Weekly salon 29/9

1. Can Richmond save Australia

Unless you were living under a rock, or in hospital in an induced coma, you would know that:

    Richmond has swept to victory in the AFL grand final, extinguishing GWS hopes of glory with a dominant 89-point win at the MCG for the club’s 12th flag.

    GWS was hoping to complete a fairytale finals turnaround to win the flag from sixth but after the Giants kicked the first goal of the day, they then conceded the next 11.

    Out-tackled, out-performed, out-scored — it was a dirty day for the Giants, as a terrific Tigers outfit made it two flags in three years with a 17.12 (114) to 3.7 (25) victory.

I watched a bit of it and GWS seemed to be running the wrong way:

Afterwards celebrations became a bit boisterous at times:

When I started out on my constitutional walk in the park with radio plugged in, two Melbourne sports commentators were explaining Richmond’s success. It wasn’t just the usual – good players, well-coached etc. This club was based on love and empathy. They explained that this typically grew out of a long tradition of success on the field spilling over to bonding off the field. Richmond had done it the other way around.

Of course, George Megalogenis had already explained all this to Richard Fidler last year, following the 2017 season, when Richmond won after a 37-year drought. We were told:

    George has been looking into how the club’s leadership changed its culture, to make it more inclusive and better at long term planning.

    The club hired a mindfulness coach and began a new regime focusing on the process of the game, rather than the outcome.

    The result was a happier and more harmonious team, which found a new way to win.

    George thinks there’s a message for Australia’s political leaders in Richmond’s success.

Richmond’s approach every year after failing on the field was to sack the coach and a swag of players, and start again. In 2017, after finishing 13th in 2016, they kept the coach, looked to do what they could to support him, and adopted a philosophy of helping everyone to become their best self within the group while supporting each other with love and compassion.

George M thinks our pollies, and all of us, can learn from Richmond.

Still, the other teams have to end up losing, and they need to learn how to do that also.

2. Can Indigenous thinking save the world?

That is the question addressed by Phillip Adams talking to Tyson Yunkaporta, poet, artist and senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University, who has written a book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World.

Tyson says that around 10,000 years ago ego narcissism took over our world, a kind of original sin. Phillip Adams expressed it as the notion that simplicity and order must be imposed on the complexity of creation.

Tyson identifies the narcissism with the phrase “I am greater than…” He says that in traditional society while there was always a need to seek a balance between being an amazing individual and being part of a group, the default position was to share rather than to accumulate. Owning land, for example is saying “I am greater than this piece of land”.

A really interesting part comes at 28:40 where Adams asks him whether the wisdom of the traditional tribes was innate or part of culture. Tyson says we are all born indigenous, living and loving within a group and profoundly connected to place. The cultural values of individualism that underlie modern society are seen as a form of pathology (my words, but I think that is what he’s saying).

When I was at university I remember reading an article by the anthropologist Ruth Benedict where she characterised societies economically as either working like a funnel or a siphon. In the ‘funnel’ societies ownership and output were funneled in a way that concentrates wealth. In siphon societies there is automatic sharing rather than accumulation.

We are still trying to find a form of society that does both. that is the social democratic project. In short, it requires the domestication and civilising of capitalism and in particular constraining the corporation.

There is little taste for this at present in the US and China, as the future of the large firms is entwined with national destiny. Whether trade policy was ever based on anything else for the majors is a question for another day.

3. The psychobiotic revolution

Warning. You might need a strong stomach for this one!

That’s a big word to go with this New Scientist article which may be pay-walled How what you eat directly influences your mental health.

Bacteria such as Prevotella (above) influence how your brain processes emotions

Everyone knows the phrase “kick in the guts” or “I’ve had a gut full”. Now it seems that there is indeed a connection between our inhabitants of our intestines and our brains which can affect stress, mood and anxiety.

Consult your own physician, but the short story is this. We all trillions of cells in our bodies which are actually bugs (see Human microbiome). These bugs can have a positive or negative affect on our health. Research now shows that their activity breaches the “blood-brain” barrier, although it is not known how. So it matters how you feed the little beasts. Experiments with mice have shown startling changes in mood and activity depending on the type of bacteria inhabiting their bodies.

