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The Big Idea: Myke Cole

Whatever (John Scalzi) - 3 hours 8 min ago
What is a hero? For Myke Cole, the answer to this question is not exactly the one that usually applies. It’s a thing that helped to fuel the writing for his latest, The Queen of Crows. MYKE COLE: Five years ago, I wrote about a singular experience. I know we live in the age of […]

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Eighteen: Health

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 19:03
The difference between 1998 and 2018 as regards health is that in 1998 I never really gave thought about my health, and now I think about it a lot. Why? Because I’m older and because (as noted earlier in this series) I weigh more than I used to, and because over 20 years I’ve had […]

The Big Idea: Edward Willett

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 12:59
For his novel Worldshaper, author Edward Willett posits another type of authorship entirely… one with literally global implications. EDWARD WILLETT: Authors sometimes talk of their fictional worlds as though they lived in them. They’ll speak of characters taking on lives of their own, unexpected plot twists, settings that complexify beyond what was intended. In reality, […]

The Whatever Digest, 9/18/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:30
Let’s see what the world has for us today, shall we? *** To begin on a high note, congratulations to my dear friend Mary Robinette Kowal, who has just announced a three-book, six-figure deal with Tor Books. The deal covers two more books in her “Lady Astronaut” series plus a standalone novel. The Verge has […]

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Seventeen: Kids

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 11:32
When I started Whatever in 1998, I didn’t have a kid. But I knew one was coming, since Krissy was pregnant. Her due date was December 17, but as it turns out, and in the first indication that this child was truly my child as well, the baby was kind of lazy and in no […]

The Whatever Digest, 9/17/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 09:06
Let’s start the day off with something pretty, shall we. Like these sunset clouds from last night: I’m often asked how much I Photoshop my sunset pictures, and the answer is, it depends on the day. With that said, this photo pretty much accurately recreates what the sky actually looked like when I took this […]

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Sixteen: Hair

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 11:11
I’ve not been a fan of my hair these last twenty years. Honestly, my hair and I have never been on the best of terms. I come from a family that doesn’t have great hair; it tends to be thin and wispy in the best of circumstances, and I, who started balding at around age […]

“Forbidden Fruit” and how a legal doctrine may decide the fate of America

Contrary Brin - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 15:15
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
First off, because everyone is talking about it, here at last are signs that a member of Congress was actually able to read (closely) the 25th Amendment. (I still think my approach is more subtle, incorporated in the proposed Fact Act… ) and explained here.  “Exit strategies Part II: Surprising aspects of the 25th Amendment." 

Now on to today's topic. But I'll finish with a speculation how America's women -- especially wives -- may pull a gentle Lysistrata... and save the republic.

== Where will you stand, when the devil turns round? ==
Alas. In the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings, there's one line of questioning I'd love to have seen Democratic senators pursue. (Well, we also all deserve to learn more about the possibility of gambling-addiction and mob ties.)

My question is complicated, but might have cornered Judge Kananaugh. Certainly, Sens. Feinstein or Harris etc. could/should have asked Kavanaugh to explain the "fruit" theory. Or "fruit of a tainted tree." What’s that? It'll take some explaining:
We all know if a perp's rights are violated (e.g. no Miranda warning) then any evidence against him that derives from that failure becomes inadmissible. In fact, forbidding fruit from an illegal police act is only onepossible remedy to deter such acts and enforce rigorous cop-professionalism. Another option is to punish the police who committed the errors. Either method will work, causing strenuous efforts to reduce error rates. But we know the punishment option would wreck police morale, so it is only used in extremis. Instead, the banishing of "fruit" punishes prosecutors, who presumably can take the disappointment better.
One of my correspondents, Ben Brown, responded to me with both affirmation and clarification in legalese:
The "exclusionary rule" is a judge-made rule that was intended to enforce the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment prohibits most warrantless searches and all unreasonable searches, but is silent as to how this prohibition is to be enforced. To deal with this lacuna, courts invented the "exclusionary rule," which says that prosecutors can't use evidence obtained in a search that violates the Fourth Amendment. As you rightly point out, the "exclusionary rule" discourages such illegal searches without the loss to police morale that a more punitive policy would entail. Also, by using the "exclusionary rule" in lieu of monetary penalties (e.g., allowing victims of illegal searches to sue the government for damages), the courts have preserved public treasuries. The "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine is an extension to the exclusionary rule. If a prosecutor obtains a piece of evidence, A, directly from an illegal search, and then uses A as a clue that leads to a second piece of evidence, B, the prosecutor may use neither A nor B. It is important to note that the exclusionary rule is not in the Constitution itself; it is merely a stratagem courts use to enforce the Constitution. So, as you rightly point out again, the Supreme Court could theoretically do away with the exclusionary rule and replace it with an alternative, workable stratagem.”
Now to ironies: the 'fruit of a tainted tree' argument is exactly the straw that the President’s lawyers -- Giuliani etc. – clutch in frantic desperation! They hope to toss the whole Mueller investigation, not due to their client’s innocence(no one even tries to assert that, anymore) but a technicality. That the FISA court search warrant on R Gates that started all the dominoes falling came about from the "politically biased Steele Dossier."

