Tag Archives: Europe

Swiss government report: Bitcoin too ‘insignificant’ for legislation

(CoinDesk) Switzerland’s Federal Council has published a report stating that,
for the time being, it will not create legislation relating specifically
to bitcoin or other digital currencies.
The government report
claims the economic importance of these currencies is currently “fairly
insignificant” and the council doesn’t expect this to change in the
near future.
This report has been created following the submission
of postulates by National Councillors Jean-Christophe Schwaab and
Thomas Weibel last year, which asked the Federal Council to examine the risks and opportunities associated with bitcoin.

No ‘legal vacuum’

A
point the government is keen to stress in the report is that virtual
currencies are not in a “legal vacuum”, meaning that existing laws apply
to activities associated with these currencies. It states:

“Contracts
with virtual currencies are enforceable in principle and penalties can
be imposed for criminal offences associated with virtual currencies.
Certain business models based on virtual currencies are subject to
financial market laws and need to be subjected to financial market
supervision.
Professional trade in virtual currencies and the
operation of trading platforms in Switzerland generally come under the
scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. This includes compliance with
the obligation to verify the identity of the contracting party and
establish the identity of the beneficial owner.”

Some
of the laws that apply to certain uses of digital currency include the
Swiss Code of Obligations, the Federal Act on Combating Money Laundering
and the Financing of Terrorism in the Financial Sector, plus the
Federal Act on Banks and Savings Banks.

Legal certainty

Schwaab
told CoinDesk he was pleased the report had clarified the legal status
of bitcoin: “The report ensures legal certainty. That’s the most
important topic at this point. Now, people who trade bitcoin can know
which financial sector regulation applies or not.”
He went on to say he thinks the report underestimates the economic potential of bitcoin. He said:

The more I learn about bitcoin, the less I remain sceptical about it!

“That’s
a big mistake for a country like Switzerland with a strong financial
sector. I hope the banking sector will be cleverer than the Government
on that point, but I’m pessimistic.”
Schwaab even went as far as to suggest he is personally becoming increasingly bullish about digital currency.
“In
the last months, my personal views about bitcoin have evolved: the more
I learn about bitcoin, the less I remain sceptical about it!”
Alexis
Roussel, CEO of Swiss based cryptocurrency broker SBEX, said the report
represented good news for the Swiss bitcoin ecosystem.
He was particularly interested in the parts of the report that are relevant to his company’s plans to deploy a bitcoin ATM network within Switzerland.
“Managing
an ATM would be considered directly as money transmitting service, with
tighter rules. This is starting to shape how bitcoins ATM will work,”
Roussel said.
He explained it means ATM operators would always
need to be licensed, unless they can ensure the user is in control of
the private key of the bitcoin wallet they are sending to.
“This
is imposing high standards in the bitcoin financial world, but this will
be beneficial for consumers in the end,” he added.

The risks

The
report gives examples of the risks associated with bitcoin, stating
that, while there is no risk of it damaging the country’s existing
financial sector, consumers are vulnerable to volatility and security
issues.
It concludes by advising consumer protection organisations within the country to urge people to use caution when using bitcoin.

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Swiss regulators give green light for Bitcoin ATM Network

(CoinDesk) The Swiss financial regulator has given permission for bitcoin ATM operator SBEX to launch a network of machines in the country.
The news comes in the wake of a report indicating that the authority had shut down a different operator just two weeks ago.
inSha

Jumping through regulatory hoops

SBEX,
which currently operates one ATM in Geneva, can now deploy further
machines because it has been accepted as a member of a non-profit
organisation that is regulated by FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.
The non-profit is called ARIF, the Association Romande des Intermédiaires Financiers, and is considered a self-regulatory body (OAR) in Switzerland.
Now,
with membership in hand, SBEX has successfully applied for a money
transmitter licence, fulfilling the regulatory requirements to operate
an ATM network.
CoinDesk has seen a copy of a letter from ARIF to
the operator, dated 17th June, that sets out the regulator’s stance on
bitcoin ATM operators.
According to the letter, operators must
join an OAR, but do not require a banking licence. It also restated that
bitcoin in Switzerland is treated as a means of payment, not a good or a
service.
SBEX co-founder Mathieu Buffenoir said:

“We
finally got clearance from ARIF, who were asking FINMA many questions
about how they should deal with us. [The clarification from ARIF] is
what we were expecting.”