It’s more than just a matter of eating yoghurt. See also Healthy gut, happy mind: What to eat to boost how you feel:

    There are studies in people that suggest that bacteria can affect hormones and neurotransmitters like GABA, which has a calming effect on some areas of the brain, but the exact mechanism is something we don’t quite understand. However, if we give just the right bacteria for six weeks, we can see an increase in activation in parts of the brain associated with mood and emotions, compared with a placebo group. Gut bacteria can influence symptoms of depression, too.

As I say, consult your own physician. My doctor told me there is psychobiotics is definitely a thing. She was aware of an experiment that showed the Mediterranean diet as being positive. Probiotics (consult your pharmacist) may be in order after a course of antibiotics. See also Smart probiotics: Wiring friendly bacteria to take out disease:

    We’re engineering bugs that will patrol our guts and take out pathogens.

Then there are prebiotics and faecal transplants.

Also, I have heard that when we are born it is important that we get a lick of pooh on the way out! Babies born by caesarean section miss out on all that goodness.

[Update: I’ve just found this article from 2015 – Health Check: seven nutrients important for mental health – and where to find them]

4. Will Trump enjoy the impeachment process?

The odds of Trump being impeached have gone from 24% to 60%, but there is only an 18% chance of him being removed from office.

There are plenty of explainers, eg:

Nancy Pelosi now has six committees on the job. But Trump only did what his supporters and opponents would expect him to do – twist some arms to dig up dirt on his opponent, albeit foreign arms. But that too is no surprise. And then obstruct Congress knowing about it.

All in a day’s work for Trump.

To remove him from office would require 20 Republicans in the Senate to vote for his removal. Approximately no-one expects that to happen.

So it will distract everyone, but will it affect Trump’s re-election chances? I don’t know, but perhaps that is most at stake.

Meanwhile here in Oz lying is what politics of the right is about these days.

John Lord thought Abbott was the champ, but will be outdone by Morrison if he stays around.

54 thoughts on “Weekly salon 29/9”

  1. Good choices. We live in a culture of self indulgence and greed, and our sense of community connection has narrowed down to immediate family. The nearest thing we have to a national day when every one comes out and is visible is election day, and that only works because we have compulsory voting. Strangely though, where greed can be set aside, the world of today’s 20 year olds is a better one. Than the previous three generations and the key is the in the connectivity of phones and tablets, along with their propensity to occupy peoples time in non resource consuming ways.

    In principle I agree that there is much to learn from indigenous culture. To that notion consider…
    As to the psychobiotic revolution, 100% on board with the thrust of this.

    Trump surviving more that 3 years? I think if he does get re elected it will trigger a revolution. The 1% have pushed their advantage to the extreme of greed and beyond, and Trump is the dirty, ugly tasteless face of that. This would be a 90% versus the 1% fight, where the 90% contain huge creative power in a highly advanced technological time. Drone power alone could achieve in a day what the French Revolution took several years for the same. And Trump would get to experience his own reality Bastille Day parade of rejuvenation. Nick Hanauer has been warning the US billionaires for some time, to no avail, that the knives are being sharpened. King Trump? Not going to happen.

  2. Pres Trump has shown a talent for using feee publicity – Twits and professional twits (journos) – to keep opponents off balance, advance the idea of “deals” which amount to vacuities but attract attention* and upset most serious analysts

    He will love the impeachment circus.
    RM Nixon took it seriously and in his dour and criminal way, tried to tough it out….

    Trump will bask in the attention, insult Congresspersons, sack advisors, prevaricate and conceal, skite endlessly, and draw Govt agencies into the maelstrom now and then for distractions (e.g. on the Mexican border).

    BTW, it’s not at all the way I would prefer the Republic to be governed.

    I think impeachment attempts right now are ill timed, likely to be tedious and likely to rebound on the Democrat Congresspersons who are pushing it.

    A survey of former “corrupt” reps would include the Clintons, Mr Gore and Dad, possibly the Bidens?, the Kennedy clan, RM Nixon, LBJ, etc.

    * N Korea: photo opps and no progress on curbing Kim’s nuclear weapons


    As soon as big bucks are involved, you’ll get intermediaries skimming off their shares and wielding undue influence…

    Pres Trump is by no means unique.
    To see him as Devil Incarnate is to cloud the picture and reduce any ability to coolly analyse.

    here endeth the sermon

    Rev. Amb

  3. I think impeachment attempts right now are ill timed, likely to be tedious and likely to rebound on the Democrat Congresspersons who are pushing it.

