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EU targets Russian oil, Patriarch in new sanctions

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The Russian oil embargo is part of the EU's sixth sanction package, and would be phased-in over the rest of the year to help countries adapt
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The European Union’s executive unveiled Wednesday plans for a gradual ban on Russian oil imports as part of a raft of new sanctions to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine.

The proposed measures include moves against Russia’s biggest bank and the targeting of Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

If approved, the oil ban would be the EU’s toughest move yet against Russia’s strategic energy sector that helps the Kremlin finance its war, but will still not touch its huge gas exports.

The embargo is part of the bloc’s sixth sanction package, and would be phased-in over the rest of the year to help countries adapt.

The EU is the biggest consumer of Russia’s crude oil. Last year Russia supplied the bloc’s 27 members with 30 percent of their crude and 15 percent of their petroleum products.

“We now propose a ban on Russian oil. This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

But, she added, “we will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion”, with crude banned gradually over the next six months and refined fuels by the end of the year. 

Ambassadors from the 27 European Union countries met on Wednesday to assess her plan, and it will need unanimous approval before going into effect.

The proposal also asked that Hungary and Slovakia, both hugely dependent on Russian oil, be given an extra year to meet the ban, a document seen by AFP showed. 

In a statement sent to AFP, Hungary said it saw no guarantee for its energy security in the proposed ban.

Asked if this meant Hungary outrightly rejected the EU’s proposal, the government press office did not immediately answer.

– ‘War supporter’ –

Von der Leyen also said her proposal would deny Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, access to SWIFT, the global banking communications system.

By hitting Sberbank and two other banks, “we hit banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to wage destruction,” she said.

Her proposal also singled out Patriarch Kirill, calling him “a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin who has become one of the most prominent supporters” of the war.

The new list mainly includes Russian military personnel, but also the wife, daughter and son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Von der Leyen said the high-ranking military officers included those “who committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol”.

“This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable,” von der Leyen said.

The EU also proposed banning more Russian broadcasters from the airwaves in Europe. 

The bloc already banned media outlets RT and Sputnik in March and pressured tech giants to remove them from their platforms.

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University and college students get a leg up thanks to IBM Canada’s upskilling curriculum

How Lila Adamec and IBM Canada have worked with higher education to deliver 3,000 microcredentials since 2018.

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Lila Adamec
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Everywhere you turn, in nearly every industry, there are labour challenges. 

In manufacturing 82% of businesses are looking for help, and for the first time since 2015 there are more jobs available than there are people.

In Ontario the Chamber of Commerce reports that 60% of its members are having trouble filling roles in health care, retail, construction, tourism, and financial services.

And despite recent layoffs with technology companies, a 2021 Information and Communications Technology Council report forecasts 11% of all employment in Canada will be in the digital economy by 2025, requiring 250,000 more people to fill roles.

Labour shortages are being fuelled by a growing number of people retiring, combined with a decline in immigration during the pandemic. The problem is exacerbated by a mismatch between available jobs and skills. Digital transformation — especially the rush to digital-first initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic — has meant that technology and related jobs are in high-demand. A whopping 80% of businesses surveyed by KPMG say they need more workers with digital skills. 

So where does one look to help fix the talent shortage and skills gap? 

Education.

“Upskilling, reskilling, and teaching students digital and technical skills is going to be a critical step in meeting growing demand in Canada,” says Lila Adamec, Leader of Academic Integration and Innovation at IBM Canada Lab. “Young students have a huge opportunity to help lead a new digital generation, and many skilled people already in the workforce can look to have their skills upgraded to learn more about cloud, or AI, or analytics, for example.”

Adamec has been working on this problem for years. 

In 2017 she developed a program at IBM to address this skills gap. The approach her team took was to deliver turnkey curriculum solutions to universities across Canada. Essentially a “complete curriculum solution” as Adamec calls it, IBM provides higher-ed institutions with a complete toolkit, including curriculum material, access to IBM’s enterprise software, tests, and microcredentials. The curriculum is designed to address skills gaps commonly found in the tech sector by delivering and providing learners with “skill security.”

“With the gig economy, skill security is important, so that you can move from one gig to the next,” Adamec says. “Or if you need to upskill in an area or level up your education, and quickly get the skills you need. So much of this is becoming an agile service offering.”

With this solution, everyone wins: students get upskilling potential, and colleges and universities meet academic criteria with a curriculum that’s approved by government ministries and professional associations.

