Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chow down, Wide Load

"Betinna, when you're entertaining, it's polite to inform your friends."

I was caught between a rock and a hard place in my own kitchen!

Well, between two uglies. Two big uglies. The one whining was Cathy Pollitt and the one scarfing down food, while Cathy looked on in jealousy, was my husband Thomas Friedman. He'd finished off a large ham and was now jawing on the bone. I tried to comfort Cathy by pointing out that it contained no sugar.

"If you'd invited me," she huffed, "I would have told you to glaze the ham!"

Invite her? I hadn't invited him! Everyone just seemed to pop in. Whatever happened to ringing someone up on the telephone? The lost art of manners, guess Barack Obama threw that under the bus as well.

Cathy was starting to growl, so I hurried to the fridge, pulled out a carton of ice cream and tossed it to her.

She caught it in her mouth and consumed it -- carton and all -- in three chews. She was obviously very ticked off.

"You know, Betinna, I don't think now I should have helped you."

"Helped her do what?" asked my husband Thomas Friedman tossing the ham bone aside.

"Grab The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel's book."

Thomas Friedman was uninterested now. He probably thought it was some romance novel and better to spend his time scamping across my kitchen floor for his discarded bone.

I couldn't believe Cathy Pollitt would spill the beans like that.

Yes, I could.

She usually spills them from the other end. It's very embarrassing walking down a street with her as she makes like a human trumpet adding a little toot to every step.

But how dare she! She knew my husband, she knew what I thought of him. She knew I certainly wasn't telling him anything. But there she stood, gums flapping, letting it all hang out. She had a lot of girth.

I had to get something into that big mouth and quickly unless I wanted my husband Thomas Friedman to start nosing around.

"Cathy, I think I have a snack for you!" I hollered as I hurried to the cabinets and began digging through.

"Really?"

She was always so supicious when she was hungry -- so basically, she spent every waking second being suspicious.

"Here!" I cried waving a canned good in the air.

"Peaches? Are you insulting me? What is that, a Jared crack? Are you going to start dragging me to Subway? Betinna, I need healthy foods. Like Snickers! And Whoppers! Don't you have any Ding Dongs? I could make a sandwich with two and some grape jelly."

Sadly, she was 100% serious.

I searched madly through the pantry, having found nothing in the cabinets.

I emerged with waffle syrup, thinking I could pass it off as a beverage. I'd certainly seen her toss much worse down her throat.

Before I could holler "Chow down wide load!" it was already over.

Thomas Friedman had found the book. It was lying on the floor where I'd thrown it and he had been rolling the bone around on the kitchen floor and stumbled across it.

"What's this?" he asked.

"Oh," said a bored Cathy, "that's Katrina's plan for destroying the Democratic Party and then the world."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 11, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour week concludes, Najaf under curfer, and more.

Starting with war resistance. "As the Vietnam War fades into the past, the struggle for reinterpretation continues. One area that has received insufficient attention is war resistance. The script offered in public circles often reads like this: the war has ended for resisters; isolated numbers of people resisted military service, most of them 'draft dodgers'; all of the legal issues surrounding military resisters were resolved -- they eventually 'got off' and people only refuse military service when they face a draft. These myths, like most others about the war, are designed to influence future generations of potential warriors,"
reminds Harold Jordan (AFSC) in an essay reviewing the realities now fogged and ignored. Reality does make a difference and reality has been torn apart by those who continue to falsely insist that war resisters who went to Canada during Vietnam were just those avoiding the draft. Some had already been inducted into the service, some had deployed to Vietnam. There was never a procedure in Canada, during this period, where you had to state, "I left the service but I was drafted in!" It did not matter. In fact, it was assumed those going to Canada after serving in Vietnam were not only taking a courageous stand but were also bearing witness. Those who repeat the lies that it was just draft evaders have made the current climate in Canada more difficult as everyone latches on to the pot-hazed memories (of people who did not resist) as proof that the Vietnam era war resisters were only granted safe haven because there was a draft. The draft was not the issue, the illegal war was. As it is today.