    Ambi, you could well be right but anything else would be a dereliction of the Democrat’s duty to the Constitution.

  4. Thanks for the link, zoot. I agree that Pelosi is motivated above all by the need to do her duty. If she were not initiating impeachment investigations people could well ask why.

    She’s smart enough to know how the politics plays.

  5. Yes BilB I am biased.
    Also ignorant of US politics.

    Back in the 1960s when I were a lad, a US journalist (Theo White? Haven’t learnt how to check and write at the same time, ditto chew gum) started a series of books “The Making of the President”. Perhaps JF Kennedy was his first subject.

    In any case, the book(s) were detailed and explained mysteries such as Primaries, fundraising, Party factions and the like… much more than any Aussie newspaper article or periodical did.

    These days that author would be outstripped by the likes of Bob Woodward, dozens of journalists and many websites.

    My biases are clear to see.

    Don’t get me started on Barry Goldwater or Teddy Roosevelt!

    + + +

    Would those wicked people, who know who they are, kindly desist from putting washers and beer bottle tops in the collection plate?

    Rev. Amb

  6. In Australia it would be Trump’s party that would be trying to get rid of him before he damaged their performance in the polls.
    In theory smart Republican’s should be trying to get him out of the way quickly so that they have time to put up a competitive alternative and avoid giving the Democrats control of both congress and Senate at the next election.
    What may be holding them back is the power of the primaries. Each senator and congress person who is up for election would be wondering if they would not be thrown out at the primaries by the power of the Tea Party supporters.

  7. Our experience with the foreignness of Aboriginal culture helped us understand our own culture by realizing that the way we do some things is not the only way that things can be done and how the world can be perceived. (The same can be said about living in very multicultural mining communities outside of Central Qld and getting to know people from all sorts of places.)
    The Aboriginal experience was particularly important because the differences were so great, the language was so adapted to the needs of the society and the culture had had to develop to allow survival for a people restricted to living in a very small area with a very limited range of raw materials. (Could never have made solar panels from the raw materials the Warendilyagwa had access to.)
    Our reaction to Aborigines over time has varied from dismissal on the grounds they are not like us to unquestioning admiration also on the grounds they are not like us. By and large Aborigines seemed to avoided endless wars over land but a lot of men and women are killed as a result of women being considered property. I know of two groups that were wiped out by other groups. My understanding is that the Newman mob were wiped out by the Hammersly mob. There was also a group living on the SE corner of Groote Eylandt that were wiped out on the basis that they were ignoring marriage laws.
    Aboriginal culture has also changed over time. The myths talk about things like the women giving the magic to men and various cultural heroes who traveled wildly teaching people new ceremonies and new ways of doing things. It was not a static culture.
    Both our culture and Aboriginal culture has to change to meet the challenges of our changing world. We should look to other cultures as a way of understanding ourselves and a source of ideas that might help us survive the future.
    However, we should resist the temptation to conduct it as a discussion of whether we/they are better than they/us. Too easy to miss the others ideas/culture (or undervalue our ideas/culture.)

  8. Those interested to see how Hong Kong persons are celebrating China’s National Day, 1st October, may enquire at


    The map has symbols representing: crowds, live rounds, hospital, fires, etc. and frequent updates on protest actions.

    I believe a motto of Mao was
    Dare to Struggle
    Dare to Win!

  9. Hey Mr A, remember the names the media called Trump for wanting 4 tanks an their 4th of July parade contrasting that with the coverage of the Chinese parade?

    Anywho, of interest perhaps is this site, https://www.openchargemap.org/site
    just as a reference for when they go electric vehicle.

  10. remember the names the media called Trump

    Not sure what you’re getting at Jumpy, but you seem to be saying it’s OK if the President of the USA emulates the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
    Many would disagree (“land of the free” and all that)

  11. A strange connection to make, Mr J.

    In the USA there is a general election for President and two houses of Congress. There is a free press and countervailing authorities in Courts, police etc. They even have elections at local and State levels.

    One of the demands in Hong Kong is that the local leader be elected by Hong Kongers. Will the protestors Carrie the day, do you think?

