halo experiment's Journal
Israel blamed its earlier wars on the threat to its security, even that against Lebanon in 1982. However, its assault on Gaza was not justified and there are international calls for an investigation. But is there the political will to make Israel account for its war crimes?
by Richard Falk
For the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the government is facing serious allegations of war crimes from respected public figures throughout the world. Even the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, normally so cautious about offending sovereign states - especially those aligned with its most influential member, the United States - has joined the call for an investigation and potential accountability. To grasp the significance of these developments it is necessary to explain what made the 22 days of attacks in Gaza stand shockingly apart from the many prior recourses to force by Israel to uphold its security and strategic interests.
In my view, what made the Gaza attacks launched on 27 December different from the main wars fought by Israel over the years was that the weapons and tactics used devastated an essentially defenceless civilian population. The one-sidedness of the encounter was so stark, as signalled by the relative casualties on both sides (more than 100 to 1; 1300-plus Palestinians killed compared with 13 Israelis, and several of these by friendly fire), that most commentators refrained from attaching the label "war".
The Israelis and their friends talk of "retaliation" and "the right of Israel to defend itself". Critics described the attacks as a "massacre" or relied on the language of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the past Israeli uses of force were often widely condemned, especially by Arab governments, including charges that the UN Charter was being violated, but there was an implicit acknowledgement that Israel was using force in a war mode. War crimes charges (to the extent they were made) came only from radical governments and the extreme left.
The early Israeli wars were fought against Arab neighbours which were quite literally challenging Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state. The outbreaks of force were of an inter-governmental nature; and even when Israel exhibited its military superiority in the June 1967 six day war, it was treated within the framework of normal world politics, and though it may have been unlawful, it was not criminal.
Long article, much more at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/03/1...
Even though the American administration would prefer an Israeli government that is committed to a two-state solution, the United States does not intend to take a stance on the composition of the next coalition. In view of the expected naming of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition with the support of right-wing parties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. envoy George Mitchell will focus during their next visit to Jerusalem on efforts to preserve the West Bank under the control of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The Americans will demand that Israel avoid creating new facts on the ground that may burden achieving an agreement in the future. Toward this end, the U.S. administration is preparing to put heavy pressure on the new government to freeze all settlement construction and keep its promises to lift roadblocks. A freeze on settlement activity will be a higher priority than removing illegal outposts.
Measures the Obama administration is likely will be to cut the equivalent sum of the latest investments in settlements from the remaining budget for U.S. guaranteed loans, approximately $1.3 billion out of a total of $10 billion that the U.S. made available to Israel for it to absorb immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
If the Obama administration confirms the report that appeared last week in Haaretz, and which was not denied by Lieberman, the Yisrael Beiteinu leader may not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. The close cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on matters of strategy, defense, economics, commerce, tourism and transportation means that ministers charged with relevant portfolios often visit the United States.
Edit for link, thanks Indiana: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/106416...
New York Times
Another month, another half-million Americans out of work. The ranks of the unemployed have now stretched beyond 11 million, and millions more are underemployed — working part time, for example, because they can’t find full-time jobs.
As bad as this sounds, the reality confronting working men and women is actually significantly worse. Some 2.6 million jobs have been lost since December 2007, and as the Economic Policy Institute tells us:
“Just to keep up with the ever-expanding labor force, the economy would have needed to create 1.5 million jobs over the last 12 months. This means that the 2.6 million jobs lost leaves us over 4 million jobs short of what the economy required to provide employment for the American work force.”
We’re in employment quicksand. The official unemployment rate (a notoriously rosy statistic) is 7.2 percent. But more than one in every eight workers in America is jobless or underemployed. That’s 21 million people. And it’s not even counting the so-called discouraged workers, who have given up looking for a job.
More than a million jobs were lost in November and December, and millions more are projected to vanish this year. When the November job losses were announced, David Leonhardt wrote in The Times’s blog, Economix:
“The share of all men ages 16 and over who are working is now at its lowest level since the government began keeping statistics in the 1940s. The share of women with jobs has fallen almost two percentage points from the peak it reached in 2000. At no other point in the past 50 years has the share of employed women fallen so much from its peak.”
