it sank without trace, believed destroyed by fire in the ocean wilderness thousands of kilometres from civilisation.

This pirate boat scene from The Goonies shows what the Santo Cristo de Burgos might have looked like (photo: IMDb/Warner Bros)

The Santo Cristo de Burgos vanished in 1693 close to Astoria, Oregon, although the part of the world where it met its fate was not known about until less than 40 years ago.

After the approximate location of where the earth swallowed the galleon up was worked out, the tale of its sticky ending would go on to become the cult movie The Goonies, directed by Richard Donner, in 1985.

Anyone who saw this box-office hit will remember that it told of the adventures of a group of kids from Astoria seeking a sunken pirate ship loaded with treasure off their nearest beach.

In real life, neither the galleon nor the haul of gold and jewels on board were ever found – until earlier this week, according to a report in National Geographic.

 

Risky rescue

Remains of the boat turned up in a sea cave near Manzanita, Oregon, and were recovered in a highly-delicate, hazardous and emergency operation involving archaeologists, police, and search and rescue teams from various local and State organisms.

Marine archaeologist James Delgado, left, and beachcomber Craig Andes, right, with one of the earlier pieces of timber from the Santo Cristo de Burgos that washed up on the shores of Manzanita, Oregon (photo: Katie Frankowicz for Oregon Public Broadcasting - Opb.org)

Washington State Department of Transport archaeologist and chairman of the Marina Archaeological Society (MAS), Scott Williams, said he was 'impressed and relieved' after the successful recovery of the Santo Cristo de Burgos – some 15 years after his team started hunting for it.

About a dozen wooden beams from the galleon, which was on its way from The Philippines to México when it vanished off the face of the earth, are among the parts found in the underwater caves.

 

Early international trade in colonial times

At the time of its sinking, both these countries were Spanish colonies, and the ship was loaded up with a valuable cargo of Chinese silk, porcelain, and blocks of beeswax for making candles.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Dating agency reveals Spain's 'most unfaithful towns and cities'
Monday, June 20, 2022

IF YOU keep catching your partners out two-timing you and are starting to question what you're doing wrong, or if you're the one who seemingly can't commit to one love interest at a time, it might be that it's nothing personal – you just live in the wrong town.

In fact, if you're based in Manresa (Barcelona province), León, or Barcelona city, the odds are higher than anywhere else in the country that you fully identify with the first or second part of the above paragraph.

A dating agency which actually specialises in extra-marital affairs – some of them consenting, if the couple is in an 'open relationship' – has produced a ranking of Spain's most unfaithful towns and cities.

According to research run by the platform Ashley Madison, Manresa is the part of the country where the most cheating on spouses happens.

After León, second, and Barcelona, third, couples living in Granada city are the fourth-most likely to be unfaithful, whilst the fifth-most frequent infidelities happen in Sabadell (Barcelona province). 

With Terrassa (Barcelona province) at number 14, Catalunya turns out to be the region where the most cheating spouses live, although by provinces, Barcelona 'wins' this dubious honour hands down.

Bilbao, capital of the Basque Country province of Vizcaya, and Madrid, come sixth and seventh – and for the Comunidad Valenciana on the east coast, it seems your relationship isn't safe in any provincial capital: All three of these, Valencia, Alicante and Castellón, figure in the list, from eight to 10 respectively.

Vigo (Pontevedra province, Galicia) improves its rating on last year – depending upon which way you look at it – dropping to 11th place, above the Madrid-region town of Alcalá de Henares.

Galicia's least-faithful provincial capital is A Coruña, at 13, and the far-southern land-locked city of Sevilla comes after Terrassa, at 15 – although, as it typically has some of the hottest summer temperatures in all Spain, along with the provinces and cities of Córdoba and Jaén, it looks unlikely that much infidelity would be going on at present, with the heatwave leaving couples too soggy and wiped out to bother with the hassle of searching for dates, or attempting to cover them up.

Gijón, in the northern coastal region of Asturias, has entered the top 20 for the first time, says Ashley Madison, and it appears Bilbao was not just a 'blip' for the Basque Country – San Sebastián, otherwise known as Donostia, capital of Guipúzcoa province, is the 17th-most likely place where your partner might be tempted to two-time you.

