JPost Editorial: Fighting fire
As the smoldering embers of Israel’s massive, nationwide firestorm died out and thousands of evacuated families began returning home over the weekend, the country could take heart in the blessed fact that no one had been killed by the conflagration. The well-coordinated firefighting effort of both local and foreign crews, combined with orderly evacuations, was a reassuring sign that Israel, this time, had indeed learned from past mistakes.
The significance of this achievement can be measured by the failure of such systems not too long ago, in the Mount Carmel forest fire of December 2010, when 44 lives were lost in an abortive attempt by Prisons Service cadets to rescue inmates trapped in the Damun Prison. That fire raged for five days before being brought under control, also with the help of a fleet of firefighting planes assembled from foreign countries. One of the lessons of that disaster was that Israel did not have enough such aircraft – but even though we acquired more, this time they were not enough.
Another achievement since that time was Israel’s refining of its world famous disaster rescue capability, which was recognized recently by the World Health Organization as the No. 1 emergency medical operation in the world.
Israelis are renowned for the speed and effectiveness of our rescue efforts after earthquakes and other natural disasters anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, we have been forced to learn such life-saving practices by confronting the suffering brought upon us by decades of terrorism. It is too early to determine whether the current disaster was the fault of nature – parched brush land waiting for promised winter rains being set on fire by perhaps a careless camper, then blown into a massive blaze by fierce winds – or was the fault, at least partially, of nationalistically motivated terrorists.
The wildfires that have raged across Israel over five days have left at least 133 people injured, rendered hundreds of homes unlivable and consumed tens of thousands of dunams of protected parks and nature reserves.
The Magen David Adom rescue service reported Saturday that among the 133 people treated by the organization for fire-related injuries, one was seriously hurt and three others were moderately injured. The overall tally is likely higher, officials said, as some people – one estimate suggested as many as 50 – may have gone to hospitals on their own for injuries such as smoke inhalation.
Haifa was the worst-hit city from the blazes, with 527 homes completely destroyed, according to a Ynet News tally. Other reports have indicated a lower number, more than 400 homes, that were rendered unlivable in the northern city. Some 1,700 Haifa residents are not able to return home by late Saturday, Channel 2 said, because their homes are unlivable.
It appeared late Saturday that the worst of the fires — some of which are believed to have been started deliberately — were over. But dry weather and strong winds have played a major part in the spread of the flames, and rain was not forecast for several days.
The battle to push back the flames marked among the most difficult operations ever undertaken by Israel’s firefighters. Some 2,000 firefighters battled the fires since Tuesday, many of them working in grueling 24-hour shifts alongside 450 soldiers from the Home Front Command and 69 Cypriot firefighters.
Firefighters on Sunday continued to battle at least four fresh wildfires nationwide as the nearly week-long spate of blazes persisted.
A fire tore through a park in the northern town of Karmiel on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters were at the scene.
Another fire was reported Sunday in the area of the West Bank settlement of Halamish, where 18 homes were consumed by flames on Friday night.
A small brush fire broke out in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem and another was extinguished next to the national police headquarters in the capital.
Earlier, police said that a fire raging in a field outside Moshav Rishpon, north of Tel Aviv, was attended to by firefighters. A police spokeswomen said that fire was “under control” and would soon be doused.
She said police and firefighters had yet to establish the cause of the fire.
After a black and burnt Friday in too many parts of Israel, the sun is shining on Sunday morning. Some families evacuated from their homes in the middle of night due to raging fires have returned. Yaakov reports that his home was unscathed, but others from Beit Meir, near Jerusalem, were not so fortunate.
People are thankful that no deaths have been reported. The government is to provide financial assistance to those who lost property. Countless community groups have organized to feed firemen and collect clothing. Israeli photographers are volunteering to take photos for families who have lost their cherished memories.
The irony of one huge, irreplaceable loss is weighing me down. “This a great loss for the history of art in general and of Jewish art in particular,” said Meira Raanan, about irreplaceable works destroyed by fire in Beit Meir studio of her husband.
Following the wave of forest fires in Israel in the last few days, many Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Arabs in other countries responded to the events on social media. Many responses expressed glee over the fires, and described them as a punishment from Allah for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, especially for its “muezzin bill” aiming to prevent mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast the call for prayer. At the same time, there were also many Israeli Arabs who condemned these expressions of joy and even called them “ignorant,” and some Israeli Arab officials and individuals offered to assist and to host Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, whose homes have been damaged by the fires.
The following is a sampling of the responses on social media.