This is an emergency. There is one overriding mission for the incoming Obama administration when it comes to dealing with the economy, and that’s putting Americans back to work. Forget the G.O.P.’s mania for tax cuts. Forget, for the time being (but not forever), the ballooning budget deficits. Forget the feel-good but doomed-to-fail effort to play nice-nice with the rabid partisans of the right who were the ones most responsible for ruining the economy in the first place.
Put the people back to work!
To do that, Democrats will have to overcome their natural timidity. They will have to fend off the Republican opposition in Congress and set in motion an enormous surge of public spending aimed at creating jobs, jobs, jobs.
Each new surge of job losses is an additional violent assault on the already profoundly damaged economy. Idle workers do not pay taxes and that ratchets up budget deficits at the federal, state and local levels. They draw down unemployment benefits and further strain the Medicaid rolls. In many cases, they are forced to turn to food stamps for their families’ daily bread. And, of course, they stop purchasing cars and homes, goods and services.
The economy will not be saved by putting a pitiful $500 into the hands of the average taxpayer. And it won’t be saved by gift-wrapped concessions to the G.O.P. in the form of business tax cuts that the president-elect is said to be considering.
With credit tight, savings depleted, the stock market in the tank and home prices in a state of collapse, the only way to get real money into the hands of ordinary Americans (and thus back into the economy) is through employment. The way to truly stimulate the economy and save the jobs of anxiety-ridden workers who are still employed is to get the unemployed back to work as soon as possible.
And the way to create jobs is through infrastructure investments (building and repairing roads, bridges, tunnels and water and sewer systems); and by investing in 21st-century clean energy initiatives, in public transportation systems, and in school construction; and by providing access to health care for the millions who don’t have it.
In other words, by investing in the people and the enormous productive capacity of the United States.
Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa was blunt this week after he and other Senate Democrats met with Obama aides to discuss the president-elect’s stimulus package. “There is only one thing we have got to do in the stimulus, and that is how can we create jobs,” he said.
Referring to Mr. Obama’s national economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, Mr. Harkin added: “I am a little concerned by the way that Mr. Summers and others are going at this in that, to me, it still looks like a little more of this trickle down. If we just put it in at the top, it’s going to trickle down.”
Been there. Done that. Didn’t work.
The madness of trickle down and its corollaries ruined the economy and millions of Americans with it. President-elect Obama ran to the mantra of change. One hopes he is not too timid to deliver.
I, too, am worried that there is too much emphasis on tax cuts and ill-thought out supply-side economic programs being used in his stimulus package. The hiring of employees tax credit businesses are supposed to get is a complete joke: if the demand isn't there, no business in their right mind will hire a worker at 40k/year (lets say) to produce more of their product/service just to get a $4,000 one-time tax credit.
Is Israel Using Cluster Bombs?
There’s more evidence today of Israeli use of cluster bombs, originally noted by Laura Doty at Oxdown. The Times of London features a photo in it’s coverage (see Gaza Conflict slide show) with the following description:
An artillery round sends out bomblets above Gaza City, which continues to be attacked by Israeli forces
The use of cluster bombs - which have a large footprint when initially dropped and then remain a threat for decades - in a location like the Gaza Strip which is so packed with people is horrifying.
Conditions in Gaza continue to worsen:
Since the beginning of the Israeli invasion, 500 people in Gaza were killed, of which approximately 70 children and 27 women. By now, a total of 2,650 Gazans are injured of which more than 270 children and 650 women. Despite the Israeli recurrent discourse, facts are clear and Israel’s war has mainly been conducted against civilians.
The medical and health situation in Gaza is on the edge of collapse, facing a severe lack of vital medical supplies. Surgeries are now made without anaesthesias or sterile equipment, as anaesthetics, sterile medical gloves or needles are sometimes no longer available.
