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Paris: closed to civil society, open to greenwashers

By Pascoe Sabido - New Internationalist, November 24, 2015

Image, right: In preparation for the Paris climate talks Philippines groups launch climate justice march. 350.org / AC Dimatatac under a Creative Commons Licence

In the days after the tragic events on 13 November in Paris, everything concerning the climate talks was in limbo. A state of emergency was called. Would the summit go ahead at all? What would it mean for the mass mobilizations being planned?

The week that followed has seen the state of emergency extended for three months and the government ban all demonstrations. Not just the big demos, but any gathering of more than two people bearing a political message. The political message behind that decision is clear: the government is criminalizing social movements and supressing dissent. Christmas markets, football matches, other mass public events can take place; it’s the politics that’s the problem.

While the government has clamped down on political expression from civil society, its support for big business shindigs has not waivered.

The first tweet to come from the official COP21 account following the attacks claimed that ‘Paris is still standing and ready for COP21’, and linked directly to a statement from the Solutions COP21 corporate-expo.

The organizers of the event claimed the attack ‘was an attack against life, youth, friendliness and culture, thus targeting our capacity to live together’ but that their event was ‘a direct answer to all those who are willing to add a concrete contribution toward the evolution of our societies following a positive and equitable approach, and to foster solidarity toward those in need, besides preserving our quality of life.’

What they fail to mention is that Solutions COP21 is a platform for some of the world’s most socially and environmentally destructive corporations, whose business models constantly attack life, youth, friendliness, solidarity and any notion of an equitable approach.

Sponsored by the likes of dirty energy giant Engie (formerly GDF Suez, also an official sponsor of COP21) alongside fracking enthusiast Suez Environment and agrofuels giant Avril-Sofiproteol, the event at the Grand Palais will also welcome Vinci, the company behind the proposed airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, coal financiers HSBC and BNP Paribas, and Coca-Cola, among many others.

As the organizers are proud to admit, corporate climate criminals will be joined inside the event by small and medium enterprises, NGOs (some of whom have pulled out after public pressure) and international artists (some of whom have refused to pull out on discovering the true nature of the event).

Such an ensemble lends a veneer of respectability that money can’t buy. But what it can buy is political access. Corporate packages ranging up to $266,000 ensure you don’t have to settle for mere exhibition space but can have VIP access to networking areas with negotiators and politicians, as well as guaranteed TV coverage.

In short, the French government has put its weight behind a corporate greenwashing event for the biggest polluters to push their false solutions – such as fracking, nuclear energy, GMOs and market-based solutions – at the same time as silencing those very communities coming to Paris to denounce such destructive business practices and the fatal impacts they have on the ground.

Before the attacks took place, there was already a public call for mass civil disobedience against (false) Solutions COP21, coming from a diverse range of organizations including ATTAC France, Via Campesina, the trade union Solidaires, the grassroots activist networks Climate Justice Action and the JEDIs, Sortir du Nucleaire and Corporate Europe Observatory. Huge uncertainty followed, but hearing the response from both the organizers of Solutions COP21 and the French government, it now feels more important than ever for the mobilization to take place.

The fight for climate justice is intertwined with the fight for peace, not just in Europe but in communities around the world facing violence and terror as a result of our extractivist economic model.

If the French government thinks that events in the Grand Palais are more important than the voices of those on the frontline fighting climate change and its causes, then that’s where their message needs to be delivered.

If you are in Paris on Friday 4 December, make your way to the venue from 10.00am, where guides will take you on a ‘toxic tour’ around the expo with representatives of frontline communities as they call out the false solutions on offer. Meanwhile, creative acts of civil disobedience are planned to stop the event from staying open.

As others in the climate movement have said already, now is not the time to stay silent. No-one intends to.

Resist the Climate Coup d’Etat! Paris COP21 Protests Still On

By Alexander Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, November 19, 2015

Although Syrian refugees are still being blamed for the Paris attacks, the news that the attackers were all European nationals seems only to have created a growing sense of disquiet. It’s as if some sense of purpose has been lost with cavalier bravado that always obscures the chauvinism staring plainly back at the West through the mirror of “the Orient.”

