Countdown: McFree-Pass on This Week + Bushed! + Hillary Clinton

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April 21, 2008

McFree-Pass on This Week

Keith and Eugene Robinson talk about the free pass John McCain received during his interview on This Week on Sunday.

Worst Person

And the winner is….John Layfield. Runners up Lorrie Lynch and Chris Wallace.


Tonight’s: Nevermind Ignoring the UN, Kill It-Gate, Buying the News-Gate and Taunt the Enemy-Gate.


Hillary Clinton

The Latest Presidential Polls


“Hero” John McCain as Phony & Collaborator By Alexander Cockburn

On eve of PA Primary, Bill Clinton Endorses Obama by R J Shulman (satire)

On eve of PA Primary, Bill Clinton Endorses Obama by R J Shulman (satire)


by R J Shulman
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Robert’s blog post
April 21, 2008

POTTSTOWN, Pennsylvania – Stating that he wants to back the future of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton announced today that he is supporting Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for President. “If you look at the numbers she can’t win,” the former President said, “even if you count Florida, Michigan and the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

“It looks like Bill has become part of the great right wing conspiracy,” Senator Clinton said upon hearing the news of her husband’s sudden switch of support, “and when I claw my way into the White House, he can forget about ever sleeping there again.” “I’m not really concerned about any sniper fire from Hillary,” Bill Clinton said. “She can’t call me Judas because that’s Bill Richardson and she can’t call me a lying cheating adulterous fool because she’s used that one up, too.”

Barack Obama noted Bill Clinton’s support by saying, “I appreciate his support, but after what he did for Hillary’s campaign, I would hope he wouldn’t be making any speeches on my behalf.”

Carter: Include Hamas in peace bid + video

Dandelion Salad

Al Jazeera English

MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2008
10:47 MECCA TIME, 7:47 GMT

Jimmy Carter, the former US president, has called for Hamas to be included in peace negotiations, saying they are willing to “live as a neighbour next door in peace” with Israel if Palestinians approve a deal.

Carter said on Monday that Hamas leaders told him they would accept a negotiated peace agreement, if voted for by the Palestinian people.

His comments, delivered in an address to the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and a subsequent news conference at the King David Hotel in West Jerusalem, came after he met several Hamas leaders, including Khaled Meshaal, the group’s exiled political bureau chief, in Syria last week.

Carter said Hamas leaders had told him they would accept a peace agreement negotiated by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president whose Fatah faction controls the West Bank, if Palestinians approved the deal in a vote.



Jimmy Carter’s Hope For Peace


April 21, 2008 BBC World

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Exposed: the great GM crops myth

Dandelion Salad

by Geoffrey Lean
Global Research, April 20, 2008
The Independent

Major new study shows that modified soya produces 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent

Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?'”

He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.

The GM crop – engineered to resist Monsanto’s own weedkiller, Roundup – recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop’s take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya’s yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.

The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.

The Nebraska study suggested that two factors are at work. First, it takes time to modify a plant and, while this is being done, better conventional ones are being developed. This is acknowledged even by the fervently pro-GM US Department of Agriculture, which has admitted that the time lag could lead to a “decrease” in yields.

But the fact that GM crops did worse than their near-identical non-GM counterparts suggest that a second factor is also at work, and that the very process of modification depresses productivity. The new Kansas study both confirms this and suggests how it is happening.

A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over. (See graphic above.)

Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.

Critics doubt whether the company will achieve this, saying that it requires more complex modification. And Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington – and who was one of the first to predict the current food crisis – said that the physiology of plants was now reaching the limits of the productivity that could be achieved.

A former champion crop grower himself, he drew the comparison with human runners. Since Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile more than 50 years ago, the best time has improved only modestly. “Despite all the advances in training, no one contemplates a three-minute mile.”

Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development – concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger.

Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: “The simple answer is no.” contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

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© Copyright Geoffrey Lean, The Independent, 2008
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Mosaic News – 4/18/08: World News from the Middle East

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This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.


For more:
“Olmert OK’s 100 Settlement Units,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Carter Meets Hamas Representatives in Egypt,” IBA TV, Israel
“Divisions Within Israelis,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
“Lebanon Remebers Qana Massacre,” NBN TV, Lebanon
“US Supports Lebanese Majority,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Kuwait Cancels Ban on Gatherings,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
“Bi-National Village in Cyprus,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Carter: Shunned by Israel, Hamas’ Hero,” Link TV, USA
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

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Bush admin gets hardline in New Orleans by The Underground Radicals

by The Underground Radicals
Guest Writer
Dandelion Salad
The Underground Radicals
April 21, 2008

Today President Bush signed amendments to executive orders that he had previously made relating to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The amendments alter the chairmanship of the council in charge of the recovery effort from the assistant to the President for Economic Policy to the assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. This signals a somewhat more military approach to the situation in New Orleans and a departure from Economic assistance. These amendments also correspond with the alarming John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2006, which gave the President the discretion to describe a national emergency as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and the threat of any such attacks. The Act pulls control of FEMA directly under the Presidency, gives him the authority to declare martial law and to take charge of the US National Guard without the authority of the state Governor.

The amendments also extend the timespan of the created council until January 2009.

