Archive | April, 2012

Balancing the budget

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has scored a major victory by convincing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuintyto tax the rich in the province with a view to bring down deficit. This deal of sorts was struck to ensure that the budget presented by the minority government is passed and a snap election avoided. This coming together of the Liberals and the NDP assumes critical significance given the decision of the Progressive Conservatives (PC) to vote against the budget. PC’s position is to reduce government spending and increase opportunities for private sector employment.

At a press conference last Monday, McGuinty announced that those who earn more than $500,000 a year would be asked to pay a 2 per cent surtax. The new tax would generate revenues of $470-million next year. All this money would be used to help reduce the deficit said the premier.

The agreement between the Liberals and NDP is being seen as a sensible move by many Ontarians, given the province’s sizeable deficit. However, some are cautious regarding the eventual spending of the additional revenue. They fear it might get channeled into expenditure in other areas as opposed to reducing the deficit. Critics also caution against using taxes as a symptomatic and not a real solution. They advocate bringing down government spending, while also focusing attention on issues that need improvement. Two of the biggest such issues are healthcare and education, both highlighted by economist Don Drummond in his report on Ontario’s budget. As Drummond said, “Health care is a prime example: it constitutes over 40 per cent of the province’s spending and its budget has been rising at more than 7 per cent a year over the past decade. Yet aside from the U.S., the phenomenal spending buys rather mediocre results compared to other developed countries. Parts of the system remain in silos when they should be integrated, and patients fall between the cracks. Information technology isn’t used effectively. People languish in the wrong facilities at high cost and satisfaction is often poor. We can and must do much better with slower funding increases.”

Liberal and NDP leaders have shown maturity in having a dialogue to resolve their differences and avoid a snap poll. However, preparing a budget is also about balancing—increasing revenue by way of taxes should be followed with effective implementation of policies in social sectors.

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MPP Jagmeet Singh holds first ever town hall on Auto Insurance

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

MPP Jagmeet Singh held the first ever town hall on Auto Insurance for Bramalea-Gore-Malton.  “Insurance companies attribute high rates to fraud, however the impact of fraud only accounts for 10%-15% of insurance claims. Current laws work in favour of insurance companies, such as the guarantee of a 12% return on equity,” explained Jagmeet Singh

Community members provided their own stories on their struggles with high insurances rates and its impact on their families.

Jagmeet Singh is putting forward Bill-45, which is aimed at addressing high auto insurance rates. Specifically it looks at the current practice of basing insurance rates on geographic location.

“Bill 45 is a step towards remedying these issues. It will stop the discriminatory practice of using someone’s geographical location to charge higher rates. The Ontario NDP will not stop until we have an auto insurance system that is fair for all Ontarians,” asserted Jagmeet Singh.

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Economic growth and prosperity the focus of immigration changes: Jason Kenney

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney recently outlined a series of changes planned for the immigration system to make it faster, more flexible and focused on jobs to promote national economic growth and prosperity that can benefit all regions of Canada.  

Proposed changes to the economic immigration system include eliminating the backlog of old Federal Skilled Worker applications, modernizing how selection is done under that program to better reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills, creating a new Federal Skilled Trades program, and modifying the Canadian Experience Class to better facilitate the transition to permanent residence by successful skilled temporary workers.

Economic Action Plan 2012 also announced changes to CIC’s Business Immigration Programs, which will target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs.   Under proposed legislative amendments, CIC intends to introduce new small-scale programs on a temporary basis to try innovative approaches to economic immigration. Improvements to the existing Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) could be rolled out over a longer timeframe, as any changes would require extensive consultations with provinces and territories, particularly the province of Quebec, which operates its own Investor program under provisions in the Canada-Quebec Accord . Furthermore, adjustments to the current IIP would have to go through the regulatory process.

“The changes I’ve announced are to ensure that immigrants who come to Canada can contribute to the economy quickly,” Minister Kenney said. “And the cornerstone of success is being able to speak one of Canada’s official languages. That is why the government is also proposing changes to the citizenship rules so that new citizens have the language abilities they need to succeed.”

