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#BringBackOurGirls, 100 Days On

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And they are still no-where in sight. “The only information comes from Boko Haram’s leader, who said in a video they are being held captive as “slaves” and will not be returned unless the government swaps imprisoned militants for girls. “The sadder thing is the conversation between the citizens and our government leaves a lot to be desired.  Leaves a lot to be desired,” says Obi Ezekwelizi, one of the leaders of Bring Back Our Girls. Activists say they plan to continue near daily “sit-outs” in Abuja until the girls are rescued.  But the group and the kidnapped girls are also now in the center of Nigerian politics, with the government accusing Bring Back Our Girls of being agents of the opposition.” (VOA http://bit.ly/UoTjJ3)

UN Human Rights Council Authorizes Gaza Probe…“Twenty-nine countries voted for an investigation to be carried out by the body, notably including China, India, and several South American countries.  There were 17 Abstentions, mostly from EU member countries.  There was a single, definitive vote against an investigation: the United States. The EU abstentions speak to the political influence of their relationship with the United States.  The votes for investigation by South American countries is no surprise either, given their poor trade and diplomatic relations with Israel.   The blatant vote against investigation by the U.S. was expected, but interesting nonetheless given the fact that the vote is just for an investigation, not an automatic accusation. “ (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/UoToMO)

HIV/AIDS

The vast majority of AIDS patients are of working age, according to statistics from U.N. AIDS. And so, as the working population changes, AIDS activists say the workplace also needs to adapt. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nB23sb)

Africa

Gambia has taken steps to improve its poor human-rights record after the European Union suspended 150 million euros in development aid this year, activists said, urging tougher action by the international community. (TRF http://bit.ly/1pamF65)

The head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone has himself caught the disease, the government said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1nAZaI6)

Seleka rebels have demanded that Central African Republic be partitioned into a Muslim north and a Christian south, a surprise move at talks aimed at halting religious violence, sources at the meeting said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1nAZjLx)

International NGOs have rebuffed a recent offer by the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo to use drones for humanitarian information gathering, saying this could represent a dangerous “blurring of the lines” between military and humanitarian actors in the conflict. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1panOuA)

The UN refugee agency said it needs three times as much money as it’s already received to provide basic aid to the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic In an effort to revive international support. (VOA http://bit.ly/1paorEm)

Ghana’s government plans to use some of its World Bank loans to fund a free sanitary pad program for young girls in poor rural communities to reduce dropout rates. The initiative is part of a program known as the Ghana secondary school improvement project. (VOA http://bit.ly/1sSbZ2z)

Some 51,247 persons are affected by the floods occurring in Liberia’s Montserrado County, which includes the capital Monrovia. Affected persons are sheltered in schools, churches and in host communities. Malaria, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases were reported at refuge centers. Some cholera cases are also suspected. (OCHA http://bit.ly/1nAYvq0)

Men, women and children are being kidnapped and held for months as slaves by militias in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, says MSF. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nB7uY4)

MENA

The increasing scale of the crisis in Gaza and the urgent needs of a growing number of civilians require greater assistance from UNRWA. The estimated number who will soon require support rises to 150,000 – three times the 50,000 originally projected – the Agency is now doubling its appealing for a total of $115 million. (UNRWA http://bit.ly/1pakRtW)

Egypt’s new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made a head start on tackling the country’s economic problems, managing to introduce long-awaited subsidy reform without stirring popular unrest. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1pam0l9)

Palestinians asked the UN to investigate into “all violations” of human rights and humanitarian law that they say have been committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1nB2AKT)

Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1parDQl)

Asia

Monsoon rains over the past week have caused floods in eastern India, killing three people and forcing thousands of families from their homes, officials and witnesses said. (AlertNet http://bit.ly/1nAY3YX)

Thailand’s military junta has unveiled an interim constitution that allows the army to retain sweeping powers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pap1lz)

Parts of a northern Chinese city have been quarantined after state media said a man there died of bubonic plague. (AP http://yhoo.it/1paqOHj)

The Americas 

Harvest of the world’s biggest coffee and sugar cane crops may be stalled by the four to five days of rain that are in store for southeast Brazil starting today, forecasters said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1papOTq)

Hosing down a driveway in drought-stricken California could soon mean a visit from the “water cops,” as agencies throughout the state begin beefing up staff to enforce strict new conservation rules set to take effect next month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nB3qXP)

