November 30, 2017

Tillerson Being Replaced as Secretary of State







Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be moved out of his position and replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo "within the next few weeks," according to a New York Times report. The report also states that Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton is likely to be tapped as Pompeo's successor, though it remains "not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan."
Flashback: Axios' Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan reported back in October that Pompeo was being considered as Tillerson's replacement and Cotton was under consideration for CIA head.

United Nations Reinforces Landmark Resolution on LGBT Human Rights








The landmark document introduced at the United Nations 10 years ago and designed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as other sexual minorities, was updated and strengthened yesterday.
The changes reflect the significant developments in international human rights law and practice since their publication and include a growing understanding that human rights violations affect people based on how they express their gender or how their sex characteristics are manifested.
The “Yogyakarta Principles,” written by a group of international human rights experts who had met in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, are a codification of binding international human rights standards related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The document, introduced to the UN in Geneva and New York in 2007 was a response to well-documented patterns of abuse against LGBT people.
The principles have been widely used by human rights defenders to demonstrate that LGBT rights are basic human rights and to show the gap between entitlement to rights and the harsh reality of discrimination and hate crimes.
Yesterday, 33 international human rights experts released an updated set of principles on international human rights law relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics. The “Yogyakarta Principles plus 10,” add nine new principles to the original 29, covering a range of rights pertaining to gender recognition, information and communication technologies, poverty, and cultural diversity.
The new document also contains 111 “additional state obligations,” related to areas such as torture, asylum, privacy, health, and the protection of human rights defenders. For example, it calls on countries to compile statistics on violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression and sex characteristics. It also protects intersex children from involuntary modification of their sex characteristics and calls on countries to end the unnecessary registration of people’s sex or gender in their identity documents.
The updated principles call for action to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI). Enforcing laws and policies designed to protect LGBTI people worldwide is an essential step to achieving full equality and ending discrimination.
The full text of the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 and supporting documents can be found at www.yogyakartaprinciples.org.


Boris Dittrich Advocacy Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program


