Friday, April 14, 2017

From Ian:

US charges 2 terrorists for 2010 murder of American tourist in Israel
Charges were filed in the United States Thursday against two Palestinian terrorists jailed in Israel for the 2010 murder of a US citizen who was visiting the Jewish state.
Ayad Fatafta and Kifah Ghanimat face federal charges for murdering Kristine Luken on December 18, 2010, in a stabbing attack in the Jerusalem Forest that also seriously wounded Kay Wilson, a British-born Israeli citizen.
The two terrorists, both residents of a village near Hebron — which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority — are currently serving prison sentences in Israel. Arrest warrants were issued against them in the US on Thursday.
In 2012, Fatafta was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 20 years, and Ghanimat was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment and a further 60 years, for the lethal stabbing attack as well as another crime.
According to the US affidavit, Fatafta and Ghanimat stabbed Luken — a 44-year-old US national — to death while she was hiking near an archaeological site on a visit to Israel. She died at the scene.
According to the US Justice Department, “the maximum penalty for a person convicted of murdering a US national outside the US is a lifetime term of incarceration or death.”
Melanie Phillips: The West’s ideological quagmire
Officials like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are from the school of pragmatic realism. This views politics through the prism of state power and underplays the titanic civilizational issues now pitted against each other.
Which is why such figures tend not to understand the particular threat posed by Islamic religious fanaticism. It is also why they fail to grasp that the Middle East impasse is not a dispute over land boundaries between Israelis and Palestinians but an Islamic war of extermination against the Jewish homeland.
Trump’s great strength is that he is not an ideologue. The downside, however, is that he is therefore not governed by a strong, coherent view of the world. So he tends to be blown hither and yon by those who do have a strong worldview, depending upon who impresses him at any one moment.
Reportedly he has become exasperated by the vicious turf wars within his administration. As a result, it’s being said that his strategic genius Steve Bannon, who is driven by his own perception of the West’s suicidal civilizational decline, has lost out.
Those who believe Bannon is the ideologue driving America into disaster will sigh with relief that Trump appears to be reverting to traditional type.
Those who think pragmatic realpolitik was previously leading America off the civilizational precipice will be aghast.
This presidency is a work in progress. Donald Trump is on a steep learning curve. Whether he will learn the correct lessons is something on which we must all still hold our breath.
Your neighbor's house is on fire, but he hates you. Do you help? That's Israel's Syria dilemma.
Israel has spent most of the Syrian civil war watching from the sidelines rather than becoming mired in a sectarian conflict in which neither of the sides looked particularly appealing as an ally.
Last week’s sarin gas attack, apparently by Syrian air forces, has intensified a long running debate about whether the government should be doing more to alleviate humanitarian suffering just beyond its northern border and act militarily to weaken President Bashar Assad.
Despite a state of war that exists between the neighbors, a growing number of Israelis are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to do more to assist Syrian civilians, arguing that Jewish history of displacement imparts a moral obligation on Israel to help wounded Syrian civilians.
At a security cabinet meeting on Sunday, ministers mulled proposals to accept Syrian children injured in the gas attack — beyond a 4-year-old policy to take in Syrians from rebel areas near the border for temporary medical treatment — but made no final decision. A similar proposal that got consideration in the wake of the siege of Aleppo has yet to be implemented
“As Israelis and Jews, the use of gas takes us back [in time],’’ said Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, alluding to the Holocaust, during the cabinet meeting. “Our obligation as Jews and Israelis is to offer aid to the victims of the gas attack. There are many children and the elderly…. We must not stand idly by.”
The angst points to a tug of war between two schools of thought on how to grapple with Syria, a dilemma that former National Security Advisor Giora Eiland described in an interview with Israel Radio as a “struggle between the Jewish heart and mind.’’

