Thursday, January 6, 2011

Political Digest for January 6, 2011

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

Boehner Elected Speaker as 112th Congress Is Sworn In; Some Democrats Protest Pelosi
Excerpt: Pledging to "give government back to the people," Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was sworn in Wednesday as the speaker of the House for the 112th Congress, having received all 241 Republican votes. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was chosen House minority leader with 173 votes, though her election revealed tensions within the party: 19 Democratic members cast "protest votes," signaling their displeasure with her as leader of their caucus. (Yesterday, January 4th, we were watching ABC’s Evening News. There was a brief segment on the incoming Congress during which the reporter took pains to get in “they haven’t accomplished much, yet” (or words to that effect). My wife then said, “Why did we vote for them if they aren’t going to do anything?” “Because they won’t even be sworn in until tomorrow, dear,” was my reply. It isn’t difficult to slant the news, is it? No doubt this bias is all in my imagination.  Ron P.)

Reforming Medicare: The Affordable Care Act versus the Rivlin/Ryan Proposal
Excerpt: Former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Alice Rivlin and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) have offered a proposal to reduce projected Medicare and Medicaid spending, independent of last year's health reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA also cuts Medicare spending significantly in order to fund health insurance for the uninsured, but does so by imposing price ceilings, according to Andrew J. Rettenmaier and Thomas R. Saving, executive associate director and director, respectively, of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University and senior fellows with the National Center for Policy Analysis. The Rivlin/Ryan proposal would eventually replace the current Medicare system with a system under which individuals born in 1956 and later would receive a voucher to buy private health insurance. Those born in 1955 and earlier would remain in traditional Medicare. The cost containment measures in the health reform bill passed last year continues the sustainable growth rate (SGR) system that attempts to control payments to physicians under Medicare Part B and makes even more stringent reductions in payments to hospitals and other providers under Part A. The ACA essentially imposes price ceilings on Medicare payments to providers. These price controls will lead to fewer health care options and lower quality of care for the Medicare population. In contrast, the Rivlin/Ryan approach would affect both the demand and supply side of the health care market -- patients would shop and providers would respond. The more realistic cost savings resulting from the Rivlin/Ryan proposal could be accomplished without the unintended consequences of price ceilings.

Disability Insurance Must Be Restructured To Protect Vulnerable, Incentivize The Fit
Jobs lost during the recent recession caused a deluge of applications to the Social Security Disability Insurance program — more than 6 million each year in 2009 and 2010 — and threw into relief the fact that the SSDI program is structurally unsound. The current applications surge will accelerate the exhaustion of SSDI's trust fund and will force Congress to have to choose among two unpalatable options — increase SSDI payroll taxes or reduce benefit allowance rates. But that is not enough. If the particularly vulnerable population the SSDI is designed to serve is to be protected, while preserving incentives to work, the program has to be radically restructured.

Oil Spill Hysteria
Excerpt: The day after the midterm elections in November, panelists at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy discussed the various factors that had contributed to the Democrats’ losses—most surprisingly, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One speaker with excellent Democratic connections in Washington noted that top White House staff were consumed by the spill and its political fallout for much of the spring of 2010. As staffers now lamented privately, this had diverted attention from other pressing issues—above all, the sputtering economy. The political fortunes of the Democratic party were not the only collateral damage from the spill. Gulf coast tourism plummeted, even in areas untouched by oil. Seafood restaurants in New York and Chicago proudly advertised that they did not serve Gulf fish. And many oyster beds were devastated when they were flushed with fresh water from the Mississippi River as a “preventive” measure. Most recently, on December 1, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cancelled previous plans for much expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, killing thousands of jobs and forgoing an opportunity to reduce the nation’s enormous foreign energy bill. Oddly enough, however, the ecosystem of the Gulf itself turns out to have suffered remarkably little damage from the continuous gushing of oil into the water from April 20 till July 15, when the leaking well was capped. One group of scientists rated the health of the Gulf’s ecology at 71 on a scale of 100 before the spill and 65 in October. By mid-August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was having trouble finding spilled oil. This squared with the finding of researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California that the half-life of much of the leaking oil was about three days. At that rate, more than 90 percent would have disappeared in 12 days.

