Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Afghan Christian update

This article describes the U.S. response thus far and sheds some light on the relationship between the Afghan judiciary--described as "a bastion of conservative orthodoxy, largely unreformed despite the ouster of the Taliban more than four years ago"--and the Kabul regime.

The
Afghan Constitution, I should note, explicitly gives the President the power to reduce penalties and requires his approval for carrying out a death sentence.

There are, by the way, strong words in Der Spiegel (leider auf Deutsch; I’d translate, but that would deprive you of the incentive to learn a foreign language or practice one you already have).

Update: This guy has translated comments on the case from the Al Arabiya website.

Update #2: According to this story, the Afghan government is looking for a way out, perhaps by claiming that Mr. Rahman is mentally ill and hence not legally accountable for his apostasy. This smacks of the old Soviet move--unhappy with our communist utopia? you must be crazy!--and I’d prefer a bolder affirmation of religious freedom in a Muslim context. But it’s a start.

Last Update: Mollie Ziegler has more, including links to this London Times piece and this from the Chicago Tribune.

Really the Last Update: I should be so eloquent and so brief. I wonder if this issue was on the table at this meeting yesterday. Has any prominent American Muslim spoken out?

Discussions - 36 Comments

Nasty .... now, if we had a global supreme court .... maybe we could help this guy.


It’s clear though that if they go ahead, it’s going to cost them.

Funny, Brian, but even such an entity would not mean this man would survive, especially in light of most of the world’s notions on what constitutes the rights of man.

Funny, Brian, but even such an entity would not mean this man would survive, especially in light of most of the world’s notions on what constitutes the rights of man.


Supreme courts are almost always more reasonable than local courts. As evidenced by the US supreme court and the EU court of human rights.


If there was a international supreme court to appeal to, perhaps focusing on extreme sentences, there is no doubt in my mind that this sentence would be struck down.


But there isn’t, and so the EU and the US are threatening to withdraw aid from the whole of Afghanistan, resulting in widespread (additional) hardship. Just because we don’t have an international court of final appeal to mediate these stupid decisions.


Man that really sucks.

Brian:

There is something akin to a International Supreme Court; The UN’s International Court of Justice. However it only deals with relations between States, not relationships between a State and its citizen.

The International Court of Justice is something of a joke, and any International Court would be something of a joke. As with all judiciaries, an international court needs some sort of enforcement method (we would call this the executive). There are no enforcement methods in international law other than economic sancations and war, exactly what you decry.

As for your European Court of Human Rights, it has a mixed history at best. Some countries have obeyed its decisions, while others, such as Switzerland, have not. Refer to the Belilos case, 10 European Human Rights Repoerts 466 (1988).

Finally, all international courts require consent by States to have jurisdiction (see The Stautute of the International Court of Justice, Article 36). International Courts can only decide matters based on bilateral or multilateral treaties, so the treaties may be deficient in offering protection (they may allow reservations to particular substantive provisions), or States may not be parties to them.

To sum it up, International Courts offer little protection because they lack enforcement, jurisdiction, and international law itself is not very meaningful other than trade treaties.

such as Switzerland, have not. Refer to the Belilos case, 10 European Human Rights Repoerts 466 (1988).


That, might be because Switzerland is not in the European Union? An EU member state that ignored judgments would be in direct violation of their treaty obligations.


I’d be interested to know if you can dig up recent examples, say in the last 10 years of EU member states ignoring judgements.


Your argument seems to be that these instruments are not perfect, therefore we should abandon all attempts to improve them.


It’s on a par with the question "What use is a baby?".


To sum it up, International Courts offer little protection because they lack enforcement, jurisdiction, and international law itself is not very meaningful other than trade treaties.


Ummm .. yes .. and your point? I’m suggesting we provide for enforcement and jurisdiction.

Brian, you’ve just demonstrated why a global "supreme court" is impossible. Why would any state that practices Islamic law agree to join it, if there were any chance that such a court might overturn decisions made under that law?

So how would this global supreme court differ from the UN?

Brian, you’ve just demonstrated why a global "supreme court" is impossible


Not true John. I’ve just demonstrated that it would be hard, but that it is urgently needed.


How, easy it would have been to get a basket case state like Afghanistan to sign up to this, but nobody tried.