The post of assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrosim is traditionally (within the Bush administration at least) the one in which preparations for the possibility of the implementation of Continuity of Government (COG) are made. Former assistant Frances Fragos Townsend was National Continuity Coordinator, a position created under National Security Presidential Directive 51, the precursor to the John Warner Act.

The current holder of the post is Kenneth Wainstein. Wainstein was pivotal in the creation of the new National Security Division within the Justice Department, which was created under the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2006. Wainstein is a proponent of changing of the FISA law to allow wiretaps without proper legal authorization.

The passing of authority on this council from an economic to an intelligence assistant to the Presidency should be treated with alarm. The original Stafford Act was set up to provide economic assistance to an effected area, not to oversee the subversion of the area in a time of crisis by an increasingly powerful executive.

Too frequently do orders such as these slip under the fence. I have added the rss feed from the White House to my reader so that I can stay on top of these.

Two other recent executive orders make reference or allusions to Continuity of Government

Feb. 15 Executive Order: Providing An Order of Succession Within the Department of Health and Human Services
Feb. 13 Executive Order: Blocking Property of Additional Persons in Connection with the National Emergency with Respect to Syria

I am not suggesting that any plan for the implementation COG is in any way immanent, but it appears that preparations for the possibility of its use are underway.

As pointed out by Professor Peter Dale Scott in his book ‘The Road to 9/11′, Continuity of Government is not an accurate definition, it is rather a determination of the constitution and of the elected representative system.

The Amendments can be seen here

The original Executive order can be seen here


National Security & Homeland Security Presidential Directive 51 (2007)

Congress Quietly Repeals Martial Law Provision by James Bovard

Rice: Muqtada a Coward + Najaf Tense; Veterans Depressed, Unemployed

Dandelion Salad

By Juan Cole
04/21/08 “ICH”
Informed Comment

Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saad Fakhrildeen get the story in Najaf, the Shiite holy city south of Baghdad. The four grand ayatollahs, pillars of middle and upper class Shiite orthodoxy, are fearful of the influence of young Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the millenarian workers and the poor. The authors do not note the irony, but I thought it amusing that both sides were blaming Iran for their troubles, which suggests that the troubles are indigenous. It is an excellent article; I wish it had said more about the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, from which the governor comes, and the Badr Corps, from which the deputy governor comes; both have strong Iran ties and they are the powers that be in Najaf; it is they the Mahdi Army mainly challenges, not just the four grand ayatollahs. Also, they did not say anything about the rumors that the chief grand ayatollah, Ali Sistani, is in bad health.

Rice has her ‘bring’em on moment’ in Iraq, talking trash to the Mahdi Army and calling Muqtada al-Sadr a ‘coward.’ Muqtada al-Sadr eluded Saddam Hussein for 4 years after Saddam killed his father and two elder brothers; and in 2004 he twice took on the US military. He may be a lot of things, but he is not a coward. Has Rice ever said anything about Iraq that was true or useful? Even as she was talking up ‘improved security’ in Baghdad, mortar shells were falling about her in the Green Zone.

Over the weekend there were clashes in Nasiriya between Mahdi Army militiamen and the Iraqi army. Although this official Iraqi government communique suggests that 40 militiamen were killed and 40 captured and does not mention government casualties, I’d take it all with a grain of salt. What is not apparent from the squib is that the Iraqi government is so weak it is having to fight for a toehold in one of its own cities.

Another mass grave found in Iraq. These sites are evidence of militia activity– the victims were likely either accused of collaboration with the central government or members of the opposite religious sect.

The American Right is always droning on about the need to support our troops (i.e. to support the Right’s war). But the rich who send poor young men off to foreign wars of course don’t really care about the young men themselves (because they don’t care about the poor in general; right wing politicians are elected by the rich, for the rich and of the rich). Cases in point:

Health care eludes Iraq vet.

Veterans having a hard time finding jobs.

A third of a million veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are depressed, suffering from PTSD (the proportion suffering is about 1 in five).

The way to support our troops is to get them out of a fruitless and unnecessary war, before more thousands are killed and wounded, whether physically or psychologically or socially.

Tom Engelhardt gives 12 reasons to get out of Iraq.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Sunday:


Around 11:00 pm on Saturday, a mortar shell hit al Qanat Street in east Baghdad. No casualties reported.

Around 1:30 a.m. four mortar shells hit al Husseiniyah area in north Baghdad. No casualties reported.

Seven civilians were wounded when a Katyosha rocket hit a house in Abo Desheer neighborhood ij south Baghdad around 8:00 a.m.

Clashes broke out between Mahdi army militia and the Iraqi national police in New Baghdad area in east Baghdad around 10:00 a.m. No information about the casualties provided on time of publication.

Clashes broke out between Mahdi army militia and the American forces in Kubra al Ghizlan area in the outskirt of Sadr city in east Baghdad around 11:00 am. No casualties reported on time of publication.

2 civilians were killed and 14 others wounded when two mortar shells hit Kadhemiyah neighborhood north Baghdad around 5:00 p.m.

Five people were wounded including two policemen when a road side bomb exploded targeting the police patrol in New Baghdad neighborhood in east Baghdad around 7:00 p.m.

Two policemen were killed and four others wounded by a bombed placed bicycle in Abo Graib area west of Baghdad around 8:30 p.m.