Lost on many is the fact that NATO powers helped to fuel the conflict in Syria and ensuing growth of ISIS. Lost on many more is the accelerant that climate change has become, creating systems of drought and despair in Syria and throughout the world that feed the conditions of civil war. Solving climate change would provide an important key to liberate those struggling for global justice, because it would come from them.

At this point, domestic questions begin to arise, and answers do not come easily for the bomb-dropping President of the French Fifth Republic whose imperial policies are so clearly part of the problem. He has agreed to allow Syrian refugees into France regardless of the notorious ressentiment of the radical right. However, his government has also used the attacks as convenient leverage to attempt to preemptively disperse protests for the upcoming Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), slated to take place November 30 to December 11.

‘This Changes Everything’: What the Paris attacks mean for the climate protests

By Claire Fauset - New Internationalist, November 17, 2015

Key organizers are pushing for the climate marches and protests to go ahead in Paris despite threats of a government clampdown (see November 16, 2015 press statements by 350.org and Climate Coalition 21). Claire Fauset, one of many climate justice activists planning to attend the talks, explains why it’s more important than ever to take action in Paris. Image "To change everything it takes everyone" by 350.org, copied under a Creative Commons Licence.

This changes everything. The title of Naomi Klein's book on the urgency of the fight to stop capitalism destroying our planet was the phrase that immediately came to mind as the horror of the Paris terror attacks settled on my brain last Friday night. I was with friends recording poems and snippets for a radio project during the climate summit, and all our thoughts were already in Paris.

My mind raced like a movie montage of paranoiac dystopianism. Remembering that day in 2001 when, while planning for a campaign against the World Trade Organization, the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground. Remembering the fear, not of terrorism, not of Islam, not of getting on a plane, but of war, xenophobia, repression, and spiralling cycles of violence. Fearing now what this attack means for a Europe already swinging to the right and restricting freedom of movement in the desperate hope of stemming the tide of people fleeing the wars and poverty for which Europe itself is partly responsible. And fearing the growth of the unthinking, poisonous prejudice that values white lives over the lives of people of colour in Beirut, Baghdad, Syria and everywhere.

And of course my fears were for our mobilizations around the climate summit. Will it even happen? Are we mobilizing people to be an easy target for terrorists in a heavily militarized state? Will climate change even be on the agenda? This changes everything.

Climate change is a greater threat than terrorism, we said, in those innocent days only a week ago. And it is. And the two are interconnected. The war in Syria is thought to be partly sparked by a drought, linked to climate change. And resource dependency – specifically oil – is what is buying the guns for the Islamic State. Climate change is a greater threat, but terrorism certainly has the ability to overshadow other issues by its immediacy and horror. Our intention was to go onto the streets of Paris when the summit fails, as it inevitably will, to reach an agreement that has a hope of keeping us within a 1.5 degree temperature rise, to take to the streets and take the last word. But how can we realistically hope to take the last word with our barricades when the first word has been so devastatingly stolen by the terrorists?

Right now social movements are trying to get their heads around what these attacks mean for resistance to the corporate agenda that hijacked the climate talks long before IS hijacked the Bataclan concert hall. We know that the summit will go ahead, but there are strong indications that marches and protests may be banned as a state of emergency is extended to cover the talks.

Paris is a traumatized city. We should not stay silent about the climate crisis, but our resistance must show empathy and solidarity, both with those affected by the attacks and those targeted by the fear, racism and paranoia that now follows. More than ever this is a time for solidarity and a rejection of false 'solutions'. The COP process over the past 20 years has led to a worsening of the climate crisis and a rise rather than reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the war on terror has led to more terror – in Beirut and Baghdad as well as Paris – and to a refugee crisis that leaves dead bodies washing up on Europe's shores. The same logic underlies both of these failures. A logic of maintaining the status quo, of protecting our economic interests at all costs, of ignoring the historical and current ways in which the West is deeply implicated in the root causes of the problem. In this moment of fear and uncertainty, of multiple crises sweeping the globe, a movement for justice, equality, anti-oppression, for a liveable planet and for a change to the system based on greed and exploitation is ever more needed.

Now is not the time to stay silent.

