“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Is it Greece or a Stealth Euro Devaluation?

The euro has fallen to $1.2954 - its lowest level for more than a year.

One obvious way for Europe to get out from underneath its internal debt crisis would be for it to devalue the Euro, decrease imports and increase their export market. A falling euro would help tourism and housing. The Germans have been dragging their feet in resolving their problem and yes the Greek problem is in reality a German problem.

German exporters take full advantage of the Greek perpensity to consume more than they produce. Greeks are also huge users of the underground economy, probably as high as 25%.

Are there some European puppet masters, a la George Soros, manipulating the finacial markets? It has happened before. Who benefits? We shall see.

The crisis is catching

May 4th 2010, 15:29 by R.A. | WASHINGTON Economist

IT'S shaping up to be an ugly day for European markets, which is making for an ugly day for American markets. The big European indexes were off 2% to 3% on the day, and the euro fell to its lowest level against the dollar in over a year. The decline is likely related to renewed increases in yields on government debt across southern Europe. These had fallen from recent highs in the wake of the weekend announcement of a €110 billion package for Greece. But for the moment, it appears that European leaders and the IMF have not sufficiently ring-fenced the Greece crisis. Contagion looms.

It's surely not helping matters that rumours are circulating that Spain will soon ask for €280 billion in aid. Spain's prime minister said the rumour was unfounded, calling it "madness", and I believe him. But the nature of contagion is that people act on the rumour and ignore everything else. Back in 2008, markets attacked financial firms indiscriminately, even as bank executives pleaded that their finances were sound. They were, in some cases, quite right. But liquidity crises, if left unchecked, become insolvency crises. The panic becomes self-fulfilling.

It may be that European leaders have insufficiently demonstrated their awareness of the difference in the two kinds of crises. Aid to Greece has been generous, but it's not clear that it will address the underlying insolvency of the Greek government. Forbearance worked in the case of the American financial system because banks could borrow cheaply from the government and then lend at a higher rate, thereby slowly recapitalising themselves. The 5% interest rate Greece is getting from Europe and the IMF is much lower than market rates, but it's higher than Greece's expected growth rate. The aid strategy has bought time, but it won't save Greece unless growth surprises strongly to the upside.

Most of the other troubled European nations do not face a solvency crisis. Assuming that they can rollover their debt, their fiscal positions are strong enough and expected growth is significant enough that the debt levels can eventually be brought down. Aggressive European aid to these countries should definitely work. So long as they don't face a liquidity crunch during their adjustments, the bills will all get paid.

So perhaps Europe has erred in its strategy. To properly ring-fence the crisis, ministers should probably have acknowledged the need to restructure Greece's debt and worked to do so in an orderly fashion, all while extending unlimited liquidity and significant lines of credit to European economies threatened by contagion.

In the scheme of things, a Greek default is not a big deal. Greece is a small country, and exposure to Greek debt is relatively limited. A Portuguese default would be a little worse than a Greek default, and real trouble in Spain and Italy would be very bad indeed (see this very helpful chart). It makes little sense to fret over the sacrifices Greek citizens can or cannot make to achieve the necessary fiscal adjustment. The first, second, and third priority have to be containing the crisis. European leaders seem depressingly slow to grasp this.



    If you look at the previous post, you will see the official Obama web site as it has been for the past few weeks.

    I used it because of the "FIRED UP?"
    logo and playing with the lack of firing up the leaking oil well site.

    I just checked the same site here. They are no longer FIRED UP?.

  2. Goldman Sucks, there they are, mucking about again, this time in Greece.

    Fraudulent scoundrels, they seem to be.

    But this time, their skulduggery benefits the dollar, and by extension, the rest of US?

  3. Bank building set on fire in Greece. Reported deaths.

    Shares Wobble as Germany Debates Greek Bailout
    Published: May 5, 2010

    PARIS — European shares and the euro struggled for footing Wednesday as German leaders pushed parliament for quick passage of the Greek bailout, warning that failure to do so could set off a “chain reaction” of debt crises around the continent.

    After Day of Calm, Anxiety Returns to Europe’s Markets (May 5, 2010)

    The European Union itself warned of “high uncertainty” surrounding the region’s economic recovery, even as it revised its growth forecast for this year upward, to 1 percent from 0.75 percent for the entire 27-nation bloc.

