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Archive Monthly Archives: May 2017

Imzy raises $8 million Series A round, opens communities platform to everyone

We all want to feel like we belong somewhere. In todays connected world, one-fifth of adults in the U.S. are online almost constantly, according to Pew Research Center. But the internet can be a lonely place. Although social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter exist, it can be hard to have genuine interactions with people.

Thats where Imzy comes in. Imzy, which aims to be a platform for genuine conversations with like-minded people, is launching out of private beta today.It also recently closed an $8 million Series A round led by Index Ventures.

What makes me most excited about the funding is it gives us time, Imzy CEO Dan McComas told me. As I think about telling our community members, look we got this money, Imexcited to tell them we have the money to get this right for you. The money to take the time that your communities need so that we can really evolve the tools, the developer platform, the payments platform and really get this stuff right and we dont have to force ourselves too early into advertising or growing communities in ways that are unnatural for the communities. We now have a number of years to take our time and get the community thing right. Thats the most important thing.

There are currently over 50,000 people on Imzy across 6,000 Imzy communities, with 50-60 percent of them being active weekly, in which people discusssexuality, relationships, games, books, politics and so much more. If the community youre looking for doesnt exist, you can create it yourself. The idea is that anyone and everyone has a place to go for safe, healthy conversations.

Weve been very proactive and very thoughtful about exactly what we want to have happen and the things that would be detrimental to having healthy communities, Imzy Head of Community Jessica Moreno told me earlier this month. We have a lot of experiences looking at that stuff. There are a lot of things that result in the worst behavior that you dont need to allow to begin with. So weve been very deliberate about that, where most places took 10 years to decide that they needed to start addressing things.

Ive been bopping around on Imzy and have grown to adore a community on polyamory. Ive been blown away by the amount of support and great advice Ive received.Whats unique about Imzy is its flexibility around identities. You can be anyone you want on Imzy, including yourself, and even have multiple usernames, if youd like. For example, Im totally anonymous in the polyamory community, but Im myself in the community about racism.

What I dont want is people flooding to the site thinking that its Reddit because its just not Reddit.

— Dan McComas, CEO at Imzy

Another unique aspect of Imzy is its developer platform, which enablescommunity members and leaders to build the features they need, and then share them with the rest of the larger Imzy community. Through the developer platform, people could easily build a tool for communities to schedule events and take RSVPs,hook a payment platform into it and then charge a few bucks to people who want to attend. The aim is to prevent community fragmentation while also enabling other communities on Imzy to benefit from the tools on the developer platform.

Imzy has a tips platform that lets you reward great posts, and the team is also working on ways for communities to enable peer-to-peer transactions, crowdfunding and ultimately enable them with the tools to make money. That could be in the form of selling tickets for an in-person meetup or selling community swag and merchandise.

When I first wrote about Imzy inMay, I called it the anti-Reddit mostly because the vast majority of the co-founders (including McComas and Moreno) used to work at Reddit, where they ultimately felt frustrated by the platforms lack of community. But McComas wants to move past that comparison.

If it can just end, McComas said regarding the comparison to Reddit. I just want it to be for communities online. Reddit is about content and thats great. I want to be about communities. What I dont want is people flooding to the site thinking that its Reddit because its just not Reddit. There are some parallels that we can draw but the more that we get into this and the more that we see the site grow, the less and less it really is looking like Reddit. The more the developer platform starts to evolve and really that will come in the next couple of months, but the more that starts to happen, the more the platform begins to really evolve.

