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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Smart Green... Smarter Consumer

By Paul Taylor

Ph.(310)709-8711 Fax(310)826-5476

Originally posted on July 27, 10:12 AM

With the global recession and California’s unemployment rate above 11%, the extra costs of green living are colliding with economic reality. Environmentalists have been green-guilt baiting us for years to donate to sanctimonious eco-nonprofits and to pay extra for green products and services.

The cold realities of economic recession have chilled recent years of obsessive environmental politicking. Environmentalism is the most densely organized political movement in human history -- eco-groups grew from 2,000 to over 4,000 during the 1990s. Now, as a political “special interest,” green groups have leveraged their roughly $1.5 billion in annual nonprofit assets to drown us in a tsunami of scary scenarios of climate change and global warming. Corporate marketeers have “greened” every product, service and advertising tag line. Surveys last year of large US retailers found more than 1,700 products boasting of green credentials or environmental benefits -- most at extra cost with unproven benefits. Critically missing in this eco-emersion of fanciful ideas for green living has been the increased consumer costs involved.

A contemporary example of smarter consumers is a 2007-launched California utility’s “climate smart” program. The patronizing program asked electric power users to donate an extra monthly $2 to $3 for “forestry projects” that would control global warming. Well, consumers are not that dumb. With common sense applied to the debate about the causes of climate change and to some theoretical reduction in greenhouse gases from a “forest project,” smarter consumers didn’t buy in. The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has found that only 0.6% of its 5.1 million users would pay extra to be “climate smart." It costs this utility about four times more (in millions) to run the “climate smart” program than donations received to date. So, power user rates may be raised to pay for this silly and indulgent green gone wrong mistake.

Let the green buyer beware. So-called “smart” green products and services always cost more than the conventional items they pretend to replacement. Maybe “SMART” is actually an acronym meaning “Socialist Manipulation And Rhetorical Tripe.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

The “PhD Effect” and scientific prediction

This appeared on May 29th, 2009 in the blog, Things I Don’t Understand. I would like to thank the author (let's make John A. Underhill his nom de plume) for allowing me to reprint this article.

Randi’s Theory of PhDs

One of my personal inspirations to look at the Universe through scientific eyes is not a scientist at all, but a conjurer, escape artist and illusionist called James “The Amazing” Randi. Randi (as he is frequently called) is now semi-retired from show business, but is fully engaged in making speeches and writing books on the paranormal, upon hucksters and scam–artists, on fake psychics like Uri Geller and Sylvia Browne and all sorts of flim-flam that causes gullible people to be separated from their money. He does this through his own charitable Foundation, the James Randi Educational Foundation,based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Now many people are beguiled into thinking that Randi is some mere conjurer. He most certainly is much more than that. Randi is a genius of first rank and a highly original thinker whose persistence has infuriated many counsels of the “great and the good” including that most precious of elites, the PhD scientists of academe.

It’s not that Randi is against PhDs or the people that have PhDs. He is a blessed and trusted friend to many people who possess those qualifications and more. He was a great friend of Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman.

Its simply that in his long observation of PhD scientists that some of them are peculiarly blind to their own deficiencies as observers, thinkers or even experimenters, and can be fooled by simple trickery or deluded by chance or human error into believing the most preposterous of nonsenses.

Randi has his own theory as to why PhDs are more credulous than they would admit. He refers to it as the “PhD Effect” and whimsically relates that he notices at the PhD ceremony the Presiding Professor always wears gloves to handle the PhD certificates and wonders why this should be – and then Randi proffers the suggestion that it must be because the certificates contain a substance that transfers itself instantaneously to the new PhD holder through the skin, one of whose results is that the newly minted PhD cannot utter either of the following two phrases “I was wrong” and “I don’t know”.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Moral Fashions and the Corruption of Science

I asked John A. for his last name in order to properly credit this commentary, but he commented that he keeps his “surname off the Internet." He went on to say, “Just link to my blog, Things I Don’t Understand, and people will know who I am.”

