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Sony Exec. Hiroshi Yoshioka to Deliver NAB Keynote Featuring 3D Presentation
Sony's Hiroshi Yoshioka will deliver the opening keynote on Monday, April 12 at the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas. Yoshioka, who oversees Sony's television, digital imaging, home audio and video businesses, will focus on the global and U.S. consumer demand for 3D technology and Sony's vision for the future of 3D technology, for consumers and professionals.
Expanding on Sony's "lens to the living room" vision for 3D, Yoshioka will present exclusive 3D footage including clips from the Masters Golf Tournament and other sports and entertainment events.
"Sony is a technology leader whose innovations have changed the way we create, manage, deliver and consume audio and video content," said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. "Mr. Yoshioka has been central to that leadership and we look forward to him imparting his knowledge and insight on the technologies and trends that are driving our industry's future."
Yoshioka is executive deputy president and a corporate executive officer of Sony Corporation. He also serves as president of the Consumer, Professional & Devices Group, and oversees Sony's Semiconductor & Component Business Group.
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Pre NAB Interviews with Station Groups
THIs report is by Glen Dickson and David Tanklefsky and appeared in Broadcasting & Cable, 3/29/2010.
As they head to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas next month, top engineers from station groups are looking for technology that matches the new economic realities of the broadcast business. The days of buying expensive studio cameras and proprietary editing and storage systems are over, they say. As groups consider how to complete upgrades of their news operations from standard- defi nition to high-definition production, they are increasingly looking for IT-based, non-proprietary solutions. Station groups are also looking for efficiencies in graphics and master control. Some now have centralized approaches that hub most functions at one or two stations, and others are thinking about outsourcing master-control operations. Top of mind for everyone is the threat to broadcasters’ spectrum that the FCC’s broadband plan represents. At NAB, several groups will help promote new mobile DTV technology as the most efficient way to deliver video to cellphones and other portable devices. Mobile DTV insiders suggest that several groups could announce business deals with wireless carriers, a crucial step to commercializing the technology.
GRAY: A PRACTICAL VIEW
Gray Television VP of Technology Jim Ocon is heading to NAB “looking for pragmatic solutions” in broadcast technology. “The days are long gone where stations in middle markets are interested in purchasing expensive servers, content storage or acquisition [gear],” Ocon says.
Gray has been successful, for instance, with using compact Sony XDCAM EX camcorders as studio cameras at several stations, and Ocon expects that trend to continue. “Nobody seems to notice the difference between a $100,000 camera and a $10,000 camera,” he says.
That type of cost savings is top of mind to Ocon, who is overseeing the gradual conversion of Gray’s 36 stations from standard definition to high-definition news production. About eight stations are now doing the news in full HD, about five are producing in widescreen standard-definition, and the rest are conventional 4:3 SD.
While Ocon views widescreen SD as merely an interim solution, he says that “if I can switch a station out for under $100,000 to do widescreen, I’ll do it.”
He expects that the majority of Gray stations will be doing either widescreen SD or full HD by the end of the year. Gray is installing Ross OverDrive production-automation systems across the group as part of the HD conversion, and Ocon says that deployment is going well, though he won’t comment directly on any associated layoffs.
Ocon emphasizes that improving the overall quality of Gray’s news was the main driver for buying OverDrive. “You can do a lot more with this setup and make fewer mistakes,” he points out.
As he looks to minimize bandwidth and storage requirements, Ocon is particularly interested in products that employ MPEG- 4 advanced video compression. He would like to create a plant that uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression all the way through from acquisition to playout, which he says would likely require half the bandwidth of the MPEG-2 systems in place today: “I would like to build a plant that was end-to-end all H.264, and have the acquisition-file size meet the play-to-air size.”
