Monday, September 14, 2015



Backwards. If you jump forward,
you’ll be sucked down under the wheels.
Backwards, blindly, rolled into a ball,
hands cradling the back of your neck.

Note the terrain where you’ll be thrust
away from the speeding locomotive.
On a soft meadow, you might get up;
on hard gravel, bones will break.

I’m doomed to carry these instructions
in the fragile planet of my skull.
Sometimes, after meeting someone new,
I suddenly think, “She could hide me.”

Why did I shudder when a Buddhist monk
said, “There’s no doubt: in your past life,
you died at Auschwitz.” Now I know
it’s enough to be a child of survivors,

to whose cunning and whose luck I owe
life — but an old movie is bleeding
through, of jumping backwards, away
from the transport — half-broken

crawling on sharp gravel until
the trees, a house, a stream — until
warm clothes, warm food, cool wind
of the springtime of my birth. Forward.

~ Oriana © 2015


“Hitler exploited images and tropes that were familiar to Christians: God, prayers, original sin, commandments, prophets, chosen people, messiahs—even the familiar Christian tripartite structure of time: first paradise, then exodus, and finally redemption. We live in filth, and we must strain to purify ourselves and the world so that we might return to paradise. To see paradise as the battle of the species rather than the concord of creation was to unite Christian longing with the apparent realism of biology. The war of all against all was not terrifyingly purposeless, but instead the only purpose to be had in the universe. Nature’s bounty was for man, as in Genesis, but only for the men who follow nature’s law and fight for nature. As in Genesis, so in My Struggle, nature was a resource for man: but not for all people, only for triumphant races. Eden was not a garden but a trench.

Knowledge of the body was not the problem, as in Genesis, but the solution. The triumphant should copulate. After murder, Hitler thought, the next human duty was sex and reproduction. In his scheme, the original sin that led to the fall of man was of the mind and soul, not of the body. For Hitler, our unhappy weakness was that we can think, realize that others belonging to other races can do the same, and thereby recognize them as fellow human beings. Humans left Hitler’s bloody paradise not because of carnal knowledge. Humans left paradise because of the knowledge of good and evil.

When paradise falls and humans are separated from nature, a character who is neither human nor natural, such as the serpent of Genesis, takes the blame. If humans were in fact nothing more than an element of nature, and nature was known by science to be a bloody struggle, something beyond nature must have corrupted the species. For Hitler the bringer of the knowledge of good and evil on the earth, the destroyer of Eden, was the Jew.

It was the Jew who told humans that they were above other animals, and had the capacity to decide their future for themselves. It was the Jew who introduced the false distinction between politics and nature, between humanity and struggle. Hitler’s destiny, as he saw it, was to redeem the original sin of Jewish spirituality and restore the paradise of blood. Since Homo sapiens can survive only by unrestrained racial killing, a Jewish triumph of reason over impulse would mean the end of the species. What a race needed, thought Hitler, was a “worldview” that permitted it to triumph, which meant, in the final analysis, “faith” in its own mindless mission.

Hitler’s presentation of the Jewish threat revealed his particular amalgamation of religious and zoological ideas. If the Jew triumphs, Hitler wrote, “then his crown of victory will be the funeral wreath of the human species.” On the one hand, Hitler’s image of a universe without human beings accepted science’s verdict of an ancient planet on which humanity had evolved. After the Jewish victory, he wrote, “earth will once again wing its way through the universe entirely without humans, as was the case millions of years ago.” At the same time, as he made clear in the very same passage of My Struggle, this ancient earth of races and extermination was the Creation of God. “Therefore I believe myself to be acting according to the wishes of the Creator. Insofar as I restrain the Jew, I am defending the work of the Lord.”

Hitler’s basic critique was not the usual one that human beings were good but had been corrupted by an overly Jewish civilization. It was rather that humans were animals and that any exercise of ethical deliberation was in itself a sign of Jewish corruption. The very attempt to set a universal ideal and strain toward it was precisely what was hateful.

