Weekend reflections (early edition)

I’m going to be off air for a few days. So I’m throwing it open, a little early to Weekend Reflections. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please).

77 thoughts on “Weekend reflections (early edition)

  1. As many of you know, I’m currently writing a book on Israel/Palestine for Melbourne University Publishing, due in May 2006.

    The following letter appears in this week’s Australian Jewish News. It’s written by Federal Labor MP, Michael Danby. Its agenda is clear. Why is a member of parliament trying to stop the publication of my book? What is he afraid of? History doesn’t look kindly on such attitudes. And we all know what other historical individuals favoured this behaviour. By the way Michael, try and spell my name properly next time. It’s Antony, not Anthony:

    “The graduating class of Mount Scopus of 1972 had some interesting people, many of whom made a mark on wider Australian society. One of my fellow graduates of that year is Louise Adler, the current publisher of Melbourne University Press (MUP).

    “Louise was and is an intellectually engaging person, if a little predictable with her inevitable criticism that Labor is a “sell-out” and that supporting Israel, moderate democratic Israel, as I do, makes me a “Zionist right-winger”. It’s a badge of honour, Louise.

    “However, faint praise for Adler is a sidebar to the substance of the issue. I want the entire Jewish community to know that I absolutely dissociate myself from her decision to publish a book edited by Anthony Loewenstein about the Australian Jewish community.

    “In preparation for writing his book, Loewenstein sent me a number of questions, based on assumptions, which made his views so blatantly obvious that I refused to answer them or participate in his book.

    “I will have no part in his and Adler’s propaganda tract scheduled for publication in 2006, which will be an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community.

    “MUP should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don’t give them a dollar. Don’t buy the book.”

    MICHAEL DANBY MHR
    Federal member for Melbourne Ports

  2. I have discovered that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was composed in order to set Schiller’s poem Ode To Joy to music.

    As good fortune would have it, Schiller wrote his poem to a metre which seems to have been quite popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, meaning that there are a number of excellent poems which can be sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth. One of the best and most moving is “All For The Cause” by the British utopian socialist William Morris, which can be found at:

    http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/morris/poems/32.html

    or

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/1891/bytheway/poems/poem32.htm

  3. “In preparation for writing his book, Loewenstein sent me a number of questions, based on assumptions, which made his views so blatantly obvious that I refused to answer them or participate in his book.”

    “Its agenda is clear. Why is a member of parliament trying to stop the publication of my book? What is he afraid of? History doesn’t look kindly on such attitudes. And we all know what other historical individuals favoured this behaviour.”

    Danby is basically accusing you of push polling here. Would you care to post the ‘number of questions’ you sent to he and others in the Jewish community so we can make up our own minds about where you’re both coming from Antony?

  4. i asked danby, late 2004, about how the ALP dealt with dissent re israel/palestine, how he personally dealt with jewish dissent, view of howard on israel,
    attitiudes towards israel and jews in oz. very bland questions.

    i should add that his media flak told me danby would answer the questions then he turned around and refused. that’s his right. but for a federal labor MP to try and stop the publication of a book is disturbing and should condemned. and i’d say likewise for other people, not just because it’s my book.

  5. “i should add that his media flak told me danby would answer the questions then he turned around and refused. that’s his right. but for a federal labor MP to try and stop the publication of a book is disturbing and should condemned. and i’d say likewise for other people, not just because it’s my book.”

    The question is not such a black and white one of censorship vs free speech, but more one of who should capture the public purse to beat their own drum. More a greyer issue of subsidised speech. There are a number of spheres where this has been an issue of late. VSU and the issue of an elite capturing the mandatory fees of the silent majority to push a political barrow. This applies more generally to union elites stepping outside their area of responsibility. Same applies to govt advertising on IR reforms. Are the Labor states stifling ‘free’ speech with their High Court challenge to this Federal spending? It often comes down to one of public perception ie freedom of artistic expression vs an outrageous bloody waste of our hard-earned paying some wanker $100,000 to paint trees blue at the MCG. Similarly with govt subsidy of the pecadillos of intellectual elites on the public payroll. Everyone’s in favour of ‘free’ speech when their snout’s in the subsidy trough, but not always so keen when they have to stump up for it themselves. I assume that’s not the case with your proposed tome here Antony?

