Thursday, 02 July 2009


Ken Berwitz

I would haveused the title "BARNEY FRANK BEING BARNEY FRANK", but this arrogant liar is anything but "frank".

From Byron York of the Washington Examiner:

Barney Frank: Let's spend TARP profits before taxpayers can get them

By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
07/01/09 9:19 PM EDT

When President Obama announced on June 9 that some financial institutions would be allowed to repay Troubled Asset Relief Program dollars, he said the massively expensive TARP bailout had made money for the federal government.  "It is worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these [TARP recipients], the government has actually turned a profit," the president said.  Indeed, TARP supporters have long held out the hope that the program might be profitable.

But now Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has come up with a proposal to spend any TARP profits before they can be returned to the taxpayers.  Last Friday, Frank introduced the "TARP for Main Street Act of 2009," a bill that would take profits from the program and immediately redirect them toward housing proposals favored by Frank and some fellow Democrats.

In exchange for receiving TARP money, financial institutions were required to hand over shares of preferred stock that paid a dividend for the government.  In theory, if a financial institution paid the dividend faithfully, and then repaid the TARP money, then the government would turn a profit.  Last month, the General Accountability Office (GAO) reported that, through June 12, 2009, the government had received $6.2 billion in dividend payments.  The original TARP legislation required that money made from the program "shall be paid into the general fund of the Treasury for reduction of the public debt." 

Frank, however, wants to spend the money before it can be used to pay down anything.  First, the "TARP for Main Street" proposal would take $1 billion "from dividends paid by financial institutions that have received financial assistance provided underthe Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and apply it to a trust fund that Frank has long wanted to create for low-income rental housing.  (The measure, unfunded, was part of last year's bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.)  Next, Frank would take $1.5 billion from TARP dividends for a so-called "neighborhood stabilization" fund.  Republican critics have charged that both measures might allow federal dollars to be distributed to activist groups like the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, or ACORN.

The "TARP for Main Street" bill would also spend $2 billion, apparently from remaining TARP funds, to subsidize people who are delinquent on their mortgages, and another $2 billion to "stabilize multifamily properties that are in default or foreclosure."

Frank's proposal comes at a time when Republicans, and some Democrats, are expressing concern about the continued use of TARP money.  Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch recently complained that TARP funds are "now being used as a go-to solution to address all of our nation's economic ills."  Hatch and Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln recently introduced a bill that would require that TARP money goes back to the Treasury for debt reduction.

Spending the dividend payments now, as Frank proposes, would reduce the chance that TARP might ever be a break-even deal for the taxpayers.  "We don't know if TARP is going to be making any money, so taking the dividend payments going back to Treasury is pretty questionable," says one House GOP aide.  Indeed, in its June report, the GAO revealed that 17 troubled institutions have not paid their dividends, much less repaid the TARP money itself.  And last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that three other institutions were not paying dividends.  But now, Frank is proposing that dividends be spent immediately.  "It defeats the idea of taxpayer protection," says the GOP aide.

Want to bet that he will go on TV and blame his actions on Republicans?  What else has this arrogant, dishonest fraud ever done?

You can believe him if you want.  Or you deal with facts.  Your call.


Ken Berwitz

The world needs an organization with the stated aims of Amnesty International.  Too bad for the world that Amnesty International is what it got.

From (the bold print is mine):

Amnesty International Criticizes Israel;  IDF Blasts Report

by Avraham Zuroff

( Amnesty Internationals annual report condemns Israel for its treatment of Palestinian Authority Arabs while only briefly noting atrocities attributed to the Hamas terrorist organization. Both the IDF and a watchdog on fair media research called the report findings biased and unethical.

Amnesty International issued Thursday its annual report, condemning Israel and PA Arabs for disproportional violence during Operation Cast Lead. The human rights watchdog blames Israel for killing over 1,400 PA Arabs in Gaza and wounding 5,000 others. The report blames the IDF for repeatedly breaching the laws of war by by carrying out direct attacks on civilians and civilian buildings and attacks targeting Palestinian militants that caused a disproportionate toll among civilians. The report also criticizes Israel for demolishing PA homes without permits and for erecting security barriers and army checkpoints.