Ruthie Blum: Putting 'America first' in the Mideast
America's surgical strike on Syrian regime targets last Thursday night -- and this Thursday's "mother of all non-nuclear bomb" attack on Sunni terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan -- garnered surprisingly widespread bipartisan support, but put some of U.S. President Donald Trump's critics in a bit of a rhetorical quandary. How could they word their defense of Trump's bold yet not extreme warning shots without putting a dent in their distrust of the new occupant of the Oval Office?
Coming up with a solution to this problem turned out not to be so difficult for those pundits and politicians who have been paying close attention both to Syrian President Bashar Assad's slaughter of his own people -- most recently with chemical weapons -- and to every syllable of Trump's Twitter feed.
Their argument now goes that Trump's latest military moves -- and shift in attitude toward NATO -- are examples of policy "flip-flopping" from the "isolationism" expressed in his inaugural address to a newfound global interventionism. They contend that a president who so drastically and swiftly shifts gears is perfectly capable of performing yet another about-face when the mood arises.
The trouble is that this assertion is both overly simplistic and inaccurate.
Beware the tyranny narrative
Jerusalem Day is still six weeks off but foreign critics already have launched their attack.
In their view, there is no miraculous Six-Day War victory to extol; no grand return to the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria to toast; no historic reunification of Jerusalem to celebrate; no liberation and redemption to commemorate; no flowering of religious culture and national creativity to admire; no jubilee to enjoy.
Not at all. Instead, there is only an entrenched "occupation" of the West Bank to bemoan. Palestinian self-determination is being stifled and this casts a pall over all.
Worse still, in their view, is that "Israel's soul has been corrupted," ostensibly, by the occupation.
The British Guardian got the ball rolling on this sullying narrative last week by giving full play to the nasty remarks of former Shin Bet security agency chiefs Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon at a Jerusalem event in support of Breaking the Silence and Barbur Gallery.
Gillon painted a bleak picture of Israel's political trajectory, saying that the country was being "driven by the occupation toward disaster." He added: "This country was established on the values of liberal democracy; values we don't fulfill any more. You can analyze what happened to us in the last 50 years but everything is under the shade of occupation. It has changed us a society. It has made us an unpleasant society."
Voices of Jerusalem - Marking 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem

Report: Hezbollah evacuating positions near Israel's Golan Heights
Hezbollah forces have begun to evacuate territory near Syria's Golan region, not far from the Israeli border, after the US State Department demanded that the Lebanese terror organization immediately leave the area, Syrian news agency Al-Ittihad reported Thursday.
The report added that Hezbollah fighters began clearing their stronghold in the Qalamun Mountains nearly a week before the US military conducted airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's air force on April 6.
The US military operation was in response to a chemical attack allegedly carried out by government forces, which saw 78 people killed and over 550 wounded in the northwest town of Idlib last week.
Al-Ittihad did not say why the militants left their positions on the eastern Syrian border region.
CIA Director Says Syria Missile Strike a Message for Tehran
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield last week signaled to Iran that the United States is prepared to use force to protect American interests.
In his first public remarks since taking over the intelligence agency, Pompeo also criticized the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, labeling the group a "hostile, non-government, intelligence service" and calling its founder, Julian Assange, a celebrity-seeking narcissist.
On Iran, Pompeo linked last week's 59 Tomahawk missile salvo fired from a U.S. warship against an airfield in Syria where jets carrying chemical weapons took off prior to a recent nerve agent attack to Iran's compliance with an international nuclear accord.
The CIA director said the agency is closely monitoring Iranian adherence to the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including both declared and undeclared nuclear facilities.
"We should all be mindful, given what took place in Syria, and go back and read that JCPOA when it talks about declared facilities and undeclared facilities and how much access the IAEA will have to each of those two very distinct groups," he said during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"So that might suggest to you what level of certainty we could ever hope to present to the commander in chief."
Shmuley Boteach: Spicer's Actions Redeem His Words on Assad
Those who wrote blogs calling Spicer an antisemite are guilty of character assassination and debasing the term. The Jews have real enemies in the world. Sean Spicer has used his pulpit at the White House repeatedly to defend the Jewish State and condemn genocidal Iran. He should be considered a friend of the Jewish people.
