Worth Quoting

3rd June 2013

“Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.”

Issac Asimov and bloody well said!

The religi board at the front of my old house. It was great fun. Sometimes my posts were rubbed out! Haha. The religites didn’t really approve.

Human Lives Are Not More Important Than Animal Lives. Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

I wish it were not seen to be cold, scientific and lacking compassion. I agree with Paul Watson. I wish more would. That’s why I am reblogging it. I couldn’t say it better.

Alafair

Is a human life worth more than a gorilla, a whale or any other species?

I’m going to tread on some very sensitive toes with this commentary but I think it needs to be said.

My perspective is biocentric, whereas most of humanity looks on reality from an anthropocentric point of view.

I do not expect the anthropocentric mind to understand my position.
My position is that a human life is not more important than the life of a gorilla or a whale.pw

This is is going to make some people angry as hell but that does not concern me. What concerns me is the reality of our relationship with the natural world.

Columnist Dave Bry recently wrote in The Guardian:

As much as I love animals – and I love them very much – the idea that the life of a cat or a dog or a lion or…

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Scottish Parliament Elections 2016

It’s now four days since the Scottish Parliamentary elections. It has taken this long for me to come to a proper understanding of all this. I have finally made sense of the convoluted voting system in Scotland – at least for the Holyrood Devolved Parliament elections. No one I have ever spoken to has been able to explain it to me and these 2016 election results have prompted me to make my own exploration into the political and voting machinations in this country.

The system(s) came into being in 1999. I should have done this exercise in 2011 which is when I first voted in the Scottish elections (ahem!! Not knowing enough to make really sensible choices). I come from a preferential system of voting where voters can vote for their own choices of candidates (not just parties) in order of preference. Of course, you can vote for the candidates selection of running partners but you don’t need to. It’s called voting above the line – for the candidate’s own preference of running mates, or you can vote below the line and select your own preferences. Sometimes – as in the bicameral Senate elections it can become unwieldy because of the number of minor parties standing for election. But it is a much better system. Also Australia has compulsory voting and that tends to mean that voters have to become familiar with those candidates standing for election. There is about a 7 to 8% of spoiled votes in any Australian election but that is better than a turnout of only 58.3% of voters in my region in Scotland. That’s 41.7% who didn’t vote at all. When I contemplate the amount of effort, angst, arrests and (some) deaths that have gone into the adoption of universal suffrage, I am appalled at the apathy that non-voters embrace as though not knowing anything or refusing to engage with those who hold power over us all is something to be proud of.

But, forgive my wee rant. Back to the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections. These are some salient points I have learned:

There are 129 seats in Holyrood. 73 are Constituency seats and 56 are Additional Member seats.
The Constituency seats are determined by the First Past the Post system and yields one member per constituency. Each member elected by either system has equal status within Holyrood.

Each person in Scotland is represented by 8 members of the Parliament – one constituency member and 7 additional members.
There are 8 Regions that represent larger areas and contain 9 or so constituencies. 7 members are elected from the Regional List vote. Those additional member elections make up the 56 additional members of the Holyrood Parliament.

Lists are closed lists and the selection of candidates for the list is made by the political party. The voter votes for the political party not individual candidates. Candidates can stand both as a constituency candidate and as a list candidate. However, if the candidate wins his/her constituency seat, then he/she is no longer available to stand as an additional member; the name is removed from the list which then moves up one. These list candidate names are announced just prior to elections.

MID SCOTLAND & FIFE

1 John Swinney
2 Annabelle Ewing
3 Keith Brown
4 Shirley-Anne Somerville
5 David Torrance
6 Alycia Hayes
7 David Doogan
8 Roderick Campbell
9 Karen Marjoram
10 Rosemary Hunter
11 Maciej Wiczynski
12 Neale Hanvey – The first five on this regional list were voted in as constituency candidates and so were removed from the regional list. I think this was a silly use of regional list candidates and didn’t favour any new blood in the SNP.

It is easily seen how Labour diminished itself without even trying. It is also easy to see where the Conservatives picked up constituency votes – to my mind, partly because Labour self-immolated.

