October 18th, 2017

Here’s the latest person…

made to say her diversity mea culpas.

Beware the Red Guard mob. They’ll eat their own, too, if given half a chance.

October 18th, 2017

On presidential calls to the families of dead servicemen and women

I hate when this becomes a topic for politics. I don’t care whether it involves a Republican or a Democratic president, or one I like or dislike. I believe that such interactions are private and should remain so. They are way too subject to distortion by people with a political agenda to hurt that president, whoever the president might be. I don’t think I ever criticized Obama for anything he did or didn’t do along these lines, and I’m not going to start now because the whole thing’s been dredged up by some back-and-forth accusations about Trump and by Trump.

Naturally, bereaved family members are often in a state of shock and grief and extreme sensitivity, which means they might react very emotionally to statements that are actually rather neutral, and/or mishear what the president is saying. It’s an intensely emotional exchange and those emotions are heightened by the situation itself.

That doesn’t mean that presidents never say insensitive things under the circumstances. Of course they can, and probably do. Any person might, although some have a particular gift for knowing the right thing to say. Plus, human beings—even when not in such a highly emotional state—often misremember what was said to them. How many people can reconstruct a conversation with accuracy? As a person who’s worked with couples and families—sometimes in settings in which the conversations are recorded, when it’s possible to check people’s accuracy in remembering—I can say with some assurance that most people are very very bad at it. After all, the game of “telephone” is based on a very real phenomenon.

So I’m not going to weigh in on the current brouhaha about what Trump said to a grieving widow. It’s very possible he said something highly insensitive. It’s very possible he did not.

I’m not sure when presidents began to be required to make personal calls to bereaved families, but back when casualties were much higher in wars such as World War II it couldn’t have been possible. There was just the dreaded and horrific telegram, featured in so many of the World War II movies I saw on TV in my youth.

[NOTE: There’s also Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixby.]

October 18th, 2017

And the chirping of crickets was heard in the land

I could find no NY Times nor WaPo nor LA Times nor CNN stories that even mention the Hill article from yesterday. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), if the shoe were on the Trump foot the headlines would be screaming.

It’s not that there’s no coverage, but it’s almost entirely from the right side of the press, although the outlet that broke the story—The Hill—could be characterized as moderate. National Review has covered it, as well as the British Daily Mail and in particular the NY Post.

The Post has also published an editorial on the subject that helpfully explains the difference between the older stories from a couple of years ago and the newly-revealed facts:

Peter Schweizer got onto part of the scandal in his 2015 book, “Clinton Cash”: the gifts of $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the $500,000 fee to Bill for a single speech, by individuals involved in a deal that required Hillary Clinton’s approval.

The New York Times confirmed and followed up on Schweizer’s reporting — all of it denounced by Hillary as a partisan hit job.

But now The Hill reports that the FBI in 2009 had collected substantial evidence — eyewitnesses backed by documents — of money-laundering, blackmail and bribery by Russian nuclear officials, all aimed at growing “Vladimir Putin’s atomic-energy business inside the United States” in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The bureau even flagged the routing of millions from Russian nuclear officials to cutouts and on to Clinton, Inc.

Hillary Clinton, again, sat on a key government body that had to approve the deal — though she now claims she had no role in a deal with profound national-security implications, and during the campaign called the payments a coincidence.

The Obama administration — anxious to “reset” US-Russian relations — kept it all under wraps, refusing to tell even top congressional intelligence figures.

And when the Obamaites in 2014 filed low-level criminal charges against a single individual over what the FBI found, they did so with little public fanfare.

(Here’s the two-year-old article in the Times that references the information from the Schweizer book.)

Where will this all go? My guess is that the answer is: nowhere much. I don’t think any smoking gun will be found, although the thing certainly looks mighty suspicious, particularly the lack of information given out at the time by the FBI to Congress.

October 17th, 2017

Possible collusion/coverup with Russia

It’s complicated.

And it happened during the Obama administration.