    For the 16 countries using the euro, the European Commission predicted economic growth would be 0.9 percent this year, up from the 0.7 percent it forecast in February, mainly due to improvements in exports.

    “We must now ensure that growth will not be derailed by risks related to financial stability,” the EU’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a statement.

    Despite the €110 billion rescue package that the European Union and International Monetary Fund offered Greece on Sunday, there are concerns that the crisis could turn into a full-blown European banking disaster that could choke off credit to businesses and consumers at a time when the European economy is still fragile. Foremost among the worries is the possibility that Spain, a country with an economy that dwarfs Greece’s, might also come under pressure.

  4. TED NUGENT: Immigration lesson for numskulls

    Unbelievably, while our borders are largely open and being overrun, the Obama administration recently lectured Israel about expanding its communities just a few feet on land that arguably is its to expand upon.

  5. Just do the obvious let the Greeks go back to the Drachma.

  6. It seems that may be exactly what happens Deuce given the Greek and German populations general sentiments but that could prove to be ugly and nasty. Sorta like the domino problem that happened when Lehman was allowed to fail.

  7. I don't see that. The Euro proved that the Europeans are more nationalistic than they are European. It sounded good while the going was good.

    You need a political union before yu have a monetary union. That much is obvious.

  8. You don't see what - the dominos falling? If Greece defaults what do you think bond investors will think about the prospects for Portugal, Spain, Italy, Britain bonds?

  9. If the Europeonese bonds begin to fail, there will be a flight to quality.

    Where does the "reserve" currency reside?

    It's back to the future, back to the USA.

    All a matter of perspective, quality.

    Economic Security.

    We're still #1.

  10. I enjoy watching the Europeans have problems. Gives me the "warm, and fuzzies."

  11. Robins airman dies in Afghanistan

    "Gates Benson appears to have been individually augmenting a ground unit in Afghanistan."

    What this means in regular English, as opposed to Pentaspeak (a means of communication having not less than 5 possible meanings) is that the unit was short a body.

    No doubt, the airman went through the crueling two day USAF version of Ranger training here at Robins AFB. This course is held about two days per month, to the sound of pneumatic blasts to capture the real feel of combat, don't you know.

    One could wish for a special kind of Hell for those responsible for sending this kid downrange.

  12. Overlooked by some amidst all the News this morning is the print on gasoline usage - Up to 9.3 Million barrels/day.

    People are starting to move around a bit. That bodes well.

  13. Diesel, however, still hasn't budged. 3.6 Million bpd.

    If the trucks ever start running I'll say we're on our way.

  14. Watching the Greek rioters, mostly government union workers, and assuming you are a German, would you want to lend money to these people, the only way in which it can be repaid is for them to tighten their belts?

    Cut them loose. If any of the others want to go it alone, let them. I'll bet more will take the lesson, take the medicine and stay.

    As to the bonds, do you think any of those Greek bonds will be paid off? Sure, with new bonds with inflated currency.

    Is there a lesson here for the US?

  15. It's hard (okay, impossible) for me not to smile when I see the Euros in the shit. I can't help it; it just makes my day.

    I'm sorry, Lord. I'll try to do better.

  16. At the WSOP I would always seek out the Irish. They were the only ones that were any fun to have a beer with.

  17. Although, the Brits were okay dinner companions. The Brits' first assumption was that you "might" have a modicum of intelligence. The Germans just automatically assumed you were stupid.

    The French? Well, they were the French, and the Eastern Euros were just plain nuts.

  18. The Russians would scare you to death. It was obvious an Uzi was going to appear any minute.

  19. Security slip let suspect on plane, near takeoff

    According to the Feds it's the airline's fault that allowed the NYC bomber to board a plane without interference.

    Hmm..."Although under surveillance since midafternoon, he had managed to elude investigators and head to the airport."

    Ahh..."Shahzad had been under constant watch at his Bridgeport, Conn., home since 3 p.m. Monday and federal authorities had planned to arrest him there that evening..."

    Whaaat..."Shahzad somehow lost the investigators who were trailing him..."

