The Conscience of a Millennial

•5 December 2017 • Leave a Comment

This current administration – and the state of politics in general – is giving so many of us millennials a chance to define our political opinions. Here are things that I think I would like to see:

 

-A binding resolution that federal personal income taxes shall not be reduced on any bracket until such time as the budget is balanced

-A binding resolution that any bill to reduce any marginal tax rate shall require a two-thirds majority of both Houses to be enacted.

-Transference of the burden of tax assessment from individual Americans to the IRS itself. All challenges must be made actively by the taxpayer. Burden to prove miscalculation is on the taxpayer. Requests for exemption must be made affirmatively thereafter – and the number and complexity of exemptions should be reduced across the board.

-The banning of federal dollars to municipalities which erect statues honoring Confederate leaders, military or political. The consideration that there is a rebuttable presumption that all statues depicting such persons do honor to them. The ability for that presumption to be rebutted – by proof of proper context by clear and convincing evidence. The establishment of a bipartisan commission on monuments to review such requests for rebuttal. The establishment of a federal pool to handle the removal of said monuments, and to supply funds whereby the towns in question might commission replacements of equal artistic and greater civic merit.

-In order to prevent the emergence of political dynasties in America, and to prevent subversion of the spirit of the 22nd Amendment: a Constitutional amendment whereby the parents, siblings, and children, by biology or adoption,  and as well the spouses current and former, of any President or Vice President, shall be ineligible to election or appointment to the offices of President or Vice President.

– Sunset provision for all Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) – all donations must be distributed by the end of the donor’s subsequent tax year.

-A progressive tax on capital for ultra high net worth individuals. Assessed annually.

-Significant tax benefits to the distribution of common stock from shareholders to employees of the company – excludable by employee (with yearly and lifetime maximums), and perhaps deductable by transferror.

– Progressive wealth tax on ultra high net worth charitable foundations. Higher burdens to fall upon disfavored private charities.

– Require all registered churches to open their books to the public.

-A ban on all lobbying by private prisons in any matter related to criminal justice reform. Likewise a ban on all donations to

-A ban on elected judges. Appointments must be named by the state governor; reappointments may be carried out by a supermajority regardless of executive nomination.

-A ban on lifetime appointments to any bench, federal or state. Maximum term limit to be set at ten years.

-Appropriate legislation to enforce the Emoluments Clause (requiring presidents, vice presidents, and cabinet secretaries, to place all their investments into a blind trust).

-Recognition that Senate Rule XIX violates the Constitutional requirement that Senators “advise and consent” to Presidential nominations, when said nominees are also sitting members of the Senate.

-A public auction system to determine the fee for use of federal grazing lands.

-Requirement of an environmental impact assessment before any reversal or alteration of national park or monument creations under the Antiquities Act – followed by public notice and comment.

-Net Neutrality, if necessary by Constitutional amendment.

-The complete digitization of criminal and psychological background checks related to the purchase of all firearms. The banning of private firearm sales or gifting, with temporary lending requiring notice to local police.

-A DARPA prize for foolproof implemtation of remote firearm safety controls – such as automatic inability to fire within designated zones, or remote cessation of firing ability by law enforcement – with an eye towards its eventual requirement for all new firearms sold, and later, all old firearms in private ownership.

-Lifting the Federal ban on marijuana; requiring all states to adopt minimum medical standards, but allowing recreational use to be regulated or banned at the state (or county) level.

-A requirement that all salaried jobs requiring their employees to work more than 40 hours per week keep track of the employees hours, and that if the salaries paid to the employees be less than the equivalent in minimum wage (including time-and-a-half for hours over 40), the employee be entitled to the deficit.

-The establishment that earning money while receiving disability payments does not constitute, nor even create a prime facie case, of fraud; rather, to fight against malingering, it will instead be established that the disability payments will not be automatically lowered or removed until the receiver reach certain prescribed thresholds of income.

– Medicaid for all full-time students, up until the age of 19.

– Medicaid for all students enrolled in a STEM major in a full-time degree program at an accredited two- or four-year college, up until the age of 26. Minimum GPA or whatnot is certainly a possible consideration.