And it’s just coming out now:

According to The Hill’s John Solomon and Alison Spann, the FBI began to piece together a Russian operation designed to advance Vladimir Putin’s control of nuclear materials in 2009 that involved both bribery and extortion. The discovery predated two key decisions that gave Moscow control over a significant portion of the US uranium market, including the Uranium One deal that put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Bill Clinton’s pockets…

… The year after State approved the purchase of Uranium One by Russia’s state-owned Rosatom in 2010, the Obama administration gave approval for Rosatom to vastly expand its sales of uranium inside the US through its Tenex subsidiary. Until then, Tenex could only sell Russian uranium gleaned from decommissioned nuclear weapons, part of the US attempts to incentivize Moscow into cannibalizing its nukes. The two combined deals gave Moscow a great deal of leverage in the US nuclear market — and the bribes and extortion alone created “legitimate security concerns” of their own.

The Department of Justice, however, never went public with its probe. Instead, Solomon and Spann report, they sat on it for four years…

…[The DOJ] buried the probe even after indicting some Russian principals in the operation. They only announced in 2015 that they had reached plea deals in a case involving money laundering, saying nothing about bribery, extortion, or the intent to corrupt the US nuclear industry. That information was so compartmentalized that even the FBI’s top criminal-investigation officer had no idea of the extent of the case, and no one in Congress was ever briefed on the national security concerns raised in the case. In fact, House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers claimed to the Hill that no one ever mentioned the case at all to him, despite already-extant concerns over the Uranium One deal on Capitol Hill.

It seems to me that I’ve heard vague rumors about this for a couple of months. In fact, looking it up just now, I found this from John Hinderaker at Powerline, written this past July when the MSM was so excited about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian [emphasis mine]:

…[T]he emails [released by Trump Jr. concerning his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June of 2016] support Trump Jr.’s statement that he attended the meeting because he had been told that the Russian with whom he would meet had negative information about Hillary Clinton. The email from Rob Goldstone, who drove the whole process, says that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia met with [Emin’s] father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia….”

This would obviously have been of great interest to the Trump campaign, and Trump, Jr. would have been foolish not to schedule the meeting. In one of the emails he says, “if it’s what you say I love it,” an entirely appropriate response that also showed an appropriate degree of skepticism. Trump may have assumed that the incriminating information would relate to the uranium transactions that are described in Clinton Cash, but there is no elaboration in the emails.

My, my, my.

I’m not sure why some of the details are coming out now, and so far I haven’t read anything that answers that question. I can’t help but wonder, though, if the information might have been unearthed in connection with the probe of Trump’s and/or Trump’s associates’ possible connections to Russia (including Jr.’s). I remember reading—when the ongoing investigation into Trump was first ordered—that Democrats might find it coming back to bite them.

October 17th, 2017

Those teenage moms

I read somewhere recently that births to teenage mothers had set a new historic low–which made me wonder for a moment what that might be about. Within a moment it occurred to me that “teen births” is a pretty meaningless statistic, because it lumps together married and unmarried teens.

I know, being as old as I am, that there were a great many teen births when I was young, but a lot of those teens were married (shotgun weddings or not). And sure enough, here are the figures:
Continued »

October 17th, 2017

Trump and McConnell

Together again.

Will the show of unity last? Will they manage to pass any important legislation? Or will the split GOP, with its barely-there, small, shaky majority, end up deadlocked again?

Just to repeat:

A fifty-two vote majority isn’t much in the Senate. It means that to prevail without Democratic votes (and usually the GOP must function without the help of any Democrats) there must be near-unanimity in the party. Even a couple of moderates (or any sort of outlier) are going to have a great deal of power because the GOP majority is so tiny. And senators love power, and most of them are going to milk that power for all it’s worth, trying to get concessions for their states and basking in the glow of their fame. After all, going along with the pack doesn’t get you many headlines, does it? And these people—especially Collins, with whom I’m most familiar—really are moderate politically, so it’s not as though they’re compromising many of their own principles to vote against the more conservative wing of the GOP.

If the GOP wants to avoid this problem, the only solution is to get a bigger majority in the Senate. That’s the reality as I see it.