    Well, I for one am totally convinced that the airline dropped the ball. What more can be expected of Federal authorities beyond "surveillance" and "constant watch". For those who might say, "How about arresting the dude ASAP", I would say, "You just don't know how delicately these things have to be handled."...kinda like warfare: where vaciliation, timidity and endless excuses form the motto of the new model military.

    As an aside, trailing a puma ends when it is treed. How one misplaces a treed mountain lion or terrorist is a puzzlement.

  20. I never talked to a Czech more than 5 minutes before he/she launched into an interminable tirade about all that was wrong with America. The prescription, if you were forced by a malevalent God into hanging around for it, was always some sort of authoritarian controls.

  21. Old school way of dealing with foreign debt is to devalue the currency. The current bonds are in Euros. If they are turfed from the Euro all the bond holders are pretty well stiffed. If they stay in the Euro and accept their medicine then the current holders of the bonds have hope that they will be worth something.

  22. Rufus

    I thought you were referring to Ash for a moment, that is, instead of the Czech.

  23. Israel says Hezbollah missile buildup accelerating

    As Europe suffers its ecomomic revolution, the ME appears ready to undergo its own kind of revolution any day now. This time Israel has made clear that Syria will be the target. Israel has rattled on at least three occasions during the past three weeks. Syria will not have Dr. Rice to protect it this time. Indeed, Secretary Clinton has now given Dr. Hassad fair warning.

    Dr. Hassad must be hard of hearing. Some Israeli aircraft and armor will perk him up, if not lay him low.


  24. The 10yr. Bund is down to around 2.85%. I think some Euro Bond investors are betting on Germany's Parliament saying, "No," and Greece, fairly soon, being forced out of the Euro.

  25. This deal is wonderful news for German manufacturers. And, on a "per capita" basis, Germany is 10 times the "Exporter" of any other nation on earth.

  26. Only China surpasses Germany in dollar volume exports.

    That said, Germany has a problem: the majority of its exports are within the Eurozone.

    While some may take satisfaction from the devolution going on in Europe at the moment, the Eurozone is the largest trading block in the world. Its chaotic fall/failure cannot but harm the United States, currency speculators notwithstanding.

  27. If they are turfed from the Euro all the bond holders are pretty well stiffed. If they stay in the Euro and accept their medicine then the current holders of the bonds have hope that they will be worth something.

    Let them issue the bonds in drachma. Make them bearer bonds. Face reality.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. If they leave the Euro I would imagine most investors would demand that any new bonds be in US dollars. The Greeks will be, well, they already are, f*cked.

    I think the danger going forward is who holds the paper now and what kind of credit risk will they pose to others. In the grand scheme of things there really isn't that much Greek debt floating about but the cascading problem can be the fear induced by holders of other Sovereign debt with the Greeceless PIGS for starters but Britain seems to be a worry as well. There is and will continue to be a 'flight to safety' but that will mostly be US Treasuries. As you may have noticed the US markets haven't been faring too well of late but the US dollar is on the rise. The rising US dollar doesn't help domestic manufacturers and once the Euro crises dies down I think the US dollar will continue on its downward trend.

  30. My BP calls are up 17%. Hold or Sell?

  31. Listen, Not, to what they say; watch what they Do.

    BP Oil Tanker diverted from the gulf to Europe

    Uh, huh.

  32. My BP calls are up 17%. Hold or Sell?

    Yep, that's whut I'd do.

  33. You are probably aware of this, Deuce, but others may not be. The drilling platform is is leased and operated by a "Subsidiary" of BP, NOT BP.

    BP has a pretty limited liability, here.

    Whether their stock price will go up, or down, in the short term - all I can say is, if I Ever offer you stock advice, immediately run to the phone and do the opposite.

  34. Syria & Lebanon are preparing for a summer war that will take the eye off Iran...

    Get ready...

    The storm is coming

  35. Wonderful, just what the World needs, another war from the Middle East.

  36. too late, the stock did an about face. I should have listened to Rufus.

  37. :)

    You need to read my comment, again. I wuz tryin to be cute. I meant that I thought you should either "hold," or "sell."

    In other words, I wuz clueless.

  38. Transocean (RIG)took the big hit on the oil spill as they own the platform and rig. There stock is down in the low 70s. It was at 92 a month ago.

