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How Solid are Canada’s Big Banks?

How Solid are Canada’s Big Banks? - Peter Diekmeyer

The World Economic Forum consistently ranks Canada’s banks among the world’s safest. Competent regulators have overseen stress tests, tightened lending standards and delinquency rates are low. Demographics are good and the country’s diversified economy is backed by a treasure of oil, wood, gold and other natural resources.

So the experts say.

Institutional investors, relying on the work of Jeremy Rudin, Canada’s chief bank regulator, agree. In fact, Canadian financials accounted for 35.5% of the market capitalization of the benchmark exchange (NBF February).

However this façade hides major uncertainties. Key concerns stand out, which if unaddressed, could spark solvency and liquidity issues in one or more of Canada’s Big Six banks.

The fragilities can be seen in an IMF report, which calculated that Canada’s financial sector accounted for a stunning 500% of GDP in 2012. Today, the assets of the Big Six banks alone are more than double the size of the country’s economy.

Each (RBC, CIBC, Scotiabank, BMO, TD and National Bank) have been designated “systemically important,” which in turn, due to sheer size and interconnectedness, suggests that they are almost certainly “too big to fail.” That means the collapse of any one Big Bank would threaten to trigger systemic implosion.

More ominously, if Canada’s financial system, arguably the world’s best, is riddled with pores, what does that say about the US, the UK, and Japan? Let alone Italy and Spain?

Yet signs of fragility are everywhere. Consider:

Complacency following “secret” $114 billion bailout

A quick review of key metrics suggests Canada’s banking sector, which, on the surface, having largely escaped the 2008 financial crisis, has thus learned little from it.

As David Macdonald demonstrated in a paper for the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s Big Banks benefited from nearly $114 billion in cash, liquidity, and other bailout help from both local and US sources following the financial crisis.

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

“This Is Going To Blow Sky High” – Observations On Canada’s Housing Market

“This Is Going To Blow Sky High” – Observations On Canada’s Housing Market

For months we’ve been warning about real estate bubbles re-emerging in various markets around the world from Canada to Australia (see “There Are 66,719 Empty Mansions In Vancouver” and “Vancouver Home Sales Crash 40%, As Toronto Home Prices Soar 22%“).  And while facts and figures clearly indicate that certain markets are bubbling over courtesy of all the same mistakes that caused the ‘great recession’ in 2008, nothing helps to confirm the truly obscene nature of a real estate bubble quite like attending a good ole-fashioned, get-rich-quick real estate expo. As such, below are the musings of one financial market observer who recently attended the Canadian Real Estate Wealth Expo as a joke but walked away convinced the system is about “to blow sky high.”

* * *

Originally Authored By Tim Bergin of On Beyond Investing

Originally, I thought this would be a bit of a joke.  There were billboards in all the Toronto subway cars advertising the Canadian Real Estate Wealth Expo – learn how to become a millionaire.  I thought this was so ridiculous, it may be fun.  What better way to experience the top of the housing market than watching Tony Robbins and Pitbull along with a bunch of US real estate professionals explain how Toronto real estate is the path to riches.

Prices were originally $150 per ticket, but I was able to buy for $50.  While it deeply bothers me that I paid $50 to these shameless (amoral) self-promoters, I thought it would be worth it to witness, in person, the top of the housing market.

I had thought, there can’t be that many people stupid enough to attend this, but I was very wrong – 15,000 people were there!  I was blown away.  Bubbles are largely psychological.  This crowd was tangible proof of that.

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

Canada Flagged for Recession by BIS

Canada Flagged for Recession by BIS

canadadebt

This can’t be good…

As if Canadians needed more proof that the country’s real estate is in a bubble, and that this misallocation has spread to other sectors of the economy, the Bank of International Settlements released its latest quarterly confirming what any critical observer can see: binging on debt is rarely a good idea.

Canada’s debt-to-GDP gap is widening and even the central bank of central banks is concerned.