The IDF called Amnesty Internationals annual report one-sided and questions how Amnesty neglected to mention the unbearable suffering of Israeli citizens from constant rocket attacks during the last eight years. It seems that it has fallen as a victim of manipulation of the Hamas terror organization. The IDF furthermore criticized the report for being unbalanced and blasted Amnestys failure to mention the suffering endured by Israeli civilians and Israels security needs. The report presents a distorted interpretation of the rules of fighting that dont fit the rules enacted by democratic countries fighting against terror, the IDF added.

The military noted that the report also ignored the IDFs efforts to limit civilian casualties. During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF spared no expense to use advanced weaponry with pin-point accuracy to spare civilian casualties despite the Hamas terrorist organizations firing Kassam rockets on Israeli towns and cities, often attacking from within civilian areas.

NGO Monitor: Amnesty Report Unethical
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, executive director of NGO Monitor, called Amnesty Internationals report on Israel unethical and lacking research standards. Prof. Steinberg stated in a press release, "Amnesty's latest publication is further evidence of their obsessive attempts to condemn and isolate Israel. The lack of expertise and the faade of research are reflected by the effort to erase evidence of the massive use of human shields by Hamas and its aggression.

NGO Monitors stated aim is to analyze and challenge interpretations of human rights organizations and to end the promotion of political and ideologically-motivated anti-Israel campaigns.

In an interview with Voice of Israel government radio, Steinberg said, Who is Amnesty? They arent researchers. They are political. They dont live here. Almost all of the reports are hearsay from Palestinian sources. All of this is a game. There is no ethical basis to their research.

Steinberg feels that although the IDF has made mistakes during its military operations in Gaza, he feels that the report is one-sided. As an example, Hamass capture of Gilad Shalit is only referred to in a footnote. They have lost the ethical conscious. I think that the Amnesty people must resign, he stated.

The NGO Monitor notes that the report ignores well-documented evidence of Hamas's extensive use of human shields. Despite documented evidence of a gunman grabbing a child as cover, Amnesty found "no evidence that Hamas or other fighters directed the movement of civilians to shield military objectives from attacks."

How can this group be so one-sided --- and how can it obsess on Israel, given the far greater loss of life via religious and racial conflict in other countries throughout the world?  Well, take a look at its International Executive Committee .  See if you can find anyone you could even charitably describe as a "human rights expert".  Maybe that has something to do with it. 

The one good thing I can say about this group is that it is consistent.  I never wonder which side it will come down on.


Ken Berwitz

I'm no military expert.  But I like to think I have at least a modest level of common sense....which is why I am so bothered by what you are about to read in the following excerpt from an article by Nancy A. Youssef, writing for the McClatchey Newspapers:

Troops told to stop Taliban pursuit if civilians are at risk

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

Nancy A. Youssef, Mcclatchy Newspapers Wed Jul 1, 5:36 pm ET


KABUL, Afghanistan Beginning Thursday, American soldiers in Afghanistan will be under orders to back down when they're chasing Taliban fighters whenever they think that civilians might be at risk.


Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal , the top commander in Afghanistan , will issue the directive as part of an effort to cut down on civilian casualties, which have enraged the Afghan government and residents. Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters.


The order is consistent with what National Security Adviser James L. Jones told McClatchy in Washington Wednesday was President Barack Obama's concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan .


"General McChrystal has been given instructions when he left here that, in all military operations, that we redouble our efforts to make sure that innocent loss of life is minimized, with zero being the goal," Jones said, noting that, "In one mishap you can create thousands more terrorists than you had before the mishap."


The new order, however, is likely to draw criticism from some U.S. troops, many of whom feel the rules that govern how they fight the war already are too restrictive.


Many soldiers here say they depend on air power and heavy weaponry because there aren't enough ground troops to chase Taliban forces on foot. Jones said no additional ground troops will be sent this year, even though some ground commanders want them.


"Everybody had their day in court, so to speak, before the president made his decision," he said. "We signed off on the strategy, and now we're in the implementation phase."