Police found six unidentified bodies throughout Baghdad (2 bodies in Jisr Diyala, 1 body in Zayuna, 1 body in New Baghdad, 1 body in Bayaa and 1 body in Amil)


Gunmen set a fake check point kidnapping three vehicles including a bus carries nine students from the University of Diyala while they were in their way to the university. The incident took place in the area between Muqdadiyah town and Kanan area east of Baquba around 9:00 a.m. The gunmen released the nine students and kept the three drivers.

Around 9:00 a.m. gunmen attacked a car carrying a policeman and his pregnant wife while they were in their way to the hospital. The incident took place in Wajihiyah area east of Baquba. The gunmen killed the policeman and the taxi driver and injured the wife.

The commander of the Diyala operations Major General Abdul Kareem al Ubaidi said that the Iraqi security forces and the Sahwa members found 30 bodies in a mass grave yard in Muqdadiyah town northeast of Baquba. Al Rubaie said that another mass grave yard was found in al Botoma village north of Baquba city confirming that 27 bodies were from the yard moved to the morgue of Diyala hospital.


Gunmen killed two contractors near al Rashad area west Kirkuk on Sunday morning.


Police found the bodies of two members of the local council of Sinjar town west of Mosul city. The two members of the council were kidnapped on Saturday evening.


Gunmen killed a police officer in front of his house in Soleman Beg town east of Tikrit around 10:00 p.m.’ Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

12 Reasons to Get Out of Iraq – Unraveling Iraq

Dandelion Salad

By Tom Engelhardt
April 20, 2008

12 Answers to Questions No One Is Bothering to Ask about Iraq

Can there be any question that, since the invasion of 2003, Iraq has been unraveling? And here’s the curious thing: Despite a lack of decent information and analysis on crucial aspects of the Iraqi catastrophe, despite the way much of the Iraq story fell off newspaper front pages and out of the TV news in the last year, despite so many reports on the “success” of the President’s surge strategy, Americans sense this perfectly well. In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 56% of Americans “say the United States should withdraw its military forces to avoid further casualties” and this has, as the Post notes, been a majority position since January 2007, the month that the surge was first announced. Imagine what might happen if the American public knew more about the actual state of affairs in Iraq — and of thinking in Washington. So, here, in an attempt to unravel the situation in ever-unraveling Iraq are twelve answers to questions which should be asked far more often in this country:

1. Yes, the war has morphed into the U.S. military’s worst Iraq nightmare: Few now remember, but before George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, top administration and Pentagon officials had a single overriding nightmare — not chemical, but urban, warfare. Saddam Hussein, they feared, would lure American forces into “Fortress Baghdad,” as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld labeled it. There, they would find themselves fighting block by block, especially in the warren of streets that make up the Iraqi capital’s poorest districts.

When American forces actually entered Baghdad in early April 2003, however, even Saddam’s vaunted Republican Guard units had put away their weapons and gone home. It took five years but, as of now, American troops are indeed fighting in the warren of streets in Sadr City, the Shiite slum of two and a half million in eastern Baghdad largely controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia. The U.S. military, in fact, recently experienced its worst week of 2008 in terms of casualties, mainly in and around Baghdad. So, mission accomplished — the worst fear of 2003 has now been realized.

2. No, there was never an exit strategy from Iraq because the Bush administration never intended to leave — and still doesn’t: Critics of the war have regularly gone after the Bush administration for its lack of planning, including its lack of an “exit strategy.” In this, they miss the point. The Bush administration arrived in Iraq with four mega-bases on the drawing boards. These were meant to undergird a future American garrisoning of that country and were to house at least 30,000 American troops, as well as U.S. air power, for the indefinite future. The term used for such places wasn’t “permanent base,” but the more charming and euphemistic “enduring camp.” (In fact, as we learned recently, the Bush administration refuses to define any American base on foreign soil anywhere on the planet, including ones in Japan for over 60 years, as permanent.) Those four monster bases in Iraq (and many others) were soon being built at the cost of multibillions and are, even today, being significantly upgraded. In October 2007, for instance, National Public Radio’s defense correspondent Guy Raz visited Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad, which houses about 40,000 American troops, contractors, and Defense Department civilian employees, and described it as “one giant construction project, with new roads, sidewalks, and structures going up across this 16-square-mile fortress in the center of Iraq, all with an eye toward the next few decades.”

These mega-bases, like “Camp Cupcake” (al-Asad Air Base), nicknamed for its amenities, are small town-sized with massive facilities, including PXs, fast-food outlets, and the latest in communications. They have largely been ignored by the American media and so have played no part in the debate about Iraq in this country, but they are the most striking on-the-ground evidence of the plans of an administration that simply never expected to leave. To this day, despite the endless talk about drawdowns and withdrawals, that hasn’t changed. In fact, the latest news about secret negotiations for a future Status of Forces Agreement on the American presence in that country indicates that U.S. officials are calling for “an open-ended military presence” and “no limits on numbers of U.S. forces, the weapons they are able ! to deploy, their legal status or powers over Iraqi citizens, going far beyond long-term U.S. security agreements with other countries.”