October 17th, 2017

The disgraceful Bowe Bergdahl saga

Bowe Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and this article reminds us—if anyone needed reminding—what a terrible deal Obama made for him, and what a farce his welcome-home ceremony and the publicity around it was:

In 2015, Obama tried to cover Bergdahl in the glory of a war hero, even inviting his parents to the Rose Garden to celebrate the news of his release. The former president maintained he only freed five Taliban leaders to free a soldier who, in the words of his National Security Adviser Susan Rice, served “the United States with honor and distinction.”

But they knew better. They had to have: The Pentagon itself refused to list Bergdahl as a POW. That’s because an internal 2009 Army report found he had a history of walking off his post and more than likely deserted. It also found he shipped his laptop back home to Idaho, and left a note expressing his disillusionment with the war, before ending up in the arms of the Taliban.

Obama had access to this intelligence long before he made his Taliban deal. So why did he trade a known deserter — and likely enemy sympathizer, if not collaborator — for five enemy commanders whom he acknowledged posed a national security risk? Simple: To justify the release from Gitmo of five “forever detainees,” who otherwise would never have been released and would have delayed achieving his promise to antiwar liberals to withdraw from Afghanistan and empty Gitmo.

It didn’t take more than a few days for the truth to emerge, either. For example, I wrote this post about five days after the Bergdahl story first broke. In it, I stated:

Nothing about the Bergdahl/Taliban affair should have surprised me—or, for that matter, you. Nothing.

Not Obama’s audacity, nor his disregard of prior bipartisan warnings in Congress or from the intelligence community, nor his aides’ attempts to discredit those from Bergdahl’s unit who are calling Bergdahl a deserter or worse, nor Obama’s refusal to offer any apologies whatsoever for his actions in this affair, nor his lies and broken promises, nor the fact that many Democrats are lining up to defend him like the good party hacks that they are.

But an intellectual reaction is one thing. Intellectually, I’m not surprised. But there’s still an emotional reaction—what Peter Wehner referred to as a visceral reaction—which is to be stunned, disgusted, outraged, and full of trepidation about both the long-term effects of this move and what Obama will be doing for a series of encores.

By the way, I think Trump was out of line during his campaign when he called Bergdahl a traitor. Correct, but out of line, and put of line in a way that could have ended up with the judge ruling that Bergdahl could not get a fair trial.

October 17th, 2017

Waiting for Hillary-Godot

Laurence Lessig is a law professor at Harvard, with credentials of the impeccable sort (or what used to be called “impeccable”): the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and before that a law professor at Stanford.

He also ran for president in 2016 as a Democrat, but if you blinked you missed it.

Anyway, he seems to be the champion of “when trout swim down Great Ormond Street” speculation. I wrote about an op-ed he’d written for the WaPo (certainly not an obscure newspaper) shortly after the 2016 election, which I characterized this way:

“The obligatory ‘the electors should vote for Hillary’ articles”—What are these articles about? After all, it’s pretty much a certainty that there won’t be a revolt by an enormous group of rogue electors…

Electors ordinarily comply with the wishes of their states, and certainly not enough of them have ever defied those wishes to make a particle of difference…

Not gonna happen, and I submit that the authors of both articles [there were two articles to that effect, one by Lessig] know it’s not gonna happen. So what’s the point of writing them? To stir up anger, hope, and turmoil among Democrats who are eager to delegitimize Trump as president, and also to discredit the institution of the Electoral College, which liberals and leftists tend to believe works against them and the pure democracy they believe would favor them.

Lessig has not given up, nor have some others. Nearly a year later he’s been featured in a Newsweek article by perhaps-aptly-named Julia Glum, who outlines his five-step program by which Hillary Clinton could yet become president:

If number 1: If Trump is definitively found to have colluded directly with Russia, he would be forced to resign or be impeached.

If number 2: If Trump is removed, Vice President Mike Pence would become president.

If number 3: If Pence becomes president, he should resign too, given that he benefited from the same help from Mother Russia.

If number 4: If Pence resigns before appointing a vice president, Ryan would become president.

