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Post 20

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 6:46amSanction this postReply
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A cry for a 'life after death' is a plea for sanction of not having lived this, the only real life.... in ages of old, when life meant little more than an animal's life - existing to just survive, with little more beyond a cyclicism - it was understandable, albeit false... it was a way to hold a group together with a sense of direction, even as it  seemed no more than season by season...

Today, amidst the splendor of the results of civilization, it is a plea of assumed guilt - a cry for having enjoyed the material of the world, while having accepted the human-hating doctrines which damn this world and the glory of living in it, for having accepted the notion that dependency is a virtue and self responsibility is not, and for having accepted that wishfulness [faith] would change the nature of the world and that A is not A and thus the accidental of fortune is to be craved as the norm, making living a series of futilities......




Post 21

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 7:38amSanction this postReply
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Those of you who are criticising some of us for applauding the Pope, please consider very carefully precisely what qualities we are in fact applauding him for.

To Manfred and others who seem to be criticising all religious people - Many individual catholics are men and women of good will, and at least in the west and much of Latin America (Africa is a whole different kettle of fish) many in fact do not strictly adhere to Papal teaching on social issues. A great many will have homosexual friends and acquaintances, many use contraception and actually enjoy sex, some even "indulge" in pre-marital sex. Objectivists ought to be reaching out to these types of people, not rejecting them outright.

Also lets not forget that Rand herself expressed praise and admiration for certain religious figures, most notably Thomas Aquinas. I think Thomistic Christians actually do have some philosophical common ground with Objectivism (I speak here from experience - I was myself a Thomist-influenced Christian before becoming an Objectivist, and was pretty libertarian before I ever read Rand's work).




Post 22

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 10:22amSanction this postReply
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Here is some of our good Pope's continuing legacy. At least Bush is around to continue the good work.

 

 

Nature Cell Biology  7, 323 (2005)

doi:10.1038/ncb0405-323

 

Missed opportunity to ban reproductive cloning

 

After years of diplomatic wrangling, in March the UN general assembly voted 84 to 34 (with 37 abstentions) in favour of a nonbinding resolution that urges member nations to adopt a blanket ban on all forms of human cloning. This declaration was proposed by Honduras — generally thought to be at the behest of the US government — and the vote was largely carried by predominantly Roman Catholic countries, in line with Pope John Paul II's views on the matter. The opposing minority was represented by countries with more liberal approaches to the ethical quagmire thrown up by this issue. Many of these, including eastern Asian countries and several European countries, are pursuing active stem cell research programmes. Islamic countries were well represented among the abstentions, in line with their previous 'wait and see' approach to cloning.

 

President Bush, who had suggested this line of policy last autumn during a speech to the general assembly, did not wait long to applaud the resolution, citing the importance of protecting "human life" and "human dignity". Meanwhile, the UK's representatives gave an uncharacteristically blunt rebuke of these views; ambassador Jones Parry commented that "the declaration ... is a weak, nonbinding statement that does not reflect anything approaching a consensus ... nor will it affect the UK's strong support of stem cell research". Indeed, the UK had made up its mind well in advance of the vote to ignore the outcome, and pushes ahead with significantly bolstered funding for medical research, with a declared emphasis on stem cells.

 

The UK government's viewpoint is shared by the Royal Society. Richard Gardener, chairman of its working group on stem cell research and cloning, called the declaration "ambiguous and badly worded...frustrating and disappointing," citing the support of 67 other science academies for a policy that bans reproductive cloning, but allows individual countries to decide on somatic cell nuclear transfer procedures, commonly referred to as 'therapeutic cloning'.

 

Importantly, the declaration is ultimately a watered-down compromise that has no legal implications. The UN has again failed to institute formal hurdles to prevent what everyone agrees on in principle — a binding global ban of human reproductive cloning. Notably, a broadly backed proposal to this effect was first made by France and Germany back in 2001. At a critical time, the UN has thus failed to send a clear message that human reproductive cloning is unacceptable. It is lamentable that this salient issue has fallen victim to a debate that is driven by political agenda and religion-infused ethics, rather than rational thinking that puts the patient's interests first. The therapeutic promise of all stem cell research is beyond doubt. At this time, it is essential to pursue embryonic stem cell research, which holds some of the greatest medical promise, and to keep an open mind to therapeutic cloning. Scientists and informed politicians do of course realize this, which is why embryonic stem cell research is being vigorously pursued — not least across the US, either with private funding or in states such as California and New Jersey, which have set up independent financing initiatives.

