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As US schools resume testing, large numbers are opting out – Times of India

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Abby Norman greets her daughters Juliet, 11, left, and Priscilla, 9, as they arrive home from school. AP Photo

Standardized tests are returning to the nation’s schools this spring, but millions of students will face shorter exams that carry lower stakes, and most families are being given the option to forgo testing entirely.
With new flexibility from the Biden administration, states are adopting a patchwork of testing plans that aim to curb the stress of exams while still capturing some data on student learning. The lenient approach means large swaths of students will go untested, shattering hopes for a full picture of how much learning has been set back by the pandemic.
“We will end up with a highly imperfect set of data,” said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. “This is something our country will have to commit to tracking and learning about for at least the next few years, and maybe the next decade.”
Some of the nation’s largest districts plan to test only a fraction of their students as many continue to learn remotely. In New York City, students must opt in to be tested this year. In Los Angeles, most students are not being asked to take state exams this year. Other districts are scaling back questions or testing in fewer subjects.
It’s the latest episode in a long-fought battle over school testing and, as in the past, parents are polarized. Some are demanding tests to get a sense of their children’s progress. Others see no need to put their children through that kind of stress.
As a teacher, Jay Wamsted believes there’s value in testing. But when his sixth-grade daughter Kira asked to opt out this year, he saw no reason to object. He already knows she needs to catch up on math after months of remote learning. And as a teacher at her school, he knew that many other students were also backing out, undermining the value of the results.
“I know she’s a little behind, and I don’t need that data,” said Wamsted, who live in Smyrna, Georgia. “To take a month to gather data that is not going to mean anything to any of their teachers next year – it seems like a waste of time.”
Parent Abby Norman found her third-grade daughter crying in her bedroom the morning tests were scheduled to begin at her school near Atlanta. Priscilla, 9, had just returned to the classroom after learning remotely and was worried she wasn’t prepared.
“She was so nervous about this test that I don’t care about at all, that does not matter to me,” said Norman, who is a preacher. “I literally ended up telling her, ‘If you want to lick the test and give it back, I don’t care.'”
With that reassurance, Abby agreed to take the tests and scored “almost off the charts,” her mom said. Still, Norman resents that students were put in that situation at all.
Several states lobbied the Biden administration to cancel standardized tests entirely for a second year, but the Education Department aimed for a middle ground: It told states to test as many student as possible without requiring them to come in just for exams. The goal, the agency said, should be to measure the pandemic’s impact and identify how to help students recover.
Acknowledging the challenges of the pandemic, the agency invited states to shorten or delay tests, and it urged them to ease the stakes for students. But the department later granted additional leniency to certain states, prompting criticism that it failed to set a clear bar.
Washington, D.C., was granted permission to cancel tests because 88% of students were learning remotely, but the agency rejected similar requests from Michigan, New York and Georgia. Requests to scale back testing were granted in Colorado and Oregon, but a plan to narrow the testing pool in Washington state was rejected.
Those who opposed testing say it’s the last thing students need after such a challenging year. Schools have other ways to evaluate students, they say, and testing only takes away from classroom time.
Michigan’s education chief has blasted the uneven flexibility granted to states. School across Michigan have already used other tests to assess students, he said, and more exams “will inform precisely nothing about our children’s needs.” State officials in New York argued that testing is unlikely to produce useful data given the variability in instruction during the pandemic.
“In fact, the students most in need of state assessments – those receiving remote instruction – are the very children who are not required to take the test,” the state’s top education officials wrote in an April statement.
Testing advocates counter that there’s still value in collecting as much data as possible. Lake, at the University of Washington, said even imperfect results can help illuminate the scope of the problem schools face as they help students recover.
“Standardized tests at the state level are the most consistent data we’ve had to track academic progress, so it would be a huge missed opportunity to forgo those tests this year,” she said. “Flying blind is not a responsible position for a public official to take.”
Some critics blame the Biden administration for allowing halfhearted attempts at evaluations. They point to places like New York City, where the outgoing schools chief urged parents in February to consider opting out of tests. Oregon’s two largest districts have voted to defy state orders and skip testing. The state says their penalty will be to submit a plan to come into compliance next year.
“These states are simply playing games. They’re not even pretending to make an effort to test students, and the Biden administration is letting them get away with it,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
If testing isn’t feasible now, Petrilli said, it should be done in the fall. Maryland, New Jersey and Washington state have postponed tests, and it’s an option for districts in California.
In some states, officials are pushing ahead with tests much as they have in the past. In Tennessee and Arkansas, education officials have said all healthy students are expected to take state exams, which are only being offered in-person. More than 1.4 million tests have already been given in Arkansas this spring, and the state is on track to test at least 95% of students, according to the state’s education department.
In normal years, the federally required tests are used to gauge school effectiveness and chart the progress of students, both as individuals and in demographic groups. In some states, students must pass certain tests to move to the next grade or graduate from high school. But this year, most states are focusing on measuring student growth and letting schools and students off the hook for the results.
After last year’s tests were canceled, there was hope that this year’s exams would provide the most comprehensive look yet at the pandemic’s impact on education. But the inconsistency between states now makes a broad analysis impossible, said Scott Marion, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Assessment, which helps states design and evaluate tests.
Still, he believes the results will have value. As schools begin the long process to help students recover, he said, this year’s data will provide a foundation to measure against.
“I do think the data can be a useful baseline going forward,” he said. “If this is the low point, or close to it, how are our kids going to come out of it going forward?”