Opinion/Blogs

We cannot give a woman a cow and expect her to change the world (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nAZQNn)

BRICS – The End of Western Dominance of the Global Financial and Economic Order (IPS http://bit.ly/1palCD7)

How Much Are Developing Countries Losing from Commodity Mispricing Really? (CGD http://bit.ly/1pao1xF)

A Summer of Innocent Deaths (VOA http://bit.ly/1nB1tee)

BRICS Bank Can Free Africa From the West (The Star http://bit.ly/1pat2Gw)

Goodluck Jonathan and a Billion Dollars of Bad Judgment (Daily Maverick http://bit.ly/1patip8)

‘African gay movement won’t go back into the closet’ (Beacon http://bit.ly/1nBPmgJ)

Conflict dynamics on Kenya’s coast (IRIN http://bit.ly/1mESMtc)

Research/Reports

A new study shows that newborn babies can reap the health benefits of a delay in cutting their umbilical cord – whilst they’re safe in their mothers’ arms. (BBC http://bbc.in/1nB0Cdr)

The World Food Program reports increasing conflicts in the first half of this year have created a huge surge in emergency airlifts and airdrops of food to people caught in hard-to-reach areas. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nB1yi2)

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SG; Middle East; Iraq

SG: The SG met with Israeli President Peres in Jerusalem today to encourage dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. Speaking to the press with President Peres, he again underlined the need to stop violence and begin dialogue that addresses the root causes of the conflict.  Also in Israel, the SG met with US Secretary of State Kerry to jointly call for a ceasefire. The SG then travelled to Jordan where he spoke with King Abdullah before travelling to Saudi Arabia to continue his efforts toward obtaining a ceasefire.

Middle East: Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Human Rights Council on the situation in Gaza, High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay noted that 74% of those killed so far have been civilians and urged all parties to the conflict to abide by international humanitarian law. The session concluded with the adoption of a resolution agreeing to launch an international inquiry into violations that may have been committed during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza (the resolution passed with 29 in favor, 1 against and 17 abstentions).  Meanwhile, yesterday at the Security Council Jordan circulated a draft resolution for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops for consideration. Despite FAA’s ban on US planes flying to or from Israel, former NY Mayor Bloomberg flew to Tel Aviv today to demonstrate “it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.”

Iraq: The SRSG for Iraq briefed the SC today to relay the SG’s latest report demanding that ISIS cease all hostilities and calling on Member States to enforce sanctions and hold all perpetrators accountable.

WFP:WFP began airlifting food for 50,000 displaced people in Syria yesterday as road deliveries have been blocked. Flights to the area will continue for one month to deliver food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance.

Afghanistan: The UN convened in Afghanistan today to discuss best practices during the last six days of auditing in order to strengthen the audit of the presidential run-off election. WHO also completed a post-disaster measles vaccination campaign in the regions affected by flooding earlier this year—320,000 children in five provinces have been vaccinated.

Nigeria: The SG stated that he stands in solidarity with those taking part in vigils today to remember the schoolgirls abducted from their school 100 days ago. The SG continues to call for their immediate release and an end to violence against girls who wish to gain an education.

CERF: Today Valerie Amos announced the allocation of $75 million from CERF to support relief operations in two of the world’s most neglected regions: the West African Sahel and Horn of Africa.

South Sudan:UNMISS reported continued fighting between armed youths and SPLA troops this morning in Nassir. The SG appointed Ellen Margrethe Løj of Denmark as the new Head of the Mission in South Sudan.

Somalia: The SRSG for Somalia condemned the assassination of female Member of the Somali Federal Parliament, Saado Ali Warsame, and expressed concern for the targeting of Somali women engaged in public life.

CAR: Peace talks in Brazzaville were suspended yesterday after the former Seleka rebels failed to attend the second day of the session.

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Human Rights Council Calls for Gaza Investigation

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, declared that war crimes were being committed during this recent eruption of conflict in Gaza.  She blames both sides for an utter lack of adequate protections of civilians.  The current death toll for the last few weeks continues to rise with the last count at 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis, with the UN reporting a whopping 74% of the dead as Palestine civilians.  

This afternoon an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council was held in Geneva based on Pillay’s claims and votes were cast on a resolution calling for an investigation into war crimes.