3. Yes, the United States is still occupying Iraq (just not particularly effectively): In June 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), then ruling the country, officially turned over “sovereignty” to an Iraqi government largely housed in the American-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad and the occupation officially ended. However, the day before the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer III, slipped out of the country without fanfare, he signed, among other degrees, Order 17, which became (and, remarkably enough, remains) the law of the land. It is still a document worth reading as it essentially granted to all occupying forces and allied private companies what, in the era of colonialism, used to be called “extraterritoriality” — the freedom not to be in any ! way subject to Iraqi law or jurisdiction, ever. And so the occupation ended without ever actually ending. With 160,000 troops still in Iraq, not to speak of an unknown number of hired guns and private security contractors, the U.S. continues to occupy the country, whatever the legalities might be (including a UN mandate and the claim that we are part of a “coalition”). The only catch is this: As of now, the U.S. is simply the most technologically sophisticated and potentially destructive of Iraq’s proliferating militias — and outside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, it is capable of controlling only the ground that its troops actually occupy at any moment.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

“Hero” John McCain as Phony & Collaborator By Alexander Cockburn

Dandelion Salad

By Alexander Cockburn
04/20/08 “Counterpunch”

What Really Happened When He Was a POW?

John McCain’s been getting kid-glove treatment from the press for years, ever since he wriggled free of the Keating scandal and his profitable association – another collaboration, you might say — with the nation’s top bank swindler in the 1980s. But nothing equals the astounding tact with which his claque on the press bus avoids the topic of McCain’s collaborating with his Vietnamese captors after he’d been shot down.

Continue reading

Pentagon pundits jeopardize America’s Free Press (Action Alert; vid)

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Major revelation: US media deceitfully disseminates government propaganda

Talking to Fisk: Truth as a Causality of War

Bear Stearns – Robbed By Insiders, Loss Covered By Taxpayers

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by John Olagues

April 16, 2008

Editor’s Note: John Olagues is the owner and principal consultant for Truth IN Options and a recognized authority on listed and employee stock options. After graduating from Tulane University in 1974 John applied his B.A. in mathematics and his competitive spirit to the real world of stock options. In 1976, John became a member of the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco trading and managing options positions in scores of different stocks. John joined with Blair Hull to create Options Research, the first service to provide theoretical options values to market-makers and to the general public. In 1980, he became a member of the CBOE, where he personally traded more options in more diverse situations than any other trader.

In this article John makes the case that the Bear Stearns collapse was artificially created so that insiders could take large short positions in Bear Stearns stock prior and so that J.P. Morgan would in effect be paid $55 Billion of US tax payer money to shore up themselves and to buy Bear Stearns.

Massive buying of puts and shorting stock in Bear Stearns

On March 10, 2008, the closing price of Bear Stearns was 70. The stock had traded at 70 eight weeks prior. On or prior to March 10, 2008 requests were made to the Options Exchanges to open new April series of puts with exercise prices of 20, and 22.5, and a new March series with an exercise price of 25.

Their requests were accommodated and new series were opened March 11, 2008.

Since there was very little subsequent trading in the call series with exercise prices of 20, 22.5 or 25, it is certain that the requests were made with the intention of buying substantial amounts of the puts. There was, in fact, massive volumes of puts purchased in those series which opened on March 11, 2008.


h/t: The Other Katherine Harris

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Global Food Crisis: Hunger Plagues Haiti & the World by Stephen Lendman

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by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, April 21, 2008

Consumers in rich countries feel it in supermarkets but in the world’s poorest ones people are starving. The reason – soaring food prices, and it’s triggered riots around the world in places like Mexico, Indonesia, Yemen, the Philippines, Cambodia, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Egypt, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Peru, Bolivia and Haiti that was once nearly food self-sufficient but now relies on imports for most of its supply and (like other food-importing countries) is at the mercy of agribusiness.

Wheat shortages in Peru are acute enough to have the military make bread with potato flour (a native crop). In Pakistan, thousands of troops guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. In Thailand, rice farmers take shifts staying awake nights guarding their fields from thieves. The crop’s price has about doubled in recent months, it’s the staple for half or more of the world’s population, but rising prices and fearing scarcity have prompted some of the world’s largest producers to export less – Thailand (the world’s largest exporter), Vietnam, India, Egypt, Cambodia with others likely to follow as world output lags demand. Producers of other grains are doing the same like Argentina, Kazakhstan and China. The less they export, the higher prices go.

Other factors are high oil prices and transportation costs, growing demand, commodity speculation, pests in southeast Asia, a 10 year Australian drought, floods in Bangladesh and elsewhere, a 45 day cold snap in China, and other natural but mostly manipulated factors like crop diversion for biofuels have combined to create a growing world crisis with more on this below. It’s at the same time millions of Chinese and Indians have higher incomes, are changing their eating habits, and are consuming more meat, chicken and other animal products that place huge demands on grains to produce.

Here’s a UK April 8 Times online snapshot of the situation in parts of Asia:

— Filipino farmers caught hoarding rice risk a life in jail sentence for “economic sabotage;”

— thousands of (Jakarta) Indonesian soya bean cake makers are striking against the destruction of their livelihood;

— once food self-sufficient countries like Japan and South Korea are reacting “bitterly (as) the world’s food stocks-to-consumption ratio plunges to an all-time low;”

— India no longer can export millions of tons of rice; instead it’s forced to have a “special strategic food reserve on top of its existing wheat and rice stockpiles;”

— Thailand is the world’s largest rice producer; its price rose 50% in the past month;

— countries like the Philippines and Sri Lanka are scrambling for secure rice supplies; they and other Asian countries are struggling to cope with soaring prices and insufficient supply;

— overall, rice is the staple food for three billion people; one-third of them survive on less than $1 a day and are “food insecure;” it means they may starve to death without aid.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that worldwide food costs rose almost 40% in 2007 while grains spiked 42% and dairy prices nearly 80%. The World Bank said food prices are up 83% since 2005. As of December, it caused 37 countries to face food crises and 20 to impose price controls in response.

