Thursday, February 06, 2014

A Tale of Two Droughts

Despite recent sporadic rain, California is still in the worst extended drought in its brief recorded history. If more storms do not arrive, the old canard that California could withstand two droughts -- but never three -- will be tested for the first time in memory.

There is little snow in the state's towering Sierra Nevada mountains, the source of much of the surface water that supplies the state's populated center and south. The vast Central Valley aquifer is being tapped as never before, as farms and municipalities deepen wells and boost pump size. Too many straws are now competing to suck out the last drops at the bottom of the collective glass.

The vast 4-million-acre farming belt along the west side of the Central Valley is slowly drying up. Unlike valley agriculture to the east that still has a viable aquifer, these huge farms depend entirely on surface water deliveries from the distant and usually wet northern part of the state. So if the drought continues, billions of dollars of Westside orchards and vineyards will die, row cropland will lay fallow, and farm-supported small towns will likewise dry up.

There is a terrible irony to all this. Never have California farm prices been higher, given huge Pacific export demand. Never have California farmers been more savvy in saving water to produce record harvests of nutritious, clean and safe food. And never has farming been so central to a state suffering from the aftershocks of a housing collapse, chronic high unemployment, overregulation and the nation's highest sales, income and gas taxes.

Yet there are really two droughts -- nature's, and its man-made twin. In the early 1980s, when the state was not much more than half its current population, an affluent coastal corridor convinced itself that nirvana was possible, given the coastal world-class universities, the new riches of the Silicon Valley, the year-round temperate weather, and the booming entertainment, tourism and wine industries.

Apparently, Pacific corridor residents from San Diego to Berkeley had acquired the affluence not to worry so much about the old Neanderthal concerns like keeping up freeways and airports -- and their parents' brilliantly designed system of canals, reservoirs and dams that had turned their state from a natural desert into a man-made paradise. They have become similar to the rarified Eloi of science-fiction writer H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," who live dreamy existences without any clue how to supply their own daily necessities.

Californians have not built a major reservoir since the New Melones Dam more than 30 years ago. As the state subsequently added almost 20 million people, it assumed that it was exempt from creating any more "unnatural" Sierra lakes and canals to store precious water during California's rarer wet and snow-filled years.

Then, short-sightedness soon became conceit. Green utopians went further and demanded that an ailing 3-inch bait fish in the San Francisco delta receive more fresh oxygenated water. In the last five years, they have successfully gone to court to force millions of acre-feet of contracted irrigation water to be diverted from farms to flow freely out to sea.

Others had even grander ideas of having salmon again in their central rivers, as they recalled fishing stories of their ancestors from when the state population was a fifth of its present size and farming a fraction of its present acreage. So they too sued to divert even more water to the sea in hopes of having game fish swim from the Pacific Ocean up to arid Fresno County on their way to the supposedly ancestral Sierra spawning grounds.

The wages of both nature's drought and human folly are coming due. Unless it rains or snows in biblical fashion in the next 60 days, we could see surreal things in California -- towns without water, farms reverting to scrub, majestic parks with dead landscaping -- fit for Hollywood's disaster movies.

Instead of an adult state with millions of acre-feet stored in new reservoirs, California is still an adolescent culture that believes that it has the right to live as if it were the age of the romantic 19th-century naturalist John Muir -- amid a teeming 40-million-person 21st-century megalopolis.

The California disease is characteristic of comfortable postmodern societies that forget the sources of their original wealth. The state may have the most extensive reserves of gas and oil in the nation, the largest number of cars on the road -- and the greatest resistance to drilling for fuel beneath its collective feet. After last summer's forest fires wiped out a billion board feet of timber, we are still arguing over whether loggers will be allowed to salvage such precious lumber, or instead should let it rot to enhance beetle and woodpecker populations.

In 2014, nature yet again reminded California just how fragile -- and often pretentious -- a place it has become.


