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Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates — have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I don’t use exclamation points lightly or often.) Or as Oxfam reported in January of this year, the wealth of eight men — and yes, they were men (including the three mentioned above) — was equal to that of half the people on this planet in 2017. Yikes! And just to give you a sense of where we’ve been heading at supersonic speed, an Oxfam report a year earlier had 62 billionaires owning half the planet’s wealth. Imagine that: 62 to eight in a single year.

Then consider what we know about the rise of the billionaire class. Again, according to Oxfam, a new billionaire appeared every two days in 2017, while 82% of the wealth being created on this planet already went to the top 1% and the bottom half of the global population saw no wealth gains at all. In 2017 (the last year for which we have such figures), the total wealth of the globe’s billionaire class ballooned by almost 20%. (And I want you to know that, unlike our president, I’m fighting hard to restrain the urge to put one or more exclamation points after every one of those sentences.)

Oxfam released its figures this January to coincide with the annual meeting of the world’s top dogs at Davos in Switzerland. Assumedly, it will do so again in January 2019 and I shudder to think what the next set of stats are likely to be. In the meantime, consider what TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author most recently of Collusion:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Severe Collapse” of Home Prices Might Trigger a “Financial-Institution Crisis” in Australia: OECD Frets about the Bank

“Severe Collapse” of Home Prices Might Trigger a “Financial-Institution Crisis” in Australia: OECD Frets about the Bank

“The authorities should prepare contingency plans.” The big four banks are too exposed to mortgages. Even if the banks don’t topple, the economy will get hit hard.

In its latest report on Australia, the OECD focuses to a disturbing extend on housing, household debt, what the current housing downturn might do to the otherwise healthy economy, and what the risks are that this housing downturn will lead to a financial crisis for the big four Australian banks, an eventuality that it says “authorities” should make “contingency plans” for.

The big four banks are huge in relation to the Australian stock market and the overall economy: Their combined market capitalization, at A$341 billion, even after today’s sell-off following the OECD report – accounts for 26% of Australia’s total stock market capitalization.

How they dominate the stock market showed up on Monday after the release of the report:

  • Common Wealth Bank of Australia (CBA): -2.98%
  • Westpac (WBC): -3.38%
  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ): -4.09%
  • National Australia Bank (NAB): -2.54%

The overall ASX stock index on Monday dropped 2.27%.

These big four are heavily owned by Australian pension funds, retail investors, and the like and form a big part of the retirement nest egg of the nation. So a banking crisis that involves the Big Four matters on all fronts – and the OECD report even pointed out that a collapse in the share prices of the Big Four would itself impact the overall economy negatively.

The report (PDF) starts by explaining just how strong the economy is in Australia:

With 27 years of positive economic growth, Australia has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to sustain steady increases in material living standards and absorb economic shocks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy Transfer, Banks Lost Billions by Ignoring Early Dakota Access Pipeline Concerns

Energy Transfer, Banks Lost Billions by Ignoring Early Dakota Access Pipeline Concerns

Anti Dakota Access protesters in Philadelphia

Before that application was filed, on September 30, 2014, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met with ETP to express concerns about the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) and fears of water contamination. Though the company, now known as Energy Transfer, had re-routed a river crossing to protect the state capital of Bismarck against oil spills, it apparently turned a deaf ear to the Tribe’s objections.

Following that approach proved to be a very costly decision, a new analysis concludes, with ETP, banks, and investors taking billions in losses as a result.

This case study estimates that the costs incurred by ETP and other firms with ownership stake in DAPL for the entire project are not less than $7.5 billion, but could be higher depending on the terms of confidential contracts,” a new report, “Social Cost and Material Loss: The Dakota Access Pipeline,” concludes, noting that represented nearly double the initial project cost. “The banks that financed DAPL incurred an additional $4.4 billion in costs in the form of account closures, not including costs related to reputational damage.”