I am using Mid Scotland and Fife (region) as I live within the boundary and I have to use Mid Fife and Glenrothes (constituency) as that is where I live.

My regional area is securely SNP and of the 9 constituencies, 8 SNP members were elected and one Liberal Democrat. No other party got a show in the constituency vote.

Constituency results

Scottish Parliament election, 2016: Mid Scotland and Fife

 
Constituency Elected Member Result
Clackmannanshire and Dunblane Keith Brown SNP hold
Cowdenbeath Annabelle Ewing SNP gain from Labour
Dunfermline Shirley-Anne Somerville SNP hold
Kirkcaldy David Torrance SNP hold
Mid Fife and Glenrothes Jenny Gilruth SNP hold
North East Fife Willie Rennie Liberal Democrats gain from SNP
Perthshire North John Swinney SNP hold
Perthshire South and Kinross-shire Roseanna Cunningham SNP hold
Stirling Bruce Crawford SNP hold

Interestingly the SNP Regional List candidates ran thus:
John Swinney;  Annabelle Ewing;            Keith Brown;    Shirley-Anne Somerville;            David Torrance and three more candidates further down the list. All five of the SNP list candidates were elected as Constituency seats which left the last three swinging from pegs on the washing line. Not that it would have made any difference because so many voters wasted their second vote for the SNP. This becomes clear further down this blog post.
I will use the actual list voting figures. Voters in my region voted:

SNP                       120,128;              Conservative      73,293;              Labour                   51,373

Lib Dems              20,401;              Greens                    17,860;              UKIP                         5,345

Scottish Soc.          1,073;               Solidarity                1,049;               Libertarians              650

The additional members are elected taking into account the number of constituency members each party has won. There are 7 AMS (Additional Members) to be elected. A method using a divisor (the number of constituency seats already won +1) is used. The number of votes cast is divided firstly by the number of seats won +1. The SNP vote was initially divided by 8+1(9), 0+1(1) for all the rest except for the Lib Dems that won one constituency seat 1+1(2).

To all intents and purposes, we can ignore UKIP, Scottish Socialists, Solidarity and the Libertarians, none of which had any likelihood of gaining any seat in this Parliament from this region. After each division, the highest number of votes wins a seat. All divisions are made from the original votes cast with the new divisors reflecting any seat gained.
So:

                          Initial Votes         Div.#1     Result          Div.#2      Result         Div.#3        Result

SNP                       120,128               9             13,348            9             13,348            9               13,348

Conservative      73,293                  1             73,293             2             36,647          2                36,647

Labour                  51,373                  1             51,373              1             51,373            2                25,687

Lib Dems            20,401                  2             10,201            2             10,201            2                10,201

Greens                  17,860                 1             17,860             1             17,860            1               17,860

After the first division the Conservatives have the highest number of votes and thus win their first additional member. This means that the next divisor for the conservatives will be 1+1(2). Labour picks up its first additional member after the second division which increases its divisor by 1 to 1+1(2). The Conservatives pick up their second additional member after the third division so their divisor becomes 2+1(3).

                      Initial Votes         Div.#4           Result       Div.#5      Result    Div.#6           Result

SNP                      120,128            9                      13,348         9             13,348         9             13,348

Conservatives      73,293           3                       24,431         3              24,431        4             18,323

Labour                   51,373            2                       25,687         3              17,124        3             17,124

Lib Dems              20,401           2                        10,201        2              10,201        2             10,201

Greens                    17,680          1                         17,860       1             17,680          1             17,680

After the fourth division Labour has another additional member which increases its next divisor to 2+1(3). After the fifth division, the Conservatives pick up their third seat and their divisor increases by 1 to 3+1(4). The sixth division sees the Conservatives add their fourth additional member  taking their next divisor to 4+1(5).

                      Initial    Votes    Div.#7           Result

SNP                       120,128               9             13,348

Conservatives      73,293               5             14,659

Labour                     51,373              3             17,124

Lib Dems                20,401              2             10,201

Greens                    17,680               1             17,680

After the seventh division, the Greens pick up their first additional member. And, of course, there are 7 additional member seats allocated to Mid Scotland & Fife, so that’s the end folks.

