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“Indiscriminate” Bombing in Gaza Pushes Death Toll Beyond 500 July 21, 2014

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Roger’s note: the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, perfected the infamous Big Lie stratagem.  Tell it brazenly and often and it becomes accepted fact.  In the second article posted here, that of Glen Greenwald, we see an eerie example of this in relation to a recent remark by Israeli warmonger Netanyahu.  The Israeli/American/German/etc. narrative on the current Gaza massacre is that it has been provoked by Hamas, who, unprovoked, builds tunnels and sends missiles aimed at Israeli residents; leaving Israel no alternative but to “defend” itself.

THAT IS A BIG LIE.

The reality is that the Netanyahu Israeli government has used whatever pretext it can find to punish Palestinians for the recent unification of the Gaza Hamas and West Bank governments.  The Israeli sanctions against Gaza made already nearly unsupportable life even more impossible, thus provoking the missile launch.  This, of course, against a background of the Israeli “seige” of Gaza, the ongoing repression, the illegal settlements, etc., turning it into a veritable concentration camp with no escape possible.

 

More than 500 Palestinians now dead as sealed-off territory becomes open battlefield; Calls for immediate cease fire go out, but violence continues

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Medics evacuate the body of a man from Gaza’s eastern Shejaiya district on July 20, 2014. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Intense shelling and aerial assaults that claimed hundreds of lives over the weekend continued in the Gaza Strip on Monday, pushing the number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ beyond 500 people, with many thousands wounded, since it began on July 8.

“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel, what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians.” —Nicolas Palarus, Doctors Without Borders

In the Gaza City suburb of Shuja’iyya on Sunday,more than 120 Palestinians—at least 40 of whom where women and children—were killed during intense and reportedly “indiscriminate” bombing by Israeli forces. The Ma’an News Agency reports that overall, 150 Palestinians were killed across the territory on Sunday.

“It was a night of horror,” one 50 year-old Palestinian from the city of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza toldReuters.

According to the New York Times on Monday, “Israel has lost 18 soldiers so far, as well as two citizens killed by rocket and mortar fire.”

Late on Sunday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting over the crisis in Gaza anddemanded all parties agree to an immediate cease fire. The council, however, did not pick up an official resolution offered by Jordan which put forth stronger language condemning the violence against civilians in Gaza and called for a lifting of the siege that prevents people from leaving the enclave that has now become an open battlefield.

In a statement, the France-based medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/MSF called on Israel to immediately stop bombing the civilian population trapped in the sealed-off Gaza strip and to respect the safety of medical workers and health facilities working there.

“Shelling and air strikes are not only intense but are also unpredictable, which makes it very difficult for MSF and other medical workers to move and provide much needed emergency care,” said Nicolas Palarus, MSF field coordinator in Gaza.MSF anesthetist, in the intensive care unit of the burns service of Shifa hospital where two brothers, 8 and 4 years old, are hospitalized after being severely burned when a missile fell on their house. (Samantha Maurin/MSF Kelly)

“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel,” Palarus continued, “what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians.”

UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon, speaking in Doha on Sunday, made his strongest comments yet on Israel’s military assault, calling for an end to the campaign that has now killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands, including a huge numbers of children.

“I condemn this atrocious action,” Ban said. “Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”

Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have also backed the latest calls for a cease fire and expressed “concern” for the increasing numbers of civilian casualties, but continued to stop short of condemning Israeli’s aggressive tactics.

In a call with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, according to the White House, Obama raised “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers, but reaffirmed the U.S. position that Israel has a “right to defend itself.”

Kerry was on his way to Cairo on Monday to engage with regional leaders gathered there to work on the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Kerry made headlines on Sunday for what were described as “unguarded” comments made to a senior aide in which he was shown expressing frustration over the increasing numbers of civilians deaths caused by Israel’s attack. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said, seeming to challenge the repeated claims made by Israeli officials.

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Israel’s ‘Brutal Attack’ on Gaza Kills At Least 8 Children July 9, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger note: unfortunately this is really nothing new.  The fratricidal war between Jews and Arabs has been going on for decades and no end is in sight.  The seeds for this conflict were planted with the imposition of the Israeli state on Palestinian soil and will continue to sprout violence and death until some unforeseen day when a single secular state replaces the existing unsustainable divide.  Of course, this can only happen if the ultra right racist Israeli government does not succeed in its attempt to conquer and annihilate the Palestinian peoples.  In the mean time a hundred Palestinians die for every Israeli in a  David and Goliath struggle.

 

‘The death and injury to children caused by Israel’s military offensive on Gaza demonstrates serious and extensive disregard of fundamental principles of international law.’

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Palestinians stand atop the rubble of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City July 9, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

At least eight children are among those who have been killed in the Gaza Strip over the last twenty-four hours, according to various reports, as the Israeli military continued to bombard the Palestinian enclave using naval ships, fighter jets, and aerial drones.

