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Net neutrality is back in the news. So, are you for it or against it?
Given the debate that surrounds the subject, that’s not as easy a question to answer as you might imagine. Because in order to answer it you have to understand what “for” and “against” even mean now.
The internet as a phenomenon broke onto the world’s stage some years ago and has been growing and improving exponentially for years. It has not only improved the flow and availability of information but the lives of countless millions of people around the globe as well. And it has essentially accomplished all of this without any major government intervention.
Of course most knew that anything that powerful and uncontrolled must come to the attention of government at some point. The question is – to what purpose? Why should government intrude on a network that is providing so much acknowledged good without it? The answer: because it is there. And the paranoid are sure that the corporations that are involved in it are up to no good. Thus we need government’s help to keep those evil corporations in line.
Enter the concept of “net neutrality” and the postulation that unless government steps in to ensure it remains “neutral”, greedy corporations would take advantage of the net to advance their bottom lines to the detriment of small consumers.
That’s not something made up in an effort to overstate the case. It is the argument of those who favor government’s involvement, such as Senator Al Franken. Speaking at a meeting on the subject of net neutrality on August 19th, Franken said, “When government does not act, corporations will. And unlike government agencies which have a legal responsibility to protect consumers, the only thing corporations care about … is their bottom line.”
While it is certainly true that corporations care about their bottom line, the way corporations increase that bottom line is by making and keeping customers happy. That critical part of how the “bottom line” is increased is somehow always lost on the “let’s get government involved” crowd who feed off of fear driven and unfounded paranoia to justify intrusion.
The debate and arguments for or against the proposed net neutrality regulation aren’t hard to find. Google and Verizon have offered their version of net neutrality that has been seen as either corporations writing the rules to help themselves or as the maintenance of the status quo. Frankly, the status quo seems to be working quite well for most.
Much of the “let’s get government involved” movement is led by “Free Press”, a group which has made a cottage industry of the effort. Their main effort is focused on empowering the FCC to “regulate the internet” – a broad and, frankly, scary charter. For some reason, Free Press is under the impression the FCC has the power to do so through the 1996 Telecom Act. But does the FCC have that power? Most familiar with the act don’t believe so. That includes a number of groups usually associated with progressive causes.
In fact, none other than John Kerry made that point in 1999.
“The overarching policy goal of the 1996 Act is to promote a market-driven, robustly competitive environment for all communications services. Given that, we wish to make it clear that nothing in the 1996 (Telecommunications) Act or its legislative history suggests that Congress intended to alter the current classification of Internet and other information services or to expand traditional telephone regulation to new and advanced services.”
Of course that was before net neutrality became the “top technology priority” of the Obama administration. That prompted something for which Mr. Kerry is quite famous – a flip-flop.
“A win for the [telecommunication and cable companies] would mean that the FCC couldn’t protect Net Neutrality, so the telecoms could throttle traffic as they wish — it would be at their discretion,” Kerry wrote in an April op-ed for the Huffington Post.
“The FCC couldn’t help disabled people access the Internet, give public officials priority access to the network in times of emergency, or implement a national broadband plan….In short, it would take away a key check on the power of phone and cable corporations to do whatever they want with our Internet.”
Naturally, what this does is align the ever flexible Mr. Kerry with the White House technology priority, not the law or its intent, which, strangely, he got right in 1999. In fact, the goal of the 1996 Act was to “diminish regulatory burdens as competition grew”. Free Press and other progressive organizations want to add more to that burden, not lessen it all while claiming that doing so will “spur innovation” and “new technologies”. The history of regulation doesn’t support that formula at all.
The answer to the question originally posed?
If it is Free Press’s version of net neutrality, then I am most definitely “against”.