The largely-rural inland region of Aragón seems to be a fairly faithful place – the only entry in the ranking is its biggest city, Spain's fourth-largest metropolitan zone, Zaragoza, so perhaps countryside life is the answer to ensuring your partner isn't tempted to stray.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Iberdrola announces €15bn wind farm investment: Clean energy for 12 million consumers
Friday, June 17, 2022

NATIONAL electricity board Iberdrola has announced plan to spend €15 billion on wind farms between now and the year 2025, enabling it to supply 'clean' power to around 12 million people.

These wind farms will be both on land and offshore, and based in 'about a dozen' countries, the utility board reveals – some of which infrastructure is already under construction.

A wind farm in the province of Cuenca, centre-eastern Spain, between those of Valencia and Madrid

Once complete, they will be able to meet the energy needs of the equivalent of over a quarter of the population of Spain.

According to the company's calculations, the power provided by the planned wind farms will save around 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

If an average short-haul passenger airline emits a quarter of a tonne, or 250 kilos, of CO2 per hour in flight, it means Iberdrola's investment will – in greenhouse-gas terms – equate to a reduction of 169 million hours' worth of aeroplane travel per annum.

Iberdrola currently manages wind farms on three continents, and says the USA is the country which produces the most energy from these.

A total of 8,000 MW (megawatts) comes out of Iberdrola-run wind farms in the United States, or 41% of the company's total.

Spain is the country with the second-highest amount of wind-farm energy produced through Iberdrola fixtures – 6,100 MW, or 31% of the total – followed by the UK, with 2,000 MW, or 10%.

The latter country is where two of Iberdrola's huge offshore wind farms are based – East Anglia ONE, off the south-east coast of the UK in the North Sea, and West of Duddon Sands, which produce a combined total of 1,100 MW.

Wikinger wind farm, off the coast of Germany, generates 350 MW of renewable energy.

Others being constructed at present include the first industrial-sized wind farm in the USA, Vineyard Wind 1, and also Park City Wind, which generate 806 and 804 MW respectively.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Licence renewal for drivers aged 65-plus to change from next year
Friday, June 17, 2022

CHANGES are afoot in driving licence renewal for the 65-plus age group in Spain, which could come into effect next year.

The General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) has not given firm details, but it is likely that, from 2023, the five-year validity will reduce.

At present, anyone aged 65 or more has to renew their licence every five years, but this is expected to drop to every two years for those aged over 70.

Spain has no upper age limit for driving, so as long as you're found to be mentally and physically fit to get behind the wheel, you can, in theory, carry on motoring in your 80s, 90s or even 100s (photo: Wired.com)

For the under-65s, it is not thought any amendments will be made to the current 10-year renewal period.

Licence renewal at any age automatically involves a 'psycho-technical' examination, where the driver gives details of their current medical situation, performs an eye test and takes a 'reaction time' test, typically involving hitting a button to stop a 'virtual' car from smashing into a wall or colliding with a pedestrian.

Given the simplicity of the current 'psycho-technical' test, the DGT is planning on making these more thorough – but has not yet provided information about what they will involve.

Any amendments are expected to be in place before the end of 2023.

 

Around 10% of pensioners do not pass the renewal test

According to DGT data, as there is no upper age limit for driving, an average of 10% of motorists aged 65 or more fail the 'psycho-technical' test and are unable to renew their licences.

This does not necessarily mean they have to give up driving for good – it may be due to a health condition which is expected to be resolved or successfully managed in due course, or eyesight problems which are possible to correct, such as through a cataract operation or, simply, because of one's usual spectacles being unsuitable and needing replacement.

Also, the data do not give a breakdown by age – many of those who 'fail' could be in their late 80s or even 90s, perhaps affected by severe mobility issues or serious cognitive decline.

Around 70% of the over-65s who renew their licences have some kind of restriction placed on them, but this can range from very minor ones that do not affect their day to day through to much more limiting curtailments – and, again, no breakdown is given of the ages or causes involved or, indeed, whether these conditions are temporary pending a specific problem being resolved.

 

A brief description of licence renewal

The process is usually relatively straightforward once a resident has a Spanish driving licence – an appointment at their nearest specialist clinic, which are typically found in most towns, will involve a screen coordination test, eye test, and interview about current health and medication, possibly with a requirement for a GP or relevant specialist consultant to provide a letter in confirmation, then upon production of a passport-sized biometric photo and payment of a fee, normally around €40 to €60, the centre staff will handle the rest.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Fourth Covid jab to be offered to entire population
Friday, June 17, 2022

EVERYONE living in Spain will be offered a fourth dose of the Covid vaccine, irrespective of their age and medical conditions, confirms health minister Carolina Darías.

