Saturday, October 14, 2006

GOPer Shows Mexico's Weak Border Security

Maybe I'm just in grumpy mood, but I didn't find this commercial as funny as others have. Further, while the candidate gives the impression that he has just entered the US illegally, the caption on the news story says he just entered Mexico illegally.

Now I support border enforcement as much as the next guy. But really, illegal entry by Americans into Mexico is not a big problem. If this news story is accurate and that is what this guy in fact did, I'm not especially impressed.

Hat tip: Ace

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Election Day Turnout

In recent years, the perception is that the GOP has been helped on election day by folks turning out to vote on important social questions, such as gay marriage and affirmative action. This year the GOP base is widely regarded as dispirited and less likely to come to the polls. Indeed, when pollsters produce samples that are heavily weighted toward Democrats, they sometimes explain that their measure of voter interest indicates that voters this year will be heavily Democratic.

Now this all might be true.

Yet in this discussion, I hear very little mention of ballot initiatives - and there are a ton this year. Are social conservatives not going to come out to vote on them? Or are they going to come out and vote Democratic? or leave the ballots for House and Senate blank? None of those seems very likely to me. Or is it something different - that these initiatives activate more liberal voters than in the past, so the GOP advantage is washed out?

Stu Rothenberg compiles a list of ballot initiatives here. The list includes polls for the initiatives where they are available.

It shows that for ballot initiatives on abortion, what might be called the 'GOP Position' leads in Oregon, while the 'Dem position' leads in South Dakota, and there's a virtual tie in California. On stem cells, Democrats lead in Missouri. On affirmative action, the GOP leads in Michigan. There are same-sex marriage initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Polls show the 'GOP position' leading in Wisconsin and Tennessee, with what you might call a tie in Colorado. On drug legalization, the GOP leads in Nevada and Colorado.

There are a raft of other initiatives on a range of issues. There are several states with measures raising the minimum wage and education spending; these might benefit Democratic candidates.

But overall, I have to think that GOPers will be helped in states with favorable ballot measures and close races. I'm thinking about people like George Allen, Mike Bouchard, Bob Corker, JD Hayworth, and the GOP candidates in Colorado. Where those races (or others) are close, I would think that the GOP candidate is likely to receive a 'turnout boost' worth a few percentage points.

Can anyone provide more info on how pollsters are accounting for this?

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Spoof Sites

National Journal (subscription required) has an interesting piece on the increasing use of 'spoof sites' in congressional races:
Politicos Get Creative And Aggressive In Posting Opposition Research On The Web

By Erin McPike and Patrick Ottenhoff,
© National Journal Group Inc.
Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006

In early September, the Republican National Committee launched to take a humorous jab at what Congress would look like if the Democrats gained control. Mocking the minority party, the site features funny snapshots of notorious liberal legislators and satirical accounts of what their agenda might resemble. It's like the Onion -- but an Onion in which every joke is on the Democrats.

And Democrats aren't the only party being ribbed online. AmericaWeakly was a kind of counterpoint to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's, a site modeled after the Drudge Report that skewers Republicans.

Cheap to run and easy to put together, Web pages like these "spoof sites" are popping up in a number of competitive races this cycle. They first surfaced in Senate campaigns, but are trickling down to House races, too...

But Washington-based campaign committees aren't the only groups producing spoof sites. Internet-savvy campaigns themselves are also in on the act.

Virginia Davis, campaign spokeswoman for Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said the spoof site targeting Democratic opponent Bob Casey,, has "become part of our messaging strategy." Indeed, Santorum continues to ream Casey for ducking debates, along with his duties as state treasurer, during his campaign...

The sites listed by NJ:

America Weakly
The Fudge Report
The Pryce is Not Right
Where's Casey?
George's Journeys
The Real Steele
Fancy Ford
Clueless Claire
Far Out Brown
Pedersons Liberal Express
Very Fancy Frist
Double Talk Express
Too Junior for Jersey
George Allen for Prez

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Tracking the Congressional Election

So how big is the wave that's going to wipe out the GOP on November 7? Why do Republicans act as if they still have hope? Will Democrats top 400 House seats and 80 Senate seats? How do I keep track?

Well, Roll Call has made available a free tracker of the House and Senate races that take place in a few weeks. They list the number of safe, likely, and leaning races for each party, and tell you where the tossups are, and how they look.

As of the morning of October 12, they list the GOP as having 206 House races at least leaning their way, and the Democrats with 208. They identify 21 tossup races. Simple math tells you that the GOP needs to hold all their safe/likely/leaning races, and then win 12 of the 21 tossups to hold the majority. The Democrats need to retain their own, and win 10 of the tossups.

