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Smoking may impair mRNA vaccine response | English News | GulNews

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Current smokers may be at risk for lower immune responses to some COVID-19 vaccines, Japanese researchers say, though more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

In a preliminary study of 378 healthcare workers, ages 32 to 54, the researchers analyzed levels of protective antibodies induced by the mRNA vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, using blood samples obtained roughly three months after the second dose. As has been found in previous studies, older participants had lower antibody levels.

After taking age into account, the only risk factors for lower antibody levels were being male and smoking – and the gender difference might be because smoking rates were twice as high in men as in women, the researchers speculate.

In a paper posted on Saturday on medRxiv ahead of peer review, they report that antibody levels were higher in former smokers than in current smokers, which “suggests smoking cessation will reduce the risk of a lower antibody titer.”

Microscopic lung damage may continue in ‘long COVID’

The persistent breathing issues that plague some COVID-19 survivors, known as “long COVID,” may be due to microscopic processes that continue to damage lungs even after the acute infection is over, new research suggests.

The researchers studied blood and airway cells from 38 patients who still had breathing problems at least three months after they were discharged from hospital. Compared to healthy volunteers, the airways of these COVID-19 survivors had higher numbers of immune cells that defend against viruses but can also cause damage.

They also had higher levels of proteins that are present when cell death and tissue repair are happening.

The findings, which still need confirmation in larger studies, suggest some patients have ongoing disturbances in their immune cells and damage to cells that line the airways, even several months after their initial infection and discharge from hospital, said James Harker of Imperial College London, coauthor of a report published on medRxiv ahead of peer review. “In a small group of patients, we were able to show that the abnormalities may in fact resolve with more time,” Harker said.



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Muslim man assaulted, forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan in India’s Kanpur town | English News | GulNews

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A Muslim man was beaten, paraded through a street and forced to chant “Jai Shree Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) by a mob in India’s Uttar Pradesh state on Wednesday, NDTV reported.

Video footage of the incident, circulating on social media, showed the victim — a rickshaw driver in UP’s Kanpur town — being forced to chant the slogan and begging the attackers to not beat him while his daughter clung to him. He was later handed over to the police.

The NDTV report quoted the man as saying that he was driving his rickshaw when the mob “started abusing and assaulting me and threatening to kill me and my family”.

“I got saved because of the police,” he added.

The report further stated that the incident took place less than a kilometre away from an intersection where a right-wing group — Bajrang Dal — held a meeting earlier in the day in which people complained that Muslims in the area were “trying to convert a Hindu girl”.

The assault happened right after the meeting, the NDTV report stated. However, it noted, the police have not confirmed whether the attackers were affiliated with the Bajrang Dal.

Meanwhile, the police said a case was registered against a resident of the area, his son and around 10 other people based on the complaint of the victim.

The victim — a 45-year-old man — was related to a Muslim family in the area who were involved in a legal dispute with their Hindu neighbours, according to the NDTV report.

The report also said that the two families had lodged complaints against each other at a local police station last month. The Muslim family had filed the complaint first over “assault and criminal intimidation”.

Later, the Hindu family also filed a complaint, alleging “assault with the intent to outrage the modesty of a woman”, the report added.

There have been several incidents of violence against Muslims in India in the past with some of them related to cow vigilantism.

In May, a Muslim man carrying buffalo meat was physically assaulted in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district. While police had registered a case against the attackers on the complaint of the victim’s brother, they also — of their own volition — had registered a separate case against the victim.

Earlier this year, a Muslim boy was beaten in Ghaziabad district for entering and drinking water from a Hindu temple.

The 14-year-old boy had entered the temple to drink water when he was noticed by the temple caretaker who proceeded to beat the boy, the boy’s family had said.

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Not waiting for phone call from Biden, says PM Imran | English News | GulNews

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Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a wide-ranging talk with foreign journalists at his residence on Wednesday night, said he was not really “waiting” for a phone call from US President Joe Biden.

“I keep hearing that President Biden hasn’t called me. It’s his business. It’s not like I am waiting for any phone call,” he said in response to a question from a Reuters journalist.

The prime minister’s comments come days after National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf stated that Pakistan has other options if Biden continues to ignore the country’s leadership.

“The president of the United States hasn’t spoken to the prime minister of such an important country who the US itself says is make-or-break in some cases, in some ways, in Afghanistan — we struggle to understand the signal, right?” Yusuf had told The Financial Times in an interview.

