Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Leave the light on


Sung by Beth Hart


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joy


Sung by Lucinda Williams


Monday, November 24, 2014

She's Played With Too Many Great Musicians


Not to be beter known for her own work. Shannon McNally singing "You Can't Pin a Color on Another"


And now, a respite from our dismal present


Tom Tomorrow gives us a first hand look at what the future will give us.

Logic lies buried next to Irony


From the pen of Jim Morin



Graft in the Iraqi Army


In a report in the New York Times, we get an understanding of the scope and effect of graft in the New Iraqi Army.
One Iraqi general is known as “chicken guy” because of his reputation for selling his soldiers’ poultry provisions. Another is “arak guy,” for his habit of enjoying that anis-flavored liquor on the job. A third is named after Iraq’s 10,000-dinar bills, “General Deftar,” and is infamous for selling officer commissions.

They are just a few of the faces of the entrenched corruption of the Iraqi security forces, according to Iraqi officers and lawmakers as well as American officials.

The Iraqi military and police forces had been so thoroughly pillaged by their own corrupt leadership that they all but collapsed this spring in the face of the advancing militants of the Islamic State — despite roughly $25 billion worth of American training and equipment over the past 10 years and far more from the Iraqi treasury.

Now the pattern of corruption and patronage in the Iraqi government forces threatens to undermine a new American-led effort to drive out the extremists, even as President Obama is doubling to 3,000 the number of American troops in Iraq.

The United States has insisted that the Iraqi military act as the conduit for any new aid and armaments being supplied for a counteroffensive, including money and weapons intended for tribal fighters willing to push out the Islamic State. In its 2015 budget, the Pentagon has requested $1.3 billion to provide weapons for the government forces and $24.1 million intended for the tribes.

But some of the weaponry recently supplied by the army has already ended up on the black market and in the hands of Islamic State fighters, according to Iraqi officers and lawmakers. American officials directed questions to the Iraqi government.

“I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army — not even one piece — because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it,” said Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi of the internal security forces, also a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar Province. “Our people will steal it.”
The problem lies not so much in the graft, which has always existed, but in the new operators who don't have the strictures of an established government like Saddam's which set rules and limits on all of it. In a wild, everybody for themselves atmosphere, anything can happen and does.

Talk about a bad set of choices


The US and Iran and 5 other nations
have been working for 14 months to reach an agreement to end a very bad situation that the US and Iran pushed each other into. At this time there is still no final agreement and there will probably be an extension of the talks. This is good because they can still work towards one and it is bad because as they do the hard-line conservative shitheads on both sides who would dearly love to fuck over their own leaders are marshaling their forces to do just that.
Despite a frenzied weekend of negotiations in Vienna capping 14 months of unprecedented diplomatic engagement, Iran and world powers have failed to reach an agreement addressing Western concerns over Tehran's nuclear program. But as yet, no one has has walked away from the table. The parties agreed Monday to a seven-month extension for reaching a final agreement — news that underscored both what has been achieved and the continued desire of all parties for a diplomatic solution.

Still, analysts warn that the extension could make concluding a deal more difficult because domestic political opposition to compromise is likely to increase in both Tehran and Washington and the durability of international sanctions against Iran could come into question...

Negotiators in Vienna failed to reach agreement on the timing and scope of sanctions relief, and on what restrictions on uranium enrichment Iran would be required to voluntarily accept over and above those demanded by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a signatory. The NPT allows all signatories to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and its allies fear that Tehran could use infrastructure permitted under the NPT to create fissile materiel to build nuclear weapons should it break out of the treaty. That's why Western powers want Iran to accept restrictions beyond those required by the NPT, in order to strengthen safeguards against any “breakout” toward weaponization. Iran denies that it seeks nuclear weapons, but insists on recognition of its rights under the NPT — a principle partly addressed by the fact that Western powers now appear to accept that Iran will maintain some degree of enrichment capacity on its own soil, having previously insisted that Tehran should not be allowed any such infrastructure. But the extent of Iran's enrichment capacity remains a point of contention, as is the question of the timetable and scope of easing the sanctions that have hindered Iran's economic growth.

