Links 11/18/10

Problem-solving bacteria crack sudoku New Scientist

Antimatter atom trapped for first time, say scientists BBC

US may disable all in-car mobile phones The Register (hat tip reader John M)

Ahmed Ghailani, Gitmo detainee, acquitted of all but 1 charge in NY Washington Post. Mind you, this was out of 285 counts.

Justices Are Long on Words but Short on Guidance New York Times

India Microcredit Faces Collapse From Defaults New York Times

Low incomes make poor more conservative, study finds PhysOrg (hat tip reader Amit C)

Economic crash to drive 100,000 out of Ireland Independent

Should Ireland Accept a Bailout? Room for Debate, New York Times. Your humble blogger weighs in.

Health Insurers Gave $86 Million to Fight Health Law Bloomberg

Dems Frustrated With White House Over Tax Cuts Fox News (hat tip reader Ed Harrison)

Americans Skeptical of Deficit Plan Wall Street Journal. Quelle surprise!

Obama awards Warren Buffett the Presidential Medal of Freedom MarketWatch (hat tip reader Scott). Ed Harrison remarked, “I thought that was an Onion piece. Wow. It’s that naked these days.” But given that Obama has a Noble Peace prize, this is more of the same.

George Soros Tells Progressive Donors Obama Might Not Be The Best Investment Huffington Post. Hardly news, but it’s one thing for this to be well understood, quite another for this to be discussed among major funders.

Foreclosure Fix Is Seen as Distant New York Times. Confirms our assessment yesterday.

California Will Default On Its Debt, Says Chris Whalen Tech Ticker

Elizabeth Duke on Foreclosures and Documentation Issues John Lounsbury

Climate change and disease will spark new food crisis, says UN Independent versus Vilsack: Food Costs Won’t Surge Wall Street Journal

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Curtis Faith

    I’ve been sending your pics from antidote de jour to my wife for the last several years. They delight her. She has no idea where I get all the pics. I tell her: “I have my ways.”

    You have my eternal thanks. This is nothing better for me than to hear Jen giggle.

    Today’s pic will be epic. I can’t wait to hear her laugh.

  2. attempter

    Re reactionaries among the poor:

    While this bizarre and repulsive phenomenon has often been observed, this line leapt out at me:

    “Alternately, you could envision Democrats saying, inequality is rising, so it’s necessary for the government to intervene.”

    It’s not possible to hear someone say this and not question either his integrity or his intelligence. At least one of those must be cracked, for a supposedly educated, professional person to still think the Democrats oppose inequality.

    Either way, we have to question the study, since its author is either incompetent or is prone to intentionally lie to curry favor with TPTB.

    Re the obscurantism of the SCOTUS:

    This is no accident. Read Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism for a clinic on how totalitarian cadres seek to maximize malleable, unpredictable processes and minimize any statements of administrative or legal principle. The goal is to maximize the system’s tactical freedom in all contexts, and minimize the ability of anyone to deduce from today’s policy what tomorrow’s policy will be.

    1. wunsacon

      >> “Alternately, you could envision Democrats saying, inequality is rising, so it’s necessary for the government to intervene.”

      The government already intervened — 30 years ago — when they dropped the top rate and therefore implicitly increased the tax rate on the poor.

      The Republican poor seem to suffer from the Stockholm Syndrome.

      Mind you, higher taxes on the rich need not entail more government bureaucracy. I’m just talking about relative burdens here.

      1. attempter

        Anyone who’s not rich who votes for Reps or Dems must suffer the Stockholm syndrome.

        Fair taxes on the rich would require far less government bureaucracy than what we have.

        Get rid of all itemized deductions, tax all income at the same rate, and make that rate extremely steeply progressive.

        (Flat tax advocates are always trumpeting that tax return on a post card. I see no reason a non-itemized progressive return couldn’t also fit on a postcard.)

    2. Cynthia

      It would be regarded as a monumental breakthrough in political philosophy if someone could come up with some type of political thought that would result in a complete and utter end to all of our illegal wars around the world and all of the fraud and corruption on Wall Street. But if someone is capable of doing this, they better do it before our country collapses into a fascist corporatist state that would make Mussolini grin from ear to ear!