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And the EPA seems to be the regulatory agency most bent on doing just that. Attempting to regulate carbon emissions, apparently, isn’t enough for the EPA. Now, it has decided, it may want to ban lead ammunition:
With the fall hunting season fast approaching, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Lisa Jackson, who was responsible for banning bear hunting in New Jersey, is now considering a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) – a leading anti-hunting organization – to ban all traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, a law in which Congress expressly exempted ammunition. If the EPA approves the petition, the result will be a total ban on all ammunition containing lead-core components, including hunting and target-shooting rounds. The EPA must decide to accept or reject this petition by November 1, 2010, the day before the midterm elections.
Note the emphasized portion of the cite (emphasis mine). Now that would tell me, as a regulator, that this is outside the scope of my regulatory power to ban, or even address in any meaningful way.
Yet the EPA has decided that it does indeed have the power to do what the law forbids.
It is yet another example of government refusing to obey its own laws (ICE’s refusal to detain and deport illegal aliens found in traffic stops being another recent example).
This is being driven by an agenda, not law. And this goes to the heart of the question of whether we’re a nation of laws or a nation of men who can arbitrarily deicide what laws to follow or not, according to their agenda (and the power they hold).
The National Shooting Sports Foundation points out:
* There is no scientific evidence that the use of traditional ammunition is having an adverse impact on wildlife populations.
* Wildlife management is the proper jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the 50 state wildlife agencies.
* A 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on blood lead levels of North Dakota hunters confirmed that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk.
* A ban on traditional ammunition would have a negative impact on wildlife conservation. The federal excise tax that manufacturers pay on the sale of the ammunition (11 percent) is a primary source of wildlife conservation funding. The bald eagle’s recovery, considered to be a great conservation success story, was made possible and funded by hunters using traditional ammunition – the very ammunition organizations like the CBD are now demonizing.
* Recent statistics from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service show that from 1981 to 2006 the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the United States increased 724 percent. And much like the bald eagle, raptor populations throughout the United States are soaring.
The EPA is accepting comment on this petition now.
If you’re so inclined you can include yours here.
Be respectful but be blunt – the law forbids this – back off.
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Keeping with the previous post’s theme, and noting we’ve made the claim in earlier posts that government’s at all levels are revenue hungry (they want to maintain the size of the ravenous beast they’ve developed over the years and they want to do it with your money), this should come as no surprise to anyone:
Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To [Marilyn] Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.
“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.
I have no idea what Bess blogs about, but unless it is specifically set up to generate income I don’t see any justification for the tax/license. I do see a possibility of a First Amendment issue.
Certainly a blog that generates $50 has an income of sorts. And if, as the story mentions, it was "dutifully reported", then she probably paid whatever taxes were due during that dutiful reporting.
But, as Leviathan loves to do, government just decided to invent a new category of "fees" and licensing (to avoid the tax word) to suck up more revenue. And, most likely, recognizing that most blogs don’t make much revenue they opted for a licensing fee. For instance, if you’re government, which would you rather have from almost 99% of the blogs out there, 5% of their revenue generated or $300?
So, given the nature of blogging and the fact that it has democratized social commentary, could a $300 bogus "licensing" fee be considered a bar to entry? And doesn’t that have First Amendment implications concerning free speech?
You have to love the irony of the license name. A "privilege license". Government, for a measly $300 will allow you the privilege of putting your opinion on line.
Really? I thought that was what the First Amendment – incorporated over all the states – guaranteed without impediment by government. Did I somehow misunderstand the intent?
But the city of Philadelphia – once the seat of freedom – sees it differently:
Even though small-time bloggers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.
So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there’s the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers.
Essentially, what this will do is have those who wish to blog without interference or “licensing” by government drop any advertising they might presently carry – even the $11 one other blogger the story highlights made in a year. I.e bloggers will be forced to drop advertising to avoid the fee. 99% will. Of the possible 1% that make more than the $300 fee, my guess is most will attempt to find a way to claim, legally, that their blog isn’t located in Philadelphia proper. I’m not sure what you’d need to do to do that, but I’d guess it is possible (have a silent blogging partner who “owns” the blog and is resident in some other part of the country, I suppose).