The BIS uses its credit-to-GDP analysis as an indicator and predictor of troubling economic waters. They claim successes in predicting financial crises in the United States, England and a few other economies. Generally speaking, according to the BIS, when a country’s credit-to-GDP gap is higher than 10% for more than a few years, a banking crisis emerges which is followed by a recession.

Canada entered that territory in 2015, warmly welcomed by the Chinese who’s debt-to-GDP gap has put them in the danger zone for at least the last five years.

In another parallel universe, perhaps Canadian authorities took the correct measures to counteract this high credit-to-GDP gap or to even prevent it from getting this out of control. But in our reality, we kept trudging across the tundra, mile after mile, pushing our credit-to-GDP gap up to 17.4%.

China’s “basic dictatorship” means they can turn their economy around on a dime, or so goes the thinking. Perhaps they will better absorb the economic slap in the face compared to Canada’s relatively freer market and less dictatorial government. 

Still, both countries have a massive real estate bubble. In China, entire cities are centrally planned and built by government-connected contractors only to house absolutely nobody. 

Wealthy Chinese families, witnessing the crony-capitalist chaos and subsequent malinvestments, have taken their hard-earned cash and moved it overseas. Enter stage-right the true north strong and free enough. Foreign speculation has helped drive up real estate prices in places like Vancouver and Toronto.

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

“We Are All Doing It”: Thousands Of Canadian Bankers Admit Lying To Customers To Boost Sales

“We Are All Doing It”: Thousands Of Canadian Bankers Admit Lying To Customers To Boost Sales

Several days after shares of Canada’s TD Bank tumbled following reports that its employees were engaging in practices similar to those which led to a major scandal at Wells Fargo, which cost CEO John Stumpf his job and led to bonus clawbacks and numerous terminations over the practice of “cross-selling”, employees from all five of Canada’s big banks have flooded CBC’s “Go Public” whistleblower hotline with stories of how they too feel pressured to upsell, trick and even lie to customers to meet unrealistic sales targets and keep their jobs.

In nearly 1,000 emails, employees from RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD and Scotiabank locations across Canada describe the pressures to hit targets that are monitored weekly, daily and in some cases hourly.  “Management is down your throat all the time,” said a Scotiabank financial adviser. “They want you to hit your numbers and it doesn’t matter how.”

The deluge is fuelling multiple calls for a parliamentary inquiry similar to that which followed the Wells Fargo revelations, even as the banks claim they’re acting in customers’ best interests, CBC reported, adding it has agreed to protect their identities because the workers are concerned about current and future employment.

Some examples:

An RBC teller from Thunder Bay, Ont., said even when customers don’t need or want anything, “we need to upgrade their Visa card, increase their Visa limits or get them to open up a credit line.” “It’s not what’s important to our clients anymore,” she said. “The bank wants more and more money. And it’s leading everyone into debt.”

A CIBC teller said, “I am expected to aggressively sell products, especially Visa. Hit those targets, who cares if it’s hurting customers.”

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

Whose Banks Are Riskiest: A Surprising Answer From The BIS

Whose Banks Are Riskiest: A Surprising Answer From The BIS

When one thinks of unstable, risky banking systems, the first thing that comes to mind are visions of insolvent, state-backed building – with or without long ATM lines – in China, Greece, Italy or, in recent times, Germany. However, according to the most recent report by the Bank for International Settlements, the country with the riskiest banking system is neither of these, and is a rather “unusual suspect.”

As part of its latest quarterly report, the BIS looked at highlights of global financial flows, and found that after a modest slowdown in 2015, growth in both claims and international denominated debt securities resumed its rise in 2016, leaving banks even more exposed as counterparties to international issuers, especially should the world hit another “Dollar margin call” situation, where borrowers are unable to make payments on their obligations due to a surge in the global reserve currency.

However, cross-border international debt flows is just one aspect of bank riskiness. As part of a separate excercise profiling the domestic banking systems of some of the most prominent Developed and Emerging nations, the BIS looked at four distinct “risk” or crisis early warning indicators: i) Credit-to-GDP gap, or the difference in the current ratio from the long-run trend; ii) Property Price Gap, or the deviation of real residential property prices from their long-run trend, iii) Debt Service Ratio (DSR), which also is the deviation in the current DSR from the long-run average, and finally iv) DSR assuming a 2.50% increase in interest rates.