In addition, the company’s “poor social risk management” caused taxpayers and “other local stakeholders” to incur at least $38 million in costs, the report concludes.


“This is what it’s all about,” protestor says. “Sacred water.” Not sure guys on left agree.


As opposition to DAPL grew from a handful of locals to a movement attracting thousands of supporters to Standing Rock and backers worldwide, construction fell behind schedule and over-budget, with costs rising from a predicted $3.8 billion to at least $7.5 billion, the new report finds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Fed Explains the Rate Hikes: To Prevent Financial Crisis 2

The Fed Explains the Rate Hikes: To Prevent Financial Crisis 2

Instead of “bubble” or “collapse,” it uses “valuation pressures” and “broad adjustment in prices.” Business debt, not consumer debt, is the bogeyman this time.

Preventing another financial crisis – or “promoting financial stability,” as the Federal Reserve Board of Governors calls it – isn’t the new third mandate of the Fed, but a “key element” in meeting its dual mandate of full employment and price stability, according to the Fed’s first Financial Stability Report.

“As we saw in the 2007–09 financial crisis, in an unstable financial system, adverse events are more likely to result in severe financial stress and disrupt the flow of credit, leading to high unemployment and great financial hardship.”

Financial firms are OK-ish, except for hedge funds.

The largest banks are “strongly capitalized” and are better able to withstand “shocks” than they were before the Financial Crisis; and “credit quality of bank loans appears strong, although there are some signs of more aggressive risk-taking by banks,” the Financial Stability Report says.

Also, leverage at broker-dealers is “substantially below pre-crisis levels.” And “insurance companies have also strengthened their financial position since the crisis.”

A greater worry are hedge funds that are now being leveraged up to the hilt. “A comprehensive measure that incorporates margin loans, repurchase agreements (repos), and derivatives – but is only available with a significant time lag – suggests that average hedge fund leverage has risen by about one-third over the course of 2016 and 2017.”

“The increased use of leverage by hedge funds exposes their counterparties to risks [that would include banks and broker-dealers] and raises the possibility that adverse shocks would result in forced asset sales by hedge funds that could exacerbate price declines.”

But here is why they won’t get bailed out: “That said, hedge funds do not play the same central role in the financial system as banks or other institutions.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Truth Is What We Hide, Self-Serving Cover Stories Are What We Sell

Truth Is What We Hide, Self-Serving Cover Stories Are What We Sell

The fact that lies and cover stories are now the official norm only makes us love our servitude with greater devotion.

We can summarize the current era in one sentence: truth is what we hide, self-serving cover stories are what we sell. Jean-Claude Juncker’s famous quote captures the essence of the era: “When it becomes serious, you have to lie.”

And when does it become serious? When the hidden facts of the matter might be revealed to the general public. Given the regularity of vast troves of well-hidden data being made public by whistleblowers and white-hat hackers, it’s basically serious all the time now, and hence the official default everywhere is: truth is what we hide, self-serving cover stories are what we sell.

The self-serving cover stories always tout the nobility of the elite issuing the PR: we in the Federal Reserve saved civilization by saving the Too Big To Fail Banks (barf); we in the corporate media do investigative reporting without bias (barf); we in central government only lie to protect you from unpleasant realities–it’s for your own good (barf); we in the NSA, CIA and FBI only lie because it’s our job to lie, and so on.

Three recent essays speak to the degradation of data and factual records in favor of self-serving cover stories and corrosive political correctness.

Why we stopped trusting elites (The Guardian)

“It’s not just that isolated individuals are unmasked as corrupt or self-interested (something that is as old as politics), but that the establishment itself starts to appear deceitful and dubious. The distinctive scandals of the 21st century are a combination of some very basic and timeless moral failings (greed and dishonesty) with technologies of exposure that expose malpractice on an unprecedented scale, and with far more dramatic results.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coffee Sellers Are Not Fundamentally Different From Banks

With the 2007-8 financial crisis came a splendid alphabetical soup of central bank interventions to stimulate financial markets, lower interest rates, provide astonishing amounts of liquidity to banks and, allegedly, prevent another Great Depression. Likening the failure of big banks to falling elephants crushing even the smallest grass, former Fed Chairman Bernanke argued that consequences from bank failures would have caused much more havoc to the economy than the liquidity provision and bailouts his Fed oversaw.

