Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Fight for the NHS

Imagine for a moment, you’re sat in a doctor’s office and you receive that nightmare diagnosis. Cancer. And, in that moment of terror, as questions are spinning around your mind – Is it treatable? What are my chances? How long have I got? – you face additional questions which add to your misery – Will my insurance cover this? Will I have to pay an excess? What if my claim is rejected?

This is the reality faced by Americans. And it could soon be the reality faced by the British. That’s not scaremongering. It’s not cheap political point scoring. It’s actually one of the main reasons we fight so passionately for a Labour government. Our beloved NHS, which saves so many lives, which has probably saved your uncle or your mother or your colleague or someone else you love, is not to be taken for granted.

It could be taken from us.

Boris Johnson has in a 2003 book – The Essential Boris Johnson – stated his eagerness to charge the public for NHS services, and he has enthusiastically backed every move to carve up and privatise the NHS. Indeed, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major had this to say about him:

“The NHS is about as safe with them [Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Ian Duncan Smith] as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.”

To repeat, these are the words of a former Conservative Prime Minister.

Now there’s not a person in Britain unaware of the Trump administration’s desire for the NHS to be part of a post-Brexit trade deal. And the Americans have the upper-hand.

Brexit Britain is desperate for trade. We are about to become a small fish in a big pond, and if the US wants something from us, there’s every chance they will get it. And one of the first points of discussion will be higher drug prices.

Americans pay up to ten times as much as the UK for drugs like insulin, and Big Pharma has such influence over congress, Americans are not allowed to import cheaper drugs from abroad. Trump has stated his resentment that Britain is, in his opinion, underpaying for drugs. And let’s not forget, the US is a place where diabetics die because they can’t pay for treatment.

Most American Go Fund Me pages are set up to pay for medical costs, and most fail to raise the needed sums. Just imagine being deemed surplus to requirements by your society for a medical condition you were born with. That is the brutal reality of free market capitalism.

A general election in 2019 seems highly likely, and this will not just be a battle for which party gets to lead the country – it will be a battle for the NHS.

Labour will put the NHS back into public hands and end the funding crisis which took almost every NHS trust from a budget surplus into a deficit under Tory rule.

The Conservatives will further privatise services, handing over pieces of our NHS to US corporations who are circling like vultures, until soon we reach a point where we have surrendered full control, and are left scratching our heads, wondering how we ended up with a US-style insurance-based model.

The Tories will, of course, tell you this was the only way, that nationalised healthcare, which we’ve had for over 70 years, which every developed country other than the US has, suddenly became unaffordable and full privatisation was the only solution. In fact, they will probably find a way to blame Labour. They always do. But Labour is the party that gave us the NHS and it is their greatest achievement.

You probably know someone who was saved by the NHS, maybe someone who had cancer treatment and was given a new lease of life at no charge. Under a US-style model, there’s every chance that person, be it your uncle, brother, sister, cousin, best mate – would be bankrupt or dead.

Just think about that. And then think about the 50/50 chance you could one day get that horrible diagnosis. Would you be able to pay?

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History of the Monarchy

Following the Queen’s decision to allow the government to prorogue parliament and force No Deal Brexit, many are asking whether the monarchy should be abolished. In the interests of fairness, it’s worth pointing out there is debate over whether the Queen could or should have said no to Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Personally, I would’ve liked Elizabeth to defy him, but then again, as a republican, I could be seen as hypocritical if I argued she should interfere in our democratic process. One thing I will say is Elizabeth’s role seems to be purely ceremonial, in which case, I must ask what is the point? I would also like to challenge her legal right to the throne. Here is a brief history of the House of Windsor, laying out why…

Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, the Catholic King James II was overthrown and sent into exile by English Protestants led by Dutchman William of Orange who then became William III. Towards the end of William’s life, there were no Protestant heirs to the throne so the Act of Settlement 1701 decreed all Catholic heirs would be bypassed until a Protestant could be found. Our monarchy was then handed over to the German House of Hanover, and all monarchs since are descended from Sophia of Hanover.

