Taibbi: Why Did John McCain Continue to Support War?

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I was surprised to hear the great Stevie Wonder — the creator of the searing anti-war, anti-Vietnam song “Front Line” — paid tribute to John McCain in the middle of a concert this past weekend.

On one hand it made sense, as Wonder has always been about love and forgiveness, and he’s rarely had a bad word for anyone. But he is also a political voice, who sings passionately about America’s inability to reckon with its violent nature.

That 1983 song, “Front Line,” describes a phenomenon we don’t talk about much: Our unthinking worship of all things military, and our unparalleled ability to quickly forget military atrocities, so as to embrace the inevitable next invasion.

……………………………………………..

We leave smoldering ash-piles around the world, and instead of wondering why we’re hated in those places, we keep thinking it’s football and we’ll just call the right plays the next game. “We’ll get ‘em next time” became our official foreign policy, and McCain was long ago elevated as chief spokesperson.

McCain never changed his mind about Vietnam, in particular, and it colored his opinion of every war that followed. Here’s what McCain wrote in 2003, months into the invasion of Iraq:

We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight, because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting and because we limited the tools at our disposal.

McCain added that Iraqis had less chance to “win” because they “do not enjoy the kind of sanctuary North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos provided.”

Between 1963 and 1974, we dropped two million tons of ordnance on Laos — not North Vietnam, but Laos — which works out to “a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours per day, for nine years.”

The death toll from that one country is said to be 70,000 (50,000 during the war, 20,000 who died later from unexploded bombs). Similar operations in North Vietnam are said to have killed 182,000 civilians, and estimates about bombing deaths in Cambodia range from 30,000 to 150,000.

Read on www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/mccain-support-war-716416/

Posted by Libergirl

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The 19 black radicals who are still in prison after four decades

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Some African American rebels, including Mumia Abu-Jamal and members of Move, are still incarcerated for their actions during the 1970s black liberation struggle.

Image: Lisa Terry/Getty Images

 

More from the Guardian including this accompanying story .

 

Posted by Libergirl

 

Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda

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Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”

 

Image: Matterhorn via Wikipedia

Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro – “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.

More from Normon Solomon @ Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

The West Point Soldier Who Called It as He Saw It

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Fist raised, Spenser Rapone displays a slogan written inside his cap after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in May 2016. (Courtesy of Spenser Rapone via AP)

Editor’s note: On the outside, Spenser Rapone’s West Point graduation uniform looked like all the other cadets’. Underneath his dress uniform, however, was evidence of his political views: a T-shirt bearing Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara’s image, and a cap that read, inside, “Communism will win.”

The shirt and hat made waves in the U.S. military community after Rapone posted photos of them on social media in September, and now he has been given an “other than honorable” discharge. According to The Associated Press, he was charged with “conduct unbecoming of an officer” after an Army investigation determined that he “went online to promote a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers.”

In the following statement for Truthdig, Rapone explains his political beliefs.

I am a combat veteran with the First Ranger Battalion, a recent graduate of West Point and a former second lieutenant who was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. Since identifying myself as a socialist, there has been much controversy generated by a number of my public statements.

It began with my post on social media, in which I expressed my full and enthusiastic support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, white supremacy and police brutality. After revealing a picture of myself in uniform with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick, I was met by solidarity from my fellow soldiers, as well as harsh blowback from my chain of command.

To this day, I stand by my convictions, despite the efforts of ranking officers to pressure me into silence. I believe that standing up for the exploited and the oppressed is the most honorable thing we can do as people. No job should hinder or repress this pursuit, which is why I decided to resign my commission as an officer in the United States Army. My conditional resignation was denied by the secretary of the Army. Instead, the military forced me into either submitting an unconditional resignation or appearing before a board of inquiry—an adversarial trial in which a jury of senior officers would determine my fate. Rather than submit to the antics of what amounts to a show trial at best, I tendered my unconditional resignation. Passing judgment on me one last time, the military determined the character of my service to be “other than honorable.” Despite the brass prolonging my time in service, I have come to the conclusion that leaving the military altogether, whatever the circumstances, is the only moral way forward. During this ordeal, I have learned that I am far from alone in my feelings of disillusionment and betrayal within the rank and file of the U.S. military.

As a teenager, I believed the United States military was a force of good for the world. I thought that I signed up to fight for freedom and democracy, to protect my loved ones and my country from harm. My experiences showed me otherwise.

