Wednesday, August 31, 2011
This month, Canada holds Operation Nanook, an Arctic military exercise designed to send a message to Moscow. Canada also has plans for its own territorial claim. The US, which has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which any territorial divisions would be made, is also beefing up its regional military might.
Monday, August 29, 2011
RBS is the only British bank to have recently done financial deals directly with the Belarusian government. The scandal of raising bonds for Belarus, a country with by far the worst human rights record in Europe, cannot be described as a one-off lapse of judgement on the bank's part. The bank's apologists, no doubt, will claim that it has done nothing illegal because the government of Belarus is not under international sanctions, apart from a feeble EU travel ban placed on top officials.
Natalia Koliada, from Free Belarus Now, said: "When British businesses invest in Belarus, or RBS sells their government's bonds, it helps support an authoritarian regime."
Full details here
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, satellites have found. The European Space Agency's Envisat shows both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route open simultaneously.Shipping companies are already eyeing the benefits these routes may bring if they remain open regularly. A number of major shipping companies are looking to the opening of these routes to shorten journey times and make their businesses more efficient. The Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand.
"But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward" observed Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from the University of Cambridge.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: “Fewer people are shopping because households are facing high inflation, low wage growth and uncertainty about future job prospects.”
Colin Borland, spokesman for the Federation of Small Business in Scotland, said “Hard-pressed families are reviewing every pound in their weekly budget. People are thinking before they buy and that, of course, has a knock-on effect on foot-fall and wider business confidence. As soon as people start to see vacant units appearing in high streets, it is almost as if they are contagious. It gives the impression the area is on the way down and means there is less economic activity to sustain remaining businesses.”
Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills in the Borders, will earn landowner the Duke of Roxburghe £720,000 a year. In the course of the 25-year lifespan of the windfarm, the Duke of Roxburghe could earn something between £18 million and £62.5m.
Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming will earn £435,000 from the 29 turbines on the Altyre estate near Forres in Moray.
The Earl of Seafield also has eight turbines on his estate near Banff in the north-east which are estimate to be able to earn him £120,000 annually.
The Earl of Moray receives £540,000 a year from 36 turbines at Braes O’Doune near Stirling.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said a survey of its members found just only one in 10.
96% reported working in excess of their contracted hours, with 27% saying they did this every shift.
More than a quarter said they provided last-minute cover for absentee staff at least fortnightly.
29% of nurses said they missed their meal time at work at least three times a week.
One in six said they rarely or never took the breaks they were entitled to.
One in five nurses said that in the past six months they had spent a week or more at work despite feeling too ill to be there.
Let hear it for the lazy workers once again!!!
Public sector cutbacks were blamed for the growing toll of female unemployment. The rate of female redundancies is also accelerating, according to separate figures for April to June this year which showed that women accounted for 45% of all those laid off
Youth unemployment north of the Border is racing ahead of the UK average, with the statistics revealing that Scots aged 18 to 24 accounted for more than 30% of Scotland’s JSA claimants, compared with a national average of 18.5%. There were 45,000 young Scots claiming JSA in July, a rise of more than 5000 on the previous month. Youth unemployment is up 10% on July 2010 and there has been a 40% rise in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds in Scotland who have been claiming JSA for between six months and a year.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Socialists don’t take sides in the debate about whether it is better for workers there to be ruled from Edinburgh or from London. The SNP argues that the problems facing workers in Scotland are due to “Westminster rule”. If only there was an independent Scotland, they say, separate from the rest of Britain, then there would be full employment, higher wages, job security, better state benefits, a healthy health service and all the other things politicians promise at election times. This view is echoed by the so-called Scottish “Socialist” Party and Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity. Nor should our opposition to the nationalist parties be interpreted as support for the Union or the Labour, Liberal or Tory parties that support it. A plague on all their houses.