But, this is government. This is what it does. Government, with the economic downturn, is on steroids. And as it searches for more and more revenue to support itself, it will intrude into your life and on your freedoms more deeply every day.
A jackal can’t help but act like a jackal – especially when it is hungry.
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In the most telling poll of all – a vote – the citizens of Missouri overwhelmingly voted not to participate in ObamaCare. 71% voted for Proposition C which prohibits Missouri from compelling people to pay a penalty or fine if they fail to carry health coverage.
Of course that obviously doesn’t mean that percentage isn’t going to or doesn’t carry health coverage. Instead it is a grassroots rejection of the premise that the federal government has either the power or authority to make them. And they’ve just prohibited their state from enforcing such a law.
The Missouri vote is likely to have little immediate practical effect because the mandate doesn’t take effect until 2014. If federal courts uphold the federal law as constitutional, it would take precedence over any state law that contradicts it.
And, of course, I loved this:
Opponents included the Missouri Hospital Association, which said that if the mandate isn’t enforced some who can afford insurance will get a free ride and pass the costs on to those who are insured.
Really? You mean like what is done now under Medicare and Medicaid?
But I think this Missouri state senator may have the best point:
“This really wasn’t an effort to poke the president in the eye,” said State Senator Jim Lembke, a Republican. “First and foremost, this was about defining the role of state government and the role of federal government. Whether it’s here in Missouri with health care or in Arizona with illegal immigration, the states are going to get together on this now.”
States have been getting the short end of the mandate stick for decades. Yet many of them work under two constraints the federal government doesn’t. One, most of them are required by law to have a balanced budget. Unfunded mandates of the sort imposed by ObamaCare take a wrecking ball to that sort of requirement. Secondly, the states can’t print money at their whim. Therefore they must borrow any money to fulfill the mandates.
This and the Arizona law may be the first shots in a long war that sees the states again asserting their rights. It will mostly be fought out in the courts and its outcome is going to be critical to the America we are a part of in the future.
If the courts side with the Obama administration, then there’s just about nothing the federal government can’t do or which it can’t involve itself. And as we’ve seen in the last 18 months, it doesn’t take long, if the circumstances are right, for it to intrude to levels never before seen.
But regardless of the outcome in court, the Missouri vote is important. The “Show Me” state is a rather purple state, so I think most expected the vote to be somewhat close with those rejecting ObamaCare winning out. Instead, we see a huge margin rejecting the premise.
It should send a signal to both parties, and it should certainly have Democrats quaking in their boots about November.
Whether or not the parties will heed the message remains to be seen, but the voters of Missouri have pretty much voiced what I think the majority of this country feels – “thanks, but no thanks”. Back off, downsize and cut spending. And stay out of our lives and our health care.
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ne of the most insidious things about the development and expansion of the Nanny State is the programs that pave the way usually sound like a "good thing".
For instance, who wouldn’t think that saving for your future isn’t a good thing? Anyone? However, doing so if you so choose is the way a free people would approach that subject. Which is why, even though it may sound good to some, I would adamantly oppose any government savings program imposed on us:
The White House and congressional Democrats, with the backing of the AARP, will soon put forth a plan to automatically enroll new private-sector employees in investment retirement accounts (IRAs).
The measure will apply to new workers at firms that don’t currently offer 401(k) retirement plans, according to AARP, the lobby group for seniors. Workers would have the choice of opting out of the accounts.
Now most of you will spot the fact that the worker at a firm that doesn’t offer a 401(k) now is already able to open an IRA should they so choose. What the government and it’s crony – the AARP – are planning to do is change the choice. Now you will have an IRA unless you opt out.
Can anyone tell me where the burden will fall to ensure compliance? I mean what’s the natural collection point for this sort of paperwork? What entity will have to provide the initial paperwork as a matter of routine when the new employee is hired, ensure the option is presented and, if the employee chooses to open an IRA, provide assistance in doing so as well as provide the automatic payment allotment to the IRA?