Any nonracist attitude was Jewish, thought Hitler, and any universal idea a mechanism of Jewish dominion. Both capitalism and communism were Jewish. Their apparent embrace of struggle was simply cover for the Jewish desire for world domination. Any abstract idea of the state was also Jewish. “There is no such thing,” wrote Hitler, “as the state as an end in itself.” As he clarified, “the highest goal of human beings” was not “the preservation of any given state or government, but the preservation of their kind.” The frontiers of existing states would be washed away by the forces of nature in the course of racial struggle: “One must not be diverted from the borders of Eternal Right by the existence of political borders.”

Insofar as universal ideas penetrated non-Jewish minds, claimed Hitler, they weakened racial communities to the profit of Jews. The content of various political ideas was beside the point, since all were merely traps for fools. There were no Jewish liberals and no Jewish nationalists, no Jewish messiahs and no Jewish Bolsheviks: “Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew.” Hitler saw Jesus as an enemy of Jews whose teachings had been perverted by Paul to become one more false Jewish universalism, that of mercy to the weak. From Saint Paul to Leon Trotsky, maintained Hitler, there were only Jews who adopted various guises to seduce the naive. Ideas had no historical origins and no connection to the succession of events or to the creativity of individuals. They were simply tactical creations of the Jews, and in this sense they were all the same.

Hitler understood that agricultural science posed a specific threat to the logic of his system. If humans could intervene in nature to create more food without taking more land, his whole system collapsed. He therefore denied the importance of what was happening before his eyes, the science of what was later called the “Green Revolution”: the hybridization of grains, the distribution of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the expansion of irrigation. Even “in the best case,” he insisted, hunger must outstrip crop improvements. There was “a limit” to all scientific improvements. Indeed, all of “the scientific methods of land management” had already been tried and had failed. There was no conceivable improvement, now or in the future, that would allow Germans to be fed “from [their] own land and territory.” Food could only be safeguarded by conquest of fertile territory, not by science that would make German territory more fertile. Jews deliberately encouraged the contrary belief in order to dampen the German appetite for conquest and prepare the German people for destruction. “It is always the Jew,” wrote Hitler in this connection, “who seeks and succeeds in implanting such lethal ways of thinking.”

In Hitler’s world, the law of the jungle was the only law. People were to suppress any inclination to be merciful and were to be as rapacious as they could. Hitler thus broke with the traditions of political thought that presented human beings as distinct from nature in their capacity to imagine and create new forms of association. Beginning from that assumption, political thinkers tried to describe not only the possible but the most just forms of society. For Hitler, however, nature was the singular, brutal, and overwhelming truth, and the whole history of attempting to think otherwise was an illusion. Carl Schmitt, a leading Nazi legal theorist, explained that politics arose not from history or concepts but from our sense of enmity. Our racial enemies were chosen by nature, and our task was to struggle and kill and die.

Hitler in Potsdam, 1933

Struggle was life, not a means to some other end. It was not justified by the prosperity (capitalism) or justice (socialism) that it supposedly brought. Hitler’s point was not at all that the desirable end justified the bloody means. There was no end, only meanness. Race was real, whereas individuals and classes were fleeting and erroneous constructions. Struggle was not a metaphor or an analogy, but a tangible and total truth. The weak were to be dominated by the strong, since “the world is not there for the cowardly peoples.” And that was all that there was to be known and believed.”

When I came across a copy of Mein Kampf I was very curious. In my college years I still thought that Hitler had been an evil genius, and I thought the "genius" part would be reflected in his writing. Instead it was an incoherent, crazy anti-Semitic rant. Irrational obsession. I got a strong whiff of psychosis. I couldn't read for very long because actually it was very bad writing, just as writing goes. And it did seem psychotic.

