Trump believes fiction can defeat terrorism

 


Snopes fact checks Trump’s story. Conclusion: False.

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Double standard decried as Minnesota mosque bombed

Al Jazeera reports: Social media users have voiced frustration at what they described as a double standard after a mosque was bombed in the US.

The explosion at around 5am local time (09:00 GMT) at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, caused damage but did not cause any casualties.

Worshippers had been preparing for the dawn prayer when the attack happened.

There were between 15 and 20 people inside the building at the time, according to Star Tribune, a local newspaper. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Rick Thornton, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the investigation, told reporters Saturday afternoon that the blast was caused by an “improvised explosive device” but offered no further details about its composition or possible suspects. Neither the FBI nor the Bloomington Police Department, which initially responded to the explosion, speculated on a motive for the incident.

“At this point, our focus is to determine who and why,” Thornton said at a news conference. “Is it a hate crime? Is it an act of terror?…Again, that’s what the investigation is going to determine.”

The attack was quickly condemned by religious leaders and politicians. Hussein said a “standing opposition group” has regularly protested against the mosque — and sometimes its mere existence — since it opened in 2011.

“Hate is not okay,” Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, told reporters, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We need an America where people are safe with their neighbors.”

If the attack was motivated by anti-Muslim bias, it would represent “another in a long list of hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions nationwide in recent months,” CAIR-MN civil rights director Amir Malik said. CAIR said in a report last month that anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States nearly doubled in the first half of this year over the same period in 2016. At least 35 anti-mosque acts — including vandalism and arson — were reported during the first three months of this year, the organization has said. [Continue reading…]

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The U.S. government’s fight against violent extremism loses its leader

Peter Beinart writes: George Selim, the federal counterterrorism official who works most closely with the organized American Muslim community, tendered his resignation on Friday [July 28]. His ouster is a victory for Trump officials like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who see mainstream Muslim organizations as Islamist fronts, and for those American Muslims who oppose any counterterrorism cooperation with Washington. “There were clearly political appointees in this administration who didn’t see the value of community partnerships with American Muslims,” Selim told me. It is the clearest sign yet that government cooperation with Muslim communities, which has proved crucial to preventing terrorist attacks, is breaking down.

The news was first reported on Sunday afternoon by The Conservative Review, a journal edited by the talk-show host Mark Levin, citing a senior administration official. It called Selim “a prominent Obama administration holdover known for engaging fringe Islamic radicals.”

But Selim, who confirmed to me on Sunday night that this will be his last week on the job, is not a Democrat with Islamist sympathies. He’s a conservative Republican who many Muslim activists viewed with suspicion. For the past two years, he’s been the founding director of the Office of Community Partnerships in the Department of Homeland Security, and the leader of the federal Countering Violent Extremism Task Force.

Selim’s biography evokes a bygone era. He’s an Arab American—his family is of Egyptian and Lebanese descent. Early in his career, he worked at the Arab American Institute, which advocates for Arab American civil rights, and in 2004 served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Soon after that, he joined the Bush administration. [Continue reading…]

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Islamophobes get spooked by empty bus seats

Adam Taylor writes: Last week, a photograph that appeared to show six women wearing burqas on a bus sparked a heated debate in a private Facebook group for Norwegians critical of immigration.

For many members of the group, which is called “Fedrelandet viktigst” or “Fatherland first,” the image encapsulated the problems Norway was facing after an influx of Muslim immigrants in the past few years.

It also played into a continent-wide debate about Islamic dress across Europe. Norway’s right-wing government recently proposed a law that would ban some forms of dress worn by Muslim women in schools and universities — the first Scandinavian country to do so.

The burqa, a long, loose veil worn by some Muslims in Afghanistan and other parts of South Asia, would be restricted under the law, as would the face-covering niqab more commonly worn in Arab countries. Masks and other items of clothing that cover the face would also be restricted.

Some group members took the picture — posted with the comment, “what do people think of this?” — as proof that a ban was needed. More than 100 soon commented on it. “It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” one user wrote, according to a translation from the Local website. Others described it as “frightening” and “tragic.”

