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‘New and better deal’ needed for climate resilience in Caribbean, UN chief tells donor conference

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN, 21 November 2017 – Caribbean countries need “a new and better deal” – one that includes access to concessional finance and adequate insurance – if they are to build climate resilience, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday at an international conference to mobilize support for the reconstruction of communities devastated by a series of powerful hurricanes.

“During my visits to Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda, I saw a level of devastation that I have never witnessed before in my life,” Mr. Guterres said, noting that in these islands alone, damage is estimated at $1.1 billion, and total economic losses at $400 million.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was particularly active, with storms having been more frequent, and stronger. Of the 13 named storms, eight were hurricanes and of those, four were major hurricanes, including Irma and Maria. Across the entire Caribbean region, there was tragic loss of life and widespread devastation.

The pledging conference today at UN Headquarters in New York, was co-organized by the UN and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is a regional grouping of 20 countries.

“Let’s not forget that these island States are not only interlinked by geography, but also interlinked by the economy, so when one country suffers, all countries suffer,” Mr. Guterres said.

He noted that extreme weather is becoming the new normal and sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual climate-related disasters has nearly tripled and economic losses have quintupled.

Countries in the Caribbean need a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 by 193 UN Member States.

But financing is a key challenge for many Caribbean countries, which have limited access to concessional finance because of their ‘middle income’ classification. They also have high levels of debt, much of it incurred through investment in recovery and resilience.

Caribbean countries are also paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in remittance fees. Disaster insurance has also proved inadequate to this unprecedented hurricane season. Debt instruments should be sensitive to the ability to pay, and have catastrophe clauses built in.

“In short: we need a new and better deal for the Caribbean, if these countries are to build climate resilience and achieve the SDGs,” Mr. Guterres said, urging international financial institutions and donors to coordinate risk sharing and concessional lending terms.

“Today must be about more than speeches and pledges,” he said. “It is an opportunity to forge a partnership for a better future, and to deepen a vision for recovery that brings together all actors and puts people at its centre, as active development agents.”

Also addressing the conference was UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, who highlighted three key steps the international community can take.

We should not let the people be punished once by nature and twice by outdated economic policies.General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcák

First is commitment to support the rebuilding effort. Funding and technical assistance are urgently needed to help the affected countries to get back on their feet. Housing, telecommunications, water and sanitation, healthcare services and education facilities are needed.

Second is to rebuild with greater resilience, he said, commending CARICOM’s goal of becoming the first climate-resilient region in the world.

Third, he continued, there is a need to recognize that small island developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and external shocks. To compound this, middle income small island developing Stated face inadequate access to grant and concessional funding because of how their development is measured.

“We should not let the people be punished once by nature and twice by outdated economic policies,” he said.

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WE NEED A SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL WELFARE TEAM!!!

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Lately we have seen an increase in violence on our island.

I believe it is a direct result of the hopelessness and post-traumatic stress which our people are experiencing.

The level of devastation Irma caused is just like that in a war zone and the mental effects are very similar.

The reality is setting in as people lose their jobs and run out of money.

Early on, after Irma ravaged the island, I wrote many posts on Facebook asking what was Government’s Plan for the Post traumatic stress. While being in the field, I could already see the signs among our people while they tried to survive.

So many people have been displaced and are now living in very uncomfortable circumstances which can lead to high levels of stress.

Why didn't government ask the Dutch for extra psychologists to help our local team.

We needed A SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL WELFARE TEAM of psychologists, civil servants, NGOs to go out in the communities to talk to our people in their homes where they are most likely to open up.

Our people are not likely to seek out psychological help.

This team should also include other professionals to assess the person's living condition and could have also been able to determine families needs for food relief as well as temporary roof repairs.

It is not too late and such a team needs to be put in place for the next 18 months.

WAKE UP SXMNERS AND SXM PEOPLE!!!

Claude Chacho Peterson

COMMENTARY: The comments are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Encouraging messages

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Statistics have a sort of magical appeal and are a bit like mathematical enchanted tricks, aren’t they? The worlds of business and politics are littered with statistics. Some individuals using statistics are like the diplomat who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age. They are selective about the dates they choose, and about the numbers, that they do not want to use in order to keep their audience happy.

Statistics can baffle and excite an audience. They can be a calming remedy. Take stabilizing statistics. They are like looking through the glass of the oven while baking a soufflé; it may hold but with a little draft of opening the oven door, it will still go puff and fall together. With statistics, one can also tell one positive truth while silencing the negative other half.

