Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 5, 2013

There have been plenty of Teapublicans assuming their natural naysaying negative posture who have been claiming that sequestration hasn’t been “that bad”. Of course if they left their right wing fantasy world for a few moments a dose of reality would lead them to a very different conclusion. Meanwhile the implosion of the presidency in Egypt and the continued carnage in Syria has heightened calls for President Obama to “do something”. Fortunately President Obama knows the cost of “something”. And finally, within days of the Supreme Court’s damnable Voting Rights Act decision there was great haste to drive an electoral wedge into this country’s racial divide.

Sequestration Secret?

The July 5, 2013 editorial of the New York Daily News mocks President Obama’s earlier claims that sequestration would have a calamitous effect on the American people. It seems that since this country has not ground to a halt there is proof in the wisdom of sequestration.

The only problem with the News editorial board and its fellow travelers is that they are not telling the truth. In point of fact the entire federal government has been shifting monies to keep various programs functional. But national parks are closing or operating on reduced hours. Children are already being denied spaces in Head Start programs that will begin in September. And we should never forget the shameful delays in treatment and services that are being suffered by veterans every day.

The spectacular air traffic delays occasioned by sequestration were addressed by Congress because members of Congress felt the pain. But the News editors and members of Congress don’t feel the pain of federal furloughs and the consequent impact on small businesses in the communities where the furloughed workers live.

It seems like some people are living in a dream land that is a nightmare for everyone else.

Middle East Mystery?

The implosion Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s government has led to predictable questions about the future of Egypt and its impact on a Middle East region that is already in turmoil. Civilian slaughter continues in Syria, Iraq wobbles on the brink of chaos and Iran and Israel continue their Texas Death Match choreography.

Some observers of this ball of confusion are calling for President Obama to “do something”. Thankfully, up to this point President Obama has been very restrained in crafting this country’s response perhaps keeping in mind that when the United States has done “something” in the Middle East the results have not been salutary.

The United States did “something” in Iran in 1953 overthrowing a democratically elected president and that “something” has engendered ill will in that country and throughout the region for over half a century. This country did “something” in Iraq in 2003 and pushed that country in a maelstrom of blood and destruction while sacrificing the blood and treasure of this country needlessly.

And it should be noted that if this country does “something” else in the Middle East there is a good chance that the consequences will be felt not only in that region but here in the United States as well.

SCOTUS Fallout

The ink was barely dry on damnationworthy the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act before scores of state and county governments issued various  proposals that would have the effect of suppressing voter participation, especially among minorities. This could not have been a surprise to anyone with a pulse.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had already termed the VRA an instrument of “racial entitlement”. And while the SCOTUS majority contended that there was no longer a need for the protections afforded by the VRA they made this contention with the full knowledge of the voter suppression tactics employed in the 2012 presidential election.

The shame of the SCOTUS VRA decision is extravagant in that it not only condones racist practices, it actually encourages them.

And the worst is yet to come.

Have a great weekend and stay strong!

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Point of View Columns

The Answer is No

At the end of last week President Obama announced that all American military personnel will leave Iraq by the end of this year. This news was greeted with expressions of relief and thanksgiving by most Americans, particularly members of the military and their families.

The war in Iraq has lasted nine years and was started under false pretenses (remember the nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction?) and blanketed with a web of lies (remember the fake relationship between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists?). This godforsaken and misbegotten military adventure by George Bush, Dick Cheney and their neo-con enablers consumed close to a trillion dollars, over 4000 American lives and damaged/wounded/injured over 30,000 men and women. Untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives and their country will be recovering from the catastrophe of the war for decades.

In the “Weekend Edition” of Point of View I predicted that Republicans would immediately criticize and attack President Obama’s decision on finally ending the war on Iraq. The fact that he is following through on an exit plan that was put in place by George Bush is beside the point. The G.O.Tea Party is against anything done by anyone named Obama. Period.