Twenty-nine countries voted for an investigation to be carried out by the body, notably including China, India, and several South American countries.  There were 17 Abstentions, mostly from EU member countries.  There was a single, definitive vote against an investigation: the United States.

The EU abstentions speak to the political influence of their relationship with the United States.  The votes for investigation by South American countries is no surprise either, given their poor trade and diplomatic relations with Israel.  

The vote against investigation by the U.S. was expected, but interesting nonetheless given the fact that the vote is just for an investigation, not an automatic accusation.  Pillay called out both Israel and Palestine, specifically Hamas, on their possible violations of international law.  She has said bombing medical facilities was equally as wrong as Hamas’ “indiscriminate attacks” against Israel.  She did not call into question Israel’s right to defend itself against attack, and insisted that a proper investigation should include Hamas and other militant groups operating in Gaza.

Mark Regev, Spokesperson of Prime Minister Netanyahu, said today on MSNBC’s Reid Report that Israel “urged people to go to a specific safe area” through leaflets prior to the attacks.  Officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, however, say that nearly half the land in Gaza has been declared a ‘no-go’ zone by the Israeli army.

Israel’s envoy to the UNHRC, Eviator Manor, claims that the vote violates the human rights of Israelis as the escalation of the conflict continues. Regardless, the UN will now open an investigation into the allegations of war crimes at this time. In the coming days and weeks, a the High Commissioner will appoint members of a commission of inquiry who will then write a report with recommendations for further action by the Council–possibly even to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. At that point, the Human Rights Council would decide whether or not to forward the report to the Security Council for action. So, the diplomatic showdowns on this issue at the Human Rights Council are far from over. 

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The UN, Individual Privacy and the Surveillance State

Do citizens of every country have a right to privacy in the digital age? Or, more to the point: how can UN human rights offices and treaties guarantee individuals’ rights to privacy?

The UN General Assembly took a stab at this question last year when it passed a resolution that shifted national debates about states’ national security interests to an issue of international human rights.  The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/68/167 on December 18, 2013. Introduced by Germany and Brazil in the wake of the surveillance revelations made public by Edward Snowden, the resolution reaffirms the right to privacy for all global citizens, reaffirming language in existing international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The resolution’s novelty, however, lies in its discussion of the technological developments that have occurred since the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights decades ago, noting that increased technological capabilities likewise increase state data interception and collection capabilities, but do not lessen individuals’ right to privacy.

The resolution further called upon the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to draft and submit a report regarding the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of mass surveillance and the interception and collection of personal data. Drafting this report guarantees that the topic of mass surveillance will be discussed again at the General Assembly, and gives the OHCHR a microphone for shaping international dialogue surrounding data collection in the digital age.

The report, entitled “The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age,” was released to the public on July 16, 2014. It provides a relevant condemnation of government surveillance around the world and describes the infringement that these efforts have upon individuals’ human rights. It also offers conclusive answers to some of the more contentious ongoing debates in privacy rights, such as over whether foreign nationals have the same right to privacy as the citizens of the countries engaging in data collection. Also significantly, it calls for transparency in surveillance laws, requiring them to be “sufficiently precise” and having “effective safeguards against abuse.” The report manages to move the discussion away from one about states’ national security to one of fundamental human rights, broadening the conversation to include all citizens of all countries – not just the governments of states that conduct mass surveillance.

Together, the OHCHR’s report and its future discussion at the General Assembly broadens the scope of this debate from states’ efforts to guarantee security to individuals’ guaranteed right to privacy under international law – an opinion that has rarely been heard in the debates over the past year. This is one of the key functions of the OHCHC; while the General Assembly is a forum of member states, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has a mandate to protect individuals’ human rights.

The report will be discussed in the General Assembly at its 69th session in October, and will be presented by the High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council at its next session in September, opening the floor to debate over how to bring surveillance programs into compliance with international human rights law. This debate, along with a UN resolution and an OHCHR report to reference, will place pressure on states to bring government programs and state contractors in compliance with international norms, and may be the first step in placing limits on state surveillance.

