Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Kudos to the US Chamber of Commerce‏

On August 25, the United States Chamber of Commerce, which claims to represent some three million large and small businesses in the United States, filed a 21-page request with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold a public debate on climate-change science or face litigation in federal court.

The Chamber’s concern originates with an April 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts et al. v. EPA, wherein the court sided with the 12 states that had sued the EPA for its lack of regulation of four greenhouse gases — including CO2 — from the transportation sector. The EPA, in a (wink, wink) defense somehow reminiscent of Br'er Rabbit’s admonition to Br'er Fox about the briar patch, argued that Massachusetts and the other states did not have standing to file the lawsuit. In a five-to-four decision the court ruled otherwise, finding the EPA’s refusal resulted in “actual” and “imminent” harm to the State of Massachusetts, primarily from rising sea levels along the state’s coast. The EPA didn’t bother refuting this with numerous studies that have found no detectable sea-level rise to be occurring there or anywhere else in the world for the last decade or more, Al Gore’s obituary on the Maldives to the contrary notwithstanding.

In April 2009, after the EPA performed an alleged scientific review, which ignored important findings of their own scientist/economist, Alan Carlin, the EPA issued a proposed “endangerment finding” claiming greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare. During the 60-day comment period that ended on June 23, 2009, some 300,000 comments were received showing a great deal of public interest in the subject.

The Chamber is strongly opposing the “endangerment finding” that, according to Roger Pielke, Sr. of Climate Science, is the “culmination of a several year effort for a small group of climate scientists and others to use their positions as lead authors on the IPCC, CCSP, and NRC reports to promote a political agenda.” Dr. Pielke urges “that there be an independent commission of climate scientists who can evaluate the assessment process that led to the EPA findings as well as the climate science upon which it is constructed.”

Bill Kovacs, Chamber VP for environment, regulatory, and government affairs said, “They don’t have the science to support the endangerment finding,” adding, “We can’t just take their word for it.”

As expected, EPA Deputy Press Secretary Brendan Gilfillan rejected the Chamber's claims. Falling back on the worn out “the science is settled” mantra, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the proposed endangerment finding was based on “the soundest peer-reviewed science available, which overwhelmingly indicates that climate change presents a threat to human health and welfare.” If the science is so overwhelming in favor of greenhouse gases being the forcing agent in the warming of the Earth since the 1860s, shouldn’t the EPA be eager to show it to the skeptics?

The EPA has 60 days to respond to the request, which they will likely deny. The Chamber then has 60 days to appeal that administrative decision in court — something they (to their credit) have promised to do.

Writing in the ChamberPost, Brad Peck gives a succinct summary of the Chamber's reasoning and motivation to oppose what would surely lead to the diminution or destruction of the U.S. economy as it now operates:

In order to ensure that regulations which reengineer our economy are needed and would ultimately be effective, we are pushing the EPA to reveal the data they used to justify their endangerment proposal. The agency used secondary scientific sources, studies that largely weren’t adequately peer-reviewed and the selective use of scientific studies to justify a policy decision they wanted to make. There are many questions to be asked of the EPA, and forgive the Chamber for not accepting "Trust Us" as an answer.

We owe the Chamber kudos for a job that very much needs doing.

SOURCE








The Pending Tax Nightmare of ‘Cap and Trade’

Our Congress is pending receipt of legislation that will produce the most egregious and regressive tax ever levied on the American people and our economy. This is coming at a time when no one can afford the escalation of all energy prices such a tax will produce in every area of the American economy, from top to bottom, front to back.

The proposed structure of this tax would be to impose a consumption tax of 45 percent on all carbon based energy uses, from buses and trucks, to autos, to energy production. According to Congressional Watch, the price of every vehicle manufactured to the new emissions standard would be upped by $1,300 per vehicle, the price of gasoline would jump by 76 percent, and the price of electricity would jump by 95 percent.

In addition, the estimate is that the GDP would be reduced by $2 trillion – minimum –every year beginning with its implementation. Approximately 1.1 million jobs would be lost, before application of economic magnification to a multiple of these losses. Overall, every American family would be paying over $3,100 a year for these new programs best case, a staggering number for the average family, a hit they can’t absorb.

