Monday, January 31, 2005

 

Rejoicing in Freedom of the Press

Long ago one day when I was in the military, I was sitting around with a group of guys, one of whom was perusing the US military’s newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Ironically, someone else was talking about how unfortunate the Chinese and Russians were to be getting government-controlled news in their media, whereas our wonderful American free press was giving us the truth.

But Americans know — or should know — that the mainstream US media are highly controlled just like their counterparts in countries like China. What you see in the mainstream media is generally what the corporations and government want you to see. Of course there are different factions jockeying for power behind the scenes, which is the reason for the differences of opinion that appear. Don’t mistake that for democratic public discourse.

Sometimes the differences in news are startlingly — and even comically — divergent. For example, I checked the US Department of Defense website DefenseLink to see what they had to say about the election (such as it was) in Iraq. President Bush assures us that “freedom is on the march” and that the election was a success, while Mushroom-Cloud Lady says that the elections went “better than expected.” We also find that Iraqis “turn overwhelmingly to democracy.” Yep, everything is just peaches and cream.

But if you want the real story and a far more realistic and objective assessment, you might want to read the impressions of Juan Cole.

And one has to wonder where the big figures for voter turnout came from. And there are also reports that voting was linked to food rations.

So, who are you going to believe? The “free press” owned and operated by the corporations, who also control the government? Or the “internet theories” disparaged by Dubya?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

 

Internment Is Wrong

In the 1998 movie “The Siege,” terrorist acts bring about martial law and the roundup and interment of young male Muslims in a stockade, reminding the viewer of the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Innocent people were rounded up like criminals and put in camps, their assets seized. Decades later, the US government finally admitted to having acted on war hysteria and racial prejudice, and paid reparations.

But some people still think internment of certain groups is a good idea. Two of them are Daniel Pipes and Michelle Malkin.

Pipes is well-known for his belief that Muslims in the US should be profiled, and put in camps as ethnic Japanese were if deemed necessary. He says that lots of Americans agree with him, but that people are afraid to openly advocate this position because of a “revisionist interpretation” of the Japanese-American internment.

A major question is: Why were ethnic Japanese targeted, but ethnic Germans and Italians not? Malkin offers the flimsy explanation that “Japan was the only Axis country with a proven capability of launching a major attack on the U.S. Neither Germany nor Italy had any aircraft carriers at the time. Neither country was even remotely capable of pulling off a major attack consisting of heavy aircraft carriers, surface ships, and airplanes like the ones Japan carried out in December 1941 in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific.

“In short, as far as hit-and-run attacks are concerned the risk was from Japan only.

“In the event of a such an attack, which ethnic group was most likely to assist Japan? Germans? Italians? Hungarians? Or Japanese?”

Such ludicrous reasoning must surely elicit laughter from thinking people. How exactly would ethnic Japanese have “assisted”? By swimming out to Japanese warships and signing up for duty? Or perhaps she means that they would have been become spies or saboteurs, but ethnic Japanese were no more likely to do that than ethnic Germans or Italians were. In fact, the latter two groups would have been more dangerous in that respect because they blend into the general population, whereas Asians are more conspicuous because of their physical features. Further, German U-boats operated right off the US Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, far closer to the mainland than the Japanese ever came (and they sank many ships), so why weren’t German-Americans rounded up and sent to internment camps to prevent them from “assisting”? Malkin’s argument is therefore contradictory and specious.

In Operation Northwoods, American military leaders planned actions that could have resulted in property damage and the deaths of their own citizens in order to incite war. Were the planners arrested? And right now, George W. Bush and the neocons are prosecuting a disastrous war based totally on lies and running America into the ground both militarily and economically. It is ironic that their patriotism is not questioned. Of course the patriotism of the rich and powerful is not to be questioned.

Looking for scapegoats for America’s ills and boogeymen to spook the populace and keep them scared is what this is about, right? Picking out an easily identifiable minority for persecution is easy to do. In WWII the Japanese were one of the enemies and the ethnic Japanese population was readily identifiable. By contrast, ethnic Germans and Italians were white, of European descent, and Christian. And now when Muslims are supposedly the “enemy” and the Bush regime bombards us daily with color-coded alarms about Middle Eastern terrorists and bearded guys planning grand attacks from caves (Hey, Dubya! Where’s Osama today?), Middle Easterners are a handy target and boogeyman. Despite all the fear mongering by the US government, there are still no jury convictions for terrorism. The way Team Bush is running the country (into the red and into the ground), it is obvious we have more to fear from our own government.

