July 2018

Do soldiers care about the environment? A study in South Africa suggests they do

South African Army soldiers had high levels of awareness about the environment and their responsibilities towards it. Author supplied

Kermit the frog declared that it is difficult to be green. Obviously, he was referring to the colour, rather than to the condition of being environmentally conscious. But for soldiers it is also not always easy to be pro-environmental.

By their very nature traditional military activities, like fighting wars, are destructive. But modern armies undertake a remarkably diverse range of military activities. This means that they affect extensive areas during training and when executing their missions. Rightly, they are expected to conduct themselves in a way that protects the environment. Most countries have laws that set down rules and regulations to ensure this happens. South Africa is no exception: the military has to abide by laws designed to ensure that the environment is protected.

But what does it mean to be environmentally literate when you are a soldier? Three conditions need to be met to qualify.

The first is that they need to have a positive attitude towards the environment in which they execute their mission, be it training, routine base management, disaster relief, peace missions, or actual fighting. Secondly, this must translate into environmentally beneficial behaviour while executing their missions. And thirdly, they need to have the necessary knowledge to be able to act in an environmentally responsible manner.

Senegal: the silver lining to Africa's dismal World Cup showing

Senegal's World Cup coach Aliou Cissé. Atef Safadi/EPA

For the five African teams, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia was a tournament of regret. Not even the fact that eventual champions France was packed with players with African roots, could heal the hurt. What made it more painful was that the continent’s strongest contender, Senegal, fell victim to FIFA’s controversial “fair play” rule. The West Africans were eliminated because they had more yellow cards than Japan.

The overall statistics paint a disappointing picture. All five African teams exited in the first round, making it the worst performance by the continent since 1982, the last time not one African team made it to the second stage. Since then, Cameroon (in 1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) have made it to the quarterfinals. Nigeria has regularly progressed to the second round.

Why attitudes towards sexual violence in Kenya need a major refresh

Hundreds rally against sexual violence in Nairobi, Kenya. Daniel Irungu/EPA

It’s estimated that 14% of Kenyan women and 6% of men aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. In Kenya women and girls experience sexual violence more than men and boys.

In my research I looked at sexual violence against minors in Kenya. Most Kenyan adolescent girls are in fact perceived as women. The aim of my study was to explore how communities view sexual assault and how those perceptions contribute to the vulnerability of minors to sexual abuse.

In many parts of Kenya, as in so many patriarchal societies, men and women are raised differently. This upbringing creates imbalances in the power relations between them. Most young men are socialised to be sexually adventurous and aggressive as a way to prove their masculinity. Girls are expected to be chaste, domesticated and compliant. Women and girls who deviate from these designated roles risk disapproval from community members as well as physical and sexual violence.

Keys to Implement BIM in Your Architecture Office

© Planbim © Planbim

After noticing a huge inefficiency and disarticulation in their processes (working separately in design, modeling, and documentation), David Miller Architects (DMA) decided to immerse his company into the BIM (Building Information Modeling) world in 2008. Despite their success, this experience of trial and error gave them a series of lessons that are important to consider when rethinking the way we do architecture.

'BIM gave us an opportunity to reimagine the practice, in a much more structured and organized way. Then, it allowed us to have more quality control, [and be] more organized and thorough, which is really important for a small practice trying to grow. And that really increased the confidence in some of our clients,' says David Miller.

We spoke with the British architect at a conference in June 2018 in Santiago, Chile, which included the seminar "Why Implement BIM in 2020" organized by Planbim. This seminar identified 7 key points that can facilitate the implementation of this paradigm in an architecture office.

AMBAR / Diez + Muller Arquitectos

© Sebastián Crespo © Sebastián Crespo
  • Architectonic Design: Gonzalo Diez, Felipe Muller, Sergio Barrella
  • Construction: GERENPRO - Roberto Donoso, Pablo Hidalgo
© Sebastián Crespo © Sebastián Crespo

Text description provided by the architects. The design of Amber Building emerges from a special condition of an urban lot with a single front which proportions and especially its extremely narrow front creates a challenge both for the architecture and the structural solutions.