    As to China, the celebrations yesterday were for the One Party rule of the CCP, as zoot mentions. One Party, no free press, no independent judges, arbitrary arrest, the rise of corruptocrat multi-billionaires, cronyism, militarism on show, air pollution, lousy building standards, encroachment in the South China Sea, threats against Taiwan and Hong Kong, overlording Tibet and outlying provinces, did I mention One Party rule???

    Hard to see the similarities of USA and China.

  12. Confession: I was watching PM Johnson addressing the Tory Party Conference.

    He argued that Westminster is unworkable. “If it were a school, the inspectors would have taken action. If it were a reality TV show, the whole lot of us including me, would have been voted out of the jungle. The only good aspect would be watching the Speaker being forced to eat a kangaroo testicle.” (applause)

    From this I infer
    The PM dislikes John Bercow
    The PM hates kangaroos
    The PM watches too much telly
    The Tory Party loves subtle wit

    Where’s Oscar Wilde when he’s needed??

  13. Just on the US President, I think there’s a pattern emerging.

    2016: Mr T publicly requested Russia to find thousands of missing Hillary Clinton emails

    More recently
    *The President asked the Ukrainian Pres to investigate Mr Biden Jr
    *The President asked the Australian PM to look into Dolly Downer’s role in the background of the Mueller investigation
    *Today, the President has publicly asked the Chinese Govt to investigate the Biden family.

    Is Pres Trump outsourcing investigations to save his Govt some money?

    Doesn’t this President trust any American institution of policing, justice, FBI, intelligence gathering, financial regulation, etc.???

  14. For an extreme (degenerate?) form of State Socialism, see the DPRK or North Korea.

    A low light in Australia/DPRK relations is being covered in Nine newspapers under the title The last voyage of the Pong Su.

    Quite a pong.
    Will President Kim su them??

    (Of course, we Victorians are disgusted that the saga began on one of our pristine coastlines.)

  15. Correction

    At 4.21pm today, I should have said “Nine newspapers will launch a 10-part podcast next Tuesday 9th October, on ‘The Last Voyage of the Pong Su’ “.

  16. As I understand it, each request that Trump makes to a foreign power for dirt on a political opponent is a separate impeachable offense. (Maybe our resident constitutional expert can assist here.)

  17. zoot, I’m not your expert, but as far as I can make out it’s “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” according to Dr Google.

    Seems “high” refers to the office, not the crime. Misdemeanors could be lots of things, doesn’t have to be a crime, but it probably comes down to an unforgivable abuse of the presidency.

    Obviously some are more forgiving than others.

  18. I think it’s now the right time for 78 year old Bernie Sanders to withdraw from the nomination contest, to spend more time with his medical advisors.

    BTW, as I recall it, some Congresspersons back in 1973, 1974 wanted impeachment charges brought against Pres Nixon over the US invasion of Cambodia and the secret bombing of Laos by the US, but ultimately it was the Watergate Cover-Up misdemeanours that were central.

  19. Yes, Ambi, I agree. Both Sanders and Biden are older than any previous president when the left office.

    Elizabeth Warren, I heard last night, is also 70.

    Re-electing Trump on age/health grounds alone would be quite risky.

  20. This is entertaining, all the more because it’s written by a Republican. It remains to be seen how prescient he is.

  21. And this from British politician Andrew Adonis via Peter FitzSimons:
    Leading Brexit advocate Nigel Farage goes into a bar and asks for a pint of beer. The barman draws it, only to throw it into his face!
    “Why did you do that?” the outraged Farage asks.
    “You asked for a pint,” the barman replies, “but you didn’t say how you wanted it delivered.”
    “I’ll have a pint,” Farage says carefully, wiping himself down, “in a pint glass.”
    “No. You can’t ask again.”
    “Why not?”

  22. Finally I got the bike out today, paperwork be damned.
    Among other places I spent some time at the beach of my upbringing ( 5 to 17 ).
    The flooding back of wonderful memories is hard to explain.

    Finding new places has its value but revisiting old ones, to me, has more.

    I guess only the lucky would say that, and I am.

  23. I’m working on a post about how we, the world, have been setting climate targets, and it’s proving a bit harder than I thought, because I’m not a science historian, for starters.