Independence would be a purely political, not to say mere constitutional, change which would leave the basic economic structure of society unchanged. There would still be a privileged class owning and controlling the means of production with the rest having to work for them for a living. Just as now. An independent Scottish government would still have to operate within the constraints of the world capitalist system. It would still have to ensure that goods produced in Scotland were competitive on world markets and that capitalists investing in Scotland were allowed to make the same level of profits as they could in other countries. In other words, it would still be subject to the same economic pressures as the existing London-based government to promote profits and restrict wages and benefits. Ireland, which broke away from the UK and things have never been any different.
The Scottish nationalists see themselves as visionaries but they cannot see beyond the narrow confines of the nation-state, conceived in pre-medieval times and as outmoded as the clan system it replaced. It is the Socialist Party who are the true men and women of vision, who look forward to and struggle for a new world of common ownership and democratic control of society's resources.
The teacher said: "Be careful of Blair – he's a superb actor, he's good at getting others into trouble but avoiding it himself. In fact, he's a shit..."
The sales prospectus praised its “magnificent” 23-foot drawing room, private front garden, “delightful leafy outlook” over Blackford Hill to the rear and it was sold for £430,000 was made to Registers of Scotland on August 1. After capital gains tax, Mr Swinney made a profit of around £57,000. Mr Swinney’s gain on the property is one of the largest ever recorded by an MSP.
The largest was made by fellow SNP minister Alex Neil, who made £105,505 before tax when he sold up last year, after billing taxpayers for more than £87,000 for mortgage interest, security, utilities, council tax, factoring and insurance on a two-bedroom flat over a decade. Mr Neil’s ministerial responsibilities at the time included affordable housing and homelessness. He and his wife had stumped up just £4720 for a deposit on the property.
Swinney and Neil’s claims were made under the Scottish Parliament’s discredited Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance, which paid for MSPs to stay overnight in the capital.
Some stayed in hotels or rented flats, but some bought homes, reclaimed mortgage interest, and sold at a profit. Past beneficiaries of EAA who sold for a profit include former LibDem deputy first minister Jim Wallace, who made £69,400 before tax; Tory MSP Alex Johnstone (£60,000); SNP MSP Gil Paterson (£50,000); and former SNP homelessness minister Stewart Maxwell (£34,500). After an outcry over MSPs cashing in, since May they have only been able to claim for rent or hotel costs. The change is prompting some MSPs to sell.
Announcing a Treasury-imposed £1.3 billion cut in public spending in February, the Scottish Cabinet Minister Swinney said “Hard choices must be made.” Now he has made one of those "hard"choices, making a lot of unearned money while he’s currently freezing public-sector salaries and squeezing public services.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Since the SPGB was founded in 1904 generations of its members have had to examine whatever social, political and economic events arose.
For example, there were two world wars, the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, the rise of fascism, the Wall Street crash, the Social Credit movement of the 1930s, the election of Labour governments, the threat of nuclear weapons, inflation and much more.
Of course the party has made a few mistakes none of which were serious, but these are nothing compared to its successes which are truly remarkable since they were achieved by ordinary working class men and women and they did this by simply applying Marxist theory when most of the phoney Marxist floundered in reformist politics.
The branch meeting is at 8pm in the Community Central Halls, 304 Maryhill Road.
admission free, be there by 8.30pm to hear comrade Vanni's accounts
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The last home to be sold on The Links, which changed hands for almost £4m last year, became the priciest property per square foot in Scotland at £1,350, putting it among the most expensive property markets in the world, such as London and Monaco.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
provides some good reading and worthwhile scientific information. But as is usual for the reformers of the world, he gets the solution all wrong. After detailing the environmental problems we face, he writes, " In light of this sorry history, it would be easy to blame the Medean nature (i.e. self destruction) of the post-war period on unconstrained human ingenuity, or a rampant capitalist system (yeah, he's got it!). But evidence from the communist countries suggests that something far deeper was at work, for those countries mounted their own wars on nature which were, despite the lack of chemical weapons, as lethal of those of the West. (Oh no, he's lost it!) In Mao's China, brute human effort was the tool of choice, following the aphorism ren ding sheng tian (Man must conquer nature), in just a few decades, turned China into an environmental basket case." He goes on to show how little efforts here and there are making a difference but was deeply disappointed in the outcome of Copenhagen. How is it that intelligent, well-educated writers cannot grasp the simple nature of the problem? John Ayers
Thursday, August 11, 2011
In North Ayrshire, Scotland's worst-affected area, unemployment rocketed to 11.9 per cent - an increase of 5.5 percentage points in the three years covered by the survey. In Glasgow, the jobless rate rose to 11.7 per cent, up 4.8 points. A total of 6.3 per cent of Edinburgh's population was unemployed at the end of 2010, which represented an increase of two points over the three years. In Dundee, unemployment stood at 9.2 per cent - up 2.6 points.
