01.24.11

The Bullshit Manufacturer, part 4

Posted in Made in China, Stumble and Fail at 12:49 pm by George Smith

Krugman today:

Still, you might say that talk of competitiveness helps Mr. Obama quiet claims that he’s anti-business. That’s fine, as long as he realizes that the interests of nominally “American” corporations and the
interests of the nation, which were never the same, are now less aligned than ever before.

Take the case of General Electric, whose chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, has just been appointed to head that renamed advisory board. I have nothing against either G.E. or Mr. Immelt. But with fewer than half its workers based in the United States and less than half its revenues coming from U.S. operations, G.E.’s fortunes have very little to do with U.S. prosperity.

By the way, some have praised Mr. Immelt’s appointment on the grounds that at least he represents a company that actually makes things, rather than being yet another financial wheeler-dealer. Sorry to burst this bubble, but these days G.E. derives more revenue from its financial operations than it does from manufacturing — indeed, GE Capital, which received a government guarantee for its debt, was a major beneficiary of the Wall Street bailout.

More graphical data taken from the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Strategy, which DD wrote of here:

US production of critical materials, which in many cases is effectively zero, the market left to China and, to a lesser extent, Chile.


The DoE report graphs potential supply and demand trajectories for strategic materials used in clean energy manufacturing and production, using current trends. This one, for neodymium oxide, used in magnets, is a standard example from the document. It shows that under current conditions, the US is showing virtually no interest in clean energy applications compared to what the rest of the world will be by 2025. This is shown in the pie chart at right. US clean energy rare earth demand is dark blue. The rest of the world’s clean energy neodymium oxide demand is green. Global non-clean energy demand is light blue.

The DoE report on critical materials contains much information to digest. What it does show is that US corporations have virtually no interest in US labor and domestic production, only in putting stuff together bought from somebody else. In this case, China.

Which is what has landed the country in a strategic predicament. What is good for multi-nationals is — here — demonstrably not at all good for the country.

This problem, one of many, will not be easily solved by a SOTU pep talk on innovation and competitiveness.


More drone rib-ticklers

Quote from USAF pitch on accelerating drone procurement:


Continental US estimated drone base expansion, 2008-2013.

Drones and base expansion, yes! Strategic materials use in domestic production of green technologies and energy, no!

What’s the difference?

Drones and base expansion, materials and labor underwritten by taxpayer.

Mining of strategic materials, US labor and overhead too expensive, easier to pay off China.

The USAF presentation on drones, from 2009, is here — at Cryptome.

01.22.11

The Bullshit Manufacturer, part 3

Posted in Made in China, Stumble and Fail at 10:44 am by George Smith

Jeffrey Immelt, Obama’s new advisor, in the Washington Post:

In the past two years, GE has created about 6,000 manufacturing jobs in the States, many resulting from investments in innovations such as advanced batteries, which we will make at our 100-year-old plant in Schenectady, N.Y.

Wow. Six thousand whole jobs. About ten times the extras used the in the latest GE commercials.

Paul Krugman, dismissing Immelt’s op-ed as “vacuous.”

So for when we get to all the talk about Sputnik moments and renewed competitiveness on the 25th, more edifying charts:


Top line = China. Checkmark = US. Source: Dept. of Commerce.


Cratering of US strategic materials/rare earth mining, ceding market to China because US production and labor ‘too expensive.’


Growth of US budget for unmanned killer drones. Expense and labor costs no object.


Growth in homeland security workers versus all other government regulatory jobs.

Steel, strategic materials — stuff for making things, destroyed almost beyond repair.

Alleged ‘innovation: General Atomics and killer drones.

Job creation: Anything having to do with national security.

01.21.11

The Bullshit Manufacturer, second part

Posted in Stumble and Fail at 1:41 pm by George Smith

On the Sputnik moment — that point where your brain has stopped working, you can no longer tell the truth, and you’ve turned it all over to being a pleasing sounding hack, alleged to be coming in the State of the Union address:

“The great majority of the speech,” says press secretary Robert Gibbs, “will be on the steps … that we need to take in the short term that relate to jobs, and steps that we need to take in the medium and the long term to put our fiscal house in order, and to increase our competitiveness and our innovation that allows us to create the jobs of tomorrow.”