 

It seems futile at present to encourage a reappraisal in Washington of how ethically charged decisions such as embryonic stem cells and abortion are informed. However, it is essential to keep the public informed of the medical realities of stem cell research, since ultimately it is public support that will sway political decisions in a democratic system. This is also true in Europe, where religious conservativism is becoming more vociferous. Abortion and stem cell research, for example, are likely to become key topics for debate in the upcoming UK general elections.

 

Aside from the ethical debate surrounding therapeutic cloning, stem cells have arguably become the new 'miracle cure for all'. Internationally consistent medical regulation is urgently needed to ensure that medical application continues apace with scientific advances. Only then can charlatans or overly naïve medical practitioners be prevented from seizing on high public expectations. There are ample clinical trials that promise applications of stem cells for regenerative medicine; for example, the use of bone marrow stem cells to treat heart disease. However, even in well studied areas such as this, the efficacy of the treatments remains hotly debated, and many scientists warn that clinical application remains premature — and possibly dangerous — in light of the lack of understanding of the science underlying clinical trials.

 

A good example is India, which has been encouraging embryonic stem cell research. Recent reports suggest that both private and publicly funded clinicians in India are only too eager to apply what they regard as stem cell therapy to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy (Nature  434, 259). This work is not published and there is considerable confusion as to what sort of cell preparations are being applied, or even what the patient outcome is. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the two government agencies in charge of regulating such research, seem to be unaware of many of the medical procedures that are already applied, and they are only now attempting to issue consistent guidelines for clinical practise. The World Health Organization (WHO) should be encouraged to take a more active role in informing and regulating medical application of stem cells before the holy grail of regenerative medicine looses public support on account of premature and failed clinical application.

 

In the meantime, the only lasting effect that the UN resolution may have is to drive further apart the two sides of the embryonic stem cell debate; in a sense, the internal divisions within the US are thus projected globally. A further consequence of the resolution is that the UN has demonstrated an inability to make strong decisions on the basis of a rational and scientifically informed argument, leaving this critically important institution looking the weaker for it.




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Post 23

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 1:23pmSanction this postReply
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Please do note, for the sake of accuracy, that this Pope was enthusiastically pro-science, even wrote an encyclical about why Christians shouldn't be anti-Science, and believed in Darwinian evolution and every astronomical conclusion of modern science. He updated the Church 500 years. True, he did not know how to handle the products of the new biotechnology which arose in his sickened old age, and thus opposed it, but we should weigh that abomination against the weight of his achievements. It will be up to the next John Paul to introduce acceptance of biotechnology to the church. Either way, the man who just died did drive the church to the right direction as far as we are concerned, and a long way too. 

Alec




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Post 24

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 2:04pmSanction this postReply
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Robert B. writes:

In response to Lindsay's essay, Barbara wrote (echoing Chris Sciabarra):

Objectivism can never have the mass appeal of religion, and it should not have it. Objectivism is a serious, complex philosophy and should spread just as it is spreading: in the universities, from which it filters down, and in the lives of men and women who exemplify its principles.

This is a rare instance in which I completely disagree with Barbara!  In fact, I have disagreed with this "trickle down from the universities" approach to the spread of Objectivism for over two decades. 


Hold on there!  In my post, I didn't actually make any argument about the spread of Objectivism through "trickle down"---nor have I ever argued this.  I focused more on what Lindsay called the "repressive, persecutorial, joyless, prudish and downright nasty" behavior of some "Objectivists," which echoes some of the worst aspects of a "religious" mentality.

That does not mean that there is nothing in religion that is worthwhile or that does not speak to rational human needs.  I agree with you on that issue wholeheartedly, Robert; you're talking to the grandson of a Greek Orthodox priest. My grandfather founded the first Greek Orthodox parish in Brooklyn, in fact, and I know through my own personal and family experiences that there is much to be learned from the social activities of churches in building a strong and vibrant community.

I should also mention that I've spent an inordinate amount of my time over these past few years, arguing that Rand's ideas in paritcular are being spread primarily through culture, including pop culture.  See the following articles, for example:

The Cultural Ascendancy of Ayn Rand

The Illustrated Rand

As for the academy:  Well... clearly, I do believe that it is worth taking on the academy, and working to change academic culture as well, and I think there are plenty of people who are, in fact, working toward these goals.  And I think we are all making a significant difference in this regard, by virtue of the fact that Rand scholarship has become a young and growing industry at this point.  I don't think this academic work precludes the dissemination of Rand's ideas through popular culture; in fact, I tend to think that the walls between "popular," "academic," and so forth are slowly withering.  In other words, cultural change often takes place on a variety of reciprocally reinforcing levels. 