Due to anti-German sentiment during World War I, the monarchy changed its name to the more palatable House of Windsor, but the fact remained a family of German heritage controlled the monarchy based purely on the outcome of 17th century religious conflict.

Foreigners were handed the throne simply because powerful British people approved of their religion. I would therefore suggest there is no legitimacy to the Windsors’ claim, based on the right of accession – a right which is absurd in itself.

We are supporting the extraordinarily lavish lifestyles of this family for no reason, other than misguided sentiment. Royalists will tell you they generate huge sums of money for the economy. The fact is, they are using the Crown Estate – a publicly-owned property portfolio – to further enrich themselves. The monarchy is antithetical to the principle of meritocracy and a symbol of our colonial past and today’s grotesque inequality.

Last year, we funded a hugely expensive wedding while the homeless of Windsor were brushed to one side because, heaven forbid, we could not have the royals laying eyes on the peasants.

So many in this country are struggling to get by, eating from food-banks, and making extraordinary sacrifices, and we are told, rather perversely, to be grateful for the indulgences of a rich German family who stole our country.

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Disputing the Anti-Immigration Meme

I’ve seen many idiots recently, family included, sharing or citing memes about how illegal immigrants receive £30,000 a year, and even a free house or car, when they come to the UK, and they seem convinced this is the root of their problems.

If this applies to you, let me help you out here: If an illegal immigrant comes to the UK and tries to apply for benefits, housing, or even attempts to receive NHS treatment, they will be deported. (The clue’s in the word ‘illegal’).

Illegals actually work when they come here, often in awful conditions for below minimum wage. You may not like the fact they are here, but there’s no sensible way you can say their presence impacts you, unless it was your lifelong dream to pick fruit.

Legal immigrants are not allowed to claim benefits either. My wife is an immigrant. Her Visa clearly states no recourse to public funds. Not only do legal immigrants work, they are significant contributors to the economy, and our services, such as the NHS, could not function without them.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work until their application is processed. They are given £3,000 a year to live off, even if they are a couple (this would work out at £30 a week per person.) Only about 6% of immigrants claim asylum and if their application is rejected, they are deported.

If you have a problem with the UK accepting legitimate refugees, I don’t know what to say to you, other than stop reading The Sun, The Daily Mail, etc., and stop filling your head with hatred. The real cause of your problems is politicians and the rich people who own them. It is they who led us into war and created refugees in the first place. And it is they who led us into recession and imposed austerity upon us.

People all over the world are being shit on by the elite and if you stop scapegoating for a second, you’ll realise you have far more in common with immigrants than with your leaders.

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Why I will be Voting Labour

I remember the dark old days of 1980s Britain when the northeast of England was forgotten by the Tory government. Unemployment was sky high. The few available jobs paid badly. Crime soared, poverty soared, services were terrible, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Wealthy southerners can’t grasp how horrified us northerners are by the creeping return of those dark days. My people deserve better than this. All decent people do.

When I was growing up, we had nothing. It was a genuine struggle to know where the next meal was coming from. We couldn’t go to nice places – and nice things were for wealthy people in other parts of the country. I remember when I left school and couldn’t get a job, couldn’t get a home, despite being one of the most gifted kids in my school. And I remember how Blair was prime minister at this point, and things were getting better for some in my area, but not for single young men like me.

One of the many reasons people called Blair a red Tory was that although he helped some, he did not represent everyone – and I was cast aside.

Now I see a leader in Jeremy Corbyn who genuinely would represent the working class and give the underclass a fair shot. And even though my situation is not as dire now, this matters so much to me. I don’t want our kids to go though what I went through. And nor should you.

Our kids deserve their free school meals (just like they deserved the milk Thatcher stole) and their schools should not be sold to the highest bidder. They should not amass huge debts for a higher education or see aspiration as unrealistic.

Our workers deserve a living wage and a full time contract. They deserve four extra bank holidays and rights at work. They deserve the right to sue for mistreatment or wrongful dismissal, regardless of the length of their employment.

Our pensioners deserve their winter fuel allowance. They deserve social care. They deserve to keep their house. They deserve dignity in old age. These people fought for our country and many of their peers died for our freedom.