      There’s probably no one more brilliant than Chris Hedges (listen to him speak below) at expressing this problem plaguing America within the context of political thought. But unfortunately, he falls far short in providing any sort of a political solution to this problem.

      My suggestion is that we can make a lot of headway towards solving this problem by first destroying all power and influence that the combined political philosophy of neoconservatism and neoliberalism is having in our country. But we must do this before this philosophical equivalent of a two-headed monster drives our entire middle class into poverty and despair and wraps a noose around all of our civil liberties and chokes them to death!

      1. craazyman

        There already was one and His name was Jesus.

        Luke 13:34

        And whatever new one arises, they too would be killed.

        Thantos, thanatos, thanatos like a thousand horses running wild over the hills.

  3. Ignim Brites

    On tax cuts, Obama should stick to his plan of extending the tax cuts only for the lower classes. If the economy continues to recover he will be a hero to his base. If the economy craters, he will at least have provided his base an education. In truth, he will still be a hero to that significant portion of the progressive base which is against growth as the surest way of reducing the human population.

    1. gruntled

      “Lower classes”, Ignum?
      I hope this was in the same spirit as the “small people” of that BP exec.

  4. Richard Kline

    Well, well well: so, Big Science has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to produce some dozen anti-atoms of hydrogen. Big Money beats them at the same game, producing several hundred pounds of anti-matter for a few million smackers. It’s Big Money that manufactured Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, and their ilk of anti-quarians. Trot out that lot and wherever they engage with any matter the substance is destroyed. It’s all part of Mammon’s plan (*hee-hee-hee*) . . . .

  5. craazyman

    I think it makes sense that surveys of people with a lot less money than average don’t show support for welfare. The poor aren’t different from you and me. They just have less money.

    But they see in their midst the grifters, addicts, criminals careering and gaming the system. Just like we see in our midst the grifters, addicts and criminals (banksters, fraudsters, glad-handed looters) gaming the system.

    Most folks don’t want a handout. They want an opportunity, a decent job, a fair chance to make it. Poor people aren’t poor because they have less “talent” or intelligence. They are poor because of circumstance. And they know it. And they see first hand the embarrasing sentimental messianic zeal foisted upon the notion of their rescue by politicians and others who want something from them up in exchange for the most insulting thing in the world — a handout.

    I recall reading in the news about the civil war 10 or so years ago, maybe more, in Liberia. The hatred boiled so hard that the first line of helpers to the poor — those who worked in the poor communities in capacities of doing favors for the underpriviledged — they got their hands cut off with machetes. There they were in the magaines, with stumps for arms staring at the camera.

    What a metaphor. Helping hands. Lying with a splintered bone bloody on the ground.

    It’s no wonder to me that the poor don’t want helping hands, and seeth at the very notion that they need a helping hand. It seems to me they would just want the same opportunity that most middle-class folks get. And if they did, then most of them wouldn’t be poor.

    1. attempter

      I haven’t read the study, but the piece is pretty vague about what questions they asked.

      It uses both the loaded term “welfare”, as well as the far broader “redistributive”.

      I inferred lower support not just for something like classic “welfare”, but also for e.g. progressive taxation.

      But I don’t know that for sure.

      As for welfare itself, I’d tell people: It’s not a “handout”. It’s your money which was stolen. If someone steals all you work for, and then offers to give a little bit of it back to you, albeit in some demeaning way, you should still take it as rightfully yours, not feel demeaned, and use that money to try to rebuild your life so you can eventually fight back and take back all that’s yours.

      I think of Steve McQueen in the hole in Papillon. He wants to reject the hideous food, but he says to himself, “Don’t be an idiot. You have to eat everything they give you. That’s your only chance of staying strong.”

      We’re a little better off than that, but it will still be childish not to proudly take everything we have coming to us, on the grounds that:

      1. We can use it to rebuild.

      2. It’s ours anyway.

  6. LeeAnne

    George Soros Tells Progressive Donors Obama Might Not Be The Best Investment

    Obviously, Soros, from the prospective you’ve pointed out, considers Obama incompetent.

    Soros has no incentive to stand for anything other than his own principles which are economics based as in getting rid of totalitarian US Drug Prohibition Enforeement policy exported to the rest of the world to organize the police and military against their own populations all over the world.

