Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Mexican-American War Part Two

Everyone scoffs when I point out that some Mexicans living in Southern California seriously consider the land their own. However, Maywood, CA has apparently already surrendered. In August a group of border guards and their civilian supporters were roughed up by Mexicans and their supporters in front of hands-off police. Later the Mexicans tore down the US flag from the post office, trampled it, and hoisted the Mexican flag. The police could not fix the flag until the next day.

Sean: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 [+] |
Thursday, August 17, 2006

Frequent flying means frequent layovers. This summer I ended up in the German city of Frankfurt-am-Main. So, I spent a day getting a feel for European flyover country.

When you fly into the city you pass over an even patchwork of little square houses with red pitched roofs. Everything has boundaries, including the farms, the forests, and the cities. A middle-eastern immigrant that I rode in with commented that German order and cleanliness drove him nuts.

The downtown is clean and safe, with only mild traffic. At its heart is the rebuilt opera house and a cobbled square with a big round fountain. A tree-lined walking street with fancy boutique shops cuts through the middle. On the side lanes brightly painted old houses sit right next to shiny glass apartments.

Everyone is busy... Mustached men in trousers riding bikes head off to work and beautiful women in skirts click their high heels on their way to shop. And if you linger too long to stare, or take a picture, a busy-body will come out of their doorway to watch you do it.

This city was nearly wiped out in Allied bombing campaigns during WWII. But it has been rebuilt as a modern metropolis with brand new infrastructure. The airport is Europe's second busiest after London's Heathrow. Under the city an efficient train line brings in Muslim labor and speedy autobauns bring Teutonic managers in to run the show.

Everyone has access to healthcare, education, and economic assistance. But not everyone has access to jobs. The employment market is tight as all the dirty jobs are taken by the immigrants and the locals are too well educated to take anything but the perkiest post.

Frankfurt is home to the European Central Bank, the German central bank (the Bundesbank), Deutsche Bank, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. According to the Wiki entry it is the richest city in Europe with over 300 major companies headquartered here. It is a major source of financial power in Europe.

The downtown skyline from the center of town.

The home of Chanel, et al.

1980's chic architecture.

The walking street.

Is that a Prada shop?

The big fountain.

The new-old opera house.

The cafe in the opera house.

The view out from the cafe.

Looking down a side street.

Looking the other direction.

Old town house.

Another old town house.

A multi family house in a sigle family shape.

A new apartment house.

A new church.

A rebuilt medieval-like tower.

The (new) old and the (old) new.

A sign of the times.

BTW, Germany also has its Twin Towers, I wonder how long until Muslim terrorists figure out that they have a problem with these also.

(This foto sourced from the Wiki entry).

Sean: Thursday, August 17, 2006 [+] |
Monday, August 14, 2006
Cease Fire Fiction

As of now the date and time of the UN enforced suggested ceasefire has arrived. On the northern border of Israel CNN reporters breathlessly watch silent IDF artillery for any signs of life.

On the southern border of Lebanon other CNN reporters note that a few rockets have been fired towards Israel and the Hezbollah commander vows to continue fighting "until every Israeli soldier is out of Lebanon".

What is remarkable about Nasrallah's quote is that there were no Israeli soldiers in Lebanon until his forces captured two and hauled them off to a bunker somewhere (maybe in Iran or Syria).

This cease fire is bad for Israel and bad for Lebanon. It is bad because it is a victory for Hezbollah. Israel has not been able to recover the hostages nor stop the rain of rockets. And Hezbollah is firmly in charge of Lebanon's politics and its future.

Fighting will resume. When it does it will be even more ferocious. After the kidnapping and the rocket attacks of this round Hezbollah will feel pressed to raise the ante. What new weapons will Iran give them?

And when the IDF has to resume the bombardment the political mood inside Israel will have gotten worse. A Prime Minister who failed the first time will not risk his leadership by failing again and any new leader will have learned the lesson of this failure. And after being failed by the international community, once again, will Israel worry anymore about the "hearts and minds" of anyone?

Sean: Monday, August 14, 2006 [+] |
Friday, August 11, 2006
Israelis In Uniform

As I have noted before, the Media, especially in the West, is very hard on Israel. The IDF are portrayed as brutes who kill children just for throwing rocks (not just rocks). Very little sympathy is offered to them and they are put side-by-side with terrorists as part of the moral equivalency syndrome.

