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-spaceholder- Also, purchasing power.

I'm sorry it has been so long since I've updated. It's been a very rough year. I promise I'll get this going again soon.

In the mean time, consider a petition against Amazon's deranking of "adult materials". Censorship is the first step to all sorts of terrible things, and even private organizations should avoid it. ... Not to mention the unfair targetting of materials which would be otherwise "acceptable" because of their LGBT contents...

Alison Des Forges

I've cited this amazing woman in papers. That doesn't really mean anything; but, I personally am a better, smarter, more aware person because of her work. And that's not even mentioning the world-changing effects of her work elsewhere.

I'll simply quote the Human Rights Watch page. They know her better than anyone, I imagine.

Human Rights Watch Mourns Loss of Alison Des Forges

Leading Rwanda Expert Killed in Plane Crash
February 13, 2009

(New York) - It is with enormous sadness that Human Rights Watch announces the death of our beloved colleague Dr. Alison Des Forges, who was killed in the crash of Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo on February 12, 2009. Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division for almost two decades, dedicated her life to working on Rwanda and was the world's leading expert on the 1994 Rwanda genocide and its aftermath.
read moreCollapse )

If you would like to send a private message of condolence, please email tribute@hrw.org or submit a public comment here.

Huffington Post "A Heroine for Human Rights"

The Washington Post "Scholar Presaged Rwanda's Tragedy"

The New York Times "Alison Des Forges, 66, Human Rights Advocate, Dies"

ABC News "The Faces of Flight 3407"

BBC News "Genocide expert dies in US crash"

CNN "Leading light in African human rights killed in Buffalo crash"

International Herald Tribune "Key human rights advocate dies in U.S. plane crash"
There is, unfortunately, a plague on humanity. That plague is stupid arguments.

Ben Stein is one phenomenal source of these, and you can easily find any number of derisive articles about his idiocy anywhere you look.

Now, I really try to be fair enough about people and their arguments, but this fellow just rips page after page out of the dumb arguments book. Because, honestly, (among other stupid arguments) if "science" (he means "Darwinism" or evolutionary theory, which isn't Darwinistic anymore, because Darwin messed up a lot of stuff and we've since moved on from that important but flawed early work) caused genocide, our ancient history would look a lot different.

Anyways. This stupid argument is no less poorly-fought from the other side of this particular issue...

"As we all know" ...

Countless scholars, journalists, and internet bafoons have preached on and on about how religion is the cause of the most wars and is a huge cause of genocide. Of course, they have no actual evidence to support this, and the reality is that most wars boil down to ordinary political tools like power and resources, though religion may be involved in many conflicts.

In fact, both of these sides quote off from the same people about whether religion does or does not cause these things. And the most cited? Hitler.

I hope that my brief tenure on this blog has shown you sufficient evidence to convince you that this idea that religion or atheism causes genocide. If not, I'll give you a comment I posted on just such a stupid argument on another blog.

Pharyngula on Ben Stein

As a genocide scholar, I'd like to throw a monkeywrench in the discussion on

"[Science|Religion] leads you to killing people," says [Stein|Dawkins].

Being human leads people to kill people, not being religious or being atheistic. War has, again and again, been demonstrated to be the result of a complex calculation of wants, availability of resources, differences of all sorts, and deterring forces of all sorts. In short, war is clearly realpolitik.

Genocide, on the other hand, is the ultimate in perception fogging, in which circumstances and historical myths create a perception of threat for which the only defense is annihilation. I cannot repeat this strongly enough: If you are capable of self-defense, you are capable of genocide. And, religion in no way precludes nor requires self-defense.

In other words, this is a stupid argument of name-calling in which either side attempts to suggest that the other is incapable of living "rightly." And, more to the point, if somehow you have watched Dawkins' specials or read his books and not come away with the conclusion that religion must be the source of all (or at least most) of humanity's evils, then you must have been watching something else.

Religion is unneccessary. It is incorrect. It is logically unsound. These are the arguments to make, not those that are the equivalent of "if your hand is bigger than your face, that means you have AIDS!"

Now, Dr. Myers is not responsible for this stupidity, and I apologize for having a hand in mucking up his comment thread. And, whatever your opinion on religion, I hope you can agree with me on what ought to be the only applicable critiques of it. I myself am beyond undecided on this matter, and I'd prefer to be left out of that discussion at present.