Newly Arrived Puerto Ricans to Florida Might Just Upset Local Politics







MIAMI — Grisel Robles arrived in Miami in late September, after Hurricane Maria flooded her house and wiped out the life she and her family had. Starting a new job and rebuilding her life, along with her husband and 6-month-old daughter, has left little time to focus on politics. But she is taking note of one aspect of the political landscape.
"I have noticed who is defending our rights as Puerto Ricans," she said.
While Robles expressed disdain for President Donald Trump because of the administration’s response to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, she praised Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican, for his efforts in helping settle Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm. But she also likes Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. She met him and called him "a humble and accessible man."
Scott is expected to enter the 2018 Senate race against Nelson, and early polls have them in a dead heat.
It could very well be that Puerto Ricans like Robles is the deciding factor in that race and a number of other key races. Since they may not be as familiar with local and state political parties — Puerto Ricans who live on the island vote in elections where — they are becoming a potential group of swing voters who can have a real impact on upcoming elections, according to some experts.
As American citizens living on the island, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections and can send only nonvoting representatives to Congress. But once they make the move and are living on the mainland, they only need to register to be eligible to vote.
Politicians from both parties are taking note.
“Puerto Ricans in Florida, just like the state, is a swing population. By that, I mean they are issue-oriented,” said Edwin Melendez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at New York’s Hunter College.
So far, over 189,000 Puerto Ricans have migrated to the state after the hurricane left unimaginable destruction throughout the island. Planes arriving from Puerto Rico remain full and some estimate as many as half a million people will eventually make their way to Florida. Although some, particularly the older generations, will eventually return to the island, experts believe most will remain here. Central Florida is their preferred destination, but areas like South Florida and Tampa are also seeing an influx of Puerto Ricans.
They are joining over 1 million who already live in the state, many of them coming in recent years fleeing the economic crisis on the island. At the rapid pace, the population is growing, Puerto Ricans will soon displace Cubans as the largest Latino group in Florida.
Puerto Ricans are an attractive group of voters because of their high participation rates and their ability to group together as a voting bloc like they did during the 2016 elections. Melendez calls them “a swing voting bloc,” similar to how Cuban-Americans once were.
But Melendez thinks Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016 because of the negative comments Trump made about Mexicans during his campaign and the fact he was seen by many as anti-Latino. Trump went on to win the state by a mere 112,000 votes.
In 2016, Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat, became the first Puerto Rican from Florida elected to Congress.
He calculates that Florida Puerto Ricans have been about 50 percent Democratic, 25 percent Republican, and 25 percent independent.
“We’re definitely a constituency that you have to earn," said Soto.
The freshman congressman doesn’t take any votes for granted. “We are specifically making sure to help the new arrivals with all these new constituent issues, from enrolling kids in school to housing to healthcare and food assistance,” he said.
Because political parties in Puerto Rico differ from the ones on the mainland, it takes for newcomers to figure out the ideologies and decide on whether to join a party. When registering to vote, many check off the box that says NPA, or No Party Affiliation, and then change it once they get a grasp on the politics here. 
Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes, who is Puerto Rican, said the same thing happened to him when he moved stateside with his wife and their child 32 years ago.
“These are the same voters that will not vote straight party lines," he said. "They are the voters that usually will vote for the candidate that appeals to them.”
But not everyone thinks the new wave of Puerto Ricans voters will be up for grabs. Angelo Falcón at the National Institute for Latino Policy says the pattern among Puerto Ricans in Florida is to vote Democratic. He believes Trump has further alienated Puerto Ricans from the Republican Party with the administration’s slow response to hurricane relief. Many Puerto Ricans have expressed anger at comments Trump made when he blamed the beleaguered island for a financial crisis “largely of their own making” as well as critical tweets saying Puerto Rican leaders “want everything to be done for them.”
“People have been very angry at Trump and at the Republicans and the way Puerto Rico has been treated with the hurricane disaster, so I think that’s going to be an important factor,” Falcón said.
That hasn’t kept political figures like Scott from courting Puerto Rican voters.
In October, Scott set up disaster relief centers in Miami and Orlando to help to arrive Puerto Ricans get settled. He made it easier to enroll kids in public schools by waiving the documents normally required and he also asked colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition to Puerto Rican students.
Groups like Mi Familia Vota are planning to register Puerto Ricans and other Latinos to vote in January.
"Mi Familia Vota Florida plans to register upwards to 25,000 Latinos to vote in 2018 and expects at least half of those registered to be of Puerto Rican descent," state director Esteban Garces said. The 2018 Florida elections include the governor, U.S. Senate, and Congress.
For Robles, rebuilding her life in Miami is a priority at the moment. It will still be awhile before she learns to navigate the political sphere.
“Right now, I don’t know who I would vote for,” she said. 
by Carmen Sesin  NBC News

The Fight For LGBT Asylum Seekers Out of Ukraine Just Got Tougher





Soldado Kowalisidi had fought for LGBT rights in Siberia since 2012, and had come out as a transgender man in 2015, when last year he finally sought shelter in Ukraine, convinced he couldn’t continue his work in Russia anymore. Russia had just passed legislation widely known as the “Yarovaya package” — twin anti-terrorism laws that dramatically expanded the government’s surveillance powers. As one of Siberia’s first openly transgender activists, Kowalisidi had long been a target for Russia’s security service, and for homophobic gangs.
Ukraine, he hoped, would offer him protection.
He was wrong. The 25-year-old was last month denied refugee status by Ukraine’s migration service, his case the latest in a string that human rights activists believe could be the result of discrimination. Just the week before Kowalisidi’s verdict, a Ukrainian court had sided with the migration service in its decision to deny another LGBT activist, Belarusian Edward Tarletsky, refugee status the previous year. 
Human rights activists say the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers is symptomatic of Ukraine’s attitude toward the wider LGBT community. Homophobia remains prevalent across the country at a time when Ukraine is preparing to take a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council for the 2018–2020 term, following its election in October. That means Ukraine will soon hold others accountable for their human rights record while it still faces questions about its treatment of sexual minorities.
One caseworker handling Kowalisidi’s application had no idea what a transgender person was. A second was more blunt. “If you haven’t had gender reassignment surgery, you are a woman,” Kowalisidi recalls the officer telling him. The interviews, he says, made him feel as though he were at fault for being transgender. For sure, Ukraine’s migration service isn’t welcoming in any case for asylum seekers, irrespective of why they’re seeking shelter in a foreign land — only 71 applicants out of 656 received protection in 2016. But human rights advocates say minorities such as the LGBT community face further discrimination. (A migration service spokesperson said they had no knowledge about discrimination within the body.)
Oleksandra Lukianenko, a lawyer at Right to Protection, a refugee-aid nongovernmental organization, says officers at the migration service are not trained enough to work with this vulnerable category of people, and don’t understand their fear of returning to their home countries. This, she says, leads to the rejection of their claims. Her nonprofit is currently working with four LGBT asylum seekers, none of whom have so far been granted protection.