What is far more important to me, as a member of a people who experienced genocide, is that the Trump administration decided to reverse course from previous American inaction at the gassing of Syrian children, and strike hard at the Assad regime, showing them that Never Again must mean just that, Never Again.
For nearly four years we watched as America became a toothless tiger in relation to Syria, forever huffing and puffing but never striking at Assad for the use of nerve agents against kids. Surely even the biggest Trump haters must applaud the president for his honorable action at striking back at the beast.
The crime of the Holocaust is unique in world history. It brooks no comparisons. But genocides of any stripe are humanity’s highest abomination, and poison gas is poison gas. America had a moral responsibility to hit the Assad regime for dropping sarin gas on children. And nothing that can be said about that action will ever be as important as the action itself. To see Syrian jets smoldering in ruins at the hands of the American military is to take just pride in being citizens of the most righteous nation on earth.
Many of the memoirs of Auschwitz survivors relate how the prisoners prayed daily that they might see American bombers punishing the SS for operating the gas chambers at Birkenau. They prayed even though they knew that such bombing runs would cost them their own lives. But the bombers never came, thereby forever staining the legacies of even truly great men like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who ultimately defeated Hitler.
It’s time to applaud and thank President Trump and his administration, Spicer included, for taking decisive action in Syria to save Arab life. Because only action, and not words, are that which will ensure that Never Again means Never Again.
Journalist makes Hitler-Assad comparison and sends Twitter into frenzy
The chemical attack in Syria shook the world as pictures of the atrocities are shared on social media.
While the Western countries point fingers at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as being behind the attack, Syrian allies especially Russia claim the government “did not and will not” use chemical weapons.
In the midst of it all, journalist David Simon made a comparison that sent Twitter in a frenzy. He compared Assad to Adolf Hitler, stating the latter would never use sarin gas on his own [?] soldiers even as his realm fell. Assad, on the other hand, has used it twice on his civilians, he alleged.
Possessing sarin gas, Hitler wouldn't use it on soldiers even as his Reich fell. He'd been gassed in WWI. Assad has used it 2x on civilians.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) April 6, 2017
Report: Palestinian Delegation to Visit Washington This Month, Ahead of Expected Upcoming Trump-Abbas White House Meeting

A delegation of Palestinian Authority officials will travel to Washington, DC later this month, in preparation for an expected upcoming White House meeting between US President Donald Trump and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Thursday.
The report cited a Voice of Palestine radio interview given by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. According to nrg, Maliki said the delegation will meet with a number of US officials and discuss a range of issues.
Earlier this week, Maliki told the Bahrain News Agency, “The main goal here is to reach understandings that would make the president’s visit [to Washington] a success and that it will come out with positive results that would serve the Palestinian cause.”
During a phone call last month, Trump invited Abbas to visit the White House “in the near future.” The two leaders, according to a White House readout, talked about “ways to advance peace throughout the Middle East region, including a comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In his Voice of Palestine interview on Thursday, Maliki said the Palestinians were drawing up a diplomatic plan aimed at “exposing the Israeli policies in the occupied territories.”
France’s Political Upheaval and What It Portends for the Jews
The campaign for France’s upcoming national elections—which occur on April 23 and May 7—has already made clear that the country is undergoing a political realignment as unexpected as those in the U.S. and UK, and perhaps with even more far-reaching consequences. In an in-depth and informative analysis of the current situation and its causes, Michel Gurfinkiel notes how Jews play into the current conversation:
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who served as editor at Atlantico, a major conservative online magazine, recently remarked that Jews function in many countries as an advance-warning system. When Jews get anxious about their condition, it means that something wrong and ominous may be lurking for the nation at large. Can this Jewish standard be applied to the present situation of France? Maybe. Muslim anti-Semitism (with or without the excuse of anti-Zionism) has been a harbinger of more general Muslim antagonism to mainstream French culture. Repeated acts of anti-Jewish terrorism preceded the anti-French terrorism wave of 2015 and 2016.