The disabled deserve better than humiliating ATOS assessments, the bedroom tax, loss of benefits, loss of support, loss of life. Yes, loss of life. An estimated 130,000 vulnerable people have died due to Tory cuts, according to academic studies, and many more were left destitute, including wheelchair users and the mentally ill.

Parents deserve better than stagnating wages, cuts to tax credits and child benefit. They deserve better than unaffordable rent and unattainable mortgages. They deserve better than skipping meals to ensure their kids don’t go hungry.

Britain deserves better than food banks, shoddy services, and exploitation from the elite. We deserve better than the destruction of the NHS, a police force unequipped to deal with terrorism, a fire service unequipped to prevent avoidable deaths which have increased 21%.

At present, many of our public services (like rail and energy) are run by foreign governments who are profiteering from our shoddy services and pumping the profits into their own services. It’s time we put a stop to this. It’s time we prioritised high quality service and kept the profit for ourselves. Ask yourself, why can’t our government run our services, when other governments run their own services and our services? Is nationalisation really such a crazy idea?

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has given every indication he is more right-wing than May or Thatcher, his agenda even more extreme. But in Jeremy Corbyn we see someone who is the opposite in every way, who is passionate and sincere, who has been on the right side of history throughout his career, who gives us hope.

Corbyn was arrested for protesting apartheid when the Tories were calling Mandela a terrorist. He was campaigning for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so. He brought republicans and loyalists to the negotiating table during the IRA conflict, and he was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2013. Corbyn warned us that deregulation of the financial sector would lead to economic recession. He warned us the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would destabilise the middle east. He warned us that police cuts would leave us vulnerable to terrorism. He was right. Every. Single. Time.

Almost everyone agrees the establishment is corrupt, that ordinary people are not being represented. Well, finally we have a chance to take another direction, to take on the bankers and the media moguls, to create a system that works for everyone. Take a look at the countries with the world’s best living standards, best public services, highest social mobility, best records on human rights, lowest levels of corruption – they are the left-wing democracies. The Labour Party is offering a system proven to work – and considered normal throughout northern Europe and beyond. When the press tell you otherwise, whose interests do you think they’re representing: Yours or the billionaire press barons’?

The UK is currently charging corporation tax at 19% which is lower than most G20 countries. Could this be why the media are so keen to keep the Tories in power? I would suggest this is what corruption looks like. The number of Tory tax dodgers is simply unacceptable, including, allegedly, the Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson who is reluctant to disclose his finances.

The Tories are handing out sweetheart deals to their corporate mates left, right, and centre. Labour would put a stop to this. They’d crack down on tax dodging and make the elite pay their way. If you think such steps are unnecessary or impractical, consider this: The Tories have borrowed more than every Labour government combined because they otherwise could not pay their bills, due to sharp tax cuts. While the public is undergoing austerity, the rich are getting richer, and our debts are mounting. Wages fell by 10.4% in real terms for ordinary people under Tory rule. What happened to ‘We’re all in this together’?

I don’t want five more years of austerity, police cuts, fire service cuts, NHS cuts. I don’t want the remains of our public services to be sold to the highest bidder. And the left-wing are not exaggerating or scaremongering when we say the future of the NHS is at risk. Prominent Tories have stated their desire for full privatisation for many years and Alexander Johnson is keen to charge for access to the service. Every chance they get, the Tories sell off another piece of our most prized institution.

Even former Conservative Prime Minister John Major said the NHS is under threat because of the ‘pythons’ Michael Gove, Alexander Johnson, and Ian Duncan-Smith. Doctors and nurses are hugely concerned, and I think we should take their concerns seriously. I do not want my children to grow up in a country where the poor get sick and die like they do in some countries.

And it is not just doctors who are concerned. Prominent police officers continuously warned the government that budget cuts left the country at increased risk of terrorism. The previous Prime Minister Theresa May accused them of scaremongering and crying wolf. Recent events have shown their concerns were justified. And it is heart-breaking to think children have lost their lives because of her arrogance.

