367. MAHB seminar at Stanford today

March 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

    1. Per person divided from society, say on the order of $20k for everyone whose income is under 100k, after the age 6. Normal social welfare costs could be eliminated through this alternate and easier to manage system. It also deals with student costs.
    2. Massively intense industrialization with zero emissions technologies that produce the needed items for society.
  • A very good discussion following up on the coal discussion last week ( the need to buy out the coal companies to prevent their co2 production). We ended last week with questions about money and finance. And today we added to it the problem of “unemployment”, which was reframed as a “problem” that the label “unemployment” hides aspects of that may be part of the solution. Obviously the core problem of not working is not receiving an income, under the normal model of no job no pay. To call it “unemployment” however suggests that the answer must be “employment”, but there are alternatives. Follow the argument:

    If we desperately need a major tech push because the currently anticipated pace of tech innovation and deployment is too slow and small scale to sum up to enough change to deal with warming issues (and others such as pollutions), then we must be able to do such an enlivened push on innovative technologies (think nano and bio).

    But what gets in the way of such a major escalation in tech innovation and new industrialization to meet the needs of a more open and sustainable society is that such an expansion would be highly automated, and lead to further loss of jobs, which people rightly fear, both in loss of jobs and loss of wealth.

    But if this resistance were to disappear, rapid tech progress could be made.

    How? It requires something like a negative income tax or guaranteed annual wage. More attractively this could be called a “social dividend” paid to everyone in society based on their being a part of a productive society which in part they “own” and deserve a dividend on the profits thereof. Alaska sends a check to each resident based on the amount of the state owned oil pumped each year. A good outline of this approach is in Capitalism 3.0 by Peter Barnes.

    This led us this afternoon to the political question of how it could be done. We are now talking about two proposals. (we are talking US at this point, but as a model to be extended to the rest of the world).

    There obviously would be massive shifts in social needs (for example long commutes for the poorest workers would dissapear).

    What would be necessary for this to work is a new compelling social narrative that conveys the major aspects in a convincing and attractive systems – holistic way.

    So to get to the narrative we expanded the picture:

    We must avoid

  • Radical climate change
  • Civil wars based on resources and migrations
  • Agricultural collapse through climate and overuse.
  • Coping with the brittleness of the necessary energy shift.
  • Failing world economies

As one can see, sustaining, even enhancing feelings of economic security and well being are absolutely essential.

So the positive moves are

  • New industrialization
  • Annual citizen dividend and
  • Legalize drugs (the cost savings would be large).

Other issues necessary to face.

  1. The need to constrain the concentration of profits obtained through leveraged investments. Basically to take banking back to the original function of loans for productive activities, not derivatives nor selling loan portfolios.
  2. Higher taxes as proposed by Warren Buffet (whose taxes were lower than his staff’s.)
  3. The need to create a culture that gives meaning to non-job holding lives. Extended leisure (the promise of which after ww2 was confiscated by policies that paid workers less and the rich more), and local projects.

If dividends are ok for the rich, they should be ok for the poor.

But the key point here is to get on with the necessary elements for coping with the crisis of a successful expanding species (what a rocky road that has been!) that has reached the boundaries of a round and increasingly crowded world. In other words, the time has come to give up conquest and empire (our ten thousand year history) and embrace meeting our fellow humans in a humanizing project of enhancing the quality of life through appropriate technologies and management of the natural world.

We also discussed the need to take everyone’s opinion seriously and try to meet all argument – mostly fears of economic loss and loss of social roles. Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration” phrase.. “and the pursuit of happiness” meant for him the number of happenings in a life, the range of roles that brought one’s talents into the social process. Not hedonism but engagement.

We expect in part this question of self worth would be met by increased local initiatives in agriculture, schooling, and recreation. There are plenty of needs and so plenty to do.

