workers

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri reacts after the announcement of the new government at the presidential palace in Baabda
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri reacts, after the announcement of the new government at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

May 26, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Lebanese draft state budget for 2019 is the start of a “long road” and shows Lebanon is determined to tackle public sector waste, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said, after his unity cabinet wrapped up marathon talks on the plan.

The budget finalised by the government on Friday cuts the deficit to 7.5% of GDP from 11.5% in 2018. It is seen as a critical test of Lebanon’s will to launch reforms that have been put off for years by a state riddled with corruption and waste.

“The 2019 budget is not the end. This budget is the beginning of a long road that we decided to take in order to lead the Lebanese economy to safety,” Hariri said in a speech at a Ramadan iftar meal on Saturday.

Lebanon’s bloated public sector is its biggest expense, followed by the cost of servicing a public debt equal to some 150% of GDP, one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens.

The government, which groups nearly all of Lebanon’s main political parties, met 19 times to agree on the budget. Hariri said the budget for 2020 would not take that much time “because now we know what we want to do”.

“The 2019 budget is the beginning of the process of what we want to do in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks sent by his office. 

The cabinet is due to meet on Monday at the presidential palace to formally seal the process before the budget is referred to parliament.

The budget could help unlock some $11 billion in financing pledged at a Paris donors’ conference last year for infrastructure investment, if it wins the approval of donor countries and institutions.

Hariri said the budget was a message to the Lebanese, financial markets and friendly foreign states that Lebanon was determined to “address the weakness, imbalance and squander in the public sector”.

Measures to rein in the public sector wage bill include a three-year freeze in all types of state hiring and a cap on extra-salary bonuses. State pensions will also be taxed.

A big chunk of the deficit cut stems from tax increases including a 2% import tax and a hike in tax on interest payments.

The government also plans to cut some $660 million from the debt servicing bill by issuing treasury bonds at a 1% interest rate to the Lebanese banking sector.

Fears the budget would lead to cuts to state salaries, pensions or benefits triggered weeks of strikes and protests by public sector workers and military veterans.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Source: OANN

A fighter loyal to Libya's U.N.-backed government (GNA) gestures during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli
A fighter loyal to Libya’s U.N.-backed government (GNA) gestures during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya May 25, 2019. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

May 25, 2019

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Heavy fighting raged in the Libyan capital on Saturday as eastern forces made a new push to advance inside the city controlled by the internationally recognized government.

The Libya National Army (LNA) force of Khalifa Haftar, who is allied to a parallel government in the east, started an offensive to take Tripoli almost two months ago but has not breached the city’s southern defenses.

The LNA made a new push on Saturday morning, trying to advance on a road from the former airport – located in a southern suburb – towards the center but there was no sign of progress, residents said.

Fighting had slowed in recent weeks during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan when most people fast during the day until sunset.

The battle for Tripoli has killed at least 510 people, forced 75,000 out of their homes, trapped thousands of migrants in detention centers, and flattened some southern suburbs. It has also forced closures of schools, split families on different sides of the front line, and brought power cuts.

Two ambulance workers were killed and three wounded on Thursday when their ambulance cars were hit, the World Health Organization said. It did not say who was responsible.

The United Nations has been unable to negotiate a ceasefire. France has, like other European countries, called for a ceasefire but also supported Haftar as a way to fight Islamist militants in the country.

On Wednesday, Haftar, meeting French President Emmanuel Macron, ruled out a ceasefire and said he wanted to rid the capital of militias that had “infested” the U.N.-backed government of Premier Fayez al-Serraj, a French presidential official said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing)

Source: OANN

A fighter loyal to Libya's U.N.-backed government (GNA) gestures during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli
A fighter loyal to Libya’s U.N.-backed government (GNA) gestures during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya May 25, 2019. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

May 25, 2019

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Heavy fighting raged in the Libyan capital on Saturday as eastern forces made a new push to advance inside the city controlled by the internationally recognized government.

The Libya National Army (LNA) force of Khalifa Haftar, who is allied to a parallel government in the east, started an offensive to take Tripoli almost two months ago but has not breached the city’s southern defenses.