John apparently is a history buff and categorizes himself as a “classical liberal”. Those among us who are history buffs will find that statement insightful. For those who aren’t, I have linked the history of “Classical Liberalism”. It isn’t what you think. I have also linked a number of names and events that may not be commonly known to most people in order to give everyone the true flavor of what John is saying. I would also like to thank him for allowing me to reprint what originally was an e-mail that appeared in the blog Greenie Watch. RK

The history of science is rife with examples of political, social and moral fashions which not simply influence, but pervert the scientific method and corrupt the conduct of scientists. Einstein faced off the political and moral fashions of Nazism and eugenics but plenty of his colleagues happily incorporated those twin systems into their own research. Eugenics also laid the foundations for the moral crusade against alcohol in early 20th Century America which was again a supposedly scientific assessment delivered as a moral panic which must be addressed immediately lest America fall into a deep pit of moral degeneration.

The example of Trofim Lysenko and the political outlawing of Mendelian genetics in Stalinist Russia is a particularly scary example of a political fashion given to be a moral and political imperative by a dangerously unstable man who became President of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The parallels with the modern global warming scare are obvious.

Another example would be neo-Malthusianism as popularized in the 20th Century repeatedly by Paul Erlich first in the 1960s and more recently by the scarily named "Optimum Population Trust" (and here)which includes such luminaries as Sir David Attenborough calling for mandatory limits on family size to prevent near future overpopulation and mass starvation. Once again, a supposed scientific analysis is communicated as a moral imperative.

John Holdren,now President Obama's Climate Czar, co-wrote several books with Paul Erlich in the 1970s at least one of which argued for forced abortions, forced adoptions of illegitimate children or from mothers "who contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children" and the introduction of chemicals into water and food that rendered people sterile. All of this to forestall a crisis of overpopulation by the year 2000!

Carl Sagan, Erlich and others began and propagated the Nuclear Winter story of the 1980s, together with scary scenarios about likely darkening of the skies due to dust from burning cities rising into the stratosphere and blocking out the Sun. All with the aid of computer models with extremely rubbery parameters and dubious simplifications. A moral imperative against nuclear weapons? You betcha. Even Richard Feynman, iconoclast as he was, while averring that the underlying theory was nonsense, could not raise his voice too loud lest people think he was in favour of nuclear proliferation. Moral panics do that to the best of scientists.

There are lots more examples, but you get the idea. These scientific fashions all in their own time held great sway in academia and mainstream media. They divided scientists into those who were credible and those who were so morally and intellectually corrupt as to actually oppose these ideas.

Modern environmentalism has most, if not all of the above ideas incorporated into the unholy fusion of science and Marxist political theory now called "ecology", but is really a manifestation of what David Henderson memorably called "Global Salvationism".

The most interesting thing about all of this is that I, as a classical liberal, can find common cause with people from a wide spectrum of political and philosophical beliefs that the lessons of history are that moral fashions in science are endemic, cyclical and a constant menace to the real business of scientists to understand how the Universe works.

Scientists don't live in a fashion-free vacuum. They dress themselves in the fashions of the day, read the latest scare stories of the day, follow the latest celebrity soap operas of the day and most of all abide by rules to not upset the funding apple-cart from which their work is done, whatever their personal and moral qualms, at least until retirement.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Of Mice and Men (and Pest Control)

By Alan Caruba

I would like to thank Alan for allowing me to publish this commentary. RK

Among the many books in my office is the “Handbook of Pest Control”, seventh edition, edited by Arnold Mallis. Its contributing editors are a who’s who of the leading authorities on pest control and its encyclopedic text includes thousands of references to the diseases that insect and rodent pests routinely spread in the course of their daily lives.

In one fashion or another for some three decades or more, I have provided public relations services to various elements of the pest control industry; manufacturers of pesticides and my own state’s trade association which is affiliated with the National Pest Management Association.

I tell you this so you don’t think I am evading an obvious bias that favors a profession that dates its history back to medieval times when being a “ratcatcher” was so highly regarded that the Queen of England designated one to keep the castle free of the nasty beasties.