For the future, let us concentrate on fruitful and evidenced discussions, not blame-games. They really achieve nothing.

And, a note on my subject line. I am indeed in transition... to a new site address. I'll give you more details soon; I'll have loads of posts to share when I get there.

"You have changed my world."

[Link to commercial video.]
I can't find an embed button.


Oh but does that commercial send me into fits of uncontrollable and irrational hope and giddiness and tearing and other post-estrogen activities.

It's just a computer.

But then, what have I learned on my computer? Why, almost everything.

This phenomenal little machine receives wireless internet that is capable of running a "mesh" network. There's a link on the features page that explains how it works, and it appears that if any one XO has a signal, any number of other XOs within a given radius can bounce off it to get the signal. Don't quote me on it--there are obvious limits to my tech literacy. Hey, I found a better explanation.

It's hardy at very low and very high altitudes, at extreme temperatures, in dust and rain and wind. It's built without toxic or hazardous parts and can withstand tons of abuse. It also uses about a tenth of the power of a regular laptop. Translated, if it has a similar battery to my Toshiba laptop (a 2006 Satellite M55), it would run for 20 hours without needing a charge instead of the measly two I get from mine. They list the battery specs, and I don't understand them enough to explain. But, they're designed to work in conditions where the child may not have access to steady current. They can also be recharged by a variety of sources, including a car battery. That's a pretty super adaptation for people who don't have a lot of choice in their recharging stations.

There's a Flickr stream so you can see pictures of real children using real XO laptops.

There was another product I heard of a few years ago, the Bogolight. Both that flashlight and this laptop address similar concerns. The problem with so much of the world isn't potential but opportunity and tools. Even right here in our very own gold-paved American streets, we have whole segments of the population utterly trapped in a never-ending cycle of not enough to get by, not enough to sacrifice for a child's education, not enough to learn job skills, not enough to get out. The opportunities these and other children of poverty have are limited electricity and finite daylight, long distances to schools if they have one at all, often famine -- either real or imposed, often conflict -- either between warlords or druglords, a chance to grow up without parents, and a chance to contract any number of curable or incurable diseases. The tools these kids have are fear, desperation, and impressionable minds. The very things that make children such swift and avid learners lends them to abuse by those who would use them to violent and criminal ends.

The flashlight is a magical tool. It uses the sunlight, so often in abundance, to create access to increased learning hours. The explanation behind it is that, even if these children have access to schools, often they have to leave afterward and spend the rest of the daylight hours gathering firewood or working a plot of land or even begging for money or food. There is precious little daylight, as we in the rat race know, and they know it that much more. Batteries for traditional flashlights are expensive. Replacement bulbs are expensive and even unavailable. Kerosene is cheap to us, but it adds up and also presents a hazard. And, both of these options create hazardous wastes that pollute land and water already challenged with conflict and famine and ill-use. Because the laptop is backlit (and also visible in direct sunlight), it addresses that problem.

Perhaps the best thing about this laptop is the visual design, that is, the packaging. It's not easily confused with other computers, and, as such, it's conspicuous in a way that may prevent or at least reduce the threat of theft and trafficking. No one will be confused, as they say on the site, as to who this laptop was intended for and to whom it belongs. There are clearly unscrupulous people, as the situations in many of the target countries bespeak, but this isn't a cargo that's easily hidden. And that is a fundamental need, that this product be conspicuous enough to be left alone.

But let's talk about the purpose. What good is this really? Ok so they'll learn to use a computer. Is that really a marketable skill in these countries? Maybe not. But this laptop and the software it holds are more than just user-knowledge. They offer creative development tools that give these children an opportunity to develop self-expression. In places where such things can be glorious luxuries, the opportunity to begin to think abstractly from the immediate is a powerful gift. These laptops also give access to the whole world. The internet is a dangerous place. It has all kinds of information, all kinds of opinions, all kinds of images and words and people. To children who know hunger and want and war, access to the rest of the world and to endless learning opportunities is beyond priceless. On the internet, I can learn Java, I can be exposed to particle physics, evolutionary biology, free downloadable classic texts, economic theory, international development training, business management lessons, skills and trades knowledge... the possibilities are literally endless. These children will have an increased chance to pursue learning which could become the background they need for opportunity and merit scholarships to secondary and post-secondary education. These children will become the leaders of tomorrow instead of statistics you hear about on the starving children infomercials and the next Poverty-sploitation flick with Nick Cage. That sounds dramatic, but this is the reality we face.