What it found is that the early warning indicators for financial crises continue to signal vulnerabilities in several jurisdictions. Here is what it found:

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

What happens when a Canadian border agent asks to search your phone?

Agents on both sides of the border can go through your photos, contacts, apps and other information stored on your devices. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Cody Anderson was one of millions of Americans who cast his vote on election day last November.

But unlike most Americans, he decided to watch the results come in from the other side of the border — “a little cheap joke,” he recalled, what with the number of Americans claiming they would move to Canada if Donald Trump won.

The Canadian border agents in Manitoba who greeted him after his drive from Nebraska were suspicious. An agent asked to see his phone and Anderson gave her his PIN.

‘I did catch a glimpse of him looking through my text messages.’– Brandon Wu

“That decision was a bit [hasty] because I didn’t want to turn around and drive another 10 hours to get all the way home,” Anderson wrote in an online exchange with CBC News.

He doesn’t know what was examined on his phone, but in the end, the border agent let him in.

“She stamped my passport and I forget her exact remark after that but it was something that sounded like she thought I was trying to move in,” Anderson said.

For all the recent tales of U.S. border agents scrutinizing travellers’ phones and laptops, Anderson’s story is a reminder that, yes, Canadian border agents can and will search electronics, too.

And just like Canadians entering the U.S., foreign travellers have little choice but to comply, lest they risk the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) not letting them in.

“I was mad that they went through my phone,” said Anderson, who described himself as “privacy advocate,” but he tried to rationalize the experience nonetheless.

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

Rising oil production will push Alberta economy to fastest growth in country in 2017: Conference Board

Rising oil production will push Alberta economy to fastest growth in country in 2017: Conference Board

Solid increases in oil production, Fort McMurray rebuild will be the difference in Alberta this year

The Conference Board of Canada forecasts Alberta will see a 2.8 per cent growth in real GDP in 2017.

The Conference Board of Canada forecasts Alberta will see a 2.8 per cent growth in real GDP in 2017. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

After two difficult years, Alberta’s economy is climbing out of recession thanks in part to oil prices, but the Conference Board of Canada warns the road to a full recovery will be long.

In its winter quarterly report released Thursday, the board projects Alberta will lead the country in terms of real GDP growth in 2017, which is forecast at 2.8 per cent.

“The recent stability in oil prices has encouraged optimism that the worst is over, laying the foundation for a modest gradual recovery in capital spending in the energy sector,” the report said.

Oil prices are expected to remain low, which will hinder economic recovery and pull overall real GDP growth down to 1.9 per cent in 2018, the report says.

The OPEC factor

However, an agreement made between Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC countries in late 2016 to cut crude oil production by 1.8 million barrels per day supports a stronger price outlook for Alberta’s energy sector, the report says.

While OPEC restrains itself, Alberta’s output is forecast to increase, as new oilsands projects come online.

The price of crude oil is also expected to rise to almost $60 US by the end of 2018.

That energy sector recovery is good for the Canadian economy as a whole, according to Marie-Christine Bernard with the Conference Board.

“There was very weak growth for Canada as a whole in the last two years,” she said.

“The difficulties in the resource sector and in particular in the energy sector really hurt investment. That really pulled economic growth down in Canada to one and one-and-a-half per cent on average over the last two years.”

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

Conference Board sees modest economic growth in 2017

Conference Board sees modest economic growth in 2017

Alberta expected to lead all provinces in economic growth this year

Retail sales activity is expected to cool this year and next, the Conference Board of Canada says.

Retail sales activity is expected to cool this year and next, the Conference Board of Canada says. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The national economy should see a slight pick-up this year, the Conference Board of Canada said in a new report out Thursday.

The independent research group said it sees overall growth of 1.9 per cent this year, up from the 1.3 per cent it expects will be reported for last year.