I find it horrifying many would consider voting for a party that could be so reckless with our safety. A party so inhumane it wants to bring back fox hunting, scrap free school meals, scrap the winter fuel allowance, even take grandma’s house. Prior to 2010, I really thought Britain was better than this, that we were moving onto a more compassionate kind of politics. I sincerely hope we soon will.

The Tories are promising to take us down the same old path. Labour is offering a different direction, and I’m not na├»ve enough to believe they will work miracles or be perfect. Of course they won’t, but at least they will sincerely try to improve things, and are offering a strong plan. The Tories didn’t bother to cost their last manifesto, let alone offer anything resembling hope. It is galling that many still back them, but people can change their minds.

A general election is surely coming in 2019 and all we have to do is vote for our best interests.

Vote for investment in our services. Vote for people before profit. Vote for free school meals. Vote for free higher education. Vote for a £10 an hour minimum wage. Vote for one million new houses. Vote for four new bank holidays. Vote for the police. Vote for the fire service. Vote for the NHS. Vote for hope.

Vote Labour.

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Is Jeremy Corbyn too Left Wing?

One accusation continuously levelled at Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party is their policies are too left wing, and therefore unworkable, but does this claim stand up to scrutiny? Certainly, you will find few in the mainstream media willing to tackle those policies head-on. They simply regurgitate empty platitudes and then cite 1970s Britain as an example of why Corbyn is out of touch, but there are several key points they omit. In this article I will discuss a few:

a) The most successful government in our country’s history was Clement Attlee’s Labour government, and it was also the most left wing.

At a time when Britain was in ruins, following World War II, and struggling with a deficit of 250% of GDP, Labour invested in infrastructure, gave us the NHS and public housing, achieved full employment and turned that huge deficit into a budget surplus.

But how was this possible? Doesn’t socialist ideology always lead to mass unemployment and a bigger deficit? Well, actually, no. History clearly demonstrates otherwise. The further left we push, the better we perform, and the same pattern can be seen in democracies around the world.

Added to this the fact under Tory rule, public services suffer, wages stagnate, and wealth gets shifted upwards to the 1%, it is a wonder the Tories get any votes at all. But then they do have the mainstream media on their side (including tragically the BBC).

A handful of billionaires control 90% of the “news” we receive and inevitably support the PM candidate who sucks up to them, who offers whatever tax loophole they ask for. Just look at how Tony Blair and David Cameron befriended Rupert Murdoch, the man whose newspapers have backed the winning candidate in every recent general election. This is no coincidence.

Times may be changing and the mainstream media’s influence may be waning, but that influence is certainly still felt. The public may not be stupid, but human psychology is a strange thing, and otherwise smart people can be manipulated. The key is to generate fear and anger, create common enemies, and then repeat the same tropes over and over. The more a person hears something, the more likely they are to believe it is true. And the more emotionally affected they are likely to become.

In recent years, we have been told our woes come from the EU, Muslims, and immigrants. We’re constantly fed negative stories about these groups, and although some stories may have an element of truth, context is almost always lacking, meaning the consequences are exaggerated and the positives are minimised. We are then told the Tory party will save us from these enemies and that other parties would surrender, that they are weak, ineffective, treacherous even.

We’re rarely told immigration provides a net economic benefit, that immigrants contribute more to the system than they take from it, that they’re significantly less likely to claim benefits or commit crimes, that they keep many of our services running, that you’re more likely to win the lottery than be the victim of terrorism, that Muslims up and down the country, and worldwide, are working to tackle extremism, that Muslims themselves are the biggest victims of terrorism, that EU membership has greatly improved workers’ rights, environmental protections, etc., and that Europe has actually done a much better job of tackling elitism than Britain, with significantly lower levels of inequality, less corruption, and better public services. The EU is far from perfect, but it is our approach that is the main problem, not theirs.

We are allowing the elite to drive down wages, despite the fact Britain is wealthier than ever before. Since the recession began, all new money that has come into the country has gone to the richest 1%, making them three times richer than they already were.