By this token, the 2017 presidential campaign is not entirely reassuring. Globalization, the original sin according to both the far left and far right, is frequently associated with the United States, the West—and the Jews. . . . Donald Trump may be an America Firster, but he is also a friend of Israel, the father of an Orthodox Jewish daughter and the “proud grandfather,” to quote him, “of Jewish grandchildren.” In the [French] order of things, French Muslims may support, indiscriminately, Islamic State or Palestinian groups or Iran or Assad’s Syria as expressions of Muslim power, while many non-Muslim French may support Iran or Hizballah or Assad’s Syria as allies against Islamic State.
First-ever visit to Israel by Indian Prime Minister set for early July
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long-awaited visit to Israel will take place on July 5-6, the Indian press reported on Thursday.
According to the Hindustan Times, Modi will come to Israel – a first-ever visit by an India prime minister – on his way to take part in the G-20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7-8.
The paper reported that G. Mohan Kumar, India’s defense secretary – which is the equivalent in Israel to the Defense Ministry’s director-general – will visit as well in late April, for a working group meeting on military cooperation that will help prepare for Modi’s visit.
Modi’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited last month for two days, to lay the groundwork for the Indian premier’s trip.
A spokesman at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem confirmed that the Indian prime minister will be arriving in early July.
British woman stabbed to death in Jerusalem tram attack
A young British woman was stabbed to death with a kitchen knife while riding on Jerusalem’s light rail on Friday, officials said. An off-duty police officer and a passerby wrestled the terrorist, a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, to the ground before he could harm anyone else.
Two other people were lightly injured when the tram made an emergency stop.
Medics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service carried out CPR on the woman at the scene before taking her to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus for treatment. She was brought to the hospital in critical condition, with multiple stab wounds to the upper body, a medic said.
She died of her wounds shortly after arriving to the hospital, a Hadassah spokesperson said.
Soldier and Light Rail Security Guard Prevented Terrorist From Continuing Deadly Jerusalem Stabbing Spree, Eyewitnesses Say
Friday’s terrorist attack inside a Jerusalem light rail train — in which a 23-year-old British woman was killed and two other people were injured — could have been worse if not for the actions of an IDF soldier and a security guard who prevented the assailant from continuing his stabbing spree, an eyewitness told the Hebrew news site Walla.
“I saw an older man sitting next to me and suddenly he took out a knife,” the eyewitness recounted, referring to 57-year-old attacker Jamil Tamimi — an Arab resident of east Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighborhood, who was arrested at the scene without being injured. “He stabbed a girl next to me in the shoulder blades region several times. I was in shock.”
“I pushed him,” the eyewitness continued. “He got up with his knife and stabbed several others. The driver opened the door within half a minute.”
Another eyewitness to the attack — which took place as the train passed through IDF Square next to the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City — told Walla: “A soldier who was there did not let the terrorist escape. A light rail security guard held his leg and prevented him from stabbing more people and his knife was taken from him.”
A third eyewitness told Walla, “I was in the second car of the train and just before the train turned toward the municipality building, people in the car started pushing and running like crazy.”
“The driver opened the door and everyone got off the train,” the eyewitness continued.
PM, president send condolences to family of British woman killed in terror attack
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin offered their condolences on Friday to the family of British woman murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem earlier in the day.
In a statement, Netanyahu said, “In the name of all the people of Israel, I offer condolences to the family of the murdered girl.”
“Radical Islamic terrorism strikes in capital cities across the world,” he said in reference to a spate of attacks in Sweden, Britain and other countries. “Unfortunately, it struck today in the capital of Israel, Jerusalem.”
Rivlin said he was “filled with sadness” over the killing, adding that “Terror can never overcome us. Terror will never destroy our lives here.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, also issued his condolences and said the Palestinian Authority “must be held accountable,” in a tweet Friday.