– At the state level: providing all persons making less than 400% of the federal poverty line with a pseudo-SNAP card, which exempts them from all sales tax on all food purchases except for alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

– A federal mandate that any death of a person in the custody of local police be investigated either by the State or the FBI, and that any death of a person in custody of state police be investigated by the FBI.

-End the child tax credit; phase it out.

-A federal tax on transfers of assets to foreign asset protection trusts, in the amount of 100%.

-Opportunities for military service for all persons regardless of physical fitness or disability. Restrictions only based on mental health or demonstrated failing of character.

-No drug testing of employees by private companies.

-Permanent lifting of the global gag rule.

-Federal mandate against the teaching of abstinence-only sex ed.

-A ban on the compounding of court-imposed fines, even for delinquent payment. I would consider a plan whereby the inmate was presented with the payment of a penalty as an option, alongside incarceration (i.e. a night in jail) or community service.

– A presumption of pre-trial bail without the posting of collateral. To be overcome only by a clear showing that the defendant is A) a flight risk, B) a substantial risk to reoffend, or C) engaged in an ongoing criminal conspiracy. If such a showing is made, bail is either to be denied, OR it will be set at the collateralization of a majority of the defendant’s wealth (liquid and non-). & this implies: a total ban on bondsmen.

– A preference, not for bans, but for prohibitive taxation. If someone wants to pay fifty bucks for a liter of Pepsi… let a playa play.

 

(I shall add to this list – and subtract from it – and, who knows, organize it!)

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A Modest Proposal

•3 December 2017 • Leave a Comment

1. STICK

RECOGNIZING that wealth inequality has become a threat to America and the American Dream;

DECLARING that no single citizen should control more wealth than sovereign states;

BELIEVING that the just, proper, and only method to address this threat is through the levying of taxation;

THERE SHALL BE ENACTED a progressive tax on capital, such that

-all real persons who are United States citizens, or who reside in the United States

-shall be subject to a ten percent annual tax upon the totality of their assets in excess of one billion dollars

-this tax shall increase by one percent for every billion dollars in assets in excess of ten billion, to a maximum of ninety nine percent taxation for assets above one hundred billion dollars.

DEFINITIONS:

-‘taxpayer’ shall include all real persons, including couples filing jointly

-‘taxpayer’ shall include all entities, including trusts, deemed held for the benefit of an individual taxpayer, regardless of their present ability to access the assets therein.

-‘taxpayer’ shall include all private charities and foundations

-‘asset’ shall include all currency (foreign or US), all equities (stocks, bonds, derivatives, coins, and shares of investment vehicles), all corporations or business interests, all property (real or personal), and all interest in property or business.

-‘asset’ shall not include goodwill or going-concern value, except insofar as it is reflected in the value of a corporate entity or the price of a share of such entity as owned by the taxpayer.

-‘value’ shall be in terms of fair market value at the conclusion of the tax year, as marked to market or as assessed by a qualified professional

-‘value’ shall not account for the taxpayer’s basis in the assets, nor in any way account for depreciation

2. CARROT

RECOGNIZING the value of employee ownership of corporations

DESIRING to allow those affected by this tax some control over the disposition of their assets

 

IT SHALL BE ALLOWED that transfers of corporate equity, made between a taxpayer and employees of said corporation, shall be excludable from gross income as to the recipient, so long as they fall within one of the following transfer schema AND are subject to all of the subsequent conditions:

TRANSFER SCHEMA:

  1. The transfer of stock is made equally between all full-time employees of the company;
  2. The transfer of stock is made equally between all full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees, such that part-time and seasonal employees are assessed a fractional share of the disbursal
    1. for a part-time employee, the fractional share shall be equal to the fraction of a 40-hour workweek averaged by the employee in a given week, either at time of transfer, or during the twelve-month period preceding the transfer, whichever is higher
    2. for a seasonal employee, the fractional share shall be equal to the fraction of the year in which they work full time;
    3. for a seasonal part-time employee, the fractional share shall be equal to the fraction of the year in which they work full-time PLUS the fraction of the year in which they work part time PLUS the product of the fraction of the year in which they work part time and the fraction of a full-time workweek which they worked.
  3. The transfer of stock is made pro rata to all full-time employees based upon the length of their tenure at the company, rounded up to the nearest year;
  4. The transfer of stock is made pro rata to all full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees, based upon the product of the length of their tenure at the company and the fractional multipliers provided supra;
  5. The transfer of stock is made pro rata to all full-time employees based upon their base salaries at the time of the transfer;
  6. The transfer of stock is made pro rata to all full-time employees based upon the sum of their base salaries and all other compensation, with the calculated total of all other compensation not to exceed one hundred percent of their base salary;