Join us in the Anti-Capitalist Contingent at the "Rally for 100% Renewable Energy for 100% of the People"

By Climate - Capitalism vs the Climate, November 16, 2015

There’s going to be a climate rally at the state Capitol soon about replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. That all sounds good, but we want to form a contingent that’s loud and clear about the need for systemic social change. We hope you’ll join.

Look for us with the banner that says ‘End capitalism’ at the bottom.

“100% renewable energy” isn’t enough.

We need community control and a rejection of false solutions. Putting a wind turbine on top of a genocidal system doesn’t make it green. Did you know Solar City has been installing solar panels made by prisoners paid pennies to the dollar? That Malloy’s been counting renewable mega-hydro power as green despite its infringement on indigenous Innu land in Quebec? That Bridgeport takes trash from surrounding suburbs and burns it in a low-income neighborhood in order to produce so-called renewable energy? Sometimes renewable energy is just as socially and environmentally destructive as fossil fuels.

Rallies and lobbying aren’t enough

We need direct action. We don’t think the Keystone XL would have been (partially) stopped if it hadn’t been for the countless actions and arrests of the Texas tree-sitters, the Lakota spiritual campers, the White House protesters and others. We’d like to see climate campaigners in CT learn from the (partial) KXL victory and step it up a little bit.

Get Spectra out of Connecticut

Spectra Energy’s fracked gas pipeline expansion could endanger tens of millions of lives, due to its dangerous location near the Indian Point nuclear power plant and its contribution to global climate change. We see Spectra’s expansion as a symptom of the deadly grow-or-die system that’s squeezing the Earth and its inhabitants to extinction. Isn’t stopping Spectra one of the things we can unite around, or is naming it being too specific and divisive for those trying to play nice with Malloy?

Social Syndicalism: an Opinion of One Old Shipyard Worker

By Arthur J Miller - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 17, 2015

Casting a stare of confusion out to the cosmos Why do things just get worse no matter how hard we work to make them better? We still labor to produce all needs and we can't even produce our own needs within this system of all possible wealth going to a few at the expense of the many. Food workers who produce the simple most important production of all (if we can't eat, nothing else matters) and yet they are the poorest paid workers around. Makes a lot of sense don't it?
Think about it, those who do the work to provide the needs of society only receive in payment as small of a return that the corporate system can get away with paying them.

This dirty rotten system, I call corporate fascism. It is 100% controlled by the corporations. They control the greatest part of the wealth produced directly. In order to advance their wealth and control, they created an institutionalization of policies that benefit them. Such policies as racism, sexism, nationalism, and so on, all benefit the rich, not the poor and cannot be reformed. How do you reform racism?, may I please ask?

We live under a military dictatorship. We are forced to fight other poor folks in wars that only benefit the rich. In these wars of conquest we defeat other poor people, we are then used to oppress those poor folks into submission to the compute state. How do you reform corporate wars? You can't. The dirty rotten system is meant to be just that, the dirty rotten system that steals from us all and that it uses us poor folks as their collateral damage in industry, in wars and political posturing.

The system uses tactics to get us thinking we have a say in things that we don't. Like the political parties. Both corporate political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are equally the institutionalization of corporate fascism. They work hand in hand to deceive us into thinking we have a chose to choose from. Then we are told to pick the lesser of the two evils. And there you have it, the dirty rotten system cannot be reform to be anything other than what it is, an evil. You cannot reform that which is created to be evil. And when the liberals come up with the next new White Rich Savor to be that lesser evil that others should follow, we need to reject them outright.

When we understand that the system cannot be reform, then we must look at changing the social system ourselves. We can trust no one else to do it for us.

In my view Syndicalism is the most effective means of true social change and it has the most rank and file control that is possible. Part of this is that it came out of work place resistance and organization thus it was always organizing at the source of the problems. That meant those in control were that same as those with the need. That is the only way to get real working class unions. No so-called reform is possible in capitalism, the state or statist institutions they control like the business unions and political parties. Simple, we can let others from the outside organize us and tell us what to do. Or we can organize ourselves at the source of the problem by those in need and are most effected.