This tactic of political nihilism has been consistent and degrades any sense of true discourse or exchange of rational ideas in this country. When Osama bin Laden was killed on the direct orders of President Obama, the eternally discredited Dick Cheney and the perpetually mistaken Condoleezza Rice proclaimed this executive action to be the direct result of the policies of the Bush Administration even though President Bush failed to pull the trigger when bin Laden could have been killed in Afghanistan in late 2001 and essentially gave up on capturing him for the balance of his administration.

The truly historic Arab Spring which has continued through the summer and fall neither was nor orchestrated by President Obama but his responses have turned out to be pitch perfect. Most analysts give the reason for the seismic changes in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Syria as being the result of indigenous movement and it was clearly important for the United States to be supportive but not to the extent that the Arab Spring ended up with a “Made In USA” label. The Obama Administration has been able to manage that balancing act to date.

Predictably, such noted foreign policy experts as Mitt Romney, John McCain and Michele Bachmann had been demanding direct U.S. intervention since early this year. It is now clear that such a policy would have been a blood-soaked mistake that could have made the Iraq misadventure look like a weekend excursion. Yet the G.O.Tea Party shamelessly peddles its message of ‘No” as if a negative is an answer to the problems of this country.

It is clear that the basic plank in the G.O.Tea Party political platform will be to remove Barack Obama as President of the United States. There are no unifying principles, there are no enlightening visions and certainly there is no decipherable philosophy. Their strategy is “drill, baby drill”. Drill into the American public and exploit the reservoirs of irrational hate and mindless distrust that have characterized too much of the opposition to President Obama.

It is that strategy which empowers the criticism of the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq even when it is accomplished pursuant to the timetable and plan of George Bush. It makes it possible for the Republicans to ignore the relief experienced by the millions of men and women who have served in the military and their families – men and women who have been asked to die and suffer grievously fighting a war that never needed to be fought.

It is also the strategy of “No” and eternal negativity which permits a “serious” candidate like Rodeo Rick Perry to state this week that there has been no definitive resolution regarding the birthplace of President Obama. As a presidential candidate Governor Perry is free to criticize the policies and actions of the Obama Administration, although it would be helpful if he would share an original and intelligent thought or two with the public.

For Rodeo Rick Perry to drill down to the well of (very) thinly-disguised racism in questioning whether Barack Obama is a “real American” is despicable and symbolizes everything that is wrong about the campaign(s) against the president. It degrades the entire political process and makes it almost impossible for any rational exchange to take place regarding the serious issues of the day.

Clearly the G.O.Tea Party is against anything done by anyone named Obama. The fact that it may be something desired by Americans or good for this country is irrelevant on the Planet Tea Party. When it comes to Barack Obama the answer is “No”.

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Point of View Columns

Beware of the Slippery Slope

President Obama was absolutely correct in resisting being hurried into committing American military forces to what is rapidly becoming a cauldron of combat and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

I am hoping that he is in some way correct in ordering U.S. forces to bomb and strafe Libya as part of a coalition of countries that was formed to protect the insurgents who are battling Muammar Gaddafi.
Military geniuses like Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman flailed away at President Obama for “standing by” while Gaddafi “attacked his own people”. Senator John Kerry and others implored him to “do something”. And now he has done something.

American missiles and bombers are now raining death and destruction upon the forces of Colonel Gaddafi. And there have been “unavoidable civilian casualties”. We are told to blame Gaddafi for interspersing his military assets in civilian areas but you can be certain that many people will see Americans killing Muslim men, women and children in Libya, just as this country has done in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen have acknowledged that regime change is not the goal of this mission. We are asked to see the natural justice in protecting the Libyan insurgents in Benghazi and Misrata who Gaddafi had virtually promised to massacre. And there is no doubt that preventing slaughter is a noble cause. But where does it stop?

As this column is being written over fifty people, killed over the weekend by Yemeni government troops, are being buried. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the bloody crackdown against “his own people”. His people were, it should be noted, demanding his ouster.

