Mitt Romney and Torture

October 16, 2007 at 6:58 pm | Posted in Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, Torture | 2 Comments

Well, Mitt Romney has hired retired General James “Spider” Marks as his new national security adviser. This is the same General Marks who said:

TOM FOREMAN (voice-over): If you could save the life of a soldier, rescue the hostage children; stop the next terrorist bomb by torturing a prisoner for information, would you do it?

JAMES “SPIDER” MARKS, MAJOR GENERAL, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I’d stick a knife in somebody’s thigh in a heartbeat.

FOREMAN (on camera): Retired General “Spider” Marks, a CNN consultant, worked for U.S. Army Intelligence, teaching interrogation.

MARKS: The kinds of enemies we’re fighting have no sense of right or wrong. They will go to any depths to achieve their ends.

FOREMAN: Do we have to go with them?

MARKS: We don’t need to go with them. We need to preclude them from going there. And that might include some use of torture in order to prevent it.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Polls have shown that more than 60 percent of Americans think torture can sometimes be justified. But here is the catch. Experts, including General Marks, are convinced with the vast majority of prisoners, it just doesn’t work.

FOREMAN: …So in your experience and in your view, torture as a policy should be against the law?

MARKS: True.

FOREMAN: And yet, we might still have to use it.

MARKS: True.

As Greg Seargant writes: “That would appear to be an explicit endorsement of illegal torture.”

Indeed. If he would stick a knife in someone’s thigh in a heartbeat, one has to wonder how much time it will take him to think about sticking that same knife in someone’s heart. And why does Mitt Romney want to side himself with such sick people?

Blackwater Guards May Be Unlawful Combatants

October 16, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Posted in blackwater, Bush Administration, Iraq, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Bush administration lawyers are actually considering if Blackwater security guards may not actually end up being unlawful combatants. Steve Benen quotes from this LA Times report which has some very interesting nuggets:

For a guard who is only allowed to use defensive force, killing civilians violates the law of war, said Michael N. Schmitt, a professor of international law at the Naval War College and a former Air Force lawyer. “It is a war crime to kill civilians unlawfully in an armed conflict,” he said.

If the contractors were the aggressors in an incident, they could be deemed to be unlawfully using offensive force, said Scott Silliman, a retired Air Force lawyer and now a professor at Duke University. He said they could claim self-defense only if they had been fired on.

“The only force they can use is defensive force,” Silliman said. “But we may be seeing some instances where contractors are using offensive force, which in my judgment would be unlawful.”

And

“We are going to be hard-pressed to draw a distinction between the guys in Blackwater carrying automatic weapons and the bad guys setting bombs along the side of the road,” said Hutson, now dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.

U.S. officials have described many of the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates it holds at Guantanamo Bay as unlawful combatants either for taking part in hostilities against the United States or by supporting the hostilities while not part of a nation’s military.

By that standard, some of the private guards in Iraq and Afghanistan also could be seen as unlawful combatants, particularly if they have taken offensive action against unarmed civilians, experts said.

“If we hire people and direct them to perform activities that are direct participation in hostilities, then at least by the Guantanamo standard, that is a war crime,” Schmitt said.

The 2004 immunity measure prevents Iraq from prosecuting private guards under Iraqi law. But some international law experts think Iraq could use international treaties to try contractors for killing civilians.

Let’s see,

Extra-national non-military guys with guns? Check.
Killing civilians? Check.
No state-sponsored uniform? Check.

Shouldn’t Blackwater guards be in the same cells as all those guys languishing in Guantanamo Bay Camp X-Ray?

S-CHIP Works

October 16, 2007 at 12:41 pm | Posted in S-CHIP | 1 Comment

More Phony Soldiers

October 16, 2007 at 4:54 am | Posted in Iraq, Military | 1 Comment

Sheesh, haven’t they learned that they must keep quiet and support the war?

Your Government Doesn’t Trust You

October 15, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, George W Bush, NSA Warrantless Tapping, secret combinations, warrantless wiretapping | 4 Comments

Your government doesn’t trust you. Why should you trust it?

