31 July 2008

And working hard for every penny of it!

Exxon-Mobil. Top of the heap.

But I am sure they want to thank all the little people out there who helped make their success possible.

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Great new hat style

Though always partial to great big furry Russian hats ever since Mother bought me, my older brother Jesse, my younger brother Jesse, and my other brother Jesse bright red ones for the Northern Virginia winter (back when Northern Virginia HAD winters), I have to admit that I am quite taken by this one.

But that just may be because it reminds me of my little gray kitty Mosby.

but I would dearly love to sample whatever it is in that red jar that the hat wearer must have been sampling. No word yet whether she is a Repub or a Demo so I can't link it to the last post.

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Rebublican hotties hotter than Democracts!!

In an effort to give the Repubs equal time I want to point out the reaction on Matt Yglesias'* blog regarding The Hill newspaper's 50 most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill list. Apparently the list, as well as snarky reactions to it, is a DC rite of summer. Here's the reason for this post, a comment by Keith one of the readers:
Is it me or are the Republican women WAY hotter (relatively speaking) than the Democrats?

Whining liberal elitists immediately wrote in attacking poor Keith in the vilest way for speaking truth to power.

See? I can too give Republicans credit when they do something right.

Though of course there are those Repub men - check out Vito Fossella (R-NY)

*Yglesias is the son of an author from Ybor City whom my father once knew. Carmen pointed that out to me.


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Research - a modest proposal

One of the contributors to National Review Online, George Leef, has a comment on the teaching v. research question that continually roils the upper reaches of our education system. It is a topic of some interest to my own department even as I type (when actually I should be doing some research).
In my view, for every published book or article that really makes a worthwhile contribution to knowledge in a field, there are dozens that make no contribution and wouldn't be written if it weren't for the obligation to get things in print. In a more sensible world, professors would be paid to teach and research work would mainly be done on a contract basis with those who want to fund it. [my emphasis]

Well, time is money and tempus fugit and all that.


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30 July 2008

Corruption in Congress! I am shocked. Shocked.

Republican senator Ted Stevens has been indicted on seven counts of corruption. The Wall Street Journal pretty much lays it on the line for the GOP here.

This post could, of course, be seen as another snarky commentary on how far the Repubs have fallen, but you can also read it more broadly: what has happened to our political class? Are they all like this? Most seem to be to some extent simply because of the fiscal requirements for getting elected, and re-elected.

But that is not the real point of this post. The article has taught me a new term, right there in the last sentence:
Some political hygiene would seem to be in order.

Politcal hygiene. What a great term. What a concept. The Balls Bluff Campaign for Political Hygiene.

I love new terms.

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29 July 2008

Iraq returns to normal!

Well, depending on what you mean by 'normal.'

This morning since I rode the bus early up the mountain to Boone I was only half-awake. I staggered to my favorite place to tank up on coffee - the Boone Baglery. Picked up the copy of USA Today laying on the bench - it's not like I'm actually going to pay for the darn thing. There, on the inside page was the following headline to a story:
July troop deaths in Iraq may be lowest of war. Top general: Violence near 'normal' levels.

Right below this story was the headline for the next story:
Suicide bombers kill more than 50. Al-Qaeda in Iraq 'is not defeated,' U.S. colonel says.

Glad the Surge has brought some clarity to the problem.

for how I spent my evening in Boone, go here and here.


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A Specter is haunting Washington DC

That specter is premature memory loss (and I'm not talking about Novak here). It's a terrible thing to see promising careers of Bushies blasted by the wasting of memory cells. Some people, like the head of the EPA have days where they can't remember anything.

And then there is the sad case of White House liaison Jan Williams .

See? I have begun to suspect that the
Internet (and Bill Gates just for good measure) really IS evil.


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Faces in time

This morning when I came into the office I picked up a copy of Watchmen by Alan Moore, loaned to me, no, forced upon me, by the department lunatic with whom I have altogether too much in common. One of which is a love of comics, and Watchmen is one of the best, illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Not quite ready to get back to the Order of the Templars article I am finishing up ONE MORE TIME* I opened it and my eyes fell upon a paragraph that struck a chord.
Moe Vernon was a man around fifty-five or so, and he had one of those old New York faces that you don't see anymore. It's funny, but certain faces seem to go in and out of style. You look at old photographs and everybody has a certain look to them, almost as if they're related. Look at the pictures from ten years later and you can see that there's a new kind of face starting to predominate, and that the old faces are fading away and vanishing, never to be seen again.

True, with one exception: every time I look at old photos of Civil War soldiers I see relatives of mine. Perhaps we got stuck in the 1860s somehow.

It would explain a lot.