The Arab Guard Who Protected a Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City

In the Old City, Hagai Street and its tributaries perfectly represent the ultimate Jerusalemite mosaic -- it is a path of blood and terrorism while simultaneously being a path of life and coexistence. It is terrorist-weary, steeped in the blood of victims -- just this past week, a knife-wielding terrorist stabbed two yeshiva students and an Israel Border Police officer there -- while simultaneously being full of life and power, colors and smells.
Today's Hagai Street passes through the ancient route of the Tyropoeon Valley, or Valley of the Cheesemakers. It is also a street leading to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. It houses much of the Waqf's and the Gulf states' efforts to cement Muslim control over the area between Damascus Gate and the Western Wall. It is also the home to Jewish activism, like the work of Jewish organization Ateret Cohanim, which is slowly restoring the Jewish presence in the Muslim Quarter.
On an average day, this street is a sight to behold. A vibrant mosaic of Jews, Muslims and Christians. Monks with cylindrical hats; knitted, embroidered and black kippot; sheikhs in robes and keffiyehs, and a colorful Middle Eastern market featuring everything from candy to hummus to antiquities. A restaurant bears the name of al-Buraq, the Prophet Muhammad's winged horse, alongside a kosher Jewish restaurant named Between the Arches, where diners can step onto the Second Temple-era floors.
NGO calls to stop government ads in Ha’aretz after 'incitement' against religious Zionists
Right-wing organization Im Tirzu called on Culture Minister Miri Regev to stop the Government Advertising Agency from placing ads in Ha’aretz after the daily published an article calling Religious Zionists more dangerous than Hezbollah and lamenting that they can’t be killed.
Im Tirzu Director-General Matan Peleg wrote in a letter to Regev Thursday night: “Any incitement against any population group and comparing it to terrorists who murder innocent people is inappropriate and demands public denunciation.
“In this case, the slander is of members of the religious-Zionist sector, whose best sons and daughters serve their nation and their homeland in an inspiring way, whether in the IDF or in various civilian frameworks,” he added.
Peleg wrote that this was not the first time Ha’aretz came out against entire population groups, and said the article was not only delegitimization of religious people, but actual incitement.
As Regev is responsible for the Government Advertising Agency, Peleg asked her to stop all advertisements in Ha’aretz immediately.
Arab town may lose funding over planned Nakba memorial
Plans for a memorial park to honor victims of the Nakba, the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel's War of Independence, in the Arab-majority town of Tira in central Israel have drawn ire.
On social media, an Arabic language announcement said, "Work is nearing completion on the construction of a memorial in honor of the martyrs of Tira and the region, who kept Zionist gangs away from the city in the 1948 war. The memorial is being established next to the town's high school."
According to the announcement, Tira's Mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay supports the construction of the memorial, which was authorized by the town's council.
According to the announcement, the plan is to build a park and gathering place for the town's children that will focus on the role of Tira's citizens during the Nakba.
According to one of the activists involved in the project, the initiative to establish a memorial came from the town's residents, and the decision to place the memorial in the town's main square was made about four months ago.
Humanitarian ‘Aid’ to Gaza Hides Hamas Terror Supplies
Those cruel Israelis.
Palestinian residents of Gaza just want some soccer balls and perhaps a few Frisbees, to help break the monotony of life under siege. Yet the insensitive Israeli authorities, enforcing their ruthless blockade, recently intercepted a shipment of innocent sporting goods that would have brought a little light to the dark of lives of Gaza’s children.
That’s what you can expect pro-Palestinian human rights groups and their media supporters to report.
The truth, however, is very different.
In an attempt to help Gazans, the Israeli government allows numerous trucks with supposedly “humanitarian” items to enter the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip each day.
It’s a big risk, because Hamas repeatedly has exploited Israel’s kindness by using these humanitarian shipments as means of smuggling in materials that can be used for terrorism. And they did so again earlier this month.
While examining a shipment of sporting goods bounds for Gaza, Israeli border inspectors at the Kerem Shalom crossing point discovered 30 professional diving suits earmarked for Hamas naval commandos, according to Israel’s Defense Ministry.
