Matt Hancock: he was a Covid-19 super-spreader so it should be no surprise that his employees on the ‘track and trace’ programme have been publicising patients’ confidential information. It is a criminal offence and he should be punished by a judge. What do you think will happen?
Isn’t this criminal stupidity?
The Tories have been telling us their ‘test and trace’ app for finding people who’ve had Covid-19, in order to isolate those they’ve contacted, is vital to prevent the spread of the disease – and therefore stop unnecessary deaths.
But now we learn that it breaches privacy laws, with Sky News reporting that the programme’s staff have been sharing private information about patients on the social media.
What a Hobson’s Choice we’ve had – refuse to use the app and Tory twits like Matt Hancock accuse us of betraying the campaign against the virus; but if we do use it, our intimate personal information goes public!
It turns out that critics of the scheme, the Open Rights Group, were right and the government did not conduct a data privacy impact assessment (DPIA) which is required to ensure that breaches of patients’ information don’t take place.
But a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said there was “no evidence of data being used unlawfully” – and then clammed up when asked if a Sunday Times report that this is exactly what has happened was accurate.
The Open Rights Group reckons it has already seen evidence of confidential track and trace information being shared on social media – and This Writer is certainly more inclined to believe that organisation than a government that has built up a record of relentless incompetence.
Can anybody tell me a single thing the Tories have got right since December 13, 2019?
Of course, breach of Data Protection laws is a criminal offence and the person directly responsible for this one will be the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, one Matt Hancock.
How lucky he must feel, knowing that as a Tory minister he is above the law and the police wouldn’t touch him even if he committee murder on television.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Not for sale: That’s unless you live in North West London, it seems.
More than two million Londoners are set to have their NHS services rationed in a scheme to save cash that may do little for their health.
The Tories are using North West London as a testing ground for the scheme that will deprive patients of essential NHS services in order to save £60 million.
That’s right – unlike previous schemes that targeted elective treatments, this round of cuts will take away services that patients need.
I recall reporting on the rationing of hip operations in 2017. At the time I stated that I foresaw huge extra costs: “Either you spend a fortune having your hip operation done by a private company, or you cost the NHS a fortune in unnecessary further costs from delayed treatment and pain management.”
I think many Londoners may be induced into forking out to have their care provided by a private company – and/or having to rely on the NHS for help to manage complications caused by the rationing.
The programme of cuts was announced on the same day Boris Johnson reinforced a commitment to NHS spending. But then, what are his promises worth?
Apparently the NHS in that part of London has racked up debts of more than £120 million. I wonder how much of that has been caused by spending on unnecessary profit-driven health “care” companies?
Services to be hit include:
• Patients currently receiving treatment from more than one consultant may no longer be able to access treatment from both or all of the specialists.
• “Repatriation” of some acute treatment from various specialist hospitals to local ones.
• New scrutiny – described as “demand management” – of GPs who refer patients for acute treatment, with GPs being asked to look at “alternative ways” of dealing with patients’ needs.
• Reduction in intravenous feeds through “better prescribing”.
According to The Guardian,
North-west London has previously been the testing ground for major NHS blueprints across the country, such as Shaping A Healthier Future, a failed hospital closure programme which wasted £76m on management consultants alone.
Health campaigners fear that the cuts to essential NHS acute services contained in the list could be rolled out nationwide to deal with budget shortfalls.
I wonder how the Tories plan to hide the adverse effect of their changes on NHS patients?
Will they pretend the problems they create have “many causes”, as they do with the deaths of benefit claimants?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
One man and his (Nazi) dog: Mark Meechan, otherwise known as “Count Dankula”, with the dog he taught to Nazi salute when he shouted “Gas the Jews!”
What kind of a person calls himself “Count Dankula”, anyway?
Not a very nice one, to judge by his actions.
Mark Meechan, who is better-known under that bizarre brand, was convicted of an anti-Semitic hate crime last year after he filmed and broadcast a clip of his girlfriend’s dog performing a Nazi salute while he repeatedly shouted, “Gas the Jews!”
