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Friday, December 31, 2004

TSUNAMI UPDATE

The toll now stands at 125,282. More than 80,000 Indonesians are reported killed. Sri Lanka has lost 27,268.

About 6,000 foreign tourists are missing, including 2,000 Scandinavians, 1,000 Germans, 1,000 Australians and 600 Italians. More than 2,000 tourists have died. The official British toll is 26, but fears are held for more than 100. Sweden’s government has been criticised for the slowness of its response; 54 Swedes were killed, and foreign minister Laila Freivalds admits “we didn’t fully understand the scale of how many people would be injured and dead.”

Few did. Australia’s aid contribution has been increased to $60 million, and many Australian companies have made substantial donations:

Visy Industries and the Pratt family: $1 million to CARE Australia.

BHP Billiton: $641,000 (the company will also match staff donations)

Lonely Planet publications: $500,000

Woolworths: $500,000

ANZ Bank: $260,000

Commonwealth Bank: $250,000

Australia Post: $250,000

Wesfarmers: $250,000

Rio Tinto Australia: $154,000

Westpac: $100,000 (plus matching staff donations)

National Australia Bank: $100,000

The Red Cross has established a website to help trace missing people. Several other search-and-assist sites are listed here. Colorado’s Mike Weatherford e-mails:

If there’s anyone in the disaster area from Colorado, and if they can find a blogger where they are (there seem to be a handful in every city in Asia), they can email me, and I’ll call and let people know they’re ok. I think there are hundreds of other bloggers that would assist. We need someone to coordinate names and contact points for survivors.

We have a huge number of Christian relief groups in Colorado Springs. If any reputable blogger will email me with specific needs, I’ll try to contact local charities to fill them. We also have a Reserve airlift unit here, so we may even be able to speed things up a bit. I’ve commented about this kind of help on my website.

Goths care. The pale and solemn guys at Enmore Station are organising a goth/industrial/darkwave tsunami fundraiser at Sydney’s Club 77 next Wednesday. All power to Enmore Station and their Dark Master. Robert Corr urges Perth readers to donate non-perishable food, milk powder and medicine at the Ceylon Style Cafe in East Victoria Park, and tsunami video archivist Pundit Guy will contribute 50% of donations to his site to the Red Cross.

UPDATE. Bryan Chaffin reports that Apple Computer has dedicated its home page to disaster relief for tsunami victims. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Red Cross appeal - helped along by an early Instaboost - has now raised more than SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS.

UPDATE II. Stories of Thai heroism emerge: “One Australian survivor spoke of a small Thai man on a water tower who saved several people by snatching them as they swept by him out to sea. With impossible strength, and at great personal risk, he dragged them from the torrent and certain death.”

UPDATE III. More than 500 French citizens are missing and 22 are listed as dead. France has now increased its aid to $57 million. Britain’s contribution has tripled, now set at $95 million, and Sweden is in for $75.5 million. Earlier misreporting of France’s contribution led to unfair comparisons.

UPDATE IV. The Americans are coming:

A US carrier battle group headed for Indonesia’s Aceh province today to spearhead an unprecedented multinational military effort to assist the survivors of last weekend’s quake and tsunami.

A second US Marine strike group from the Pacific territory of Guam was on its way to Sri Lanka with water, food and medical supplies.

The Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and four other ships will take up position off Aceh tonight, US navy officials said.

The Guam group, headed by the USS Bonhomme Richard, - specially designed to carry land men and equipment under difficult conditions - will arrive off Sri Lanka within a week, they added.

UPDATE V. British swamp hog Clare Short wants the Americans to go away:

“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

UPDATE VI. Finland, a nation of only five million, has raised four million dollars. Italians have donated $17 million via a mobile phone texting system. A British charity group hoovered in $39 million within 24 hours. As of noon Thursday, the US Red Cross had collected $18 million.

