August 27th, 2014

Obama the aloof

Obama’s supporters seem surprised and perplexed at his growing isolation, even from them.

Or maybe, especially from them:

Nearly six years into his term, with his popularity at the lowest of his presidency, Mr. Obama appears remarkably distant from his own party on Capitol Hill, with his long neglect of would-be allies catching up to him.

In interviews, nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and senior congressional aides suggested that Mr. Obama’s approach has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office.

But what did they expect? Even before Obama’s first term, it was known that he had a famously cool style, few friends, and a history of being emotionally removed. His allies may not have done their homework on the character of the man they were electing, but his personality was no secret whatsoever.

One of the few people who knew him during his Harvard Law Review president days and was willing to speak out about it in 2008, Carol Platt Liebau, said [emphasis mine]:

I knew him reasonably well — as well as most people knew him, if not better — because quite in contrast to this image that Barack tries to project, as someone who is warm and all-embracing and all that kind of stuff,” Liebau said…

“Quite in contrast to this all-embracing kind of ‘earth father’ image — this sort of messianic blaze of glory with which he’s deemed to envelope our television screens — he was a pretty cold fish,” she said.

“He was not a warm person. He was not the type of person that gave you a warm and fuzzy [feeling]. And you got the sense that he even wasn’t even terribly fixated or focused on what he was doing.

Liebau also describe Obama as a guy “whose eyes were always looking over your shoulder to see if anyone more important is in the room” and that he was always looking for “bigger and better things.”

There was also this lengthy article that appeared in the NY Times in July of 2008. It featured Richard Epstein, who was a colleague at the University of Chicago Law School during Obama’s teaching days there.

Even the headline tells the tale: “Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart.” Everything Epstein says about Obama dovetails nicely with what Liebau said, and what we know about Obama today. The operative word is “removed.”

It’s not that lots of people other than Liebau and Epstein were talking about what a warm and friendly man Obama was, either. They were not. They were talking about how brilliant he was, how “presidential” he seemed.

I will never understand those who perceived Obama as “likeable,” as anything other than a cold guy. And I don’t think his high likeability scores were merely a function of people giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his race; I know plenty of people who really, really liked him. I am better able to understand those who didn’t know he was a leftist (despite all the “tells”), or who thought him so very brilliant (despite his failure to demonstrate anything special in that regard), than those who thought him warm or friendly or engaged with people in the way we’ve grown used to in presidents such as LBJ and Clinton and George W. Bush. Obama’s demeanor has always seemed chilly, offputting, and angry to me, with a thin veneer of affability covering it up.

There was also no evidence whatsoever, pre-election, that Obama would be able to work effectively with people, and certainly none about his warmth or liking of people. The thing was, his supporters either imagined it was there when it was not, or somehow thought its lack wouldn’t matter. His brilliance would override everything.

Well, we’ve seen how that’s worked out.

August 27th, 2014

I’m hoping…

…that Sean Trende is right, and that Scott Brown now has a good chance of beating Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

And for those of you who say he’s a RINO, it’s not ideal but so what? His Republican opponents are either obscure or unpleasant, and Brown is neither. Jeanne Shaheen is a typical liberal party hack, and a mediocrity as well.

Taking the Senate, and especially getting rid of the reign of the odious Reid, is important. And “important” really is a mild word for what it is. Which doesn’t mean it will solve any of the deeper and more systemic problems in this country.

August 26th, 2014

It’s time to boycott AP history

The left has staged a coup.

August 26th, 2014

I figure…

…why speculate on an audio that hasn’t even been confirmed yet as authentic?

Of course, that didn’t stop CNN from airing it. The cable news coverage of Michael Brown’s killing has exceeded in scale even the treatment of the Zimmerman case. It seems that with each such incident, there’s an escalation of news interest in it. One might have thought that, with the release of the convenience store robbery video, at least the characterization of Brown as an innocent overgrown child might have ceased. But no; any cracks in that narrative must be stomped out, and the offender made to apologize.