Tax revenues are crashing all over the country as jobs are lost, and opportunities are de-materialized. California’s tax base loss is putting it into crisis as we speak. It is one of a vast majority of states and municipalities that face similar losses.

We are seeing a fantasy focus on job creation, one that has no connection to reality. We have to hope that our legislative processes moderate the extreme elements out of this. If this program isn’t done gradually, this economy will implode: period, no hedge.

I am hard pressed to find any element of our economy not in crisis, and as the financials improve, many looking for simple solutions think this will revive our economy by itself, only to run into taxation policies from Sweden and the old Soviet Union.

This is such simple economics that it’s hard to imagine that the American people can be taken in by this logic, but anyone making that systematic bet for the last hundred years would have been systematically wrong. Our leaders want us to believe it is different this time. Is it ever, or has it ever been?

This simply manages to touch literally every sector of the U.S. economy, but puts the greatest burden directly on those least able to afford it.

More importantly, this is the Obama equivalent of Bush Sr.’s legendary quote regarding the promise of (read my lips) NO NEW TAXES. Obama ran on a platform of no new taxes for anyone earning less than $250,000. Given that, is this cap and trade thing going to be called by another name? It doesn’t matter what they call it; it will fall like a ton of bricks on those least able to afford it. How many middle class and marginal poor citizens can afford to pay 45 percent more for gasoline and diesel fuel, or 45 percent more to heat and cool their homes? How many will be able to afford our products whose production and shipping costs will jump also by at least 45 percent?

This goes to the fundamental issue of practical micro-economics. What are we missing here? I think we miss nothing except for those who bury their heads in the sand, hoping for a miracle. To me, miracles are like coincidences: I don’t believe in either. Neither should the American people.

At a time when it appears our government can’t find $49 billion worth of assets stolen by Bernard Madoff and when they have shown themselves to be total clowns about monetary economics, how can they ask us to trust them with a straight face? The Federal Reserve, working with the Treasury, recently injected $1 trillion into the economy in a SINGLE DAY. That was the deficit incurred for the entire World War II era.

Many people have missed this staggering new tax and its implications. This includes some of my wealthiest and most successful friends and acquaintances, well-educated, and presumably rational and logical. As one person said to me, the new tax rate for those earning over $250,000 is only going up five to 10 percent. But that is before they exclude certain previous allowed deductions, or reduced charitable contribution rates.

This is a bad time to engage in social engineering. What is it about this recession and corruption that four consecutive administrations have been unable to understand?

We that are involved in trying to stop this enormous manipulation of our entire financial system on a treasonous level, through the mechanisms of fraud and counterfeiting of commercial securities, know what is going on. We have no excuse to remain silent, as with silence goes consent.

I will say something here that has no place in our courts today. This is about the duties of citizens in a democracy. Right now, they are allowing these duties to be defaulted to others who have demonstrated no commitment to the values consistent with these duties. Shame! This shame will be visited on our children, but only too far after anything short of a revolution can correct it.

SOURCE






Question everything — even environmentalism

A new book on the importance of questioning received wisdom leaves out one area of life where scepticism is frowned on today: climate change. Some things are too sacred to doubt. I once gave a talk to the local skeptics group and told them that I might well be the most skeptical man in Brisbane because I didn't believe in Jesus Christ, Karl Marx or global warming. They liked the first one on that list but were decidedly cool to the second and third -- JR

When Karl Marx was asked by his daughter to fill in a ‘confession’, a light-hearted Victorian questionnaire, he declared that his favourite motto – usually attributed to Rene Descartes – was De omnibus dubitandum. Or, to put it another way, ‘question everything’. These are wise words. Any serious inquiry into the truth should start with this pithy formulation of scepticism in mind. So when Richard Wilson’s book Don’t Get Fooled Again: The Sceptic’s Guide to Life arrived in the spiked office a few months back, I was looking forward to an illuminating exploration of the role of scepticism today.