UPDATE VII. Americans have privately contributed more than $127 million. The ABC’s Leigh Sales - who two days ago complained that “while the US Government is so far giving $44 million to the tsunami victims, the National Retail Federation here predicts Americans will spend more than $200 billion on presents, food and holiday sales this Christmas” - remains unimpressed:

The United States gives more cash than any other nation, but isn’t particularly generous when you look at its contributions as a percentage of its Gross National Product.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/31/2004 at 05:30 PM
(38) CommentsPermalink

BUSH ADMIRED/DESPISED

Robert Crum in the London Observer, earlier this year: “Today, by some margin, George W. Bush is the most despised figure in America.”

Gallup survey, this week: “President George W. Bush tops Gallup’s annual survey of the ‘most admired man’ for the fourth year in a row.”

Speaking of Dubya, he’s apparently bound for a heart attack, if you believe the latest IndyMedia theory.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/31/2004 at 02:44 AM
(45) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, December 30, 2004

TSUNAMI SMACKDOWN ATTEMPTED

You think Muslims versus Christians is a major feud? Or Linux vs. Microsoft? Red state vs. Blue state? Well, friends, these disputes are as nothing compared to the ferocious rivalry between Hurricane Rooters and their hated opponents, the Tsunami Buddies. Leading hurricane advocate James Wolcott disses the Buddies in his latest post:

I was pleased to see the President of the United States put down the frigging rake long enough to put on his best Sunday-go-to-meetin’ suit and issue a public statement regarding the catastrophic tsunami.

Tsunami fans will no doubt claim Wolcott is simply jealous his beloved twisters (“Mother Nature’s fist of fury, Gaia’s stern rebuke”) couldn’t achieve such an outstanding body count.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 02:39 PM
(47) CommentsPermalink

KERRY FANS RALLY AT ONE OF HIS FIVE HOUSES

Wonkette on the now-concluded Ohio recount:

We lost, everybody. L-O-S-T. Just concentrate on your Canadian visa applications; if you screw that up, you can’t blame Deibold.

Presumably she’s addressing the likes of Boston’s John Kerry Six, a proud mini-collective who’ll never surrender:

About a half dozen supporters of John Kerry are holding vigil in front of his house, still hoping for a Kerry presidency.

The little knot of demonstrators, calling themselves the Coalition Against Election Fraud, stood shivering in the cold yesterday, hoisting signs and pressing fliers into the hands of bewildered passersby. Taxi drivers, neighbors digging cars out of the snow, and Beacon Hill residents who happened to be strolling by were subjected to earnest pleas to join the cause.

’‘Who knows? Maybe we’ll overturn the election,” said Sheila Parks, a vigil organizer.

In any case, Kerry wasn’t home to take notice of yesterday’s demonstrators. A woman answered the door and promised to deliver a message when he returns from vacation.

Kerry’s old high school band had twice as many members.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 01:59 PM
(26) CommentsPermalink

UNICEF: NO WAR IS JUSTIFIED, EVER

ABC host Emma Alberici finds common ground with UNICEF peace-at-all-coster Carol Bellamy:

EMMA ALBERICI: The Australian, British and US governments were willing to spend billions of dollars waging a war in Iraq after the death of 3,000 mainly Americans on September 11. A letter to the editor in one of our major newspapers this morning points out that now that 60,000 Asians have been killed, those same countries have only been prepared to spend millions to help.

CAROL BELLAMY: Well, frankly, we at UNICEF think that money spent on war is wasted money in the first place, wherever that war is; that war is not good for children in any forum at all. So those kinds of resources, wherever it is - whether it’s in the Middle East or whether it’s in Columbia or whether it’s in Sri Lanka itself - is money badly spent and ought to be spent on human development, not on war.

Pair of idiots. Meanwhile, Miranda Devine highlights a more entertaining conversation:

Listen to Neill Wright, the new UNHCR regional representative, speaking to Phillip Adams this month on Radio National: “Australia is particularly generous in offering what we call resettlement - that’s an opportunity to start again in a third country.”

Adams replies, sarcastically: “Well, I suppose you could describe it as generosity.”