Apparently this is not enough to earn him the opprobrium reserved for people on the Left who have had their names mentioned in connection with anti-Semitism.
We had a clear demonstration of that when Rachel Riley, the Countdown co-host who is quick to condemn Labour Party members and supporters she is told are anti-Semitic, spoke up in favour of this “Dankula”:
Now BBC Scotland is giving a platform to this right-wing anti-Semite.
According to reports across the mainstream media, “Count Dankula” will be featured alongside James English – who admitted assaulting and spitting on a woman in 2015 – and dominatrix Megara Furie in a new talk show tackling controversial topics.
So we come to the headline on this very article. Do you think it is reasonable to suggest that featuring “Count Dankula” on a BBC programme indicates supporting right-wing anti-Semitism? I do.
As you can see from that piece, the BBC has refused to discuss the amount being paid to “Count Dankula” – which implies that he is at least being paid something.
He would not have been invited to participate in this show if he did not have a reputation as a controversial character, and that reputation is based on the anti-Semitic video clip.
And, whether he is being paid or not, mere exposure to the public of this kind will undoubtedly boost this man’s popularity.
So it seems clear that the BBC is rewarding this man for anti-Semitism. That is support.
We’ve heard supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and high-profile members of Labour who have been linked with false accusations of anti-Semitism have been labelled the “wrong kind of Jew”, to quote an unsavoury phrase.
Are we to conclude that there is now a “right kind of Jew-hater“, to coin an equally-unsavoury phrase?
And what are we to make of BBC coverage of the Labour anti-Semitism row?
How can we trust the BBC’s impartiality when it vilifies left-wingers who face the flimsiest accusations of anti-Semitism – and employs somebody who has been convicted of an anti-Semitic hate crime?
Heaven forbid that BBC executives should actually admit bowing to the will of the public who pay their enormous salaries!
I stand by my words. The decision was made to include a man convicted of anti-Semitic hate crime in a BBC show. Whoever commissioned it knew what he was and so did whoever approved the commission. Weasel words won’t get around that.
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Esther McVey: Charities signing up as contractors for the DWP are under orders never to criticise the Tory government’s current killer-in-chief.
What is the point of the Royal National Institute for the Blind if it can’t speak up for blind people who are mistreated by the government?
That is the meaning of the clauses in contracts drawn up between the Department for Work and Pensions and charities that have agreed to help deliver the new Work and Health programme.
This Site has mentioned this project before – and not in a positive manner, so it is unsurprising that the Tories are trying to gag those who are most likely to witness the harm their policies do.
And of course the Gagging Act – that is, the Transparency of Lobbying, Third Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act – already ensured that charities must not speak out against the Conservatives during election periods.
With charities increasingly reliant on government funding, the latest incentive for them to do as they’re told like good little sheep is unlikely to face more than token claims that it won’t make any difference (as demonstrated in the Disability News Service article quoted below).
This means the most effective protesters against government mistreatment of people with long-term illnesses and disabilities are now becoming willing accomplices to the grave and systematic violations of those people’s rights – as defined by the United Nations.
It’s all part of the Conservative hate programme against people with disabilities, people without homes, and – as we’ve seen over the last few days – people from other countries who have made their homes in the UK.
A recent claim that Tory policies were reminiscent of Nazi Germany was condemned by many. But with whom would you compare them?
Disability charities that sign up to help deliver the government’s new Work and Health Programme must promise to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, official documents suggest.
The charities, and other organisations, must also promise never to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in McVey (pictured) or her Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Disability charities like RNIB, the Royal Association for Deaf People and Turning Point have agreed to act as key providers of services under the Work and Health Programme – which focuses on supporting disabled people and other disadvantaged groups into work – and so appear to be caught by the clause in the contract.
At least one of them – RNIB – has also signed contracts with one of the five main WHP contractors that contain a similar clause, which explicitly states that the charity must not “attract adverse publicity” to DWP and McVey.
The £398 million, seven-year Work and Health Programme is replacing the Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice disability employment scheme across England and Wales, with contractors paid mostly by results.