August 26th, 2014

Hide-and-seek: Lois Lerner’s emails

Who knew the IRS was so playful? And that hide-and-seek would be their favorite game?

After all—you just try playing it with them, and see how far it gets you.

Nevertheless, the revelations just keep coming:

We all know by now that Lois Lerner’s hard drive crashed in June 2011 and was destroyed by IRS. The emails of up to twenty other related IRS officials were missing in remarkably similar “crashes,” leading many to speculate that Lois Lerner’s Blackberry perhaps held the key. Now, the Observer can confirm that a year after the infamous hard drive crash, the IRS destroyed Ms. Lerner’s Blackberry—and without making any effort to retain the emails from it…

With incredible disregard for the law and the Congressional inquiry, the IRS admits that this Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.” This is a year after her hard drive “crash” and months after the Congressional inquiry began.

The IRS did not even attempt to retrieve that data. It cavalierly recites: “There is no record of any attempt by any IRS IT employee to recover data from any Blackberry device assigned to Lois Lerner in response to the Congressional investigations or this investigation,” according to Stephen Manning, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Strategy & Modernization.

“This investigation” is the suit filed by Judicial Watch nearly a year ago against the IRS under the Freedom of Information Act:

…to compel the agency to produce records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) non-profit status since January 1, 2010. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the IRS to provide records of communications by former IRS official Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process.

It’s this same suit that revealed that oh yes, all of Lerner’s emails probably exist on a back-up system, but it would be too “onerous” to retrieve them.

Try playing that game with the IRS, too.

By the way, Judge Sullivan of the DC District Court is the same Judge Sullivan who ruled that prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case were guilty of gross misconduct. Sullivan is an African-American, a graduate of Howard University and Howard Law School who was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, promoted to the DC Court of Appeals by Bush I, and to the DC District Court by Bill Clinton. It’s an interesting bipartisan history.

August 26th, 2014

Kipling again

When I was in junior high we had to memorize a lot of poetry. One poem was Kipling’s old chestnut (which was not quite as old at the time as it is now, but then again, neither was I) “If.”

A few minutes ago I had occasion to quote the poem. I had still remembered much of it, but not every word, and as I looked it up (thank you, internet!) and re-read it, I noticed two lines I’d forgotten but which seemed to be especially apropos for the right these days:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools…

They are followed by these lines, which seem to fit, too:

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools…

The left may have felt that way back in 1980, when Reagan was elected, and then again in 1984, when he was re-elected. They certainly managed to build them up again, didn’t they?

The right faces that situation now. Let’s hope the tools aren’t really all that worn out, or that we come up with some more effective new ones. Fast.

August 26th, 2014

Victor Davis Hanson on the madness of America in 2008

I usually agree with Victor Davis Hanson, and admire his writing. But this time I think he’s somewhat off base.

His article is about how America went slightly mad in 2008 when it believed in hope and change and voted for Obama, whose record didn’t indicate all that much to adulate. But Hanson not only leaves out many of the signs that Obama would be exactly the kind of president he has turned out to be, making the madness of the US voter in 2008 even worse than his article says, but his emphasis on 2008 seems strange to me.

It is a whole lot easier to understand how the voter was fooled in 2008 by Obama the smooth-talking newcomer who was (as he himself said) a blank screen on which people could project what they wanted, than to understand America’s much greater insanity in 2012, when that screen had been filled in with the picture of a lying leftist con man.

Hanson also says that America has now woken up; at least that’s what the article’s subtitle indicates. But has it? It has, but not enough for me—not nearly enough. Obama’s poll numbers would have to be down around 20 or so to convince me. What’s more, Hillary Clinton’s would have to be down there in the sub-basement, too.

I hate to sound so pessimistic. And I’m not completely pessimistic; at least there has finally been some disgust with Obama’s presidency; I’ve heard it myself. But I’m not with Hanson on this one.