This tactic is mainly used to prevent that the messenger himself gets hurt. However, it may work on the individual in question like using a silencer on a gun that shoots oneself in the foot, because at some time the truth will come out. It is a tactic of propagandists using their communication like an equivalent for beauty cosmetics; cover-up that is not waterproof.

Even if facts are tough, a message can still encourage the listeners.  Like the general telling his troops who were completely surrounded: “we now have the opportunity to attack the enemy in any direction” or the other military leader who once said: “we’re not holding on to our positions, we’re not going to hold on to anything, we’re going to move ahead”. 

True leaders don’t use propaganda or statistics; they are in the frontlines to charge and actually and actively make things happen. There was a romantic time when officers pulled their sabre, loudly yelled “Attack, follow me”, charged in front of their men and they were willing to take the highest risk of being injured first.  In politics things are different, “Attack, I follow you!” is the essence of the common slogans of politics from behind. The bugler is also taking a backseat next to his politician; of course, for better communication they have to be close together.

Recently I met a politician and I asked him whether he was resilient. “Like a Jo-Jo” he responded. I was puzzled, and I wondered what to think of the meaning of the word ‘resilient’ because I’m hearing it more often lately. So, I looked it up in the dictionary.  The politician was right. Because the first synonym it showed was ‘flexible’. Typical for a politician, I thought. From a populist leader, I would rather have heard that he would have used words indicating that he is persistent or tenacious like a bulldog.

Performers and their coaches know where to set the bar that should be jumped; always higher than the previous mark. They always try harder to come out on top and avoid the agony of defeat. As for high hopes, I’ve also heard about doping and drugs addicts saying that they like being high; unfortunately, they belong in the category of helplessly hoping victims.

Some people love to use the half-empty and half-full glass comparison. They think that it is clever way to perplex audiences. If the glass is half either way, it just means something is wrong with the brew or there is a lack of commitment to consume it. This half-half stuff may have been well explained by George Carlin, a five Grammy Award winning stand-up comedian and social critic, who once said about average persons: “Think about how stupid the average person is; now realize half of them are dumber than that”. I don’t think that anyone will take this personal; after all they considered Carlin only to be a comedian. Plus, even the average person usually thinks he isn’t.

The concluding question is, who and what is right? Maybe the pioneers are right. You know? The guys who you can recognize by rolled up sleeves and the first two buttons of their collar open which is their way to dress for success. When they start a business, they don’t even have time for statistics.  They work hard and give it all they have in themselves.

Those forerunners are typified by the virtues of being persistent and tenacious like a bulldog. Their attitude is about accomplishment. Growing or improving their activity regardless of statistics either way is not about comparing with the colleagues or the competition; it is about outdoing them, working harder to get new business, and also about finding different ways to increase revenues.

If you absolutely insist on some humble guiding statistics of encouragement, I personally don’t consider things encouraging unless growth is stable and consistent, and higher than 5%; and an investment is not an investment unless it yields more than 10% net. Even those percentages should be ballpark minima. Anything more than those numbers is just encouraging, anything less is not worth considering seriously unless one wants to run things as a hobby or to keep other people busy. In the worst-case scenario, the latter is the direction towards a breakdown, be it a nervous one or a financial one, or… both.    

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

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Bonn: UN conference closes with renewed urgency for greater ambition to tackle climate change

INTERNATIONAL/CARIBBEAN, 17 November 2017 – The United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) wrapped up on Friday in Bonn, Germany, with delegations expressing a renewed sense of urgency and a need for greater ambition to tackle climate change.

Participants focused on how to maintain momentum two years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change in the context of the recent announcement by the United States of its decision to withdraw from the accord. At COP23, cities and local governments, including American cities and states, intensified their push to achieve the goals set out in Paris.

The Conference, which ran from 6 to 17 November, was chaired by Fiji, an island State particularly affected by the impacts of climate change. The Fiji Presidency announced an agreement on a Gender Action Plan, highlighting the role of women in climate action.

Apart from negotiations among Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), several new climate action initiatives, commitments and partnerships were announced by States and non-State actors in the areas of energy, water, agriculture, oceans and coastal areas, human settlements, transportation, industry, and forests. Climate finance and climate resilience were also at the center of the discussions at the conference.

More than 20 countries, including the Canada, Finland, France, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, launched a new global coal alliance aimed at achieving the rapid phase-out of existing traditional coal power and at placing a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage.