On Blackwater, Real Justice Would Be…

October 14, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Posted in blackwater, Bush Administration, Iraq | Leave a comment

to expel the company from Iraq, to cancel all taxpayer funded contracts with the company, to file lawsuits that end up crippling the company into bankruptcy, to charge the guards who fired on civilians in Iraq with murder, and to try them for their crimes. That is justice for such a company.

Under the Bush administration, we won’t get justice, but maybe we’ll at least get them expelled from Iraq. It seems the Bush administration has run out of options, and they will indeed acquiesce to Iraqi non-negotiable demands:

The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has since sent them to the U.S. Embassy as demands for action. Point No. 2 in the report says: “The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws.”

Sami al-Askari, a top aide to al-Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable.

“I believe the government has been clear. There have been attacks on the lives of Iraqi citizens on the part of that company (Blackwater). It must be expelled. The government has given six months for its expulsion and it’s left to the U.S. Embassy to determine with Blackwater when to terminate the contract. The American administration must find another company,” he told AP.

Ms. Rice Makes It Too Easy

October 13, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, condoleezza rice, Congress, corruption, Russia | Leave a comment

she says, about Russia:

“In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development,” Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

“I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin White House. I have told the Russians Americans that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma Congress,” said Rice, referring to the Russian American parliament.

Who disagrees?

Some More Thoughts on Al Gore Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

October 13, 2007 at 9:01 am | Posted in Al Gore, American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, King George, Military, Nobel Prize, NSA Warrantless Tapping, Peace, secret combinations, Torture, violence, War, War on Terror, warrantless wiretapping, wmd, World Events | Leave a comment

I was one of those who was highly disappointed with the 2000 election. There were so many factors that took away the presidency from the rightful person and put it in the hands of a childish, boy emperor, a petulant, self-serving, babbling idiot, who has left the blackest mark on our country…since, well, I can’t honestly think of a worst president.

I can’t say how angry I have been these past seven years at Ralph Nader, siphoning votes away from Al Gore (Ralph Nader got like 70,000 votes in Florida in 2000, plenty to defeat Bush). Republicans have seen the power of a third party candidate taking votes away from the likely winner (they faced a similar situation in 1992 with Ross Perot giving the victory to Bill Clinton), and some Republican candidates have tried to mimic that for a Senate seat.

George Bush was given the presidency and the world (with the exception of a few) mourned his administration. 9/11 occurred on his watch. He began expanding warrantless wiretapping right from the beginning of his administration in February 2001 (according to QWest CEO). He ordered the CIA and the military to torture suspects a practice previously we abhorred and usually denounced when we heard other countries practice. He used politics of division rather than union and immediately angered half of his own country. He rightfully went after Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after we were attacked, but instead of focusing on our real enemy, he chose to go after Saddam, with no really good reason to do so. He contracted out security to lawless men who murder innocent Iraqis. He continues to bamboozle America into further war, increasingly raising the specter of war with Iran.

Al Gore went away from the spotlight during this time, but in 2002, as the country was seeing red and Iraq was its target, he spoke out prophetically against the war, and made us who felt he was our real president, long for his leadership instead of the idiot we got.

For Al Gore, winning the Nobel Peace Prize today is the latest twist in a remarkable decade of soaring highs and painful lows. In the span of the last decade he went from being the vice president to being the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to winning the popular vote for president only to lose in the Electoral College — after an intervention by the Supreme Court made his 537-vote loss in Florida official.

Mr. Gore’s decision to give up the fight after the Supreme Court decision left some of his more die-hard supporters bitter, and he by and large retreated from public view for several years. He rarely inserted himself in the public debate, though he did venture out to speak against the invasion of Iraq before it happened. But, associates have said, it was during that quasi-exile that Mr. Gore broke free of the political consultancy that had come to surround him to find his true voice, returning to the environmental issues to which he had devoted his early political career.

Even before Mr. Gore’s so-called “user generated” cable television network, Current, won an Emmy, or the film on climate change in which he starred, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Oscar, he was growing in stature for another reason: his early opposition to the Iraq war.

He had initially voiced it in 2002 in an address that his newly galvanized supporters now describe as uncannily prescient and unfairly dismissed, though it was seen as a politically off-kilter at a time of great popularity for President George W. Bush.