Public Works turning the tide on fraud and corruption

The Department of Public Works’ concerted efforts to cleanse itself of crippling fraud and corruption are bearing fruit, Minister Thulas Nxesi said on Thursday.

This much was evident in findings of probes into the department released by Nxesi and Advocate Lekhoa Mothibi of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). The investigations, relating to several proclamations, were conducted by the SIU.

In 2012 during his first stint as Public Works Minister, Nxesi announced a two-pillar seven-year turnaround strategy. The strategy included zero tolerance to fraud and corruption, as well as improving the way the department did business.

The Minister today emphasised that the protracted war against corruption would not be won overnight and not without a massive struggle against “State capture forces, which are still entrenched and desperately striving to keep open access to State coffers”.

Blowing the lid off corruption

Upon his reappointment to the Public Works portfolio in February, Nxesi announced two investigations. The first was for the President to extend the SIU proclamation to investigate “day-to-day emergency maintenance”. This was after an internal investigation identified 16 000 suspicious transactions amounting to R2 billion.

The second probe was into 684 appointments, which had been pushed through in four months.

“The result of this is to blow the compensation budget on largely non-essential posts so that there is little left to make the technical and professional appointments to run a highly technical department like Public Works and its PMTE (Property Management Trading Entity),” Nxesi said.

The PMTE manages the State’s 92 000 building-strong portfolio. The appointments were reviewed with the assistance of the Department of Public Service and Administration Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo.

Ring Fencing : Push for economic transformation continues in South Africa

Government is pushing ahead in implementing the ring-fencing of certain economic sectors to achieve economic transformation, says Deputy President David Mabuza.

“Among the measures we must practically implement without wasting time is the issue of localisation and ring-fencing of certain economic sectors to achieve real economic transformation,” said the Deputy President on Thursday.

Deputy President Mabuza was speaking at the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Rural and Township Economy Summit at the East London International Convention Centre (ICC).

He said that by implementing ring-fencing, government will be dealing with existing obstacles to the meaningful and sustainable participation of black people in procurement opportunities provided by government and the private sector.

“We cannot make meaningful progress in this regard, if we do not link procurement to government strategy as a conscious agenda for the revitalisation of township and rural economy,” he told delegates attending the first of the two-day summit.

He stressed however that an economy still exists among the country’s townships and rural areas though it may be small, simple and informal.

“But it can make a significant difference in the lives of ordinary people and so we must treat it with seriousness and determination,” he said.

Government said in its efforts to revitalise township and rural economies, the country must consolidate, integrate and accelerate pockets of work done across government that would meaningfully support supplier mobilisation per economic sector.

While it is common knowledge that township and rural economies are predominantly small and lack the sophistication demanded by the mainstream economy, such barriers must not deter the country.

Khayelitsha residents install their own communal taps

City of Cape Town says connections are illegal but it will see if it can assist with services

By Vincent Lali

Photo of people with rolls of piping
Residents of Siyahlala informal settlement in Khayelitsha prepare to install their own water taps. Photos: Vincent Lali

Residents of Siyahlala informal settlement, Khayelitsha, have started to install their own water pipes.

“We can’t ask the City of Cape Town to give us water taps while it sends law enforcement officials to destroy our shacks,” says community leader Noxolo Sam. “We have to use our own initiative.”

Sam said a community meeting in May resolved to collect the money for the project.

“When a fire breaks out residents must have water to extinguish it. And children must have water to bathe before they go to school,” said Sam.

She said residents in the nearby Phase 3 neighbourhood didn’t like shack dwellers collecting water from their taps. “The residents hate us and say we stay on a land that is earmarked for their RDP houses,” said Sam.

Newcomers to Siyahlala pay R400, while other residents contribute R100 towards the purchase of water pipes and taps. Community leaders manage the project and keep the money.