    For that, he is targeted by TPTB.

  7. Francois T

    Re: This Supine Court of ours…

    Brown v. Board of Education, the towering 1954 decision that held segregated public schools unconstitutional, managed to do its work in fewer than 4,000 words. When the Roberts court returned to just an aspect of the issue in 2007 in Parents Involved v. Seattle, it published some 47,000 words, enough to rival a short novel. In more routine cases, too, the court has been setting records. The median length of majority opinions reached an all-time high in the last term.

    You know that feeling…don’t you? Some data point hit your cortex and poof! it triggers a memory, crystal clear at its core, but fuzzy on the particulars.

    Reading the above, I just experienced that phenomenon. The words “moneycentral”, “msn”, “commentary” comes to mind, but that’ll be it for the particulars.

    The core is something else: a study done by a Wall Street firm about the relationship between length of 10Ks and 10-Qs and the number of footnotes, special disclosures etc. rise significantly after the filing reach 400Kb in size. Not surprisingly, forward tracking of the corporations guilty of this kind of verbosity revealed future problems and “incidents” with financial regulators and the DOJ.

    The this Supine Court is afflicted with a similar problem should not surprise anyone who can still think.

  8. eric anderson

    I’m glad there was a global warming… uh… I mean “climate change” link today. I won’t respond to it directly, but there was an important related event yesterday.

    The House Science and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing on climate change science on Wednesday. It’s 3.5 hours, and there is a genuine scientific debate. The chairman of the committee (soon to be ex-chair, as the Republicans will be taking over) is a Ph.D. scientist, but was kind enough to invite a few global warming skeptics to testify. They were only outnumbered by five or six to one.

    I’ve watched a little more than half of the show. Both sides make interesting and valid points. I wish some of the panel had asked more questions about paleoclimate, and the implications of what we know about ancient conditions in comparison to today’s moderately warm world.

    The warmists always fall back on their computer models. Unfortunately, the computer models are all different internally. There is a huge amount of guesswork that goes into the mathematical modeling of different parameters. As Dr. Pat Michaels noted, in the IPCC report, the error bars on just one climate factor, the direct and indirect effects of aerosols (man-made) are estimated at anywhere from zero effect to over 2W/m² cooling effect. Dr. Lindzen noted this also — that by adjusting the guess you make about aerosols in your computer models, you can produce nearly any result you like. Of course there was not time in the hearing to debate how various models accounted for the cooling of aerosols, and the justification behind those estimates, but it is an interesting question. The combined cooling effects of aerosols could well be nearly equal and offsetting to the warming effect of CO2. This is all in the IPCC report, as I have noted previously.

    If you have a serious interest in this subject, I recommend taking time to watch this important debate.

    By the way, I object to the term “ocean acidification.” I don’t think anyone else objected. The ocean is alkaline. Over the past 100 years or so, it has become very slightly less alkaline. They claimed a 0.1 drop in pH value, as I recall. Can this tiny change be the major factor responsible for the 16% decline in coral reefs? I am open-minded, but skeptical.

    1. K Ackermann

      Do the energy audit.

      Until they show a process that is re-radiating energy at higher wavelengths than IR, then higher concentrations of greenhouse gasses will continue to trap more IR energy. A new thermal equilibrium must result.

      Maybe the atmosphere expands at higher temperatures and alters transmission, or maybe higher temps produce other atmospheric effects that concentrate and re-radiate at higher freqs… I don’t know.

      Let’s hope it’s something.

      P.S. Forget the water vapor argument. Yes, water vapor is a greenhouse gas, but it also condenses as rain, releasing hugh amounts of heat. CO2 does not precipitate.

      1. eric anderson

        “Do the energy audit. Until they show a process that is re-radiating energy at higher wavelengths than IR, then higher concentrations of greenhouse gasses will continue to trap more IR energy. A new thermal equilibrium must result.”

        Energy audit… how can this be done with a lack of understanding of many basic factors and processes? Wouldn’t understanding of clouds be essential? Do we understand this?