People hold placards reading 'Members of parliament do not be indifferent', 'We all equal, we all worthy' during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community
People hold placards reading “Members of Parliament, do not be indifferent” and “We all equal, we all worthy” during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of the LGBT community.
For the moment, the total number of LGBT asylum seekers applying for shelter in Ukraine is small, says Anna Kuznyetsova, a resettlement associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ukraine. Though exact numbers are unclear, Kuznyetsova says these cases are new for the migration service, only really emerging in the past two years.
That may appear to partly explain the ignorance Kowalisidi experienced. But Ukraine faces a deeper challenge, suggests Irene Fedorovych, project coordinator at the nonprofit Social Action Centre in Ukraine. The country, she says, receives LGBT refugees but also produces them. Ukraine, she adds, has never been “very human rights orientated,” an approach reflected in how authorities handle LGBT cases. “When you start talking to them, they genuinely do not understand that their attitude is part of what we call discrimination,” she says.
It was a very different Ukraine that activists had envisioned following the Maidan revolution, which ousted Russian-allied President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. The country, they had hoped, would adopt a more progressive attitude toward the LGBT community as part of its new pro-European rhetoric. But there has been little improvement either socially or legally on protections for the community, says Olena Shevchenko, executive director of LGBT nonprofit Insight. Just two weeks ago, a gay couple from Odessa fled Ukraine, fearing for their lives after they were targeted in a homophobic attack. “We have a pride parade now,” Shevchenko says. “But we would like to feel safe at other times of the year too.”

Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017 during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.
Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017, during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.
Officially, the UNHCR says it has not received any complaints of discrimination against LGBT applicants while seeking asylum in Ukraine. It has, however, resettled four LGBT asylum seekers who were turned away by Ukraine in third countries, since 2015. It will also this year partner with the European Asylum Support Office to train migration-service caseworkers how to assess with sensitivity claims related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
And while Ukraine is expected to use its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council to highlight Moscow’s abuses in Crimea and parts of Donbas that are under Russian occupation, next year’s membership could cut both ways. “With a seat on the council, the spotlight on the human rights situation of the members is that much brighter,” says Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez. “We would expect with a seat on the council that they would [take their] human rights obligations that much more seriously.”
For those expectations to turn into reality may take time, though. And for Kowalisidi, who is in the process of appealing the decision of the migration service, it may be too late by then.
  • Natalie Vikhrov, OZY Author

November 29, 2017

Matt Lauer is Let Go After Complaint of Sexual Harassment



NBC "Today" star Matt Lauer, the highest paid personality in TV news, was fired following "a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said this morning in an email to NBC News staff.
Between the lines: Several news outlets had reportedly been investigating Lauer for weeks, including the New York Times and Variety. Variety's New York Bureau Chief, Ramin Setoodeh, said they discovered multiple victims, and that NBC was aware of Variety's story.
The big picture: Lauer is the latest in a string of media men accused of sexual harassment in recent weeks. 
The instant fallout:
  • Co-anchor Savannah Guthrie said at the top of "Today," reading Lack's statement and saying she had just learned the news: "This is a sad morning. … We are devastated. … We are still processing this."
  • Choking up, Guthrie said that as painful as the process is, this reckoning in workplaces is "long overdue... We promise to be transparent," she told viewers, promising to continue covering the story.
  • Trump tweeted within 20 minutes of the story breaking: "Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack's past!"
Here is the full text of Andy Lack's email to staff:
On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company's standards. As a result, we've decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he's been at NBC News, we were also presented with the reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.
Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender.We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization – and do it in as transparent a manner as we can. To that end, Noah and I will be meeting with as many of you as possible throughout the day today to answer your questions.
Andy
Editor's Note: NBC is an investor in Axios and Andy Lack is on the Axios board.