Fact is undeniable that the mayor cause of our problems comes directly out of industry. Given that, industry must change. And thus Syndicalism would say that we need to change at the point of production by those who do the work. We know how to make the changes but it has been these outside people who pay no attention to us. Simple example, after a major tanker oil spill, folks were meeting about what to do.

Many answers based upon outside ideas. I tried to explain what would make tankers much safer based upon my experience working on tankers.

That had no place in their discussion. Even when I advocate something so damn simple as to ask the question: Why don't tankers carry no oil spill equipment? Two small power boats and enough booms for two containment circles? Booming a ship is easy, I have done it a number of times. Rather when a spill happens everyone just sits around waiting for some oil spill ship to come in from some far away port.

Nearly every social struggle that starts from the people at the source comes into conflict with those. on the outside. Thus you have the basic Syndicalist organization at the point of production. This Syndicalists have been doing long before the term Syndicalism was ever used.

It has become much more than just about one expression of organization, but rather stands as an example for nearly all working class struggle. My class analysis is very simple. There are two classes, the rich and the poor. Between them is an area that gets rather foggy as some have a little money identify with the interests of the rich and thus should be seen as on that rich side. There are those that identify with the interests of the poor and are on our side. The rich try to exploit everything that can be exploited for profit and suppress those that resist. That includes develop social projects against about every one except what we think we are. Thus such issues as racism, sexism, and so on are based in the industrialized of class in the dirt rotten system. In my view we must organize around the complete oppress of poor folks and their needs, if for no other reason there are always connections to them in industry and must be changed.

We’ll always have Paris: The tragedy of global climate politics

By Tadzio Müller - Rosa Luxenbourg Stiftung , November 11, 2015

The UN climate summit in Paris is certainly important. But an agreement in Paris is unlikely to include a number of urgently needed policies, and may instead constitute a shift in a disastrous direction. What can we realistically expect from the Paris Agreement, and what would the Summit actually need to achieve?

On Saturday, 24 October 2015, two media reports were published that perfectly summarise the challenges we face from climate change:

The first report - "Yesterday, the final meeting in the run-up to the Paris Climate Change Conference took place in Bonn". After months of optimism ("This time we'll make it work - not like in Copenhagen", "We've learned from our mistakes", "This time it will be different"), our hopes were dashed when the report ended by stating, "Climate talks fail to break deadlock". But what is blocking the negotiations? The participants can't still be haggling over emission reductions, because this issue has already been settled (through voluntary commitments) and it's not even on the agenda. So what's the problem? As always, it's about the struggle over global resources. But it's not natural resources that are the focus here, because fossil fuels are not discussed at climate summits. The deadlock is not even about the climate as such. It's about the Northern states finally coughing up the agreed financial resources, despite numerous declarations of intent; financial resources that were to be made available to assist the South in adapting and mitigating the problems caused by climate change; financial resources that would help the North do justice to its historical responsibility for climate change.

The second report - This one reached us from Mexico; it's simple, clear and direct: "'Worst hurricane of all time' sweeps across Mexico". The President of Mexico, Peña Nieto, tweeted that this had been the most severe hurricane that had "ever occurred on the planet". More than 60,000 people had to be brought into safety. Fortunately, the hurricane weakened before striking the Mexican mainland, but it clearly demonstrates what we are up against. What would happen if the international community were to respond properly to the challenges demonstrated by these media reports? What would happen at the UN climate summit in December and what kind of resolutions would it pass?

Why climate action means challenging capitalism

By Erima Dall - Solidarity, November 7, 2015

The COP 21 summit in Paris is approaching, but while the situation is grim the planned social movement mobilizations offer hope and opportunities.

Tackling climate change through a rapid transition to renewable energy is perfectly feasible, but corporate interests are determined to frustrate action, writes Erima Dall.

The world is at a climate crossroads. For over 20 years, international meetings of world leaders have wrangled to avoid any meaningful climate action. The science is as clear as ever; the planet hotter.

In November over 190 world leaders will meet at the COP21 conference in Paris. But countries have already announced their emissions reduction targets, and they will not prevent a rise of 2°C in global temperature – a generous estimate of what is a “safe” temperature increase.

Global investment in renewable energy is growing, but nowhere near fast enough. We are operating in a battlefield. To stop a dangerous shift in our climate system we will have to challenge the economic greed of the capitalist system.