The Democrats' tough road back to a House majority
Excerpt: Just exactly how difficult is the Democrats' path back to the House majority?
It might be tougher than you think. You'll hear a good deal in the coming months about the 61 districts Republicans hold that were carried by President Obama in 2008, also known as "Obama-Republican" districts.

Excerpt: We now know how many people have the problem most often cited as the reason for last years’ health overhaul legislation. Answer: 8,000 No, that’s not a misprint. Out of 310 million Americans, only 8,000 people have the problem given as the principal reason for spending almost $1 trillion, creating more than 150 regulatory agencies and causing perhaps 150 million or more people to change the coverage they now have. Alert readers will remember the White House summer of 2009 invitation to all Americans to send in their horror stories describing health insurance industry abuses. Although the complaints were many, the vast majority were about pre-existing condition limitations. Then, on the eve of the ObamaCare vote, every member of Congress who appeared on television to defend the legislation was able to cite by name an individual or family in his or her state or Congressional district with a heart wrenching story. Gone was any interest in “universal coverage” or “insuring the uninsured” or “helping poor people get health care.” The case for change was focused almost exclusively on protecting the middle class from miserly insurance companies.

Excerpt: There is a lot of talk these days about how the GOP cannot afford to shut down the government like they did in 1995. “Remember,” they the chattering class say, “the GOP got destroyed at the polls in 1996.” That talk has everything to do with the Democrats winning the message battle in the media, but has nothing to do with anything else. Let’s roll the tape, shall we? In 1995, Republicans in Washington shut down the government. They got creamed by the media and Democrats. The Democrats were interested in scoring points. The media was interested and remains interested in “good government,” never mind what that may or may not be. But what actually happened? The House Republicans lost only nine seats. Nine. In fact, nationally, the House GOP got 47.8% of the popular vote to the Democrats only getting 48.1%. In fact, the House GOP outperformed Bob Dole who only got 40% of the vote. The Senate Republicans actually gained seats. Two.

Excerpt: Meet the 'Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act' It’s not on the calendar for consideration until January 12, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has drawn up a nice, short, easy-to-read bill that would do something very important for the nation’s fiscal and physical health: repeal Obamacare. A pdf of the bill can be accessed here; its full text is also included in this post below the fold. While it remains to be seen what, if anything, will come of it, Cantor certainly doesn’t waste any space in this brief (two-page) bill, as he very succinctly (but definitely not subtlely) channels the American people’s opposition to the massive government power grab that Obama perpetrated, with the assistance of several Democrat Political Suicide Bombers, with the passage of his massive (and largely unread) health care law. If this bill faces any problems in the House, going unread should not be one of them.

Gibbs to Depart White House for Role as Outside Presidential Adviser
Bad news. BO might get someone who isn’t a flubber-mouth. Maybe hire his teleprompter? ~Bob. Excerpt: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is stepping down as the chief spokesman for the White House to become an outside adviser to the president and his re-election campaign, Fox News has confirmed.

Very Funny: Dave Barry’s 2010 Year in Review
Excerpt: JANUARY ...which begins grimly, with the pesky unemployment rate remaining high. Every poll shows that the major concerns of the American people are federal spending, the exploding deficit, and — above all — jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs: This is what the public is worried about. In a word, the big issue is: jobs. So the Obama administration, displaying the keen awareness that has become its trademark, decides to focus like a laser on: health-care reform. The centerpiece of this effort is a historic bill that will either (a) guarantee everybody excellent free health care, or (b) permit federal bureaucrats to club old people to death. Nobody knows which, because nobody has read the bill, which in printed form has the same mass as a UPS truck. The first indication that the health-care bill is not wildly popular comes when Republican Scott Brown, who opposes the bill, is elected to the U.S. Senate by Massachusetts voters, who in normal times would elect a crustacean before they would vote Republican. The vote shocks the Obama administration, which — recognizing that it is perceived as having its priorities wrong — decides that the president will make a series of high-profile speeches on the urgent need for: health-care reform.