However, when you look at the photograph above more closely, it may become apparent that the photo itself is irrelevant to any debate about Islam in Norway. Why? Well, those are not burqas. They’re bus seats. [Continue reading…]

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How ‘new atheism’ slid into the alt-right

Phil Torres writes: The “new atheist” movement emerged shortly after the 9/11 attacks with a best-selling book by Sam Harris called “The End of Faith.” This was followed by engaging tomes authored by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens, among others. Avowing to champion the values of science and reason, the movement offered a growing number of unbelievers — tired of faith-based foolishness mucking up society for the rest of us — some hope for the future. For many years I was among the new atheism movement’s greatest allies.

From the start, though, the movement had some curious quirks. Although many atheists are liberals and empirical studies link higher IQs to both liberalism and atheism, Hitchens gradually abandoned his Trotskyist political affiliations for what could, in my view, be best described as a neoconservative outlook. Indeed, he explicitly endorsed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, now widely seen as perhaps the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history.

There were also instances in which critiques of religion, most notably Islam, went beyond what was both intellectually warranted and strategically desirable. For example, Harris wrote in a 2004 Washington Times op-ed that “We are at war with Islam.” He added a modicum of nuance in subsequent sentences, but I know of no experts on Islamic terrorism who would ever suggest that uttering such a categorical statement in a public forum is judicious. As the terrorism scholar Will McCant noted in an interview that I conducted with him last year, there are circumstances in which certain phrases — even if true — are best not uttered, since they are unnecessarily incendiary. In what situation would claiming that the West is engaged in a civilizational clash with an entire religion actually improve the expected outcome?

Despite these peccadilloes, if that’s what they are, new atheism still had much to offer. Yet the gaffes kept on coming, to the point that no rational person could simply dismiss them as noise in the signal. For example, Harris said in 2014 that new atheism was dominated by men because it lacks the “nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

This resulted in an exodus of women from the movement who decided that the “new atheist” label was no longer for them. (I know of many diehard atheist women who wanted nothing to do with “new atheism,” which is a real shame.) Harris’ attempted self-exoneration didn’t help, either — it merely revealed a moral scotoma in his understanding of gender, sexism and related issues. What he should have done is, quite simply, said “I’m sorry.” These words, I have come to realize, are nowhere to be found in the new atheist lexicon.

Subsequent statements about profiling at airports, serious allegations of rape at atheist conferences, and tweets from major leaders that (oops!) linked to white supremacist websites further alienated women, people of color and folks that one could perhaps describe as “morally normal.” Yet some of us — mostly white men like myself — persisted in our conviction that, overall, the new atheist movement was still a force for good in the world. It is an extraordinary personal embarrassment that I maintained this view until the present year. [Continue reading…]

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Defeated anti-Muslim amendment a sign of Trump’s normalizing of Islamophobia

Faiza Patel, Margot Adams and Emily Hockett write: Recently, the House of Representatives narrowly voted down an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that targeted the Islamic faith. Sponsored by Arizona Republican Trent Franks, the amendment instructed Defense Secretary James Mattis to conduct a strategic assessment of the use of “violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging and justification.” The Defense Department would have been required to identify “Islamic religious doctrines, concepts, or schools of thought” used by various extremist groups, and provide recommendations for identifying “key thought leaders or proponents” of these doctrines. The amendment failed in the face of strenuous opposition by every House Democrat as well as 27 Republicans and numerous advocacy organizations.

It is, of course, sensible for the government to study the motivations of terrorist groups that seek to harm us. Indeed, the U.S. government has been studying the belief systems of terrorists for years. The Franks amendment is fundamentally flawed, however, in that it assumes that “unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine” is the motive, to the exclusion of all others. It’s not unique in this regard. Government officials from both parties have long sought to frame political violence in the Muslim world as primarily one of religious “extremism” or “radicalization,” to avoid a broader evaluation of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. support for autocratic, and often brutally suppressive, regimes in the region as sources of instability and anti-American sentiment.

