Links 11/8/10

Spontaneous GMOs in Nature: Researchers Show How a Genetically Modified Plant Can Come About Science Daily

Do the poor have a right to live in expensive areas? BBC (hat tip reader Paul S)

Tea Party Betrayed Already? Dave Johnson

Crusade 2.0 John Feffer, TomDispatch

HSBC and StanChart call for Basel III rewrite Financial Times. Brace yourself for a lot more of “making banks safer will hurt the economy” palaver.

Dave’s Top 10 Reasons Why QE Won’t Help the Economy Dave Goldman (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck). Reason 5 is particularly interesting.

Full Video Deposition of Crystal Moore of Nationwide Title Clearing 4closureFraud. I’ve been reading about this for months, and I still can’t believe anyone considered this remotely acceptable from a corporate governance standpoint. How can someone sign AS AN OFFICER of a company they don’t work for? A corporate resolution allowing someone to sign for another firm ought to be under some sort of limited agent capacity, not as a pretend officer.

Toxie’s Dead Planet Money (hat tip reader Fred A)

Burmese defector reveals truth about junta’s nuclear ambitions Independent (hat tip reader Jeff C)

Citi Debt Funds Probed by SEC Wall Street Journal. This is an ugly bit of business. Note that the Journal puts former Citi executive Sallie Krawchek’s picture on the article when the only mention of her is that she tried unsuccessfully to get Citi to partially reimburse investors for losses.

Meg Whitman Matt Yglesias

NewsWatch: Bernanke: Not trying to increase inflation MarketWatch

UPDATE: Sarkozy Urges New Monetary System After China Talks Dow Jones (hat tip reader Swedish Lex). I have no doubt Sarkozy is serious, but I wonder whether the Zoellick op ed in the Financial Times, with his mention of gold towards the end getting all the headlines, is more intended to discomfit Team Obama than anything else (not saying that I approve of QE, but Zoellick is a Bush appointee and has been pretty low profile till now).

Ron Paul in charge of Federal Reserve oversight? Politico (hat tip Ed Harrison). This is gonna make for great theater. Bernanke has looked completely bored in the past when Paul has gone after him. Not sure he can be as passively dismissive if Paul is head of the committee.

G-20 Spat Risk Eases as U.S. Downplays Surplus Goal Bloomberg

Doing It Again Paul Krugman. I am of the school that QE2 is unlikely to do much save lower the dollar and fuel a global carry trade, so Krugman’s argument for more aggressive QE is questionable (if you believe in stimulus, as Krugman does, fiscal is the way to go).

The rest of the world goes West when America prints more money Telegraph

The Privatization-Industrial Complex Aaron M. Renn, NewGeography

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Theodore B):


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  1. attempter

    Re the ongoing Krugman astroturfing:

    His maneuvering is very subtle and insidious. I’ve noticed this gradual bait-and-switch from advocacy of fiscal policy to smearing it together with monetary QE to a straight endorsement of monetarism.

    That’s Krugman Desalinization.

    I still think in the end he’s going to be the main carnival barker for gutting Social Security.

    Re “do the poor have a right to defile the sightline of the rich with their hideous existence”:

    1. The poor only exist in the first place because they were robbed in order for the rich to exist in the first place.

    2. Since the rich are nothing but thieves, it follows that it’s the “expensive locale” which has no right to exist.

    3. So whether or not the poor have the right to live there isn’t the question. The question is how to restitute the stolen land back to the productive people. Do that and “the poor” will no longer exist.

    4. Not to mention that with the end of the Oil Age and thus the end of fossil-fuelled agriculture, we’re going to need millions more small farmers. And these farmers must be self-managing and autonomous, since that’s the only conceivable basis upon which we can build true democracy.

    But in order to build this democracy, and in order to grow this food at all, the people will need the land.

    Re junk science:

    There’s no comparison between naturally occuring fugitive gene splicings, which are likely to be selected out immediately, and systematic corporate genetic modification. This absurd article is simply another whitewash.

    1. KingBadger

      Krugman has repeated many times that there is no chance of any more fiscal stimulus, so he supports QE because that is all there is going to be in terms of new stimulus. He’s said many times that he doesn’t think that the QE will do much at all, but that is the only thing on the table, so he hopes it will work but is still skeptical. He wants fiscal stimulus but it isn’t going to happen.