He just did, Phillip.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 01:38 PM
(33) CommentsPermalink

USELESS INFORMATION

The International Herald Tribune reports:

Early on Sunday morning, powerful computers in a Vienna office building received seismic data on the earthquake that spawned the devastating tsunamis across south Asia - information that might have saved lives in the hours between the quake and the waves hitting the coasts of Sri Lanka, India and several other countries.

But the data streaming into the computers of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization served no purpose Sunday.

The 300 staff are on vacation until Jan. 4.

There were other barriers to using that information, as you’ll find if you read the entire piece. Nevertheless, it’s a little surprising to read of such a large organisation - with an annual budget of $100 million, by the way - closing down entirely over Christmas/New Year.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 01:19 PM
(6) CommentsPermalink

GOING HOME

The Bakhtiaris have been booted:

Australia’s highest profile asylum seekers, the Bakhtiari family, are being deported, a federal government spokeswoman says.

“I can confirm that the removal is currently underway,” a Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) spokeswoman said.

Ali and Roqia Bakhtiari and their six children are being deported to Pakistan, after failing in legal bids over four years to secure refugee status in Australia.

The family claims to be Afghani, but the government says they are from Pakistan.

It isn’t quite the straighforward he says/she says as described by the SMH. Ali Bakhtiari’s claims have repeatedly been revealed as bogus. Final proof that the family is, in fact, from Pakistan: Bob Ellis says they aren’t.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 12:18 PM
(18) CommentsPermalink

E-PREDATORS ATTACK

This e-mail arrived a few minutes ago:

Dear Sir/Madam,

With sympathy and heavy laden hearts, we hereby appeal to your sense of generosity to assist by donating any amount you can afford towards The “TSUNAMIS DISASTER HELP FUNDS”, which is aimed at assisting the victims of the Asians Tsunamis which took place on Sunday the 26TH December, 2004 .

We are a non- governmental charity organisation with offices and members across 5 continents namely Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia. Our goal is to assist poor, innocent survivals of both man-made and natural disasters. Our officials and members are scattered in places in needs of human and material relief as seen in cases of Sudan ( Darfur ) and Haiti etc.

We would appreciate it, if you can send us an email. For further enquiries on how to make donations towards the Tsunamis Disaster Help Funds ( T D H F )

Yours Sincerely
Mr. Cedric Hyzy
Chief Coordinator

It’s a scam, obviously. You’d be better off donating to the Human Fund.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 06:06 AM
(9) CommentsPermalink

BLOGS USEFUL

Der Spiegel hails blog speediness during times of crisis:

If you want to find out more information about this week’s tsunami of biblical proportions in Southeast Asia and how you can help the victims, the best place to go is a new blog in the Indian Ocean region that’s compiling everything from requests by organizations seeking donations to victim lists.

Blogs are at the forefront of the tsunami recovery effort. While traditional media drags awaiting publication, and government hotlines jam or go unanswered, bloggers have hopped into the fray, providing needed information to relatives desperate to find loved ones and those hoping to join the rescue efforts. One of the best sites out there is the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog set up by students from New Delhi, a Sri Lankan TV producer and Internet junkies in the region. It offers everything from fascinating tsunami facts to emergency contact numbers to humanitarian relief organizations. Plus it tells you how to donate money from wherever you are.

Speaking of which, the Instapundit-assisted Amazon donation site has now raised more than two million dollars.

UPDATE. Make that three million.

UPDATE II. More on tsunami aid in an excellent piece at Red State.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 05:55 AM
(5) CommentsPermalink

TSUNAMI LATEST

The death toll has increased to 80,000; that’s ten times the number reported early Monday. Here’s a nation-by-nation analysis from a few hours ago:

Indonesia: 36,268

Sri Lanka: 22,493

India: 10,850

Thailand: 1657

Burma: 90

Malaysia: 65

Maldives: 55

Bangladesh: 2

Somalia 100

Tanzania 10

Kenya 1

One Swedish tour company can’t account for 600 people. In all, more than 1,000 Swedes and Germans are missing. A Swedish volunteer support centre worker tells the SMH: “I don’t think they [the Swedish Government] understood how big it was. At first they said the Government can’t do anything. It’s the travel agencies’ job.”