Now, do banks really deserve special consideration in this sense? Let me illustrate by comparing the fates of two imaginary entrepreneurs:

Our first entrepreneur — let’s call him John — sees an opportunity in the beverage business. Specifically, he’s convinced that he can source high-quality Brazilian coffee beans, roast and serve impeccably aromatic coffee in downtown Manhattan. He draws up the business plan, estimates what he believes coffee-craving New Yorkers would be willing to pay for his coffee and assesses how many customers he could reasonably serve per day.

Setting his plan in action, he borrows some money from friends and family, rents an appropriate space, hires a construction team and interior designers to create the coffee-scented heaven he imagines, finds some competent baristas to staff it and finally opens his doors to hesitantly curious customers. From here, as in all entrepreneurial ventures, there are two paths John’s business may take:

  1. If customers love his coffee and willingly part with their dollars , enough so that John can cover costs as well as offer some return to his shareholders/creditors, we consider John’s venture successful. The profits describe the added value for consumers, regardless of whether you see John as a Misesian uncertainty-carrying and future-appreciating speculator or a Kirznerian arbitrageur, alert to discrepancies between prices of higher and lower-order goods.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Subprime Rises: Credit Card Delinquencies Blow Through Financial-Crisis Peak at the 4,705 Smaller US Banks

Subprime Rises: Credit Card Delinquencies Blow Through Financial-Crisis Peak at the 4,705 Smaller US Banks

So what’s going on here?

In the third quarter, the “delinquency rate” on credit-card loan balances at commercial banks other than the largest 100 banks – so the delinquency rate at the 4,705 smaller banks in the US – spiked to 6.2%. This exceeds the peak during the Financial Crisis for these banks (5.9%).

The credit-card “charge-off rate” at these banks, at 7.4% in the third quarter, has now been above 7% for five quarters in a row. During the peak of the Financial Crisis, the charge-off rate for these banks was above 7% four quarters, and not in a row, with a peak of 8.9%

These numbers that the Federal Reserve Board of Governors reportedMonday afternoon are like a cold shower in consumer land where debt levels are considered to be in good shape. But wait… it gets complicated.

The credit-card delinquency rate at the largest 100 commercial banks was 2.48% (not seasonally adjusted). These 100 banks, due to their sheer size, carry the lion’s share of credit card loans, and this caused the overall credit-card delinquency rate for all commercial banks combined to tick up to a still soothing 2.54%.

In other words, the overall banking system is not at risk, the megabanks are not at risk, and no bailouts are needed. But the most vulnerable consumers – we’ll get to why they may end up at smaller banks – are falling apart:

Credit card balances are deemed “delinquent” when they’re 30 days or more past due. Balances are removed from the delinquency basket when the customer cures the delinquency, or when the bank charges off the delinquent balance. The rate is figured as a percent of total credit card balances. In other words, among the smaller banks in Q3, 6.2% of the outstanding credit card balances were delinquent.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“A Daisy Chain Of Defaults”: How Debt Cross-Guarantees Could Spark China’s Next Crisis

On November 8, China shocked markets with its latest targeted stimulus in the form of an “unprecedented” lending directive ordering large banks to issue loans to private companies to at least one-third of new corporate lending. The announcement sparked a new round of investor concerns about what is being unsaid about China’s opaque, private enterprises, raising prospects of a fresh spike in bad assets.

A few days later, Beijing unveiled another unpleasant surprise, when the PBOC announced that Total Social Financing – China’s broadest credit aggregate – has collapsed from 2.2 trillion yuan in September to a tiny 729 billion in October, missing expectations of a the smallest monthly increase since October 2014.