It also affected aid agencies like the UN’s World Food Program (WFP). Because of soaring food and energy costs, it sent an urgent appeal to donors on March 20 to help fill a $500 million resource gap for its work. Since then, food prices increased another 20% and show no signs of abating. For the world’s poor, like the people of Haiti, things are desperate, people can’t afford food, they scratch by any way they can, but many are starving and don’t make it.

Haiti – the World Hunger Poster Child

The Haitain crisis is so extreme it forces people to eat (non-food) mud cookies (called “pica”) to relieve hunger. It’s a desperate Haitian remedy made from dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau for those who can afford it. It’s not free. In Cite Soleil’s crowded slums, people use a combination of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening for a typical meal when it’s all they can afford. A Port-au-Prince AP reporter sampled it. He said it had “a smooth consistency (but it) sucked all the moisture out of (my) mouth as soon as it touched (my) tongue. For hours (afterwards), an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.” Worse is how it harms human health. A mud cookie diet causes severe malnutrition, intestinal distress, and other deleterious effects from potentially deadly toxins and parasites.

Another problem is the cost. This stomach-filler isn’t free. Haitians have to buy it, and “edible clay” prices are rising – by almost $1.50 in the past year. It now costs about $5 to make 100 cookies (about 5 cents each), it’s cheaper than food, but many Haitians can’t afford it:

— 80% of them are impoverished in the hemisphere’s poorest country and one of the world’s poorest;

— unemployment is rampant, and two-thirds or more of workers have only sporadic jobs; and

— those with them earn 11 to 12 cents an hour; the country’s official minimum wage is $1.80 a day, but IMF figures show 55% of employed Haitians receive only 44 cents daily, an impossible amount to live on.

Here’s what it’s like for poor Haitians. They have large families, live in cardboard and tin homes, there’s no running water and little or no electricity, and life inside and around them is horrific. Bed sheets can be thick with flies, there’s no sanitation, and outside garbage is everywhere. Children are always hungry, there’s never enough food, often it’s for one meal a day, illness and disease are common, life expectancy very low, and so-called Blue Helmet “peacekeeper” and gang violence plague communities like Port-au-Prince’s Cite Soleil.

Now with a food crisis, Haitians are in the streets over prices for essentials that tripled in the past year and a president, prime minister and government doing practically nothing about it. For days, they were everywhere, throughout the country, and numbered in the thousands. They protested in Port-au-Prince, carried empty plates to signify their plight, smashed windows, set buildings and cars alight, looted shops, looked for food, tried to storm the presidential palace, shouted “we are hungry,” and demanded President Rene Preval resign.

UN Blue Helmets (MINUSTAH) responded viciously the way they always do against peaceful or protest demonstrations. They shot and killed at least five Haitians (some reports say more), wounded many others, and that was just in downtown Port-au-Prince.

In Les Cayes (Haiti’s third largest city) in the southwest, demonstrators stormed and tried to burn the local MINUSTAH offices. Others barricaded streets, looked for food, and shouted “Down with the high cost of living.” Similar protests went on throughout the country:

— in northern cities like Cap-Haitien and Gonaives;

— Jacmel in the south;

— Jeremie in the southwest where at least two deaths were reported; and

— smaller towns like Petit Goave, Miragoane, Aquin, Cavaillon, Saint-Jean du Sud, Leogane, Vialet, Anse-a-Veau and Simon.

It’s a familiar pattern in Haiti. Anger over injustice builds and then explodes with Haitians reacting in the streets en masse against intolerable conditions that are compounded by a repressive and hated UN occupation. It’s there to protect privilege, not secure peace. It’s the first time ever that the UN Security Council authorized so-called “peacekeepers” to enforce a coup d’etat against a democratically elected president (by a 92% majority).

Haiti’s current president can’t deal with the situation and has gone along with the state of things. He’s been ineffective since his February 2006 reelection, hasn’t alleviated the present crisis, instead ordered protests to stop, and here’s how he put it in a shameful April 9 televised address: “The demonstrations and destruction won’t make the prices go down or resolve the country’s problems. On the contrary, this can make the misery grow and prevent investment in the country” that, of course, does nothing for most Haitians and Preval knows it.

After a week of protests, an uneasy calm followed, but things can break out any time without relief that’s not forthcoming beyond some far too small proposed measures. Dismissively, Preval’s prime minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, blamed the problem on “global forces” and the high cost of oil saying there’s no “quick fix,” case closed. He also claimed the protests were manipulated by provocateurs, including angry drugs dealers reacting to a supposed closure of one of their transshipment points.

Alexis is now out, elitists debate over who’ll replace him, Haitians in the meantime are starving, the IMF keeps extracting $1 million a week in mandated tribute to the rich, and only countries like Cuba (training Haitians to be doctors) and Venezuela (donating money, cheap oil, and over 600 tons of food aid sent April 13, more than first reported) seem to care. Chavez cares about all Latin America and last year donated about $8.8 billion in aid or four times the amount America provides the region.