Cheers,
Chris




Post 25

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 3:04pmSanction this postReply
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A cry for a 'life after death' is a plea for sanction of not having lived this, the only real life....


...or, maybe, a desperate hope that the wonders of this life will continue “somewhere else,” and not be gone forever after a mere eighty years?



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Post 26

Monday, April 4, 2005 - 4:48pmSanction this postReply
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Chris, it seems we're entirely on the same wavelength here. I have no objection to exploring multiple paths, from the scholarly to the popular, in spreading ideas, as anyone familiar with my own efforts would surmise. But I think the tacit idea that scholarly work is somehow superior to all other work (with philosophers being somehow superior to all other scholars) is in error. While everyone needs a philosophy to survive, they also need a lot of other things. A human being is not just a disembodied brain, and his body isn't just a carrying case for it.

The production and communication of ideas is not hierarchical, and certainly not university dependent--not in an age of think tanks, independent scholars, the internet and other rapidly evolving technological means of transmitting them. Rather than think hierarchically about the production and transmission of ideas, I've argued that a better metaphor is to think of links of a chain: each link is important, and by breaking any of them, the whole enterprise of linking abstract ideas to human lives breaks down, too.




Post 27

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - 2:08amSanction this postReply
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Barbara Branden said: “But we must be very careful that we do not allow ourselves to see the kindly, benevolent, even charismatic old man we watched on television as in fact so very kindly and benevolent. He is that only until he is crossed, like the rest of the kindly souls who have been singing his praises and the praises of their religion.”

 

Robert Malcom wrote: “A cry for a 'life after death' is a plea for sanction of not having lived this, the only real life....”

 

I fully agree with these statements and add for all those who in their writings are trying to couple religion with Objectivism what Ayn Rand said: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

 

In my article “Kant and the New Tactics to Destroy Objectivism” I mentioned that I have noticed the subversive introduction of evil ideas into Objectivism under the cover of Objectivism itself. Though I referred there to Kant and the likes of him (such as Plato, etc.), this does not include only philosophers or academics, but “plain” people as well. There are many who would like to hold both to religion and Objectivism (an impossibility since it involves a direct contradiction) and Mr. Perigo’s article unwittingly brought some of them into the open.

 

These people evidently haven’t followed yet the line of reasoning that both sides cannot be joined, however deep this wish might be. It’s like the senselessness of teaching both Evolution and religion in school. It just leads to a full disarray that blocks a human mind for the rest of his life (if it does not think of the contradiction committed) or until it has learned that both things cannot be united. Trying to unite Objectivism with anything religious (and Rand did not do this when she mentioned Thomas Aquinas but just referred to him as bringing back Aristotle to the Western World) requires a procedure of evilness. Hence, if such people want to defend religion they are free to do so, but by no means under the disguise of acting under the cover of Objectivism. Those who do this should re-think what they are doing and on what evilness they are still clinging. If religions had been eliminated long, long time ago, we would be way ahead on our march to the stars and poverty and sickness would have been eliminated from the face of the earth long, long ago… Think of how wrong you are if you continue to stick to religion and impossible “otherworldly realms”!!!

 



 

On the possibility of Objectivism reaching a mass appeal I must disagree with both Barbara Branden and Chris Sciabarra. Objectivism is very easy to learn and adopt for it brings into words what many people already have as a “sense of live”, i.e. what life should be. Ayn Rand herself brought our attention to this in a passage in “Atlas Shrugged” that, just as several other things that I will reveal in a coming article of mine (an article that will even look somewhat “childish”), has never triggered any true attention to it. It is the following: “There were two other men working with him: a big, muscular roughneck, at a pump halfway up the wall… The roughneck was watching them from above, listening with curiosity. She glanced up at him, he looked like a truck driver, so she asked, "What were you outside? A professor of comparative philology, I suppose?"  "No, ma'am," he answered. "I was a truck driver." He added, "But that's not what I wanted to remain."” Now, it is not very likely that Galt took the time to convince a truck driver to join the strike. So this is a symbol, the symbol that the most un-intellectual person can join Objectivism and be well received.