All the disability charities that have so far been contacted by Disability News Service (DNS) insist that the clause – which DWP says it has been using in such contracts since 2015 – will have no impact on their willingness to criticise DWP and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey or campaign on disability employment or benefits issues.
But the existence of the clause, and the first details to emerge of some of the charities that have agreed to work for DWP – which has been repeatedly attacked by disabled activists and academics for harassing and persecuting disabled people, and relying on a discriminatory benefit sanctions regime to try to force them into work – will raise questions about their ability and willingness to do so.
Anger: People taking part in a welfare-to-work protest in London in 2012 [Image: PA].
We know from the Autumn Statement that Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements are being scrapped.
This has been welcomed by organisations like Boycott Workfare, who have campaigned against the enforced “work 30 hours per week for your benefits” schemes ever since they were introduced in 2011.
But it is only being replaced by something which is potentially much worse: the so-called Work and Health Programme.
According to the Daily Mirror, this new scheme aims to help long-term sick people find a job, “but a DWP spokesman could not confirm whether it will involve forced labour because the details have not yet been drawn up”.
To This Writer, it seems like an amalgamation of the ‘workfare’ schemes with the current ‘Health and Work Service’. You see? All they’ve done is reverse the words.
Health and Work is intended to prevent people from taking sick leave from their jobs that lasts any longer than four weeks (if This Writer recalls correctly).
Current operator Maximus (which also operated the Work Programme in a clear conflict of interest) was tasked with running a “work-focused occupational health assessment” which “will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly”.
So it seems the scheme will be rolled out to lump in people who have jobs – but are ill – with people who don’t have jobs and make them all jump through the same hoops in order to keep their benefits or sick pay.
Health won’t get a look-in and it seems likely that the scheme will make sick workers even less able to return to their jobs than if they are left alone to get on with it. In other words, they’ll be treated like ESA claimants.
This seems extremely contradictory.
On one hand, the Conservative Government is saying it is trying to get as many people off benefits and into work as possible, but on the other hand, the same Tories are saying once you get into work, you’d better not get sick, because you’ll be treated like a person on benefits!
It’s another incremental erosion of the rights of UK citizens, reminiscent of the words of Adolf Hitler: “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
But then, so much of the Conservative Government’s behaviour is directly relatable to the Nazis – especially where the Department for Work and Pensions is concerned (“Arbeit macht frei”, Mr Duncan Smith?) so perhaps we should not be surprised.
All this is mere speculation, of course.
It will be interesting to see how much of it corresponds with the reality – when the DWP finally unveils it.
At last the Torygraph comes out with an article that tries to make the Zombie Economy seem like a good thing.
The idea is to make slaves out of every working person in the UK, by ensuring that their taxes do not pay for services, but instead service the ever-mounting debts racked up by right-wing governments such as we have at the moment.
IMF economists cited research by Moody’s Analytics that suggested countries such as the UK, US and Canada could afford to live “forever” with relatively high debt shares compared with their pre-crisis averages.
… claims the Torygraph‘s Szu Ping Chan.
We can conclude that the so-called ‘developing’ nations were offered the same language by the IMF when it imposed ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ on them. These SAPs perform several functions as follows:
They enforce the sale of nationalised industries and resources (mostly to foreign-owned investors and governments.
They remove capital controls on money flowing into and out of the country.
They dictate the level of public spending.
They prioritise debt repayments and corporate welfare over infrastructure development and personal welfare (the good of a company becomes more important than the good of the people).
And they demand wage suppression and the restriction of labour unions.
As you can see, much of this is already taking place in the UK.
It is a way to force neoliberal economics onto a country without having to worry about getting the people to vote for it (even though, bizarrely, the UK did vote for it last month).
Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s extremely useful book Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economystates: “Structural Adjustment Programmes are now being rolled out across Europe, disguised as ‘Austerity Programmes’ – to reorientate European economies toward servicing the debt economy. Central banks are lending to stabilise national economies that have been broken by the cost of bailing out other banks. The central banks make these funds contingent upon the national government imposing an Austerity programme.”