The Conservatives gained 4 additional members; Labour gained 2 additional members and the Greens gained one.

Additional member results

Scottish Parliament election, 2016: Mid Scotland and Fife
Party Elected candidates Seats +/− Votes % +/−%
SNP 0 -1 120,128 41.3% -3.9%
Conservative Murdo Fraser
Elizabeth Smith
Alexander Stewart
Dean Lockhart
4 +2 73,293 25.2% +11.0%
Labour Claire Brennan-Baker
Alex Rowley
2 -1 51,373 17.6% -7.4%
Liberal Democrats 0 -1 20,401 7.0% +1.2%
Scottish Green Mark Ruskell 1 +1 17,860 6.1% +1.9%
UKIP 0 0 5,345 1.8% +0.7%
Scottish Socialist 0 0 1,073 0.4% +0.4%
Solidarity 0 0 1,049 0.4% +0.3%
Libertarian 0 0 650 0.2% +0.2%

What interested me was when the SNP started exhorting voters to vote SNP 1&2. I received this exhortation in the post and was bemused. I knew that the second vote (the regional list vote) would diminish the additional member vote for them and couldn’t understand why the SNP had done this across all of Scotland. They should have realised that their support in regions like Mid Scotland & Fife would be enough to get their constituency candidates up and running and that any second vote would be useless and better given to another pro-independence party.

I talked to several SNP people throughout this period leading up to the elections. One person told me that the second SNP vote – the regional vote – was seen as insurance. Well – that went drastically awry, didn’t it!

When I read Craig Murray’s blog on this that had to do with the Scottish Independence issue, I decided to do the whole exercise above to cement the mechanics in my brain. As you can see, Craig Murray was quite correct when he said that the 120,128 SNP list votes were wasted. Not one SNP list member was elected. But it did allow the Conservatives to get 4 additional members elected in an area that is not historically known for Tory support.

Murray cited these particular regions, none of which achieved an SNP List member because of the SNP’s directive to vote SNP 1&2. The list vote did them no favours but voters followed their directive without thinking for themselves. I am reprinting what he wrote in case you don’t click on the link and read his blog.

‘North East Scotland 137,086 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 137,086 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Central Scotland 129,082 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 129,082 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Lothian 118,546 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 118,546 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Mid Scotland and Fife 120,128 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 120,128 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
West Scotland 135,827 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 135,827 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Glasgow 111,101 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 111,101 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.

That is over 750,000 SNP pro-independence list votes completely wasted, electing nobody at all on the list.

By contrast in these regions the Tories got 376,000 – almost precisely 50% of the list votes the SNP received there – and got 19 MSPs for them!’
Mind you, I also think that disillusioned Labour supporters felt that their only option was to vote Conservative in the Regional vote. Why, I don’t know. There’s nothing as weird as folk. Take as given what a political party tells you to do, I guess. Thinking would be an advantage. Not seen, these elections.

 

Public Libraries in a fascistic country

The first Library at UWA. I also sat exams in the Undercroft - bottom floor.

The first Library at UWA. I also sat exams in the Undercroft – bottom floor.

One of the things that distinguishes an educated, well read and intelligent country is its reverence for and preservation of learning in science, literature, research and creativity. The repository of collections of the recordings, writings and other media relating to these lies in Public Libraries, University Libraries, Archives and Museums.

On a national level, all countries have central collections of archives; publications are held and stored; thanks to people like Dewey we have systematic ordering of all our publications held in central libraries; universities have many libraries devoted to the writings and other recordings of different disciplines within their purview. This is good and a comprehensive record of human achievement. It sounds grand, maybe grandiose on this level.
When we come to the humble local public library, many of which serve communities within our countries, there is a lesser sense of grandeur and more a sense of how much do these small repositories of literature and research materials cost to maintain.

Well … to my mind, it matters not how much the monetary cost of maintaining public libraries. It matters that these public libraries are maintained and developed for the benefit of the populace. It is one of those educational and social repositories that all communities need.