And, last but not least, there will be a need for a new government bureaucracy to monitor and ensure compliance. In fact, this is just another in a long line of intrusions that most freedom loving people would say is none of the government’s business.
Defenders of a program like this would claim there’s nothing wrong with it, savings is good, and besides, new employees have an opportunity to opt out.
Well, right now, they have an opportunity to opt in. And that’s the point. Those who want to can choose to do so now without any government involvement or business compliance involved at all.
This boils down to another burden and cost imposed on business and yet another intrusion by government under the auspices of "you are unable to make smart choices for yourself, so we’ll do it for you".
Is anyone yet growing tired of that?
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By that I mean the belief that massive public deficit spending is the cure for an economic recession/depression?
It should be. And that’s the argument going on in at the G20 meeting in Toronto. The US is urging Europe and the rest of the world to “pump it up”. The rest of the world, rightly in my estimation, is resistant to the plea. The WSJ reviews why for us, using the US’s experience as the case study:
Like many bad ideas, the current Keynesian revival began under George W. Bush. Larry Summers, then a private economist, told Congress that a “timely, targeted and temporary” spending program of $150 billion was urgently needed to boost consumer “demand.” Democrats who had retaken Congress adopted the idea—they love an excuse to spend—and the politically tapped-out Mr. Bush went along with $168 billion in spending and one-time tax rebates.
The cash did produce a statistical blip in GDP growth in mid-2008, but it didn’t stop the financial panic and second phase of recession. So enter Stimulus II, with Mr. Summers again leading the intellectual charge, this time as President Obama’s adviser and this time suggesting upwards of $500 billion. When Congress was done two months later, in February 2009, the amount was $862 billion. A pair of White House economists famously promised that this spending would keep the unemployment rate below 8%.
Seventeen months later, and despite historically easy monetary policy for that entire period, the jobless rate is still 9.7%. Yesterday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis once again reduced the GDP estimate for first quarter growth, this time to 2.7%, while economic indicators in the second quarter have been mediocre. As the nearby table shows, this is a far cry from the snappy recovery that typically follows a steep recession, most recently in 1983-84 after the Reagan tax cuts.
The chart in question:
2.7% is not good, especially when most of the spending is government spending. Or said another way – this isn’t a great advertisement for over a trillion dollars spent to “stimulate” the economy.
And, as you see here – for the money, job creation has been absolutely abysmal, except for government jobs.
Now couple all of that with the awful news about house sales this past month (down 33%) and it would appear, economically, that the “stimulus” has essentially failed in its dual role of stimulating economic and job growth, wouldn’t you say?
Yet it seems the spin doctors in the administration want to pretend otherwise and, by the way, hook the rest of the world on their public spending addiciton. Thankfully, at least for their citizens, most of the rest of the world isn’t buying into the scheme. We, however, are stuck with the world’s most profligate spendthrifts in the guise of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress.
We are told to let Congress continue to spend and borrow until the precise moment when Mr. Summers and Mark Zandi and the other architects of our current policy say it is time to raise taxes to reduce the huge deficits and debt that their spending has produced. Meanwhile, individuals and businesses are supposed to be unaffected by the prospect of future tax increases, higher interest rates, and more government control over nearly every area of the economy. Even the CEOs of the Business Roundtable now see the damage this is doing.
That’s a long way of saying the anticipation of raised taxes to pay off this unprecedented and massive assumption of public debt is keeping businesses on the sidelines and the business atmosphere unsettled. They’re not about to expand their businesses until they have a much better handle on what it will cost them to do so. That’s why, for what little recovery is taking place, it is mostly a jobless one.
Most who understand at least rudimentary economics knows that some “stimulus” from government spending, coupled with other government actions, such as tax cuts for individuals and businesses, may have a beneficial effect in times of recession. The stimulus funds get money in circulation and the tax cuts encourage businesses to expand and hire.