Cancelled ATM launch

Two weeks ago, a competing ATM operator called Bitcoin Suisse AG cancelled the launch
of an ATM in Zurich, claiming that FINMA had requested a delay while
the regulator clarified “legal questions”. This prompted speculation
that Swiss authorities were clamping down on bitcoin ATMs.
However,
according to Buffenoir, who has operated a machine in Geneva since
February, running a single bitcoin ATM poses no special regulatory
difficulties and is not regulated by FINMA.
This does come with
the proviso that the business must stay within certain limits, such as
completing fewer than two million transactions a year, Buffenoir said,
adding:

“I don’t really know why [Bitcoin Suisse AG]
made so much noise [about its ATM]. Maybe they wanted to get themselves
known or they want things to move quicker.”

Bitcoin Association Switzerland president Luzius Meisser
said the clarified rules were in line with the bitcoin community’s
expectations, calling it “the most reasonable” interpretation of Swiss
law.
He explained the confusion over Bitcoin Suisse’s suspended launch:

“I think SBEX fulfilled all the regulatory requirements before Bitcoin Suisse did, so they got the approval first.”

Bitcoin
Suisse chief executive Niklas Nikolasjen said his firm was working on
obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals for their ATM. He said the
media had overstated his firm’s cancelled ATM launch and that it had
been consistently working to obtain regulatory approval.
“It is
now clear to everyone in the industry that the regulatory authorities
require certain steps to be undertaken by companies who professionally
deal with digital finance. BTCS is naturally following these requests as
well,” he said.

Expansion plans

Now that SBEX has cleared
Swiss regulatory hurdles, Buffenoir says the company will carry out its
plan to set up a web brokerage and install nine ATMs before the year is
up.
Buffenoir said SBEX has already placed orders for the machines with the manufacturer, Canadian startup BitAccess.
Additionally,
SBEX has joined a new consortium currently lobbying the Swiss
government to create an OAR dedicated to cryptocurrencies and to obtain a
clearer regulatory framework from FINMA. The consortium already counts
Bitcoin Suisse and Ethereum Switzerland among its members, Buffenoir
said.
Switzerland is being closely watched by the cryptocurrency
community, as its executive body, the Federal Council, is due to release
a comprehensive report on bitcoin’s impact on the country’s financial
system later this year.
Swiss lawmakers also moved, in December, to obtain recognition for bitcoin as a foreign currency.

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Italy house of parliament hosts bitcoin believers

Bit-Wallet at Bitcoin Meetup in Rome
Photo by G. Baroncini Turricchia
(CoinDesk) Italian bitcoin enthusiasts gathered at the Chamber of Deputies, the
lower house of the Italian parliament, in Rome on Wednesday with the aim
of informing Italian lawmakers about the economic benefits of bitcoin.
The 11th June event, organised by bitcoin consultancy Coin Capital, featured participation from parliament member Stefano Quintarelli and Senate Vice President of the Treasury and Finance Committee Francesco Molinari, as well as representatives from Italy’s academic and banking sectors.
Coin
Capital told CoinDesk that the first two hours saw its partners
Sebastiano Scròfina and Guido Baroncini Turricchia, University of Rome ‘Tor
Vergata’ telecommunications professor Francesco Vatalaro and investment bank Banca IMI’s Ferdinando Ametrano introducing block chain technology and its monetary applications.
At the event, Bit-Wallet also unveiled the country’s first domestically produced bitcoin ATM.
Baroncini Turricchia characterized the remainder of the day’s events, stating:

“Risk
and opportunity were clearly disclosed in a neutral way. In the second
part, [a representative moderated a] discussion between politicians,
institutions and business, and [many questions were asked by these
participants].”

The events come in the wake of the Central Bank of Italy’s May warning that domestic investors should avoid buying, investing in or using bitcoin as a currency due to price volatility and the lack of consumer protection laws to protect consumers.