Scotland's overall unemployment figure had increased from 4.7 per cent in 2007 to 7.7 per cent in 2010. Scotland's levels of economic inactivity, which includes all those who are not in work or claiming unemployment benefit, such as people with long-term illnesses or disabilities rose from 22.5 per cent in 2007 to 23 per cent over the three-year period covered by the survey. Figures also showed that the percentage of people in work in Scotland fell between 2008 and 2010, with the figure going from 73.5 per cent to 71 per cent.
There were also tens of thousands of young unemployed, aged 16-19, who were not in any sort of education of training. The survey showed 36,000 - or 13.7 per cent - of 16-19 year-olds were not in education, employment or training (NEET) - a figure that remained unchanged between 2009 and 2010.
The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland claimed many children could suffer as parents struggle to make ends meet. “If prices continue to rise, we’re going to see a significant increase in child poverty and this is going to have an impact on factors such as children’s health and education outcomes. Families are really struggling as living costs are rising rapidly and incomes aren’t moving to match them. Lots of families are worried about the future, they’re struggling to make ends meet and that’s going to lead to a lot of debt”.
Charity Age Scotland said that more older people could be facing poverty if bills continue to rise. Doug Anthoney, of Age Scotland, said: “If inflation reaches that point, it will have a significant impact on older people, many of whom are really struggling to pay for energy and food. “This is coming on the back of massive increases in fuel costs and it could well mean that more older people are found to be living in poverty.”
Peter Kelly, director of The Poverty Alliance, claimed that the poor would be the worst affected. “Not surprisingly higher rates of inflation will hit some of our poorest families hardest. The increases in fuel costs will make life increasingly tough for these families. When we add to this the fact that the costs of many other basic goods and services are rising, then it is clear our economic and social policies are not protecting those most in need."
A survey conducted by information management firm Nielsen showed that almost one-third of householders claim that they have no spare cash due to rising prices and the Consumer Confidence Survey also showed that 65% of shoppers are switching to cheaper grocery brands in a bid to save money.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
"Smaller venues, which are lent to artists free of charge, represent a better deal for the public and artist," said Free Fringe founder Peter Buckley Hill. "It's always the case that if you have good shows at zero pounds a ticket, and good shows that cost more, people will come to the free shows. It's more in keeping with the spirit of the festival." Buckley Hill, says “is almost a moneyless exercise”, adding, “we have found the right way of doing this – it is taking the Fringe back”.
The Free Fringe was founded in 1996 as a counterpoint to the high hire costs charged by the city's best-known venues. Performers are typically forced to hand over 40 per cent of their box-office takings to such venues.
“Members resent the fact that five directors will share a bonus pot of £90,000 each while they are being asked to accept a pay freeze.” Richard Leonard, the GMB organiser for Scottish Water said.