Palestinian women grieve following the deaths of several people after an Israeli air strike on a home in the northern of Gaza Strip early Wednesday. (Credit: Mohammed Abed / AFP/Getty Images)

According to a report from the Defense of Children International (DCI-Palestine), six children were killed when a building was leveled by a missile that may have been fired from an Israeli drone on Tuesday afternoon in the city of Khan Younis.

According to the group:

The five families that reside in the building evacuated immediately after an Israeli aerial drone fired a warning missile. A number of neighbors, however, gathered on the roof in an effort to prevent the bombing. Shortly after 3 p.m., an Israeli airstrike leveled the building, and killed seven people, including five children, on the spot and injured 28 others.

Hussein Yousef Hussein Karawe, 13, Basem Salem Hussein Karawe, 10, Mohammad Ali Faraj Karawe, 12, Abdullah Hamed Karawe, 6, and Kasem Jaber Adwan Karawe, 12, died immediately, according to evidence collected by Defense for Children International-Palestine. Seraj Abed al-Aal, 8, succumbed to his injuries later that evening.

“The death and injury to children caused by Israel’s military offensive on Gaza demonstrates serious and extensive disregard of fundamental principles of international law,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “Israeli forces must not carry out indiscriminate airstrikes in densely populated areas that fail to distinguish between military targets, civilians and civilian objects.”

RT.com posted dramatic and graphic footage that followed the bombing in Khan Younis:

“In Gaza, it is not a war or a military operation though it may look so. It is collective punishment and it is a brutal attack against all Palestinian people, and mainly civilians are paying the price.” —Dr. Mona El-Farra, from Gaza

In a post published by Common Dreams on Tuesday, Dr. Mona El-Farra, a Palestinian physician and human rights activist currently on the ground in Gaza, said the people there “do not have bomb shelters to escape to and hide” and rejected the idea that Israel’s assault could possibly be justified.

“These air raids fall on the majority of the population living in very crowded areas, so while they hit their targets, civilians pay a big price – we have many causalities and the numbers are rising every hour,” El-Farra said. “In Gaza, it is not a war or a military operation though it may look so. It is collective punishment and it is a brutal attack against all Palestinian people, and mainly civilians are paying the price.”

As Maureen Clare Murphy, managing editor of the Electronic Intifada website, notes:

The ongoing bombing campaign is the most severe violence inflicted by Israel on Gaza since its eight-day assault in November 2012, during which more than 150 Palestinians were killed, 33 of them children.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 350 children, during Israel’s three consecutive weeks of attacks from air, land and sea during winter 2008-09.

Twenty-five lives have been claimed by Israel in Gaza since Monday, including at least eight children, as warplanes bombed areas across Gaza, whose 1.7 million Palestinian residents live under a tightly-enforced siege and are unable to flee and have nowhere to seek shelter.

According to DCI-Palestine:

International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires that all parties to an armed conflict distinguish between military targets, civilians and civilian objects. Israel as the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, is required to protect the Palestinian civilian population from violence.

While Israel relies on the principle of self defense to justify military offensives on Gaza, Israeli forces are bound to customary international law rules of proportionality and necessity.

Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for firing around 120 rockets from Gaza into southern and central Israel, with some reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, according to Haaretz. Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system has reportedly intercepted at least 23 rockets. While minimal property damage has been reported, there have been no serious casualties.

The Israeli military has mobilized thousands of reserve soldiers in preparation for any further escalation, according to news reports.

This tweeted image appears to show the child victims killed in the Khan Younis bombing:

http://twitter.com/MuathHumaid/status/486808005183148034/photo/1

According to Ma’an news agency, the a total of twelve Palestinians have been killed on Wednesday in Gaza, bringing the overall death toll since Monday to 35 people and more than 300 injuries.

 

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Talk of ‘Third Intifada’ Rises as West Bank Tensions Boil June 21, 2014

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Roger’s note: today the Presbyterian Church in the United States voted to divest from three major corporations that supply settlements in Israeli Occupied territories.

 

Bombing of Gaza continues and aggressive raids by the IDF result in two Palestinian deaths overnight

- Jon Queally, staff writer

The mother of Mohammed Dudin, a 14-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops in overnight clashes in Dura, weeps during his funeral in the village south of the West Bank city of Hebron on June 20, 2014. (Photo: AFP)

As the death toll rises and clashes mount between Palestinian communities and Israel security forces, the conditions for a widespread street uprising—or intifada—are again taking shape in the occupied West Bank.

Two Palestinians, a teenager and a young man, were killed in separate incidents overnight as violence escalated in the occupied territories with Israeli military units continuing a week of aggressive raids in response to three missing Israeli teenagers who are believed kidnapped.

The Israeli government has said the three missing Israeli teenagers—Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frankel—were kidnapped by Hamas, but Hamas leaders deny involvement.

Leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has said that Israel is now using the teenagers’ disappearance as “a pretext to impose tough punishment against [the Palestinian] people” living in the West Bank and Gaza.

As the Ma’an news agency reports:

Israeli forces shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy after clashes erupted early Friday morning during a raid on the southern West Bank village of Dura, near Hebron.

Local sources told Ma’an that Mahmoud Jihad Muhammad Dudeen was struck by live bullets in the chest before being taken to Hebron Governmental Hospital, where he was shortly pronounced dead.

