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US Enraged After 6 More EU Nations Join INSTEX To Bypass Iran Sanctions

US Enraged After 6 More EU Nations Join INSTEX To Bypass Iran Sanctions

On Friday six European countries issued a bombshell joint statement declaring their intent to join INSTEX, or the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, a European special-purpose vehicle serving as a ‘SWIFT alternative’ to bypass US sanctions on Iran. 

Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden released a joint statement asserting it’s of “the utmost importance to the preservation and full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) on Iran’s nuclear program by all parties involved.”

“In light of the continuous European support for the agreement and the ongoing efforts to implement the economic part of it and to facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran, we are now in the process of becoming shareholders of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex) subject to completion of national procedures,” the statement reads.

The Foreign Minister of Finland Pekka Haavisto alongside Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammed Javad Zarif. AP Photo

Instex is an initiative set up by France, Germany and the UK in January 2019 to provide humanitarian and sanctions relief to Iran after in November 2018 the SWIFT network suspended Iranian banks under Washington pressure, months after Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal.

Though the new alternative financial device had shaky beginnings amid further aggressive threats from the US administration, it continued through a trial phase even though Tehran officials had complained it appeared ‘too little, too late’.

But now as this latest six country statement announces, it will serve as the European vehicle to “facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran,” while also providing incentive for Tehran to return to its commitments under the JCPOA, specifically to recently breached uranium enrichment limits. Upon the announcement, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell lambasted the move, saying: 

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There’s No Stopping The World’s Most Politically Charged Pipeline

There’s No Stopping The World’s Most Politically Charged Pipeline

Putin

This week, Denmark granted Gazprom approval for its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, a project that is set to bring 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas into Europe annually. It is one of the most controversial pipeline projects in the world and is now moving ahead despite strong opposition from multiple EU members and the United States.

The geopolitical tensions surrounding the development of Nord Stream 2 are unprecedented. To begin with, Russia has very poor relations with the Baltic states and Poland, nations who will almost always fight against anything they see as empowering Russia geopolitically. Then there is Ukraine, a nation that is strongly against the pipeline due to its fear of losing the transit fees that it currently charges Russia for exporting gas to Europe. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States sees this pipeline as a direct threat to its soft power in Europe as well as a threat to its growing LNG exports.

But for all the politics and attention that this pipeline is attracting, the simple truth of the matter is that Europe, and more specifically Germany, needs this natural gas. Germany plans to shut down all its nuclear reactors by 2022. Many have questioned the wisdom—and some even the sanity—of that decision, but it remains government policy. The generation capacity the is being lost in that sector will need to be replaced, in the short term at least, by natural gas.

Despite its green reputation, Germany is a country that generates a surprisingly large portion of its total energy from coal. Its total installed coal-fired capacity is close to its solar capacity, at 44.9 GW, versus 47.9 GW for solar. At today’s growth rates, it’s current solar and wind capacity will not be enough to replace the retired nuclear plants.

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Poland: Zero Emissions Is A Trillion-Dollar Fantasy

Poland: Zero Emissions Is A Trillion-Dollar Fantasy

Coal plant

Reducing emissions in Poland to zero will cost the country between $760 and $980 billion (700-900 billion euro), said Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski, as quoted by Reuters.

“Of course, these costs would obviously be spread over years. But I treat it as a fantasy when someone says that Poland is able to reach the zero-emission goal by 2050,” Tchorzewski said, according to a report in Polish state news agency PAP.

Poland, along with Hungary and the Czech Republic, became the reason an ambitious emissions plan proposed by other EU members was dropped as a piece of binding legislation.

Later in the year, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, criticized Poland specifically for still using a lot of fossil fuels—particularly coal—despite the EU’s climate change goals.

Ahead of the UN climate talks last month, Macron slammed Poland for not toeing the line: “Marching every Friday to say that the planet is burning, that’s nice, but that is not the problem,” the French president told media before going on to lash out at climate protesters in France, telling them that they should “go protest in Poland! Help me move those I cannot push forward.”

At the time, Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister tried to soften the blow, and Macron himself added remarks to that effect.

“I’m not stigmatising anyone. But I want to convince our Polish friends that it’s good for them to move on this,” Macron said.

