Archive for August, 2012

Michael Moore: Mitt Romney Will Win In November

August 31, 2012

Published on Friday, August 31, 2012 by Huffington Post

Filmmaker Michael Moore joined HuffPost Live Thursday and predicted that the influence of money in politics would lift Mitt Romney to victory over President Barack Obama in November.

If Obama cannot replicate youth voter turnout and Romney continues to raise enormous amounts of cash, the American people should get used to the words, “President Romney”.”Mitt Romney is going to raise more money than Barack Obama. That should guarantee his victory,” Moore told host Josh Zepps. “I think people should start to practice the words ‘President Romney.’ To assume that the other side are just a bunch of ignoramuses who are supported by people who believe that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago is to completely misjudge the opposition.”

Moore said he believes that if the election were conducted “American Idol”-style, and Americans were able to vote from their couches, Obama “would win hands down.”

“That’s not what’s gonna happen,” he told Zepps. “This election’s going to be decided on who gets out the most people that day. Who’s up at four in the morning, making sure that dozens, hundreds, thousands of people in their communities are getting out to vote. And the Republican machine that is set up and the money behind it to guarantee [what] is really the only important thing — turnout on that day — that’s what looks pretty scary here.”



© 2012 Huffington Post

Rupert Murdoch’s Foul Fukushima Flim-Flam; plus “A stolen atomic election?”

August 31, 2012

Rupert Murdoch’s Foul Fukushima Flim-Flam at

  By Harvey Wasserman

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal trots out the usual denials from the nuclear industry.  The article is infuriating and utterly without factual basis, but has been spread far and wide by the nuclear industry.  Read about it at:       

And…with huge donations from corporations that support nuclear power, the presidential campaign may not be what it seems:
      Corporate Vote Theft and the Future of American Democracy
By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman  Introduction by Greg Palast. and

No-Till Farming Helps Capture Snow and Soil Water

August 31, 2012

Wheat stubble left standing by no-till management helps generate a smoother snow cover, which boosts dryland crop productivity in the summer, according to new ARS research. (Credit: Photo courtesy of ExactrixTM Global Systems)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2012) — A smooth blanket of snow in the winter can help boost dryland crop productivity in the summer, and no-till management is one way to ensure that blanket coverage, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist David Huggins conducted studies to determine how standing crop residues affect snow accumulation and soil water levels across entire fields. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of responding to climate change.

Huggins, who works at the ARS Land Management and Water Conservation Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., carried out this investigation on two neighboring farms. Both farms have the hilly topography typical of the Palouse region in eastern Washington. But much of one farm has been under continuous no-till management since 1999, while the fields on the other farm were conventionally tilled.

For two years, snow depths, density and soil water storage were measured manually at hundreds of points across the fields on both farms. Residue height at data collection points was also measured on the no-till fields.

Huggins found that standing wheat residue on the no-till farm significantly increased the amount and uniformity of snow cover across the entire field. Snow depths on the no-till field ranged from 4 to 39 inches, with an average depth of 11 inches, while snow depths on the conventionally tilled field ranged from 0 to 56 inches, with an average depth of 8.5 inches.

The snow distribution pattern on the no-till farm made soil water distribution more uniform and increased soil water recharge rates there. The more uniform snow distribution under no-till was particularly apparent for ridge tops and steep south-facing slopes where there was typically 4 to 8 inches more snow than on conventionally tilled fields.

Huggins calculated that the greater storage of soil water in no-till systems could increase winter wheat yield potential by 13 bushels per acre on ridge tops, six bushels per acre on south facing slopes, and three bushels per acre in valleys. As a result, regional farmers could increase their winter wheat profits by an average of $30 per acre and as much as $54 per ridge-top acre.

Producers affected by the 2012 drought might also benefit from using no-till to increase the amount and uniformity of snow cover on their fields. This would increase soil water recharge rates and soil moisture storage, which would facilitate the return of drought-stricken fields to their former productivity.