The Prize certainly comes as vindication to Mr. Gore, whose early dedication to environmental issues had earned him the derisive nickname “Ozone Man” — “Ozone,” for short — from President George H.W. Bush during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Al Gore went private and became a true leader of the world. He created a TV network, he created a documentary that won him the Oscar for Best Documentary, and he went around the world and raised awareness, enough so that blogs like this write a post with well over 300 comments on global warming. This is raising awareness. And because of this Al Gore won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Conservatives hate this, because they think they see a hypocrite (they of course never look in the mirror—if they did they might have a Dorian Gray moment). They try to downplay the importance of the Nobel Prize, claiming it is political, blah blah blah.

But in the world of power and influence, Al Gore has shown that striving for peace is more powerful and more influential than creating war.

As Noam Scheiber writes:

Watching Al Gore take a well-deserved victory lap this afternoon, I couldn’t help wondering what George W. Bush must be thinking. I mean, I know the guy still believes history will vindicate him and all, but, really, this has got to be pretty painful. Bush, according to various accounts of the 2000 campaign, absolutely despised Gore. He regarded him as a preening, self-righteous phony.

So Bush somehow manages to avenge his father’s defeat and vanquish the vice president of the United States. And yet, seven years later, it’s Gore who’s being hailed around the world as a prophet and a savior and Bush who, if he’s still being discussed at all, is mentioned only as the punchline to some joke, or when his poll numbers reach some new historic low. It must eat him up.

I don’t know if it eats up Mr. Bush, who never cared much of what others thought of him (at least publicly), but it sure brings satisfaction to those of us who wonder why Bush ever became our president.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, He Must Be A Phony Soldier

October 13, 2007 at 7:55 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, Foreign Policy, Iraq, War, War on Terror | 1 Comment

After all, he is speaking out against the war calling it a “nightmare” and all. Must be phony.

Illegal Warrantless Wiretapping Began Before 9/11

October 13, 2007 at 7:52 am | Posted in Bush Administration, corruption, secret combinations, warrantless wiretapping | 1 Comment

So says QWest CEO who refused to join in and illegally spy on Americans BEFORE 9/11.

Do you hear this Congress? Don’t you dare give these companies ANY immunity!

Al Gore Wins Nobel Prize – Please Run For President!

October 12, 2007 at 5:03 am | Posted in Al Gore, Nobel Prize | 7 Comments


(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images – courtesy of New York Times)

Al Gore won the Nobel Prize today. Good for him. Now, run for president, Mr. Gore. You’ve raised your awareness enough, I think. I don’t see many other things that can give you a higher profile than winning an Oscar and now winning a Nobel Prize.

Why Did Ananias and Sapphira Have to Die…

October 11, 2007 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Church, Mormon | 9 Comments

if entry (and supposedly exiting) into the fold of Christ, and into the early version of the United Order was voluntary? In Acts chapter 5, we read:

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

If entry into this system is voluntary, then why did they have to die? Was their crime really worthy of death?

Army Needs THREE TO FOUR YEARS to Recover From the War in Iraq

October 11, 2007 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Bush Administration, corruption, Iraq, War | Leave a comment

Boy, with the army needing so much time to recover from all the work in Iraq, we just hope that we haven’t so weakened our national security to give other nations the advantage to position themselves in a stronger point vis a vis us.

The Bush Administration really felt that they would only need to be in Iraq for a few months, all in the summer of 2003. They were (and are) really THAT dumb, that they thought wholly removing one type of government would take mere months. They were not ready for an occupation that would take years. Therefore they never prepared the military and Americans for a prolonged occupation. Now, because they never prepared for a prolonged occupation, they never prepared for the Army running out of fresh soldiers. Now the Army will require a very long time to recover. This is very bad for us.

A Good Step Forward on Blackwater (UPDATED)

October 11, 2007 at 10:39 am | Posted in blackwater, Iraq | 3 Comments

Hit them where it hurts the most, their pocketbooks, of course! This is a company that should not be profiting from the deaths of those they kill. This company deserves the worst we can give them. I hope this suit goes through and ultimately bankrupts this company, banish it to infamous history.

UPDATED:

It seems even the soldiers on the ground who were first to the scene agreed with the Iraqis and, well, with every sane person on the planet, that Blackwater guards fired onto civilians without just cause.

Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

“It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

His soldiers’ report — based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police — concluded that there was “no enemy activity involved” and described the shootings as a “criminal event.” Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.

The soldiers’ accounts contradict Blackwater’s assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.

Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. “I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon,” said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.

In Washington on Thursday, an injured Iraqi man and the families of three Iraqi civilians who were killed in the Sept. 16 shootings sued the company in federal court, calling the incident a “massacre” and “senseless slaughter” that was the result of corporate policies in the war zone.

Attorneys for Talib Mutlaq Deewan, who was injured in the shootings, and the families of Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass and Oday Ismail Ibraheem, who were killed, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking for unspecified damages to compensate for alleged war crimes, illegal killings, wrongful death, emotional distress and negligence. The lawsuit names Blackwater USA, the Prince Group and Blackwater founder and chief executive Erik Prince as defendants.

“Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life,” the 17-page complaint says.

Bring them down. They must pay for their murders.

The Grand Failure of Democrats in 2004

October 9, 2007 at 3:52 pm | Posted in American politics, Democrats, secret combinations, Supreme Court, Torture | 4 Comments

Here we start getting to the reasons why Democrats not winning the White House in 2004 will hurt us as Americans for a good long while to come, and why hardcore conservatives weep with joy. Because decisions like these from the Supreme Court today.

A German citizen who said he was kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency and tortured in a prison in Afghanistan lost his last chance to seek redress in court today when the Supreme Court declined to consider his case.

The justices’ refusal to take the case of Khaled el-Masri let stand a March 2 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. That court upheld a 2006 decision by a federal district judge, who dismissed Mr. Masri’s lawsuit on the grounds that trying the case could expose state secrets.

The Supreme Court’s refusal, without comment, to take the case was not surprising, given that a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit was unanimous. Nevertheless, today’s announcement prompted immediate expressions of dismay, and it could exacerbate tensions between the United States and Germany.

The Fourth Circuit acknowledged the seriousness of the issues when it dismissed Mr. Masri’s suit. “We recognize the gravity of our conclusions that el-Masri must be denied a judicial forum for his complaint,” Judge Robert B. King wrote in March. “The inquiry is a difficult one, for it pits the judiciary’s search for truth against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.”

The ordeal of Mr. Masri, who is of Lebanese descent and was apparently the victim of mistaken identity, was the most extensively documented case of the C.I.A.’s controversial practice of “extraordinary rendition,” in which terrorism suspects are abducted and sent for interrogation to other countries, including some in which torture is practiced.

The episode has already caused hard feelings between the United States and Germany, whose diplomatic ties were already frayed because of differences over the war in Iraq. Mr. Masri’s lawyer in Germany, Manfred Gnjidic, said the high court’s refusal to consider the case sends a message that the United States expects other nations to act responsibly but refuses to take responsibility for its own actions.

“We are very disappointed,” Mr. Gnjidic said in an interview today with The Associated Press. “It will shatter all trust in the American justice system.”

Indeed it will. So sad.

Cowards, the Whole Lot of Them!

October 9, 2007 at 5:46 am | Posted in Congress, corruption, Democrats | 7 Comments

Damn those Democrats in Congress! They are more afraid of being branded “soft on terrorism” than listening to their own DAMN CONSTITUENTS! Wake up you stupid idiots!

Was Enoch’s Zion Voluntary or Compulsory?

October 8, 2007 at 5:28 am | Posted in Christianity, Enoch, Mormon, zion | 7 Comments

In our dispensation, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, much of our debate about religion and governance takes either the side of “freedom” or the side of “slavery.” At least that is how some would like to frame the debate. I am curious though about an aspect of “Zion” in regards to governance.

Moses wrote:

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

Much has been written about the United Order and its failure to even get off the ground. President J. Reuben Clark had this to say about the United Order:

“”The fundamental principle of this system was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which he could alienate, or hypothecate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and the life under the United Order was not a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph, himself said, (History of the Church, Volume III, p. 28). The United Order is an individualistic system, not a communal system.” (President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. on The United Order and Communism, 113th Semi-Annual Conference, October 1942

I’m wondering, did the United Order fail BECAUSE it was all voluntary and your property was still your own? Or because they were not all of one heart and one mind? It seems a lot of pieces must be perfectly together in order to get Zion.