One thing that strikes me in this eye-opening essay is that Hitler was not only anti-Reason but also specifically anti-science, even though the Nazis (as well as the Stalinist Communists) claimed to be “scientific.” Science was to be twisted to serve ideology. No results that didn’t confirm the ideology would be tolerated. Actually, Reason as such was not to be tolerated. In the future, education was to be limited — the Nazis realized that “too much education” was a threat. Just as education and reason are seen as the greatest enemies of religion, they are also the greatest enemies of secular ideologies — since any ideology is bound to be flawed. 

Nazi and Soviet military personnel, victory parade, Brest-Litovsk, September 22, 1939


“God disappears in the Bible. Both religious and non-religious readers find this impressive and intriguing. Speaking for myself, I find it astonishing. The Bible begins with a world in which God is actively and visibly involved, but it does not end that way. Gradually through the course of the Hebrew Bible, the deity appears less and less to humans, speaks less and less. Miracles, angels, and all other signs of divine presence become rarer and finally cease. In the last portion of the Hebrew Bible, God is not present in the well-known ways apparent in the earlier books. Among God’s last words to Moses, the deity says, “I shall hide my face from them. I shall see what their end will be” (Deut 31:17, 18; Deut 32:20). By the end of the story, God does just that. The consequences and development of this phenomenon in the New Testament and in the post-biblical Judaism are extraordinary as well.

As the people settle in their promised land, the remaining signs of divine presence and communication begin to diminish gradually. In the book of Joshua, the column of cloud and fire is no longer present, the glory of Yahweh no longer appears, and the text notes tat the manna ceases on the day after the people first eat naturally grown food in the land. The disappearance of the signs of divine presence is gradual.

In the book of Judges, the judge Gideon says, “If Yahweh is with us, then . . . where are all His miracles that our fathers told us about? (Judg 6:13) Gideon in fact gets his miracle, but miracles are fewer and farther between after this. . . . The diminishing apparent presence of God continues and even accelerates from this point. [Elijah on Mount Carmel] is the end of public miracles in the Hebrew Bible.

~ Richard Elliott Friedman, The Disappearance of God

From a review:

“Why does the God who is known through miracles and direct interaction at the beginning of the Bible gradually become hidden, leaving humans on their own by the Bible's end? How is it possible that the Bible, written over so many centuries by so many authors, depicts this diminishing visible presence of God - and the growing up of humankind - so consistently? Why has this not been common knowledge?”

(Me): This is an excellent question. Why has there been hardly any comment on the diminishment of god’s presence not only in modern times, but in fact in biblical times? Is it only now that we are bold enough to see what has always been in plain sight?

The first part of Friedman’s book, “The Disappearance of God,” is by far the best. Of course he isn’t the only biblical scholar to have noticed the initial high involvement and then the gradual disappearance of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible, but he writes in an accessible manner reminiscent of Jack Miles, who notes the same phenomenon in his prize-winning “God: A Biography.”

Still, the speculation on the causes of this disappearance is rather disappointing: yes, we can trace the narrative of how humans take more and more responsibility for themselves and are moving toward a “loyalty to the species” as the basis of morality, but the mechanism remains unclear. I think only Julian Jaynes was bold enough to offer an answer, which makes perfect sense to some (e.g. the lack of “mentalistic” vocabulary in the first five books of the Hebrew bible).

And then there is the disquieting statement by Yahweh himself: “I shall hide my face from them. I shall see what their end will be.” What kind of deity would behave in this way? One who satisfies his own curiosity with no regard for human suffering?

We are finally utterly on our own. ~ Nietzsche. Humanity has to rely on itself. But hasn't this always been reflected in sayings such as, "God helps those who help themselves"? And haven't military pointed out, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition," and "God is on the side of whoever has more battalions"?

Blake, Adam and Eve

 The more civilization advances, the more religion becomes a denial of reality. Every century, the gap keeps growing. The fight against reality becomes more and more desperate — or else the clergy try to change the dogma, which has been true of non-fundamentalist Christianity. Yet another accommodation is the disappearance of god. This is usually called secularization.