So this is the first draft of our alternative narrative.

see http://mahb.stanford.edu


366. Continuing UN report on “other worlds are possible.”

March 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is some real courage in this short book. The metaphor of “other worlds” is right to the core. The write, and quote

Since the Second World War, development, so-called, has been as much about power play and geo-politics as it has the improvement of people’s lives. As Chaterjee and Finger write, the Cold War underpinned the Western development paradigm and the values upon which it is based: The Cold War became one of the driving forces of industrial development, because it stimulated scientifc and technological progress on the one hand, and promoted military-induced industrial production on the other…the Cold War cemented the nation-state system and thus reinforced the idea that nation- states were the most relevant units within which problems had to be addressed. Indeed, because of the Cold War, the nation-states continued to be seen as the units within which development occurs and must be promoted, because it is economic and military strength that defnes each nation’s relative power… Again, industrial development came to be seen as a means to enhance national power…9

Another frame, the cold war.Win by out producing. “we will bury you.” what a terrible heritage! That takes us back to the origins of WW! and he clash of empires, also over production and competition to be a player. Banks.

Climate change is a serious threat to human development. But it is also holds opportunity. Rethinking how to share a fnite planet, meeting our collective needs whilst living within environmental limits could not only rescue civilisation (yes, the stakes are that high) but be a way to tackle deeply entrenched problems of social injustice, and greatly improve overall human well-being.

So, we expand successfully till we bump into the round planet problem, and failing to respond, lose the chance to get to civilization. Remember Fred Hoyle on nuclear power?


They quote Jeffry Sachs he is mostly a problem in my mind)

The good news is that well more than half of the world, from the Bangladesh garment worker onward…is experiencing economic progress. Not only do they have a foothold on the development ladder, but they are actually climbing it. The climb is evident in rising personal incomes and the acquisition of goods such as cell phones, television sets, and scooters… The greatest tragedy of our time is that one sixth of humanity is not even on the development ladder.

Besides the obvious climate implications, there is no sensitivity to the fact that third world people are scrambling against larger economic realities. Life is painful just to keep up with others getting ahead. My recent rip to Guatemala showed a country both making progress and burnt out.this lack of sympathy and imagination i take as one of the real failures of American power.

Use of literature:

In Goethe’s famous tragedy there is a parable for development and the growth economy. Faust’s character has many incarnations. His frst self is the dreamer. But the dreamer is dissolved and Faust transformed into the lover. Finally, in his last transformation and ‘romantic quest for self-development… he will work out some of the most creative and some of the most destructive potentialities of modern life,’ writes Berman, ‘he will be the consummate wrecker and creator, the dark and deeply ambiguous fgure that our age has come to call, “the developer”.’

a good way of putting it (quoting in the text).

and 4). He wrote that the physical view of the economy ‘is governed by the laws of thermodynamics and continuity’ and so ‘the question of how much natural resource we have to fuel the economy, and how much energy we have to extract, process and manufacture is central to our existence’.

This normalizes the question without much ideology. Who cannot take this seriously? Our own local Hewlett Foundation gets into the mix. One can imagine the committee meetings where this happened.Perhaps i can track down a participant and get the story.

Yet there is a continued focus on economic growth as the answer to all the world’s ills. For example, the Commission on Growth and Development (funded by the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the World Bank, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) was ‘brought together by the belief that the world’s challenges – political, environmental, misunderstandings within and between nations, vast differences in living standards within and across countries – are best met in conditions of rising and sustained prosperity, and expanding opportunities’.20 Its underlying assumption is that ‘…poverty cannot be reduced in isolation of economic growth…’21

359. UN report on need for visions.

March 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is quite excellent. Very GardenWorld.

Other worlds are possible
Other Worlds are Possible – the new economics foundation

This report argues that our chances of triumphing over climate change will rise dramatically if we change the context within which we ‘fght its fre’. More than that, it suggests that we are already surrounded by a sleeping architecture of better ways to organise our economies, communities and livelihoods. We have, in fact, much more choice about our collective economic future than we have been led to believe. The challenge, it seems, is now clear, and many of the solutions known. The task is to act.