Yet while there are some sensible restatements of the basic principles that should steer readers through the modern world, Wilson’s guide seems a little trite. It’s the kind of book that might be an entertaining read for a student heading off to university rather than a sage treatment of an important idea. Judging from the book itself and Wilson’s writings elsewhere, it seems he is unwilling to follow through on the logic of his pro-sceptical approach when it comes to the central issues of our day.

Don’t Get Fooled Again begins with a health warning: people are inclined by nature to a little self-delusion. The average person, Wilson advises, tends to believe that they are above average. Only depressives, it seems, have a realistic assessment of their own worth. This is harmless enough, he argues, as optimistic and self-confident people tend to do better in life. However, this propensity to believe what is convenient is positively dangerous when it comes to wider social issues. From public-relations spin to pseudoscience, Wilson relates numerous instances in which our capacity to swallow a lie has had negative, even deadly consequences. We need to keep our wits about us.

Wilson believes that ‘the basis of scepticism is essentially common sense… to be sceptical is to look closely at the evidence for a particular belief or idea, and to check for things that don’t add up’. He adds: ‘This is not the same thing as being a cynic. Cynics like to assume the worst of people and things. Sceptics try to make as few assumptions as possible.’

He also notes that the mainstream media is a flawed resource in a number of ways, from the way stories are selected as newsworthy to the way PR companies and other interest groups manipulate what is presented. Wilson praises the internet as a means by which we can find the primary sources of information for ourselves and question what is being presented to us as the truth. ‘Just as you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers’, he writes, ‘neither should you assume, a priori, that everything that isn’t in the papers isn’t true’.

His first major example is the work of giant public relations agency, Hill & Knowlton (H&K). The firm has been involved in a number of controversial examples of spin. In October 1990, as Wilson reminds us, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, ‘Nurse Nayirah’, claimed that Iraqi soldiers had stolen incubators from a hospital in Kuwait City, leaving the children that were in them to die. The claim was that more than 300 children had perished as a result. In fact, ‘Nurse Nayirah’ was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US who had been coached to tell this tale by staff at H&K.

If that lie led to the first war against Iraq, Wilson argues that H&K’s past crimes were even worse, leading to the deaths of millions of people. In the 1950s, the agency was hired by tobacco manufacturers to deal with the threat from the emerging medical evidence linking smoking with lung cancer.

H&K’s response was obfuscation: try to convince the public that the link was unproven and that there was genuine controversy, when the link was, in fact, well established. To this end, the firm promoted Clarence Cook Little, an American geneticist, as a leading expert on cigarettes and ill-health when he was nothing of the kind, while creating a Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) to create the impression that the industry was actively investigating the link. In truth, the TIRC was little more than a PR operation. By 1964, a US government report had confirmed the link but, according to Wilson, H&K’s strategy was so successful that cigarette sales continued to rise before peaking a decade later.

As it happens, Wilson overstates H&K’s success in this matter. As figures from the American Cancer Society note, smoking rates in the USA, UK and Japan were falling before 1964 and have carried on falling ever since (1). Not only that, but the exposure of the tobacco industry’s attempts to downplay the dangers of cigarettes now mean that nothing that any tobacco company ever says is believed, leaving the industry completely unable to make any meaningful intervention on the debate on passive smoking, for example, and tainting anyone who has ever had anything to do with ‘Big Tobacco’. That sounds more like an object lesson in how not to conduct a PR campaign.

Wilson goes on to discuss a variety of other ways in which a failure to examine the evidence and thus fall victim to wishful thinking and ‘groupthink’ has led to disaster. One such example is the pseudoscience of Trofim Lysenko, the ‘barefoot scientist’ whose ideologically agreeable ideas about agriculture and rejection of Mendelian genetics helped place him at the forefront of Soviet science for decades, while leading to crop failures and malnutrition.

Wilson puts much of the blame for the mass starvation of the Great Leap Forward in China from 1958 to 1961 – which claimed 30million lives – on the barmy ideas promoted by Lysenko and adopted by Mao. Again, Wilson almost certainly overstates his case. While Soviet ideas certainly inspired the Chinese regime, the obsession with collectivisation and meeting pointless, centrally decreed targets had more of an impact than the losses incurred due to Lysenko’s dubious methods.