*it came back to me a few months ago for some updates on bibliography. Me being me, I did some more research and started rewriting one important part.

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28 July 2008

I take it back Bob ...

... you may remember that recently that I was making some snarky comments about Bob Novak's obvious (I thought) stupidity and dishonesty about hitting a pedestrian. It may in fact been the result of a truly unfortunate medical condition, as this post from TPM explains:
Bob Novak has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and is now in a Boston hospital awaiting further tests. According to late reports, doctors have not yet determined whether the tumor is malignant, but a biopsy is planned for later today. We wish him the very best.

So his personal responsibility may be greatly diminished. Don't know yet, but what will we do without Novak to react against? Not to mention his always interesting scoops from conservative sources no one else has.

Sorry Bob. May you be back to annoy the hell out of me soon.

though I will maintain the snark against compassionate conservatism in general.



Why are you a Republican?

Good question. Unless you hear it from the person interviewing you for a career service job at the Dept of Justice. Say, someone like Monica Goodling ( I wonder if she used that little girl voice she used when testifying before Congress?).

Alas, she was breaking the law we now discover.

and this was in an investigation run by the Bush DOJ! What happens next year?


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That Mental Recession

All the economic fundamentals are sound, we hear. I am not an economist and I wouldn't attempt to figure this out on my own. I am doing ok, but that is mainly because I don't have children (for a different view, from someone who most definitely has children, this).*

Here, however, are some facts from TPM that I see no reason to question yet.
After adjusting for inflation, median household income has declined by $1175 since 2000. At the same time, the real cost of basic necessities rose, with the average family spending $4655 more on gas, mortgages, food, health insurance, and appliances. Families with children have faced even greater increases, with annual child care costs up by $1508 and average net state college tuitions up by $1050.

This leads into an anti-tax cut rant which you can read or not. But I do love discrete facts, especially when they have numbers. Makes it look real.

*and Carmen does her share of bringing home the bacon as a retired federal worker with a part time job.

You Get What You Pay For ... in politics at least

This little story from the Washington Post is almost too funny for words. So no commentary.

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Ode to the Mazda

Which is not a weird little car. In fact our reader Jack commented recently on one:
And if you need to seat more than four people, a Mazda5 gets excellent gas mileage while seating 6. I speak from experience, having made more than 30mpg on my recent cross-southeast trip.

I can also speak with some experience about the Mazda. My first brand new-off-the-lot car was a 1972 Opel 1900. Bought it for about $2200. I liked it, but there is no doubt that we have much better choices in the small car range today.

And the Mazda brand is one of the best. My second brand new car was a 1989 Mercury Tracer (for $6700). Essentially it was a rebadged Mazda built in Mexico. I thought it was beautiful and it consistently got more than 35 mpg (no AC or automatic). My third brand new car was a 1995 Ford Escort - also a rebadged Mazda. Don't remember how much I paid, or where it was built. Compared to the little cars I had been driving, including one terminally weird French Simca*, the Escort seemed like a big sedan. It even had AC but otherwise was equipped with no other option other than cruise control. At the time I was naive enough to think I didn't need it. It had 98 hp, usually got 35 mpg and could haul itself up the mountain just fine.

The last time I bought a car I almost got a Mazda like the one my sister-in-law drives. But, after having had two of them I thought I should try something different so I got a Subaru. Except for the all-wheel drive which can come in handy up here in the high country, the Mazda is a better car. And all Mazdas are fun to drive.

Build quality is a bit worse than Toyota, a bit better than Nissan. The old Ford Festiva was a Korean built (Kia) Mazda design, sold as a Ford here, and as a Mazda in Europe. It was exactly the kind of car the Yaris is trying to be. I have a lot of respect for Mazda.

*with a dashboard of model airplane gray plastic, it had the most comfortable seats of any car I've ever owned. Plus a locking gas cap.


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Obama and those wounded vets

The newest attack on Obama is the slander that he won't visit wounded vets when cameras aren't around. Actually, he won't visit them when the Pentagon puts restrictions on his visit at the last minute that he couldn't meet. But then.

btw, did anyone else think it was a little lame that the McCain ad selling this line used a picture of Obama playing basketball ... with the troops? Just curious.


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25 July 2008

Automotive Artifact from the Past

I have often mentioned my fondness for weird little cars. As a sign of that, I was reading an old Edmund's review of the 2001 Toyota Echo. They really hated the car. It was too expensive, too weird, too... well, they just hated it. But the Echo remained pretty much unchanged until 2005 when Toyota retired the little beastie and used it innards for the Scion and the Yaris.

Here is what I find fascinating as an historian: Edmund's final sneering put-down.