The transfer of stock is made pro rata to all full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees, based upon their weekly average salaries for the twelve month period preceding the transfer, including weeks not worked;

RESTRICTIONS:

  1. The transfer shall not result in any single employee receiving more than ten million dollars worth of corporate equity within a given year. A transfer according to one of the above schema is not invalidated if it would produce such a result; rather, the amount of equity received by the employee is capped at ten million dollars, with the remainder to be considered as part of the distribution to the other employees.
  2. The transfer shall not result in any single employee receiving more than one hundred million dollars worth of corporate equity within their lifetimes. This to be calculated as the total of value of all transfers received at the time of their individual receipt, without reference to subsequent valuations or adjustments for inflation.
  3. Employees may not ‘opt out’ of such a transfer, as any such gesture would be presumptively based on coercion. Rather, an employee may disclaim their share of any such transfer in favor either of any public charity or charities; the establishment of a public charity or charities; or to the federal government.
  4. Any transfer which would provide the maximum amount to all employees, with funds remaining, shall have all such funds return to the grantor; this unless the grantor specifies a third party recipient, in which case, all normal gift rules apply.
  5. Any person who receives transfers in this way, and later receives a testamentary bequest from the grantor, shall have the sum total of all such transfers added to the value of the testamentary bequest for purposes of computing the estate tax penalty. If this will produce an estate tax burden greater than fifty percent of the value of the bequest received, the receiver may disclaim the gift, either in favor of the grantor’s estate, or in favor of any public charity or charities.
  6. Any distributions to an employee which would be of a value less than that of one share of corporate equity, shall be considered de minimis, and dispensed with; unless the share of corporate equity has a fair market value of five hundred dollars or more, in which case, fractional shares shall be disbursed.
  7. Such transfers may happen more than once per year, without maximum.
  8. Sequential transfers need not follow the same schema.
  9. Transfers shall not benefit any employee who is, at the time of transfer, incarcerated for any felony; or incarcerated for any crime related to their employment with said company.
  10. An employee who has been charged with any felony, or any crime related to their employment, which might result in incarceration, shall have their transfer held in escrow until the completion of their trial; and if their trial result in their incarceration, they shall forfeit all rights to receive said transfer.

Any such transfers are excludable from the gross income of the transferee. The transferee’s basis therein will be equal to the fair-market value thereof at time of transfer (stepped-up basis).

DEFINITIONS:

-‘salaries’ shall be limited to an employee’s base compensation unless otherwise specified;

-‘equity’ shall include stocks – whether common or preferred, listed or unlisted, or interest in a partnership

-‘corporation’ shall include corporations however organized, partnerships, and unincorporated business entities of any sort, whether public or private

-such transfers may be made by any shareholder in any company, however small their position; however, the total benefits to any employee shall not exceed the limits set forth, both as to yearly and lifetime receipts.

 

OTHER IDEAS:

-Transfers according to this schema could also be deductible as to the transferor.

-A schema could be created that provides some recognition to retired employees – based upon tenure prior to retirement, salary at retirement, or both; perhaps as reduced by time since retirement.

-A schema could be created that provides some recognition to recently separated employees, including those who have resigned or have been involuntarily terminated without other cause (those laid off).

-A compromise might be reached whereby owners of common stock might transfer only preferred stock, such that owners or majority shareholders could retain their voting rights, but employees would be granted full rights to income and liquidation value. This would add a layer of complexity, and, most likely, remove a layer of fairness.

-All dollar values considered herein could be guaranteed to adjust, yearly, for inflation.

-Those with personal assets over a certain dollar amount – say, the one billion dollars considered above – or perhaps less – could be exempt from receiving such transfers.

-Those who already own shares of a corporation of a value in excess of one hundred million dollars, could be exempt from such transfers.

 

A Stronger Path To Net Neutrality?