Another tragedy was the rise of AIDS denialism in the 1980s and 1990s. The widely accepted theory that AIDS is caused by a virus, HIV, was rejected both by some researchers – most notably by a high-profile American virologist, Peter Duesberg – and by AIDS activists who were mistrustful of the medical establishment. Retroviral therapies, such as AZT, were regarded as poisons and some even suggested that it was these drugs, not HIV, that were responsible for disease. Sadly, the leading activist proponents of this view died one by one, refusing the treatment that could have saved their lives.

The influence of this denialism was particularly strong in South Africa, a country greatly afflicted by the spread of AIDS. Around the turn of the century, the then-president Thabo Mbeki and his ANC government did everything in their power to delay the widespread use of retrovirals, leading to many unnecessary deaths. The lesson is that once an irrational idea gets a grip in the corridors of power, the consequences can be devastating.

On the other hand, the South African government were not alone in promoting irrational ideas. The British government was happy to use AIDS to try to promote a conservative sexual morality in a politically correct guise, providing a template for health-based scaremongering that continues to this day. While thousands of people in quite specific groups were dying of a new and terrible illness that demanded an all-out research effort to resolve, millions of pounds were being wasted on pointless scare campaigns aimed at everyone. Surely a true sceptic would interrogate these mainstream ideas to reveal the agendas of those promoting them?

In his final chapter, Wilson sums up the main elements of his sceptical outlook. Fundamentalism – the assertion of the ‘absolute literal truth of a particular set of beliefs’ – and relativism – the belief that any view can be true – are, in Wilson’s view, very similar and both are to be avoided since they immunise believers to logic and truth. Wilson also warns against conspiracy theories, pseudo-scholarship (a bogus agenda dressed up as a serious assessment of current knowledge), and pseudo-news (fraud or spin presented as truth).

He also returns to his earlier concerns about wishful thinking and warns against the way debates can be conducted by ‘over-idealising’ the outlook of one’s own side while ‘demonising perceived enemies’, with the upshot being the ‘moral exclusion’ of one side and ‘groupthink’, where ‘doubters and dissenters are stereotyped as weak, disloyal or ill-intentioned’.

This is all sound advice. Yet what is most surprising, given that Wilson’s book is a discussion of scepticism, is that he avoids the one area in which sceptics are most prominent today: climate change. There are plenty of high-profile advocates for action around manmade greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions who exhibit all the dubious behaviour that Wilson rightly criticises elsewhere. Yet Wilson is silent on the matter.

There is little dissent on the idea that the world has got warmer in the past 100 years or so. Nor is there any serious dissent that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which will tend to make the world warmer as levels of it increase in the atmosphere. And there’s certainly no doubt that human beings have caused the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from industry, transport and agriculture. If economic development continues in its current manner then, all other things being equal, we would expect the Earth’s temperature to rise.

Just how much warmer the world is likely to get is still unknown. What we have is a range of best guesses made on the basis of an incomplete temperature record, computer models that still have some way to go in accurately representing our climate, and genuine and important uncertainties in the basic physics of climate change. So while a warming world is our best available working assumption, how much the world’s temperature may change in the future is still a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry. Quite aside from the complexities of atmospheric physics, there are wider questions to be answered about the consequences of such warming and what the best policy response would be.

Yet the public discussion of climate change often obliterates such subtleties. The science of global warming is not presented as a series of provisional conclusions that must be revised as new evidence arises - which would be a properly sceptical approach following the argument in Don’t Get Fooled Again - but as ‘The Science’, a catechism of received truths that brooks no opposition. Frequently, a moral and political argument about the evils of humanity and industrial society is represented as a set of incontrovertible scientific facts.

Those who seek to question any aspect of this catechism are treated in precisely the terms Wilson warns against. James Hansen, the NASA scientist who has been closely identified with promoting the need for action on climate change, suggested to a US congressional committee in June 2008 that the leaders of the oil and coal industries would be ‘guilty of crimes against humanity and nature’ if they don’t change their ways. In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore derided those who don’t agree with him by questioning their rationality, stating that those who believe that the Moon landings were faked or who think the Earth is flat should ‘get together with the global warming deniers on a Saturday night and party’. Indeed, the very use of the term ‘denier’ to describe a critic of climate change science or policy has very conscious and pointed parallels with Holocaust denial.