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Indian shooters arrive in Osijek for European Championships | More sports News – Times of India

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OSIJEK (Croatia): India’s 13-member Olympic-bound shooting squad arrived in Osijek from the Croatian capital Zagreb to shoot in the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) section of the European Championships.
The competitions began on Saturday with the junior events.
India’s Tokyo-bound shooters will take part in the men’s and women’s individual Olympic events only.
Anjum Moudgil may compete in two individual events (women’s 10m air rifle and 50m rifle 3 positions).
Located on the eastern fringes of Croatia, Osijek will also play host to the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun competition, scheduled from June 22, a couple of weeks after the conclusion of the European Championships.

“We have all settled down well and felt really good after completing the seven-day quarantine period. The team is in great spirits and really looking forward to the Championship,” said rifle coach Deepali Deshpande.
The first individual Olympic events, the men’s and women’s 10m air rifle and air pistol competitions, are scheduled for Monday.
When shooting in the MQS section, athletes do not compete for a medal and therefore are not eligible to qualify for the finals. Their scores, however, can be used for official and ranking purposes.
A total of 15 Indian shooters have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Skeet shooters Mairaj Khan and Angad Bajwa, who have also qualified for the Games, are training in Italy.





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AAP urges PM Narendra Modi to resume talks with farmers on agriculture laws | India News – Times of India

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AAP said the government has not made any attempt to negotiate with the protesting farmers since January 22.

CHANDIGARH: The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept with humility farmers‘ invitation of talks over the Centre’s agriculture laws and resolve the issue.
In a letter to the PM, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann and the party’s Punjab affairs co-in-charge Raghav Chadha also claimed that 470 have died during the course of the agitation, which is unfortunate and painful.
“The government has not made any attempt to negotiate with farmers since January 22, which is not in the interest of farmers and the entire nation,” they added.
As farmer leaders have once again urged for talks, the prime minister should accept the invitation with humility and resume talks over the issue, resolving it permanently, they said.
The leaders said farmers are the backbone of the country and they had to protest for their demands at the cost of their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Concerned about their future, the country’s farmers, including elderly, children and women, have left their homes and settled at Delhi borders, which is also against human rights,” they added.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 protesting farmer unions spearheading the protests, on Friday had written to the prime minister, urging for the resumption of talks over the Centre’s farm laws, against which they are agitating at the Delhi borders since November last year.
Several rounds of talks between farmers and the government failed to break the deadlock over the three legislations.
Farmers are demanding the repeal of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
They have described the laws as pro-corporate. However, the government has maintained that the laws are for their benefit.

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In 1958 US considered nuclear strike on China over Taiwan: Documents – Times of India

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U.S. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts routine operations in the Taiwan Strait. US had considered using nuclear weapons on China in 1958 to protect Taiwan from an invasion by Communist forces, classified documents posted online revealed (AP)