Put aside that it's a lie. The FISA request was already underway for other reasons. And the Steele dossier was originally commissioned by Republicans! And there's absolutely no hint of anything illegal or untoward about the Steele Dossier's process. That is still the thread on which they hope Kavanaugh will work with Gorsuch and Thomas and Alito to toss everything Mueller and end the U. S. republic.
Only then, tellingly, Ben Brown adds: “It is speculated that Judge Kavanaugh is actually not in favor of the exclusionary rule, although he currently enforces it due to binding Supreme Court precedent.” 
Fascinating. In fact, banning the fruit of a tainted procedure is not a matter of reflex necessity! Especially not when the fate of the republic is in balance and the to-be-forbidden "fruit" includes evidence of presidential high crimes and treason.

== By his 'fruit' you shall know him ==
So, which way will Kavanaugh swing?  We all must start preparing now to make these arguments. But the immediate import of the "fruit" standard applies to Kanavaugh himself. 
Consider. If the man who appointed him is later proved to have been a mafiosi and a traitor, does this impugn his appointments? His "fruit"?  Under those conditions, an august and truly admirable justice, like Abe Fortas, might resign. But it cannot happen when the jurist in question was “groomed” by a dogmatic feudalist movement, all his life. (A grooming perhaps reinforced and enforced by methods I describe elsewhere.)

We are in dangerous, unprecedented territory and I am afraid it might wind up being decided in the ultimate court. The one that outranks the SP. To which nations and peoples have gone to confront injustice, when all institutions fail.
I fear this, though I have been warning of it, for more than a decade. We need to keep clear heads. Take deep breaths. Prove to be the cool, thoughtful ones. But also let the Murdochians and their casino/slumlord/mafiosi/KGB backers know that we will remember them, totally, if it comes to that.
== “I pick the best people. I’m a great judge of character ====
The ammo Omarosa Manigault-Newman has given us is not a silly he-said/she-said spat about “n-words,” but utter refutation that Donald Trump is a “good judge of character.”
I wrote those words before we ever heard of the “anonymous op-ed writer” or saw excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book. It seems that every week, people Donald Trump appointed as “special, brilliant, the best” wind up denounced by him as “treacherous, crazy liars… the worst.”
Whatever the merits of any one case, and whoever is lying – (in the case of Trump vs. Omarosa, likely both) – no Hannity incantation can spare your mad uncle from one dissonant truth:
Donald Trump chooses people he later decides to hate.
It’s the central fact that no one can evade. Appointing good people is a president’s #1 job. But he’s absolutely proven to be a lousy judge of character… including that “stable genius” he sees in the mirror.
Tom Englehardt, on Salon, runs through a long list of Trumpian “triumphs” like debasing the national discourse, crashing U.S. science and demolishing our alliances. Then he goes on to say Donald Trump will not be remembered for any of those things. Not even the relentless chain of “betrayals” by his own people:
“He won’t be remembered for the record crew of people who took positions in his administration only to find themselves, within a year or so (or even days), fleeing the premises or out on their noses, including Anthony Scaramucci (6 days), Michael Flynn (25 days), Mike Dubke (74 days), Sean Spicer (183 days), Reince Priebus (190 days), Sebastian Gorka (208 days), Steve Bannon (211 days), Tom Price (232 days), Dina Powell (358 days), Omarosa Manigault Newman (365 days), Rob Porter (384 days), Hope Hicks (405 days), Rex Tillerson (406 days), David Shulkin (408 days), Gary Cohn (411 days), H.R. McMaster (413 days), John McEntee (417 days), and Scott Pruitt (504 days). And White House Counsel Don McGahn was only recently tweeted out of office, too, with others to follow.”
“Nor will he be remembered for the number of close associates who turned on him — from his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who once swore to take a bullet for him, only to testify against him; to the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, who had long buried salacious material about him, only to accept an immunity deal from federal prosecutors to blab about him; to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who did the same. Nor will The Don(ald) be remembered for his mafia-style language and focus (“RAT,” “loyalty,” and “flipping”), his familiar references to a mob boss, the way he clings to his personal version of omertà, the Mafia code of silence, or for being “a president at war with the law.”
No, none of that. Let me reiterate: the most powerful point democrats could make is this: 

“No matter what excuses you offer for Trump, what’s clear from his own shouts is that he’s been ‘betrayed’ by more appointees than all other presidents, combined. 