Good column: True or False
Excerpt: So many statements we accept as true, plausible or beyond question; but are they? Let's look at a couple of important ones: global warming and U.S. manufacturing decline. In 2000, Dr. David Viner of University of East Anglia's disgraced Climatic Research Unit advised, "Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event." "Children just aren't going to know what snow is." Britain's Meteorological Office said this December was "almost certain" to become the coldest since records began in 1910. Paul Michaelwaite, forecaster for NetWeather.tv, said, "It is looking like this winter could be in the top 20 cold winters in the last 100 years." In reference to the last decade of the Earth's cooling, geologist Dr. Don J. Easterbrook, emeritus professor at Western Washington University, says, "Recent solar changes suggest that it could be fairly severe, perhaps more like the 1880 to 1915 cool cycle than the more moderate 1945-1977 cool cycle. A more drastic cooling, similar to that during the Dalton and Maunder minimums, could plunge the Earth into another Little Ice Age, but only time will tell if that is likely." Global warming hype is nothing less than a gambit for more government control over our lives.

The 2012 Republican Cabinet
Great team picks. Fantasy politics. ~Bob. Excerpt: While Republicans celebrate their newfound majority in the House of Representatives, Americans await the true political turning point: the 2012 elections. Will President Obama perform enough political payoffs to purchase a pass to the presidency yet again? Or will he be stopped by a populace unwilling to tread down the same dark path as Greece, Spain and Ireland? If Obama is to be stopped, Republicans will need to run a powerhouse candidate in 2012. The Republican Party is still fragmented between libertarians and social conservatives, though that fracture has been papered over with the veneer of fiscal conservatism; meanwhile, Obama remains a formidable candidate. Who can unify the Republican Party? Republicans are counting on Obama to do the job. But they cannot simply run an empty suit and hope to win; Democrats tried that in 2004 with John Kerry and lost. Republicans will have to come up with someone who can bridge ideological ties within the party while jazzing up the conservative base. Or they can come up with a slate.

Judge says Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor of Chicago
Will this effect teachers, cops and firefighters denied jobs because they live outside the city? Of is this just a ruling for the elite? ~Bob. Excerpt: A judge ruled Tuesday that Rahm Emanuel, facing a residency challenge from his competitors, can stay in the race for Chicago mayor. Cook County Judge Mark Ballard said that Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, is eligible for the city’s mayoral ballot though he spent much of the past two years in Washington working in the White House.

Coptic Christians Cannot Celebrate Christmas for Fear of Muslim Terror Attack...in Germany
Excerpt: Why target the Copts? Why not Roman Catholics or Anglicans? It is estimated that there are 5000 Copts in Austria, 11,000 in Italy, 4,000 in Sweden, 10,000 in the Netherlands and 24,000 in France. Copts represent the largest indigenous Christian community in the Middle East, and the strategy appears to be to intimidate the West through the targeting of this pre-Arab, pre-Islamic Christian group which has sought refuge from the Islamic world. The Islamists are essentially testing the soft underbelly of the beast. When apathy and indifference are established, they will doubtless escalate their jihad and turn on other Christian groups. (Because they want to drive all Christians out of Muslim lands, and the Copts are mainly in Egypt. ~Bob.)

Court Rules FCC Cannot Fine Broadcasters for ‘NYPD Blue’ Nude Shot
Excerpt: The Federal Communications Commission cannot fine broadcasters for showing a woman's nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of "NYPD Blue," a federal court ruled Tuesday, citing its earlier decision to strike down FCC rules regarding fleeting expletives uttered on live broadcasts as unconstitutionally vague. The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan decided Tuesday to nullify a $27,500 penalty that the FCC imposed on ABC and 45 of its affiliate stations after the image was broadcast on the police drama for less than seven seconds in February 2003. The combined fine was greater than $1.2 million. The appeals court said its finding was consistent with its decision last year that TV stations can no longer be fined for fleeting, unscripted profanities uttered during live broadcasts. (And, it only took 7 years and 11 months to get to this decision, which will likely be appealed. Ron P.)