Under the proposed change, prospective citizens would be required to provide objective evidence of their language ability with their citizenship applications. Applicants would be able to demonstrate language ability by submitting a variety of evidence, including the results of approved third party tests, evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French, or evidence of achieving the appropriate language level in certain government funded language training programs.

 “The proposed change would encourage citizenship applicants to ensure that they can speak English or French when they apply,” Minister Kenney said. “Language is an important component of the successful integration of immigrants and new citizens.”

Adequate knowledge of English or French is a requirement for citizenship in Canada and has been a requirement since the first Citizenship Act of 1947.

Under the 2009 pilot, close to 2,000 newcomers in Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia were randomly sent vouchers, inviting them to take advantage of free language training at a local service provider in their community. This group was compared with over 24,000 newcomers with similar profiles who did not receive vouchers. The use of the vouchers saw an increased uptake of these services by almost 25 percent.

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Earth Day: A Movement of Action

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Puninda Thind

Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day? Yes, I agree that we should be able to recognize the importance of the environment in our daily behavior. But, having that one day to commemorate Mother Nature allows us to collectively participate in the movement and discuss further steps. Environmental awareness is of vital importance especially in today’s day and age where we have realized that all systems are inextricably linked. Public health, ecological conditions and social well being are not separate entities and to find solutions to problems in any of these spheres requires an understanding and application of holistic approach.

Earth Day began in the 1970’s, a period of environmental enlightenment in the United States. Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic Senator and an environmental conservationist, started the event to educate the people about pressing ecological issues. Along with Hayes, a university student, they organized teach-ins on a national level and drove the protest movements against government inaction. The intention was to expand people’s understanding of ecology and enlarge the definition of environmentalism. During the 1960 and 70’s industrialization was paramount and the impact of air and water pollution on social welfare was becoming prevalent. Scientific research on the harmful effects of chemicals on human health was being carried out and it was during this time that Rachel Carson’s monumental book, Silent Spring, which outlined the hazardous impact of DDT, was released. The green awakening allowed people to see the linkages between the industrial world and human well-being. In America, a wide variety of significant legislation was passed during this time including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, as well as the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental laws provided protection of certain natural entities by instituting accountability for public goods.

Earth Day marks the advent of environmental movement in North America. In the 1990’s the event grew to include over 140 countries.  Events focusing on environmental education like community clean-ups, tree-planting, recycling activities are organized on the local level on this day. The theme for Earth Day 2012 is mobilization, a very apt subject in wake of worldwide political protests and uprisings which set the context of people fighting for their legitimate rights. The act of mobilization encompasses planning and cohesive action which is direly needed on a local, national and global front from citizens as well as the government.

With the pertinent issue of climate change in focus, the importance of such a day is made even greater. The basis of the movement has been education and action. Environmental issues are scientific and require empirical proof.  Such information needs to be translated to the general public so they can recognize the broader impact on their daily lives. Unless one connects the dots and become directly exposed to the effects of issues like climate change, it is highly likely that one will be motivated to act.

There are numerous environmental issues that people advocate for such as, stopping deforestation, pesticide use control, industrial management, air and water pollution, chemical disposal etc. Earth Day creates a unified platform for all activists to come together and realize the larger movement. Activities are organized all across the country to encourage citizen participation. In Mississauga, Earth Day Eco-Fest, E-Waste Drive, book swaps, clothing drive and park clean-ups brought the local community together.

Canada, being a developed nation, falls in the category of countries with mounting ecological footprints. The energy and water consumption per capita is fairly high and so is the abundance of natural resources. Our waste management program and focus on recycling has reduced the amount of residential garbage that gets discarded over the past decade. It is clear that Canada needs to continue on the path of environmental stewardship to regain its title of an environmental champion. So, let’s maintain the message of this special day throughout the year. The movement started with recognizing that there is environmental problems, spreading awareness about the issues, and now the next step is to act upon the knowledge.