"Aside from the merits of any case, what’s proved is that this man is a crappy judge of character.”
Englehardt’s long list of things Trump won’t be remembered for is – of course -- stylistically and intentionally disingenuous. It is a stunningly well-calibrated list that each of you can use as ammo to convert one (that’s your assignment) RASR or Residually Adult-Sane Republican. But the author has his top priority…
…it is the fate of our children in a world semi-permanently wracked by the consequences of human-wrought climate change. And yes, Mr. Englehardt is on-target about that – our kids will hunt down Rupert Murdoch and his shills, for what they’ve done to us. So read his missive. And get mad enough to get active.
Still, I disagree about the “worst thing.” Two Scoops still has a chance to do something that outshadows even environmental neglect. And I bet he’s trying hard to make it happen.

== Lysistrata redux ==

All polls show a plummet in support for both President Trump and the GOP, especially in the Midwest and in the suburbs – leading to a likely surge in desperate cheating, across the next 8 weeks. So encourage anyone you know in an important swing district to volunteer for poll watching, and you can help with get-out-the-vote.

The biggest topic in polling is a massive gender gap. Men approve of  Trump by 50 percent-to-42 percent. But women disapprove 62 percent-to-28. In 2016 Trump won 41 percent of women. "This is an election about gender," said the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, though party identification and race are still major factors. 

Which leads us to a potential maneuver and ingredient that might decide the fate of America and the planet.  
Beer. On election Tuesday, wives and sweethearts across the U.S. should vote early, then bring home sixpacks of his favorite. Offer slippers. Put a game on TV with lots of munchies. Put on something alluring. For the good of the republic. 
There’s a downside?
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Fifteen: Music

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 12:36
In no particular order, a playlist of 20 songs from the last 20 years that have stuck with me.

New Books and ARCs, 9/14/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 16:55
Halfway through September now, and here is a very fine stack of new books and ARCs to note the occasion. See anything you’d like? Tell us in the comments!

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Fourteen: Day Jobs

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 14:16
I did actually have a day job in 1998. Well, for about a quarter of it. I worked at America Online as its in-house writer and editor, and got laid off that March. I got laid off not because I was a terrible employee, but because my group was being dissolved and while everyone else […]

The Whatever Digest, 9/14/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 10:24
Let’s start this off with a picture I took this morning. I call this one “Worlds on a String.” See, there’s an upside to spiderwebs everywhere. *** I was in Columbus last night to take part in a panel at the Religion News Association’s conference, on science fiction and religion (appropriately enough, given the conference […]

The Whatever Digest, 9/13/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 12:52
First: This banner from the Subterranean Press web site, which I got a giggle over: I love it because I think Nate Taylor, the illustrator, did a perfect job drawing me. I look ridiculous, but in a fun and affectionate way, which I think is perfect, both for me and for the book. I may […]

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Thirteen: Whatever

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 11:01
One, today’s entry title is a little reflexive. Two, it doesn’t feel like it’s been 20 years. But I don’t think anything ever does. Time is a funny thing which spans backwards and forwards from you, but at the moment it’s only ever now. You keep living right now, and being now, and in my […]

Announcing Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies: Selected Writings From Whatever 2013 – 2018

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 08:00
Today, on the 20th anniversary of Whatever, I am absolutely thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies: Selected Writings From Whatever, 2013-2018. This new collection from Subterranean Press collects some of the best writing from Whatever from the last half decade, with my words and thoughts on politics, personalities, social […]

The Stark Difference - make it count!