Even scientists who firmly argue that the mainstream scientific position is correct, but who have been concerned about some of the alarmist statements made in science’s name, have been criticised as weak, disloyal or ill-intentioned.

Wilson has nothing to say in his book on these things. Yet on his website, he specifically criticises spiked for taking the kind of sceptical approach to the politics of environmentalism that he encourages people to adopt in relation to various other issues (2). Wilson engages in the kind of smearing rhetoric he criticises in other situations, making the defamatory and utterly false suggestion that spiked could only say such ‘pro-corporate’ things because it is paid to do so. He only tolerates a certain kind of scepticism, it seems, the kind that doesn’t question any of the apparently inconvertible truths held by him and other eco-enlightened individuals.

Sadly, Wilson’s own definition of cynics – those who ‘assume the worst of people and things’ – seems all too apt a description of his own outlook.

SOURCE





Nuclear power still confronting big obstacles

The so-called “nuclear renaissance” is finding few friends among state lawmakers in the United States. The nuclear power industry has been shut out across the board in 2009 in its efforts in all six states – ranging across the nation from Kentucky to Minnesota to Hawaii -- where it sought to overturn what are either explicit or effectively bans on construction of new reactors, according to the nonprofit Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). Efforts to overturn bans also have failed to advance in Illinois and West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Beyond failing to reverse a single state-level ban on new reactors, the industry also suffered a wide range of major defeats, including an effort to repeal a ban on “Construction Work in Progress” (CWIP) payments that would have been imposed on Missouri ratepayers to finance a new nuclear power plant, which was then promptly mothballed. Industry efforts to get nuclear declared “renewable” by the states of Indiana and Arizona also failed to achieve results. Also going nowhere is a California bill to lift the state’s pioneering law banning new reactors until a high-level waste dump is in place. That follows a 2008 California statewide referendum drive with the same focus that failed for lack of sufficient signatures to get it on the ballot.

Michael Mariotte, executive director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said: “While the nuclear power industry and a few members of Congress claim the U.S. is on the verge of a nuclear power resurgence, the industry looks more like a critical patient struggling to get by on life support out in the real world beyond the Beltway. No one seriously expects the industry to go away. But the truth is that things will be even tougher for their state lobbyists in 2010 now that the freeze on Yucca Mountain has taken long-term waste disposal off the table and also in the wake of new evidence of runaway construction costs that make nuclear power even more of a boondoggle.”

Dave Kraft, director, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Chicago, IL., said: "Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sear's Tower without bathrooms. Neither makes sense; both threaten public health and safety."

Jennifer Nordstrom, Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free coordinator, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Madison, WI., said: “Telling states to build new nuclear plants to combat global warming is like telling a patient to smoke to lose weight: There are too many other serious downsides that cannot be ignored. Fortunately, it is both technically and economically feasible to go both carbon-free and nuclear-free by 2050. Here in Wisconsin, we have a carbon-free, nuclear-free coalition in support of Wisconsin’s current law on nuclear power, and a 100 percent renewable Wisconsin.”

Commenting on the defeat of an industry-sought CWIP repeal in the Missouri Legislature this year, Mark Haim, chair, Missourians for Safe Energy, Columbia, MO., said: “New nuclear plants are far too risky and expensive to attract investor funding. Utilities will only build them if they can transfer the risk to the taxpayers or their ratepayers. Here in Missouri AmerenUE attempted to repeal a voter-enacted state law that bans Construction Work in Progress charges. Their goal was to get the ratepayers to assume the risks. When our legislators heard from consumer, senior, low-income and industrial groups all opposing CWIP, the CWIP repeal went nowhere. Once Ameren realized they couldn't get CWIP, they announced that they were abandoning efforts to build a new nuclear reactor. The pattern is clear, investors find nuclear too risky and utilities will only go down the nuclear path if their customers or the taxpayers underwrite the project.”

More HERE




EU admits energy saving bulbs are inferior one day before ban

The European Empire has admitted, just one day before the ban on proper light bulbs comes into force, that energy saving bulb manufacturers are “exaggerating” their claims about equivalence.