  6. Antony, why are you trying to stop Danby freely expressing his view in a public forum?

    Also, I assume the ‘other historical individuals’ to which you refer are the Bolsheviks?

  7. My initial post has disappeared into the dark voids of cyberspace, so I’ll kind of repeat it.

    I have recently learned that Beethoven composed his Ninth Symphony in order to, amongst other things, put Schiller’s subversive poem Ode To Joy to music.

    Fortunately, Schiller wrote the poem in a metre which seems to have been very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Therefore there are a number of very good poems which can be sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth.

    One of the best of them is “All For The Cause” by William Morris, which can be read at:

    http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/morris/poems/32.html

  8. Antony,

    I’m interested in what you’ve written, but you’ve not really told us much about your side of the story. Why don’t you replicate the correspondence that Danby attacked? Then you will be able to demonstrate your point more forcefully than by assuring us it was all bland.

  9. There is updated information here:

    http://antonyloewenstein.blogspot.com/2005/08/free-speech.html

    And Crikey has a story this afternoon, too. Will post later.

    It’s seems pretty clear that a Federal MP shouldn’t be trying to dictate what a publisher is able to publish, before it’s finished, before he’s read etc etc. His reasons are clear…

    Not answering my questions is his right, but attempting to stifle free speech – and really, there is no other way to read his letter – is a different story altogether.

  10. Just published in today’s Crikey:

    4. Loewenstein v Danby — Australia’s debate over Israel

    By Crikey reporter Sophie Vorrath

    There’s an ugly fight brewing in Australia’s Jewish community over a controversial new book by Sydney-based journalist Antony Loewenstein. Due for publication by Melbourne University Press next May, Loewenstein’s as yet unfinished, untitled book is already attracting feverish criticism for its take on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

    Leading the attack on the book is the federal member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby. In a scathing letter published in Australian Jewish News this week, Danby says he wants no part in Loewenstein and MUP’s Louise Adler’s “propaganda tract,â€? which he said was an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community.

    Danby said he had taken this stance after questions he got from Loewenstein made his views on the issue “blatantly obvious.�

    “MUP should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don’t give them a dollar. Don’t buy the book.â€?

    So why has a book by a relatively little-known journalist that’s not even finished got Danby so fired up? And is calling for it to be boycotted appropriate behaviour for a parliamentarian?

    Loewenstein told Crikey this morning it was “incredibly disappointing” that Danby would try to “dictate policy” to a publisher. It’s a matter of free speech, he said: “It should be acceptable for a Jew or anyone else to criticise Israel or any other country.”

    “The attitude is ‘there’s one line and one perspective (on the Israel/Palestine conflict) and if you dare to question it then look out’,” said Loewenstein, “it’s like ‘this is a war and there’s no room for dissent’.”

    MUP’s Louise Adler, who graduated from Melbourne school Mount Scopus the same year as Danby and was given “faint praise” in his letter, told Crikey the political views Michael Danby ascribed to her in the letter were “palpable nonsense and pure invention.”

    Adler said she was proud of MUP’s 80-year history of independent publishing and its mandate to publish books of public interest, and “dismayed” that a publisher like AJN “gives space to proposals to boycott ideas.” Danby’s proposal, she said, was “inimical to the central Jewish values of tolerance and open debate.”

    Crikey called Michael Danby for a response, but we’re still waiting for him to get back to us.

  11. I don’t have a problem with an MP calling for a boycott of something – particularly if it is just the product he dislikes (I’d be more worried if he called for people to boycott everything by MUP).