McChrystal's order will instruct soldiers to "think about what else can we do," said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith , the military's top spokesman in Afghanistan . "We cannot keep going down the path of putting civilians at risk. . . . People want to see changes in behavior."


Airstrikes, which Afghans charge kill innocent people, won't be eliminated, Smith said. "Air power will be as valuable after this directive is issued as it ever was," he said.


The new order, however, will require troops to assume that civilians are present and back off when Taliban fighters escape into villagers' houses, Smith said.


"The assumption must be there are civilians in those residences, and in those instances, he is asking commanders to think of other options in front of them," Smith said.


Those options might include gathering intelligence and regrouping to fight another day; reaching out to a tribal leader or encouraging villagers to help coalition forces track down Taliban forces. In some cases, it could mean letting Taliban escape.

Congratulations, General Obama.  You have elevated the concept of human shields to an art form.  You have put a sandwich-board sign on every one of our soldiers in Afghanistan, saying RUN TOWARDS SOMEONE WHO LOOKS LIKE A CIVILIAN AND YOU ARE HOME FREE. 

If I were the taliban, I would make sure to keep "civilians", or at any rate people dressed like civilians, nearby any attack point.  Wouldn't you?

How thrilled the people we are fighting will be.

And how thrilled General McChrystal must be.  Yeah, I know the article says he signed on.  But President Obama is his commander in chief and he HAS to sign on.  Let me ask you this:  did General McChrystal do this before President Obama expressed "his concern about civilian casualties..."?

We have a Chicago machine politician with no executive experience, in 100 miles over his head, running our government.  And a lopsided majority of his party seconding his motions in congress.  We did this to ourselves.

The next election can't come too soon.

Oh, one other thing:  If FDR had given the same order during WWII, would we have won?  Think about it.


Ken Berwitz

With a tip of my nonexistent hat to the late, great, Jimmy Cannon (who made this kind of column famous), here is my "wit and wisdom" on a bunch of unrelated issues, in no particular order:

-The new data are out and job losses are way over predictions (467,000 instead of 365,000).  Further, the overall unemployment level, which President Obama assured us would cap at 8%, rose to 9.5% -- with double digits clearly in sight.  Will at least some Democrats screw up enough integrity and courage to admit the "stimulus package" is failing?  So far the answer is no.

-Now that Michael Jackson is dead, we are relentlessly being exposed to reports featuring his father.  That's too bad, because joseph jackson was, by Michael's account, a terrifying, abusive man who made his childhood a living hell.  But there he is, featured in just about every report about his son's life and death. 

joseph jackson is an 80 year old man wearing a stupid-looking fedora, oversized sunglasses, a thick neck chain and a big earring.  He looks like a cross between a burlesque show routine and a washed-up pimp;

-How sad that a great actor and real gentleman like Karl Malden could die this week with virtually no press coverage at all.  Mr. Malden was an academy award winner, an emmy winner, and for over 20 years his "The American Express card.  Don't leave home without it" commercials were among the most memorable in advertising history.  He deserved better.

-The Celebrity Solstice - which my wife and I were on from June 15-26th, is a truly remarkable ship.  It was loaded to the gills, with (according to one of the ship's officers we spoke to) 3,060 passengers and 1400 crew.  That is the size of a small city.  And everything ran, you should pardon the expression, swimmingly. 

As you might guess, the Solstice is massively huge.  Probably because of its size, it rides as smooth as silk.  The ship weighs 122,000 tons.  Come to think of it, that's about how much I felt like I weighed after being on it for 12 days (anyone who has ever been on a cruise ship knows what I'm talking about).  My wife said it well:  "If you get sick on this ship, you better stay on land for the rest of your life". 

-TriBeCa is one of the easiest parts of Manhattan to find parking in.  And the TriBeCa Grill, On Greenwich Avenue at Moore (partly owned by Robert DeNiro for whatever it's worth),  has an excellent brunch.  Pricey, but well worth it.