The website says there are already 568,135 that have been donated in 21 countries and Oceania.

Will you donate the next one?

Child's XO Laptop

BOGO SunNight Solar Task Light

There are, by the by, other products available if you purchase the buy-one-give-one option. As far as I can tell, these are consumer items intended for you to buy yourself. They are, generally, plug-and-play adaptable and will work with the XO or non-XO computers. I don't know whether they are made by the nonprofit XO company or whether they fund the program.

USB 2.0 Lan Adapter for the OLPC XO Laptop in XO Green
XO Thin Spin 2 Gig USB Flash Drive for the OLPC XO Laptop
USB Wireless Optical Mouse for the OLPC XO Laptop
XO Flex Light for the OLPC XO Laptop

Links to Amazon removed.

Recovery Indeed.

Post Genocide Education Fund

From their page, because I couldn't say it better.

...As little as $1,500 US a year will cover the cost of registration, tuition, books, and room and board for a survivor/student to attend a major university in Rwanda. The costs are largely similar in Cambodia, East Timor, Iraq, and Chad (where many black African Darfurians now reside in refugee camps)...

Why We Are Here

The ravages of genocide don't end with the cessation of the killing. Survivors must attempt to pick up their lives despite profound sorrow and immense losses of loved ones, family support, homes and material goods.

Due to having lost just about everything they valued many must start from scratch and do not have the means to pay for a university education.

Ultimately, helping survivors of genocide obtain a university education helps individuals to get back on their feet and helps to stabilize their devastated society.

What We Do

The Post Genocide Education Fund provides funds to enable survivors of genocide, who have the desire and ability, to attain a university education within their own nations.

We do this in conjunction with you...the generous time, attention, and financial resources that you contribute to this collective effort are why it will succeed. We encourage you to learn about PGEF and get involved in and help support our organization.

The story behind the organization's founding.

As we tramped up and down scores of dusty hillsides interviewing one survivor of the genocide after another, we kept coming across coming across bright and articulate young people who impressed us with their powerful insights. At the conclusion of such interviews, Totten would frequently ask such interviewees: "And so, are you a university student or a graduate of a university?" Repeatedly, we heard variations of such answers as:

* "No, because of the genocide I was never able to finish high school and because my parents were killed in the genocide, I must pay my own way in life and that is costly enough."

* "I was in college in 1994, but fled during the killing. My family lost everything and we are still, well, there is no money for me to continue."

* "While I am still in high school, I do not plan to go to university as my mother is too poor to even consider asking her for such assistance."

On of the greatest challenges in genocide recovery, especially in Rwanda, has been the specific targeting of intellectuals and professionals and even their increased potential for mobility resulting in exile. Genocide creates brain drain. The continuing conflict and economic troubles common in the aftermath increase this effect. One of the best contributions we as outsiders can make is to assist those who remain in rebuilding their intellectual and professional infrastructure. These people need the tools to solve their own problems.

Contact PGEF today to make a difference in the life of a survivor and his or her community.

Post Genocide Education Fund
c/o Dr. Samuel Totten
18967 Melanie Lane
Springdale, AR 72764

I should have posted yesterday, but I've not been well. I won't dwell on it.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide was signed yesterday... 60 years ago. 60 years of genocide have followed it.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was singed today... 60 years ago. It's clearky had a similar result.

Amnesty International has a new "Protect the Human" campaign.
http://www.protectthehuman.com/ - UK
http://pth.amnestyusa.org/ - US
(If you know of sites for other countries, do comment.)

A bunch of musicians got together and made a music video. (You can buy a copy at iTunes, but I don't have it, so I probably can't find the right link.)

Now, I'm a little fussy about my protest music, and I'm having trouble overcoming the cheese factor in this one. But the message is the same, and it's important. It is, for want of a better description, our own Human Constitution, of, for, and by us. It is ours to uphold and protect.. it is also ours to let it fail.

