December 25, 2011

Counterpoint

ABC Radio National


Trickle Up Economics


Amanda Vanstone

When governments get out of the way, things in the economy can get going.
Perhaps we should be saying to our governments:
We don't want you to spend more. …
What we want you to do is undo some of your regulation.
Get out of the way and let the business people get on with it and make a buck.
And create jobs, and wealth and income.
(Counterpoint, 10 October, 2016)

I am in the category of people who say:
Why do we keep regulating and passing laws?
We've had a law against murder for a long time and it hasn't worked!
There's a lot of people [who] put a lot of faith in regulation without realizing [that we then have to] pay a lot of public servants … to implement [it.]

(Counterpoint, 13 June, 2016)


Climate change! [exasperation]
You're so ABC, Fran … [laughs]

(The Party Room, 26 May, 2016)


It is primarily the Coalition that says we have to the deficit and public debt under control. …
[While Labor] sees itself as owning the concept of fair shares.
[This] makes it very easy, whenever you want to bring a budget back into some sort of control and make any cuts, to say:
Lower income people shouldn't have to pay anything for this — even though they may have been the beneficiaries of the spending which in large part has contributed to the deficit.
(Counterpoint, 16 May, 2016)


Left-wing Scepticism


Clive Hamilton

In the 1990s [a Trotskyist splinter group in the United Kingdom known as the Revolutionary Communist Party] published a controversialist journal titled Living Marxism (later LM Magazine) that frequently ran bitter attacks on environmentalism, describing it as a middle-class indulgence and a neo-colonial smokescreen.
(p 213)

The successor to LM lives on in cyberspace in the form of Spiked, a lively online mix of ultra-libertarianism and 'left-wing' opinion …

[In 2007] activists associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party were responsible for … documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. …
Immediately after it was broadcast, Spiked editor Brendan O'Neill wrote a vigorous defense of … the film's anti-environmental claims veiled by appeals to the right to dissent.
(p 214)

Speaking on behalf of the forgotten working class [O'Neill has written that:]
{[Our job is to attack] the ugly elitism and end-of-days mania of the environmentalist movement …}

[Environmental elites] cannot comprehend, indeed are "baffled" by,
  • our everyday behaviour,
  • our desire to have families,
  • our resistance to hectoring,
  • our dream of being wealthier, better travelled,
  • our hopes of live life to the full. …
(p 216)

The accord between some elements of the far left and far right is grounded in
  • their shared beliefs in the priority of material consumption in human wellbeing,
  • their defence of human domination of nature, and
  • their anti-authoritarian commitment to individual rights.
While conservatives saw environmentalism as a threat to capitalism and the American way of life, some on the far left saw environmentalism as a threat to their objective of overthrowing capitalism because it was a distraction from the main game.
(p 215)

Neo-conservatives have for years fulminated against the influence of post-modernism in university campuses and schools, with its pernicious promotion of 'moral relativism'.
They see themselves as defending objective truth after decades of, leftist challenge to the Western canon.
Yet in the case of climate change the conservative counter-movement has actively promoted those who challenge the established science.
Sceptical commentators like
  • Charles Krauthammer in the United States,
  • Melanie Phillips in Britain,
  • Mark Steyn in Canada and
  • Michael Duffy in Australia
not only dismiss the science but repeatedly attempt to 'deconstruct' the motives of the scientists who carry it out.
They are always on the lookout for biases and prejudices that could lie behind the scientific facts on global warming, explaining away the vast accumulation of evidence by impugning the motives of those who collect it.
(p 216)

In their view, scientific truth is malleable, contingent and contestable.
Like the creationists who believe that victory requires them to destroy the theory of evolution, they promote a form of anti-scientific fundamentalism that has less regard for scientific method than the most committed [social] constructivist on any university campus.
(p 217)

(Requiem For A Species, 2010)


A Cherry-Picker's Guide to Climate Change


Five ways of not seeing a warming trend in climate data:
  1. Start point — choose a peak such a year with a strong El Nino and/or a solar maximum.
  2. End point — choose a trough due to a strong La Nina or volcanic activity.
  3. Data set — choose a data set that has poor coverage of high latitudes (ie the arctic) where warming is three times the global average eg Hadley.
  4. Time span — choose a short time span (less than 25 years) so natural variability swamps the underlying climate signal.
  5. Compartment — the total energy content of the climate system is distributed between ocean, land and atmosphere.
    If you ignore ocean and land you can exclude the vast majority of energy being trapped by greenhouse gases.
Hey Presto!
No global warming.