Besides, don’t dump this on me! This is a creation of your president. This, god help us, is the crown jewel in the Bush pre-emptive strategy.


I’m just using this to illustrate how a lack of arbitration leads to actions that suck millions of innocent people into their wake.


That is a terrible shame, and it should be changed.

What Brians wants is a very strong and vigorous one-world government.

He will use the very words of the United States founders in an attempt to support his assertions that such a government is in the best interest of man.

The problem his argument faces is that whereas the 13 colonies of America had commonalities, the various nations of the world vary drastically on the very basic fundamentals that draw people together into a society. Thusly, the compromise that would have to happen would mean that those people living under whatever amount of freedom they do have today will ultimately have to give up some or possibly all of their freedom to make any arrangement acceptable to those governments that think freedom is not acceptable at all.

This is why, Matt Mingus and Brian Coughlan, that such a government would be the demise of mankind. It would spiral man into absolute oppression and destruction.

Thusly, the compromise that would have to happen would mean that those people living under whatever amount of freedom they do have today will ultimately have to give up some or possibly all of their freedom to make any arrangement acceptable to those governments that think freedom is not acceptable at all.


Nonsense. All I am looking for can stated simply : the criminalisation of war.

So, freedom, the right to life and liberty, democracy, and the like are all secondary issues to you Brian?

So, then, I am going to assume that if the EU becomes a totalitarian state, you would be fine just so long as it doesn’t engage in war and war doesn’t come to your land?

So no war at any cost.

Good, then you should NOT be upset if we, the United States do act as you say we do, scoop you up, and place you into a cell in Gitmo for that, in and of itself, is not an act of war, but of policing, especially if done under the auspices of the UK government.

No war at any cost ...

Brian, do you honestly think that the freedoms that you enjoy today in Ireland, the UK, would have come about if many men held such notions?

Do you honestly think that the EU would have ever come about if men in power thought as you do when it comes to war?

Brian, do you honestly think that the freedoms that you enjoy today in Ireland, the UK, would have come about if many men held such notions?


No of course not. Injustice often has to be fought. However, these are not the wars we are talking about. The Iraq war was not an heroic battle waged against terrible odds. It was a dirty little land grab, under false pretenses that went wrong.


War should be criminalised,just as murder is criminalised. However, murderers get a trial, and so should those who choose war. If their reasons stand up to objective independent scrutiny, and I can imagine circumstances where this might be the case, they go free. If not, they do the time.


Why should any reasonable person be afraid of having their decisions scruitinised by an independent body?


Your comment about the EU though, that really was rather wacky. The genesis of the EU was in the ashes of WWII. It was people exactly like me that brought it into being. The reason they prevailed, was because the alternative was readily available for review.


Do you really think that no Germans or Frenchmen protested the pooling of sovreignity, the national surrender and arguable treason that the first treaties represented? Pull the other one!


The alternatives are not international anarchy or totalitarianism. This is a one dimensional horror story that survivalists in the midwest use to scare their children.


We need international law that works. I am certain that no one here agrees that afghans should be starved because one local judge makes a dreadful decision. However, absent an overarching global legal system bearing directly on global citizens, this is the gruesome option we are presented with.


Not even the most deranged right winger could consider this satisfactory.

Besides, don’t dump this on me! This is a creation of your president. This, god help us, is the crown jewel in the Bush pre-emptive strategy.

Oh, right, I forgot--it’s Bush’s fault. Okay, so let’s imagine the invasion of Afghanistan didn’t happen. Do you really believe that the Taliban would have willingly submitted to an international court on a matter that is purely domestic?

I’m just using this to illustrate how a lack of arbitration leads to actions that suck millions of innocent people into their wake.

Earlier you were talking about international arbitration in matters concerning international affairs. I’m still skeptical of that, but what you’re arguing now goes much deeper. This is submitting to international standards on domestic issues. How is that not precisely the sort of "one-world government" that you’ve denied supporting?

No, the EU would have never come about because you would have been under the control of the NAZIs or possibly the communists.

I am from Texas, nowhere near what is considered the midwest. I don’t harbor any survivalist mentality. Not many people in the United States do harbor such things.

The problem I have with Brian’s notions is that it presupposes that all men can behave in a rational manner and come to some sort of civil agreement. This flies in the face of human reality be it on the internation, national, state/province, local, or individual level.