-The Yankees are finally starting to look like a team with the highest payroll in baseball.  Seven game winning streak in progress.  It's about time;

-Still speaking of the Yankees, the team's catcher (Jorge Posada), shortstop (Derek Jeter) and closer (Mariano Rivera) all came up as rookies in 1995, and have remained teammates for 15 years.  In this day and age that's pretty amazing.  Another amazing thing is that, based on everything I've read about them, these are three of the best people you will ever find in the sport.  I'm not talking about their playing abilities, I'm talking about them as human beings.  What a great clubhouse nucleus they must make;

-Kettle chips really are better than regular potato chips.  But kettle popcorn tends to be sweet-flavored and turns me off.

-Will it ever stop raining in the New York metro area?  The weatherman says maybe the 4th of July weekend will be good, but we'll see.  This is one of the rainiest springs/early summers on record; 

-Is Pennsylvania really going to re-elect Arlen Specter to the senate?  I doubt that he could even survive a Democratic primary challenge from Joe Sestak, let alone the general election; 

-Will New Jersey (my state) really re-elect Jon Corzine as Governor?  Probably yes, since he has more money than Croesus and has bought elections in the past.  On the other hand his opponent, Chris Christie, is several steps above what New Jersey Republicans usually put up for state office, so it could get interesting; 

-I watched a Pontiac commercial on TV this morning which offered some kind of sale, and it used the line "for a limited time only".  I couldn't help wondering if that meant the sale or the brand;

-My left thumbnail grows more slowly than my right thumbnail.  I don't know what that means and probably don't want to;

-Rome's Fiumicino Airport may well be the least well-run major city airport I've ever been in - especially the Continental Airlines operation there.  Continental does a fine job at Newark Airport.  Does it ever need someone from Newark to oversee the Rome location;

-The beginning of this past weekend's Gay Pride Parade in Manhattan had a string of balloons that must have gone on for two full city blocks.  I know this because we were driving up Hudson Street toward the Lincoln Tunnel and were the third car stuck waiting for it to cross Hudson at Christopher Street (which is about where the parade ended).  The pretty balloon colors -- and the huge cheering crowd -- made it a very pleasurable few minutes;

-Vince Carter spent 4 1/2 years with the New Jersey Nets before being traded on draft day last week.  He came across as a real professional and a real gentleman for all that time.  I wish him well in Orlando - except when he's playing against the Nets, that is;

-Now that Michael Jackson is dead, Jocelyn Wildenstein is about the only person left who Nancy Pelosi can talk to about her face;

-I don't have the exact transcript in front of me, but on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today, Joe Scarborough commented about how much better NBC would be if Chip Reid were its White House correspondent -- just before bringing on Chuck Todd, who is NBC's White House correspondent.  And Todd, with a forced smile, said something (sorry, I don't have the exact words) just as insulting back to Scarborough.  It is clear that this was not scripted at all, it was Joe Scarborough winging it and bluntly stating his opinion, then Todd reacting to that opinion.  Hooboy.

By the way, I agree with Scarborough.


Ken Berwitz

Fiorello Laguardia, three time mayor of New York City, used to explain away his more egregious miscues by saying "When I make a mistake, it's a beaut"

Well, here, from the Waterbury (CT) Republican-American, is a story about a beaut of a mistake made by a group of teenagers with - I think - the best of intentions:

Torrington teens misunderstand screams, allegedly assault man having sex



TORRINGTON -- Four teens were arraigned in Bantam Superior Court on Wednesday, three of them behind closed doors because of their young ages, on charges related to the beating of a Torrington man they thought was harming a woman who was heard screaming in her bedroom June 6.

The alleged victim, 25-year-old Roger Swanson, was in the same room with 34-year-old Melanie Arnold when a 16-year-old girl who was elsewhere in the house overheard sounds at 26 Maud St. Police say the girl, who also lived in the house, believed Arnold was being attacked, and decided to take the law into her own hands instead of calling police.

In fact, police said, the two were having sex.

The 16-year-old returned with four friends, one of whom carried a baseball bat. Of the five, just one is over the age of 17, police said.

They knocked on the door and were let in, Police Lt. Bruce Whiteley said.

Dilyen Langdeau, 19, of 279 East Main St., was charged with third-degree assault and conspiracy to commit assault.