After bearing witness to the senseless destruction in Afghanistan during my combat deployment to Khost Province in the summer of 2011, I knew that our wars must be stopped. I was assigned to my platoon as an assistant machine-gunner. I took part in missions where human beings were killed, captured and terrorized. However, the horror wrought by the U.S. military’s overseas ventures is not limited to combat engagements alone. Some nights, we barely did anything at all but walk through a village. As such, the longer I was there, the more it became apparent that the mere presence of an occupying force was a form of violence. My actions overseas did not help or protect anybody. I felt like I was little more than a bully, surrounded by the most well-armed and technologically advanced military in history, in one of the poorest countries in the world. I saw many of my fellow soldiers all too eager to carry out violence for the sake of violence. There is no honor in such bloodlust; quite the contrary. I saw firsthand how U.S. foreign policy sought to carry out the subjugation of poor, brown people in order to steal natural resources, expand American hegemony and extinguish the self-determination of any group that dare oppose the empire. Idealistic and without a coherent worldview yet, I thought that perhaps pursuing an officer’s commission would allow me to change things and help put a stop to the madness. I was wrong.

It soon dawned on me how pervasive the military-industrial complex is. I studied, examined my own experiences and began to grasp more completely the horrors and impact of U.S. imperialism. Learning that over a million people have lost their lives since 9/11—the vast majority being innocent civilians—began to haunt me. Seeing that up to a trillion dollars a year were being diverted from education, health care and infrastructure in the U.S. to support our 800 military bases around the world began to feel increasingly maddening. Within the Army itself, one out of three women are sexually assaulted. The death of football player and later soldier Pat Tillman by friendly fire was covered up to sell a war. Generals responsible for war crimes—from the unbridled destruction of Afghan and Iraqi villages to the construction of torture prisons—are rewarded with accolades and political power. These sad and dishonorable truths increasingly grew impossible to ignore. The military was not the noble and selfless institution the commercials and Hollywood movies made it out to be—far from it.

At West Point, I soon found myself at odds with my future role as someone tasked with the responsibility of leading soldiers into battle. However, leaving West Point after my junior year would have meant returning to the enlisted ranks or finding a way to come up with a quarter-million dollars to pay the academy back. So I stuck it out, hoping I would find a way to reconcile this contradiction. Again, I was wrong. Upon returning to Fort Benning, Ga., to begin my training as an infantry officer following graduation, I was filled with dread. It was like I was in a place simultaneously familiar and unknown. There were things I noticed that my 18-year-old self could not have recognized before. Most strikingly, I observed the scope of the brainwashing within the ranks, from bald, buzz-cut, mostly teenage infantrymen fresh out of training, to college graduates eager to lead those naïve soldiers into America’s next war. I felt witness to a collective delusion—one that I was once a part of, but had somehow miraculously escaped. After nearly a year there, as I prepared to move to my new duty station at Fort Drum, one thing became clear: I cannot be a part of this any longer. I cannot kill or die for the U.S. military—no one should.

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. My feelings and experiences are not an anomaly. I know, because I have had conversations with others who have expressed the same sentiments.

You are out there, and should you take the same steps that I have, I am with you. While the prospect is daunting, united together we have far more power than all of the generals and politicians combined. We possess the ability to grind this entire military machine to a halt. It is high time we live up to the trust and respect bestowed upon us by the people. Let our mutual love of humanity and our desire for liberation and peace be our guiding principles.

Most importantly, let us find common cause with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Libya and so many others who have suffered at the behest of the United States. To those soldiers who I’ve heard from, and to those I haven’t yet, I hope that you too find the courage to lay your weapons down with me, and refuse your orders to kill and die for the benefit of a handful of ruling-class elites at the great expense of the rest of us. Freedom lies on the other side. Together, let us fight to put a stop to these endless trillion-dollar wars, and let us join our brothers and sisters around the world in putting a stop to all forms of exploitation, oppression and senseless violence.

By Spenser Rapone/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

What is Juneteenth? We explain the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery

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Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated on June 19 that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Across the country, the day is marked with events and parades.

“As a Nation, we vow to never forget the millions of African-Americans who suffered the evils of slavery,” President Donald Trump said in a statement Tuesday recognizing the holiday. “Together, we honor the unbreakable spirit and countless contributions of generations of African Americans to the story of American greatness. Today we recommit ourselves to defending the self-evident truth, boldly declared by our Founding Fathers, that all people are created equal.”