Looks like the map is updated frequently, so it might be worth a bookmark.

Looking at the specific races identified as tossups, it looks to me like the GOP definitely has a reasonable shot at winning 12 of the 21. Is that the outcome I would bet on? Check back on election day.

Also, not to get too far down into the weeds, but don't forget about party-switchers. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are party switchers after election day. Will Steny Hoyer stay a Democrat if Nancy Pelosi backs John Murtha in his leadership race? Will Democrats in conservative districts - like Charlie Melancon in Louisiana and Jim Marshall in Georgia - stay Democrats? Will Henry Cuellar of Texas prove that his endorsement of George Bush was not a fluke, and become a Republican - as many Democrat critics have said he really is?

And what of Joe Lieberman, or Lincoln Chafee (if he survives)?

We'll learn more, as the world turns...

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Bush to Sign Border Fence Bill

Mickey has written some more about speculation that the President intends to veto HR 6061, the Secure Fence Act. Based on a lot of what the President has had to say, and even what some spokespeople have had to say, you can make a good case that he sounds like he's not committed to it.

However, it seems to me that after his comments at yesterday's press conference - where he did not challenge a reporter who assumed he would sign it - and particularly after Tony Snow's E-mail to the guys at Powerline - it's pretty clear that the President will sign the bill.

I think if you want to delve into this further, the question at this point is how the President will handle this. It's clear from his comments yesterday that he remains committed to comprehensive reform and some form of (*ahem*) earned legalization. Will he continue to stand proudly with what polls say is the overwhelming majority of Americans who favor this view? Will he sign the bill, but say it's a disappointment, and only a marginal improvement from the status quo (kind of like Clinton did when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act)? Will he do so without fanfare, allowing Members of Congress to tout the achievement?

Or will the President identify himself with the Republican base, which likes this bill and will actually decide this election?

Also, while Mickey has been painstakingly reading tea leaves like an old-line Sovietologist going over May Day photos, I don't think he's patted himself on the back where he proved prescient. To wit, where are all the stories about how immigration has torn the GOP apart, and is threatening their standing in many key races? I've actually heard a few reporters describe this as a strong issue for the GOP - something that few were predicting just a few months ago.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fence Bill Cleared for White House

According to Thomas, the Secure Fence Act has been cleared for the White House (as of September 29).

And by the way, in his press conference this morning, the President said he will sign the bill.

Update: The White House posted the transcript of the President's press conference this morning. He sure doesn't seem excited about HR 6061, but I don't see any way he can veto it, given that he clearly implicates he's going to sign it. But it sure is funny that he doesn't say something like 'I'm looking forward to signing this bill!'

Anyway, the relevant portion of the transcript:

Q Thank you. On a different topic. You've said you will sign the border fence bill to build 700 miles of fence along the U.S. border, but DHS has said it prefers a virtual fence of sensors and cameras rather than an actual wall. Are you committed to building the 700 miles of fence, actual fencing?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we're going to do both, Joe. We're just going to make sure that we build it in a spot where it works. I don't -- DHS said they want a virtual wall. I don't believe that's the only thing they've said. I think you might have truncated their statement, because we're actually building fence, and we're building double fence in particular -- in areas where there is a high vulnerability for people being able to sneak in.

You can't fence the entire border, but what you can do is you can use a combination of fencing and technology to make it easier for the Border Patrol to enforce our border. I happen to believe, however, that in order to make sure the border is fully secure, we need a guest worker program, so people aren't sneaking in in the first place.

And so I look forward to not only implementing that which Congress has funded, in a way that says to folks, the American people, we'll enforce our border, but I'm going to continue to campaign and work for a comprehensive bill so that whatever we do in terms of equipment and manpower works better. If somebody is not trying to sneak in to work, in other words, coming through in a way where they're showing a temporary worker pass, where they're not using coyotes to smuggle across, where they're not going through tunnels, it's going to make it much easier for us to do our job, Joe, and that's enforce the border.

And so my judgment is, if the people want this country secure, we've got to do -- have a smart border, which we're in the process of developing now. It's a combination of fencing and technologies -- UAVs, sensors. I don't know if you've ever been down there, but it's a pretty vast part of country down there. It's hard to enforce that border. You've got some rugged country; you've got stretches of territory where you don't even know where the border is. You've got urban areas, like El Paso, or Southern California, where people have been able to sneak in by use of urban corridors. And so, therefore, fencing makes sense there.