        Yes, if you isolate CO2 as a factor, then it was agreed by all — proponents of AGW and skeptics alike — that the effect of doubling CO2 was a 1 degree increase in global temperature average. All the models depend on amplification of that for their predictions, but the amplification factors are not well understood. Nor are the mitigating factors… e.g. aerosols.

        Trenberth in the climategate emails noted that recent lack of warming (or as Prof. Stephen Schneider called it, the “global mean temperature trend stasis”) cannot be accounted for scientifically. And this is a “travesty.” (Trenberth) He thinks the measurements are inadequate (perhaps giving readings too low???). I think the measurements are inadequate (official record produced from data manipulation of raw temps giving readings that are higher than reality). Well, we agree on one thing. The measurements are inadequate.

        We have a two-year window — perhaps longer — where Republican control of committees will hopefully allow the flaws in the underlying data to be explored. I think it should be easy to show the American public how poorly and unscientifically the process of data collection has been carried out. And if we have no proper reliable record of temperature, then we have nothing to compare the models to, except other models! Pie in the sky.

    2. DownSouth

      eric anderson,

      The surprising thing is not your astounding ignorance of the things upon which you pontificate, but the fact you willfully choose to remain so mind numbingly ignorant.

      How many people on this blog have pointed out your obvious ignorance? For instance, as Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, points out in this video lecture (starting at minute 6:00), a 0.1 drop in the pH signifies a 30% increase in the acidity of the oceans. “And the problem is that,” as Haymet goes on to explain, “it gets to a point of being so acidic that organisms that make calcium carbonate can no longer make their shells.”

      eric anderson: Ignorant and proud of it!

      1. eric anderson

        “a 0.1 drop in the pH signifies a 30% increase in the acidity of the oceans.”

        Umm, actually it is a 30% drop in the alkalinity. You do understand that pH of 7 is neutral and ocean pH is 8.1.

        This is a terminology issue, but I think “acidification” is a buzzword that inspires more alarm than “drop in alkalinity” though each phrase is technically correct. Must we always choose the more alarming term?

        But let’s move beyond terminology. The essential question is what is the sensitivity of the ocean to small changes in alkalinity? No one knows. Noting a change in corals or any other factor does not prove correlation with pH. I’m not denying a correlation. Tell me, what was the pH of the ocean in the paleoclimate when CO2 was 1000ppm or 3000ppm? Was that catastrophic? Well, we’re here, aren’t we? It would seem that life adapts and survives. To imply that our ecosystem is some delicate flower that will be destroyed by small changes in temperature and other parameters flies in the face of our planet’s history of huge fluctuations in temperature and CO2 (which are not correlated in the paleoclimate record, incidentally).

        I’m not proud, and I don’t present myself as an authority. I am presenting other important facts and factors for people to consider. Those of the closed mind will simply call names. Why don’t you actually refute something Dr. Lindzen said in the debate? Maybe that would be more constructive.

  9. tyaresun

    Regarding microcredit collapse in India:

    I am really happy to see the defaults While small in scale compared to the US subprime crisis, the predatory nature is very comparable to the subprime crisis. The other big difference is the suicides. The shame part still works too well in India.

      1. tyaresun

        I meant “well” in the sense that there are too many debt related suicides amongst the poor in India.

  10. liberal

    Did the study on inequality take race and region into account?

    Perhaps there’s more inequality in southern states. Those are the places where poor non-Hispanic whites will be against government actions that help “those people.”

    1. Externality

      And liberals will support programs that help poor of every color but White. The more the government creates health clinics, scholarships, and other services designed specifically for non-Whites, the less incentive poor Whites have to support the Democrats. Poor Whites perceive, correctly, that they will be taxed to support programs that they are ineligible simply because of their skin color. Why should poor Whites have to fund programs that often benefit Blacks and Hispanics with more money?

  11. liberal

    I should add that those sentiments against welfare for race-based reasons occur all over the US, but would most likely be highest in the south.

  12. KFritz

    Re: Disable Car Cell Phones


    Best reason not to disable cell phones in cars: Necessary 911 calls will be impossible fr/ car interior. In a car is disabled in hazardous traffic, or if anyone inside a car needs to make a call fr/ the concealment of the car instead of getting OUT of the car in a dangerous situation OR it’s impossible to get out of the car–SOL.

