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June 24, 2011

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International Red Cross Demands Hamas Provide Proof Shalit Is Alive - Stephanie Nebehay and Louise Ireland (Reuters)
    The International Committee of the Red Cross called on Hamas on Thursday to provide proof that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants nearly five years ago, is alive.
    "Because there has been no sign of life from Mr. Shalit for almost two years, the ICRC is now demanding that Hamas prove that he is alive," the ICRC said.
    See also Hamas Rejects Red Cross Demand to Prove Shalit Is Alive (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
    See also Palestinians Pelt Gaza Red Cross Office with Eggs (AFP)
    Palestinians threw eggs at the international Red Cross office in Gaza on Thursday to protest against a call for Hamas to show signs a captured Israeli soldier was still alive.
    Dozens of angry protesters also chanted slogans against the International Committee of the Red Cross and ripped down and destroyed the Red Cross sign over the office.

    See also Gilad Shalit: Five Years in Terrorist Captivity (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    On June 25, 2006, IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from within Israeli territory and taken to Gaza.
    The kidnapping was part of an unprovoked attack which involved seven armed terrorists using a tunnel dug under the Israel-Gaza border.
    During the course of the attack, Staff Sgt. Pavel Slutzker and Lt. Hanan Barak were killed, while five others were wounded.
    For 5 years, Hamas has continued to deny Shalit his most basic humanitarian rights, including Red Cross access.
    See also Twelve Human Rights Groups to Hamas: Allow Red Cross to See Shalit - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)

    See also Israel to Keep Perks from Palestinian Prisoners (AP)
    Israel's prime minister says the government will withhold privileges from Palestinian prisoners because Hamas has rejected a Red Cross appeal to visit long-held Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
    Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I stopped that absurd procedure whereby terrorists in Israeli prisons who murdered innocent people register for academic studies.... There won't be M.A. students for murder or doctoral candidates for terror."

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Media Crossing the Line on Gaza Flotilla - Simon Plosker (Ynet News)
    We should all be extremely concerned by the announcement that among those sailing on the imminent flotilla to Gaza are journalists representing mainstream media, including the New York Times and camera crews from CNN and CBS.
    This is a clear example of the symbiotic relationship between the media and the anti-Israel agitators behind the flotilla.
    Since both the flotilla participants and the accompanying media need each other, can we honestly count on these embedded journalists to report on the situation with objectivity as the "activists" play for the cameras?
    Israel would do well to remind those journalists on board the flotilla that they will be active participants in an illegal attempt to break what is a legal naval blockade under international law.

Iran's Fashion Crackdown Moves Beyond Headscarves - Ali Akbar Dareini and Brian Murphy (AP)
    It's an Iranian rite of summer: Islamic morality squads pressure women to keep their headscarves snug.
    This year, however, Iran's summer fashion offensive appears bigger and more ominous, and has expanded the watch list to men's hairstyles and jewelry considered too Western.
    Nearly two-thirds of Iran's parliament have signed a statement supporting the latest fight against "Western cultural invasion."
    Some 70,000 police officers have been deployed in Tehran this month to enforce the dress codes, the state news agency IRNA said.
    "Confronting those who are not sufficiently veiled is a legitimate demand of the people," said Iran's police chief, Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam, who was added to the U.S. sanctions list earlier this month.