      From Krugman’s latest column:

      “Reasonable estimates suggest that the Fed’s new policy is unlikely to reduce interest rates enough to make more than a modest dent in unemployment.”

      1. eric anderson

        Embrace QE2 not because it is effective, but because it is the only thing available. That’s just stupid. It’s like taking aspirin for an infected body part simply because that is the only thing in your medicine cabinet.

        The problem is that the egos of people like the Fed Chairman will not allow them to admit that they are powerless, that there are forces in the chaotic economic world that are much bigger than they are. Therefore they must “Do something!” because it gives the illusion that they are in control and pulling the appropriate levers.

        And Bernanke was a born lever-puller if I ever saw one.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          “Embrace QE2 not because it is effective, but because it is the only thing available. That’s just stupid.”

          It’s only stupid if you are omniscient or at least *fairly certain* that it *could not* be effective. I’m not confident you, Krugman or Bernanke are omniscient, but I could be wrong! In any event, perhaps a bit more humility on our parts might be in order. Most people I have know have not just mis-handicapped the future but have just been flat out wrong when it comes to predictions.

          1. eric anderson

            A. Jones, we may not be omniscient, but we’re not in a total information vacuum either.

            Japan has been doing the QE thing and the deficit spending thing on and on — they even “wisely” spent on infrastructure. But they’re not exactly out of the woods, are they?

            Also, Bernanke’s crystal ball has had a record of being disastrously wrong.

            I’m really (pleasantly) surprised that so many of the best financial bloggers have such skepticism about QE2, but this blog and others have presented many solid reasons for skepticism. My objection is both philosophical and practical at the same time. The Fed shouldn’t be tinkering with the markets like they are, and the tinkering they’ve done did not solved the underlying problems. So my simple conclusion is that they should cut it out. Stop it already. And if not, then pressures should be brought to bear domestically, just as complaints are being voiced internationally.

            Audit the Fed. End the Fed. Or at least put it on a leash.

        2. KJMClark

          No, it’s not stupid at all. Aspirin at least would reduce the swelling, increase blood-flow, and help the patient deal with the pain. It’s a lot better than nothing, and could well help the patient recover.

          Likewise, if QE is all you have available, it can lower longer-term borrowing costs, have minor other stimulative effects, and reduce the value of your currency. That’s what regular Fed policy does, and it usually helps the economy recover from a recession.

      2. attempter

        So if what you think could work within the system is politically impossible within the system, and your choices are therefore:

        1. Dumb and cower yourself down to something you think won’t work, in order to stay in good standing with the system;

        2. Reject the system.

        You applaud what you say is Krugman’s choice of #1. Yup, that’s “progressive” thinking all right.

        (Except that as usual the allegedly politically impossible thing certainly wouldn’t be impossible if everyone who claimed to want it would simply demand it and stick to their guns. But that’s most definitely not progressive thinking.)

  2. charles 2

    THe reason #5 is precisely the point that Michael Pettis makes about interest rates in China. A related point is that super low long term rates increase the value of pension liabilities, so contributions must be increased.

  3. fresno dan

    Dave’s Top 10 Reasons Why QE Won’t Help the Economy Dave Goldman (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck). Reason 5 is particularly interesting.

    “5. If you increase the inflation rate, prospective retirees will save more and spend less, because they expect to have less future purchasing power. That is the opposite of what the Keynesian short-term model predicts, namely that inflation prompts people to spend money (why keep it in the bank if its value is falling)? That’s the trouble with the Keynesian approach: it’s a blindered, short-term view of things. But some times the long-term, for example demographics and the retirement cycle, affects the short term”

    I would say it not so much interesting as obvvious. I am retring in 1.5 years, and I was expecting as a portion of my retirement about 5K from interest income. That is essentially zero – maybe interest will skyrocket, but I have to do the spreadsheet as things are, not as I hope them to be. I guess to many people 5K is small change, but it means I will buy (exchange) a house for 50K less than I intended, will not replace my 10 year old car…until it dies, and anticipate buying a lot less wine and not eating out anymore. Never one to spend freely, I have gone from tightwad to miser.
    Now, it somebody promised that as a stimulas, social security benefits will increase 5% above inflation for the next ten years…but funny who gets bailed out and who doesn’t…

  4. Ina Deaver

    I personally don’t think that Keynes, living in the era that he did, could imagine a time when old people ruled the earth. The kind of demographic switch we’ve had in Western populations would be unthinkable to him. I am fairly certain that, if you put the question to him with the demographics described as they currently are, he’d agree that the circumstances wouldn’t work.