Would you like to know more?


CONTENTS


2016
2013
2012
2011

COUNTERPOINT


Amanda Vanstone: Liberal Senator for South Australia (1984–2007)

  • US politics: Circus Maximus, 4 July, 201.
    Bill Schneider: Visiting Professor in Communications Studies, UCLA.
  • Can the Tea Party govern?, 25 November, 2013.
    Daniel McCarthy: Editor, The American Conservative.
  • Seafood and the brain, 25 November, 2013.
    Michael Crawford: Professor and Director, Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, London.
  • In black and white, 23 September, 2013.
    Anthony Dillon: PhD, Research Fellow, Centre for Positive Psychology and Education, University of Western Sydney.

    [We're always hearing] about the high incarceration rates [of indigenous people.]
    Well, don't commit crime!
    The biggest cause … for overrepresentation of aboriginal people in jail is that they commit crimes at higher rates.

  • The long African Spring, 19 August, 2013.
    Steve McDonald: Director, Africa Program and Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity, Wilson Center.
  • Who rules the culture wars? 8 July, 2013.
    Nick Cator: Executive Editor, The Australian.
    Guy Rundel: Correspondent-at-large, Crikey.com.

  • The Americas update, 27 May, 2013.
    Jonathan Haidt: Author, The Righteous Mind, Pantheon Books, New York, 2012.
  • Budget 2013: a decade of deficit? 6 May, 2013.
    John Daley: CEO, Grattan Institute.

    John Daley:
    [Over] the next decade [increasing costs and reduced revenues will add up] to about a deficit of 4% of gross domestic product [—] that's $60b [a year. …]

    Over the 2000's, when Peter Costello was treasurer, we had very rapidly growing revenues:
    • partly as a result of the run up in property prices and share prices — that increased capital gains tax receipts;
    • partly as a result of mining boom part 1 — which substantially increased company tax revenues.
    [So] what looked like reasonable surpluses, were in fact … underlying slight deficits.
    [That is to say,] if we hadn't had those tail winds … through the 2000s we would probably have been running a deficit.
    And of course … those tail winds were always going to reverse sooner or later. …

    Amanda Vanstone:
    You've said … to balance the books by 2023, responsible leaders will need to find 4% of GDP in either savings or tax increases … $60b a year in today's terms.

    John Daley:
    The Australian Government, over the last 4 years, has [actually] made savings of that kind of order.
    So, if you look at all the discretionary decisions in Australian Commonwealth budgets over the last 4 years and you ask:
    What's the long term impact of those decisions?
    What's the annual impact on the budget 3-4 years after those decisions are made?
    (That gets rid of all the one off stimulus spending [and] the shuffling of money from year to year [and reveals] the underlying structural impact of those specific budget measures.)
    They add up to about $60b worth of improvement to the budget bottom line per year [— due to] a combination of … spending cuts [and tax rises].
    [However,] the government has also increased spending, or reduced taxes [in other areas] by about the same amount.
    So the net impact on the budget bottom line over the long term is pretty close to zero.

    But it does show, that … it's possible to make these kind of policy decisions.
    The catch is [that you're not] going to be wildly popular making those kind of decisions — but it's what the country will need in the medium term.
  • The Righteous Mind, 25 June, 2012.
    Jonathan Haidt: Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor, Stern School of Business, New York University.

    [There are] three principles of moral psychology.
    The first is [that moral] intuitions come first [and] strategic reasoning second …
    {[People’s] moral arguments are [mostly] post-hoc constructions.}

    The second is there's more to morality than harm and fairness {[eg] liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.}

    The third principle of moral psychology is [that] morality binds and blinds.
    [When we] bind ourselves [to a political or] religious group [we cede] the ability to think for ourselves.
    [This] is what partisanship is. …

    John Stuart Mill [said that] a party of change … and a party of stability are both necessary for the healthy state of political society. …
    [Almost all] changes have unintended consequences …
    Many humanitarian efforts will help people [in the present while encouraging] bad behaviour in the future.
    [Both] sides are wise to certain threats but totally blind to others …

    What I'm hoping is that we can disagree without demonising.