Nine Australians are dead, and twenty-seven in hospital. Only 3,000 of the 8,000 Australians believed to have been in the region are accounted for; of those, however, only seven are currently listed as being “of concern”.

One of blogger Kathy Kinsley’s friends survived the tsunami. Another was killed.

Rapid reaction by Kenyan officials may have saved hundreds of lives:

“Our marine specialists were monitoring satellite images from the Indian Ocean so we knew we were likely to feel the after-effects,” said a spokesman for the Kenyan navy. “We were then able to co-ordinate with the police, and the ports and harbours.”

George W. Bush has announced a coalition of the helping, including Australia, Japan and India, to lead relief efforts.

Terrible images from Sri Lanka; this is particularly heartbreaking.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 04:04 AM
(8) CommentsPermalink

BITTER LOSERS

The Sydney Morning Herald’s online forums attract the nicest people:

I cant help but wonder, how as a country can we justify the hundreds of millions spent on the Iraq war, yet our Government allocates a meagre ten million to such a disaster, shows you where our priorities are. - John Smith

Why is our military off mucking about in a token war when we REALLY need them here? - Cathy Bannister

We are shocked and sad at such needless loss of life, yet we ignore the fact we spend $b’s so that we can kill just as many in the pursuit of a new world order. - Rubens Camejo

Feel that I have just woken from a dream. Iraq never really happened and 100000 thousand Iraqi people havn’t died .The Coalition of the willing didn’t kill them and we dont have to send them aid after all.john g

Nice folks in the letters pages, too (archived link to yesterday’s letters not yet available):

Almost 3000 people died as a results of events in the United States on September 11, 2001, and our Government was willing to spend billions to do something about it - even go to war, and not ask any embarrassing questions about the evidence for or legality of doing so.

Tens of thousands of Asians die and all our Government can spare to help them is $10 million.

I guess it makes sense. We all know an American’s life is worth millions but Asians’ lives are worth only a few hundred. I’m surprised there’s even a body count. Dead Iraqis don’t get counted. - Gordon Drennan, Burton (SA)

It would be a tangible mark of the true greatness of the man were the Prime Minister to devote as many resources to this overwhelming disaster as he has to the Iraqi disaster and its aftermath. - Severino Milazzo, Maroubra

Today’s SMH letters include a couple of winners, however:

I wonder if multimillionaire Osama bin Laden will donate anything to help his fellow Muslims in their terrible distress caused by the tsunami. - David Blackburn, Hawkesbury Heights

Quick. Hurry Osama. Before you lose the initiative. Spend some of your millions. Send some of your obscene followers. Get in and help those suffering so much from the tsunami before the US-led Forces of Evil send in their tents, doctors, nurses and clean water.

Oh! Too late, they’ve beaten you again. Next time, perhaps. - John Colebatch, North Epping

Posted by Tim B. on 12/30/2004 at 12:48 AM
(20) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

AUSTRALIA SPENDS BIG

Various contributions to the tsunami aid effort. All figures in Australian dollars:

Australia: $35 million

New South Wales: $2 million

Western Australia: $2 million

Queensland: $1.5 million

Victoria: $1.5 million

Australian Capital Territory: $500,000

South Australia: $500,000

France: $177,000

UPDATE. That French figure seems impossibly low, but it checks out here and here (100,000 euros = $A177,000 = $US135,400). France is also sending rescue workers to Thailand and humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, but please ... $177,000? Andrew Sullivan probably makes more during his Pledge Week. 