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Britain's Got Talent, semi-final 2: magicians Matt Edwards and Issy Simpson are through to the final – Telegraph.co.uk


Telegraph.co.uk

Britain's Got Talent, semi-final 2: magicians Matt Edwards and Issy Simpson are through to the final
Telegraph.co.uk
Judging by the Twitter reaction so far, as well as the overall quality of tonight's performances, our money for this episode's "winners" is on Issy Simpson and Harry Gardner. That said, personally speaking, we'd …. The Golden Buzzers: are they in

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Will Taco Charlton Break The Cowboys Rookie Edge Rusher Injury Curse? – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Will Taco Charlton Break The Cowboys Rookie Edge Rusher Injury Curse?
Blogging The Boys (blog)
It's been a struggle for the Cowboys' rookie defensive ends to stay healthy in recent years, but can this year's prospect buck the trend? by DannyPhantom@DannyPhantom24 May 30, 2017, 6:30pm CDT. tweet · share · pin · Rec. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY …

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GOP Presents Mysterious Evidence Of Illegal Fetal Tissue Sales

House Republicans claim to have new evidence that abortion providers are illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation — but a stem-cell research company says that evidence appears to have been manipulated.  

Republicans presented documents at a hearing on Wednesday that they say show Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers using fetal tissue donations as a moneymaking scheme. But they would not reveal the source or context of those documents — even to their Democratic colleagues sitting on the same investigative committee. 

Republicans on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which was established in response to a series of highly manipulated videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood selling fetal body parts after abortions, brought exhibits to the hearing that appear to be marketing materials for an unnamed fetal tissue procurement company. The documents show the company promoting itself to abortion clinics as a way to expand their profits.

Under federal law, abortion clinics can receive reasonable reimbursements for the costs of donating fetal tissue to medical research companies, but Republicans believe providers are misusing the practice to line their pockets. 

“This does not sound to me like tissue donation for research,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chairwoman of the panel, after presenting the documents. “This sounds like someone who wants to make money — a lot of money — selling baby body parts.” 

Democrats said the documents, which were presented with the company’s name redacted, were probably stolen and manipulated by David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist behind the Planned Parenthood videos who was recently indicted by a grand jury in Texas for tampering with a governmental record. Daleiden created a fake driver’s license and fake identity to gain access to medical conferences and secretly recorded Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal tissue donations. The Texas grand jury, which was initially convened to investigate Daleiden’s claims against Planned Parenthood, cleared the family planning organization of any wrongdoing.

According to a spokeswoman for the panel, Democrats have repeatedly asked their GOP colleagues where the documents came from — but the Republicans have not explained the documents’ source. Republicans also declined to question Daleiden himself under oath at the hearing.

After the hearing, StemExpress, a fetal tissue procurement company that worked with Planned Parenthood, issued a statement saying the documents presented as evidence by Republicans look similar to documents that Daleiden stole from StemExpress.

“To date, we have provided over 2,000 pages of documents to the various Senate and House Committees—including nearly 900 pages of materials to the Select Panel—and have offered witnesses who are willing to testify under oath to answer questions about fetal tissue procurement and pricing. To date, none of these individuals have been scheduled to provide deposition testimony,” the statement reads.

In addition, the company does not profit from fetal tissue research, but rather “incurs substantial losses each year to support fetal tissue research,” the statement said. 

“This hearing is based on a house of cards,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). “The exhibits being used are in all likelihood the product of a theft carried out by someone who is now under indictment in Texas and whose home has been the subject of a court-ordered search in California. Is this hearing really going to proceed based on stolen and misleading documents?”

Democrats also criticized their colleagues for threatening the useful practice of fetal tissue research, which was key in discovering the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a severe birth defect. Without debate or vote, Republicans on the investigative panel last month issued subpoenas requesting the names of fetal tissue researchers and staffers at abortion clinics that donate the tissue — a move that critics say could put targets on the backs of those individuals.

At a hearing earlier this year, Blackburn would not answer her colleagues’ questions about why she needed to make the names of researchers public. Democrats compared the investigation to a “witch hunt.” 

“This investigation has never been and has no promise of becoming fair or fact-based,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said at the hearing. “Our Republican colleagues’ disdain for the facts –- and for women and their doctors –- is putting researchers, doctors, and women at risk.  It is time for Republican leadership to bring this investigation to an end.”

This article has been updated with a statement from StemExpress.