So it is with dreadful distress that I have had to read this:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/29/libraries-facing-greatest-crisis-in-their-history

One of the best places to spend constructive time.

One of the best places to spend constructive time.

Quote: ‘ Nearly 350 libraries have closed in Britain over the past six years, causing the loss of almost 8,000 jobs, according to new analysis.’
In a country that prides itself on its supremacy in education, erudition, science and research, it is dreadful, to me, that the UK can elect to spend £167 billion on renewing a nuclear weapons facility and warheads in an age of ‘austerity’ while allowing our cache of public libraries to be halved. And, of course, that is not all to be decimated, halved, privatised or otherwise fucked.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cost-of-replacing-trident-is-167bn-double-previous-estimates-calculations-suggest-a6708126.html

Now we all know that we will never be consulted on whether or not Trident should be renewed and that is because the Westminster Government is beholden to the US and the US dictate what we will do in Defence spending in the UK.
But it is of absolute concern to me and many others that the education system (or should I say systems) is in utter disarray. We have so-called ‘faith schools’ burgeoning out of every city, ‘academies’ – otherwise known as the privatisation of schools – being snapped up by private groups and companies eager to get their grubby fingers on the largesse of funds being offered by our cash strapped government.
Besides, the control on the standard of education is slipping away like a greasy rope in the hands of those who no longer seem to care. Not that you would know it if you were to listen to the bleatings of the ultra right wing press that operates in the UK.

No – everything is fine so long as we agree to Westminster’s selective austerity programmes and tighten our already anorexic  belts and suck it all up.
Back to public libraries: my wee library is in Glenwood.

The Kid's Corner of a great wee Library

The Kid’s Corner of a great wee Library

A friendly place with good staff and a warm (I mean under floor heating) environment for us to access, use computers, wifi, borrow books, order books for borrowing and/or just sit and read the daily papers. It is what is called a community hub for the local catchment and the old folk who enjoy a blether, a good read and some comfort. There is a cat – a fixture and the whole atmosphere is one of welcome. The kids use the computers, the oldies read the papers, the not-so-oldies borrow books, DVDs and audios. In short it is a good place. I use it a lot. I often sit in the comfy armchairs and just read my current book.
This library is scheduled for closure and demolition. Apparently it is one of 16 public library closures in the next three years in the Kingdom of Fife. Fife Council is charged with making some £813,000 savings – partly because there is a reduction in the funds our non-independent Scotland receives from the Westminster Government.

So public libraries – to be fair, savings are being made across the local government board (even employees are being ‘retired’ – some 2,000 of them in Fife. It does make me wonder how often local government recruiting is used as a sliding indicator for national employment figures. God I am so cynical!) – and there are other areas in which ‘savings’ are being made. And, this is not the first time Fife has closed public libraries but I wasn’t living here then and didn’t know.

To target libraries is one of the most counter-productive actions I can think of. It is not just dear Glenwood suffering – new Council housing is in the offing in the Glenwood area  and that means more young families. Fife Council has closed two public schools – thus over loading the poor school charged with taking the educationally orphaned students – it is across the Kingdom that these 16 library closures are happening.

Scotland has been a country of villages since its habitation by humans. It is so linguistically insular that you can tell the difference in speech within a few miles and a different village. The libraries that operate in these villages are far more than an operational budget item. They are the hub of small villages. They are the meeting place for the local people.

In the early 2000s, there was a directive in international standards that required a triple bottom line in accounting.  Called the 3BL, it is an accounting framework that incorporates social, environmental (or ecological) and financial bottom line figures.  It behooves companies to adopt this framework but it would appear that many haven’t bothered. I surrendered a directorship in an agricultural co-operative because the rest of the Board wouldn’t address these criteria.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_bottom_line

What is happening now seems to me to be a refusal to understand the social, environmental impact of financial decision making. If it is recognised at all, it is ignored. We have a burgeoning global population and a seemingly fascistic central government called Westminster. At the very  least, Westminster under Tory rule is aping US republican libertarianism. I have said before that the Tories eat Ayn Rand for breakfast every day.