Over the years, these men developed formulas for killing off rodent and insect pests. When you contemplate that the Black Death that swept Europe and England killed a third of the entire population and was caused by a combination of fleas and rats spreading the bubonic plague, the need to control such pests is obvious.

These days, America is experiencing a huge comeback of a pest that had been largely eradicated, the common bed bug. After DDT was banned from use worldwide, along with depriving millions of Africans from protection against malaria, the bed bug returned. Other pest related diseases that have emerged in recent years are West Nile Fever, imported from Africa and spread by mosquitoes, and Lyme disease, spread by ticks.

It is common knowledge that cockroaches spread Salmonella and a variety of other diseases, but probably less well known that termites do more property damage nationwide every year than all the floods and fires combined.

I tell you this because the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency in order to get it to evaluate the effects of 74 pesticides on eleven endangered and threatened species in the San Francisco Bay area over the next five years.

America is on the brink of bankruptcy, but this inane environmental group thinks that pesticides are a greater threat to eleven supposedly endangered species than national insolvency.

While people are losing their jobs and their homes, the environmentalists are worrying about pesticides, not pests. In the San Francisco Bay area represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tucked away in the under-performing $787 billion “stimulus” bill is a provision for as much as $16.1 million to save the habitat of the allegedly endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.

Stay with me just a bit longer. As reported in Pest Control Technology, “As part of the Endangered Species Act, the EPA is required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services—and sometimes the National Marine Fisheries Services—when they make a pesticide regulatory decision to register or re-register a product.”

The suit, settled in favor of the Center for Biological Diversity, will ultimately require the EPA to ban the use of pesticides anywhere in the entire nation if they are found to threaten “endangered species” which are anywhere and everywhere in the entire nation.

At present this means that “As a result of the lawsuit filed in California, pest control operators in Northern California are presented with serious challenges.” All of the pesticides that are the subject of the proposed injunction are used routinely to protect homeowners, apartments, restaurants, hospitals, schools, as well as warehouses where various food products are stored. The affect on the agricultural use of pesticides and herbicides is incalculable.

To put it another way, the Center for Biological Diversity has put the health of everyone living in Northern California and eventually the entire nation at risk of the many diseases insect and rodent pests spread in order to protect some “endangered species.”

For now, the least protected specie will initially be the people living and working in Northern California if pest control operators are deprived of the pesticides they use. The most privileged specie in the Bay Area will be the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.

Alan Caruba blogs daily at A business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Take Time to Smell the Horsepucky

By Rich Kozlovich

This first appeared on June 18, 2006. This is a lead in article to two other hard hitting articles that I have been working on for some weeks. I have crossed the Rubicon.

I have quoted Ben Franklin in a number of articles saying, “Truth will very patiently wait for us”. One of my fellow pest controllers took umbrage with that statement. Actually he took umbrage with me being the one saying it. Why? He stated that it wasn’t for me to point out what was truth since I have no qualifications and hadn’t done any research. He then went on to imply that truth was in the eye of the beholder. I have some questions.

1. How qualified does someone have to be to point out “truth”?
2. How does one become qualified to be able to see that which is true?
3. What determines what the qualifications are?
4. Who determines who is qualified?
5. Are public officials automatically qualified?
6. If public officials are elected officials, are they now qualified by virtue of their election?
7. If public officials are found to be wrong are they now unqualified?
8. Are they unqualified forever?
9. Is honesty a quality necessary to point out the “truth”?
10. Is an alphabet soup of letters behind your name necessary to be able to point out “truths”?
11. Does education guarantee integrity, insight and understanding?
12. Is integrity more important than education or visa versa?
13. Is being over educated and under smart acceptable?
14. Has a researcher ever been found to be lying? If so, is he disqualified forever?
15. Is he only disqualified until the next government grant?
16. If a researcher lies should his alphabet soup of letters behind his name be removed?
17. If that happens is the one who was not formally educated now more qualified?
Well then, let’s try this. One and one are two….right? See, there are absolute truths. Then again it didn’t take much brainpower to come to that conclusion. Perhaps it was far too bold for me to be the one point this out. This bodes well the question; is integrity and a legitimate concern for that which is right more important to brainpower than formal education?