Britain has seen the second largest collapse of wages in the developed world, just behind the basket case economy of Greece. In most developed countries, wages are increasing. Our public services are being sold to foreign companies and governments who are profiteering while allowing the quality of services to suffer.

In short, we are being shafted, but we allow ourselves to be distracted into believing we’re tackling the ‘real enemies’ – the EU, Muslims, and immigrants. And if the Tories win, this strategy will, of course, not lead us into prosperity because it was never meant to. They will simply find other groups to demonise and we will allow ourselves to be distracted all over again.

b) The nations leading the world on human development tend to be more left wing than Britain.

Arguably, the most socially and economically left wing democracies are in Scandinavia, and they operate similarly to how Britain would under Labour with extensive social programs. It is no secret Scandinavian countries regularly top the UN Index of Human Development and The World Happiness Report. The next time someone cites Venezuela as an example of why democratic socialism cannot work, mention this, and then remind them such a straw-man argument is no different from citing Somalia as an example of free market capitalism.

c) All of Labour’s policies have proven successful elsewhere.

Here I will discuss arguably the five most noteworthy:

£10 an hour minimum wage
The Tories would have you believe a high minimum wage is a job killer. Try telling that to Denmark, Switzerland or Australia who have the highest minimum wages in the world, but low unemployment. Also, look at the US where minimum wages vary by state. The states with the highest minimum wages perform better. Why? Simple economics.

Economies function properly when the working class have money in their pockets. It gets them away from state dependency and enables them to spend, which puts money into the economy, in turn creating jobs and helping small businesses grow. The only losers in this scenario are the billionaires who have to cut their own disgustingly high bonuses in order to pay their workers a fair wage.

A national investment bank

It is no coincidence the countries which invest most in small businesses have the most thriving economies. This concept has proven particularly successful in Germany, which is the model I understand Corbyn is looking to emulate. Either we can have a country in which large corporations dominate and billionaires siphon our money into tax havens, or we can have a country where the ordinary guy can get ahead, and where everyone benefits.

Nationalised rail network

Firstly, this idea is not unaffordable, as some would have you believe, nor is the state inherently too inefficient to run a rail network. At present, almost all of our rail services are run by the Dutch, German, and French governments! We can renationalise rail companies, one by one, for free, as their licenses expire, and then we can put an end to poor services and sky high prices. All across Europe, you will find better rail services, and almost all are state owned and run. Some European countries are profiteering from our rail network and putting their own people first. Isn’t it time we put a stop to this?

Increasing free childcare

How many times have single mothers been demonised for claiming benefits? By increasing free childcare, we can make it easier for women to work, providing a boost to the economy, and reducing state dependency. At present, the free childcare we offer is much lower than in many other countries. The Swedes get extra tax credits to defray the cost of child-rearing, plus access to regulated, subsidised day care facilities which stay open from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night. The Danes and French benefit from similar arrangements. We are the second most expensive country in Europe for childcare and this only provides an obstacle for working mothers. Let’s change this.

Progressive taxation

The Tories claim high taxes for high earners will drive businesses abroad, and yet the countries with the highest upper-tax rates are doing just fine. When Denmark set its upper-tax rate at 52%, it was ranked the best place in the world to do business. In the 1950s, the US and UK had an upper-tax rate of 90% and their economies thrived. While no-one is suggesting we go that high again, a few extra percentage points on the upper-tax rate would certainly ease the burden of those hit hardest by austerity.

After all, we’re in this together, aren’t we?

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Corbyn and Thatcher - The Apartheid Years

The sign of a true leader is foresight.

While other leaders act against public interest and then cry hindsight, the truly great are right from the very start. Jeremy Corbyn is one such man. A perfect example of his foresight, character and integrity would be his stance against South African apartheid and how this contrasts with Conservative hero Margaret Thatcher.

During the 1980s, protests outside the South African Embassy in London were common and coincided with intensified resistance to apartheid in South Africa. Officials of the South African government wielded strong influence over the British government at the time and pressured the Foreign Office to quell the anti-apartheid movement.

One could easily draw parallels to Israeli apartheid and attempts by the Netanyahu regime to silence pro-Palestinian voices. It would seem history has a way of repeating itself.