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Hope of Greater Global Food Output, Less Environmental Impact of Agriculture

August 31, 2012

In many parts of the world, particularly Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and South Asia, agricultural lands produce far less food than they could with good nutrient and water management. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Minnesota)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2012) — Can we have enough to eat and a healthy environment, too? Yes — if we’re smart about it, suggests a study published in Nature this week by a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and McGill University in Montreal.

Global demand for food is expected to double by 2050 due to population growth and increased standards of living. To meet this demand, it is often assumed we will need to expand the environmental burden of agriculture. The paper, based on analysis of agricultural data gathered from around the world, offers hope that with more strategic use of fertilizer and water, we could not only dramatically boost global crop yield, but also reduce the adverse environmental impact of agriculture.

“We have often seen these two goals as a trade-off: We could either have more food, or a cleaner environment, not both,” says lead author Nathaniel Mueller, a researcher with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and a doctoral student in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. “This study shows that doesn’t have to be the case.”

Mueller and colleagues used management and yield data for 17 major crops to take a big-picture look at how much water and nutrients it would take to bring under-performing farmlands to meet their food production potential. They also looked for places where fertilizer use could be cut down without substantially reducing crop yield. They found:

  • We could boost production 45 to 70 percent for most crops. The greatest opportunities for yield improvement are found in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and South Asia.
  • Different inputs serve as limiting factors depending on the region and crop. Nutrients, for example, appear to be limiting corn production in Eastern Europe and West Africa and wheat production in Eastern Europe, while nutrients and water appear to limit rice production in Southeast Asia.
  • Worldwide, we could decrease nitrogen use 28 percent and phosphorus use 38 percent without adversely affecting yields for corn, wheat and rice. China stands out as a hot spot of nutrient overuse, but other areas, like the United States, Western Europe, and India, also have room to improve.
  • With strategic redistribution of nutrient inputs, we could bring under-performing lands worldwide to 75 percent of their production potential while only increasing global nitrogen use 9 percent and potassium use 34 percent — and reducing phosphorus use 2 percent.

The researchers caution that their analysis is at a coarse scale and that many other factors, including land characteristics, use of organic fertilizers, economics, geopolitics, water availability and climate change will influence actual gains in crop production and reductions in adverse environmental impacts. Nevertheless, they are encouraged by the strong indication that closing the “yield gap” on under-performing lands — previously identified as one of five promising points for meeting future food needs, along with halting farmland expansion in the tropics, using agricultural inputs more strategically, shifting diets and reducing food waste — holds great promise for sustainably boosting food security.

“These results show that substantial gains are indeed possible from closing the yield gap — and combining these efforts with improved management of existing lands can potentially reduce agriculture’s environmental impact,” Mueller says. “They also offer concrete suggestions as to where and how we can focus future efforts. This work should serve as a source of great encouragement and motivation for those working to feed the 9-billion-plus people anticipated to live on this planet in 2050 while protecting Earth’s indispensible life support systems.”

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Links Between Nutrients, Genes and Cancer Spread Documented

August 31, 2012

ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2012) — More than 40 plant-based compounds can turn on genes that slow the spread of cancer, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a Washington State University researcher.

Gary Meadows, WSU professor and associate dean for graduate education and scholarship in the College of Pharmacy, says he is encouraged by his findings because the spread of cancer is most often what makes the disease fatal. Moreover, says Meadows, diet, nutrients and plant-based chemicals appear to be opening many avenues of attack.

“We’re always looking for a magic bullet,” he says. “Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together.”

Meadows started the study, recently published online in the journalCancer and Metastasis Reviews, with some simple logic: Most research focuses on the prevention of cancer or the treatment of the original cancer tumor, but it’s usually the cancer’s spread to nearby organs that kills you. So rather than attack the tumor, said Meadows, let’s control its spread, or metastasis.