How Israel Became a Foreign Aid Power - Haim Divon (Israel Embassy-Washington)
    In July 2010, an oil tanker in the Congo exploded near an open amphitheater which was filled to capacity with soccer fans watching the Mondial games on a large screen, causing hundreds of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
    Israel was the first country to offer assistance, sending an aid delegation of doctors and nurses who treated the casualties and succeeded in healing and rehabilitating many.
    Israel is also one of the largest exporters of knowledge to countries in the developing world in fields such as health and agriculture.
    Ben-Gurion said at the start of Israel's international aid endeavor fifty years ago: "We, here, the Jews in our homeland, must also ask ourselves if Israel can help with the advancement and development of the countries of Asia and Africa."
    "Israel is obligated to view assistance to those countries as a great historic mission that is required for Israel no less than the benefit that it gives to the countries it assists."
    The writer is the Deputy Director General of MASHAV - Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation - at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Turkish and Syrian Forces in Tense Cross-Border Standoff - Adrian Blomfield
    An elite Syrian army unit advanced to within a quarter of a mile of the Turkish border, expanding an onslaught against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. Hundreds of Syrian civilians cut their way through a border fence into Turkey as they fled an advance by the army's Fourth Division and Presidential Guard, led by Assad's feared brother Maher. In Managh, soldiers roared through the streets in military vehicles mounted with machine guns, opening fire indiscriminately at terrified civilians, according to accounts by villagers.
        The offensive brought Syrian and Turkish troops into eye-contact for the first time, significantly worsening the increasingly noxious relationship between the two neighbors. Turkish troops withdrew a few hundred yards. But, in a message of intent, they donned combat helmets and mounted a large Turkish flag above their new positions. Turkey has ordered Assad to end the military operations in the north, dismiss his brother and institute immediate reform. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Syrian Troops Remove Turkish Flag near Border - Roee Nahmias
    A large Turkish flag placed on top of an abandoned building on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey was removed Thursday by President Bashar Assad's troops and replaced with a Syrian flag. (Ynet News)
  • Clinton: Gaza Flotilla Not "Necessary or Useful"
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday: "We do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."  (U.S. State Department)
  • New U.S. Sanctions Target Iran - Joby Warrick
    The Obama administration on Thursday imposed sanctions against Iran Air, the country's national airline, accusing it of aiding government organizations that support international terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Also targeted for sanctions was Tidewater Middle East Co., a major port operator in Iran, which is owned by the Revolutionary Guard. (Washington Post)
        See also EU Names Iran Revolutionary Guard Commanders in Syria Sanctions (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • Iran Rift Deepens with Arrest of President's Ally - David Goodman
    Mohammed Sharif Malekzadeh, a close ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, has been arrested, Iranian news agencies reported Thursday. Malekzadeh, who resigned as deputy foreign minister this week, is the most senior Ahmadinejad associate to be arrested as the rift between the president and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's spiritual leader and highest authority, has worsened. Some of the president's allies, including Malekzadeh, have been accused of being part of a "deviant current" of disloyalty. As a result, many former allies have abandoned the president and proclaimed their allegiance to Ayatollah Khamenei.
        "The president now knows he lacks institutional power to challenge the prerogatives of the supreme leader," said Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "A weakened Ahmadinejad who stays in his lane is good for the supreme leader."  (New York Times)
  • Palestinians Say They Will Seek UN Membership Even If Peace Talks Are Underway
    The Palestinians will seek membership as an independent state at the UN in September even if peace negotiations with Israel are underway, the Palestinian UN envoy said Thursday. Riyad Mansour said the Palestinians are working on three separate tracks - restarting negotiations, completing the institutions for an independent state, and gaining additional recognition for a Palestinian state. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Nabil Sha'th: Palestinians Will Not Recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish People
    In interviews with the Arab Israeli weekly Kul Al-Arab and the Jerusalem-based daily Al-Quds, Nabil Sha'th, Fatah Central Committee member and international relations commissioner, said that the Palestinians would not accept a peace plan with two states for two peoples that included recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Rather, he said, they would only accept a definition of Israel as the state of the "Israeli people" - which would include Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
        Sha'th expressed support for initiatives for organizing a million unarmed Palestinians to mass along Israel's borders as part of the Palestinian popular struggle. He stressed that he was working toward returning the Palestinian refugees to all of Palestine, and that the defense of the Arab Israelis must be at the top of the Palestinian agenda. (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Palestinian Leaders Must Say They Accept "the Jewish State" - Herb Keinon
    On the eve of a meeting of Quartet envoys in Brussels to review ways to restart the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the closing session of the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on Thursday that the end to the conflict will begin with the Palestinian leaders uttering six simple words: "I will accept the Jewish state." Netanyahu said that peace has eluded the sides for 90 years because the Palestinians never accepted Israel's existence in the region, within any borders.