Zimbabwe poll: the bar for success is low, the stakes are high and it's a close race

Supporters off the opposition MDC Alliance protest outside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. David Moore

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF hope a credible victory in the July 30 election will legitimise the power (both party and state) they gained from the “soft coup” that toppled his predecessor Robert Mugabe last November.

With victory, they say, the donors and dollars will flood in to the country they have resurrected from nearly two moribund decades. Zimbabwe is now “open for business” and will thrive. Zanu-PF’s resurrection will thus be complete.

Solar thermal: an opportunity for SA's food, beverage industries

CBC brewery’s 120m2 flat plate collector array. Source: Soltrain, 2016
CBC brewery’s 120m flat plate collector array. Source: Soltrain, 2016</span>In an era of uncertainty, when it comes to both power supply and pricing, renewable energy sources can provide South Africa's food and beverage industries certainty in both supply and costs.
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This Proposed Music Center Honors the Unique Birthplace of Polish Composer Frédéric Chopin


Located in a small village in Poland, this proposed music center honors the birthplace of famous Polish composer and pianist, Frédéric Chopin. Designed by ELEMENT as a part of an international competition, the Chopin Music Center captures the picturesque landscape of endless forests through "leisure and relaxation."

The Center integrates with the park through window views of Frédéric Chopin's birth house and the surrounding landscape. The proposed international music center utilizes a combination of natural materials and glazing to create a seamless connection with its site. The existing park can be reached by pathways and bridges near the building, prompting visitors to experience the outdoor area.

Why moot courts can play a valuable role in teaching kids about human rights

Moot courts give pupils the chance to argue different scenarios. Supplied

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70 this year. It was adopted by global leaders after World War II to try and avoid future conflict on that scale. The declaration ushered in what we know and understand about human rights today. It calls for nations to “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”.

But some think that the human rights project has had its innings. They believe the notion of human rights for all is too idealistic. And populist leaders push the idea that the most powerful should prevail.

They’re wrong. Many people have benefited since the declaration was adopted.

But there’s little hope that people will understand the importance of a common normative framework like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights if it’s taught to them in the abstract. They need to see how it works in practice, through experience.

Recepcja / Znamy Się

Courtesy of Znamy Się Courtesy of Znamy Się
  • Architects: Znamy Się
  • Location: Ruska 46C, 11-400 Wrocław, Poland
  • Client: Wroclaw Culture Zone
  • Area: 138.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2018
Courtesy of Znamy Się Courtesy of Znamy Się

Text description provided by the architects. This project holds a new place on the cultural map of Wroclaw, hosted by the organization called Wroclaw Culture Zone. These premises is located in one of the most interesting Wroclaw courtyards. The yard is mainly known for the exhibition of iconic Wroclaw neon signs, but also for many artistic events and parties. The new interior called “Recepcja” (eng. Reception) has been designed by the Wrocław’s architectural group “Znamy się”.

RDP houses unfit for people with disabilities

People with disabilities are prioritised for RDP houses but their homes are often not adjusted for them despite mounds of legislation

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

Photo of a man in a wheelchair
Zingisani Mhlahlela says it is “hell” living in an RDP house and being in a wheelchair. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Living in an RDP house and being disabled is “hell”, complains Zingisani Mhlahlela. He is 30 years old and uses a wheelchair. He lives with his mother in an RDP area of Chris Hani in KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage.

His RDP house is not adapted for his wheelchair and he struggles to get in and out of his home and also to use the toilet. “When nature calls, the wheelchair itself gets damaged,” he says.

Mthubanzi Mniki, spokesperson for Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, said, “The priority of housing delivery is to give houses first to disabled and elderly [people]. The houses must be suitable for their needs, accessible and closer to amenities … Due to the pressure of the backlog, people end up occupying houses that are not that suitable to their needs.”

Lwandile Sicwetsha, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Health, said the municipality should implement the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (approved by cabinet on 9 December 2015), the Disability Framework for Local Government, the Integrated National Disability Strategy, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Those are the policies they should refer their heads of department to look at when they are to deliver any services,” said Sicwetsha.