It’s easy to back internment programs if those in favor feel they are not part of a group that might be chosen as a scapegoat/boogeyman. Further, the internment of Japanese-Americans and the insistence that we should profile Middle Easterners for this purpose both fit in with the racist nature of American society. Are Pipes and Malkin racist? I don’t know, but I will say that all Americans are willy-nilly affected by racism at least unconsciously.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

Democrats Are Not Progressive

In an interview with TruthOut, Kevin Spidel, who was National Field Director for the Kucinich campaign, makes this revealing statement:

“That campaign [the Kucinich campaign] involved bringing progressive policies and a progressive agenda into the Democratic party.”

Of course the reason that Spidel and other activists have to expend precious time, money, and energy on doing that is because — I hate to keep harping on this — the Democratic Party is not progressive.

Later on in the interview he says, “They [the grassroots] were questioning why we were still involved with the Democratic party when it seemed like key leaders like Kerry didn't demonstrate any backbone, especially after promising that every vote would be counted.”

And well they might ask that!

So, when will the Democrats become progressive? Let me guess. When they stop feeding at the corporate trough? When they develop a backbone and stand up for progressive principles? When they abolish their policy of appeasement toward the GOP?

 

Confirming Mushroom-Cloud Lady

The Democrats did it again. Only 12 of them voted against confirming Mushroom-Cloud Lady Condi Rice as secretary of state. Now why would anyone who is progressive and who believes in truthfulness with the American people and the world vote for this mendacious smooth-talker? At least one Democrat referred to Rice as a liar, but where were the rest? Being spineless and weak-kneed isn’t the only problem of the Democrats. They are also without principle. Even if the Republicans have the votes and can push through a confirmation like this, members of Congress who supposedly stand for progressive ideas would on principle vote no. What are Democrats trying to accomplish by voting yes? Are they promoting the “healing” process? Working for “national unity”? Or are they afraid of being called “partisan, negative, and obstructionist”?

The Democrats never cease to disgust.

ADDENDUM — I should have lauded one Democrat, Barbara Boxer of California, for taking courageous stands that make other Democrats look like the cowering corporate lackeys that they are. Boxer not only challenged the electoral vote count, but also raked Mushroom-Cloud Lady over the coals. For doing what all the senators should have been doing, Boxer was vilified. To see her treated like that made the whole spectacle even more disgusting. Those who saw fit not to stand up and challenge Mushroom-Cloud Lady for her lies should now be wearing sackcloth and ashes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

Mike Ruppert, 9/11, and Oil

Recently a report on a presentation by Mike Ruppert was posted on From the Wilderness. The article’s author, Ken Levine, wrote:

“Even though 9-11 and all that goes along with it, as well as his book Crossing the Rubicon are useful and important, he believes that no sanctions, indictments or criminal prosecution will ever be handed down. Rubicon, he says, remains a base map of the decades before and the years since 9/11. But now he says we must look at the herd of elephants charging at us, instead of the one elephant that just ran us over.”

This paragraph in particular seems to have stirred up a firestorm of controversy because many people took it to mean that Ruppert wants us to put 9/11 behind us and move on. In fact, I too understood it that way. After all that work on 9/11, I thought, why would Ruppert be telling us to put it behind us? Did Levine misinterpret what Ruppert said? If so, we should have seen a clarification on From the Wilderness by now.

Assuming that no clarification means Ruppert is satisfied with Levine’s article, I can only say I too am more than disappointed. Although Ruppert is right to say that the perpetrators will very likely never be brought to justice, that doesn’t mean we should give up. And indeed, even though the perpetrators will almost certainly go scot-free, getting at the truth is certainly worth the effort. So if Ruppert is advising us to put 9/11 behind us, I must agree with his critics on this point.