    {Human beings are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. …
    Natural selection [works] at two levels …
    • Individuals compete with individuals within every group [and]
    • [Groups compete] with other groups.
    [Darwin hypothesized that] the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists. …
    Under special circumstances [we subordinate personal self-interest to] the good of the group.
    Hivishness [facilitates altruism and heroism] but can blind us to other moral concerns [leading to] war, and genocide.}

  • Patriots, 18 June, 2012.
    David Frum: Former Speech Writer to George W Bush.

    At one point in the novel … the mistress of the head of this fictitious network called Patriot News, explains to Walter [the protagonist] how it works, she says,
    Have you seen those ads on our network for carbon monoxide detectors?
    This is an imaginary ad but it's based on some real things where they say there is a hidden killer inside your home.
    That's our message; there's a hidden killer inside your home and you must watch us for hours and hours because only by watching us and only when you watch us are you safe. …

    [Many] people feel uncomfortable with the pace of change.
    The challenge of leadership is to lead and not to manipulate and exploit people's understandable fears for your own selfish advantage.
    [There's] a Tea Party-like group in the book [who have] been stoked into a level of fear by some very cynical people who intend to do nothing for them. …

    [The] heroic age of the American conservative movement [was] the late '70s to the early 1980s …
    [We were right that] if you freed the rental market you would have more apartments and no shortages …
    We were right that if you got rid of oil and natural gas price controls, you put an end to the energy shortage of the '70s.
    We were right that if you deregulated the airways, airline fares would become cheaper.
    We were right that the way to stop inflation was to control the money supply, not to have wage and price controls.
    We were right about the Soviet Union.
    (And [even if were had been] wrong about everything else, being right about the Soviet Union would be enough to retire on.)
    We were right about how you fought crime.
    We were right about the importance of stable families. …

    … I think elites are inevitable.
    Talents aren't distributed equally.
    Some people are just born with more opportunities, whether because they inherit money or because they have more IQ or they're better looking or they're great athletes, they're braver and acquire war records, and they then have a command over the attention … or they just have more time and interest to spend on politics.

    People in that situation have [an obligation] not to use the political system for self-enrichment …
    [They] didn't deserve to be born with these things. …
    These attributes were given to us … with the responsibility to use them for the … good of our fellow creatures. …

    [Whatever] combination of genetic … code that makes you a more hard-working person than others, you didn't deserve that, it's just [an advantage that] you acquired either from your genes from your parents …

    I don't believe in equal rewards …
    [Enjoy] the rewards that your hard work and your innate abilities give you, but just do not … write off your fellow citizens [as losers.]

  • Media Myths, 18 June, 2012.
    Sally Young: Associate Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne.
  • The Cure for Everything, 11 June, 2012.
    Timothy Caulfield: Research Director, Health, Law and Science Policy Group, University of Alberta.
  • Lament of a Progressive, 28 May, 2012.
    Michael Koziol.
  • Fairness and Freedom, 28 May, 2012.
    David Hackett Fischer: University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History, Brandeis University.
  • Road to Ruin, 7 May, 2012.
    Geoffrey Kabaservice: Author, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of the moderation and the destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party
  • Is marriage for white people?, 30 April, 2012.
    Ralph Richard Banks: Professor of Law, Stanford University.
  • Free Market Fairness, 23 April, 2012.
    John Tomasi: Professor of Political Science, Founder of the Brown's Political Theory Project, Brown University.
  • Framed: the untold story about the Croatian Six, 23 April, 2012.
    Hamish McDonald: Asia-Pacific Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald.
  • The Murray Mouth Controversy, 26 March, 2012.
    Jennifer Marohasy: Adjunct Research Fellow, Centre for Plant and Water Science, Central Queensland University.