•21 November 2017 • Leave a Comment

As an internet user, as a believer in a free and democratic society, and as a capitalist adverse to rent-seeking behavior, I vigorously support net neutrality.

I do feel the need to point out that some people – people who feel the same way as I do! – have suggested that legislative enactment of net neutrality is not the best way to achieve it.

Their argument is: the FCC’s plan is powerfully ripe for challenge in the courts. There is a very good chance that the courts will find net neutrality as a Constitutional right. Such a finding would guarantee net neutrality with a much greater level of protection – for legislation can be repealed at any time by new legislation, but a Constitutional right, once found, requires a full Constitutional amendment to subvert.

There is also the suggestion that this is a low-risk strategy, for if the courts fail to find this higher protection, legislative action could be taken immediately – same as now.

I certainly won’t cry if Congress does the right thing. But I am tempted to support this alternative strategy as a way of more strongly guaranteeing net neutrality, now and into the future.

Grails

•18 November 2017 • Leave a Comment

Forming

•15 November 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hai Zhi stood on the edge of Huygens and watched the boxes unfold.

It was summer on Mars. It was sixty degrees and Hai was wearing a thinsuit, little more than a tracksuits with built-in boots and helmet. His visor crystal was synthetic sapphire and Hai could never shake the feeling that it gave the red planet the slightest tint of blue. He may have been an engineer but he wasn’t immune to imagination. That’s why they’d made him leader of a team.

Team 1 – Bill Turenne’s team – was at the edge of Schiparelli. Team 2 – Anna Kwa’s – was at Cassini. Team 4 was the farthest south, on the plain next to Hellas. That was supposed to be Leigh Kwa’s – no relation to Anna – but their oldest son kept getting into trouble and they decided to put family first and go home. An act that was cheered by pretty much everybody. Their second-in-command, Oberon Santander, took the reins. There were four people on Mars, watching the boxes unfold.

There were hundreds of them. They looked like shipping containers abandoned in a desert, like some apocalyptic fantasy or heavy metal album cover where the oceans had dried up and a cargo ship had spilled its guts onto the sea bed.

It had taken years to get them here. First we had to wait for the elevator to be up and running. That gave everyone ten years to plan. Ten turned into fourteen, then another nine when  it shattered and we had to built it again. By that time we’d realized that it would be far easier to build a Martian elevator first. That added thirty years. We were in no hurry.

They’d started with two teams. There were enough divergent ideas that they’d added a third and then a fourth. Six years to get the equipment manufactured. Another two to get it all to Mars. There were a hundred and thirty people in orbit around the red planet. There were four on the surface. Hai was one.

Hundreds of boxes. They came down the elevator at the crater Jezero. The first boxes had contained pavers, wide tracked vehicles that smoothed and flattened long strips of red Mars leading from the elevator to the four sites. The dust-storms wouldn’t be kind to those roads, but they weren’t meant to be permanent. Giant borers were already at work making tunnels from the elevator to the four sites. Maglev rails would line the tunnels. They’d be active in two months. Rail would connect the sites to each other in three.

The boxes took the rough paved road, strapped to self-driving eighteen-wheeled lorries trundling across the face of Mars. Now they were all distributed. Hai stood and watched his open, and the machines come forth. The machines he’d selected – designed, or at least helped program. Tunnelers. Construction drones. Smelters to broil the Martian dirt into building material to make structures, homes. Long tracked machines that were little more than landing pads for dozens of little drones, blasting about in the negligible Martian atmosphere.

The machines left their travel crates. They all turned to Hai, and wordlessly they saluted him – raising cranes or conveyor belts, anything they had to raise. Hai would have been touched except he’d come up with the idea himself. The other three team leads weren’t expecting it. He hoped they liked it.

The machines got to work.

They spread across the barren plain. Dozens of them began to dig. They quickly disappeared. Others took up station at the edge of the soon-to-be down and began to eat the dirt of Mars. They would broil it and smelt it into the building-blocks of the new city. Some things they’d have to send from Earth. Most things they would make right here.

In a few minutes the ballet had wound down. The machines were still working but they were spread out or disappeared beneath the earth. They were digging conduits for power lines, sewer pipes, air pipes, secondary and tertiary fallbacks. The same was happening at the other sites – or near enough.