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Temple of the Dog: Chris Cornell on the return of the 90s grunge supergroup

They might have existed for less than two weeks but the band, bringing together members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, retains a loyal cult following

Next week, a band that only existed for 10 days, a quarter century ago, will play some of the most hotly anticipated shows of the year.

On 20 and 21 November, Temple of the Dog will headline the Paramount Theater in Seattle, a city its members transformed into the center of the music universe back in the 90s. Though the reunited Temple which comprises key members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam already performed in three other cities this month, the Seattle dates will bring a seminal part of rock history back to its origin point. No doubt, theyll also intensify desire for more shows by the band next year in the UK and Europe.

The hard work, of getting into a room and learning to deliver these songs live, weve already done, said frontman Chris Cornell. That makes the idea of adding to that in the future a lot more possible.

Thats especially true because the so-far fleeting tour just eight shows in five US cities was created, in part, to extend the legacy of a musician whos no longer with us. Twenty-five years ago, Cornell conceived Temple of the Dog as a one-off salute to his roommate Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose at age 24 in March 1990. Wood led the promising band Mother Love Bone, which included two members of what would soon morph into Pearl Jam (guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament). Shaken by Woods death, Cornell, along with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, joined Gossard, Ament and guitarist Mike McCreedy for a project meant to channel their collective grief. We made the album in a really short period of time with almost no money, and without rehearsing, Cornell said. It worked because our hearts were in the right place and there were no expectations.

In fact, Cornell says that when they delivered the Temple album to A&M Records, they seemed to treat it as though it was a vanity project for me.

Back then, Soundgarden were the most promising of the new Seattle bands, but they had yet to sell in significant numbers. Pearl Jam was just solidifying its lineup with the addition of singer Eddie Vedder. Consequently, the Temple album sold a modest 70,000 copies upon its release on 16 April 1991. Over the course of the next year, however, Seattle became musics ground zero, with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana exploding to become the hottest rock bands on the planet. Realizing they had untapped gold, A&M re-issued the Temple album in the summer of 1992. It became a platinum smash, fueled by the single, Hunger Strike, which featured both Cornell and guest Vedder on valiant lead vocals. With its high-drama vocal interplay, Hunger became the Under Pressure of the grunge generation. Due to the sudden heat behind both singers regular bands, however, there was no chance for Temple to stage their own tour. Prior to this months shows, the only performance of their music came during a few scattered Pearl Jam shows, when Cornell came on for cameos.

Vedder has yet to appear with the band on this tour, though the Seattle shows may change that. During the Madison Square Garden date last week, Cornell had the 17,000-person strong crowd sing Vedders parts. It was one of the most emotional moments in the show, Cornell said.

In fact, the whole show runs high with feeling. An image of Andrew Wood appears on the stage, the band cover several of his songs with Mother Love Bone, and the night opens with a recording of Woods piano work. At the Garden, Cornell spoke frequently of the loss to music with Woods passing. Had he lived, I know he would have stood on this stage may times, he said.

In the covers of old Mother songs, Cornell essentially serves as Woods surrogate. Small wonder he refers to the tour as cathartic. Ive always had really difficult time with loss, he said. I didnt deal well with Andys death. After he died, numerous times Id be driving and I would look out the window and I thought I saw him. It would take me five minutes to update to the moment and realize, no, hes actually dead. This tour, in a sense, is the dealing. Its facing the reality.

Awareness of death has a role in other elements of the show. To fill out the long concert, the band has been featuring lots of covers by departed artists, including Harry Nilsson (Jump Into The Fire), Syd Barrett (Baby Lemonade), David Bowie (Quicksand), and fellow Seattle star Layne Stayley (of Alice In Chains and Mad Season, via his song River Of Deceit). Cornell says the band didnt intend to channel so many ghosts. Its just a matter of time and our ages, he said. Time kills a lot of artists we were listening to as kids.