        Israel seeks to get a clear Palestinian statement about Israel as a Jewish state front-loaded into any formula on restarting negotiations that might mention the baseline for talks as the 1967 lines, with mutual agreed swaps. "President Abbas must do what I did two years ago: he must stand up to his people and say, 'I will accept the Jewish state.'" Netanyahu said this in no way will impinge upon the rights of Arab citizens in Israel, but that a two-state solution must end any hope of further subdividing the Jewish state and calls for a "sub-state" for Arabs in the Negev or Galilee. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ya'alon to Turkey: Israel Won't Apologize for Flotilla Raid But Will Pay Compensation to Families - Attila Somfalvi
    Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon met with senior Turkish Foreign Ministry officials last week to discuss the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, Israel TV Channel 2 reported Thursday. Israel has stressed it will not apologize for the IDF's actions, but Minister Ya'alon expressed willingness to pay compensation for the families of the victims. "Israel is willing to regret the loss of lives but will not apologize," a source said. (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon Sees "Moment of Opportunity" for Turkey Ties - Emine Kart (Zaman-Turkey)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • Can the United Nations Make Palestine a State? - Elliott Abrams
    It appears that the Palestinians initially thought they could become a UN member state even if the U.S. vetoed their efforts in the Security Council. There was discussion a few months ago of a "Uniting for Peace" resolution, a procedure for action when the Security Council is tied in knots and unable to act. But UN lawyers soon clarified what is obvious on reading the Charter: that provision may be available for certain actions, especially dealing with threats to peace, but does not override the Charter provisions relating to membership.
        As the U.S. has told the Palestinians there would indeed be a veto, there will be no opportunity for "Palestine" to become a UN member state next fall. However, the General Assembly has the ability to accord "non-member state permanent observer" status to the PLO or to "Palestine." The Palestinians could claim at least a partial victory, even if real statehood continued to elude them.
        In the end, the General Assembly cannot create a Palestinian state. That the PLO is following this path suggests a lack of interest in the genuine negotiations that are the only real path to statehood. (Council on Foreign Relations)
        See also The Settlement Obsession - Elliott Abrams (Foreign Affairs)
  • Poisoned Atmosphere in Mid-East Peace Efforts - Paul Danahar
    There is a lot of diplomatic activity at the moment to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to seek statehood in the autumn. It's likely that more than two-thirds of the UN General Assembly will recognize a Palestinian state if it goes to a vote. But a state cannot get actual membership of the UN unless it is approved by the Security Council, and the Americans will veto that. The Israelis are hoping to at least get the proposal rejected by a majority of the Security Council. They want - to translate a common Hebrew phrase - to "lose with dignity."
        Diplomats say the key voters are Germany, France and the UK. Germany has said no to recognition; France is "on the fence but trending positively" to supporting recognition; the UK is undecided.
        President Obama's apparently personal decision, late in the day, to include in his May speech a reference to a solution based on the 1967 borders infuriated the Israelis. "We felt like it was an ambush," an Israeli cabinet minister told me. "What seems clear at the moment is that America's most important ally doesn't have a voice in the inner circle. We realized, not for the first time, those we speak with like Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, [George] Mitchell...and so forth are not in the inner circle. The inner circle is very different, different agenda with different understandings....The gaps are so wide - not just between us and the president but between the president and his staff."  (BBC News)
  • Stop Spoiling the Palestinians - Editorial
    In private conversations in recent days with visiting European statesmen, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that the Palestinians are being treated by some EU member-states as a "spoiled child," habituating the Palestinians to believe that they can gain concessions without giving anything in return. This was precisely the message coming out of Europe this week as Mideast Quartet envoys prepared to meet in Brussels. As one senior Israeli official put it, the EU hopes to avert a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September by "giving something" significant to the Palestinians.
        The hope among Europeans, according to this senior official, is that Israel will be pressured into agreeing to adopt President Obama's formula of restarting negotiations using the 1949 Armistice lines as a baseline. But the Palestinians will not be required to make any concessions to Israel. In other words, the Palestinians would be rewarded for their protracted intransigence - including their refusal to come to the negotiating table with Israel.
        Experience has shown that efforts to appease the Palestinians - including the U.S.-led demand for the 10-month settlement freeze accepted by the Netanyahu government last year - are liable to encourage not fresh readiness to compromise but, rather, still more intransigence, in order to secure yet more Israeli concessions. The best thing the international community could give the Palestinians is intelligent advice against seeking unilateral measures in the UN and in favor of genuine reconciliation with Israel and recognition of the Jewish state's right to exist peacefully. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Aumann: Palestinians Need Incentives for Peace - Greer Fay Cashman
    Nobel Prize laureate Yisrael Aumann, an expert in game theory, told participants in the third Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, "If you want peace, be prepared for war." "We have to improve the [Palestinians'] quality of life, and enable movement and commerce to be as free as possible” while responding to provocations in an immediate and predictable way, he said.
        "We have to insist on the Oslo provision calling for education for peace and tolerance. It's the most important provision in the Oslo Accords - and the least remembered. We have to work to create incentives for peace so that they will change their goals. The most intelligent kids swallow all the hate and then they become the leaders."
        Aumann did not see any prospect of peace in the near future. "We're not going to fix things now," he said. "It will take a long time. We have to start a big campaign for the way children are taught in the territories." While Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is promoted as a moderate, "the moment he makes a peace agreement with us, he'll be out of power."  (Jerusalem Post)