The local sources said Israeli forces opened fire directly on Mahmoud during the clashes which occurred in the Haninia neighborhood of Dura.

The clashes broke out after Israeli forces stormed the village in a dawn raid and began conducting home raids. In response, local youths threw rocks at the soldiers.

Later, Ma’an reported on the second incident which took the life of 22-year-old Mustafa Hosni Aslan, who shot in the head by IDF forces during an IDF raid on the Qalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah. Three others were also seriously wounded by gunfire.

As seemingly isolated incident now spirals, a not unfamiliar phrase is now creeping back into the fold: Third Intifada.

On Thursday, in response to the IDF raids and threats to expel Hamas members from the West Bank, a senior member of the political faction Salah Bardawil, reportedly said, “We are capable of igniting a third Intifada and this is our irrevocable right. It will go off when enough pressure is exerted on the Palestinian people.”

Conjured mostly in the Israeli press, the idea that the ongoing raids could spark a large-scale uprising among Palestinians in the West Bank is not far-fetched.

However, as Middle East expert and researcher Samer Badawi, writing at the  +972 website observes: “If Israel is hoping to provoke Hamas into launching a barrage of rockets from Gaza, the tactic has so far not worked.”

So far, nearly 300 Palestinians in the West Bank have been arrested as part of the IDF’s crackdown began earlier this week. With the level of violence and tensions within Palestinian communities escalating, new talk is emerging of the possibility of a Third Intifada.

Israel’s air force has also continued to bomb targets in the Gaza Strip, with strikes overnight resulting in injuries to the civilians population in the sealed-off enclave, including children.

According to Haaretz: “Sources in Gaza report that six people, including four children, were lightly wounded by shrapnel resulting from an IAF strike. The airstrike targeted several storage facilities, which according to Palestinian sources served civilian purposes.”

Offering analysis of the overall situation that has resulted from the alleged kidnapping of the young Israeli settlers, Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and former professor at Princeton University, says that recent events should not be viewed without the full context of the ongoing occupation in West Bank.

“It is a basic strategic recipe: If you take away hope for a political solution, you have to expect a spike in violence,” argues Kuttab. “Add to this formula a hunger strike by over 100 Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial, that has lasted almost two months without a single attempt to negotiate or hear the prisoners’ demands and you have trouble.”

He continues:

Search for the missing Israelis is useless if it does not include a serious attempt to address the underlying causes of the violence that is the result of a sense of helplessness and despair.

As Palestinian areas enter the 48th year under a foreign military occupation that has along with it a colonial settler campaign, one should not be surprised by violent acts here and there.

The sooner all parties reflect on the larger lessons of this act the sooner we can begin the process of moving towards independence for Palestinians and security for Israelis.

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‘Worst of All Worlds’ as Neoliberal BJP Wins India Elections in Landslide May 17, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in India, Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: I had no sooner posted an article about neo-Nazism in Europe, where I commented that the phenomenon is world wide, than I came across this analysis of the results of the Indian election.  Apart from virulent and racist Hinduism represented by the BJP, there is the lesson of what elections really stand for in capitalist democracy.  Indian voters had the choice between the endemically corrupt Nehru/Ghandi Congress Party dynasty versus the racist BJP, both parties sold out to the corporate elite.  Makes one think about Democrats and Republicans, doesn’t it?

Critics say victory of Hindu nationalist party and asendancy of Narendra Modi put nation on perilous course

- Jon Queally, staff writer

The BJP’s Narendra Modi will be India’s next Prime Minister which critics say puts India on a perilous path of neoliberal economics and nationalist politics. (Photo: Hindustan Times)In national elections in India, the rightwing Hindu nationalist party, called the Bharatiya Janata Party (or BJP), has won a landslide victory for the country’s parliament and their leader, businessman Narendra Modi from Gujurat, is now set to become the nation’s next Prime Minister.

According to Reuters:

With more than six times the seats of its closest rival, Modi’s is the most decisive mandate for any leader since the 1984 assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi propelled her son to office. Since 1989, India has been governed by coalitions.

The BJP was winning in 278 seats of the 543-seat parliament, counting trends showed. An alliance led by the party was ahead in 337 seats, TV channel NDTV said.

Though many are framing the BJP’s victory as the result of widespread disgust with the current government, led by the Congress Party, and a win for those calling for an end to systematic corruption in the world’s most populous democratic state—critics of the neoliberal BJP say its ascendency puts India on a perilous path.

For progressive-minded Indians, says Vijay Prashad, a historian and professor at American University of Beirut, the BJP victory “is the worst of all worlds.”

In statements ahead of the elections, activist and author Arundhati Roy said that India’s election were not about serving the interests of the nation’s poor and disenfranchised, but about “which corporation would come to power.”

Referring directly to the now victorious Modi, Roy stated, “This time, [the elections were] corporate war and he is a corporate candidate.” She indicated that all the major parties continue to ignore the pervasive poverty, including mass malnutrition which plague vast sections of the country.  Despite India having the third-fastest growing economy in the world, Roy said, its democracy is being steadily destroyed by “unequally distributed wealth” and a political elite that pays only lip service to the nation’s farmers, marginalized youth, and  underclass.