“The domestic political costs of an extension will not be easy to contain,” said Reza Marashi, research director for the National Iranian American Council. “To date, Obama and Rouhani have done a fairly good job of handling their hawks and keeping them boxed in. An extension could empower extremists in both capitals who have long sought to torpedo the negotiations.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June 2013 with a mandate to repair relations with the international community, but ultimate decision-making power in Iran — including over the terms of the any nuclear deal — remains in the hands of the clerical Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Despite his intense distrust of the U.S. and its allies, Khamenei also recognizes that Iran’s economy desperately needs relief from the burden of sanctions. But Khamenei needs to be able to cast any deal as a win for Iran and a defeat for Iran's enemies, and he is reluctant to make what he thinks are undue concessions. Hardliners in Iran are also less inclined to seek a wider normalization of relations with the West.

“A straight extension will place the Rouhani administration in a very difficult position,” said Farideh Farhi, a leading Iran scholar based at the University of Hawaii, noting that the status quo created by last November’s agreement is more comfortable for the U.S. than for Iran. While it's “easier for Western powers to live with a straight extension," Farhi said, "this imbalance also risks the total collapse of the talks if not given due attention."
And in WAshington, President Obama has to face two different oppositions, the AIPAC directed crew supporting Netayahu's fascist agenda and the stark raving loonies who will never give PBO the time of day. Rather than supporting any kind of agreement, far too many are pushing for more sanctions to make their much sought after war easier to start. It's too bad that PBO isn't the dictator that these loons say he is, there is plenty of extra room in Guantanamo.

Chuck didn't fire enough generals


And so in the end they managed to grind him down. And as a result, they got their way in Iraq and Afghanistan again to the detriment of all of us as a country. And now they can add a trophy head on the wall.
Chuck Hagel, the beleaguered Secretary of Defense, announced he will step down less then two years after taking office and at the height of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State terrorist group.

President Barack Obama announced the departure in the State Dining Room Monday morning. Hagel and Vice President Joe Biden stood beside him.

“Over nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary defense secretary, providing a steady hand as we modernized our strategy and budget to meet long-term threats while still responding to immediate challenges like ISIL and Ebola,” Obama said. “Thanks to Chuck, our military is on a firmer footing engaged in these missions and looking ahead to the future.”

Obama said Hagel came to see him and “determined that having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

Hagel submit his resignation Monday.

“It's been the greatest privilege of my life -- the greatest privilege of my life to lead and most important, to serve -- to serve with the men and women of the Defense Department and support their families,” Hagel said.

It was unclear who would replace the 68-year-old Vietnam veteran and former Republican senator from Nebraska, as no replacement would be named during the ceremony.
President Obama needs to consider a replacement who is respected by country and will drive the Teabaggers nuts. Or he could name Mitch McConnell and let Gov Beshear name a qualified replacement for the Senate.

Meaning



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Village girl moves to Brooklyn


And got there by busking on the subway. Elizabeth & The Catapult sing "Happy Pop" from her newest album Like It Never Happened.


A Thanksgiving Carol?


From the pen of Brian McFadden



Michigan Court rules in favor of stupidity


In a ruling that should strike terror in the hearts of everyone who believed that the United States is a civilized nation, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the state has no responsibility to educate its children, at least not the dark ones in poor neighborhoods.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”
No doubt the charter school industry will hail this as a blow for private profit at public expense.

13 Years In Shitholeistan


And this is what we got. From the New York Times:
“This is our daily life,” said the police chief of Tagab district, a mostly Taliban-controlled patch of Kapisa Province about an hour from Kabul, as rounds struck the compound’s edges, showering his men with dirt. “Everything is like this — you can see it with your own eyes.”

In areas like this, it is the government that operates in the shadows, following the dictates of the Taliban in order to stay alive. Afghan soldiers in Tagab district will not leave their base except for one hour each day starting at 9 a.m., when the Taliban allow them to visit the bazaar as long as the soldiers remain unarmed.

The situation in southern Kapisa Province has quietly become one of the greatest challenges of the war for the new government of President Ashraf Ghani. In the absence of international troops or their air support, the Taliban have eclipsed the legitimacy of government forces there and in several other parts of the country, in what many see as a worrying portent for the coming years.

It is trouble spots like Kapisa, and several others where insurgents have directly confronted security forces and district centers, that helped drive the American military to lobby President Obama to approve a more aggressive role in 2015 than just training and advising. The new authorization would also allow more American air support of Afghan forces, after a year of record-high casualties at the Taliban’s hands.

