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Note to a friend (also to me as placemarker):

The Manifesto ​translation we have now ​seems​ pretty good, though I like the very first one in English​ in 1850​, I am sure you can guess, because the first sentence, ​”​ein gespenst geht um in Europ​a“​, which we have now as ​”​a spectre is haunting Europe​”​ was first translated, and published by the​ chartist and slavery abolitionist​,​​ Helen M​a​cFarlane​. Her rendering of that first line has it​​ ​as the immortal, ​and ​child terrifying: ​”​A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe​”​! Gotta love it. 

Macfarlane though married a vicar and died young​.

but it is probably well worth exploring her life and writing​

​This reminds me to read more about here – there is a biography​:


Darwin’s Political Wackiness

In the updated 1844 edition of the Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin offers his view on political systems (as indeed many do about the acephalous societies of South America – Clastres, even Lévi-Strauss) but here, well, not even ‘of its time’ is an excuse for this foolery – cheap shots at indigenous Australians and Maori notwithstanding, the structured racist-species-ism is built in:

‘The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes, must for a long time retard their civilization. As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at afar higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New Zealanders, – who, although benefited by being compelled to turn their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise dU there is property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power. I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. … The Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian: he can,  however, boast of his boomerang, his spear and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting’ (Darwin 1844: 241)

Voyage of the Beagle

Người Cầm Lái

A Opera-play Người Cầm Lái (April 2022) presented Ho Chi Minh as the helmsman. By ‘The People’s Public Security Theatre, it celebrates ‘the beloved President’s 132nd birthday (1890-2022) along with the theatre’s 40th founding anniversary (1982-2022)’ (Nhan Dan 2022).

Nhan Dan, (2022, April 4th) ‘Opera staged in honour of President Ho Chi Minh’ Nhan Dan https://en.nhandan.vn/culture/lifestyle/item/11396402-opera-staged-in-honour-of-president-ho-chi-minh.html

But there is a longer record…

In 1927, in Duong Cach Menh (part of which is recently translated here), Bac Ho refers to to the Party as the necessarily firm hand on the tiller of the revolution (page 86 Selected Ho Chi Minh).

The trope has history of course can be sought out in many literatures – see Homer, Virgil – but this is also a venerable tradition in communist histories Lenin, Stalin, Mao. Perhaps worth documenting:

The year before Ho Chi Minh described the Party as giving the necessary steer, but while he had already been teaching the course for a year, in 1926 a poster by Mitrofanov described Lenin as the Helmsman (корmчии) of the Soviet state (Media Storehouse 2004):

1926 poster by Mitrofanov – from Media Storehouse 2004 ‘Lenin as the Helmsman of the Soviet state’ Online at https://www.mediastorehouse.com/heritage-images/lenin-helmsman-soviet-state-ca-1926-20764416.html

But perhaps my favourite of Lenin is a 1932 lithograph picturing him at the helm of a red-sailed ship (must be a pirate ship as I see some renegades there too, so the date might be wrong as this implies pre- 1929 and Look and Learn, where I’ve nicked the image, was a British children’s mag from 1962 onwards – look and get things distorted is of course a staple of all English history curricula):

5234061 (colour litho) by Russian School (20th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: Portrait of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), depicted as a helmsman steering a ship with red sails, representing the USSR, 1932.); Look and Learn / Elgar Collection.

Let us not think this was not a wider party thing in the USSR though – Stalin, in 1933, was depicted on that same ship:

In China, Quan Gian for the Hong Kong based China media Project, tells us that Mao was already described as the “great helmsman,” or wěidà de duòshǒu (伟大的舵手) in 1949. Quite possibly earlier.