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18th Blood Donation Camp in Sant Nirankari Mission, Brampton

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

In keeping with the enthusiasm from the last several years, the Sant Nirankari Mission in Toronto continued to show their support in the blood donation camp held on April 21st, 2011 by donating 80 units of blood surpassing the target of 72 units. The camp was at Sant Nirankari Bhawan in Brampton and was well received by the congregation and the Canadian Blood Services.

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Dalton McGuintyat Canada India Foundation Chanchlani Global Awards dinner

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty participated in the 4th Annual Canada India Foundation Chanchlani Global Awards dinner. The Premier brought greetings on behalf of the Province of Ontario and congratulated the award recipients.  The Premier also had an opportunity speak with noted philanthropist and spiritual leader, Dr. Deepak Chopra.

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The challenges for the People’s Party

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

               It seems that Pakistani political parties are getting ready for the general elections.   The PPP, the PMLN and the PTI of Imran Khan have become more active than was the case in the past.   The Difa-i-Pakistan Council, a group of hard line Islamic groups and parties, is building its political strength on anti-Americanism. Some of its parties want to build some kind of electoral alliance for contesting the next general elections on the pattern of the MMA that contested the 2002 general elections.

  The competition among the political parties is expected to increase from July onwards.      We will discuss the current efforts of major political parties to get ready for the general elections in this and the coming weeks. This week we focus on the PPP.

     Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has a tangible presence in all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan. Its members of the parliament get elected from all provinces and it is also present in all provincial assemblies.

    The PPP-led coalition governments at the federal level and in Sindh and Balochistan have been functioning since March 2008. However, these governments have not been successful in ensuring good and effective governance and addressing socio-economic problems of the people.

    The major predicament of the PPP-led federal government is that it could not get over the survival question because it faced challenges from political adversaries and state institutions. The military top brass built pressures on it from time to time with reference to their professional and corporate interests.

     The Supreme Court has also kept strong pressure on the federal government in the cases filed by political adversaries of the PPP. The Supreme Court, and at times, the High Courts, took up matters relating to the federal government on their own, what is described as the suo-motu action.   The Prime Minister faces a contempt of court charge because of his refusal to the Supreme Court direction to revive criminal proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari in Swiss Courts.

    It is likely that the Supreme Court convicts the prime minister in the contempt of court of case. This will create another unnecessary political crisis in Pakistan because the opposition will pounce on this opportunity to seek the removal of the PPP-led coalition government.   However, given the fact that the ruling coalition at the federal level is expected to hold together, they will elect a new prime minister who will refuse to write the letter to the Swiss government. This will create a dilemma for the Supreme Court because it may have to proceed against another PPP prime minister.   The Supreme Court may have an edge in law and constitution but it is not likely to succeed against the PPP in political terms.   The conviction of Gilani and trail of his successor will not harm its prospects in the general elections.   The PPP can make political capital from the trial of its leaders by the Supreme Court; one of them was given death sentence.   

      The federal government managed to survive over the last four years mainly because the PPP leadership succeeded in building and sustaining partnership with other political parties. President Asif Ali Zardari has been instrumental to building political partnership and he also won-back the MQM when it decided twice to withdraw from the coalition.   The coalition partners –PPP, ANP, MQM and PMLQ—are expected to be accommodative towards each other in the next general elections.

   If PPP works in harmony with its coalition partners in the next general elections it will have a clear edge over its political rivals. This will require political prudence and a down-to-earth assessment of the political situation in the constituencies for selecting winning candidates while, at the same time accommodating the partners.     

      The PPP faces two major challenges. First, the performance of its federal and provincial governments has been poor, causing much alienation from the party. Second, there is some dissatisfaction against the leadership in the party. A good number of its workers and activists feel neglected and they have strong reservations about its leadership, Asif Ali Zardari and his close advisers.