    However, I am a bit dismayed at him calling for a boycott on a book he obviously hasn’t read. Perhaps he is going on what he knows about Antony (which is obviously more than I do) but I can’t see how the questions as listed could be taken as signifying anything, beyond perhaps a position that alternative points of view within the Jewish community are legitimate. And if that’s his grounds for calling for a boycott then there is reason to worry.

  12. I hold no brief for Danby and have an open mind on the issue. Indeed, a pretty empty mind on it if the truth be told. I hope you get your book published and it encourages worthwhile debate.

    As for the questions being ‘bland’, well its pretty obvious reading them that they wouldn’t be ‘bland’ to Danby.

  13. The Australian economy is doing well at the moment, partly on the back of demand for natural resources from China. Apart from the slow-down in the property market, a lot of investment seems to be driven by this fact. Resource companies are doing well for obvious reasons, and retail is up on the back of cheap imported goods. There are a lot of flow on effects.

    I wonder though whether China’s growth rate is sustainable over the long-term. It’s hovered over 8 per cent for the last decade, and current projects from the World Bank are only marginally lower than this.

    Given how exposed we are (and most of the rest of the world) if Chinese growth stalls I reckon there will be a lot of panic. Imagine the Asian crisis on steroids.

  14. Completely changing the subject, it has suddenly become clear to me that “blog” is simply an abbreviation of Blaenau-Ffestiniog. So maybe all this is just some cunning Welsh plot.

  15. Our great leader has just received the ‘Woody’ award from Pres Bush.

    Is this more important than deputy-sheriff? Should we all stand further to attention at this honour? Larger flagpoles at government schools?
    Gosh, and those single mothers need less money while the “best and brightest”, need more. Clearly, once these women understand family trust arrangements, with the extra 64 dollars they get, the level playing field will be established.

  16. Determined never to be outdone by his colleague Michael Gawenda for making fanciful comment about the unfolding tragi-comedy that is Iraq, today Tony Parkinson enters the lists, yet again.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/bombs-or-ballot-the-sunni-choice/2005/08/25/1124562979396.html

    In his latest exercise in futility, Our Tone lectures the Sunni for refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the constitution-drafting process, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for a super power to crash into a country without any UN mandate and without any rationale that has survived the most cursory scrutiny.

    Now, Tony. Pay attention. The Sunni folk of Iraq are as likely to reader the Melbourne “Age” as they are to read the “Desert Denouncer”, late of “Tumbleweeds” fame. In short, Tony, you’ve wasted an hour’s intellectual labour of questionable value and barrels of printers ink.

    If you really wanted to achieve something, why didn’t you address your attention regarding the future of Iraq to John Howard?

    Because, Tony, John Howard has been extremely niggardly in his commitment of troops to win the Great Cause in Iraq. The Sunni aren’t going to pay a blind bit of notice of you. But they may pay a bit of attention to a bit of cold steel wielded by the requisite number of Our Boys.

    Here is the headline for a piece you might write: “Little Johnny: Howard or Coward?”

    So make yourself useful Tone. And show Michael Gawenda a thing or two about hawkishness.

  17. Changing the subject again…
    Whens the last time you got stoned? I mean out of your tiny mind?
    I just had some hooch that has knocked my socks off!
    Now I’m just floatin….
    Aint life grand.

  18. If Richard Lowenstein is interested there is much discussion in Britain of a book by a UK jewish academic, Jacquilene Rose, and her book “The Question of Zion : in which she looks at the disasters that have beset the jewish state,and the curious attitudes to the Palestines which now poisons so much Israeli thought.m She was interview on Wed/Aug 24th,on Tony Jones’ “Lateline” program,and the transcript is on the ABC site. There is also a recent book by a US-Israeli academic which looks at the roots of the arrogance which has characterised so much Israeli policy, the book is called “Chutzpah “. Is is also causing a huge controversy in the USA. These two book may help Lowenstein. As for Michael Danby, don’t worry about him Richard, he’s not worth it !!