COP23: Concrete Climate Action Commitments

As the UN Climate Change Conference comes down to the last day and governments work to complete the final negotiation decisions, it’s good to be reminded of the new wave of climate action that has been announced during COP23 from countries, cities, states, regions, business and civil society

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Businesses and other non-government partners have in turn made commitments to focus on powering their operations without coal.

The 19 Member countries of the 'Biofuture Platform,' including Brazil, China, Egypt, France, India, Morocco, Mozambique, also announced on Thursday formal agreement on the development of targets for biofuels and to construct an action plan to achieve them.

“Sustainable biofuels can provide solutions to the energy transport nexus. This partnership offers us that chance,”said Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All).

Among other initiatives announced during the Conference, a global initiative was launched Tuesday with the aim of providing insurance to hundreds of millions of vulnerable people by 2020 and to increase the resilience of developing countries against the impacts of climate change. The 'InsuResilience' Global Partnership is a major scaling-up of an initiative started by the G7 in 2015 under the German Presidency.

The Conference took place one year after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement. The Agreement, which was adopted by the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015, calls on countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Today, 170 Parties have ratified the treaty.

The Conference, which was attended by some 27.000, took place in a sobering context of alarming scientific reports of climatic changes. A week before the opening of the Conference, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

COP23 will be followed by a series of summits and conferences on climate change which are scheduled ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September 2019, including the 'One Planet summit' to be convened by France next month and focusing on financing, a gathering in California, bringing together non-State actors, and the COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018. Brazil has offered to host COP25 in 2019.

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A TIME 4 A CHANGE

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Recently, the Caretaker Prime Minister decided to play tit for tat with the Parliament and invoked Article 59 of our constitution to dissolve Parliament and call new elections. I have been contacted by many people who wanted to know whether or not I would run.

After discussions with my family, close friends, my team and the Party, I decided I will be a candidate once more on the SMCP slate for the upcoming Feb 26, 2018 election.

While I had hoped we would end up with and pushed early on for a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT WITH A PROFFESIONAL CABINET OF NON POLITICALLY AFFILIATED MINISTERS to handle the reconstruction process while being supervised by a Unified Parliament, the older Party leaders once again demonstrated their inability to show humility and work in the best interest of the PEOPLE AT A TIME OF GREAT CRISIS AND UNCERTAINTY FOR OUR ISLAND.

On a daily basis, I see the despair and frustration of many persons.

People are talking about leaving the island and many have already done so. So many are trying to cope day by day with their damaged homes, unemployment and uprooted lives. I fear that many are already showing signs of depression and post traumatic stress.

More than ever, I feel the need to stand up and try to be part of the CHANGE which is needed for Sxm, Sxmners and Sxm people.

If we have elections on February 26, 2017, I sincerely hope the voters will vote their future and elect 15 Parliamentarians who will put COUNTRY ABOVE SELF while we work together on rising up from the devastation Hurricane Irma brought upon us.

SMCP, under the Leadership of Mr. Wycliffe Smith has kept our promise to the people in 2016 to stay engaged and continue, not only highlight the functioning of Parliament but also that of Government. As a party we are very ENERGIZED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE FOR A CHANGE.

CORRUPTION IS NOT MY CULTURE. DON'T LET IT BE YOURS!!!

Claude CHACHO Peterson

COMMENTARY: The comments are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Bonn: Climate engineering is risky, but should be explored, experts say at UN conference

INTERNATIONAL, 16 November 2017 – Climate engineering, or climate intervention, is risky but needs to be explored as a supplement – not as a 'Plan B' – to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, said experts at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), in Bonn, Germany.

Climate engineering, also referred to as geoengineering, is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the climate system with measures including carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere or solar radiation management.

“We can do a lot, we have to do a lot, we have to try much harder at cutting our emissions, but there will remain certain emissions, especially in the land use sector, which are not going away. So we actually need to start talking about this removal of greenhouse gases inevitably,” said Matthias Honegger, research scientist with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, at a press conference.

Different approaches are being discussed. Some already exist, like planting trees. Other ideas include dispersing certain minerals in the oceans to enhance the growth of algae, which then as they sink to the ocean floor, would create a net flux of carbon from the atmosphere into the oceans.

“Business as usual is a little worrying,” said Dr. Hugh Hunt, from the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University. “The concept of not doing anything is full of danger. Now the concept of cooling the planet is full of danger as well.”

“We need to have full-on public engagement, full-on societal involvement. The reason is that the risks of climate change are huge, the risks of doing nothing are huge; but the risks of geoengineering are huge as well. We've got to explore those risks, because who knows, we may end up entering a very risky world without understanding it,” he added. “Geoengineering risks are not well understood and need to be explored.”