We have lots of sympathetic photos and news coverage for the innocent Lebanese and Palestinian victims of Middle East conflicts. There are even some macho (or silly, or grotesque) pictures of Hamas and Hezbollah fighters (I am not aware of any "off duty" photos). But I don't need to give them extra coverage as you will see them on the news tonight.

But what about the young IDF soldiers sent in to Lebanon or the West Bank to fight for the survival of their state, the safety of their parents, and the future of their children? Who is being asked to shoot around civilians used as human shields or to distinguish between a van full of medical supplies or a van full of RPG's?

Here is a small sampling of the faces of the IDF culled from an Israeli Military forum website...

These photos first came to me via friends who were amazed by all the hot girls in the IDF. There are indeed women in the Israeli army, just as in the US and Europe. However, their compulsory service is only one year rather than the three for men. So, they don't often serve on the front line (although there is one woman in Lebanon).

I was most surprised at the ethnic diversity apparent in a lot of the photos (go here for more). I noticed soldiers of African and Arab descent along with those of more expected European appearance. I didn't see any Asians, but I bet they are there.

We tend to think of Israel as a nation of Jews, which it is sorta (there are also hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs of Muslim, Christian, and Druze varieties -one of the IDF soldiers being held by Hezbollah is an Arab Druze). We often talk about Jewishness as an ethnic variety, but really it is just a religious description such as Muslim. Not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Jews are Hebrews.

Sean: Friday, August 11, 2006 [+] |
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
All The News That's Biased

While in the the Middle East over the last few weeks I followed the events in Israel and Lebanon from the local papers and media. And as far as I could tell, coverage in the Arab press, the local press rather than Al Jazeera, was fairly even.

As I got closer to Europe and the US the news began to change. The BBC was ferocious in its bias against Israel. Every news item focused on the damage to Lebanon and Beirut. The only footage from Israel was of artillery being fired. A quick flick to Turkish CNN revealed the contrast immediately.

News articles in Tunis asked "Did Hezbollah Miscalculate?", a fair enough question since even Nasrallah was quoted as saying he never expected a full-scale war over a few kidnapped soldiers. Then I found Time magazine wondering "Did Olmert Miscalculate?", perhaps also a fair question as the war in Lebanon is taking longer than expected. But the focus says alot about the perspective.

As I catch up with the Western press I am shocked by the outright lies and staged photos...

The infamous cloned clouds photo from Reuters...

The story of Green Helmet and White Teeshirt...

The woman who owned many bombed houses...

Even if you favor the Arabs in the overall conflict you must wonder about the other side? Are the Israelis getting tired of the war, will they give up soon? But you cant learn a thing from "opinion making" news.

This is why I have tried to visit so many odd locations recently. I have not really been a tourist, nor a journalist exactly. But the best way to learn about the world is to go out and live in it. And my friends feel the same way.

And so Michael Totten has gone to Tel Aviv to wander the streets and see for himself the situation in Israel (Michael lived in Beirut until just recently and still has contacts on the ground there). Please check in for a non-corporate news reality check (and hit his tip jar if you want more).

Sean: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 [+] |
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Hearts and Minds

The Pundits have been wagging their jaws on the "News Shows". The arguments sound familiar. We are told that the Israelis have "miscalculated" and have committed "atrocities". The rough actions of the IDF in Lebanon have lost them the good will of the world and of the all important "Arab Street".

After 9/11 French president (for life?) Jacques Chirac said "We are all Americans". What he meant, it turns out, was that when America looks on the brink of collapse, Manhattan in flames and our planes grounded, the world can shed some tears. America unmanned deserves some sympathy.

Then we launched two of the most successful invasions in world history (nevermind the aftermath). In short order the Taliban of Afghanistan, the undeniable culprits of 9/11, were rooted out of their 3rd world perch and sent running for the (Pakistani) hills. In Iraq the once defiant Saddam Hussein was no longer shopping for yellow cake or sending funds to the World Trade Center bombers, but hiding in a "spider hole".

The wounded giant was back on his feat. Once again his enemies feared retribution (Hamas gave an interview with Christiane Amanpour in which they admitted that Arafat, Syria, and Iran had warned them to keep their heads down and Israel enjoyed months with out a suicide bomber). Suddenly the French went right back to condescending "anti-Americanism".

The world (including Arianna Huffington on Larry King last night) patiently explained to us that while we held the hearts and minds of the world in our pain and in our grief, when we took up the gun and hunted down the bad guys (smoked them out) we lost the good will of the world. Today Arriana and others tell us that civilian deaths in Lebanon have lost Israel similar sympathy.