20 Days to Undo Obama's Agenda
Excerpt: The first move will come Friday, when the House begins the process of repealing the new health-care law. House leaders will then quickly begin to identify tens of billions of dollars in proposed spending cuts and to ease regulations that businesses find burdensome. Much of what Republicans do will be symbolic, given that Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. But the quick action will allow Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, and House Republicans to follow through on campaign pledges and to try to establish their party as a bulwark against what they see as an out-of-control government.

Union Boss Trumka Admits Main Goal Is Using Unions to Fundamentally Change America into His Progressive Vision…Not Negotiate Member Salaries (Video)

Why did God Give Liberals Annoying Whiny Voices?
Excerpt: A. So that even the blind could hate them. This is one of my favourite jokes from a new book published today called 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy. Modesty forbids me from naming the author but if you buy it in sufficient quantities I can offer you his cast-iron guarantee that not a penny of the proceeds will be spent on anything remotely worthy or eco-friendly. Perhaps they will go towards rescuing one of his children from the state education system, so that one day they can look down on David Cameron’s kids and despise them for not having been to Eton; or be splurged on a Kenneth-Noye-style Range Rover Sport with tinted windows, a carbon footprint the size of Shanghai and a polar bear bar on the front for when global cooling really kicks in next winter; or help buy a bolt hole in the Welsh mountains with an arms cache, five years’ tinned food, and a killing zone ringed with Claymores and barbed wire, ready for when the scrounging masses rise up to protest against the Coalition’s terrifying, swingeing, massively unjust, life-destroying 3.3 per cent cut in government waste...
Assassin is an Arabic Word
Excerpt: The world’s first assassins were Arab hashshashin, or “hashish-eaters”. They were fanatics of the Ismaili sect of Islam, and their purpose in life was to kill infidels, especially Christians, and anyone else who blasphemed against the prophet. They hashshashin had to get ripped on hash to work up the nerve for killing. When the word was borrowed into French and Proven├žal, and thence into English, it lost the plural sense, and gave us the singular form “assassin”. And it was an Islamic assassin — in the pure, original sense of the word — who murdered the governor of Punjab in Pakistan today. There’s no information on whether he had to get stoned to pull the trigger, but his motive was the traditional one: he assassinated Governor Salman Taseer for failing to follow the letter of Islamic law.

Psychology and the Shrinking of America
Excerpt: Freud may have foreseen that his theories would unravel the moral fabric of our nation. When visiting the United States for the first and only time, he purportedly said to Jung, "They don't realize that we are bringing them the plague." Through his humanistic views, Freud helped to dislodge the West from its God-based axis. Freud also helped usher in the age of blaming the victim. Freud dismissed the suffering of his female patients who had been molested by their fathers [iii]. Rather than take their complaints seriously, he labeled them as hysterical women who suffered from penis envy. He wrote, "The hysterical symptoms are derived from phantasies and not real occurrences" and blamed the unresolved Oedipal complex [iv]. But Freud was a veritable saint compared to his star student, Wilhelm Reich. Reich manipulated his mentor's theories of sexual repression to justify his promiscuity. A Marxist, Reich blended his radical views about communism with his obsession with sex.  

Liberal racism at work: Africans don't have wars, they have 'genocides'
Excerpt: This echoes the discussion of the post-election violence in Kenya in January 2008. Kenya was likewise said to be on the “brink of genocide”, as forces loyal to Raila Odinga, who lost out in that disputed poll, carried out what was widely referred to as “ethnic cleansing”. In truth there was no genocide in Kenya. No community was wiped out. There was political violence. The more serious conflict in Liberia in 2003 also led to high-level handwringing about that country being “plunged into a Rwanda-style genocide”. The Sudanese government’s violent incursions into Darfur in 2004 and 2005 were described everywhere as “the first genocide of the twenty-first century”, despite the fact that both the UN and leading American experts disputed the use of that term and questioned the claim that 400,000 Darfurians had been killed by forces loyal to Khartoum.