“What still needs to be decided is when,” she said in an interview with Spain's channel six, La Sexta.

During the morning talk show, Sra Darías said dates 'close to autumn' were being discussed, since this would likely be when the next batch of vaccines was received.

Spain's contracts with pharmaceutical companies, signed through the European Union, mean vaccines for the extra booster are guaranteed to arrive, but not immediately, since they will be a new formula adapted to protect against newer mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Although Sra Darías says there is 'no set date as yet', she assures that 'at some point everyone will be offered one'.

Initially, they will be rolled out to the over-80s and the immune-compromised who have not yet had a fourth dose.

The original plan, earlier this year, was for only these people to be vaccinated a fourth time, but the immunisation schedule was halted in May.

Spain's government wanted to wait for the updated vaccine formula, which would protect against the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus.

Since then, dose number four has only been given to those with a depleted immune system which means their protection against the virus after being treble-jabbed remained significantly lower than that of the general population.

After the adapted vaccines arrive in Spain as part of the European Union's managed distribution programme, those who were initially earmarked for the extra booster will be called up, then the rest of the population will be summoned in descending age order after the higher risk groups are worked through – following the same strategy as with the first two doses, administered gradually over 2021.

The national Public Health Commission says it will be closely monitoring the epidemiological situation over the next few months, and prefers to wait until the newer RNA-messenger formulae adapted to protect against more recent strains of Covid are ready for use.

Given that over 90% of the population is now fully vaccinated – with only the under-fives, those with a serious allergy that would make vaccines unsafe for them, or those who do not want to have it making up the remainder – ordering in enough for a fourth dose for the entire headcount is not as urgent as it was for the first and second doses given last year.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Spain's biggest brands under the spotlight: Which rank highest in Europe?
Wednesday, June 15, 2022

EUROPE'S top 500 most valuable brands in terms of overall financial worth include 24 from Spain, with seven of them in the first 100, putting it in seventh place on the continent as a whole – not just in the EU-27.

Two Spanish corporations appear in the top 10 in Europe for greatest increase in their net worth in the past year.

Santander Bank is still Spain's most valuable brand, in financial terms (all photos from their company websites, unless otherwise stated)

The annual ranking for 2022 has just been published and, once again, features German motor brand Mercedes-Benz as the largest on the continent, valued at just under €52.4 billion.

Despite only moderate growth in the past 12 months – just 6% - against a backdrop of a generally difficult year for the motor industry, Mercedes-Benz has managed to hold onto its top position through a concerted effort to focus on electrically-powered cars, sales of which soared by 90% for the luxury family saloon brand over the second half of 2021 and first half of 2022.

 

Which is Spain's top-valued brand?

The two highest-ranking national brands from Spain both have a female leader – Banco Santander, whose chairwoman is Ana Botín, and Zara, the most international of the fashion empire Inditex's clothing labels.

Founder Amancio Ortega's daughter, Marta Ortega, took over as CEO of Inditex last year and, although habitually one of the country's biggest corporations in terms of financial worth and turnover at any one time in recent history, this has reportedly increased with Marta at the helm.

Zara, the best-known label of the Inditex clothing empire, is Spain's second largest brand in capital terms…and seemingly pandemic-proof, as it continued to grow and increase its turnover even during the ‘Covid years’

She has always been a key player in the family firm, starting as shelf-stacker and check-out worker in Bershka in London after she graduated, working the shop floor in stores around the world, later becoming one of the design team for Zara and, more recently, its product manager, back in her native Galicia. 

Although sales at Inditex increased by 36% in the first quarter of Marta's reign, Zara has fallen from number 28 to number 32 in Europe, but this is largely due to other brands rising in value as opposed to Zara's losing any.

The opposite, in fact, is true – the first three months of the year closed with earnings of around €760m for Inditex, far exceeding analysts' expectations.

Banco Santander, which has long been present in Latin America and broke into the UK market in 2004 when it acquired the Abbey National bank, increased its value by 9% in the last 12 months and has risen from Europe's number 26 to number 23.

At the time of publication, shares in Banco Santander were worth €2.62, up 0.48%, and Inditex as a firm – which currently features nine major brands – was at €22.51, down 0.27%.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com



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'Green' heatwave relief: Plants that cool your house down
Monday, June 13, 2022

SUMMER has come early to Spain this year, and the first heatwave is already frying us – well over a month before it normally would. 

