On Fighting Inequality, Which Nations Do More than Pay Lip Service?

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CEOs Now Make 300 Times More Than Their Workers. This City Is Putting a Stop to That.

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(Photo: Flickr/ Democracy Chronicles)

With national policy likely to compound the income and wealth gap in the coming years, states and localities are fighting back.

Across the country, local jurisdictions aren’t waiting for federal action or corporate governance reforms to close the wage gap. In December, for example, the city of Portland, Oregon, passed an ordinance to raise the business tax on companies with CEOs who earn more than 100 times the median pay of their workers. Portland officials said the ordinance is the first of its kind in the country. And now, more cities and states are poised to follow suit.

“The huge divide in income and wealth has real-world implications,” Steve Novick wrote last October in Inequality.org. Novick sponsored the ordinance when he was on the Portland City Council. “Too many Americans cannot get a leg up,” he wrote. “Income inequality undermines the American dream.”

Portland city government projects the tax will raise $ 2.5 million to $ 3.5 million a year, which city officials have said will likely help pay for the city’s homeless programs.

Inspired by the living wage movement, Portland’s ordinance comes on the heels of decades of grassroots activism around the issue of wage inequality.

Starting in the 1990s, the failure of Congress to adequately raise the federal minimum wage gave rise to a prairie-fire movement of local activists pressing for local and state living wage ordinances. Living wage ordinances typically cover a segment of workers, such as employees of government contractors, while minimum wage laws cover all workers. By 2010, over 120 jurisdictions had passed local living wage laws, and at present, 41 jurisdictions have passed minimum wage laws.

“I expect this pay gap reform movement to spread like wildfire, just as the living wage movement did,” said Sarah Anderson from the Institute for Policy Studies. “I’ve gotten inquiries from over two dozen states and cities about how to establish a pay gap ordinance.”

Anderson lobbied the Portland City Council in support of the policy and testified at a public hearing. She has since compiled resources for communities interested in instituting a CEO-worker pay gap penalty.

Read the full article on YES! Magazine’s website. 

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Under Trump, the U.S. May Now Be Killing More Civilians Than Russia

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(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a desolated patch of Mosul, Iraq, people are still digging through the rubble. Rescuers wear masks to cover the stench, while anxious family members grow desperate about missing loved ones.

The full story of what happened in the al-Jidideh neighborhood isn’t yet clear, but the toll is unmistakable. A New York Times journalist reported stumbling across charred human limbs, still covered in clothing, while a man stood nearby holding a sign with 27 names — extended family members either missing or dead.

All told, 200 or more civilians may be dead there following a U.S. airstrike on the densely populated neighborhood. The military has acknowledged the strike, but says it’s still investigating the deaths. If the allegations are true, this was by far our deadliest attack on innocents in decades.

The carnage comes amid a push by the U.S. and its Iraqi allies to reclaim Mosul, Iraq’s second most populous city, from the Islamic State (or ISIS).

That’s making life terrifying for the city’s residents, who’ve endured years of depredations from ISIS only to fall under U.S. bombs — and to face possible human rights abuses from Iraqi soldiers they don’t trust. “Now it feels like the coalition is killing more people than ISIS,” one resident told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

Unfortunately, that may not be so far from the truth. AirWars, which tracks civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria, counted over 1,300 reports of civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in March alone. That’s about triple the count from February.

In fact, AirWars estimates, more U.S. coalition strikes are now causing civilian casualties than strikes by Russia, which was loudly (and appropriately) accused of war crimes for its bombing of Aleppo, Syria last year.

Is this the simple result of the fight heating up in Mosul? Not quite.

In the same month, at least 30 civilians were reported killed by a U.S. airstrike outside Raqqa, Syria — where the real battle with ISIS hasn’t even begun yet — and up to 50 more may have died when the U.S. bombed a mosque in Aleppo.

Instead, some observers suspect the Trump administration is relaxing Obama-era rules designed to limit civilian casualties in war zones. They deny this, but the Times reports that field commanders appear to be exercising more latitude to launch strikes in civilian-heavy areas than before.

During the campaign, Trump himself famously promised to “bomb the s—” out of ISIS. That sounds extreme, and it is.

But it’s only a few steps beyond the Obama administration’s approach of gradually expanding our air wars outside the public eye. Trump’s just taking it to another level by putting virtually all key foreign policy decisions in military hands, while gutting resources for diplomacy and humanitarian aid.

The human costs of this will be enormous. The political costs will be, too.