In October 2004, Up in smoke? the frst report from the UK Working Group on Climate Change and Development, warned that climate change threatened a great reversal of human progress. It created a united call for action from environment and development groups and identifed three overarching challenges:
1  How to stop and reverse further climate change.
2  How to live with the degree of climate change that cannot be stopped.
3  How to design a new model for human progress and development that is climate proof and climate friendly and gives everyone a fair share of the natural resources on which we all depend.

Whilst great furries of activity now surround the frst and, to a lesser degree, the
second of these questions, it is the third which remains neglected. If anything, as the world struggles to recover from a major economic recession, the opposite is happening. From the banking sector to high street consumerism in rich countries, there appears to be a rush to return to business as usual. It as is if policy-makers and
commentators fnd it impossible to imagine a world fundamentally different, and better, than the one we already have. Yet the danger is that, without deeply rethinking our economic system to deliver good lives which do not cost the Earth, we will end up with a world much worse than the one we have.

A narrowing of visions

‘Development’ should mean different things in different places and cultural settings. It should describe a plurality of ways of seeing and interacting with a complex and varied world, itself shaped by diverse political and economic agendas. It should be a diffcult word to defne because its meaning changes across time and space.
Unfortunately, however, it is not. If anything, it has come to mean something uniform – a one-path-fts-all trajectory for societies, regardless of place, culture and circumstance. A narrow economic defnition of the term has come to dominate; its
meaning largely set by industrialised countries to favour their own economic interests.
But, this report is not an attempt to produce a singly alternative manifesto to
business-as-usual; it is an argument for plurality of development models. We have
the unprecedented challenge of meeting human need in the face of climate change,
resource scarcity and a deeply troubled world economy. To this upheaval, there is
unlikely to be a single other answer.

We are confdent, however, of the urgent need to use different models. In that light, the report is an invitation to consider them, to begin to think more creatively and
openly about how to organise human affairs on a planet whose life support systems are stressed by our presence. And what, anyway, is the meaning of development, if it undermines the very life-support systems upon which we depend. At the very least, we are convinced that no one-size-fts-all economic approach is viable any longer.

Summary and introduction
The faith in ‘development’ can no longer escape criticism, not only because it justifes huge increases in social inequality, but because it has become dangerous, by compromising everybody’s future

Gilbert Rist, author of The history of development

This is not a time for conventional thinking or outdated dogma but for fresh and innovative intervention that gets to the heart of the problem.
UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, October 2008

358. Seawater Foundation – Greening Eritrea Video

March 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Seawater Foundation – Greening Eritrea Video.

The use of seawater to grow crops, like mangrove. amazing. Please take a look.

353. water in vietnam

March 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Bad news.

Across Vietnam, high temperatures and parched rivers are setting off alarm bells as the nation grapples with what’s shaping up to be its worst drought in more than 100 years. At 0.68 meters high, the Red River is at its lowest level since records started being kept in 1902. With virtually no rainfall since September, timber fires are burning in the north and tinder-dry conditions threaten forests in the south. Soaring temperatures in the central part of Vietnam have unleashed a plague of rice-eating insects, damaging thousands of hectares of paddies. "It’s the beginning of everything," Nguyen Lan Chau, vice director of the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, says gloomily.


pictures of the world’s water crisis.)

285. Obama’s MIT speech – analysis

October 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

Key segments and analysis of Obama’s MIT speech


I want I want to thank all of you for the warm welcome and for the work all of you are doing to generate and test new ideas that hold so much promise for our economy and for our lives.


Note priority. Economy. Of course we need an economy, the question is, which one?



Now, Dr. Moniz is also the Director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, called MITEI. And he and President Hockfield just showed me some of the extraordinary energy research being conducted at this institute: windows that generate electricity by directing light to solar cells; light-weight, high-power batteries that aren’t built, but are grown — that was neat stuff; engineering viruses to create — to create batteries; more efficient lighting systems that rely on nanotechnology; innovative engineering that will make it possible for offshore wind power plants to deliver electricity even when the air is still.


