04 Dec 2014

Sexual Misconduct Witch Hunt Recently Concluded at Yale Without a Hanging

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HeSaidSheSaid

Last year, a Yale student couple broke up during Spring Break. A few days later, the girl texted her former boyfriend, informing him she was drunk, inviting him to her room, and telling him: “Don’t let me try to seduce you though, because that is a distinct possibility.”

Sex ensued (of course). And, over a year later, upon returning to Yale after taking a year off, the young lady filed a complaint with the University accusing her former boyfriend of rape. He had taken advantage, she said, of her being drunk, and seeing him around campus made her “want to cry or vomit.”

Representatives of all sorts of new University bureaucracies, the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC), the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center (SHARE), the Title IX coordinator, sprang into action and worked on the matter for months.

After initiating formal procedures and supplying the complainant with her former boyfriend’s class schedule (so that she could avoid seeing him and therefore crying or throwing up), an independent fact-finder was hired. The two parties were interviewed four times along with some witnesses to the young lady’s drinking on the night in question. Statements were exchanged. All the majesty of Yale marched up to the top of the hill and then down again, and a 3-and-1/2 hour hearing was finally conducted, with all the technical facilities and formality of a Nuremburg war crimes trial.

As the result of the hearing, a faculty panel voted and wrote a report, concluding (reasonably enough) that “the preponderance of the evidence” proved that the male student had not violated university policy by taking advantage of the young lady while she was incapacitated. They then formally advised the two young people to avoid one another.

It appears that, in the end, it all came out alright, since the panel’s report was confirmed by the Dean of Yale College, and the complainant decided to forgo appealing the decision.

Original Yale Daily News story of November 7.

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Ruth Marcus, at the Washington Post, thought that this incident should alarm everyone.

This seems the just outcome, but one that, given the low “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof and Yale’s stringent consent rules, could have gone the other way.

And at what a traumatic cost. To a young woman who sincerely believes she has been raped but seems, at least from afar, to have been pushed by the prevailing culture into viewing a bad choice as a quasi-criminal event. To a young man who lived under the shadow of accusation and expulsion.

This is a cautionary tale about a still-evolving, still-uneasy balance in dealing with sexual assault on campus. The Yale episode demonstrates: Parents of boys should be every bit as nervous as parents of girls about what can happen to the not-quite-adults they send off to college.

Hat tip to Maggie Gallagher.

04 Dec 2014

Richard III Paternal DNA Does Not Match British Royal Blood-Line

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EdmundBlairLeighton
Edmund Blair Leighton, The End of the Song, 1802, private collection.

DNA testing of the bones of Richard III apparently demonstrates that what DNA testers refer to as a “non-paternal event” occurred at some crucial point in the blood-line of the British royal family.

Telegraph:

When the body of Richard III was discovered in a car park in Leicester in 2012 archaeologists knew it was a momentous find.

But little did they realise that it might expose the skeletons in the cupboard of the British aristocracy, and even call into question the bloodline of the Royal family.

In order to prove that the skeleton really was Richard III, scientists needed to take a DNA sample and match it to his descendants.

Genetic testing through his maternal DNA proved conclusively that the body was the King. However, when they checked the male line they discovered something odd. The DNA did not match showing that at some point in history an adulterous affair had broken the paternal chain.

Although it is impossible to say when the affair happened, if it occurred around the time of Edward III (1312- 1377) it could call into question whether kings like Henry VI, Henry VII and Henry VIII had royal blood, and therefore the right to rule.

Without his claim to royalty, Henry VII is unlikely to have been able to raise an army for the Battle of Bosworth Field, in which Richard III was killed, and the history of England could have been very different.

And it has implications for our own Royal Family who also share a direct bloodline to the Tudors.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

04 Dec 2014

Nathaniel Branden, 9 April 1930 – 3 December 2014

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Ossian
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767-1824), L’apothéose des héros français morts pour la patrie pendant la guerre de la Liberté [Apotheosis of the French Heroes Who Died for their Fatherland During the War for Liberty also known as “The Spirit of Ossian Welcoming Napoleon’s Marshals into Valhalla”], 1802. Musée National du Chateau de Malmaison, Rueil

Reason and Huffington Post are both reporting this morning that Nathaniel Branden died yesterday in Los Angeles after a long illness.

Reason:

Nathaniel Branden, the man who turned Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy into a popular intellectual movement, died today at age 84.

He and Rand famously broke over complications involving a long-term affair of theirs that ended badly in 1968; the tale is told at length from his perspective in his memoir—the most recent edition called My Years with Ayn Rand—and interestingly, from his ex-wife Barbara Branden’s perspective in her 1986 Rand biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand.