The U.S. has been “bombing the s—” out of Iraq for decades now, which has consistently created more terrorists than it’s killed. Extremists are flourishing in Iraq. The same can’t be said for the civilians now burying their dead in Mosul.

Of course, ISIS is guilty of its own innumerable atrocities. But the war-torn sectarian politics that gave rise to the group are a direct result of this military-first foreign policy. There’s simply no reason to believe that reducing Iraq’s cities to rubble will give way to less extremism in their ashes.

Iraqis will still have to wrest their country back from ISIS. But if it’s ever going to get back on its feet, what the country truly needs is a political solution. That’s going to require a surge of aid, diplomacy, and honest brokering — all of which are in short supply now.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Immigrants Pay More Than Their Fair Share

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(Image: Lightspring / Shutterstock)

It’s hip these days to pick on immigrants. From Pennsylvania Avenue to Phoenix, we’ve seen public displays of hostility toward undocumented workers over and over.

Hostile politicians especially like to say that migrants are a drain on society. During Donald Trump’s recent speech to Congress, for instance, the president implied that immigrants cost “America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.”

But among their many other contributions to American society, it turns out that undocumented immigrants pay an enormous amount of taxes — in fact, $ 11.7 billion in state and local taxes alone.

That’s according to a just-released study from the non-partisan Institute on Taxes and Economic Policy. That figure includes $ 7 billion in sales and excise taxes, $ 3.6 billion in property taxes, and $ 1.1 billion in income taxes.

This total is spread among states and municipalities ranging in scale. The largest is California, where an estimated 3 million immigrants contribute more than $ 3 billion in tax revenue. For comparison, that pretty well covers what the state spends on special education for all Californians.

All told, undocumented workers pay about 8 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Compare that to the wealthiest 1 percent, who pay just 5.4 percent.

Read the full article on InsideSources.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Why a “Trumpxit” May Be Harder Than it Looks

Here at Emergency Travel Services, we believe that it’s never too early to plan your vacation.

Or your emigration.

Based on the latest polls, most of you are confident that Donald Trump won’t be elected president in November. If the election were held today, according to statistician Nate Silver, Trump would have about a 12 percent chance of winning. His odds improve to about 13 percent for November (according to the polls) and a mere 23 percent if you factor in other data on the economy and so on. Trump, who insists on being top dog in everything, is now barking loudly as the underdog.

But that could change. Hillary Clinton’s campaign could implode. An October surprise—a huge info-leak, a major terrorist attack—could mean a 5 to 10 percent swing in popular sentiment.

Bottom line: don’t plan your life around public opinion polls.

Time is running out. Some of our best deals at Emergency Travel Services have already been taken. I know that many of you liberal types have a soft spot for New Zealand: tolerant culture, lots of nice hiking paths, language mostly intelligible to Americans. But our Notorious RBG package is already sold out. Following the lead of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, practically half the populations of the Bay Area, Portland, Oregon, and Burlington, Vermont have planned their escape route to down under.

Don’t wait until November 9. Last minute vacationers often make terrible mistakes. Desperate to get out of town and seduced by misleading ad campaigns, they end up at the Club Med on the Aral Sea or on a summer beach vacation in Kuwait. Our travel agency never forgets to account for global warming. The same goes for political climate change.

Always one step ahead, our risk analysts have prepared a guide to the planet’s most welcoming and least welcoming destinations, that is, if your primary objective is to run screaming in the other direction from the specter of President Trump. We’ve divided our guide into four sections: Trump Plus, Trump-Like, Trump Light, and Trump-Free.

Pay close attention. You don’t want to jump out of the American frying pan and into some foreign fire. Let Emergency Travel Services ensure that your landing is a safe one.

Trump Plus

This is probably not news to anyone, but Pyongyang and Damascus are not good places to establish a new life abroad. Donald Trump is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy that the United States has witnessed in the last 75 years. But he’s not Kim Jong Eun or Bashar al-Assad. Of course, give Trump an army and a vast prison system and who knows? Bashar was once just a white-collar professional with a pretty wife. Jong Eun was once just a privileged child who got a big boost from his father. There but for the grace of democratic institutions goes Donald.

Also in the category of one-man dystopias are Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan, Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus, Islam Karimov’s Uzbekistan, and Butch Otter’s Idaho (in case you were considering internal exile in a survivalist bunker).

We recommend that you don’t go to war zones (much of the Middle East), pandemic zones (check the CDC site), and island nations that are about to disappear under the ocean. Cancun during spring break is also a no-no.