The problem I have with Brian’s notions is that it presupposes that all men can behave in a rational manner and come to some sort of civil agreement. This flies in the face of human reality be it on the internation, national, state/province, local, or individual level.


No, it does not. It presupposes the exact opposite!


Law must be binding, it must impinge directly on the person, why? Because people are bastards.


Law is about restricting people from doing bad stuff to other people.


It seems incredible to me, that everyone that argues with me lives in a city, state or nation state ruled by law, but can’t make leap to a planet ruled by law. The entire quality of our lives flows from societies based on law.


On the on end of the spectrum you have a single person. Armed to the teeth, ready to fight and kill anyone who violates his individual statehood. On the other you have agreed law impinging directly on every person on the planet. In between you have cities, regions, nation states and supra-nation states like the EU and India.


I’m sure you can see that single person statehood, is ludicrous? Well any arrangement that does not encompass the whole is ludicrous for exactly the same reasons, the scale is the only thing that changes.

Do you really believe that the Taliban would have willingly submitted to an international court on a matter that is purely domestic?


No, of course not! Why would you even ask? Thats not the point! They were religious fanatics, nobody expects them to understand the need for compromise and give and take. Forgive me for expecting more from a sophisticated, developed world nation like the US.


This is submitting to international standards on domestic issues. How is that not precisely the sort of "one-world government" that you’ve denied supporting?


The EU does not have a proper over arching government. However, it does have agreed rules of conduct.


For example, no EU countries can have the death penalty, and as part of the accession process Turkey has abolished it. That is the kind of stucture I would envisage.


The details of this stuff will take significant working out. My own mind has changed many times on what would best, how it should be deployed, enforced etc.


However the principle of the thing is clear. Law needs to act directly on the individual citizen, otherwise each breach of the law has the potential to result in war.


Subsidiarity is a word that gets used a lot in the EU, it basically means that affairs should be handled at the correct level of government. Local, regional, nation state, EU. The same would apply here.


No one is interested in traffic fines in Kabul, but people being put to death for religious convictions? That gets bounced up a few levels.


Finally this : Turkey is an official candidate to join the European Union. Turkish European ambitions date back to 1963 Ankara Agreements. Turkey started preliminary negotiations on 3 October 2005. However, analysts believe 2015 is the earliest date the country can join the union due to the plethora of economic and social reforms it has to complete. Since it has been granted official candidate status, Turkey has implemented permanent policies on human rights, abolished the death penalty, granted cultural rights to its large Kurdish minority, and taken positive steps to solve the Cyprus question. However, due to its religious and cultural differences, Turkey faces strong opposition from governments of some member states, including France, Germany, Austria and Cyprus. The Greek government has supported the Turkish candidacy, while linking its progress with the resolution of the long standing Cyprus dispute.


Roughly 70 million people live in Turkey, people whose lives have changed dramatically for the better in the last 5 years. I would argue that more has been done by the EU to bring freedom to 70 million people in Turkey than anything that the US has done in either Afghanistan or Iraq.


Turkey is willingly submitting to EU law. Not a shot fired. Just a big mutually beneficial carrot, and a few very small sticks. Thats the way to do it.

No, of course not! Why would you even ask? Thats not the point! They were religious fanatics, nobody expects them to understand the need for compromise and give and take. Forgive me for expecting more from a sophisticated, developed world nation like the US.

Fine, but how does that jibe with this:

now, if we had a global supreme court .... maybe we could help this guy.

A global supreme court could only help this guy if his government was willing to accede to it--but you’ve already admitted that this won’t happen. So we go in circles, resulting in something like this: if we had the sort of world made up of governments that would surrender their sovereignty to a global supreme court, we wouldn’t need a global supreme court. But we don’t, so we do. But it’s impossible. Q.E.D.

Turkey officially bannign the death penalty was not a big leap, it was just a formality.

It was de facto banned since the mid-1980s.