Proliferating bitcoin

A second, non-affiliated event, organized by digital payment advocacy group CashlessWay,
is set to take place on 26th June. Speakers will include bitcoin
banking provider Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelly and parliament member Sergio
Boccadutri, who presented a proposal for regulating bitcoin under
existing Italian law in January.

Robocoin
indicated it is looking forward to the event as a way to help educate
an influential government about the nascent technology, stating:

“Italy
is full of cultural tastemakers and has a rich history in banking and
finance. These all support Robocoin’s goal of helping proliferate
bitcoin.”

For more information on the 11th June event, visit Coin Capital’s website.

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bitcoin sweden

Swedish central bank acknowledges benefits of cryptocurrencies

(CoinDesk) Sveriges Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, has published a brief
economic commentary on the impact of digital currencies on the retail
payments market.
The document outlines the basics behind digital
currencies and focuses on bitcoin, but it also mentions some altcoins
such as litecoin and dogecoin.
Aside from a relatively basic introduction to digital currencies and background information for novices, the document also sheds light on the state of bitcoin in Sweden and the bank’s attitude towards bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Take-up remains limited

The Sveriges Riksbank
report found that the use of digital currencies in Sweden remains very
limited. The authors point out that it is particularly difficult to
obtain accurate information on the use of digital currencies in
different countries, hence most analyses are usually limited to the
total issue value and global usage.
The report tries to isolate
Sweden and examine transactions limited to Swedish krona (SEK)
exchanges. Even so, the data may not be complete, as it only deals with
transactions involving SEK.
“On average, around 212 bitcoins per
day were converted to or from SEK during the period December 2012 to May
2014 at an average value of just over SEK 266,000. However, the daily
value varied substantially, between SEK 2,500 and SEK 2.5 million,
depending on the exchange rate and the number of bitcoins exchanged,”
the report notes.
The authors caution that the statistics are
incomplete, as there is no data on transactions between private persons
and other movements of funds that could be relevant. Therefore, they
concede, the exchange statistics may underestimate the use of bitcoin in
Sweden.
However, the report concludes that the values involved in
cryptocurrency transactions pale in comparison to traditional
transactions. This is how bitcoin stacks up:

“Households
make daily payments using cards and cash totalling 8 million in volume
and to a total value of over SEK 3 billion. Even if the use of bitcoin
in Sweden were to be much larger than the average exchange value of just
over SEK 266,000, this is a relatively low value in relation to other
types of payment. At present, there only seem to be around 25 swedish
companies accepting Bitcoin.”

Risky but innovative

Although
the report contains the usual set of caveats found in most central bank
statements involving digital currencies, it also includes some
relatively positive commentary.
The report states that digital
currencies are one of many innovations in the Swedish payments market
and like other innovations, digital currency is essentially positive:

“It
can contribute to meeting new payment needs and to making payments
cheaper and more secure. Those who choose to use a particular payment
service can be expected to do so because it gives them an added value in
relation to other payment services. This also applies to virtual
currencies, which can for instance make some cross-border payments
simpler, faster and cheaper. Another advantage is if the payer does not
need to share sensitive information, such as card number or bank account
number, with the payee.”

Cryptocurrencies may also be better suited for micropayments made via websites, the report further notes.
Disadvantages
associated with digital currency platforms include lack of clear
regulation, lack of consumer protection regulation, volatility, security
risks and the risk of using digital currencies for illicit
transactions.
The report concludes that the impact of any
innovation depends on how much it is used. The use of digital currencies
is “very limited” both in terms of the number of users, the number of
transactions and the value involved in said transactions.
Therefore both the positive and negative effects of digital currencies on the payment market in Sweden are currently negligible.