If number 5: If Ryan becomes president, he should do the right thing and choose Clinton for vice president. Then he should resign.

“The answer seems unavoidable: He should nominate the person defeated by the treason of his own party, and then step aside and let her become the president,” Lessig writes. “Without doubt, if Ryan did the right thing, that would be the most extraordinary event in the history of America since the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter. But unlike that, this event would build the union, not divide it.”

Lessig, who briefly ran for the Democratic nomination in 2015, adds that Clinton would then appoint Ryan to be veep out of political goodwill.

Remember, this man is a professor of law at Harvard.

I also discovered he is a political changer with a right-to-left trajectory. That sort of change is very rare if it takes place after the formative (that is, student) years, but Lessig’s change seems to have occurred while he was in college, which makes him fairly typical of right-to-left changers. Here’s the story:

Lessig earned a B.A. degree in Economics and a B.S. degree in Management (Wharton School) from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. degree in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge (Trinity) in England, and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School in 1989. After graduating from law school, he clerked for a year for Judge Richard Posner, at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois, and another year for Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court…

Lessig has been politically liberal since studying philosophy at Cambridge in the mid-1980s. By the late 1980s when he was selected to serve as a law clerk for two influential conservative judges, Judge Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia, he was effectively the token liberal on their staffs, chosen for his brilliance rather than for his ideology. Posner would later call him “the most distinguished law professor of his generation.”

Lessig has emphasized in interviews that his philosophy experience at Cambridge radically changed his values and career path. Previously, he had held strong conservative or libertarian political views, desired a career in business, was a highly active member of Teenage Republicans, served as the Youth Governor for Pennsylvania through the YMCA Youth and Government program in 1978, and almost pursued a Republican political career.

What was intended to be a year abroad at Cambridge convinced him instead to stay another two years to complete an undergraduate degree in philosophy and develop his changed political values. During this time, he also traveled in the Eastern Bloc, where he acquired a lifelong interest in Eastern European law and politics.

Lessig remains skeptical of government intervention but favors some regulation, calling himself “a constitutionalist.”

Maybe some day I’ll do a bit more research on this guy to try to discover what happened to swing him to the left. Right now, it seems to me from a quick perusal that he’s not a very typical leftist (or a very typical anything). He seems to be primarily a libertarian of the left and a deeply quirky character who lives, as far as I can see, in a dreamworld. But that dreamworld certainly seems to get quite a bit of traction in the press and academia, and no doubt influences some unknown number of people.

What I wrote a year ago about Lessig’s op-ed is something that could be repeated about this latest effort by Lessig channeled though Ms. Glum: “To stir up anger, hope, and turmoil among Democrats who are eager to delegitimize Trump as president.”

October 16th, 2017

Who knew that Courtney Love, of all people…

would turn out to have been one of the few heroes in the sordid Weinstein story (this clip is from 2005):

Note how she looks around furtively as she speaks, and almost swallows her own words as she says, “don’t go.” She knows she might get in trouble as a result, and apparently she did.

October 16th, 2017

Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego: when the excrement hits the pavement

There’s a hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego, and this article was the first one I read about it. It seems to tap-dance around directly stating what has caused the problem, but it’s not all that difficult to figure it out [emphasis mine]:

At least 481 people have been infected and 17 have died of the infection since November in San Diego. Eight-eight other cases have been identified in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties, where hepatitis A outbreaks have been declared.

Officials throughout the state are now rushing to vaccinate homeless populations, which are considered the most at risk

Dr. Janet Haas, president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, said the outbreak is unusual for the U.S. because the spread of the liver infection has been blamed on a lack of basic hygiene and sanitation, not contaminated food…

“It’s not like there’s never been a hepatitis A outbreak before. … We know what’s worked in the past. Usually that contains it and the story ends,” Haas said. “But sometimes it doesn’t work, or circumstances are different and you have to ramp it up.”…

In San Diego, where nearly 85 percent of all confirmed cases are located, cleaning crews are hitting the streets, attacking them with high-pressure water mixed with bleach to sanitize any surfaces contaminated with feces, blood or other body fluids.