August 25th, 2014

Hamas has friends in high collegiate places

Historians for Hamas.

No, they don’t call themselves that. But that’s pretty much who they are.

No doubt the crocodile will eat them last.

Many of them are members of the hard left. Even I recognized that fact from some of the names, and Ron Radosh—who was once a member of that august group—recognized many more:

As a historian who has studied the American far Left for many years, and decades ago was part of, I immediately noticed that many on the initial list of signers are veterans of the already old New Left and either supporters of or fellow-travelers of the defunct Soviet Union and the Communist movement. Indeed, I know many of them personally, and are aware of their old affiliations and political allegiances.

They are not only Historians for Hamas, but Historians Who Ignore History. They also ignore recent history—i.e. current events.

Forget for a moment their petition, Israel, Hamas, and all the issues involved. Just contemplate the fact that there are that many members (and probably tons more) of the hard left who are teaching—and apparently teaching history?*—in American universities, and writing books that are assigned to many more students than they can reach individually. This is what we are up against.

The other day, after reading and writing about the summary public execution by Hamas of the 18 supposed Israeli “collaborators,” I wondered how the left can continue to justify and defend this sort of evil. Almost immediately I realized how incredibly stupid I was being. The left, which defended Stalin? Dummy me.

Nor should we wonder what all those feminists are doing on the pro-Hamas list. For the true believer, two and two makes five, or even six or seven or eight, if the left so wills it.

Alan Dershowitz compares Hamas to ISIS: “Everything we rightly fear and despise from ISIS we should fear and despise from Hamas. Just as we would never grant legitimacy to ISIS, we should not grant legitimacy to Hamas.” He is correct.

Of course, there are differences. Unlike ISIS, Hamas is not striving to use the most flamboyantly savage forms of death and dismemberment in order to outrage the sensibilities of the west although, like ISIS, it seeks to inspire other jihadis to join its ranks through its passionate devotion to violence. But Hamas probably would prefer that its killing sprees against its own not get all that much publicity in the west; its main aim in that regard is to dissuade any of its own people who might even think of acting against Hamas. And unlike ISIS, it would like the west to think it only has designs on Israel. But HAMAS is every bit as much a vile terrorist group as ISIS.

Claudia Rossett also has a post on how, despite many similarities between Hamas and ISIS, there is comparatively little outrage at Hamas’ actions as compared to the widespread furor over ISIS.

[* NOTE: But are the signers even really historians? Ought we to take their word for it?

For example, see the Wiki entry for leftist Bettina Aptheker. A PhD in the "history of consciousness"? Excuse me?

I looked up the first eight or so people on the list, and it was an interesting exercise. As expected, there's a heavy representation from the various special interest "studies" departments that began to be inserted into universities as a result of Sixties leftist activism, especially (as with Aptheker) women's studies. Others are specialists in the Middle East, or in something like the specialty of Paul Buhle, whose field seems to be the history of radicalism (and, as an activist leftist from the 60s on, he certainly knows that terrain).

The majority are quite far from what most people would think of as historians, and certainly not objective ones. Granted, it's hard if not impossible to be completely objective. But this group isn't even trying. They most definitely have a huge agenda.]

August 25th, 2014

The greatest of these

During the time James Foley was in captivity, he tried to write letters to his parents, but they were intercepted. Resourcefully, he came up with the solution of composing one and asking a fellow-hostage who was about to be released to commit it to memory and transmit it to Foley’s family.

You can read the letter here. Because of the medium of transmission, Foley probably couldn’t make it as polished as he might have had he (a writer) actually been writing it it down.

So he cut to the chase. His message was about love and memory: love of family and memories of them that sustained him. Love and appreciation for the companions he had even during his terrible ordeal, the bad parts of which (which no doubt were many and severe, even before his death) he ignores. He was trying to reassure his family that their terror and and their fears were not as justified as they ended up being.

Foley’s letter also makes it clear that prayer helped to sustain him. Reading it, my hope is that prayer continued to sustain him in the dark hours of his final suffering on this earth, and that wherever he is now, it is a very good place.