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Estonia bank to study benefits of integrating Bitcoin technology

etukuva[1]

(CoinDesk) Estonia-based bank LHV has announced a new project that will explore
the legal framework and potential uses of bitcoin’s block chain
technology in banking so it might develop bank services for bitcoin and
other digital currencies.
“We are interested in the technological
side of digital currencies as we hope it could make bank services more
simple and efficient,” Priit Rum, head of communications at LHV, told
CoinDesk.
The project manager will examine all digital currencies, not limiting itself to bitcoin.
For
now, the bank won’t engage in trading bitcoin, Rum said, but more
likely, could develop its payments system using block chain technology.
The company claims to be the first bank in the world to implement such a program, stating:

“We
have been aware of crypto currencies for some time now […] we decided
last month that establishing a side project to explore the block chain
technology and analyse possibilities of cryptocurrencies would be a good
opportunity to stay with the innovation.”

Regulatory uncertainty remains

While the news of this action by a major bank is perhaps encouraging, in Estonia, bitcoin is tangled in regulatory uncertainty.
Earlier this year, the country’s central bank issued a warning
against bitcoin and digital currencies calling it a Ponzi scheme,
saying “virtual currency schemes are an innovation that [deserve] some
caution”, but that it would continue to monitor their development.
Shortly after, local bitcoin trading site BTC.ee put a halt on trades, coming under pressure from Estonian authorities who challenged the site’s compliance with the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act.
Said Rum:

“LHV
is a regulated bank and we take all the regulations and guidelines very
seriously […] For us, all the questions about ‘know your customer’ and
concerns of money laundering have to be dealt with before we can really
develop new bank services using new technology.”

Local enthusiasm grows

Estonians have been enthusiastic about bitcoin for some time, despite the regulatory difficulties the domestic ecosystem faces.
The
country’s capital Talinn had a successful week-long bitcoin showcase
last month, during which bitcoin advocates came together to educate
those new to the digital currency and boost its popularity.
For more on the latest developments in the eastern European economy, read our most recent report.

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Poland gets first Bitcoin ATM with 30 more planned

Warsaw ATM boxed

The Lamassu machine arrives at Bitcoin Embassy Warsaw

(CoinDesk) Poland’s digital currency scene continues its rapid expansion with
the country’s first bitcoin ATM freshly launched in the capital Warsaw
and many more soon to follow, according to the operators.
Located at Bitcoin Embassy Warsaw, which opened this May, the new machine is manufactured by Lamassu and works in partnership with bitcoin exchange Bitstamp.
The Bitcoin Embassy was
set up to act as a hub for the Warsaw’s rapidly expanding bitcoin
scene, Piotr Hetzig, the company’s chief executive, told CoinDesk.
Launching the bitcoin ATM in the heart of Warsaw was aimed to boost the
visibility of the cryptocurrency in Poland, he explained.
However,
the company’s plans go even further than that. A second ATM is to be
made available shortly in the Polish capital, with a network of bitcoin
vending machines eventually to be rolled out across the country.
“By
the end of this year, as many as 30 bitcoin ATMs enabling [people] to
purchase and sell bitcoins are expected to appear in various parts of
Poland,” the operator said.
Bitcoin Embassy Warsaw aims to offer a
wide range of services tailored for bitcoin enthusiasts, as well as for
those who want to make their first step in the world of digital
currencies, according to Hetzig.
These will include training
sessions, consultancy services, meetings and events, as well as sales of
hardware for bitcoin mining. Initiatives to raise public awareness of
the cryptocurrency are also planned.

The
new Lamassu ATM is now open for business and can be found at Bitcoin
Embassy Warsaw on 46 Krucza street. Opening hours are currently Monday
to Friday, 10am to 6pm, but may become available 24/7 in the near
future.

Denmark gets its first bitcoin ATM

Meanwhile, the first publicly available bitcoin ATM in Denmark has been launched at Irish pub The Dubliner,
located on Copenhagen’s famous ‘walking street’. Also a Lamassu
machine, the ATM accepts Danish krone and is operated by local bitcoin
broker Sirius Money.
Bitcoin ATM Copenhagen

Image courtesy of Thorkil Værg

Thorkil
Værge, founder and chief executive of the company, said ”Denmark is one
the countries where bitcoin is the least regulated. The financial
authorities have stated that [anti-money laundering and know your
customer] laws do not apply to bitcoin, and that bitcoin is […]
considered a private non-taxable asset”.
As a result, “earnings on
bitcoins bought in Denmark are not taxed. On the flip side, losses are
not tax deductible”, he explained, adding:

“The
Dubliner is an excellent place to [site] a bitcoin ATM, since they have a
lot of customers and long opening hours. The pub is also located very
centrally near the Stork Fountain, which is the center of Copenhagen’s
shopping district.”