In June 1984, protests outside the South African Embassy were banned and the Metropolitan Police took the decision to arrest those who would defy that ban. But the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group were not so easily deterred. Many citizens and several politicians were arrested in a noble protest which had become about more than apartheid, but also the right to free assembly. Among those arrested was the MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn.

This act of civil disobedience ultimately led to the ban being overturned. The protests could continue in a place where they had maximum visibility and South African officials could not simply ignore them. Shame stared them in the face.

Jeremy Corbyn was prepared to jeopardise his own safety and personal freedom to help achieve the liberation of black South Africans. Perhaps we should listen when he calls for the liberation of Palestinians. Perhaps we should listen when he discusses any human rights issue. His record must earn our respect.

Let’s contrast the MP for Islington North with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who said Nelson Mandela had a “rather closed mind”, following a telephone call with the ANC leader in July 1990, according to records at the UK National Archives. This call took place just five months after Mandela was released from prison, and while decent people around the world were celebrating his freedom, conservatives most certainly were not.

Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan viewed Mandela’s African National Congress as communists and placed them on terrorist watch lists while describing the South African government as cold war allies. They also suggested it was Mandela’s aim to turn South Africa into a communist state and spread communism throughout the world. Time has, of course, proven these claims to be absurd smears, used to justify continued oppression, yet the media so rarely hold conservatives to account. When we talk of the establishment, this is what we mean – rich and powerful people working together to control narratives and consolidate power.

“The South African government is under no obligation to negotiate the future of the country with any organisation that proclaims a goal of creating a communist state, and uses terrorist tactics and violence to achieve it,” Reagan said in a 1986 speech.

It would seem the right wing have a habit of demonising those who fight for social justice, portraying good guys as natural enemies. Something to consider as mouth-foaming conservatives scream “Antisemite!” at the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Chris Williamson in the UK, and Ilhan Omar and the Jewish Bernie Sanders in the US. Only a fool would fail to see the irony of a conservative labelling a socialist as racist.

Reagan and Thatcher opposed sanctioning the South African government, even though Mandela and the ANC called for this action to hasten the end to apartheid. Clearly Republicans and Conservatives were not allies in the fight against apartheid, they were supporters of it, regardless of their attempts to rewrite history.

In 1981, Reagan told Walter Cronkite South Africa was “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.” Just think about how the US and UK governments uncritically praise the Netanyahu regime and vehemently oppose BDS of Israel. And let’s not forget the US still had Mandela and the ANC on a terrorist watch list as late as 2008.

Conservatives so often occupy the wrong side of history.

“A considerable number of the ANC leaders are communists … When the ANC says that they will target British companies, this shows what a typical terrorist organisation it is,” Thatcher said in a press conference, prior to Mandela’s release from prison.

Thatcher’s support for the South African government should come as no surprise, given her cosy relationship with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet – a man who Jeremy Corbyn campaigned to have brought to justice in yet another example of his foresight and moral character.

Corbyn also campaigned for gay rights during the Thatcher years and voted against the abominable Section 28 which banned the teaching of homosexuality in schools. Corbyn supported the miners’ strikes & fought tirelessly to save mine pits from closure. He campaigned against the UK arming Saddam in the 70s and 80s, and protested Saddam’s butchering of the Kurds. He campaigned for the Birmingham 6 & Guildford 4 whose convictions were eventually quashed.

Corbyn has built his life around taking principled, and often unpopular or even dangerous stands. Every step of the way, he has been opposed by conservatives and even “centrists” within his own party. But Corbyn has repeatedly been proven right.

Twenty years from now, when Palestinians are liberated and the world agrees their treatment at the hands of the Israeli government – the dropping of white phosphorous, the sniping of pregnant women and aid workers, the imprisonment of children, the cutting off water supplies, the continued land grabbing – was barbaric and illegal, Conservatives will surely try to again rewrite history and claim they fought the Palestinian cause all along.

But Jeremy Corbyn will, in his twilight years, be able to proudly say he took a principled stand, and once the smears had died down, he was again proven right.

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