The problem we have today is that we have the tendency to rely on “experts” entirely too much. Who says they are “the experts”? Scientists who are “experts” in their own field very often disagree. Vehemently! Global Warming is one such issue. We also have to tendency to run to the middle of the road. Well, let me say this about the middle of the road. That is where the dead animals are.

When Mann, Bradley and Hughes published their now infamous and discredited Hockey Stick graph to show global warming was an Earth threatening event that had to be addressed immediately; it was received by the greenies with utmost enthusiasm.

When McIntyre, a consultant for mineral exploration, and McKitrick published their independent study (they received no funding so as to avoid being criticized as lackeys of big business) the Greenies went almost apoplectic. So what was the solution? Mann and his cohorts merely needed to turn over all their research and show how they arrived at their numbers, which is typically done to allow for peer review. They refused; demanding that everyone had to just accept their conclusions and that there was “consensus” among all serious scientists regarding this matter and further review was unneeded.

Well, first off, that isn’t how peer review works. Secondly, part of the funding for their research came from the United States government which prompted a Senate committee chairman by the name of Inhofe to demand that they turn over their information or else. They and their allies went into even further stages of purple apoplexy. Once released it was obvious to the scientific community why they didn’t want to turn over the information. It exposed how they worked the numbers to get the answer they and their Greenie allies wanted. It was a case of a conclusion in search of data.

Now entering stage left, the High Priest of and First Televangelist for the “First Church of the Warming Globe”, Al Gore, with his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” with his pitch to send out 1000 apostles (Wow, Christ only needed 12) to spread the word to high schools and anywhere else uninformed, unformed minds could be molded.

Who amongst all of the above are qualified to expose the “truth”?
• The scientists who have been shown to have baked the data?
• The scientists who exposed them?
• The political leader who desperately wants the limelight and is inclined to accept any foolish Philosophical Flavor of the Day to get it?
• Or perhaps it is the honest "reader"!
Is a dishonest scientist more qualified than an honest “reader”? Education is a wonderful thing. We need to be constantly educating ourselves by reading books, articles in newspapers, magazines and listening to discussions regarding a whole host of issues.

In grade school, junior high school and high school we get the basic tools necessary for independent thought. This requires a certain amount of teaching of what to think versus how to think. Yet isn’t self-education the basic ingredient of formal education? Reading the information, discussing the information, and challenging each position by cross-referencing various writings. Finally writing about the information ourselves, since nothing sharpens the mind quite like having to place your thoughts down on paper.

Unfortunately higher education has lost sight of its role. Formal education at the higher levels continues to teach you what to think, not how to think. Unfortunately so many come out of college as a herd of independent thinkers. Has it always been this way? I don’t know; although I do believe it depends on the school and the professors; and more schools and their professors are more and more radical. Woe be unto any student who stands against one of his professors pet theories. Worse yet; one who proves this pet theory has the smell of horse pucky attached to it.

It may take a little time, but eventually truth comes out. We need to stop being intimidated. We have the right and duty to challenge those in leadership positions in our industry irrespective of their credentials. We have the right and duty to challenge those who would destroy the pesticide manufacturing/distribution/application industries. This is our industry, not the experts. It is our families who will suffer the consequences for their being wrong. They will just move on to some other project. As Winston Chruchill pointedly stated, "experts should be on tap, not on top". If we have opinions that are contrary to what has become the conventional wisdom we need to speak up and not allow anyone to intimidate us into submission. We need to avoid the middle of the road and take a stand for what we believe is “truth”.

Albert Einstein once said, "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." While I don’t present myself as the absolute judge of truth and knowledge, I do however think I’m a pretty good judge of the smell of horse pucky.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekly ACSH Report

Compiled by Rich Kozlovich

This week there has been so much information that I couldn’t even begin to put it all in here. As I organized this week’s information I ended up with about 7 pages of stuff. It was just too much to put in this article, so I deleted a great deal of wonderful information, which is typical.

Here are ACSH’s latest views on the Swine Flu “crisis”.