Court orders end to mud schools

Equal Education scores major victory in Bhisho

By Chris Gilili

Photo of dilapidated mud school
Following a judgment in the Bhisho High Court on Thursday, schools like this one will have to be fixed. Supplied archive photo

The Bhisho High Court has found parts of the government’s norms and standards regulations for schools to be unconstitutional. The court has ordered that classrooms substantially built from mud as well as asbestos, wood or metal, be replaced with buildings that meet the National Building Regulations.

Judge Bantubonke Tokota read the judgment — written by Acting Judge Nomawabo Msizi — in court on Thursday morning. The case was brought by social movement Equal Education against Minister of Education Angie Motshekga. It was heard in March. The court also awarded costs to Equal Education.

The court order says that where the Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure 2013 refer to “schools built entirely out of” mud, wood, asbestos or zinc, the wording must be replaced with “classrooms built entirely or substantially out of” these materials.

The court also found that the regulations compel government to provide water, power and sanitation in schools. Plans and reports on progress towards schools meeting norms and standards must also be made available to the public, the court found.

What peace will mean for Eritrea -- Africa's 'North Korea'

An abandoned tank by the roadside in Eritrea. Shutterstock

The end of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been met with relief in the region as well as globally. But what does it mean for Eritrea, which has been dubbed the North Korea of Africa. The Conversation Africa’s Julius Maina spoke to Martin Plaut about the implications for the small and reclusive state.

How did Eritrea earn its reputation as a reclusive state?

Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean president, has operated on the presumption that no-one would come to Eritrea’s aid after it launched its armed struggle for independence from Ethiopia in 1961. It was never entirely true, but they certainly didn’t have the support of any major power.

When Eritrea gained its independence in 1993 he saw no reason to alter his view. As a result, major international aid agencies were made unwelcome. Even the United Nations has found it difficult to work in the country.

After 2001, when the president cracked down on all opposition – including from within his own party – all major news organisations, including the BBC, Reuters and AFP – were banned from having offices in the country. International journalists have only been allowed to visit sporadically. This has left Eritrea under-reported.

Culture is at the heart of a safe workplace

Culture is at the heart of a safe workplaceCreating a safe working environment is a complex issue and requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders over a sustained period of time. It is this understanding that is at the core of PPC's approach to safety at all its operations.
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Philip Yuan of Archi-Union Architects: "The Process of Construction can be Elevated to Art"

Chi-She, Shanghai / Archi-Union Architects. Image © Shengliang Su Chi-She, Shanghai / Archi-Union Architects. Image © Shengliang Su

Though the understated Swiss and British Pavilions were the big (but distinctly minimal) winners at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, it was the Chinese that put their relentless architectural progress on display. Nestled in the back of the Arsenale, the Chinese Pavilion presented dozens of built works all around Chinese countryside, each project demonstrating a meaningful social impact through the involvement of villagers in the production process. Among the most visible Chinese architects presenting at the pavilion was Shanghai-based educator and practitioner Philip Yuan, whose office Archi-Union Architects has become a major voice in the already-distinctive contemporary Chinese architecture scene.

Hidden Gems of Latin American Architecture

Nido de Quetzalcóatl / Javier Senosian. Image © Marcos Betanzos Nido de Quetzalcóatl / Javier Senosian. Image © Marcos Betanzos

Vacation time is near. Would you like to visit some of the most enchanting places in Latin American architecture? We know you're an architecture aficionado and that your passion takes you places that inspire and awe. Even though a visit to the classic tourist sites can result in an amazing trip, visiting lesser-known places can make for an unforgettable experience. It is because of this passion for parts unknown that we have compiled this list of some of Latin America's hidden architecture gems for you to consider as you plan your next trip. Keep reading for the complete list. 