To de-mystify Modi’s victory and put his party in context, Prashad explains:

“BJP never ran against the roots of inequality or deprivation, but only what it deemed to be its symptom – corruption. This was a clever strategy. It both rode the anti-Congress wave, which had been produced by anger at the inequalities in the country, and it mollified the corporate community, which would not have been interested in any criticism of the policies of neoliberalism.”The BJP’s record in governance is not any different from that of the Congress – with inequality and corruption being the order of the day in its bastion of Gujarat, for instance. To take one indicator as illustrative, in Gujarat the mal-nutrition rate is so low that it is worse than the average level of malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa (where the rates of mal-nutrition remain very disturbing). Gujarat’s ‘development model’ also favored the privileged businessmen of the ruling party, the BJP, and its chief minister, Narendra Modi. Family firms such as the Adani group earned substantial gifts from the BJP government, which enhanced their profits, and helped Gujarat increase its own profile as “open for business.”

Modi was able to dodge questions of the “Gujarat Model.” He was quickly anointed by the BJP as its Prime Ministerial candidate and hastily favored by the media with far more coverage than any other politician. Modi ran as the development candidate with a carefully calibrated argument – he suggested that it was not neo-liberalism that created inequality, but its symptom, namely corruption, which the BJP tied to the mast of the Congress. In other words, the BJP never ran against the roots of inequality or deprivation, but only what it deemed to be its symptom – corruption. This was a clever strategy. It both rode the anti-Congress wave, which had been produced by anger at the inequalities in the country, and it mollified the corporate community, which would not have been interested in any criticism of the policies of neoliberalism.

Writing in the Guardian on Friday, Indian author and writer Pankaj Mishra argues that with Modi at the helm, India is facing “its most sinister period since independence.” Providing context for both Modi’s rise within the BJP and the rightwing fanaticism of the party now set to control India, Mishra writes:

Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder’s belief that Nazi Germany had manifested “race pride at its highest” by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or “Hinduness”. In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowed that he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as “child-breeding centres”.

“Modi is never less convincing than when he presents himself as a humble tea-vendor, the son-of-the-soil challenger to the Congress’s haughty dynasts. His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country’s biggest corporations. His closest allies – India’s biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.”.

Such rhetoric has helped Modi sweep one election after another in Gujarat. A senior American diplomat described him, in cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, as an “insular, distrustful person” who “reigns by fear and intimidation”; his neo-Hindu devotees on Facebook and Twitter continue to render the air mephitic with hate and malice, populating the paranoid world of both have-nots and haves with fresh enemies – “terrorists”, “jihadis”, “Pakistani agents”, “pseudo-secularists”, “sickulars”, “socialists” and “commies”. Modi’s own electoral strategy as prime ministerial candidate, however, has been more polished, despite his appeals, both dog-whistled and overt, to Hindu solidarity against menacing aliens and outsiders, such as the Italian-born leader of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, Bangladeshi “infiltrators” and those who eat the holy cow.

Modi exhorts his largely young supporters – more than two-thirds of India’s population is under the age of 35 – to join a revolution that will destroy the corrupt old political order and uproot its moral and ideological foundations while buttressing the essential framework, the market economy, of a glorious New India. In an apparently ungovernable country, where many revere the author of Mein Kampf for his tremendous will to power and organisation, he has shrewdly deployed the idioms of management, national security and civilisational glory.

Boasting of his 56-inch chest, Modi has replaced Mahatma Gandhi, the icon of non-violence, with Vivekananda, the 19th-century Hindu revivalist who was obsessed with making Indians a “manly” nation. Vivekananda’s garlanded statue or portrait is as ubiquitous in Modi’s public appearances as his dandyish pastel waistcoats. But Modi is never less convincing than when he presents himself as a humble tea-vendor, the son-of-the-soil challenger to the Congress’s haughty dynasts. His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country’s biggest corporations. His closest allies – India’s biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.

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In Historic Vote, FCC Advances Rules to Kill ‘Open Internet’ May 15, 2014

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Roger’s note: some day the capitalists will find a way to tax the air we breathe.

Democratic commissioners betray net neutrality rhetoric by approving consideration of rules that would create ‘two-tiered internet’

- Jon Queally, staff writer

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, right, with Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is one of three Democrats on the five-member commission. (Photo: Daniel Rosenbaum/NYT)

Despite national outcry and protests both outside and inside a packed hearing room in Washington, DC, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor of advancing a set of rules that threaten the heart of the “open internet” by allowing the creation of “paid priority fast lanes,” supplanting the principle known as ‘net neutrality’ which says all online content must receive equal treatment by the nation’s broadband networks.

(Credit: SaveTheInternet.com)

In a vote of 3 to 2, with the Democrats on the commission making up the majority, the FCC approved a proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler which critics say would not just alter net neutrality, but destroy it.

As the Washington Post reports:

The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.