This is easy enough to see in modern times. Friedman’s achievement is documenting this happening already in the Hebrew bible. “In the Book of Esther, God is never mentioned” — this simple sentence says it all.


If we take the point of view that god is a human creation, then more and more humans cease creating him as the culture evolves. And indeed we see the growing importance of secular laws and, as greatest love object, our partner and children and pets (pets are not trivial here). But the lethal developments within Islam point to more entanglements between religion and power than we understand. 

Also, there is Nietzsche's own surprise: "What? Two thousand years, and not a single new god?" Nietzsche perfectly understood that gods evolve and die, and the vengeful old Yahweh is dead, at least in the West (Islam is similar to ancient Orthodox Judaism). But where is a new cult that would be the equivalent of emerging Christianity? — unless of course that cycle is exhausted by now, and babies and pets satisfy the need for devotion, being love objects that the snarly, uncuddly Yahweh could never be (arguably, Jesus remedied this situation for Christians, as long as they cherry-picked the text; I call this “sanitizing Jesus” to fit with our more advanced ethical principles, in effect making him more Christian than he was).

Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel: Noah’s family disembarking after the Flood
I wasn’t the only child who was unnerved by the perception that at the beginning god used to walk and talk and do things — then less and less — then nothing. One brave little boy actually asked the catechism nun how come god used to talk to people, and now he doesn’t. I’ll never forget the sad smile when she slowly replied: “Times were different back then . . .” Did she also say, “People were different”? I can’t swear to it, but later that became my understanding: We have moved far away from the mythologizing archaic mentality. True: new cults are still periodically born, but they don't spread as they used to. Some are downright tiny. Perhaps people are finally more able to see that they are being sold a bill of goods, and cult leaders are charlatans, expert manipulators, and are often mentally ill, making it up as they go along? (I'm thinking of Scientology in particular.)

One hypothesis about the disappearance of an active god is the Julian Jaynes theory of the breakdown of the bicameral mind. There is a notable lack of "mentalistic" terms (like think, believe, imagine) in the early stages of a language. Thoughts were experienced as voices, Jaynes claims. Later only the prophets had that kind of consciousness (suggestive of schizophrenia, and some certainly were, e.g. Ezekiel is a classic schizophrenic).

It's been said that Jaynes is either a looney or a genius. Perhaps we'll never know. Anthropologists studying tribes did report a different mentality, but their very presence was contaminating that mentality. We can't even define consciousness, much less describe how it evolved. The closest is child development studies. But children are influenced by parents, who say things like, "That was only a dream." "No, that didn't happen; you imagined it." However, implanting false memories is notoriously easy, even in adults. Perhaps that's one clue about how mythologies arose. Note also that it's preliterate societies that were most prolific mythologizers. Once writing enters, enforcing slowness and reflectiveness as opposed to spontaneous flow, thinking is never the same.

By the way, Joseph Campbell was also asked how come humanity went through an era of producing rich, complex mythologies, and then it all ceased (or got reclassified as fiction, but ours is not a great age of fiction). Campbell replied that mythologies are collectively created when conditions are right, and conditions have not been right for the creation of new mythologies for a long time now.

I suspect the very nature of consciousness has evolved as culture has evolved, including information technology. Another factor is that as we become less helpless we have less need of a parent or ruler in the sky —“fear creates gods.” But the fact that god becomes less and less active already in the course of the bible (using the Hebrew arrangement) should already give us a pause. The first five books, where god is active, reflect a different mentality than the later books. Even some Orthodox rabbis admit that the Torah is mythology. But that mythology apparently comes from the Bronze Age. After that, you don't have the kind of mythology creation that was once prevalent.


Richard Friedman is a Hebrew scholar at UC San Diego. He tries very hard to salvage the idea of god, and even states, “There is some likelihood that the universe is the hidden face of God.”