Poland is in fact not opposed to zero emissions. However, as Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in June, it will need a solid compensation package for its industry in exchange for a firm commitment to the EU’s ambitious climate change goals.

“Poland wants to catch up with Europe, not to perish. Each percent means huge costs,” Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski said, referring to the percentage of renewable energy in Poland.

Europe: The cracks are beginning to showIs the EU experiment coming to an end? Europe considers its options

Europe: The cracks are beginning to showIs the EU experiment coming to an end? Europe considers its options

THE NATO BUILD-UP

2014: The expansion of NATO in the late 20th and early 21st centuries had posed a serious strategic threat to Russia’s security. In 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO. In 2004 they were followed by the Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia; Albania and Croatia joined in 2009.

This influx was in addition to most of the western European states which had been members of NATO since the ‘Iron Curtain’ came down soon after hostilities had ceased in Europe in 1945. In all, 28 countries are now members of the alliance. Non-NATO members including, Sweden, Finland, were brought into line with EU/NATO policy after their accession to the Lisbon Treaty. Thus economically, politically and militarily the West had arrived at Russia’s western borders.

Viewed retrospectively, however, this was the high point of NATO hegemony. The juggernaut seemed to be at the height of its power, but the turning points had already come with the brief Russo-Georgia war in 2008 and then Ukraine 2014/15 when Russia said nyet.

COLOUR REVOLUTIONS

Colour revolutions financed by US Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the shape of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), US-AID, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) were complementary to the EU/NATO expansion eastwards and had targeted both Georgia and Ukraine. Additionally, Soros’s Open Society and its many tentacles also took part in these operations.

The NED could not be called an NGO since it was funded directly by the US government which made it a “GO”. This was openly admitted later by Victoria Nuland – Under Secretary of State for Eurasian and East European Affairs, and Wife of leading neo-con warmonger Robert Kagan – during a talk which she gave at the Washington press club. (See the you tube). Ms Nuland also took the opportunity to inform the audience that the going rate for colour revolutions was US$5 billion.

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Unsettled Weather

Unsettled Weather


After leaving the Bahamas for dead, Hurricane Dorian barely grazed the US mainland en route to the Canadian shoals of oblivion, perhaps saving America’s insurance industry. But the steamy west coast of Africa is hurling out a cavalcade of replacements as the high season for Atlantic storms commences, so better keep the plywood sheets at hand. Lots of things are looking stormy around the world just now: nations, markets, politics — everything really except all three divisions of the American League… yawn….

The world is in a nervous place these days The US is something like the world’s crazy old auntie, whom everyone else would like to lock in the attic. Except she happens to be cradling a bazooka, so they’ll go on trying to ignore her a while longer, hoping she doesn’t launch any rockets at the neighbors.

Britain courts chaos in its attempt to keep staving off the Brexit quandary, which itself seems to promise a hearty dose of chaos as thousands of unresolved trade issues threaten the country’s economic future walking out on Europe. The majority who voted Brexit feel that the EU is already crushing them under bureaucratic diktat and immigration quotas. New Prime Minister Bo-Jo has tried one ploy after another in his quest to reach the Halloween Brexit ramp. Everyone is ganging up on him, even his own brother, Jo Johnson, who has quit the cabinet and is ditching his seat in parliament. Bo-Jo wants to call an election because there is no one else to take his place, and many of those piling on him also detest the opposition Labor Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Events are outrunning anybody’s ability to see what happens next. Street violence is not out of the question.

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

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

The ECB’s imposition of negative interest rates have created an “absurd situation” in which banks don’t want to hold deposits, rages UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, arguing that this policy is hurting social systems and savings rates.

Ermotti is not alone. As European bank bosses cast their eyes at their share prices, they are fighting back, some have said – biting the hand that feeds, in their attack on ECB policies, warning of severe consequences to asset prices and the broader economy.

Source: Bloomberg

As Bloomberg reports, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing warned that more monetary easing by the ECB, as widely expected next week, will have “grave side effects” for a region that has already lived with negative interest rates for half a decade.

“In the long run, negative rates ruin the financial system,” Sewing said at the event, organized by the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Another cut “may make refinancing cheaper for states, but has grave side effects.”