The president has been testing themes for his State of the Union speech for months. In December in North Carolina, he compared today’s economic challenge to 1957, when the Soviet Union sent a satellite called Sputnik into orbit, causing the United States to wake up and boost its investments in science and technology.

He has the opportunity in this speech to continue to be the president of all the people, which has been at the heart of his political appeal since he burst on the scene in 2004.

– Bill Galston, former Clinton White House aide

“So, 50 years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back …”

Or, from Howard Fineman, reprinted everywhere:

Expect the president on Tuesday to hearken back to that time, and to say we face another “Sputnik moment” — an economic one. The Soviet Union and the Cold War are gone. In its place are China and a more benign but still as crucial struggle for primacy.

Instead of threatening to blow each other to kingdom come, the United States and China are striving to out-produce and out-consume each other.

And the U.S. is falling behind.

In December:

Without detailing specific new proposals, the president told community college teachers and students it was time for an American “Sputnik moment” — referring to the 1957 Soviet satellite launch that jolted the U.S. into jump-starting its own space and science programs.

“We need a commitment to innovation we haven’t seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon,” Obama said.

The speech was a preview of Obama’s State of the Union address early next year and his 2011 agenda as he grapples with a divided Congress over the next two years, aides said.

“Right now the hard truth is this,” Obama said. “In the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind. That’s just the truth. And if you hear a politician say it’s not, they’re just not paying attention.”

When Sputnik went up the US was poised to make a big muscle and move forward.

Now, the evidence is everywhere that a deadly atrophy is deeply rooted in the land.

Preparing to cheer us all on with a zinc-plated cliche which stupid people can smile and clap their hands to seems to be just more evidence of it.

Sputnik moment and DD’s law:

The appearance of the word Sputnik or any reference to a Sputnik kind of moment in any argument signals the person who dropped it needs a pie in the face.

Related rubbish: Invocation of the need for a new Manhattan Project or ‘if we can put a man on the moon’ …

Any suggestions? “We will build a new Hoover Dam of job creation, innovation and renewal …

The Bullshit Manufacturer

Posted in Made in China, Stumble and Fail at 1:18 pm by George Smith

He appears onstage, makes his statement:

Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root, and folks can find good jobs,” the president said.

“We’re going to build stuff, and invent stuff,” said Obama, emphasizing the need to boost American exports to countries around the world, an issue that was a focus during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the White House this week.

“That’s where the customers are. It’s that simple,” Obama said.

His choice of Immelt to head the competitiveness panel won applause from the Chamber of Commerce, which called it a “promising step” toward creating jobs and enhancing U.S. competitiveness. But the Alliance for American Manufacturing condemned the choice, dismissing Immelt as “an outsourcing CEO” whose appointment would “alienate working class voters.”

On GE and outsourcing, from various places over the last few years:

US industrial giant General Electric (GE) plans to outsource jobs to Bangladesh for the first time, presenting a huge opportunity in the outsourcing business.

GE, which employs around 40,000 people in India alone — mainly in the outsourcing sector — will initially provide jobs to a company founded by Bangladeshi expatriates in the US.

Mi3 Inc, based in the US, will invest around $300 million in Bangladesh initially to set up facilities to receive work orders from GE, said company officials at a function in Dhaka on Wednesday. — 2009, here.

=======

There is a buzz at the ground-floor cafeteria of Gecis, the back-office operation of General Electric just outside Delhi. About a dozen people are gathered round a corner, and more are forming a queue. “Have you got your free drink?” a woman in a green sari asks a colleague, lifting a can of Red Bull in her hand. The energy-drink maker is giving free samples of a new flavor. It’s nearly 4 p.m. in India, the beginning of the workday for many at Gecis, and they can use the energy boost. By the time their U.S. colleagues clock in, they will have done a fair amount of tasks for GE worldwide, from underwriting insurance and collecting delinquent accounts for its finance businesses, to performing cost analysis and tracking inventory for its industrial operations.

This is the world of offshore business-process outsourcing (BPO), where corporations farm out routine office functions to developing countries to take advantage of lower labor costs and higher productivity. — here.

