Texas? Again? A Vote Against Freedom

Banning abortion does not mean fewer abortions, only more dead women.Oh, they think they are so moral.  They think they are defending babies.  They frame the debate as defending babies against those horrible doctors and women who want to (gasp) kill babies! They say shame on you, you baby killers.  We won’t let you do that.  They are so sure their hearts are in the right place, that God is on their side.   They put the rights of the unborn above the rights of the women who must surrender their bodies to the state.  Such is the freedom loving state of Texas.

The Texas Senate gave final passage on Friday to one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country, legislation championed by Gov. Rick Perry, who rallied the Republican-controlled Legislature late last month after a Democratic filibuster blocked the bill and intensified already passionate resistance by abortion-rights supporters.

The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers, among other requirements. Its supporters say that the strengthened requirements for the structures and doctors will protect women’s health; opponents argue that the restrictions are actually intended to put financial pressure on the clinics that perform abortions and will force most of them to shut their doors.

Mr. Perry applauded lawmakers for passing the bill, saying “Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life.” Legislators and anti-abortion activists, he said “tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans.”

When self righteous politicians and pious religious ideologues take the personhood away from women and usurp the prerogatives of doctors, priorities are seriously askew.

The people who want government to get out of their business, and let their fertilizer factories blow up for lack of regulation,  have no problem with government taking all rights away from women.  That’s what forcing a woman to carry an embryo to term means – taking away all her rights, for the crime of being pregnant.

The governor who let an innocent man die from a state administered lethal injection is defending babies.  Provided they aren’t born yet.  After they are born, fuck ‘em.

Texas.  What an embarrassment to America.

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There Have Always Been Atheists

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
Psalm 14.1 A Psalm of David. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

Even a fool can figure it out.  There is no god.It occurred to me today that the bible would not contain this mini-rant against atheists if there hadn’t been atheists when the bible, in all its manifold iterations and variations, was written.  This is encouraging.  Disparaging atheists has a long and dishonourable tradition, and the practice has been swaddled in lies (To continue the quote from Psalm 14.1: “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good work.”) from the start.  When the first madman who heard “the voice of God” in his head announced the dictates of the Lord, there was somebody in the tribe to call bullshit.   Since he/she was calling bullshit on a madman, that somebody probably got a spear through the heart, thus ending the argument and convincing others not to take up the cause of reason for a few centuries.  But there was somebody there from the beginning saying: This is nonsense.

I always tend to think that it is recently, within the last couple of centuries, since the enlightenment, that humanity has struggled to throw off the shroud of religious belief.  Not so.  Wikipedia says that the term “atheist” didn’t appear until the sixteenth century, but the bible itself provides proof that the concept is ancient indeed.  We have always been there.  Sometimes beaten into silence, but always there.

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Barbarism and Irony

The ever delightful Author, creator of Jesus and Mo, has done it again.  He describes Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’  recent article as “ironic”, and he’s managed to condense the irony into one simple strip.

Jesus and Mo, Slice.   Author has a feel for irony.Nailed it.

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The Autobiography of Charles Darwin – Book Review

Project Gutenberg, what a concept!  Make the knowledge available for free.It’s always a pleasure to discover another book by Charles Darwin that I haven’t read.  Some of his writing is frustratingly dull, though always impressive in the detail and focus of his activities, but for the most part he is accessible and entertaining.  His autobiography, brought to the world for free thanks to the wonderful Project Gutenberg, is a hoot.

It’s so good to find that I still like the man.

We’ve all heard a lot about Darwin’s racism.  Here are two excerpts that seem to bear on that question:

By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton, and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently: he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.

These don’t sound like the words of a racist to me.  Then there is this passage, a discussion of slavery with the captain of the Beagle which almost got him kicked off the Beagle.

Fitz-Roy’s temper was a most unfortunate one.  It was usually worst in the early morning, and with his eagle eye he could generally detect something amiss about the ship, and was then unsparing in his blame.  He was very kind to me, but was a man very difficult to live with on the intimate terms which necessarily followed from our messing by ourselves in the same cabin.  We had several quarrels; for instance, early in the voyage at Bahia, in Brazil, he defended and praised slavery, which I abominated, and told me that he had just visited a great slave owner, who had called up many of his slaves and asked them whether they were happy . and whether they wished to be free, and all answered “No.”  I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer, whether he thought that the answer of slaves in the presence of their master was worth anything?  This made him excessively angry, and he said that as I doubted his word we could not live any longer together.  I thought that I should have been compelled to leave the ship; but as soon as the news spread, which it did quickly, as the captain sent for the first lieutenant to assuage his anger by abusing me, I was deeply gratified by receiving an invitation fro all the gun-room officers to mess with them.  But after a few hours Fitz-Roy showed his usual magnanimity by sending an officer to me with an apology and a request that I would continue to live with him.