Expressions Of Glee Over The Fires, Claims That They Are “A Punishment From Allah”
A post in the Palestinian Facebook page “This is Nablus” stated: “Rejoice, oh Inshirah, Israel is burning, hahaha,” eliciting expressions of joy and amusement from readers.
Another post on the same page said: “The winds did what the Islamic ummah failed to do in order to defend its religion. The winds are Allah’s soldiers…” A reader wrote in response: “Allah curse the Jews, our God can [defeat] them.”
A Palestinian calling himself “Sham’at Tafaul” (“Candle of Optimism”) wrote: “May Allah burn the Jews and protect the Arab Muslims and Christians in Israel.”
A Palestinian wrote on the Hamas-affiliated “Palestine Now” Facebook page: “A collective prayer: Oh Allah, we ask you [to let] the fires rage just as the Muslim tears in Palestinian flowed and the just as every drop of pure blood was shed in cruelty and aggression, and as befitting [the honor of] the mosques and the Korans that the evildoers desecrated. Allah, have no mercy on them, just as they have no mercy on our Palestinian brethren. Amen! Show them hell in this world, oh great and vengeful [God]. Amen!”
Israeli police have arrested a total of 37 suspects in connection with the recent wave of fires across Israel over the past week, a police spokesperson said on Sunday.
More than 200 hundred fires were sparked over the past week across Israel, with the Internal Security Ministry estimating that about half were the result of arson.
Some 85,000 residents of Haifa were force to flee their homes, along with hundreds of residents in Zichron Yaakov, Atlit, Neve Tzuf (Halamish), Beit Meir, Nataf, and other towns around Israel. More than 400 homes were destroyed in Haifa, along with dozens more across the country.
Of the 37 suspects arrested during the investigation, 24 remain in custody, while 13 have been released. Among those still in custody, 18 are Israeli Arabs, two of whom have admitted to lighting fires.
Police say that they are currently investigating 233 cases of arson in connection with last week’s fires. Forty-five files have been opened on possible arsonists, while another five have been opened against individuals suspected of incitement to arson. Of those now being investigated for incitement, two are Arabs and three are Jews.
Two Israeli Arabs arrested on suspicion of deliberately starting brush fires have confessed to the crimes, police reportedly told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
The suspects were said to from the Israeli Arab towns of Umm al-Fahm and Deir Hanna in northern Israel, the Hebrew-language Ynet news website reported. The report did not specify which fires the two admitted to igniting or offer details on the suspects.
While many of the fires that ravaged towns and cities nationwide since Tuesday have been caused by negligence, officials say at least some of the blazes were started by nationalistically motivated Arab arsonists and have vowed to crack down on the perpetrators.
Cuba and the United States were enemies for a long time. In 2014 they recognized each other. Contractor Alan Gross has been freed.
The Cold War is pretty much over, although North Korea remains America’s foe, as we are learning from the reaction to a film that SONY was planning to release, and Russia is an enigma.
In 1956, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR were able to join to undo the victory that Israel, with the aid of Great Britain and France, had won against Egypt. Eisenhower and Khrushchev together forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had just conquered. Things began to change when John Kennedy became president. Kennedy ended the embargo against arms to the Middle East.
Relations between the United States and Israel continued to warm up, and during the Six-Day War in 1967, America was on Israel’s side. The Communist world had pretty much joined the world of Islam at the time of the Bandung Conference, which took place in Indonesia in 1955.
Fidel said that Israel had the right to exist as a Jewish state.
The USSR recognized Israel officially in 1991, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. China did so in 1992. On the other hand, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea remained totally opposed to Israel’s existence. The Cold War was ending—a bit at a time. When countries became less committed to opposing the United States, their opposition to Israel grew milder.
Alan Gross, imprisoned for five years in Cuba for his efforts to assist its Jewish community, said “history will never absolve” the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Castro’s death at the age of 90 was announced on Friday night by his brother, Raul, Cuba’s current president.
“History will never absolve him. But perhaps now the voices of Cuba will be heard. Speak up, Cuba,” Gross tweeted shortly after Castro’s death was announced.
In later tweets he called for the US to lift its embargo on Cuba.
When he was arrested in 2009, Gross, of Potomac, Maryland, was working as a US government subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development setting up Internet access for Cuban Jews.
Gross was released in December of 2014 as part of a broader exchange in which three Cubans convicted for spying were released from American prisons. The same day, US President Barack Obama announced renewed ties with the communist nation.