So I’m curious, was Enoch’s Zion voluntary or compulsory? Did they fully relinquish all rights to what was “theirs” for the community? Is the key element to running this operation an individual who is spotless before God, has no materialistic desire, and complete charity of his fellow men? Certainly from the little we have on Enoch, he doesn’t sound like a man who cared much for worldly possessions. Or does something like this only work in a simpler environment? How much advertising did they have back in Enoch’s days, advertising that so easily tempts us to get material possessions we really don’t actually need? Who doesn’t want a Lexus RX 330 hybrid? How easily will you allow someone else to drive what you paid for?

General Petraeus Gets Political

October 8, 2007 at 4:26 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, General Petraeus, Iraq | Leave a comment

No surprise of course but the good general continues to delves into politics instead of sticking to fixing Iraq.

The accusation was made by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander, who made the remarks to CNN while he was traveling with a small group of reporters to a military base on the Iranian border. He said, “We have absolute assurance” that a number of Iranians detained by the Americans in Iraq were members of the Quds Force.

“The Quds Force controls the policy for Iraq; there should be no confusion about that either,” General Petraeus said. “The ambassador is a Quds Force member. Now he has diplomatic immunity and therefore he is obviously not subject — and he is acting as a diplomat.

General Petraeus did not provide details on how he knew that the ambassador, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, who has held talks with the American ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, belonged to the Quds Force. Iranian Embassy officials could not be reached Sunday night to comment on the general’s assertions.

Absolute assurance? i.e. General Petraeus has no actual evidence so he has to play up the bamboozlement to its utmost extreme.

Note how he accuses a diplomat of being, essentially, a terrorist. What a way to slowly break down the held norms. I’m sure conservatives are going to start asking, “Why do we give immunity to a terrorist? Who gives a damn if he is a diplomat.” Way to go General. Sure will make your tenure as President in 2012 pretty damn hard if you consider diplomats terrorists. Keep this in mind, everybody, when Petraeus makes his run for president in 2012.

Finally, note the most significant part, General Petraeus did NOT provide any details for quite an incendiary charge. Why make the charge then? What audience is General Petraeus directing his bile to? Why the Republican base, of course. The rest of the world has already concluded General Petraeus is no different than his boss, George Bush, a liar and bamboozler, who would rather increase the violence in the Middle East than create a land of peace. Yes, I am calling General Petraeus a liar. Generally speaking, when you purposefully deceive and distort, you are a liar, because you are not doing your best to pass along the truth.

In a normal situation, General Petraeus should be fired from his job, but unfortunately, he is EXACTLY the person George W. Bush wants over Iraq right now. So sad.

UPDATED: Via Informed Comment, forewarned is forearmed:

Privatization of Medicare Does Not Work

October 6, 2007 at 10:06 pm | Posted in capitalism, medicare, privatization | 2 Comments

Aww, can we say this now, but we told you so.

Tens of thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system’s huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the Bush administration, a review of scores of federal audits has found.

The problems, described in 91 audit reports reviewed by The New York Times, include the improper termination of coverage for people with H.I.V. and AIDS, huge backlogs of claims and complaints, and a failure to answer telephone calls from consumers, doctors and drugstores.

Medicare officials have required insurance companies of all sizes to fix the violations by adopting “corrective action plans.” Since March, Medicare has imposed fines of more than $770,000 on 11 companies for marketing violations and failure to provide timely notice to beneficiaries about changes in costs and benefits.

The companies include three of the largest participants in the Medicare market, UnitedHealth, Humana and WellPoint.

The audits document widespread violations of patients’ rights and consumer protection standards. Some violations could directly affect the health of patients — for example, by delaying access to urgently needed medications.

In July, Medicare terminated its contract with a private plan in Florida after finding that it posed an “imminent and serious threat” to its 11,000 members.

There are just some things you don’t privatize!

Europe Is Doing Well, In Spite of What Conservatives Say

October 6, 2007 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Europe | Leave a comment

The Washington Post writes, so it must be true. 🙂

I love Europe.

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