Business Politics http://www.businesspolitics.org The Fusion of Business and Politics Tue, 28 Dec 2010 21:19:08 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 U.S. states opposition to Russian tycoons’ treatment http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/u-s-states-opposition-to-russian-tycoons-treatment/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/u-s-states-opposition-to-russian-tycoons-treatment/#comments Tue, 28 Dec 2010 21:19:08 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/u-s-states-opposition-to-russian-tycoons-treatment/
  • A Mix of Politics and Business With Obama Former President Bill Clinton used state dinners as a pretext...
  • EPA proposal would slash emissions in 31 states and D.C. A proposal put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday...
  • ]]>
    Secretary of State Clinton warned that Russia could be imperiling its international standing by imprisoning two oil tycoons.U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made America's stance on the imprisonment of Russian businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev clear this week.

    The two men, once business partners in Russia's lucrative oil industry, were found guilty on December 27 of embezzlement, reports indicated. But many have alleged that they were charged because of their political ties: Khodorkovsky, in particular, is seen as being allied with the liberal political faction in Russia, and some have suggested that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin feels threatened by the former oil magnate.

    Clinton, for her part, said the two men's trial raised doubts about the democratic rule of law in Russia. Their case, she warned, could have "a negative impact on Russia's reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate."

    Prosecutors had alleged that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev embezzled 218 tons of oil from petroleum conglomerate Yukos and laundered $97.5 million of the company's revenue. The prosecution is looking to keep the men behind bars until 2017, Britain's Guardian reported – but the No. 1 priority may be locking them up until the next presidential election takes place.

    "I believe they want to keep [Khodorkovsky ] in prison for another three or four years at least, so he is not released until well after the next presidential elections, in 2012," former politician Vladimir Ryzhkov told the newspaper.

    The case reflects the hard-line stance that Prime Minister Putin's allies take against perceived or real opponents. Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, made international headlines after he died in detention 13 months ago; Magnitsky had brought fraud charges against Russian officials and was allegedly mistreated after being imprisoned.

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    ]]>
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    H&R Block prevented from offering refund anticipation loans http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/hr-block-prevented-from-offering-refund-anticipation-loans/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/hr-block-prevented-from-offering-refund-anticipation-loans/#comments Tue, 28 Dec 2010 16:23:21 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/hr-block-prevented-from-offering-refund-anticipation-loans/
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  • ]]>
    H&R Block can no longer offer refund anticipation loans through HSBC.Tax-preparation company H&R Block received notice from federal regulators on December 27 that it cannot partner with HSBC to offer so-called "refund anticipation loans" to customers.

    The loans essentially let tax filers receive their tax refunds early – but consumers pay dearly for the privilege. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates that RALs, which charge a litany of fees and carry exorbitant interest rates, cost 10 percent of the average filer's refund. And all they really provide people, the department says, is the ability to "get [their] money a few days sooner."

    This week, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency told HSBC it can no longer offer RALs, scuppering a deal that the bank had reached with H&R Block under which it would have provided loan servicing to the tax company's customers.

    H&R Block said the OCC's move would hurt, not help, consumers. "As a result of the OCC's decision, millions of taxpayers will be deprived of credit, or they will be forced to use higher-priced alternatives, without the slightest benefit to the solvency of HSBC or the banking system in general," company CEO Alan Bennett indicated in a statement.

    H&R Block's largest competitor, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, will continue offering RALs this year, Bloomberg News said. But the loans may come under heavy fire from regulators in the coming years, particularly once the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – which was created earlier this year by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill – is up and running.

    H&R Block's shares plummeted after the OCC made its announcement, falling by more than 7 percent. Jackson Hewitt's stock, meanwhile, jumped 25 percent.

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    ]]>
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    ECB continues backing Europe’s banks http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/ecb-continues-backing-europes-banks-2/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/ecb-continues-backing-europes-banks-2/#comments Thu, 23 Dec 2010 23:58:38 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/ecb-continues-backing-europes-banks-2/
  • ECB continues backing Europe’s banks The European Central Bank will provide nearly €150 billion in...
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  • Greece’s debt woes pressure German chancellor, banks Greece's ongoing debt problems are being felt throughout the euro-zone,...
  • ]]>
    The ECB will keep providing loans to Europe's banks.The European Central Bank will provide nearly €150 billion in short-term lending to European banks this week – a sign, analysts said, that the continent's financial institutions continue to struggle.