Here’s everything you need to know about Juneteenth:

What is Juneteenth? 

On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, to inform a reluctant community that President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier had freed the slaves and to press locals to comply with his directive.

Why did it take so long for the news to get to Texas? 

There is no one reason why there was a 2½-year delay in letting Texas know about the abolition of slavery in the United States, according to Juneteenth.com. The historical site said some accounts place the delay on a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news, while others say the news was deliberately withheld.

Despite the delay, slavery did not end in Texas overnight, according to an article by Henry Louis Gates Jr. originally posted on The Root. Gates said after New Orleans fell, many slavers traveled to Texas with their slaves to escape regulations enforced by the Union Army in other states.

The slave owners were placed with the responsibility of letting their slaves know about the news, and some delayed relaying the information until after the harvest, Gates said.

Where does the name “Juneteenth” come from?

Juneteenth, which is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” in honor of the day that Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas.

How do people celebrate? 

On social media, many shared photos and videos of their local Juneteenth celebrations.

Warming up to go live on #News4 at 6am for #Juneteenth2018 . Let’s get ready for the Strike Force Drum 🥁 Line @pgparkshttps://t.co/mlUf8D4fuPpic.twitter.com/V5PFkTn4Ie

— Molette Green (@MoletteGreen) June 19, 2018

Berkeley, Ca is BEAUTIFUL!
Black, White, Hispanic, Asian!
One Love✊🏾 #Juneteenth2018pic.twitter.com/tl8BQwvboB

— JunBug (@DaTruJBUG) June 17, 2018

#Juneteenth Parade festivities are beginning on South State St. from Dunbar Center! Cheer on the many organizations and smiling faces from all over our City and Region. #Juneteenth2018#SyracuseJuneteenthpic.twitter.com/fQEFEhVACy

— City of Syracuse (@Syracuse1848) June 16, 2018

Others called for Juneteenth — which some see as a second Independence Day — to be named a national holiday.

The end of slavery should be a national holiday with celebrations on par with July 4th. Why isn’t it? #Juneteenth2018pic.twitter.com/tOsP8KUz9E

— LaneBrooks (@lanebrooks) June 19, 2018

Juneteenth Should Be A National Holiday: https://t.co/hEe5dI95fJ#Juneteenth#Juneteenth2018pic.twitter.com/dhwrCn0VbV

— Unapologetically Us (@unapologetic_us) June 19, 2018

Many use the holiday to call attention to modern racial inequality.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation from slavery in the US, but the fight for racial and economic justice continues. Celebrate freedom! Yet, may we all continue the work to liberate all who are oppressed. #Juneteenth2018

— Juliana Stratton (@RepStratton5) June 19, 2018

Happy Juneteenth ✊🏾 The day the last of the slaves were freed . Although slavery ended & turned into mass incarceration. Keep fighting for justice & celebrate your freedom. #Juneteenth2018pic.twitter.com/wwS5kor11U