Stratospheric aerosol injection

Due to the great uncertainties over effectiveness and side effects of climate engineering – including the risk of disrupting natural systems – experts think that there is a need to discuss climate engineering governance, especially as it relates to stratospheric aerosol injection.

Stratospheric aerosol injection consists of injecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere with aircraft or balloons to create a global dimming effect.

“This technology is absolutely terrifying. We may actually need it, but then, who do we want to decide. That's where this society-wide discussion has to take place,” said Janos Pasztor, Executive Director of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative (C2G2), and former UN senior climate advisor. “It would require a level of international cooperation that we have not yet seen.”

“Who will decide whether we should make use of stratospheric aerosol injection and when that decision should take place? […] Who will make that decision on behalf of the world? And then how far do we turn the thermostat of the global air conditioning system […] to cool the planet?” he said.

“There are issues: the more temperature you want to reduce the higher the chance there will be negative impact and the higher the chance that some of these impacts will not be the same across different geographical zones. You might end up in a situation where some people benefit from the reduced temperature but some people would have negative impacts. What do you do with those people? How do you compensate them? How do you take care of them?” he added.

Mr. Pasztor concluded that the highest priority should remain the gas emission reduction. “But we have to consider these other options, as supplements, not as a 'Plan B,'” he warned.

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Kamau Brathwaite in Liviticus – like the Psalmist in Babylon; like the weeping prophet, a book review by John Robert Lee

ST. MARTIN, Caribbean—Liviticus, published in 2017 by House of Nehesi Publishers, is a new collection that is at once a moving confessional poem, in which Kamau Brathwaite writes honestly, frankly, disturbingly on what he calls his “cultural lynching.”

He holds nothing back as he cries, like the prophet Jeremiah, about his suffering:         

“The caul of fat around my liver and the shining budget of my kidneys / are laid out upon the altar of the Lord / surrounded by the howling congregations of the vigilante villagers of Fairy Valley / who love the scent of burning meat and pick and eat my sour morsel flesh.” 

This Barbadian poet of our African Diaspora, of world renown, does not separate his personal anguish from the historical memory of the enslavements and Holocaust of the suffering of his people: 

“There were five of them on horses / and the rest a loud rabble on foot coming over the river / There was no ever escape from this holocaust / They slit my wife’s throat and cut off the breasts of her ovals / and hauled me away to the coast of the Tree /.”

From his Rights of Passage (1967), through all the poetry and critical writing that has followed, Kamau Brathwaite has spoken with the communal voice of the African peoples exiled to these Caribbean islands and the other places of the Americas.

His personal sufferings are part and parcel of the sufferings of all the Black and native peoples who fell under the cruel, lynching hands of the conquistador and colonizer. Liviticus, called a “masterpiece” by the Barbados Today newspaper, could be the poet’s testament to inconsolable loss” and what lies “beyond the issure of justice”: 

“i give thanks that my eyes can’t see anymore through these shimmering locks of indifference / all this smell of the dead of our culture is inconsolable loss / We have become poorer and poorer like when we was poured out of Africa / The power of the Basilisk outreaching itself beyond the issure of justice and the ocean and its loas.”   

In the Judeo-Christian Bible, Leviticus is the Third Book of Moses. The book addresses the responsibilities of the Levites, and the priests (who came from the Levites) were instructed in how they were to assist the people in worship and the people were informed about how to live a holy life.

In Rasta talk, “Livity” describes life in all its fullness.

In Kamau Brathwaite’s Liviticus, we are hearing the voice of the griot, the priest, the prophet, from an exile of suffering, personal and communal, for whom life is not experienced in its joyful fullness and holiness and lawfulness.

But rather, like the Psalmist in Babylon or the weeping prophet, his experience is bitter, full of sorrow, where prejudice, discrimination, hatred, lawlessness, various slaveries and the ultimate of humiliation – lynching, is the order of his daily survival: 

“send me a lucky strike / of distant thunder and a flicker of white fork-lightning over the hills / let me know there is someone out there / with a helmet of rain.   so that it will not wet / the tortured mask of my upturned face here in this straggellin garden / and cool this strange distance of pain”

The language is everywhere seminal, elemental, coming from the deep roots of this man’s, this griot’s, ache and loneliness and suffering.

