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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter
Vol. 27, No. 1
January 11, 2008


* + Wisconsin ARES Members Activated to Assist with Tornado Aftermath 
* + Newly Elected Board Members Visit Newington
* + Cycle 24 Here, Experts Say 
* + Oregon Governor Allocates $250,000 for Digital Communications
* + New Prefix for Bosnia-Herzegovina Officially Announced 
* + EmComm Software for Windows Now Available for Beta Testing 
*   Solar Update 
      This Weekend on the Radio 
      ARRL Continuing Education Course Registration 
    + Classic Gil Cartoon Book Now Available 
    + New Amateur Extra Class Question Pool Released 
      Geoff Haines, N1GY, Wins December QST Cover Plaque Award 
      ARRL QSL Bureau Sees Rise in Number of Cards Sent 
      IARU HF Championship Results in March QST 
      ARRL Warehouse Experiencing Shipping Delays 

+Available on ARRL Audio News <> 

==>Delivery problems: First see FAQ
<>, then e-mail
==>Editorial questions or comments only: S. Khrystyne Keane,


A rare January EF3 tornado in Wisconsin destroyed houses and knocked out
power shortly after 4 PM (local time) Monday, January 7, displacing
about 160 people. The Red Cross activated members of the Kenosha County
and Racine County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) groups to
provide logistical communications at the two relief shelters in Kenosha
County, as well as from a communications station at the Kenosha County
Emergency Operation Center. Riding along with Red Cross teams, ARES
members helped relay damage assessments back to the Red Cross building
in Racine. 

"Providing communications is essential," said Assistant Emergency
Coordinator for the Racine County ARES Alex Voss, N9RGX. "We set up a
communications network at the Red Cross building in Racine, outside of
the affected area. We were ready to go when activated. I couldn't be
more proud of our volunteers. We will work with the responding agencies
as long as they need us. We'll take what we've learned this time and use
it to improve our response in the future." 

According to ARRL Wisconsin Section Emergency Coordinator William M.
Niemuth, KB9ENO, Wheatland, Somers and the city of Kenosha were hardest
hit by the storm. "In Wheatland, 20 homes were destroyed and at least 50
homes had some kind of damage. In Kenosha, six homes were destroyed and
almost 30 were damaged. There were a handful of homes in other parts of
the county with minor damage." An unknown number of cars were blown off
the road on Highway 50 near Highway O, said Sgt Gil Benn of the Kenosha
County Sheriff's Department. 

"It was a severe storm with a lot of damage," Kenosha County Sheriff
David Beth said. "In all my time here, I have never, ever, seen any
damage to this degree. This is something I've only seen on TV that
happens in other places, but during the middle of January this is
something absolutely incredible that happened for us." Until the storms
on Monday, there has been only one tornado in January since 1844,
according to data from the National Weather Service. 

Twelve people were treated at area hospitals for storm-related injuries,
but none of the injuries was major. There were no fatalities. 

The tornado disrupted legal proceedings as at least 300 people evacuated
to a courthouse basement as a precaution. A Kenosha County Circuit judge
who was presiding over opening testimony in a high-profile murder trial
said he couldn't believe it when the deputy told him that he and the 50
or so people in the courtroom had to be evacuated because of a tornado
warning. He said he wasn't scared. "It's a first," he said while waiting
in the basement. "I've actually had...warnings occur during jury trials
before and frankly I just ignored them, but not in January." 

Niemuth thanked the 18 ARES and RACES members who responded. "I bet this
morning that [the 18 responders] never thought they would be responding
to help their community recover from an EF3 tornado by evening! But, the
reality is emergency and disaster situations most always catch us by
surprise. That is why we train and prepare." 