Quan Gian. (2020, November, 2) A Brief History of the Helmsman. China Media Project, Hong Kong online at https://chinamediaproject.org/2020/11/02/a-brief-history-of-the-helmsman/

‘on February 21, 1950, the People’s Daily published a verse by the poet Tian Jian (田间) that praised both Stalin and Mao. Written in a time of deep friendship between the CCP and the Soviet Union, the poem was called: “Two Good Helmsmen, in the Same Boat” (两位好舵手,同御一条船)’ (Quan 2020)

but earlier Lenin and Stalin were also called helmsmen in China, according to Quan, a search the archives of the People’s Daily, launched 1946, shows ‘that “helmsman” Lenin was referred to as well as Stalin. Lenin was the helmsman. Stalin was the helmsan. And Mao was of course the helmsman. In all instances they were referred to as the duoshou (舵手)’ (Quan 2020).

There was a 1940s Chinese Communist Party song – “You Are The Beacon” (你是灯塔) that refers to Mao as  helmsman: The lyrics went: ‘You are the beacon, shining on the ocean before dawn. You are the helmsman, piloting us forward.’ (Quan 2020)

and a cultural revolution era revolutionary song, ‘“Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman” (大海航行靠舵手), written by Wang Shuangyin in 1964’ (Quan 2020). You can find that here:

All good. But…

I think it might also be possible that Ho Chi Minh was referring to a folk lyric he remembered when he referred to ‘Người Cầm Lái’ in Duong Cach Menh. Not my area of expertise at all but I imagine him critically reworking the (somewhat problematic) tradition here. The lyrics refer to the need for stability (we can keep the reference to chồng dated to the times, though today sometiems also…):

Chồng chành như nón không quai – Rocking like a conical hat without a chin strap

Như thuyên không lái, như ai không chồng – A boat without a rudder, she has no old man at home.

Much as I would like to provide, I do not have a reference for this – so, kindly please, I ask for help, anyone?

Subhas gutted in HCMC (fire at 76 Hai Ba Trung, 1.7.2022)

July 1st, Ho Chi Minh City – 76 Hai Ba Trung – After a fire that started in an picture framing shop*, a large part of the house of where former Indian National Congress leader and then Second Imperialist World War (WW2) Indian National Army leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose last stayed in Saigon was severely damaged. (There’s Vietnam.net news footage below, after my photos). All of the roof seems charred and some metal structural supports are in place and most of the right side part of the building – largely separate – is gutted. The left side of the building seems to have intact rooms, though the roof is clearly all fire affected. I don’t want to pry, but its possible to see from the street, despite a flimsy wire barrier, some important family materials were lost – you can see the charred remains of a framed picture of a deity among that wreckage.

There had been in the past calls for the Indian Government to do smething to preserve this important site of heritage significance, though no doubt controversial for some.

* no coincidence at all that my first trade was as a picture framer

Here you can see that the roof burned, but a lot of the right side of the building itself was saved by the prompt arrival of fire brigade crews (see the news video at the end, the brigade were there within minutes).

Admittedly, my camera skills failed here today, as it was peak hour traffic on a busy road, so I did not have time to check or to climb over the barrier to get a better shot. Not even sure I should – there are personal effects here perhaps. Still, not identifiable at least in my dodgy images (Huawei, no filter)

The right side of the building is pretty much wrecked as we see here. The roof of the main part of the hours seems saveable, or at least a new metal support exo-skeleton has been fitted. No doubt many original fittings and fixtures have been tragically damaged beyond repair.

Happily the back of the building seems to have largely been spared, and today – 6 weeks after the fire, the driveway is still a thriving street food spot, with at least 6 different vendors and a dozen or so 4 seater tables providing alfresco, smokey aroma, dining.

The news report does not mention that this was the house where Netaji stayed. It does say the fire started from an infrared malfunction, that the fire threatened a nearby hostel, and that personal effects were damaged – and that it started in the art shop. Of course I am curious – this is a set back for any restoration, and so much of the old heritage buildings of HCMC are lost – though just down the street a little is the old opium factory that’s been retained and converted to upscale restaurants, in a twisted heritage gambit too – even the sign that indicated it was an opium factory is gone now though, even if the iconography on the gate remains obviously poppy (see Tim Doling’s posts on this at http://www.historicvietnam.com/wang-tai/).