 Alas, Friedman does not consider either Jaynes's radical theory of the disappearance of the “voice of god(s)” or Joseph Campbell's quiet observation that it takes special conditions for a society to engage in actively creating a mythology. Pre-literate societies are prolific myth-makers. Then the very structure of human consciousness seems to shift — here it's possible to return to Jaynes, at least in part. But Friedman may be correct in sticking to what he does best, i.e. the close analysis of the Hebrew text.


Friedman points out that even angels cease to appear in the course of the Hebrew bible. The last appearance of an angel is in the story of Elijah.
(Yes, the “correct” title should be “The Last Angel to Appear in the Hebrew Bible.” But the older I get, the more shameless I become — a phenomenon widely noted in women, the rise of the shameless old ladies. “The Last Angel” sounds more dramatic.)

Elijah and the Angel by Godfrey Kneller, 1672

THE IDEA THAT ANY BOOK WAS INSPIRED BY THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE IS POISON — intellectually, ethically, and politically. And nowhere is this poison currently doing more harm than in Muslim communities, East and West. Despite all the obvious barbarism in the Old Testament, and the dangerous eschatology of the New, it is relatively easy for Jews and Christians to divorce religion from politics and secular ethics.

A single line in Matthew—“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”—largely accounts for why the West isn’t still hostage to theocracy. The Koran contains a few lines that could be equally potent—for instance, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256)—but these sparks of tolerance are easily snuffed out. Transforming Islam into a truly benign faith will require a miracle of re-interpretation. And a few intrepid reformers, such as Maajid Nawaz, are doing their best to accomplish it.”

“Religion produces a perverse solidarity that we must find some way to undercut. It causes in-group loyalty and out-group hostility, even when members of one’s own group are behaving like psychopaths. [Oriana: Will the kind of religion that proclaims it's the only true religion be eventually seen in the same category as racism?]

We can build strong communities and enjoy deeply moral and spiritual lives, without believing any divisive nonsense about the divine origin of specific books.”

“But it remains taboo in most societies to criticize a person’s religious beliefs. Even atheists tend to observe this taboo, and enforce it on others, because they believe that religion is necessary for many people. After all, life is difficult—and faith is a balm.

Most people imagine that Iron Age philosophy represents the only available vessel for their spiritual hopes and existential concerns. This is an enduring problem for the forces of reason, because the most transformative experiences people have—bliss, devotion, self-transcendence—are currently anchored to the worst parts of culture and to ways of thinking that merely amplify superstition, self-deception, and conflict.”

“More British Muslims have joined the ranks of ISIS than have volunteered to serve in the British armed forces. In fact, this group has managed to attract thousands of recruits from free societies throughout the world to help build a paradise of repression and sectarian slaughter in Syria and Iraq. This is an astonishing phenomenon, and it reveals some very uncomfortable truths about the failures of multiculturalism, the inherent vulnerability of open societies, and the TERRIFYING POWER OF BAD IDEAS.

No doubt many enlightened concerns will come flooding into the reader’s mind at this point. I would not want to create the impression that most Muslims support ISIS, nor would I want to give any shelter or inspiration to the hatred of Muslims as people. In drawing a connection between the doctrine of Islam and jihadist violence, I am talking about ideas and their consequences, not about 1.5 billion nominal Muslims, many of whom do not take their religion very seriously.

But a belief in martyrdom, a hatred of infidels, and a commitment to violent jihad are not fringe phenomena in the Muslim world. These preoccupations are supported by the Koran and numerous hadith. That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammad Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has). If you can find an important distinction between the faith he preaches and that which motivates the savagery of ISIS, you should probably consult a neurologist.

Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam—and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it—is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces. But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture.


It is not an accident that millions of Muslims recite the shahadah or make pilgrimage to Mecca. Neither is it an accident that horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim world. Each of these practices, including this ghastly method of murder, find explicit support in scripture.

~ Sam Harris, “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon” 

Sam Harris, TED talk, 2010



 After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent.

    Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is "burned up" immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat.

    The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

    Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.

    When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat.