Sherriff Beth concurred: "It was heart-wrenching to see how most of
these people are volunteers...and they just strap on their clothes, they
leave their loved ones at home and they go running to help others.
Usually we're used to an incident that happens here in one spot, and
this happened over miles. This happened from southwestern Wisconsin all
the way over to Kenosha and everybody did their job. Everybody did what
they had to do."  -- Some information provided by Racine County
Emergency Coordinator Jim Markstrom, KB9MMA; Racine County Assistant
Emergency Coordinator Alexander Voss, N9RGX; ARRL Wisconsin Section
Emergency Coordinator William M. Niemuth, KB9ENO; David Voss, WB9USI,


The four ARRL Board members new to the Board family -- ARRL Southeastern
Division Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK; ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Vice
Director Dwayne Allen, WY7FD; ARRL Dakota Division Vice Director Greg
Widin, K0GW, and ARRL Southwestern Division Vice Director Marty Woll,
N6VI -- journeyed to ARRL HQ earlier this week for two days to learn the
"ins and outs" of the ARRL Board and ARRL Headquarters operation in
preparation for the Board's 2008 Annual Meeting on January 18-19 in
Houston, Texas. 

According to ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B, "The new
Board members came to Newington to learn not only how the Board
functions, but to see what each department does and how it interacts
with and serves both Amateur Radio and ARRL members, through our four
pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education and Membership. I am
pleased they came to see how we support Amateur Radio each and every day
here at ARRL HQ." 

One of the highlights of the group's visit to Headquarters was a tour of
the ARRL Lab. Ed Hare, W1RFI, ARRL Laboratory Manager, explained the
function of the Lab and its staff: "We showed them how we support
Amateur Radio through the Technical Information Service, product review
testing, RFI issues such as power line noise, and support for spectrum
defense, including BPL issues." 

Sarratt said, "It was a pleasure visiting ARRL headquarters in Newington
to attend an orientation for new ARRL Directors and Vice Directors. This
orientation was beneficial covering numerous facets of what the ARRL
does for Amateur Radio and ARRL members. We met many of the staff
members and learned more about what they do. All the ARRL folks are
knowledgeable, helpful and enthusiastic about their jobs." 

Widin concurred: "I've been a member of ARRL for more than 40 years, but
I still discovered great things going on at ARRL HQ that I wasn't aware
of. I was impressed by the level of commitment to ham radio that was
evident in everyone I met. I was also a little surprised that so many
staffers are licensed -- truly ARRL is an organization 'by and for
hams.' ARRL HQ is not just a bunch of people who work for the League --
it is an organization of colleagues of all members. I've always been
proud to be a League member, but I left with a renewed appreciation of
the great organization we share." 

The group joined the Newington Amateur Radio League (NARL) for their
annual awards banquet on Monday evening. ARRL Chief Executive Officer
David Sumner, K1ZZ, gave the keynote address, "Not Your Grandfather's
Amateur Radio," focusing on the emerging technologies and activities
that the Amateur Radio Service has to offer. Incoming NARL President
Mary Hobart, K1MMH, said "It was an honor to welcome Dave and four of
the new ARRL Board Members to NARL's annual awards dinner. They added
both stature and luster to the evening!" 

Woll summed up the two fast-paced days, saying, "I enjoy spreading the
ARRL message to radio clubs and other groups, and I can now do so with
even greater confidence that our members -- and indeed, all hams -- are
being very well served by the ARRL. I am delighted to have had the
opportunity to meet so many of the ARRL staff in Newington during the
recent orientation for new Directors and Vice Directors, and I
appreciate the warm welcome I was given. The high caliber of the team
members at Headquarters is a real asset to our members, and to the
League as a whole. What impressed me most was that the HQ staff view
their responsibilities not just as jobs, but as a shared mission to grow
and improve Amateur Radio. This common vision is reflected in their
enthusiasm and in their eagerness to work together in a collaborative
way. I've been inside hundreds of businesses in my career, and I can't
think of anywhere where the collective attitude was more positive." 


With the appearance of Sunspot 981 -- a high-latitude, reversed polarity
sunspot -- on Friday, January 4, experts at NASA and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that Cycle 24 is now
here. "This sunspot is like the first robin of spring," said solar
physicist Douglas Biesecker of the Space Weather Prediction Center
(SWPC), part of NOAA. "In this case, it's an early omen of solar storms
that will gradually increase over the next few years." 