Adamec rolled out the Learn@IBM program in 2018, and since then it’s been adopted by dozens of institutions including York University, Mohawk College, Bow Valley College, SAIT, NAIT, Holland College, and Vanier College, to name a few. Classes are often filled to capacity or over-subscribed, and students credit the courses for helping them land their dream jobs.

Since its rollout, Adamec says IBM Canada has delivered more than 3,000 microcredentials to students who have taken their courses.

Meeting the needs of higher education

The education space has undergone a radical transformation in the last five years. First because of evolving student needs and increased demand for newer tech-focused curriculum, then because the pandemic forced a rethink of how and where people attend post-secondary institutions.

While the hybrid classroom is now more commonplace, colleges and universities still face pressure to deliver curriculum that is in line with what students need in today’s workforce, and that is a real challenge.

This stems from the fact that a university or college course needs to be approved by a government ministry, which can take years. The process typically requires at least one full-time person to prepare a curriculum for ministry approval, and it can cost more than $1 million per course when all is said and done. As a result, some colleges and university programs opt for a standardized approach so students achieve a minimum set of skills that correspond to the industry or sector. 

It’s no wonder that many professors will teach the same material, without extensive updates, for 5-7 years.

When Adamec designed the Learn@IBM program, she knew it had to meet ministry approval, it needed to provide students with real-world skills that are current, and it had to be done faster and cheaper than traditional means.

Adamec and her team positioned IBM to be more of a business partner than just a solutions provider. With on-staff personnel who develop course curriculum for higher ed, academic partners don’t need to bear the cost or burden of full-time staff to manage curriculum development. And because IBM has a team of technical experts, the enterprise-level software offering can be paired with curriculum to deliver a cutting-edge, up-to-date learning experience.

These academic solutions are updated frequently, and delivered to universities at a huge cost savings, functioning more like a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering. By flipping the standard, slower model of curriculum development on its head, Adamec and her team deliver subscription-based, digital solutions that’ll help schools and learners better access tech skills to fill a desperate workforce need.

Bringing the classroom to WeaveSphere

With huge success across the Canadian academic landscape, Adamec will bring the Learn@IBM experience to the WeaveSphere technology conference happening in November.

Attracting industry leaders, academics and developers, WeaveSphere is an innovation event taking place Nov 15-17 in Toronto. 

As part of the conference’s Education Day, developed by Adamec, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students will have the opportunity to participate in a full day bootcamp on Design Thinking, a problem-solving methodology that first identifies the end result and stakeholders. Even more, students will earn an IBM MyLearning microcredential at the end of the course. The course will be open twice, with 80 spots each session.

“We are excited about giving students and academics the opportunity to weave ideas and research with challenges of the business world,” says Adamec. “With Enterprise Design Thinking, everyone is welcome to the problem-solving table and we find these moments are incredible opportunities for young people to engage with, and learn from people in the workforce.”

The WeaveSphere Education Day and IBM’s Design Thinking course allows students to leverage a valuable learning experience that’ll give them a leg up in both their professional and personal lives. 

“It’s the type of course that is open to all learning disciplines,” she elaborates. “Whether you’re in finance, liberal arts, tech, engineering, medicine — whatever you’re studying, you don’t have to be an IT guru to do Design Thinking.”

And it’s these opportunities that make WeaveSphere an impactful experience for students. The opportunity to ‘weave’ with and learn from experts and industry leaders is, simply put, unforgettable. 

As student and passionate “weaver” Ali Hamdy explained, “it was cool having a voice among people who are way more experienced than me and way more educated than me. And it was cool for them to actually sit down and listen to me and respond.”

Interested in earning a Design Thinking microcredential? Visit WeaveSphere for more information and to register for Education Day.


Digital Journal is an official media partner for WeaveSphere. We will share updates leading up to the event, and we’ll be live on location from November 15-17,2022. Join us and get your tickets at weavesphere.co.

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How random numbers are the driving force behind video games, jury selection, and more

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​​GigaCalculator investigated where and how random numbers are used to power processes in everyday life, using a variety of news stories, scientific reports, and other sources.  
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How random numbers are the driving force behind video games, jury selection, and more

Before computers and algorithms were developed to generate random numbers, there were dice. Middle Eastern tombs uncovered cubical dice dating back to the 20th century BC—but it’s believed they’re even older. Other methods of producing a random result included heating turtle shells until they cracked and tossing and dividing yarrow stalks, which provides a similar effect to repeated coin tosses.

The demand for random numbers has only increased since the days of yarrow stalks. In the 1940s, RAND Corporation released the first book of random numbers, “A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates,” with which mathematicians and scientists could flip to a page, point to a line, and have a random number at their fingertips. However, this method became obsolete with the development of computer models and algorithms that could generate random numbers in vast quantities.