What we’ve seen is nothing but “stimulus” – no tax cuts, no incentive for businesses to come off the side lines. Additionally we’ve seen attacks on the business community, calls for much more draconian regulation and new mandates imposed by legislation such as health care reform.
The result has been a seemingly perpetually unsettled business atmosphere that has provided absolutely no incentive for companies to expand or hire.
What we should have all taken from this is that government “stimulus” funded by massive public debt isn’t the answer we were led to believe it was and, when it is all that is done, is more of a problem than any sort of a solution. All the “stimulus” has managed to accomplish is the promise of large tax increases to pay down the debt it created.
The other service it hopefully has rendered is to prove defective the once cherished Keynesian belief that government can spend us out of recessions.
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Lots of stuff coming in under the oil spill and McChrystal radar. For instance, Antarctic ice melt (“PIG” refers to Pine Island Glacier, to which some scientists have attempted to attribute melting to man made sources – i.e. AGW):
Many scientists have theorised that the PIG’s accelerating flow is due to global warming. However, recent research – including surveys beneath the bottom of the floating, projecting ice sheet by Blighty’s Autosub robot probe – indicate that this may not be the case.
It appears from the Autosub’s under-ice surveys that the PIG’s ice flow formerly ground its way out to sea across the top of a previously unknown rocky underwater ridge, which tended to hold it back. Many years ago, however, before the area was surveyed in much detail, the glacier’s floating outflow sheet separated from the ridge top which it had been grinding away at for millennia and so picked up speed. This also allowed relatively warm sea water to get up under the sheet and so increase melting and ease of movement.
“The discovery of the ridge has raised new questions about whether the current loss of ice from Pine Island Glacier is caused by recent climate change or is a continuation of a longer-term process that began when the glacier disconnected from the ridge,” says Dr Adrian Jenkins of the British Antarctic Survey.
Really? There’s debate about whether a rock ridge might protect it from warmer sea water and thus when it broke away from it, what was then in the sea melted faster?
If there is debate, it’s face-saving debate. Instead why not admit to the fact that the theory its melting was driven by AGW was flawed because the information being used for the hypothesis was flawed (inaccurate and incomplete). Those that did the study conclude “the glacier would have shown the same acceleration and thinning it has shown since the 1990s with or without climate change.”
Moving on, this time to Arctic ice. A new study, using a new technique to measure ice thickness and distribution in the polar region (where we’ve been consistently told by the AGW crowd we’d be ice free soon) yielded these results:
Overall the researchers conclude that the distribution of old Arctic ice has changed little since 2007 and what changes there have been are well within the range of natural variability. They speculate that the large ice loss seen in 2007 may have been offset by weather patterns since then that prevented further ice loss.
“There is still hope for the ice,” said Christian Hass, adding that in many ways thje ice is in better shape entering the melt season than it has been for years. He dismisses suggestions that a “tipping point” may soon be encountered that will result in catastrophic, runaway ice loss. Extreme melts there may be, but he considered they would be compensated for by rapid recoveries.
Al Gore call your publicist. It seems that 2007 may have been an anomoly, but not one that was outside of the range any credible scientist would dismiss as “natural”.
And that also applies to Swiss glaciers as well – another favorite of the AGW crowd:
Matthias Huss and colleagues gather about 10,000 observations of glaciers in the Swiss Alps (daily ice melt, snow accumulation, ice and snow volume) made over the past 100 years and used them to create a computer model of some 30 glaciers.
Visible in the data was the influence of the very poorly understood Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) – a regular change in sea surface temperatures on timescales of up to 60 years or more.
The glaciers studied generally lost mass during the 20th century although there were brief periods of mass gain in the second decade and in the 1970’s. In the 1940’s and since 1980 mass has been lost as more precipitation fell as rain rather than snow.