The heath sector in Gaza was already qualified as ‘in crisis’ before the beginning of the Israeli attacks and is now overloaded with severe injured and traumas resulting from the air strikes and ground operation. Before the beginning of the recent crisis, 105 medicines for severe and chronic diseases were reported lacking. All basic medical supplies are lacking, and the situation has worsened since the main warehouse stocking medicines in Gaza was bombed last week.
The 13 governmental hospitals from Gaza provide 1,500 beds and chronic patients such as suffering from hearth problems or cancers were sent home. Half of the 60 ambulances available in the Strip are out of order, struck by Israeli strikes.
And as the International Middle East Media Center notes:
It is worth mentioning that the official number of casualties could be much higher than reported, as dozens of wounded residents who suffered mild or even moderate injuries were release without registration due to the overcrowded hospitals as the Israeli offensive continues.
In related news, Israel announced on Sunday that it will not allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, due to the ongoing ground offensive. Israeli security officials said that the Israeli security would decide in the coming days whether to allow trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.
It’s also important to remember that while sources identify a large number of the dead and wounded as men, by no means are all men Hamas fighters. Many are just like Laila Al-Arian’s grandfather and Laila El-Haddad’s father:
I see the number on my caller ID; my heart races. I answer my cell phone.
"We ...are under..heavy bombardment. Heavy bombardment" says my father in terrified, articulated syllables.
"They are bombing the Legislative Council building next to our house. They are bombing just down our street."
"Baba...are you safe, are you both safe??" I ask, not knowing what else to say.
"I have to go now..I have to go...i just wanted to tell you that..but I have to go..." he stammers. And the line goes dead.
And today, both are looking for safety under a rain of cluster bombs, dropped by Israel, bought and sold by us. Last night, the US blocked – once again – a call for a cease-fire at the UN Security Council, today Senate “leaders” Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Mitch McConnell were “standing solidly behind Israel's ground operation against Hamas.”
Let’s make sure they hear where we stand.
(A very big H/T to Michael Braymen who made the map above - it is the best I've seen for understanding just how small Gaza is - and so how vulnerable the 1.5 million people who live there are.)
There was a great article from firedoglake the other day, and it is something that has really bothered me over the past few weeks, looking forward at the great pile of shit Dubya has left for us.
Let's engage in a back of the envelope exercise for a moment: the cost of conservatism to America. Right wingers want to de-emphasize the costs, and pump up the virtues. They want to account for every penny of liberal projects but declare that conservative projects have no price. Take Lawrence Lindsey for example. The Iraq War is a treasure beyond price. But he offers a standard: what's the value over 15 years, with 300 trillion of total output? Well let's break down the cost in a kind of rough and ready way.
The costs of conservatism, in a bi-partisan form, are those things that can't be fixed by a Democratic President because they have become part of the political landscape: over-financialization of the American economy, the waste of privatized health care, over militarization of the American economy, and the externalization of global warming. Each one of these things has a cost in GDP, and we can take that total over Lindsey's preferred time frame of 15 years. Then we can ask what that costs in the present.
The cost of not having comprehensive national health care is roughly 5% of GDP because America spends 15% of GDP on health care, and a comprehensive system generally saves 1/3 over privatized systems. The cost of over financialization is estimated by Krugman to be 3% of GDP. The difference between the Bush defense department, including the neo-colonial wars, is 2% of GDP, that's defense plus .
The cost of global warming? Harder to say, in 2005, the mean of estimates surveyed by Tol was 93 dollars a ton. The news has gotten worse since then, with many of the low estimates that dragged down the median already being disproved. But let's be cautious and take that number for the moment. That's 4% of GDP, but we have to take the present value of that first, since it is over a long time horizon - from that we get roughly 2% of GDP. I could easily double this number by tossing out the large numbers of estimates which rely on scenarios which have already been trashed by the facts.
Added up, this is 12% of output, or using Lindsey's 15 year time frame 36 trillion dollars. These problems reinforce each other, insurance companies shift output from other activities, to financial ones. Spending on wars means there is less productive manufacturing, and more war manufacturing, pushing effort into juggling money. Tax breaks drain investment from private enterprise, making it harder, seemingly to shift the economy. In other words, we are like the person who drinks too much because they smoke too much.