“The plunge in energy investment is expected to slow and we should finally see a resurgence in non-energy investment,” the Conference Board said.

“Canadian exports are also expected to fare a little better as the U.S. economy picks up speed and the Canadian dollar remains weak,” the group said, but added that exports levels will still remain low by historical standards.

Federal stimulus spending is expected to give a boost to national economic growth, although provincial belt-tightening is forecast to offset some of that.

Looking ahead to 2018, “dismal” business investment levels and slowing labour force growth mean it is unlikely there will be any acceleration in GDP growth, they said.

Retail sector seen cooling

The group said that consumer spending has been a “bright spot” in the economy, seeing increases in recent years despite weak job growth in some provinces and  soft wage gain.

“However, the ability to sustain these increases will be limited by the run-up in household debt over the last several years,” they said.

The Conference Board sees retail sales growth cooling from 3.8 per cent in 2016 to 2.9 per cent this year and down to 1.9 per cent in 2018.

The soft economic growth expected for this year and next mean the Bank of Canada is expected to hold off boosting interest rates until 2018.

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

Australia Central Bank Warns “High Debt Levels Are Affecting Household Spending”

Australia Central Bank Warns “High Debt Levels Are Affecting Household Spending”

For those wondering why despite global markets trading at all time highs, consumer spending has yet to show a substantial pick up, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe has some ideas. Speaking at the Asutralia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum, in which he provided various comaprisons between the Australian and Canadian economies and monetary policies, the central banker warned that, “there are some signs that debt levels are affecting household spending” and notes that “the household sector is coping reasonably well with the high levels of debt. But there are some signs that debt levels are affecting household spending.”
In Australia, the household sector is coping reasonably well with the high levels of debt. But there are some signs that debt levels are affecting household spending. In aggregate, households are carrying more debt than they have before and, at the same time, they are experiencing slower growth in their nominal incomes than they have for some decades. For many, this is a sobering combination.

As a result, Lowe says that the RBA’s latest forecasts “were prepared on the basis that growth in consumption was unlikely to run ahead of growth in household income over the next couple of years; in other words the household saving rate was likely to remain constant. This is a bit different from recent years, over which the saving rate had trended down slowly.”

Graph 8: Household Savings Ratio

He adds that “in relation to the risks from additional borrowing, it is possible that continuing rises in indebtedness, partly as a result of low interest rates, increase the fragility of household balance sheets.

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

Norway Doubles Down On Arctic Oil

Norway Doubles Down On Arctic Oil

Statoil oil operation

While Canada and the U.S. ban Arctic drilling for oil and gas motivated by environmental concerns, and majors such as Shell pull out of their Arctic projects due to financial pressures, Norwegian energy companies are planning to increase drilling in the country’s Arctic shelf in the Barents Sea.

It seems that the limited oil price increase that followed OPEC’s production cut deal has been enough for Statoil and Lundin to decide to allocate more funds to Arctic drilling, especially since the price rise has been accompanied by a major discovery for Lundin and a likely future major discovery for Statoil.

Lundin announced earlier this month that it had struck a deposit holding between 35 and 100 million barrels of oil equivalent in its Filicudi prospect in the southern Barents Sea. According to the company, which is exploring the prospect in partnership with Aker BP and Dea, Filicudi may contain as much as 700 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Statoil, for its part, is gearing up for a major drilling campaign focusing on what could turn out to be the largest field in Norway’s Arctic shelf: the Korpfjell field. Dubbed an elephant, Korpfjell may hold up to 10 billion barrels of crude, not least because of its immediate proximity to another promising deposit, the Perseevsky oil prospect in the Russian section of the Arctic. Perseevsky is being explored by Rosneft in partnership with Statoil.

Naturally, there is major environmental opposition to this Arctic foray: Greenpeace, Bloomberg recalls, last year launched a lawsuit against the Norwegian government for awarding exploration licenses in the Barents Sea. The case will be heard this fall.