“We’ve been told every time that … [the phone call] will happen, it’s technical reasons or whatever. But frankly, people don’t believe it,” he had said. “If a phone call is a concession, if a security relationship is a concession, Pakistan has options,” he had added, refusing to elaborate.

During the interaction with the foreign media, the prime minister talked about the current situation in Afghanistan, its impact on Pakistan, and the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.

“The hasty way in which the Americans left, if they wanted a political settlement then common sense dictates that [you negotiate] from a position of strength,” he said, adding that the US was now blaming Pakistan when they no longer had any leverage.

“I think the Americans have decided that India is a strategic partner. Maybe that’s why Pakistan is being treated differently. Pakistan is just considered to be useful only in the context of settling this mess.”

The premier added that Pakistan’s closeness to China was another reason for the change in the US’ attitude.

Fallout in Pakistan

The prime minister stressed throughout the interaction that Pakistan stood to lose the most from a deterioration in the Afghan situation.

“You ask me whether we are worried? We are [definitely] worried because the direct impact of descending into a prolonged civil war […] the country that will be most affected after Afghanistan will be Pakistan.”

He explained that the Taliban were a Pakhtun-majority group and hence there would be spillover effects in Pakistan’s Pakhtun majority areas.

“It happened in 2003/2004 that our Pakhtun areas reacted to what was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan lost 70,000 people in that because we supported the Americans.

“So there is a likelihood that we will again have problems in our Pakhtun areas,” the premier explained. He added that close to three million people had also been internally displaced from the tribal areas.

Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed out that Pakistan already housed 3 million registered Afghan refugees with more unaccounted for. “Our economy is just recovering [so] we don’t want another inflow of refugees,” he said.

Any civil war in Afghanistan would also derail Pakistan’s plans for connectivity with Central Asia and geo-economic agenda, throwing them “out the window”, the premier highlighted.

He said a “nightmare scenario” for Pakistan would be a protracted civil war in case the Taliban tried to form an exclusive Afghan government through a military takeover.

The premier explained that Afghanistan was an ethnically diverse population so if the Taliban tried to take over and one ethnic group tried to impose itself over the others, it would lead to “constant unrest and that isn’t what Pakistan wants”.

He reiterated Pakistan would be affected by that unrest.

“We have a larger Pakhtun population here in Pakistan than in Afghanistan and they’re probably the most xenophobic people on earth. They fight each other normally but when it’s an outside [force], they all get together.”

Pakistan’s entry in the US-led war on terror in 2001 led to a “civil war in the tribal areas”, the prime minister said, explaining that as a result, the militant organisations formed to wage Jihad against the Soviet Union turned against Pakistan.

“Hence it’s in Pakistan’s interest that there is a political settlement and all factions come [together to form] a government that represents everyone.”

‘Strategic depth’

Responding to a question on the extent of Pakistani influence over the Taliban, the premier said that even back in 2001, when Pakistan had recognised the Taliban government and was “most influential”, the group had still refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.

“So even then Pakistan’s influence was not all-encompassing.”

He said that anyone who thought Afghanistan could be controlled from outside “doesn’t understand the character of the Afghan people”, adding that the people could not be made “puppets”.

“If I was a Pakistani policymaker in the 90s, I would not have encouraged this idea of strategic depth which was Pakistan’s policy at the time.

“It is very understandable because India, seven times the size of Pakistan, was a hostile eastern neighbour and the Pakistani security setup was always worried about facing hostilities on two fronts so there was always an attempt to have a pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasised that attempting to influence the Afghan government would not work since the Afghan population would not accept it and any perception of being controlled from outside would lead to a loss of credibility.

“Pakistan should work with any government that is selected by the people of Afghanistan.”

Hence, the PTI government’s policy was to engage with all Afghan factions, hold no favourites and have a readiness to work whichever government comes into power.

Attitude of Afghan govt

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had tried to persuade the senior Taliban leadership during their visit to Pakistan earlier this year to come to a political settlement but they had refused to talk to President Ashraf Ghani.

He said he had suggested an interim government in 2019 before the Afghanistan presidential election but “the Afghan government was very critical about this remark […] Once President Ghani got elected and the Taliban were excluded, it was always going to be a problem from then onwards since he insisted they talk to him while they didn’t recognise him or the elections”.

“Now the Afghan government is extremely critical about Pakistan [and] they think we have some magical powers that we will make the Taliban do whatever we want [them] to do,” the premier said, adding that the Afghan government didn’t realise that Pakistan’s leverage was “minuscule and diminished” since the American withdrawal.