The bandwidth savings in backhauling HD content from the field and storing HD video on servers would make adopting MPEG-4 worthwhile, according to Ocon, even though Gray stations would still have to transcode the MPEG-4 content to MPEG-2 to broadcast it over-the-air, as per the ATSC standard. Of course, new mobile DTV streams that Gray and other stations are launching will actually be transmitted in MPEG-4 as part of ATSC Mobile DTV’s “in-band” transmission scheme. Gray began broadcasting mobile DTV from WOWT, its NBC affiliate in Omaha, last July; the company plans to soon begin broadcasting mobile DTV at its stations in Lincoln, Neb.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Lexington, Ky.; and Wichita and Topeka, Kan. Ocon says he is a “strong advocate” for mobile DTV and will participate in the Open Mobile Video Coalition’s “Mobile DTV Marketplace” exhibit at NAB.
Other technologies Ocon has his eye on are “cloud-computing” solutions, such as online graphics systems, and IP-based video backhaul. The Gray executive would also love to see weather data/graphics suppliers and traditional graphics vendors get together to create a single-box solution that could produce both weather and standard graphics.
“I’d like to find ways to consolidate graphics systems with the weather data coming in the front door, so we don’t have separate boxes,” Ocon says. “Why have additional boxes [for weather graphics] that eat up ports on the routers?”
BELO: SPENDING CAREFULLY
Belo Corp. saw strong ad performance across its 20 stations in the first quarter of 2010, thanks to a surge in revenue from the Super Bowl, Olympics and the auto sector. The improvement allowed Belo to adjust its fiscal forecast in March, but that doesn’t mean the company will be spending at will at this year’s NAB show.
“We’re no longer in the business of putting $55,000 cameras in the hands of all our photographers,” says Belo VP of Technology Craig Harper. He says this year the company, like most others, will have a pared-down presence at NAB, sending “far fewer [employees] than we did in the past” to the show. Harper, along with a few of his colleagues from the company’s Dallas headquarters, will try to cover for news directors and general managers who won’t be attending.
Belo, an early adopter of HD products, seeks to supplement its production line and will look into HD cameras from Sony’s XDCAM series for solid-state recording. As mobile and cross-platform use become more vital, Harper says the company will be looking into cost-effective HD cameras, including those for videographers and editors shooting content specifically for the Web.
The company is also interested in automation processes. “How can we make our graphics centralization easier and more effi cient?” is a question Harper says he is continually asking. He says he will check out products that enhance encoding; his goal is to be able to send an HD news story that appears on one of Belo’s linear channels to a consumer’s BlackBerry or other mobile device.
ABC: AN I.T. FOCUS
With travel budgets still tight, the ABC Owned Television Stations will send a smaller contingent than usual to NAB, less than half of the 60-plus staffers across 10 stations who made the trip in the past. ABC used to have an engineer, an IT staffer and at least one news staffer attend from each station, along with a few general managers, and conduct group meetings. But those days are over.
The ABC engineers who are making the trip to Vegas will be addressing the systemic changes in the broadcast business by searching for information technology-based, non-proprietary systems. “We’re paying attention to how our industry is changing from a baseband audio- and-video world to an IT-like world where you have different core hardware that you need to be managing and making it all work,” says Dave Converse, VP and director of engineering for ABC’s O&Os.
Converse has been focused on ways to cut costs in what he calls the “back room” of station operations, the parts of the plant outside news production that don’t directly impact on-air product.
ABC has already centralized ingest and processing of syndicated content at KFSN Fresno. It has also entertained the idea of outsourcing some master-control functions to a firm like Broadcast Facilities, Inc., which owns the Andrita Media Center in Los Angeles and recently acquired Crawford Communications in Atlanta to bolster its outsourcing capabilities.
Converse will also spend time at NAB checking out remote monitoring systems and “station-in-a-box” products that combine master control, branding and playout server in one device.
On the other hand, Converse is less keen on pursuing centralized solutions on the production side for functions like graphics, where he thinks that having artists with local knowledge helps improve the on-air product. “Typically when we consider centralization, we look at what is the benefit you receive from it and what’s the risk associated with it,” he says. “We shy away from some things that make us less flexible and less local.”
ABC is also continuing to invest in converting news production to HD. Nine of the 10 ABC O&Os produce HD news in their studios, and the lone holdout, WTVG Toledo, should go HD in the next few months. KABC Los Angeles and WPVI Philadelphia also do their newsgathering in HD, and WLS Chicago and WABC New York should be next to make the move. The rest of the stations will continue to acquire field footage in standard-def widescreen and upconvert it.