Americans Are Getting HV Tested Faster But Not Fast Enough





 HIV Testing Kids Vending Machine located at a Bar



Americans with HIV are getting diagnosed faster than ever before, but most people who are infected carry the virus for years before they know it. 
On average, people infected with the AIDS virus go three years before they are tested and told about it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. 
That’s three years during which the virus is eroding away at their immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to other infections — and three years during which they can infect others without even knowing it. 
But it’s still an improvement, the CDC team said. In 2011, people went an average of three years and seven months before they got a test and diagnosis. 
Graphic: Time between HIV infection and diagnosis depends on risk group and race/ethnicity
Paul Cheung / CDC
“These findings are more encouraging signs that the tide continues to turn on our nation’s HIV epidemic,” said CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. “HIV is being diagnosed more quickly, the number of people who have the virus under control is up, and annual infections are down.” 
But three years is still too long and this gap between infection and detection is helping keep the virus in circulation, the CDC said. 
“Ideally, HIV is diagnosed within months of infection, rather than years later,” said Dr. Eugene McCray, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.  
About 1.1 million Americans are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Thanks to better testing, about 85 percent of them know it, and nearly half, 49 percent, have the virus under control with drugs. 
There’s no cure for HIV and no vaccine on the market yet, but increasingly simplified drug cocktails – some as simple as a single daily pill — can control the virus so that it cannot be easily detected in the blood, doesn’t make people sick and makes it almost impossible to transmit to others
Some groups go even longer than three years. For heterosexual men, it takes on average five years to get tested and diagnosed, in part because straight men don’t think they are at high risk. 
“Fifty percent of persons with HIV infection diagnosed in 2015 had been infected for at least three years, and a quarter had been infected for more than seven years,” the CDC team wrote in their report. 
Whites are tested on average after two years, African-Americans get tested on average three years after infection and Asian-Americans don’t get diagnosed until they’ve been infected for four years on average. 
They’re not only missing out on treatment — they are often infecting others. 
“It’s 40 percent of HIV infections in the United States (that) are inadvertent, unknowingly being transmitted by persons who don’t know they have HIV,” the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin told reporters. 
“Nine out of 10 HIV infections are transmitted by people who are not diagnosed or not in care,” the CDC adds on its website. 
The way CDC calculates that is by looking at how much damage has been done to patients’ immune systems when they finally are tested. The virus attacks immune cells called CD4 T-cells, and blood tests measure both how much virus is in a patient’s blood and how many of these crucial T-cells have been destroyed. 
What’s helping get more people tested? Quick, on-the-spot tests have made a big difference, said Rama Keita, Community Health Educator at Washington, D.C.’s Whitman-Walker clinic. 
“We went from people having to wait 20 minutes to get their results to just having to wait 60 seconds,” Keita said. 
Clinics and advocacy groups have also stepped up active efforts to get people tested, Keita said. “We go where the clubs are,” she said. Mobile units offer quick testing in communities with a higher-risk population. 
But it will take more than that to reach straight men, Asian-Americans and others who may not realize they’re at risk. Straight men, for example, are less likely to walk into a mobile HIV testing van. 
“They think, ‘I don’t want to be labeled as a member of the LGBT community. I don’t want to go into Whitman Walker’,” Keita said. “That mentality will keep you from coming in and getting tested.” 
And that’s a shame, said Carl Corbin, a Whitman-Walker patient, and volunteer who tested HIV positive in the early 1980s, at the start of the HIV epidemic. “All of my friends were dying all around me,” Corbin said.  
“I was saying to myself, 'I am not going to live another year'. I have lived 30-some years.” 
But even though people lose hope when they hear they have an incurable disease, HIV can be managed with the many available drugs on the market. 
Now 61, Corbin is healthy and has no detectable virus in his blood. 
“I advise every human being to get tested. There is so much help out here for you,” he said. 
While some groups are at more risk than others, anyone could become infected. The CDC recommends that almost everyone be tested for HIV at some point. 
“If you are having sex you are at risk. It’s a sexually transmitted disease,” Keita said. 
“We know infidelity occurs. Sometimes things happen.” 
The best result would be if men and women alike were tested routinely as part of a doctor visit, said Mermin. But 70 percent of people at high risk who were surveyed by CDC and who had not been tested said they'd been to a doctor in the past year. 
"We don't want to burden people with having to think of themselves as being at risk of HIV," Mermin said. "It should be as routine as a cholesterol test." 
Those most at risk include gay and bisexual men, their sex partners, and injecting drug users. But any kind of sex can transmit the virus, as can the use of shared needles. 
“Get tested. Know your status,” advises Corbin. “Because getting tested and knowing your status will save your life. If you are sexually active in the world today, you are at risk, because it is not a gay disease.” 
by 