It’s the early part of the speech. Good ideas, but not systemiccally embedded. What of manufacturing and sdistribution costs, and converting solar to heat?


And it’s a reminder that all of you are heirs to a legacy of innovation — not just here but across America — that has improved our health and our wellbeing and helped us achieve unparalleled prosperity.


Standard aren’t we great speech, but, as we know, it is those achievements that have got us in the climate and financial crisis, and wars.


 it’s the legacy of daring men and women who put their talents and their efforts into the pursuit of discovery. And it’s the legacy of a nation that supported those intrepid few willing to take risks on an idea that might fail — but might also change the world.


Are we talking love of truth, love of profit, love of fame and power? This muddling up of concepts is pure political rhetoric, looking to keep everyone happy with the speech.


Even in the darkest of times this nation has seen, it has always sought a brighter horizon. Think about it. In the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln designated a system of land grant colleges, including MIT, which helped open the doors of higher education to millions of people. A year — a full year before the end of World War II, President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill which helped unleash a wave of strong and broadly shared economic growth. And after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, the United States went about winning the Space Race by investing in science and technology, leading not only to small steps on the moon but also to tremendous economic benefits here on Earth.


The payoff expected of these, land grants, GI Bill and "space race" were military and economic, in ways that created the current problems with climate. The argument here appears to be, "we did great things, and we are going to do great things." I wonder if this is to get the headline for the speech so he can deliver more critical thoughts without press attention?


So the truth is, we have always been about innovation, we have always been about discovery. That’s in our DNA.


Mixing truth, which it isn’t, innovation, which was rare and market driven, and declaring it DNA rather than character is to really muddle concepts.


 The truth is we also face more complex challenges than generations past.


Note the repeated use of "the truth is" from rhetorical level to analytic level.


 A medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures is attached to a health care system that has the potential to bankrupt families and businesses and our government.


There is also the problem of population gowth through medicine. That is, the solutions create the problems, not just economic, but sustainable. Too ugly to mention.


 A global marketplace that links the trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street to the factory worker in China — an economy in which we all share opportunity is also an economy in which we all share crisis.


So we share opportunity and crises but not profit or jobs. Correted by


We face threats to our security that seek — there are threats to our security that are based on those who would seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness that’s so essential to our prosperity.


Bu tnote that it is our security that is threatened, not our  distribution of wealth. He is trying to appeal to the wealthy, not alienate them.


The system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet.


So again security is put first, then planet. 


Now, while the challenges today are different, we have to draw on the same spirit of innovation that’s always been central to our success. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy. There may be plenty of room for debate as to how we transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels — we all understand there’s no silver bullet to do it.


What’s missing in that paragraph?  It is clear he is making a transition to the "we must" part of the speech.  Our success was built on waves of economic and military reality: wining the civil war, the shift toward the US after Europe died in two world wars. These are not questions of policy,b ut of historical circumstance larger than under the control of any nation.


 There’s going to be a lot of debate about how we move from an economy that’s importing oil to one that’s exporting clean energy technology; how we harness the innovative potential on display here at MIT to create millions of new jobs; and how we will lead the world to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. There are going to be all sorts of debates, both in the laboratory and on Capitol Hill. But there’s no question that we must do all these things.


This looks pretty good.  The problem is, what do we need to get there and can we get it? My view is that he leaves out, at this point, the finance community and the  control of congress through money. Let’s see how the rest of the speech deals with this,


Countries on every corner of this Earth now recognize that energy supplies are growing scarcer, energy demands are growing larger, and rising energy use imperils the planet we will leave to future generations. And that’s why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century.


Is competition the way to go? What happens to the losers How will they respond? The current corporate regime concentrates wealth continuously. What would happen to that economy in the new competition?


 From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple. (Applause.)