State Dep't.: Not Building Keystone Pipeline Could Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 Not building the 875-mile Keystone XL Pipeline could result in the release of up to 42 percent more greenhouse gases than would be released by building it, according to the State Department.

Not building the pipeline “is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the [Canadian] oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States,” the department noted in a long-awaited environmental report released January 31st.

But the “No Build” option is likely to result in an increased number of oil spills, six more deaths annually, and up to 42 percent higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the State Department concluded.

The proposed 36-inch pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day from western Canada through the Bakken oil fields of Montana and South Dakota before connecting to an existing pipeline in Nebraska on its way to Gulf Coast refineries.

The project will create an estimated 42,100 jobs and add $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy.

TransCanada first applied for a presidential permit to build the pipeline in 2008, but the controversial project has been in limbo ever since the State Department delayed a decision to issue the permit in 2011 due to environmentalists’ concerns that the pipeline would increase GHG emissions and threaten underground aquifers.

It will do neither, according to the project’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

However, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf warned reporters during the department’s daily press briefing Friday that the release of the SEIS “is not a decision. It’s another step in the process as prescribed by the executive order,” adding that Secretary of State John Kerry will become involved in the Keystone pipeline permit process “for the first time.”

“There’s no deadline for Secretary Kerry to make a decision,” Harf said. “I stress that this [SEIS] is only one factor in the determination that will weigh many other factors as well, and for Secretary Kerry, climate and environmental priorities will of course be part of his decision-making, as will a range of other issues.”

In a conference call with reporters after the SEIS was released, Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, reiterated Harf’s comment that “this document is only one factor that will be coming into the review process for the permit. This is one of the elements that we will be looking at as we move into the national interest determination.”

The State Department, which must sign off on the project because it crosses an international border, notes that crude oil extracted from the western oil sands in Alberta will still be shipped to refineries by railcar or tanker even if the pipeline permit is not approved. And that comes with its own set of hazards, the SEIS pointed out.

Using a “wells to wheels” lifecycle analysis that starts with the extraction of crude oil and follows it to its end-use as gasoline or diesel fuel, the SEIS  noted that  “the total annual GHG emissions (direct and indirect) attributed to the No Action scenarios range from 28 to 42 percent greater than for the proposed [pipeline] Project.”

That’s because the fumes released by the combustion of diesel fuel from railcars and trucks, and the extra electricity needed for expanded marine terminals to handle oil tankers and barges, would create significantly higher levels of GHG emissions than the pipeline itself.

“There is also a greater potential for injuries and fatalities associated with rail transport relative to pipelines,” the State Department report noted. “Adding 830,000 barrels per day to the yearly transport mode-volume would result in an estimated 49 additional injuries and six additional fatalities for the No Action rail scenarios compared to one additional injury and no fatalities for the proposed Project on an annual basis.”

The SEIS also points out that “rail transport has more reported releases of crude oil per ton-mile than pipeline or marine transport.”

Of 1,692 oil spills reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration(PHMSA) between January 2002 and July 2012, “321 were pipe incidents and 1,027 were involving different equipment components such as tanks, valves or pumps,” according to the SEIS.

However, “the number of barrels released per year for the No Action scenarios is higher than what is projected for the proposed [pipeline] Project,” the State Department report stated. And although more oil is released per incident when a pipeline fails, “this constraint is offset by the increased statistical likelihood of spills associated with these alternative modes of crude oil transport relative to pipelines.”

The other major environmental concern holding up approval of the pipeline is the possibility that an oil spill from the pipeline could contaminate the underground Northern High Plains Aquifer (which includes the Ogallala Aquifer) and the Great Plains Aquifer (GPA). But the SEIS notes that this is highly unlikely due to the geological characteristics of the area:“Modeling indicates that aquifer characteristics would inhibit the spread of released oil, and impacts from a release on water quality would be limited.”