======

In the past, I have made blog entries on this issue of mainstay American corporations — like General Electric (GE) — benefiting from U.S. tax subsidies and the loyalty of American consumers who buy their products generation after generation to the tune of billions upon billions of profitability. BUT now these companies, solely in the name of corporate profitability, reciprocate neither their loyalty, nor duty to Americans to be good corporate citizens. Here we have a case in point about GE methodically shipping their entire energy efficient lighting manufacturing operation out of Ohio to China with the primary reason being given as lower labor costs. — from here.

=======

The road to Calcutta… Jack Welch scoffed at outsourcing as the culprit behind America’s anemic jobs growth. General Electric (nyse: GE – news – people ) garrulous ex-chief executive proclaimed the notion merely political, noting snidely that “it is election time.” He declared to a confab of the World Business Forum in New York that “It is the dumbest argument ever put out.” The legendary CEO warned leaders that to “stop two jobs from going abroad” would “kill 20 here.” Welch–once nicknamed “Neutron Jack” for his stance on vast layoffs–saw GE lead the vanguard in outsourcing to low-wage nations, such as ever-teeming India. — from here.

Go to the CEO of the company that made outsourcing to India a major business model on how to rebuild American jobs.

Genius. Would have never thought of that, really.

al Qaeda Comic Book 4

Posted in War On Terror at 10:48 am by George Smith

The fourth issue of Inspire, al Qaeda’s glossy pdf magazine has arrived.

A couple excerpts show what I think.

From “Facing aerial bombardment in jihad“:

“Getting injured in jihad is probable and should be expected, whether large or small.”

“The explosions come in various sizes.”

“Don’t be overworked about getting injured in jihad though. Many brothers in jihad have experienced no pain with horrible injuries. I remember the brother who had his entire pinky finger blown off from a missile; it was a gruesome sight. Yet immediately after the injury he felt no pain and was enjoying a few jokes with his brothers! There are also times when the brothers around you will have awful injuries and you will be completely untouched. This is from Allah. Always hold good thoughts about Allah and be pleased with what he has ordained.”

There is a long, clumsily worded and frankly boring religious explanation on how stealing money from disbelievers is permitted, like “hunting and wood gathering.”

And there is an article on how to blow up a building:

“For a gas to burn in air it needs to reach a certain ratio in proportion to air.”

“The best gas would be the one that is available in large quantities and causes the greatest pressure and is odorless such as hydrogen. Propane is originally odorless but an odor was added after many accidents occurred because of the difficulty in detecting the gas.”

“Try to have the explosion appear as an accident.”

But if it were thought to be an accident how would you get credit as causing terrorism?

Don’t take my word for it. Inspire 4 is here.

01.20.11

Wal-Mart sets sights on destroying US grocery business

Posted in Made in China, Stumble and Fail at 1:47 pm by George Smith

A quick note on comments: If you don’t see it at once it hasn’t been moderated, it’s probably in the spam folder. When I see false positives, and I see false postives with frequency, I send them through.


From AP, today:

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest grocer, says it will reformulate thousands of products to make them healthier and push its suppliers to do the same, joining first lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity.

The first lady accompanied Wal-Mart executives Thursday as they announced the effort in Washington. The company plans to reduce sodium and added sugars in some items, build stores in poor areas that don’t already have grocery stores, reduce prices on produce and develop a logo for healthier items.

“No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford,” said Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. division.

At a time of hardship, with use of food stamps at an all-time high, this is a laudable goal.

However, when one is dealing with Wal-Mart, everyone knows the company stands for merciless price-cutting by shoving everything it can into production in China.

Which has a disastrous contribution to the American business of making things.

A PBS Frontline special explained it in this manner:

Even as Wal-Mart was pushing its U.S. suppliers to be more efficient and promoting its “Buy American” program through the ’80s, the company bought more and more from Asia, according to Jay Moates, a former accountant with Wal-Mart’s overseas buying operation.

But to please American consumers concerned about the Asian threat, the retailer played down its buying operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and the rest of Asia. Following the brutal suppression of Chinese students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 by the Chinese Communist leadership, Walton feared a consumer backlash if Wal-Mart were seen as operating in China. He was also disturbed by charges of human rights abuses in his Asian suppliers’ factories.