Værge further indicated that the
company is in the process of opening a subsidiary in the Spanish market,
to be called Sirius Iberia.

Bitcoin centre and ATM launch in Prague

In
another example of the cryptocurrency’s increasing popularity in
Central Europe, a bitcoin centre launched in Prague, Czech Republic, on
28th May
Robocoin Launch in Prague
ATM Selfie by wBTCb
The centre, which has already launched a two-way Robocoin ATM for its customers, was opened in the Czech capital’s Smíchov district, according to The Prague Post.
The establishment is operated by local bitcoin business wBTCb.cz,
and was set up to provide face-to-face services for those unfamiliar
with digital currencies, as well as consulting services to registered
clients.
The firm says it wants to become one of the main traders
in the country’s digital currency market, with workshops and seminars
designed to increase bitcoin’s visibility in the Czech Republic.
Martin Stránský, the company’s owner, ordered three bitcoin ATMs from US manufacturer Robocoin Technologies in December 2013 under a contract worth some 1,500,000 CZK ($74,200).
The
centre is located on the corner of Arbesovo náměstí and Elišky Peškové
street, with the Robocoin ATM available from Monday to Friday, 10am to
7pm, with a single transaction limit set at 25,000 CZK ($1,200).

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The difficulty of getting Bitcoin to catch on in Italy

Italy’s
first Bitcoin ATM was a Lamassu machine, installed in Udine,
a northeastern city nestled between the Alps and the Adriatic
Sea.

(CoinTelegraph) That’s wine country, and you would need plenty of it to wash
down the stuffed gnocchi.
The machine’s owner, Luca Dordolo, is often nearby to assist
anyone who needs help using the machine (it’s located in the hall of his family’s business).
He’s even had the interface translated into the local Friulian language, as
well as Italian.
Dordolo’s vision is to create an Italian hub for Bitcoin, and
his next step at this point is to install more machines around the country.
Obstacles, both legal and cultural, are making this difficult,
though.

Legal Obstacles

First, Dordolo laments the “lack of relevant legislation” in Italy
regarding Bitcoin, forcing him to operate in a grey area with which many
Bitcoin entrepreneurs are familiar.
Before buying that first Lamassu ATM, Dordolo said he had a
pool of attorneys and legal experts advise him on what he could and could not
do. Italy,
they told him, does not regulate Bitcoin itself, nor are there any
know-your-customer regulations, but any transactions above 999.99 EUR need to
be reported.
So, that was the limit he set.
Here is what BitLegal says about Italian legislation:

“The use of electronic
currency is restricted to banks and electronic money institutions — that is,
private legal entities duly authorized and registered by the Central Bank of Italy.
Aside from these developments, Italy
does not regulate Bitcoin use by private individuals, and currently the
implementation of initiatives concerning the use of electronic currencies lies
with the EU.”

Dordolo is not confident Italian law will catch up with the
technology.

“Banca d’Italia is
studying the [Bitcoin] phenomenon, and perhaps — if they were fast — in 10-20
years we could have a law on it.”

Cultural Obstacles
Dealing with murky Italian laws is one thing. Dealing with
local perception is something else entirely, Dordolo said.

“In Italy, we are at the beginning of
Bitcoin’s spreading among the population. There is an interesting Bitcoin
community [in Italy],
but it is still very hard to explain to Italian people the real value that
Bitcoin creates in the economy and the job opportunities it creates.
This is because of
misinformation by the national media that actually regard it as a scam or worst
as associated with criminal deeds.
Even the local Bitcoin
Foundation is not as active as it should be, so whatever can move this
situation is welcome.”