He focused in particular on genes that suppress metastasis. As search engine terms go, it took him down many a wormhole in the PubMed research database, as the concept of nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes is rarely identified by journals. It’s even an afterthought of some of the researchers who find the genes.

“People for the most part did not set out in their research goals to study metastasis suppressor genes,” says Meadows. “It was just a gene that was among many other genes that they had looked at in their study.”

But Meadows took the studies and looked to see when metastasis suppressor genes were on or off, even if original authors didn’t make the connection. In the end, he documented dozens of substances affecting the metastasis suppressor genes of numerous cancers.

He saw substances like amino acids, vitamin D, ethanol, ginseng extract, the tomato carotenoid lycopene, the turmeric component curcumin, pomegranate juice, fish oil and others affecting gene expression in breast, colorectal, prostate, skin, lung and other cancers.

Typically, the substances acted epigenetically, which is to say they turned metastasis suppressor genes on or off.

“So these epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by what you eat,” he says. “That may also be related to how the metastasis suppressor genes are being regulated. That’s a very new area of research that has largely not been very well explored in terms of diet and nutrition.”

Meadows says his study reinforces two concepts.

For one, he has a greater appreciation of the role of natural compounds in helping our bodies slow or stop the spread of cancer. The number of studies connecting nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes by accident suggests a need for more deliberate research into the genes.

“And many of these effects have not been followed up on,” he says. “There’s likely to be more compounds out there, more constituents, that people haven’t even evaluated yet.”

Meadows also sees these studies playing an important role in the shift from preventing cancer to living with it and keeping it from spreading.

“We’ve kind of focused on the cancer for a long time,” he says. “More recently we’ve started to focus on the cancer in its environment. And the environment, your whole body as an environment, is really important in whether or not that cancer will spread.”

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Japan Fukushima Nuclear Fallout News by Helen Caldecott

August 28, 2012

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Mitsuhiko Tanaka, 67, working as an engineer at Babcock Hitachi K.K., helped design and supervise the manufacture of a $250 million steel pressure vessel for Tokyo Electric in 1975. Today, that vessel holds the fuel rods in the core of the No. 4 reactor at Fukushima’s Dai-Ichi plant, hit by explosion and fire after the tsunami. Tanaka says the vessel was damaged in the production process. He says he knows because he orchestrated the cover-up. When he brought his accusations to the government more than a decade later, he was ignored, he says.

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U.S. Scientists Record Greatest, Earliest Loss of Arctic Ice Ever

August 28, 2012
August 27, 2012
5:01 PM

CONTACT: Environmental Groups

Erika Rosenthal, Earthjustice, (415) 812-2055
Ellen Baum, Clean Air Task Force, (207) 666-5676
Stuart Ross, Clean Air Task Force, (914) 649-5037
Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098
Rafe Pomerance, (202) 423-6885

Organizations call for strict controls on methane and black carbon emissions from oil and gas drilling to slow Arctic warming

WASHINGTON – August 27 – Scientists from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center have confirmed that Arctic sea ice extent has reached a record low, beating the previous mid-September low in 2007. Ice loss is driven by emissions of long-lived gases like carbon dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants like methane and black carbon, or soot. Black carbon and methane have short atmospheric lifetimes, so emissions reductions provide near immediate climate benefit.

“It used to be that Arctic ice melt was something that was in the model prediction, but now we see not only that the reality is upon us, but that it is even more extensive than projected,” said Rafe Pomerance, a former climate negotiator and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. “The loss of ice is an urgent message that calls for a comprehensive policy response.”

Ellen Baum, senior scientist with the Clean Air Task Force, said today’s news makes it more urgent than ever that black carbon and methane from pending Arctic oil and gas development be minimized. Arctic emissions of soot, methane and CO2are set to increase this year as companies begin drilling for oil and gas. “The Arctic is slipping away fast,” Baum said. “We must immediately begin to slow down that process, first by requiring oil and gas operations to curb their soot and methane emissions.”