    Leading the Witness


    Michael Duffy:
    Many of our listeners were upset by last week's MediaWatch program on ABC TV.
    There was a long segment on Australia's foremost environmental sceptic Jennifer Marohasy.
    Lots of people were saying that MediaWatch's treatment of her was very different from the way it, and indeed the ABC in general, treats people with more conventional ideas.
    In a moment I'll [ask her] if she thinks the ABC suppresses scientific views it disagrees with. …


    [Weasel Words]

    [What] many other people have been saying since last week is that MediaWatch is hypocritical, because it only criticises the Right and not the Left in these matters.
    For example, many scientists who support the orthodoxy on Global Warming have received funding for their work from private and public sources.
    But even though this is almost never acknowledged when these experts appear in the media, MediaWatch has never once criticised any journalist or presenter for this non-disclosure. …

    [The Verdict]

    [We] did ask MediaWatch to confirm our recollection that it has never criticised non-disclosure regarding scientists who support the IPCC position on climate change.
    At the time of recording this program they had not responded.


    Taking Babies From Unmarried Mothers


    [Jennifer Marohasy,] a lot of scientists from the CSIRO and the Australian wetlands and rivers centre disagree with you about what this was like historically, they say it wasn't this sort of battle [between salf and fresh water that] we've been describing but that [Lake Alexandrina] was predominantly fresh water and that we should keep it like that, what do you say to that?

    Jennifer Marohasy:
    Look, it's been South Australian government policy that Lake Alexandrina, the central basin of this Holocene formation, it's been South Australian government policy, that it be considered a fresh water lake.
    This narrative goes right back to the foundation myths associated with the settlement of South Australia.
    The official narrative was that this lake was fresh and it had a reliably navigable passage to the sea.
    Both untruths.
    But both told to encourage the sale of land, sight unseen, to free settlers in places like Scotland on the basis that they could come and grow wheat and export it back to the homeland.
    South Australians have never come to terms with the true state of the lower Murray.
    In fact, they've just made things worse by building the sea dykes, so they avoid any discussion of them.

    Michael Duffy:
    … I know many environmental groups support this fresh water thesis.
    Why do you think they do that?

    Jennifer Marohasy:
    Over time, it's become popular in South Australia to blame upstream irrigators, and many environmental activists support this idea of a fresh water lake because they can use the idea, that the lower Murray needs more water, to take water from rice and cotton growers, and it's currently fashionable to rally against rice and cotton growers.
    Once-upon-a-time, do-gooders took babies from unmarried mothers.
    Now they take water from irrigators.

    Michael Duffy:
    [So] what's the real story about what's going on along the river?

    Jennifer Marohasy:
    That natural climate variability along the Murray Darling is so extreme that it's not even possible to prove statistically that there's been a decreasing trend in river flow at the South Australian border, despite the fact that diversions upstream are often greater than the average annual flow to South Australia.
    But this is all ignored in current planning, in the $10 billion government plan.
    For example, turn to page 127 of the current Murray-Darling Basin Authority Plan and it says, and I quote:
    Medium to large flood that would normally flush through flood plains quite regularly are now contained and regulated.
    This is nonsense.
    We had terrible drought, and the upstream storages were not large enough to provide for the lower lakes.
    Now we have terrible floods and the storages were not large enough to contain it.
    The Murray-Darling Basin Authority needs to plan on the basis of natural climate variability.
    Instead we have a plan which is really about taking water from food producers, and sending it to this artificial fresh water reservoir at the bottom of the Murray-Darling. …


    Clayton's Peer Review

    The bottom line is, Professor Ridd [Director of the AEF] and I are colleagues, the paper was not sent to a journal, it was a technical paper for the Australian Environment Foundation, and Peter, as a science coordinator at that foundation, and an expert on estuaries, was asked to review it.

    Michael Duffy:
    Did you show the paper to any other estuary experts before publication?

    Jennifer Marohasy:
    I did. …
    They said the paper was sound, but only Professor Ridd was prepared to put his name on it.
    The other estuary experts said they didn't want to be associated with it because of the politics.