A private company was hired in September to deliver portable hand-washing stations in places where homeless residents tend to congregate.

Despite those efforts, the disease is spreading and many are asking what could have been done and what will effectively prevent future transmission…

County health officials have been hesitant to release any additional information about where the cases are specifically concentrated, citing state and federal health privacy laws.

In other words, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this outbreak has been caused by homeless people defecating in the streets.

Is San Diego anything like the far more leftist Seattle, where cleaning human poop off the sidewalk with a power hose is considered insufficiently sensitive? And New York City has recently ended criminal prosecutions for public urinating (which is nowhere near the health hazard of public defecating).

HuffPo is quite direct about the San Diego problem and the fact that public human defecation has caused it. But it’s not as simple as blaming the homeless, because the volume of homeless people in San Diego (and certain other cities) has grown with the rise in housing costs and the lack of low-income housing. In addition, San Diego has remarkably few public restrooms:

In 2015, San Diego had just three city restroom facilities open round the clock, the San Diego County grand jury that investigates government operations reported. San Francisco had 25. San Diego had spent more than a decade trying to solve the problem, but funding difficulties, lack of support from businesses and concerns that additional facilities would attract more homeless people downtown have stood in the way, the grand jury noted.

Last week, as the crisis expanded, the city was making 14 public bathrooms accessible 24/7, and the mayor’s office said the city is hoping to install more. City officials plan to open three new temporary tented shelters with restroom facilities and other services, they announced Wednesday. At least 30 hand-washing stations have also been installed around the city, with the option to add more.

There are a lot of problems that come together here: the lack of affordable housing, the pleasant year-round climate that makes many areas of California a magnet for street people, the lack of public bathrooms, the refusal of many homeless people to go to shelters, the marginal mental status of no small number of homeless people (my guess is that this sub-population may be the one doing the bulk of the public defecating) either through chronic mental illness or drugs, and city governments that haven’t dealt with the problem adequately either because it’s not easy to solve or because they lack the political will (or both).

And why so few public bathrooms in San Diego? Lest you think it’s a simple problem with a simple solution—such as “build more of them”— please read this from 2015, before the current hepatitis outbreak:

…Portland Loo…[is] a prefabricated public restroom that’s been popping up from Seattle to Cincinnati to Montreal. The loos have real toilets and running water, and are better ventilated than port-a-potties.

But they’re controversial. The toilets turned out to be much pricier than expected, and some people complain that they could attract illicit activity – prostitution or drug use…

Portland Loos are designed to ease the daunting task of keeping a public restroom safe and clean. They can be power-washed and have slits along the bottom to make it clear if there’s somebody inside. They cost about $100,000 each, but that doesn’t include the connection to sewer lines, which is where some cities stumble.

San Diego spent more than half a million dollars installing its two loos — double the initial price tag. Now, due to more costs and residents’ complaints, it’s planning to remove one and put it in storage. A nearby homeless shelter will open its bathrooms around the clock instead…

“The homeless population is up in this area since the Portland Loo was installed,” says Jon Wantz, who runs a restaurant a few blocks away from one. “The increased activity, whether it be criminal or drug-related, or just transient-related in general, it’s not good for business.”

“Affording individuals the ability to use a private and safe space to utilize the restroom is basic dignity,” counters Heather Pollock, executive director of Girls Think Tank, a San Diego homeless advocacy nonprofit. A restroom isn’t truly public, she says, unless everyone can use it — and many people aren’t allowed in the restrooms inside stores and restaurants.

“If I walked in and was holding all of my belongings, or I hadn’t showered in a few days, there’s a very high likelihood that I would not be able to utilize that,” she says.

What a mess. Literally.

[NOTE: It is estimated that about 12% of the world’s population defecates outdoors, mostly in rural areas (where it tends not to cause as many problems) but also in many urban areas in third-world countries such as India.]