The LNA made a new push on Saturday morning, trying to advance on a road from the former airport – located in a southern suburb – towards the center but there was no sign of progress, residents said.

Fighting had slowed in recent weeks during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan when most people fast during the day until sunset.

The battle for Tripoli has killed at least 510 people, forced 75,000 out of their homes, trapped thousands of migrants in detention centers, and flattened some southern suburbs. It has also forced closures of schools, split families on different sides of the front line, and brought power cuts.

Two ambulance workers were killed and three wounded on Thursday when their ambulance cars were hit, the World Health Organization said. It did not say who was responsible.

The United Nations has been unable to negotiate a ceasefire. France has, like other European countries, called for a ceasefire but also supported Haftar as a way to fight Islamist militants in the country.

On Wednesday, Haftar, meeting French President Emmanuel Macron, ruled out a ceasefire and said he wanted to rid the capital of militias that had “infested” the U.N.-backed government of Premier Fayez al-Serraj, a French presidential official said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing)

Source: OANN

Workers replace a section of the border fence between U.S. and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana
FILE PHOTO: Workers replace a section of the border fence between U.S. and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

May 25, 2019

The Trump administration must temporarily halt the use of some Defense Department funds for a border wall with Mexico, a judge ruled on Friday, because the money was not specifically authorized by Congress for construction of the barrier.

The order blocks the use of $1 billion from the Department of Defense in Arizona and Texas, out of $6.7 billion that Trump administration said it planned to direct toward building the wall.

“The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with the fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” Haywood Gilliam Jr, a U.S. judge in California, wrote in the order.

Separately, Gilliam denied a preliminary injunction against the border wall sought by a coalition of sixteen states, but said they could move forward with their case.

Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has said the wall is needed to address a crisis of drugs and crime flowing across the border into the United States.

The ruling adds to Trump’s frustrations with federal court orders blocking his initiatives for cutting illegal immigration, a policy area he will focus on in his 2020 re-election bid.

In February, after a protracted political battle and a government shutdown, Congress approved $1.38 billion for construction of “primary pedestrian fencing” along the border in southeastern Texas, well short of Trump’s demands.

To obtain the additional money, Trump declared a national emergency and his administration said it planned to divert $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion earmarked for Department of Defense counternarcotics programs and $3.6 billion from military construction projects.

The House of Representatives, more than a dozen states and two advocacy groups asked U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California to block the transfer of funds to prevent the wall construction.

They argue the administration cannot use funds Congress has specifically denied and cannot construct a barrier that was not authorized, nor can the administration work outside the geographic area identified by Congress.

“This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted.

The wall funding faces another court challenge on Friday, in a case brought by the House of Representatives in a federal court in the District of Columbia. The lawmakers have said the diversion of $6.1 billion in Defense Department funds violates the separation of powers doctrine laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

Workers replace a section of the border fence between U.S. and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana
FILE PHOTO: Workers replace a section of the border fence between U.S. and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

May 25, 2019

The Trump administration must temporarily halt the use of some Defense Department funds for a border wall with Mexico, a judge ruled on Friday, because the money was not specifically authorized by Congress for construction of the barrier.

The order blocks the use of $1 billion from the Department of Defense in Arizona and Texas, out of $6.7 billion that Trump administration said it planned to direct toward building the wall.

“The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with the fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” Haywood Gilliam Jr, a U.S. judge in California, wrote in the order.

Separately, Gilliam denied a preliminary injunction against the border wall sought by a coalition of sixteen states, but said they could move forward with their case.

Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has said the wall is needed to address a crisis of drugs and crime flowing across the border into the United States.

The ruling adds to Trump’s frustrations with federal court orders blocking his initiatives for cutting illegal immigration, a policy area he will focus on in his 2020 re-election bid.

In February, after a protracted political battle and a government shutdown, Congress approved $1.38 billion for construction of “primary pedestrian fencing” along the border in southeastern Texas, well short of Trump’s demands.

To obtain the additional money, Trump declared a national emergency and his administration said it planned to divert $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion earmarked for Department of Defense counternarcotics programs and $3.6 billion from military construction projects.

The House of Representatives, more than a dozen states and two advocacy groups asked U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California to block the transfer of funds to prevent the wall construction.