  • Syria

  • Iran and Syria: Next Steps - Robert Satloff
    The Middle East's real strategic drama is being played out in Syria. At stake is not just whether millions of Syrians will finally find freedom and liberty after four decades of dictatorial rule by the Assad family. At stake is more than the survival of a regime that has been a consistent source of tension, threat, and challenge to U.S. interests on numerous fronts for nearly all of the Assad family's decades of control. Rather, at stake is the opportunity to strike a painful, perhaps decisive blow to the axis of anti-peace, anti-Western, anti-American regimes that is headquartered in Tehran and runs through Damascus.
        Syria is the weak link in this axis. Breaking that alliance would be a strategic achievement of immense proportions. America will benefit from the demise of the Assad regime. A sound U.S. strategy will recognize that it is essential to counter Iranian ambitions with some strategic setbacks. The three places where the U.S. can most effectively strike a blow against Iran are Syria, Iraq, and Iran itself. Testimony of Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director, of the Washington Institute, to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 23, 2011. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Aleppo, Syria's Sleeping Giant, Stirs - Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand
    A student at Aleppo University was beaten to death by security forces during a pro-democracy demonstration on June 17, activists said, the first death of a protestor in Aleppo, a northern city of some four million - the country's largest city - which has been conspicuously quiet since the Syrian uprising began. A prominent Muslim scholar who preaches at one of Aleppo's largest mosques said: "To see hundreds of students demonstrating, even if they are small demonstrations, is symbolic: They are the young and educated. Some sheikhs [preachers] told me they cannot control their people any more and security men are touring around mosques every Friday. It's only a matter of weeks and Aleppo will see big demonstrations."
        Aleppo is Syria's commercial capital, specializing in textiles and industry. But from 2004, Aleppo's industries have been hit hard by a flood of imports from Turkey following a free trade agreement built on Assad's personal friendship with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. "Eventually the bourgeois will come to feel the regime can no longer provide them with economic stability and that business as usual is no longer viable. They will no longer feel committed to the existing system. I think it's a matter of time," said Dr. Imad Salamey, assistant professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, LAU, and an expert on Syrian affairs. (Al Jazeera)
        See also Syria's Ailing Economy Poses a Threat to Assad - Anthony Shadid
    Hotels that catered to sandal-wearing backpackers in the storied Syrian city of Aleppo stand empty. Capital from the Persian Gulf that underpinned Syrian ambitions of modernization has begun to dry up. The Syrian pound has faltered, exports have fallen and the government has promised respite with money it will not have for long. Market reforms that cut subsidies on food and fuel over the past seven years stoked frustration, worsened by a devastating drought that began in 2006 and drove 1.5 million people from the countryside to cities without enough jobs. The health of the economy may determine how the unrest evolves. (New York Times)