    The governance issues have been tackled very poorly without providing any reasonable explanation of this failure. The law and order problems, especially in Karachi and Balochistan, are going to haunt the PPP in the next general elections. It needs to pay the highest attention to addressing electricity and gas shortages in the next six months because these shortages are adversely affecting the economy which in turn undermines economic prospects of the common people.   Various welfare project under the Benazir Support Program have provided relief to a large number of poor families but the success of this program cannot be a substitute for the federal government’s inability to handle the electricity and gas problem

   Two issues have caused much uneasiness among the PPP activists. First, they find it difficult to defend the party in view of poor management of the economy and electricity shortages, coupled with the complaints of increased corruption in the higher circles of the government.   Second, President Zardari had, until recently, isolated himself from the workers. His team in the presidency also had weak links the workers.

    Recently, President Zardari has started going out in the field. His recent visits to Lahore, Multan and Okara are positive moves. They party cannot stand on its feet to meet the challenge of elections without the leadership developing an active interaction with the workers and providing significant economic relief to the common people.

  The forthcoming budget will be critical to the fate of the PPP in the next general elections. Much will depend on addressing socio-economic issues. These include   economic relief to common people, management of electricity and gas shortages and convincing the people that the PPP government is taking   effective steps to check economic down turn.  The PPP will have to work hard to retain its leading role in Pakistani politics.

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Agni 5 — going ballistic over a missile

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Sushant Sareen

The successful test of the 5000-km, solid-fuelled, cannisterised IRBM Agni-5 missile is without doubt a significant milestone in enhancing not just India’s defense posture but also its strategic outreach. But even as the nation savors the success of the ballistic missile test, it is important that the country doesn’t go ballistic over it.

Technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for achieving strategic objectives and countering security threats. The real lacunae in India’s strategic and security posture is not so much technology related as it is the ability of the Indian State to project its power and resolve to use this technology for effectively deterring any and every hostile action against it.

The real value of the Agni-5 missile lies in the fact that it extends India’s ability to target the eastern seaboard of China. This means that important Chinese centers like Beijing and Shanghai now fall within the range of Indian missiles. To the extent that this capability gives India a degree of strategic parity with China and thereby contributes to strategic stability between the two Asian giants, it needs to be welcomed.

But look at it another way and questions start to arise on whether the induction of Agni-5, which is still a couple of years away, will actually lend strategic stability and put in place a credible deterrence.

The whole idea of deterrence operates on the logic of one country imposing unacceptable damage on another country. While definitions of unacceptable damage can vary — for some countries a nuclear strike anywhere constitutes unacceptable damage, while other countries will only be deterred if either the political or economic capital or a large population centre is attacked — it is still not clear if only Beijing and Shanghai fall in the category of unacceptable damage for the Chinese.

While it is certainly a no-brainer that both these cities will fall in the category of unacceptable damage, more so if such damage is caused by India, it is unlikely that China would be blasé about an Indian strike on other large population centers and economic hubs, something that fell within the striking range of Indian   missiles even before testing of the Agni-5.

It is in this sense that the Agni-5 isn’t quite the game-changer it is being made out to be, and won’t be until India’s nuclear posture acquires a level of credibility, which it doesn’t currently. Not to belabor the point, but if India’s nuclear and missile capability before Agni-5 was not enough to deter China, then it is unlikely that Agni-5 will.

Deterrence ultimately is a state of the mind and is as much psychological as it is technological. For deterrence to work, the other side must be convinced of not just your capability but also your intent and resoluteness to use your weapons. Unfortunately, partly because of India’s namby-pamby ‘no-first use’ nuclear doctrine and partly because of the general impression of Indian political leadership being incapable of taking hard decisions, India’s deterrence capability is not taken very seriously by the two countries — Pakistan and China — against which much of our deterrence is directed.