While incoming ECB head Christine Lagarde has claimed that the benefits of deeply negative rates outweigh the costs (stating just this week that “a highly accommodative policy is warranted for a prolonged period of time;” few economists believe another cut at this level would actually help the economy. According to Sewing, all it would achieve is to further divide society by lifting asset prices while punishing Europe’s savers who are already paying 160 billion euros ($176 billion) a year because of negative interest rates.

“What’s really worrisome: central banks have hardly any tools left to effectively mitigate a real economic crisis,” Sewing said.

“They have already cranked open the money tap – most of all the European Central Bank.”

Who can blame Sewing, as the EU yield curve has collapsed, so has his share price…

Source: Bloomberg

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EU Antitrust Chief: “Google And Facebook Are Sucking Up Data From Every Corner”

EU Antitrust Chief: “Google And Facebook Are Sucking Up Data From Every Corner”

This is the full transcript of speech delivered by Margrethe Vestager, the European Union Antitrust Chief, held at the Business Forum of the German Ambassadors’ Conference, Berlin, 27 August 2019:

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a great pleasure, and an honour, to be here with you today. I want to thank Heiko Maas for those kind words, and for inviting me to join you.

I’m especially glad to have the chance to meet with you, who represent Germany’s 230 diplomatic missions around the world, as well as German industry. Because all of us here have an important role to play, to prepare Europe’s economy for the challenges of the future.

And in our working day, or just reading the news headlines, we are very often confronted with the scale of those challenges. Today’s threats to the system of global trade rules pose a serious risk to growth here in Europe, and throughout the world. Brexit remains a major source of uncertainty. We need to make enormous changes to the way we power the world’s economy, to avoid climate change running out of control. And all this is happening at a time when digitisation is transforming our markets – and Europe’s future depends on being, not just an industrial powerhouse, but a digital leader.

Europe’s advantages

Indeed all these challenges can seem daunting. But it is important to remember that Europe has already proved its capacity to take on big challenges. After all, we built the European Union on the ashes of two world wars. And we have just travelled through the biggest financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And we have a good starting point to also face those challenges ahead of us.

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In Major Threat To Dollar’s Reserve Status, Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass

In Major Threat To Dollar’s Reserve Status, Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass

Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational.

And while we await for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.

Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year.

“Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.”

… and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.

On Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed the foreign ministry’s take:

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Iran To UK: We’ll Continue Oil Exports “Under Any Conditions” As Detained Tanker Crew Released

Iran To UK: We’ll Continue Oil Exports “Under Any Conditions” As Detained Tanker Crew Released

As the “tanker wars” continue Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt in a telephone call on Saturday that Iran plans to continue its oil exports “under any conditions”.

Zarif also repeated Iranian demands for the UK to release the Grace 1 oil tanker, seized over a week ago after it was boarded by Royal Marines off Gibraltar. It had been carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil and was alleged to have been bound for Syria, in violation of EU sanctions; however, Tehran has accused the UK of fundamentally doing the United States’ bidding. 

In a public statement posted to Twitter, Hunt informed Zarif that the UK would release the tanker if it received guarantees it would not go to Syria

Iran tanker file photo, via Middle East Monitor

On Saturday the four-member crew of the detained tanker had been released, which could serve to ease tensions, according to the WSJ.

They were being interviewed and questioned as to the nature of the voyage, and whether they intended to violate EU sanctions on Syria — which it appears they were given the ship had gone all the way around the south of Africa from the gulf instead of the usual route of the Suez canal, something which had raised suspicions. 

Meanwhile France’s foreign minister said over the weekend that Iran’s decisions to breach caps on uranium enrichment was “a bad reaction to … (a) bad decision,” according to Reuters, and said the region is stumbling dangerously into war. 

“The situation is serious. The rise of tensions could lead to accidents,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

Iran has recently issued a 60-day window for France and other EU nations to salvage the deal, saying it will blow through another uranium enrichment ceiling by early September is nothing is done to both rescue the deal and ease US-led sanctions.

The Strange Case Of Chrystia Freeland And The Failure Of The “Super Elite”

The Strange Case Of Chrystia Freeland And The Failure Of The “Super Elite”

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has become a bit of a living parody of everything wrong with the detached technocratic neo-liberal order which has driven the world through 50 years of post-industrial decay. Now, two years into the Trump presidency, and five years into the growth of a new system shaped by the Russia-China alliance, the world has become a very different place from the one which Freeland and her controllers wish it to be.