The SEIS also considered environmentalists’ concern that the Keystone pipeline, which would cause a loss of only two acres of permanent wetlands, would adversely affect endangered wildlife.  The report concluded that it would not.

“Of the federally listed, proposed, and candidate species, the endangered American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) is the only species  that is likely to be adversely affected by the proposed Project…but not likely to jeopardize [its] continued existence,” the report stated.

Nor would the Keystone project seriously impact the livelihoods of the 263,300 people living in the sparsely populated pipeline corridor.

“After construction, approximately 5,569 acres would be retained within permanent easements or acquired for operation of the proposed Project,” the SEIS added, but property owners would still be able to “farm or conduct other limited activities” within the pipeline’s 50-foot right of way.


Greens threaten that  base will sit out election over Keystone

Environmental groups are warning President Obama that his liberal base might stay home on Election Day if he approves the Keystone XL  oil pipeline.

Proponents of the $5.4 billion Canada-to-Texas pipeline say their case is buoyed by the State Department’s environmental analysis of the project, which was released to great fanfare last week.

But critics say approval of the project could sow liberal discontent and hurt Democratic chances in 2014 — including a host of contests that will likely decide who controls the Senate during the final years of the Obama White House.

“It is very likely that there will be negative consequences for Democrats if Keystone were approved,” said Kate Colarulli, the associate director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign. “This is a tremendous opportunity to protect the climate and build the Democratic base if Obama rejects Keystone XL.”

Green groups are promising acts of “civil disobedience,” if Obama signs off on the project and contend Keystone’s approval could torpedo the president’s broader climate change agenda.

The White House insists the electoral ramifications wouldn’t play a part in the president’s final call on the pipeline, which would carry crude from Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

“He’s been very clear that he’s going to insulate this process from politics,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

The issue, however, is irreversibly entangled in politics, with Republicans and some Democrats pressing for the pipeline’s approval and environmentalists waging war to stop it.

Jamie Henn of the green group called the dispute over Keystone “the most iconic fight of a generation” and said the youth vote, which played an important part in Obama’s rise, could hang in the balance.

“A Keystone XL approval will turn a lot of people off from the process, and they will get involved in action that could be disruptive,” Henn said.

More than 75,000 activists have threatened to engage in acts of civil disobedience if Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry gives Keystone XL the green light, Colarulli said.

Sign-carrying activists opposed to the pipeline have been a fixture at speeches and campaign events featuring the president. A dramatic increase in protests could muddle the party’s message, said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress.

“If he approves the pipeline, the number of people protesting Keystone outside the Beltway could increase by a hundredfold or more,” he said.

A final decision on the pipeline is likely months off. Now that the environmental analysis is finished, a 90-day interagency review weighing the national interest of the project begins. Simultaneously, the State Department will open up the public comment period for 30 days.

That means everything should wrap up by June — just as the election season reaches a fever pitch.

The Keystone issue is certain to play heavily in a host of contested Senate races, as Republicans attempt to wrest control of the chamber from Democrats.

And while a “yes” to the project by Obama would likely help vulnerable Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) in their reelection bids, it could hurt Democrats’ chances of holding onto the Senate and keeping seats in the House, activists say.

Democratic candidates running for Senate seats in red-leaning states West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota will have to woo Republican voters, and that means walking a fine line on the Keystone issue.

“They need votes on all sides of the issue,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.

At the same time, some candidates clearly view Keystone as an opportunity to draw a distinction between themselves and Obama in GOP country.

“There are more than a handful of Democrats running in red states looking to declare their independence from the president and the national Democratic Party,” Gonzales said.

The State Department’s environmental analysis highlights multiple factors at play that could influence agency heads and Kerry on whether the project serves the nation’s interests.

The report notes that a steep drop in oil prices and “long-term constraints on any new pipeline capacity,” which could result in higher transportation costs of the crude oil, could significantly affect oil sands production.

On the other hand, the report states Keystone XL would transport 830,000 barrels of oil each day, adding an extra 1.3 million to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year.