In that spirit I offer this:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

RIP James Foley.

[ADDENDUM: The Anchoress has some words on the matter of prayer, our response to ISIS, and martyrdom.

Here is an article about what Foley himself wrote about how prayer sustained him during his earlier captivity in Libya. And this is what Foley said in an article for the Marquette (his alma mater) magazine on the same topic, including how praying the rosary and sensing the prayers of others helped him.

Anyone who wonders why people keep saying what a strong person Foley was need only read these articles to understand.]

August 25th, 2014

Eric Holder, racial profiler

Here he goes again. According to Andrew McCarthy:

Simply stated, it is impermissible for federal investigations to be commenced in the absence of colorable suspicion based on solid evidence. Yet, despite the absence of any suggestion that Darren Wilson is a racist, we know he has been made the subject of a civil-rights investigation. Obama-administration officials may not yet suspect that Nidal Hasan’s 2009 jihadist mass murder of 13 American soldiers was a terrorist attack, or that the Muslim Brotherhood is anything but a “largely secular” organization. They may have given the benefit of the doubt to Assad (the “reformer”), Iran (our good faith negotiating partner), Al Sharpton (Holder’s civil-rights adviser), and the IRS (not a “smidgeon” of corruption). But not to Darren Wilson. No sooner had the looting followed the shooting than Holder ceremoniously announced a Justice Department civil-rights murder probe.

Based solely on Wilson’s race.

August 24th, 2014

WaPo finds evidence in Sarah Palin’s dumpster that incriminates Darren Wilson and exonerates Michael Brown

Or something like that.

Yesterday the WaPo featured a wordy piece devoted to Darren Wilson’s dysfunctional family of origin, and the racial and other problems in the police force he used to work for, difficulties that seem to have had nothing whatsoever to do with him. As William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection says, it’s guilt by association.

Then, in a lengthy article published the very next day (today), the WaPo tells us what a great guy Michael Brown was.

From yesterday’s article:

…[E]veryone leaves a record, and Darren Dean Wilson is no exception.

People who know him describe him as someone who grew up in a home marked by multiple divorces and tangles with the law. His mother died when he was in high school. A friend said a career in law enforcement offered him structure in what had been a chaotic life.

What he found in Jennings, however, was a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority. It was not an ideal place to learn how to police. Officials say Wilson kept a clean record without any disciplinary action…

Wilson has had some recent personal turmoil: Last year, he petitioned the court seeking a divorce from his wife, Ashley Nicole Wilson, and they formally split in November, records show…

His parents divorced in 1989, when he was 2 or 3 years old…His mother then married Tyler Harris, and they lived in Elgin, Tex., for a time, records show. Tyler and Tonya Harris had a child named Jared.

The family later moved to the suburban Missouri town of St. Peters, where Wilson’s mother again got divorced and married a man named Dan Durso, records indicate.

Wilson attended St. Charles West High School, in a predominantly white, middle-class community west of the Missouri River. He played junior varsity hockey for the West Warriors but wasn’t a standout.

There were problems at home. In 2001, when Wilson was a freshman in high school, his mother pleaded guilty to forgery and stealing. She was sentenced to five years in prison, although records suggest the court agreed to let her serve her sentence on probation.

She died of natural causes in November 2002, when Wilson was 16, records show. His stepfather, Tyler Harris, took over as his limited guardian, which ended when the boy turned 18…

After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”…

Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force [the article then goes on to describe this]…

The Jennings department also had a corruption problem. A joint federal and local investigation discovered that a lieutenant had been accepting federal funds for drunken-driving checks that never happened.