We need to build a mass radical movement capable of challenging the fossil fuel giants, and governments’ absolute commitment to the market; a movement to demand a just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and an expansion of green jobs.

COP 21: movements rally to Paris for climate justice

By Skye Bougsty-Marshall; image by Alberto Ñiquén - RoarMag, November 8, 2015

The COP 21 summit in Paris is approaching, but while the situation is grim the planned social movement mobilizations offer hope and opportunities.

We know how it all started — colonialism was the original metabolic rift in our history, which has been profoundly extended and deepened by industrial capitalism. Yet as we enter the 6th mass extinction, there is an ambient sense that there is no alternative to this way of life.

We collectively hallucinate that the present order of things will persist indefinitely, silently abiding the comfort and enslavement this disposition provides, all the while waiting for the apocalypse we are living through to blossom fully.

Many have been waiting for the totalizing revolution that appears as a vanishing point on a receding horizon, a perpetually deferred future. The intersecting ecological and climate crises stand as a refutation of more than a hundred years of left-wing teleology that ‘in the end we will win.’ Instead they reinforce the need for constant molecular struggles to open and expand cracks for resistance and new forms of life to flourish.

World governments acknowledge that catastrophic climate change is the defining crisis of our times, and simultaneously fossil fuel corporations continue to benefit from subsidies of $5.3 trillion in 2015, according to the IMF. This is more than all governments spend on health care combined and amounts to an astonishing $10 million every minute.

We have reached a point where we need to keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground, which would require emission reductions of at least 10% per year by 2025, even as Lord Stern counsels us that a mere 1% emissions reductions rate each year would be associated with economic recession and upheaval.

This requires radical global degrowth, which understandably is unacceptable to billions of people trying to lift themselves out of poverty wrought by colonial and neocolonial depredation and the enforced inequality of smoothly operating capitalism. Yet the overdeveloped states deny their historic responsibility, disregarding principles of equity by refusing to recognize their immeasurable ecological and social debts accrued through their ruinous development processes.

The landmark COP21 provides ecological justice struggles with an unparalleled opportunity to come together as a global movement to put into sharp relief the echoless chasm separating the minimal conditions for a just and livable planet and the political order’s capacity to secure these.

The system is exhausted. The UN COP process merely simulates its continued viability, thus performing the regeneration of its legitimacy. Its collapse is inevitable, in its orbit looms only the question whether it will take civilization with it in its violent, implosive heat death. Futurity dangles ridiculous.

Is the Paris Climate Conference Designed to Fail?

By Brian Tokar - Common Dreams, November 11, 2015

The last time this much public attention was focused on the climate talks was in the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. We should not forget how that turned out. (Image: via PabloSolon.com)

From the end of this month through early December, much of the world’s attention will be focused on Paris, the site of the upcoming round of UN climate negotiations. This is the twenty-first time diplomats and heads of state will gather under the umbrella of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a document first put forward at the landmark 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro – the same global conference where the elder George Bush told the world that the “American way of life is not negotiable.” The UNFCCC process has had its ups and downs over the years, including the approval of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the first international agreement to mandate specific reductions in climate-disrupting greenhouse gases.

As this year’s conference approaches, people around the world are suffering the consequences of some of the most extreme patterns of storms, droughts, wildfires and floods ever experienced. Western wildfires last summer reached as far north as the Olympic rainforest, and unprecedented mudslides earlier this fall in a corner of drought-baked southern California nearly buried vehicles caught on the route from Tehachapi to Bakersfield. Central Mexico recently experienced the most severe hurricane to ever reach landfall, and the role of persistent regional droughts in sparking the social upheaval that has brought nearly a million Middle Eastern refugees to central Europe is increasingly apparent. It is virtually certain that 2015 will be the warmest year ever recorded, with several months having surpassed previous records by a full degree or more. While we are always cautioned that it is difficult to blame the climate for specific incidents of extreme weather, scientists in fact are increasingly able to measure the climate contribution of various events, and rising temperatures also heighten the effects of phenomena such as the California drought, which may not have global warming as their primary underlying cause.