“Fidel Castro was a massive figure in the history of the whole planet, ever since the revolution in 1959. There are stories of his heroism while living in Mexico in exile and then the boat to Cuba, the march to Havana… For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”
“You were the greatest man I ever met Comandante Fidel. You were the man of the century. Hasta la Victoria Siepmre. Orden. RIP”
The former mayor of London defended the controversial socialist revolutionary as he compared the country under Castro’s power to Britain in the Second World War.
“I’ve been [to Cuba] many times, it’s a very open and relaxed society,” Mr Livingstone told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I’m sure they will, over time, move towards something like a traditional West European democracy, but it could have happened a lot earlier if you hadn’t had, the entire time, the blockade by America, attempts to overthrow the regime, eight assassination attempts authorised by American presidents.
“We didn’t have an entirely functioning democracy in World War Two, it was shut down. The general election was cancelled, anyone expressing support for Hitler was thrown into prison.
“If you’re living in a wartime situation, it’s not good for democracy.”
Mr Livingstone, who called Castro an “absolute giant of the 20th Century’” and a “beacon of light all over Latin America”, also praised the country’s education and healthcare.
And from President-elect Trump:
Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.
While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.
Though the tragedies and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.
I think all Ricochetti can agree upon which leader got the tone right.
PreOccupiedTerritory: In 50 Years Of Oppression, Castro Somehow Failed To Create Ideal Society (satire)
World leaders from Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau to Basher Assad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent condolences to the people of Cuba, who now confront the prospect of constructing a heaven-on-earth without their formidable leader’s dedication to systematic denial of basic human rights to an entire people. For their part, Assad, Khamenei, and a host of other like-minded personages across the world vowed to continue following Castro’s example in their own countries, with several assuring Cubans that the late strongman’s death would not mean that his work will not continue – and that in the aftermath of his passing, Cuba could look to those other nations for guidance in how to bring that utopia to fruition via abuse and torture of gays and other politically troublesome populations.
Experts noted that Castro was not the first to die without fulfilling his dream of creating an ideal society. “Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and many others met similarly tragic fates,” explained UK Labour and Opposition leader MP Jeremy Corbyn. “In most cases the capitalist West deserves the lion’s share of the blame, because they continually thwarted the noble attempts by those trailblazing personalities to create something new and better than a world in which people can exercise the dangerous right of questioning whether bringing the capitalist system crashing down could be anything but positive.”
Corbyn added that he had specifically omitted mention of Hitler, who also died in a failed attempt to create a new society, because Stalin had opposed Hitler, and therefore Hitler could not be cited as an unequivocal example of a man of the correct pure ideals. “But you might want to ask my colleague Ken Livingstone for a more nuanced view,” he said.
The Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (Bank for Social Economy) has closed the account of a German group that promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state.
The Cologne-based bank notified the anti-Israel NGO Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East that its account will be shut down by the end of the year, according to an article that appeared on the anti-Zionist website Der Semit on Thursday.
The Jerusalem Post, as part of its reporting earlier this year on European banks that maintain BDS and terrorism-related accounts, found that the Bank for Social Economy account was listed on the NGO’s website, in an effort to attract donations.
After receiving a Post query in September alleging Hamas links to the Jewish Voice group, as well as that it was spreading contemporary antisemitism and engaging in BDS activities, the bank opened an investigation, spokeswoman Stephanie Rüth said.
Rüth told the Post last week that the bank “cannot, on account of bank secrecy policy, provide internal information to the public.” Several Post queries to members of Jewish Voice were not returned.
It is unclear when the Bank for Social Economy informed the NGO that its account will be shut. The membership of Jewish Voice includes a who’s who of anti-Zionist German Jews, a number of whom have been accused of modern antisemitism.
The Jewish Voice member who announced on his website, Der Semit, that the bank dropped the account spoke at the 13th Palestinians in Europe Conference in the German capital in April 2015. The conference attracted supporters of Hamas, the Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel daily reported. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Israel’s ambassador to Stockholm was calling on the Swedish public to protest the country’s state-owned educational television station for airing a one-sided anti-Israel documentary.
About two weeks ago, Utbildningsradion, the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company, aired “The Occupation of the American mind: Israel’s public relation war in the United States,” which features some of the world’s most prominent critics of the Jewish state.
Narrated by former Pink Floyd singer and vocal anti-Israel activist Roger Waters, the film contains interviews with Amira Hass, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal, Stephen Walt, Rashid Khalidi, Yousef Munayyer and other “leading observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to its website.