The union's membership had rejected the pay freeze offer, which came with a one-off payment of £250 for employees earning less than £21,000, by a margin of 62 to 38 per cent. Strike action could see key employees such as emergency call-out staff and water sewage treatments workers staying away from work during the winter.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
In China, the desire to run for office as an independent rather than on the "communist" platform seems to be on the rise. No problem for the government simply make them disappear. That was the fate of 43 year-old businessman Cao Tian. The government wants to keep the status quo by giving only "communist" candidates just as we have only capitalist
In an excellent series on mining by Jennifer Wells of the Toronto Star, she tells of Toronto-based Banro Corporation who has spent $450 million developing the Congo's first industrialized gold mine in 50 years. It sent former child miners to school and built a new village. But soon, jobs will be replaced by machines and education will be out of reach. Capital only works in its own interests no labour needed, no benefits.
Heather Mallick writes in the Toronto Star about buying Ikea furniture and inadvertently tells us how capitalism works, " So why am I buying it? Because it costs next to nothing. The backs of Billy bookcases are now made of what can only be called fancy cardboard, which is why Ikea can boast that one of its classic items gets ever cheaper." Crapitalism is a good synonym for the products we get today. John Ayers
A lethal pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, is being spewed out by traffic in such large quantities in four areas of the country that Scotland is in breach of levels set by the European Commission. The pollutants have been found to reduce the life expectancy of everyone in the UK by an average of seven to eight months and in central Scotland alone 600 deaths each year are attributed to air pollution. The EU restricts emissions of NO2 and other pollutants because of their health impacts. High levels of air pollution are associated with respiratory illness and are estimated to cause premature death for up to 50,000 people a year in the UK.
The Scottish Government plans next month to ask for an extra ten years to meet the targets in Glasgow city centre, and five more years for Edinburgh city centre, central Scotland and the North-east. In total, 82 miles of roads in Scotland exceed the pollution limits. If air quality in these areas does not improve, the government could be taken to court by the commission and risk hefty fines.
Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: "It is shocking that in the 21st century so many people are still being exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution in Scotland. Scotland has had plenty of time to take preventative action, so it is completely unacceptable that not only are we set to breach air quality targets, but attempts are being made to delay compliance by a further decade. This situation is a direct result of Scotland's failure to produce a sensible strategy that adequately addresses air pollution and climate emissions from road traffic." He added: "With air pollution already responsible for bringing forward the death of hundreds of people in Scotland, the longer we delay action to address this, the more lives will be put at risk."
The environmental law organisation ClientEarth has issued legal proceedings against the UK government for its failure to meet air pollution targets. Chief executive James Thornton said: "Since air quality laws were introduced, successive governments have failed to clean up the air we breathe. We cannot afford to waste any more time by ignoring this invisible killer."
For all of us concerned with the degradation of our lived-in environments by air pollution removing the link between money and work will us free to address these matters.
Monday, August 08, 2011
Workers said they were told there would be no further employment opportunities at Sykes unless they spoke a second language. After the call ended on the speaker phone one of the team leaders just said 'right, go back to your desks and log in'. The worker added: "We have been told that there are no other opportunities unless you speak German or Italian."
One worker said: "We were packed into a conference room, about 80 of us, and the account manager for O2 came on the speaker phone to explain that a firm in Ireland had come in to do the work cheaper and we would have 90 days before the contract was ended...People were really shocked because we were never told losing the account was a possibility and we are mostly on permanent contracts but they were also really annoyed that they didn't tell us face to face"
Caring capitalism at work.
Socialist Courier reads that the Ministry of Defence is investigating claims that a soldier sliced fingers off dead Taliban fighters to keep as souvenirs. The allegations relate to a soldier from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who was serving in Afghanistan.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
In Toronto, the strike by workers against Infinity Rubber reaches twenty Months. The strikers have an average of 30 years service with the company and rejected no surprise, a 25% wage cut and the demand that they pay half their benefits, effectively reducing their wages from $20 to $13 per hour. The company is facing many economic challenges, such as competition from China-based companies, and thus have to wring concessions from workers to keep up. Thus goes the capitalist system where the worker always gets the short end of the stick.
- Meanwhile, the workers at the former telecommunications giant, Nortel, have to settle for 57 to 75 % of their pensions and about half their benefits. They were lucky to get that much as only the sale of the company's patents put enough into the fund to bring it up to that.