In other charity news, the Australian cricket team has donated its prize money from the Second Test and is promising further fund-raising; and Stephen Frost reports from Hong Kong on Indonesian maids who’ve raised $10,000 so far for victims back home:

There are around 85,000 Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong (the second largest group after Filipinas). Despite their low pay (they are often paid well under the minimum wage) and being denied a day off on Monday (Boxing Day Holiday in Hong Kong), the community has started to raise money for relief efforts back home. This has been difficult because usually they only meet on Sundays, so the drive to raise funds has been conducted by SMS and other means. However, as of this morning they have raised $HK10,000 and organisers expect that on Sunday they will add to this amount considerably. All cash is being collected by a well known human rights activist from Aceh living in Hong Kong, and will be deposited with an international agency. Many of these women will have lost entire networks of families and friends and can do nothing but sit and wait for news to filter through or donate whatever they can from their small wages.

UPDATE II. Tasmania only has the population of Melbourne’s western suburbs, but you beat them, France! They’ve donated just $150,000!

UPDATE III. Jeff Jarvis writes:

The NY Times headline this morning says: “Irate Over ‘Stingy’ Remark, U.S. Adds $20 Million to Disaster Aid.”

Now that makes a direct cause-and-effect relationship; the headline says we added $20 million because of the U.N. “stingy” crack.

The story does not back that up. I don’t believe the facts back that up.

Hey, it could be true; maybe ‘stingy’ is the magic word that unlocks US government money! Yo, US government! You are STINGY because you haven’t given me any PayPal money! Stingy stingy stingy!

That ought to do it.

UPDATE IV. The Sydney Morning Herald repeats that $170,000 figure. I’ve driven more expensive cars.

UPDATE V. Australian charities have raised nearly $3 million. Says Red Cross volunteer Jenny Patterson: “It’s been really hectic. You put down the phone and it rings again ... people are being very generous.”

UPDATE VI. US readers can donate at Amazon (current total: $1,587,261.99) or by calling the WorldVision.org number: 888-562-4453 (via Hugh Hewitt).

UPDATE VII. I thought that French total sounded impossibly low. Reader Heiko points to these two articles, and writes:

100,000 Euros is what cities and departements (somewhat comparable to US counties) in France are quoted as giving in the above links. Dijon for example is giving 150,000 Euros.

France is giving 15 million Euros, Germany 20 million Euros.

As with the US, these are sums given for immediate disaster relief. More is to be expected later.

Good.

UPDATE VIII. More from Heiko, in comments:

It’s kind of funny to read the comment section of this article: A French reader being happy at finally hearing that other nations are also providing help.

I suppose a lot of this is due to delays in reporting donations in other countries, without your listing I wouldn’t be aware of all the details with regards to Australia and would only know the total pledged by the Australian government.

According to this German source, more than 100 million euros have been pledged in total so far, with the European Union and Japan giving the most (30 million euros each), followed by the US (25 million euros) and Australia (20 million euros).

The total seems to be rising quickly, and it’s clearly very difficult to provide an up-to-date and accurate listing with so many people and organisations giving.

UPDATE IX. Reuters earlier:

FRANCE: Foreign Minister Michel Barnier in Sri Lanka, then Thailand. Has earmarked 100,000 euros for relief, sent 16 rescuers to Thailand, 10 tonnes aid to Sri Lanka.

Reuters now:

FRANCE: 15 million euros pledged to affected states in Southeast Asia. French authorities and aid groups decide to send 110 tonnes of aid

Posted by Tim B. on 12/29/2004 at 11:27 PM
(25) CommentsPermalink

THOSE [url=http://www.jawsmovie.com/jscript.html]BEACHES[/url] WILL BE OPEN FOR THIS WEEKEND

Via Wizbang, an astonishing report translated from Expressen.se:

Just minutes after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, Thailand’s foremost meteorological experts were sitting together in a crisis meeting. But they decided not to warn about the tsunami “out of courtesy to the tourist industry”, writes the Thailand daily newspaper The Nation.

The experts got the news around 8:00 am on Sunday morning local time. An hour later, the first massive wave struck. But the experts started to discuss the economic impacts when they were discussing if a tsunami warning should be made. The main argument against such a warning was that there have not been any floods in 300 years. Also, the experts believed the Indonesian island Sumatra would be a “cushion” for the southern coast of Thailand. The experts also had bad information; they thought the tremor was 8.1. A similar earthquake occurred in the same area in 2002 with no flooding at all.