They argue the administration cannot use funds Congress has specifically denied and cannot construct a barrier that was not authorized, nor can the administration work outside the geographic area identified by Congress.

“This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted.

The wall funding faces another court challenge on Friday, in a case brought by the House of Representatives in a federal court in the District of Columbia. The lawmakers have said the diversion of $6.1 billion in Defense Department funds violates the separation of powers doctrine laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz addresses a news conference to present the budget plans for 2019 and the upcoming years in Berlin
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz addresses a news conference to present the budget plans for 2019 and the upcoming years in Berlin, Germany March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

May 24, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is ready to press ahead with a financial transaction tax at national level if other countries are not willing to introduce the levy, Der Spiegel reported in its online edition on Friday.

Germany and other European Union states have been trying to agree a financial transaction tax and Scholz said last week he expected progress by the third quarter of 2019 on introducing such a levy in at least nine EU countries.

Should that prove impossible, Spiegel said Scholz was ready to introduce the tax in Germany anyway as he wants to finance a basic pension for low-income workers that his left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) is pushing.

The SPD is the junior coalition partner in the German government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

“If there is no agreement to be reached on this at international level, then Germany should move forward,” Spiegel quoted an official source close to Scholz as saying. The source did not want to be named.

A Finance Ministry spokeswoman, when asked about the financial transaction tax, earlier told Friday’s regular government news conference in Berlin: “Work is continuing at the European level. Let’s wait and see.”

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

May 24, 2019

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – It was a stark warning about the risks ahead for the global economy, even by the forthright standards of the boss of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“The world economy is in a dangerous place,” Angel Gurria said as the OECD announced its latest, lower forecasts for growth on May 21.

The source of his worry: the mounting trade tensions between the United States and China, which could hit the rest of the world much harder than they have to date.

“Let’s avoid complacency at all costs,” Gurria said. “Clearly the biggest threat is through the escalation of trade restriction measures, and this is happening as we speak. This clear and present danger could easily have knock-on effects.”

With much of the world economy still recovering from the after-effects of the global financial crisis a decade ago, U.S. President Donald Trump caused alarm when he raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods from China on May 10, prompting Beijing to say it would hit back with its own higher duties.

Trade tensions are the main reason that growth in the global economy will weaken to 3.2 percent this year, the slowest pace in three years and down from rates of about 5 percent before the financial crisis a decade ago, the OECD said.

MORE TARIFFS?

The world economy is expected to pick up slowly next year, but only if Washington and China drop their latest tariff moves.

The impact could be a lot more severe if Trump follows through on his latest threat to hit a further $300 billion of Chinese imports with tariffs and China retaliates again.

That kind of tariff escalation, plus the associated rise in uncertainty about a broadening of the trade war, could lop about 0.7 percent off the world economy by 2021-2022, the OECD said.

That would be equivalent to about $600 billion, or the loss of the economy of Argentina.

But the knock-on effects might not stop there.

A full-blown trade war, combined with an ensuing debt crisis in China and a shift away from exports to drive its economy, could cause a 2 percent hit to China’s economy, in turn knocking global growth further, the OECD said.

To be sure, that kind of worst-case scenario may well be averted, given the stakes for the United States and China.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are due to meet at a Group of 20 leaders summit in Japan on June 28-29.

Other G20 nations will be urging them to step back from the fight, chief among them Germany and Japan, two export power-houses which have much to lose from a long trade war.

For now, the effect of the trade tensions is being felt mostly among manufacturers.

By contrast, consumers, buoyed by low unemployment and weak inflation in many of the world’s rich economies, have shown little sign of alarm at the row between Washington and Beijing.

But over the longer term, a protracted trade war is likely to drag down the consumer economy too.

Global trade should normally grow at double the pace of the world economy but is expected to lag it in 2019, boding ill for investment by companies, the OECD said.

That investment would normally drive productivity growth, which is key for long-term prosperity and is urgently needed. Living standards for many workers in rich countries remain lower than before the financial crisis of 2008-09.

The frustration with lower living standards is widely seen as one of the main factors behind the rise of populist politics, including Trump’s presidential election victory in 2016.