    I don’t call that blinkered and short-sighted, I call that demographic trends that could not have been predicted in his time. If you told anyone living then that the average life span would be up around 70 and women would be waiting until 35 to have their first child — and then stopping with one voluntarily — they would have been horrified at such a ridiculous suggestion. Honestly, I think people forget how crazy fast the changes that have made our current demographics possible have descended.

  5. vlade

    Re poor in rich areas:
    I’d say that housing allowance (HA) can actually hurt the poor.
    Leaving aside the real social cases (like old people, where moving them would likely as not kill them), and the pathological cases of not-willing-to-work but want to have a flat in Kensington beloved of Daily Mail readership, we probably have a lot of people who work, but could not afford to live where they do just on their earnings.
    Now, either the work they do is necessary (and, for a number of them it is – cleaning is not easily mechanisable :) ), or it is not.

    If it is, then HA is subsidising not them, but the users of their labour – the rich Londoners/corporations get their cleaners on cheap (because HA makes it possible for them to live on the minimal wages). Classic example of dead-weight loss I’d say.

    If it’s not, we can assume that the flat they live in right now would be taken by someone who could afford it, and by extension be on a higher salary, and by extension pay higher taxes (which should, on balance, benefit those on lower incomes more than others).

    Either way, it’s likely that those on low incomes would be better off without HA – by putting the wages of low paid jobs up (to what is a living wage in London, as opposed to a subsidised one), or taking in more in taxes (and saving on HA), which, assuming the same level of redistribution, should improve their situation again.

    I don’t buy the “but I’ve grown up here/lived here for ages” argument, because lots of people not being able to qualify for HA have the same argument and still have to move (often at a significant cost to them) to find jobs.

    1. Ina Deaver

      I long ago figured out that the difference between a more expensive house in a good school district, and paying for private school in the crappier district, were virtually the same. There is a literal trade off. If rents, as they have been lately, are much lower than the mortgage costs for a house in that neighborhood — it makes nothing but SENSE for poor people to stretch as far as possible and rent in the ritzy neighborhood.

      Granted, that may be an American phenomenon. But it may have other salutory effects to live where the expectations are higher. Just because people are poor doesn’t mean that they are stupid and that they aren’t making the best choices for their limited funds – as far as improving their family’s future situation is concerned.

    2. Ina Deaver

      By the way, I am only addressing why people would choose to live where they do, not the very valid concerns you raise about whether the expenditure by the government does the best good it can in society as far as keeping labor costs down or some other concern. It’s not a matter of whether anyone deserves something, but whether how we write the social contract.

      But in the American context, being trapped in a dangerous and dead-end neighborhood is a real concern for the poor, and it leads to all kinds of horrible consequences for society at large.

  6. a

    Two China links:

    “China is available to Support Portugal Through Financial Crisis, Hu Says” (Bloomberg) which is self-explanatory

    “China’s Sure Bet” (Barron’s), which says that China spent more on commodities than on Treasuries in the first half.

    Taken together, you get the feeling that China would prefer anything to Treasuries at this point.

    1. alex

      So why doesn’t China sell some of the treasuries they have (over $1T)? Answer: they’re on an export oriented treadmill, and don’t want to get off.

      1. a

        If you read the Barron’s article, you will see that they are still adding to their Treasury’s holdings. So they’re still a far way from selling. But they are trying to add any other asset they can, instead of Treasuries. C’mon they must be about the only ones in the world eager to take on Portuguese debt. And it’s because they’d rather have Portuguese to U.S. debt.

  7. Skippy

    Apocalypse Watch…

    Mike Huckabee on faux news using Monty Pythons “meaning of life” black knight…tis but a scratch…clip, in making a point to his audience.

    Skippy…personally…its going to be tough staying ahead of the curve.