And you know what the worst of it is?
The whole point of the ‘Austerity programme’ is that you can never pay your way out of it.
Look at the amount of debt that George Osborne has racked up in just five years.
No doubt some of you will scream that this post is overdramatizing, but the consequences of further fiscal consolidation (that’s austerity to most of us), as laid out in Professor Simon Wren-Lewis’s latest Mainly Macroarticle, seem undeniable.
He tells us the National Institute has used the model NIGEM to analyse the macroeconomic impact of the different political parties’ fiscal plans post-2015, which is published in the latest Review. (Chris Giles has a FT write-up.) The result: The more fiscal austerity you undertake, and if monetary policy fails to perfectly offset the impact on demand, the lower output will be.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see what this means, if we get another Conservative, or Tory-led, government. Lower output means a lower tax take, therefore less money to spend on the NHS and welfare benefits (areas like Defence and International Development will always have funds – we can’t let ourselves go defenceless and we must continue our programmes of cultural imperialism, after all).
So further Tory austerity instantly implies the imposition of even harsher standards of qualification for state benefits, pushing even more vulnerable, sick and disabled people off the books and into their graves. We’ve all known that voting Tory is an endorsement of state-sponsored suicide but it’s time we all owned up to it.
It means the sale of the National Health Service in England to private companies will be accelerated, with consequent impacts on the amount of grant funding for the health service in the other UK countries; the service will continue to worsen and even more deaths will be the result.
But the Tories will want to pretend to the media that all is well, which means an increased push to get people into part-time, temporary or zero-hours work, and an increased number of benefit claimants being funnelled into work activity programmes that, in fact, reduce the number of available jobs. The resulting low-pay economy is exactly what the Conservatives want; the workers will be kept down and the employers can pocket the profits.
Nobody in the government or even the Bank of England will tell you this because, it seems, they haven’t done any analysis and won’t make any such forecasts.
The Office for Budget Irresponsibility is not allowed to look at alternative fiscal policies in the short term and must therefore put the bravest possible face on what is offered to it – that is why every single forecast to come out of that organisation has been hopelessly optimistic.
We’re back to evidenceless policies again. The Tories are saying “everything will be okay”, because – for them – it will be. They and their rich friends will have loads of cash. Who cares that the entire infrastructure of the United Kingdom – and the British way of life – will be dismantled and disappearing from under them?
Think this is overexaggerating? Let’s go back to Prof Wren-Lewis and examine the Tories’ record. He writes: “If you go back to 2010, the OBR’s main forecast didn’t look too bad: the recovery was continuing, and interest rates were able to rise as a result.
“But good policy does not just look at central projections, but it also looks at risks. Then, the risks were asymmetric: if the recovery became too strong, interest rates could always rise further too cool things, but if the recovery did not happen, interest rates would be stuck at their lower bound and monetary policy would be unable to keep the recovery on track.
“In 2010 and beyond that downside risk came to pass [bolding mine], and the recovery was delayed. Fiscal policy put the economy in a position where it was particularly vulnerable to downside risks, which is why it was an entirely foreseeable mistake.
“Exactly this point applies to 2015 and beyond. The problem with further fiscal consolidation while interest rates remain at their lower bound is that it makes the economy much more vulnerable to downside risks.”
In other words, it seems Conservative policy, as set down by History graduate and towel-folder George Osborne, deliberately weakened this country’s ability to recover from the crash of 2008 and afterwards.
How secure is you job? How safe are your savings?
Do you really want to risk them on more Tory bungling?
Why are we being asked to believe it is such a surprise that the number of working people who have to rely on housing benefit has doubled in the last five years – at huge cost to the taxpayer?
It is all part of the “long-term economic plan” that the Conservatives keep mentioning, every chance they get.
That plan is to provide government support to major employers and to private landlords rather than the people who need it.