For its part, the World Bank pathetically plans $10 million in “emergency aid” for a country with over eight million starving people. It also plans to double its African agricultural lending next year to $800 million and thus make a bad situation worse. It’ll go to hugely indebted nations, unable to help feed their people as a consequence, and World Bank policy always is opposite of what these countries need.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon barely commented, made merely pro forma statements about the crisis and its seriousness, was as dismissive as Alexis, offered no remedial aid, is as uncaring as World Bank officials, and never forgets that his bosses are in Washington. Instead of doing his job and helping, he called on Haiti’s leaders to restore stability because the country’s security is threatened. Starving poor people aren’t his concern. Let ’em eat mud cookies.

That’s apparently Rene Preval’s solution as well. Belatedly (on April 12), he announced a plan to cut rice prices 15%. It will do nothing to relieve the crisis, and Reuters (on April 15) reported that vendors still demand the higher price for supplies already in stock. It provoked new clashes on the streets, Haitians continue to starve, and “government officials were not immediately available for comment.”

Raj Patel’s new book explains the state of things today. It’s titled “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.” In an April 14 statement, he said: “What’s happening in Haiti is an augury to the rest of the developing world. Haiti is the poster child of an economy that liberalized its agricultural economy and removed the social safety nets for the poor….” Two conditions create food riots:

— “price shocks (and) modern development policies” (tariffs, corporate subsidies, grain reserve policies) make food unaffordable for many millions; and

— “riots (then) happen when there are no other ways (to make) powerful people listen….” They’ll continue to happen “with increasing frequency until governments realize that food isn’t a mere commodity, it’s a human right.”

World Hunger – A Growing Problem for All Nations

The situation is so dire, protests may erupt anywhere, any time, and rich countries aren’t immune, including America. Poverty in the world’s richest country is growing, and organizations like the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and Economic Policy Institute (EPI) document it. They report on a permanent (and growing) underclass of over 37 million people earning poverty-level wages and say that official statistics understate the problem. They note an unprecedented wealth gap between rich and poor, a dying middle class, and growing millions in extreme poverty.

It affects the unemployed as well in times of economic distress, but official government data conceals to what extent. If employment calculations were made as originally mandated, the true rate would be around 13% instead of the Department of Labor’s 5.1%. The same is true for inflation that’s around 12% at the retail level instead of the official 4% that’s hooey.

Under conditions of duress, hunger is the clearest symptom, it’s rising, and current food inflation threatens to spiral it out of control if nothing is done to address it. It’s the highest in decades with 2007 signaling what’s ahead – eggs up 25% last year; milk 17%; rice, bread and pasta 12%, and look at prices on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT):

— grains and soy prices are at multi-year highs;

— wheat hit an all-time high above $12 a bushel with little relief ahead in spite of a temporary pullback in price; the US Department of Agriculture forecasts that global wheat stocks this year will fall to a 30 year low of 109.7 million metric tons; USDA also projected US wheat stocks by year end 2008 at 272 million bushels – the lowest level since 1948;

— corn and soybeans are also at record levels; soybeans are at over $15 a bushel; corn prices shot above $6 a bushel as demand for this and other crops soar in spite of US farmers planting as much of them as possible to cash in on high prices.

Growing demand, a weak dollar, but mostly another factor to be discussed below is responsible – the increased use of corn for ethanol production with farmers diverting more of their acreage from other crops to plant more of what’s most in demand. Forty-three per cent of corn production is for livestock feed, but around one-fifth is for biofuels according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). Other estimates are as high as 25 – 30% compared to 14% two years ago, and NCGA estimates one-third of the crop in 2009 will be for ethanol, not food. It’s fueling US and world food inflation with five year forecasts of it rising even faster.

In the world’s poorest countries, people starve. Here, they go on food stamps with a projected unprecedented 28 million Americans getting them this year as joblessness increases in a weak economy. However, many millions in need aren’t eligible as social services are cut to finance foreign wars and tax cuts for the rich, with poor folks at home losing out as a result. A family of four only qualifies now if its net monthly income is at or below $1721 or $20,652 a year. Even then, it gets the same $542 monthly amount recipients received in 1996 to cover today’s much higher prices or around $1 dollar a meal per person and falling.

This is the UN’s World Food Program (WFP)’s dilemma worldwide at a time donations coming in are inadequate. Its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, said “Our ability to reach people is going down just as needs go up….We are seeing a new face of hunger in which people (can’t afford to buy food)….Situations that were previously not urgent” are now desperate. WFP’s funding needs keep rising. It estimates them at $3.5 billion, they’ll likely go higher, and they’re for approved projects to feed 73 million people in 78 counties worldwide. WFP foresees much greater potential needs for unseen emergencies and for far greater numbers of people in need.

People (who aren’t poor) in rich countries can manage with food accounting for about 10% of consumption. In ones like China, it’s around 30%, but in sub-Saharan Africa and the poor in Latin America and Asia it’s about 60% (or even 80%) and rising. It means food aid is vital, and without it people will starve. But as food prices rise, the amount forthcoming (when it’s most needed) falls because not enough money is available and too few donors offer help.