— Ayesha 🌻👑 (@Prettie_Dope) June 19, 2018 

From USA TODAY Editors
posted by The NON-Conformist

Liars Club: Ollie North and General Kelly

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Oliver North is a liar. He was also part of a conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine. Furthermore, he was part of another conspiracy to build, arm and train mercenaries to fight a public/private enterprise known as the Contra war in Nicaragua. He is a shameless egocentric maniac loved by several million US television viewers who watch his nonsensical FOX series War Stories. When he was forced to testify about his activities in the aforementioned crimes, he did what most dishonorable crooks do. He snitched, spreading the blame around, implicating then Vice President George HW Bush and hinting that President Reagan was also aware of what he was doing. In other words, he wasn’t the kind of Marine who would fall on a grenade to save his brother-in-arms. Despite his non-heroism, North ultimately took the fall and was convicted of a few counts of lying. As it turned out, the conviction was overturned on a technicality after then president GW Bush pardoned several of North’s co-conspirators. Draw your own conclusions.
I was surprised when I read that Oliver North was to become the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA.) Not because that doesn’t make perfect sense, but because I figured he would have a job in the Trump White House by now. After all, he is an arrogant self-centered protofascist who thinks his military career qualifies him as an expert on all policy matters, foreign and domestic. Kind of like that Marine in the Trump White House, John Kelly.
Kelly’s most recent comments regarding the separation of children from their parents when a family is caught illegally crossing the border are a perfect example. According to Kelly, it is “not cruel” to separate children from their parents. After all, the parents are breaking a law and the law, of course, is the law, no matter how discriminatory it is or how arbitrarily it is applied. Kelly followed these remarks by telling an interviewer that immigrants did not have the necessary skills to live in the United States. Either Kelly is ignorant of the demographics of immigration or he is intentionally using xenophobic and racist rhetoric in his campaign against migration. Either way, both remarks reveal a deeper fear and hatred that abounds in current regime in Washington.
Something else Kelly said last week was that he was not rich. As far as I can tell, he is worth around 4.5 million dollars. While that may not be rich to billionaires, let me tell you it is rich to most of the rest of us. The question I have though is how does a career military officer become a multimillionaire? This question leads me to wonder as to what types of graft and inside dealing did he participate in to accumulate that wealth? I have friends and relatives who retired from the military as officers and have nothing close to that amount of assets unless they went into the private sector after their military retirement. Kelly did no such thing. In fact, his career took him from the Marines to Homeland Security. From there, he was appointed to his current position in the Trump White House. Like most of the individuals in Congress, it appears that General Kelly took advantage of his position to fatten up his bank account. While Forbes magazine claimed in a December 22, 2016 article that most of Kelly’s worth came from his military pension, they did not break this number down or state where the rest of it came from. An article on military pensions dated January 9, 2014 reported that a four-star general with forty years in the military would receive $237, 144 a year, with cost of living increases raising that amount each year. If one counts Kelly’s original enlistment from 1970-1972, he was in the Marines for forty-two years. Now I don’t understand high finance like a stockbroker on Wall Street, but I can do addition and multiplication. I just can’t figure out how anyone collecting about a quarter million dollars a year for two years can have made that into 4.5 million . In other words, if Forbes magazine is correct when it writes that Kelly made almost all of his 4.5 million dollars from his military pension and he had only been collecting that pension for less than a year when the Forbes article was written, how did he get to be worth 4.5 million dollars? Even when one adds the income Kelly reported on hispublic disclosure form he submitted before he was appointed by Trump to head DHS, the numbers do not seem to add up. Maybe Kelly had friends who helped him invest some of that money? If so, I would like to meet those kind of people because they got some serious mojo going on. More likely, however, is something a little less magical.
Milo Minderbinder is a character in Joseph Heller’s classic satire of modern war, Catch-22. Minderbinder is a sergeant who buys and sells everything and anything he can get his hands on, from prostitutes to military weaponry. Furthermore, he sells to anyone, no matter what side they might be on. Journalist John Sack had a similar personality in his new journalism work on the Vietnam war, the book titled M. The difference between Minderbinder and Sack’s profiteering cynic was that Sack’s character was a colonel, not an NCO. I bring these characters up primarily in relation to a potential, yet unverified source of General Kelly’s financial fortunes. It is a fairly well known fact, after all, that millions of US dollars went missing during the heyday of the US military occupation of Iraq. Most of that money has not been officially recovered. Other generals, like Kelly’s fellow Marine, Mad Dog Mattis, end up on the payroll of defense contractors (Mattis sits on the board of General Dynamics)–a much safer and legal way to engage in profiteering of war makingand preparing for war. As for Kelly, he was on the board of DynCorp—a security outfit known for its mercenaries in Iraq and its coziness with Homeland Security—for a while before he became head of DHS.
Like Oliver North, General Kelly is an embarrassment to some of his fellow marines. The arrogance and self-importance of Kelly and North leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those who believe they served all those in the US, not just those whose politics they agreed with or whose bank accounts they could benefit from. Those Marines (and their fellows in the other military branches) did what they did without expectations of reward during or after the time in. Many of them have only their consciences to consider when their deeds in uniform are remembered. From where I sit, the longer Kelly and Mattis serve the current regime in DC, the more I can see just the kind of consciences they have.

By Ron Jacobs/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

End of Iran Deal Underscores a Weakness of Obama’s ‘Pen and Phone’ Presidency If your “signature achievements” are done by executive power alone, they might as well be written in pencil.

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Say what you will about Donald Trump pulling the United States out of the Iran deal. Personally, I wish the United States had stayed in. But this sort of zig-zag is exactly what happens when you end up governing with your pen and your phone, as Barack Obama did.