I went down to Arizona, the Arizona sector, and saw a place where there's literally neighborhoods abutting the border, and people come -- a hundred of them would rush across the border into a little subdivision, and the Border Patrol would catch two or three, and 97 would get in. And they're asking, what are you going to provide to help us do our job? And in this case, those who are in charge of coming up with the proper strategy to enforce the border said, we need double fencing with space, so that the Border Patrol can use that fencing as leverage against people rushing into the country.

And my only point to you is that the strategy to develop this border requires different assets based on the conditions -- based upon what the terrain looks like. And that's what we're doing.

But I repeat to you, when you've got a situation where people are sneaking in to do jobs Americans aren't doing, it's also going to keep a strain on the border. And so, therefore, a temporary worker plan, to me, makes sense, and it's a much more humane program -- approach, by the way. It will certainly help stamp out all these illegal characters that are exploiting human beings. You know, these coyotes that stuff people in the back of 18-wheelers for money is just -- that's not in character with how this nation works. And I think we ought to -- I think a good program that helps us enforce our border also will see to it that people are treated more humanely.

Thank you for your interest.

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Madeline Albright - Friend to Terrorists

I was waiting until this video was available somewhere other than YouTube. It's pretty funny; check it out.

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Plane Crashes into Belaire Building in NYC

According to CNN, this was a twin-engine, fixed-wing aircraft. (BTW, looks like there are some units available, and it seems like it must have a great view of the East River).

It sounds like an accident and there is no indication that this is a terrorist incident. Nevertheless, it is reported that fighter aircraft are being scrambled over a number of US cities, to offer protection just in case.

Wizbang is doing a good job of keeping updated on the incident. Or follow it on New York's WABC television.

Not to jump to the political angle, but between Foley, North Korea, and events like this, you can see why the election this year is so volatile. If (God forbid) this were an act of terrorism, it would likely have some effect on how people view the election.

Update: It's been widely reported that Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was killed in this accident. According to his bio on the Yankees website, Lidle is married with a six-year old son. Condolences to his wife and son obviously; our prayers are with them.

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The Hail Mary Play

It's by no means certain at this point that the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representatives in 27 days, but you certainly have to like their chances. Looking at recent polling, I think you can identify 8-10 House seats that are very likely Democratic takeovers. And given the inability of the GOP to focus debate and discussion on 'their issues' (national security, taxes, immigration), and the possibility that the media will continue to focus on the Foley mess, you can't be particularly optimistic of a change in fortune. All-in-all, I suspect that the Democrats are closer to a 25 seat gain than they are a 15 seat gain.

Which begs the question: what can the GOP do to change the dynamic?

I have a solution: one of those ideas that's too inventive and brilliant ever to be tried. Four words: House Speaker Rudy Giuliani.

Now before you laugh me out of the room, hear me out. As Roll Call explained yesterday, if Dennis Hastert vacates the speakership, the Speaker pro tempore will be the first person named on the list of successors he has placed in the trust of the House Clerk. Here is the relevant House rule:

3) (a) In the case of a vacancy in the office of Speaker, the next Member on the list described in subdivision (b) shall act as Speaker pro tempore until the election of Speaker or a Speaker pro tempore. Pending such election the Member acting as Speaker pro tempore may exercise such authorities of the Office of Speaker as may be necessary and appropriate to that end.

(b) As soon as practicable after his election and whenever he deems appropriate thereafter, the Speaker shall deliver to the Clerk a list of Members in the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro tempore under subdivision (a).

(c) For purposes of subdivision (a), a vacancy in the office of Speaker may exist by reason of the physical inability of the Speaker to discharge the duties of the office.

Since Hastert can change the names on the list any time he wishes, why doesn't he name Giuliani as his successor, and then vacate the office? Speaker pro tempore Giuliani would serve until the House met again to name a successor - some time after the election.

The only glitch here is that House rules specify that the successor shall be a Member [of the House], but of course, the Constitution does not require that ("The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker..."). It's probably an oversight in the drafting of the rule. I doubt it matters much anyway.

Speaker Giuliani could promise to stand for election as Speaker again in the new Congress. He'd be a better public figure than Hastert as the face of the Congressional GOP. People would be more likely to trust him to root out corruption in Congress (although that's not a slam dunk). And he'd be a strong and credible figure on terrorism and national security. It's a win-win-win!

And what would Giuliani get? Well, a few years as Speaker would give him a chance to build up chits for a Presidential run. He could take credit for legislative accomplishments in the House on his watch, and demonstrate to wary social conservatives that given a position of responsiblity, he would not use it to advance a liberal agenda on gay rights or abortion.

What do you think?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Damn That Global Warming!