Mind you, my friend in Australia is very sympathetic and also very pissed off – he sees the same thing happening in Australia and so I think – what on earth happened to the socialist left wing politics that put people before profit? That developed welfare safety nets, state funded secular education and a health system for all? We all seemed to gravitate to that in the 1970s and (sort of 1980s) when we were aware of our fellow man. What happened to all that? I do know the answer, of course. Globalisation happened and we knew it was on the door step in the 1970s. But it doesn’t stop me asking the question – what happened to our humanity? It seems to be dying as so many species are dying weekly, slowly etching out our own demise. What has it all been for? Our smarts have been our downfall and ultimate extinction. What a fucking waste!

 

Argumentum ad Monsantium

This is pure gold. It is just about the perfect response to intellectual midgetry and its terrible assault on science, chemistry, soil science and critical thinking. As I said just gold!!

The Logical Place

by BRIAN DUNNING, Nov 08 2012

It’s my favorite new logical fallacy, the “Appeal to Monsanto”, the world’s largest producer of biotech agriculture seeds. This is the logic that compels many anti-GMO activists to reply to any argument in support of biotech crops with “So you love Monsanto?”

It’s so wonderful because it combines many other logical fallacies into one, and is thus a great time saver. For example:

  • It poisons the well (cloaks a viewpoint with negative weasel words) by associating the scary, evil word Monsanto.
  • It’s a non-sequitur (a logical association that does not follow). IF (a) THEREFORE (b). IF (genes can be used to confer traits such as drought resistance) THEREFORE (I love Monsanto).
  • It’s a straw man (misrepresenting what I said into something that’s easy to argue against). If I had actually said “I love Monsanto”, then plenty of rational arguments are available to show that’s…

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The Assisted Dying Bill – a disgaceful vote by the House of Commons

So – Westminster has voted 330 votes to 118 against changing the law to allow people with terminal illnesses the right to end their own lives with assistance from professionally trained medical personnel. That’s 448 members out of a total of 650 members had the guts or interest to vote anyway. 202 of them didn’t bother to show their faces or merely sat on the fence.

In the first time in twenty years, Westminster debated the Right To Die. In twenty years the members of this Parliament have moved forward not one jot. Well – maybe a jot – there were 118 members who voted for the Bill, proposed by Rob Marris. Yet even that number constituted a 2% swing to the Nay sayers this time around. It really is disgraceful.

I watched part of the debate and saw the tears and heard the wobbly voices from those who had nursed and lost family members; sons, daughters, mothers and fathers and others. Heart rending as those stories are, they are personal anecdotes. They do not, under any circumstances, reflect the view of the general public whose number have, over the years of polling, increased to the point that some 80% of those polled are in favour of assisted dying for the terminally ill.

The salient point in all this is that by virtue of the Private member’s Bill introduced, assisted dying has to be requested by the dying patient; such request has to be approved by a high court judge and two doctors. The weasel words from those who opposed the Bill had to do with ‘not enough control measures were proposed in the Bill’. Utter bollocks!

I know I must sound angry and I most certainly am. I am appalled that 330 parliamentarians – that’s about half of all members voted against the people’s voice. They called it a conscience vote! Smacks of religious woo-woo and mealy mouthed fear to me. Their own feelings influence their ability to determine legislation? Feelings should have no place in legislative matters! Just over 50% of Westminster voted against a Bill that some 80% of polled constituents approved. The medical profession itself has organised into a lobby group to tell Westminster that the Bill should be passed. And these parliamentarians are elected representatives. Of course it makes me angry.