For Subhas though, it is a major setback as he was promising to return to live here soon, or so ‘they’ say.

75 years of Indian independence suggests it is time for the India Govt to step in and fund a restoration.

See here for earlier Subhas in HCMC posts:

We are probably all black centipedes at heart

Dream note: I have to arrange my own boat, a massive crustacean-covered barge rowed with huge crab/octopus like mechanical oars and a front that folds over with a huge splash. A group of older learned scholars are at a table inside the boat/or by the wharf, eating a swell feast. The point apparently is that I have to go out in the boat and interview victims of a genocide, though I find it hard to get the language translations right every time, and I suspect the responsible people – in colonial uniforms – are the ones in the bistro and I can’t/won’t protect them. Even though the lead scholar has been out on the boat before, it is my responsibility now to get it in and out of the fisheries canal according to local lore. The head-scratching point (in the dream) is that I’m not here to catch fish, but to somehow warn the fisher-folk that these are poisonous fish. They look poisonous – well-ugly giant oily black catfish-sharks a bit like Burroughs’ giant centipedes. The issue of genocide against indigenous is traumatising, but the academics in the bistro group all see it only through their own holocaust frames. I’ve not managed to get home to wash or eat, but am committed to doing it right by the fishers, but cannot without flooding the harbour cafe where the diners cavort. I feel I’ll probably get it done without killing them, but rookie mistakes are almost a methodology, and it seems more satisfying showing people how the boat works than worrying about flooding the wharf. I awake with a very clear image of how dangerous the fish are.

Kant on Robinson

well well… of course Robinson serves all who want him to be twisted this way and that – of its time, of our time…

Immanuel Kant seems to get quite muddled in thinking of animals and instinct alongside Robinson, at least according to Feyerabend’s notes on Kant’s lecture course on Natural Right – we should ask who are these sailors, who probably also killed the Albatross, and who are the savage islanders and what is the name of this Hotentot, left so anonymous, despite ingenuity (at least that is recognised, Kant sees it as native cunning I suppose):

‘The wildest animal is not as frightening as a lawless human being. This is why Robinson Crusoe, after being on his desert island for many years, was frightened when he saw the footprint of a human being so much that he was restless from that moment on and could not sleep at night. – This is also why sailors don’t think twice of shooting a savage to death on an unknown island because they do not know what to expect from him. – One can also consider the death of the Chevalier Marion in New Zealand who lived for a month with the savages in the best of friendship and did no harm to them but subsequently they devoured him along with twenty-two sailors merely because they wanted to eat him. An animal is determined by its instinct, which has rules, but from such a human being I do not know in the least what to expect. Sparrman explains in his Journey to the Cape of Good Hope that the lion does not hunt its prey but sneaks up to it and then when it believes it is close enough springs at once and if it misses its prize steps back as if it wants to see where it went wrong and then sneaks there. Human beings know that and can judge accordingly. Thus once a Hotentot was going home and a lion snuck after him at a distance. Now he knew that he would not be able to get home before evening and that the lion would then suddenly tear him to pieces. He took off his clothing and put them on a stick so that it seemed that he was standing there. But he made himself a hole in a hill and hid there. The lion came slowly closer and sprang and, because the stick immediately gave way, tumbled down the hill with the clothes and stick and then slunk away. However, a lion will hunt its prey when it is very hungry (Feyerabend in Kant 2016: 83)

Earlier, in the Lectures on Anthropology, Kant had elaborated on this scene in a discussion of civil order and malevolence – of the meaning of human ‘desires, jealousy, mistrust, violence, propensity for enmity against those outside the family’ (Kant 2012: 215). It is basically always about the threat of war. He writes:

‘As an animal, the human being is a very pugnacious animal. In the wild, he fears nothing as much as another human being. Thus Robinson [Crusoe] on the island was alarmed when he discovered human footprints. The human being can greatly beware of all animals, if he already once knows their kind and nature, but not of his own kind, for since this is a cunning creature, he thus cannot detect its snares; he can pretend to be friendly, and yet act malevolently, he knows how to dissemble, and disguise himself, and always conceive of new means of becoming dangerous for the other [person]. Everyone already feels in himself, if he were alone for a long time on the island, and thus already believed himself to be safe, that he would become greatly frightened if he would discover a human being, for now he would no longer be quite safe, now he would have an enemy who is more dangerous for him than all wild animals, since he could in fact beware of them, and outwit them, but not the human being, for this one can set traps for him, watch all his actions, and hinder him and be dangerous for him in every aspect. Unless, if they have the same needs, and are in the same predicament, they discover one another, become acquainted with one another, and live sociably; however even then the one cannot quite trust the other, he does not in fact know, if the other is not again plotting against him. Among the animal species, he is probably not to be ranked as a beast of prey, since it does not seem that he would have an immediate appetite for others’ animal blood, for mauling everything and tearing it to pieces; moreover his physical build is not like that of a beast of prey. It thus seems that he would more likely stick with vegetables. Yet with respect to his own species, with respect to other human beings, he is indeed to be regarded as a beast of prey, since he is mistrustful, violent, and hostile toward his own kind, which is no longer as manifest in the civil state, since the human being is there held under constraint, but which still does very much sprout up, and a great deal from the animal state still adheres to us’ (Kant 2012: 214)

Kant, Immanuel. 2012. Lectures on Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kant, Immanuel. 2016. Lectures and Drafts on Political Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Netaji aggregator post

I do not want to attract new madness, the old madness does well enough. Here, a summary of various items of fun fact* where *I use the term in the sense of fake news facts*:

Much respect to Netaji, I do of course wish (any of) this was true.

However, some years ago, on the trail of Subhas’s house here in HCMC, which we found, which still exists, though in a dilapidated state, someone was in touch and linked to a number of photographs of an Indian looking gentleman who is pictured at a Chinese pro Vietnam ceremony (can be discounted, read the ‘mobile phone photo story abdout ‘Evidence shows’ – link below) and a picture of the delegation to Paris a few years later allegedly as a member of the talks, with *confirmation* by the famous Madame Binh – head negotiator. Well, most likely not, even if the person does seem to have the correct features, but all other accounts suggest a plane crash. Though Taiwan airport logs no such crash – during a war, go figure – thus pouring aviation fuel on the rumour mill.

Me, personally, I am sure Subhas will return in the next few weeks and reveal that it is true he has been trading Cocaine in Vietnam, then living in China before walking across Tibet with Vikram Seth. Since then he has been living all this time as a sadhu in Varanasi and other parts of U.P., perhaps. Ha!

More likely is the French story that he died in Prison – the notorious Police Bot Catinat (lock up mentioned in Grahame Green’s Quiet American book) is not far from his house, and its the more likely tale really.

Here are the links:

Then, here are a few of the even more fun factoidifications of the endless rabbit hole that is Netaji studies:

Alive in Vietnam:


Dead in Vietnam:


Netaji in China


The Taiwan aircrash never happened:


and perhaps the best yet, also well documented : https://thewire.in/history/netaji-subhas-chandra-bose-gumnami-baba

Indeed, probably worth citing the entire post as, well, surely we can only wish this were all true, what a hero (somewhat unfortunately its only in The Wire, ah well):

“He lived incognito to perform some covert activities in Asian countries. He led an Asian Liberation Army which fought in the Korean War of 1952. The Chinese army that attacked India in 1962 was led by him. He wanted to emancipate India from the western influence but Indians could not recognise him, so he ordered the army to retreat. In Vietnam, he was guiding Ho-Chi-Minh in his fight against US imperialism. He went to Paris in 1969 to mediate for the Vietnamese in the ‘Paris Peace Talks’. Before that, he visited Tashkent to help draw up the Tashkent Pact between India and Pakistan on January 10, 1966. Lastly, he turned his attention to his native state and was in north Bengal in 1970-71 guiding the ‘Mukti-joddhas’ in their liberation war for Bangladesh.



Finally – never finally of course – the tributes continue in an effort to actually recognise the achievements of the man.