We know that the Conservatives have spent almost 40 years working to undermine working people, with policies designed to increase financial insecurity among those who have to work for a living. For example, the humbling of the unions ensured that increasingly meagre pay settlements would contribute to an ever-widening gap between the lowest and the highest rates of pay. Huge amounts of wealth have been transferred from the masses to an ever-smaller ‘elite’, guaranteeing their support for the Tories.
Ever-diminishing pay and rising living costs have meant that increasing numbers of people have had to claim benefits, even though they have been in full-time work. Again, this attacks people on low and middle incomes, rather than those who are paid the most; people in the highest tax brackets have been able to take advantage of legal tax avoidance schemes, some of which have been created by the current Chancellor, George Osborne. That has left those on lower pay scales to subsidise housing benefit through the taxes they pay – another drain on their resources.
Depressed rates of pay for those in work have necessitated government action on benefits for the unemployed, in order to justify claims that the Coalition has been “making work pay”. This has meant below-inflation increases in out-of-work benefits that have made them inadequate to cover living costs, forcing the unemployed to face the possibility of losing their homes and possessions to the bailiffs as their debts mount up. In order to avoid this, they find themselves forced to accept work at ridiculously low rates of pay, if they can find it.
A consequence of all this is that private landlords benefit from increased inflows of housing benefit into their pockets. The law allows them to increase their rents in line with the going rate, with no reference to tenants’ ability to pay; housing benefit is then used to help tenants achieve that amount, but it is the landlord who benefits from the increase – not the tenant. These are people who are already, by definition, well-off – otherwise they would not have been able to buy the property and make it fit to rent out.
The Conservatives’ “long-term economic plan” is to leech wealth from anybody poorer than them and create a new feudalism, with themselves as lords and everybody else as vassals, only able to make a living under conditions granted by the moneyed few; a modern slave-state.
According to The Independent, the cost to the taxpayer of in-work benefits will be £6 billion by 2018-19, nearly triple the £2.2 billion it cost in 2009-10. LabourList reckons the total cost of in-work poverty by 2019 will be more than double that amount, at £12.9 billion.
The total cost of housing benefit has already almost tripled, from £8.8 billion in 1990 to £24.4 billion now – despite the apparent efforts of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions. This is because all their cost-cutting efforts have been about finding ways of denying the benefit to people who deserve it.
Helping people earn enough to obviate the need for housing benefit runs contrary to the “long-term economic plan”, you see.
And what do you think this says about where the benefits of economic growth are going?
The Independent article states that the Department for Work and Pensions has claimed the number of unemployed housing benefit claimants has fallen since 2010, arguing that it is better for people to be employed, paying taxes and contributing towards their rents than to be “languishing” on out-of-work benefits, living on government payouts.
Technically, this may seem like a good argument. The minimum wage for full-time work is £11,700 per year, more than the increased tax threshold introduced by the Coalition government – but this means that, with Income Tax at 20 per cent, a full-time worker would lose one-fifth of everything earned above the £10,000 threshold, passing just £340 on to the government. They are likely to receive more than that in housing benefit. And the level of pay is still a pittance.
Worse still, a drop in the number of unemployed claimants does not mean they have all found jobs. Some will have been pushed off the system by the Bedroom Tax, which has made it impossible for some households to meet their rent commitments.
And there is no guarantee that the extra working people are paying taxes either – they might be self-employed (or claiming to be self-employed – see earlier VP articles on the subject) who are not earning anything like enough money to provide for themselves; they might be on zero-hours contracts – technically in work but on health-endangering wages; they might even be on a government-mandated Workfare scheme, in which case their only pay will be state benefits.
Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, claimed that the Coalition government had taken action to get the system under control by capping benefits “so no family can claim more than the average family gets by going out to work and we’ve put an end to unlimited housing benefit”.
He added that Labour voted against the cap, and against a general limit on benefits.
Harper’s claim that the system under the previous Labour administration “saw some people claiming £104,000 a year,” is also disingenuous as it related to a handful of people in specific circumstances. None of them are receiving anything like that amount now, and it is unclear whether this had anything to do with Coalition policies.