Conversely, both these countries have successfully managed to use their own deterrence capability against India. Take, for instance, Pakistan. Ever since Pakistan first went public with its nuclear capability — in 1987 when it used an Indian journalist to announce that it possessed nuclear weapons — it has convinced (some would argue bluffed) India that it will actually have no hesitation in using its nuclear weapons to counter any Indian thrust into Pakistan.

With full-scale conventional war being taken out of the equation, India tried to come up with the concept of a limited war, which according to some Indian strategists was possible under a nuclear overhang. But Pakistan has now tried to counter this as well by threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons against any Indian integrated battle group — the Cold Start doctrine — that enters Pakistani territory.

Keeping before them the experience of NATO which found the doctrine of overwhelming retaliation to be unworkable, the Pakistanis see the Indian doctrine of retaliating with overwhelming force against use of tactical nuclear weapons as lacking in credibility. More importantly, after having convinced India of its robust deterrence, Pakistan has used its nuclear umbrella to continue waging proxy war against India.

China too doesn’t seem particularly impressed by India’s nuclear posture and that is the reason why it continues to pin-prick India through intrusions along the borders, feels confident in browbeating Indian ventures in the South China sea, carries out threatening military man oeuvres on the Arunachal border etc. Part of the problem lies in the obtuseness of India’s nuclear posture. This means that the red lines which would trigger a response from India that would impose an unbearable and unacceptable cost on the adversary have not been clearly laid down.

The idea is not to indulge in nuclear war-mongering; rather it is to make India’s deterrence so effective that war (whether limited, all-out, proxy whatever) is no longer an option for either India’s western neighbor or India’s north-eastern neighbor. In the case of the latter, both India and China stand to gain a lot more by engaging in close economic and even political cooperation than in confronting each other. But for this to happen, strategic stability needs to be ensured so that neither side gets any wrong ideas nor both sides desist from needless adventurism.

Sushant Sareen is a Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation and consultant, Pakistan Project, IDSA

Courtesy: Rediff

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Sri Lanka: The sickness of the almighty criminal

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

NilanthaIlangamuwa

New Delhi

The traditional New Year 2012 (Buddhist Era 2555/2556), which was celebrated last week, has been brought to the people through the broken window of the White Van, which symbolizes the machinery of the Government’s way of dealing with dissent. Most regimes have their own symbol to create and spread panic among the people so they can easily succeed in their unlawful activities through constitutional amendments. The present regime introduced the White Van in 2005 after they started the military campaign against the LTTE. As the LLRC report highlighted, the White Van Syndrome has resulted in the abduction of numerous people in the Northern and Eastern provinces which were dominated by the Tamil paramilitary groups like the TMVP and the EPDP. Later it came to the South, mainly to Colombo and the suburbs. Today there is no secret behind the White Van in relation to who is involved and what it is for. But the Government continually denies their involvement like an ostrich hiding its head in sand.

Abductions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are not a new phenomenon in post-independent Sri Lanka, and it has a long gruesome history. Recently, a weekly amusing political documentary which was telecasted on the private channel in Colombo raised a point that; “there are hundreds of burnt or half-burnt dead bodies throughout the country when the UNP was in power, but now you can’t see that kind of nightmare.” A reply was, “Now even we can’t find dead bodies of victims of abduction.” As this writer pointed out a few weeks back, today our country is enjoying tragedies as comedy. Our social wisdom for creation has contracted into a puny mind of cheap politics. Our literature has been sold for antithetic goals which have ruined the nation, over the last few decades. An idea of a nation has been compressed into a frame of racial nihilism, which had guided the entire nation into nightmares. We searched our identity within those nightmares like people trying to see shadows in the dark. What we were unable to understand is that there will be no freedom when an extensive ideology, dominated by parochial objectives and paranoid politics, prevails. In other words, our arts, tradition, history and identity have been destroyed by these paranoid politics and replaced by the kind of inconsequential, artificial stuff, which they are introducing as the system. In another words, today this country is in a situation where these objectives of paranoid politics have stolen our entire history and rewritten it.