That’s why the Recovery Act that we passed back in January makes the largest investment in clean energy in history, not just to help end this recession, but to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity. The Recovery Act includes $80 billion to put tens of thousands of Americans to work developing new battery technologies for hybrid vehicles; modernizing the electric grid; making our homes and businesses more energy efficient; doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity. These are creating private-sector jobs weatherizing homes; manufacturing cars and trucks; upgrading to smart electric meters; installing solar panels; assembling wind turbines; building new facilities and factories and laboratories all across America. And, by the way, helping to finance extraordinary research.


All these projects are costly in terms of energy and transportation and materials. System effects? Who does the calculations? What if they are very discouraging? Can such analysis get into the pubic debate, and acknowledged by the White House? Alos ‘tens of thousands" Watch outsourcing of those efforts. Note that we have an unemployed of 6 million or more . Does the new economy scale up for workers, or only for owners?


In fact, in just a few weeks, right here in Boston, workers will break ground on a new Wind Technology Testing Center, a project made possible through a $25 million Recovery Act investment as well as through the support of Massachusetts and its partners. And I want everybody to understand — Governor Patrick’s leadership and vision made this happen. He was bragging about Massachusetts on the way over here — I told him, you don’t have to be a booster, I already love the state. (Applause.) But he helped make this happen.


Hundreds of people will be put to work building this new testing facility, but the benefits will extend far beyond these jobs. For the first time, researchers in the United States will be able to test the world’s newest and largest wind turbine blades — blades roughly the length of a football field — and that in turn will make it possible for American businesses to develop more efficient and effective turbines, and to lead a market estimated at more than $2 trillion over the next two decades.


This grant follows other Recovery Act investments right here in Massachusetts that will help create clean energy jobs in this commonwealth and across the country. And this only builds on the work of your governor, who has endeavored to make Massachusetts a clean energy leader — from increasing the supply of renewable electricity, to quadrupling solar capacity, to tripling the commonwealth’s investment in energy efficiency, all of which helps to draw new jobs and new industries. (Applause.) That’s worth applause.


Now, even as we’re investing in technologies that exist today, we’re also investing in the science that will produce the technologies of tomorrow. The Recovery Act provides the largest single boost in scientific research in history. Let me repeat that: The Recovery Act, the stimulus bill represents the largest single boost in scientific research in history. (Applause.) An increase — that’s an increase in funding that’s already making a difference right here on this campus. And my budget also makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent — a tax credit that spurs inn
ovation and jobs, adding $2 to the economy for every dollar that it costs.


And all of this must culminate in the passage of comprehensive legislation that will finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. John Kerry is working on this legislation right now, and he’s doing a terrific job reaching out across the other side of the aisle because this should not be a partisan issue. Everybody in America should have a stake — (applause) — everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that’s far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America — making the best use of resources we have in abundance, everything from figuring out how to use the fossil fuels that inevitably we are going to be using for several decades, things like coal and oil and natural gas; figuring out how we use those as cleanly and efficiently as possible; creating safe nuclear power; sustainable — sustainably grown biofuels; and then the energy that we can harness from wind and the waves and the sun. It is a transformation that will be made as swiftly and as carefully as possible, to ensure that we are doing what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium, and long term. And I do believe that a consensus is growing to achieve exactly that.


From a technical point of view do thee initiatives add up to a real lessening of the dangers of greenhouses gases? And are the impacts on income and wealth. These all require private investment, and the biggest pile of private investment is coming from the rise in the stock market. Middle class people bought into the last bubble just before it collapsed. The more knowledgeable got out, Now as the market comes back it is the profits from the last bubble driving expansion – and a new bubble, according to Reich


The Pentagon has declared our dependence on fossil fuels a security threat. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are traveling the country as part of Operation Free, campaigning to end our dependence on oil — (applause) — we have a few of these folks here today, right there. (Applause.) The young people of this country — that I’ve met all across America — they understand that this is the challenge of their generation.