James Burmeister is a class of 2007 war resister -- tranlation, Panhandle Media ignored him. While serving in Iraq, he saw the Bait and Kill teams -- US materials being planted (not just weapons, as the MSM reported when they picked up on the story in the fall of 2007) so that Iraqis could be shot when they touched US property. Burmeister returned to the US last winter, turned himself in at Fort Knox waiting to hear what happens next.
Courage to Resist posts an interview (audio) with him and his father Erich Burmeister. Asked whether or not Canada had placed "pressure on you to leave," James Burmeister explained, " Of course. You know, they kind of drag out the decision on whether or not they will let us stay. They make it hard for us to get jobs or financial assistance. We're kind of in the middle up here and that's how they pressure us, they don't really give us the status. They make it hard to live up here." Erich Burmeister spoke of the help Ann Wright and Anita Anderson Dennis (Darrell Anderson's mother) have provided. He also noted the kill teams.

Erich Burmeister: It was more what he was involved in there. Particularly what really bothered him was the bait and kill thing which now is a pretty infamous subject which has come up in some of the trials of some of the soldiers that have been put on trial for murder. This sniper, you know, putting out pieces of equipment and waiting for someone to touch it and they shoot him. And that really, really bothered him. Plus the fact that when they would go through these neighborhoods and, you know, kick in people's doors and raid their houses and just loot their houses, and the terror that he saw on people's faces. He told me these things had really bothered him. And the devestation he saw around him. It was -- it was really hard for him to deal with that. He told me times that he would see people digging through garbage, women digging through garbage, and he couldn't believe the conditions that the Iraqis were forced to live under and he felt like he was somewhat responsible for this.

While Burmeister waits to find out what the military will do, war resisters in Canada wait to find out whether they will be granted safe harbor. The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (
pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The week's biggest story is the death of 19 soldiers this week. Should have been but few seem aware of it (and, in fact, one news program yesterday evening said there were 16 deaths for the month so far, no, there have been 20 for the month thus far). ICCC has had problems (hacking their server) and possibly that's left some outlets confused. But yesterday's deaths resulted in 19. There are 20 for the month. The only death prior to this week was Travis L. Griffin who died in Baghdad from hostile fire on April 3rd. Clicking here will show you the 20 and the days they died. Starting Sunday (April 6th -- when 8 died), there have been 19 deaths. The deaths, little noticed and incorrectly counted when noted, came as The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour got some attention. But what would the reaction have been to the dog and pony show this week had most Americans read on the front page of their newspapers or heard at the start of their news broadcasts that 19 US service members were killed in Iraq this week thus far? Due to the media snoozing on the job, we can only guess.

On today's second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Demetri Sevastopulo (Finacial Times of London) and Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) about the week's events in the US and Iraq.

Diane Rehm: And this week, Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to call of the cease-fire. What is weighing, Nancy? And what does it mean for the security situation in Iraq?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well it's critical to the current, current political situation, because even the US conceeds that that cease-fire has been a key reason behind the recent drop in violence. This week Nouri al-Maliki threatened that anyone with any sort of militia behind them would not be able to participate in the elections and I think that's one reason Sadr is considering his actions this week. If he lifts it, it would substantially change the security situation and I think it would also raise questions about the directions he's headed in. When he declared the cease-fire, many interpreted Sadr as trying to rebrand himself as a Shia nationalist. He spent a lot of time in Iran building up his religious credentials if you will and if he lifts the cease-fire, I think that will put all of that into question. It would also say that he's pretty confident that he can control those forces which I think many people question right now whether he can.

Diane Rehm: The other question that arises, Demetri, is to what extent did the diminishment in violence that occurred in Iraq come about because of the surge or because Moqtada al-Sadr declared a cease-fire?

Demetri Sevastopulo: Well I think depending on when you asked the US military and the commanders this question, the answer had been different. For example, when President Bush went to Al Anbar Province last fall, as we were traveling out there, some officials said that the decline in violence there, the so-called Sunni "Awakening" where the shieks who had previously been fighting the Americans, allied themselves with Americans to take on al Qaeda. And we were told that that was in some ways serendipity and that surge was now going to have to build on that. Other officials said no, it wasn't serendipity, the surge created the situation or the platform for that to happen. I think it's very difficult to say. What you see at the moment is that the cease-fire is in danger of unraveling. Formally it's still in place. But the violence in Basra, the violence in Basra that has also spread to Baghdad is showing that it's very volatile. So I think, really, it's too early to tell and we're just going to have to wait and see. And General Petraeus yesterday warned that he was concerned the cease-fire could break.