Agencies that can are doing less with ones like USAID saying it’s cutting the amount of food aid it provides but won’t say why. It’s mission is to help the rich, not the poor, or as it states on its web site: as a US government agency, it “receives (its) overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State (and its mission is to) further America’s foreign policy interests (in the areas of) economic growth, agriculture and trade….” That leaves out the poor.

Oxfam worries about what USAID ignores. It called for immediate action by donors and governments to protect the world’s poor against rising food prices. One spokesperson said: “Global economic uncertainty, high food prices, drought (and other factors) all pose a serious threat to (the) vulnerable.” Another added: “More and more people are going to be facing food shortages in the future. (Because of) rising food prices we need to think (of its) impact on (the world’s poor) who are spending up to 80% of their incomes on food.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, also expressed alarm. In comments to the French daily Liberation he said: “We are heading for a very long period of rioting, conflicts (and) waves of uncontrollable regional instability marked by the despair of the most vulnerable populations.” He noted that even under normal circumstances hunger plagues the world and claims the life of a child under age 10 every five seconds. Because of the present crisis, we now face “an imminent massacre.”

Besides the usual factors cited, it’s vital to ask why, but don’t expect Brazil’s Lula to explain. Biofuel production is the main culprit, but not according to him. Brazil is a major biofuels producer. Last year it signed an R&D “Ethanol Pact” with Washington to develop “next generation” technologies for even more production.

In an April 16 Reuters report, the former union leader was dismissive about the current crisis and rejected criticisms that biofuels are at fault. In spite of protests at home and around the world, he told reporters: “Don’t tell me….that food is expensive because of biodiesel. (It’s) expensive because” peoples’ economic situation has improved and they’re eating more. It’s true in parts of China and India, but not in most other countries where incomes haven’t kept pace with inflation.

Biofuels – A Scourge of Our Times

The idea of combustible fuels from organic material has been around since the early auto age, but only recently took off. Because they’re from plant-based or animal byproduct (renewable) sources, bio or agrofuels are (falsely) touted as a solution to a growing world energy shortage with a huge claimed added benefit – the nonsensical notion that they’re clean and green without all the troublesome issues connected to fossil fuels.

Biofuel is a general term to describe all fuels from organic matter. The two most common kinds are bioethanol as a substitute for gasoline, and biodiesel that serves the same purpose for that type fuel.

Bioethanol is produced from sugar-rich crops like corn, wheat and sugar cane. Most cars can burn a petroleum fuel blend with up to 10% bioethanol without any engine modifications. Some newer cars can run on pure bioethanol.

Biodiesel is produced from a variety of vegetable oils, including soybean, palm and rapeseed (canola), plus animal fats. This fuel can replace regular diesel with no engine modifications required.

Cellulosic ethanol is another variety and is made by breaking down fiber from grasses or most other kinds of plants. Biofuels of all types are renewable since crops are grown in season, harvested, then replanted for more output repeatedly.

In George Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address, he announced “It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply (and we) must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol (to) reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20% in the next 10 years. (To do it) we must (set) a mandatory fuels (target of) 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 (to) reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Congress earlier passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that mandated ethanol fuel production rise to four billion gallons in 2006 and 7.5 billion by 2012. It already reached 6.5 billion barrels last year and is heading for nine billion this year.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act gave added impetus to the Bush administration scheme with plenty of agribusiness subsidies backing it. Its final version sailed through both Houses in December, and George Bush made it official on December 19. It upped the stakes over 2005 with one of its provisions calling for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 to replace 15% of their equivalent in oil. It represents a nearly fivefold increase from current levels, and new goals ahead may set it higher as rising oil prices (topping $117 a barrel April 21) make a case for cheaper alternatives, and some in the environmental community claim biofuels are eco-friendly.

Hold the applause, and look at the facts. In a nutshell, organic fuels trash rainforests, deplete water reserves, kill off species, and increase greenhouse emissions when the full effects of producing them are included. At least that’s what Science Magazine says on the latter point. It reviewed studies that examined how destruction of natural ecosystems (such as tropical rain forests and South American grasslands) not only releases greenhouse gases when they’re burned and plowed but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs less carbon than rain forests or even the scrubland it replaces.

Nature Conservancy scientist Joseph Fargione (lead author of one study) concluded that grassland clearance releases 93 times the greenhouse gases that would be saved by fuel made annually on that land. For scientists and others concerned about global warming, the research indicated that biofuel production exacerbates the problem and thus should be reconsidered. Others disagree and so far the trend continues with Europe and America both setting ambitious goals that pay little attention to the consequences they ignore.

Eric Holt-Gimenez, executive director of the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, pays close attention and wrote about it in an article published last June by Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion (ALAI) and thereafter widely distributed. It’s headlined “Biofuels: The Five Myths of the Agro-fuels Transition.” As he puts it: “the mythic baggage of the agro-fuels transition needs to be publicly unpacked.”

1. Agrofuels aren’t clean and green. As cited above, they produce far greater greenhouse gas emissions than they save and also require large amounts of oil-based fertilizers that contribute even more.

2. Agrofuel production will be hugely destructive to forests in countries like Brazil where vast Amazon devastation is well documented and is currently increasing at nearly 325,000 hectares a year. By 2020 in Indonesia, “palm oil plantations for bio-diesel (will continue to be) the primary cause of forest loss (in a) country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.”