While the report doesn’t make the claim that Keystone would drastically “exacerbate emissions,” it does state the crude oil would make it to market either way, and as a result, Obama will have to determine if that oil will be burned even if he denies the project.

An Obama approval of the pipeline could undermine the president’s larger efforts to counter the effects of global warming through regulatory action, multiple observers said.

Some have suggested Obama announce he is approving the project in concert with other actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency  is due to propose new standards for existing plants in June, about the same time a decision on Keystone is expected.

That strategy could help blunt the political pain from approving the pipeline, but it would do little to build support for the EPA regulations among major industry and environmental players in Washington, Weiss said.

“Approval of the pipeline could distract some allies on climate pollution reductions without gaining the support from any of the opponents of the power plant rule,” he said.

Elijah Zarlin, a senior campaign manager with activist group CREDO, said Keystone has become a litmus test for Obama in the eyes of environmentalists.

Zarlin said rejecting Keystone is the best chance Obama has at succeeding with his climate regulations, including the proposed limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“The best chance of getting these regulations done is by energizing the base,” Zarlin said. “We have seen when the base is energized that it helps the president. But the question is:  Do we want it more than he does?”



All life on earth depends on CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. Its concentration is currently around 400 ppm (parts per million) or 0.04%. Life would cease to exist if the CO2 level were to drop to half of that.plant wilting At 200 ppm, the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere would be too small for most plants to take up the CO2 and convert it to plant matter.

But isn’t the government telling you that CO2 is just about the greatest villain of modern times?  Isn’t it true that CO2 is near the “tipping point” of causing runaway “climate change?”

Natural CO2

The earth has had CO2 in its atmosphere forever. In fact, many million years ago, its level was much higher; ten to 100 times higher than now. All that natural CO2 came from volcanoes and smaller volcanic vents all over the globe. Of course, nature has not stopped producing that, not at all. At any time, a couple of dozen volcanoes are really active somewhere around the world, but even when they are “dormant” many emit massive amounts of volcanic gases all the time. That’s where all the natural CO2 in our atmosphere has come from ever since the earth was created.

 Manmade CO2

Manmade CO2, in more scientific terms “anthropogenic” carbon dioxide is released by mankind’s burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. That CO2 is called “bad” for the environment. Barack Obama calls it “carbon pollution” and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thinks it needs to be controlled. The consequence is that many governments want to tax it, which makes it “good” for them.

CO2 is Vital to Life on Earth

Strictly from a chemical point of view, one CO2 molecule is the same as the next. There is no difference between manmade and natural CO2 molecules, none at all. The trees in the forests and the algae in the water use them all for the same purpose and in the same way to build up biomass—in plain English, to grow. The plants in the farmers’ fields rely on it as much as the fish feeding on the smaller prey in the water which feeds on algae. Take away that vital nutrient and the whole food chain is in peril; especially the top tier, that‘s us humans.

The Difference between Good and Bad CO2

The difference between manmade (“bad”) and natural (“good”) CO2 is not a chemical one. It only exists in the minds of politicians, bureaucrats and scientists who understand the principle of a dollar sign in front of a number.

Natural CO2 comes without any such sign and, therefore, is of no consequence. Obviously, that’s prevents it from being manipulated or taxed – a fact which makes it then “bad.”

In contrast, manmade CO2 is highly $$$-laden and therefore now “good.”  And that, dear readers, is the only difference between “good” and “bad” CO2!



Higher carbon dioxide levels are coming from undeveloped countries in equatorial Africa and South America not from UK, EU and US, shows Japanese government satellite data.  Japan abandons its CO2 targets as separate scientific evidence suggests Earth is fast approaching a new ice age.fig 1

Japanese climate satellite data supports climate realist Professor Murry Salby in rejecting global warming theory; humans are not responsible for measured increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) affirm evidence in Report from Japanese Aerospace exploration agency (JAXA).The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has revealed that its climate satellite IBUKI data shows that the growth in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is coming from third world under developed forested equatorial regions of Africa and South America.