    The main conclusion is that temperature change is the wrong place to locate targets in the cause-effect chain, so we are lost ion the weeds. It’s also problematic when targets are set that can’t be achieved, because the target effectively becomes something else for each actor, not necessarily known or shared by others.

    So please bear with me for a bit. This one has to be done.

  24. Jumpy, I would love to go back to the farm I grew up on, but it lives only in memory. My family moved away, and the farm was bought by my best friend at primary school.

    He’s fine about us going back there, one of his kids and partner live in the house. However, he’s flatted and burned just about every tree on the place, and a small patch he left died out of sympathy, so it would probably make me cry.

  25. Brian: That is the trouble with the past. The wild woods I used to explore are now urban sprawl. The places I used to spearfish are now marine parks and many of the coral reefs I used to dive on are no longer what they were and often near dead.
    In many ways I preferred Australia when the population was 6 million.
    Then again the place i live now has better canoeing, my canoe is not made from a sheet of corrugated iron and the bikeways are pretty good.

  26. George Orwell wrote a novel* set in the 1930s about a chap going back to the village of his youth, and finding it ruined. We read it at high school; some of the pathos likely passed over our heads.

    $ $ $ $

    By the way, I get the impression that valiant Kurdish fighters have made much of the progress reported in the dwindling of ISIS. What would be a fair reward?

    Somehow, I don’t think standing aside and letting the Turkish Army deal with them, quite fits the bill.

    * most readers prefer his Animal Farm, 1984, Collected Essays

  27. In breaking news, Ms Arcuri says her friendship with Lord Mayor Johnson developed because of their shared love of literature and Voltaire.

    Dr Pangloss advises that this must certainly be true, in this best of all possible worlds.

    He is able to say so quite Candidely.

  28. A Polish friend of mine went back to his place of upbringing and was pleasantly surprised.
    When he was a lad there were huge mountains of slag everywhere because it was a metal milling town.
    Somewhere in the passage of time someone found a use for that slag and they processed it and sold it.
    What was waste became a commodity of value.

    He was stunned by the greenery that replaced the black mountains.

  29. Jumpy, when we were in Poland in 2015 I was amazed at where they got the fill from to build new highways elevated probably about 3 or 4 metres above the flat plain.

    No doubt with EU money, but at least one was a toll road.

  30. That’s a good story from Poland, Jumpy.

    The Poles are about due for a quiet, prosperous life.

    Europe and the western world owes them a debt of gratitude for their earlyish explosion of free unions, free speech and social solidarity spreading in a wave of joy from the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk.


    Viva Walesa

  31. Syria again.

    Back in the 1970s when the Congress began moves to impeach R. Nixon, many pundits said that Americans were generally unconcerned about foreign events and foreign policy, despite a decade of upheaval over the wars in Indochina.

    I find it curious now, that with Democrats moving to investigate the possibility of impeaching D. Trump, his senior Republican enablers (Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham) are almost literally “drawing a line in the sand” of Syria, and rebelling over a matter of foreign policy.

    Who would have predicted that?
    Are Congresspersons more quagmire-averse than previously? Or could they be fans of the brave, fighting & dying Kurds??

    Stand by for the announcement of a new Trump Resort just outside Istanbul.

  32. Ambi: If the Kurds were not smart enough to have some dirt on Joe Biden to get Trump on side why should Trump support them? Maybe the Turks do have some good stuff on Biden that they have promised to give Trump if Trump gives them a free go at the Kurds.

  33. In simple terms, when the Turks are finished there will be a space. You can expect ISIS to move into the space.

    One of Donald’s dumber decisions.

  34. Perhaps we need to widen our view, John.
    It could be the Turks have something on Ms Warren or one of the other contenders….. This focus on the Biden family may be a diversion…..

    (I reckon it’s worrying when the daily news starts a bloke thinking like a rat skunk. )

    Remember the good old days when conventional persons (old fashioned, part of the soon-to-be-drained “swamp”, or onlookers) said it was a very bad idea for a person in high office to be sending out sporadic, wild Twits?? There were jokes about his aides trying to stop him locking himself in a toilet to Twit freely without their being able to intervene.

    Turns out he can be just as wild when he’s Tiberius On The Telephone.

