Category Archives: economics

Monday’s looking ugly—

And so are the stories behind these links.

Rep. Matt Gaetz continues embracing Trumpism with both arms. Of course, he’s just following established Republican precedent.

Republicans claim impeachment is a witch-hunt but they’re the ones obsessing about witchcraft. Or thinking that witch hunts were led by witches.

If the NCAA allows college athletes to benefit from endorsements, NC’s worthless Senator Richard Burr has a dumb-ass response: tax athletic scholarships.

So a New Jersey public school system banned kids from prom if they hadn’t paid off their lunch bills. A good Samaritan offered to wipe out the debt; the school district said no.

Right-wing bullshit artist David Barton insists quite untruthfully that human beings can’t damage the Earth’s climate.

Republicans don’t support veterans, not when the veterans don’t toe the party line. Or when they’re immigrants.

Ultraconservative forced-birth attorneys are getting judicial appointments. This kind of strategy is paying off: Brett Kavanaugh and Sam Alito met with the leader of an anti-gay hate group.

Climate change is going to hammer our power grid, infrastructure and military unless we do something. And it’s pretty obvious we won’t.

I remember when handwriting analysts would brag about how they could identify the right candidate for companies to hire. I have the same skepticism that AI analyzing facial expressions in interviews is any more reliable, but it’s seeing use anyway.

The power of the Internet to fill kids’ minds with racist, sexist garbage.

Republicans and propagandists keep insisting impeachment is falling apart. No More Mr. Nice Blog looks at why they may not care their lies are so debunkable.

“What leader worth voting for would negotiate with Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy and believe either will keep his word; what sane president would turn over sensitive documents to Republican-led committees; what Democratic president would simply accept that the federal courts are now the property of the opposition, and submit issues of national policy to them, in the confidence of receiving a fair shake? ” — from a discussion of where liberals and America go after the Trump era (assuming there is an after).

The first Republican tax cut didn’t do much for the economy. So they’re going to try it again. Not really that surprising — from the view of the 1 percent, I suspect the issue is less jump-starting the economy than “give us more money!”

Cover art is uncredited, all rights remain with current holder.

 

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David Brooks and other odious people

David Brooks has written about how he believes the old WASP elite ran the country better than today’s meritocracy because they imposed social structure and forced everyone beneath them to cling to common standards and rules. So there’s more than a little projection when he believes one of the driving forces of extremism is “I yearn for order. Blunt simplicities.” Because that’s his own approach.

Also, because Brooks can’t actually come out and say how bad the right is (they are, after all, the extremists doing almost all the killing), he has to explain this is the mind of extremists on both sides. And by implication that anyone who blames anyone specific is an extremist and potentially dangerous because smart people like Brooks know things are really, really complicated. And “Did you really think you could raise me on gourmet coffee and yoga pants and I wouldn’t find a way to rebel against your relativism and materialism? Didn’t you observe the eternal pattern — that if you try to flatten a man to the bourgeois he will rebel by becoming a fanatic?” is some really, really bad writing.

In other matters:

Trump’s campaign manager predicts Donald Jr. will follow his dad and form a political dynasty. As No More Mr. Nice Blog notes, not a chance.

A court decrees that it’s morally wrong cops can steal $200,000 in the course of its search, but even so, “the law was not clearly established” that this crosses a legal line.

The political hacks running NOAA warned its staff not to publicly question Trump’s “Dorian threatens Alabama” claim.

A Brazilian mayor tried to block the sale of Marvel comics featuring a gay male kiss on panel.

The movie Satan’s School for Girls? According to crackpot preacher Jesse Lee Peterson, it’s a documentary — educated women serve Satan! The sexist turd also believes Brett Kavanaugh isn’t a real man because he has daughters.

Speaking of Kavanaugh and sexist turds, right-wing misogynist Josh Bernstein says obviously Christine Blasey Ford was a slut who came on to Kavanaugh and when he turned her down, she decided to wait 20 years to get revenge! Yeah, that’s really plausible (it’s even dumber and nastier in detail).