So what's the value of that, right now? Well, taking a real interest rate of 2%, that's the historical value roughly, and compounding monthly, that's a present value of 27 trillion real 2008 dollars. Or about twice the value of everything Americans are going to do this year. Ross Perot and others like to talk about the cost of unfunded liabilities, like Social Security and Medicare, running to a present future value of 40 trillion. It's the same kind of back of the envelope number as presented here - based on a present future value of estimates of a long term stream. This means that the cost, over 15 years, of conservatism to America, is two thirds of the supposed crisis in costs - out to an infinite time horizon.
So what does this exercise mean? It's really very simple: we can afford a decent retirement and decent living standards, and decent medicine for ourselves and our children and grand children, or we can afford the casino games that we have played, and the massive parade ground military that we have built over the last generation. But not both. The costs of the war and bad economic policy flow all through the economy.
The reality is that liberalism isn't broken. The reality, contra the film IOU-USA, is that the national debt is a symptom not a cause. The real cause is that Americans have voted for certain things - a huge military, a casino economy, and an anti-science bias - cost be damned. Well the cost is damning, it is damning us to this recession, and it is going to damn us to a very poor recovery on the other side of it.
Yes, these are back of the envelope numbers, but we've been living on pulled from flatulant air numbers on things like WMD in Iraq, the cost of the Bush tax package, the future of global warming, and the value of Mortgage Backed Securities.
One thing the article fails to mention is the future productivity of the lives lost unnecessarily during the Bush Regime. Perhaps 9/11 could have been prevented, so I'll only go into the things we could have definitely avoided. Over 4,200 soldier's lives lost in Iraq in the six years we have been there. Over 1.2 million innocent Iraqi civilians killed simply by our presence.
Think of the lives lost just by Bush and his destructive decisions, how many people are now in graves, how many lives have been damaged. Think of the rights our founding fathers paid in blood for that are now being systemically stripped for us in the name of "our protection." The true cost of conservative rule to this country is mind-boggling when you consider that since Reagan, real wages of the average worker in this country (after inflation) have actually gone down. These are the numbers you cannot quantify-- what if union membership hasn't decreased by 66% in the past 30 years? What if we didn't choose to deregulate investment banks in 2004? When you take all the bad decisions made in this country, the true cost of conservatism is, indeed, "priceless."
As Jon Stewart has said, "Oh tax cuts... is there anything you can't fix?"
Stop the presses, Bush has a new master plan for GOP world re-domination. Drum roll, please......
In your face, economic stimulus package!
Here's an interesting summary of a Bush interview from firedoglake. Guess what Bush thinks will help the GOP bring (old, white men) sexy back?
Dismissing any notion that the country’s political center has shifted after the Democratic routs in 2006 and 2008, Bush turns to the Center-Right Nation canard in his interview with RCP.
"I still think we're a right-of-center country," the President responded when asked whether the election offered proof that the ideological center of the country had shifted to the left.
And why do you say that, George?
"I think most Americans want their government to be effective, results-oriented, efficient," the President said.
Yes they do, which is why they keep voting against Republicans, President Katrinaburton. But does Bush really think center-left voters want their government to be ineffective, wasteful and inefficient?
What else ya got, George?
"They would like to pay as little a tax as possible. They want their military to be strong, viable, and effective. They want their public leaders to promote personal responsibility by living responsible lives. Most people are - from the cultural side, believe in an Almighty. The question is how you take those basic beliefs and explain them, either through policy or words, in a way where there's common understanding."
Stunning. It's literally like Bush is still living in the year 1999. The Almighty and personal responsibility? What about the economy, jobs, healthcare, energy independence, getting out of Iraq, the failed war in Afghanistan, etc., etc.? You know, the stuff Republicans keep losing elections on.
Overall, the President remained upbeat about his party's political future. "I've got confidence we'll come back, so long as we don't abandon the core principles that enable us to win when we're winning - which is low taxes, strong national defense."