Scream Bloody Murder
This documentary (and humongous website, apparently) by Christiane Amanpour and other contributors is a solid (though by no means complete) listing of our failures in the last 108 years.

And that's really what it is -- our failures. I'm sure that sounds horribly pessimistic and even more accusatory, but really, what should be the response to 108 years of willful ignorance and deliberate connivance in an otherwise "civilized" world? I mean. At least we could pretend some kind of justifiable ignorance and pre-developed thought in regards to older "modern" (post-1500) atrocities. But since international telegraph, printed newspapers, and the birth of our grandparents? No excuses. Unfortunately, this isn't a problem that's going to be solved by knowing about the problem. We've been talking about genocide for 60 years now, and the US can't even manage to stop to correct the pattern of horror we've been involved in. We can't even manage to actually recognize the wrongs of others.

This problem, this horror will only be solved by direct and sure action on the part of citizens, leaders, and whole nations. So, what have you done today, or ever, to end genocide or human rights abuses in general? Think about it hard. I'm more than willing to admit that I haven't done much, as far as direct action goes. But here's what I have done...

-I've spammed friends and family alike with genocide information out the whazoo.
-I've written my Senators and Congressman, presidential candidates, and various other elected and appointed leaders.
-I research and write on the topic and present it to others in academic and lay settings. Soon, I'll take this site to the big(ger) leagues, and then, hopefully, make more of an impact.
-I blogged for charitable contributions to Aegis Trust last year. It wasn't much, but it was something.
-I discuss it at parties when I've had that extra sip that usually causes people to make googley eyes at strangers.

But I'm still mostly working in awareness, and for that I am sorely grieved. But, my aim is toward vocation, and to that end I will exert myself. It's not that I don't take my role as educator seriously, because I do, and I am thrilled to share the information I can with you and others and to see the knowledge I bring change the lives of those around me. But, there is more that I could be doing and more that I could contribute. Isn't it interesting that the educated among us are so often the first to speak of all the knowledge they lack and the active of all they fail to do. (I by no means claim to be among the most educated or the most active.)

Enough about me. What about you? This month, hundreds of millions of Americans and billions of others around the world will celebrate winter festivals of various and sundry kinds with resplendent decor, sumptuous feasts, and family and community gatherings. We'll talk about what we're thankful for and what we love so well and all the blessings we have. We'll talk about the sorrow of missing those who are not with us. What about those who are missing so much more? What about those whose families and communities have been obliterated.

That's what this whole thing is all about. Genocide isn't like murder. Murder kills one and leaves the many to miss him (or ignore him, as is so often the case). Genocide eliminates the many and leaves the one alone without home, family, community, identity, and with reduced visibility and voice. It undermines human rights not just in it's assault on those it directly effects, but also in destroying the corporate existence we each enjoy in our self-identification. If I am one of millions, or even one of thousands, I have a voice that may be heard. But, if I am only one, no one will ever hear me.

So, while you celebrate your family and your together and your culture and your voice, I challenge you to do more than pay lip service to those who have lost all of that and who are in danger of losing it. If all you can do is email your elected officials, do it. If you can afford to give to any number of relief organizations, prevention funds, legal defenses, etc, please do, and generously. If you can leave your comforts and go work in this field, I encourage you to. There is so much work to do, and the chance to save humanity from itself is such gloriously rewarding work. If you go to work leaving this discomfort behind, I commend you. It is no small feat to overcome assaults to work to protect others instead of only shoring up your own walls.

But there is the truth. The work is ours to do, the recognition of human rights ours to enforce, and humanity ours to protect. We need your help.

World Aids Day 2008

HIV/AIDS is not on topic here. But, you're going to read about it anyways, because it is wholly relevant to several topics that ARE on topic here.

-In Rwanda, just as women in Bosnia had been raped until they became pregnant, the UN reported that women were raped until they were sure to have contracted HIV. This weapon is continuing the genocide today. I'm sure this is not an isolated practice. Further, we've all heard stories of young women being used for traditional "cures" and then infected. And, sex trades and traficking put countless women at risk.