In European and Japanese city centers, where the Echo is called the Vitz and is purchased by people with fewer and more expensive parking spaces to utilize than dwellers of Manhattan, this car makes perfect sense, particularly when overseas fuel prices are factored into the equation. It is a wonderful little low-speed, high-mileage, no-fuss urban commuter. But in America, where it takes three or four full days of high-speed motoring on some of the cheapest gas in the world to get from one side of the country to the other, Echo is ill-suited to the driving most of the people do most of the time.

Notice how the high mpg is of no interest to a REAL American. And most of us are going to drive across country? Maybe, but most of us, really, spend most of our time driving less than 35 miles round trip, usually on our daily commute and our trips to Wal-Mart.

BTW, the EPA mileage they are so smarmy about was 34/41. How much would you like one now that gas is $4? For a slightly more appreciative review, read this.

so here's my plan. Buy a low mileage base version of the 2005 model, the one with standard transmission and no AC. Then cut the back seats out, and anything else that isn't absolutely necessary. Ought to get almost 45 plus mpg.

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24 July 2008

Compassionate Conservitism

The self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness", Robert Novak is in the news again. Seems he ran over a pedestrian in Washington, DC. Here's some info on the accident from Josh Marshall's TPM site:

But ... according to the bicyclist who eventually got Novak to stop, David Bono, Novak hit the guy, a 66 year old man walking in cross walk with a walk signal. He told The Politico "a black Corvette convertible with top closed plows into the guy. The guy is sort of splayed into the windshield."

Keep in mind that Novak claims he didn't realize he had hit the guy.

"There was a pedestrian splayed on his windshield -- I don't think there is anyway you can miss that," Bono said.

Also, the poor guy was hurt worse than the original news report had it.

I know what schadenfreude means, but is there a pithy word or phrase for an event that confirms your most bigoted, stereotyped assumptions?

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23 July 2008

I've always liked H. L. Mencken

At least in small doses. Too much of him is like a bit too much vinegar in your salad dressing. But here is a quote of his posted at Andrew Sullivan's site by Patrick Appel.

Despite the common delusion to the contrary the philosophy of doubt is far more comforting than that of hope. The doubter escapes the worst penalty of the man of faith and hope; he is never disappointed, and hence never indignant. The inexplicable and irremediable may interest him, but they do not enrage him, or, I, may add, fool him. This immunity is worth all the dubious assurances ever foisted upon man. It is pragmatically impregnable. Moreover, it makes for tolerance and sympathy. The doubter does not hate his opponents; he sympathizes with them. In the end he may even come to sympathize with God. The old idea of fatherhood submerges in a new idea of brotherhood. God, too, is beset by limitations, difficulties, broken hopes. Is it disconcerting to think of Him thus? Well, is it any less disconcerting to think of Him as able to ease and answer, and yet failing?"- H.L. Mencken. From "Damn, a Book of Calumny" (now out of print, but available in "A Mencken Chrestomathy"; p.96)

I think this is supposed to illustrate the 'Conservatism of Doubt' meme.

Or is that the 'Doubt of Conservatism' that I am afflicted with?

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20 July 2008

Sententiae sets the pace...

.... well, sort of. But I have noticed a number of times in the last year that a day or two after I have put up a post of a funny picture or an interesting article, Andrew Sullivan posts the same picture or article!

So, here is my post dated 16 July about a development of national import.

And here is Sullivan's blog posting on the same article, on 20 July!


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16 July 2008

Budweiser Beer .... R.I. P.

Excuse me while I wipe the remains of that huge crocodile tear I shed off my keyboard....

... OK. .. Budweiser has been bought up by InBev, a Belgian company. Ha. Belgium, for you geographically challenged Americans is just a bit to the north of France. You can tell when you get there from France because the people speak better French.

I suppose I should be sorry to lose such an American icon, but I just can't. During its career Bud and its masters crushed dozens of regional breweries on its march to the seas. As Edward McClelland puts it in his Salon.com article,

Imagine the Budweiser Clydesdale team on a cross-country rampage, with a decrepit, tipsy August A. Busch Jr. strapped to the lead horse, wearing a bright red St. Louis Cardinals cowboy hat. Starting on the West Coast, platter-hoofed horses trample a can of Blitz-Weinhard, spewing suds all over the streets of Portland, Ore. Moving south to San Francisco, they stamp on bottles of Lucky Lager. In their hometown of St. Louis, they crash through the wall of a Griesedieck* Bros. brewery, rolling hundreds of barrels into the Mississippi. They're seen next in Cincinnati, kicking a Hudepohl taster to death. The Clydesdales' tour of destruction ends in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Busch orders them to urinate in a vat of Piels, cackling that no one will be able to tell the difference.