Police also charged the 16-year-old girl with assault and carrying a dangerous weapon. Two 17-year-old boys were also charged, one with assault and the other with conspiracy to commit assault.

Swanson and Arnold had not been fighting, Police Lt. Bruce Whiteley said. Arnold was assaulted with a baseball bat and fists, and suffered multiple injuries.

The injuries were not life threatening. The youths were initially held on $100,000 bond.

These days, a lot of people will only have sex if they are using protection.  Little did Roger Swanson and Melanie Arnold know that the protection they needed was a security guard.


Ken Berwitz

Has a feud started between between Joe Scarborough and Chuck Todd?  I'm betting the answer is yes.  And here is why.

This morning, on Scarborough's "Morning Joe" show, a video was shown in which Chip Reid and Helen Thomas lambasted Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs regarding the phony, scripted "town hall meeting" he was going to hold - the one in which both the audience and the questions were pre-screened. (Try and imagine what media would have said if Bush ever pulled that).

Here is what happened immediately afterwards:

Joe Scarborough:  Yknow, Chip Reid, I love Chip Reid.I miss that guy, I wish we still had himsometimes I sit and I think about these historic times, how much better off this network would be if we had, y'know, if we had Chip Reid working at the White House


Willie Geist:  Instead of?


Joe Scarborough:  Omigod, I didnt even think aboutI hope, I hope Chuck Todds not watchingcause Chip Reids great omigod, this is, this is embarrassing.  Whoooohhh, gee.

Unfortunately for Scarborough, Chuck Todd was watching.  He had to be, because he was literally the next person they had on. 

The camera went to Todd, standing outside the White House, and he effected a thin-lipped "smile" that you knew was going to spell trouble for Scarborough.  Todd picked up a coffee cup and took a swig, as if steeling himself for what he was about to say.   Here is what happened next: 

Mika Brzezinksi: Ok, with us now, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director Chuck Todd...Chuck, hi


Joe Scarborough (hastily):  Chuck, youre the best.  Youre the best in the business


Chuck Todd:  Uh huh.  Well, I know youre not the best in the business, Joe, so thats good

If you want to see and hear what you just read, click here.

So, what do you think?  Is there a feud? 

Stay tuned.  This could be fun.

(Anon) I have been watching these guys take pot shots at Chuck Todd for ages, almost like there is some behind the scene joke going on, but that scene today left my jaw gaping! Chuck was seriously miffed. Joe seems to have had a few missteps earlier in the week. (07/03/09)

(Anon) I watched Morning Joe today because Scarborough wasn't on...when he is on I watch CNN or HLN. Sorry Mika. (07/10/09)

Hal C I watch this show often, and I think that Scarborough is gonna get some heat for this. C. Todd is the Top 'reporter' for MSNBC on the adminisrtatioon. Unless this was all a big joke, as was eluded to later in the show, I think Joe really F'ed up, and at that network, Chuck has more pull than Joe, so we'll see what happens. (07/04/09)

(Anon) I no longer watch Morning Joe because of Joe Scarborough's behavior. (07/08/09)

Ken Berwitz Anon: My jaw too. --------------Hal C. Watch the video and see if you can in any way read this as some kind of jokey banter. I can't. (07/06/09)


Ken Berwitz

Why must we fight radical islam?  Here, from Sara A. Carter of the Washington Times, is another of the many answers to that question:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Taliban buying children for suicide bombers

Sara A. Carter (Contact)


Pakistan's top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is buying children as young as 7 to serve as suicide bombers in the growing spate of attacks against Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. targets, U.S. Defense Department and Pakistani officials say.


A Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the going price for child bombers was $7,000 to $14,000 - huge sums in Pakistan, where per-capita income is about $2,600 a year.


"[Mehsud] has turned suicide bombing into a production output, not unlike [the way] Toyota outputs cars," a U.S. Defense Department official told reporters recently. He spoke on the condition that he not be named because of ongoing intelligence efforts to catch Mehsud, a prime target for a U.S. and Pakistani anti-Taliban campaign.