    1. eric anderson

      Huckabee would certainly be a more entertaining president than the current one. An empire needs entertainment in its declining hours. He plays bass better than Clinton played sax. Tells funny stories, too. Of course any Monty Python reference endears one to me.

      Nancy Pelosi: “I’m not dead yet. I don’t want to go on the cart! I think I’m going for a walk.”

    2. eric anderson

      By the way, Skippy, the Black Knight is from Python and the Holy Grail, not the Meaning of Life. Let’s get our Pythons straight. :)

    3. Jack Parsons

      Huckabee won my grudging respect when he said “We are better than that” about medical care for illegal immigrants.

      Meg Whitman won my grudging respect when she told here eBay employees that she had considered working at Disney but decided to stay at eBay- the rumor would have got out anyway. If she had kept that attitude she could have weathered her illegal servant problem.

  8. RueTheDay

    Re: #5 in the list:

    “If you increase the inflation rate, prospective retirees will save more and spend less, because they expect to have less future purchasing power.”

    This doesn’t make any sense at all. In the face of inflation, people will purchase real assets expected to increase in price along with inflation in order to maintain purchasing power. They’re not going to accumulate cash (which is by definition losing purchasing power). That’s akin to the old joke about a company taking a loss on the sale of each product but making up for it in volume.

    1. ltk

      Surely what he means is “If you decrease real interest rates…”, not “If you increase the inflation rate…”. In that case, the argument makes sense, assuming that savers/investors are risk-averse, and will compensate for the decreased returns not by moving into equities or whatever, but by saving more.

  9. Valissa

    Which of the Tea Party groups will feel betrayed? (I think it’s important to recognize that there is no one Tea Party to accurately refer to here)

    (1) The Republican operatives astroturfed Tea Party groups
    (2) The Democratic operatives astroturfed faux-Tea Party groups
    (3) The “original” libertarian leaning (please note small “l”) rebellious anti-bailout, anti-bankster, anti-Wall Street Tea Party groups [NOTE: many of these folkd like Karl Denninger have quit in disgust becuase of items 1 & 2)

    The only Tea Party group I have any respect for is (3) and (1) and (2) have colluded to get rid of those and replace them with more easily controlled and propagandized people.

    This is why 3rd parties are doomed. And I expect the Tea Party folks that are genuine to be just as disappointed as the progressives were when they elected the Dems. Divide and conquer is still an excellent strategy for the elites of both parties… both sets of elites do all they can to control their “little people”, while they do whatever is in the best interest of the elites.

    1. JTFaraday

      Which is why it will be interesting to see if the Rs do put Ron Paul in charge of Fed oversight. Although, I think I’m leaning towards they come up with an excuse not to.

      1. Dirk

        Well, Bernanke was Bush’s man before he was Obama’s. Yes, I expect the Vegas line on Ron being put in charge would be 4:1 against. If the rule of law doesn’t matter anymore what’s mere congressional seniority rules? But one can always hope tribal fighting would get him there.

    2. Cynthia

      If you take liberals and subdivide them into either neoliberals or paleoliberals, then you’ll know that it is the neoliberals, not the paloeliberals, who are to blame for wrecking our economy. And if you take conservatives and subdivide them into either neoconservatives or paleoconservatives, you’ll know that it is the neoconservatives, not the paleoconservatives, who are to blame for dragging us into two phenomenally expensive and ultimately unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      The paleoliberals are mostly confined to the Democratic party and make up a very small percentage of Democrats elected or appointed to public office. Similarly, the paleoconservatives are mostly confined to the Republican party and make up a very small percentage of Republicans elected or appointed to public office. You can’t say the same thing about either the neoliberals or the neoconservavatives — the two have gained full control over both political parties. This gets to heart of why there’s no meaningful difference between Democrats and Republicans.

      And because the paleos, liberal and conservative alike, unlike their neo counterparts, take great pride in our civil liberties and have enormous respect for the rule of law, if the paleos were to rule the roost in Washington, not only would our economy be in far better shape today and the so-called war on terrorism would be far less costly to us in terms of both blood and treasure, but also our civil liberties and the rule of law wouldn’t be hanging by a thread. On top of that, our kids wouldn’t be at or near the bottom of the ladder in terms of math and science and our public infrastructure, from our roads and bridges to our schools and parks, wouldn’t be crumbling before our eyes! So paleoconservatives shouldn’t be demonizing all liberals, nor should paleoliberals be demonizing all conservatives. What they should be doing is uniting as a single force to demonize the single force of neocons and neolibs.