 

I don’t think that people are dumb. They may be confused, they may just repeat what they have been taught, but they are still able to think… and by the time just one correct starting point (it could be any correct starting point) enters their brain they WILL start to think. As you know, I wrote on Rand for newspapers and magazines and gave lectures on Rand in my home-country Argentina and knowing this part of “Atlas” I steadily insisted on it. I am sure that a part of the now developing spread of Objectivism in Argentina is due to this procedure and advise those interested in spreading Objectivism to use it as a working tool under any circumstance and any occasion: Move people to think in Objectivist terms. Even the simplest mind will respond.





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Post 28

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - 4:46amSanction this postReply
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Robert writes:  "But I think the tacit idea that scholarly work is somehow superior to all other work (with philosophers being somehow superior to all other scholars) is in error."

I agree with you in more than one way:  Scholarly work is most assuredly not superior to all other work (and, given some of the scholarly work I've seen, well... that's another matter...).  And being a political theorist ("scientist" sounds a bit presumptuous) makes me even more receptive to your comment about philosophers.  heh

We live in a remarkable time, in which the transmission of information and knowledge has become "democratized"; that's one of the reasons I alluded to the breakdown between "academic" and "popular" divisions.  Even within the academy, I think discussions of "popular culture" are at an all-time high, if one judges by the number of scholarly books issued on subjects as diverse as "The Matrix" and "The Simpsons."

Finally, I actually don't disagree with you, Manfred, about the potential mass appeal of Objectivism.  Therein lies the strength of Rand's ideas and the powerful literary form in which they are delivered to new readers. 

What I was alluding to was the kind of "organized" mass appeal that one sees in established religions and institutionalized political movements such as those built by Nazis and Communists.  Objectivism, it would seem, has its own built-in checks and balances militating against those kinds of broad-based collectivist movements; it is an individualist credo that is very suspicious of masses and it tends to attract people who are also suspicious of masses.

But I also believe that Rand's legacy is as opposed to "atomistic" solipsism as it is to "organic" collectivism.  What is important here is precisely what Lindsay has suggested:  That individualism is not solipsism; that individualism is the foundation for the kind of culture and social relationships that might bring about genuinely radical social change.




Post 29

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - 8:23amSanction this postReply
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Manfred said:

"I don’t think that people are dumb. They may be confused, they may just repeat what they have been taught, but they are still able to think… and by the time just one correct starting point (it could be any correct starting point) enters their brain they WILL start to think."

I agree wholeheartedly with Manfred on this point. Ordinary people have inside of them all of the "human nature" so celebrated by Ayn Rand, and the right situation or saying just the right thing at the right time is all they need to bring it out. One of Joseph Rowlands early articles "Liking people" also points out the positive qualities of people:

http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Rowlands/Liking_People.shtml



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Post 30

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - 12:37pmSanction this postReply
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Linz,

One hell of an article. It takes balls to look at the Pope and see Objectivism - and be right.

That doesn't undo all the harm and evil inherent in Christian doctrine. I don't really know what people expect when they venerate an instrument of torture (cross) and say that it is not only OK to use it, but that using it on a perfect man was the perfect will of a perfect God.

Still, there is human nature to deal with. Man's nature is served by many things that churches provide. What they successfully do needs to be studied, dissected, faced, adapted and implemented where appropriate.

One thing is for certain. If Objectivism does not care to address these human nature issues, Catholicism and other religions most surely do, and they will continue to be successful because of it.

Good job.

Michael




Post 31

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - 4:43amSanction this postReply
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I fully agree with Mr. Schieder.
 
And concerning the pope, I personally can't share the compassion and even the enthusiasm that some people here and most people in the outside world show for him and his death. In my eyes John Paul II. was an evil man because he was the uppermost propagandist of an evil and anti-life ideology. And even if he had the best intentions in doing and advocating what he did do and advocate - this can by no means excuse the evilness of his anti-life values and anti-capitalist convictions.




Post 32

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 1:45amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Settegast: Please take a look at my reply to Mr. Coates in the "Objectivism in Argentina" forum for it refers also to you. 



Post 33

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 1:48amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Sciabarra and Mr. Erickson: Thanks for agreeing with me. It's always good to have people on one's side.