In that day and age, if Darwin was a racist he certainly was mild about it.

It was particularly fun to read about Darwin as a young man.  This passage, for example:

I will give a proof of my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw to rare beetles and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth.  Alas! it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one.

Keeping in mind that the autobiography was written in his later years, it’s interesting to read his reflections on his youth, which he seems to have spent in sporting pursuits and shooting, the life of a typical well to do English gentleman with no financial pressure or need to develop a livelihood or career.  He did love to talk to the more accomplished and learned men he met, which prompted this reminiscence:

Looking back, I infer that there must have been something in me a little superior to the common run of youths, otherwise the above-mentioned men, so much older than me and higher in academical positions, would never have allowed me to associate with them.  Certainly I was not aware of any such superiority, and I remember one of my sporting friends, Turner, who saw me at work with my beetles, saying that I should some day be a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the notion seemed to me preposterous.

Like so many young men, he could not imagine achieving eminence equal to those older men he admired.  I wonder what he would think if he could know his position in the history of science today.  I should think he’d be quite gratified.

This is a very personal look at Darwin’s life.  He comments on the way his tastes changed over the years, how he lost interest in shooting, music, poetry, and fiction as he became more and more dedicated to scientific research.  He pays attention to his book sales.  He had ambition, one might almost call it lust, to make a “significant” contribution to science.  It’s interesting to get to know Mr. Darwin and to see him as a human being rather than the icon and legend of science that he has become.

 

 

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An Apology from Ron Lindsay

It’s almost as if he read my last post on this issue and decided to take some advice.  Of course I’m just an unknown and unread blogger, so that’s damned unlikely.  But Ron Lindsay has responded, finally, with an apology.

“I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk.  I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk.  From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.

I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

Please accept my apologies. “

Well, okay then.  That’s an apology.  That’s a recognition of responsibility, without blaming or attacking those who were offended, and an expression of regret for his own actions.  Perhaps Ron Lindsay had a teachable moment and learned something from it.  I’m sure many will read a grudging tone into this, somehow.  I prefer not to.  He says, in his own stiff words, essentially what I wanted him to say, though perhaps not in quite the supporting detail I suggested.  It’s enough.

“Ron Lindsay has apologized to CFI staff for his actions at Women in Secularism 2. He has written an apology here. I’m sure it will not be satisfactory to everyone. I know that I wish more was said. I know Ron. I know that not everyone does, though. This was written after an day and evening of intense discussion and debate. Sometimes there was yelling and tears, but I think we made a breakthrough. I believe this type of personal apology doesn’t come easy to him. I believe that he is sincerely sorry for his speech and further actions at Women in Secularism 2. This is coming from his harshest critic.” ~ Melody Hensley”

This is real movement.  I hope everybody will just accept the apology and move on.  Now I can take part in CFI activities again, and support the good work the organization does.  I also hope that Skepticon can now accept CFI sponsorship, and that the sponsorship will still be offered.  If they got a few extra bucks out of this whole sorry affair, with people donating to them in reaction to their refusal to accept money from the CFI, that would be some good that came of it.

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Clarification on the CFI Issue

For the record, I am not calling for Ron Lindsay to be silenced, nor am I calling for him to be fired. If I was on the board of directors of the CFI I would be putting forward a motion of censure, if not a motion to can his sorry ass.  But that’s not really what I want.  This is what I want from the board of directors:

We’re really sorry our CEO acted badly at the Women in Secularism II conference.  We think he was a poopyhead.  But we forgive him because he’s human and everybody makes mistakes and because, given his age and the culture he comes out of, his attitude is understandable.  We have asked him to change his attitude, and we expect to see some improvement.  Now we would really like to put this whole mess behind us and get back to doing what we’re good at.