ABC does have HD camera systems on its helicopters at most stations, and in some cases is moving from the original MPEG- 2 equipment to next-generation MPEG-4 encoders from vendors such as Fujitsu. The group is also exploring the use of MPEG-4 for traditional backhauls from microwave trucks, but is keeping a close eye on signal latency for live shots.
SCRIPPS: BIGGER PRESENCE
After scaling back its participation in NAB over the past few years due to budget constraints, Scripps is making a renewed commitment to the Las Vegas exhibition in 2010 and will be sending a chief engineer from each of its 10 stations.
“In terms of staying current with technology and new concepts in the business, I felt we needed to increase the presence,” says Scripps VP of Engineering Mike Doback, who is thankful that a slight improvement in the economy made the expense possible. “I do see a liability in not staying current with where technology is going and where the industry is going, if you were to stay away for a protracted period.”
Doback will be assigning different technology segments for Scripps engineers to investigate, and will have a group meeting to discuss fi ndings. The core focus, he says, is “finding better, faster, cheaper solutions to things we do every day.”
Scripps has already made a significant investment in JVC ProHD camcorders for fi eld acquisition and in Apple Final Cut Pro for editing. Last year, it also centralized some core operations, adopting Chyron’s Axis online graphics system, creating a graphics hub in Tampa, and consolidating traffic functions in hubs in Tampa and Phoenix.
With those systems in place, Doback is interested in workflow solutions in areas such as format conversion, master control and weather presentation, a particular segment where he would like to see more competition to the handful of traditional providers.
Scripps is also looking to upgrade its newsgathering with a few new microwave trucks, so Doback will be taking a look at those, as well as new video-over-IP delivery systems. He says that Scripps stations already commonly use Skype’s HQ (High Quality) system to backhaul live video, placing it alongside live video boxes from the field and the studio to create a pleasing overall HD frame.
“It’s a great tool, and it’s surprising to me that some groups are not utilizing the technology,” Doback says. “They’re missing the boat.”
Lionsgate's Board Rejects Icahn's Unsolicited Tender Offer
Lionsgate announced that its Board of Directors, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, has determined, by unanimous vote of the directors present and upon the unanimous recommendation of the Special Committee of the Board, that the unsolicited amended tender offer from Carl Icahn and certain of his affiliated entities (the "Icahn Group") to purchase up to all of the common shares of Lionsgate for U.S.$6.00 per share is financially inadequate and coercive and is not in the best interests of Lionsgate, its shareholders and other stakeholders. Accordingly, the Board recommends that Lionsgate's shareholders reject the Icahn Group's offer and not tender their shares into the Icahn Group's offer.
The basis for the Board's recommendation with respect to the Icahn Group's unsolicited amended tender offer, which followed a thorough review of the terms and conditions of the offer by the Special Committee and the Board, is set forth in Lionsgate's amended Schedule 14D-9 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") and notice of change to directors' circular filed with Canadian securities regulators.
"We believe that nothing has changed — the offer remains financially inadequate and still does not reflect the full value of Lionsgate shares," said Lionsgate Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer. "The only substantive change is that the Icahn Group is now bidding for full control of the Company without offering a meaningful vision, without demonstrating a relevant track record of industry experience and without paying a control premium. We believe that this financially inadequate proposal stands in stark contrast to our patient, disciplined strategy of building a strong and diversified Company step by step over the past 10 years under a seasoned Board of Directors and an experienced management team. Our plan for continuing to grow our portfolio of businesses is reflected in our ongoing achievements and initiatives each week."
CBS Announces Cash Tender Offer
CBS Corporation announced that it has commenced a cash tender offer for up to $500 million combined aggregate principal amount of specified series of its outstanding debt. The terms and conditions of the tender offer are set forth in an Offer to Purchase.
In the tender offer, CBS Corporation is offering to purchase, under certain conditions, the 6.625% Notes due May 15, 2011, the 8.625% Debentures due August 1, 2012 and the 5.625% Notes due August 15, 2012 (collectively, the "notes"), as listed in the table below. CBS Corporation will accept for purchase the notes in accordance with the acceptance priority level in numerical priority order, with Level 1 being the highest priority level. The aggregate amount of any 6.625% Senior Notes due 2011 to be repurchased will be subject to a maximum purchase sublimit of $400,000,000 as described in the Offer to Purchase.