The interesting question is what happens when an EU member decides to break one of the EU conditions as described in comment 17. For example, France decides to reinstate the death penalty for whatever reason. I assume some citizen could bring suit in the EU Court. The EU Court decides the death penalty is illegal. France decides to ignore the EU court. Does the EU executive council, or whatever it has, have the right to send EU troops (including French troops) into France to enforce the court order, or does the executive council kick France out of the EU, impose economic sanctions, or what? I have a suspicion nothing would happen if a big powerful EU country (such as France or Germany) ignored the EU Court. The EU might be able to bully Greece or some other po-dunk nation into obeying its court, but bigger nations simply would not obey if the matter were that important to them and their citizens.

When Brown v. Board was decided Eisenhower had to send in troops to enforce the order. This was not regarded as an act of war (except by a small percentage of Southerners), but rather as enforcement. The feeling is completely different when the EU council orders EU troops into a country. It will be seen as war.

By the way, Turkey still refuses to recognize Cyprus, which is an EU member. That is interesting for it could imply that Turkey is not being honest in its negotiations for membership.

I’ll give you this, Turkey has come a long way in regards to human rights, but it still has a long, long way to go. Even today, torture, that is REAL torture and not college pranks, is common in Turkey.

Mornin’ Brian,

That said (I hate trite expressions) I don’t think anyone here disagrees with you that carrots are good. Neither do I think, however, that you will disagree that sticks are sometimes necessary. As I said yesterday, sometimes negotiation is not an option.

More importantly, before the courts can do their work, the police have to do theirs. We cannot put Usama bin Laden on trial, for instance, before he is caught (I assume you would not be in favor of trials of mass murderers, like bin Laden, in absentia, denying them the right to defend themselves). Further, some people are so good at not getting caught, that a lot of bloodshed results from the effort to catch them, even the bloodshed of innocents. I know it comes as no solace to you that the U.S. military and its coalition partners are trying to keep bloodshed of innocents to a minimum and have been more successful at that than any military has ever been before. And I need not remind you that it is al qaeda which targets innocents, not "bored soldier".

Finally, let me ask you, what would you have done if you were President of the United States on 9-11-01, keeping in mind the attack on that day was not an isolated incident, that there had been a history of attacks by al qaeda on the U.S.? How would you deal with anyone who says to you "God tells me to kill your people?" These are not rhetorical questions. I really would like to know.

A global supreme court could only help this guy if his government was willing to accede to it--but you’ve already admitted that this won’t happen. So we go in circles, resulting in something like this: if we had the sort of world made up of governments that would surrender their sovereignty to a global supreme court, we wouldn’t need a global supreme court. But we don’t, so we do. But it’s impossible. Q.E.D.


John, our discussion is foundering on the following point. You seem to think that any arrangement must crystalize perfectly and fully formed from thin air, or make no effort. I think we should start, and recognise that it will be hard.


I base this on my experience of the EU. It’s acromonious budget debates, the alarming example (although yet to happen) cited above, large countries already blowing off borrowing restrictions for countries within the euro zone. I know this happens. Every system has it’s flaws, and pitfalls.


However, that does not mean we should not try, or start, with the countries that would willingly get on board. The most powerful country in the world agreeing to a level playing field, would send a powerful signal.

By the way, Turkey still refuses to recognize Cyprus, which is an EU member. That is interesting for it could imply that Turkey is not being honest in its negotiations for membership.


They want to join, thats clear. Consistently 70%+ of the population have polled as positive to EU membership. The Cyprus thing is a sticking point, but both the EU and UN have had a few guys at resolving it. These kind of conflicts are difficult. Both sides feel wronged, and both sides want their cake.


We’ll just have to keep pounding away at it.


Turkey however is only the most recent nation that has been nudged in the direction of broader freedom by the EU. Let’s not forget Spain, Greece and Portugal. All military dictatorships gradually converted to the good life through the carrot/no carrot approach with nary a shot fired. Thats 66 million people all told.


I actually used to be a full blown federalist, but I’ve gone off that. The EU has the right level of integration. Big enough to be too large to attack, yet so poorly controlled centrally that attacking as a collective entity would only occur in a dire emergency. That makes "soft power" the preferred choice for the EU, and that is absolutely the way to go.

How would you deal with anyone who says to you "God tells me to kill your people?" These are not rhetorical questions. I really would like to know.


You can’t. You need to arrest them and try them for their crimes. But you need to punish them.


We are really on the same page here. However, were we depart ways is methodology. You should not do it by sending in 150K troops, and conducting weeks of bombing.