    Michael Duffy:
    Now MediaWatch, despite saying they weren't going to look at the science, they did a sort of a straw poll of the authors of three papers that you say supported your views, one of them agreed with you, and two them disagree with you …
    MediaWatch:
    Well it's not Media Watch's job to argue with Dr Marohasy on the science.
    But here are two points that no other journalists seem to have made
    The report has been peer-reviewed by Professor Peter Ridd, James Cook University (Marohasy, 2012).
    … Secondly, we asked Dr Marohasy if she could point us to any other experts who would support her conclusions.
    … Professor Peter Gell of the University of Ballarat, broadly [supported her conclusions, while Professors] Bob Bourman and Dr John Tibby, vehemently [rejected them].
    One authority to whom Dr Marohasy did not refer us [was]
    Richard Kingsford [Professor and Director, Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre, University of New South Wales]:
    The CSIRO and Murray-Darling Basin Authority have shown that there has been a 71% reduction in median annual flows to the mouth of the River Murray. …
    The recent Millennium drought reduced flows to the system by 89-96%. …

    [Palaeolimnological research on] frustules or silica skeletons left behind by microscopic diatoms or algae … are retained in the lake sediments for thousands of years and indicate whether freshwater or marine species lived in a particular place.
    These tell us that salinity of the middle of Lake Alexandrina was overwhelmingly fresh origin with some marine species, reflecting only moderately influence by tidal inflows over the last 2000 years.
    This is … consistent with a strong River Murray flow keeping the sea at bay. …

    [If the barrages were removed] not be enough fresh water [would] delivered down the river for it to ever return to a freshwater environment.
    Many of the waterbirds would go and with them the freshwater adapted invertebrates, fish, turtles and plants.
    [Nearby] freshwater Lake Albert would [likely also] become hypersaline …
    [Traditional] owners, fishers and tourism would be [adversely] affected. …
    [Peer reviewed science] should not be twisted to support [such] a poorly supported and dangerous policy option.
    None of this scientific opposition is even hinted at in most of the media coverage [- including that by the ABC].
    Jennifer Marohasy:
    I sent [a] quote [Bob Bourman] to MediaWatch with a lot of other information.
    That MediaWatch chose to ignore what these scientists have written in their peer-reviewed publications, and instead report what they might have said in response to other questions, is not something I can control.
    MediaWatch:
    Professor [Robert] Bourman [University of Wollongong]:
    The paper appears to be a Crusade against the barrages and the scientists who have actually carried out their unbiased science there, rather than a sound scientific paper.
    Jennifer Marohasy:
    I think there's a real story there for an ABC journalist who cares.
    An ABC journalist who's prepared to look at what has been written in the technical … peer-reviewed scientific literature about the lower lakes and some of what is being said publicly by scientists.

    Mr Holmes runs with the consensus and the activists on all issues of science.
    Mr Holmes doesn't appear to have a capacity for independent assessment of the available evidence. …

    I think that it was inappropriate that an ABC program with an apparent mandate to comment on media coverage has abused it's role.
    The main focus of the segment was a series of unwarranted personal attacks on the integrity of myself and others through innuendo and ill-informed suggestion.
    One is left very puzzled as to why this story was featured on MediaWatch.
    The only conclusion that I can reach is that the primary aim was an attempt to discredit individuals as part of a political agenda fostered by the ABC.
    Jennifer Marohasy’s response to Media Watch’s questions:
    It appears Media Watch is … asserting or implying that my professional judgement and integrity as a scientist has been influenced or corrupted by personal financial gain. …

    MediaWatch:
    We're not suggesting anything of the sort.
    Nor are we disputing the AEFs right to promote her views.
    We are saying that journalists too easily swallow, and pass on without challenge, highly controversial claims put forward in the name of science, by organisations whose agendas aren't obvious from their names.

    Undermining Public Confidence in Science

    Michael Duffy:
    Well, when [MediaWatch] finished with the science, that did come back to issue that journalists and radio hosts have a responsibility to talk about the allegiances of experts and scientists that they interview. …
    There is an assumption out there that government funding is somehow pure and that it doesn't really need to be acknowledged.
    Is that true do you think?
    Do you think the source of funding could influence the science even if it comes from the government?