3. Agrofuels will destroy rural development. Small farmers will be forced off their land and so will many thousands of others in communities to make way for Big Oil, Agribusiness, and Agribiotech to move in and take over for the huge profits to be extracted in the multi-billions.

4. Agrofuels increase hunger. The poor are always hurt most, the topic is covered above, and Holt-Gimenez quotes another forecast. It’s the International Food Policy Research Institute’s estimate that basic food staple prices will rise 30 – 33% by 2010, but that figure already undershoots based on current data. FPRI also sees the rise continuing to 2020 by another 26 to 135% that will be catastrophic for the world’s poor who can’t afford today’s prices and are ill-equipped to raise their incomes more than marginally if at all.

5. Better “second-generation” argofuels aren’t around the corner. Examples touted are eco-friendly fast-growing trees and switchgrass (a dominant warm season central North American tallgrass prairie species). Holt-Gimenez calls the argument a “bait and switch-grass shell game” to make the case for first generation production now ongoing. The same environmental problems exists, and they’ll be hugely exacerbated by more extensive GMO crop plantings.

Holt-Gimenez sees agrofuels as a “genetic Trojan horse” that’s letting agribusiness giants like Monsanto “colonize both our fuel and food system,” do little to offset a growing demand for oil, reap huge profits from the scheme, get them at taxpayers’ expense, and that’s exactly what’s happening with Big Oil in on it, too, as a way to diversify through large biofuel investments. More on this below.

The Ghost of Henry Kissinger

Kissinger made a chilling 1970 comment that explains a lot about what’s happening now – “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” Combine it with unchallengeable military power and you control everything, and Kissinger likely said that, too.

He said plenty more in his classified 1974 memo on a secret project called National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) for a “world population plan of action” for drastic global population control. He meant reducing it by hundreds of millions, using food as a weapon, and overall reorganizing the global food market to destroy family farms and replace them with (agribusiness-run) factory ones. It’s been ongoing for decades, backed since January 1995 by WTO muscle, and characterized now by huge agribusiness giants with monstrous vertically integrated powers over the food we eat – from research labs to plantings to processing to the supermarket and other food outlet shelves around the world.

But it’s even worse than that. Today, five agribusiness behemoths, with little fanfare and enormous government backing, plan big at our expense – to control the world’s food supply by making it all genetically engineered with biofuels one part of a larger scheme.

By diverting crops for fuel, prices have exploded, and five “Ag biotech” giants are exploiting it – Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrisciences, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience AG. Their solution – make all crops GMO, tout it as a way to increase output and reduce costs, and claim it’s the solution to today’s soaring prices and world hunger.

In fact, agribusiness power raises prices, controls output to keep them high, and the main factor behind today’s situation is the conversion of US farmland to biofuel factories. With less crop output for food and world demand for it growing, prices are rising, and rampant commodity speculation exacerbates the problem with traders profiting hugely and loving it. It’s another part of the multi-decade wealth transfer scheme from the world’s majority to the elite few. While the trend continues, its momentum is self-sustaining, and it works because governments back it. They subsidize the problem, keep regulations loose, give business free reign, and maintain that markets work best so let them.

As mentioned above, about 43% of US corn output goes for animal feed, but growing amounts are for biofuels – now possibly 25 – 30% of production compared to around 14% two years ago, up 300% since 2001, and today the total exceeds what’s earmarked for export, with no slowing down of this trend in sight. The result, of course, is world grain reserves are falling, prices soaring, millions starving, governments permitting it, and it’s only the early innings of a long-term horrifying trend – radically transforming agriculture in humanly destructive ways:

— letting agribusiness and Big Oil giants control it for profit at the expense of consumer health and well-being;

— making it all genetically engineered and inflicting great potential harm to human health; and

— producing reduced crop amounts for food, diverting greater quantities for fuel, allowing prices to soar, making food as dear as oil, ending government’s responsibility for food security, and tolerating the unthinkable – putting hundreds of millions of poor around the world in jeopardy and letting them starve to death for profit.

This is the brave new world neoliberal schemers have in mind. They’re well along with their plans, marginally diverted by today’s economic distress, well aware that growing world protests that could prove hugely disruptive, but very focused, nonetheless, on finding clever ways to push ahead with what’s worked pretty well for them so far, so they’re not about to let human misery jeopardize big profits.

If they won’t reform, people have to do it for them, and throughout history that’s how it’s always worked. Over time, the stakes keep rising as the threats become greater, and today they may be as great as they’ve ever been.

What better time for a new social movement like those in the past that were pivotal forces for change. Famed community organizer Saul Alinsky knew the way to beat organized money is with organized people. In combination, they’ve succeeded by taking to the streets, striking, boycotting, challenging authority, disrupting business, paying with their lives and ultimately prevailing by knowing change never comes from the top down. It’s always from the grassroots, from the bottom up, and what better time for it than now. It’s high time democracy worked for everyone, that destructive GMO and biofuels schemes won’t be tolerated, and that “America the Beautiful” won’t any longer just be for elites and no one else.

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008
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Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World

Food – The Ultimate Weapon Of The Ruling Elite



Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World

Dandelion Salad

Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 21, 2008

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.

At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy.

“Where’s the rice?” an engineer from Palo Alto, Calif., Yajun Liu, said. “You should be able to buy something like rice. This is ridiculous.”



Food – The Ultimate Weapon Of The Ruling Elite

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