Solar physicist David Hathaway of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Alabama concurred, saying that new solar cycles begin with a
"modest knot" of magnetism, like the one that appeared on December 11 on
the east limb of the Sun: "That patch of magnetism could be a sign of
the next solar cycle. New solar cycles always begin with a
high-latitude, reversed polarity sunspot." The region of magnetism that
appeared back in December achieved high latitude (24 degrees North) and
was magnetically reversed, but no supporting sunspot appeared until 25
days later. 

Reversed polarity describes a sunspot with opposite magnetic polarity
compared to sunspots from the previous solar cycle. High-latitude refers
to the Sun's grid of latitude and longitude. Old-cycle spots congregate
near the Sun's equator; new-cycle spots appear higher, around 25 or 30
degrees latitude. Sunspot 981's high-latitude location at 27 degrees
North and its negative polarity leading to the right in the Northern
Hemisphere are clear-cut signs of a new solar cycle, according to NOAA
experts. The first active regions and sunspots of a new solar cycle can
emerge at high latitudes while those from the previous cycle continue to
form closer to the equator. 

While experts vary in their predictions on when the solar cycle will
peak and how strong it will be, NOAA, in April 2007, in coordination
with an international panel of solar experts, predicted that the next
11-year cycle of solar storms "would start in March 2008, plus or minus
six months, and peak in late 2011 or mid-2012." In the cycle forecast
issued in April 2007, half of the panel predicted a "moderately strong
cycle of 140 sunspots, plus or minus 20, expected to peak in October
2011. The other half predicted a moderately weak cycle of 90 sunspots,
plus or minus 10, peaking in August 2012. An average solar cycle ranges
from 75 to 155 sunspots. The late decline of Cycle 23 has helped shift
the panel away from its earlier leaning toward a strong Cycle 24. The
group is evenly split between a strong and a weak cycle." 

NASA's Hathaway, along with colleague Robert Wilson at a meeting of the
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last month, said that Solar
Cycle 24 "looks like it's going to be one of the most intense cycles
since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago." They believe the next
solar maximum should peak around 2010 with a sunspot number of 160, plus
or minus 25. "This would make it one of the strongest solar cycles of
the past fifty years -- which is to say, one of the strongest in
recorded history." Four of the five biggest cycles on record have come
in the past 50 years. "Cycle 24 should fit right into that pattern,"
Hathaway said. 

According to Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, "As for improvement in
propagation on the higher bands, we still have a way to go before that
happens, and it depends on the magnitude of Cycle 24. The Solar Cycle 24
Prediction Panel has published predictions for Cycle 24, but
unfortunately the panel did not reach one consensus prediction. If the
larger of the two predictions comes true, we should expect consistent F2
propagation on 10 and 12 meters to start toward the end of 2009. If the
smaller prediction comes true, this will be delayed about one year." 

Luetzelschwab, who writes the column "Propagation" for the National
Contest Journal (NCJ), continued: "While we wait for improved high band
conditions, don't forget the low bands. Around solar minimum and for the
next year or so, the Earth's geomagnetic field is at its quietest. This
is good for low band propagation. Thus, right now is the time to start
(or add to) your 80 and 160 meter DXCC efforts." 

According to NASA's Tony Phillips, many forecasters believe Solar Cycle
24 will be big and intense. "Solar cycles usually take a few years to
build to a frenzy and Cycle 24 will be no exception. We still have some
quiet times ahead," says Hathaway. 


The State of Oregon's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) received
$250,000 from Governor Ted Kulongoski's Strategic Reserve Fund to
further develop and enhance a statewide Amateur Radio digital
communications network, announced ARRL Oregon Section Manager Bonnie
Altus, AB7ZQ. 

"This network, the Oregon ARES Digital Network (OADN), already uses a
combination of different radio equipment and spectrum segments,
computers and the Internet to provide a robust backup communications
system in times of disaster. With its enhancements, all Oregon counties
will be able to communicate with the state OEM," she said. "In December,
this system proved its usefulness in the storms and floods by utilizing
Winlink stations in Lincoln and Clatsop Counties to communicate with
OEM. Early in that activation, the OEM's Amateur Radio Unit found they
were not able to keep up with maintaining a complete log of
communications when using voice communications, but Winlink activities
maintained an automatic log for them." 