All the problems became too much for the city council to bear, and in March 2011 the council voted 6-to-1 to shut down the department…

The article goes on and on; you have to read the whole thing to get its full flavor. When it deals with the Ferguson incident itself, there is no mention of Brown’s robbery of the convenience store or his getting physical there or the fact that star witness Dorian Johnson was present at the robbery, has a previous record (including a history of lying to the police about an earlier alleged offense) and therefore had a strong motivation to lie in his tale of what happened when Brown was shot. WaPo reporters Carol D. Leonnig, Kimberly Kindy and Joel Achenbach merely describe Johnson’s version versus the police version as “competing narratives.”

In contrast, here are excerpts from today’s WaPo article on Brown, written by AP reporters Sharon Cohen, Jim Suhr, Alex Sanz, and Ryan J. Foley:

Family and friends recall a young man built like a lineman — 6-foot-3, nearly 300 pounds — with a gentle, joking manner. An aspiring rapper who dubbed himself “Big Mike.” A fan of computer games, Lil Wayne, Drake, the movie, “Grown Ups 2” and the TV show “Family Guy.” A kid who was good at fixing things. A struggling student who buckled down to finish his courses, don his green graduation gown with red sash and cross the stage in August to pick up his diploma…

Kennedy became acquainted with Brown while running a credit recovery program the young man was enrolled in that allowed him to catch up so he could graduate with his class. Brown, he says, could be led astray by kids who were bad influences but by spring, he became focused on getting his degree.

Kennedy also would bring in recording equipment Brown could use for rapping — he wanted to perform and learn a trade to help support himself. “His biggest goal was to be part of something,” the teacher adds. “He didn’t like not knowing where to fit in life. … He was kind-hearted, a little kid in a big body. He was intimidating looking, but I don’t think he ever was disrespectful to me.”

Brown loved music even as a young child. Ophelia Troupe, his art teacher for five years in elementary school, remembers a reserved, polite little boy — he’d always respond “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am.” He kept to himself but lit up when she’d play her son’s beats — which make up the backbone of hip-hop and rap songs — in class as a reward if the students behaved.

Unlike the piece on Wilson, the profile of Brown at least manages to mention the convenience store robbery. This is the way it describes it:

Slightly more than a week later, Brown was shot while walking down the street with a friend. Police have said a scuffle broke out with Officer Darren Wilson after he asked the two young men to move. Some witnesses have reported seeing Brown’s arms in the air — an act of surrender. An autopsy concluded he’d been shot at least six times.

Ferguson police identified Wilson at the same time they released a video of an alleged theft showing Brown snatch some cigars in a convenience store just minutes before he was killed. In the video, Brown is shown grabbing a clerk by the shirt and forcefully pushing him into a display rack.

Brown’s family angrily denounced that video as character assassination.

They’ve portrayed Brown as “a gentle giant,” who liked to post photos on his Facebook page of himself with young relatives, a kid who tried football his sophomore year but abandoned the idea before his first game, fearing he might hurt someone.

“He was funny, silly,” his father, Michael Brown Sr., recently said. “Any problems that were going on or any situation — there wasn’t nothing he couldn’t solve. He’d bring people together.”

Tim Sneed, a 23-year-old neighbor of Brown’s grandmother, says the young man was so low-key he seemed almost invisible. “When he came to my house you wouldn’t even notice he was there,” he says. “That’s how quiet he was.”

Brown had been staying at the apartment of his grandmother, Desuirea Harris, this summer. She said Brown was excited about his future.

“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she says. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”

Brown was preparing to attend Vatterott College, where he planned to study to become a heating and air-conditioning technician.

I do not fault Brown’s grieving family for speaking well of him, although the description of a video as “character assassination” is a case of “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”. I do fault the reporters for presenting such carefully-selected “narratives,’ digging up every bit of dirt possible on Wilson (and since they can hardly find any, on his family instead) and every bit of good possible on Brown.

No one seems to have looked into the marital (or any other) history of Brown’s family, or whether any relatives have arrest records. And rightly so, because it really doesn’t matter; what matters is Brown’s history.