The cost of this evolution of socio-political culture is exactly what we are seeing through the broken windows of the White Van, which has abducted more than 50 people in last five months. They are not using anything special, but our people to eliminate our people. This is how an absolute power manipulates the people, while dividing the nation into various multitudes. They force us to accept that these micro–multitudes are separate nations. If we are unable to recognize this as madness then we will certainly become a blindfolded nation. A nation is an idea for people, who can enjoy their “freedom”, without hesitation, within the legislative framework. This law should be above every citizen whom have been guaranteed equality and fraternity, though co-habitation within an institutional setup. But what happened in this country is that, fear has replaced freedom. Then fear becomes normal and covered by the idea of “patriotism”. Do we have a dream for freedom when the country has become the paradise of “patriotic” criminals? Sri Lankan patriotism is nothing, but the deadly evolution of narrow minded politics.

We passed the era of God and then we looked at ourselves and our conscience where we tried to replaced God with something. But something, an unknown, remains there forever and many people have tried to place rational ideas on it to clarify while some of them pay courtesy to God. But the real situation in Sri Lanka is that everything is under the control of criminals who are above the law. In another words, almighty God has been replaced by the almighty criminal. What we are suffering today is that sickness of the almighty criminal, which is now at epidemic levels. How do we find a solution? The broken window of the white van is a new dawn of peace but, there is a long way to go to achieve real peace prevails in a civilized society.

 Courtesy: Sri Lanka Guardian

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Concern from growing number of missing persons

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

The concern due to the disappearance of the Organizing Secretary of the Sylhet Division of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is peaking. The same has caused great deal of consternation among the BNP leadership who have called for a countrywide dawn to dusk hurtle on Sunday to protest the incident. Earlier last year, a BNP leader of Dhaka city similarly disappeared and his whereabouts are still not known. The common perception is that they must have been abducted and killed. But in a strict legal sense, no missing person can be counted as dead till the death is confirmed.
BNP also had a dialogue with members of foreign missions who represent their countries in Bangladesh on Thursday. They were given a figure of 59 missing persons who went missing in the last 40 months of the tenure of the present government. Allegedly, most of the missing ones were political activists and belonged to the BNP. The allegations made on the occasion also were that the missing ones were picked up by Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) members or by law enforcement personnel in plain clothes although the charges were made on the basis of third party statements; hardly the same are backed up by irrefutable hard evidences. RAB, police and other law enforcement bodies have, in every instance, refused their relationship to such acts like the latest one of the disappearance of the Sylhet BNP leader, Iliyas Ali.
But such disclaimers notwithstanding, the growing number of cases of what look like abduction followed by death, are very worrying and creates deep insecurity not only in the minds of members of political parties but also the general people as a whole. For it should be notable that some of the ones who disappeared were not so much known for their political affiliations or did not even have any in a few cases.          
The failure of the security agencies in all of these cases of abduction and likely killings is particularly noteworthy. The same would not create so much outcry if each such case was followed by truly dedicated investigation by them leading to recovery even of slain bodies of these hapless individuals and arrest of the killers at least in some cases. In that case, there would be some believing that the security agencies had been doing their expected work sincerely for which they would go on earning people’s trust. But that this has not been happening is the disturbing element; their utter failure in this respect is helping to add to rumors and speculations that these incidents were mainly political killings in which the law enforcement bodies probably had a hand. Needless to say, the deepening of such views is only helping to sustain suspicions on the part of the BNP as well as the people that the abductions and probable slaying have a political motive after all and about who benefit from such activities.
Therefore, the onus now falls directly on the government to make much stronger efforts than what were seen to be done in such cases to unravel the mysteries behind these disappearances. And the process ought to start with renewed vigor in relation to this missing BNP leader of Sylhet. From finding out his whereabouts at the fastest government and the law enforcement bodies will not only regain their credibility considerably, the same will also help in easing the political volatility which is building up centering on such cases of sudden vanishing of individuals.

Courtesy: The Bangladesh Today

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