As they racked up more victories this year, the Taliban grew noticeably bolder.

These days, the Kapisa police chief says, the insurgents mass in larger numbers than even six months ago. They already control a crucial stretch of a highway leading into Kabul, and some local officials believe the militants are trying to carve a large area of Taliban rule across the lower two-thirds of the province.
Mighty white of the Taliban to let the soldiers visit the bazaar. And if this is the best we can get after 13 years, why do we believe the Pentagon when they ask for more time?

Safety warning for TV viewers



Not much surprise here


The Swiss pride themselves on their banking services so it would make sense to study bank workers. The results were not something the Swiss can be proud of.
Researchers in Switzerland studied bank workers and other professionals in experiments in which they won more money if they cheated, and found that bankers were more dishonest when they were made particularly aware of their professional role.

When bank employees were primed to think less about their profession and more about normal life, however, they were less inclined to dishonesty.

"Many scandals... have plagued the financial industry in the last decade," Ernst Fehr, a researcher at the University of Zurich who co-led the study, told reporters in a telephone briefing. "These scandals raise the question whether the business culture in the banking industry is favoring, or at least tolerating, fraudulent or unethical behaviors."

Fehr's team conducted a laboratory game with bankers, then repeated it with other types of workers as comparisons.

The first study involved 128 employees all levels of a large international bank - the researchers were sworn to secrecy about which one - and 80 staff from a range of other banks.

Participants were divided into a treatment group that answered questions about their profession, such as "what is your function at this bank;" or a control group that answered questions unrelated to work, such as "how many hours of TV do you watch each week?"

They were then asked to toss a coin 10 times, unobserved, and report the results. For each toss they knew whether heads or tails would yield a $20 reward. They were told they could keep their winnings if they were more than or equal to those of a randomly selected subject from a pilot study.

Given maximum winnings of $200, there was "a considerable incentive to cheat," Fehr's team wrote in the journal Nature, online November 19.

The results showed the control group reported 51.6% winning tosses and the treatment group - whose banking identity had been emphasized to them - reported 58.2% as wins, giving a misrepresentation rate of 16%. The proportion of subjects cheating was 26%.
And the cheating was driven by their recognition of their roles as bankers. So now we know that fiduciary responsibility is a driving force behind bankers dishonesty. That's a tough place to be.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Florida ginger rocker


Kim Logan went to Boston to learn her craft and now hangs out in the Southeast. This is "Black Magic Boy" from her eponymous debut album.


For the first time since Monday


I was able to drive my car to the grocery store. Between the 5 feet of snow and the travel bans, its been a while. Mind you, I am not a snow virgin, but after two consecutive snowboobs* I can identify with the remarks of Bills running back and Mississippi native Boobie Dixon.
"All the ice, the cold temperature. It’s been different. It’s been a learning experience. Next time I’ll definitely be more ready for it."

How so?

"When I hear lake effect, I’m going to run as far as I can,"
Don't look back, I might be gaining on you.

*What you call a haboob sandstorm made of snow.

Poor Mitch, The Things He Is Forced To Do


From the pen of Stuart Carlson



House Intelligence Committee finds no wrong in Benghazi


Something which many may find surprising considering the lack of intelligence in the Republican majority on the committee. One has to suppose this is merely the result of the end of a successful election.
The CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a Republican-controlled House committee has found. Its report asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the two-year investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.
Let us not forget there are two other committees that the Republicans can use against Hilary when the time comes. There is the House Dumb Committee headed by Congressfelon Darrell Issa and the House Select Dumber Committee under the leadership of that creepy guy Trey Gowdy. The Republicans never have just one arrow.

You know that war that was supposed to end?


The one in Shitholeistan?
Well, don't stop counting your coffins quite yet. It has come to pass that inorder to protect the 9,800 poor souls left behind, who were always going to remain in harms way, President Obama has signed an order allowing them to conduct combat missions to protect themselves.
Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.