-In many countries, including the United States, HIV/AIDS patients face discrimination both related to their disease and to suppositions about their personal lives because of their infection status. (Read more.)

-The communities often most affected by HIV/AIDS - sexual and ethnic minorities, humanitarian crisis victims, immigrant communities, youth, elderly, poor, women - are already disadvantaged. Now, I kind of hate that word, disadvantaged. It sounds so sanitary considering the realities that these people face. But, these groups are targetted by militias for attack or recruitment, they're underserved by welfare systems and over-targeted by criminal justice systems, they're discriminated against in employment and access to markets, they're subject to restrictions on movement and civic activities, and so forth.

-15 million HIV/AIDS orphans, both those infected themselves, and those who are not, are often left to fend completely for themselves after their families have fallen to this epidemic. These children often do not go to school and are often unable to learn a trade. These children are recruited by gangs and militias or become transient and sometimes resort to criminal activity to tend their basic needs. They need access to safe homes, medical care, education, and social acceptance. HIV/AIDS isn't just attacking our nations by killing us. It is stealing our children's futures, even if they don't contract the virus.


US CDC: HIV Incidence in the United States
World AIDS clock
2008 UNAIDS Report
33 million people living with HIV in 2007.
2.7 million new HIV infections in 2007.
2.0 million people died due to AIDS in 2007.
Women: 50% of those living with HIV worldwide, nearly 60% of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.
Youth 15–24 45% of new HIV infections worldwide.
An estimated 370,000 children under 15 became infected in 2007. Globally, 2.0 million children had HIV in 2007, with 90% in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981.

So, what can you do about it?

Learn more. That is the number one goal of this day of awareness.
Donate. If you have some cash to spare, send it to an organization. I'll list some later. Be careful to know where you're sending your money.
Volunteer. From teaching AIDS orphans to hospital visitations, from sex-ed to half-way homes, there are untold opportunities for serving those who need help living with HIV/AIDS or those who need help recovering from its devastating social effects.
Know your status. I am HIV negative. You may think you are, but do you know? Get tested. No excuses. Do not donate blood just to get tested. Go get tested. Do it today. In fact, do it now.
Know your HIV status? Text: Your Zip Code to KnowIT or 566948 To find HIV test centers hear you www.hivtest.org

I'm including a list of organizations known for work in the field of HIV/AIDS relief. I am not advocating these organizations, but am listing them because of their ratings by those who analyze the efficiency, honesty, and impact of charities and so forth (namely, the BBB and charitynavigator.org). Use your own discretion.

OrganizationsCollapse )

Among all the other very real reasons to support the HIV/AIDS effort, disease epidemics destabilize nations and contribute to conflict, human rights abuses, and terrorism. Desperate people do deperate things.

What are we giving thanks for?

When I go home for thanksgiving, it is, to me, a time to enjoy my family. It is, to me, a time to be glad that I was able to spend another year with some of those I love still walking this earth. It is a time to be thankful for what I have and be circumspect about what I have not given. Though I participate in no physical harvest, I have reaped the benefits of a year's labor and effort and have survived thus far. For some, living to see each fall come to an end may not be any great accomplishment, but I have faced enough personal challenges to find each year's end a precious gift.

But what is it we celebrate as a nation this Thursday? We know this holiday was formalized as a shopping ploy to grease the economy at the end of the year, but we stir in the mythology of the "First Thanksgiving." What is it really about?

Inasmuch as I cite the Lawes and Libertyes of the Massachusetts Bay Colony whenever anyone proclaims the American freedom inherent in a God-fearing society, and contrast it with the wording of the US Constitution whenever the same perpetuate the myth of America as a Christian nation, I must discuss the realities of the history of Thanksgiving.

I did a little searching to find a good summary, and I cam across this:
Dismantling Thanksgiving myths: a Native American story.

I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, claim to be knowledgable about indigenous American cultures. I have not even read enough to begin to claim that I know how best to generalize discussion of them. I know that most of these people prefer to be identified by their individual tribe or nation ancestry. I'll stick with native, indigenous, or First Peoples for now, since I'm not speaking of any individuals in particular.