“To put it bluntly, this cannot be the new normal,” said Laurence Boone, the OECD’s chief economist. “We cannot accept an economy that doesn’t raise people’s living standards.”

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

May 24, 2019

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – It was a stark warning about the risks ahead for the global economy, even by the forthright standards of the boss of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“The world economy is in a dangerous place,” Angel Gurria said as the OECD announced its latest, lower forecasts for growth on May 21.

The source of his worry: the mounting trade tensions between the United States and China, which could hit the rest of the world much harder than they have to date.

“Let’s avoid complacency at all costs,” Gurria said. “Clearly the biggest threat is through the escalation of trade restriction measures, and this is happening as we speak. This clear and present danger could easily have knock-on effects.”

With much of the world economy still recovering from the after-effects of the global financial crisis a decade ago, U.S. President Donald Trump caused alarm when he raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods from China on May 10, prompting Beijing to say it would hit back with its own higher duties.

Trade tensions are the main reason that growth in the global economy will weaken to 3.2 percent this year, the slowest pace in three years and down from rates of about 5 percent before the financial crisis a decade ago, the OECD said.

MORE TARIFFS?

The world economy is expected to pick up slowly next year, but only if Washington and China drop their latest tariff moves.

The impact could be a lot more severe if Trump follows through on his latest threat to hit a further $300 billion of Chinese imports with tariffs and China retaliates again.

That kind of tariff escalation, plus the associated rise in uncertainty about a broadening of the trade war, could lop about 0.7 percent off the world economy by 2021-2022, the OECD said.

That would be equivalent to about $600 billion, or the loss of the economy of Argentina.

But the knock-on effects might not stop there.

A full-blown trade war, combined with an ensuing debt crisis in China and a shift away from exports to drive its economy, could cause a 2 percent hit to China’s economy, in turn knocking global growth further, the OECD said.

To be sure, that kind of worst-case scenario may well be averted, given the stakes for the United States and China.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are due to meet at a Group of 20 leaders summit in Japan on June 28-29.

Other G20 nations will be urging them to step back from the fight, chief among them Germany and Japan, two export power-houses which have much to lose from a long trade war.

For now, the effect of the trade tensions is being felt mostly among manufacturers.

By contrast, consumers, buoyed by low unemployment and weak inflation in many of the world’s rich economies, have shown little sign of alarm at the row between Washington and Beijing.

But over the longer term, a protracted trade war is likely to drag down the consumer economy too.

Global trade should normally grow at double the pace of the world economy but is expected to lag it in 2019, boding ill for investment by companies, the OECD said.

That investment would normally drive productivity growth, which is key for long-term prosperity and is urgently needed. Living standards for many workers in rich countries remain lower than before the financial crisis of 2008-09.

The frustration with lower living standards is widely seen as one of the main factors behind the rise of populist politics, including Trump’s presidential election victory in 2016.

“To put it bluntly, this cannot be the new normal,” said Laurence Boone, the OECD’s chief economist. “We cannot accept an economy that doesn’t raise people’s living standards.”

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi speaks after casting his vote during general elections in New Delhi
FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi, president of India’s main opposition Congress party, speaks after casting his vote at a polling station in New Delhi, India, May 12, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

May 24, 2019

By Mayank Bhardwaj

AMETHI, India (Reuters) – For many outsiders, Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi losing the seat his family has held for decades was the biggest shock of India’s election, which was won, as expected, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling alliance.

But for many voters in Amethi, a sleepy town in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, it was no surprise.

They said that as Gandhi criss-crossed the country trying to stop Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from retaining power, he all but ignored the constituency that had elected a member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty – including his father, mother and uncle – at all but two votes since 1980.

Many Amethi residents said they voted for Smriti Irani, a dogged minister in Modi’s cabinet, because they had very little access to Gandhi and demands for infrastructure such as flyovers were not met fast enough.

Meanwhile Irani, a former TV actress, practically camped out in the constituency she lost to Gandhi in the last election in 2014.

“Gandhi used to work for the development of Amethi, but in the past five years there was hardly any progress in the area,” Sidharth Pratap Singh, a college student told Reuters about the three-time Amethi lawmaker.