Smaller companies that can’t afford to pay for faster delivery would likely face additional obstacles against bigger rivals. And consumers could see a trickle-down effect of higher prices as Web sites try to pass along new costs of doing business with Internet service providers.

The proposal is not a final rule, but the three-to-two vote on Thursday is a significant step forward on a controversial idea that has invited fierce opposition from consumer advocates, Silicon Valley heavyweights, and Democratic lawmakers.

Condemnation by those opposing the rule changes was swift.

“If Chairman Wheeler is sincere in his objections to a fast-lane, slow-lane Internet, then reclassification is the only way to prevent this terrible scenario from becoming a reality.”
—Craig Aaron, Free Press

Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, which has led the charge of a broad coalition fighting on behalf of net neutrality, acknowledged that nothing about the FCC rule changes is final and now that a public comment period has officially begun, the real fight for lasting reforms has now started.  In a statement in response to Thursday vote, Aaron said:

Millions of people have put the FCC on notice. A pay-for-priority Internet is unacceptable. Today, both Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel stated that they support prohibitions on paid prioritization and other forms of unreasonable discrimination. Tom Wheeler spoke passionately about the open Internet, but his rousing rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of his proposal. The only way to accomplish the chairman’s goals is to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers.

The Commission says it wants to hear from the public; it will be hearing a lot more. This fight will stretch into the fall, but there’s one clear answer: The American people demand real Net Neutrality, and the FCC must restore it.

We’re encouraged by much of what was said during today’s meeting. But words amount to little without the rules to back them up. If Chairman Wheeler is sincere in his objections to a fast-lane, slow-lane Internet, then reclassification is the only way to prevent this terrible scenario from becoming a reality.

Expressing the need for continued public engagement and activism and the overall importance of reclassifying broadband, Michael Weinberg, vice president of Public Knowledge, said: “This will be the summer of net neutrality. Net neutrality supporters will make it clear to the FCC and Congress that only robust net neutrality rules that prevent paid prioritization, grounded in clear Title II authority, will suffice. Any rules that allow for harmful discrimination cannot truly be called net neutrality. And any rules based on creaky legal authority are just a waste of everyone’s time.”

In a statement released by the public advocacy group Common Cause, former FCC chairman Michael Copps, now a special adviser to the group, said the FCC’s vote should make Thursday “an alarming day for anyone who treasures a free and open Internet.”

“Let’s be clear. Any proposal to allow fast lanes for the few is emphatically not net neutrality.”
—Michael Copps, Common Cause

Copps continued: “Let’s be clear. Any proposal to allow fast lanes for the few is emphatically not net neutrality. The clear common-sense prerequisite for an Open Internet is Title II reclassification, guaranteeing the agency’s authority to protect consumers and ensure free speech online.”

“The FCC could have moved decisively to guarantee that the Internet remains an open platform for free expression and the exchange of democracy-sustaining communications,” said Copps. “Instead, the Commission again left broadband users without the protections they deserve.”

Under the hashtags #savetheinternet and #realnetneutrality other critics of the FCC vote were expressing their deep disappointment in the Democratic commissioners who vote in favor of the rules:

Leaked TPP ‘Environment Chapter’ Shows ‘Corporate Agenda Wins’ January 15, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Trade Agreements.
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Roger’s note: I have always found international trade issues and documents to be dull and boring.  Time to wake up, Roger.  The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is NAFTA on steroids.  Consider this: when governments turn over authority to private corporations, the distinction between private and pubic disappears.  Government and corporations become indistinguishable.  This is rightly called National Socialism.  Another word for it is Nazi-ism.  You don’t need Brown Shirts, goose-stepping and a dictator with an absurd looking moustache to have genuine fascism.  A president and Congress, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, wholly sold out and owned by the private corporate world (backed by the military and Homeland Security supplied local police forces) will do.

Published on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Common Dreams

US called main ‘outlier’ when it comes to strong protections; Leak comes as Obama tries to ram trade deal through Congress

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Confirming the suspicions and fears of environmental campaigners and concerned individuals across the globe, Wikileaks on Wednesday released a draft version of the ‘Environment Chapter’from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), exposing most of the so-called “environmental protections” as toothless policies that serve to protect corporate profit not Mother Earth.

In its review of the chapter—which covers environmental issues related to trade, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services—Wikileaks described the chapter as functioning like “a public relations exercise” and saying the text is most notable “for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures.”

“Today’s WikiLeaks release shows that the public sweetner in the TPP is just media sugar water,” said Wikileaks’ publisher Julian Assange in a statement. “The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism.”

The draft chapter, which was presented at the Salt Lake City, Utah round of negotiations that took places in November, contains language from the participating nations describing their positions on environmental protections that would be included in the final deal.

According to Jane Kelsey, a professor of environmental law at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the leaked text of the agreement shows no balance between commercial interests and those of the environment.

“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable… The corporate agenda wins both ways.” –Jane Kelsey, Univ. of Auckland

“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable,” she writes in apublic statement (pdf) Wednesday. “Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.”