The good news for Democrats is that Bush is articulating what the GOP’s Palin-Limbaugh base really believes. If only they get back to talking about tax cuts and terra and keepin' the gubmint outta the way -- with a little God talk sprinkled in for flavor -- they’ll be just fine.
Good luck with that.
At least one conservative can come up with an idea for party unification that doesn't start and end with hating gays and the UAW.
By: Blue Texan Thursday December 11, 2008 10:27 am
While Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have hinted that their opposition to investment in the Big Three is all about busting the unions, Jim DeMint refreshingly came out and admitted it yesterday on NPR.
Norris: Now, you know the unions are saying this is also a political ploy on the part of the Republicans to try get rid of unions and use the auto industry troubles to do just that.
DeMint: Well, I’m not trying to get rid of the unions, but I am saying that they appear to be an antiquated concept in today’s economy.
And if that wasn't explicit enough for you...
DeMint: These car companies are in real trouble. And they should’ve been planning to restructure for a long time. But the political aspect of this is most of this is being done to protect unions, uh, it’s not to protect the workers. And what I want to do is make sure we have jobs for these workers and we have first-class American automobile companies. And we’re not going to do it with the barnacles of unionism wrapped around their necks.
I'm not saying Jim DeMint is using the credit crisis to take down the unions, but he does appear to be a union-busting asshole.
For those of you who still don't realize why GOP senators are telling Detroit to !@#$ off, maybe you should listen to the entire 4 minute interview with Jim DeMint(R-SC), because it really is all about union-busting. He ramps up the hate around two minutes in, try not to vomit.
My favorite quote from this jackass:
"The taxpayers should not be obligated to prop up these union bosses who have put the American car companies against the wall, with these contracts and threat of strikes over the last several decades that have essentially put them out of business."
Its all those damn workers fault for trying to get pay raises and this crazy thing called "health care." I mean, who are they to demand shit from these helpless executives that are being put in the poor house because of the big, bad union workers? Blaming the victim much, Senator?
The vitriol against George Bush is well-deserved, of course. But I bet many of you don't realize who has royally screwed this country over more than even our delusion President: William "Bill" Kristol.
Bill Kristol has been a Republican strategist for many years and has headed numerous conservative think tanks. He founded the Project for the Next American Century (PNAC) and was chairman of the New Citizenship Project. In 1993, he chaired the conservative Project for the Republican Future, whose founding charter was to literally "kill" the Clinton Health Care initiative (not amend).
Joseph A. Palermo, of HuffPo writes:
I would like to remind people that in 1993 William Kristol circulated an influential memo arguing that any and all health care proposals coming out of the Clinton Administration should be opposed "sight unseen." He couldn't be bothered by honestly assessing the merits of the Clinton health care plan, he wanted the Republicans to just crush it to stop the Democrats from attaining any victory.
This op-ed, from a New York Times Columnist, quotes Kristol's famous policy memo's word for word:
The potential for Republican defection is a new thing. Conservatives have long recognized — and worked hard to prevent — the danger of a breakdown in party discipline. In 1993, William Kristol, then chairman of the Project for the Republican Future, orchestrated the defeat of the Clintons’ health care plan. In an influential memo, Mr. Kristol wrote: “Any Republican urge to negotiate a ‘least bad’ compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president ‘do something’ about health care, should also be resisted. ...The plan should not be amended; it should be erased.”
So what does this matter, that he damned Clinton's Universal Health Care? Clinton's health care plan was compulsive, which would greatly increase our domestic industries chances of competing with foreign workers who may get paid less per hour. Health care alone contributes $1500 to the cost of a Big Three vehicle, according to Kenneth Thomas.
Here's a snippet from the LA Times:
The Big Three’s production cost in the U.S., including the cost of supporting retirees, is about $75 an hour per worker, according to a recent Canadian Auto Workers Union study. For foreign automakers with plants in the U.S. – without the same retiree costs – the average is $60 to $65 an hour, the study found.