After the break with Rand in 1968, Branden had his own highly successful career as a hugely popular writer on psychology, and he is a pioneer of the vital importance of “self-esteem” in modern culture.

Unlike the way the concept has been denatured over the decades, Branden, still Objectivist at heart, wrote with the understanding that creating a worthwhile and valuable life from the perspective of your own values was key to self-esteem, and thus to psychological health. That is, self-esteem wasn’t something that should be a natural given to a human, nor our birthright, but something to be won through clear-eyed understanding of our own emotions and their sources, and our values and how to pursue them.

Branden was vital to the spread of Rand’s ideas in two distinct junctures: by creating and publicizing the ideas inherent in her fiction through nonfiction and lectures via the Nathaniel Branden Institute in its lectures and magazines from 1958 to 1968 (a task Rand would almost certainly not have attempted without his prodding and aid).

Then, after Rand broke from him and all “official” Objectivists were required to revile him, Branden was a living example that intelligent admiration for and advocacy of Rand’s ideas need not be tied in with thoughtless fealty to Rand as a person, or to the pronouncements of those who controlled her estate, with all the attendant flaws and occasional irrationality: that one need not be an official Randian to spread the best of Objectivism.

Read the whole thing.

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HuffPo:

Born in Brampton, Ontario, April 3 1930, as Nathan Blumenthal he received a BA in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles, an MA from New York University and a Ph.D from the California Graduate Institute.

As an undergraduate he wrote a letter to Ayn Rand regarding her novel The Fountainhead, which earned him a phone call from the novelist/philosopher. He and his girlfriend, Barbara Weidman, visited Rand’s home north of Los Angeles and became close friends and associates.

After the publication of Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Branden created the Nathanial Branden Institute and presented lectures on Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Branden systematized Rand’s philosophy, something she had not done, and presented lectures on the ideas, published as The Vision of Ayn Rand.

These lectures were attended in person, or heard on tape, by thousands across the country and around the world including by many leaders of the nascent movement of modern libertarian.

Branden also began a romantic relationship with Rand, with the knowledge and consent of his wife, Barbara, and Ayn’s husband, Frank O’Connor. As is often the case in such relationships it did not end well and Rand and Branden had a stormy split in 1968.

Branden went on to promote his psychological views on self-esteem. He acknowledged his role in creating a spirit of intolerance within Rand’s circles, but he never repudiated the fundamental ideas, and in fact, defended them his entire life.

Read the whole thing.

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The young Nathaniel Branden was apparently an enfant terrible, notoriously arrogant, inflexible, and intolerant. He is generally supposed to have been principally responsible for the cult-like quality of Ayn Rand’s private circle, and reports abound of the young Branden conducting inquisitorial trials for deviationist infractions leading to the defendant’s excommunication and expulsion.

But, after the notorious break-up with Rand, he behaved with admirable dignity and restraint. While Rand hysterically denounced him and slandered him with false accusations, he avoided responding, merely relocating to the other side of the continent and building a new career as a pop psychologist counseling Californians on how to cure their neuroses by cultivating self-esteem.

It was amusing to see how thoroughly the former head of the rigid and formal Rand Jugend became Californianized. The later Branden began to speak well of pot smoking, and had himself photographed in guyabera shirts lounging beside a swimming pool.

Despite all that, he remained staunchly libertarian, and advocated essentially the same kind of politics and economics he had when he was Ayn Rand’s lover and deputy fuehrer. The only real difference was in his new-found personal modesty and sense of humor, overlaid with a thick layer of California squishiness.

His memoir of his time with Ayn was tasteful, discreet, and obviously quite honest. Reading his later writings, no one was ever moved to worship him in the way true believers once had, but one could not avoid kind of liking him and according him a bit of grudging respect. Molliter ossa cubent.

nathaniel-branden

03 Dec 2014

Spengler Hates Star Wars

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LiberalStarWars

That old grouch Spengler dislikes Star Wars & Harry Potter & Wagner’s Ring. They are too European pagan for his tastes, which evidently run in the direction of the Hebrew Bible and heathen Chinese Empire. What would Nietszche say?

George Lucas will inflict yet another Star Wars film on us momentarily. I detest the series, along with its successor, Harry Potter, and its antecedent, Wagner’s Ring cycle. Luke Skywalker is a retreaded Siegfried, with inborn powers that make him nearly invincible, asserting his will against authority (Wotan/Darth Vader). There are minor differences; at least Harry doesn’t have to kill Dumbledore. George Lucas explained on a recent American Movie Channel retrospective that he dipped into this swamp first as an anthropology student, reading the likes of Joseph Campbell.