Alright - so it's a bit much, but he makes a good point. And tells quite a bit about the history of beer in America.

As for me, I've never gotten over moving away from St Paul: no more Pigs Eye Beer for me. Well, we'll always have Busch Gardens.

*btw, does anyone else remember the Poppa Joe Griesedieck (pronounced just the way to produce maximum giggles) radio commercials? Or the National Bohemian fox singing 'brewed on the shores ... of the Chesapeake Bay!


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10 July 2008

Pickens and Wind: the movie

Here is a clearer presentation of T Boone Pickens' plan for replacing the natural gas component of our electrical power with wind power. For an old guy, he makes a great presentation in front of the class.

so there 's hope for me yet.


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Some whining reaction to Phil Gramm

Let's see now. The recession we are not in.

First, John McCain's view from the article, "when asked if we are in a recession, McCain could only bring himself to say that 'I would imagine that we are.' "

Then, of course, the Demos have a field day (without having to actually DO anything about the non-recession, or even to propose anything sensible).

And, of course, the predictable reaction from the Repubs, "Phil Gramm's comments are not representative of John McCain's views," etc.

This election may be more fun than I was expecting.

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"A Nation of Whiners"!!?

Phil Gramm, the guy who was seen on television gloating over how nobody missed the Federal Government back during the government shutdown* he helped engineer in the 90s is at it again.

The recession, or rather the Not-Yet-A-True-Recession, that I mentioned earlier is only a "mental recession." I think that means it only exists in people's minds. He then helpfully adds that we have become a nation of whiners and complainers. This is so not true. We have always been a nation of whiners and complainers. It goes along with being a democracy, I think.

Well, so much for compassionate conservatism.

09 July 2008

How much petroleum is left?

I think that gas prices may drop before long. But only by a little bit, and not for very long. Then they will stabilize if we are lucky, or continue to climb if not. Most commentators seem to think that prices will go up in the long term. Up by how much is trickier to say.

Now T Boone Pickens, an oilman from way back, puts forward his opinion, and it is not reassuring for those who want to keep on using petroleum and claim that there is plenty of untapped oil out there, somewhere. Here's some of what he has to say:

Let me share a few facts: Each year we import more and more oil. In 1973, the year of the infamous oil embargo, the United States imported about 24% of our oil. In 1990, at the start of the first Gulf War, this had climbed to 42%. Today, we import almost 70% of our oil.


Consider this: The world produces about 85 million barrels of oil a day, but global demand now tops 86 million barrels a day. And despite three years of record price increases, world oil production has declined every year since 2005. Meanwhile, the demand for oil will only increase as growing economies in countries like India and China gear up for enhanced oil consumption.

Of course, T Boone has a plan. Tap the vast reserve of wind power in the midwest to run our power plants and use the natural gas that currently fuels them for our cars.

Don't know about the solution, but I think he see the problem clearly.

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Absolutely no point to this...

... except that it makes me feel better.

06 July 2008

No. Wall-E for mascot!

Carmen, who adored "Wall-E," thinks it would be a great idea if a recycling program could use Wall-E, who is one endearing automated trash compacter (tough too), as their mascot. She thinks that pretty soon we would see gangs of little kids, coming to your house, demanding to have your trash so they can recycle it.

I can see it.

Hell hath no fury like a six year old on a mission.

Wall-E for prez!

This week Carmen and I went to see "Wall-E" with some friends, including 6 year old Máeráed. It is a grown up tale dealing with serious issues (for an animated film anyway) yet she and the other little kids there all loved it.

So it was interesting to read a column by Frank Rich in The New York Times comparing "Wall-E" to the two presidential campaigns. On the whole, he greatly prefers the animated trash compacter called Wall-E to either of the two candidates right now.

Mr. McCain should be required to see “Wall-E” to learn just how far adrift he is from an America whose economic fears cannot be remedied by his flip-flop embrace of the Bush tax cuts (for the wealthy) and his sham gas-tax holiday (for everyone else). Mr. Obama should see it to be reminded of just how bold his vision of change had been before he settled into a front-runner’s complacency. Americans should see it to appreciate just how much things are out of joint on an Independence Day when a cartoon robot evokes America’s patriotic ideals with more conviction than either of the men who would be president.

He also points out that the little kids in the audience when he saw it liked it:

One of the great things about art, including popular art, is that it can hit audiences at a profound level beyond words. That includes children. The kids at “Wall-E” were never restless, despite the movie’s often melancholy mood and few belly laughs. They seemed to instinctually understand what “Wall-E” was saying; they didn’t pepper their chaperones with questions along the way. At the end they clapped their small hands.