    On the other hand, there’s a reason LaHood is on the warpath. The telecom industry, ‘civil libertarian’ wack jobs, and the legions of ‘above-average’ drivers have exerted enough pressure to weaken most cell-phone/car laws. Law enforcement is too busy dealing w/ more pressing issues in many locales, and/or being cut back as here in CA. So LaHood has fallen back on technological fix, which seems to be the fall-back strategy for any problem in the US in 2010.

    For the reasons enumerated in paragraph 1, this is BAD IDEA.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe a compromise is a push button on the cell phone that would still allow you to transmit the distress signal and the location to the police from inside the car.

    2. Rex

      The idea is stupid because it is another excessive big-motherism idea, protecting ourselves from any potential hazard to anybody’s health.

      In California, we already must use a hands free device for using a phone in the car. That’s ok, I can tell mine to call so-and-so and the phone does it. But given that, no phone in the car is just stupid. I’d say it is no more distracting than having a conversation with someone sitting in the passenger seat.

      The logical extension is to stop that too. Everyone driving or riding in a vehicle must put tape over their mouths. Cops or ambulance drivers shouldn’t be allowed to use their radios unless stopped.

      1. KFritz

        ‘I’d say….’ Studies show that cell phones ARE more attention diverting that conversation. Lots. But perhaps not for above average drivers.

  13. Ed

    On the Obama links, I still maintain that someone like Obama would have been a fine president if he had been elected in 1988.

  14. EmilianoZ

    Truthdig’s Robert Scheer reflects on former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill buying a $31 million vineyard estate in Sonoma. That provides the opportunity to revisit the demise of Glass-Stegall.

    “Thanks to legislation that Weill got President Clinton to sign off on, Citigroup was allowed to become too big to fail, and when fail it did, the taxpayers had to bail the humungous bank out—to the tune of $50 billion in a direct subsidy and $306 billion more for the housing mortgage-backed securities Citigroup was holding.”

    “Weill engineered a merger of the Travelers insurance company, which he headed and which included investment banking in its portfolio, with the commercial banking entity of what was then Citicorp. That merger would have been judged illegal because of the Glass-Steagall legislative barrier to merging investment and commercial banking that President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law to prevent another Great Depression, but Weill got the law changed to accommodate his plans.”

    “As The New York Times editorialized back in April of 1998 in praising the merger: “In one stroke Mr. Reed [John Reed of Citigroup] and Mr. Weill will have temporarily demolished the increasingly unnecessary walls built during the Depression to separate commercial banks from investment banks and insurance companies.””

    “When Clinton signed the bill reversing Glass-Steagall and making the Citigroup merger legal, he gushed: “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.” Clinton then handed Weill a pen he used in signing the bill, and that pen ended up framed on the wall at the CEO’s office near a plaque that paid tribute to Weill as “The Man Who Shattered Glass-Steagall.” And shattered our economy as well.”

  15. DragQueen Capitalism

    I find today’s antidote quite the opposite. Instead it accurately reflects the name of Your blog: Humankind’s hubris in believing that both nature and the other sentient beings we share the planet with are there for our debasement, subjugation, and just generally to be used for our careless amusement.

    No, I don’t find it “cute”.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Poor dog…food-seduced, brain-washed and select-breeded to forget its noble wild nature, like all pets.

      One day, I will apologize to my cats. Right now, I need them to lower my cholesterol. Selfish, yes. It’s not so ‘sapiens’ on my part.

    2. CingRed

      I believe that plants, microbes, viruses, fungus, molds and bacteria are sentient too, which is why I think you should refuse to eat anything that has ever “lived”. However, I’m glad you have the wisdom to draw the line on where hypocrisy should start as the rest of us are far too unenlightened to make that call.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If I can paraphrrase Shakespeare: There is no right or wrong, only thinking makes it so.

        If you are hungry, eat. Don’t eat when you’re not really hungry.

        Dont’ think too much. I mean, if you start to think, you soon realize eating is making war on another living thing. You are taking some living thing’s energy source and making it your own. It’s like India conquers Thailand and takes all the natural resources back to India.