Sub-texturally, the tour also refers to the death of something deeper rock as a commercially dominant form. The 90s Seattle scene, which the show recalls, represents the last time young guitar bands ruled the mainstream. The growing nostalgia for that era among members of Generation X explains the impetuous for the tour. To stoke it, the shows coincide with the release of a greatly expanded version of the original Temple album. Cornell thinks theres something sad about the music industrys reliance on re-selling back catalogue like this in order to survive. Companies figured out that the easiest way to make money was to reissue records that the accounting department had paid for years ago and already made a profit, he said. Every band is fucking doing anniversary projects. Its the punctuation mark at the end of the record industry.

At the same time, the Temple songs represent something in rock history worth commemorating. Before they created the album, Cornell was playing a rougher style of music with Soundgarden. Pearl Jam hadnt even written their first songs yet. The sound Temple created wound up setting the template for the Seattle style that would soon entrance the world. More, the Temple songs now have a new life via the current interpretations. The evolved, live versions of the songs hadnt existed until now, said Cornell. Im finding aspects to the song I never knew existed. Thats the miracle of music. No one can reinterpret a Picasso but a song can be remixed and covered and interpreted in an infinite number of ways. Its a living thing.

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5 Things You Should Understand About Being A Blogger – MadameNoire


MadameNoire

5 Things You Should Understand About Being A Blogger
MadameNoire
Blogging is time consuming. If you are serious about making your blog the go-to for a specific interest or group of people, you have to put in the work. Our non-blogger friends tend to think posting is just a matter of waking up and putting something

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Cowboys Free Agent Signee Nolan Carroll Arrested For DWI – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Cowboys Free Agent Signee Nolan Carroll Arrested For DWI
Blogging The Boys (blog)
The Cowboys new free agent cornerback isn't doing himself any favors with this incident. by DannyPhantom@DannyPhantom24 May 29, 2017, 8:13pm CDT. tweet · share · pin · Rec. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Nolan Carroll isn't a fan favorite of many.

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Uber is now offering $1,000 cash advances and letting drivers work off the money

There is growing concern among Uber drivers, both current and prospective, about a recent pilot program launched by the company that offers new drivers $1,000 in advance, and then requires repayment via monthly earnings.

The Advance Pay program launched in early April 2016 as part of a partnership between Uber and Clearbanc, a financial services startup that focuses on self-employed professionals. Made available only to new drivers in California and Michigan, the initiative spots drivers $1,000 up front, with as much as 25 percent of that amount available immediately, and the rest coming after the driver completes their first trip.

For repayment, the company takes a portion of revenue the driver generates each week until the balance is paid off. The percentage, which can be as much as 50 percent of a driver’s income, is determined up front and doesn’t vary over time. A driver can also pay back the advance directly to Clearbanc to wipe out the balance.

The advance is “interest free,” according to the terms provided by Clearbanc, but that’s where things start get a little confusing.

Recent uproar surrounding the Advance Pay program claimed that, in addition to the weekly repayment percentage, the company also charges a fee of $2 per day if there is a balance on the account. The report came from a user on Uber-People.neta popular forum for drivers on ride-hailing platformsand was circulated on Twitter.

Those concerns seem to be unfounded; in the terms of service from Clearbanc, it indicates that the company applies a $50 fee if the advance isn’t paid off within 15 weeks. The $2 fee that seems to have caused some confusion is for a different Uber finance service called Instant Pay.

Clearbanc’s Instant Pay is available to Uber drivers, but isn’t offered as a partnership through Uber. The plan allows driversand users of other sharing economy servicesto get their earnings paid to them in advance with a $2 service fee charged for each deposit. That fee does not apply to the Advance Pay program.

A representative for Clearbanc confirmed to the Daily Dot that there is no daily fee nor interest rate applied to the Advance Pay program, and noted the company could make the distinction between programs “more clear to avoid confusion.”

The terms of the Advance Pay agreement are worked out between individual drivers and Clearbanc, and while the company doesn’t run a credit check, it does have a screening process and Advance Pay recipients have to be approved. The representative did not provide any additional details as to what the approval process entails.