Yet, Levine’s summary also sparked criticisms that are overblown or just plain wrong-headed. For example, Victor Thorn writes about the collapsing WTC towers:

“...when my book 9-11 on Trial is released next month, you’ll see why. By culling together data from scores of the best 9-11 researchers around, we now have undeniable, definitive proof that there was zero possibility that the World Trade Center towers collapsed from either the impact of jet planes, or the resulting jet fuel fires. Zero chance. And we’ve now proven it! Better yet, we haven’t used even one “conspiracy theory” in doing so. Rather, we’ve utilized mathematical equations, physics, scientific formulas, physical evidence, the laws of nature, and expert testimony to reach our conclusion.”

I wish him luck. But Ruppert has made a valid point that such an approach stands little chance of bringing a conviction because you can bet your last dime that the government will — using our tax dollars — bring in a slew of “experts” who will likewise utilize mathematical equations, physics, scientific formulas, physical evidence, and the laws of nature to prove the exact opposite. Ask the jury who they’ll believe. Although Thorn’s intent is admirable, he twists Ruppert’s thesis to support his own criticism, by, for example, claiming that Ruppert implies the towers fell because of the war games.

But “The Problem with Mike Ruppert,” posted on Counterpunch by Kurt Nimmo, contained several points I would like to comment on. Since Nimmo has written some good stuff, I found his criticism of Ruppert particularly disappointing because it is so shallow and ill-informed.

Nimmo criticizes Ruppert for suggesting that people convert some of their cash to precious metals. Yes, lots of people are living hand-to-mouth, but even many middle-class Americans do have a modicum of cash. If current trends continue, greenbacks will be worthless, and bank accounts will be wiped out. In such a case, would you be in a stronger position bargaining for food and shelter with a wheelbarrow of worthless greenbacks, or a few ounces of precious metals? I’d take the latter, thank you.

Many Americans are in debt up to their eyeballs, and can’t get out. But many are in a position to at least reduce debt if not get out completely. So why is Ruppert’s advice to reduce debt so stupid? The day could come when Bush’s rich friends will be buying up Americans’ debts for pennies on the dollar. Unless you want to be owned by them, wouldn’t it be a good idea to shed as much debt as possible?

“For many Americans — an increasing number of Americans — Mike Ruppert offers nothing except scary predictions of ‘peak oil,’” writes Nimmo, who apparently has thought little about the issue, else he could not have tossed off such an ill-conceived remark. Everything we do in industrial society hinges on cheap oil. Without cheap oil, everything becomes unhinged. Apparently Nimmo has not seriously considered the catastrophic implications. If he thinks Ruppert is Chicken Little, then fine. He can hunker down and wait for abiotic oil or alien technology, or whatever he is counting on to save the day.

“Mike offers no solution for people like me, living precariously near the economic periphery,” Says Nimmo. On the contrary, Ruppert tells us to become as self-sufficient as possible. The day will come when Americans will be digging up their precious lawns to grow vegetables. That is an example of self-sufficiency. Can Mr. Nimmo grow vegetables?

I don’t think Ruppert is perfect, and I don’t think he has all the answers, but critical analysis is not served by specious attacks.

At the same time, asking questions and looking for connections is also a good thing. For some questions about Ruppert's affiliations and motives, look here (scroll down to “Ruppert pokes his tusks at 9/11 activism”).

Monday, January 24, 2005

 

Howard Dean Just Doesn’t Get It

Howard Dean has written an essay that purports to tell us what’s wrong with the Democratic Party and what must be done to remedy the situation.

Trouble is, he’s just showing us how clueless he is.

In the world according to Howard Dean, the GOP has taken over the show because it’s created a marvelous grassroots organization, while the Dems have totally slipped. If that were the problem, it would be comparatively easy to fix. But sorry to say, Howard Dean is either out of touch with reality, or feeding us a load of BS.

The trouble is not so much organization, but what the Democrats stand for, which at this point in time appears to be pretty much what the Republicans stand for. On the whole, Democratic members of Congress have more or less ratified Bush’s whole program, helping the administration trash the Constitution, bankrupt the country, and send our young men and women to murder and be murdered in the desert for oil, imperial power, and corporate profits.