Some speculated that the reason for the precipitous drop in new credit issuance has been growing concern among Chinese lenders over what is set to be a year of record corporate defaults within China’s private firms. As we reported at the end of September, a record number of non-state firms had defaulted on 67.4 billion yuan ($9.7 billion) of local bonds this year, 4.2 times that of 2017, while the overall Chinese market was headed for a year of record defaults in 2018. Since then, the amount of debt default has risen to 83 billion yuan, a new all time high (more below).

Now, in a new development that links these seemingly unrelated developments, Bloomberg reports that debt cross-guarantees by Chinese firms have left the world’s third-largest bond market prone to contagion risks, which has made it “all the tougher for officials to follow through on initiatives to sustain credit flows”, i.e., the growing threat of unexpected cross- defaults is what is keeping China’s credit pipeline clogged up and has resulted in the collapse in new credit creation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Broken Clocks’ Minute

The Broken Clocks’ Minute

Sometimes the reasons you’re wrong turn out to be the reasons you’re right.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Old Wall Street adage

Anyone who has consistently sounded cautionary or outright bearish notes during the last nine years of relentlessly rising equity markets has been cast aside. Wall Street is bipolar. You’re either right or wrong, and wrong doesn’t buy mansions and Maseratis. Like that broken clock, the so-called permabears have had a couple of minutes when they were right, far outweighed by those 1438 minutes when they were wrong.

Or maybe it’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s the last nine years that amounts to two minutes. In geologic time nine years isn’t even a nanosecond. Perhaps even on time periods scaled to human lifetimes and history, the last nine years will come to be seen as an evanescent flash that came and ignominiously went.

Markets don’t listen to reasons. They’re exercises in crowd psychology and crowds are emotional and capricious. That doesn’t mean that reason is a useless virtue in market analysis, quite the opposite. It’s reason that allows the few who are consistently successful to separate themselves from the crowd and capitalize on its emotion and caprice.

Reason identifies rising stock markets as one symptom of a sugar high global economy. Since 2009, staring into the abyss of debt implosion, central banks acting in concert have promoted furious debt expansion as the finger-in-the-dike remedy. Governments expanded their fiat (aka out of thin air) debt, and central banks monetized that debt with their own fiat debt. Not only did that create loanable reserves within the banking system—private debt fodder—it drove interest rates so low that yield-deprived investors were herded into the stock market. Borrowers won, savers lost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Eurozone Banks’ Trillion Timebomb

The Eurozone Banks’ Trillion Timebomb

Eurozone banks have fallen dramatically in the stock market despite the results of the stress tests carried out by the ECB, and the EU Banks Index is down 25% on the year despite year-long bullish recommendations from almost every broker. This should not surprise anyone because we have seen in the past that these tests are only a theoretical exercise. Moreover, stress tests’ results are widely challenged, and rightly so, because the exercise starts with the most ridiculous premise in economics: Ceteris Paribus, or “all else remaining equal”, which never happens. Every asset manager knows that risk builds slowly and happens fast.

Disappointing earnings, rising risk in the eurozone as well as in their diversification markets such as emerging economies, weak net income margins and low return on tangible equity are factors that have contributed to the weak performance of European banks. Investors are rightly suspicious about consensus estimates for 2019 with expectations of double-digit EPS growth rates. Those growth rates look impossible in the current macroeconomic scenario.

Eurozone banks have done a good job of strengthening their capital structure, reaching almost a one per cent per annum increase in Tier 1 core capital. The question is whether this improvement is enough.

Two factors weigh on sentiment.

. More than EUR104 billion of risky “hybrid bonds” (CoCos) are included in the calculation of core capital.