Those conducting the bombing know that innocent people will be killed. The risks are often calculated in advance. That is unconsionable, it is collective punishment. Similar to razing a village to the ground and killing all the villagers because one of your troops was killed by ... someone.


You will hate to hear this, but bombing from the air, is in my view(almost) as indiscriminate as any suicide bomber. Certainly, the outcomes are indistinguishable. A bunch of innocents, and maybe a "bad guy" or two (remember this is just perspective talking, not my view) get toasted.


From our perspective, the primary bad guy is Saddam, and we’ve got him, and thats super, but at what cost?


Lets assume for a second, that US deaths are the only ones to have occurred. That means the US lost 2,300 troops, and spent $250 Billion to apprehend one man. Those are pretty terrible odds. The question "could there be a better way?" almost seems facetious in this context.


Given that this is my position. I think that much tighter laws should be agreed as regards how we deal with people like Saddam, at least between the democracies.


Warrants, in situ arrest attempts, travel bans, personal finance bans, warrants for those empowering and facilitating those under suspicion. The list of instruments, some pretty draconian, is lengthy.


The ICC is a step in the right direction and the US should sign up to it, and yes there are risks, but the alternative is endless planet Somalia.

You know what the worst about this Iraq thing is? It’s completely poisoned the well for future military intervention.


There are circumstances, Kosovo and East Timor spring to mind, where military intervention is the only way to prevent a greater disaster in the fairly immediate term.


The Iraq intervention, because of the perceived false pretences and the terrible civilian death toll, has completely screwed us for the real "happening now" atrocities of the future. It will be almost impossible to muster a cynical public when we really should intervene.

Before we went into Iraq, I wanted to get Saddam the way you suggest, by sending in special forces teams to find him and take him out. Just him. It was only after we went in that I realized there were a lot more hench men running Iraq than just him and that we had to take all of them out....or to put it in a less hawkish way, to neutralize them. We didn’t just go into Iraq to get Saddam and leave his regime in place, we went in to force a regime change. We couldn’t have done it with special forces alone.

And was it worth it? I think yes:

http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/011/990ieqmb.asp
http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/011/990ieqmb.asp?pg=2
http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013438.php#013438
http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/products-docex.htm

Ahhh Kosovo ...

UN wouldn’t allow peace keapers in Kosovo after the Dayton Accords.

In 1996, the KLA began its military march.

Still no action from anyone except for the US calling the KLA terrorists.

Then, in 1997 Albania’s government collapses. The Serbs, being tired of harrassed by the KLA begin their brutish reprisals.

Still ... nada from the international community

In 1998, the fighting between the two groups displaced thousands of Albanias and hundreds had been killed. Former Yugoslavia is truly on the verge of civil war.

In 1998 the international community decided action needed to be taken and brough in OSCE peace monitors in Kosovo. This did stop the fighting temporarily, but these folks had no real authority other than to report so the fighting continued. Moreover, the stated goal during that time was to persuade the Serbs to stop and try to get the KLA to not continue fulfilling its goal of independence. Oh yeah, there was one more goal, get Milosevic to allow NATO peacekeapers in Kosovo. This international adventure failed on all accounts!

Then in 1999, you had Milosevic and his troops massacred 45 Albanians.

Of course, the international community decided that talks with the threat of military strikes would work. They didn’t. Milosevic stayed in power.

Then, also in 1999, we had our international bombing campaign, spearheaded, of course, by the United States.

The stated goal was to get the Serb military out and get the refugees back in.

Result ....

MORE REFUGEES FLEE THE AREA! 200,000 folks fled and/or were expelled!

During the bombings, the Serbs, under Milosevic not only continued the genocidal military actions, but actually stepped them up.

This pathetic attempt at stopping Milosevic convinced the international community that more military intervention was needed and instead of just trying to bomb high value military targets, they decided that that more individual, less value military targeting should be implemented. However, you could target if you gained approval from all the members of the military coalition.

It should be noted that the legality of the NATO action was being questioned for it did not have the backing of the UN. Hmmmm ... sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Also, it should be noted that in America, the military action was being slammed by the left and by the right, but there was much protest for the media dowplayed the mistakes, bombing of China’s embassies and the failure to oust Milosevic, and focused on the genocide and the refugees. But, hey, it WAS a Democrat who was in power and the principle figure in this military action.