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Vitec Group Accept HME Offer to Acquire Clear-Com
The Videocom division of The Vitec Group plc
announced its acceptance of HME’s offer to acquire Clear-Com Communication Systems,
its business unit that provides mission-critical voice communication systems for broadcast, live
performance, military, federal government and professional audio markets. HME, a privatelyheld
company based in Poway, California, is a pioneer of digital wireless intercom solutions for
restaurant, hospitality, pro sports and pro audio markets. HME’s expertise in
wireless intercom technology and knowledge of the intercom market will provide Clear-Com greater access to a wider range of complementary communication solutions, economies of
scale in product development and manufacturing operations. Clear-Com will continue operation
as a wholly-owned business within HME.
The Vitec Group in the last 10+ years, has been supporting Clear-Com growth with new product investments and technology acquisitions such as the
patent-pending I.V.Core Intercom-over-IP technology from Talkdynamics. In addition, Clear-
Com today shares many common customers with some of Vitec Group’s market-leading brands
such as Vinten, Sachtler and Bexel. After this transition, Clear-Com will continue to advance
these relationships and offer even more added value to this existing customer base.
“The Clear-Com business is poised to further accelerate its growth with its leadership in TDM
Matrix and integrated IP and wireless solution. Together with HME they will form a major
powerhouse in the intercom and voice communication industry” said Joop Janssen, CEO of the
The Vitec Group Videocom Division. “HME is best positioned to provide Clear-Com with
additional key technology advantages in wireless, greater market reach, and simply bigger
critical mass in terms of operations and manufacturing.”
“This opportunity to combine forces with the best-known brand Clear-Com came at a perfect
time,” said Chuck Miyahira, CEO of HME. “We have been looking to expand our pro audio
business with a partner who brought a range of intercom experience and market knowledge that
would compliment ours. And Clear-Com was clearly a natural fit for HME.”
Avid Technologies Files 10K with SEC -- expect downturn to continue -- losses in each of 3 prior years
The follwing extracts are from the 10K filed recently by Avid with SEC for 2009.
"We expect the global economic downturn to continue to have a negative impact on our business, although the magnitude of that impact is uncertain.
We believe that the global economic downturn negatively affected our revenues and operating results in 2009. Although we are unable to predict future economic conditions or the magnitude of the downturn’s impact on our business, global economic activity is expected to remain slow. To the extent our customers’ businesses have been or expect to be negatively impacted by the economic downturn, we anticipate that they may delay or postpone purchases of our solutions. Of additional concern, certain of our professional customers rely on credit to finance purchases of our solutions, including through third-party leasing arrangements that we offer. Credit markets remain constrained by historic standards; to the extent credit is unavailable, even customers otherwise willing to proceed with purchases might be unable to do so unless or until they are able to arrange for alternative financing. Additionally, certain of our customers have become insolvent, and others may become so in the future. To the extent our customers suffer from lack of liquidity or become insolvent, our sales cycles may lengthen and our accounts receivable collection rates may suffer, which would negatively affect our revenues, or, in some circumstances, we may have to consider extended or alternative payment arrangements, which could delay revenue recognition.
We may also be affected to the extent the economic downturn continues to negatively impact our resellers and distributors. Our resellers and distributors have in some cases, and may in the future, reduce on-hand inventory of our products as a precaution. The downturn has also caused certain of our resellers and distributors, and may cause others, particularly in the retail sector, to seek bankruptcy protection. With respect to any reseller or distributor that enters bankruptcy, we may be unable to collect from that reseller or distributor monies due to us or arrange for the return of unsold inventory.
Our efforts to transform our business may not yield the intended results of improved financial performance and increased returns for our stockholders.