But why, then, is the divorce of Wilson’s parents and their other history considered fair game, and not that of Brown’s parents or relatives? After all, Brown had a mother and stepfather, and a biological father whose name is Michael Brown Sr., so we can conclude that some sort of divorce/separation and upheaval occurred. But it’s virtually never mentioned, either in the AP article or in any other article I’ve been able to locate after doing some quick Googling. Nor is the history of any other family member of Brown discussed; all I could find of any relevance to family history was that the 18-year-old Brown was living with his grandmother for the summer, although we don’t really know why.

The contrast in the coverage is stark, and purposeful. “Competing narratives” indeed.

August 23rd, 2014

Serenades past and present

A while back I went to the Boston Ballet to see Balanchine’s “Serenade.”

Oh, there were other ballets on the program, but I shelled out the money for one reason and one reason alone: Serenade. I’ve written briefly about the ballet before, and it’s one of my absolute favorites—a dreamy pale blue world of unexpected formations and of drifting, floating beauty set to Tchaikovsky’s incomparable “Serenade for Strings.”

Balanchine choreographed the work in 1935 as his first all-American effort. But it’s not dated at all; it’s timeless. His dancers weren’t seasoned professionals, since this was only the beginning of the heyday of American ballet, which he did so much to shape.

But his genius was to make the most of what he had. Different numbers of dancers arriving for rehearsal on different days? Then use the number that arrived and make of it a serendipity, placing them in interesting patterns that defy expectations in a harmonious way. A girl slips and falls during rehearsal? Use it. Another arrives late? Incorporate that, too.

Boston’s effort was lovely and respectful. The dancers are strong and have great technique. But, but, but—I was vaguely troubled the entire time by the ghost of “Serenades” past.

The music was live—great, wonderful! But the first thing I noticed was that it seemed a bit understated, perfunctory, not quite as moving as I recall. The opening tableau, which is famous…


…practically brought tears to my eyes, as usual.

But as soon as the movement started, something felt a little bit wrong. I’m not sure what it was, but probably a combination of factors, complicated in my case by all those memories of masterpiece rattling around. The costumes—not quite full enough in the skirt, and not quite as gossamer. The dancers? They should move almost as though in a trance, and these women seemed too grounded and/or too happy.

There aren’t many videos of “Serenade” on YouTube, considering how famous it is (I believe the protective copyright rules for Balanchine may be particularly restrictive), and what is there isn’t of the company that used to do it the very best, the New York City Ballet. But I did find a few. This first one is short but shows that transcendental opening tableau, which is difficult to photograph because in order to get the whole view the camera has to be far away—but when it is, some of the details are sacrificed and miniaturized, such as the wonderful moment when the dancers’ feet open suddenly into first position (see minute 0:51 here). The video keeps moving back and forth from distant to closeup, which is one solution I suppose but I’d rather it kept to a view of the entire stage:

And here is a good video, consisting of short excerpts from the production of Portugal’s national ballet. The whole thing is well worth watching (it’s only a bit over three minutes long), and is distinguished by offering a short (but unfortunately somewhat truncated) portion of that glorious moment at the end of the first movement when the dancers reassemble into their opening pose and the dancer who is “late” wanders in and takes her place (the sequence begins around 0:45). At 1:42 you’ll see the special effect I described towards the end of this post, and the end of the video features the closing moments of the ballet:

That said, I will go to see Serenade any time, any place it’s performed—because it’s one of the greatest ballets ever made. The first time I saw it I could not believe there could be anything that beautiful, and I still feel the same all these long years after.

[NOTE: It's interesting to read the comments at YouTube for the first video in my post. Several of them are very similar to what I have to say about it. One is this:

The commenter...griping about the filming of the moment when the feet turn out is correct. It is also distracting that the camera moves in and pans ...altogether is a poor filming of two of the most majestic minutes in the history of classical ballet.

Indeed. And also this:

Seeing this ballet always makes me weep. Every time.

It's not a sad weeping, nor a happy one. It has something to do with beauty, and with this:

An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Something we all need these days.]

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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