The Japanese satellite maps show that the asphalt and concreted industrial nations are “mopping up” carbon dioxide faster than their manufacturers and consumers can emit it.  Astonishingly, this is the opposite to what is being relayed to the public from an unswerving alarmist climate media lobby.  The JAXA evidence shows that US and western european nations are areas where the carbon dioxide levels are lowest!

In personal communication with leading climate scientist, Richard Lindzen, emeritus professor of atmospheric physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he told this author that there was no surprise that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes mostly from high vegetation forested low industrial areas rather than developed countries like the US, UK and EU.

In the  IBUKI climate satellite map (fig 1 above) regions coloured red represent high emission CO2 emissions, regions coloured white represent low or neutral CO2 emissions while regions coloured green represent no CO2 emissions only CO2 absorption!

This is the opposite effect predicted by alarmist global warming theory. While the Japanese rely on verifiable physical evidence as observed by satellites the climate alarmists base their doomsayig claims on 'homogenized' (computer-manipulated) ground-based temperature recording stations.

Independent analysts say the data from ground-based recording stations has been deliberately altered to show an imaginary warming trend not borne out by the 'raw' (unadulterated) temperature reasdings. Moreover, the number of sites for such ground thermometers have been reduced from 6,000 to 1,500 over several years, with most of those in cooler regions now omitted. (For more on this see “While the Earth Endures”  by Rev Philip Foster St Matthew Publishing ).

The upshot of this systematic cherry-picking gives temperature data that is skewed towards painting a (false) picture of a rapidly warming climate. By contrast satellite data, by its very nature of coming from satellites, cannot be altered by human hands (see figure 2 [right] from Murry Salby lecture in House of Common, November 6, 2013).Salby data

In this satellite image the blue colour in the northern hemisphere represents low carbon dioxide emissions from the industrial nations of the US, UK and EU. The red colour in the southern hemisphere represents high carbon emissions from forested vegetation areas in equatorial regions. This is precisely the opposite of what an alarmist and quiescent mainstream media would have you believe.

For a detailed account of the lecture by Professor Salby see the Scottish climate and energy forum web site:

What an increasing number of independent experts are seeing is that earth is cooling, and many predict we are on the cusp of a new Little Ice Age, due to the decline of the bi-cenntenial component of the total solar irradiance.  Bern fig 3

Figure 4 (below)  shows the decline (credit: Dr H Abdussamatov Director of Space Physics at Polkovo Observatory St Petersburg). As such, there will be no further global warming this century!  

 Scientists accuse IPCC of fraud in use of Bern Climate Cycle formula

A formula used by the International Panel on Climate Change (see page 34, ARA4, WG1 Technical Summary) represents the decay of a pulse of CO2 with time t.  The first constant ao has a value of 0.217.  As this first term is constant the CO2 level will always go up and never down!

However as Dr Jonathan Drake,  noted UK climate researcher, and Mr D Alker of Principia Scientific International (PSI) pointed out at the Edinburgh meeting with Professor Murry Salby, all records of atmospheric CO2 concentrations past, proxy or present show that CO2 varies both up and down on any time scale relevant to climate. Thus, the formula used by the IPCC (right) allows them to claim wrongly that CO2 will always increase, a convenient ploy engineered since the inception of the modern era of climate change alarmism.ipcc formula

It has also pointed out by Mr Alker that because the models are only dependent upon CO2 to change temperature the ao term means that all the climate models of the IPCC can only produce warming! Essentially, this means that 21.7 percent of each year's human emissions of CO2, according to this rigged IPCC formula, NEVER leaves the atmosphere, thereby leading to an assumed accumulation of human-emitted atmopsheric CO2, entirely the product of statistical shennanigans.