Contrary Brin - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 16:42
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The news cycle moves so fast it may be intentional, giving us no time for thought about particular outrages. For example, do you recall how retired Adm. William McRaven, the man who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, issued a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan? “McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who led US Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, not only called Brennan "a man of unparalleled integrity," but volunteered to have his own security clearance revoked in an act of solidarity.”
The context for this all-out struggle — not between left-and-right but between America’s adult side and our raving toddler-men — could not be more clear. Between those who spew machismo through posturing and screeches…and those like McRaven who quietly and effectively performed the most decisively important and surgical and efficient elimination of a deadly national foe. And yes, those who appointed good people. 
And yes, Obama killed Osama. Live with it. 
== The Stark Difference: make your mad uncles listen ==
John Brennan and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon both issued dire, contradictory warnings. Brennan says Kremlin-led forces have interfered with the U.S. actively helping - and helped by - Trump. Bannon released a movie trailer screaming that “the media” is bent on bringing Trump down.  
This is not something we can soothe your mad uncle (MU) out of, by comparing facts - not when all fact-using professions are condemned as enemies, on Fox and Jones etc. converting good American reflexes like suspicion of authority into cancers. 
So, use bullets of logic. Read one page to your MU aloud. Because asking him to read is futile.
1. “There are roughly HALF A MILLION men and women working in the so-called “deep state”… members of the law (e.g. FBI), intelligence or military officer communities… folks who always leaned crewcut conservative, and who nearly all are gun-owners. Quietly skilled and effective, they led in winning the Cold War against the Soviet/Kremlin empire. They hunted down bin Laden.
“Now, a vast majority of these dedicated men and women are deeply worried about a new, growing Kremlin empire, led by many of the same KGB thugs, using skulking methods that our skilled protectors clearly see… Yet, suddenly you are hostile to these half a million loyal, dedicated folks? All in the same conspiracy? Why? 

"Because Rupert Murdoch’s pretty yammerheads tell you to.”
(This cogent essay compares Moscow's current cozy support of the U.S. radical right to their 1930s subversion via the American far-left. Read also about the 12 new Russian naval bases along the ice-free arctic, and dare your MU to find one senior naval officer who's still a Republican.) 
2.  “There are roughly HALF A MILLION American scientists or high tech entrepreneurs who did the R&D and invention that made America rich and gave YOU all the comforts and machines and toys you depend on daily, ensuring safe food and clean air, sending miracle space probes to distant planets, rapidly improving medicine, and creating spectacular atmospheric models that predict weather often ten days in advance.* They may not wear crewcuts and not all are gun-owners, but they are key to winning future prosperity.
“Now, a vast majority of these dedicated men and women are deeply worried about terrible dangers to our children’s future, that they can see clearly in the data and in every model and analysis. But suddenly you are hostile to these half a million brilliant, dedicated folks, who know a whole lot more than you do. Why? 

"Because Rupert Murdoch’s pretty yammerheads tell you to.”
3. "There are roughly a QUARTER OF A MILLION U.S. journalists at various levels, men and women who took up the profession because they are curious people who ask a lot of questions.  Yeah, yeah, almost none of them have crewcuts and many lean liberal, in part because they travel all over and see a lot of pain.  But suddenly you are hostile to these curious and thoughtful folks, en masse, dismissing a quarter of a million professionals as “the media.” Why? 

"Because Fox-yammerheads and Steve Bannon tell you they are engaged in a vast conspiracy aimed at destroying the country they love, every bit as much as you do? What all of them? A conspiracy that involves hundreds of thousands, yet doesn’t leak? 
Now add in the other “elites” that Sean Hannity gets you raging-at. A MILLION teachers! And then a MILLION doctors and health workers. Unions have been declining for 40 years, yet somehow they are demons! Yet we should trust Wall Street. No, no. Never look at oil lords or Wall Street.
Hey, uncle, name one fact-using profession that your cult isn't waging war against? One? Science, journalism, teaching, medicine, law, public service... name an exception! And now the "deep state" FBI, Intel Agencies and US military officer corps. The one thing they all have in common? Grownups who use facts.

Steve Bannon wants you to hate every skilled “elite” profession. But never doubt the good intentions of three dozen casino moguls and oil barons and slumlords all with mafia ties and debt entanglements with Saudi princes and Moscow oligarchs! 

In contrast, what is the dedicated pro, John Brennan, asking you to consider?  That the same Kremlin agents you hated, back when they wore hammer and sickle pins and conspired against America, might… still… be… doing it? In collusion with Rupert Murdoch and a few pals.
That seems a simpler hypothesis.

== A public servant strikes back? Or a self-serving coward? ==

Alas, the news cycle requires that I add yet more.

The secret “high official” who wrote the recent op-ed denouncing his own boss as immoral and un-moored, in the NY Times, also alluded that a large fraction of Trump’s cabinet had informally mulled whether to invoke the 25th amendment to the US Constitution, in order to protect the republic and its people from a jabbering, terror-stricken, bully-toddler. According to reports, those worried officials decided instead “to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”

Woof, so many aspects to this:

1) I have long said there are grownups, in the civil service, along with the justice, intel and military professionals, etc., and even maybe a quarter of today’s billionaires, who are alerted to the danger, doing what they can to maintain a semblance of a strong and sane national government and economy, amid all this. It is this civil society of dedicated servants to the rule of law that Vladimir Putin will never understand.