We are in the process of a significant transformation that began in 2008 and includes, among other things, a new corporate strategy, reorganization of our internal structure, the improvement of operational efficiencies and a reduction in the size of our workforce. Although the majority of our transformation activities are complete, the effects of the transformation are yet to be fully determined. While we undertook these activities with the goals of improving our financial performance and creating greater returns for our stockholders, they may ultimately prove to be misdirected and insufficient or ill-timed, and we cannot be certain that they will yield the intended results.
We outsource a portion of our software development and our hardware design and manufacturing to contractors, both domestic and offshore. These relationships provide us with more flexible resource capabilities, access to global talent and cost savings, but also expose us to risks that may not exist or may be less pronounced with respect to our internal operations. We are able to exercise only limited oversight of our contractors, including with respect to their engineering and manufacturing processes, resource allocations, delivery schedules, security procedures and quality control. Language, cultural and time zone differences further complicate effective management of contractors that are located offshore. Additionally, competition for talent in certain locations may lead to high turnover rates that disrupt development or manufacturing continuity. Pricing terms offered by certain contractors may be highly variable over time reflecting, among other things, order volume, local inflation and exchange rates. Some of our contractor relationships are based in contract, while others operate on a purchase order basis, where we do not have the benefit of written protections with respect to pricing or other critical terms.
We have incurred net losses in each of our three most recently completed fiscal years and we may continue to incur net losses in future periods.
We have incurred, on the basis of U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, net losses in each of the past three fiscal years: $68.4 million in 2009, $198.2 million in 2008, and $8.0 million in 2007. These losses, among other things, adversely affect our stockholders’ equity and working capital. These losses, and the principal factors or components underlying them, are discussed in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in Item 7 of this annual report. Although, as discussed above, we have undertaken efforts to transform our operations, we cannot be certain when, or if, our operations will return to profitability.
Total net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2009 were $629.0 million, a decrease of $215.9 million, or 26%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2008. Compared to 2008, Video revenues decreased 32% and Audio revenues decreased 13%. Of the $176.7 million decrease in 2009 Video revenues, $59.6 million was attributable to divested or exited product lines, including our Softimage 3D animation and PCTV product lines divested in the fourth quarter of 2008. We believe the remaining Video decrease of $117.1 million and the Audio decrease of $39.2 million, both primarily due to lower sales volumes, were largely attributable to unfavorable macroeconomic conditions.
For the year ended December 31, 2009, we incurred a net loss of $68.4 million, compared to a net loss of $198.2 million for 2008. The net loss for 2009 included charges of $12.5 million for acquisition-related inta
Grass Valley to Lose 25% of workforce --625 Jobs!
Technicolor is cutting one-fourth of work force at its Grass Valley division, which it put up for sale a year ago. The reduction would comprise 625 jobs worldwide, Technicolor said. The unit remains for sale and no longer fits within the parent corporation’s strategic plan.
“The worldwide market for professional broadcast equipment, where Grass Valley does business, has been in sharp decline--about 30 percent since the end of 2008, mainly as a result of declining broadcaster budgets and advertising expenses,” Technicolor said in a release announcing the restructuring. “Like all companies in the sector, Grass Valley faces serious economic difficulties, as evidenced by a 31 percent decline in revenues between 2008 and 2009, and losses totaling 87 million euros [US$17 million] in 2009.”
The French conglomerate, now focused on content-creation services, said the restructuring would involve all Grass Valley sites in Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, France and the United States. Meetings at the various sites commenced at the start of the week.
“The meetings were held in order to present a reorganization plan needed to enable Grass Valley to return to the break-even point in the current economic context,” Technicolor’s release said. “The plan was based upon Grass Valley’s reorganization into three distinct activities--broadcast, head-ends and transmission. It would include a 25 percent reduction in Grass Valley headcount by eliminating 625 jobs worldwide.”
Technicolor said nothing further about the state of the sale of Grass Valley. The parent company itself just completed a debt restructuring under the protection of the French government, having dropped the name, “Thomson.” Final approval was reached in January.
QuStream Q4 Revenue Down 64%!
QuStream Corporation, a provider of broadcast and Pro A/V solutions, announced its fourth quarter and full fiscal year 2009 results.
Revenue for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 was US $1.5 million compared to US $4.1 million in the same period in fiscal 2008, a decrease of 64%. Revenue for the twelve months ended December 31, 2009 was US $10.5 million, down 43% from the US $18.4 million during the same period last year.