    The ECB announced December 22 that it would provide €149.5 billion to banks via three-month lending facilities, against analyst expectations of €105 billion. The issue, Tullet Prebon economist Lena Komileva told Reuters, is not a lack of liquidity – banks have been tapping the ECB's credit facilities for months and have sufficient capital. Rather, Komileva said, banks are worried about their credit exposure.

    "[Credit] concerns are not going to disappear given that the market still believes that the euro zone sovereigns are still largely overrated," she indicated.

    Indeed, worries about debt in the euro region are mounting. In the past week, Ireland's credit rating was downgraded significantly, and Spain, Greece and even France – whose finances are in relatively good shape – received warnings that their respective ratings.

    As a result of the debt-rating moves, traders have been sending the euro lower in recent weeks. That's good for Europe's exporters, but it also makes imported goods more expensive for consumers and businesses. An upswing in prices could slow growth in the euro region – further imperiling bank balance sheets and sending the continent into even deeper turmoil.

    The ECB noted December 22 that 270 banks accepted loans – and Bloomberg News quoted the central bank's president, Jean-Claude Trichet, as saying earlier this month that the loan facilities will be kept open through at least the first quarter of 2011. That's good news, Helaba Trust bond strategist Ulf Kraus indicated.

    "The crisis," he said, "is not over yet."

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    3. Greece’s debt woes pressure German chancellor, banks Greece's ongoing debt problems are being felt throughout the euro-zone,...

    ]]>
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    Global bank regulators bring risk management into focus http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/global-bank-regulators-bring-risk-management-into-focus/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/global-bank-regulators-bring-risk-management-into-focus/#comments Thu, 23 Dec 2010 23:56:48 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/global-bank-regulators-bring-risk-management-into-focus/
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  • Derivatives market poised for major overhaul A significant chunk of the $615 trillion global derivatives market...
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  • ]]>
    Risk management is coming under scrutiny around the world.Bank regulators in Switzerland are scrutinizing the risks that banks take in their day-to-day business activities – and looking to keep another financial crisis from taking place.

    As Reuters reported on December 20, members of the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision – which authors global bank rules – are proposing that banks trade more frequently with central counterparties. CCPs, as they are known, improve transparency and reduce trading risk, regulators contend.

    Some parts of the world are already requiring certain trades to be cleared centrally. The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill which was enacted earlier this year in the U.S. mandates that certain derivatives be traded centrally; rules proposed recently in Europe say much the same thing.

    And the members of the Group of 20 have pledged to force at least part of their derivatives markets onto clearing facilities; nations from Canada to Korea are in the process of writing reforms to their respective regulatory regimes.

    If the Basel Committee gets its way, CCPs may become common across the globe. "The committee's intent is to provide incentives for banks to increase the use of CCPs," Reuters quoted the committee's risk management chair, Mark White, as saying.

    But, Bloomberg News reported December 22, many regulators are uncertain about the prospect of global cooperation on bank rules. Regulatory officials did agree this year to force banks to hold more capital in reserve (inadequate capitalization is widely believed to have contributed to the financial crisis), yet it's unclear if consensus can be drummed up on other matters.

    Frederick Cannon, a researcher at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, is one of the doubters. "They got a 7 percent common equity requirement – the rest is all uncertain to ever happen," he told Bloomberg.

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    3. Geithner backs bank tax, while banks feel pinched Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reiterated his support for a tax...

    ]]>
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    ECB continues backing Europe’s banks http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/ecb-continues-backing-europes-banks/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/ecb-continues-backing-europes-banks/#comments Thu, 23 Dec 2010 18:58:38 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/ecb-continues-backing-europes-banks/
  • ECB continues backing Europe’s banks The European Central Bank will provide nearly €150 billion in...
  • Euro-zone debt will erode European growth, IMF says The euro-zone's debt problems have been well-publicized in recent months,...
  • Greece’s debt woes pressure German chancellor, banks Greece's ongoing debt problems are being felt throughout the euro-zone,...
  • ]]>
    The ECB will keep providing loans to Europe's banks.The European Central Bank will provide nearly €150 billion in short-term lending to European banks this week – a sign, analysts said, that the continent's financial institutions continue to struggle.