As computers become increasingly pervasive in everyday life, numbers and data follow suit. Although we don’t always see the mathematical processes behind our screens, random numbers have become deeply ingrained in many daily functions. Using a variety of news stories, scientific reports, and other sources, ​​GigaCalculator investigated where and how random numbers power processes in everyday life.

Keep reading to see how random numbers impact your life and which uses for them you may not have known about previously.

Person playing video games on computer

Dean Drobot // Shutterstock

Video games

Many video games use random number generators to dictate the outcome of certain actions, adding an element of surprise and unpredictability to the player experience. For example, a random number generator may dictate the kind of special item a player receives when they hit a checkpoint or whether a player has an interaction with a specific character in a game.

Though many popular games use random numbers to guide outcomes, the overuse of randomization can undermine a player’s skill level, especially if the randomization algorithm can be manipulated based on other user inputs. Overall, using random numbers to drive gameplay keeps the experience fresh and unpredictable, but too much randomization can cause a game to feel unfair or undervaluing player skill.

Roulette wheel with poker table in the background

Dzmitry Krus // Shutterstock

Gambling

Like video games, physical gambling machines and online gambling games use randomization to make unpredictable outcomes. The process can be done using a true random number generator, which uses a physical event like noise signals to determine the number, or a pseudo-random number generator, which uses an entirely computer-based algorithm. Both methods produce a similar experience for the user, but pseudo-randomization poses a slight risk of being hacked because the process is executed entirely online.

No matter which type of randomization is used in a particular game, implementing random number generation is meant to provide a fair and exciting experience for the user. Independent auditors help ensure that legal gambling providers use algorithms that create unpredictable and unbiased outcomes so users can play safely.

White balls with numbers used in lottery draw

Skreidzeleu // Shutterstock

Military drafts

Though it doesn’t happen often, the U.S. Selective Service System requires nearly all male U.S. citizens and immigrants ages 18-25 to enroll. The last time the SSS was implemented was between 1964-1973 during the Vietnam War, which drafted more than 1.8 million men.

With so many roles to fill, many eligible people turned to alternative means to avoid the draft. The saying “If you’ve got the dough, you don’t have to go” indicates one of the ways draft evasion could be managed. To make the process fair, the U.S. launched its first draft lottery in 1969, which assigned eligible individuals a number based on their birthday. Lower numbers were then called to service first.

Jury duty summons and badge

Michelle Milano // Shutterstock

Jury selection

The SSS is not the only database the government maintains to randomly select eligible individuals for some kind of service: jury selection is completed similarly. States and counties have a list of people who meet the requirements for jury duty, including age restrictions, resident needs, and other criteria.

When a court case requires a jury, jurors are randomly selected from the database. The specific algorithm may differ by jurisdiction, but the goal is to assemble a random sample of people to help decide the case. Of course, additional measures are in place to ensure the randomly selected jury is fair, and in many cases, one or more jurors will be rejected.

Hand enters passcode on smartphone

Tero Vesalainen // Shutterstock

Encryption

Traditionally, encryption is the process by which a message or other information is translated into a code so that it can be communicated securely. The code is then translated back into the original message using the cipher or key. Despite the increased security this type of encryption can provide, it is by no means foolproof; messages can be deciphered using different algorithms.

Increasingly complicated ciphers are used to increase the security of encryption; however, the advancement of machine learning and other computer algorithms has made even these easier to break. As a result, computer scientists and other encryption experts have been integrating elements of randomness into their ciphers, including using random number generators to change how every individual message is encrypted. This constant random flux of ciphers makes messages much more secure.

Two Businesspeople Calculating Financial Statement

Andrey_Popov // Shutterstock

Forensic accounting

Ever wondered how the IRS decides whose taxes to audit? The answer is forensic accounting: a field of mathematics that focuses on the examination of fraud and other crimes involving money. Forensic accountants can use various statistical methods, including comparisons to randomly generated and historical data sets, to determine the likelihood that financial statements were fabricated or doctored.

One such method is Benford’s Law, a mathematical law that outlines the probability that a natural number starts with any given digit from one through nine. Any number that is not randomly generated—and is not intentionally human-generated to convey information like ZIP codes or telephone numbers—is considered a natural number. Using Benford’s Law, the IRS and others can identify sets of numbers that seem like they wouldn’t naturally occur and therefore need to be investigated in the case of a potential crime.