Last December, Huss published a study that showed that Swiss glaciers melted at a faster rate in the 1940’s than they do nowadays, and that glacier melting is influenced by long-term changes in solar radiation.
You know, that big yellow hot thing that hangs in the sky every day? Yeah, that. Note too that glaicer melt was more pronounced in the ’40s than now.
In conclusion, the Swiss Alps now join Mt Kilimanjaro as having had a misleading press. We now know that Mt Kilimanjaro’s dramatic shrinkage of its summit glacier is due to decadal fluctuation in air moisture and not man’s effects. The changes seen in the Swiss Alps likewise seem to have a greater natural, perhaps even dominant, variation than has recently been reported. Glaciers are highly sensitive to many environmental factors, most of which cannot be laid at the door of man-made climate change.
All that to say you should be “cool” to any further suggestions by the Al Gore set that man is melting the ice caps and glaciers. Seems, as usual, to be a “misinterpretation” (one I see as deliberate) of natural phenomenon.
I’ll leave the “why” up to you, but the big three that come to mind for me are power, money and control. I’d also add that it appears that real science is finally beginning to prevail and show the AGW scare to be the big scam most of us skeptics thought it to be from the beginning.
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Not that I’m particularly upset by this (liberal certainly are), however, it again makes the case that this president should never be judged just by what he says (see below). He should always be judged by what he does and how it all turns out. For instance:
The White House is intervening at the last minute to come to the defense of multinational corporations in the unfolding conference committee negotiations over Wall Street reform.
A measure that had been generally agreed to by both the House and Senate, which would have affirmed the SEC’s authority to allow investors to have proxy access to the corporate decision-making process, was stripped by the Senate in conference committee votes on Wednesday and Thursday. Five sources with knowledge of the situation said the White House pushed for the measure to be stripped at the behest of the Business Roundtable. The sources — congressional aides as well as outside advocates — requested anonymity for fear of White House reprisal.
Tough talk, populist rhetoric (CEO’s get paid too much and we need to rein them in) and when it comes to actually doing so? Yeah, not so tough at all. Like I said, the outcome doesn’t bother me and, after publicly taking corporate CEOs to task, attempting to shame them and cut their pay, someone must have alerted Obama to the fact that they mostly paid the campaign freight during his run for the presidency.
Why do I say that? Well the “Business Roundtable”, which so vociferiously opposed this is a lobby of corporate CEOs. And the White House liason to that lobby is Valerie Jarrett.
The White House is now saying that the provision allowing investors proxy access which would allow them to have a say in CEO salaries was never something they explicitly backed.
“It was not part of our original financial reform proposals, and we have not taken a position explicitly. We have heard from and understand the various concerns on this critical corporate governance issue from multiple stakeholders including business, investors, labor and others. We are confident that the House and Senate conferees will come to a resolution and deliver a consensus view,” said the spokesperson.
Of course that, along with much of what they say, is not true. Huffington Post reminds us of two administration officials who took very explicit positions in support of the provison:
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin addressed the provision. “The Senate bill will make clear that the SEC has unambiguous authority to issue rules permitting shareholder access to the proxy. We support that proposal. The SEC’s rulemaking process will define the precise parameters of proxy access,” he said. “But the principle is clear: long-term shareholders meeting reasonable ownership thresholds should have the ability to hold board members accountable by proposing alternatives and making their voices heard.”
Valerie Jarrett followed Wolin. “The Senate bill will make it clear that the SEC has unambiguous authority to issue rules permitting shareholders access to the proxy — essential, as I know you guys know,” she said. “We agree that corporate governance means more transparency, more responsibility, more accountability, and once again — I can’t say it too often — we stand firmly with you on that point.”
Any questions? Does this leave you with the impression that the administration never explicitly took a position on that provision? Are you still convinced Obama means what he says, or are you beginning to understand that he’s mostly show and not much “go”?
Oh, and yes, this would be called “crony capitalism” if you were wondering.
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