Read the whole thing, then go see the movie. If you can, take some little kids. If you've already seen the movie, we would appreciate any other opinions on it.

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03 July 2008

Not all "Conservatives" are American

Further evidence that the term "conservative" as used in America has ceased to mean anything like "Conservative" as a genuine political stance is the difference's between British Tories and American Republicans. Both claim to be "Conservative" yet both react to Obama in completely different ways.

Here's an interesting post from Andrew Sullivan showing at least some of the difference. The reply from an American reader is classic: Obama is not a conservative because 1) he's not against abortion and 2) he's not against gay marriage. I suppose you could throw in 3) he's for gun control

Are those really the two (or three) issues that define American conservatism? I am really not sure, but if it is then there is no genuine conservatism in America that I can see. Certainly these positions have no resonance among conservatives outside of this country.

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McCain v Obama: who pays

Both candidates have put out their tax plans. It is informative to look at an analysis of them. Here is a good one, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal. The core of its conclusion:

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, the income for the top 1% would decline by an average of 9%. The incomes of the top tenth of 1% would shrink by more than 10%. Under Mr. McCain, incomes for the top 1% would grow by 3%. The top tenth of 1% do best — with more than 4% growth in incomes.


It’s unlikely either plan will be implemented as is. But one thing is clear: Mr. Obama sees taxes as a way to ease inequality, while Mr. McCain sees them as a way to encourage economic growth by helping the top.

What is more revealing, perhaps, is to read the long trail of reader comments at the bottom.

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01 July 2008

Why you should LOVE the recession

Not that there is one, you understand. I was just reading several right-wing blogs and they all assured me that there is NO recession. It's just negative reporting from the MSM. Same for global warming. And the permanent high cost of gas. And William Kristol really didn't write that book about the Iraq war in which he got everything, well, wrong.

As a public service announcement I am therefore ripping off Aol.com to bring you 10 reasons why you should love the recession (should we ever fall in to one, say, when the Demos win the White House). [Comments in brackets are my own]

1. Less junk mail! [junk mail is reportedly down 19%. Think how many trees are saved.]

2. Shorter gas lines [if you can afford it anyway].

3. Family dinners [helps ward off teen suicides. Guess they never ate at the Clemens' household when he was a teen. ]

4. More coupons [I am sorry my Dad did not live to see this day].

5. Free Fitness [actually due to high gas prices, not the recession we are not in: makes more people walk or bike to work. I'm trying to help out by not going to work.]

6. Bargain SUVs! [if schadenfreude is a sin I am going straight to Hell].

7. Business opportunities [wages go down, rents go down, competition goes down, opportunity goes up. Such is the theory. Me, I'm investing in a Mexican tienda]

8. Increase in gardening [NOT in the Clemens' household. I'm allergic to work outdoors: my face gets red, I break out in a sweat, I start panting for air, and pretty soon I don't have the strength to lift a mug].

9. Musical inspiration [especially County & Western songs, apparently]

10. New perspectives [Like: gee, so this is what it means to be poor! I never imagined!]

So you see - even if the Right Wing blogs are wrong, and we are in a recession, you should look on the bright side. It will be good for you.


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"The Producers" meet the Republican Fundraisers

Or, "The Republican Way of Business" - not to be too polemical about the dear GOP. As reported on "Talking Points Memo":

The Boston Globe had a great article yesterday about an outfit called BMW Direct Inc. whose business seems to be finding nonsense Republican candidates in hopeless races, raising tons of money for their hopeless campaigns and then funneling all the money back to themselves and sundry contractors and cronies. In 2006, they raised more than $700,000 for Charles Morse's run against Barney Frank in which Morse managed to get only 145 votes in the Republican primary. 96% of that money went back into BMW Direct's coffers and sundry affiliated contractors.

This seems to be the general mindset of business and government under this current Republican admin. Note that I am not saying that anyone specific in the admin is corrupt, certainly not Bush or Cheney (I have other problems with them, but not venality or personal corruption), but that there is currently a mindset within the ranks of the "right" that government serves no useful purpose as government, therefore it and the whole political process must exist simply as a pipeline for public funds to private businesses. A brief glance at books like Imperial Life in the Emerald City or most other aspects of privatizing government will furnish all the examples you should need. I brought this up a bit earlier, with a thoughtful comment from Jack.

So let's all do our patriotic duty and get rich.

NOTE: I did not refer to any of these people as 'Conservatives' - if that term means anything any more it means something a great deal more powerful and serious than the stupid right-wing slogans ('no new taxes' 'government is the problem' etc) misused by the folks I am talking about here.

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