Following Brett Stephens’ freakout over being insulted on Twitter, Slate looks at the history of Stephens and other NYT columnists being special snowflakes.

“Tour was all about how hard it was for the slaves,” according to one review of a plantation tour that discusses the realities of slavery.

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw says universal background checks would be bad because he couldn’t lend guns to friends who couldn’t pass. He is, very, very upset that anyone should think this means his friends shouldn’t have guns. Because nobody ever uses a borrowed gun to — oh, wait. And wait again.

Alaska’s attorney general is working hard to destroy public sector unions.

The pastor of a Tennessee Catholic school has banned Harry Potter from the library because the spells are real (spoiler: no, they’re not!).

To end on an upbeat note as I like to do, North Carolina Republicans’ racist gerrymandering has been thrown out by a state court (based on the state constitution so it doesn’t clash with the Supreme Court’s federal ruling). Republicans have thrown in the towel, though I won’t be surprised if they have more tricks up their sleeves.

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I shall shed my links over dark evil

Evangelical pastor Mark English on dealing with anti-Semitism in his congregation: “‘I’m not in government. It would be like me trying to understand the insurance business,’ he said, when asked about Yanko’s allegation that Jews control the government. ‘The government is so complex — I don’t think that any one group controls everything.’ He felt no need to address his congregant’s anti-Semitic beliefs, either one on one or from the pulpit.” What a righteous dude. Slacktivist adds more.

Conservatives have long supported the right of forced-birth protesters to harangue anyone entering a clinic. But subjecting Trump supporters to the same tactics? Outrageous!

Rep. Steve “when did white supremacy become a bad word?” King thinks he deserves an apology for criticism of his no-rape-exception-for-anti-abortion-laws remarks. Which included (I missed this first time) that Republicans oppose an exemption because “they understand it is not the baby’s fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too.”

Ben Shapiro claims no major Republicans ever questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy as president. Shapiro lies.

“They view themselves as just a part of the system, just doing their jobs. It’s not up to them what happens, they’re just ‘enforcing the law, they don’t set policy they just enact it … but the reality is that they’re not just wheels grinding away in a machine. They’re people, and they have choices about what they do.”

The Constitution is failing us.  So what now?

The Trump administration supports the right of employers to discriminate against transgender people.

A look at Gamergate as a dry run for the Internet harassment even more common today.

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas says it’s funny to call Italians “dago” or “wop.” Nope.

Good news: Brock Turner lost an appeal against having to register as a sex offender.

Charlotte’s mayor and city council are all black, and all received racist hate mail about going back where they came from.

In North Dakota, state ID laws have stripped the right to vote from 10 percent of Native Americans of voting age, because they don’t have street addresses so their ID shows a mailing address (this is explained in the article) and the state law requires a street address. A court’s response: most voters can meet the street-address requirement so who cares?

How’d I miss Nathan Larson last year? This Republican candidate for office in Virginia is a confessed pedophile and rapist (and white supremacist) who also believes “We need to switch to a system that classifies women as property, initially of their fathers and later of their husbands.” (h/t to Echidne).

DC hate crimes are up. Prosecutions are down.

“Getting a job sweeping hallways is like getting into Northrup Grumman used to be.” Roy Edroso on why it’s not easy to take this job and shove it.

A pastor declares quite inaccurately that a)the Bible is our constitution and b)God doesn’t let everyone into heaven, so that proves God supports Trump on immigration!

The new servant economy is not a good thing.

Trump says Jews who vote Democratic are disloyal to Israel (apparently forgetting American voters are not Israelis). And right-winger Wayne Allen Root says Israelis look on Trump like the King of Israel and the second coming, apparently forgetting Jews don’t believe there’s been a first coming yet (Slacktivist unpacks how nuts this is). More on Root (birther, liar, white supremacist and conspiracist) here.

Australia actively pushed to get kids vaccinated for HPV, which causes cervical cancer. They’ve almost eliminated cervical cancer. Texas, by contrast, has a bad vaccination rate and a lot more cancer.

In American meritocracy, those with more money get to have more merit.