To continue growing in Asia, Wal-Mart needed a buffer — a middleman or a buying agency that would purchase Asian products without showing Wal-Mart’s hand. According to the retired Hong Kong senior executive, Walton told Bill Fields, Wal-Mart’s head buyer, that he wanted to “get out” of direct involvement in Asia. “The decision was to go to an exclusive buying agency,” the buyer said. “The main reason for going into [the deal] was not to be exposed as going into Communist China.”

======

By lining its shelves with its own in-house brands, Wal-Mart began competing directly, on its own shelves, with its national, household brand-name suppliers. “It makes them more efficient,” argues Ray Bracy, Wal-Mart’s vice president of international corporate affairs. “I suppose you could suggest that they would like to not have that competition. But it makes them better.”

The development of Wal-Mart’s house brands proved to be a watershed. Consumer surveys had established that Americans cared less and less about buying national brands: Low price trumped brand loyalty. In the period following Sam Walton’s death, when Wal-Mart’s sales slowed and its stock price began to stagnate, this consumer trend freed the company to ramp up the production of its house brands through unbranded suppliers in China, who now had privileged access to Wal-Mart’s 3,500 stores across America. The result was that Wal-Mart became its own de facto manufacturer, developing and designing products according to the taste of its customers, as analyzed by Wal-Mart’s supercomputer. Profits soared.

Privately, long-time U.S. suppliers expressed dismay. “They invaded our core business model,” said one apparel maker, requesting that his name be withheld. “Wal-Mart seems intent on managing the total product life cycle.” If the competitive pressures of Wal-Mart’s store brands continue, he said he would close his American factories, abandon his own brand, and try to solicit Wal-Mart’s private label business in China. “We call it ‘the race to the bottom,'” he asserted. “It’s sad because I see that productivity increases [in America] are still possible through automation. There’s room for improved efficiency. But it’s impossible [to stay here] with retailers going for cheap Chinese labor.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Every other US business in competition with Wal-Mart was forced to go to China, making themselves over as front brand names for goods made there.

For example, DD’s Hanes socks, those which develop holes after a couple washes, bought at Ralphs/Krogers in Pasadena. Made in China.

And although Pasadena does not have a Wal-Mart, it has a Target. Which one might think of as a poor man’s Wal-Mart, virtually indistinguishable. Everything in it made in China.

Which bleeds into this year’s developments.

Faced with a middle class of diminished buying power, even for Chinese made goods, Target diversified into grocery. The obvious logic is that people still absolutely must buy food.

And the problem which follows on from that is the same Wal-Mart-style application of price cutting.

With food stuffs, there is probably a great deal of room for having lots of it made in China.

Or to preferentially select for American businesses that cut costs by ignoring regulations (on the idea that no one will ever catch them or if they do, that the consequences can be dealt with as overhead) or which turn into fronts for pushing Chinese ingredients into the food chain, cheaper to get there than to make or harvest here.

In this way Wal-Mart became a conduit for melamine in pet food in 2007.

It is a short term shake-the-trees for whatever fruit can be persuaded to fall out strategy.

A longer term strategy would be a national leadership look at what has so diminished the buying power of the middle class that one must either lobby for more cheaply made food or increase allotments of food stamps. In terms of a national short term strategy, increasing food stamp allowances and budgets would even be a better solution than a corporate feel-good alliance with Wal-Mart.

News at the end of the year reports Wal-Mart profits off in the US because of the bad economy, and so moving to enlarge its operations in emerging markets.

It’s a vulture business model — loot what’s left and look to potentially greener pastures.

“Wal-Mart said it would reduce prices on fruits and vegetables by $1 billion a year by attempting to cut unnecessary costs from the supply chain,” reported AP.

This is toxic news dressed up in fancy packaging — a healthy and cheaper foods initiative associated with the First Lady.

The recent history of consumables in the US is that big American agribusiness often can’t be trusted with keeping health in mind when the press is on to reduce the price and raise the bottom line. And that the populace only finds this out well after the damage is done by the Dickensian characters who, inevitably, all attest to the great jobs they have created.