Edward James' Surrealist Garden

Emre Arolat Architecture unveils plans for mosque in Ajman

Emre Arolat Architecture unveils plans for mosque in AjmanEmre Arolat Architecture (EAA) has unveiled plans for a new mosque and community centre in Ajman in the United Arab Emirates. The shell-like mosque is composed of an agglomeration of angular walls, making the building seem as if it is rising from the ground.
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Hiring of “teagirl” sparks protest in Uitenhage

Anger over employment procedure at sewer project

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

Photo of tyres burning outside an office building
Tyres were burnt in front of the door to the office of ANC Uitenhage Councillor Siphiwo Plaatjies. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Protests erupted on Tuesday after a “teagirl” was employed at a sewer pipe installation project in Gunguluza, Uitenhage.

Angry residents arrived at the construction site where Power Construction is busy with a R29-million tender project for a sewer. “We want you out now!” people shouted at the “teagirl”. Another resident shouted at the woman: “Your employment is illegal. You are fired!”

“I just wish I can get out of this site once and for all to avoid this drama,” the woman told GroundUp while management tried to negotiate with the angry protesters. The woman asked for her name not to be used.

When residents dragged out a mattress, the woman shouted, “No! Don’t burn things in my name, please … I will get out of the site peacefully.”

She was then escorted out through a back gate by her boss, Wayne Haggard.

Residents said the woman was employed last Friday without proper community consultation. They said she was employed on the orders of Councillor Siphiwo Plaatjies (ANC) and not through voting district committees, which is the norm in the area.

The protesters went to the councillor’s office. They burnt tyres at the door of the office, sang songs and blew whistles. A meeting between the councillor’s office and officials of SASSA had to be abandoned.

Community installs its own toilets after crowdfunded campaign

Construction of flushing toilets has begun, but the unresponsive Ekurhuleni municipality may spoil the project

By Zoë Postman

Photo of toilets being built
Construction of nine flushing toilets begins in Mzondi informal settlement, Johannesburg. Photo: Zoë Postman

After living for years with one toilet for every hundred people, the community of Mzondi informal settlement raised R67,000 in a crowdfunded campaign in March to build toilets. Construction of nine flushing toilets has now started in the settlement in Ivory Park, East of Johannesburg.

The ThundaFund campaign was set up for the community with the help of Grassroots, a community mobilising project. Katlego Mohlabane of Grassroots, said the project was initially supposed to build 30 pit toilets, but after consultation, residents agreed that they would rather have flushing toilets. “It also meant that we needed to hire a construction company,” says Mohlabane.

Community leader Lesley Mashao said the project is not without its challenges. They are struggling to get access to an underground sewer pipe, which is beneath the backyards of a neighbouring community.

He said some community leaders, together with Grassroots, had approached the Ekurhuleni Municipality for assistance but to no avail.

This is how the new vessel repair hub is boosting the PE's economy

This is how the new vessel repair hub is boosting the PE's economyThe new vessel repair facilities in the Port of PE is not only a positive step towards a thriving vessel maintenance and marine engineering hub but is evidently also going to boost the local economy in the long term.
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Carlo Ratti Associati's Latest Prototype Shows How the Design of Streets Could Change in Real Time

© Carlo Ratti Associati © Carlo Ratti Associati

Carlo Ratti Associati, working in collaboration with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, has unveiled their design for a modular paving system named “The Dynamic Street.” Intended to make streets “reconfigurable, safer, and more accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and tomorrow’s self-driving vehicles,” the project will be on display at Sidewalk Lab’s office and experimentation space in Toronto throughout the summer of 2018.

Manifesting as a series of hexagonal modular pavers, the project explores the various patterns which can be created by reconfiguring modules, with a potential future “allowing a street to create an extra car lane during rush hour before then turning it into a pedestrian-only plaza in the evening.”

Biya must stop the killings in Cameroon and lead the search for peace

Cameroon's Paul Biya, president since 1982 is seeking another term in October. EPA/Ian Langsdon

I spent part of last month in Cameroon travelling to various communities and listening to ordinary voices about the ongoing Anglophone crisis. I witnessed the devastating impact of the conflict on people and their community. In city after city, businesses have shut down, night life is almost absent and kids gallivanted the streets instead of going to school.