  16. DownSouth

    RE: “Ahmed Ghailani, Gitmo detainee, acquitted of all but 1 charge in NY Washington Post. Mind you, this was out of 285 counts. “

    Who ever thought that Obama could outBush Bush?

    President Bush’s critics and his dwindling band of loyalists share this conviction: that the forty-third president has broken decisively with the past, setting the United States on a revolutionary new course. Yet this is poppycock. The truth is this: Bush and those around him have reaffirmed the ideology of national security to which past administrations have long subscribed. Bush’s main achievement has been to articulate that ideology with such fervor and clarity as to unmask as never before its defects and utter perversity.
    –Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power

  17. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Trapping antimatter atoms..

    I know that it’s all looking very smart and everythig, but how do we know some day, some bad guys won’t use that to destroy the world?

    Is it worth the risk so that you can be rich and famous?

    Because of potential conflicts of interest, all scientists should refrain from answering that question. Let’s hear from the Luddites only.

  18. Hugh

    I’m not sure what the point of Liptak’s Supreme Court story is. He cites a Kennedy opinion as an example of legal murkiness. Well, Kennedy is notorious for being a dreadful writer, but he is usually the 5th vote in any 5-4 decision so the other justices cut him a lot of slack. The one exception to that is his opinion in Boumediene. It’s not great writing but it lays out the historical rationale for the extension of habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees. Of course, you can caveat this that the subtext to the decision was really a separation of powers issue and if there hadn’t been that, Kennedy would have voted the other way. Or that he also laid out a road map for a place like Bagram, Guantanamo East.

    In the Caperton case on Brent Benjamin’s failure to recuse, Roberts’ 40 reasons against in his dissent were nothing more than a hissy fit. The Justices, the 4 radically conservative ones, in particular, really don’t want anyone telling them what they can and can’t do. This sensitivity got transferred on to Benjamin, even though it was a really egregious conflict of interest. BTW Caperton eventually lost in the lower court. This was West Virginia and it wasn’t like Benjamin was the only judge Massey owned.

    I can’t get but the first page of this article to load so I can’t comment as to the rest. I would just say that the Court’s radical conservatives tend to incoherence. I remember Scalia’s opinion in Heller, the 2nd Amendment gun case. He argued conclusively at least in his own mind that the 2nd Amendment was an absolute right to own arms. Having asserted this categorical right, he had to immediately backtrack on it because such an expansive right would not only have allowed your neighbor to stockpile nukes in his backyard but the neighborhood schizophrenic to get armed for bear. So having laid out a case for no restrictions, he then went on to opine except for the reasonable ones, whatever the hell that meant.

    Another thing you will see in the opinions of the radical conservatives is that they are apparently talking off point. This usually has to do with them taking aim at some precedent not directly at issue but which they are setting up to reverse in the future. For example, Gross v. FBL was on Age Discrimination in Employment Act but it was clear this was a setup for an attack on Title VII which we subsequently saw in the firefighter case Ricci v. DeStefano. Similarly, while Montejo was a reversal of Jackson (right to counsel) a 6th Amendment case, it was essentially a paring back operation to open up Miranda (5th Amendment) to attack again as we saw in Berghius v. Thompkins (defendant must explicitly invoke his Miranda protections).

    A more extreme example yet was the Citizens United case which blew what few limitations on campaign spending there were completely out of the water. What was interesting about that case was the radical conservatives threw out the argument that the attorneys for Citizens United were making, said it was crap. They then, in what was a totally extraordinary move, substituted their own argument and decided the case on much broader grounds.

    Except for the few instances where Kennedy can be nudged away, the Roberts’ Court is dominated by hardline ideologues. They come to their decisions first on political grounds and then marshal what law they can to support their political preference. While the practical effects of a decision are often touted as part of their thinking, in fact, this is just a throw away line. How they arrive at their decisions is a recipe for bad precedent. As for praticality, they simply don’t care. They are ideologues.

  19. Ajay

    Yves, you should link to this excellent video of Gutfreund predicting bailouts to come, when Citibank merged to form Citigroup in 1998, “because of the size of the new Citicorp they’ll be bailed out again when the cycle goes the other way, too big to fail will be the thesis as it was last time.” Here’s the short 15 min interview posted online, quote’s at 12 min 55 sec mark:

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