    Jennifer Marohasy:
    … The most paranoid and controlling science managers tend to work for government.
    That's been my experience.
    I can't work for government because I won't be told what to discover, or how to report it, or what to say.
    [Presumably the Central Queensland University is an exception]

    Would you like to know more?

  • 13 February, 2012.

    Paul Comrie-Thomson:
    Did you see that article by Jonathan [inaudible] in the Australian last week.

    Michael Duffy:
    Global warming over the past 15 years, of the three leading datasets he quoted, one has the earth warming by 0.15 per decade, another by 51 thousanths of a degree and a third by a mere 74 thousanths.

    Paul Comrie-Thomson:
    Which is a lot less than the IPCC prediction of 0.2 degree each decade. …
    In fact the earth has warmed very little in the past 15 years, but as we are always told we can't draw conclusions from a 15 year period.

    Michael Duffy:
    Oh why not? [exasperation]

    Paul Comrie-Thomson:
    Because it's too short.

    Michael Duffy:
    But no-one said that about the previous 15 years when there was a lot of warming. …
    … I wonder why you can't tell anything from 15 years, if carbon dioxide causes warming, why should that stop happening for a while.
    I'd like to hear someone explain that.

    Paul Comrie-Thomson:
    To be fair, there's still a lot of uncertainty in the state of our knowledge. …

    Michael Duffy:
    I wonder how long warming has to be insignificant before people start to admit we're not facing a catastrophe … 16 years, 20, 30?
    peaceandlonglife:
    25-30 years.
    Climate Science Update:
    [The] IPCC has chosen 25 years as the shortest trend line they show in the global temperature records …
    (Allison et al, 2009)
    Atmospheric temperature anomalies over shorter time spans can be swamped by natural climate variability eg the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), decadal variations in solar activity and volcanic eruptions.

    Carbon dioxide does cause constant warming however the trapped heat is distributed between atmosphere, land and ocean (85%+).
    The total heat content of the climate system as a whole has been increasing steadily for the last 40 years (Cook, 2010, p 4).


    Figure based on data from: DM Murphy, S Solomon, RW Portmann, KH Rosenlof, PM Forster, and T Wong, (2009), An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950, 114 , D17107+.

    AR4:
    For the next two decades a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emissions scenarios.
    (IPCC, 2007, p 45)
    As we are only 5 years into the 20 year prediction period it too early to judge whether this projection will be borne out or out.
    Given that "the most recent 10-year period (2001-2010) [was] the warmest decade on record" one cannot rule out a further 0.3°C increase over the next 15 years (Steffen, 2011, p 6).

    The trick to creating these "peak warming" illusions is to hide the underlying trend by exploiting extremes of natural variability.
    ~ 1998 is a popular start date for "cherry picking" the temperature record as it was an above trend year due to a strong El Nino (which transfers heat from ocean to atmosphere).
    2011 is, similarly, an ideal end point when "cooking" the data - because of the back to back La Nina events (transferring heat from atmosphere to ocean) that occurred over 2010-2011.
    Despite the 2010 La Nina:
    State of the Climate 2012:
    Global-average surface temperatures were the warmest on record in 2010 (slightly higher than 2005 and 1998) [and] 2011 was … the warmest year on record during a La NiƱa event.
    (CSIRO, BOM)

    The 2008-2009 solar minimum was "the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century".

    Certain datasets, such as Hadley Centre data, do not include the Arctic (which is warming the fastest) and are not fully representative of global changes.

    "Uncertainty" for the anti-climate science community equates to inaction.
    From a scientific viewpoint "uncertainty" is equivalent to "confidence".
    The findings of the thousands of scientists of the global climate science community, as compiled in the AR4 (IPCC, 2007) are:
    • "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal …" (p 30)
    • There is a greater than 90% probability that "[most] of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is … due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [Green House Gas] concentrations" (p 39)
    • There is a greater than 66% probability that "[unmitigated] climate change [will] in the long term … exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt." (p 65)

    The issue of whether or not to act is not a scientific question.
    It is a risk management one.
    One's home may or may not burn down, but given the major impact it would have if it did, it is prudent to invest in measures to prevent it.

    The Australian newspaper has a well documented record of misrepresenting climate science by the selective quotation of sources.

    Would you like to know more?


REFERENCES

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