Skywalker/Potter/Siegfried are a carryover of the pagan idea of heroes, which is simply the pagan idea of a god: a being who is like us, but better. …

I suspect that the popularity of Star Wars and the Potter series arises from the generation of obese, pimply-faced young losers we are now raising, who know their real-life prospects to be miserable, and compensate by playing the hero in video games. Very few of them know how to code a computer, to be sure, and even fewer know how to build one.

Think of Skywalker/Potter/Siegfried as the pop-culture equivalent of the self-esteem movement in education. If we can’t persuade our kids to accomplish anything, at least we can enrich their fantasy life.

03 Dec 2014

Major Controversy: New Star Wars Plasma-Hilted Light Sabre

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New trailer for next year’s Star Wars movie:

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Colbert defends new light sabre design.

03 Dec 2014

European Humor

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perfect_european

And here’s a compilation of European Jokes.

Example: Swedish Finn joke: “The difference between a Finnish wedding and a Finnish funeral is that at a funeral there’s one person not having vodka.”

02 Dec 2014

Global Warming as Metonymy

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IceAgeEnding

Victor Davis Hanson describes Global Warming as one example of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism.

Take also global warming — for Secretary of State John Kerry, the world’s greatest challenge.Once the planet did not heat up in the last 18 years, and once the ice of the polar caps did not melt away, global warming begat climate change. The new nomenclature was a clever effort to link all occasional weather extremities to some underlying and fundamental climate disruption. Brilliant though the strategy was — the opposites of cold/hot, drought/deluges, and calm/storms could now all be used as proof of permanent climate change — global warming finally was hoist on its own petard: If it caused everything, then it caused nothing.

So, in the end, what was global warming? It seems to have grown up largely as a late-20th-century critique of global market capitalism by elites who had done so well by it that they had won the luxury of caricaturing the very source of their privilege. Global warming proved a near secular religion that filled a deep psychological longing for some sort of transcendent meaning among mostly secular Western grandees. In reality, the global-warming creed had scant effect on the lifestyles of the high priests who promulgated it. Al Gore did not cut back on his jet-fueled and lucrative proselytizing. Obama did not become the first president who, on principle, traveled with a reduced and green entourage. Solyndra did not run a model transparent company as proof of the nobility of the cause. As in the case of illegal immigration, the losers from the global-warming fad are the working and middle classes, who do not have the capital to be unharmed by the restrictions on cheap, carbon-based fuels.

Read the whole thing.

02 Dec 2014

No Mother Should…

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NoMothershould

02 Dec 2014

Today’s Poem

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michael-brown-survellience-

ThereOnceWasaThug

01 Dec 2014

Why Don’t Cops Ever Shoot Bad Guys in the Leg?

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Michael-Brown-Shot-in-Stree

Michael Yon has a go at explaining why any time police open fire, they shoot to kill.

Many people innocently ask why Officer Wilson did not shoot Michael Brown in the legs. The answer could stretch for pages. More succinctly, a couple handfuls of reasons:

1) This ain’t the movies

2) Most police do not fire their weapons much. Most are not great shots.

3) The officer would have to be an incredible shot to be crazy enough to fire wounding shots.

4) Nearly all firefights are “stress shoots.” The other guy is moving. Heart pounding. Often breathless. Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just been punched in the face during a wrestling match for his pistol, according to Wilson.

5) Bullets that miss can hit someone else.

6) You always are low on ammo. Do not waste a single bullet.

7) Time spent reloading is dangerous

8) I have seen many people shot who kept fighting. Shot with weapons far more powerful than any officer’s pistol. Many police and combat troops have seen this and will verify.

9) Police and Soldiers never train to shoot to wound. (None that I know of.) Technically, officers will say they shoot to stop the threat but this is legal semantics. They are trained to fire center mass. All combat shots are center mass of any hittable part of the target. If you see only a foot, shoot the foot. If you see a chest — aim for the middle. If the officer is pointing his pistol at someone, he is one click away from going lethal to stop the threat. There is no in between. I have never seen a target at any military, police or civilian range, that designates legs as a target.

10) This ain’t the movies.

The whole thing.

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I don’t think Michael’s explanation is fully accurate or complete. I’d say that other factors playing a key role include:

1. The politicization of police recruiting. In the old days, experienced police chose at will men like themselves to become cops. Their key criteria were size, strength, and combativeness. The kind of man who got into the police was a tough guy who knew he was tougher than 99% of common criminals and who was not afraid of them. The policeman was typically recruited from the same ethnic or cultural community as the older police.