And this is what I would like to hear from Ron Lindsay:

I hope everybody will forgive me for being such a pompous fool at the Women in Secularism II conference.  I have read all the criticism of my speech and subsequent public statements and I get it.  I really do understand that I pissed off  a whole bunch of very smart people, I understand why you all got upset, and I feel like a complete idiot for sullying the name and reputation of the CFI.    I do not support harassment, stalking, or threatening of anybody.  I have seen the appalling death and rape threats received by women in our organization, and I am sickened by the behaviour of the perpetrators.  Such people have no place in the CFI.  I am willing to offer my resignation to the board of directors, but I really hope they will believe that I have learned my lesson and let me stay on as CEO, because I still think I have a lot to contribute.  Please support me in this, and I promise you will see a change in my attitudes.

If the board of directors were to reword this statement into acceptable corporate speak, without watering it down, i.e. replace “a poopyhead” with something like “lacking the mature judgement required of a leader”, and if Ron Lindsay were to say something the equivalent of this to the community, I can guarantee that the whole shitstorm would die away, leaving nothing but a lingering bad smell.

This is what we have hoped for, and what we’ve been waiting for.  This, I believe, is all anybody wants.  And what is so fucking difficult about saying this?  Why are you guys resisting the obvious?  Ron Lindsay was a pompous asshat.  That doesn’t mean he’s a bad person.  We’re all willing to forgive and forget.  But we are not willing to accept the goods as delivered.

I guess the real problem is that these two statements have to be what the board of directors, and Ron Lindsay, actually believe, not just more stomping on the bag of flaming shit currently on their front porch.  So far it doesn’t look like it.

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We Reveal Ourselves in our Humour

A relative sent me this “joke” today, and it brought out some thoughts.

The Haircut

A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car.

His father said he’d make a deal with his son: ‘You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible (Say what? DH), and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.’ (Notice, no commitment from the father here. He’ll just be open to more begging and pleading. DH)

The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.

After about six weeks his father said, ‘Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.

The boy said, ‘You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair ~ and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.

You’re going to love the Dad’s reply: (Don’t count on it. DH)

scroll down

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(Sure, make me scoll down to get your predictable punch line. D.H.)

>

Did you also notice that they all walked everywhere?” (Because cars hadn’t been invented yet, shithead. DH)

generation gapGrrr.  I left home at seventeen because my dad got all bent out of shape about my hair.  That makes me sad.  Such a stupid reason to leave home, but at the time I felt I was forced into it. I wasn’t going to have anybody telling me that his values trumped my own, and allowing him to use money and power to enforce his neurotic authority just made me feel like a prostitute.

If I tried to think of a stupid reason to cause tension and conflict in a family, I’d have to think for a long time before I could come up with something stupider than trying to get your kid to fit your idea of what he or she should wear as a hair style. If that effort could be effective, we’d all be wearing high starched collars and women would still not be allowed to wear trousers.

We’ve come a long way since the fifties.

My father fired a sales rep back then because he wore a neatly trimmed goatee.  “Don’t send any bearded weirdo around to sell me life insurance.”

I have personally been refused service in a restaurant because my hair and beard didn’t fit the owners idea of proper style. Thank the FSM we seem to have left those repressive days behind us.

Peeling the onion down another layer, I can’t think of a better way to turn a kid into an atheist than to force him to read the bible, so full of genocide, rape, incest, adultery, and slavery, most of it either ordered by the Christian god or done in his name.   Should we approve of this father because he makes his son read the bible?  Why couldn’t he get his kid to read something of actual value, like Scientific American or Nature or maybe Mad Magazine?

We have “battle of the sexes” humour, reactionary versus counter culture humour, generation gap humour.  This is a great example of how we reveal ourselves in what we find funny.  What this reveals to me is a culture that has severely misplaced priorities, valuing appearance over substance, style over values.

I guess this “joke” comes from a culture that I rejected many years ago, and a mind set that I don’t have a lot of use for.  I’m sure I sound bitter and angry in this response to it.  I’m not, really.  I am bemused.  I feel like an anthropologist looking at a strange primitive tribe, and trying to understand how their thinking could be so fucked up.

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Christian Spin

I just watched a Chinese video version of the biblical story of Job.

It seems the Christians even misrepresent their own mythology when spreading it abroad.  The English introduction to the video said that Job’s afflictions were all done to him by Satan, i.e. it wasn’t God’s fault at all.