Me, I most like the story of him beating the black hole monument plaque with his slipper, as mentioned in my article https://www.academia.edu/17780537/THE_BLACK_HOLE in *Strangely Beloved* by the wonderful Nilanjana Gupta.

Thanks to Sarunas for the latest diversion into this quick sand trinketry.

In recovery

After two months of radio four brainwash, it is good to be in recovery, getting back to normal with Radio M-L and happy to leave the sinking remain/brexit isles to its terminal fester (both ‘sides’ continue to ruin any minimal potential there was in that). I admit I was entertained, mildly, by the easy distraction of the Tory party leader election teacup tempest. Slightly deflating, the spectacle after Boris was one of squalid sump oil dwellers spending all their airtime battling it out with nothing-for-brains, seeking the helm of a steampunk death-ship called Government, as if by right. Of course the Labour alternative under any of the current corporate pirate-raider types would be just as unseaworthy – as they all float away into the nether Atlantic, far from relevance, as is their driftwood ambition. Sigh.

Rejection journal.

Found in my notebooks from 2019: a proposal.

Journal for Rejected Papers of Persistence and Perseverance

   Aims and scope.

   This journal, set up to the standards that will disqualify it for indexing with the major rank indexing agencies, aims to publish work that has been rejected. Show us three negative evaluations that show no substantive reasons beyond ‘not suited to our readership’ and we will quickly consider and decide on publication on the basis of ill-focussed screenshots of existing reviews. Articles that are ‘too experimental’ are ‘not aligned with current disciplinary trends’ or are ‘lacking in reference to the established tradition’ or those which forgo any proper appreciation of the centrality of the rejecting journal for all and any discipline, and most grievously disrespectful of the work of the reviewer, especially reviewer number 2, will be especially welcome. We will also publish articles rejected for reasons that are spurious or nepotistic – not citing the editor/ reviewer’s work on x or exceeding the word limits by 100 words or less. Pedantic or institutionally biased rejections will be fast-tracked to publication. Political insensitivity, ultra leftism, overuse of Adorno, Heidegger or Spivak, allegation of jargon, in-group jokes or partisan disregard for ‘balance’ would all be grounds for rejection that we will take pleasure in ignoring.

Global shipping

sometimes these maps are so pro-capital its embarrassing. This one is of course, but its also informative. Here are the paths of need and greed, crime and time – the expropriation circuit writ large.

From Visual Capitalist…

Its green for money, white light for intensity, no light for where we actually live.

Captain Cook chased a chook…

… all around Australia, he lost his pants in the middle of France and found them in Tasmania.


Captain Cook rode a chook down the Murray River. Hit a rock, split his cock and left his balls to shiver.

Other variants…?

All provoked today by my son’s interest in rude rhymes (not about colonial plunder) and seeing this bottle on display at Lidl.

Dark days are these. Most peculiar honey…

Emma, Andrew, Jeremy, Bernie and Desmond – with friends like these…


Presented by Andrew Feinstein, former ANC, Corruption Watch and anti Arms Trade Campaigner. This is not much about Emma Watson as about Desmond Tutu. Had an opportunity to talk with the archbish before he gave a rousing talk at La Trobe Uni some time around 1990/91 and except for a little silliness about the god-bothering bible, he was as committed and inspired as you could ever expect. No surprise he riled up the establishments, yet that’s just not enough in these times.

It’s on FB I’m afraid, but worth the time – a little over 9 minutes: https://www.facebook.com/DoubleDownNews/videos/254114986690397/

The reserve army of labour – (latent)

Well, this is a new blip on the slow process of getting people paid recognition for work. There are a few other things like this – eg the publons rank graph too, though in all cases I’d prefer cash – even the ‘good old days’* of a couple of hundred dollars worth of books was not actually pay. This, however necessary and part of the business, remains a corvée system. Pretty much all editors, writers and reviewers are massively underpaid for the effort they contribute, and – just for casual comparative purposes – I’d like to see the salaries of the company management. I heard tell it was something near 7 figures. Now, how will I compare thee – a certificate of the recognition or 7 figs. Sigh.