Also, charges that the Clinton and his administrion lied to get us into Kosovo were thrown about and did have some validity to them.

Oh, what about Milosevic?

He and his military survived the bombings virtually unscathed. It was in 2000 that he was was ousted from power. You can say the the Kosova action played a part in his eventual demise, but it had no immediate effect on his power!

So, go ahead, use Kosovo as an example of us doing go, but the reality of much more different.

By the way, what is the status Kosovo today in 2006? It is still a UN protectorate.

One last thing, this supposed ’clean’ war killed civilians, lots of them, thousands of them.

You can easily say that it was the people of Kosovo that payed the price of the NATO military action!

Corrections ...

Also, it should be noted that in America, the military action was being slammed by the left and by the right, but there was NOT much protestING AGAINST THE WAR for the media dowplayed the mistakes, bombing of China’s embassies and the failure to oust Milosevic, and focused on the genocide and the refugees. But, hey, it WAS a Democrat who was in power and the principle figure in this military action.

So, go ahead, use Kosovo as an example of us doing goOD, but the reality of much more different.

Addition ...

What was one other reason why the United States decided to spearhead the NATO, non-UN approved, military action ...

"What’s the use of having the world’s best military when you don’t get to use them?" - Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State

What is interesting is that even General Wesley Clark, the US general who commanded the NATO military action publicly stated that the action was illigal!

Matter of fact, you can blame Clark and Clinton for the ineptness of the action, but, hey, President Bush is the one who lied and started an illegal war for nefarious reasons.

All points conceeded.


I’m just noting that military action can sometimes be unavoidable. I think Kosovo maybe comes close to qualifying. It was focused, it was quick and it prevented (of course we can never know this for certain) an attempted genocide.


I agree with you that Kosovo was not as neat or tidy or ideal as anyone would like.


Part of the problem is that we are reluctant to commit troops to protect civilians. Western armies are geared up to pound the enemy from a safe distance, and only go in when the enemy has been completely flattened.


This is a rational policy which results in fewer troop casualties (which is fine if you are fighting a genuine war), but much higher civilian casualties.


My ultimate point stands. A genuine effort to deploy binding law, spearheaded by the US, would eventually deliver.

As for East Timor, well ... just how successful has the international community been in catching those that were indicted on war crimes? Not very successful at all, matter of fact, the vast majority of those indicted are still free.

And, by the way, the United States and the UK was supportive of Indonesia and its invasion till about 1999 according to recently unclassed US and UK government documents.

Now, I am not saying action should not have been taken.

What I am saying is that I find it hard to take when I see words from you stating that President Bush lied and that our actions in Iraq are illegal and then use Kosovo and East Timor as examples of how things should have been done.

Lastly, Brian, please, don’t take some of my caustic rhetoric to mean I hate you personally, for I don’t.

And, by the way, the United States and the UK was supportive of Indonesia and its invasion till about 1999 according to recently unclassed US and UK government documents.


Yeah, I know. I was aware of indonesian activities in east timor, way back in 1994/5. I never protested though, I guess I should have:-(


The inconsistency you point out merely strengthens the argument for real, even playing field, binding, "ouch-it bites-I’ve-been-arrested-while holidaying-in-Majorca" law.

Lastly, Brian, please, don’t take some of my caustic rhetoric to mean I hate you personally, for I don’t.


Not at all. I don’t think that for a moment. This is one the best sites I’ve been on. Right or left I have to say.


A back slapping "bush sucks" fest isn’t informative for anyone, and it doesn’t help me get my head around the real arguments.


People really engage here, they may think I’m bonkers but at least they engage:-)

Oh, come on, Brian. Just admit that what you really like here is that every comment you make gets its own special gray box, and your name is highlighted at the top, unlike those other blogs where you just feel like a number! ;)

you really like here is that every comment you make gets its own special gray box, and your name is highlighted at the top


I do like that:-)


Seriously though, many sites with the general views held here, simply ban me after 2 posts.


On the left wing sites, most of the time is spent talking about how dreadful the GOP, and GWB are.


Plus, it’s sort of quiet here. There isn’t frenetic traffic on every thread, so you can actually have a dialouge.

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