  39. Deuce said...
    Wonderful, just what the World needs, another war from the Middle East.

    Wed May 05, 02:16:00 PM EDT

    Whether Dr. Assad takes email from American bloggers is doubtful. However, if there is one chance in a million of him reversing course, why not try?

    Returning to reality for a moment, given the current US-Israeli friction, my guess is that the Iranian/Syrian/Lebanese alliance is about to overplay its hand, proving again the truth of Eban's observation that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Given the successful risk management they have enjoyed over the decades, they probably unconcerned about whether to sell or hold. (War will certainly impact the futures market, for whatever that is worth.)

    This time, however, I do not think the Israeli public will stand for anything less than a decisive victory in detail, yielding the appearance of long-term security. The cost will be high, but not as high as the annihilation that will follow further procrastination in the face of murderous Muslim intentions.

    Additionally, my sense is that the IDF will be less concerned with collateral damage this time. It will throw in everything, including the kitchen sink, following a meticulous plan that will bring about the collapse of its adversaries in the shortest possible time. Dr. Assad would do well to take an extended Swiss vacation, because his bunker is probably not going to be deep enough to save him.

    As always, Israel will be the Shylock of the drama, despite the blatant, bellicose misbehavior of the Muslims. So, better a live dog than a dead lion.

    No doubt, Mr. Olmert, Mr. Bush and Dr. Rice will be shocked to discover the villainy in Lebanon having taken place right under the watchful noses of their trusted friends, the French. C'est la vie, cowboy.

    As an aside, despite having created for the English speaking world the quintessential Jew, Shylock, Shakespeare never met a Jew. You see, after having their property stolen and many of their community leaders slaughtered, the Jews were banned from England on pain of death in 1290, not returning until 1656 by order of Cromwell - another of those Puritans (Judeo-Christians) akin to Governor Bradford.

    Oh, and the world is always begging for another war in the ME. The problem for the world is the inevitable winner - blasted Jews! And so embarrassing to real militaries, to boot - "shitty little country!"

  40. Airlines Now Required to Check No-Fly List More Often

    ...Shazam!...not a bad idea...

    Now, if we just could get Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 to arrest known terrorists more often...

    ...probably lost track of the perp while trying to get those pesky shoe-phones to work...

    Hey! AT&T is to blame. Sue Microsoft.

  41. I got that! heads I win tails you lose.

  42. I got that! heads I win tails you lose.

  43. Gee, sounds like a walk in the park for Israel.


  44. So inevitable, that there is no real threat to Israel, from Syria or its' proxies.

    Which has been the real point of it all, for decades.

    If the UAE can handle the Iranian air force, surely then the Syrians pose no threat at all, not to folks brazen enough to attack a ship of the Sixth fleet.

  45. as soon as the west learns that the jihadists are real (they won't listening to Rat and Obama) and that they are after your head the sooner we will stop playing around....

    Israel fought a war in gaza, going through the most extreme hoops to not hurt civilians in the history of warfare and what did it get them?

    International threats of war crimes

    Take off the gloves...

    Fight and use everything in your arsenal and defeat the enemy...

    drive them into the sinai, drive them into a frenzy of millions trying to escape...

    make them refugees...

    destroy their towns, cities and villages and salt the fuckin ground...

    Take it personal the jihadists want to do that to you...(if they could they would and I do not advocate WAITING until they are strong enough to have a "Fair" fight"

    Death to the murderers...

    Death to Jihad

    Death to the death cult...

  46. Quirk said...
    Gee, sounds like a walk in the park for Israel.


    Wed May 05, 04:48:00 PM EDT

    Hardly..."The cost will be high"...How you arrived at "a walk in the park" is that certain something that makes you, you.

    If Israel loses 1,000 troops, that is equivalent to the loss of 50,000 American troops.

    Had the US lost that number of troops since 2001, the cries of angst would reach the heavens, which may go far to explaining the loooong duration and fragility of our "accomplishments" in Iraq and Afghanistan (I seem to remember a certain president threatening to join the Taliban).

    But make no mistake, Quirk, Israel will win because there is no other viable option. When the going gets tough, we cannot pack it up and move to Panama or Canada.