The British government, its Energy Saving Trust quango, the European Empire, bulb manufacturers and environmental extremists have been telling us that the energy saving bulbs will save us money. They usually quote the magic figure of £37 per year invented by the British government’s Energy Saving Trust quango based on replacing a 60W incandescent bulb with an 15W energy saving bulb and a 100W incandescent bulb with a 20W energy saving bulb.

The Daily Telegraph has today published the results of its own tests on energy saving bulbs which found that an 11W energy saving bulb which claims to be equivalent to a 60W incandescent bulb, even after a 10 minute warm-up period, produced only 58% of the light given off by the incandescent bulb. It would take a 20W energy saving bulb - almost double the power consumption - to get the same amount of light from an energy saving bulb as you get from a 60W incandescent bulb which will pretty much wipe out any supposed cost saving from replacing your bulbs.

This won’t exactly be news to anyone who has experienced the joys of blundering around in half light after changing their proper bulbs to energy saving bulbs but it shows how fundamentally dishonest the European Empire, British government and green lobby is. The European Empire has only today - one day before proper light bulbs are banned - admitted that the claims of equivalence are false, that the energy saving potential from replacing bulbs is false and that the cost savings are a big fat lie. One day before the ban, too late to do anything about it.

SOURCE





Australia: The never-ending NSW government transport mess

They sure know how to get people out of their cars!



The NSW Government has baptised its new public transport ''super-agency'' with a shiny name - NSW Transport and Infrastructure - and will soon unveil a plan for Sydney's transport. Yes, another new plan. The office of the Transport Minister, David Campbell, this week promised the 2031 Transport Blueprint by year's end. Campbell recently wrote: ''It will not only look at what we need to meet current demand but also to cope with the expected population growth.''

The blueprint is an attempt by Campbell and the Premier, Nathan Rees, to put their stamp on future transport options for Sydney. But as the baseball legend Yogi Berra so memorably remarked: ''It's like deja vu all over again.''

The archives of assorted NSW transport agencies are awash with discarded plans to improve Sydney's sclerotic train and bus networks. Schemes remain just dreams and Sydneysiders have had to endure nearly a century of arthritic transport planning much like the train system at its worst: promises and cancellations, tentative starts, shuddering stops and diversions to nowhere.

Sydney's ghost train history goes back a century but real stagnation set in the 1970s, when Sydney's population boomed without commensurate expansion of transport corridors. In just the past 15 years, at least $28 billion in rail infrastructure was promised by state governments but never delivered. Thirteen projects alone would have extended the rail service by more than 1000 kilometres of track and provided dozens of new stations in areas forced to depend more and more on the family car. Consequently, the city's roads seize with overload as peak periods extend and frustrations overflow.

The blame is mostly levelled at Labor, which has governed NSW for 26 of the past 34 years. Its leaders have made much of their support for public transport to areas that house Labor voters. Their failure to deliver, however, has only heightened the social inequity they complain so loudly about.

Sydney's rail system has changed little since John Bradfield - designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge - first articulated his vision in the 1930s (it was updated in 1956). Western Sydney's population has increased fivefold since 1940 but its rail lines have extended just 20 kilometres....

Neville Wran won a narrow state election victory in 1976, based largely on a promise to improve public transport. He famously took an early-morning campaign trip from Gosford to Sydney to highlight overcrowding. He finished the eastern suburbs line between Martin Place and Bondi Junction but the extension south to Maroubra was abandoned.

The Greiner government embarked on a public-private partnership to build the underground line to Sydney airport, with stops at Green Square and Mascot, where big housing developments are planned. But the line has been a disaster, with low patronage because commuters find ticket prices too expensive.

Rail plans that would have connected the north-west and south-west with the city - and introduced links between suburban centres such as Hurstville and Strathfield - were abandoned through lack of money or absence of political will. There is now so much cynicism about government proposals - particularly unfulfilled plans by Labor governments, which are supposed to be committed to the provision of public goods and services - that the latest Rees-Campbell blueprint, however well intentioned, is unlikely to convince voters.....

More HERE

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1 comment:

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