    The ECB announced December 22 that it would provide €149.5 billion to banks via three-month lending facilities, against analyst expectations of €105 billion. The issue, Tullet Prebon economist Lena Komileva told Reuters, is not a lack of liquidity – banks have been tapping the ECB's credit facilities for months and have sufficient capital. Rather, Komileva said, banks are worried about their credit exposure.

    "[Credit] concerns are not going to disappear given that the market still believes that the euro zone sovereigns are still largely overrated," she indicated.

    Indeed, worries about debt in the euro region are mounting. In the past week, Ireland's credit rating was downgraded significantly, and Spain, Greece and even France – whose finances are in relatively good shape – received warnings that their respective ratings.

    As a result of the debt-rating moves, traders have been sending the euro lower in recent weeks. That's good for Europe's exporters, but it also makes imported goods more expensive for consumers and businesses. An upswing in prices could slow growth in the euro region – further imperiling bank balance sheets and sending the continent into even deeper turmoil.

    The ECB noted December 22 that 270 banks accepted loans – and Bloomberg News quoted the central bank's president, Jean-Claude Trichet, as saying earlier this month that the loan facilities will be kept open through at least the first quarter of 2011. That's good news, Helaba Trust bond strategist Ulf Kraus indicated.

    "The crisis," he said, "is not over yet."

    Related posts:

    1. ECB continues backing Europe’s banks The European Central Bank will provide nearly €150 billion in...
    2. Euro-zone debt will erode European growth, IMF says The euro-zone's debt problems have been well-publicized in recent months,...
    3. Greece’s debt woes pressure German chancellor, banks Greece's ongoing debt problems are being felt throughout the euro-zone,...

    ]]>
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    Net neutrality issue underscores partisan divide http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/net-neutrality-issue-underscores-partisan-divide-2/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/net-neutrality-issue-underscores-partisan-divide-2/#comments Tue, 21 Dec 2010 23:40:42 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/net-neutrality-issue-underscores-partisan-divide-2/
  • Net neutrality issue underscores partisan divide The Federal Communications Commission passed on December 21 sweeping new...
  • Governments provide or guarantee internet access Americans are in agreement that free speech is a fundamental...
  • FCC’s Third Way plan may face House scrutiny A plan that would give the Federal Communications Commission regulatory...
  • ]]>
    The net neutrality issue is leading to partisan squabbles.The Federal Communications Commission passed on December 21 sweeping new rules relating to the broadband industry – but the ensuing debate is illustrating the depth of the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.

    The rule changes are, effectively, a vote in favor of "net neutrality," which deals with the restrictions that network operators may or may not put on internet access and content.

    Under the new rules, wired broadband companies are prohibited from giving some data – like their own or that of their business partners – priority over other data. And broadband firms have to provide full access to all legal content available on the web.

    While the rules sound relatively innocuous, they sparked a firestorm of debate.

    Indeed, even the FCC itself was divided over whether to put the overhaul in place. The FCC's three Democratic commissioners voted in favor of the net neutrality rules, while the two Republicans on the commission voted against them.

    Overall, the issue is breaking down on party lines, with consumer groups and Democrats in favor of the new regulation and Republicans and network operators opposed.

    For now, the Democrats have won – but with Republicans taking control of the House next month, some lawmakers may move to repeal the FCC's new regulations. Cliff Stearns, a GOP representative from Florida, has indicated his intention to do just that, as has Republican Senator Mary Kay Hutchison of Texas.

    And, as tech news site ZDNet.com notes, the rule changes only relate to wired broadband companies – wireless broadband operators were generally given carte blanche in how they choose to manage data traffic. For that reason, some consumer groups are only grudgingly supporting the FCC's new regulations.

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    3. FCC’s Third Way plan may face House scrutiny A plan that would give the Federal Communications Commission regulatory...