Coming on the heels of President Donald Trump’s speech in Warsaw, which described terrorism carried out in the name of Islam and the refugee crisis as an assault on “Western values,” and combined with the overall anti-Muslim tenor of the current administration, the Franks amendment simply continues the narrative of counterterrorism as a civilizational struggle—a narrative that Franks himself has long embraced—laying the blame for the violence of a relative few at the doorstep of a faith practiced by almost two billion people around the world. As Rep. Ruben Gallego (a former Marine infantryman), speaking against the Franks amendment on the House floor, said, “By singling out a faith tradition…we are sending a dangerous message and signal that America is at war with Islam.” [Continue reading…]

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Hungary’s PM claims EU and George Soros are trying to ‘Muslimize’ Europe

The Associated Press reports: European Union leaders and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros are seeking a “new, mixed, Muslimized Europe,” Hungary’s anti-migration prime minister said Saturday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during a visit to Romania that Hungary’s border fences, supported by other Central European countries, will block the EU-Soros effort to increase Muslim migration into Europe.

While Hungary opposed taking in migrants “who could change the country’s cultural identity,” Orban said under his leadership, Hungary would remain a place where “Western European Christians will always be able to find security.”

Orban, who will seek a fourth term in April 2018, said Hungary’s opposition parties were no match for his government.

“In the upcoming campaign, first of all we have to confront external powers,” Orban said at a cultural festival in Baile Tusnad, Romania. “We have to stand our ground against the Soros mafia network and the Brussels bureaucrats. And, during the next nine months, we will have to fight against the media they operate.”

Soros has become a key target of Orban and his government. [Continue reading…]

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How Trump is stealthily carrying out his Muslim ban

Farhana Khera and Johnathan J. Smith write: Lost amid the uproar over the Trump administration’s travel restrictions on citizens from Muslim-majority countries and the impending showdown at the Supreme Court are the insidious ways that the government has already begun to impose a Muslim ban.

It’s doing so through deceptively boring means: increasing administrative hurdles and cementing or even expanding the current travel restrictions that are not under review at the court. The collective impact of these changes will be that a permanent Muslim ban is enshrined into American immigration policy.

Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases that challenge the legality of President Trump’s immigration and refugee executive order. And it buoyed the Trump administration’s xenophobia when it put the temporary ban back in place and denied entry to people who lack a “bona fide relationship” with an American citizen or entity. (Astonishingly, the government claims that grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and the affianced lack such a relationship, but a federal judge in Hawaii has disagreed.)

While these short-term travel restrictions will be at the heart of what the Supreme Court considers this fall, they have never been the president’s ultimate objective. Instead, his endgame, as he repeatedly made clear on the campaign trail, is the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And in a quiet, under-the-radar manner, his administration has been hard at work to make that happen. [Continue reading…]

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Judge in Hawaii rules grandparents are exempt from Trump travel ban

The Washington Post reports: A federal judge in Hawaii has ruled that grandparents and other relatives should be exempt from the enforcement of President Trump’s travel ban, which bars people from six Muslim-majority countries.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled Thursday night that the federal government’s list of family relatives eligible to bypass the travel ban should be expanded to include grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts and other relatives. Watson also ordered exemptions for refugees who have been given formal assurance from agencies placing them in the United States.

In Watson’s ruling, he said the government’s definition of what constitutes close family “represents the antithesis of common sense.”

“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson wrote. “Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.” [Continue reading…]

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The white nationalist roots of Donald Trump’s Warsaw speech

Jamelle Bouie writes: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” said the president, before posing a series of questions: “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

In the context of terrorism specifically, a deadly threat but not an existential one, this is overheated. But it’s clear Trump has something else in mind: immigration. He’s analogizing Muslim migration to a superpower-directed struggle for ideological conquest. It’s why he mentions “borders,” why he speaks of threats from “the South”—the origin point of Hispanic immigrants to the United States and Muslim refugees to Europe—and why he warns of internal danger.