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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

So let’s have some injustice links.

Yes, we’re putting immigrants in concentration camps. And the Trump administration says not giving kids baths or somewhere to sleep beside cold concrete floors is acceptable. It’s not the first time we’ve gone this route, but that’s no excuse. Points to Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez for calling a spade a spade, and not backing down when she got flak from the media (among others) that she shouldn’t say things like that.

Radley Balko, a libertarian who actually says intelligent stuff, looks at how destructive being kept in jail before trial is for the poor. So bad, they’ll plead guilty just to get out and back to their jobs. LGM adds more.

In Tennessee, Sheriff’s Detective Grayson Fritts told his church the government needs to gather up and start executing gays. Subsequently, Cracker Barrel chose not to serve his church group. Over in Alabama, Mayor Mark Chambers also advocates for killing gays.

California legislator Evan Low has introduced a non-binding resolution opposing conversion therapy and asking for compassion for gays. The religious right’s response? Lie through their teeth.

Laura Ingraham, who claims legal immigration is destroying America now says Democrats are trying to replace the white population. That’s so close to the Nazis’ “You will not replace us!” that I wonder she doesn’t come out with a swastika tat.

“The religious right showed no mercy and no charity toward these groups when it had the power to impose its will, but when it lost that power, it turned to invoking the importance of religious tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society.” Adam Serwer on how some on the right, having failed to win that way, now reject democracy.

It’s not unusual to have lawmakers skip a session to prevent a vote. But threatening violence if you’re brought back?

The Minnesota Historical Society identified one state location by its old Native American name. To some Republicans, admitting the Dakota were there first is revisionist history.

In Alabama, the new forced-birth bill makes no exception for rape victims. And guess what, the state also gives rapists visitation rights to the kids.

The Trump Administration wants to charge stores a fee for accepting food stamps.

To end on a justice note or two, Sandy Hook parents have won a couple of court victories against the liars who claim the shooting never happened. And students at one Catholic School pushed back against the administration’s arguments that harassment was the fault of female students for dressing sexy.

 

 

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Update on NC Senator Thom Tillis

Despite his record of supporting bad alternatives to Obamacare, Tillis is enthusiastically claiming  the Republican Protect Act will shield people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. See, he cares!

Even if true, is a much, much worse deal for most of us than the post-ACA status quo. This fits with most of the Republican alternatives. And while the bill says a plan may not discriminate between people based on pre-existing conditions, the LA Times says there’s nothing to stop an insurer from offering two tiers of plans, one for healthy young people, and a pricier one for older sicker people. Which fits, too; a stock conservative solution is that if we don’t let states set minimum standards for insurance, the free market will fix everything (they are amazingly flexible on “state’s rights” when it gets in the way of big business, aren’t they?

Here’s the text, if you’re curious.

Given Tillis lies like a rug, I am not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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My state and other links

A North Carolina school insisted female students wear skirts to “preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men.” How does that work? “Visual cues” signifying this is not a boy and should be treated accordingly. Plus blather about teen pregnancies and casual sex, which as we all know never happen when women wore skirts.

Oh, and in North Carolina, once sex starts a woman can’t change her mind. It’s a 2017 story, but online research indicates it’s still the law here.

Now for something positive from NC: the Guilford County sheriff fired a jail chaplain who thought his mission included converting inmates.

Less positive: the Supreme Court told Texas must either allow inmates to have a spiritual adviser with them in the execution chamber, regardless of faith, or ban all spiritual advisers. Texas went with option 2.

Rod Dreher bemoans kids who’d sooner play online than get physical in the sports arena. Of course he never played himself.

If women have “daddy issues” why do we mock them instead of their fathers?

Donald Trump has decided Homeland Security shouldn’t focus as much on domestic terrorism. Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Christopher Hasson, the prez has your back!

The problem with capitalism is often that capitalists suck.

Conservative Austin pastors unsurprisingly fight an ordinance that protects against firing for gender identity and sexual orientation.

How America sold out to Russian (and other) kleptocrats.