Tory Fiona Bruce said: “We will have crossed the rubicon (sic) from killing people being illegal to killing people being legal.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mps-overwhelmingly-reject-plans-to-legalise-assisted-dying-for-people-with-terminal-illnesses-10496918.html

Tell us more Ms Bruce. How many of the military (healthy young people) have been killed because of wars/skirmishes sanctioned by this government of yours? How many disabled, homeless and desperately ill people have died because of your government’s sanctions on available benefits? How many children have died as a result of poor monitoring over fostering? How many people commit suicide because they can no longer abide living under Tory austerity? How many dying people commit suicide in horrendous fashion because there is no safe alternative available to them? Have you ever added those figures up, Ms Bruce? How many of these deaths have been legal? Or would you prefer to say that all the deaths have been illegal and you have washed your hands of them all? I forgot to mention that Ms Bruce is an evangelical Christian and therefore cannot be trusted to vote for the whole community, only for those who have been ‘saved’. In a country whose polls show a larger percentage don’t even have religious belief. This makes me even more angry.

Your Tory government crossed the Rubicon many moons ago. More people have died under your Government’s regime than would ever make the choice to die because they are already dying.

I find the lack of reason and ethical thinking abominable in our leaders. It is easy to blame the churches and religion and their lobbying – it is less easy to accept that mealy-mouthed and weasel-worded parliamentary representatives are more interested in themselves and their own stories than in the plight of those few people who are requesting the ability to determine their own deaths and the means of those deaths and to be able to call on professionally trained people to help them.

There have been several high profile people coming out publically in favour of assisted suicide – the most recent was Terry Pratchett. Then there were the tragic cases of Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb who took their pleas to the highest court they could find – only to be knocked back. Poor Tony – he cried at the verdict, stopped eating and died 8 days later. Thank you High Court – for nothing. And what about those (who could afford the ten grand) who had to go to Dignitas to achieve their wish to die at the time of their own choosing?

Why on earth haven’t we a place here in the UK that is registered to deliver the needs of sufficient people to warrant it being an NHS supported directive?

I was going to mouth off further about this but then found this article in The Huffington Post and decided that the author was a better writer than I am.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bex-felton/its-time-the-well-stop-te_b_8122374.html

We really do have to stop the well among us from telling the dying how to die.

Sailing on the hole in the heart

This is one of the most compassionate and angry blog articles I have read. Read it and weep with understanding.

Wee Ginger Dug

There are truths that are true because they actually happened. And there are truths that are true just because everyone knows them to be true. The UK media specialises in the creation of the latter. The latest true truth that’s only true because everyone knows it to be true is that Charles Kennedy was hounded into his grave by Scottish nationalists. But everyone isn’t everyone. Everyone isn’t you or me, it’s everyone with power, everyone with influence, everyone with a position to lose. They say it must be so, and so it becomes the truth.

So now we have another true truth that never happened, the latest in a litany of the lies that comprise the story telling that passes for news. Like the truth that Nicola Sturgeon wanted the Tories to win so it doesn’t matter what the French ambassador said. Like the truth that Dennis Skinner was driven…

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Mediocre Failures

I read this blog article with sadness and total agreement. Gove in the UK and Pyne in Australia are disasters in Government and are totally hopeless in dealing with their portfolios,

Quote:
‘So, Gove, Morgan, and any other cloistered, uncomprehending Central Office SPADs who had a hand in producing this execrable policy, and that quote in particular, let me tell you what failure is. Failure is an adult who, through ignorance, stupidity, laziness or a simple callous lack of empathy, happily labels the most vulnerable, disadvantaged children in the country as “mediocre failures” simply because you haven’t the wit or humanity to care about the impact on them of a policy which will make their educational experience narrower, less useful, more soul-destroying. And for what ? A cheap headline in a propaganda rag.’

Indeed. I couldn’t say it better myself.

Disappointed Idealist

My children are adopted. They were adopted at the ages of three, four and six. As with nearly all children adopted in this country over the last couple of decades, this means that their early life experiences were pretty terrible. As each was born, their collective experience of life became more damaging, as their circumstances worsened. So the eldest is least affected as her first years were perhaps less difficult experiences, while the youngest is most affected, as her entire first two years of life were appalling. I’m not going to go into detail here about their specific early life experiences, but if you want to read up on the sort of effects which can result from serious neglect or abuse, then you could read this .

Why am I writing this ? Especially now after midnight in the middle of the Easter holidays ? It’s because I’m so angry I…

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