Assuming for the moment that the Democratic Party once had a mandate on progressivism, it certainly doesn’t now. Dean and his people no longer stand for — or stand up for — progressive ideals or ideas. They no longer represent progressive Americans, although they’re still fooling themselves and a lot of progressives into believing that they do. The Democrats are adrift in a political void, desperately hanging on to the Republicans’ shirttails.

If the Democrats are progressive, why did they run John Kerry? Why didn’t they run somebody like Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton? Or for that matter, why didn’t they draft Ralph Nader? The answer is because the Democratic Party is slathered in corporate lucre just like the Republicans, because the Democratic Party is controlled by the same money and power structure as the Republicans, and because it stands for world domination and rule by the rich, just like the Republicans. In other words, the Democratic Party is not progressive. Get it?

Yet, Dean’s essay doesn’t mention this at all, which indicates that he simply doesn’t see the real problem. It’s an indication of how far removed Democrats have become from reality.

The situation is so bad now that the Democrats have become a greater blight on the political landscape than the Republicans because they are corporate-rule wolves in progressive clothing, fooling progressives into throwing their lot in with the party, and thereby doing grave damage to the progressive movement in America. Over the last four years the Democrats have betrayed their progressive base by selling out to Bush.

So, Howard Dean, either make your party into something that stands for government by, for, and of the people, or kindly disband and make room for some real progressives.

 

Sights Trained on Iran

There’s been a lot of energy expended in Washington lately to sell the world public on the idea that Iran must be taken out, and the Bush administration is getting a nice boost from the Israeli government, with the Mossad chief issuing dire warnings and Peres telling us that “Iran is the problem of the Middle East.” Wow! So with Israel’s back yard in such peril, do you suppose Israel itself will be taking action? Don’t count on it, as Peres counsels us to “Let the world conduct the war.” Meaning his goon squad, the US military.

So how will the neocons finance this next war as central banks move their reserves out of the US? They won’t be taxing the rich, that’s for sure.

 

Population and Oil

The BBC has an article on the problems Japan is facing because of its declining fertility rate. Unfortunately, and like all the media coverage of this issue in Japan, this short-sighted article ignores far greater dangers.

Specifically, Japan’s government and media (which the BBC article more or less parrots) talk only about the immediate economic consequences of an aging population, but appear oblivious to the far more serious consequences of maintaining Japan’s current population, which is roughly half that of the United States.

Sure, the national pension system is going to be in trouble with a rising population of long-lived senior citizens and a smaller working population paying into the fund. But it’s not an insurmountable situation. Like other countries, Japan wastes staggering sums of tax money on worthless and damaging pork-barrel projects. One of the biggest drains is the heavily subsidized nuclear power industry, while the much-ballyhooed maglev train is another expensive boondoggle headed for the museum before it gets anywhere. And don’t forget road construction. The only reason that tax money ends up feeding pork instead of the populace is politics.

But let’s move on to the consequences of maintaining a population half that of the US in a far smaller area, much of which is mountainous and therefore of little use as farmland. Because this population is larger than the ecological population-carrying capacity of the Japanese archipelago, the Japanese are obviously living on copious imports of oil and food (while Japan’s reliance on food imports differs depending on how it’s calculated, around 60% of all food comes from abroad). But clearly, oil is going to get more expensive, and so will food, because food production in our modern agricultural system — in Japan as well as its overseas suppliers — is heavily dependent on cheap oil.

You can see where this is leading. Instead of worrying about the labor market and pension fund, Japan’s leaders should be concentrating on how to take advantage of population decline. Instead, they speak of the declining birth rate as a “problem,” and try to devise ways to induce women to make more babies (which reminds one of the prewar exhortation: “Have more babies and increase the population!”). A few years ago the government brought together a group of “experts” and corporate leaders, who issued a report on the dire consequences of a declining population. They likened Japan’s current situation to the waning days of the Roman Empire. More recently, a headline in the December 7, 2004 English-language Daily Yomiuri screamed, “Japan heading for extinction.” Hyperbole, anyone?

But the effects of more expensive oil, and therefore more expensive food, will not be limited to Japan. Many countries and regions around the world are overpopulated. “Development” and “globalization” are supposedly going to lift people out of poverty, but much development depends on cheap oil, and globalization (is this really meant to help the poor?) is a no-starter without cheap oil.