    Seriously, it’s up to the rest of us to stay calm, and for persons in responsible positions over there to do their duty to the Republic. Checks and balances.

  35. The Checks are in the mail.

    But the Balances are not.
    He won’t release his tax records.

  36. Yesterday was yet another frustrating day. Cancelled work, due to brutal heat, but hosted the plumber and other distraction.

    Last thing I do at night is check stats to see which posts have been accessed. As usual about 15+ from thew archive, this time including Is the Pope a communist?, CO2 is scrambling our brains, but will it kill us all?, the all-time favourite Deep origins: language, and Simpson Desert crossing 6: Day 5.

    Have to work today instead of yesterday, but if you want to read some old material I’ve been revisiting, two pieces from James Hansen are amazing:

    Can we defuse the global warming time bomb?


  37. The post I have been writing at such length bears the ironic title Lost in the weeds: conjuring climate targets. Ironic because I was starting the story from the beginning, was less than half way through, and it was longer then anyone would likely read.

    So I was lost in the weeds.

    Last night I decided I’d have to start from the beginning, by means of what Extinction Rebellion are actually saying, and Paul Gilding’s latest, Climate Emergency Defined.

    That led to his first effort, a joint paper with Prof Jorgen Randers The one degree war plan, a truly astonishing document from 2009 which had escaped my notice.

    That and other gems will be revealed, but realistically not before tomorrow night.

  38. This year’s Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to three researchers in Boston, Mass. who investigate practical ways of reducing global poverty. Two work at MIT, the other ar Harvard.

    They include the second woman to have won that Prize.

  39. In other news, it is reported that a bloke by the name of Turnbull (Viscount Malcolm of Harbour Redoubt) has delivered his manuscript to his publisher.

    A Tome for the Times.

  40. The Conversation ran 5 charts on what a Newstart recipient really looks like For example:

    First, Newstart recipients are a lot older than you might think.

    Half are over 45. Partly this is because unemployed people aged 24 or younger are more likely to be getting Youth Allowance.
    But even if we include unemployed Youth Allowance recipients in the figure, an outsized 45% of all unemployment benefit recipients are over 45. One quarter are over 55.
    Women on Newstart are older still: 51% of female job-seekers are over 40, compared with 42% of male job-seekers.


    Contrary to claims by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and others, Newstart is not always a transitional payment.

    It’s true many of the people coming on to Newstart leave it soon after: of those who began receiving Newstart payments in 2017, 63% had come off within 12 months.

    But a focus on new recipients ignores the bulk of current recipients, who have been on it for much longer. Someone who has recently begun receiving Newstart payments is far more likely to move off them than someone who’s been on them for a longer period.
    As at March 2019, two thirds had been on it for more than a year. One fifth had been on it for more than five years. A significant 4% had been on it for more than ten years.
    Older recipients are more likely to have been on it for more than a year, and across all ages, women are more likely than men to have been on Newstart for more than a year.

    Read in conjunction with WHAT IS WRONG WITH NEWSTART? Hopefully the Newstart Review will be based on facts, not popular misconceptions.

  41. John, I fixed your first link. You’d copied the title in as the link address.

    Very telling article.

  42. A story in Nine newspapers.

    “Victorian dinosaurs may have moved to Queensland for a lifestyle change “.

    Make of that what you will, but the journalist is referring to

    Australovenator wintonensis , first identified near Winton, Qld.

    Ambi of the Dinosaurs

  43. Ambi of the Dinosaurs: We know a dinosaur who claims to live in Mackay. Suspect he has lived near there all his life but sometimes it is the immigrants who become the most rabid supporters of the place they have moved to.
    After living for years in multicultural mining towns we found Central Qld a bit of a shock but this experience helps me understand some of the things that come from our northern correspondent

  44. That a bit of a cheap shot Johno old Mate.
    I shan’t reply with a shot about if these extinction rebellion angels should have spat on you for your involvement in the mining industry for all those years.

    I’m above that sort of thing. 🙂

  45. I’ve got rellies in Central Qld. My elder bro once told me I was the only person he knew who believed in anthropogenic climate change.

    However, I’m not going to say what Hillary Clinton said.

    They are very intelligent, caring people. However, I would be interested in a finer-grained demographic study on attitudes to climate change.

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