In short, there are places in the world that are worse than living under Donald Trump. Sure, if you’re a nuclear physicist or a trainer of commando units, Pyongyang and Damascus might welcome you with open arms. We run an exfiltration service—think Argo—if things go horribly wrong. But that will cost you big time. Bottom line: maximize your flexibility and minimize your cost and risk.

Trump-Like

It’s easy to avoid dictatorships. But if you are considering a destination based solely on its designation as a democracy, think again. Plenty of other countries around the world have gone to the polls to install their own little Trumps.

Consider, for instance, the Philippines. The country has suffered under some appalling leadership in the past. Ferdinand Marcos steered the country into pauperdom; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was under hospital arrest for four years on corruption charges. But the recently elected Rodrigo Duterte is already demonstrating that he can out-Trump the competition. He called the U.S. ambassador a “gay son of a bitch” and refused to apologize. He made a rape joke too offensive to be repeated here. He even insulted the Pope. In terms of specific policies, he pledged to dump the corpses of 100,000 gangsters into Manila Bay—indeed, extrajudicial killings are already on the rise—and suspend the country’s legislature if it doesn’t do what he says. At the same time, he wants to shake up the country’s elite, negotiate with armed rebels, and make a deal with Beijing over the disputed territory in the South China Sea. Bottom line: Duterte is an offensive and unpredictable loudmouth whose war on crime might be balanced by peace initiatives elsewhere, but we don’t recommend that you relocate to Manila.

Russia could legitimately claim that its leader Vladimir Putin championed “illiberal democracy” long before the White House appeared on Trump’s real estate wish list. And Trump seems to defer to Putin—on the threat of terrorism and the proper means to address it, the annexation of Crimea and the questionable utility of NATO, and the rise of Euroskepticism and the weakening of the European Union. Trump wants to bring back torture to deal with America’s enemies; Putin gets rid of opposition in less medieval but equally distasteful ways. After Boris Yeltsin turned Russia into a post-Soviet backwater, Putin claims that he has made the country great again, measured by military spending, cross-border meddling, and nationalist rhetoric. By ruling like an oligarch and pouring money into the Pentagon, Trump promises to duplicate that feat. Bottom line: unless you plan to keep your mouth shut about human rights, corruption, and geopolitics, don’t move to Moscow.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan once won accolades as a reformer for breaking the power of the military, reaching out to the Kurdish community, and bringing Turkey closer in line with European human rights standards. But after throwing dozens of journalists in jail and reigniting a war against the Kurds, Erdogan has swung the other way. His recent efforts to pass a new constitution, which would put even more power into his hands, has a definite Trumpian feel. The recently attempted military coup gave Erdogan a fresh excuse for sweeping potential opponents from the system, and it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine such a scenario in Trump’s America. Bottom line: Turkey’s a lovely place, but this is not the time to establish residence in Istanbul.

Japan has long been a popular destination for Americans looking for safe, economically advanced locales. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been steadily remilitarizing the country by undermining the “peace constitution.” Recently he installed a war-crimes denier as his defense minister. Unlike Trump, Abe is not given to outrageous statements. Nor has he proposed any outlandish walls (Japan’s an island, after all). But he’s no fan of immigrants, and he desperately wants to put Japan first (evoking some of the same noxious World War II-era slogans as Trump’s America First rhetoric). Bottom line: we’re not predicting another Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, but who wants to live in a country that’s been ruled by the same party practically for the last 70 years?

Then there’s a man, a plan, a canal: Ortega. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega has partnered with a shadowy Chinese tycoon to build a huge canal that will ruin the environment, undermine the livelihoods of farmers, and maybe never turn a profit – if it gets built at all. The former comandante of the Sandinistas, Ortega has been politically reborn as an anti-abortion, pro-business autocrat who has manipulated the electoral rules to run for a third term as president this year. He recently chose his wife as his vice presidential candidate. Like Trump, he’ll do practically anything to win. Unlike Trump, he was a Marxist revolutionary who once deposed a tyrant. Bottom line: the 70-year-old Ortega is expected to win another four-year term in November by a wide margin, so unless you can stomach Trump in the guise of a putative leftist, stay away from Managua.

The European Union might seem a safe emigration bet, if you’re coming by plane from America and not a boat from North Africa. However, some EU countries have anticipated Trump by electing their own offensive blowhards. In the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman has argued that Muslim integration in Europe is “practically impossible,” ignoring the experience of millions of immigrants, not to mention Bulgarian Turks, Bosniaks, and Albanians. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pledged to remodel his country along the lines of Russia’s “illiberal democracy.” In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice Party has interfered with press freedom, made controversial statements against homosexuality, and squared off against the EU. Bottom line: beware this “new Europe” of intolerance, nationalism, and Euroskepticism.