Responsible for Katrina last year, and undoubtedly responsible for the warm winter we're expecting this year! Storms, snows, warm fronts, and record crops - what can't global warming do - apart from get Al Gore elected President, that is...

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Hastert's Successor Already Selected

Update: Can anyone tell me why so many people are searching 'Hasterts Successor?'

Roll Call (subscription required) points out that if Dennis Hastert resigns his speakership, his succesor has already been selected. Purusant to a House rule change designed to ensure continuity in Congress, Hastert has already selected him (or her):

Next Speaker? Check the List
October 10, 2006
By Susan Davis,
Roll Call Staff

While the current page scandal and the possibility of a change in House control on Election Day have prompted plenty of speculation about who the next Speaker will be, the real answer might just be locked away in a safe in the office of the House Clerk.

Inside that vault is a list of Members — known only to a handful of people — who would take over the Speaker’s post in the case of an immediate vacancy.

First written into House rules in the 108th Congress during the continuity of Congress reforms necessitated by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the line of succession provision could be triggered for the first time if Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) — under fire from the still-unfolding scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) interaction with House pages — took the unlikely step of resigning his office before the start of the next session.

If Hastert left the Speaker’s office immediately, for whatever reason, the first Member on the list — which was written by Hastert himself — would be elevated to Speaker Pro Tem and could act with all of the constitutional authority vested in the office, until the Congress could convene to duly elect a Speaker by the full House.

After weathering a scathing week of criticism piled on him and his top aides over how Republican leaders handled their response to a 2005 e-mail exchange between a former House page and Foley, Hastert appears secure to hold onto his office at least through the end of the 109th Congress...

If Hastert were forced out before the elections, the vacancy would trigger the succession provision and a Member, who is not known to the public, would be elevated to the office. Sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic, said it was unlikely the House would reconvene before Nov. 7 and a Speaker Pro Tem could preside over the House because the chamber is in recess until Nov. 13.

Presumably, a new Speaker would be determined by the Republican Conference if the GOP retains the majority on Nov. 15, when leadership elections are scheduled, and would be duly elected by the full House on the first day of the new session in January...

Even if Republicans retain the majority, it remains to be seen if Hastert can hold on to the office. The Speaker must be elected by a majority of the full House, and it would take only a handful of GOP Members in a tightly divided House to end his tenure if they threaten to oppose him on the floor. There is no clear consensus candidate for Speaker in that scenario at this point. If Democrats win a majority of seats, Hastert is expected to retire, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) would be Speaker.

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Shocking News: Democrats Sat on Foley Messages

ABC news suggested that the Foley E-mails and messages were leaked by Republicans, but it's becoming increasingly clear that it was Democrats who sat on this information for months and leaked it at a politically-opportune time.

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Am I the Only One Who Sees a Problem?

So North Korea's detonation of a nuclear weapon has led some to contemplate hopefully the possibility that Japan will now develop nuclear weapons, and allow the formation of a real military.

Do we really want to trust nuclear weapons to the people developing the FemBot?

The strange thing is they make such bloody good cameras...

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Menendez Caught in Dirty Trick

New York's CBS news reports that Bob Menendez and his campaign set up his challenger Tom Kean, and recorded the incident to post on YouTube. It's worth a look.

It's looking as if the Kean-Menendez race might be one of the few bright spots for the GOP on election day.

Hat Tip: Taegan Goddard's Political Wire

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Latin America: Blunting the Leftist Surge

A few months ago, it was all the rage to talk about the surge of leftism in the Americas, and to fret about Mexico electing a leftist to top things off. Well, that leftist tide has not entirely subsided, but Mexico elected a conservative, and it's starting to seem possible that Brazil might as well.

What are the chances that Lula will be defeated by Alckmin in the upcoming runoff? The Brazilian real is rising as investors speculate on a Lula defeat.

If the GOP loses Congress and Bush is forced to focus even more on foreign policy than he does right now, then a win by Alckmin in Brazil would set the stage for more vigorous diplomacy in our own hemishpere.

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GOP Seeks to Frame the Debate

It's widely accepted that the best way to win is to make sure that voters are focused on the issues where you have the advantage. So debates about Iraq and seduction of pages don't really help GOP candidates, while discussions of the economy, the War on Terror, and immigration all (apparently) help the GOP. Captain Ed notes that the White House will try to shift attention to some of those GOP issues in the last days before election day this year.

Of course, the GOP has gotten no credit for the strong economy, and things have turned so bad that recent polls show the public puts more faith in Democrats than the GOP to handle the War on Terror. One fears that the White House may be spitting into the wind on this one.