    ]]>
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    WikiLeaks grows in prominence http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/wikileaks-grows-in-prominence/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/wikileaks-grows-in-prominence/#comments Tue, 21 Dec 2010 23:36:16 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/wikileaks-grows-in-prominence/
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  • Government cracks down on websites On Black Monday – the busiest day of the year...
  • ]]>
    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has threatened to release information on U.S. banks.WikiLeaks – the website devoted to exposing leaked data and information – exploded onto the global news scene after leaking thousands of secret diplomatic cables to media outlets. Now, the site is turning its attention to major U.S. banks.

    WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, has warned that he possesses information that could lead to the resignation of the head of a large American bank. And in a recent interview with the U.K.'s Times, Assange indicated that a data dump involving bank information will be forthcoming.

    At this point, no one outside the WikiLeaks organization is sure which banks could be impacted by the data release, but speculators have suggested that Bank of America is a target. The bank itself lent credence to that theory when it stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks, citing the site's involvement in activities "that are, among other things, inconsistent with [the bank's] internal policies for processing payments."

    Bank of America joined other payment networks, including PayPal and Visa, in refusing to process transactions for WikiLeaks, so its action may have merely been an attempt to protect itself from future regulatory reprisals.

    But WikiLeaks lashed out at the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank last weekend, calling on its supporters to boycott the company.

    Even though WikiLeaks appears to lack the support of American financial firms, it is gaining clout overseas. On December 21, the Associated Press reported that two websites in Jordan were working on translating the U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks into Arabic.

    "Removing the language barrier" was the two sites' stated goal.

    WikiLeaks is becoming such an important force in the media world that the term "WikiLeaks" was recently acknowledged as an actual word by the Global Language Monitor.

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    3. Government cracks down on websites On Black Monday – the busiest day of the year...

    ]]>
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    Net neutrality issue underscores partisan divide http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/net-neutrality-issue-underscores-partisan-divide/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/net-neutrality-issue-underscores-partisan-divide/#comments Tue, 21 Dec 2010 18:40:42 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/net-neutrality-issue-underscores-partisan-divide/
  • Net neutrality issue underscores partisan divide The Federal Communications Commission passed on December 21 sweeping new...
  • Governments provide or guarantee internet access Americans are in agreement that free speech is a fundamental...
  • FCC’s Third Way plan may face House scrutiny A plan that would give the Federal Communications Commission regulatory...
  • ]]>
    The net neutrality issue is leading to partisan squabbles.The Federal Communications Commission passed on December 21 sweeping new rules relating to the broadband industry – but the ensuing debate is illustrating the depth of the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.

    The rule changes are, effectively, a vote in favor of "net neutrality," which deals with the restrictions that network operators may or may not put on internet access and content.

    Under the new rules, wired broadband companies are prohibited from giving some data – like their own or that of their business partners – priority over other data. And broadband firms have to provide full access to all legal content available on the web.

    While the rules sound relatively innocuous, they sparked a firestorm of debate.

    Indeed, even the FCC itself was divided over whether to put the overhaul in place. The FCC's three Democratic commissioners voted in favor of the net neutrality rules, while the two Republicans on the commission voted against them.

    Overall, the issue is breaking down on party lines, with consumer groups and Democrats in favor of the new regulation and Republicans and network operators opposed.

    For now, the Democrats have won – but with Republicans taking control of the House next month, some lawmakers may move to repeal the FCC's new regulations. Cliff Stearns, a GOP representative from Florida, has indicated his intention to do just that, as has Republican Senator Mary Kay Hutchison of Texas.

    And, as tech news site ZDNet.com notes, the rule changes only relate to wired broadband companies – wireless broadband operators were generally given carte blanche in how they choose to manage data traffic. For that reason, some consumer groups are only grudgingly supporting the FCC's new regulations.

    Related posts:

    1. Net neutrality issue underscores partisan divide The Federal Communications Commission passed on December 21 sweeping new...
    2. Governments provide or guarantee internet access Americans are in agreement that free speech is a fundamental...
    3. FCC’s Third Way plan may face House scrutiny A plan that would give the Federal Communications Commission regulatory...