He said it became extremely difficult to persuade the Taliban once the US gave a date for withdrawal and the Afghan government was now blaming Pakistan for the situation in Afghanistan.

“They somehow think Pakistan has supernatural powers [and that] we are a superpower plus which has such power that the 60,000 to 70,000 Taliban can take on 300,00 Afghan government troops with aircraft and modern weapons and somehow we have the power to make them (Taliban) win.”

The prime minister noted that the Afghan government’s posturing was aimed at bringing the US back into Afghanistan.

“They want the Americans to intervene again but they’ve been here for 20 years so what will they do now which they didn’t do in 20 years?” he questioned.

The prime minister reiterated that Pakistan had made it clear “our soil will not be used [for operations in Afghanistan] so that we again get embroiled in an Afghan civil war” and it did not want military bases in its territory.

“As far as I know after [August] 31, the Americans are going to stop all sorts of [operations], even air attacks in Afghanistan,” he said.

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Suffolk School Board to discuss reopening plans, including masking, Thursday | English News | GulNews

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SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Suffolk’s school board will talk reopening plans for the upcoming school year on Thursday night, including plans for face masks.

The public meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Suffolk is one of several local districts who haven’t decided on whether to masks mandatory for all students and staff.

Suffolk’s neighbor, Chesapeake, decided this week to keep masks optional. Virginia Beach opted to make them mandatory.

Gov. Ralph Northam has said a new state law requires school districts to follow CDC guidance, which currently recommends masking for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status. He’s talked about legal action against districts that don’t comply, but it’s unclear how that would go about.

According to a presentation posted on the district’s website, leaders will also consider other recommendations to prevent virus spread, including increasing vaccinations and physical distancing.

Look for updates tonight.



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Volkswagen shows off ID.5 GTX electric SUV coupe | English News | GulNews

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Volkswagen has revealed a new fully electric SUV that has a coupe-like profile called the ID.5 GTX. The car seen in the images here is a near-production concept clad in odd-looking camouflage. The automaker says the ID.5 GTX is its first electric SUV that features the coupe silhouette.

VW plans to officially reveal the ID.5 GTX on September 7 at the IAA Munich Motor Show. The vehicle is the first SUV coupe based on Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB). It offers a dual-electric motor set up, providing the driver with all-wheel drive.

Volkswagon claims it will offer up to 497 kilometers of driving range per charge. It will also support over-the-air updates, which is a very common feature for modern vehicles. VW Car2X technology is also integrated, but the automaker doesn’t go into detail about what that technology provides.

The front of the vehicle utilizes IQ.Light LED matrix headlights with automatically controlled high beams. The front end also has a light strip that tapers towards the VW logo with illuminated honeycomb elements on both sides of the vehicle. The GTX designation is meant to continue the tradition of Volkswagen’s famous GTI, GTD, and GTE models, bringing athleticism into the electric vehicle world.

The lithium-ion battery is located low in the chassis between the axles. Most details of the vehicle are a mystery for now. We don’t know performance figures for the SUV or how many trim levels will be offered. Presumably, there will be multiple versions of the car, and likely only higher-end versions will have the 497 kilometer estimated driving range. We should know everything about the SUV when it’s revealed early next month. The ID.5 GTX is an important model on VW’s quest to make electric vehicles 70 percent of its unit sales by 2030. It’s expected to be on dealer lots next year.

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Messi’s Paris St Germain package includes crypto fan tokens | English News | GulNews

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MIAMI, Aug 12 (Reuters) – Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi’s transfer to French club Paris St Germain included a payment in cryptocurrency fan tokens, a source close to the matter said, providing another big name endorsement for new digital assets.

Lionel Messi, 34, left Spanish side Barcelona and signed a two-year contract with Paris St Germain (PSG), with an option for a third year, on Tuesday.

Paris St Germain (PSG) said in a statement the tokens included in his “welcome package”, or signing on fee, had been provided by Socios.com who is the club’s fan token provider.

The club did not state what percentage of the deal comprised the tokens but said he had received a “large number”. It has also not disclosed the overall financial package.

Fan tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that allow holders to vote on mostly minor decisions related to their clubs. Among the clubs to launch tokens this year are English Premier League champions Manchester City and Italy’s AC Milan.

Like bitcoin and other digital currencies, fan tokens can be traded on exchanges. They also share in common with other cryptocurrencies a tendency for wild price swings, leading some financial regulators to issue warnings to investors.