But Israel never had the "hearts and minds" of the Arab world. According to Islam the "chosen people of God" (the Jews) had let Him down and were to be replaced by the followers of Mohammed. The simple proof of this change of heavenly favor would be the conquest of Jerusalem by the Arabs.

Which is exactly what happened, 12 Crusades not withstanding, Jews were dispersed and reduced to third class status, bound by laws and customs to slowly die out. Then came the Holocaust, in which Christian Europe either actively or passively worked to finish the job (Christians have a similar problem in claiming to be the new Chosen People). Accordingly the Jews gave up all patience and declared their own state, in the land of their ancestors, where they could at least defend themselves and not rely upon the protection of foreigners.

The Arab inhabitants of the Holy Land reacted in horror and fled for the borders (the date of Israel's statehood is known as the Catastrophe in the Arab world). However, none of their neighbors would give them more than temporary shelter. In Jordan the Palestinians plotted to overthrow the king. In Lebanon the Palestinians armed themselves well enough to participate in the 1980's Civil War. In Kuwait, Iraq, and Tunis they formed an important source of cheap labor. In all the Arab world the Palestinians were used and abused.

Today the Palestinians have nearly achieved statehood. The Israeli settlers are gone from Gaza and fenced in on the West Bank. In Lebanon the IDF pulled out of all but the strategically important Sheba Farms and Golan Heights (with out which Israel would be vulnerable to Syrian attacks). US led efforts in 2000 gave the Palestinians an EU funded air and sea port and defacto recognition by Israel. Yet, on the heals of a booming economy (reliant on trade and employment in Israel), the Palestinians responded with a new Intefadah and the elevation of the Hamas terror group to government in open elections.

Following a similar miracle in Lebanon, in which peaceful civilian protests forced the withdrawal of Syrian forces, and in which 16 years of civil war was followed by the rebuilding of the historic city center and the revival of a booming tourist trade, after more than 10 years of peace with Israel, Lebanon raised the terror group Hezbollah to a Cabinet level political party. Hezbollah took over administration of the Israeli border, built up "listening posts", and stashed some 12,000 unguided missiles.

Then both Hezbollah and Hamas managed to cross the Israeli border, kill more than a dozen Israeli soldiers, and kidnap three to use as hostages. And Israel had enough. Israel has managed daily missile attacks, suicide bombings, and symbolic stoning from both Hamas and Hezbollah. In each case the host state has denied responsibility since the groups launching the attacks were beyond their control. But this year, as noted, both Hezbollah and Hamas ARE part of the governments of Palestine and Lebanon.

I have friends and acquaintances from Lebanon. I was planning to write my Master's thesis on the reconstruction efforts in Beirut. I have no desire to see that fair city reduced to rubble. But I have always supported Israel's right to exist. This puts me in a complicated position, according to the pundits.

What should Israel have done? Negotiate, as they have time and again? Pull out of more territory? Israel has already shrunk from nearly the size of Jordan or Syria to about the same size as tiny Lebanon (once you remove the West Bank, Gaza, and most of the Negev Desert from the maps on CNN). Seemingly no concession will win them so much as a place at the negotiation table from Hezbollah or Hamas, let alone a lasting peace deal.

What about the hearts and minds of the Arab world? As noted, the very existence of a Jewish state in the middle east is anathema to the Muslim faith, it violates their scriptural promise and puts them in the position of heretics instead of God's new chosen few. Israel never held the sympathy of a single devout Muslim, they have only served as strategic partners for some Arab rulers who felt threatened or annoyed by Palestinian (and Shia) terrorists.

What about the hearts and minds of Europe, or the rest of the world? Again, as shown by WWII, or the innumerable local pogroms, Jews have never held the sympathy of the world unless they were being killed off. As with 9/11 they only held the world's pity, not its sympathy, and that is an important distinction. As with the United States, Israel should only count world emotion with a grain of salt. Their actions need to be based on cold hard security calculations. And in this math the lives and economies of states that are either run with or by terrorists can only be a distant worry. The hearts and minds of these enemies can never be won.

Sean: Tuesday, August 08, 2006 [+] |
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
On Ethnic Cleansing And The Right Of Return

BELLAPAIS, Cyprus- Sadly many places in the world have seen ethnic violence and remain fractured and angry today. The latest struggle in Lebanon follows similar actions in Africa and the Balkans and is itself a return of the region's own past.

One of the central issues in these conflicts is the status of land once occupied in a mixture, before the current crisis. The Palestinians demand the right of return, while the Serbs have largely given up on this idea.