According to Altus, the primary purpose of the OADN is to provide
back-up digital communications capabilities between county Emergency
Operations Centers and Oregon Emergency Management and other state
agencies in Salem, in the event that normal communications systems fail
in an emergency. 

During the December storms, Amateur Radio operators were there to help.
After a visit to one of the severely affected towns, Governor Kulongoski
said, "I'm going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning
of this...the ham radio operators. These people just came in and
actually provided a tremendous communication link to us." Oregon's OEM
said the radio operators were "tireless in their efforts to keep the
systems connected. When even state police had difficulty reaching some
of their own troops, ham radio worked, setting up networks so emergency
officials could communicate and relaying lists of supplies needed in
stricken areas." 

Through an Intergovernmental Agreement between the individual county
Emergency Managers and Oregon's Office of Emergency Management,
ARES/RACES groups in each county will be responsible for installation,
maintenance and operation the network. 


In response to a request from the Ministry of Communications and
Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina in August, the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) withdrew the call sign prefix allocation
T9A-T9Z for Bosnia and Herzegovina and made a new allocation, E7A-E7Z.
The change was made initially on a provisional basis under authority of
the ITU Secretary-General and was confirmed by the 2007 World
Radiocommunication Conference to be effective November 17, 2007. 

According to International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Secretary David
Sumner, K1ZZ, the Ministry of Communications and Transport (BiH) held a
press conference in Sarajevo on December 18 to formally announce the
change. Minister Dr Bozo Ljubic explained the desirability of changing a
prefix that initially was allocated during wartime and how it was now
being replaced with one that has no connection to that troubled time;
similar steps have been taken with regard to passports, drivers'
licenses and automobile registrations, he said. Ljubic also observed
that the costs associated with the change were minimal compared to the
benefits. Amateur Radio station licenses bearing E7 prefixes will be
issued beginning in January 2008, and the use of other prefixes will be
phased out. 

Sumner and IARU Region 1 President Ole Garpestad, LA2RR, of Norway, were
invited to speak at the press conference. Accompanying them was IARU
Region 1 Executive Committee member Nikola Percin, 9A5W, of Croatia.
They expressed congratulations and support for the change, eliminating
an issue that has complicated relations among the radio amateurs of

Also invited to speak was Miroslav Nikse, President of the Union of
Radioamateur Associations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (URAS), a recently
formed umbrella organization of Amateur Radio associations based in
different parts of the country. He thanked those involved in promoting
the change. 

In his remarks, Dr Ljubic pledged support from the Ministry of
Communications and Transport to the umbrella organization for the
development of Amateur Radio repeater and digital networks that would
cover the whole of the country, enhancing emergency communications


The NarrowBand Emergency Messaging System (NBEMS) development team
announced earlier this week that a Windows NBEMS software suite for beta
testing is now available. NBEMS for Windows is a suite of software
programs designed for point-to-point, error-free emergency messaging up
to or over 100 miles distant. 

According to developers Skip Teller, KH6TY and Dave Freese, W1HKJ, the
NBEMS system is designed primarily for use on VHF and up, or on HF with
Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) antennas. The system uses the
computer soundcard as the modem. Other than a simple interface
connection between the computer and transceiver, no additional hardware
is needed. Composing and sending emergency messages on NBEMS is no more
difficult than sending e-mail via the Internet. All forwarding is done
by stations manned by live operators on both ends who can confirm that a
frequency is clear locally, or negotiate a frequency change to avoid
causing interference. 

The NBEMS software can also be used for daily casual communications on
PSK31, PSK63, RTTY or MFSK16 and is capable of sending flawless, high
resolution, passport photo-sized color images in less than 10 minutes
over any path that can sustain PSK250 without excessive repeats. 