An apparent U.S. effort to kill Mehsud last week failed. On Sunday, the Pakistani government offered a reward of about $615,300 for information leading to the capture of Mehsud, dead or alive. The U.S. State Department has offered a bounty of $5 million for Mehsud, who is thought to be hiding in the tribal areas near the Afghan border.


Suicide bombings have become frequent in Pakistan in the past year, including high-profile attacks on hotels frequented by Westerners, as well as on Pakistani police and military installations. There has also been a spate of such attacks directed at U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.


The U.S. official said the price depends on how quickly the bomber is needed and how close the child is expected to get to the target.


"[Mehsud] produces these suicide bombers, which are sold or bartered, which can be used by [Afghan Taliban leader Mullah] Omar's Taliban or ... other groups," the U.S. official said.


In some cases, he said, the children are kidnapped and then sold to Mehsud.


Using child suicide bombers "is the grim reality of the Taliban Frankenstein that now threatens to overwhelm the Pakistani state," said Bruce Riedel, a Brookings Institution scholar who chaired a review of Pakistan-Afghanistan strategy for President Obama.


Efforts to reach a spokesman for Mehsud were not successful.


The use of children in war is not unusual in Afghanistan or the tribal regions of Pakistan. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, many pre-adolescent boys became mujahedeen or freedom fighters.


There is a different cultural perspective here about the age at which a boy becomes a man, said Sher, a former Afghan freedom fighter who asked to be identified only by his first name to protect himself against Taliban retribution.


"Fighting is not the issue," Sher, who took up arms against the Russians at age 13, told The Washington Times by phone.


"What is unusual is making these young fighters into suicide bombers," he said. "That was not common in Afghanistan, not even in the past. These children are brainwashed to believe things that are not even true. It is a crime against God."


In other conflicts, such as that between Israel and the Palestinians, suicide bombers are generally older, at least in their late teens or early 20s.


Suicide attacks mounted by Mehsud have killed prominent officials and politicians, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and hundreds of civilians. The attacks have begun to shift sentiment among Pakistanis against the Taliban. The government has mounted an offensive to clear militants from areas close to the capital, Islamabad, although Pakistani authorities have failed to catch local Taliban leaders.


Pakistani officials have said their next target is the rugged region along the Afghan border where al Qaeda and the Taliban fled after U.S.-led forces toppled the Afghan Taliban government in Kabul in 2001.


Last week, Mehsud narrowly escaped a U.S. drone attack that killed approximately 80 people who were attending a funeral in South Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal region. U.S. officials were watching the funeral by video feed from the drone, which flew high above the scene, concealed by clouds. The drone strike was the closest the U.S. had come to killing Mehsud in the past year, U.S. officials said.


Pakistani officials told The Times that Taliban commander Qari Hussain, who was a close aide to Mehsud, was killed in the attack.


Hussein was one of the main trainers and recruiters of suicide bombers, a Pakistani government official said.

"He was a very important figure to Mehsud," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the nature of his work. "However, Mehsud escaped the attack. Believe me, there will be no tears for Mehsud in Pakistan when he is killed."


The Taliban is a formidable enemy to the Pakistani people and government, Mr. Riedel said.


He said the Pakistani government's current military strategy against Mehsud is promising, but only time will tell whether it will succeed.


A second U.S. Defense Department official with expertise regarding the Taliban told reporters that al Qaeda and other Pakistani militant groups created by the Pakistani government to fight rival India have helped Mehsud stage suicide attacks.


The official, who also asked not to be named because of the nature of his work, said there had been a "convergence" of militants based in the tribal areas "supplemented, financed, probably trained, inculcated, by al Qaeda elements" and also "Punjab-based Pakistani terrorist groups."


"It's the relationship between the three elements that is producing effective suicide bombers and sustaining a suicide-bomb campaign inside Pakistan," the official said.

We either defeat radical islam, or become its adherents.  That is because radical islam (the taliban, al qaeda, the Muslim brotherhood, hamas, hezbollah, etc. etc. etc.) will continue fighting until one or the other takes place.

The question is whether we want Western civilization to be ended, and replaced by people who do things like what you just read.

That is why we must fight.

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