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Eskimos Flip Chavez the Bird

A good example of the American spirit. I hope that some enterprising heating oil company rewards these villages for standing on principle:

Alaska villages reject Venezuela oil
By JEANNETTE J. LEE, Associated Press Writer

In Alaska's native villages, the punishing winter cold is already coming through the walls of the lightly insulated plywood homes, many of the villagers are desperately poor, and heating-oil prices are among the highest in the nation.

And yet a few villages are refusing free heating oil from Venezuela, on the patriotic principle that no foreigner has the right to call their president "the devil."

The heating oil is being offered by the petroleum company controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, President Bush's nemesis. While scores of Alaska's Eskimo and Indian villages say they have no choice but to accept, others would rather suffer.

"As a citizen of this country, you can have your own opinion of our president and our country. But I don't want a foreigner coming in here and bashing us," said Justine Gunderson, administrator for the tribal council in the Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon. "Even though we're in economically dire straits, it was the right choice to make."

Nelson Lagoon residents pay more than $5 a gallon for oil — or at least $300 a month per household — to heat their homes along the wind-swept coast of the Bering Sea, where temperatures can dip to minus-15. About one-quarter of the 70 villagers are looking for work, in part because Alaska's salmon fishing industry has been hit hard by competition from fish farms.

The donation to Alaska's native villages has focused attention on the rampant poverty and high fuel prices in a state that is otherwise awash in oil — and oil profits. In 2005, 86 percent of the Alaska's general fund, or $2.8 billion, came from oil from the North Slope.

The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, a native nonprofit organization that would have handled the heating oil donation on behalf of 291 households in Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George, rejected the offer because of the insults Chavez has hurled at Bush.

Chavez called Bush "the devil" in a speech to the United Nations last month. He has also called the president a terrorist and denounced the war in Iraq.

Dimitri Philemonof, president and chief executive of the association, said accepting the aid would be "compromising ourselves." "I think we have some duty to our country, and I think it's loyalty," he said.

Over the past two years, Citgo, the Venezuelan government's Texas-based oil subsidiary, has given millions of gallons of discounted heating oil to the poor in several states and cities — including New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine — in what is widely seen as an effort by Chavez to embarrass and irritate the U.S. government and make himself look good.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who approved an agreement last winter to buy discounted oil, said he had no plans this year to seek a similar arrangement. In Boston, a City Council member wants a landmark Citgo sign near Fenway Park taken down and replaced with an American flag. In Florida, a lawmaker asked the state to cancel Citgo's exclusive contract to sell fuel at turnpike service stations.

About 150 native villages in Alaska have accepted money for heating oil from Citgo. The oil company does not operate in Alaska, so instead of sending oil, it is donating about $5.3 million to native nonprofit organizations to buy 100 gallons this winter for each of more than 12,000 households...

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The Plot Thickens

I note that Mickey, Glenn, and Captain Ed have been expressing concern about the intent of the President and Congressional leadership toward the Secure Fence Act. Well, it seems that there's good news and bad news for fence advocates.

First the good news: I do not believe the President is approaching any pocket veto deadline for the fence legislation. The bad news is, it does not appear to have been sent to him for signature.

The Congress maintains a very useful online database of legislation known as Thomas. If you go to Thomas and look at the history of a bill that has been signed into law, you will see these lines at the end:

Cleared for White House.
Presented to President.

Well, go to Thomas, and look up HR 6061, the Secure Fence Act of 2006. If you click on 'Bill Summary and Status,' and then look at 'All Congressional Actions,' the last action you will see on the legislation is this:

Passed Senate without amendment by Yea-Nay Vote. 80 - 19. Record Vote Number: 262.

It's possible that this has simply not been updated, but I've always found Thomas to be accurate within a business day or so. I note that it records bills signed into law as recently as October 5, at least.

If the legislation has not been cleared for the White House and presented to the President, it can't be subject to a pocket veto. Of course, it can't be signed into law either. Congress does not have to be in session for legislation to be cleared for the White House and presented to the President, as long as the two Houses have previously approved such actions (CRS lays that out here). I don't know if that happened in this case, but it sounds to me like the sort of thing that's approved as a matter of routine.

Is the plan to wait until closer before the election, so the signing will be more dramatic? Or is it never to send it to the President, so no veto is reported? If the GOP in Washington knows what's good for them, the truth is closer to option 'A.' Furthermore, I suspect that if the answer were 'B,' guys like Tom Tancredo and JD Hayworth would be screaming bloody murder...

Update: The Corner reports that Patrick Ruffini of the RNC says that the President will sign the bill. Of course, Patrick could E-mail me, too! After all, I was defending the GOP!

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