PSG said there had been a high volume of trading of its fan tokens after reports of Lionel Messi’s move to the club emerged.

“The hype surrounding the latest signings in the club’s busy summer transfer window created a huge surge of interest in $PSG Fan Tokens, with trading volumes exceeding $1.2 billion in the days preceding the move,” it said.

The fan tokens’ price moves can have little connection to on-field performance or results. read more

PSG’s token, which has a market capitalisation of about $52 million, soared over 130% in just five days amid speculation over Lionel Messi’s arrival to an all-time high of over $60 on Tuesday. They were last down 10% at about $40, according to the CoinMarketCap website.



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Olympian Nadeem Arshad showered with praise, rose petals upon return to Pakistan | English News | GulNews

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Track-and-field athlete Arshad Nadeem was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to Pakistan after finishing fifth in the men’s javelin throw event at the Tokyo Olympics.

Punjab Sports Minister Rai Taimoor Khan Bhatti and other officials received the athlete at the Lahore airport. In a tweet, the minister said that all national heroes must be appreciated.

Talking about embarking on a “new sports journey”, he said that athletes must be provided with the necessary environment so that they can make the nation proud at an international level. “The government will take all possible steps in this regard,” he said.

Video footage from outside the airport showed an emotional Nadeem greeting his mother and falling to his knees as fans and family showered him with rose petals and praise. The two embraced as bystanders and his mother comforted him.

Later, in his hometown of Mian Channu, Nadeem was welcomed by a crowd of admirers chanting his name alongside slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad”. Citizens also took photographs with the athlete.

Last week, all eyes were on Nadeem as he competed in the final of the men’s javelin throw despite having almost no support or infrastructure to train for the global event.

However, the hopes for a medal could not materialise as India’s Neeraj Chopra claimed gold, whereas Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch and Vitezslav Vesely claimed silver and bronze medals.

Despite the loss, citizens were quick to laud the efforts of the athlete and congratulated him on making it to the final.

Read: ‘True champion’: Arshad Nadeem wins Pakistan’s hearts even if medal eludes

On Wednesday, a senate committee decided to honour Nadeem and weightlifter Talha Talib — who also narrowly missed out on a medal at the Olympics.

The Punjab government has also announced cash rewards of Rs1 million for Nadeem, Talib and mountaineer Shehroz Kashif for their recent stellar performances at the global level.

The man from Mian Channu

Nadeem is the country’s first track-and-field athlete to qualify directly for the Olympics and the first Pakistani to qualify for the final of any track-and-field event at the Games.

Arshad has a personal-best throw of 86.38m, which he achieved in April during his gold medal run at the Imam Raza Athletics Cup in Iran.

But it hasn’t been an easy path for the 1.87m-tall athlete, who comes from a village in a wheat and cotton-producing area of Punjab. With sons and daughters put to work early, he had little time for his first love, cricket, and facilities and proper training were scarce.

Nadeem was an exceptionally versatile athlete in his early school years. Though he dabbled in all the sports on offer in his school — cricket, badminton, football and athletics — his passion was cricket.

But after a couple of years, he had to choose between cricket and athletics. The third oldest among five brothers, he took inspiration from his elder brothers, both of whom were athletes at the divisional level, and decided to pursue athletics after a thorough discussion with his coach.

“Leaving cricket behind was not easy, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. My father was a labourer, we didn’t have the required resources or contacts to make it pro in cricket. My school’s PT [physical training] teachers Ajmal and Zafar looked after me well and helped me adjust to the change,” he told Dawn EOS last year.

In a recent interview with Geo News, his father Muhammad Ashraf said that his son did not even have a ground to practice in. According to the report, Nadeem trained in his own house’s courtyard and the streets while money for fitness machines was provided by his father.

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PMD forecast rainfall in most parts of country from Thursday night | English News | GulNews

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Meteorological Department has forecast rainfall with thundershower in most parts of the country from Thursday night, ARY News reported.

The Met Office has stated that strong monsoon currents are likely to penetrate in upper parts of the country from 12th August (Thursday) and likely to continue till 15th August (Sunday).

Rainfall with wind and thundershower, as well as isolated heavy falls are expected in Kashmir, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot, Narowal, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Lahore, Okara, Sahiwal, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Mianwali, Kohistan, Shangla, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Dir, Chitral, Peshawar, Kohat, Waziristan, Tank, Karak, Bannu, D.I. Khan, Bhakkar, Layyah and Gilgit-Baltistan from Thursday night to Sunday, according to the weather report.