It gets even more complicated, of course. President Saleh has been supported by the United States and Yemen is a strategically positioned country. Is it time to unleash some more Tomahawk and Cruise missiles on Yemen to prevent fratricide from becoming genocide?

In Damascus, Syria, President Bashar Assad ordered his police to fire on thousands of “his own people” who were protesting the multiple decades of rule by the Assad family. Several Syrians have already died and it would seem to be virtually guaranteed that there will be more bloodshed unless President Assad decides to leave for Geneva to audit his Swiss bank accounts.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain ordered his troops to fire on “his own people”, wounding and killing scores of protestors. While much is murky, it is very clear that this story is far from over and much more blood will be spilled in the very near future in Bahrain.

If the standard for American military intervention is going to involve preventing governments from punishing and killing its own people we are moving towards a very slippery slope from which there is no turning back.

In addition to Yemen and Syria, which are very much in the news, there are indigenous government forces abusing and torturing and killing citizens in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. The military rulers of Myanmar are infamous for their cruelty and violence in maintaining their power and the list goes on.

The United States simply cannot be the policeman for the planet. Aside from the questionable commitment of the lives of men and women of the U.S. military one has to wonder about the long term impact of these incursions, even in the name of truth, justice and the American way.

As in Egypt and Tunisia, no one knows the philosophy, ideology or allegiance of the insurgents in Libya. We certainly don’t know what the insurgents and protestors in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria are looking for in the future. We simply don’t know if we are trading the devil we know for the demon that we will come to fear. And all the while we are creating recruitment photo ops and propaganda videos for Al Qaeda and other real enemies of this country.

The lessons of Vietnam, if they are not remembered, will be relearned at a terrible cost. Many should remember that, from the American perspective, the Vietnam War began with a few troops with the limited mission of providing training and technical assistance to the South Vietnamese so that they could fight the communists. Then it was necessary to protect the trainers. And then those troops started getting killed and there was a need for more troops. And then Vietnam became a charnel house for American troops and the Vietnamese people.

We are all familiar with the George Santayana quote, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Perhaps we should recall another of his less famous quotes, “Habit is stronger than reason”.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 18, 2011

The weekend begins with breaking news as Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to Haiti less than 48 hours before the election, accompanied by……Danny Glover (and what could Mr. Glover be thinking?). Meanwhile the critics of President Obama continue to unite over anything and everything that he might do. And what on earth could be the reason for hurling insults at Japan as it endures the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster?

Finally, you are invited to visit the “Be My Guest” feature of Point of View to read a column by Professor Pamela Newkirk regarding her absolutely fascinating book “Between the Lines – The Power of African American Letters”. You will be doing yourself a great favor by taking the time to read it.

Really Danny Glover? Really?

The tragic aspects of Haitian history are well known. Haiti’s recent history has been marked by challenges of almost biblical proportions.

It is a testament to the good will of many Haitians, both in Haiti and in the diaspora, that elections will be held on March 20th that hold the promise of being free and fair. The presidential candidates, Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, have engaged in a vigorous contest right until the final day.

As the fragile tendrils of democracy and transparency try to take root in Haiti, it is incomprehensible that Danny Glover, the famous actor, activist and humanitarian, would take it upon himself to escort former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristede back to Port Au Prince today.

Both presidential candidates and President Obama have asked that Mr. Aristede delay his return until after the election for concern that his presence at this point could destabilize a very fragile democratic process.

Since Mr. Aristede has not participated in any part of the elections and is not supporting either candidate, there would seem to be reason enough for him to agree to wait in South Africa where he has lived in luxury for the past six years (the source of that luxury is another story for another time).

Instead, Danny Glover has seen fit to bring a torch to gasoline refinery. Given the tragedy and pain and suffering that the Haitian people have suffered historically and recently, it is just wrong for Mr. Glover to participate in this potentially destabilizing event. His prior relief work and support of reconstruction is laudable and it makes his current actions baffling.