  19. Sorry Antony ! I called you Richard… that puts me in Danby’s class…God what a thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. I think Antony or ‘Richard’ is simply trying to generate some free publicity for his book. Suggesting that a second rater like Danby is managing some sort of conspiracy to shut down free speech, is a convenient marketing prop. It will look good on the back cover! But in the scheme of things will not mean a great deal, as it will probably be another book that will be unread, and remaindered in Angus & Robertson this time next year.

  21. Beating people with leeks is in Shakespeare. I think Falstaff says something like “I’ll beat your leek about your pate upon St. David’s day” – but he was talking to a Welshman, not describing a Welsh custom.

  22. According to today’s Australian, Labor treasury spokesman Wayne Swan said yesterday that marginal tax rates are far too high.
    “What incentive is there for employees to upgrade their education and skills or adopt more efficient work practices if the rewards of higher wages and bonuses never reach their pockets?” he said.
    Note he “said�. It’s rhetorical. This must mean that Mr Swan has never heard of professional pride. Or the satisfaction of meaningful work. Or of altruism. Either that or he thinks they are irrelevant.
    He presumes the only reason JQ (and the rest of us) works is for money. And he presumes, as our elected representative, that we all think as he does. And he speaks for the Labor Party.

  23. Do not know, Antony Lowenstein, but love his work.

    Recommend a website that deserves a book and a look.
    Hope P. Adams gives him a go. We need divergent views and this bloke has gutse.

    More power to him.

  24. I can’t claim to be part of the Australian Jewish community but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the intensity of the Danby debate has to do with the fact that it is carried out in a comparatively small world. In which this discussion is very intense.

    I suppose Elizabeth might be right, and the book is heading for the remainder table. That is a sad reflection on the fact that most print writing has now become ephemeral – even books on architecture.

    I wish we valued our public debate more, so that all these books are snapped up and pored over, no matter what the line. After all, that would help them to be better edited and better read (speaking generally, of course. Antony is a paragon of verbality. )

  25. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are like normal hybrid electric cars except that they have a bigger battery and can charge from the electrical mains.

    My guess is that by 2015 these things will out sell the traditional all-petrol car.

    http://www.iags.org/pih.htm

    EXTRACT:-

    quote:
    ——————————————————————————–

    Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are hybrid cars with an added battery. As the term suggests, plug-in hybrids – which look and perform much like “regular” cars – can be plugged in to a 120-volt outlet (for instance each night at home, or during the workday at a parking garage) and charged. Plug-ins run on the stored energy for much of a typical day’s driving – depending on the size of the battery up to 60 miles per charge, far beyond the commute of an average American – and when the charge is used up, automatically keep running on the fuel in the fuel tank. A person who drives every day a distance shorter than the car’s electric range would never have to dip into the fuel tank.

    ——————————————————————————–

  26. I’ve read a couple of Mr. Lowenstein’s posts in his blog and they sound fine.

    What I disagree with is the Palestinian issue being spun here as something that only concerns some ‘Jewish community’ or even only ‘Australian Jewish community’. This is simply wrong and counter-productive way to frame it, this is not about kosher standards or better brit milah technics.

    Now, let’s be clear here: decades ago it was indeed the struggle between two enthic groups. No more, those times are long gone.

    The Palestine issue today is the struggle between those – across the ethnic and sectarian lines – who acknowledge the right of Israel to exist within its internationally recognized borders, provided it fulfiled its obligations to fully compensate and resettle the Palestinian refugees – and those who reject this concept. There are many Jews, Arabs and others in each camp.

    For example, most of Israeli Likud and some of the more extreme fractions of Hamas are in the same camp. PLO and Israeli Peace Block are together on the opposite side.

    This is not ethnic or religious, this is sensible vs. irrational.

  27. Abb1 you are correct – but you must understand that “mainstream Jewish community” is code for “Greater Israel supporting, pro-settler Likud supporters who monopolise formal Jewish institutions in Australia”.