Hai’s city was the most traditional. There would be houses. They would have windows. They would be thick enough to resist a Martian dust storm in all its might. There would be streets. There would be public parks. There would be warning sirens for people to hide from storms and the Martian night. Every building would be connected underground, everybody would be able to get to their house from anyone else’s. It was a compromise

It might not be the best idea. That’s why they were making four cities. People would come and live in each of them and see which they preferred. Bill was making one great tower, either the first true arcology or else proof that man would export the failures of public housing even unto the stars. Anna was making an entirely underground city, safe and secure and hopefully lining every wall and ceiling with viewscreens showing Earthen vistas would keep people from turning into tunnel rats. Leigh – or Oberon now, Hai corrected himself – had decided to build a great triple dome, clear and strong, with unprotected buildings inside. Hai hoped it withstood the dust storms, and hoped its residents didn’t mind the thought of living under the biggest magnifying glass in the galaxy.

Maybe people would hate one of them, and the city would be abandoned to the wastes. Maybe people would hate all of them and they’d try something new. Maybe some people would love one or hate one and move between them to suit their desires. Maybe they’d just moved disparity offworld. Maybe they’d just created diversity.

They built on the edges of craters. It was thought that, within a few decades, people would finally decide to begin Martian terraforming. The process would take generations – maybe millennia. But when it finished, Schiparelli and Cassini and Huygens would be lakes – and Hellas would be an ocean. And the cities they built today would be by cities by the sea.

For today, the cities were building. Makerbots planted themselves down and began packing the sand around them. In an hour there would be foundations. In six hours there would be houses. Within eighteen hours, if everything went to schedule, inspections would begin. In three days people could start moving in to his city.

The weather was clear and Hai could see the solar disk through the beige dust. One day he hoped it would be visible through clear skies – and even more he hoped it would occasionally be obscured by gray storm-clouds, heavy with rain. For the moment he would sit and watch a bit more. Then before it got dark and cold he would go back to his command station, monitor his instruments, and drink a beer.

 

Sherry Bomb

•10 November 2017 • Leave a Comment

“Sherry Bomb”

4 parts Aberlour Al’bunadh (do not substitute bar scotch)

1 part Licor 43

1 part maraschino liqueur

Shake over ice and serve in a highball glass, either neat or with an ice sphere. Garnish with a grape.

For a summer drink, add 1/2p ouzo or other liquorice spirit.

Blazers

•8 November 2017 • Leave a Comment

Now that Northern Tier is consigned to the blessed drawer, I am starting a new project. As that book was about bicycle touring cross-country with post-apocalyptic element, this is about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail coupled with a murder mystery.

I’ve decided to start each chapter with a piece of trail vocabulary – and a definition supplied by m’self. Here’s what I’ve got.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Zero to hero
Said of a hiker who had little or no experience in hiking before – but is sure getting plenty now.

Nobo
Short for “northbound.” Starts as an adjective, but rapidly becomes a noun.

Shakedown
Opening up a pack and finding what can be replaced with lighter or better – and what can be simply discarded. Usually done by more experienced hikers for (or at) the less experienced.

HTFU
Harden The Fuck Up. It’s a thing that you need to do.

Zero
A day wherein no miles are hiked. A failure – a vacation – both.

Yellow blaze
White blazes mark the Trail. Blue blazes mark an alternate or side trail. Yellow blazes mark the road – and the cars that travel on them – and the yellow-bellied hikers who catch a ride.

Trail angel
A person who helps a hiker. Sometimes a local who lists their name and number in the guidebooks. Sometimes a person who hikes a section and offers aid. Sometimes a random who just happens to be there when you need it.

Trail magic
A little blessing encountered on the trail. Specifically, a gift or favor by another person. Specifically from a non-hiker. Specifically, free food.

Trail minister
A trail angel who is also into angels.

Section hiker
A person who is not intending to thru-hike; does not end up thru-hiking; or it stringing together multiple section hikes, so that they will eventually have done the entire Trail.

High Maintenance
A hiker who is just a whirlpool of needs.

Blowout
What happens to your shoes in Pennsylvania.

Bonk
When your body decides that it has had enough hiking, and so, hasn’t had enough sugar.