If Mr. Aristede wishes to distract and disturb the electoral process he must ultimately answer to the Haitian people for any disruption that takes place on March 20th. But to whom will Mr. Glover answer as he jets back to the United States, not having to live with the consequences of his high profile escort of Mr. Aristede?

Hopefully the elections will be fair and free of the intervention of negative forces. But there is simply no reason to increase the degree of difficulty at this point in the history of Haiti.

Critics of Obama Unite!

Since he was inaugurated, President Obama has had to accept the reality that, for some people, whatever he chose to do would be considered wrong.

The latest example of this is related to the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. As encrusted oligarchies in Tunisia and Egypt tumbled President Obama was critiqued for the timing of his support for agents of change in these countries even though his measured support resulted in the desired regime change and accompanying good will throughout the region.

Libya has proven to be a very different situation as the entrenched dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has shown no inclination to leave and seems to be prepared to immolate his entire country.

In the face of this mindless strategy critics of the president have contended that he should show more “leadership” by establishing a “no-fly zone” and even providing supplies and troops to support the Libyan insurgents.

The commitment of troops and treasure cannot be the first response of this country as there are too many places on this earth with the same fact pattern – right now that would include Cote d’Ivoire, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. Would these critics – most recently David Gergen and Senator Lindsay Graham, among others – have President Obama send troops and jets and materiel all over the world to fight injustice and tyranny everywhere at the same time like some latter day Superman?

Fortunately the United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for a joint military effort in Libya and the wisdom of measured response has been demonstrated once more.

Mr. Gergen and Senator Graham seem to actually believe in Superman. Thankfully President Obama does not.

Insult to Injury

Since the triple tragedy in Japan the global response has been compassionate and tangible. Assistance has flowed to this island nation from all over the world.

But some knuckleheads are determined to show their stupidity by opening their raincoats of fame and flashing their miniscule intellects. Several celebrities including the noted blowhard Rush Limbaugh and the famous philosopher Fifty Cent have been quoted as stating that the people of Japan deserved the tragedies that they are suffering.

Some mish-mosh thought process linking Pearl Harbor to economic success to advocating environmental protection has resulted in this awful stew of hate and misinformation.

Of course Rush and Fitty just don’t care. But the rest of us should.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 25, 2011

This week Motown came to the White House and from all appearances, everyone had a great time – President Obama had a chance to dance with someone other than the Republicans. Meanwhile rumors persist that Donald Trump might be a presidential candidate. Also, how long will Barack Obama continue to ignore Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on his wife. And finally, how long before the freedom movement moves from North Africa to the rest of Africa?

Obama vs. Trump in 2012?

In a recent hypothetical poll Donald Trump and Barack Obama were in a statistical dead heat in a 2012 run for the presidency. I don’t know who was polled but I do know that more people voted in the last “American Idol” competition than in the last presidential election. Therefore there is a strong likelihood that Trump’s self-proclaimed star power propelled him to these Olympian polling heights.

I also think that President Obama and his advisors are crossing their fingers and lighting votive candles all over the place hoping that The Donald and his hair would somehow be the Republican nominee next year. Just his presence in the Republican primaries would roil the right wing waters all over the place.

While it is true that sometime the American public confuses celebrity with competence the presidency is not another reality show. It makes all the sense in the world to take Donald Trump seriously as an entrepreneur and promoter. It makes no sense to take him seriously as a presidential candidate.

The real question – could Barack Obama be so lucky?

Obama vs. Limbaugh?

Barack Obama is famously know for being cool, unflappable and restrained. Nowhere has this restraint been more evident than in his non-response to the ever infamous Rush Limbaugh. This is the same Rush Limbaugh who stated publicly that he wanted Barack Obama to “fail” as President of the United States.