According to the rather unfortunately (still) named Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are 562 Federally recognized American and Alaskan native tribes. This site has a list of recognized tribes in the US and Canada, and the main page of that site has a number of interesting links, articles, and so forth addressing native concerns. This is another useful site, linked from the BIA. The National Congress of American Indians is the source for native US policy issues.

I cannot begin to address the realities facing these people. Certainly not in this post. I can, however, show you what I've found that might give us all a hint.

The First Nations Development Institute has a number of publications on indigenous economic development and descriptions of their goals and activities.

The Republic of Lakotah, is an independence effort with quite a long history.

The United American Indians of New England have a site particularly relevant to this discussion (which I've wandered away from a bit).

Of note here is this point. While American children are participating in Thanksgiving "reenactment" plays about the wondrous cooperation between colonists and native people, the decendents of displaced and nearly extinguished tribes (often including individuals decended from completely extinguished tribes) are living in conditions inexcusable in this land. These are not distant people you can easily separate yourself from, they are people that live within our own borders. They are people who live near us. They live near our cities and towns. They breathe our air. They work our soil. They drink our water. And our government has historically sought to annihilate them for just those "crimes." Now, it is quite true that there were often attacks on white settlers, just as the Zulu defeated the British at Isandlhwana; but this in no way excuses Federal policy nor individual action taken to convert, assimilate, or eliminate these people. The self-defense game can be played all day, but, in the end, one people has been decimated while the other enjoys the benefits of world hegemony.

While you're dressing up your children for their plays, or dressing your turkey while watching Macy's parade, remember this: (and, might I apologize for the tardiness of this notice) winter, which is associated with family gatherings, cheerful decorations, and holiday parties for us is a yearly test of mortality for them. Most recently, a nasty blizzard hit the Lakotah reservations in South Dakota on November 4. It took them more than 2 weeks to restore electricity. There is a continuing emergency at Pine Ridge reservation. You can donate to the cause, in case the recent lower unleaded fuel prices have given you a little more flexibility. Propane has seen some steep increases, making it that much harder to survive this winter.

Take some time this extra-long weekend to learn a little more about the history of Thanksgiving and what it has meant for those we share this land with. Then take some time to consider whether what you are so thankful for has been denied to another for your benefit.
I wanted to share some administrative things with you today. I have decided to begin planning a website to hold this blog and some other information. It may start out a bit weak, but, with time, I hope to fully populate it with stunning discourse. Or something.

I will, upon figuring out how, syndicate that new blog here, and copy the entries here over there. I do not have a domain yet, or any space. But that's the real reason I'm posting. As much as I dislike the idea of commercializing this information in any way, I have signed up for an associate account with Amazon.com You can find some links to books and movies (in fact, I've already posted one in an article) on my profile. The iframe links Amazon provides are not very compatible with LiveJournal, so they're a bit on the messy side. I apologize for that. But, I have signed up for this with the hope that, if you're buying the books and movies I'm linking to anyways (watch for reviews!), then maybe together we can build this site. I'm hoping to launch around June 2009, if not sooner. Thank you for reading, and I hope this doesn't discourage you from learning with me.

Also, I should go over a couple of my plans.

~An article of mine will be published this April in a graduate student journal. When it is, I will link it here and provide you an excerpt. It's moderately on topic. Sort of. Very exciting!
~I will be working, in the coming weeks, on a film review. I'm a few weeks behind, but hopefully that's not a problem. I will apprise you of that when I complete it.
~I will be working on a brief article for the upcoming International Association of Genocide Scholars Biennial Conference, and will post that when I complete it. Hopefully, they'll find it interesting enough to accept it for presentation. You know. If I can complete it for the March 1 call.

Obama, Darfur, and ICC justice

Obama, Darfur, and ICC justice
We must stand up to Sudan's shocking threats.

By Eric Reeves

from the November 24, 2008 edition

Northampton, Mass. - Of all the issues President-elect Barack Obama faces before he takes office, none is of greater moral urgency than changing the tenor of the US response to what he has repeatedly described as "genocide in Darfur."

That's because, before Inauguration Day, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is very likely to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, charging him with crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

These charges are amply justified by the evidence. Mr. Obama's clear and effective response is needed, because the Khartoum regime has threatened aggressive violence in a calculated campaign to fend off the arrest.

Indeed, its threats are as shocking as they are underreported.

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