There is so much going around about the latest flu “crisis” and so much is somewhat irrational. The media is clearly responsible for most if it. Apparently the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, indicates that the swine flu virus mixing with other strains such as avian flu,responded, “The virus is still very stable...But as we all know, the influenza virus is highly unpredictable and has great potential for mutation.” There are a number of points that should be discussed as a result. Avian flu is “highly pathogenic” according to Dr. Ross and “In combination with swine flu, that would indeed be a devastating virus, but they’re being alarmist again. They simply have to monitor the virus to see if there’s any change in genotype or virulence.” The CDC claims that their mathematical modeling shows that over one million Americans have now been infected with the swine flu virus.

So far there have only been 127 deaths in the U.S., “a relatively low number but disturbing in its uncharacteristic concentration in younger patients.”An article published on Friday from Associated Press medical writer Mark Stobbe reports that 600million swine flu vaccinations may be distributed for the upcoming flu season

All of this “crisis” thinking is causing “crisis” decisions that are unfounded regarding flu vaccinations. The country has three hundred million people and six hundred vaccinations are going to be available. Is everyone going to have two vaccinations this year? Irrational! Dr. Ross Gilbert points out “For now, people are running around in a panic, wearing masks and not going to school. They lack the perspective to see that the seasonal flu is more dangerous than this. [The usual seasonsal flu] is a pandemic by any standard, and thus far, apparently much more dangerous than swine flu.”

Because of the implementation of this and regular flu season shots ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says “I can’t imagine the logistics of that. There’s going to be a huge overlap between the two vaccination schedules. I could easily imagine tens of millions of doses of this stuff not being used because people don’t want it or there’s just no way to get it distributed. In fact, millions of doses of annual, seasonal flu vaccine are discarded every year.”

The article also mentions the 1976 vaccination of 40 million Americans in anticipation of a new strain of swine flu: In 1976 America was in an anticipation of a swine flu “crisis” which never materialized. Forty million got shots and five hundred developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but this is a bit of data dredging because no one knows what really causes it.

Dr. Ross notes that “The flu vaccine is practically as safe as rainwater unless you’re allergic to eggs, since it’s developed in eggs. The fact that in 1976 there were 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome from 40 million doses swine flu is of minimal concern. That risk is about one in 100,000, and in most cases the symptoms were mild and reversible. These vaccines will hopefully even be less toxic.”

Get the Lead out….Another environmental scare?

Without scares could these activist organizations exist? If they didn’t exist would they have to go out and get real jobs? Perhaps that what they are really afraid of?

The Center for Environmental Health claim to have “found yet another unnecessary lead risk: high levels of lead in name-brand handbags and wallets purchased from Target, Macy’s, Wal-Mart, and many other retailers,” and they recommend that we “TELL THESE STORES TO GET THE LEAD OUT OF PURSES!” They go on to make a demonstrably false claim: “Scientists are increasingly convinced that there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

Once again we find “scientists”, the so-called experts who we are all supposed to bend before and obey, are changing the rules to make their views the “new science”. “This is a new wave of people who are arguing against the classical toxicological principle that dosages are significant,” says Dr. Whelan.

Dr. Ross adds: “We strongly disagree with that thesis on the grounds that it is unscientific and is basically analogous to a revocation of the laws of thermodynamics -- by which I mean they can’t just get away with saying that a tiny exposure is worse than a large one -- it’s nonsense. There is no evidence to support it.”

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

I recently had a conversation with a good friend who has been involved in all the legislative issues that have faced our industry for many years. Recently there was a discussion about the need to return pesticides that have been forced off the market (banned is the commonly used term, but the only pesticide used in structural pest control that was ever banned was DDT and that was based on junk science) by EPA and their tactic of changing the rules in order to make it too expensive to maintain a pesticide registration.

Dursban came into the conversation and the claims by activists that it caused autism. One of the scientists commented that Dursban has been off the market for ten years and if it really did cause autism then you should have seen a drop in autism cases and we haven’t. It must then be concluded that Dursban didn’t cause autism. I was really impressed; at least until he then said that he has decided that plastic bottles were what was causing autism. And he meant it. Of course it could be worse….here is someone who believes that these chemicals cause obesity.