The mercury soaring into the mid-30s or even low 40s is something we kind of expect during the period known in Spain as the canícula, based upon the Romans' association between the Dog Star and the hottest month of the year; said to be a time when weather conditions are stable and calm but when the thermometer goes off the scale, heatwaves in the western Mediterranean are most likely to occur between mid-July and mid-August.

But not in late May and early June, for heavens' sakes. 

Still, there's a surprisingly 'decorative' way of keeping cool inside your home, at times of the day when you cannot escape by heading to the beach, without having the air-con running full-blast – or sitting inches away from a fan at top speed if you haven't got air-con at all.

Certain species of plant which are popular indoors and, sometimes, outdoors, pump out oxygen and purify the air – and this, it seems, also serves to cool it down.

Luckily, the ones which are the most effective are typically low-maintenance, and do not suffer too much in the hands of incompetent gardeners – so, even if you're the type whose silk flowers wither up and turn to pot pourri practically overnight, and who wouldn't even trust themselves with floral-patterned curtains in case they turned brown and dropped dead petals everywhere, you might still find you can keep these little fellas green and upright. 

As always, ensure plants are out of reach of pets, as many are toxic for cats and dogs – and cats have a cute little habit of using pots as litter trays, which won't contribute greatly to your green-fingered ambitions.

 

Aloe Vera

This grows just as well in a garden – in a bed as well as a pot – as it does on a terrace or indoors, and thrives in bright sunlight, so you can even put it in your window to block out excess rays at those times of day when the raging red star that's melting us all alive at the moment trains its energy on the glass.

Elegant and attractive indoors, aloe vera plants also cool down the room (photo: Ikea)

In fact, if you keep it in pots on your terrace, you would be well advised to move it under cover during the rainy season – excess water can rot its roots.

To this end, it normally only needs watering about twice a week – less in winter if you keep it outside.

Plant it in a deep, wide pot, to give the roots space to spread out; 'standard' soil sold in plastic sacks in your local Chinese bazaar is perfectly healthy enough for aloe vera, although they flourish better if you use a soil specially designed for cacti.

Generally, they need very little feeding, and as a succulent, they are very hardy, slow-growing and retain their moisture.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Driving small electric vehicles to be legal from age 16, announces traffic authority
Monday, June 13, 2022

YOUNG adults may soon be permitted to drive small electrically-powered vehicles capable of top speeds of 90 kilometres per hour (56mph), currently the maximum allowed on non-motorway roads, from age 16, according to Spain's General Directorate of Traffic (DGT).

Part of the ministry for public works and transport, the DGT says it is considering launching a 'B1' licence for those who are as yet too young to drive a car, in a bid to increase mobility for those living in remote rural areas and to give them a safer, less-polluting option than motorcycles.

The type of cars a 16- or 17-year-old would be able to drive in Spain if the ‘B1’ licence was extended to younger adults (photo: Movilidad Hoy)

Additionally, an AM licence for driving four-wheeled, 425-kilo vehicles – as well as for riding small motorbikes, scooters and mopeds - which are only capable of speeds up to 45 kilometres per hour (28mph), is expected to be launched for young people from age 15.

Young people who live in built-up areas, and whose school or college and friends live in the same town, often use small bikes until well into adulthood, as they are much cheaper to buy and run than a car, the test is easier to pass and lessons less expensive, plus the mild winters in the southern half of the country mean it is not uncomfortable to use open-air transport all year round.

But those who live deep in the countryside, or in villages and small towns, commutes take much longer on a bike, and these are far less safe than a small electrical vehicle – as well as much more polluting.

In Spain, the minimum age for starting to learn to drive a car is 18, and learners are only allowed behind the wheel during lessons with an approved driving school – practising in the family car with parents and L-plates is against the law, even on car parks – meaning considerable costs incurred before a test is even taken.

Once they have passed, though, like any other adult car-driver, they then have a licence for a vehicle of up to 3.5 tonnes and capable of top speeds of 120 kilometres per hour (74.6mph) – or which, even if they are able to go faster, cannot do so legally as this is the maximum on Spanish motorways.

Being able to get a licence for a small car with a limited engine size and electrically-powered means young adults will have acquired road sense and vehicle-handling experience before they start learning to drive a full-sized car, and also will get them used to non-petrol and non-diesel vehicles, encouraging their wider use once they eventually become more mainstream.

The type of vehicle the 16-plus age group would be allowed to drive would have a maximum weight of 450 kilos, or 0.4 tonnes, and a top power of 20.4CV.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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