    ]]>
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    EPA wavers on disclosure rule, but GHG regulations to move ahead http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead-2/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead-2/#comments Tue, 21 Dec 2010 11:00:00 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead-2/
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  • ]]>
    The EPA's tough new emissions rules are moving ahead, despite protests from the energy industry.The Environmental Protection Agency said December 17 that it would delay until as late as 2014 new regulations regarding large emitters' pollution disclosures – but the day also saw a victory of sorts for the agency in its bid to regulate greenhouse gases more closely.

    Under draft rules created several months ago, the EPA had proposed that big emitters like coal- and gas-fired power plants be forced to reveal to the public how many "inputs" – units of fuel, in other words – they consumed. That rule will still take effect, but it could be delayed by more than three years, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

    Businesses oppose input disclosures because they feel their fuel usage is tantamount to a trade secret, the news service said.

    Still, the EPA scored a pseudo-victory on December 17 when West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said he was dropping his bid to delay the agency's new GHG regulations for two more years.

    Citing a lack of bipartisan support, Rockefeller indicated that he would nevertheless introduce in 2011 new legislation to delay the EPA's rules. Coal is an important industry in West Virginia, so regulations affecting coal-fired power plants could have a deleterious effect on the state's economy.

    And, as ClimateWire reported December 20, companies in the energy industry are fretting about the EPA's new regulations. "There is a certain nervousness with regard to not knowing the answer to every question that is going to be raised," National Association of Clean Air Agencies director Bill Becker told the news service.

    But the EPA's rule changes are moving ahead – so energy companies have little choice but to adjust to the new regulatory regime.

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    2. U.S. government funds clean-coal research In an interesting example of a public-private research partnership, the...
    3. EPA proposal would slash emissions in 31 states and D.C. A proposal put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday...

    ]]>
    http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead-2/feed/ 0
    EPA wavers on disclosure rule, but GHG regulations to move ahead http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead/ http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead/#comments Tue, 21 Dec 2010 06:00:00 +0000 admin http://www.businesspolitics.org/2010/12/epa-wavers-on-disclosure-rule-but-ghg-regulations-to-move-ahead/
  • EPA wavers on disclosure rule, but GHG regulations to move ahead The Environmental Protection Agency said December 17 that it would...
  • U.S. government funds clean-coal research In an interesting example of a public-private research partnership, the...
  • EPA proposal would slash emissions in 31 states and D.C. A proposal put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday...
  • ]]>
    The EPA's tough new emissions rules are moving ahead, despite protests from the energy industry.The Environmental Protection Agency said December 17 that it would delay until as late as 2014 new regulations regarding large emitters' pollution disclosures – but the day also saw a victory of sorts for the agency in its bid to regulate greenhouse gases more closely.

    Under draft rules created several months ago, the EPA had proposed that big emitters like coal- and gas-fired power plants be forced to reveal to the public how many "inputs" – units of fuel, in other words – they consumed. That rule will still take effect, but it could be delayed by more than three years, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

    Businesses oppose input disclosures because they feel their fuel usage is tantamount to a trade secret, the news service said.

    Still, the EPA scored a pseudo-victory on December 17 when West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said he was dropping his bid to delay the agency's new GHG regulations for two more years.

    Citing a lack of bipartisan support, Rockefeller indicated that he would nevertheless introduce in 2011 new legislation to delay the EPA's rules. Coal is an important industry in West Virginia, so regulations affecting coal-fired power plants could have a deleterious effect on the state's economy.

    And, as ClimateWire reported December 20, companies in the energy industry are fretting about the EPA's new regulations. "There is a certain nervousness with regard to not knowing the answer to every question that is going to be raised," National Association of Clean Air Agencies director Bill Becker told the news service.

    But the EPA's rule changes are moving ahead – so energy companies have little choice but to adjust to the new regulatory regime.

    Related posts:

    1. EPA wavers on disclosure rule, but GHG regulations to move ahead The Environmental Protection Agency said December 17 that it would...
    2. U.S. government funds clean-coal research In an interesting example of a public-private research partnership, the...
    3. EPA proposal would slash emissions in 31 states and D.C. A proposal put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday...

    ]]>
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