The Clearbanc representative was also unable to provide any specifics as to how the company reclaims money from the Advance Pay program if a person were to fail to repay after 15 weeks; the payment plan that skims a percentage of profits from Uber trips ends after that period and the driver will have to pay back Clearbanc directly beyond that point.

According to the representative, the $50 fee applied after 15 weeks is a maximum amount and often isn’t assessed in full; the company “works closely” with the recipients to make sure they are able to pay back their balance.

The representative did note two ways in which the balance is notcollected:money is not automatically withdrawn from a user’s bank account, nor is the balance transferred from Clearbanc to a collection agency if it isn’t paid in full.

Tom Dresslar,the deputy commissioner of policy and planning at the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO),noted that drivers should approach such offers with caution, as offers like Clearbanc’s rarely come without a catch. “They may not call itinterest, you can call it a ‘finance charge’ or whatever youwant to call it, but it’s not free,” he said.

Ira Rheingold, the executive director for theNational Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA), told the Daily Dot that the terms of the program, as they were described, were considerably better than high-interest, short term loans offered through payday loan companies. “Compared to what the market place looks like, it’s not bad terms,” he said.

Were excited about this pilot with Clearbanc because Advance Pay will help connect people most in need of immediate, additional income with reliable, flexible work at the push of a button.Rachel Holt, Uber regional general manager, told the Daily Dot.

The misconception about fees has clouded other legitimate questions about the Advance Pay program, starting with just who the initiative is aimed at. By targeting people who have not yet signed up to drive for Uber, it appears the company is dangling a significant cash incentive that would appeal to people in need of an immediate windfall.

That’s no small portion of the population; research from the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of people say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400 or would need to sell something or borrow money to cover it; two-thirds of people would struggle to cover a $1,000 emergency and would need to borrow money according to research from the Associated Press.

Advance Pay has essentially the same targeted clientele as payday loansan industry that has no shortage of in-need customers but is so fraught with bad practices that Google placed an outright ban on advertisements for the loans.

“Consumer advocates are struggling to stop the payday lending industry, and as we struggle to find alternatives for people who are in need of short-term cash that isn’tunconscionable,” Rheingold explained.

Payday loans typically trap recipients with exorbitantly high interest rates that often cost more in fees than the initial loan was for, and the annual percentage rate on these loans often exceed 400 percent. A survey by the Pew Charitable Trustsfoundthe average payday loan recipient will take out eight loans of around $375 per year, often rolling over the initial loan when they are unable to cover the cost, while spending $520 on interest.

“If the alternative is somebody going to get a payday loan at incrediblyusuriousrates, then probably is a pretty good idea,” Rheingold said.

Uber’s initiative may compare favorably to predatory lendershowever low that bar may be to clearand it doesn’t necessarily trap its users in the same way. But it does come with its own hidden costs that may not be readily apparent to a first-time Uber driver.

For starters, there’s the expense of driving in the first place. Becoming a contractor for Uber means the new driver will be completing trips that they otherwise wouldn’t be taking. That puts additional miles on their vehicle, eats up gas, and increases the likelihood vehicle breakdown; all expenses that fall at the feet of the driver.

These costs will all vary depending on the vehicle that a person drives, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets the standard milage rates for operating a vehicle for business purposes at 54 cents per milea figure that is designed to account for the costs of maintenance, repairs, taxes,gas, insurance, and registration fees.

“In some ways, it’s a $1,000 advance to help them pay off the cost they might have from driving if they don’t have it up front and will need that additional help,” noted Rheingold.

There’s also opportunity cost; any person opting to take Uber’s offer of a $1,000 advance should understand that they are essentially committing to working for the company to pay that money back (though the money can technically be paid back directly and without driving more than one trip). If the person works another job alreadyas two-thirds of Uber drivers dothey’ll have to figure out how to fit time to serve as an Uber driver into their schedule.

For drivers who take up the Advance Pay program, the math during the period of time they are splitting revenue with Clearbanc isn’t favorable. Uber takes a20 percentcut of each fare to startand has tested going as high as 25 to30 percentin some markets already. Between 30 to 50 percent of the remaining revenue is taken by Clearbanc until the $1,000 advance is covered. That leaves drivers with as low as 30 percent of the cost of each trip left in their pocket before accounting for their own expenses incurred.