Bonus Miles
When you hike more than you have to – usually by accident.

Brown Blazing
Going off-trail to dig a cathole.

Calorie Loading
Leaving town with extra food – in your belly.

The Bubble
The bulk of thru hikers, who start at Springer from approximately March 15th to April 1st. Compare to a blood clot trying to force its way down one narrow little vein.

Erosion
The enemy of the trail, bane of ridge-runners and maintenance volunteers, the knowledge of which being the only thing that will keep you from cutting around the huge boulder you otherwise have to climb.
Often abbreviated to “Ero” – particularly when shouted as one goes around a huge boulder.

Ultralight
When your entire pack that weighs less than your dad’s Boy Scout sleeping bag alone.

Cheat Mode
Going ultralight.

Cowboy Camping
Camping outside of a prescribed area. In some areas this is necessary; in some it is not allowed; in some it is impossible – but a hiker finds a way.
Also called stealth camping, ninja camping, crash camping, etc.

Death March
When you force yourself to keep hiking. Usually to get to a shelter, a town, or a buffet.

Marathon
Hiking 26 miles in a single day.

Ultra
A double marathon – 56 miles, done in a single day.

Big Miles
Doing more than the average hiker. Variously: more than 20; more than a marathon; more than 30; or now you’re just bragging.

The Vortex
The well-known scientific phenomenon wherein places of comfort – towns, hostels, anywhere with lots of people – suck you in, and keep you off the trail.

Flip Flop
A person who starts at one point on the trail going one way, then returns to that point and goes the other. Usually refers to someone who goes from Harpers to K, then back to Harpers to head to Springer.

Ghost Blazing
Hiking where the trail used to run.

Weight Weenie
Someone who counts every gram they carry.

Hiker Funk
If you smell something terrible and you don’t know where it’s coming from – it’s coming from you. If you don’t smell it, that’s worse.

Hiker Hunger
What happens when your metabolism finally accepts that it is powering a hiking machine.

Hiker Midnight
9PM – by which late hour, every hiker is already fast asleep.

Hiker Trash
A rude hiker. A dirty hiker. A hiker who gives hikers a bad name. So any hiker who spends too long in town.

Hiker Widow
A Significant Other who’s waiting patiently at home, totally not cheating on you.

HYOH
Hike Your Own Hike.
Good advice – except when it isn’t.

YMMV
Your Mileage May Vary.
The supreme acknowledgment of subjectivity.

The Look
For better or worse: when you start to look like a hiker.

Mou Hou
A Mountain House dehydrated meal, or any other brand thereof.

Smash
To eat or drink, especially with quickness or enthusiasm.

Nero
“Near Zero” – a day where one does few miles.
Commonly defined as “less than ten in a day” or “less than what one would normally do in a day” – which, for those doing Big Miles, can be a fuckton.

Pack Out
To take from off-trail and bring on-trail. Refers to, e.g., the remaining two slices of that second pizza you ordered.

Pink Blazing
Adjusting your speed, or even path, in pursuit of a pretty girl.

Ride Bride
A female hiker who will flag down a car for a male hiker.

Puffy
A down jacket.

Shelter Rat
A person who will only sleep in shelters. Or, a person who you get the impression has not left a shelter for a very long time.

Slackpacking
Hiking without your pack. Generally involves your pack being driven ahead, or you being driven ahead and then hiking back to your pack. Considered a magical experience in inverse proportion to your pack weight.

Vitamin I
Ibuprofin.

Trail Legs
When your body realizes that, yes, you are going to keep making it hike.

Yogi
To request – or otherwise acquire – free food or gear, generally from a non-hiker.

Widowmaker
A large branch hanging over the trail – or anything else that seems like a waiting death trap.

Froyo
A “frozen yo-yo” – when you thru hike in warm weather, then wait until the snows fall before hiking back.

Trail Soda
Beer. Whether packed out, yogi’d, or received as blessed trail magic – beer.

Trail Tragic
Some problem which would be insignificant in the cottons, but out in the woods is nothing but.
Often said dismissively – particularly when abbreviated to “Ttraj.”

The Cotton World
That mote of existence where you can wear non-wicking fibers.
Variously “The Cottons,” “The Cotton Life,” or “Life.”

 
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