If readers get cable TV they’ll have doubtless noticed the current blitz of feel-good Wal-Mart advertising attempting to cast the impression the place is a great place to work. Even though it’s the swirling toilet vortex that sucked all American dry goods into the sewer and spat back made-in-China.


This also raised the question: “How do you make presumably healthy foods like heads of lettuce, carrots, sunflower seeds, various greens — for example, everything on the left side of Ralphs on Lake that’s not in frou-frou plastic bags — cheaper? Force illegals to work for even less? Totally eliminate the minimum wage?

Nicht verstehen.

Maybe I do. Walmart would like to be able to say that they’re offering a ‘healthier’ version of Hormel canned chili, or spam, or slightly less salty Lay’s Potato Chips — perhaps put some different minerals in them, less salt in store brand Worcestershire sauce, and so on.

Not Made In China: US Bullshit Manufacturing

Posted in Made in China at 8:50 am by George Smith

Your host didn’t quite know what to say after viewing the meeting of the President and the Hu fellow from China yesterday. A perfectly honest man might have created a stink and told the truth:

We’ve spent a lot of time digging our own holes and now you’re a part of that, an enabler. And since we’re not going to agree on anything, get out. But before everyone leaves I’d like to show some handy charts I’ve had prepared by government employees, people who still have jobs. Which is what this is all about.

From the Department of Commerce, a pie chart of worldwide steel production as of November 2010:

The Commerce department on steel production is full of graphical data. All of it a horror show in terms of showing how the United States has disintegrated.

From 2009, another appalling graph — produced from data taken by the US Census, part of Commerce, on military production in the US versus everything else (and originally shown in the NY Times):

This continues on the blog riff that the US produces nothing but weapons. At the expense of everything else.

And that while what production of durable goods in the US that remains is charted, it — along with the fortunes of the middle class and the new mass of unemployed — cratered in 2009. However, military production did not.

It went through a minor dip and then soared.

This is immoral. It destroys any argument on fairness and shared burden and consequences being a part of US society. It broadly and mercilessly insults the intelligence of all those who must listen to, see or read about the Department of Defense making nibbles around the edges to trim its budget in the coming time of austerity.

The post a few days ago asked the rhetorical questions: What manner of leading western country has one company, General Atomics, devoted to only making killer drones for assassinating people elsewhere that’s half the size of the Food and Drug Administration? Or where the budget for killer drones is the same as the one to ““Transform Food Safety System, Invest in Medical Product Safety, [and provide] Regulatory Science”?

In light of this, I had an idea for what would have been an appropriate response to the Obama/Hu joint appearance. People armed with creme pies, enough for those onstage and in the polite audience.

Today’s news, from AP, delivers this classic piece of instantly generated convenient American bullshit, the usual lame attempt to polish a really big turd:

[President Obama] said the newly announced business deals worth $45 billion — which include a highly sought-after $19 billion deal for 200 Boeing airplanes — would help create 235,000 U.S. jobs, in addition to the half-million U.S. jobs already generated by the United States’ annual $100 billion in exports to China.

Boeing, the big arms manufacturer.

Perhaps one of the problems rests in the idea that the people who lead this country, and those who follow them around reporting on their insubstantial statements, don’t really grasp how many things in the US are made in China.

It’s not just a lot. It’s virtually everything I come into contact during my daily travels, except cars and food. There’s no getting away from it. There are no alternatives.

Perhaps the people in power never look hard at the astonishing data revealing profound failure, all carefully produced by government agency. It’s too ugly and impeaching. It reveals economic treason on a grand scale.

Here’s a quaint poster, one sold to the upper middle class, a decorative thing that shows a government chart of US steel production from 1895. Now it’s sold as a gift, presumably made in China, for hanging on the wall where perhaps someone fancy and fine will momentarily wonder what happened to all that and how the word growth was redefined as looting.


An alert and courteous reader passed on a related piece, from someone’s column on innovation, or the lack of it in the US. It was discussing how that word has been redefined also — downward into the nothing of going nuts for iPhones and apps:

As for the rest of the crowd, it was disturbing to observe what appeared to be a total lack of awareness of the bigger picture. The preoccupation, bordering on obsession, with what they define as “technology” really costs all of us. In the minds of the svelte and young, it seems technology is only information technology: iPods, iPads, laptops, displays, and cell phones ad nauseam.