This story originally appeared on GigaCalculator and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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Here’s what the most popular American vehicles actually cost the average driver

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Do you know how much popular American cars and trucks actually cost to own? CoPilot takes a look at 10 of the most popular models and how much drivers actually shell out every year.   
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Here’s what the most popular American vehicles actually cost the average driver

The cost of a car or truck is more than just the price you pay driving it off the lot. Every year, auto owners need to factor in a number of different costs to determine the true price of owning a particular model. Everything from the cost of repairs to the price of fuel goes into determining such a cost.

As supply shortages and varying demand have made the current auto market one of the most challenging in recent memory, the idea of affordability has begun to change. CoPilot estimated the cost of the most popular vehicles from 2021 for an average U.S. driver based on data from its CoPilot Price Pulse tool, Car and Driver, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The number of miles driven and the mix of highway and city driving came from estimates of countrywide averages provided by the DOE. Full details about the DOE’s methodology can be found here. The current market price of each vehicle comes from the Price Pulse tool and looks at the price of a 2021 model for each vehicle.

The most basic model for each vehicle was chosen. Fuel price was collected from AAA’s gas price tracker as of Sept. 1, 2022. Annual operating costs and cost per mile are for the cost during the first year and include fuel, tires, maintenance, registration, license, and insurance. The ranking is based on the number of vehicles sold in 2021.

All of the vehicles on this list are gas engine models. The Honda Civic has the best fuel efficiency, getting 37 mpg average, which helps it take the top spot in terms of cost. The Honda Civic also has the lowest cost per mile of any car on this list at $0.29. The highest cost is a tie between the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500 Pickup, and the Chevy Silverado, which are all more expensive by $0.08 per mile. The difference may sound negligible, but considering the average number of miles put on any given vehicle is over 13,000 per year, that “negligible” amount translates to quite a chunk of change—around $1,078.

Continue reading for the full cost breakdown of the most popular vehicles.

Silver Honda Civic at auto show

Santi Rodriguez // Shutterstock

#10. Honda Civic

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Honda Civic 4Dr 4cyl 1.5L Automatic (variable gear ratios)
– Annual operating cost: $3,496
– Annual fuel cost: $1,239
– Cost per mile: $0.29
– Annual emissions: 7,761 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 263,787
– Current market price of vehicle: $29,099

The Honda Civic is understandably popular, given its relatively low cost and reputation for reliability. Along with the affordability of the car itself, the Honda Civic also has a reputation for being inexpensive to maintain. Its average cost of maintenance over the first decade of its life is almost $2,000 less than the national average for sedans.

White Toyota Highlander parked at dealership

Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

#9. Toyota Highlander

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Toyota Highlander 6cyl 3.5L Automatic (S8)
– Annual operating cost: $4,179
– Annual fuel cost: $1,921
– Cost per mile: $0.35
– Annual emissions: 12,040 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 264,128
– Current market price of vehicle: $44,345

The Toyota Highlander gets high marks for fuel efficiency relative to other SUVs in its class. Car and Driver test-drove the 6-cylinder model and got 28 mpg. Edmunds also cited its solid fuel efficiency. Although the Highlander has a higher average annual fuel cost than other cars on this list, it is still far more cost-effective in terms of gas than many other cars of its size, such as Range Rovers or most model Jeeps.

Black Jeep Grand Cherokee

rebinworkshop // Shutterstock

#8. Jeep Grand Cherokee

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD 6cyl 3.6L Automatic 8-spd
– Annual operating cost: $4,302
– Annual fuel cost: $2,044
– Cost per mile: $0.36
– Annual emissions: 12,811 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 264,444
– Current market price of vehicle: $42,883

Although Jeep Grand Cherokees are considered iconic Americans SUVs, they are not without their costs and issues. Repairs in particular can be pricey. One vehicle depreciation tracker found that there is a more than 30% chance a Cherokee owner will have to pay for a major repair in the first 10 years of ownership—nearly 10% more likely than for other SUV owners.

Red Nissan Rogue at auto show

Miro Vrlik Photography // Shutterstock

#7. Nissan Rogue

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Nissan Rogue AWD SL/Platinum 3cyl 1.5L Automatic (AV-S8)
– Annual operating cost: $3,682
– Annual fuel cost: $1,425
– Cost per mile: $0.31
– Annual emissions: 8,930 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 285,602
– Current market price of vehicle: $33,760

The Nissan Rogue is a compact crossover and the company’s bestselling SUV in the United States. And the new models are giving new owners a lot to be happy with. Reviewers have praised in particular the model’s switch from a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine to a standard 1.5-liter turbo-three, which makes for a powerful ride. Enhanced fuel efficiency is also a hallmark of the new model, offering 3 miles more per gallon than its prior iterations, as well as many of its competitors.