A pastor told his female parishioners God would bless them for submitting to his sexual demands. (hat tip to slacktivist).

The appeal of Satan-fearing paranoia? “Even if there isn’t a good guy, there sure as hell is a villain.” Or as Fred Clark puts it ” It was a lie that reassured them they were the good and virtuous and heroic people, distinct from and better than hundreds of thousands of their neighbors who were — in fact and, more importantly, by comparison — unspeakably vile and depraved.”

A-OC reminds us that tech companies and Big Pharma rely on government support for innovation and don’t pay much back.

In El Salvador, having a health crisis in pregnancy can get you 30 years in prison.

“But, being “not quite as bad” when it comes to gender discrimination isn’t enough for Democrats, not ever, but especially not now.” Which is to say Michigan Democrats are not doing enough.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (yep, that guy) is totally in favor of trans rights (the same way he’s concerned about the environment), but if we give them rights, couldn’t Trump declare himself the first female president?

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney thinks it’s terrible that we don’t support anti-gay discrimination in other countries. The administration is also comfortable with overseas efforts to push women into having more babies. Unsurprising given our own alt.right movement is fueled by male supremacy. And Republicans have been courting the far right overseas for a long time.

Beware! Trump claims the noise from wind turbines gives people cancer. No More Mr. Nice Blog provides some perspective (it’s a fringe theory that the noise will keep people awake, which weakens their health).

National Review‘s Graham Hillard says it seems reasonable to respect trans people’s requests about which pronouns and names to use, but we shouldn’t! “A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Let us not pretend otherwise.” Remember, it’s the people who hate LBGTQ people who are the real martyrs.

A woman in West Virginia claimed she saved her daughter from an Egyptian-immigrant kidnapper by flashing a gun. She lied about everything.

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Judging Tucker Carlson by things he says? That’s outrageous!

So as I linked to recently, alt.right-curious Tucker Carlson (who thinks its bad when women out-earn men and that women buying men dinner is disgusting) told a radio host that women like being ordered “do what you’re told” and that a statutory rapist whose willing to marry his victim shouldn’t be treated as a crook (“arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her”). Given his continued sexist views (he also believes men are the oppressed sex in America) his defense that “if you want to know what I think, you can watch” lacks a little something. Right-wingers, however, have an explanation: his words are irrelevant because liberals used research to unearth his quotes! How dare they look up things Carlson said in the past! It’s like a Jedi mind trick, or that time they stole Kevin D. Williamson’s career! Liberals destroy everything! While I doubt Carlson will go down, he is at least hurting.

In other news:

It’s way too early to place bets on 2020, at least for me. I hate the fact that running for president has already started. And there’s absolutely no predicting anything at this point. Okay, I think it’ s a safe bet that if Trump doesn’t die or get impeached (and he’s not getting impeached), he’s the Republican candidate in 2020 but beyond that? But I do think there’s some truth to the argument that the media will gush over Trump a lot and that this will help him. It wouldn’t be the first time media gush has shaped the election. And we’ll also get silly commentary like this.

Anti-Islam bigot John Guandalo says it doesn’t violate the First Amendment to ban Muslims from government because Islam is not a religion. Fox News’ Jeanine Piro claims Ihlan Omar follows sharia which is unconstitutional so she can’t be in Congress. And other people think allowing her to walk around being Muslim means we’ve forgotten 9/11. I’m sure if we start showing posters with prominent white conservatives and ask why we’ve forgotten Oklahoma City, they’ll agree it’s just the same, right?

Trump can’t stand to admit to even a tiny mistake.

Why people shout racist abuse.

Reagan signed MLK Day into law, but he wasn’t a fan of King, and implied King brought it on himself by encouraging people to break the law.

Professional liar Dinesh D’Souza struggles to prove the left inspired Hitler’s genocidal views.

Oh, the horror! “Every email announcement the Federalist Society sent out met a snarky, vitriolic response by progressive students.”

Right-winger Tony Perkins demands the feds regulate PayPal because it’s too left-wing.

A feminist guide to raising boys.