The report - which the Washington Post cautions has not been independently confirmed - contains this quote:

“We finally decided not to do anything because the tourist season was in full swing. The hotels were 100% booked full. What if we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation, and nothing had happened. What would be the outcome? The tourist industry would be immediately hurt. Our department would not be able to endure a lawsuit ...”

We need more information on this.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/29/2004 at 05:20 PM
(46) CommentsPermalink

COURAGE

Susan Sontag has died aged 71. We’ll remember her for these words, written after September 11:

Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): Whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.

BBC posters mourn the yawning vacuum left by this departed admirer of courage:

Derrida and Sontag, that’s too big of a loss for one year. And I am sad to say, I don’t see a hopeful new generation to replace such geniuses ... - Karoly Aliotti, New York, NY

She will be greatly missed. I agree with Karoly. The loss of Derrida and Sontag within a few months has left a yawning vacuum which looks like it won’t be filled. The “intellectuals” of the 21st Century are more focused on building search engines than writing books. Sad. - Nadeem Azam, London, UK

I am devastated. Susan Sontag was a heroine to me. I’ve read every book she’s written except for The Benefactor, and it’s in the queue. I wish I could have met her, and talked to her about things like punk rock, and needing an erotics of art. - Josh Humphries, Roanoke, Virginia, USA

James Wolcott pens a 50-word tribute:

One by one the lights go out. First, Edward Said and now Susan Sontag, dead at 71. Both were engaged intellectuals and cosmopolitan sensibilities, committed to art and justice with consciences that seldom slept, and with their loss the cultural life of the city becomes even more pallid and gray.

That’s 50 more words than Wolcott has written about the tsunami disaster. Of course, after writing this, I doubt Wolcott has the ... what’s the word? ... courage to go near that particular subject.

UPDATE. Trevino at Red State aims to be fair. Nice essay.

UPDATE II. James Taranto takes another look at Sontag: “On rereading this brief essay, what most struck us was that Sontag actually saw a connection between Iraq and Sept. 11, something her fellow travelers on the left have been at pains to deny.”

Posted by Tim B. on 12/29/2004 at 05:02 PM
(33) CommentsPermalink

CHRISTMAS SALES

The ABC’s Leigh Sales sneers:

In 2003, the US gave $19 billion in official development assistance - more than the next two largest givers combined, according to the Organisation for Economic Coordination and Development.

But when you look at what nations give as a percentage of their Gross National Product, the US is way behind. The most generous nations - Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands - give almost one per cent of their GNP to aid. The US gives 0.1 per cent, coming in at 22nd place, when nations are ranked according to their generosity.

Like percentage of GNP makes a damn bit of difference to the people receiving the aid. As Colin Powell notes, the US will likely contribute more than $1 billion to the tsunami aid effort. And USAID chief Andrew Natsios makes this point about GNP measures:

“That’s a European standard, this percentage that’s used,” Natsios said. “The United States, for 40 years, has never accepted these standards that it should be based on the gross national product. We base it on the actual dollars that we spent.

“The reason is that our gross national product is so enormous. And our growth rates are so much higher than the other wealthy nations.”

Ignored in GNP calculations are private contributions. According to a study mentioned in the above-linked piece, Americans last year gave an estimated $241 billion to charitable causes, up from $234 billion in 2002. And look what’s happening over at Amazon, where donations towards tsunami aid have now reached $841,335. (Via Instapundit, where a reader earlier observed 1,000 Amazon contributions arriving within five minutes.)

That won’t impress Leigh Sales:

While the US Government is so far giving $44 million to the tsunami victims, the National Retail Federation here predicts Americans will spend more than $200 billion on presents, food and holiday sales this Christmas.

Picture Sales congratulating herself for landing a telling blow against the Great Satan.

(Via reader Tony Le Bas and contributor Alan R.M. Jones)

UPDATE. The Amazon appeal has now gone above one million dollars.

Posted by Tim B. on 12/29/2004 at 04:51 PM
(28) CommentsPermalink
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