Diane Rehm: So how did that upsurge in violence effect General Petraeus' comments, Ambassador Ryan Crocker's outlook?

Demetri Sevastopulo: It's been a difficult one for them to address because when it started in Basra, when Nouri al-Maliki launched his offensive, President Bush said this was a defining moment -- the Iraqi Prime Minister was showing the Iraqi people that the Iraqi troops were standing up on their own two feet, they were fighting for their country. On the other hand, Genereal Petraeus, he welcomed that, but he also pointed out that the operation was poorly planned that Mr. Maliki did not take his military advice and I've been told by some of my sources that Mr. Maliki also rejected offers of support from British forces who've been in Basra albiet pulled back at the airport.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: Here's an e-mail from Josh in Athens, Ohio, Nancy, he says "What happened to the benchmarks that President Bush shared last year? Has anyone forgotten what he said about marked progress? How will we end this war?" Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: You know, it's funny, the benchmark question came up during testimony on Capitol Hill this week from some legislators asking that very thing. The administration says that the Iraqis have met three of the eighteen benchmarks. But Ryan Crocker, the Ambassador, was quick to point out that if the Iraqis meet the benchmarks that doesn't necessarily mean that the security situation will improve or that it will lead to political reconciliation -- which was very interesting. And he, essentially, in saying that, really questioned what the benchmarks were for? Was it for the Iraqis? Or was it for the US to say here's tangiable proof that the Iraqi government is working on something?

Diane Rehm: So how much of what we're seeing in this upsurge is political and how much of it is military, Michael?

Michael Hirsh: You mean in terms of the politics here?

Diane Rehm: Yes, exactly. Politics here and the politics there as well.

Michael Hirsh: I think it's equal parts both. Clearly Petreaus is very serious about pursuing the surge and believes that Iraq would fail, come apart, if US troops were not there in current strength. But at the same time Bush came out yesterday, essentially embraced Petraeus' recommendations, said there had been a strategic shift in Iraq and that we now had the initiative -- is how he put it -- and that's obviously a political message for the fall campaign for those who might be or might not be voting for McCain. John McCain's candidacy, and the Republican ascendancy, and, I think, Bush's legacy as he sees it is very much wrapped up in McCain being seen and Iraq being seen in a positive light as McCain goes into November.

Meanwhile
Petreaus spoke with Katie Couric (CBS Evening News -- link has audio and text) for Thursday's broadcast and among the questions Couric put to him, "In our latest poll, 54 percent of Americans think the war is going badly. More than half obviously. How can you sustain this effort without more popular support here at home?" He replied with a denial statement insisting there was progress while acknowledging that "you have to leave that to the American people, who have to be the judge ultimately, who have to weigh all the different consequences along with of course our leaders." At the end of that segment, Couric notes, "General Petraeus also revealed for the first time that he's been engaged in secret diplomatic efforts. In recent months, he's quietly visited several Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey, hoping to convince those governments to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq." And of course Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, plan to visit Saudi Arabia to discuss Iraq. Which leads one to wonder exactly what is the US Secretary of State doing? As US Senator Chuck Hagel noted Tuesday during the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting Condi Rice doesn't appear to be doing anything "Kissinger-esque". The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday hearing was reported on by Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times), "Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del) noted that at least two of the presidential candidates disagreed with President Bush on overall Iraq policy. He warned David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq advisor, that 'if the president persists in this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving' the agreements. 'This is folly!' Biden said." The agreements sought by the White House are the Status of Forces Agreement and what's seen as a strategic framework agreement.