Consider that for a second, thats 20% less per worker per hour the Big Three would have to pay IF ONLY WE HAD HEALTH CARE!
Lets look at it from a personal standpoint. Heres some information from the National Coalition for Health care
Since 2000, employment-based health insurance premiums have increased 100 percent, compared to cumulative inflation of 24 percent and cumulative wage growth of 21 percent during the same period.
Workers are now paying $1,400 more in premiums annually for family coverage than they did in 2000.
The annual premium that a health insurer charges an employer for a health plan covering a family of four averaged $12,100 in 2007. Workers contributed nearly $3,300, or 10 percent more than they did in 2006. The annual premiums for family coverage significantly eclipsed the gross earnings for a full-time, minimum-wage worker ($10,712).
Here are two of the worst stats for healthcare...
It is estimated that 50% of all personal bankruptcies occur because of medical expenses.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in the United States have been rising four times faster on average than workers’ earnings since 2000.
The United States spends about 20% of our GDP on health care between discretionary and mandatory spending. Health care spending accounted for 10.9 percent of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7 percent in Germany, 9.7 percent in Canada and 9.5 percent in France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
That is a 10% difference of our GDP, in US spending that amounts to saving over $1.5 trillion per year. Think of the extra money we would ALL have, the less stress, less bankruptcies, and *gasp* even higher business profits.
Now for part two: If you were inquisitive, perhaps you have meandered over to the PNAC website. You might read some of the statements posted on that site. Heres a snippet that basically sums up what PNAC is about:
American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle.
America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests.
Sound familiar, Bush Doctrine? Pre-emptive warfare to justify genocide is a summation of what I have read pertaining to PNAC. Kristol is nothing short of a warmongering neocon in the pocket of the Defense sector. If you've ever read his opinion columns in the NY Times, he has called for more military spending several times, and "fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq" means we should get into a war with Russia.
Billy Kristol should be the most hated man in America for cutting down what was our best hope at universal coverage and his cheerleading for the Iraq war, but he rarely gets a mention. I hope this will be rectified soon, the man is a political whore-- willing to do anything so that his friends retain power and get rich while screwing Americans out of life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This is my attempt to open some peoples eyes that not every executive of the Big Three are incompetent louts who deserve to be castrated. Here is my offering on Alan Mulally.
Starting as an executive vice president at Boening, Mulally revived that company earlier this decade and is credited for helping them overtake Airbus in market share for aircraft manufacturing. At Ford, he has raised the quality of vehicles to "rival that of Honda and Toyota," according Consumer Reports. Here are some facts:
-Ford outsold Honda by about 850,000 and Nissan by more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States last year.
-J.D. Power Initial Quality Study scored Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Mercury, Pontiac and Lincoln brands' overall quality as high as or higher than that of Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen and Volvo.
-Ford's car sales in November, while down, beat every other major competitor at -31%. Honda (-32%) and Toyota (-34%) were record lows for those companies and already have asked Japan for a bailout. Even in the worst times, Ford is a strong brand.
-The most fuel-efficient full-size pickups from GM, Ford and Chrysler all have higher EPA fuel-economy ratings than Toyota and Nissan's full-size pickups.
-For Mulally's performance at Boeing, Aviation Week & Space Technology named him as their person of the year for 2006
-Many of the problems of the auto industry are government created, not a failure of the companies. High state diesel taxes and American public opinion being against push-rod technology mean Fords sporty new subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon won't be sold in the United States.
-J.D. Power scored the Ford Fusion better than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry in highest quality mid-size sedan.
-Mulally's cost cutting led to Fords first profitable quarter in two years.
-According to David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, "Ford is doing exceptionally well." He went on to say “This has been a systematic, structural change that we’ve seen within Ford."
Of course there were mistakes at the Big Three, but Alan Mulally has done a good job considering the pile of crap he inherited from Mr. Ford.
-Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford
-7 myths about Detroit automakers
-GM, Ford, Toyota Say U.S. Sales Tumbled on Recession
-The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can't Have
-Consumer Reports Commends Ford
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