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Indonesian Political Phenomenon Certified as Election Winner

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Joko Widodo was certified the winner in a highly contentious election. He defeated the son-in-law of Suharto, Prabowo Subianto, a retired general who is not conceding defeat. He has a pretty amazing life story. “The victory represents a striking rise for Mr. Joko, 53, who was born and raised in a riverside slum area in the city of Surakarta, also known as Solo, in Central Java Province. He grew up to be a carpenter and later a furniture exporter before entering politics in 2005, where he was twice elected mayor of his hometown, then governor of Jakarta in 2012.Mr. Joko, a thin, unassuming figure with what he has described as a typical “village face,” will be Indonesia’s seventh president and the first not to have emerged from the country’s political elite or to have been an army general.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1nS5LIi)

Bad News from CAR…Peace talks between the Central African Republic’s sectarian rivals were suspended Tuesday after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up less than a day before the deadline of a deal. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1mAPRBE)

HIV/AIDS

The ongoing International AIDS Conference in Melbourne has led to a spike in news reports about HIV/AIDS. We are collecting some of the top news here.

There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses. (AP http://yhoo.it/1sMqNzU)

With HIV and AIDS disproportionately affecting indigenous people across the world, there is a strong need for culturally appropriate programs designed, championed and delivered by indigenous people, activists and experts say. Many indigenous women are living in silence with even their immediate families not knowing that they have HIV. (IPS http://bit.ly/1mAI9rm)

A new series in the medical journal The Lancet says achieving an AIDS-free generation will not be possible unless the human rights of sex workers are recognized. Researchers say sex workers face violence and discrimination and are not able to access the care, treatment and prevention measures they need. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mAOkM7)

As the reach of AIDS has expanded, stigma remains from Cambodia to Nigeria to Uganda. It even persists, in 2014, in developed nations like the US and Canada, according to immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mANHCe)

Africa

The recruitment and use of children by armed groups remained endemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2010 and 2013. (UN http://bit.ly/1sM61jO)

A massive assault by Boko Haram in the northeast Nigerian town of Damboa displaced more than 15,000 people, an official said Monday, as the security forces sent reinforcements to flush out the Islamist fighters. (AFP http://bit.ly/1sM6e6q)

Pressure is building for lawmakers to pass a bill that would funnel billions of dollars of US investment into strengthening Africa’s electricity production and distribution capabilities, and could offer broad new support for off-grid opportunities. (IPS http://bit.ly/1mAIj1G)

South Sudanese rebels who want to mend ties with Uganda and press for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from South Sudan left Kampala without meeting the president, blaming miscommunication between the two sides, a rebel official said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1sMbnLZ)

The Ebola outbreak has not hurt foreign investment in Sierra Leone but will inevitably require more spending to fight it, the country’s foreign minister said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mAKani)

A former “cutter”, a community leader, and a teenager who narrowly escaped circumcision explain why the practice should be eradicated in Somalia. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1sMcWt8)

A new initiative that aims to improve maternal and child health and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa is being launched in September 2014 using digital technology.  (VOA http://bit.ly/1sMgADp)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has met for the first time with some of the parents of the more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mAO0Nl)

MENA

UN school sheltering Gaza displaced hit by Israel shells: UNRWA (AFP http://yhoo.it/1sMoe0t)

A declining economy and a severe drought have raised concerns in Lebanon over food security as the country faces one of its worst refugee crises, resulting from the nearby Syria war, and it is these refugees and impoverished Lebanese border populations that are most vulnerable to this new threat. (IPS http://bit.ly/1mAILx9)

As a result of over two weeks of Israeli bombardment, thousands of Palestinian civilians have fled their homes in the north of Gaza and sought refuge in schools run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. (IPS http://bit.ly/1sM9nmK)

Syria’s oil and gas industries have suffered total losses of $21.4 billion since the outbreak of the country’s war three years ago, Oil Minister Suleiman Abbas said. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1mAQviB)

The UN called for help to vaccinate 765,000 young Syrian children against polio in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the crippling disease across the restive Middle East. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1sMqyVn)

Asia

The dwindling numbers of Indian girls, caused by the illegal abortion of millions of babies, has reached “emergency proportions”, fueling an increase in crimes such as kidnapping and trafficking, the United Nations warned. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1mAQ2Nm)

A recent UNICEF report shows that Nepal is among 10 countries in the world with the highest stunting prevalence, and one of the top 20 countries with the highest number of stunted children. (IPS http://bit.ly/1sM91g2)

Myanmar’s main opposition party says it has collected about five million signatures seeking reduced powers for unelected military members of parliament as the country, which emerged from dictatorship in 2011, moves towards an election next year. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mAOenI)