For the record, it wasn’t Satan unaided who inflicted poor job with boils, killed his children, reduced him to financial ruin.  It was all done with good old God’s permission and in  the case of “God’s fire which fell from the sky”, with his active participation.  Here’s the story as presented by Wikipedia:

The Book of Job tells the story of an extremely righteous man named Job, who is very prosperous and has seven sons and three daughters. Constantly fearing that his sons may have sinned and “cursed God in their hearts”, he habitually offers burnt offerings as a pardon for their sins.[3] The “sons of God” and the satan (literally “the adversary/accuser”) present themselves to God, and God asks the satan for his opinion on Job. The satan answers that Job is pious only because God has put a “wall around” him and “blessed” his favourite servant with prosperity, but if God were to stretch out his hand and strike everything that Job had (emphasis mine, DH), then he would surely curse God. God gives the satan permission to test Job’s righteousness.[4]

All Job’s possessions are destroyed: 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys carried off by Sabeans; 7,000 sheep burned up by ‘The fire of God which fell from the sky’; 3,000 camels stolen by the Chaldeans; and the house of the firstborn destroyed by a mighty wind, killing Job’s ten children. Still Job does not curse God, but instead shaves his head, tears his clothes, and says, “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”[5]

As Job endures these calamities without reproaching God, Satan solicits permission to afflict his person as well, and God says, “Behold, he is in your hand, but don’t touch his life.” Satan, therefore, smites him with dreadful boils, and Job, seated in ashes, scrapes his skin with broken pottery. His wife prompts him to “curse God, and die,” but Job answers, “You speak as one of the foolish speaks. Moreover, shall we receive good from God and shall not receive evil?”
-Wikipedia

Job and his boils.  His buddies think he must have done something to upset God, but no.  He's clean.Okay, maybe it wasn’t God himself who inflicted such horrors on Job.  The loving God just stepped aside and let it all happen.

That’s the kind of god you’ve got there in the bible.

Why did God allow such suffering to be inflicted on poor Job?  Why, to win a bet with Satan.  To gratify his godlike ego.  Of course, God being all knowing and omnipotent and all that, he would have known beforehand that he’d win the bet, so making Job suffer really wasn’t necessary.  But I guess the deity gets hungry for entertainment.  Maybe He had doubts, though doubts are a strange thing for an all knowing deity to have.

Of course it wouldn’t do to tell the heathens the real story.  That might turn them against your megalomaniac sky faerie.  So the God that is being presented to the Chinese is a Teflon god, a god with no responsibility.  And of course He makes it all up to Job in the end, though I’m not sure how that makes it up to Job’s first family, his original ten children.

So there they are, the Christians, selling their god to the Chinese. I suspect that the Chinese will be a hard sell.  They aren’t as credulous as medieval European peasants.

Reading more about this story, I realize that my understanding of its point has been very limited.  Apparently the message is that it doesn’t take anything to piss God off and make him smite you or your family a bit, or a lot.  You just have to accept that He has his reasons, and they’ve got nothing to do with you. You just have to accept whatever shit comes down, and don’t forget to love him anyway. If you can manage that, He’ll be nice to you eventually, unless you are one of the kids he’s killing as an example to your dad.

What a good thing it is that their god doesn’t exist.  I’d hate to have a bastard like that running the show.  And I do wish the Christians would stop trying to Teflon coat their big daddy in the sky.  I rather prefer it when they tell it like it is, and let us all know that their God hates fags and mixed fabrics and is okay with stoning rape victims.  That way we get a clear picture of their ideology, and any ethical person will avoid any contact.

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Goodbye to the CFI

If you’re not up to speed on this, here’s the back story:   Ron Lindsay, CEO of the CFI (Center For Inquiry),  inserted himself into the opening of the Women in Secularism Conference (which the CFI was sponsoring) where he used his position to lecture long time feminists on the error of our ways, in particular our supposed efforts to use “privilege” as a tool to silence poor abused white guys like me.  People howled in outrage.  Lindsay doubled down by attacking and comparing one of the speakers at the conference to North Korea.  Being a long time feminist, as well as a cranky old white guy myself, I wrote Tom Flynn and the board of directors a letter of protest.  Others commented extensively, and  the misogynist haters, stalkers and harassers cheered Lindsay on.  Then we all sat back and waited for something from the board of directors.  Some sign that they got our message.  But apparently not.

“The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.”

I was profoundly disappointed.  Really this is a non-response, a refusal to comment, a cowardly evasion that did nothing to address the situation.  There was no suggestion of censure, or reproach, or even disagreement with Ron Lindsay.  There was nothing that inspires me with any confidence that the CFI is an organization I can support.