WASHINGTON: US military planners pushed for nuclear strikes on mainland China in 1958 to protect Taiwan from an invasion by Communist forces, classified documents posted online by Daniel Ellsberg of “Pentagon Papers” fame show.
US planners also assumed that the Soviet Union would aid China and retaliate with nuclear weapons — a price they deemed worth paying to protect Taiwan, according to the document, first reported by the New York Times.
Former military analyst Ellsberg posted online the classified portion of a top-secret document on the crisis that had been only partially declassified in 1975.
Ellsberg, now 90, is famous for his 1971 leak to US media of a top-secret Pentagon study on the Vietnam war known as the Pentagon Papers.
Ellsberg told the Times that he copied the top-secret Taiwan crisis study in the early 1970s, and is releasing it as tensions mount between the United States and China over Taiwan.
Had an invasion taken place, General Nathan Twining, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, “made it clear that the United States would have used nuclear weapons against Chinese air bases to prevent a successful air interdiction campaign,” the document’s authors wrote.
If this did not stop an invasion, then there was “no alternative but to conduct nuclear strikes deep into China as far north as Shanghai,” the document said, paraphrasing Twining.
In the event, US president Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to rely initially on conventional weapons.
The 1958 crisis ended when Communist forces halted artillery strikes on islands controlled by Taiwan, leaving the area under the control of Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek.
China considers Taiwan to be a rebel province that will one day return to the mainland’s fold, by force if necessary.
Washington has recognized Beijing since 1979, but maintains relations with Taipei and is its most important military ally.
In recent months the Chinese air force has increased incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
The United States also frequently conducts what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations in the flashpoint Taiwan Strait waterway.
US President Joe Biden is expected to announce his strategy toward China soon, and calls are growing for him to make a clear public commitment to defend Taiwan militarily.
A US law requires Washington to help the island defend itself in the event of a conflict, but the United States has pursued a policy of “strategic ambiguity” for decades, refraining from clearly stating what circumstances would lead it to intervene militarily on Taiwan’s behalf.

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Two separate China quakes cause damage; three dead, dozens hurt – Times of India

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The Qinghai earthquake was followed by 453 aftershocks throughout the early morning into midday. AP Photo

BEIJING: A strong, shallow earthquake shook southwestern China near the border with Myanmar, killing at least three people and injuring more than two dozen, while a separate, more intense quake early Saturday collapsed a bridge and caused other damage in central China.
The first, 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Yunnan province late Friday. The second 7.3 magnitude quake occurred hours later in the southern part of Qinghai province, about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) to the south, according to Chinese measurements.
US Geological Survey geophysicist Jonathan Tytell said the two quakes were not related.
The Qinghai earthquake was followed by 453 aftershocks throughout the early morning into midday, according to the official People’s Daily newspaper. At least eight people were injured.
While no deaths have been reported so far in Qinghai province, the quakes tore up roads and bridges, with one collapsing completely, broken into segments.
The Yunnan province seismological bureau gave the magnitude of Friday night’s quake and said it struck 8 kilometers (5 miles) below the surface northwest of the city of Dali.
Shallow quakes often cause more damage, especially in populated areas.
The earthquake caused strong shaking around Dali, but Chinese news reports showed relatively little damage.
Three people died and 28 were injured, Yunan province’s publicity department said Saturday.
Relief efforts were underway, with the provincial authorities sending emergency rations and tents to the affected areas. In Qinghai, authorities set up temporary safety shelters due to continuous aftershocks.
Last year, a magnitude 5 earthquake in Yunnan killed four people and injured 23.
China’s worst earthquake in recent years struck the mountainous western portion of Sichuan province to the north of Yunnan in 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

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Wrestler Sushil Kumar arrested in Chhatrasal Stadium brawl case: Reports | More sports News – Times of India

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Sushil Kumar. (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: Wrestler Sushil Kumar, a two-time Olympic medallist, was on Saturday arrested in Punjab in connection with a brawl at Chhatrasal Stadium which had led to the death of a wrestler, media reports said.
Kumar was arrested by Punjab Police which will hand him to the Delhi Police.
A Delhi court had earlier declined to grant anticipatory bail to the wrestler who is the only Indian athlete to win two Olympic medals in individual sport. Sushil won bronze in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and silver in 2012 London Olympic Games in 66 kg category.