In developed countries too, more expensive oil is going to bite hard. In such countries a large urban or urbanized population buys its food from a small agricultural population. Industries are highly dependent on cheap energy. What will happen to commercial aviation, for instance, when jet fuel reaches a certain point on the price curve? How will all that food be produced and transported over long distances? How will high oil and natural gas prices affect the production of pesticides and chemical fertilizers?

Speaking of food, even large food exporters can’t be sanguine. For instance, last November the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service announced that in 2005 the US will become a net food importer. Of course Americans eat far too much for their health, and they can tighten their belts considerably, but there are limits to what mere belt-tightening can achieve when one’s food-production infrastructure starts crumbling.

Many people predict a crash, and I don’t rule that out. But here I am not assuming that the flow of oil will totally stop, nor that national economies will collapse. I am just making the safe assumption that oil will get more expensive. And because the whole world economy is dependent on cheap fossil fuels, the impacts are going to be far-reaching, especially in regions where population carrying capacity is exceeded.

Better plan your kitchen garden now.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

 

Fahrenheit 9/11

Long after it came out, I saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 on DVD. I feel pretty ambivalent about it. Moore certainly has filmmaking talent, I have to admit. Some of the scenes and interviews with ordinary citizens and soldiers are well juxtaposed with Bush, giving the distinct impression that he is, well, a liar. Moore expertly accentuates Bush's smugness, arrogance, insincerity, and stupidity. His lens also does a fabulous job of capturing the helpless anger and rancorous frustration of a mother who realizes her son died in the desert for corporate profit. And I have to admit that, as a person who served in the US military (and showed up for duty), I enjoyed watching Moore asking members of Congress to have their children enlist in the armed forces.

On the other hand, Moore peddles the tired old bromide about 19 Arab hijackers and their boxcutters, never questioning that highly dubious scenario in the least. I would guess he’s actively trying to promote it, especially considering the endless in-your-face scenes of Arabs cavorting with the Bushes. Of course they have been in bed with each other for years, and their relationship certainly deserves inspection, but Moore appears to be using that to make us think that we need look no further to find the perpetrators of 9/11. Indeed, he tells us that US citizens filed a lawsuit against the Saudis for 9/11, but there’s no mention of, for example, the Ellen Mariani lawsuit against Bush, et al. That complaint was filed on September 12, 2003, but F9/11 wasn’t released until June 25, 2004, giving Moore plenty of time to include mention of it.

Also conspicuously absent from the film is any mention of Israel. Not a word! One would expect that the potent influence of Israel on America’s Middle East policy deserves at least a few minutes. And also no mention of Pakistan. As the attacks were happening, Pakistan’s ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed was having breakfast at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham and Representative Porter Goss. Wouldn’t you like to know what they were talking about? I sure would, but Moore doesn’t seem interested in this, either. Further, there is not a word about the very powerful motives of US elites to perpetrate or at least facilitate 9/11. This is particularly disappointing because putting the US power structure under the microscope is the shortcut to finding out what really happened on that fateful day.

If, as the title suggests, this film was about getting to the bottom of 9/11, Moore has indeed failed. All the stuff about Arabs Arabs Arabs and more Arabs looks increasingly like disinformation as the film progresses. Even watching statements by brainwashed American soldiers about protecting freedom by killing Iraqis is comic relief from the relentless hard-sell about the nasty Saudis.

Only Moore knows if he really believes his own scenario or if he’s spreading disinformation, but this exclusive focus on one aspect to the exclusion of other, equally important angles virtually disarms what might have been a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the 9/11 truth movement. Instead, it becomes a mere cinematic exercise in Bush-bashing that seemingly had no purpose but to influence the 2004 election, which it also failed to do.

 

Taking a Dive

Did John Kerry even try to win? Was running to win a part of the Democratic Party’s strategy in 2004? For that matter, was Gore running to win in 2000?

You are to be forgiven if you have asked yourself the same questions. The internet chatter coming my way on this topic has grown steadily, especially since the November debacle. Since hindsight is always the best foresight, just take a look back over the past half year and you can see a pattern of events and behavior suggesting strongly that the 2004 presidential election campaign — and probably even the whole electoral process — was a dog and pony show that the two parties put on to make Americans think they’re participants in a democracy.