Former environmental consultant Janelle Sorensen has a hunch that our children are getting fatter because of chemicals in plastics, and she convinced Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai, to agree with her. Well, sort of. “Right now it’s a correlation; we don’t know if it’s cause and effect or an accidental finding,” Dr. Landrigan said. “The $64,000 question is, what is the causal pathway? Does it go through the thyroid gland? Does it change fat metabolism?”

Except for a very few people, I will tell you what changes metabolism. Exercise! It is all about calories in and calories out.

In a blog entry published on Friday, Andrew Van Dam with the Association of Health Care Journalists finally noticed the media bias against bisphenol-A (BPA)that ACSH staffers -- almost alone against the crowd -- have been condemning for some time. “In a review of American media coverage of the controversy of bisphenol-A, researchers at STATS (a nonprofit, nonpartisan Statistical Assessment Service affiliated with George Mason University), say the media failed to properly weight different studies based on their size and research methodology.”

Dr. Whelan has noticed the trend: “If you looked at media coverage of BPA for the last six months, you’d find that a vast majority of the reports were biased in favor of anti-chemical scares. There were very few scientists who were willing to defend BPA despite all the evidence that proves it’s not dangerous. The FDA has already ruled time and time again that BPA is safe as used. How could they come out with any other assessment, unless a new administration can overturn scientific evidence?”

“This needs to be brought to light,” says Dr. Ross. “All of this hype comes from two or three junk science groups like the one under Frederick vom Saal that has been trying to scare people about BPA for over ten years. They automatically doubt any corporate-funded study -- including any researcher who ever received industry support -- for absolutely no reason other than the fact that they want to be praised as heroes.”

“Well, I don’t know their motivation, if it’s publicity-seeking or what,” says Dr. Whelan, “but I know that they aren’t advancing the cause of public health. Any reassessment study would take so long that BPA would probably be banned everywhere already by the time that they prove it is safe again.”

New York Times health and science columnist Gina Kolata, wrote a guest contribution to John Tierney’s New York Times science blog highlighting the recent STATS report that revealed a lack of objectivity in media coverage of the bisphenol-A debate.

“The fact that Ms. Kolata is raising questions about media bias is important since she’s a mainstream reporter, and the mainstream media doesn’t like to criticize itself,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier. “People aren’t interested in a critical look at the negative news they’ve been putting out, but she’s showing them anyway. Thanks are due as well to John Tierney for highlighting this story initially.”

Acetaminophen: Use As Directed

FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory committee is meeting to discuss “how to address the public health problem of liver injury related to the use of acetaminophen in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription (RX) products,” noting that they are not seeking to remove it from the market, as it is safe when used as directed…..People just need to be careful about mixing medications that have acetaminophen in them.” For more information, see ACSH’s publication on OTC pain relievers.

FDA advisory panelists voted yesterday to ban Percocet and Vicodin, two popular painkillers that contain acetaminophen, because of their potential to cause liver damage. I think this is an important point.

“Consumer representatives on the panel included Sidney Wolfe, an outspoken opponent of pharmaceutical companies and drugs in general. “The fact that Sidney Wolfe is a ‘consumer representative’ on a supposedly objective panel is very disturbing,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “He is taking up a position that should be going to an actual consumer representative and not an activist from the country’s most strident anti-pharmaceutical watchdog group.”
Very often these panels of government “experts” are nothing more than activists who have been given the opportunity to expound their latest philosophical flavor of the day without any real opposition. These various panels are often rigged in order to come out with predetermined results. It was the same with DDT and the pattern has continued down to today.

As I said before, I had to eliminate a host of information, including information about activists attempting to eliminate fluoride from the drinking water in New Jersey, and medicines that can be developed from genetically modified foods, although I did link those two pieces of information in my weekly newsletter. For those who would like to receive ASCH’s Morning Dispatch:

ACSH's Morning Dispatch, written by Curtis Porter, is an exclusive chance to sit with us at our "virtual" breakfast table each morning -- and is limited only to our family of supporters.

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