Net loss for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 was US $0.5 million or ($0.02) per share compared to a net loss of US $4.9 million or ($0.21) per share for the same period last year. Net loss for the twelve months ended December 31, 2009 was US $5.9 million or ($0.25) per share compared to a net loss of US $9.4 million or ($0.40) per share for the same period last year.
"Fiscal 2009 was a very challenging year," stated QuStream's Executive Chairman, Howard Sutton. "The Company is working hard to provide quality products and exceptional service to meet our customers' needs while focusing on executing its strategic initiatives to return to growth and profitability".
Panasonic Solutions Company Consolidates
Joseph M. Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corporation of North America, announced that Rance Poehler will head the newly consolidated Panasonic Solutions Company as President. The new B2B-focused company will incorporate the operations of Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Company and Panasonic Professional Display Company and formally launched operations April 1, 2010.
Panasonic Solutions Company will deliver content creation, collaboration, information-sharing and decision-support solutions for customers in government, healthcare, education as well as a wide variety of commercial enterprises. Products and services within the Panasonic Solutions portfolio include Panasonic Toughbook® mobile computing solutions, projectors and professional displays and HD video acquisition and production solutions.
“At Panasonic we have always been focused on providing the most reliable technology platforms to support our customers’ missions. With this consolidation, Panasonic is streamlining its relationships with customers and offering them a broad portfolio approach,” said Mr. Taylor. “We believe this change will make Panasonic an easier company with which to do business and enhance our ability to deliver superior products, services and support to commercial and government customers.”
“Panasonic is a technology leader and continues to spend over $3 billion in R&D each year,” said Rance Poehler, president, Panasonic Solutions Company. “We will utilize the technology and innovation from our multiple engineering and research centers to create new solutions, built with the input of our customers and ecosystem of channel partners, to substantially grow our business.”
“Offering Panasonic’s array of mobile computing, video, and display technologies under one banner makes sense,” said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates. “Many of Panasonic’s government and commercial customers rely on the company’s full suite of technologies to streamline operations, gather and analyze business intelligence, protect and train employees, and improve customer experience.”
ViewCast forecasts strong 2010 following loss for Q4
Video encoding and management solution provider ViewCast said its 4Q 2009 revenues were down from the same period a year earlier, but had shown a return to sequential growth over the previous quarter, reversing field after the company saw its sales growth stutter in last year's pale economy. ViewCast said it expected growth to continue through the first quarter of 2010, driven by strong sales of its Niagara 7500 HD encoder and the release of its Niagara SCX 6.1 Streaming Media Management software, both of which support H.264.
ViewCast said revenues for the quarter were $3.4 million, compared to $4.3 million in the like 2008 quarter, and $3 million in 3Q09. The company reported gross profit of $2.2 million for the quarter, down from $3.0 million a year ago, partially due to a change in its revenue mix with lower Osprey sales, and a higher percentage of sales coming from OEM system products. Despite an aggressive year of cost cutting and cost control, ViewCast nonetheless showed an increase in its net loss for the quarter of $301,000, compared to $42,000 a year ago.
"The fourth quarter marked an important milestone in the company's recovery as the product development and marketing infrastructure advancements we made during the past 18 months began to bear fruit and as our key markets began to show an uptick," said Dave Stoner, president and CEO. "We believe we are well positioned to return to regular quarterly growth and improving financial results. Our goal in the first part of 2010 is to further capitalize on positive trends as we launch new sales initiatives, introduce the product advancements necessary to stay ahead of the competition and seek new products and technologies to better utilize our distribution network."
"Our sales volume reversed its trend back to positive growth during the fourth quarter of 2009 and we expect that trend to continue for the 2010 year," said Stoner. "We can now see evidence of increases in sales of all product lines taking hold, as we have seen a greater than 30 percent increase in booked orders received in the first quarter of 2010 compared to the fourth quarter of 2009 providing us backlog into the second quarter. Although Q4 is typically a higher sales quarter than Q1, we expect sequential growth in the first quarter of 2010."
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SCRI RESEARCH NEWS
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