Leaders in the business community are standing with leaders in the environmental community to protect the economy and the planet we leave for our children. The House of Representatives has already passed historic legislation, due in large part to the efforts of Massachusetts’ own Ed Markey, he deserves a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’re now seeing prominent Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham joining forces with long-time leaders John Kerry on this issue, to swiftly pass a bill through the Senate as well. In fact, the Energy Committee, thanks to the work of its Chair, Senator Jeff Bingaman, has already passed key provisions of comprehensive legislation.


None specified, hard to critique. Is he right?


So we are seeing a convergence. The naysayers, the folks who would pretend that this is not an issue, they are being marginalized. But I think it’s important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we’ll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much needed action that we’re engaged in.


There are also the naysayers from the more progressive side, the folks that see private interest being served so that solutions cannot emerge that are not self-serving – increasing wealth concentration.


 There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy — when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those who cynically claim — make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.


So we’re going to have to work on those folks. But understand there’s also another myth that we have to dispel, and this one is far more dangerous because we’re all somewhat complicit in it. It’s far more dangerous than any attack made by those who wish to stand in the way progress — and that’s the idea that there is nothing or little that we can do.


Should the very possibility be explored? I hear from many business leaders that they think it is too late. And I hear it from scientists and technical people.  If they are acting on that surmise, what do we do?


 It’s pessimism. It’s the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal with this energy issue that we’re facing. And implicit in this argument is the sense that somehow we’ve lost something important — that fighting American spirit, that willingness to tackle hard challenges, that determination to see those challenges to the end, that we can solve problems, that we can act collectively, that somehow that is something of the past.


Lots of us are right there. But the conclusion? Is there any politics that can change this? Are "interests" too powerful to yield. Historical analysis Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies suggests no. So, the next word is revolution. I hear it in private from people on all sides.


I reject that argument. I reject it because of what I’ve seen here at MIT. Because of what I have seen across America. Because of what we know we are capable of achieving when called upon to achieve it. This is the nation that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in the atom, that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell. This is the nation that pushed westward and looked skyward. We have always sought out new frontiers and this generation is no different.


Those were each exploitative moves in the name of empire on the large side and private wealth on the other.


Today’s frontiers can’t be found on a map. They’re being explored in our classrooms and our laboratories, in our start-ups and our factories. And today’s pioneers are not traveling to some far flung place. These pioneers are all around us — the entrepreneurs and the inventors, the researchers, the engineers — helping to lead us into the future, just as they have in the past. This is the nation that has led the world for two centuries in the pursuit of discovery. This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future.


He doesn’t say how hard this will nor that the real systems innovation of late has been financial.


I am confident that’s what’s happening right here at this extraordinary institution. And if you will join us in what is sure to be a difficult fight in the months and years ahead, I am confident that all of America is going to be pulling in one direction to make sure that we are the energy leader that we need to be.


We do need to be an energy leader. In the background is China saying we can do better if we cooperate. What strikes me is the low level of rhetoric in this speech, the few real concepts, the lack of analysis – and this is MIT! And the core word is "fight".


Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

280. Soros to invest in green tech| U.S.| Reuters

October 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

Soros sets some pace

COPENHAGEN Reuters – Billionaire George Soros said on Saturday that he would invest $1 billion in clean energy technology as part of an effort to combat climate change.The Hungarian-born U.S. investor also announced he would form and fund a new climate policy initiative with $10 million a year for 10 years."Global warming is a political problem," Soros told a meeting of editors in the Danish capital where governments are scheduled to meet in December to try to hammer out a new global climate agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

"The science is clear, what is less clear is whether world leaders will demonstrate the political will necessary to solve the problem," he said, according to a brief email statement.

but, defining it as a apolitical problem implies that politics – or green energy – can solve the problem. Way too narro for he current understanding.

via Soros aims to invest $1 bln in green tech| U.S.| Reuters.

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