New Year’s Leap of Faith
Excerpt: OK… it could all be far worse. And with time and more federal intervention, it surely will be. But in the thick of this, late last month, while I lay pondering, among other things, the giant leap in our health insurance bill that followed the passage of Obamacare, I did have a small epiphany. It was this: In the matter of getting medical care, I used to have some general idea of how it worked. I have no idea anymore what really lies ahead. I have no idea how it is going to work. I do have a “primary care” physician right now who’s terrific, when I can get to him. But medical care has become such a political battleground that predicting its future feels like predicting the fate of Poland on the verge of World War II. Like the legislators who passed it, and the president who signed it, I have not read the entire 2000-or-so-page “Affordable Care Act.” Nor do I want to. The general mess is obvious, and I am not at all confident that reading it would do much to enlighten me about the exact effects on my life, or how to prepare for them. America’s economy is a vast, complicated, dynamic thing, and central planning ever more tightly imposed on the one-sixth of it that is the medical sector is bound to produce colossal waste and absurdities. But how exactly will that translate into what happens when you, the individual, get sick in the year 2016, or 2020? All I know for sure is, thinking about it makes me queasy all over again. (…) In sum, if my uncertainties are in any way typical — and I think many of them are — then in one area after another that has an enormous effect on how we live, work, communicate and plan our futures, a lot of working Americans are living with a staggering degree of uncertainty right now. This is not the exhilarating uncertainty of entrepreneurship, of exploring new frontiers, or taking calculated risks in hope of rewards. It is uncertainty of a very unpleasant and debilitating kind — in which you’re never quite sure what might be taken from you next.

Be the Stronger
Excerpt: Now we are reading reports of an extraordinary Western success in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear program with an ultra-sophisticate computer worm. Some are calling it the first weaponized computer virus. Early reports suggested that the worm had been made in Israel. Later accounts offer an even more amazing story. The worm would have required so many programming hours to construct—and was so perfectly targeted against Iran’s Siemens equipment—that it was more likely the work of a consortium of Western intelligence agencies, including Germany’s. If that account is true, a question: Why did those agencies do it? Were they seized by compassion? Inspired by the vow “never again”? Tell that to the people of Darfur. As Anne Applebaum observes in the introduction to her history of the Gulag, we study genocide not to ensure that it will never happen again but precisely because it will happen again. No, if the accounts of the computer worm are true, the Western powers invested enormous time and money to disable the Iranian nuclear program without violence principally because Israel was able credibly to threaten an airstrike against Iran that would have done serious damage to Western interests in the region. The reality of Israeli power forced the Western countries to deploy their greater power to avert an unacceptable use of that Israeli power. Protests, placards, sit-ins availed little. It was power that concentrated the mind and activated the conscience. There are two kinds of people in America today, I think: people who understand that concept, and people who don’t.

It’s Starting: New Florida Gov. Signs E-Verify Order
Excerpt: “Immediately after being sworn-in as Florida’s 45th governor, Gov. Rick Scott fulfilled campaign promises by signing executive orders to freeze job-killing regulations and require state agencies to verify legal immigration status. He also established a tough new ethics policy and affirmed his commitment to diversity in employment,” says a press release from the Governor’s office.

Say Goodbye to Sunspots?
Excerpt: Astronomers have been observing and counting sunspots since Galileo began the practice in the early 17th century. From those studies, scientists have long known that the sun goes through an 11-year cycle, in which the number of sunspots spikes during a period called the solar maximum and drops—sometimes to zero—during a time of inactivity called the solar minimum. The last solar minimum should have ended last year, but something peculiar has been happening. Although solar minimums normally last about 16 months, the current one has stretched over 26 months—the longest in a century. One reason, according to a paper submitted to the International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 273, an online colloquium, is that the magnetic field strength of sunspots appears to be waning. (...) The phenomenon has happened before. Sunspots disappeared almost entirely between 1645 and 1715 during a period called the Maunder Minimum, which coincided with decades of lower-than-normal temperatures in Europe nicknamed the Little Ice Age. (I’m stocking up on long underwear and heavy socks. Emphasis added by me. Ron P. Not good news. There are winners in global warming in agriculture production. None in cooling. ~Bob.)