Kelsey’s review of the draft also points out that the main outlier on environmental protections is the United States. She also notes that because the protections included in the draft fall short even of those contained in previous trade agreements backed by the US, passage of the deal will create a “particular political dilemma” for President Obama and other backers. She writes:

The text falls far below the standards it has insisted are included in all US free trade agreements since May 2007, which resulted from a deal reached between the Democrat-­‐controlled Congress and President George W Bush.

The most fundamental problem for the US is the refusal of all the other countries to agree that the chapter should be subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as the rest of the agreement. It provides for consultation at officials and ministerial levels, leading to arbitration and agreement to a plan of action, but there are no penalties if the state does not implement the plan.

Obama is going to find this a very hard sell to domestic constituencies. The timing of the leak could hardly be worse. On 9 January 2014 a Bill seeking fast track authority was presented to the Congress. The controversial fast track process requires the Congress to accept or reject the deal as a whole and imposes a strict time limit on debate. The numbers were already stacking up against the Bill, with Democrats especially critical of the erosion of their powers and the secrecy of the negotiations, as well as the reported content. This leaked environment chapter will further erode support among Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are up for re-election later this year.

Obama is going to have to rely heavily on unfriendly Republicans.

Read Wikileaks’ full press statement here and view the complete draft version here (pdf).

The secretive TPP trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific rim nations that has been negotiated with the backing of corporate interests but kept secret from the general public and even most lawmakers from the participating countries.

Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, responded to the leaked draft by telling the New York Times on Wednesday that the language in the deal omits crucial protections against increased environmental destruction caused by globalized trade practices.

“It rolls back key standards set by Congress to ensure that the environment chapters are legally enforceable, in the same way the commercial parts of free-trade agreements are,” Ms. Solomon said.

Long sought by journalists, green activists, and environmental advocacy organizations the trade deal’s chapter on the environment will be hotly reviewed throughout the day. Follow reactions and updates on Twitter:

Homeless Japanese Being ‘Recruited’ To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster December 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness, Japan, Labor, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 18, 2013. (Credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Private labor contractors in Japan are “recruiting” homeless individuals throughout the country, luring them to perform clean-up work in the areas near the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima for less than minimum wage.

That’s the finding of a new special Reuters investigation which says that shady business operators are employing men like Seiji Sasa to “prowl” train stations and other places throughout the country targeting “homeless men” who are “willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.”

The investigation found a shady but systematic labor scheme—much of it run by organized crime but also involving some of the nation’s top construction firms—in which day laborers are exploited by contractors receiving state funds to clean up areas near the plant.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” said 57-year-old Shizuya Nishiyama, a homeless man recruited at a train station in the city of Sendai. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”

In exchange for bringing workers to the sites, the middlemen receive a cut of their wages.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” said Sasa, one of these so-called “middle men,” in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Reviewing police records and conducting interviews with some of the people directly involved, Reuters reveals the ongoing and perilous nature of the clean-up work at Fukushima and the ways in which society’s most vulnerable are being exploited for profit in the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

According to Reuters, the scheme plays out when large construction firms like Obayashi, the nation’s second biggest and major contractor at Fukushima, employs sub-contractors like Sasa:

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say. [...]

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Read the complete investigation here.

Are Utility Companies Out to Destroy Solar’s ‘Rooftop Revolution’? October 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Energy, Environment.
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In California, customers who install solar systems and battery arrays are finding themselves cut off from grid

 

- Jon Queally, staff writer

In California and elsewhere, utilities see a rooftop solar revolution as fundemental threat. (Photo: shutterstock)

In the nation’s largest state, California, the major utility companies are trying to limit growth.

Of rooftop solar panels, that is.

According to reporting by Bloomberg, the state’s three largest utilities—Edison International, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy—are “putting up hurdles” to homeowners who have installed sun-powered energy systems, especially those with “battery backups wired to solar panels,” in order to slow the spread of what has become a threat to their dominant business model.

“The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at solar company Mainstream Energy Corp., told Bloomberg. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”

According to Peters, as the business news outlet reports, the dispute between those with solar arrays and the utility giants “threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power.  People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all.”

Citing but one example, Bloomberg reports:

Matthew Sperling, a Santa Barbara, California, resident, installed eight panels and eight batteries at his home in April.

“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” he said in an interview. Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid even though city inspectors said “it was one of the nicest they’d ever seen,” he said.

“We’ve installed a $30,000 system and we can’t use it,” Sperling said.

The utilities argue that customers with solar energy-storing batteries might be rigging the system by fraudulently storing conventional energy sent in from the utility grid, storing it in the batteries, and then sending it back to the grid for credit. The solar companies say there is no proof that this is happening.

What environmentalists and solar energy advocates see is the utility companies putting barriers up to a decentralized system they will not no longer be able to control or profit from.

As Danny Kennedy, author of the book “Rooftop Revolution” and co-founder of solar company Sungevity in California, said in an interview with Alternet earlier this year:

Solar power represents a change in electricity that has a potentially disruptive impact on power in both the literal sense (meaning how we get electricity) and in the figurative sense of how we distribute wealth and power in our society. Fossil fuels have led to the concentration of power whereas solar’s potential is really to give power over to the hands of people. This shift has huge community benefits while releasing our dependency on the centralized, monopolized capital of the fossil fuel industry. So it’s revolutionary in the technological and political sense.