The far-right in Europe isn’t very different in its sexist views from the Muslim far-right.

Why Facebook moderators supposed to moderate crazy political posts start to believe them instead. And people targeted by conspiracy theories find their lives become nightmares.

Will self-driving cars have a harder time spotting black pedestrians than white?

Successful people are often shocked when someone points out they had luck (including being born rich, born white, not growing up in an abusive home) as well as talent.

Let’s end on an upnote: two boys starting a feminist club in their all-male school.

 

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The market does not always do right by us

One of the basic libertarian axioms (at least for many of the libertarians I’ve read) is that a completely deregulated market is a sweet deal for us consumers. The market doesn’t need government to make businesses do right; they have to do right to attract customers. If they fail to give good service (or good products), we shop with someone else and they go belly-up.

Last week’s godawful flight was a reminder what a load of codswallop that is.

I like flying, but the decades since the government deregulated air flight in 1978 (not complete deregulation), it hasn’t gotten better for us consumers. If anything, the airlines thrive on making things worse, then offering extra money to upgrade. As the Consumerist blog put it, though I can’t find the link, it’s in their interest to make us miserable so we’ll upgrade. Seats are small (and could get worse), service is poor and the airlines stay solvent by not having much redundancy: if a flight gets canceled or a crew member doesn’t show, it’s often not easy to find an alternative (in fairness, there are financial reasons for that).

Or consider calling your Internet service, power company, insurer … well, pretty much anyone. Some small businesses pick up the phone; with big ones (or even slightly big ones)  it’s a tedious slog through a phone network. In one case (dealing with one of my mother’s banks), I could not find an answer in the list of “press 1 for X, 2 for Y” options.

Having human operators would be a vast improvement, but that would cost them money; much better to stick us with the wasted time we spend on the phone (Slacktivist points out that we also get the burden of handling Internet and debit card security).

In both cases, we consumers are stuck. It’s often impractical or massively inconvenient to drive out of state (to Mysticon, for instance). If we need to talk to someone on the phone, we need to talk to someone on the phone. And unless we have a boatload of alternatives, we’re stuck. So we suffer, they make more money and the shareholders/owners suck it up. Which is why I also see libertarians explaining this is the way it should be: the only people companies aren’t allowed to screw over are the owners.

Just to be fair, I’ll look at a counter-argument. The conservative flagship National Review has been a welfare case for years. They rely on donations, even to pay their legal bills in a case a few years ago. So they’re not depending on success with consumers to stay afloat. And without the pressure to compete in the marketplace we get articles like Kevin D. Williamson’s (yes, that Kevin D. Williamson. Who’s also the Kevin D. Williamson who claimed Romney was more of a man than Obama because five sons beats two daughters) explanation for why Swedish-style socialized medicine won’t work here. To wit, because Swedes are responsible, while Americans just mooch and want a handout. No, it doesn’t make any sense — but without free-market pressure, it doesn’t have to.

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The 2020 election begins now! God help us all.

As far as Politico is concerned, Elizabeth Warren is already tanking her chances. No, the secret to winning is trust to old, center-right white candidates! Or wildly popular politicians like … Paul Ryan? But women, it’s essential they be likable!

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, would like you to know that he’s very anti-Trump except where he supports him. One LGM blogger suggests, however, this is a clear sign Romney thinks the tide is turning against President Shit-Gibbon. But NMMNG says if Romney thinks that could land him the 2020 nomination he’s dreaming. But just in case, Trump’s allies are pushing harder to declare Trump the party’s pre-emptive nominee.

And Jerry Falwell Jr. assures everyone evangelicals will stick with Trump regardless of what sins he may have committed. Falwell’s excuse is that Jesus shouldn’t be setting public policy, which quite simply I think is a lie; the religious right (which was founded by his father as a political force) is all about letting their view of Jesus’ wishes define the law.

And of course there are the constant arguments that Dems won’t really be any different from Republicans if they had more power or don’t really care about stopping them. After all they could totally have stopped Kavanaugh making it to the Supreme Court if they tried. Plus arguments that if Democrats trash-talk Trump, it’s all over for them.