First Palestinian business people can enter Israel in own cars since 2000
A limited number of Palestinian business people have received permits to enter Israel in their Palestinian-plated vehicles, a Palestinian Authority official said on Tuesday.
“A total of 270 business people were granted permission to drive their cars into Israel,” PA Civil Affairs Ministry spokesman Walid Wahdan told The Jerusalem Post.
Palestinian business people have not been allowed to drive their personal cars into Israel since the start of the second intifada in 2000, when Israel banned their entry as a part of its crackdown on the largely armed uprising. The intifada is considered to have ended more than a decade ago.
“This is very important for us,” Jamal al-Nimr, a Palestinian businessman from Ramallah, who was granted a permit, told the Post.
“Time is money for us,” Nimr said. “We need to be able to move around quickly, especially when we travel to Israel to meet with Israeli businessmen, authorities and others.”
Gaza Strip braces for severe electricity crisis
Gaza is bracing for a severe energy crisis after donor funds from Qatar and Turkey -- used to purchase diesel fuel for the coastal enclave's lone power plant -- have run out.
According to the Hamas-controlled Energy Authority in Gaza, it no longer has the funds to buy more diesel fuel and pay the requisite taxes, which are levied by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, warned that fuel for the power station in Gaza would likely run out Friday.
The Health Ministry in Gaza, under the control of Hamas, said lives were in danger due to rolling power cuts in an attempt to conserve fuel.
In January 2017, Turkey pledged to send 15,000 tons of diesel fuel to Gaza to operate the power station. The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, met with Hamas' then-politburo deputy chief Ismail Haniyeh and promised to transfer $12 million to the Palestinian Energy Authority in Ramallah to purchase the large quantities of diesel fuel needed to run the Gaza power station.
Iran’s Rouhani registers to run for re-election
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the driving force behind a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, registered on Friday to run for re-election next month, state television footage showed.
The politically moderate cleric faces a tougher than expected battle for a second term on May 19 as criticism mounts over the continued stagnation of the economy.
The president appeared in the afternoon at the interior ministry, where registration to stand for the election runs until Saturday.
He has made much of his successes in controlling inflation and reaching a landmark nuclear deal with world powers that ended many sanctions.
“In every aspect that you consider, figures tell us that after the (nuclear deal), there is more space for movement and progress,” he told reporters last week.
Trump Administration Sanctions Iran Prison Torture Industry
The Trump administration is leveling new economic sanctions against senior Iranian officials and its prison system for widespread human rights abuses, including the systematic torture of those being held in these facilities, according to White House officials familiar with the matter.
The latest sanctions target the Tehran Prisons Organization and Sohrab Suleimani, a senior official in the prison system and the brother of Qassem Soleimani, a senior Iranian military figure responsible for operating Iran's rogue activities in Syria and elsewhere.
Sohrab Soleimani is responsible for overseeing Iran's notorious Evin Prison, which is known for torturous interrogations, forced interrogations, and widespread mistreatment of inmates.
The latest sanctions are certain to rankle Tehran, already the subject of a range of new sanctions under the Trump administration, which is currently conducting a widespread review of all matters related to the landmark nuclear agreement.
A senior official on the White House National Security Council told the Washington Free Beacon that the Soleimani family has a history of fomenting violence and unrest both inside and outside Iran.
"It's no coincidence that Sohrab Suleimani is the brother of the notorious Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC's Quds Forces, who has been responsible for so much of the violent disruption Iran has been spreading through the region," said the official, who was not authorized to speak on record.
MEMRI: Instructions on how to beat your wife - Kuwaiti sheikh
In a fatwa session posted online, Kuwaiti sheikh Othman Al-Khamis cited the Quranic verse pertaining to wife-beating, and said: "The beatings must not be hard. It is more of a psychological beating, the purpose of which is to humiliate the wife." He further explained that "he shouldn't break her bones, and he shouldn't beat her on the face." A video of his statements was posted on his YouTube channel on January 31.

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