The internal discussion took place against the backdrop of this year’s collapse of Iraqi security forces in the face of the advance of the Islamic State as well as the mistrust between the Pentagon and the White House that still lingers since Mr. Obama’s 2009 decision to “surge” 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president’s civilian advisers say that decision was made only because of excessive Pentagon pressure, and some military officials say it was half-baked and made with an eye to domestic politics.
It's nice of him to allow them to be proactive, but the idea that they will successfully complete their mission is a sure guarantee of perpetual deployment there. It was always too good to be true that we would leave that shithole.

Friday, November 21, 2014

When they weren't walking on sunshine


Katrina & The Waves could do a good job rocking a song, as they do with "Red Wine & Whiskey"


Elizabeth Warren speaks


And you would do well to listen, she is smart and she does care about you and me.


Obama hands off to the GOP


From the pen of David Horsey



You don't miss your water 'til your well runs dry


Nor do you put a real value on it until then. Now that California is gripped in a major drought, thieves have quickly found the real value of water and where to take it from.
They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

Counties mostly in the more rural northern parts of California are reporting a surge in thefts and illegal diversions of water from wells and streams. The prime suspects are illegal marijuana farmers desperate for water before the fall harvest, which would explain the surge in water thievery over the summer.

“A lot of the wells have gone dry, and the marijuana growers have run out of water and have been illegally taking the water out of the creeks,” said Hank Weston, supervisor in Nevada County, an old mining center in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California’s northwest. (The county has been around longer than the state of Nevada next door.)

“They have broken into a school district holding tank and in the fire department’s holding tank,” Weston said. “Some of the water trucks are pulling up near rivers and dropping water hoses in and suctioning it out.”

All of which is illegal, of course, but does not usually amount to much more than fines and a misdemeanor — at least for now.
With only fnes and misdemeanor charges to stop them, water rustling will probably continue as long as the drought and probably make it worse in some areas.

Frontline soldiers lead from the rear


Thanks to the advent of Droney and his fellow warriors, American boots can stay on the ground, in America.
In America’s war against the Islamic State, many of those fighting sit in a dark, cold room and stare at computer screens for 12 hours at a stretch.

There are dozens of them, men and women, each wearing camouflage, looking for suspected Iraqi and Syrian jihadists scurrying across the screen. If something changes on the screen – a group of dark figures crossing a street, a string of vehicles racing down a road – they pass the information to another pilot, who might decide to open fire with a Hellfire missile or an electronically guided bomb.

The greatest combat hazard they face is from the Red Bull and other sugary drinks they devour to stay awake; their unit has the worst rate of cavities in the Air Force.

“I would rather be deployed,” said Capt. Jennifer, a reservist and intelligence analyst whose full name the Air Force withheld for security reasons. “My daughter calls me because she is sick and I have to pick her up from school. When I am deployed forward I am deployed. I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day.”

With the Obama administration’s strategy of “degrading and ultimately destroying” the Islamic State without putting American combat troops – “boots on the ground” – at risk, much of the war against the group depends on remotely piloted aircraft with names such as Predator and Reaper that are guided from rooms like this one, at a base three hours south of Washington. The way the administration now talks about war is changing the nature of war itself.

Drones that in previous conflicts had been used to provide support to troops on the ground now have become a vital form of fighting. But with no one on the ground to corroborate what pilots think they see from the drones, the certainty of what’s happening is limited. Air Force and U.S. Central Command officials concede that’s delayed the response to some Islamic State activity.

The airmen – the title applies to female pilots, too – can’t agree among themselves whether they’re at war. Some think they should qualify for a coveted combat patch – right now they don’t – while others say it’s harder to fight a war when one is not actually there. They say they must resist thinking they’re playing a video game.
Most military who have actually been shot at would resist giving any combat credit to those whose only experience has been playing "Duke Drone'em", no matter how many bad guys they may eliminate. And while the most cynical may say "Kill 'Em All & Let God Sort Them Out", it is the drone warriors who are putting that into practice.

Lewis Black On His Name Day


Black Friday, that is. Or is is Black Thanksgiving?


Thursday, November 20, 2014

They do have jungle in Australia


So it is OK for Lanie Lane to sing "Jungle Man" from her album To The Horses.


History is a series of repetitions


From the pen of David Horsey



How about role model for the next POTUS?