   The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.

    Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain's communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

If anyone tries to tell you "sugar is sugar," they are way behind the times. As you can see, there are major differences in how your body processes fructose and glucose. The bottom line is: fructose leads to increased belly fat, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome — not to mention the long list of chronic diseases that directly result. And eating sugar may accelerate the aging process itself.


One of the most potent ways to raise uric acid is by consuming large amounts of fructose. Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism. In fact, fructose typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion.

Uric acid is a normal waste product found in your blood. High levels of uric acid are normally associated with gout, but it has been known for a long time that people with high blood pressure, overweight, and people with kidney disease, often have high uric acid levels as well.

It used to be thought that the uric acid was secondary in these conditions, and not the cause - but Dr. Johnson's research indicates that it could be a lead player in the development of these conditions, rather than just a supporting actor, when its levels in your body reach 5.5 mg per dl or higher.

At this level, uric acid is associated with an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, as well as diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.

Interestingly, uric acid functions both as an antioxidant, and as a pro-oxidant once inside your cells. So, if you lower uric acid too much, you lose its antioxidant benefits. But if your uric acid levels are too high, it tends to significantly increase inside your cells as well, where it acts as a pro-oxidant.

Over the last 20 years, we've seen a dramatic increase in fatty liver disease throughout the world, and studies done by Dr. Johnson and a group of researchers at Duke University showed that people who develop fatty liver drink a lot more soft drinks, and ingest far more fructose than the average person in the community.

Fructose consumption clearly causes insulin resistance, whereas straight glucose does not. Insulin resistance can eventually lead to full blown diabetes. Interestingly, glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption. So when you MIX glucose and fructose together, you absorb more fructose than if you consumed fructose alone.

Oriana: Yes, you can obtain inexpensive glucose as a sweetener; I suggest using glucose when you need an energy pick-up, and xylitol when you simply can’t stand the bitterness or tartness of something that’s good for you, e.g. pure cranberry juice.

Glucose is usually sold as DEXTROSE. The cheapest source of pure dextrose is available from NOW, a brand available online from IHerb. I mention IHerb because they give you a discount and free shipping, so “you’ve got to love them,” and I do.

Mannose, ribose, etc are beneficial sugars that can also be bought online, if you have money to burn. Ribose is very sweet and is supposed to be very good for the heart muscle, protecting it from enlarging and stiffening as we age. Ribose is part of  ATP, the “energy molecule” in every cell.

ending on meditative quiet and beauty


We don't choose what we write about. That’s one of the exciting things about writing: seeing what wells up from the unconscious, what your central themes are. You can’t escape from your central themes. But at some point I realized I was repeating myself: lilacs, streetcars, cemeteries with white gravel paths. It felt played out. And still not really conveyed, because it's impossible to convey to someone who hasn't walked into a small-town church and there's a Black Madonna in all her strange darkness just how that feels.

~ Oriana © 2015


the god is serene.  people and
trees and the rain on the streets
come to their most fervent life right
after death.  we buried a generous woman;
we’ll take ourselves back into selfishness
now.  we’ll rush past our own coming endings
as if we are sure they won’t hurt.  maybe

they won’t.  maybe at just the last moment,
nothing goes wrong.  simpler and easier
lines find our poems.  there is less and
less waste. Orpheus understands mourning,
its dry, stinging lungs, and the opposite,
too:   once in a while, a procession.
the alphabet full of respect.

~ Holly Prado, Esperanza: Poems for Orpheus

Now and then, I can't help but imagine my own dying. I repeat the wish I formed during my first year in the US: not to be a victim of a senseless murder. Or of an “act of god” like a giant earthquake, which later the televangelists will call divine punishment for California's godlessness. No. I imagine myself descending into a delirium, desperately trying to write a poem. But maybe not desperately. Maybe the lines will come easily, and all of them will be simple and perfect, the music flawless, Orphic. Maybe in the distance there'll be the sound of a flute.

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