The hour-long documentary presents footage from interviews top Israeli officials gave to US media outlets during the 2014 Gaza war, interspersed with comments by “experts” analyzing Jerusalem’s ostensible success in manipulating American public opinion in Israel’s favor. “What gets pushed out of the frame entirely [in American coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] is the fact that for almost 50 years Palestinians have been systematically dispossessed from their land and denied their most basic human rights,” one interviewee argues. Another one charges that Israelis “have been allowed to defend the indefensible to the American public through mis-education and misinformation campaigns, through effective talking points.”
After the film was aired on Utbildningsradion — it will remain available on its website until March 2018 — Israel’s envoy in Stockholm, Isaac Bachman, wrote an angry letter to the station’s director, Christel Willers, and to Hanna Stjärne, the head of Sweden’s public service television company SVT.
As Australia’s publicly-funded national broadcaster, the ABC, Australia’s answer to the BBC, is like Al Beeb itself, obligated to be objective in its presentation of news and current events. Again like the BBC, it is dominated by leftists and a leftist mindset prevails in the dissemination and discussion of news items, with virtual impunity. Where the BBC has openly biased-against-Israel correspondents like Jeremy Bowen and Jon Donnison the ABC has the egregiously brazen journalist-activist Sophie McNeill.
One of the latest examples of the ABC’s bias can be seen in a very recent News 24 interview with the American-educated Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri, who’s in Australia in connection with the Palestine Film Festival. What’s troubling about the interview is the partisan ambience of the news presenters (one in particular) in conducting the interview with Ms Masri, to the delight of anti-Israel groups like this one:
But it’s not the ABC’s anti-Israel bias with which this present post is primarily concerned, but rather a fresh source of on-screen activity.
It’s greatly to be hoped that the leaders of relevant Australian Jewish communal organisations are watching closely the development of an initiative that, if it goes ahead as planned, seems set to demonise Israel on screens in this country and elsewhere.
The initiative in question is a doco (that’s Aussie speak for documentary) to be called From Under the Rubble, written and directed by Anne Tsoulis, who, like cinematographer Fadi Hossam Hanona, is co-producer.
Three Jewish students were subjected to vile anti-Semitic abuse by members of a Cambridge University drinking society amid allegations of a cover up.
One of the victims has accused university authorities of failing to investigate the attack properly. Two members of Christ’s College have been disciplined for their part in the assault although they were cleared of anti-Semitism.
Christ’s College has declined to identify the perpetrators or reveal the punishment – if any – meted out to the drinking society members.
The students were set upon by a mob after they entered the graduate union building in Mill Lane, Cambridge, at the end of last month.
The bar area had been rented out for a party jointly held by the sporting societies of Christ’s College. One of the victims, Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, 25, who is studying politics at Hughes Hall, told The Telegraph: “It was a closed party so we walked out but as we did so these individuals started getting more physical and more vocal and they noticed our kippot [Jewish skullcaps].
“All of a sudden they were shouting: ‘Jew, get f—— out of here’. We tried to leave but they were yelling at us.”
A short exchange of gunfire between an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group and Israeli troops on Sunday morning, which ended with an IDF airstrike that killed four militants, represented the first notable clash between the two groups.
But experts do not see it heralding a major shift in the dynamics of the region.
On Sunday morning, at approximately 8:30 a.m., soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation.” While remaining inside Israeli territory, the soldiers came under attack from Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyr’s Brigade, an army spokesperson said.
The soldiers returned small arms fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells as well. The incident concluded when the Israel Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it.
“It was a short exchange, but it was productive,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner concluded.
For years, the IDF has warned of a potential — some say inevitable — conflict with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates in southern Syria and has been preparing to respond to cross-border attacks.
The Nazareth District Court on Sunday indicted four senior members of a recently outlawed Islamic activist group for provoking tensions at the Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said Sunday.
The Shin Bet said activists from the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement were responsible for “violent activities that harm the security of tourists visiting the Temple Mount, which often escalate tensions and damage the area under Israeli sovereignty.”
The suspects allegedly provided material support for the Murabitun, an Islamic group whose regular protests against non-Muslim visitors at the Temple Mount have occasionally turned violent.
According to the statement, the four “maintained a prodigious, organized network for fundraising and paying Murabitun activists, including a system that provided rides from all over the country to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.”
The activists — named as Hikmat Naamneh and Ismail Lahwani from the northern town of Arraba; Yahya Sutra from Nazareth and Abdel Karim from Kfar Kana — were arrested in a series of joint police and Shin Bet arrest raids in October and November this year.