Elizabeth Warren
has said many times that she is not planning a run for the White House and I believe her. She has the fire in her belly but she knows the handcuffs that the office puts on the winner and she will not be constrained. That being said, she is a great role model for whoever does win because she is the tip of the iceberg for the true feelings of a large majority of Americans.
Well then, a question buried in the new NBC-Wall Street Journal national poll suggests that the electorate is absolutely primed for the populist messaging that she has rode to prominence.

Asked whether they agreed that "the economic and political systems in the country are stacked against people like me," 56 percent of respondents in the NBC-WSJ poll agreed. That's a massive increase in the number of people who believe the deck-is-stacked-against-me idea; when NBC-WSJ asked the question in July 2002, just 34 percent of people agreed with the sentiment. In recent years, that number has moved steadily upward — 54 percent said the system was stacked against them in August 2012, and 55 percent said the same in April 2014 in NBC-WSJ polling.

Enter Warren, whose recent career — she helped form the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before running for the Senate in 2012 — has been built on the idea that the average American isn't getting a fair shake (or even the chance at a fair shake) in today's America. Warren has described herself as growing up on the "ragged edge of the middle class" and getting her first job at 9. (She was a babysitter.) And she draws on that background when she speaks, casting herself as a populist warrior for the middle class...

I've written before that Warren is the liberal liberals thought they were getting when they elected Obama. She is combative and unapologetic in her beliefs — particularly on inequality — in a way liberals believe Obama has never been. And, stylistically and policy-wise, Warren also represents a clear contrast with the more cautious, Wall Street-friendly campaign that most people expect Hillary Clinton to make in 2016. (Make sure you read Noam Scheiber's wonderful piece from November 2013 explaining why Warren is Clinton's biggest nightmare.)
Breathes there anyone, man or woman, who gives voters something more to actually vote FOR?? That's all we want. And anybody who hopes to overcome the well financed Clinton LLC steamroller would do well to get some of her fire in their belly.

In this time of lower gas prices


It is not all beer and skittles for everybody. No, there are people and whole countries who will suffer while you slurp up all the 'dinosaur wine' that you can at prices you might now be able to afford.
If prices remain low for a protracted period, which seems likely, it’ll send shock waves across the energy sector. For oil-producing countries, that could mean budget shortfalls. For energy companies, the lower profits may force mergers and consolidation that will cost thousands of jobs.

Oil prices have tumbled in recent months from their peak at about $105 a barrel in June to their current lows, below $75 on Wednesday. The Energy Information Administration projected last week that gasoline prices would stay under $3 a gallon throughout next year. A gallon of regular unleaded averages $2.86, the motor club AAA said Wednesday, about 25 cents lower than a month ago.

For American consumers, who used 135.4 billion gallons of gasoline last year, that’s a big savings – nearly $34 billion on an annualized basis.

But for companies and countries that depend on oil prices for their income, it’s a trend that makes them nervous.

Already, the oilfield services giant Halliburton, anticipating lower prices, has announced it will buy rival Baker Hughes in a cash and stock deal worth $34.6 billion.

Venezuela, heavily dependent on oil revenue, is looking for a buyer for its U.S. refining operations that run under the Citgo brand. Global giant BP, whose stock has yet to recover after the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, is widely viewed as in play. In fact, veteran energy analyst Fadel Gheit thinks that every private oil company except Exxon Mobil Corp., which is twice as large as its competitors, is now potentially a merger target.

“If oil prices remain sub-$80 for a long period of time, we’re going to see a lot of mergers and acquisitions,” said Gheit, who works for the investment bank Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. When Exxon Corp. and Mobil Corp. merged in 1999, the combined company was able to eliminate 50,000 jobs. “Companies are drawing short lists of targets: plan A, plan B and plan C.”

In the past, when oil was too abundant, producers simply left it in the ground. The curtailed production tightened supplies and drove up prices. That’s going to be tougher to do now, analysts say, which explains why oil ministers from nations that belong to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have been deep in consultation before OPEC next meets on Nov. 27.
You hear that! Mergers! That means CEO's will be required to lay off thousands of workers because they need to overpay for their deals and still cook up profits for Wall St. And there is as yet no word on which OPEC countries will be forced to merge as a result of these abnormal price drops.

R.I.P. Mike Nichols


The American stage and screen has lost a great director. And funny, too. I hope your family has an easier time with your funeral.


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