      By the way, you’re probably wondering how the blue dogs and the teabaggers fit into this neolib/neocon axis of evil. The neolib/cons in the Democratic party have recruited the blue dogs while the neolib/cons in the Republican party have recruited the teabaggers for the sole purpose of attracting the gun loving, gay bashing, bible thumping voters in various swing states across America.

      1. Fractal

        I don’t usually read the comments to the “Links,” but I love this diagnosis & prescription. Cynthia, you should cross-post this in a more prominent spot. Do you ever read Fire Dog Lake? You could do your own diary over there. Or Slate or Salon might go for your zoology of political parties and party factions, if you could mention a few of the founding fathers or cite a poll or two. Just sayin’ ….

  10. Chris

    Re Genes…

    Fish genes don’t usually insert them self into plants.
    Nor do those for synthesized pesticide resistance.

    This article or at least the headline, belongs to the
    “Our sun is a nuclear reactor–therefore it’s ok to
    build them in our communities” school of corporate disinformation.

    There is a big difference between say, a mustard plant that has evolved over millions of years to taste tangy to insects and a plant that has had gratuitous genes inserted into it with unpredictable attributes and profitable patents associated with it.

    1. KJMClark

      Yeah, I have nothing against related plants ending up with genes from “reproductively distant” relatives every 700,000 years or so. I also don’t see anything wrong with using genetic analysis of related plants to determine which ones to interbreed to produce better plants. The problems come when we take the cheap and easy route of splicing in gene combinations that are unlikely to have ever occurred in nature, and then charge small farmers in the third world high prices to buy that seed, and don’t allow consumers to know that they’re eating the GMO food.

      On a related side note, another link on that page is hilarious: In that case, transgenic squash was tested for three years. This squash was modified to be resistant to some squash virus. The result? The GMO squash did no better than non-GMO squash. That’s because squash beetles decided that the GMO squash, which wasn’t weakened from viral infection, tasted better, so they tended to congregate on the GMO variety. In the process, they tended to preferably introduce bacterial infections to the GMO squash, which it had no resistance to.

  11. alex

    Re: Sarkozy Urges New Monetary System After China Talks

    Assuming he’s not just blowing smoke, Sarkozy really understands what needs to be done. If the US powers-that-be had any sense, they’d get behind Sarkozy 100%. No, I’m not holding my breath waiting for that.

  12. Adam's Myth

    Why would QE raise commodity prices in Brazil or Germany, as claimed in the Telegraph?

    The only way I can think this would be true is if the commodity is priced in dollars, and Brazil or Germany is intervening in currency markets to support the dollar. But if they don’t intervene, the commodity would rise in dollar terms but stay the same in their local currency — no harm, no foul.

    What am I missing? Can someone describe another mechanism by which this would occur? Thanks.

    1. craazyman

      Not sure that’s snark at all.

      I remember when I got out of college and somehow got a job as a Wall Street analyst at 22 years old (early-mid 1980s) that everybody would drink at lunch.

      You’d go to company presentations and there’d be booze — wine, vodka, scotch. You name it. Even before noon. There’d be a bunch of older fat dudes in suspenders talking about the railroad business or some heavy machinery product and they’d be drinking cocktails and laughing.

      My boss — the research director — would take us kids out to 3 martini lunches too, I kid you not. Not much would get done, but what was there to do anyway? It was an easy life. Writing up research reports, drunk. Sometimes even writing drunk was impossible. There was no internet in those days so if you were drunk it was best just to take a nap with your papers spread around the desk. You always had to face the wall, though. so it looked like you were doing something.

      I think the analysis was generally far better in those days. Somehow it got out of fashion to drink at lunch, and then it was just Perrier and fruit and some sort of salad.

      Everybody got nervous. And they’ve stayed nervous. Being sober all the time will make anyone nervous.

      Doesn’t surprise me at all, about the beer. People should drink more. And at lunch too. There are too many meetings now, and not nearly enough drinking on the job.

      No wonder the economy is a flat-line disaster and that Big Ben is trying to juice the liquidity. Everything reveals itself as metaphor if you just look a little to the side. If you look directly at it, it just disappears.