Silver Toyota Camry

ArtEvent ET // Shutterstock

#6. Toyota Camry

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Toyota Camry 6cyl 3.5L Automatic (S8)
– Annual operating cost: $3,949
– Annual fuel cost: $1,691
– Cost per mile: $0.33
– Annual emissions: 10,601 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 313,795
– Current market price of vehicle: $31,499

The Toyota Camry has a reputation for reliability and affordability. The company in general is known for producing vehicles with low maintenance costs that typically require little in the way of major repair. The average Toyota costs around $420 a year to maintain for its first 10 years, and the odds of a major repair being needed in the first 10 years of ownership are lower than competitors’ vehicles in its class.

Dark Blue Honda CR-V on display at auto show

VanderWolf Images // Shutterstock

#5. Honda CR-V

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Honda CR-V AWD 4cyl 1.5L Automatic (variable gear ratios)
– Annual operating cost: $3,802
– Annual fuel cost: $1,544
– Cost per mile: $0.32
– Annual emissions: 9,681 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 361,271
– Current market price of vehicle: $35,077

The Honda CR-V gets high marks for quality and affordability in the SUV category. According to an Edmunds breakdown of the “true” cost of ownership, maintenance on the CR-V averages out to just under $900 annually for the first five years, but other sources put that figure at just under $400 for the same time frame. The CR-V also generates less CO2 per year compared to other SUVs like the Jeep Cherokee, meaning that its impact is as relatively light on the planet as it is on the wallet.

Dark Blue Toyota RAV4 parked beside field

tomas devera photo // Shutterstock

#4. Toyota RAV4

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Toyota RAV4 4cyl 2.5L Automatic (S8)
– Annual operating cost: $3,734
– Annual fuel cost: $1,477
– Cost per mile: $0.31
– Annual emissions: 9,255 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 407,739
– Current market price of vehicle: $34,808

Toyota recently overtook General Motors as the top-selling car brand in America, and the RAV4 is its quintessential SUV. And although its CO2 emissions and gas costs are already low, new models promise even more for drivers looking to lessen their impact on the environment and lower their gas costs. A new hybrid model of the RAV4 is receiving praise from critics for its distinctive blend of the best qualities of both gas and electric cars, which means that new buyers can look for even lower annual fuel costs.

White Chevrolet Silverado truck

Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

#3. Chevrolet Silverado

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2WD 4cyl 2.7L Automatic 8-spd
– Annual operating cost: $4,375
– Annual fuel cost: $2,118
– Cost per mile: $0.37
– Annual emissions: 13,274 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 519,774
– Current market price of vehicle: $48,513

The Chevrolet Silverado is a seminal American pickup truck, though as a larger vehicle it does have both a larger carbon output and higher fuel costs than many vehicles listed here. New models are being made specifically for off-roading, which means that along with fun for owners, additional maintenance costs to repair any damage could be on the horizon.

Charcoal Grey Ram Pickup parked on dirt road

chorche de prigo // Shutterstock

#2. Ram Pickup

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Ram 1500 Classic 2WD 6cyl 3.6L Automatic 8-spd
– Annual operating cost: $4,466
– Annual fuel cost: $2,209
– Cost per mile: $0.37
– Annual emissions: 13,844 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 569,388
– Current market price of vehicle: $50,674

Ram Pickups are full-size trucks that were sold under the Dodge brand until 2009, when it launched as a stand-alone division. They have been named MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year on numerous occasions. There are also Ram Pickups specifically geared towards fuel-efficiency, such as the EcoDiesel, which even with a 3-liter V6 gets 33 mpg highway.

Blue Ford F-150 in parking lot

Jonathan Weiss // Shutterstock

#1. Ford F-Series

– Model used for comparison: 2021 Ford F-150 Pickup 2WD 6cyl 3.5L Automatic (S10)
– Annual operating cost: $4,442
– Annual fuel cost: $2,185
– Cost per mile: $0.37
– Annual emissions: 13,693 lbs CO2
– Units sold in 2021: 726,004
– Current market price of vehicle: $56,391

Perhaps the most iconic American truck is the Ford F-Series. The F-150 model has been the bestselling truck in America every year since 1976 and the top-selling vehicle of any kind since 1981. The company switched to using aluminum for certain parts of the truck traditionally fabricated from steel, which led to fears repair costs would rise. Those fears have, as yet, not been realized, though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had estimated that fender-benders would be pricier as a result. Real-world evidence has contradicted those initial estimates.

This story originally appeared on CoPilot and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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