- On the other hand, while workers are getting shafted at every turn, the executives are doing very well, particularly if they fail. David Olive, writing in the Toronto Star (23/07/11) tells us that the top managers at News of The World scandal got $9.7 million severance pay with Rebekah Brooks taking $3.9 million; between 1976 and 2009 Canadian workers' pay rose just 5.5% while median pay for the top 500 CEOs jumped 35% last year alone to $8.4 million (Olive asks if they got 35% smarter or worked 35% harder! Good question); General Electric shares have dropped 60.8% during the tenure of CEO Jeffrey Immelt who was rewarded with $37.2 million in free stock; drugmaker Pfizer's shares dropped 48.1% in the past decade yet CEO Jeffrey Kinder retired with a 434.4 million severance package; ExxonMobil's shares showed a 5.8% negative return in 2010 but Rex Tillerson got $88 million. And the list goes on and on with the same old tales. No money for social programs and health, plenty of money for the already rich. No, reforms won't work, only a revolution will do the job as socialists continually point out. John Ayers
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Matt Henderson, business recovery and insolvency partner at accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael, said: "This makes for truly miserable reading, particularly when we see the stock markets in global meltdown."
"I believe that many of these failures are among smaller Scottish firms and that some will simply be victims of larger firms going bust. The 'domino' effect of larger firms taking smaller firms with them is well known but I have seen many examples of firms who were not massively in debt but who simply lost their order book when a larger company went bust." Bryan Jackson, corporate recovery partner at accountancy firm PKFwarned: "I have continued to see many long-established, well-known businesses going bust. Some of the owners, who may have been through two or three or more recessions in the past, have tended to believe that they can ride out the recession as they have in previous years. Unfortunately, this recession is unprecedented and its impact is still being felt by many businesses across Scotland. The much-anticipated upturn may be some way off."
Iain Fraser, Scottish spokesman for insolvency practitioners' trade body R3, added: "What these figures reveal is corporate Scotland is really struggling to cope with the after-effects of the recession."
Once the recession is upon us, conditions that are favourable to a recovery become apparent. Companies that declare bankruptcy sell off their assets cheaply to their rivals. Less demand for producer goods means lower prices. The reserve army and many others are laid off creating a competition for jobs and thus lowering wages. Lower demand for loans reduces interest rates like any other commodity. The large stocks built up before the advent of the recession gradually decline to a point where production is again necessary. All of these factors make investing in production more attractive and the cycle begins its upward swing. It is evident then that the seeds of every boom are to be found in every recession and, conversely, the seeds of every recession are to be found in every boom. This boom and bust cycle is an entirely natural occurrence of the capitalist mode of production. It hasn’t collapsed capitalism yet, and, in fact, recessions tend to strengthen the system by weeding out the weak and inefficient enterprises.
Tim Maguire, marriage celebrant and spokesman for the society, said: “The difference is that people can choose exactly what they want to say and they can make the celebration very personal. We believe humanist weddings will be the most popular type of celebration in Scotland within four years.”
Friday, August 05, 2011
Then there is North Korea. While the people starve, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il and his friends have McDonald's hamburgers flown in and the amount of luxury clothing, cigarettes, watches, and cognac from China has doubled in a year. Of all the effects of the capitalist mode of production, poverty, hunger, and death by malnutrition has to be the one that should make everyone a socialist. John Ayers
Opponents claim the Scottish Defence League (SDL) has deliberately chosen the day before the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York for the parade, which is understood to pass the American Consulate.
Luke Henderson, spokesman for the Unite Against Fascism group, said he is "appalled" to learn of the SDL's plans for another demo in Edinburgh. "We don't think the SDL should be given permission to march in Edinburgh and will be urging people to write to the council to make their view clear before a decision is taken."
Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, spokesman for the Scotland United anti-racism alliance, added: "Our view is absolute condemnation of this application in light of what has happened in Norway. This is a violent and extremist organisation."