Recent studies including an assessment by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization indicate that it’s possible to slow the pace of warming and melting in the Arctic in the near term by reducing emissions of two common climate pollutants: black carbon and methane, both of which are emitted from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

These “short-lived” climate pollutants remain in the atmosphere for only a few days to a decade, compared to centuries or more for CO2. “That means that reducing emissions of these climate pollutants would provide rapid climate benefits, especially in the Arctic where black carbon pollution accelerates the melting of ice and snow,” said Erika Rosenthal, the Earthjustice attorney who was part of the author team for the UNEP/WMO assessment.

Arctic sea ice cools the planet, while providing refuge for much of the region’s iconic wildlife. When ice melts it reveals darker Arctic Ocean water, which in turn absorbs more heat from the sun, further heating the region. “Because of its reflectivity, Arctic sea ice is a critical cooling component of the earth’s climate system; its loss will mean a much hotter world,” added Mr. Pomerance.

“The rapid loss of sea ice is a powerful indicator of the accelerated warming occurring throughout the Arctic,” said Earthjustice attorney Rosenthal. “This warming is causing the swift increase in the melting of glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet that led scientists to project a sea level rise of between 0.9 and 1.6 meters by the end of the century. For low-lying communities from the Pacific Islands to Bangladesh, and much of the U.S. Atlantic coast, this would be calamitous.”

The lowest amounts of Arctic sea ice on record since satellite monitoring began in 1979 have all been recorded during the last six years. The remaining ice is less dense and thinner. The volume of sea ice is also at a record low. The thinner the ice, the faster it melts. That this year’s record low is happening three weeks earlier than previous lows means that the 2012 ice extent and volume will continue to decrease even more until sea ice begins to regrow again in early fall.


  • Arctic Ice Melt: Telepress Conference: On September 15, 2011, Earthjustice National Press Secretary Kari Birdseye hosted a telepress conference with leading climate change research scientists Dr. Walt Meier, Dr. James Overland and Dr. Robert Dunbar, who spoke about the massive ice melt record, climate change, weather patterns and rising sea levels.
  • Down to Earth: On Thin Ice: The May 2012 episode of the Earthjustice podcastDown to Earth covered the record-breaking ice melt occurring in the Arctic.

Indo-European Languages Originated in Anatolia, Research Suggests

August 26, 2012

New research links the origins of Indo-European with the spread of farming from Anatolia 8000-9500 years ago. (Credit: Image courtesy of Radboud University Nijmegen)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2012) — The Indo-European languages belong to one of the widest spread language families of the world. For the last two millenia, many of these languages have been written, and their history is relatively clear. But controversy remains about the time and place of the origins of the family. A large international team, including MPI researcher Michael Dunn, reports the results of an innovative Bayesian phylogeographic analysis of Indo-European linguistic and spatial data.

Their paper appears this week inScience.

The majority view in historical linguistics is that the homeland of Indo-European is located in the Pontic steppes (present day Ukraine) around 6,000 years ago. The evidence for this comes from linguistic paleontology: in particular, certain words to do with the technology of wheeled vehicles are arguably present across all the branches of the Indo-European family; and archaeology tells us that wheeled vehicles arose no earlier than this date. The minority view links the origins of Indo-European with the spread of farming from Anatolia 8,000 to 9,500 years ago.

Lexicons combined with dispersal of speakers

The minority view is decisively supported by the present analysis in this week’s Science. This analysis combines a model of the evolution of the lexicons of individual languages with an explicit spatial model of the dispersal of the speakers of those languages. Known events in the past (the date of attestation dead languages, as well as events which can be fixed from archaeology or the historical record) are used to calibrate the inferred family tree against time.

Importance of phylogenetic trees

The lexical data used in this analysis come from the Indo-European Lexical Cognacy Database (IELex). This database has been developed in MPI’s Evolutionary Processes in Language and Culture group, and provides a large, high-quality collection of language data suitable for phylogenetic analysis. Beyond the intrinsic interest of uncovering the history of language families and their speakers, phylogenetic trees are crucially important for understanding evolution and diversity in many human sciences, from syntax and semantics to social structure.