China builds prototype stealth fighter
Excerpt: China has reportedly developed a prototype stealth fighter jet to rival its United States counterparts. The J-20 is said to be years from final completion, according to Japanese media reports, but it is expected to eventually match the United States F22. Stealth jets have radar-avoiding capabilities and China's J-20 will reportedly be able to reach the US territory of Guam carrying large missiles.

Michelle Rhee’s National Movement to Transform Education
Excerpt: “While I had to make many structural changes—overhauling the system for evaluating teachers and principals, adopting new reading and math programs, making sure textbooks got delivered on time—I believed the hardest thing would be changing the culture. We had to raise the expectations that people had about what was possible for our kids.”

How Will the British Crown Attorney Manage to Explain this Double-Standard?
PC requires a double standard. ~Bob. Excerpt: This should be interesting. As most of you know, Guramit Singh was arrested for hate speech because of what he said about Islam. None of what he said was untrue, but it was apparently, illegal, or at least illegal enough to arrest and presumably try him for it. Here is the speech in question:
Below, is a video by a British Muslim who overtly threatens his life...Will he be arrested for this threat...?...

Vulture in Saudi Custody Suspected as Mossad Agent
Excerpt: Saudi Arabian security forces have captured a vulture that was carrying a global positioning satellite (GPS) transmitter and a ring etched with the words “Tel Aviv University.” They suspect the bird of spying for Israel, Maariv-NRG reported Tuesday. The GPS and ring were connected to the bird as part of an long-term project by Israeli scientists that follow vultures’ location and altitude for research purposes. The arrest of the vulture – whose identification code is R65 – comes several weeks after an Egyptian official voiced the suspicion that a shark that attacked tourists off the Sinai shore was also acting on behalf of Mossad. The incidents may reflect a growing irrational hysteria among Arabs surrounding Israel’s military prowess and the efficacy of its intelligence services, possibly fueled by the Stuxnet virus’ success. (Sneaky Joos—a kosher vulture! ~Bob.)

Equal Rights in Hamastan
Didn’t get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: The only way women in Islam can be equal to men is to blow up Jews. KGS:

Thanks for the Terrorist Safety Tip Janet
Too funny.

Asylum for Terrorists in Austria
excerpt: This news story from Russia Today highlights a problem that is becoming more and more critical all across Western Europe. “Asylum seekers” show up in record numbers to claim refugee status, knowing that their chances of being sent home (unless they are Christians) are slim. The report below focuses on the case of an alleged Chechen terrorist — with no hands, yet! — who was granted refugee status in Austria. Now he has been arrested as part of a massive Islamic terror plot:

Wily old Dems take on whippersnapper Republicans
Excerpt: Curious fact, unearthed by Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal. The average age of Republican House members in the new Congress convening today is 54.9, younger than the Republicans' average age in the previous Congress, 56.5. But the average age of House Democrats has risen, from 58 to 60.2. That can be explained partly by the high turnover in the 2010 election. Many younger Democrats, first elected in 2006 or 2008, fell by the wayside. The old bulls from 65 percent-plus Democratic districts survived. Meanwhile, many young Republican challengers won….Democrats like to think of themselves as the young party, the party of new ideas. And in 2010 they remained the choice of the youngest voters, though by only half the margin in 2008. But when you look at the top Democrats in the House, you don't see young faces. The ages of the ranking Democrats on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, Education, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary committees are 70, 79, 65, 71, 70, 69 and 81. The three party leaders are 70, 71 and 70.

IRS dithers while prisoners file phony tax returns, collect millions in refunds
Can’t touch them—Democrat constituency. ~Bob. Excerpt: The number of prisoners who file false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service has more than doubled in the last five years, according to a new Treasury Department report, and the amount of money the IRS has mistakenly refunded to those prisoners has nearly tripled. Meanwhile, the report, from the Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration, accuses the IRS of failing to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2008 to crack down on false returns coming from the nation's prisons.

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