  • Other Issues

  • Why Gaddafi's Fall Is in America's Interests - Paul Wolfowitz
    Libya may not rise to the level of a "vital interest," but preventing it from becoming a haven for terrorists if Gaddafi survives comes very close. Gaddafi's fall would provide inspiration for the opposition in Syria and perhaps even Iran, whereas his survival would embolden the regimes in power there to cling on. The sooner Gaddafi goes, the greater the impact will be.
        The conflict in Libya is as much psychological as it is military. The key to Gaddafi's removal is convincing those still fighting for him that they are fighting for a lost cause. For some reason, Gaddafi continues to use Egyptian-owned Nilesat communication satellites to broadcast his propaganda, incite violence, and support his military. We should persuade the Egyptians to stop carrying the channel. The writer, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was the deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Maritime Law Expert: Israel Has No Choice But to Stop Gaza Flotilla - Jade-Yasmin Tanzler
    Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg is an international and maritime law expert who teaches at Europa-Universitat Viadrina in Frankfurt. He served as an adviser to the Turkel Commission that Israel established to determining how and why violence erupted on 31 May 2010 between passengers on the Gaza humanitarian convoy and Israeli soldiers. He said in an interview: "What you have here is an armed conflict. Which means that the laws governing such conflicts apply; and under these laws, sea blockades are allowed....If you take an objective look at the relevant legal analyses, it's readily apparent that the basic admissibility of the Israeli blockade has never been called into question."
        "There's only one principle that characterizes a blockade: the principle of effectiveness. In other words, the blockade has to prevent ships from entering or leaving the blockade zone. If the blockade fails to do this even once, it is ineffective and thus immediately becomes legally ineffective as well....The Israelis simply can't afford to let any ship through, if they want to prevent another ship from passing through the blockade zone a few hours later."
        "The mere fact that they set sail for Gaza does not constitute a criminal act. But if you come out and say, in a public forum, that you're heading to Gaza for the express purpose of breaking the blockade, this is clear evidence of a blockade-breaking attempt. And when that happens, the state that has imposed the blockade doesn't need to wait until the ship in question reaches the 20-nautical-mile boundary; instead, it's got the right to intervene beforehand. Because the state that's imposing the blockade is not only entitled but also duty-bound to maintain its blockade."  (Die Zeit-Germany)
  • The U.S. and the Policy of Targeted Killing - Yoram Schweitzer and Einav Yogev
    U.S. policy on targeted killings in the war on terror made headlines with the May 2011 raid by the Navy SEALs in the heart of Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. This and other targeted killings are part of an intensive campaign in the war against global terrorism begun by the U.S. immediately after 9/11. In this way, the U.S. has succeeded in killing or capturing the commanders of the special al-Qaeda unit responsible for terror attacks abroad. At the same time, the U.S. has succeeded in foiling most of the attempted terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and global jihad activists.
        The faint criticism of the intensive targeted killings campaign by the U.S. is especially noteworthy in light of the serious condemnations Israel has received for the same conduct. Israel has fought terrorism by making sparing use of targeted killings against prominent terrorist leaders, using it especially on the most prominent and dangerous planners and perpetrators of large-scale suicide terrorism during the Second Intifada. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Accosted on Kingsway - Benny Morris
    Last week I was invited to lecture on the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 at the London School of Economics. As I walked down Kingsway, a major London thoroughfare, a small mob of some dozen Muslims, Arabs and their supporters, both men and women, surrounded me and, walking alongside me for several hundred yards, raucously harangued me with cries of "fascist," "racist," "England should never have allowed you in," "you shouldn't be allowed to speak." Passersby looked on in astonishment, but it seemed the sight of angry bearded, caftaned Muslims was sufficient to deter any intervention. To me, it felt like Brownshirts in a street scene in 1920s Berlin.
        Uncurbed, Muslim intimidation in the public domain of people they see as disagreeing with them is palpable and palpably affecting the British Christian majority among whom they live, indeed, cowing them into silence. One senses real fear which, if true, is a sad indication of what is happening in the historic mother of democracies and may point to what is happening, and will increasingly happen, in Western Europe in general in the coming decades. (National Interest)
        See also Benny Morris in Londonistan - Melanie Phillips
    Once excoriated as a "New Historian," since the 2000 intifada Professor Benny Morris has come to believe that the single most important reason for the Middle East impasse is that there is no Palestinian "partner for peace," and that instead the Palestinians show by every word and deed that they want to wipe Israel off the map. (

The Price of Israel's Unilateral Withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza - Reuven Erlich (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

  • In the last decade, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the security zone in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The two withdrawals were carried out on the assumption at the time that the advantages of withdrawing would outweigh the advantages of the status quo.
  • In retrospect, it is clear that the withdrawals amplified the importance of Hizbullah and Hamas in the eyes of Iran and Syria. The withdrawals also increased the ability and motivation of those two states to use Hizbullah and Hamas as their proxies to exert pressure on Israel, not only through intermittent fighting with the IDF but also by threatening the civilians in Israel's home front by means of the rockets stockpiled with their support in Lebanon and Gaza.
  • The withdrawals had a negative impact on the image of Israel, the IDF, and Israeli society. They were seen by the Lebanese, Palestinians, and the Arab world in general as evidence of Israeli weakness resulting from the pressures of terrorism and the weakened stamina of Israeli society. The withdrawals also enabled unprecedented amounts of weapons to be smuggled from Iran and Syria into Lebanon and Gaza.
  • Israel's declarations that after its unilateral withdrawals it would respond quickly and decisively to terrorist attacks did not stand the test of reality. Israel's "proportionate" responses in both arenas did nothing to restrain terrorist activity. On the contrary, they were often seen as reflections of weakness.
  • Two "corrective" wars were needed - the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Israel has not altogether left either the "Lebanese swamp" or the "Gaza swamp," because fundamental changes in Israel's relations with its neighbors cannot be attained by unilateral withdrawals but only by political agreements backed by the willingness to use military force when necessary, and by support of the international community.

    Col. (ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich served in Israeli Military Intelligence and as deputy to Uri Lubrani, Coordinator of Government Activities in Lebanon.
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