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Public pressure forces gov’t to consider phasing out nuclear power

August 26, 2012

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg

NATIONAL AUG. 26, 2012 – 06:40AM JST ( 45 )


Pressured by public safety fears, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is leaning toward a target to eliminate nuclear power within two decades.

Energy policy has become a major headache for Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan, its ratings battered ahead of a general election many expect within months.

Noda met with anti-nuclear protesters last Wednesday. The activists demanded a swift exit from nuclear power, with trust in it undermined by last year’s Fukushima disaster, while Noda restated the government’s stance to reduce reliance on atomic energy without saying by how much or when.

“We will never, never, never, never give up until reactors are shut. We will never forget the accident on March 11 and what we’ve lost because of that,” one of 11 representatives told Noda in a meeting that was open to media.

Meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant after a March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami caused radiation to spew over large areas, forcing more than 160,0000 people to flee. In the following months, all of Japan’s nuclear plants were shut for safety checks. Two reactors resumed operations last month.

Noda is trying to decide on a medium-term energy plan after the accident forced the government to scrap a 2010 plan to boost nuclear power’s share to more than half of electricity needs by 2030. The share before the disaster was about 30%.

“We aim to set a direction on energy mix that will give a sense of security to the public in a responsible way,” Noda said.

Anti-nuclear protests, including demonstrations every Friday outside Noda’s office, have grown since he decided to restart the two reactors in July to avoid blackouts.

The rest of the country’s 50 reactors remain shut, mostly for safety checks, but feared blackouts have not materialised.

The government is considering three options for its energy portfolio: reduce nuclear power’s role to zero as soon as possible, aim at 15% by 2030, or seek a 20-25% share by the same date.

A government survey of nearly 300 people showed almost half – by far the largest group – favoured the zero option. Kyodo news agency said almost 90% of those who submitted comments agreed.

Economics Minister Motohisa Furukawa, who heads a group of ministers in charge of energy strategy, told reporters he wanted to aim for reducing reliance on nuclear power to zero.

But it was not clear if he meant that as a short-term target or something to strive for in the longer term, said a government source with knowledge of the debate.

“I think the politicians are having trouble making up their minds,” said the source.

Noda, echoing worries by Japan’s big business, has justified the need for nuclear power in the short-term by citing concern about high electricity costs that could force companies to move overseas, taking jobs with them.

In a sign he takes those views seriously, Noda on Wednesday met the head of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce. But he has sought to dispel concern that his government was too much under the say of business.

The fractious ruling party, which has suffered defections over Noda’s plan to double the sales tax by 2015 to curb ballooning debt, is also divided over nuclear energy.

Noda’s two predecessors – Naoto Kan and Yukio Hatoyama, who was party leader when the Democrats took power three years ago – have come out against nuclear power, long promoted in Japan as cheap, safe and clean.

“Electricity demand is hitting a peak during the summer baseball season but even so, there have not been any blackouts,” Hatoyama told Reuters in an interview this week. “We should set a target of zero (by 2030).”

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012.

Tail Chasing in Dogs Resembles Obsessive Compulsive Disorders in Humans

August 21, 2012

ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012) — A new research led by Professor Hannes Lohi at the University of Helsinki, Finland, revealed several similarities between compulsive behavior in dogs and humans: early onset, recurrent compulsive behaviors, increased risk for developing different types of compulsions, compulsive freezing, the beneficial effect of nutritional supplements, the effects of early life experiences and sex hormones and genetic risk.