This isn’t a casual turn. In these lines, you hear the influence of [Steve] Bannon and [Stephen] Miller. The repeated references to Western civilization, defined in cultural and religious terms, recall Bannon’s 2014 presentation to a Vatican conference, in which he praised the “forefathers” of the West for keeping “Islam out of the world.” Likewise, the prosaic warning that unnamed “forces” will sap the West of its will to defend itself recalls Bannon’s frequent references to the Camp of the Saints, an obscure French novel from 1973 that depicts a weak and tolerant Europe unable to defend itself from a flotilla of impoverished Indians depicted as grotesque savages and led by a man who eats human feces.

For as much as parts of Trump’s speech fit comfortably in a larger tradition of presidential rhetoric, these passages are clear allusions to ideas and ideologies with wide currency on the white nationalist right.

Defenders of the Warsaw speech call this reading “hysterical,” denying any ties between Trump’s rhetoric in Poland and white nationalism. But to deny this interpretation of the speech, one has to ignore the substance of Trump’s campaign, the beliefs of his key advisers, and the context of Poland itself and its anti-immigrant, ultranationalist leadership. One has to ignore the ties between Bannon, Miller, and actual white nationalists, and disregard the active circulation of those ideas within the administration. And one has to pretend that there isn’t a larger intellectual heritage that stretches back to the early 20th century, the peak of American nativism, when white supremacist thinkers like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard penned works with language that wouldn’t feel out of place in Trump’s address. [Continue reading…]

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Most Americans disagree with Trump admin’s enforcing travel ban against grandparents

Ryan Goodman writes: One of the hotly contested questions in the Travel Ban litigation is the definition of “close family relationships.” The Supreme Court told the administration that it cannot enforce the ban against any foreign national who has a “close familial relationship” with a person in the United States. The plaintiffs including the state of Hawaii have argued that the Supreme Court’s order should be understood to protect grandparents. The Justice Department told the federal court in Hawaii that the plaintiffs’ views of close family relationships “lack any universal or cohesive support.” That is the question the Hawaii federal court refused to decide on Thursday, and tried to kick the issue up to the Supreme Court. So, what to make of the competing views of family structure and where grandparents fit in?

A poll out this week suggests most Americans fundamentally disagree with the administration’s position. The Politico/Morning Consult survey asked the following question and got these results:

“Do you believe each of the following should qualify as a close family relationship for visa applicants from six predominately Muslim countries wishing to enter the United States? Grandparent”

Yes, this should qualify: 67%
No, this should not qualify: 20%

That is not only a huge margin in general. It also holds true across different groups of people who were asked the question. More specifically, the margin held strong such that at least 60% of Americans agreed that grandparents should qualify as a “close family relationship” for the purpose of receiving visas from the six predominately Muslim countries regardless of the respondent’s party identification, religion, gender, age, income, education, or region of the country. Even among people who voted for Donald Trump for president, 61% agreed that grandparents should qualify and 29% thought they should not. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s warning about ‘Western civilization’ evokes holy war

Walter Shapiro writes: A surprising omission in Donald Trump’s Warsaw foreign policy address was the president’s failure to hail the 17th century Polish king, John III Sobieski. As Steve Bannon and his fellow hard-right history buffs in the White House must know, it was Sobieski who defeated the Turks in 1683 at the gates of Vienna – and saved Central Europe from a Muslim invasion.

The Trump-Bannon worldview depicts Europe and America reeling from a second Muslim invasion. That is what Trump meant as he thundered, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive … Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

The Trump advance team is probably high-fiving each other over their collective brilliance in choosing Warsaw as the venue for the president’s apocalyptic message to Europe. The combination of a welcoming right-wing government that shares Trump’s disdain for a free press and the emotional weight of Polish history seemed irresistible. [Continue reading…]

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The racial and religious paranoia of Trump’s Warsaw speech

Peter Beinart writes: In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of “The West.” Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.

The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world’s largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country’s “Westernness,” it’s because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they’re not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim.

Steve Bannon, who along with Stephen Miller has shaped much of Trump’s civilizational thinking, has been explicit about this. In a 2014 speech, he celebrated “the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam” and “our forefathers” who “bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.” [Continue reading…]

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Revived U.S. travel ban sows confusion, anger in Middle East

Reuters reports: A U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban has stirred anger and confusion in parts of the Middle East, with would-be visitors worried about their travel plans and their futures.