The concept of technology that you and I might define as the real iron that once drove this country — motors, valves, machinery, presses — that stuff that required the skills of engineers and craftspeople in this country to design and build, never seemed to cross the minds of the beautiful.

I suppose that is the root of the problem. The technology being discussed, software and cell phones and the like, is engineered and built overseas. The software is outsourced to India and the electronics built in China.


From Fortune magazine, to laugh at, the best companies to work for in the United States. Software, a consulting group, investment firms, Google, frou-frou supermarket chains where you can at least be surrounded by mouth-watering things while earning very little.

“[Dreamworks Animation] CEO Jefferey Katzenberg still takes time to call job candidates to encourage them to join,” it reads.

“Any DreamWorker can pitch a movie idea to company executives — and can take the company-sponsored ‘Life’s A Pitch’ workshop to learn how best to do it.”

01.19.11

Proven by science

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 8:31 am by George Smith

From yesterday:

Long ago I used to be a rock critic. Then I was downsized, expired for oldness and not having the same tastes and attitudes as the more mentally limber.

Proven by science, in this data crunch done every year by one of the contributors to the Voice’s Pazz & Jop Critics poll.

Conformity with the tastes of others is defined by “centricity” here.

DD ranks 706 out of 711. Readers will notice that contributors can share rankings, so the total in the list doesn’t equal the full number of music critics contributing to the music poll.

Joe McCombs achieved a perfect zero “centricity.” Someone named Julia Simon is the most conformist in the lot.

The 2010 Pazz & Jop statistical analysis, in its entirety, is here.

01.18.11

Future bombers and military transport of America

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle at 11:26 pm by George Smith

Upholding the Huffington Post’s reputation for worthless flake news on anything remotely related to arms developer megacorporations, aerospace and technology, this article on prototype images Northrop Grumman, Lockheed and Boeing in collaboration with NASA are using to soak the taxpayer this year:

Get ready for the next generation of passenger airplanes.

NASA has taken the wraps off three concept designs for quiet, energy efficient aircraft that could potentially be ready to fly as soon as 2025, joining these planes of the future (and these). The designs come from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and The Boeing Company. In the final months of 2010, each of these companies won a contract from NASA to research and test their concepts during 2011.

Click that link.

Yes, that s— looks just like what Nick Fury will be getting into to fly across the heartland in a few years. Perhaps with 100,000 pounds of JDAMs or a couple hundred troops in a military exercise on the way to Diego Garcia. While we go to work for nine dollars an hour at an athletic apparel and sneakers store selling stuff made in China.

And the third one, a sop to toss at commercial flight, will never happen.

Onward, forward and upward. More delusional garbage, please!

Domestic terrorism averted

Posted in Extremism at 6:10 pm by George Smith

Reuters:

The FBI is asking the public for help in the investigation of an unexploded backpack bomb left along the parade route of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration in Spokane, Washington, the agency said on Tuesday.

The unattended Swiss Army-brand backpack, with wires visible, was discovered on a downtown bench by three city workers who notified police of the device about 30 minutes before the parade was scheduled to begin.

The parade, attended by about 1,500 people, was quickly rerouted while city’s bomb disposal unit was summoned and safely “neutralized the device,” the FBI said.

FBI agent Frank Harrill described the “improvised explosive device” as having a “very lethal design” …

No public safety threat currently, it is said.

From the Spokane newspaper:

Frank Harrill, special agent in the charge of the Spokane FBI office, would not discuss what specifically made the bomb so dangerous but said the investigation has become a top priority.

“It definitely was, by all early analysis, a viable device that was very lethal and had the potential to inflict multiple casualties,” Harrill said. “Clearly, the timing and placement of a device _ secreted in a backpack _ with the Martin Luther King parade is not coincidental. We are doing everything humanly possible to identify the individuals or individual who constructed and placed this device.”

Ivan Bush, who has helped organize the celebration march in Spokane for more than 20 years said news of the backpack’s potential was “just painful to see and hear.”

“Man, that’s a sad testament,” said Bush …

US white extremist(s)? Any takers?

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