The tensions between decentralized forms of energy like rootop solar or small-scale wind and traditional large-scale utilities is nothing new, but as the crisis of climate change has spurred a global grassroots movement push for a complete withdrawal from the fossil fuel and nuclear paradigm that forms the basis of the current electricity grid, these tensions are growing.

But the resistance to these changes is coming strongest from those with a vested interest in the status quo. With most focus on the behavior of the fossil fuel companies themselves, the idea that utility companies will be deeply impacted by this green energy revolution is often overlooked.

Earlier this summer, David Roberts, an energy and environmental blogger at Grist.org, wrote an extensive, multi-part series on the role of utilities in the renewable energy transition, explaining why understanding the politics and economics of the utility industry (despite the grand “tedium” of the task) will be essential for the remainder of the 21st century. Roberts wrote:

There’s very little public discussion of utilities or utility regulations, especially relative to sexier topics like fracking or electric cars. That’s mainly because the subject is excruciatingly boring, a thicket of obscure institutions and processes, opaque jargon, and acronyms out the wazoo. Whether PURPA allows IOUs to customize RFPs for low-carbon QFs is actually quite important, but you, dear reader, don’t know it, because you fell asleep halfway through this sentence. Utilities are shielded by a force field of tedium.

It’s is an unfortunate state of affairs, because this is going to be the century of electricity. Everything that can be electrified will be. (This point calls for its own post, but mark my words: transportation, heat, even lots of industrial work is going to shift to electricity.) So the question of how best to manage electricity is key to both economic competitiveness and ecological sustainability.

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Spying for Economic Gain: Canada’s CSEC Targeted Brazilian Energy Firms October 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Canada, Energy, Latin America.
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New documents revealed by Edward Snowden show how CSEC spied on mining and energy companies in South American country

 

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A new revelation based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that appeared on a Brazilian investigative news show on Sunday night showed that the Canadian intelligence agency, the CSEC, shared with its U.S. counterpart how it used high-tech surveillance to perform “economic espionage” on oil and gas companies in Brazil.

The internal documents, created by the CSEC and reportedly shared with the U.S. agency, shows how it tapped into computers and smartphones affiliated with Brazil’s mining and energy ministry in hopes of gaining “economic intelligence.” (Photo: PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI/REUTERS)

The internal documents, created by the CSEC and reportedly shared with the U.S. agency, shows how it tapped into computers and smartphones affiliated with Brazil’s mining and energy ministry in hopes of gaining “economic intelligence.”

The key element of the new disclosure, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald, is how the revealed program again betrays claims by the NSA and similar agencies around the world that their surveillance programs are designed solely to protect citizens from the scourge of terrorism. As he tweeted Monday:

As the CBC reports Monday:

The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the Brazilian ministry were targeted by the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, to map the ministry’s communications, using a software program called Olympia. It didn’t indicate whether emails were read or phone calls were listened to.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper would neither confirm nor deny the allegations when asked to respond to the report late Sunday night.

The “CSEC does not comment on its specific foreign intelligence activities or capabilities,” said Harper’s communications director Jason MacDonald.

Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao told Globo that “Canada has interests in Brazil, above all in the mining sector. I can’t say if the spying served corporate interests or other groups.”

American journalist Glenn Greenwald, based in Rio de Janeiro, worked with Globo on its report. Greenwald broke the first stories about the NSA’s global spy program focusing on Internet traffic and phone calls.

And the Globe and Mail adds:

The impact for Canada of these revelations could be [...] grave: they come at a time when Brazil has become a top destination for Canadian exports, when a stream of delegations from the oil and gas industries are making pilgrimages to Rio de Janeiro to try to get a piece of the booming offshore oil industry, and when the Canadian government is eager to burnish ties with Brasilia. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited Brazil in August, and spoke repeatedly about the country as a critical partner for Canadian business.

American lawmakers have introduced several bills that aim to rein in the U.S. National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

Throughout all this, Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has kept a relatively low profile, never before emerging as the central figure in any Snowden-leaked spying program. Although it has existed since the Second World War, CSEC has rarely discussed any of its operations in public.

CSEC has a $350-million budget and 2,000 employees. By law, it has three mandates – to safeguard Canadian government communications and computers from foreign hackers, to help other federal security agencies where legally possible, and to gather “foreign intelligence.”

The federal government is building a new $1-billion headquarters for CSEC on the outskirts of Ottawa.

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Gitmo Groups Call Out Obama Over Political Cowardice April 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Health, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: On the first day of his presidency, Obama promised to close Guantánamo within a year.  That was over five years ago.  Guantánamo is a national disgrace and only one example of the president’s abominable lack of ethics, courage, and  of his broken promises.

‘Congress has very little to do with it’: Following press conference, groups say Obama has only himself to blame for Guantanamo

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

U.S. President Barack Obama stated at a press conference on Tuesday that he would like to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison but said that Congress was to blame for blockading any such action.