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Third CoinSummit to be held in London

(Cryptocoinchronicle) The Third CoinsSummit is to be held in London this July. San
Francisco was the acting ground of the previous CoinSummit convention
that was held in March; as the second convention presented, this next
summit will feature a series of panel discussions and speeches from
bitcoin enthusiasts, hedge fund professionals, VC and angel investors,
and experienced cryptocurrency entrepreneurs.

The information posted on the CoinSummit official site:

“CoinSummit London is a two-day event connecting virtual
currency entrepreneurs, angel and VC investors, hedge fund professionals
and others who are looking to learn and network in the virtual currency
industry. CoinSummit will take place on July 10-11 2014 at the East
Wintergarden London.”

Some notable speakers include Silk Road Equity co-founder Matthew
Roszak, new Bitcoin Foundation board of director Brock Pierce, angel
investor Roger Ver, and Maidsafe CEO David Irvine. Some of the others
participants include Megabigpower founder David Carlson, Lamassu CEO
Zach Harvey, eToro CEO Yoni Assia, and many others.

This 3rd CoinSummit, organizers are presenting a new set.
Besides the usual structure, a special platform is being organized for a
few startup companies. Coinsummit has informed at their site, that ten
startups will be given the chance to present in front of the entire
CoinSummit audience and will be chosen on the basis of the size and
charm of the opportunity they are designing, the strength of the team,
and their traction / metrics / achievements.

Some of the spreakers
Some of the speakers

The summit is organized by Pamir Gelenbe, a strongly firmed crypto
currencies entrepreneur and partner at Hummingbird Ventures. After the
last summit in March, Gelenbe has stated:

“We hope to bring together entrepreneurs, VC investors
and folks from hedge funds who want to learn about bitcoins as an asset
class…we really want to focus on the business side of Bitcoin as we
don’t think there has been an event like this before.”

CoinSummit has been the leading hand on taking Bitcoin discussion to
higher grounds by cementing the bonds between the Bitcoin communities
around the world and relaying trustworthy information to the media and
business investors.

CoinSummit London 2014, will be held at the East Wintergarden and
take place on July 10-11. Entrance to the conference is invite-only.
Digital currency enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who wish to attend the
event can request an invitation on the summit’s official site; applying for the presentation is free and the deadline to register is June 20.

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Bitcoin 2014: Building the Digital Economy

(CoinReport) Heads up folks! Bitcoin 2014: Building the Digital Economy conference is being held in Amsterdam from May 15 to 17.

Bitcoin 2014

Bitcoin 2014 is an “annual international forum, exhibition and networking conference organized by the Bitcoin Foundation for the fintech industry.”
It will be a meeting place for investors, technologists, regulators,
executives, entrepreneurs, developers, and policymakers to gather and
discuss the future of digital currency around the world.
The first bitcoin 2013 conference
was held in Silicon Valley in San Jose California. The conference had a
spectacular turnout of over 1,200 attendees, speakers, and exhibitors.
It featured bitcoin investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss as keynote
speakers.One of the topmost fintech hubs in Europe, Amsterdam serves as a great place for this year’s momentous event to take place. 
 
https://bsidebtc.com/

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Over 3,000 Bitcoin-friendly merchants are already registered at CoinMap

(BitcoinExaminer) Bitcoin’s amazing ride into the mainstream is not just happening online with the help of big retailers like Overstock or TigerDirect. There are now more than 3,000 brick-and-mortar merchants spread across the world that accept cryptocurrency, according to CoinMap.

The online map allows retailers to
register once they start accepting BTC and the number of members has
been growing exponentially. After the price peak registered in November
of 2013, CoinMap went from almost 1,000 to 2,004 merchants.

6

And now the platform took another big
leap, currently listing 3,003 physical retailers. This means that the
number of businesses registered at CoinMap grew about 50 percent in less than two months.

The place with the biggest number of retailers is still the United States
– with 1,294 businesses -, but Europe is giving America a run for its
money with more than 1,200 companies and stores that already accept
Bitcoin.

Cryptocurrency is even present in more secluded places like Iceland or Siberia, as you can see on the website.

According to the calculations made by the Redditor ‘LiveBeef’CoinMap’s next big jump should happen in March, when the platform could reach 4,000 merchants.

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