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Wrestler Sushil Kumar arrested in Chhatrasal Stadium brawl case: Source | More sports News – Times of India

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Sushil Kumar. (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: India’s two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who was on the run for over a fortnight for alleged links with the murder of former international wrestler Sagar Dhankar, was arrested by Delhi Police on Saturday, according to a source.
“Kumar has been arrested near Jalandhar. His associate Ajay Kumar, accused in the case, has also been arrested,” a source told IANS.
On May 18, Kumar had moved an anticipatory bail in New Delhi’s Rohini court, but the court rejected his bail plea.
Last week, Delhi Police had announced a cash award of Rs 1 lakh for feedback on the celebrated wrestler who was absconding since May 4.
On May 4, two groups of wrestlers clashed with each other at Chhatrasal Stadium leading to the death of 23-year-old Dhankar due to injuries he sustained during the brawl.
The Delhi court had also issued a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Kumar.
Delhi Police issued a lookout notice for Kumar. “A lookout notice has been issued for Kumar,” Dr Guriqbal Singh Sidhu, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (North West Delhi) had said.
Kumar, employed with the Indian Railways, is posted as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at Chhatrasal Stadium, where the brawl allegedly took place.
Kumar won bronze in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and silver in 2012 London Olympic Games in 66 kg category.

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Child rights panel seeks info from Centre, states on preparations to tackle third Covid wave | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Saturday urged the Union Health Ministry and states to take stock of the preparations to tackle the upcoming third wave of Covid-19, which experts say is likely to impact the younger population significantly.
The child rights body has sought information on the availability of pediatric facilities and beds, availability of neonatal ambulances for newborns, and protocols for treatment of children.
The NCPCR has taken cognisance of the preparation of the Ministry of Health, ICMR, and the State governments.
Priyank Kanoongo, the Commission’s Chairperson said, “We have asked all the states about PICUs, NICUs, equipment, doctors, and nurses, whether the equipment is functional or not, and the availability of beds and oxygen.”
He said that the Commission has also requested the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to share the protocols for the treatment of children and sought information from the Ministry of Health on the arrangement for the transportation, including ambulance system for the children.
In a letter to the ICMR, Kanoongo highlighted the potential impact of the third wave on children and emphasised the need for vaccinating children.
Kanoongo further said, “The third wave of Covid-19 is projected to hit the country, according to experts, and will affect children too. The Supreme Court has emphasised upon the need to prepare for the same including vaccinating people.”
“Protocols/guidelines shall be further shared by NCPCR with the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) for dissemination in States/UTs. Further keeping in view, high risk involved for children in an upcoming third wave of Covid-19, you may kindly apprise the Commission, if additional protocols/Guidelines have been developed by ICMR for prevention and clinical management of children,” Kanoongo wrote in his letter dated May 20.
In its letter to the Union health ministry, the commission has highlighted the need for transportation of newborns, who may be impacted by the third wave.
“Doctors have confirmed that even newborns and infants are testing Covid-19 positive, though their condition remains under control and rarely turns fatal. There is an urgent need to reorganise a Neonatal/children Emergency Transport Service (NETS) to prepare specifically for neonatal and children for the third wave,” it said.





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Cardinal Pell eyes a Vatican scandal he suspected long ago – Times of India

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Cardinal George Pell is enjoying his first Roman spring since being exonerated of sex abuse charges in his native Australia. AP Photo