Kerry and the Democrats ran such a spiritless and directionless campaign that I sometimes wondered if Kerry was too busy with something else to be bothered with campaigning. He blew countless opportunities to attack Bush’s many vulnerabilities, made a mockery of the word “debate” by straining mightily not to embarrass his cue card-reliant opponent, and — this is the clincher — rushed to give a concession speech before the votes were counted, and stayed as far away from recount and fraud-investigation initiatives as possible. Team Kerry just couldn’t distance itself sufficiently from the people who were trying to give Kerry the White House. These and other bits of evidence add up to a picture of a man and a party who were just providing good spectacle, like a wrestler or boxer in a fixed fight who will take a dive after putting on an exciting show for the spectators.

Further, why did the Democratic Party choose Kerry over so many others who would have made much better candidates? Kerry’s weaknesses made it hard for him to mount a significant challenge against Bush. In fact, he himself was a backer of some of Bush’s most hated accomplishments: the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. That automatically ruled out any real challenge on these crucial issues. If the Democrats were not really serious about running to win, then they chose a good candidate. The very choice of John Kerry as the Democratic candidate fits the pattern suggesting that the plan was to take a dive.

But this brings up an even more serious question: Is this part of a Republicrat initiative to sabotage the American left? Consider this. In a desperate bid to dislodge Bush from the White House, American progressives launched an all-out drive to back Kerry, putting all their energy into his campaign. But that’s not all. Some of Kerry’s backers also went to great lengths — using low-down tactics — to torpedo Ralph Nader’s campaign (ironic, since Nader was the progressive, not Kerry). Kerry and the Democratic Party soaked up all that progressive energy and dissipated it in a way that rendered America’s progressive movement ineffective. If the Republicrat strategy was indeed to defuse the American left, it was a brilliant move. I can imagine that the Democratic Party is now already planning how to further integrate itself into the GOP and how to absorb and harmlessly dissipate more progressive energy.

So, did Kerry take a dive? Was there a secret agreement between the two sides in a fixed fight? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Kerry never intended to win, and I have yet to hear a convincing argument from a Kerry backer to the contrary.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

 

The Industrial Lifestyle

One of the first people to awaken me to the dangers of industrial civilization was the Japanese farmer/writer/activist/academic Tsuchida Takashi. I listened to him speak once, then started on two of his books that should be considered a set: “The Industrial Lifestyle Will Lead to Ruination” and “The Agricultural Lifestyle Assures Our Future.” The former shows where we are going, and the latter where we should be going. Tsuchida does not have a shock-jock style of writing. He sounds pretty low-key, in fact, but he minces no words in calling the industrial system “criminal.” And our crimes are obvious when we see the exploitation and destruction required to feed the maw of the industrial machine and keep consumers consuming. At the same time, more and more land — including precious farmland — is covered over with factories, malls, and their parking lots, as well as housing developments for the people who work in the factories and shop at the malls.

Tsuchida was originally on an elite career track at the prestigious Kyoto University when he had his epiphany. Shortly after, he found himself out on the streets in his spare time, pulling a hand cart and picking up trash for recycling. It was the beginning of his own transformation. And now through setting an example, he is showing that grubbing around in the dirt is not a task too menial for anyone, that it is in fact something we should all do if we are to have a more secure future and a more just world.

 

Why W?

Why on earth was a person like George W. Bush chosen to sit in the Oval Office? I don’t claim to know how the neocons think, but perhaps these are among their reasons.

* Many gullible Americans see him as a "down-home" fellow, different from east-coast elitist preppy liberals. So even though W is actually an elite -- who reportedly thinks that poor people are poor because they’re lazy -- Joe Blow can relate to W.
* He has the Bush name.
* He has the Bush connections.
* He is easily manipulated and pliable.
* He is not smart enough to think for himself and try to assert control.
* He is a good cover for Cheney, et al., allowing them to work with less visibility and scrutiny. That is one reason Cheney is VP: American VPs are by nature far less visible than presidents.

How long will W be useful to those who really run the show and call the shots? And what will happen to him after he has outlived his usefulness?

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