Bully Boy's bad speech yesterday dominated the bulk of the press. It was nothing new. As
US Senator Joe Biden noted of it, "The President confirmed what I've been saying for some time -- he has no plan to end this war. His plan is to muddle through and then to hand the problem off to his successor. So the result of the surge is that we're right back where we started before it began 15 months ago: with 140,000 troops in Iraq, spending $3 billion every week, losing 30 to 40 American lives every month -- and still no end in sight." After week long wave of Operation Happy Talk from the administration and its surrogates, what really happened? Peter Schmitz (Der Spiegel) observes, "Bush, in short, is changing nothing -- unless one counts the reduction in a tour of duty from 15 months to 12 months." And that change doesn't kick in until August 1st of this year. Anyone sent over prior to that date will be sent over on a 15 month term. Ann McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) pointed to the happiness of some, "[US Senator John] McCain exulted that progress has been made, even though Petraeus stressed it is 'fragile' and reversible.' . . . [McCain] and his buddy, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are among few optimists left in Washington." While those two got happy in the Land of Denial, Frank James (Baltimore Sun) notes John McCain's former National Security Assistant Anthony Cordsman declared this week, "The Congress, our military, and the American people deserve more than inarticulate Presidential bluster that seems to thinly camoflage a leadership vacuum."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad rocket attack on the Palestine Hotel that claimed 3 lives and left seven wounded, a rocket attack on the Green Zone, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that resulted in 4 deaths and three people being injured, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 2 lives and left five people wounded, a Ramadi car bombing claimed the lives of 4 members of the "Awakening" Council members and left three people wounded, a Salahuddin Province car bombing that claimed the life of 1 "Awakening" Council member, 2 Diyala Province roadside bombings that claimed the lives of 1 child and 2 Iraqi soldiers and left six family members of the child injured. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack that left eleven people injured.

Shootings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Najaf assassination of Seyid Riyadh al-Noori ("brother in law to Seyid Muqtada al-Sadr") "as he was returning from Friday prayers." CBS and AP note that Najaf is now under curfew. Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead outside Baiji and "three of his children" were wounded in the attack while, elsewhere in Mosul, 1 more person was shot dead.

Corpses?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 corpse (police officer) in Kirkuk.

Turning to US presidential politics. "I believe that impeachment was taken off the table because it's far easier to distance one's self from the American people than it is to distance one's self from the corridors of power,"
Cynthia McKinney declares to Cindy Piester (video only). McKinney is running for the presidential nomination from the Green Party. In a wide ranging interview, Piester takes you through McKinney's long years of public service, in Georgia's state legisture, in the US Congress and the social justice issues that matter to her campaign. Kevin Zeese (Dissident Voice) writes of McKinney, "McKinney served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives where she urged an end to the Iraq occupation, advocated for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, sought release of 9/11 Commission's underlying data, advocated on behalf of Katrina victims and sought to cut the bloated military budget. Twice she was defeated in the primary by a Democratic Party leadership approved candidate who worked with Republican cross-over voters for her defeat. She registered Green in September and became a candidate in a 'Power to the People' campaign in October. She is the putative nominee of the Green Party and will be on the ballot in almost all states." Stephanie M. Lee (The Daily Californian) reports on Wednesday's political forum at UC Berkeley and notes: "Larry Shoup, a local activist backing Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, said preserving minority viewpoints is crucial in a democracy. 'Once (Clinton or Obama) are elected, in our view they're going to move to the center,' Shoup said. 'The only way we can keep them honest and moving toward good positions is if we have an independent movement." How might Obama respond to that? "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations"? Susan UnPC (No Quarter) notes that statement of Obama's that's raising eyebrows. Hillary Clinton's response is: "I saw in the media it's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families."

Meanwhile
Judi Panasik (The Weekly Reader) points out, "Obama, like the last two Bush campaigns, is playing off of the fears and concerns of voters with no real merit behind what he is saying. . . . And correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't it Bush that convinced us the country was divided and that he would be the one to bring us all together?" From Obama to a candidate who actually stands for something . . . Ralph Nader is running for president. He has selected Matt Gonzalez as his running mate. Angelica Dongallo (The Daily Californian) reports that Gonzalez spoke about Obama's voting record:

"I'm picking on Senator Obama ... because your professor told me this is a pretty strong Obama crowd," Gonzalez said. "It says something about a candidate that can stand in front of you and repeatedly say, 'I can change the culture of Washington, (D.C.)' ... without giving you an accounting of what is going on here. What are these votes about?"