    Smarminess is one of the reasons this site has not grown as it should. Think about it. Other than misanthropes, most people join blogs for conversation, amusement and education. Clever horiscopes are one thing, war is something else again. Stick with your shtick.

  47. Right, Allen, I'll leave war to you big boys.


  48. desert rat said...
    So inevitable, that there is no real threat to Israel, from Syria or its' proxies.

    Do you own a Marshall Pétain T-shirt to wear on those non-Ayatollah days?

    If you ever served in the military, it must have been mess duty or on the JCoS. No one other than a buck private straight out of his GED program or a general officer could believe the nonsense you spout.

  49. Quirk,

    The diminutive Lt. Audie Murphy was not a "big boy". He did understand the terror and sacrifice of war, as well as its necessity.

    If anything I said led you to seriously believe that I thought Israel's coming war would be a "walk in the park", I beg pardon.

    Yes, Quirk, even saints can feel contrite, even when evidence refutes that feeling.

    You are an intelligent man. PLEASE, offer some thought provoking commentary. Who knows, we might both come away feeling refreshed, amused and educated.

    Audie Murphy

  50. Re: Audie Murphy and the pain of war

    "Plagued by recurring nightmares, he slept with a loaded gun under his pillow for many years. He suffered tremendous guilt about the war and agonized over friends who never made it back. He became hooked on prescription drugs."

  51. I'll admit that while you did mention a cost the overall tone of your post, at least to me, seemed to discount the possible impact on Isreal of another war in the mideast.

    If I was mistaken, my bad.

    On the other hand,

    Audie Murphy?

    Good lord.

    Let me explain my comment in real simple terms. In speaking of "big", I wasn't talking about stature, a secondary concern even for a dwarf, if he is carrying an AK47.

    I was talking about big in the sense of maturity, as in adult. After all, Bob assures us that you are the adultist guy at the EB.

    From my seat at the kids table I still pick up on your unbiased, insightful analysis.

    As I've said before I give your views all the consideration they deserve.


  52. Quirk,

    A "big boy" offers his hand in peace whenever he can. So have I done.

    I have no more control over what bob thinks or says than I have over what you think or say.

    That you have responded to bob's misguided assessment of my saintly virtue at least twice says far more about you than it does about bob, or me for that matter.

    At one time, this blog had a large potential audience. Unfortunately, people like buddy larsen have gone elsewhere. They have done so because they are "big boys" and have limited patience with...

  53. Muslims and Westerners: The Psychological Differences

    …a lengthy article, but well worth the time…As consolation, DR and Ash will hate it (the truth does hurt)…

    …with gratitude to Peter Boston at Belmont (#16) - The Newspaper of the Mysteries

  54. You have suggested reasons for people coming to the blog. Conversation. That's fine. Education? Not so much. Of the reasons you offered, I guess I would have to pick amusement. And one thing that offers me an immense amount of amusement is indulging in argument.

    Now I don't do it to change any minds. In the words of the immortal Frank Zappa,

    "One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people's minds.”

    Instead I do it just for the give and take, the process if you like. It just kinda amuses me. Therefore, it doesn't bother me at all when someone tells me I'm wrong, ill-informed, lacking the proper context, etc. Heck, as a last resort, if all else fails, I might even admit that I was wrong, ill-informed, lacking the proper context, etc. (On the other hand, I might not.)

    However, what does tend to tick me off a little (well maybe a lot) is someone callng me a moron or telling me that I should avoid a certain subject and "stick to my schtick." I am not concerned about the ad hominem attack as in the moron case but more in the attempt in both cases to render illigitimate any opinion I might offer on a given subject.

    While my opinions on a given subject may or may not be stupid, I do not think they are illegitimate; possibly just wrong, ill-informed, lacking context, etc.

    With regard to the sainted Buddy Larsen, I am unfortunately unfamiliar with his work. You have mentioned him on several
    occasions and from your praise of him, I assume he tended to agree with you on a number of subjects.

    Unfortunate that he is gone. Perhaps Deuce will be able to pick up a couple of "big boys" in next year's draft.


  55. Russian MP Andre Lebedev has called for inquiry into the claims.

    And even asked for guidelines on what politicians should do if they are abducted by aliens.