Today, police recruiting is bureaucratized and politicized. Women and minorities, and now even queers, have to be “represented” in the police force. The old-time principles of selection were discarded years ago, so your typical cop today is no longer the toughest guy in town. He’s just some average schlub looking for a paycheck and pension.

The days of “One Ranger (or one Pennsylvania State Policeman) for one riot” are over. Today’s timid police don’t like to serve civil papers without SWAT Team back-up and an armored car. They are scared to death of frequently large and aggressive African American members of the criminal underclass.

2. In days of yore, the policeman was commonly a gun enthusiast. He carried (in most parts of the country) a Colt or Smith & Wesson .38 Special six-shot revolver. He was a dead shot and thought himself perfectly adequately armed. Nearly all police went through entire careers drawing a weapon only once or twice and never shooting anybody. The policeman dealt with nearly all resistance with his fists.

Needless to say, police are completely discouraged today from relying on their fists, and the police officer who beat up the likes of Michael Brown could get into pretty much as much trouble for hitting him as he would for shooting him dead, dead, dead.

3. The Federal Government took over police training and created national standards and procedures. These, today, include police carrying semi-automatic pistols with large magazines and police being trained to shoot “for center body mass,” i.e. being trained to shoot to kill, period, as well as being encouraged, when they shoot, to spray and pray, to empty the (typically 10-to-15-round) magazine at other fellow.

Some of this is simply the transplanting of military-style training for war into the context of civilian police work, but there is obviously additionally at work fear of litigation. The cop who shoots Stagger Lee in the leg knows that, down the road, there is a live possibility of having to face a live Stagger Lee in the courtroom, equipped with slick attorneys, and lying his ass off. If Stagger Lee is deceased, he is never going to sue anybody personally, and the mouth of the potential complainant with the best ability to contest the cop’s version of events is permanently sealed. The truth of the matter is that our polarized, politicized, and litigious modern society has persuaded police, when matters proceed to shooting, to prefer to take no live prisoners.

I’d say that Michael Yon’s theses are largely bogus. It may be that, in the heat of real combat, a crazed jihadi or some other Third World primitive, high on ganja and/or bloodlust, may keep fighting after being shot a time or two, but the typical American low life is just an ordinary criminal and a coward. Shoot one of them in the leg, and you’ll see him scream in pain and the fight drain right out of him. I know, because I once did shoot one… in the leg. Not being FBI-trained, I thought it unnecessary to shoot to kill.

01 Dec 2014

Messages From Beyond

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MessageFrom-Beyond1
MessageFrom-Beyond2
MessageFrom-Beyond3

Baby Boomers will increasingly find handy David Eagleman’s 2006 start-up, Deathswitch described at Wired.

“At the beginning of the computer era, people died with passwords in their heads.”

It was an administrative nightmare, with emails, photos, diaries, and financial information locked away for all eternity simply because people kept crossing into the beyond with the only set of keys. Eventually, Eagleman writes, a solution emerged: software called Death Switches that would detect a person’s demise and send prewritten, postmortem emails to next of kin, sharing passwords. But it didn’t take long, Eagleman goes on, for people to realize they could communicate more than passwords. They could say good-bye or get in the last word of an argument.

As it turns out, Eagleman wasn’t just writing fiction. In 2006 he launched a real-life startup, Deathswitch, to provide the service. Subscribers are prompted periodically via email to make sure they’re still alive. When they fail to respond, Deathswitch starts firing off their predrafted notes to loved ones. The company now has thousands of users and effectively runs itself. Among the perks of a premium Deathswitch account is the ability to schedule emails for delivery far in the future: to wish your wife a happy 50th wedding anniversary, for example, 30 years after you left her a widow.

Death is the original other dimension—a parallel universe that, for millennia, we have anxiously tried to understand. As software, Deathswitch is relatively simple, but as a tool in that millennia-long project it can feel spine-chillingly disruptive. Eagleman has jury-rigged a way for people to speak from beyond that inviolable border and—for those of us still sticking it out on this side—to feel we’re being spoken to. It’s another example of technology enabling things that previously would have seemed magic.

Hat tip to the Dish.

01 Dec 2014

Sir Isaac Newton

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IsaacNewton

Nautilus profiles the great man, thusly:

Describing his life, shortly before his death, Newton put his contributions this way: “I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me.”