Being “unhappy with the controversy” is not the same as being unhappy with the actions or statements made by your CEO.  It’s more like being unhappy that some people disagree with him and found his remarks objectionable.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody could just agree that Ron Lindsay didn’t do anything offensive?  Then we wouldn’t have this nasty controversy that makes us unhappy.

From the statement:  “The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences.”  I read this as: We stand by our CEO and can’t really see why there’s been any problem with anything he said or did.

I want the board of directors to recognize in some real way, whether by censure or call for apology or dismissal of Ron Lindsay, that there IS a problem and that Ron Lindsay is the source of that problem.  I want something more than corporate spin and bafflegab.

Much as I enjoyed my recent participation in the course given by Richard Carrier under CFI sponsorship, until I read a meaningful response from the CFI board of directors I shall have nothing to do with any CFI activity, including participation in any future CFI course.

I’m hoping to go to Skepticon this year.  For sure I’m going to send them a few sheckles.  Many groups are willing to protest, but not even Barack Obama turned down money from the bad guys.  If you can spare the folks at Skepticon a bit of cash, here’s the link.  I’m told every little bit helps.

 

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Oh fuck, Not My Dick Part 2 the Ultrasound

Many thoughts have been boiling through my brain since my last post, wherein I revealed my newly discovered Peyronie’s Disease which is making my dick look like I’m wearing an invisible cock ring when I get an erection, which hasn’t been all that frequent an event lately.  There’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that Viagra actually works, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t just the placebo effect.  Of course the flip side of that good news is that it seems I must pay Pfizer and assorted middlemen sixteen bucks every time I want a stiffy.  Maybe I can find the stuff cheaper someplace other than the first drug store I walked into.  But I have to say that the chemical solution to this problem does not make me deliriously happy, no matter what the cost.  I’d much rather solve it with diet and exercise, but maybe that isn’t enough.

Viagra, with the active ingredient actually called sildenafil citrate,  also comes in another form, marketed as Revatio, for the relief of pulmonary hypertension.  Revatil is sold as 20mg. round white tablets.  Purchasing Viagra in this form gets away from asking for the recognizable drug, which could embarrass some people, and avoids the distinctive blue diamond colour and shape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of ageing.  For one thing, there will be a last time for most of the things I enjoy.  I may already have had my last time exploring tropical reefs in scuba gear.  The last time I did that I found it so exhausting that I only had two of the three dives I had paid for.  I know a lot can be done to slow the decline, chiefly the aforementioned diet and exercise, and I used to laugh at the Viagra ad in which the chubby guy who didn’t look a day over forty came skipping out the door singing “It’s a Wonderful World”.  Of course you can’t get it up, idiot.  You’ve let your body fall apart.  I would never do that.  And for the most part, I haven’t.  I’m packing a few extra pounds right now, but most mornings I do get on the elliptical trainer for half an hour.  I have good energy.  I watch my diet.  I’m in good shape.

Warning: NSFW below the fold on this post.

Jack Lalanne claimed to be having a hot sex life into his nineties, but of course he owned and lived in a gymnasium.

“Sex at my age is like trying to play pool with a rope.” – George Burns at age 98.  Attaboy, George.  Yuk it up.  That’s what you were good at.

Nelson Mandela, one of the great statesmen of our age, just died (Oops. News of his death was exaggerated.) Surely he would have the best of medical care.  If it can happen to him, it’s most likely going to happen to me.   Charlton Heston died recently (this one has been confirmed), presumably with his gun clutched in his cold dead hand, another rich dude who seemed to keep himself in good shape and must have been able to afford the best of medical care.  All those upbeat TED talks telling me that if I can just live for another twenty years I’ll probably see four hundred… Nope.  Not bloody likely.

Mark Twain said that growing old is a privilege denied to many.  Indeed it is.  I’ve always promised myself that I will grow old gracefully, with a minimum of whining.  And then it hits me in the dick.

Okay, enough whining.  There’s more good news. I went in for the ultrasound today, which was plenty interesting.  According to the doctors there’s really very little wrong with my cock, and not enough to get all sobbing and bent out of shape over, if you’ll pardon the pun..  It’s not cancer.  It’s not, according to the doctors, even a big deal.

Ultrasound, the ultimate sex toy.  Not.

What the technology sees.

Of course that’s easy for them to say.  It’s not their dick.

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