    The MP has written a letter to Mr Medvedev raising a list of his concerns.

    Alien Abduction

  56. Abbas said on Wednesday after his meeting with Jordan’s Abdullah that the indirect talks would continue only for four months, after which the Palestinian leadership would once again seek the approval of the Arab League foreign ministers for moving on to the next phase.

    “During the indirect talks, we want to talk only about final-status issues, including borders and security,” he said. “There’s no need to go into small details or other issues because we discussed them in previous negotiations [with the government of Ehud Olmert].”

    Earlier in the day, Abbas met in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and discussed with him the latest developments surrounding the Middle East diplomatic process. On Tuesday, Abbas met in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and briefed him on the outcome of US efforts to launch the proximity talks.

    Israel Out of Negotiations

  57. Buddy was often in error, but never in doubt.

    That he was wrong about Iraq, and that I was right, he came back over herefrom the BC, to state for one and all, a while back.

    Interesting fella, Buddy Larsen, a man not given to profanity.

  58. He is also a fella that admitted that he was wrong.

  59. Re: Zappa


    ...although I am less convinced than you appear to be. Rational beings can be reached and minds can be changed. History will reflect this; albeit, the process can be slow as Churchill learned.

    Re: moron etc

    guilty as charged
    I sincerely apologize.

    Re: Buddy Larsen
    "I assume he tended to agree with you on a number of subjects."

    On Israeli politics and warfare, rarely...on the rights of personhood of Jews, always

    I am somewhat perplexed by your need to disparage a man about which you know absolutely nothing, and a brilliantly funny and thoughtful one at that. Was "sainted" really necessary?

    Unless the subject requires a response, I too give little thought to the opinions expressed here. I have spent entire days silently observing in amusement as rufus, ash and DR exhausted their combined scatological vocabularies at my expense. My military/career service and patriotism have been denied and demeaned. My concern for our troops and the VA's subsequent treatment of those troops has been vilified...etc, etc, etc. Nevertheless, I will and have given credit to each of my detractors where credit was due. Intellectual integrity will permit nothing less.

    As to my sainthood, I have two ex-wives who would beg to differ. Oddly, however, each still loves me and I them. In fact, one communicates with me several times per week. Why? Passion and élan. I am not easy to live with, but apparently I am a ball to travel with; you never know where you will find yourself, but it will not be dull. In Hebrew it is called l'chaim (to life) and I live and have lived my life to the hilt.

    Ennui is the road to premature senility and death.

    Earnestly, I do look forward to your opinions.

  60. DR,

    You aren't 1/1000 of the man, Buddy Larsen. He had you and your convoluted and often bigoted opinions pegged from the get-go.

    How many times did you gloatingly give deadlines for American withdrawal from Iraq? I lost count. With each failed prediction came a new future prediction, equally wrong. In case you haven't noticed, the US still has troops in Iraq, just as I predicted. The US will retain a strong military presence in Iraq for decades to come, as I have also predicted.

    If everything you know were put in a thimble, there would still be room for a synchronized swimming team.

  61. "I am somewhat perplexed by your need to disparage a man about which you know absolutely nothing, and a brilliantly funny and thoughtful one at that.

    Was "sainted" really necessary?"

    Sorry, if the appellation "sainted" offended you.

    I suspect I picked it up from you using it in reference to yourself in a couple of your posts leading up to my last comments. Kinda like osmosis.

    Appropriate? I don't know. Take a look at your and rat's comments about the guy. He sounds like one of a kind.

    Disparaging? I don't think so. As you pointed out, why would I disparage someone I know nothing about?



  62. The tension is killing me.

    Why don't the two of you smooch and call it an evening, hm?

  63. Make John Birch there in the sombrero jealous.

  64. This comment has been removed by the author.

  65. Heck, Trish we were just filling space, adding a little background music so to speak, waiting for you to arrive so we could get the party started. Where have you been hiding the last couple days?

    (Hey, by the way, do you think this is why they make me sit at the kid's table?)


  66. trish said...
    The tension is killing me.

    Why don't the two of you smooch and call it an evening, hm?

    Thu May 06, 12:01:00 AM EDT

    Would you like to see glossy 8x10s?

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