The spread of illiberal democracy has reached epidemic proportions. There’s simply not enough room in this report to cover them all: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Malaysia’s Najib Razak, and so on. Trump is not as unique as he’d like to believe.

Trump Light

The last thing you want to do is move to a country that seems safe only for the citizens to turn around and suddenly install their own Trump, forcing you to pick up and move again. We call these at-risk countries Trump Light.

Take France, for example. Perhaps you’re already planning a four-year term in Provence. The country has great food, civilized conversation, and a humane vacation policy. But it also has Marine Le Pen. The right-wing extremist is now twice as popular as current president Francois Hollande and is leading in the polls against the other presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy. If she becomes president next year, expect her to try to join the UK in leaving the EU and implement any number of Trump-like laws against Muslims and immigrants. Bottom line: a lot of French might be joining you next year in whatever safe haven we’ve found for you.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. It is also a tolerant democracy under the leadership of Joko Widodo. But two variants of extremism lie in wait. The Great Indonesia Movement Party and its frontman Prabowo Subianto want to turn back the clock to the days of Sukarno, cultivating a potent mixture of hypernationalism and militarism. Subianto came in second in the presidential elections in 2014, and his party commands the third largest bloc of seats in the legislature. Meanwhile, Islamic extremism in the form of Hizb ut-Tahrir is on the rise, and terrorists have launched a series of attacks to gain headlines and followers. Bottom line: you might want to play it safe and stay away so as not to be caught in the extremist crossfire.

Over one-third of the world lives in India and China, so why not you too? Both countries appear relatively stable at the moment. But before you throw in your lot with the global plurality, consider the following. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the head of the Hindu nationalist party, BJP, which has precipitated communal violence in the past. Modi has been rather circumspect as leader, but that could change if radicals in and around the party get the upper hand. In China, meanwhile, Xi Jinping is the anti-Trump: a careful bureaucrat comfortable with navigating within the system. But Xi is not above using nationalism—against “separatists,” against Japanese militarists, against claimants to territory in the South China Sea—to sustain support in the Party at a time of cooling economic growth. Bottom line: keep your eye on the headlines before heading to Beijing or Mumbai.

Trump Free

If you’ve been busy crossing off countries on the map as you’ve been reading along, you’ll realize that there’s not a lot of free space left at this point. Much of the globe is downright dangerous in its Trump-like proclivities. If these global Trumps have not already taken power, as in the Philippines or Poland, they are gathering strength, as in France and Indonesia. We are experiencing the formation of a Trump International.

That leaves you with a couple of choices. You could:

  • Run across the border and throw yourself on the mercy of Justin Trudeau – until the Canadians build their own wall and make Donald Trump pay for it;
  • If you miss the boat on Canada, you could find a quiet, boring, and relatively obscure place to live like Andorra, Tuvalu, or Belize;
  • Volunteer to take ice floe measurements in Antarctica for the next four years;
  • Get on a cruise ship and stay on it, circling the globe until people come to their senses or the world blows up, whichever comes first.

At Emergency Travel Services, we can help you with any of these options. Don’t be caught with your pants down and your passport expired on November 9. Even if Trump loses this time around, his followers aren’t going anywhere. They’ll get behind an equally offensive but more politically viable candidate in 2020.

Bottom line: in these desperate times, it’s not just the Pentagon that needs an exit strategy.

The post Why a “Trumpxit” May Be Harder Than it Looks appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs Foreign Policy In Focus, a project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Poorer Than Their Parents

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

The promise of market economics is supposed to be that as an economy grows, the paychecks of wage earners grow with it. But according to a new study, this is no longer the case.

Who’s hit hardest by the new unequal reality? Young people.

During the last economic expansion, the period dating from 1993 to 2005, a full 98 percent of workers saw their wages rise in the 25 major advanced economies around the world. Granted, the rise wasn’t evenly distributed, but the proverbial rising tide did lift most boats, at least slightly.

But from 2005 to 2014, the subsequent period encapsulating the Great Recession and so-called recovery, just a third of wage earners saw their incomes rise. The vast majority of earners – around 65 to 70 percent – saw their paychecks decline or stagnate. In the United States, the proportion with stagnant wages was a full 81 percent.

The new report, entitled “Poorer Than Their Parents? Flat Or Falling Incomes In Advanced Economies,” comes from the McKinsey Global Institute. As the title suggests, the study examined the prospects for over 800 million workers in the 25 wealthiest countries and found that the rising generation is at serious risk of ending up poorer than their parents.