A statement from police spokeswoman Luba Samri on Sunday said that in total, the suspects paid Murabitun activists a total of NIS 700,000 ($181,000) in monthly stipends to maintain a presence at the flashpoint holy site.
Students from Jerusalem were attacked Sunday morning by stone-throwing Arab teens from southern Israel.
The targets of the attack were taking a field trip to the Ein Gedi National Park near the Dead Sea through the Kfar Etzion Field School.
During their hike through the desert canyon area, the group came under a barrage of stones thrown by students from the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva in the Negev. The Bedouin students occupied the high ground and hurled stones down at the Jewish students as they trekked through the bottom of the canyon.
The students from Jerusalem were able to escape unscathed and filed a report with the police and Education Ministry.
“We’ve led hikes in Ein Gedi with many groups from around the country, but this was the first time we’ve ever had a serious incident like this occur – throwing stones elementary school children,” said Yaron Rosenthal, from the Kfar Etzion Field School.
Palestinian infighting and years of an Israeli blockade could turn the impoverished Gaza Strip into an easy “launching pad” for Islamic State recruiters, Qatar’s foreign minister says.
The small gas-rich Gulf state is a major backer of Hamas, the armed movement which has maintained its control over the coastal enclave for almost a decade despite conflicts with Israel and a rift with Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said in an interview in Doha on Saturday that a blockade imposed on Gaza’s borders by Israel and Egypt had turned the territory into an “open-air prison.”
“If we will leave them as they are, people from Daesh can recruit them easily. They can start operations from there easily,” he told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
“It (Gaza) can transform also as a launching pad for extremism and for terrorism … That’s why we need to put an end to this,” he said.
Radioactive material produced at Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Plant has reportedly been stolen raising concerns about the potential use of a so-called dirty bomb in the future, according to London-based Arabic language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
The missing material, Iridium-192, was reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency by Iran’s nuclear regulatory body earlier this month, who warned neighboring Gulf States of its possible nefarious use.
A so-called dirty bomb, or radiological dispersion device, is a conventional weapon equipped with nuclear material. The idea behind a dirty bomb is to blast radioactive material, such as powder or pellets, into the area around an explosion.
Citing Saudi intelligence sources, Asharq al-Awsat reported Friday that the Iridium-192 was stolen as it was being transported from the Bushehr facility. The vehicle carrying the nuclear material was later found abandoned with its contents seized.
It remains unclear who stole the nuclear material and for what purpose.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic sparked online debate Saturday as it emerged she posed for a photo during her recent Canada trip with a flag carrying a symbol of her country’s wartime pro-Nazi regime.
Her office shrugged off the incident, insisting there was “nothing questionable” about it.
The photo, posted on Facebook by a Croatian man living in Canada, shows Grabar-Kitarovic posing with him and others in front of a flag bearing the coat of arms used by Croatia’s World War II-era Ustasha regime, which persecuted and killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists.
The checkerboard-patterned shield in the middle of Croatia’s current national flag has 25 red and white squares, starting with a red one in the top-left corner.
Fears about an increase in populist and right-wing extremism were at the top of the agenda for Jewish leaders in Germany in their first ever meeting with leaders of the Left Party.
In a joint statement, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Left Party called on civil society and government to take a stand against a “worrying tendency” toward xenophobia and anti-Semitism as Germany prepares to enter a national election year.
On the table in Thursday’s two-hour meeting in Berlin were trends among some extreme groups toward denial of Israel’s right to exist, as well as hate crimes directed at recent refugees from war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East and South-Central Asia.
Participants also discussed the rise of the right-populist Alternative For Germany party, which has gained seats in ten of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. Several more state elections precede the national election in September, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union party will stand for reelection to her fourth term.
“The social climate and the impending super-election year make it more important than ever for all democratic forces to stand together,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council, said in the statement, adding that the leadership of the Left Party had “responded openly to our concerns. We appreciate that.”
IsraellyCool: Air Supply’s Unbelievable Gesture To Israel
We already knew Air Suppy were menschen. To what extent has just become manifest.
After being forced to postpone their concert in Haifa from Friday to Sunday because of the fires that plagued the city over the weekend, Air Supply are giving away 200 tickets to firemen’s wives.
Concert producer Dudi Berkowitz said, “This is a gesture to wives of firefighters, who went through incredibly difficult days and nights. We decided to give them an evening away from it all with some good music. I invite firemen’s wives to come enjoy with us.”
Air Supply returned to Israel last week and performed two of their three planned concerts—in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. The third concert was scheduled for Friday in Haifa, but the spate of fires in the city left the band and the production no choice but to postpone.
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