In some places, things had deteriorated to a point that residents sleep on the floor in their homes for fear of stray bullets. Homelessness, previously a rarity, is now a fixture on the urban landscape. And there is an increasing number of “internally displaced persons” – those who abandoned their homes and communities for safer places. Given the absence of reliable figures, it’s impossible to tell the number of people displaced or killed.

Armored vehicles escorted public transportation vehicles between the different cities in the region. Significant parts of the Southwest Region, a vital Anglophone territory, looked deserted.

The situation is the result of a peaceful protest started two years ago by teachers and lawyers that turned into a brutal conflict between government forces and those fighting for secession over the marginalisation of Anglophone regions.

Why smart policies are key to solving the world’s clean water problems

Globally consumers are increasingly taking charge of their own drinking water supply. Shutterstock

Around 2.5 to 3 billion people worldwide don’t have access to clean water. There are at least another 1.5 billion in developed countries who may have access to clean water but don’t trust its quality.

A number of widely publicised events about unreliable water services in countries have added to this mistrust. Seventeen years ago Walkerton in Canada had the country’s worst e.coli contamination of domestic water supply. It resulted in seven deaths and 2300 illnesses. In 2014, Flint, Michigan, USA, changed its source of water supply to Flint River. This corrosive source dangerously increased lead contamination of domestic water which severely affected people’s health, especially children.

Many other incidents, in cities ranging from Sydney in Australia to Hong Kong, have made people increasingly sceptical of the quality of water they get at home.

Nigerian children recount the challenges they face working in a city

Policies must be put in place to reduce the number of working children in Nigeria. Shutterstock/Atfie Sahid

Stories of children being used in Nigerian mines have hit the headlines. But this phenomenon isn’t uncommon. About 15 million Nigerian children work –- the highest rate of working children in West Africa.

Globally there are over 168 million children, aged 5 to 14, that work. While most studies focus on child labour that happen in rural and agricultural areas, very few have reported the dangers experienced by children in urban areas of Africa where they work as street hawkers, hustlers, vendors and domestic servants.

But in a rapidly growing society such as Nigeria, where poverty is widespread, child labour in urban areas has become a systemic avenue for augmenting parental income. Though it may build the entrepreneurial skills of youngsters for later life, it can have detrimental consequences.

Nigeria's plan to redistribute recovered corruption money needs a rethink

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has received millions of dollars in repatriated funds. Esther Addy/Flickr

The Nigerian government has announced that USD$322 million (£244 million) stolen by Nigeria’s former military ruler, Sani Abacha, has been returned by the Swiss authorities. Abacha, an army general who was head of state from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled between USD$3 to 5 billion of public money.

Plans have also been announced to distribute the recovered loot to around 300,000 households in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Under the plan each household would get around USD$14 a month. The handouts would be paid to poor Nigerians for about six years.

Roberto Balzaretti, one of the Swiss officials involved in the negotiations with Nigeria, reported that there would be strict conditions attached to the transfer of the money back to Nigeria. Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding with Switzerland and the World Bank agreeing the modalities for the return of the stolen funds.

Foster+Partners-Led Trailblazer Apprenticeships Bring Overdue Relief for Disenfranchised Architecture Students

Foster + Partners' London office, Riverside. Image © Marc Goodwin Foster + Partners' London office, Riverside. Image © Marc Goodwin

Earlier this month, a “Trailblazer Group” comprising 20 leading architecture firms led by Foster + Partners announced the creation of the UK’s first Architecture Apprenticeship Standards. Supported by the RIBA, ARB (Architects Registration Board) and over a dozen UK universities, the group has structured a program which tackles the financial feasibility of an architectural education through paid apprenticeships, and addresses the disparity experienced by students transitioning between education and practice

CT cans Foreshore Freeway Precinct development RFP

CT cans Foreshore Freeway Precinct development RFPUpon receiving legal advice, the City of Cape Town's city manager Lungelo Mbandazayo has taken the decision to cancel the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the development of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct.
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