    If you see your first and over-riding loyalty is to your fellow Jews and to Israel you are much more likely to take an active part in such institutions than those of us who see or first loyalty as being to our homeland.

  28. David is dead wrong. There is no debate within the Jewish community about Israel. In fact, there is a community ‘line’, which is toed almost without exception. It is this: whatever your thoughts on Israel, keep them to yourself. Only Jews living in Israel have a right to criticise; all other Jews have the obligation to support Israel, in all their comments on the topic. There are two justifications given: 1. if you do not take up the burdens of living in Israel, you forfeit the right to criticise, and 2. criticism of Israel outside the country only gives fuel to anti-semitism. Of course, cognitive dissonance being what it is, people to embrace this line – and it is faithfully followed by the entire mainstream – tend to come to believe that Israel is actually above criticism.

  29. So what was the take on that little Muslim confab last week? I like the letter in SMH Saturday, “Australian values in Islamic schools? Crikey, cobber, what next?…”

  30. guambat,

    Considering that there have been muslims in Australia for virtually the entirity of our written history (and there were probably muslims amongst the people from what is now Indonesia who fished and traded in the northern Territory before the European discovery of Australia), what makes you assume that “Australian values” and Islam are incompatible?

  31. Perhaps Ian might want to read the following link for a clue!

    http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/Fatwa/ShowFatwa.php?lang=E&Id=7171&Option=FatwaId

    The responsibilities of Muslim communities and Muslim minorties in non-Muslim countries are numerous. But the most important of which are the following:

    1. To emigrate from non-Muslim countries to Muslim one’s for whoever is not able to establish the rites of his religion or fears to be afflicted. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “whoever keeps company with a non-Muslim and resides with him, is like him.” Reported by Abu Dawud.

    The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) also said: “I am exempt from any Muslim who resides among non-Muslims.” reported by Abu Dawud, Al-Thirmidhi and others.

    2. Whoever is not able to emigrate because of a sound reason, then it is incumbent on him to preserve and protect his religion and establish it as Allah, The Most High, likes, and avoid being carried away towards the belief or traditions of the non-Muslims, or imitatating them in things that are peculiar to them.

    The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “whoever imitates people, he is one of them.” Reported by Ahmed and others. He further said: “He is not one of us the one whoever imitates other than us (non-Muslims); Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians,” reported by Al-Thirmidhi and Al-Albani classified it as an authentic Hadith.

    3. To call to the religion of Allah, as Allah says: “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.” (Aali Imran 3:104)

    One of the best ways of Dawah (calling people to Allah) in those countries is the strict practice of Islam by the Muslims and to be steadfast on the obedience of Allah refraining from all acts of disobedience. Many people embraced Islam just because of the good relationship they established with some Muslims and their being steadfast on the religion of Islam. Every Muslim should know that he/she is one of the soldiers of Islam. Non-Muslims consider the mistake of a Muslim as a mistake of Islam, and consider his/her good conduct and good behavior as part of Islam.

    4. One of the most important responsibilities as well is to be keen on bringing up and educating one’s children upon a good education that Allah is pleased with, and to preserve their Muslim identity, by establishing Muslim schools and institutes.

    5. To abide by the rules that do not contradict the Islamic Shariah.

    6. Not to resort to Kafir (non-Muslim) and polytheist and opt for being judged according to Islamic Shariah in settling disputes and arguments by asking the people of knowledge in the country where one lives, or asking the people of knowledge in Muslim counties, and Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon His prophet, this matter has become now very easy.

    Allah says: “But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad SAW) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission. (An-Nisa 4:65)

    Allah also says: “The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allâh (His Words, the Qur’ân) and His Messenger (SAW), to judge between them, is that they say: “We hear and we obey.” And such are the prosperous ones (who will live forever in Paradise)”. (An-Nur 24:51)

    Allah knows best.