The equation becomes even more challenging when attempting to account for Uber’s recent practices that have made fares more affordable for riders and profits much smaller for drivers.

Uber has slashed fares by as much as 45 percent in many major markets, including cities like Detroit, which falls under the new Advance Pay program. Rates for UberX drivers in Detroit have been cut three times already in 2016 according to UberEstimate.com, and fell as low as $0.30 per mile for fares. While these rates fluctuate and have increased, a driver attempting to pay back an advance can have the repayment plan upended by an unexpected rate cut.

“To decide whether or not you want to work for Uber, you should be making a cost-benefit analysis for yourself. You’re going to need to figure out if this is something that will earn a decent living for you,” Rheingold advised.

For Uber, the math is much simpler; it’s essentially guaranteed itself a new driver who will work at least part time, the period of time during which a portion of fares goes toward paying down the advance payment. While 60 percent of Uber drivers surveyed by Coworker.org said they considered dropping from the platform after the widespread rate drops, new drivers with the $1,000 advance hanging over their head would be less likely to flee under the circumstances.

“It creates an incentive for people who take a job with Uber to pay that money back , so that’s the win for Uber,” Rheingold said. “It does create an incentive for people to go out and drive and make money.”

Earlier this year, NPR alsoreportedthat Uber plans to kill its surge pricing model, which increases fares during periods of higher demand for rides. The model is extremely beneficial to drivers, many of whom plan around hours where rates spike in order to snag higher earnings. Drivers who start their career with Uber with a $1,000 debt may feel obligated to drive regardless of fares to pay back their advance. Uber later denied any changes to surge pricing were coming.

Whether drivers stay on board beyond the 15-week loan period is of less importance to Uber. The company already has a high turnover rateits own survey found that 76 percent of drivers had been on the platform for less than six months. If Advance Pay puts more new drivers on the road, even for a temporary period, it keeps the wheels turning for the company.

Other drivers have also expressed concern that Uber may eventually do away with other incentive programs like signing bonuses and will replace them with Advance Pay. Uber has previously offered up to $500 to drivers after completing one trip. These bonuses are generally contingent on ongoing performance goals, but it’s $500 in addition to earned income rather than a $1,000 advance on future revenue.

Rheingold ultimately viewed the Advance Pay program with a tepid optimism, indicating that if it operates as Uber suggests, it could be beneficial to some. Still, he noted that he would “caution anyone who takes an advance to recognize that it has to be paid back and that they’ve made the decision that this is in fact something that they will work toward.”

Tom Dresslar of the California Department of Business Oversight said the program is too new and too short on details to discuss from a regulatory standpoint, but noted that his organization was looking into the matter.

“The website doesn’t provide a lot of usable disclosure from a regulatory standpoint,” he said. “Given that, and given the similarity the program appears to have with payday loans or merchant cash advances…we would urge Uber drivers to be cautious and to do the homework necessary to know what they’re getting into before entering these arrangements.”

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The secret lives of Cannes's Instagram queens – Daily Sabah

The secret lives of Cannes's Instagram queens
Daily Sabah
Maja Malnar, who makes a living from her blog and 264,000-strong Instagram following, admits she's struggled to explain her job as a "social media influencer" to her mother back in Slovenia. Years ago she started posting snaps of … About 18 months

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Blogging the Cliburn (Prelim Day 4) – Fort Worth Weekly (satire) (press release) (registration) (blog)


Fort Worth Weekly (satire) (press release) (registration) (blog)

Blogging the Cliburn (Prelim Day 4)
Fort Worth Weekly (satire) (press release) (registration) (blog)
The crowd is sparse on Sunday morning, but I don't think it's because the warmth of the last few days has given way to rain. After all, the precipitation is so light that it would struggle to be called a drizzle, and the crowd is much heavier during

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