Kamau Brathwaite continues also, even against indifference and possible mocking dismissal, to test the boundaries of poetic form on the printed page. Liviticus, like his recent publications, including Strange Fruit (2016), employs the author’s Sycorax Video Style (SVS). Various font stylings, photographs and designs are used to create a word and image impression on the reader’s mind and eye. 

Liviticus is the continuing of bold explorations indeed, from our master poet. 

Editor’s Note: John Robert Lee is an author, Fulbright/Laspau scholar librarian, and one of the coordinators of St. Lucia’s annual Nobel Laureate Week. A version of Lee’s review of Liviticus was presented at the book’s launch at St. Martin Book Fair, 2017. Liviticus is available at Van Dorp; SPDbooks.org; Amazon; UWI Bookshop, Barbados; Adifferentbooklist.com.

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Statia Lions Club and Reconstruction Team enter into agreement

ST. EUSTATIUS - The St. Eustatius Lions Club and the Reconstruction Team have formally entered into an agreement for the rebuilding of the damages caused to the Mike van Putten Youth Centre and a social project for the rebuilding of a dwelling of someone less fortunate.

The agreement was entered into on Friday November 10th, at the Man-o-War the distribution center for the Recovery Team in the presence of acting Island Governor, Mr. Julian Woodley, Project manager, Mr.  Mel Raboen de Sanchez Pacheco, President of the St. Eustatius Lion’s Club, Mrs. Leonora Sneek-Gibbs and the homeowner.

The agreement affects the release of building materials to Statia Lions Club which will allow them to repair damages suffered at the Mike van Putten Youth Center as a direct result of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Prior the hurricanes the social organization had started the project to rebuild a home on the Mansion Road. This too suffered damage and the rebuilding will continue with material provided through the reconstruction process that is being funded by the Dutch Central Government. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands/GIS St. Eustatius)

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New Solar Park supplies entire Statia with electricity

ST. EUSTATIUS - On St. Eustatius, one of the three Public Entities of the Caribbean Netherlands, on the 15th of November a solar park will be officially put into use that can supply the entire island with electricity during the day until after sunset. Thanks to the park, the use of diesel generators, which until recently produced all electricity, can now be reduced by almost half.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate has funded the solar park with a subsidy of over USD 14.1 million. This corresponds to almost USD 7,900 for each of the 1800 households and companies whom the investment from the Dutch Government will benefit.

In addition to the solar panels the park has an innovative battery storage of 2.6 MW / 5.9 MWh that can keep the grid stable without the diesel generators. On sunny days from 9.00 AM until 8.00 PM the solar park is responsible for the entire power production. Around noon the park produces more than 200% of the electricity demand. The produced surplus is stored and utilized later in the day. At night diesel generators take over the production.

This way on an annual basis the solar park provides 46% of the electricity needs of the island. The park has a nominal output of 4.15 MW; thanks to the sunny climate this plant can produce almost twice as much power as would be possible in the European Netherlands. With an expected annual production of 6.4 GWh, after Sunport Delfzijl, this is the Netherlands' largest solar park.

The plant will be put into use officially on 15 November 2017 by the Kingdom Representative, Gilbert Isabella. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

solar park inside

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SXM Airport Issues: Are we nuts? FBO Building and Hazardous Flagpole

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Breaking ground for a Multi-Million dollar FBO with the main Airport Terminal Building (ATB) in ruins after Hurricane Irma??? Are we nuts? Has the 195mph winds rattled our brains?

I know a contract with a preferred local construction company has been signed some time ago, but Hurricane Irma was no fiction. It destroyed Governor Holiday’s work of art. The SXM airport IS the gateway into SXM, responsible for the lion’s share of what makes our island’s economy run. TOURISM.

Every available penny and all manpower should be poured into repairing and rebuilding the ATB so we can welcome tourists back to our shores in a pre-Irma fashion before spending an ounce of energy on anything else at the airport.

As an active pilot flying in and out of Princess Juliana International Airport, I welcome a professional looking and operating Fixed Base Operation’s facility, but NOW is not the time.

FBO’s accommodate primarily the rich and famous (I am told 1% of our visitors)....our ATB accommodates everyone else. Do the math..... And then that beautiful, very high flagpole on the hill.... it is in the flight path of the airport when taking off towards the East.

There IS a light on the Minister’s flagpole, however it is so dim, that if you are in an airplane doing upwards of 150 knots per hour, by the time you see the red glow, you have already flown into the obstacle..... The Minister gets an “A” for effort and an “F” for  execution.

Michael J. Ferrier

COMMENTARY: The comments above are the sole responsibility of the author.

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