* the good old days entailed some bad next days, like the one where my publisher took me to a NLB party one afternoon, then dinner and on to some boozy ending at 1am at the Alonquin bar tended by Jack and Clarence. Much hilarity, but a sore head the next morning. Some publishing heads surely have integrity, but the consolidation is such that now most (a narrow centralised cabal of conglomerate owners) are too corporate for words.

On Hazzard and White

Two little intro to the author books that I think are absolute gems – and they will get inside your ear to tell you more about the world and Australia than you can usually get, well, anywhere.

Christos Tsiolkas on Patrick White and Michelle de Kretser On Shirley Hazzard



Du Bois on Communism

I typed this out a week ago on Facebook and it was shared nearly 200 times on the first day. This, I think, indicates that the time is very much ripe…


“I have studied socialism and communism long and carefully in lands where they are practiced and in conversation with their adherents, and with wide reading. I now state my conclusion frankly and clearly: I believe in communism. I mean by communism, a planned way of life in the production of wealth and work designed for building a state whose object is the highest welfare of its people and not merely the profit of a part. I believe that all men should be employed according to their ability and that wealth and services should be distributed according to need. Once I thought that these ends could be attained under capitalism, means of production privately owned, and used in accord with free individual initiative. After earnest observation I now believe that private ownership of capital and free enterprise are leading the world to disaster. I do not believe that so-called “people’s capitalism” has in the United States or anywhere replaced the ills of private capitalism and shown an answer to socialism. The corporation is but the legal mask behind which the individual owner of wealth hides. Democratic government in the United States has almost ceased to junction. A fourth of the adults are disfranchised, half the legal voters do not go to the polls. We are ruled by those who control wealth and who by that power buy or coerce public opinion.

I resent the charge that communism is a conspiracy: Communists often conspire as do capitalists. But it is false that all Communists are criminals and that communism speaks and exists mainly by means of force and fraud. I shall therefore hereafter help the triumph of commimism in every honest way that I can: without deceit or hurt; and in anyway possible, without war; and with goodwill to all men of all colors, classes and creeds. If, because of this belief and such action, I become the victim of attack and calumny, I will react in the way that seems to me best for the world in which I live and which I have tried earnestly to serve. I know well that the triumph of communism will be a slow and difficult task, involving mistakes of every sort. It will call for progressive change in human nature and a better type of manhood than is common today. I believe this possible, or otherwise we will continue to lie, steal and kill as we are doing today.

Who now am I to have come to these conclusions? And of what if any significance are my deductions? What has been my life and work and of what meaning to mankind? The final answer to these questions, time and posterity must make. But perhaps it is my duty to contribute whatever enlightenment I can” (Du Bois 1968: 57-8)

Comparative Urbanism and who gets [funded to] compare

In the current conjuncture, with the increasingly complete capture of university research by corporate interests, only the alternative incorporation of research teams that start outside the university seems viable, resisting heavy-handed external oversight but stressing ethics. This is behind this is my current interest in Cora Du Bois’s Bhubaneswar project and her involvement in AAA at a very interesting time, but it also shaped my pre-pandemic attempts at fieldwork teams (stalled, but to be continued):

Click the image, then the pdf tab, to see the full text… here

The Stars in the Universe

Reposted from capitalnctu.wordpress.com

From TDTU amidst the detritus of the pandemic, this amazing work:

Translation Citation

It makes some sense to check the most often quoted, beloved bits, and expand them a little to see what that author might also have been saying Sometimes it is quite a different, more nuanced, thing than the standard citation allows. As a possible example, the third sentence here

From: The Task of the Translator:

“Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel. For this very reason translation must in large measure refrain from wanting to communicate something, from rendering the sense, and in this the original is important to it only insofar as it has already relieved the translator and his translation of the effort of assembling and expressing what is to be conveyed.” Walter Benjamin,

“The Task of the Translator,” Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York, 1969), p. 78.

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