In his latest foray into swamp talk Limbaugh referred to Michelle Obama as a hypocrite for urging Americans to have healthier eating habits while she herself occasionally dines on something less healthy than tofu.

Limbaugh, the overweight, cigar chomping, recovering addict, also proceeded to opine on the attractiveness of the First Lady of the United States. In his view Michelle Obama wouldn’t qualify as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and Alex Rodriguez would never ask her for a date.

Perhaps it’s best that Limbaugh chose to pick on the wife of a man who is restrained, calm and cool. By now any number of men would be knocking on Rush’s front door before kicking him in the rear.

African Freedom?

Since the insurrection in Tunisia, followed by the revolts in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, there have been constant news reports and analyses regarding “change that is sweeping through the Arab world”.

A look at the map will reveal that all of the aforementioned countries are in Africa and that the “change” taking place involves the replacement of sclerotic regimes that have been around for too long.

Africa is a big place, however, and we should also note that there are a number of other African countries with regimes that have been around too long to the detriment of their people.

Consider – Teodoro Obiang – Equatorial Guinea – 32 years, Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe – 24 years, Yoweri Museveni – 25 years, the Bongo family – Gabon – 43 years.

Do not be surprised if the “change” sweeping its way across North Africa turns south sooner than later.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 18, 2011

The first tendrils of Spring appear in seeming defiance of Winter’s presence. The Arab world is simmering and no one knows what broth will ensue. U.S. states are returning billions of dollars to the federal government as their citizens search for jobs. And Donald Trump continues to act as if he was a direct descendant of Barnum.

The Missing Safety Valve

In all of the discussion and controversy concerning the political turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East there has been no shortage of theories and pronouncements as to what caused this frenzy of political awakenings. The internet and Facebook are given as major enablers of the ongoing rebellions and revolutions. The not so glowing example of democracy at work in Iraq is rarely cited.

But we should certainly consider the fact that over the past decade the United States and most countries in Europe have imposed more restrictions on immigration either through legislation or administrative practice. These restrictions have given special attention to those seeking to leave North Africa and the Middle East. Could there be a connection here?

After all, in the past educated and ambitious and eclectic men and women from places like Tunisia and Algeria and Egypt could emigrate to someplace and pursue their hopes and dreams.
Whatever their motives, many of them shared a common dissatisfaction with the status quo and the marble ceiling that was constructed over their ambitions.

Since 9/11, most of these “dissenters” do not have the option of moving to America or Europe. But their dissatisfaction with the status quo has not abated. The result has been the turmoil that we see every day and we will, in all likelihood, continue to see the drive for change.

It may turn out that Europe and America were the safety valves for the oligarchs and monarchs in the Middle East and North Africa. And it would appear that the safety valves just aren’t there anymore.

A Constant Struggle to Stay Behind

On November 2, 2010, the voters in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida elected Republican governors who ran on very conservative platforms. These men all claimed that the root cause of many of the problems of the citizens of their respective states was the federal government.

Since their election, all three of these governors have rejected and returned billions of federal dollars that were intended to finance high speed rail systems. These dollars were also intended to provide jobs and income for men and women in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida.

That would be Ohio with a 9% unemployment rate, Wisconsin with a 7% unemployment rate and Florida with an 11.6% unemployment rate.

The rail infrastructure of this country is woefully behind that of most of the developed world (including China) and it needs to be improved everywhere and now. The men and women seeking work, any kind of work, in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida most certainly would welcome federal government “interference” that came in the form of a paycheck.

When ideology overcomes common sense, the outcome is almost always a poor one.

Donald Trump for Pope?

Two weeks ago Donald Trump announced that he was “seriously considering” running against Barack Obama in 2012. He clearly assumes that his serial corporate bankruptcies and thousands of stranded bondholders will somehow disappear from the national memory banks by November of 2012.

Last week Mr. Trump announced that he was “seriously considering” purchasing a controlling interest in the New York Mets. Presumably he doesn’t think that Mets fans have suffered enough.