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

 

There Are 66,719 Empty Mansions In Vancouver

There Are 66,719 Empty Mansions In Vancouver

One year ago, when we first started discussing the Vancouver housing bubble, which as we first speculated – and was later confirmed – was the result of Chinese oligarch money-launderers parking “hot cash” in this offshore housing market (at least until a 15% property tax on foreign purchases made Seattle the new Vancouver), we said that Vancouver houses had become the de facto new Swiss bank account, and because of that the houses – once purchased – would remain a highly overprized, if vacant tribute to China’s soaring capital outflows.

Now, courtesy of data by urban planner Andy Yan of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, this has been confirmed because according to the latest census numbers, as of 2016 there were 25,502 unoccupied or empty housing units in the City of Vancouver. Expanding to include the entire metro area, Yan found that vacant or temporarily occupied dwellings have more than doubled since 2001 to 66,719 last year as neighborhoods have hollowed out.


A home sits empty, and awaiting demolition, at the corner of Parker Street 

and Victoria Drive in Vancouver on Wednesday

Yan compared census data for Vancouver over several decades to see how the percentage of “unoccupied” units or ones “occupied solely by foreign residents and/or temporary present residents on Census Day” has doubled during that time the Vancouver Sun reported. In 1986, it was 4%. By 2016, it had doubled to 8.2%.

“Exact definitions and measures have changed slightly over 30 years and patterns should be interpreted as directional,” Yan writes in a report released Wednesday.

The number of Vancouver’s prized, if vacant, mansions far outstrips other municipalities with 25,502 units that are either unoccupied or owned by temporary or foreign residents.

Yan said most of these were concentrated in three areas: Coal Harbour, Marine Gateway and Joyce-Collingwood. Surrey came in second at 11,195, Burnaby at 5,829 and Richmond at 4,021.

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

38% of Canadians dip into RRSPs early, BMO survey suggests

38% of Canadians dip into RRSPs early, BMO survey suggests

Percentage of respondents withdrawing savings rose from 34% last year, poll indicates

Almost four out of every 10 Canadians withdraw money from an RRSP before they hit 71, a new poll from BMO suggests.

Almost four out of every 10 Canadians withdraw money from an RRSP before they hit 71, a new poll from BMO suggests. (Shutterstock)

Almost four out of every 10 Canadians polled in a recent BMO survey admit they’ve withdrawn money from their RRSP early, and almost a fifth of them don’t ever expect to replenish what they’ve taken out.

According to the poll of 1,500 people, conducted by Pollara but commissioned by Bank of Montreal, more and more Canadians are dipping into their retirement savings to keep their heads above water financially.

In a similar poll last year, 34 per cent of respondents said they had tapped their registered retirement savings plans early. This year, it jumped to 38 per cent.

The survey was conducted online between Dec. 14 and 19. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, BMO said.

Of those polled who had dipped into the kitty early, almost a third, 30 per cent, said they had a good reason for doing so: buying a house. Under the Home Buyer’s Plan, Ottawa allows an RRSP-holder to withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP if they’re going to use the money for a down payment.

But more than a fifth of those who have withdrawn money early said they did so to pay living expenses, and 18 per cent reported they did it to pay down debt — two excuses the tax man will not accept as legitimate enough to waive the penalty for doing so.

“It’s concerning to see that so many Canadians are dipping into their RRSPs to meet short-term needs, which should only be considered as a last resort,” Chris Buttigieg with BMO Wealth Management said in a release announcing the results of the poll.

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

Questions Remain As Shifting Narrative, Conflicting Testimony Indicates Cover Up in Quebec Terror Incident

Questions Remain As Shifting Narrative, Conflicting Testimony Indicates Cover Up in Quebec Terror Incident

Witness statements and reports which conflict with the Canadian government’s account of what occurred during the tragic January 29th, 2017 Quebec terror attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City raise questions about what actually happened the night of the tragedy. The evidence indicates that contrary to the official narrative, there was more than one gunman and multiple weapons were captured in the possession of arrestees. Media outlets also were so eager to claim the incident was caused by white supremacists that they were fooled into reporting false information from parody news accounts on twitter.