The post Poorer Than Their Parents appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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17 Farmers Doing Much More Than Putting Food on Your Plate – EcoWatch


EcoWatch
17 Farmers Doing Much More Than Putting Food on Your Plate
EcoWatch
Family farmers are key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets that are vulnerable to difficult climate and financial hardship, particularly because of the disproportionate amount of work

and more »

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The Awesomely Affluent are Cheating Average Americans of More Than $400 Billion a Year in Federal Taxes

tax-gap-money-lost

(Photo: Flickr / Timothy Winner)

The folks working for the federal government can do some incredible things.

Over at NASA, for instance, they’re now putting the finishing touches on the new James Webb Space Telescope — an instrument TheWashington Post says will be powerful enough “to capture the heat signature of a bumblebee on the moon.”

Amazing. We can now spot a bug in space.

So why can’t we spot people who cheat on their taxes right here in the US of A?

A great many people, the IRS says in a new report, are stiffing Uncle Sam. Our federal “tax gap” — the disconnect between what taxpayers owe and what they eventually pay — is now averaging $ 406 billion a year.

That eye-opening figure comes from the 17 percent of taxpayers who misreport their income and underpay their taxes.

The other side of the coin is that 83 percent of Americans are paying their taxes, in full and on time. If you make a typical American income, you almost definitely fall within this 83 percent.

Actually, you don’t have much choice. All wage and salary income — the overwhelming bulk of the income average Americans receive — gets automatically reported to the IRS and faces automatic withholding from your paycheck.

Under this system, notes the new study, only 1 percent of overall paycheck income goes under- or unreported.

But some Americans — the nation’s most affluent — don’t make their money from wages and salaries. They get the bulk of their income instead from business profits, rents, and the money they make buying and selling assets.

Most of this income doesn’t get automatically reported, so few of these dollars ever face any withholding at all.

That wouldn’t matter all that much if the IRS had plenty of agents out in the field doing in-depth audits. But the IRS has been losing staff. The tax agency had 50,400 full-time-equivalent enforcement staff available in 2010. The 2016 figure: only 38,800.

With fewer watchdogs on the job, almost a fifth of individual tax due on capital gains and “partnership” income is going uncollected. An even higher share of rents, royalties, and “proprietor” income — nearly two-thirds — is escaping taxes.

How much of this tax cheating involves big-time business people and how much involves mom-and-pop business operators? The IRS doesn’t say. The agency doesn’t break down the new tax evasion data by taxpayer income class.

But eight years ago, economists Andrew Johns and Joel Slemrod went through earlier IRS raw data and did just that.

Americans who make between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million a year, these two researchers found, misreport their income at triple the rate of taxpayers making between $ 30,000 and $ 50,000, and well over double the rate of taxpayers making $ 50,000 to $ 100,000.

One key point to keep in mind here: We’re not talking about loopholes in the tax code when we talk about the “tax gap.” Loopholes let the deep-pocket set legally sidestep what otherwise would be a significantly higher tax bill. The IRS tax gap numbers only apply to outright illegal tax cheating.

The rich engaging in this cheating do get nabbed sometimes. This May, for example, a federal judge found that Texas tycoon Sam Wyly engaged in “deceptive and fraudulent actions” to avoid taxes on over $ 1 billion of his assets.

But the Sam Wylys remain outliers. Most high-income tax cheats don’t get caught. And that won’t change until Congress starts subjecting the incomes of the awesomely affluent to the same reporting and withholding standards that apply to the incomes of average Americans.

The post The Awesomely Affluent are Cheating Average Americans of More Than $ 400 Billion a Year in Federal Taxes appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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WEEKLY IMMIGRATION REPORT, MAY 10, 2016: Aliens Cost More than Retirees Get from Social Security – Right Side News

WEEKLY IMMIGRATION REPORT, MAY 10, 2016: Aliens Cost More than Retirees Get from Social Security
Right Side News
IRLI represents the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech), a labor union of American technology workers who have been forced to compete with these aliens for scarce tech jobs. The three-judge panel of the DC Circuit heard argument from

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WEEKLY IMMIGRATION REPORT, MAY 10, 2016: Aliens Cost More than Retirees Get from Social Security – Right Side News


Right Side News
WEEKLY IMMIGRATION REPORT, MAY 10, 2016: Aliens Cost More than Retirees Get from Social Security
Right Side News
IRLI represents the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech), a labor union of American technology workers who have been forced to compete with these aliens for scarce tech jobs. The three-judge panel of the DC Circuit heard argument from

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