2) In order for the 25th to be invoked, the Vice President must call an official cabinet meeting. And Mike Pence will only do this on his terms, at his own time, when it serves the interests of Mike Pence. That won’t happen while the MAGA Trumpists still seem a potent force, and while Murdoch’s shills are stoking that inferno..

…though it could be an unforeseen side effect if there truly is a huge “Blue Wave” in November. At which point the Casino and slumlords and mafia kingpins who help Murdoch run the GOP may decide to ditch the MAGAs as hard as they threw the Bushite neocons under the bus, in 2005. (Oh, this time there will be violence. But if DT is martyred in just the right way, they might figure they can turn it to advantage, like the death of Hindenburg, in 1933. God bless the Secret Service.)

3) Remember that this op-ed writer – whoever it is – was appointed by Two Scoops, whose bizarro “excellent judge of people” power has picked a higher proportion of “disloyal betrayers” than any national leader in the history of our species. Dig that well and use it in your arguments with confeds.

“No squirming rationalization gets you off the pure fact that Donald Trump is a wretchedly awful judge of character.” ("Donald Trump Jr. complains his father has few he can trust.") Whoever the anonymous “high official” is, we should

(a) be glad he/she is trying to reduce the damage and  (b) still know that it’s probably not a person qualified to strike a match with five tries. 
Oh, there are a few exceptions. 
But on the first order: anyone chosen by Donald Trump for high office should bear a presumption of utter disqualification for service or office.And yes, op-ed writer, this includes you. Look in a mirror. He… picked… you.

4) If the scenario reported by the anonymous official is true, then he just did us all a profound disservice by bragging! By alerting His Highness to the extent of the “resistance.” How is that helpful? This self-serving betrayal - plus the Woodward book - may have rendered untenable James Mattis’s strategy of defending us by flattering the toddler.

As for the 25th Amendment, consider my posting about it. Exit strategies Part II: Surprising aspects of the 25th Amendment.

5) Then there is the op-ed writer's hypocrisy assailing Trump while defending overall GOP policy – e.g. “Supply Side” voodoo “economics” that never across 40 years correctly predicted a single outcome, always achieving opposite results. This is your silver lining?

6) And finally: "There is no redemption... You think an op-ed ... is going to cut it? You cannot write an article admitting to the president’s “anti-democratic” impulses while also saying you want his administration “to succeed.” ...while omitting any and all references to his racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism." writes Mehdi Hasan in The Intercept.

Again, pass word about my posting about wagers!

== Speaking of all-out war ==

Apparently our diplomats were attacked in communist Cuba and communist China by a Russia-developed microwave weapon. And your MU thinks we’re not already at war? Read about the Kremlin-ordered malware attacks bringing down systems around the globe, turning millions of private laptops into ‘bots,’ (yours, maybe?), and preparing for worse.

Why do this now, so brazenly? (1) to cow the Ukrainians into coming back under Moscow control, (2) to help breakup the Western Alliance, (protected from consequence by their agent in the White House), and (3) because, facing demographic and economic collapse, they must act now to both raise oil prices and conquer enough surrounding territory to feel safe.

If the West stays strong another decade, all hope of rule by mafia-oligarchy will pass away like a bad fog. It must be now.

== A stunning prediction, out of a light SF flick ==

If you ever saw the film BLAST FROM THE PAST, recall Chistopher Walken's final words, when he asks:
"So I'm supposed to believe the Politburo just one day threw up their hands and surrendered?"

"Yeah, dad. That's pretty much it."

"Oh, you've got to hand it to them."
We've been handing it to them. Hand over fist.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Twelve: Travel

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 14:03
I never thought I would travel as much as I do today. This year, as an example, for work: Two book tours, comprising a total of 21 stops and just over three weeks. Conventions in Detroit and Phoenix and San Jose and Albuquerque. Festivals in Los Angeles and Nantes, France (with a side trip during […]

The Whatever Digest, 9/12/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 10:25
It’s noisy here today. Shall we begin? *** First, I want to say I admire the spider who spun a web directly across the doorway to my patio. I admire the creature’s optimism in catching the really large prey. However, I saw the web before I walked into it, so I will not be cocooned […]

Sunset, 9/11/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 20:23
And if you look closely, you can see the new crescent moon.

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Eleven: Personal Politics

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 15:36
In the past twenty years, I’m not sure my personal set of politics have changed all that much. I’m pretty sure what has changed is how people view them. And what would I say my politics are? Well, at the base of everything I believe that the goal of society should be to develop independently […]
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