Cyprus offers a test case for resolving such a dispute. In fact, it presents the best possible starting place since violence there ended more than 30 years ago.

The island's history of mixed ethnicity and religion goes back to Byzantine and Ottoman empires. However, after WWI the British assumed control and administered the island through a period of increasing sectarian difficulties.

Greece was resurgent after WWI while Turkey was greatly weakened. Greece even invaded mainland Turkey in 1921. Following WWII the idea of a much enlarged Greece, dominant over all areas of former control, began to grow under the name "enosis".

In 1955 Greek Cypriots organized local militias to fight for independence from Britain and union with Greece. In 1958 the Turkish Cypriots established their own militia. In 1959 Greece, Turkey, and Britain signed a treaty by which they agreed to guarantee an independent power-sharing-government in Cyprus.

In 1960 the Greeks on Cyprus began to revolt against British rule and canceled the power sharing government with the Turks. The fighting turned neighbor on neighbor and led to many brutal killings, often of entire neighborhoods, by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1964 the UN was deployed to try to keep the peace.

However, in 1967 Greece was itself upset by a military coup. The colonels who assumed control of the mainland began to agitate for enosis and in 1974 they sponsored a coup in Cyprus.

Turkey fulfilled its treaty obligations and invaded north Cyprus to protect the Turkish population on the Island, while Greece pulled its soldiers out and the UN moved in once again.

Today 37% of the island remains under Turkish protection and operates as an independent state for around 20% of the island's population, although only formally recognized by Turkey.

In 2004 the UN proposed a new power sharing agreement that was approved by most Turks and rejected by most Greeks. The Greeks see little reason to share power equally with a minority, while the Turkish side fears minority status and insists upon power sharing.

With the admission of Greek Cyprus to the EU in 2004 and the success of the international embargo of the Turkish side the Greeks have little reason to negotiate. And with the presence of 30,000 Turkish soldiers the Turkish side has no pressing need to compromise either.

During the period of ethnic conflict from the 50's into the 1970's hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriots moved south and tens of thousands of Turks moved north. Today Greeks occupy former Turkish land (such as the international airport in Larnaca) and Turks occupy former Greek land.

While the Greeks enjoy titles granted by the "official" government, the Turks are merely squatters. When the border was opened in 2004 the Greek side organized visits to their former homes. Many Turkish and foreign home owners woke up to angry trespassers picking flowers and yelling at the current residents.

I met one such occupant, Hikmet, a Turkish Cypriot who once lived in Paphos, now on the Greek side of the island. Hikmet has a dark chocolate tan and wild white hair. He is softspoken and usually barefoot, as he pads in and out of his open air house and lush garden.

He described a scene where the former residents of his home pulled up one morning and walked down the long driveway. They approached him as he pruned his plum trees and stood there working up the courage to talk.

After eyeing Hikmet's rich garden of succulents, flowers, and fruit trees the man asked him in Greek, "Tell me one thing, truthfully, is this not paradise?"

Hikmet thought for a minute and answered in Turkish, "Yes, it is. However, when I came here the building had no roof, its interior was burned out and water damaged, and the garden was dead down to the grass. I have spent more than 20 years starting new plants, laying a new roof, and replastering the walls with my own hands. It is paradise, but it is my paradise".

The Greek man looked around the yard and the building, then looked Hikmet in the eye. He nodded his head slowly, turned away, and walked up the crunchy gravel path to his waiting car. The car drove away and Hikmet has not heard from the man for over two years.

When I asked Hikmet how he felt living in a former Greek home he reminded me that he was forced to leave his home, and all his possessions, behind in Paphos. He has had to make a new life for himself in a new city.

It has been very hard at times - made even less easy by the simmering anger of the Greek side and the force of their international recognition constricting the economy and freedom of movement - and surely it must have been hard for the Greek refugee who moved into his old home.

I also asked Hikmet if he would return to his old home if the opportunity arose in the future. He thought about it and shook his head. Too many bad memories, too many angry neighbors. His future is now tied to this new place.

This scene could play out in Israel someday as well. The right of return is only ever hoped for by those with the ascendant demographic or diplomatic hand. The right of return is only ever wanted by those who are sure that it would be just the start of a new round of ethnic cleansing.

For the rest of the world the future should be moved into straight ahead, from where you stand today. No right of return, no prisoner swap, no reparations... just the struggle to improve what you have right now. Otherwise the cycle of violence just begins again.

Support Independent Reporting!

Sean: Tuesday, August 01, 2006 [+] |

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