Radio amateurs are invited to participate in the beta test of the NBEMS.
The NBEMS suite can be downloaded for beta testing from the NBEMS Web
site <>. Send comments and bug reports via e-mail


Tad "He Loves to Lie a-Basking in the Sun" Cook, K7RA, this week
reports: We just saw eight days of sunspots, but now the solar disk is
spot-free. The big story this week is the sighting of the first spot of
Solar Cycle 24. The sunspot -- Sunspot 981 -- has now faded away, but a
new spot is emerging near the solar equator and it has the same polarity
as the Cycle 24 spot last week. This is odd, because the spots from the
new cycle should emerge at high latitudes, like last week's did. Sunspot
numbers for January 3 through 9 were 13, 26, 12, 12, 14, 16 and 0 with a
mean of 13.3. The 10.7 cm flux was 79.3, 79, 79.7, 79.2, 77.7, 75.5 and
76.5 with a mean of 78.1. Estimated planetary A indices were 1, 2, 18,
13, 12, 13 and 6 with a mean of 9.3. Estimated mid-latitude A indices
were 1, 2, 13, 12, 10, 11 and 6 with a mean of 7.9. For more information
concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information
Service Propagation page
<>. To read this week's
Solar Report in its entirety, check out the W1AW Propagation Bulletin
page <>. 



* This Weekend on the Radio: This weekend, the 070 Club PSKFest and the
Midwinter Contest (CW) are January 12. The Hunting Lions in the Air
Contest, the Michigan QRP January CW Contest and the North American QSO
Party (CW) are January 12-13. The NRAU-Baltic Contest (CW), the
Midwinter Contest (Phone) and the DARC 10 Meter Contest are scheduled
for January 13. The NRAU-Baltic Contest (SSB) is January 14 and the
NAQCC Straight Key/Bug Sprint is January 17. Next weekend, check out the
ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes on January 19-21. The LZ Open Contest on
January 19. The UK DX Contest (RTTY), the Hungarian DX Contest and the
North American QSO Party (SSB) are January 19-20. The Run for the Bacon
QRP Contest is on January 21. See the ARRL Contest Branch page
<>, the ARRL Contester's Rate Sheet
<> and the WA7BNM Contest
Calendar <> for more

* ARRL Continuing Education Course Registration: Registration remains
open through Sunday, January 20, 2008 for these online course sessions
beginning on Friday, February 1, 2008: Technician License Course
(EC-010); Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Level 1 (EC-001); Radio
Frequency Interference (EC-006); Antenna Design and Construction
(EC-009); Analog Electronics (EC-012), and Digital Electronics (EC-013).
Each online course has been developed in segments -- learning units with
objectives, informative text, student activities and quizzes. Courses
are interactive, and some include direct communications with a
Mentor/Instructor. Students register for a particular session that may
be 8, 12 or 16 weeks (depending on the course) and they may access the
course at any time of day during the course period, completing lessons
and activities at times convenient for their personal schedule. Mentors
assist students by answering questions, reviewing assignments and
activities, as well as providing helpful feedback. Interaction with
mentors is conducted through e-mail; there is no appointed time the
student must be present -- allowing complete flexibility for the student
to work when and where it is convenient. To learn more, visit the CCE
Course Listing page <> or contact
the Continuing Education Program Coordinator <>;.

* Classic Gil Cartoon Book Now Available: "Gil: A Collection of Classic
Cartoons from QST" is more than a book of illustrations -- it is a
tribute to a legend, a man who, over a span of 40 years, created more
than 1500 cartoons and drawings for QST and the ARRL. The work of Philip
"Gil" Gildersleeve, W1CJD, became a tradition. In tribute to this
talented, creative and devoted artist and ham, the ARRL presents in this
book a reprint of a portion of the best of his work. Gil was an avid
radio amateur, devoted family man and exceptionally active in the
community. For several years he worked as a radio operator aboard
merchant ships, later becoming News Editor of the Middletown (CT) Press.
Although he became a Silent Key in 1966, his characters live on. Still
today, Gil's conceptions remain alive in the minds of both old-timers
and newcomers to Amateur Radio. Get your copy today at the ARRL Online
Store <>. 