I. Multiple Media Sources Cited Witness Statements Claiming There Were Multiple Gunmen, Number Of Weapons Seized Inconsistent With “Lone Wolf” Narrative

The Canadian government’s claims that the Quebec shooting was a “lone wolf” incident is not consistent with multiple media reports and witness statements that there were at least two gunmen participating in the incident. Canadian news source Le Soleil reported that “at least one gunman” participated in the attack. A witness told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that they saw two masked gunmen enter the building, shout the Takbir (Islamic phrase “Allahu akbar” which means “God is great” in Arabic) and open fire on worshippers. The Sun also ran a statement from a 22 year old student named Abdi, who was reading the Koran with his friends at the time of the attack. Abdi similarly said he was convinced he had seen two attackers and that they shouted the Takbir before opening fire. Reuters also ran an additional report citing another witness statement which said that three attackers had taken part in the incident.

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

Trudeau challenged over carbon pricing on 2nd day of town hall tour

Trudeau challenged over carbon pricing on 2nd day of town hall tour

Prime minister hears frustration from rural resident over high hydro costs in Ontario

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures during a town hall meeting in Peterborough, Ont. Friday. Trudeau faced an emotional question about carbon pricing - and sparked some controversy with a comment about a "phase out" of the oilsands.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures during a town hall meeting in Peterborough, Ont. Friday. Trudeau faced an emotional question about carbon pricing – and sparked some controversy with a comment about a “phase out” of the oilsands. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pressed to justify the implementation of a federal price on carbon during a town hall forum on the second day of his whirlwind outreach tour on Friday.

At a public meeting in Peterborough, Ont., Trudeau was asked by a woman struggling to pay her bills, amid high hydro costs in the province, why he was proceeding with a carbon price.

“I feel like you have failed me, and I’m asking you today to fix that,” said the woman, who later identified herself as Kathy Katula of Buckhorn, Ont. “My heat and hydro (electricity) now cost me more than my mortgage.”

“I’m asking you, Mr. Trudeau, how do you justify to a mother of four children, three grandchildren, with physical disabilities, and working up to 15 hours a day, how is it justified for you to ask me to pay a carbon tax when I only have $65 left in my paycheque every two weeks to feed my family,” she said to applause.

Defending his policy on climate change, Trudeau said Canada needs to make a transition away from fossil fuels, but that governments need to ensure that the most vulnerable are taken into account.

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

Canada’s Goods Producing Sector Caves

Canada’s Goods Producing Sector Caves

Many countries, including the US, report GDP on a quarterly basis. Canada reports on a monthly basis. So today Statistics Canada reported GDP for October. What’s disconcerting isn’t so much that GDP fell 0.3% on a monthly basis – these things happen – though it disappointed economists along the way…

The “results were surprisingly bad,” wrote Krishen Rangasamy, senior economist at Economics and Strategy, National Bank of Canada.

“The GDP report is an ugly snowball of reality to the face of the economy to end the year after a nice run earlier in the fall,” said Douglas Porter, chief economist BMO .

But what was disconcerting was just how much the goods producing sectors are getting hammered across the board.

This chart by NBF Economics and Strategy shows the decline in October (blue bars, left scale), and it also shows that this type of monthly decline, during our mediocre economic era, is not rare. The red line (right scale) shows the annualized rate for the last three months, which is still positive, but careening lower:

Output of the overall goods producing industries caved 1.3% from September. It was broad-based, with manufacturing, mining, quarrying, and oil & gas extraction, construction, utilities, agriculture, and forestry all declining. It more than wiped out the gains of the goods producing sectors in September.

Manufacturing, which contributes about 10% to GDP, has taken a big beating, despite the loonie that the Bank of Canada has successfully devalued over the past few years to make exports more competitive, particularly in the US. But manufacturing output fell 2% on a monthly basis, the largest monthly decline since December 2013. It has gone nowhere since February 2014 (red line):

Both durable and non-durable manufacturing fell. StatCan:

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

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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