Faced with a recalcitrant, obstructionist Republican Congress that he helped bring to power two years into his presidency, Obama increasingly gave up on getting congressional approval for anything: military actions, immigration policy, trade policy, net neutrality, environmental regulations. Instead, as Damon Root wrote a few years back, Obama did exactly what he once had criticized his predecessor for and went full Andrew Jackson:

In December 2007 presidential candidate Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that if he won the 2008 election, he would enter the White House committed to rolling back the sort of overreaching executive power that had characterized the presidency of George W. Bush. “The President is not above the law,” Obama insisted.

Once elected, however, President Obama began to sing a different sort of tune. “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation,” Obama announced. “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone…and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions.”

Well, you live by the pen and you die by the pen, and so DACA, the Paris Accords, and the Iran deal (routinely described as “one of President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements“) are down the tubes.

If Obama had tried to negotiate the Iran deal as a treaty, rather than an agreement, he would have needed the Senate to sign off on it. Same thing with U.S. involvement in the Paris Accords and a bunch of other “signature achievements.” He would almost have certainly gotten nowhere with a Republican opposition whose “top priority” was, according to “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell, making Obama “a one-term president.” It would have taken extraordinary leadership, especially in the teeth of a recession and the wake of the one-party passage of Obamacare, to get much of anything done.

But what was it that Obama used to say? “Elections have consequences,” and you’ve got to play with the cards you’re dealt. It’s not complicated: You can either do the hard work to build a consensus and pass lasting legislation or you can toss off victories that won’t last very long. Now Trump, like Bush and Obama, is mostly opting for the latter. What is it with these baby-boomer presidents anyway? Not a single one could pass the marshmallow test.

Indeed, gridlock didn’t stop the president and Congress from pulling together when they wanted to. As Veronique de Rugy and I wrote in 2012:

the ostensibly gridlocked Congress reauthorized the Export-Import Bank program that gives money to foreign companies to buy U.S. goods; extended sharply reduced rates for government-subsidized student loans; re-upped the Essential Air Service program that subsidizes airline service to rural communities; and voted against ending the 1705 loan-guarantee program that gave rise to green-tech boondoggles such as Solyndra and Abound. None of these were party-line votes—all enjoyed hearty support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Another instance of budding bipartisanship is the pork-laden farm bill that extends sugar subsidies, maintains crop subsidies and creates a “shallow-loss program” that effectively guarantees incomes for farmers at a time when that sector is doing historically well. The bill passed the Senate with 16 GOP votes. Though the House version of the bill is still being worked out, no one doubts it will not only pass, but largely resemble the Senate version.

My point in bringing up the relative ease with which Trump pulled America out of the Iran deal isn’t (simply) to bash Obama. He’s out of office, and Trump and the GOP own the state of the nation. It’s to underscore the low-grade, slow-moving constitutional infection that has plagued the 21st century like Hep C. If Congress refuses to do its job, which is to write laws and give clear limits to the executive branch, all we have to look forward to is a series of four- or eight-year lurches in this direction and that as the presidency slides from Republican to Democrat and back again. This is no way to run a corner market, much less a country. But it won’t stop until the group Mark Twain identified as America’s only native criminal class starts to actually do its job.

Final point to the NeverTrumpers: Realize that everything The Donald does simply by pen and phone will be just as easily countermanded as Obama’s own “signature achievements.” If a president’s signature ain’t on a piece of actual legislation, it might as well be written in pencil.

UPDATED 12:30 P.M. ET: Reader Ankush Narula (follow him on Twitter) points me to “If the Iran deal had been a Senate-confirmed treaty, would Trump have been forced to stay in? Nope,” a Washington Post article by Andrew Rudalevige. The Bowdoin College professor of government cites recent instances where presidents abrogated treaties without consulting the Senate, notes that it’s not fully settled exactly how treaties might be broken, and writes:

It’s surely possible that a treaty, in place of an executive agreement, would have wider support. Republicans would have had to vote to ratify it, and thus its abrogation might carry higher political costs. As I noted in 2015, “the difference between seeking a treaty and negotiating an executive agreement is, at base, a political question. So is the outcome of either.” And as political scientists Glen Krutz and Jeffrey Peake argue in their book “Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements,”executive agreements conducted in “truly unilateral fashion” without even tacit congressional cooperation will be “codified but essentially hollow.”

Read the whole thing, which supports the idea that building consensus, which the Iran deal definitely lacked (even some Democrats voiced opposition back in 2015), would help keep agreements in force even if they have not been explicitly voted on as treaties.

By Nick Gillespie/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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