October 16th, 2017

Austria moves to the right

It’s a trend:

Angela Merkel’s misguided migration policy — which allowed nearly 1 million people from Africa and the Middle East to enter Germany in 2015 — has claimed another political victim. Her centrist Christian Democratic government lost a great deal of support to the populist Alternative for Germany in last month’s election because of her mishandling of the migration flood. And today, Christian Kern, the left-wing Social Democratic chancellor of Austria, lost his job because of his own party’s involvement in opening Austria to 75,000 new migrants. Germany borders Austria, and many refugees and economic migrants entered Germany through Austria, with 75,000 remaining.

Festering public anger at uncontrolled immigration, crime, wasteful spending, and bureaucratic arrogance has hurt all established political parties. But the damage to left-wing parties has been the most severe. Taken together, the three left-wing parties in Germany — the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left party — won only 38 percent of the vote in last month’s elections. Twenty years ago, the three combined won 53 percent. Similarly, in Austria, the three left-wing parties together won only 34 percent of the vote today, with the environmentalist Greens shut out of parliament for the first time in more than 30 years.

People don’t like being condescended to and not listened to.

The Austrian political situation also seems to represents a coup by the young against a more staid Old Guard, the latter perhaps somewhat equivalent to our Republican establishment that’s aroused so much ire in the US from former supporters impatient with them. I don’t pretend for a moment to be conversant with Austrian politics, but that’s what the following sounds like to me:

The clear winners are the parties of the populist Right. Take Austria. The center-right People’s Party was floundering early this year, trapped in an unpopular, status-quo coalition with the leftist Social Democrats. Then, in May, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz — the leader of the party’s youth wing — mounted a coup and ousted the party’s complacent leadership.

Kurz quickly moved his party to the right. He promoted tougher policies in a range of areas: migration, welfare benefits for foreigners, relations with the European Union, and border controls. He called for a ban on the wearing of burqas. He then announced his party could no longer govern with the Social Democrats, forcing this month’s snap election…

Here are the actual results:

In the end, Kurz and his party took first place, with 31.4 percent of the vote. The Freedom Party won 27.4 percent, and the Social Democrats won 26.7 percent. Even Chancellor Kern of the Social Democrats had to admit the nation has seen a “massive slide to the right.”…

The almost certain outcome of the election will be a coalition government of the People’s Party and the Freedom Party. They governed together once before, from 2000 to 2005, and were able to implement what for Austria were radical economic reforms before they split after various scandals.

Kurz himself seems to be some sort of wunderkind. He’s not just young; at 31, he’s nearly fetal. He’s a fairly handsome guy, too, in the mold of the youngish Justin Trudeau, who at 45 seems positively geriatric in comparison.

[NOTE: In the US, by the way, a 31-year-old could not become president; the age requirement is 35.]

October 16th, 2017

Does a single day go by…

…without an MSM article on this sort of theme: “Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump”?

There’s a steady stream that never flags. They all seem more or less the same to me. Some focus more on Trump’s immaturity, some on his craziness, but I believe they are designed to keep readers on the left (and/or those on the right who detest Trump) in a constant state of anxiety, fear, rage, and hope.

The “hope” for Democrats is for Democratic control of the House in 2018 and the resultant impeachment of Trump. That drum is being beaten with greater vigor than ever lately.

And then we also have this article from Jane Mayer in The New Yorker that basically says “be careful what you wish for in impeaching Trump.” It tries to stir up fear about Pence. The article is incredibly long and incredibly boring. I tried to skim it in order to glean its main content, but what I mostly got was “Pence is in the pocket of the evil Kochs.”

I’ve read quite a few of these “Trump could be impeached after 2018” articles, and haven’t seen any of them dealing adequately with the question of what would happen next in the Senate after impeachment. If it’s mentioned at all that the conviction and removal of a president can only be accomplished by a 2/3 vote in the Senate, the lack of probability of that happening with Trump and the fact that if it didn’t happen his impeachment would be practically meaningless is rarely if ever dealt with. I find that a bit puzzling, except when I reflect that the purpose of these articles is mainly psychological, and that the authors are probably banking on the fact that most readers may think that “impeachment” is equivalent to “removal from office.” The Clinton impeachment and failure to convict/remove is probably ancient and nearly-forgotten history for a great many voters today.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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