However, rights groups are calling Obama’s bluff, saying he actually does have the power to transfer detainees and put an end to the indefinite detention, solitary confinement, and torture inherent within the military prison—without the approval of Congress—and that he simply lacks the political courage to do so.

Obama stated Tuesday:

Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. . . . And so I’m going to — as I’ve said before, we’re — examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we’re also going to need some help from Congress.

In response, lawyers for Guantanamo detainees at the Center for Constitutional Rights stated, “We praise the president for re-affirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress.”

Rather than waiting for Congress to make a move on Guantanamo, CCR reports Tuesday that Obama has the autonomy to take a number of actions:

  • Congress is certainly responsible for imposing unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release, including our client Djamel Ameziane.
  • Congress may have tied one hand behind his back, but he has tied the other: he should lift his self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen regardless of a detainee’s status. It’s collective punishment based on citizenship, and needs to be reevaluated now.
  • President Obama should appoint a senior government official to shepherd the process of closure, and should give that person sufficient authority to resolve inter-agency disputes.
  • The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.

Likewise, the ACLU affirmed Tuesday that Obama holds certain powers to release at least half of the Guantanamo detainees:

There are two things the president should do. One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration’s Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population.

Carlos Warner, an attorney representing 11 Guantanamo prisoners, said today:

I applaud President Obama’s remarks — he hasn’t mentioned Guantanamo in years — but the fact is that Congress has very little to do with it. NDAA as written allows the President to transfer individuals if it’s in the national security of the United States. The President’s statement made clear that Guantanamo negatively impacts our national security. The question is not whether the administration has the authority to transfer innocent men, but whether it has the political courage to do so.

And writing at the Lawfare Tuesday, Benjamin Wittes adds that Obama’s comments on Tuesday are a direct contradiction of his own self imposed policies. Wittes states:

The President’s comments are bewildering because his own policies give rise to the vast majority of the concerns about which he so earnestly delivered himself in these remarks.

Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen. And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred.

‘Torture Reinforcements’ Not ‘Medical Personnel’ Arrive to Combat Gitmo Hunger Strike

US Military Calls in ‘Force-Feeding Teams’ as Guantanamo Hunger Strike Continues

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A US military guard carries shackles at the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay. (Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images)

The US military has confirmed that at least 40 “medical personnel” have arrived at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in order to expand a force-feeding operation designed to counter an ongoing hunger strike by more than 100 prisoners protesting their indefinite detention and ill treatment.

But because the procedure of “force-feeding” is widely held as a form of torture, critics of the practice may well view the medical teams as nothing more than ‘torture reinforcements’ as the number of those approved for the painful process continues to grow and their conditions deteriorate.

Military authorities repeatedly claim that force-feedings are somehow necessary, but experts are unequivocal when they declare that the procedure is torture.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission considers the practice of force-feeding—in which detainees are strapped to a restraining chair, have tubes pushed up their nostrils and liquids pumped down their throats—a clear form of torture. In addition, the World Medical Association prohibits its physicians from participating in force-feeding and the American Medical Association has just sent a letter to the Pentagon calling the practice an affront to accepted medical ethics.

One detainee, speaking recently through his lawyer David Remes, described the process by saying it felt a “razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Remes discussed the treatment of those at Guantanamo as he pushed back against the US military’s claims that it is safeguarding the prisoners by torturing them. “It’s like the way you would treat an animal,” he said. Watch:

Despite testimony like this and the many objections by human rights advocates, reports indicate that at least 21 men have been approved for force feeding at the US prison.

As The Guardian reports:

Authorities said that the “influx” of medical reinforcements had been weeks in the planning. But the news will fuel speculation that the condition of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is deteriorating. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident being kept at the centre, told his lawyer earlier this month that authorities will soon see fatalities as a result of the current action.

“I cannot give you numbers and names, but people are dying here,” said Aamer, who is refusing food.

The action is a protest against conditions at the centre, as well as the indefinite nature of the remaining prisoners’ confinement. Aamer has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. He has never been charged or faced trial but the US refuses to allow him to return to the UK, despite official protests by the British government.

Late last week, president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in order to remind the Pentagon that the AMA’s long-held view is that force feeding is both an unethical and inhumane practic practice.

As Reuters report:

[The AMA letter] urged the defense secretary “to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”

Hagel had just returned from a trip to the Middle East and it was unclear whether he had seen the letter, said Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale.

Asked if military doctors had raised ethical concerns about being asked to perform force-feedings, Breasseale said, “I can tell you there have been no organized efforts, but I cannot speak for individual physicians.

Vince Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights which represents many of the detainees, welcomed the AMA’s letter.

“In reaffirming its long-standing opposition to force feeding Guantanamo prisoners, the country’s most prominent medical association has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration’s wholly inadequate response to the hunger strik,” Warren said. “The administration cannot force feed its way out of this growing medical emergency.”

He added, “The only true solution is to resume transfers of prisoners and close Guantanamo.”

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