Having been set up as a counterpart to the steely Hillary Clinton who was supposed to win the 2016 election, Freeland and her ilk have demonstrated their outdated thinking in everything they have set out to achieve since the 2014 coup in Ukraine. Certainly before that, everything seemed to be going smoothly enough for End of History disciples promoting a script that was supposed to culminate in a long-sought for “New World Order”.

The Script up until Now

Things were going especially well since the collapse of the Soviet system in the early 1990s. The collapse ushered in a unipolar world order with the European Union and NAFTA, followed soon thereafter by the World Trade Organization and the 1999 destruction of Glass-Steagall (1). The trans-Atlantic at last was converted into a cage of “post-sovereign nations” that no longer had actual control of their own powers of credit generation. Under NATO, even national militaries were subject to technocratic control. This cage was perfect for the governing elite “scientifically managing” from above while the little people bickered over their diminishing employment and standards of living from below.

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

British Marines Seize Oil Tanker Headed For Syria In “Aggressive” Operation

British Marines Seize Oil Tanker Headed For Syria In “Aggressive” Operation

A huge development Thursday regarding enforcement of Iran sanctions and the West’s economic war on both Damascus and Tehran: British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar off Spain’s southern coast while it was en route to Syria in what’s being called an unprecedented and aggressive move to enforce EU sanctions. 

As critics of the West’s sanctions policy on Syria are noting: the European Union has for years allowed advanced weaponry to flow into the hands of anti-Assad jihadists, but it will act swiftly to block vital oil access to the war-torn and starved population

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Pic: Royal Marines from 42 Commando fast-roping from a Wildcat helicopter onto tanker headed to Syria under cover of darkness

According to Reuters:

The Grace 1 tanker was impounded in the British territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after sailing around Africa from the Gulf. Shipping data reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, although its documents say the oil is from neighboring Iraq.

Reports say Gibraltar authorities (Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory) acted on EU sanctions that have been in place for years against Syria; however one EU sanctions and legal expert told Reuters: “This is the first time that the EU has done something so public and so aggressive. I imagine it was also coordinated in some manner with the U.S. given that NATO member forces have been involved.”

The ship has been identified as the Grace 1 — a Panamanian-flagged tanker managed by Singapore-based IShips Management Pte Ltd. — which had apparently taken the unusual step of sailing all the way around the tip of Africa instead of the Suez canal from the Iraqi port of Basra. 

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

Markets are being Lulled into a False Sense of Accommodation

Markets are being Lulled into a False Sense of Accommodation

Those who take an interest in the actions of central banks will know that the advent of Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency has seen the direction of monetary policy gradually change in both the UK and the U.S.

Since the EU referendum, the Bank of England have raised interest rates twice, after initially cutting them and implementing a new round of quantitative easing in the aftermath of the vote. The first rate hike in November 2017 came over a decade since the bank last increased rates in July 2007.

A month after Donald Trump was confirmed as the 45th American president, the Federal Reserve raised rates for only the second time in nine and a half years. Since Trump’s inauguration, they have gone on to hike a further seven times, and over the course of eighteen months (starting late 2017) the Fed have rolled off over $600 billion in assets from its balance sheet.

As the Fed continue to roll off assets until their balance sheet ‘normalisation‘ programme ends in September, the sentiment amongst traders is that the central bank will soon begin a course of rate cuts in order to stave off the threat of a recession as the prospect of a full blown trade conflict with China and other nation states gathers momentum.

A similar sentiment can be found in the UK over Brexit. With the British economy stagnant and manufacturing and construction sectors in decline, there exists an expectation that the Bank of England will ultimately reverse course if an economic downturn takes hold.

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Italian Yields Jump As Salvini Threatens To Crash Government

Italian Yields Jump As Salvini Threatens To Crash Government

Clearly emboldened by the EU Parliamentary results, where the League won a plurality of the vote in Italy, Matteo Salvini on Thursday sent BTP yields higher by threatening to crash the Italian government if the Five Star Movement doesn’t back his tax-cut plan.