The last time this much public attention was focused on the climate talks was in the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. At that time, the first “commitment period” of the Kyoto Protocol was about to expire shortly, and Copenhagen was seen as a make-or-break opportunity to move the process forward. Even as close observers decried the increasing corporate influence over the preparations for the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN climate convention, most observers held onto a shred of hope that something meaningful and significant would emerge from the negotiations. There was a huge public lobbying effort by Greenpeace and other groups urging President Obama to attend, and China put forward its first public commitment to reduce the rate of increase in their greenhouse gas emissions. While the Kyoto Protocol’s primary implementation mechanisms – tradable emissions allowances and questionable “carbon offset” projects in remote areas of the world – had proven inadequate at best, the Copenhagen meeting was seen as the key to sustaining Kyoto’s legacy of legally binding emissions reductions. Perhaps, activists hoped, the negotiators would agree on a meaningful plan to prevent increasingly uncontrollable disruptions of the climate. It soon became clear, however, that Copenhagen instead set the stage for a massive derailment of the ongoing negotiation process, and unleashed a new set of elite strategies that now render the Paris talks as virtually designed to fail.

Officials in Copenhagen were determined to spin the conference as a success, no matter what the outcome. Still, even before the conference began, they began to proclaim the advantages of a non-binding “political” or “operational” agreement as an incremental step toward reducing worldwide emissions. As described in my book, Toward Climate Justice (New Compass Press, 2014), the assembled delegates from nearly all the world’s nations failed to accomplish even that. COP 15 produced only a five-page “Copenhagen Accord,” with no new binding obligations on countries, corporations, or any other actors, and the document was not even approved – only “taken note of” – by the conference as a whole. The accord essentially urged countries to put forward voluntary pledges to reduce their climate-disrupting emissions, and to informally “assess” their progress after five years. Every substantive issue was hedged with loopholes and contradictions, setting the stage for most of the global North outside of Europe to simply withdraw from their countries’ obligations under Kyoto as the 2012 renewal deadline approached. Still, all but three countries – Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua – went along with this scheme; one main reason was that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised skeptics that the US would raise $100 billion a year in funds to assist with climate stabilizing measures, a promise that is still to be realized in the halls of Paris.

What Became Of Occupy Wall Street?

By Arun Gupta - Telesurtv.net, November 5, 2015

Far from fizzling, the movement has a contested legacy that continues to shape the political landscape One of the more puzzling aspects about Occupy Wall Street is not that there was a moment when millions of people hoped or feared it might overthrow the rule of the banks, but that so little is said about it four years on.

Its anniversaries come and go without comment: Occupy’s founding on September 17, 2011, the high-water mark of the Oakland general strike on November 2, the eviction of of the New York camp on November 15, the creation of Occupy Sandy after the superstorm walloped the Northeast on October 29, 2012.

Occupy lost its luster because most people concluded it was a failure. It failed to articulate demands, failed to create a lasting impact, failed to spark a revolution. The haters dismiss Occupy as the “Frenzy that Fizzled.” True believers maintain Occupy triumphed for shifting the conversation from economic austerity to inequality, while ignoring the lack of infrastructure to carry its work and ideas forward. Many who joined or were inspired by it would up feeling confused, bitter, or disappointed at losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to upend the status quo. Others blame Occupy’s dissolution on police forces that aggressively swept out all the major encampments. But it’s defeatist to say Occupy was vanquished “by a concerted government effort to undo it.” State violence is a given, and some radical movements still succeed.

Occupiers tried repeatedly to resurrect the movement after the main bastions in Oakland and New York City were evicted in November 2011. But it never regained its footing despite the national May Day general strike, protests against a NATO summit in Chicago, the Occupy Our Homes anti-foreclosure movement, Occupy Sandy, and attempted re-occupations of parks, plazas, and buildings across the country.

No, Occupy Wall Street did not fizzle or fail. Its outsized ambitions were destined to crash as there are no left forces strong enough in the United States to keep a mass movement flying high. Occupy is as relevant as ever; the difficulty in coming to terms with it is because of its mixed legacy. When radicals lost the initiative against a bankrupt political system, liberals stepped in to divert energy back into the system.

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