The Americas

Venezuelan soldiers remove hundreds of families from a notorious 45-storey Caracas skyscraper that dominates the city skyline. (BBC http://bbc.in/1sMf9F0)

Some politicians say that the nearly 60,000 unaccompanied minors who’ve come to the US could put the nation at risk for everything from TB to mumps. Health officials tell a different story. (NPR http://n.pr/1sM73MJ)

The Panamanian Government will sue Colombia and Argentina managements at the Advisory Center on the World Trade Organization for disputes started in prior management. (Prensa Latina http://bit.ly/1mAL6Iu)

More than 4,000 intravenous drug users live in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside area, turning alleys around Hastings Street into open-drug markets and shooting galleries. A save haven is helping to control the spread of HIV. (VOA http://bit.ly/1sMhC2g)

Opinion/Blogs

Inside the Fight Against Global Epidemics (UN Dispatch  http://bit.ly/1kaFiLc)

Why Isn’t the World Bank Asking What Works Before It Revamps Its Procurement Rules? (CGD http://bit.ly/1sMkf49)

From Havana to Bali, Third World Gets the Trade Crumbs (IPS http://bit.ly/1mAIsSX)

Exploring Electronic Music in South Africa: “The Future Looks Awesome” (Think Africa Press http://bit.ly/1mALhDu)

As long as it exists, child marriage will stand in the way of gender equality (Guardian http://bit.ly/1sMeIdT)

Israel/Gaza – how does it end? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1mAKl1S)

U.S., Russia, China Hamper ICC’s Reach (IPS http://bit.ly/1mAJo9O

The Role of Government in Agriculture (CFR http://on.cfr.org/1pBF25y)

The Aid Diversion Dilemma (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1kaFqdU)

Research/Reports

 Successful sustainable development financing will require a reallocation of investment and the creation of innovative partnerships, according to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. (IPS http://bit.ly/1sM8o6h)

 Ending extreme poverty and hunger will be impossible on a rapidly overheating planet plagued by punishing droughts, catastrophic floods and ever wilder weather, said climate activists involved in talks to set the Sustainable Development Goals. (IPS http://bit.ly/1jTIvhZ)

Governments, academics, humanitarians, military leaders, and activists from across the Asia-Pacific region will gather in Tokyo today to glean expertise on responses to humanitarian crises across the region in the lead-up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1mARzmC)

More than 700 million women worldwide were married as children, with one in three of them married before their 15th birthday, according to a global prevalence study. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1sMpHEa)

British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Tuesday for a worldwide ban on female genital mutilation and child marriage as he launched the first UN-backed “Girl Summit” on issues that affect millions around the globe. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1sMqvsL)

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SG; Middle East; Iraq

SG: The SG briefed the SC today from Ramallah where he reiterated his message from today’s earlier press conference in Tel Aviv with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to: “Stop fighting. Start talking. And take on the root causes of the conflict.” The SG will continue travelling this week to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Middle East: The continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now affecting aid as 77 UNRWA installations have been damaged and 100,000 people seek UNRWA’s shelter. The SG urged a viable two-state solution and an immediate ceasefire to begin addressing the underlying issues. At the SC’s open debate on the Middle East, US Ambassador Power reiterated the US commitment to secure a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas and the US $47 million contribution to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza (which was announced by Secretary Kerry yesterday).

Iraq: UNHCR reported more than 450 Christian families in Iraq have been displaced with little or no resources. UNHCR continues to assess the situation to meet the needs of those displaced.

UNIFIL: Major-General Luciano Portolano of Italy will take over as the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Thursday following Major-General Paolo Serra’s farewell bid to Lebanese authorities in Beirut today.

WFP: WFP reported that the surge of conflict in the first half of 2014 increased the program’s global air delivery of life-saving food and goods by fifty-fold with more than 90% of the supplies delivered to CAR, South Sudan, and Syria.

Girl Summit: UNICEF and the UK Government are hosting the first-ever Girl Summit to end female genital mutilation and child marriage as these practices deny girls the right to make their own decisions and reach their full potential according to a statement made by UNICEF’s Executive Director.

CAR: The three-day forum for peace talks in Brazzaville continue as the SG called for political coordination and unity in order to move toward reconciliation and stop the violence at yesterday’s convening of the forum.

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