Who know what’s next? But Pope Benedict should watch his back!

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 11, 2011

Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt a few moments before this column was written and the beat goes on. Ruling elites in the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa are watching with great interest. Meanwhile, here in the United States:

The Luck of the Kenyans?

“The Luck of the Irish” is a well-known phrase, but who knew about “the luck of the Kenyans”? It is rare that the word “luck” and “Barack Obama” have been linked in considering the first two years of his presidency.

The near collapse of the American economic system approached a cataclysmic meltdown in this country. More than 8 million people lost their jobs during these first two years of the Obama Administration and unemployment rates continue to hover above 9%.

President Obama has had to manage near biblical disasters like the BP oil spill and he has the daily challenge of avoiding the Vietnam-like replay that haunts this country’s every moment in Afghanistan. And all the while the economy is making a seemingly grudging recovery that is virtually imperceptible to too many Americans.

And yet, when one considers the leading potential Republican candidates it is hard to believe President Obama’s apparent good fortune. Consider the field:

-Mike Huckabee – The former governor of Arkansas and a failed candidate in the 2008 primaries, Mr. Huckabee fervently believes that two people named Adam and Eve walked with the dinosaurs and wants this belief to be taught to American schoolchildren as scientific fact.

-Mitt Romney – The former governor of Massachusetts and a failed candidate in the 2008 primaries has tried mightily to convince the public that the universal healthcare plan that he instituted in Massachusetts is not the healthcare plan supported by President Obama – except that it is. The fact that he is a Mormon guarantees that the notorious religious intolerance of the right wing of the right wing of the Party of No will rain down on his head if he gets anywhere near the nomination.

-Michelle Bachmann – The doyenne of the Tea Party movement, Ms. Bachmann comes across as a zanily miscast cheerleader with a script that is devoid of facts or logic. Her singular contribution to recent political discourse was to characterize President Obama as a “socialist”. She has also been known to make stupid people look smart.

-Haley Barbour – The current governor of Mississippi as a presidential candidate would have to explain how his state manages to rank last or near last in almost every indicia of quality of life for its citizens including literacy and health care. His rose-colored recollections of the bloody days and murderous nights in Mississippi are bound to offend African Americans and anyone with a decent knowledge of history.

-Newt Gingrich – The former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Gingrich is noted for having been complicit in the closing of the federal government not once, but twice. He also distinguished himself as a great humanitarian by serving divorce papers upon his wife as she awakened from breast cancer surgery.

-Donald Trump – Really? Several corporate bankruptcies and thousands of disgruntled bondholders might prove to be awkward for The Donald to explain. No need to mention his hair.

Congressman Ron Paul wants to do away with Social Security, Medicare and distribute six-guns to children (the last item is a joke…I think). The former governor of Alaska is virtually irrelevant to this discussion and is still struggling to get both of her Pradas out of her mouth since the Tucson Massacre. And then there is a larger cast of unknown wannabees.

And that’s pretty much the field. One has to believe that given a choice between Barack Obama and any of these Republicans yearning to “take back America” the American electorate will go with the incumbent.

It’s a long way to November 6, 2012. But given the challenges that he faces, Barack Obama is a very lucky president to have this class of potential opponents. Maybe there is something to the “Luck of the Kenyans”.

Blind Justice

Justice is supposed to be blind. Justice is not supposed to be deaf and dumb. Consider the recent case of Ms. Kelly Williams-Bolar in Ohio who was imprisoned for placing her son in a school district in which she did not reside. Not surprisingly her motive was to provide an opportunity for her son to get a better education.

We don’t have the space to consider all of the factual and legal issues but given what we know imprisonment seems an outrageous and cruel response. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime, if there was a crime.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan continues to sashay down the boulevard wearing an allegedly stolen necklace and all anyone wants to know is who designed the dress that she wore to court. Go figure.

Have a great weekend!

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