In other news:

Trump’s tax cut benefits rich foreign investors more than Americans who don’t own stock.

65 percent of jail inmates haven’t been convicted of anything. The majority are there because they can’t afford bail.

Deplatforming hatemongering websites or starving them of cash has been an effective tactic. Then you get someone like tech CEO Rob Monster, who made it his mission to save the hate-site Gab.

The founder and former leader of Identity Evropa has filed for bankruptcy. Not much detail at the link.

Customers without plastic keep running into problems at businesses that don’t take cash. For one thing, a number of stores don’t say this up front.

More white, right-wing terrorism: Antigovernment radical James Stachowiak calls for people to commit lone wolf terrorist acts.

Chipotle requires employees to sign arbitration agreements giving up their right to sue. Now employees are requesting arbitration and Chipotle is stalling.

Idris Elba says the only reason to worry about Me Too is if you’re guilty of harassing someone. Likewise, while many Wall Streeters now avoid meeting with women and even worry about hiring them, attorney Stephen Zweig says the solution is “try not to be an asshole.”

“Why do we think “innocent until proven guilty” is an appropriate basis for deciding who we invite into our personal, professional, or public spaces?”

“A video clip of two black people showcasing visible anger toward the president would have been played over and over again on cable news.” Hilary Clinton got crap for not playing nice with Trump at Bush the elder’s funeral.

 

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Hand-waving poverty and other links.

There’s a school of right-wing thought that as Jesus said the poor are with us always, there’s no point to helping them. We’re not going to end poverty, we may not be able to help everyone, so what’s the point?

Of course by that logic, there’s no point to paying for police. We’re not going to get rid of all crime,we’re not going to catch all criminals, so why not just give up? But people do grasp that stopping crime is a good thing, even if you don’t bat 100 percent. I dont’ think poverty’s any difference. Helping one person who can’t get medical care (the topic in the link above) does make a difference. And Jesus wasn’t saying don’t bother to help the poor because you can’t end poverty. He’s quoting an Old Testament passage, the point of which is that poverty enduring is a reason to be generous, not to just give up.

There’s a right-wing school of thought that not only is it bad to help the poor with tax dollars, it’s bad to help the poor period. Homeless shelters are bad because they give homeless people less reason to get a job and afford rent. What they need is to suffer so that they’ll have an incentive to get off their lazy asses. Because that’s the real problem, isn’t it?  A variation on this idea is that what poor people really need is not charity but jobs, so capitalism is the real charity. John Stossel, for example, wrote some years back that putting your money into a new business would do far more good than putting it into charity.

Of course that ignores that increasingly money flows to the stockholders, not to paying employees jobs they can live on (see here for more). Nine out of 10 jobs in Silicon Valley pay less than they used to. It’s worth remembering that capitalism by itself has a mixed record at best of helping out the poor and downtrodden. Wages were good in the 20th century because of unions and government support for labor rights, moving us away from the Gilded Age where the worker had no rights at all.

Nevertheless, Kevin Williamson (yes, Kevin “kill women who get abortions” Williamson) takes that ball and runs with it, and runs roughshod over Christiantiy. Sure, Jesus said that if you have two coats, you should give one to someone who doesn’t have one. But you know what? Capitalism mass-produces coats! If you open a coat factory, you can hire people, pay them well and they can afford their own coats! Besides, what if he needs food more than a coat, huh? While Williamson also acknowledges that charity is important, it feels like lip service as he gets to the important point, reassuring rich people that just by running businesses they’re making the world better.

And of course, there’s still the standard war-on-the-poor tactics: Arkansas requires Medicaid recipients report their work hours to keep coverage. But it makes it very hard for them to do so, for example only allowing online reporting.

Rep. Paul Ryan is leaving office getting plaudits for fighting the deficit. But his budgetary priorities increased it. He only cared when it justified slashing the social safety net.

Will Congress start holding banks accountable for misdeeds?

Greed is not good.

A couple of economists continue insisting that supply-side economics works. They’re wrong.

 

 

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