Labour, on the other hand, has hit the nail squarely on the head by pointing out that the rise in benefit claims is entirely due to the Tory-led Coalition’s failure to tackle low pay, insecure work and the cost of living crisis – although the opposition party stopped short of actually claiming that this was the plan all along.
The party has said that, if elected into office, it would build more homes and cap rents, easing the excessive demand that has made it possible for landlords to demand more and preventing abuse of the rental market.
Frack Cameron: In advance of a new bill to allow fracking under private homes, Greenpeace did this to David Cameron’s Chipping Norton home. Fair comment?
Picture the scene if you can: Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty is seated, getting on with monarchical business. A staff member knocks and enters with an envelope from Downing Street, containing the proposed text of the Queen’s Speech, which is swiftly opened.
HM takes out a single piece of paper, scans it, turns it over (the back is blank). She speaks:
“Is this it?”
Yup. We could well be about to hear the shortest Queen’s Speech in the history of broadcasting. The evening news bulletins will probably be able to broadcast it in its entirety, instead of the usual excerpts.
Only 11 new bills are to go before Parliament. They involve:
Plans to change the pension system (again), split among two bills – look out, pensioners!
A bill to make it easier for companies to frack for gas under private property – look out, homeowners!
Measures to implement a promise to provide up to £2,000 worth of free childcare – probably not enough.
A proposed right for voters to recall their MP – to be judged by other MPs if the rumours are correct. Corruption?
The outlawing of “modern slavery” – except, one presumes, that enshrined in law by this government’s own Mandatory Work Activity schemes.
Powers to tackle lawyers and other professionals who help criminal gangs – clearly, in this world of government-aided tax evasion (for example), they are helping the wrong criminal gangs.
Measures to tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts – one can’t help feeling that the Tories were shamed into this one by bad publicity.
Legal protection for people carrying out “good deeds” such as volunteering or planning local events, who become involved in liability claims. Can you spot the opportunities for corruption in this?
The curb on public sector employees claiming huge redundancy payments and then taking new jobs in the same sector, that was mentioned on this blog recently.
Help for pub landlords.
And a plan to charge 5p for plastic bags in England – copying a successful scheme in Wales. Doesn’t this government mock Wales as a failure? Why, then, is it copying Wales?
Six more bills have been carried over from the last Parliamentary session – which wasn’t exactly brimming with work either.
Considering the scale of the problems facing the UK – many of which have arisen because of Coalition government policies – it is a hopelessly inadequate programme of government.
David Cameron and Nick (who?) Clegg have claimed it shows the government is still capable of “taking bold steps”. Baby steps, more like!
Angela Eagle, Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons, responded: “Just because the government announced it’s a bold programme, that does not mean actually that it is.”
What do you think? Do you think the bills listed above with do anything to solve Britain’s biggest problems?
According to the text, the DWP reckons more than 78,000 “opportunities for disabled people” have been created since 2011, where they have either found a job or “taken a significant step towards the workplace”.
But the logic falls down when you get to the quotation from Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of Easyjet. He said: “Already over 100,000 disabled entrepreneurs employ an equivalent number of people in their business start-ups.”
Firstly, in the light of other quoted statistics that say 21,000 (of the 78,000 initially mentioned) have been on work experience placement, while more than 10,000 more started in sector-based work academies, one must wonder where 53,000 of the people mentioned by Sir Stelios came from.
Secondly, did you notice that he let the cat out of the bag (so to speak)? “Business start-ups”, is it?
This is just the same scam, applied to people on disability benefits like the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance. Once their year on ESA runs out, they have a choice of going on Jobseekers’ Allowance (which is problematic as they cannot say they are fit for work), going without benefits altogether, or taking the self-employed cheat.
Some of them might be working but it seems likely that the vast majority aren’t.
Meanwhile, the government gets to fiddle the unemployment statistics to make it seem that the Work Programme is succeeding and more people have jobs.
It is right that the news media should not promote this blatant false accounting. Instead (as Elizabeth Caldow states in the comment column below) they should be exposing it for the outright fabrication that it is.
There should be a law against it.
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