The genetics research group, based at the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Center and led by Professor Hannes Lohi, has in collaboration with an international group of researchers investigated the characteristics and environmental factors associated with compulsive tail chasing in dogs. A questionnaire study covering nearly 400 dogs revealed several similarities between compulsive behavior in dogs and humans: early onset, recurrent compulsive behaviors, increased risk for developing different types of compulsions, compulsive freezing, the beneficial effect of nutritional supplements, the effects of early life experiences and sex hormones and genetic risk. The study shows that dogs offer an excellent animal model for studying the genetic background and environmental factors associated with human obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD). The study has been published in the journal PLoS ONEon July 27, 2012.

Stereotypical behavior in pets has not been studied extensively, even though several different types of compulsive behavior occur in different species including dogs. A dog may recurrently chase lights or shadows, bite or lick its own flank, pace compulsively or chase its own tail. Different environmental and genetic factors have been suggested to predispose to compulsive behavior. Many stereotypes are breed-specific, which emphasizes the role of genes. Compulsive tail chasing occurs in several dog breeds, but worldwide it is most common in breeds such as Bull Terriers and German Shepherds. The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of tail chasing in dogs, to identify possible environmental risk factors, and to find out whether a previously discovered gene region associated with compulsive behavior is also linked to tail chasing.

Could vitamins have an influence?

Nearly 400 Finnish dogs participated in this study, including Bull Terriers, Miniature Bull Terriers, German Shepherds and Staffordshire Bull Terriers respectively. Blood samples were taken from the dogs participating in the study, and their owners filled out a questionnaire about their dogs’ stereotypic behavior. The questionnaire included questions about different stereotypic behaviors, as well as aspects of each dog’s puppyhood and the routines of the dog’s current daily life. In addition to this the owners evaluated their dogs’ personality based on the questions in the questionnaire.

The study included dogs that chased their tails daily for several hours, dogs that chased their tails a few times a month, and dogs that had observably never chased their tails. With most of the dogs, the tail chasing had begun at the age of 3 to 6 months, before reaching sexual maturity.

One of the most interesting findings of this study is the connection with stereotypic behavior and vitamins and minerals. Dogs that received nutritional supplements, especially vitamins and minerals, with their food, chased their tails less. “Our study does not prove an actual causal relationship between vitamins and lessened tail chasing, but interestingly similar preliminary results have been observed in human OCD” says researcher, Katriina Tiira, PhD. Follow-up studies will aim to prove whether vitamins could be beneficial in the treatment of tail chasing.

Early separation from the mother and the mother’s poor care of the puppy were also found in the study to predispose dogs to tail chasing. Early separation from the mother has been discovered to predispose also other animals to stereotypic behavior, but this is the first time this connection has been made with dogs.

The amount of exercise the dogs received or the number of activities they engaged in did not, however, seem to have a connection with tail chasing. This could be comforting news to many owners of dogs with compulsive behaviors, since often the owners themselves or the dogs’ living environment may be blamed for these behaviors. Although frustration and stress are likely to be significant causes of the occurrence of stereotypic behavior in for example zoo animals, they may be of lesser significance when it comes to Finnish dogs that are walked regularly.

Tail chasing in dogs can be used as an animal model for studying the genetic background of OCD in humans

Compared to the control dogs, tail chasers suffered more from also other stereotypic behaviors. In addition, tail chasers were more timid and afraid of loud noises. “Different types of compulsive behavior occur simultaneously in humans suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder or other diseases such as autism” explains the head of the study, Professor Hannes Lohi. Dogs may turn out to be of significant use in investigating the causes of human psychiatric diseases. “Stereotypic behavior occurs in dogs spontaneously; they share the same environment with humans, and as large animals are physiologically close to humans. Furthermore, their strict breed structure aids the identification of genes.”

The gene region previously associated with compulsive flank licking and biting in Dobermans was not found to be associated with tail chasing in any of the breeds in this study. The next aim of this research project is thus to discover new gene regions connected to tail chasing. The study is part of a larger DOGPSYCH project, funded by the European Research Council, in which the genetic background of different anxiety disorders, such as timidity, compulsive behavior and sound sensitivity are investigated, as well as their similarities with corresponding human diseases.

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