      1. Valissa

        LOL, great story! Here’s more on the importance of beer to civilization…

        Ancient Brew Masters Tapped Antibiotic Secrets

        Brewing in Colonial America (long article)

        The most enduring picture of Englishmen coming ashore is the Pilgrims braving freezing surf to land at “Plymouth Rock”. Well documented is their selection of this landfall not by choice, but based upon a dwindling beer supply. They, like those at the other new settlements set their first priorities on survival. With lean resources why did one group after another erect a brewhouse as one of their first structures? It was quite simple. They were Englishmen, and though they had ranged far abroad their thoughts, customs and habits never strayed far from home. Therein lies the answer.

        Nearly every citizen of the day knew that drinking water could make you deathly ill. Ale drinkers were somehow spared this affliction and therefore most people soon substituted a frequent imbibing of ale over the dreaded curse of water. The boiling to make beer neutralized most of tainted water’s ill effects, but this was long before anyone made the connection between boiling and sanitation. So people merrily went about the practice of drinking beer. Although the new world had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of pristine water, few if any would ever dream of drinking it. So it was that a brewhouse was an indispensable priority in each new settlement.

        Most parties landing on American soil would bring with them the equipment and raw materials to begin immediate production of ale. Pity the colonists who didn’t bring a brewer with them. Long suffering indeed were the first inhabitants of Jamestown, Virginia who had neglected to include a person skilled in this craft among their company. Their plight caused them to seek relief from England and they placed advertisements seeking “two brewers’ to join them.

  13. Hugh

    What I find interesting about the BBC article on whether the poor should live among the rich is how they play the poor and middle class off against each other. i.e. the poor are currently occupying space that the rich could rent out to the middle class, probably at even higher rates. This is a fairly standard ploy in class warfare. As attempter points out in the first comment, the real conflict is between the rich and everyone else. Everyone questions why the poor should be allowed to do what they are doing, but no one asks the same questions of the rich. Why, for instance, should land and rent speculation and property bubbles be encouraged? What social good is achieved by maintaining them? What good is accomplished by segregating society along class lines?

  14. Cathryn Mataga

    [quote]The only way I can think this would be true is if the commodity is priced in dollars, and Brazil or Germany is intervening in currency markets to support the dollar. But if they don’t intervene, the commodity would rise in dollar terms but stay the same in their local currency — no harm, no foul.[/quote]

    Here’s a guess. QE results in a vast
    oversupply of investment dollars looking to
    go somewhere. QE means less bonds out there
    and more cash. Where does that money go?
    This is a bit speculative, but maybe
    commodities become the next bubble. All it
    takes is one guy making some decent money —
    then all the Wall Street lemmings rush in to
    pump up the bubble.

    This, of course, would be a catastrophe.
    Then we’d have 20% unemployment and $25
    gallon of gasoline as speculators hoard
    commodities to resell to the next sucker.
    I can hardly wait.

    (Unrelated thought follows…)

    I had a thought. If the Fed is buying back
    bonds now, wouldn’t the sensible thing to do
    would be to buy more US government bonds.
    That way the NEXT TIME the fed comes around
    to buy bonds for QE3 — well, do the math!

    (Err, this is one of those weird things that
    makes so much sense to me, but then always
    ends in tears.)

    One thing, wasn’t the actual economy supposed
    to benefit from all of this somehow? How is
    that supposed to work? Ultimately, I think
    there’s only one answer, and that is to
    shut down the casino and send everyone home
    to plow the fields. But, like, err, come
    on — that’s not going to happen.

  15. Jack Parsons

    “Do the poor have a right to live in expensive areas?”:

    Look: do you want cheap labor to clean your houses and make your lattes or not? Making them ride the train for hours every day is tacky.

    “I’ve always lived here!” – social stability and equality comes from mixing classes. San Francisco’s rich & poor neighborhoods are mixed like a checkerboard, and it really helps the city. Young people come and live in the poor neighborhoods, and make the city come alive, because it’s a five-minute cab ride to some place they’re renting for an art show.

    But, yes, Housing Allowances/Rent Control are unwise: they cause cheap labor to stick around when cheap labor jobs go away. This is what creates massive poor/criminal areas.

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