. The total volume of Non-Performing Loans across the European Union is still at around EUR 900 billion, well above pre-crisis levels, with a provision ratio of only 50.7%, according to the European Commission.  Although the ratio has declined to 4.4%, down by roughly 1 percentage point year-on-year, the absolute figure remains elevated and the provision ratio is too small.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nassim Taleb Explains How The Global Economy Is More Fragile Today Than In 2007

In what was incredibly appropriate timing given the ‘shocktober’ market blowup, Bloomberg News invited “Black Swan” author Nassim Taleb to its set on Halloween for a discussion about the increasingly fragile market ecosystem in which we all reside, and the mounting risks that, Taleb believes, could soon ignite another financial crisis that will be even more severe than what we saw in 2008.

Taleb, dressed up as “black swan man”, wasted little time in explaining how the global economy is becoming increasingly vulnerable to a global debt crisis, how the global quantitative easing did nothing to fix the underlying problem of too much debt – instead it exacerbated it – and how the inevitable reckoning might play out in markets once the long-dreaded “inflection point” finally arrives.

Taleb

Taleb began the interview by describing how the global aggregate debt burden has only climbed since the crisis. And while this debt is no longer dangerously concentrated in a single sector, like, say, the housing market, it doesn’t change the fact that the overall credit risk in the system has been amplified. And while central banks have for years managed to impose metastability in global markets, as they transition from a period of low interest rates back to “neutral”, the destructive forces that they long suppressed will surge back to the surface.

Just like he did in the run-up to the 2008 crash, Taleb isn’t trying to forecast the next crash; he’s only trying to explain how the global economy has become “more fragile today” than it was in 2007.

“You put novocaine on cancer, and what happens? The patient is going to look better, he’s going to feel better, but at some point, you pay a higher price.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weekly Commentary: MBS and the Core

Weekly Commentary: MBS and the Core

The Dow (DJIA) traded as low as 24,122 in late-Monday afternoon trading. By Friday’s open, the Dow had rallied 1,457 points, or 6.0%, to 25,579. Relatively speaking, the Dow was a tame kitten. From Monday’s intraday lows, the Nasdaq100 rallied as much at 7.8%. The Semiconductors won this week’s Wild Animal competition, rallying 12.7% (week’s lows to highs). At 11.9%, the Biotechs were a close second. The Homebuilders (XHB) rallied as much as 11.3% before ending the week with a gain of 7.3%.
A couple obvious questions come to mind: Bear market rally or just another “buy the dip, don’t be one” opportunity for a market again ready to scale new heights? Is President Trump now ready to strike a trade deal with China – or was he just goosing markets ahead of the midterms?

Let’s start with the markets. They certainly had the likeness of a classic “rip your face off” bear market rally. The Goldman Sachs Most Short index surged 9.0% off Monday lows. For the week, this index rose 6.1%, showing off a 2.5 beta versus the S&P500’s return (6.1%/2.4%). In the semiconductor space, heavily shorted On Semiconductor, NXP Semiconductor, AMD and Micron Technology gained 23.9%, 18.5%, 14.8% and 13.9%, respectively. A long list of heavily shorted retail stocks gained double-digits, as the Retail index (XRT) surged 4.3% for the week.

There were a number of heavily shorted biotech stocks that posted 20% plus gains for the week. A bunch of regional banks rose between five and nine percent. And I’d be remiss for not mentioning (everyone’s favorite short) Tesla. In just 10 sessions, Tesla rallied (38%) from a low of $253 to Friday’s $346 close.

It’s certainly worth noting that short squeeze dynamics were not limited to U.S. equities. Let’s start at the epicenter of global crisis dynamics, the big banks. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (Chinese) Financials index rallied as much as 8.3% off the week’s lows, to end the week up 6.3%.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy

Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy

Photo Source Mark Dixon | CC BY 2.0

You can’t bail out the banks, leave the debts in place, and rescue the economy. It’s a zero-sum game. Somebody has to lose. That’s what happened in 2009 when President Obama came in. He invited the bankers to the White House and he said, “I’m the only guy standing between you and the mob with pitchforks,” by which he meant the voters that he was bamboozling. He reassured the bankers. He said, “Look, my loyalty is to my campaign donors not to the voters. Don’t worry; my loyalty is with you.”