One thing Newton never did do, actually, was play at the seashore. In fact, though he profited greatly from occasional interaction with scientists elsewhere in Britain and on the Continent—often by mail—he never left the vicinity of the small triangle connecting his birthplace, Woolsthorpe, his university, Cambridge, and his capital city, London. Nor did he seem to “play” in any sense of the word that most of us use. Newton’s life did not include many friends, or family he felt close to, or even a single lover, for, at least until his later years, getting Newton to socialize was something like convincing cats to gather for a game of Scrabble. Perhaps most telling was a remark by a distant relative, Humphrey Newton, who served as his assistant for five years: he saw Newton laugh only once—when someone asked him why anyone would want to study Euclid.

Newton had a purely disinterested passion for understanding the world, not a drive to improve it to benefit humankind. He achieved much fame in his lifetime, but had no one to share it with. He achieved intellectual triumph, but never love. He received the highest of accolades and honors, but spent much of his time in intellectual quarrel. It would be nice to be able to say that this giant of intellect was an empathetic, agreeable man, but if he had any such tendencies he did a good job suppressing them and coming off as an arrogant misanthrope. He was the kind of man who, if you said it was a gray day, would say, “no, actually the sky is blue.” Even more annoying, he was the kind who could prove it. Physicist Richard Feynman voiced the feelings of many a self-absorbed scientist when he wrote a book titled, What Do You Care What Other People Think? Newton never wrote a memoir, but if he had, he probably would have called it I Hope I Really Pissed You Off, or maybe, Don’t Bother Me, You Ass.

———————–

Lock, Stock, & History is similiarly irreverent.

Today we consider the great scientist Isaac Newton to be one of the greatest geniuses of history. After all he developed many laws and theories in the fields of physics, optics, mathematics, and astronomy which are still very relevant today. However if you actually met Sir Isaac Newton today, I guarantee you would think him to be a nutjob.

While Newton is celebrated today for his many scientific breakthroughs, his works in other, less scientific fields are largely forgotten. A dedicated alchemist and occultist, Newton spent much of his time working on experiments that are today mostly considered outright bizarre. A devoted follower of many interesting occult sects, Newton spent years trying to determine the “sacred geometry” of Solomon’s Temple, with hopes of mathematically divining the secrets of God. He also spent much time and energy trying to find and de-crypt the “Bible Code”. In a detailed study of the Bible, Newton made a prediction for the end of world using the chronology of the Holy Book. According to Newton, the world should come to an end in 2060 AD. Newton calculated the end of the world specifically “to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.” Eat your hearts out Mayans!

Of all of Newton’s discoveries, from gravity to refraction of light, from divining the location of Atlantis to discovering how to communicate with angels, Newton believed his most important work was in creating the Philosopher’s Stone. Newton believed that with the Philosophers Stone he could have everlasting life and be able to turn lead into gold. He spent years, if not decades studying the work of the noted alchemist Nicholas Flammel and other alchemists, with the believe that he was about to make a breakthrough at any moment. In fact, to Newton the discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone was so important that all his other discoveries were trivial when compared to his work in alchemy. His obsession with the stone caused him to have a weird set of priorities. After developing calculus, he kept his results to himself for over 30 years because he didn’t think it was important and “disliked intellectual matters”.

Finally some of Newton’s experiments were just downright kooky and creepy. According to writings in his notebook, one experiment involved him sticking a needle into his eyeball and twirling it around to analyze how light traveled through his optic nerve,

    I tooke a bodkine (needle) & put it betwixt my eye & [the] bone as neare to [the] backside of my eye as I could: & pressing my eye [with the] end of it (soe as to make [the] curvature a, bcdef in my eye) there appeared severall white darke & coloured circles r, s, t, &c. Which circles were plainest when I continued to rub my eye [with the] point of [the] bodkine, but if I held my eye & [the] bodkin still, though I continued to presse my eye [with] it yet [the] circles would grow faint & often disappeare untill I removed [them] by moving my eye or [the] bodkin.

In another strange experiment, Newton stared directly at the sun for as long as he could bare with the same objective of his “needle experiment”.

While dedicated to the discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone, his work would all be in vain as he died in 1727. He never did figure out how to turn lead into gold.

30 Nov 2014

The Little Russian Tractor That Could

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I could use one of those.

29 Nov 2014

“I Hate Criminals, But I Hate Liberals More.”

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FergusonCartoon

Ann Coulter:

The riot in Ferguson reminds me, I hate criminals, but I hate liberals more. They planned this riot. They stoked the fire, lied about the evidence and produced a made-to-order riot.Every other riot I’ve ever heard of was touched off by some spontaneous event that exploded into mob violence long before any media trucks arrived. This time, the networks gave us a countdown to the riot, as if it were a Super Bowl kickoff.

From the beginning, Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown wasn’t reported like news. It was reported like a cause.

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