BTP

BTP yields have been moving higher over the past two weeks as Salvini has brushed off Europe’s threats to fine Italy up to €4 billion over its refusal to rein in its debt and deficit-spending plans. This would be the first time the European Commission has fined a member state over violations of its fiscal rules.

But Salvini, who is now indisputably the most powerful political figure in Italy, isn’t backing down. He has remained defiant, even as Italy braces for the EU to initiate another excessive debt proceeding on Wednesday, when reviews of member states’ fiscal compliance are expected.

As the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pointed out in a column yesterday, Salvini has revived threats to initiate an Italian parallel currency – the so-called “mini-BOT” Italian Treasury bills that a Forbes columnist once warned was the “biggest threat to the future of the eurozone.” 

And with Salvini adding to the political chaos by taking the first tentative steps toward ousting Five Star from the ruling coalition, Italian bond holders will have only themselves to blame if they don’t anticipate more market-rattling political chaos, and position accordingly.

EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides

EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides

ILSI-Europe Headquarters, Brussels. Photo: PAN Europe

Current EU regulations forbid human exposure to pesticides that are classified as mutagenic, carcinogenic, reprotoxic (toxic for reproduction), persistent or capable of disrupting endocrine systems. By virtue of these and other protective measures EU regulations are considered the gold standard in public protection.

However, experts who are closely linked to industry (or are part of anti-regulation pressure groups) have taken control of the EU’s new Science Advice Mechanism (SAM). These experts have contributed to a report commissioned to reevaluate the EU’s authorisation of pesticides. The report, called “EU authorisation processes of Plant Protection Products”, and published in late 2018, recommends dramatically weakening the EU regulatory system. Especially notable is the adoption of many ideas previously proposed by the chemical industry. For example, the EU currently deems the acceptable level of public exposure to mutagenic pesticides (those that damage DNA) to be zero. The new report recommends scrapping this standard of protection.

The history of the new SAM report is that it was requested by EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. Its purpose was to determine how to act in cases of so-called ‘diverging views’; that is, when media and public interest groups get involved. The request follows a series of major controversies over EU regulatory decision-making. One such controversy was over the herbicide Glyphosate. A “European Citizens Initiative” delivered more than a million signatures to the EU Commission asking for a ban on Glyphosate. Several cities banned Glyphosate. Even a dairy company banned the use of Glyphosate by their farmers.

With this pressure from all over Europe, the EU Commission had difficulty reaching a decision since many EU member states (Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland and the U.K) opposed a ban. Ultimately, a very unusual 5-years extension for glyphosate was agreed but soon the discussion will start again.

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Can the EU Survive the Next Financial Crisis?

Can the EU Survive the Next Financial Crisis?

Despite the ECB’s subsidy of the Eurozone’s banking system, it remains in a sleepwalking state similar to the non-financial, non-crony-capitalist zombified economy. Gone are the heady days of investment banking. There is now a legacy of derivatives and regulators’ fines. Technology has made the over-extended branch network, typical of a European retail bank, a costly white elephant. The market for emptying bank buildings in the towns and villages throughout Europe must be dire, a source of under-provisioned losses. On top of this, the ECB’s interest rate policy has led to lending margins becoming paper-thin. 

A negative deposit rate of 0.4% at the ECB has led to negative wholesale (Euribor) money market rates along the yield curve to at least 12 months. This has allowed French banks, for example, to fund Italian government bond positions, stripping out 33 basis points on a “riskless” one-year bond. It’s the peak of collapsed lending margins when even the hare-brained can see the risk is greater than the reward, whatever the regulator says. The entire yield curve is considerably lower than Italian risk implies it should be, given its existing debt obligations, with 10-year Italian government bonds yielding only 2.55%. That’s less than equivalent US Treasuries, the global risk-free standard.

Government bond yields have been and remain considerably reduced through the ECB’s interest rate suppression and its bond-buying programs. The expansion of Eurozone government debt since the Lehman crisis has been about 50% to €9.69 trillion. This expansion, representing €3.1 trillion, compares with the expansion of the Eurosystem’s own balance sheet of €2.8 trillion since 2009. In other words, the expansion of Eurozone government debt has been nearly matched by the ECB’s monetary creation.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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