ROME: Cardinal George Pell is enjoying his first Roman spring since being exonerated of sex abuse charges in his native Australia: He receives visitors to his Vatican flat, sips midday Aperol Spritz’s at the outdoor cafe downstairs and keeps up religiously with news of a Holy See financial scandal that he suspected years ago.
Pell, who turns 80 in June, is buoyed by the perks of being a retired Vatican cardinal even as he tries to put back together a life and career that were upended by his criminal trials and 404 days spent in solitary confinement in a Melbourne lockup.
“I’ve become very Italian,” Pell tells a visitor one morning, referring to his daily routine checking coronavirus cases in Italy. “I check the stats every day. But I’m regional: I go immediately to Lazio,” which surrounds Rome.
Pell left his job as prefect of the Vatican’s economy ministry in 2017 to return home to face charges that he sexually molested two 13-year-old choir boys in the sacristy of the Melbourne cathedral in 1996.
After a first jury deadlocked, a second convicted him and he was sentenced to six years in prison. The conviction was upheld on appeal only to be thrown out by Australia’s High Court, which in April 2020 found there was reasonable doubt in the testimony of his lone accuser.
Pell and his supporters strongly denied the charges and believe he was scapegoated for all the crimes of the Australian Catholic Church’s botched response to clergy sexual abuse. Yet victims and critics say Pell epitomizes everything wrong with how the church has dealt with the sex abuse problem and have denounced his exoneration.
Pell spoke to The Associated Press ahead of the U.S. release of the second volume of his jailhouse memoir, “Prison Journal, Volume 2,” chronicling the middle four months of his term. The book charts his emotional low after the appeals court upheld his initial conviction, and ends with a sign of hope after Australia’s High Court agreed to hear his case.
“Looking back, I was probably excessively optimistic that I’d get bail,” Pell says now, crediting his “glass half-full” attitude to his Christian faith.
Pell still has many detractors – he freely uses the term “enemies” – who think him guilty. But in Rome, even many of his critics believed in his innocence, and since returning in September he has enjoyed a well-publicized papal audience and participates regularly in Vatican events.
Pell had returned to Rome to clean out his apartment, intending to make Sydney his permanent home.
But he never left. As Italy’s Covid-19 resurgence hit, Pell spent the winter watching as the scandal over Vatican corruption and incompetence that he tried to uncover as Pope Francis‘ finance czar exploded publicly in ways he admits he never saw coming.
For the three years that Pell was in charge of the Vatican’s finances, he tried to get a handle on just how much money the Secretariat of State had in its asset portfolio, what its investments were and what it did with the tens of millions of dollars in donations to the pope from the faithful.
He largely failed, as his nemesis in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, blocked his efforts to impose international accounting and auditing standards. But now Becciu has been sacked, Francis has stripped the secretariat of its ability to manage the money and Vatican prosecutors are investigating the office’s 350 million euro investment in a London real estate venture.
No indictments have been handed down after two years of investigation. But in court documents, prosecutors have accused an Italian broker involved in the London deal of trying to extort the Holy See of 15 million euros in fees, and they have accused a handful of Vatican officials of involvement.
Those same court documents, however, have made clear the entire venture was approved by top officials in the Secretariat of State, and witnesses say Francis himself approved a “just” compensation for the broker. Yet only low-ranking Vatican officials and external businessmen are known to be under investigation.
Pell said he is heartened that Vatican prosecutors are on the case, given the tens of millions of euros that were lost in the deal. But he expressed concerns about possible problems in the investigation and wondered if the truth will ever come out.
He noted a British judge recently issued a devastating ruling against the Vatican in a related asset seizure case against the broker, Gianluigi Torzi. The judge said Vatican prosecutors had made “appalling” omissions and misrepresentations in their request for judicial assistance, and his ruling essentially dismantled much of their case against Torzi.
“He used the word ‘appalling’ about the level of competence,” Pell said. The issues flagged in the British ruling are “a matter for concern,” said Pell, for whom matters of due process are particularly dear.
“It’s a matter of basic competence and justice,” Pell said. “We must act within the norms of justice.”

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WTC final: India’s first ever Test at a neutral venue could be home away from home | Cricket News – Times of India

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Indian cricketers (Getty Images)

NEW DELHI: For the first time in 89 years of their Test cricket history, India will play a Test match at a neutral venue when they lock horns with New Zealand in the World Test Championship final in Southampton, though a limited number of Indian fans there could make it home away from home.
Among nations with Test status, India and Bangladesh are the only sides who haven’t played Test cricket at a neutral venue.
Over the last decade, most international cricket teams have played series against Pakistan at a neutral venue since there was no cricket in Pakistan. The series were mostly in the United Arab Emirates, with almost no crowd for either side as Test matches found few takers in the Emirates.
No country has visited Pakistan for 10 years since early 2009 when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by gunmen. Since India have not played a Test match against Pakistan after the 2007-08 home series, they have not got to play any match at a neutral venue.
India had an opportunity to play at a neutral venue, back in 1998-99 during the Asian Test Championships. The final was played in Dhaka but India failed to reach it and Pakistan and Sri Lanka were involved in the title clash in Dhaka.
The WTC final at Southampton though will most likely be played in front of a crowd of 4,000 and there could be plenty of Indian fans, though not as many as India are used to at home or even overseas nowadays.
Rod Bransgrove, the chairman of the Hampshire County Cricket Club has been quoted as saying by a section of the media that out of the 4,000 tickets, 50 per cent will go to ICC for its sponsors and stakeholders while they will be selling the remaining 2,000 tickets.
He has been quoted as saying by Cricbuzz that there is a huge demand for tickets.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has termed it an exciting prospect. “I suppose having a different opposition, playing in a neutral country is an exciting prospect,” the New Zealand skipper said.
Unlike India, New Zealand have already set up a base in Southampton where they have got used to the conditions. The players are even going to stay in the same rooms.
For India, though, the advantage is that they played a Test back in 2018 which they could have won had they not succumbed to Moeen Ali.

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