Earlier this week, Foon Rhee was 'covering' (not covering) Senator Hillary Clinton's proposals for breast cancer research. Rhee (Boston Globe) is back to gloat that Nader's campaign "is off to a slow start filling its campaign coffers" having pulled in $321,700 through February. Though not the millions the 2008 Democratic and GOP races that began in 2007 has gotten many to accustomed to, that's an impressive amount for a third party candidate. Rhee seems unaware when Nader declared he was running for president -- February 23rd. Again, that is an impressive amount to have pulled in. Ralph Nader writes: "

April 15 is around the corner.
Could the corporate executives of this country please stand up and show a little appreciation?
To the taxpayers who subsidize them? And bail them out?
How about the $30 billion bailout of reckless Bear Stearns as the most recent and egregious example?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that April 15th of each year be designated Taxpayer Appreciation Day, a day when corporations receiving taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, handouts and other forms of corporate welfare can express their thanks to the citizens who provide them.

US Senator Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Nichola Gutgold (WMC) compares and contrasts the way Clinton and Obama are speaking to voters in Pennsylvania and determines Hillary's is more effective and cites this example of Hillary connecting with voters:

I met with a group of truck drivers in Harrisburg yesterday. They are pretty fed up with high fuel prices and they were making their opinions known. Who is listening? I'm listening, but it doesn't seem like the White House is listening. The president is too busy holding hands with the Saudis to care about American truck drivers who can't afford to fill up their tank any longer. I meet workers all over Pennsylvania and elsewhere who lost their pensions; they have seen companies go into bankruptcy and discharge their obligations. We have a vice president, who, when he was CEO of Halliburton--which now gets all these no bid contracts, don't they, from the government?--workers lost $25 billion in pensions. But Dick Cheney got to strap on a golden parachute worth $20 million. You get tax breaks to people who don't need them while our children get stuck with the bill.

Also at WMC,
Peggy Simpson interviews pioneer and political scientist Jo Freeman about the 2008 race. One point not made in the must-read-article is that, should Clinton win the nomination, November would find two women on the ballot for president -- Clinton and McKinney. Meanwhile Delilah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament) weighs in on the insulting way Obama's been speaking to women lately. Nancy Reyes (Blogger News Network) notes a poll by Lifetime TV. The poll had an interesting finding that some reports are mentioning but no one is highlighting. This finding directly contradicts everything the MSM has repeatedly told news consumers. From Ellen Wulfhorst (Reuters):

As to Obama, 23 percent said they liked him more now than in January, citing his personal characteristics, while 22 percent said they liked him less. Of those, the most common reason was the Illinois senator's controversial relationship with the outspoken Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That would be the 'non-issue' Wright who damned the United States from the front of his church in the midst of a sermon. One who did get it was Stuart Taylor Jr. and
click here for his piece Monday for National Journal (that was noted in Tuesday's snapshot but the link didn't make it into the snapshot).

Tonight (in most markets)
NOW on PBS explores poverty. Bill Moyers Journal (also PBS and also tonight in most markets) looks at hunger in America. On the issue of economic realities David Bacon examines day laborers as he continues to report on immigrants and, in September, his latest book is released on this topic: Illegal Workers -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). You can also see his work here at Political Affairs magazine. Sunday on WBAI (11:00 a.m. EST), The Next Hour is hosted by Andrew Andrew and, on Monday, Cat Radio Cafe (2:00 p.m. EST):Adam Mansbach talks about his new novel, "The End of the Jews"; Stephen Frailey, head of the Department of Photography at the School of Visual Arts discusses "The 2008 Mentors Exhibition"; and painter Simon Dinnerstein discusses his collaboration with his daughter, virtuoso pianist Simone Dinnerstein and radio star Robin Quivers on "A Night of Music & Art with the Dinnersteins," a fundraiser for Healing Bridges, an organization creating jobs for women in Africa.




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