The SDL's racist ideology is hateful and it is understandable – and to be welcomed – that most people don't like it. But what's the best way to deal with them? The Socialist Party takes a very unpopular position with the Left. We in the Socialist Party have always insisted on the advantages, for the advancement of the cause of socialism, of the fullest possible freedom of expression of political and social ideas. No view should be prevented from being expressed. We have always practised what we preach. We opposed the banning of the Daily Worker in 1941. We have criticised the policy of “no platform for fascists” as censorship by direct action. We have debated against fascists and Islamists. The best condition for the emergence of socialist understanding remains free and frank discussion. The only effective way to deal with the SDL is to confront their arguments head on and that includes their nationalism. The other parties cannot do this because they too are nationalists. The SDL is only expressing in an extreme form a nationalist position that they themselves share. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating lies of fascists and the quick fix they offer? The answer is not to stop the SDL by banning them or physically fighting them. It is to organise on a world-wide class basis to end capitalism – which, necessarily, involves a rejection of nationalism. That is the socialist, anti-nationalist position which the Socialist Party maintains against all other parties, not just the SDL.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Dr Roff, a senior research fellow at Dundee’s department of medical sociology explained “We already allow strangers to donate kidneys out of the goodness of their hearts. They get their costs covered, they don’t know who the recipient is, there’s no publicity, no public acknowledgement of what they do. We’ve moved away from the notion it has to be a family member or a close associate who can give you a kidney. We’ve already moved into the zone of allowing the general public to make good-hearted donations. What I’m suggesting is, why don’t we add money to this equation in order to increase the amount of provision which is there...I came to this figure of £28,000 because that’s the average national income in Britain at the moment, so it seems a fair price across all the social strata..."
The British Medical Association said it would not support money being offered in exchange for kidneys.
Dr Calum McKellar, director of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics said: “A legal, regulated market in human body parts would end up exploiting those who have very restrictive financial means, such as many students and foreigners.”
There are currently 725 people in Scotland waiting for a new kidney but the number coming up for transplant has plateaued at around 200 in recent years. How much smaller would be the number if those in various industries (chemicals, oil, tobacco, pharmaceuticals etc) had not poisoned and polluted our bodies for profit for decades?
Everything inside capitalism takes the form of a commodity, everything has its price, so it doesn't come as a surprise to Socialist Courier to read Dr. Roff's proposal.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
They would attempt to define South Sudan's borders for a new issue of the atlas to be published in September – a task easier said than done. They would need to draw up a finalised map of South Sudan to meet their publishing deadline in May, despite the fact the country itself would not yet officially exist. They would need to commit to a boundary line between Sudan and South Sudan, despite the fact that areas of that border continue to be violently disputed.
"Where a new boundary is created, and a new country, there will always be small-scale disputes along it. There will always be villages along that boundary line – it happened after the Second World War – where people don't really know which country they belong in. But the boundary line needs to go somewhere and as large-scale mapping is not a top priority in Sudan at the moment, the administrative lines are as accurate as we can get."
To achieve that level of accuracy, Ashworth and the committee rely on a team of around six news-gatherers to monitor constantly the geopolitical developments to help to inform their decisions, and ultimately, the authoritative depiction of nations. They carefully examine the projections of the UN, international governments, aid agencies, geopolitical experts on the ground, and specialist academic institutions such as the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University.
Despite this vast amount of fact-finding, Peter Barber, head of maps at the British Library, once said that a map is, essentially, a lie. "...every map is subjective, and always will be," he explained. "You have to select what you put on it."
Mick Ashworth agrees. "Maps are a very powerful tool for presenting an agenda and propaganda," he says. "People often believe maps more than what they see in the real world. But we are aware of that, and we are aware that if we get things wrong, or don't represent things in the way that they should be, then we will hear about it."
Paternalism is a common attitude among well-meaning social reformers. Stemming from the root pater, or father, paternalism implies a patria...
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