Rainfall is also expected in Sukkur, Larkana, Jacobabad, Dadu, Shaheed Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas in Sindh, Naseerabad, Jaffarabad, Kohlu, Loralai, Barkhan, Zhob, Ziarat, Quetta, Mastung, Khuzdar and Kalat in Balochistan and Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Khanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar in southern Punjab from Sunday evening to Tuesday.

Heavy rains may generate flash flooding in some hill torrents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan and urban flooding in Punjab and KP during the period.

Heavy falls may trigger landslides in the vulnerable areas of Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to the weather report.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Sindh on Wednesday issued a weather advisory predicting heavy rains across the province from August 15.

According to the PMDA, heavy downpours are expected in several parts of Sindh including Karachi between August 15 (Sunday) to August 17 (Tuesday).

The PDMA had advised concerned authorities to take precautionary measures to avoid loss of lives during rains predicted in the province.

The PMD had predicted more rain this year. Kashmir, Punjab and Balochistan are expected to see more than usual showers, it said.



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Zoom Focus Mode hides distracting participants | English News | GulNews

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It seems that society has been trying to adapt to a new mode of communicating with groups of people during this pandemic. From office meetings to social gatherings to classes, video conferencing platforms have thrived during the drastic changes that the past year and a half have imposed. That’s not to say the new communication channels didn’t come with their own set of problems, from privacy, distraction, and the so-called “Zoom fatigue.” Zoom’s latest feature tries to address at least one of those by making sure students are distracted by their classmates.

Video conferencing chat may have a bigger negative impact on kids going to virtual classrooms than adults in digital offices. In addition to being deprived of much-needed face-to-face interaction with teachers and classmates, keeping younger students focused has proved to be very difficult while they’re sitting at home. Worse, that freedom also tends to distract other participants in the call, potentially leading to a rather chaotic class.

Just in time for the start of the school year, Zoom is pushing out what it is calling a new Focus Mode. In most cases, it is like Webinar mode with a focus on the host or speaker. The difference is that Focus mode is not only easier to use but also more flexible since it can be turned on or off at the flip of a switch.

In Focus mode, a participant won’t be able to see anyone else other than themselves and the teacher. The teacher, of course, can see everyone, but it’s the kids that are more easily distracted by what their classmates might be doing on camera. Focus mode also blocks students from even sharing their screens with other participants.

Unlike Webinar mode, Focus mode seems to be available to all users, including those with free accounts. Zoom is also advertising other features that could help make online classes be more bearable, at least. Virtual backgrounds and suppressing background noises also help minimize distractions, while breakout rooms and “Raise hand” indicators let teachers have more control over class activities.

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ViBe Creative District Mural Festival: 10 artists, 10 murals, 10 days | English News | GulNews

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Ten artists will each create a new mural throughout the arts district in Virginia Beach for the ViBe Creative District Mural Festival. This year’s festival is presented by Atlantic Park Virginia Beach.

From Aug. 20-29, these local and national artists will be challenged with completing their designs within a 10-day time frame. Attendance is free and attendees can meet the artists as they work.

“This community-building project is our largest and most popular event each year,” said Kate Pittman, executive director of ViBe Creative District.

ViBe Creative District is a nonprofit organization that inspires and promotes growth in the economy through art and creativity.

“ … Creative ventures like this elevate our great city and offer new opportunities for local businesses to grow or expand locally,” said Pittman.

The 10 murals will be located within a 1.5-mile walk.

Free public programming and events will also be offered during the festival. Attendees can expect a Mural Festival Block Party, scavenger hunt, and guided tours.

This year’s artists include:

• Cat Gadzinski: Virginia Beach Art Center in partnership with Virginia Beach City Public

Schools

• Featured Teen: Evan Lindbergh: Freedom Car Wash

• Marly McFly: Seaside Harbor in partnership with Hope House Foundation

• Rick Ricketts Jr: 401 Virginia Beach Blvd in partnership with Keep It Beachy Clean

• Dustin Spagnola: Ambassador Inn & Suites in partnership with StandUp for Kids

• Talent Murals: Eric & Todd Lindbergh: Zero’s Subs

• Ed Trask: 19th St & Baltic Avenue in partnership with Atlantic Park Virginia Beach

• Victoria Weiss: 516 19th Street in partnership with the Armed Forces Arts Partnership

• Abby Pawley: Barrel 17

For more information visit, ViBe Creative District.



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