The blanket 90-day ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – and a 120-day ban on all refugees was completely blocked by lower courts after Trump issued it on March 6, saying it was needed to prevent terrorism attacks.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled the bans could proceed, though only for foreigners with no “bona fide relationship” with an American entity or person, and it did not specify what that meant. The ruling left some in the Middle East wondering if they would be able to enter the United States.

“It’s a big disappointment for me,” said a 52-year-old Sudanese man in the capital Khartoum, who believed he would now be rejected for a visa to visit relatives in the United States.

The man, who declined to be identified, said he wouldn’t know the outcome until at least Sunday, when the U.S. Embassy opens again after a string of national holidays.

“I’ve traveled to America before and I don’t know why I’m prevented from traveling (now). I didn’t violate American law during my previous visits,” he told Reuters. [Continue reading…]

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Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House

The Washington Post reports: In the early days of December 1805, a handful of prominent politicians received formal invitations to join President Thomas Jefferson for a White House dinner.

Such entreaties were not uncommon: Jefferson frequently hosted lawmakers for political working dinners at the White House, almost always commencing them about 3:30 in the afternoon, shortly after the House or Senate had adjourned for the day.

But this gathering, scheduled for Dec. 9, would be slightly different.

dinner will be on the table precisely at sun-set — ” the invitations read. “The favour of an answer is asked.”

The occasion was the presence of a Tunisian envoy to the United States, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who had arrived in the country just the week before, in the midst of America’s ongoing conflict with what were then known as the Barbary States.

And the reason for the dinner’s later-than-usual start was Mellimelli’s observance of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims in which observers fast between dawn and dusk. Only after sunset do Muslims break their fast with a meal, referred to as an iftar.

Jefferson’s decision to change the time of the meal to accommodate Mellimelli’s observance of Ramadan has been seized on by both sides in the 21st-century debate over Islam more than 200 years later. Historians have cited the meal as the first time an iftar took place in the White House — and it has been referenced in recent White House celebrations of Ramadan as an embodiment of the Founding Father’s respect for religious freedom. Meanwhile, critics on the far right have taken issue with the characterization of Jefferson’s Dec. 9, 1805, dinner as an iftar.

Whatever Jefferson could have foreseen for the young country’s future, it appears the modern-day White House tradition of marking Ramadan with an iftar dinner or Eid celebration has come to an end. [Continue reading…]

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FBI fired Sebastian Gorka for anti-Muslim diatribes

The Daily Beast reports: The inflammatory pundit Sebastian Gorka worked for the FBI while he was a paid consultant to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, lecturing bureau employees on counterterrorism issues.

Until the FBI terminated Gorka for his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.

The Daily Beast has learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.

Law-enforcement officials attending an August 2016 lecture from Gorka, whose academic credentials and affiliation with a pro-Nazi group have recently come under fire, were disturbed to hear a diatribe against Muslims passed off as instruction on the fundamentals of counterterrorism.

Gorka told attendees at the Joint Terrorism Operations Course, an introductory-level class for participants in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, that all Muslims adhere to Sharia law, which he said is in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and American democratic values. Officials familiar with his lecture said Gorka taught law-enforcement officials there is no such thing as mainstream Muslims—only those radicalized and those soon to be radicalized.

The following month, a senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka for any subsequent lectures or instructions, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast. [Continue reading…]

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Following latest terrorist attack in UK, Trump remains silent

The Guardian reports: A man has died and eight others have been injured after a van ploughed into a group of people near a north London mosque in an attack police are treating as terrorism.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Two people hit by the van were said to be “very seriously injured”.

The prime minister, Theresa May, who was woken to be told of the early morning attack in Finsbury Park, said in a statement from Downing Street that the “hatred and evil” of the kind seen in the attack would never succeed.

May said the attack had “once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives – this time, British Muslims as they left a mosque, having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year”.

She added: “Today we come together, as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed.”

May said the attack on Muslims was “every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life” as the recent string of attacks apparently motivated by Islamist extremism, adding: “We will stop at nothing to defeat it.”

It is the fourth terrorist attack to hit the UK in the past three months. [Continue reading…]

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