Pollution of the atmosphere is already taken care of by the clean air acts in force now in most countries including the UK and the US. We may reasonably infer from the pronouncements of climate alarmists who vilify fossil fuels, that they wish to return mankind back to the days before the industrial revolution, when lifespans were half what they are today and when poverty and disease were widespread.

Regardless of such extreme ambitions today's CO2 levels stand at a miniscule 0.04 percent of the atmosphere.  The lowest it has ever been in geologic time and dangerously low for plant life.  In fact many species of plants are dying due to the low CO2 levels - and if they die we die!

In short, the earth needs more CO2, not less. The present rise over the last couple of centuries is trivial compared with previous ages and most likely due to the earth coming out of the Little Ice Age (LIA) when records show frost fairs were extremely common and ice skaters frolicked on the frozen River Thames. The LIA ended in 1850.

Independent scientists who study climate say that present climate change is almost all caused by a combination of temperature induced and moisture induced natural releases from vegetation areas in equatorial regions of the earth, and also from deep ocean warming during the Medieval Warm Period; it takes several hundred years for oceans to  respond by outgassing CO2.

However with the sun now changing due to its declining total solar irradiance and with the present static global temperature for the past 18 years, it is clear the new Little Ice Age could be here already (see Fig 4, right).  An entirely natural phenomena nothing to do with humans.

SOURCE  (See the original for graphics)

Australia:  Conservative State government to mothball gas-fired power station

Amid Greenie heartburn

The low-emission, gas-fired Swanbank E power station west of Brisbane will close for three years because it has become more lucrative to sell the gas than to burn it and sell electricity.

The station’s owner, [Qld.] state government-owned Stanwell Power Corporation, will instead re-start the coal-fired Tarong power station to meet electricity demands.

It is cheaper to produce electricity from coal than from gas, however coal produces almost twice the greenhouse emissions of gas.

Stanwell says that will mean 25 jobs will go from Swanbank E, while the Electrical Trades Union’s Peter Simpson argues 33 of the 40 staff at Swanbank E will lose their jobs.

The jobs will not be recovered at Tarong, which lost 130 jobs when their two coal-fired units were closed down in late 2012.

Stanwell is the largest electricity generator in the state, providing 45 per cent of Queensland’s electricity.

Swanbank E near Ipswich - described as one of the most efficient and advanced gas-fired power stations in Austalia - will be closed for three years from October 1.

Staff will be offered voluntary redundancies or positions at one of Stanwell’s 10 power plants.

Swanbank E produces 385 megawatts of electricity from gas from Roma.

The plant produces 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than an average coal-fired plant and uses only one quarter of the water, its website says.

Instead, Stanwell will bring back the coal-fired units at Tarong over two years, which together produce 350 megawatts of electricity.

Stanwell will bring back Tarong’s unit 4 power plant ‘‘later in 2014’’ and its unit 2 power plant in mid-2015, Stanwell Corporation chief executive Richard Van Breda said.

‘‘The exact timing for the return to service of both units depends on market conditions and portfolio requirements, which Stanwell will continue to review,’’ Mr Van Breda said.

Queensland has a massive oversupply of electricity generation capacity.

At 4pm on Wednesday, the demand for electricity in Queensland was 3055 megawatts.

Queensland’s electricity generation capacity is around 14,000 megawatts, although it varies with weather conditions.

As one example, on the very hot January 4th 2014, the capacity was 8280 megawatts.

A Stanwell spokesman said their decision was all about revenue.

‘‘We can generate more revenue by selling the gas than we can if we were to take the gas and burn it for electricity generation,’’ the spokesman said.

Stanwell bought gas entitlements into the future from the major gas companies for Swanbank E power station for three years.

‘‘If we were to take that gas, then burn it for electricity - in the current market where we have a huge oversupply in Queensland at the moment - well we’d make more just selling the gas.’’

Stanwell, despite being a government-owned utility, operates under an independent board.

The Queensland Government is considering selling Stanwell after the next election.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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