I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His 1972 book Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire is a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest books are  Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage to Ensure the Global Economy and J is for Junk Economics.. Today we discuss how the bank bailouts, not the crash, are killing the economy. Also, the concept of debt deflation, the magic of compound interest, the growth of the financial extraction FIRE sector, quantitative easing, tariffs, economic sanctions and isolationism.

BONNIE FAULKNER: Dr. Michael Hudson, welcome.

MICHAEL HUDSON: It’s good to be back after a few years.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Just in Time Stimulus: Fed Proposes Looser Rules for Large U.S. Banks

The Fed’s proposal marks one of the most significant rollbacks of bank regulations since Trump took office.

The Wall Street Journal reports Fed Proposes Looser Rules for Large U.S. Banks

The Federal Reserve announced one of the most significant rollbacks of bank rules since President Trump took office with a proposal for looser capital and liquidity requirements for large U.S. lenders.

The changes would affect large U.S. lenders including U.S. Bancorp , Capital One Financial Corp. , and more than a dozen others. The largest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., wouldn’t see any significant rule changes, and some in the industry thought the proposal didn’t go far enough.

The draft proposal, approved by a 3-1 vote at a Wednesday meeting of the Fed’s governing board, would divide big banks into four categories based on their size and other risk factors. Regional lenders would be either entirely released from certain capital and liquidity requirements, or see those requirements reduced. They could also, in some cases, be subject to less frequent stress tests.

The proposals received a mixed reaction from banks. While some trade groups praised it, Greg Baer—president of the Bank Policy Institute, which represents large banks—said the proposal “does not do enough to tailor regulations.” He said, for instance, the plan doesn’t include changes to the Fed’s primary stress tests for big banks or to rules affecting foreign-owned banks with U.S. footprints. Fed officials said they were planning future proposal in those areas.

The plan divided the Fed, with Trump-appointed regulators and the Fed’s lone Obama-appointed official taking opposite sides. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the proposal would cut the regulatory burden “while maintaining the most stringent requirements for firms that pose the greatest risks.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Same Old COMEX Games

The Same Old COMEX Games- Craig Hemke (31/10/2018)
A small move in price enables The Banks to lay the shorts right back on.

Just three weeks ago, we warned you to ignore newsletter pundits who were claiming that one day soon, The Banks that operate on the COMEX will be long and on the side of the regular investor/stacker. As with all nonsense, this sentiment ignores reality. Before reading further, I urge you to read this post from October 9: https://www.sprottmoney.com/Blog/the-banks-are-not…

October 9 was a Tuesday, and that’s pretty handy because all of the CFTC’s Commitment of Traders surveys are taken after the COMEX close on Tuesdays. Back on October 9, the price of COMEX gold closed at $1191. The CoT survey taken that day was reported on Friday, October 12. And what did it show? Check the handy spreadsheet below from Goldseek.

As you can see, on October 9 the positions were summarized as follows:

The Large Speculators (primarily hedge funds, managed money, trading funds) NET SHORT 38,175 contracts. This was a new ALL-TIME HIGH NET SHORT position for this category.

The Commercials (primarily Big Banks like JPM, HSBC, MS, etc.) NET LONG 25,866 contracts . This was a new ALL-TIME HIGH NET LONG position for this category.

On the disaggregated report, the sub-category “Managed Money” was historically NET SHORT 109,544 contracts, as you can see below.

Fast-forward two weeks to Tuesday, October 23. The price of COMEX gold had risen $45 to $1236 and another CoT survey was taken. This report was released last Friday, the 26th, and it is shown below.

So, on a price move of less than 4%, it’s quite clear that The Banks have revealed themselves as NOT “on your side”. Not now, not ever. The positions on this most recent report can be summarized as:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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