  32. Australian values are now hijacked by our great leader. The Akubra hat and the slut, single mother. She should get off her arse and work for a pittance while tax breaks are necessary for the brightest and clever.

    It’s the “wealth creators” that we should adore and thus spoke the the dumbest P.M ,we have ever had.

  33. I’ve long been amused by the standard right-wing ecology of incentives —
    poor people require beating with sticks in order not to sit around doing nothing all day, while rich people require to be provided with carrots in order not to do the same. Clearly, there is a turning-point part-way between the two extremes, where a person could be tempted to sit doing nothing unless provided with a tiny, perhaps not very fresh, carrot, or tempted to sit doing nothing unless hit, ever so mildly, with a tiny stick. What pressure this guy sitting at the turning-point must be under in deciding what to do!

  34. Elizabeth,
    That post is so far outside off stump that I know I shouldn’t take a swing, but I think I might. I’d like to post something from the same website that you cited (although, this isn’t from the ‘Fatwa’ section), regarding interaction between muslims and non-muslims:

    “The Qur’an says: “God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just.” (Qur’an, 60:8) ”
    http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/article.php?lang=E&id=54601

    Might seem a little harsh? Mind you, I’d probably fight those who interfered with my faith or tried to drive me out of my house. I’d imagine most people would. Same website on violence:

    “The Prophet’s most important task was to bring peace to the world. To this end, he urged people to accept the fact that, regardless of skin colour, language, lifestyle or dwelling place, they were all blood brothers and sisters. Only if they saw each other in this light could there be mutual love and respect.”
    http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/article.php?lang=E&id=32538

    I could go on and on, but really I wouldn’t be fooling anyone because of two very good reasons:

    1) Like you, I’m only looking for bits that support my argument and I’m not considering the full picture. Anything’s cute and cuddly if you take the warm and fuzzy bits. By the same token, anything’s rabid and vicious if you just look at the extremism.
    2) Attempting to describe a centuries old religion/philosophy by quoting from a single website, without analysing any texts in detail, nor attempting to put passages in context is at best naive, and at worse an effort to stifle truth.

  35. I don’t know if you were up early enough to catch Okham’s Razor but the transcript is at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm

    I have never heard of Gideon Polya and don’t have any comment to make about his credibility or otherwise. His number crunching makes interesting reading however. The point about Jihadist suicide bombers being responsible for around 5000 deaths in 20 years vs. 1.1 million under 5 year old infant deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq post-invasion is at least pause for thought.

  36. From Instapundit

    http://lashawnbarber.com/archives/2005/08/27/blogger/

    Blogger Aaron Wall of SEOBook is being sued by company called Traffic Power for defamation and disclosing trade secrets. From The Blog Herald:
    If successful the case has the potential to cause major upheaval in the blogosphere as comments would need to be filtered in cases where there was even the slightest chance someone might sue or find the comment offensive or disagree with it.
    Might be time to update the disclosure and editorial statement.

    http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/blogspotting/archives/2005/08/is_it_riskier_t.html?campaign_id=rss_blog_blogspotting

    Taylor writes: “[If]you moderate, edit, or prune comments on your online forum — or blog — in any way at all then you stop being able to defend yourself as a common carrier and become a publisher who is, indeed, liable for the content that they publish.”

    Bit worrying

    This is a online report from Richard Potter, a partner with Phillips Fox in Sydney,2004 that discusses the Australian situation as he understood it then.
    http://www.nswscl.org.au/journal/57/Potter.html

  37. Also, alpaca, how’s your reading comprehension? That first quote was anti violence.

    “The Qur’an says: “God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just.� (Qur’an, 60:8) �
    http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/article.php?lang=E&id=54601

    Might seem a little harsh? Mind you, I’d probably fight those who interfered with my faith or tried to drive me out of my house. I’d imagine most people would.

    God forbids you NOT to deal kindly with people of other faiths. What is the problem?

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