* New Amateur Extra Class Question Pool Released: The National
Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) has released a new
pool of 741 questions and 12 graphics
<> for the Amateur Extra class
license. This pool will become effective for examinations given on or
after July 1, 2008, and should be in service until June 30, 2012. It can
be downloaded from the NCVEC Web site in Word, PDF or RTF formats. If
you have any questions concerning the new Amateur Extra question pool,
please contact the NCVEC's Question Pool Committee via e-mail

* Geoff Haines, N1GY, Wins December QST Cover Plaque Award: The winner
of the QST Cover Plaque Award for December is Geoff Haines, N1GY, for
his article "The Octopus -- Four Band HF Antenna for Portable Use."
Congratulations, Geoff! The winner of the QST Cover Plaque award --
given to the author or authors of the best article in each issue -- is
determined by a vote of ARRL members on the QST Cover Plaque Poll Web
page <>. Cast a ballot for
your favorite article in the January issue by Thursday, January 31.

* ARRL QSL Bureau Sees Rise in Number of Cards Sent: Despite the fact
that sunspots have been virtually non-existent, the ARRL Outgoing QSL
Service is doing a brisk business. "We are seeing bigger numbers this
year as compared to last year," says ARRL Outgoing QSL Service Manager
Sharon Taratula. "It's amazing, considering where we are in the sunspot
cycle." In 2007, the Outgoing QSL Service sent out 1,035,225 QSL cards,
she says, compared with 1,000,475 cards sent during 2006 -- a difference
of 34,750 QSLs. The volume of outgoing QSL cards reflects the trend,
although not all cards received -- especially those destined for rarer
DXCC entities -- go out right away in the monthly mailings to foreign
bureaus. In 2005, the Bureau sent out 1,137,550 cards. "Now that the new
solar cycle is here, we should see even more cards," Taratula said. In
the last solar cycle (Cycle 23), the number of cards shipped via the
ARRL Outgoing QSL Service topped 1.9 million cards in the 2001-2002
period. The Outgoing QSL Service sorts and forwards QSLs received from
US radio amateurs to bureaus in more than 220 countries. For more
information on the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service, please visit their Web
site <>. 

* IARU HF Championship Results in March QST: The 2007 results article,
which normally appears in the February issue, will be in the March 2008
issue instead. You will also be able to find a complete report online at
the ARRL Web site <>. 

* ARRL Warehouse Experiencing Shipping Delays: Due to the exceptionally
high demand for new ARRL books, as well as our annual inventory audit,
the ARRL Warehouse experienced some delays for orders placed on or after
December 25. ARRL Marketing and Sales Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R,
said, "Our staff is working extended shifts and we are quickly
re-approaching our service standard. Most of the orders being processed
today (Friday) were received on Monday and Tuesday this week. We'll
likely be all caught-up early next week. We sincerely apologize if you
experience any inconvenience or delay in the receipt of your orders, and
we look forward to serving you in this New Year. " 

The ARRL Letter is published Fridays, 50 times each year, by the
American Radio Relay League: ARRL--the National Association for Amateur
Radio, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111; tel 860-594-0200; fax
860-594-0259; <>. Joel Harrison, W5ZN, President.

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly e-mail digest of essential and general
news of interest to active radio amateurs. Visit the ARRL Web site
<> for the latest Amateur Radio news and news
updates. The ARRL Web site <> also offers
informative features and columns. ARRL Audio News
<> is a weekly "ham radio newscast"
compiled and edited from The ARRL Letter. It's also available as a
podcast from our Web site.

Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole
or in part in any form without additional permission. Credit must be
given to The ARRL Letter/American Radio Relay League.

==>Delivery problems (ARRL member direct delivery only!):
==>Editorial questions or comments: S. Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA,
==>ARRL News on the Web: <>
==>ARRL Audio News: <> or call

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Copyright 2008 American Radio Relay League, Inc.
All Rights Reserved


The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole or in part in any form without additional permission. Credit must be given to The ARRL Letter and The American Radio Relay League.

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