“After 2014, most projects announced by him failed to take off and voters gradually started drifting toward Irani.”

Although Gandhi won the second seat he contested in the southern state of Kerala, Congress lay decimated nationwide. It won only 52 seats, compared with the BJP’s tally of 303, according to official vote count.

Indian election rules allow candidates to contest from two seats in one election.

CAMPAIGN SHORTCOMINGS

In Uttar Pradesh, where millions of first time voters took part in Indian’s mammoth multi-week trip to the ballot box, many young people were looking for progress and change.

Balram Kashyap, another college student speaking to Reuters in and around a library in Amethi, pointed to narrow roads pitted with pot-holes and overflowing, open drains as some of the signs of the town’s poor infrastructure.

“The place desperately needs a flyover to ease traffic congestion,” he said. “Rahul Gandhi time and again assured us it would get built. But he couldn’t keep his word.”

Local Congress workers denied Amethi was ignored by Gandhi, saying he had spent about 35 days in his constituency since May 2014, when Modi first came to power.

But they admitted there were shortcomings in their campaign in Amethi, and the Congress chief of the area resigned on Friday, taking responsibility for the defeat.

“Other than falling short in projecting our work, we also failed to counter jingoistic sentiments and communal polarization – factors that helped the BJP take control of Amethi,” said Brajesh Tiwari, a local Congress worker.

Many analysts say Modi mainly rode a wave of nationalism after tension with old foe Pakistan shot up following a deadly militant attack in Kashmir in February. In response, Modi sent warplanes into Pakistan after that, leading to aerial clashes between the two countries.

“Amethi has been electing Rahul Gandhi for a long time, so it made perfect sense for young voters like us to give the BJP at least one chance,” said Sanjay Singh, who is in his final year of college.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in AMETHI; Editing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

A Sikh migrant worker looks through a window of the temple in Borgo Hermada, in the Pontine Marshes, south of Rome
A Sikh migrant worker looks through a window of the temple in Borgo Hermada, in the Pontine Marshes, south of Rome. Originally from India’s Punjab state, the migrant workers pick fruit and vegetables for up to 13 hours a day for between 3-5 euros ($3.30-$5.50) an hour, in Bella Farnia, Italy May 19, 2019. Picture taken May 19, 2019 REUTERS/Yara Nardi

May 24, 2019

SABAUDIA, Italy (Reuters) – Indian migrants working near Rome say Italy’s far-right politicians may talk about curbing immigration but they say the European nation cannot manage without their cheap labor.

“Politicians in order to win votes keep saying things like, ‘We Italians’, ‘Italians first’, ‘Our people’,” said Gurmukh Singh, 47, head of the Indian Community Association.

“If our people go away, if everyone goes back to India, can the Italians work in these fields being paid 4 euros, 3.50 or 2.90 euros?” he said. “There is certainly enough work to go around in Italy.”

The far-right League, led by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, is expected to emerge as Italy’s leading party in Sunday’s European parliamentary election, campaigning under the slogan “Italy First”.

Salvini has promised to deport more illegal migrants from Italy, where many migrants have landed by boat from North Africa. He has often blamed immigrants for criminal activities.

Rights groups accuse Salvini of fanning racism and intolerance. They question threats to enact mass deportations, saying he has not done so during his first 12 months in office.

As many as 30,000 Indians, mostly Sikhs from India’s Punjab state, live in the Pontine Marshes region, where agriculture expanded after the area was drained in the 1930s.

Some of the workers do not have official documentation, members of the community say.

Many of the workers cycle long distances from cramped accommodation to pick fruit and vegetables for up to 13 hours a day, earning between three and five euros ($3.30-$5.50) an hour, well below the industry’s minimum wage of about eight euros.

Groups of laborers are often overseen at work by other members of the Sikh community.

Marco Omizzolo, who works for research institute Eurispes and migrant rights group In Migrazione said the migrants have little legal protection and have suffered physical abuse.

Association head Singh said he had helped the workers organize a strike and protest for better pay in the past three years. He also said he hoped anti-migrant sentiment would wane.

“With sacrifices, you can move forward,” he said.

(Reporting by Eleanor Biles and Antonio Denti; Writing by Angelo Amante; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN


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