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Post 34

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 2:48amSanction this postReply
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It's disappointing to see such gross misinterpretation of the content of my article from such intelligent people. To repeat (sigh): my article was not a eulogy to religion or to the Pope. It posed this challenge: given what we all know to be the truth about religion, we must nonetheless face the fact that it somehow continues to engage the best within people (as well as the worst). The late Pope was consummate in being able to do just that. We must try to figure out why that is so, in order better to be able to trump religion with our own brand of legitimate, secular spirituality. How on earth folk could then go off on knee-jerk tangents about the evil of religion, as if we didn't already know all that, is, to quote Sciabarra, "beyond baffling."

Linz



Post 35

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 6:39amSanction this postReply
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Linz,

I think your sentiment concerning the Pope was confused by your reference to him in your article as "His Holiness".

That may not have been your own term, but from the way the story of Lorenzo Albacete is related I, at least, got the impression it came from you.






Post 36

Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - 12:15pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Perigo

Why does religion have such a great impact on (irrational) people? It surely has a psychological reason, and I guess it has something to do with mass psychology. I recently worked on a paper with the title "Selbstwertgefuehl und Gruppenidentitaet" (Self-Esteem and Group Identity) and I guess I might have found a method of resolution for that problem by integrating the concept of psychological identity into the Objectivist notion of self-esteem.

Unfortunately I have no time to explain it now because I will have to do my English exams tomorrow (schriftliches Abitur in Englisch) and it would take some time to explain it, for my paper is in German language. For those of you who are able to understand German, it can be found on my website at http://www.sascha-settegast.de .

I think I might have more time for explaining my idea next weekend.




Post 37

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 10:48amSanction this postReply
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Linz, Given all the fuss about JPII, it seems to me that IF Objectivism has an enemy, a real enemy, it is NOT post modernism (Derrida died recently and who noticed) but rather pre-modernism. What do you think? I wonder what Hicks and Newberry think about this?
Fred



Post 38

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 6:50pmSanction this postReply
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Fred wrote: “Linz, Given all the fuss about JPII, it seems to me that IF Objectivism has an enemy, a real enemy, it is NOT post modernism (Derrida died recently and who noticed) but rather pre-modernism. What do you think? I wonder what Hicks and Newberry think about this?”


 

Fred, I couldn’t help but be charmed by your comment! In a way I think “enemy” is too strong a word, people and thinkers who are “out of touch” with reality, human nature, or their souls, to borrow a southern expression, ya gotta “bless their hearts.”

 

Michael




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Post 39

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:42pmSanction this postReply
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Chris wrote:  “I should also mention that I've spent an inordinate amount of my time over these past few years, arguing that Rand's ideas in paritcular are being spread primarily through culture, including pop culture.” 

 

I don’t know if Chris and I will ever agree about the nature of culture or cultural change or what is significant from a culture. (See below.)

 

“Robert writes:  "But I think the tacit idea that scholarly work is somehow superior to all other work (with philosophers being somehow superior to all other scholars) is in error."

Chris followed with: “I agree with you in more than one way:  Scholarly work is most assuredly not superior to all other work (and, given some of the scholarly work I've seen, well... that's another matter...).” 

 

I think arguing the superiority of “fields” here is not quite correct and I think it misrepresents the idea of trickle down theory, and I hope I get agreement from both Chris and Robert…I think that innovative concepts that are true to human nature and further a flourishing on earth, such as Aristotle’s formulation of “logic” or Rand’s moral justification for Capitalism are profoundly significant in contrast to regurgitated, pointless, or misleading concepts.  It’s not about “superiority” but more about genuine advancement of knowledge; ideas comes first. And I think all innovators are justly proud that they are first to see, connect, and explore new possibilities. Sure it is great if those ideas are absorbed by the general public…ummm, stay with me,…Einstein, he is supposed to be a great genius, apparently his knowledge affects our daily world, I may be benefiting or negatively affected by the applications of his work…but I don’t know anything about that nor do I have the interest nor ever will I have the scientific knowledge to  value Einstein. But there are people with knowledge who do. I think that is a classic case of trickle down, I might be a consumer of genius without knowing shit about it.

 

I am sorry, for right now I have an overpowering feeling in my gut of unfairness about Chris’ view of the significance of “pop”…the arts are no different, there are artists that see new paths, who are innovators…the general public cannot create new paths they can only in the most simplistic terms “vote” for what they like, its not that they are stupid—I am not stupid and yet there are many things, like Einstein I know nothing about…popularity does not validate value and as an individualist I would never justify anything based on cultural popularity.

 

Theme: ideas come first cultural osmosis follows.

 

Michael




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