Australia's AG Tells Young People "There is Nothing Wrong With You"








Attorney-general George Brandis has told young gay Australians "there is nothing wrong with you" in a heartfelt speech supporting same-sex marriage in the Senate.
On Tuesday morning, Brandis brought to an end speeches from over 50 senators as part of the debate on a same-sex marriage bill that parliamentarians expect to pass.
Brandis said the passage of the bill will "demolish the last significant bastion of legal discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality".
"At last, Australia will no longer be insulting gay people by saying: different rules apply to you," he said. "After centuries of prejudice, discrimination, rejection, and ridicule, [this bill] is both an expiation for past wrongs and a final act of acceptance and embrace."
Brandis spoke at length of the pain and confusion often experienced by young gay people, saying the passage of marriage equality would send a message that ameliorated their hurt.
"I want to reflect for a moment on the message this will send, in particular, to young gay people: to the boy or girl who senses a difference from their friends, which they find difficult to understand and impossible to deal with," he said.
"In his first speech in the parliament, my friend Tim Wilson spoke movingly of his own experience of confronting that knowledge, as a tormenting fear 'that took an energetic 12-year-old and hollowed his confidence to eventually doubt his legitimate place in the world'.
"How many hundreds of thousands of young Australians have known that fear? How many have lived with it, silently and alone? How many have failed to come to terms with it and been overborne by it? By passing this bill, we are saying to those vulnerable young people: there is nothing wrong with you. You are not unusual. You are not abnormal. You are just you.
"There is nothing to be embarrassed about. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing to hide. You are a normal person and, like every other normal person, you have a need to love. How you love is how God made you. Whom you love is for you to decide and others to respect." 
Brandis made historical references through the speech, starting with the South Australian push to decriminalize homosexuality, which began in 1972. He also cited a 1989 essay by conservative writer Andrew Sullivan, Here Comes The Groom, saying: "It proved to be one of the most influential publications of the late 20th century because it kicked off the gay marriage debate."
Brandis said legalizing same-sex marriage would "stand as one of the signature achievements of the Turnbull Government".
"It rises above tawdry day-to-day politics as an imperishable legacy," he said. "If I may draw a comparison: nobody today remembers the arguments about the state of the economy, or the policy controversies or the political intrigues, that took place during the government of Harold Holt. Like all political ephemera, they have faded into history.
"But people do remember the 1967 referendum, that great act of inclusion of Indigenous Australians. As the years and decades pass, its significance only grows.
"And I predict that, like the 1967 referendum, this decision by the Australian people, enabled by their government and enacted by their parliament, will come to be seen as one of those occasional shining moments which stand out in our nation’s history, about which people will still speak with admiration in decades, indeed in centuries to come; one of those breakthroughs which have, as the wheel of history turns, defined us as a people."
Brandis described November 15, the day it was revealed Australians had voted "yes", as a triumphant and joyous day.
"Like all of the best and most enduring social change, it was not imposed from above," he said. "The will for it germinated in the hearts and minds of the people themselves. Now that the Australian people have spoken, it is for us, their elected representatives, to respond.
"And so, let us now complete the task which they have set us, and for which so many of us have worked for so long."
The ensuing vote to move to debate on amendments, carried on the voices, was in one way significant, as the first time either house has voted in favor of marriage equality. In another way, though, it marks just another procedural step along the complicated path to the bill becoming law.
The Senate is now debating a series of amendments to the same-sex marriage legislation.
Lane Sainty


Egypt in an Act of Terror to its Own People Sentences 16 Men to 3 yrs For Displaying The Rainbow








Sixteen men arrested last month during a crackdown on homosexuality by the authorities in Egypt have been sentenced to three years in prison.
A court in Cairo found 14 of them guilty of "inciting debauchery" and "abnormal sexual relations" on Sunday. The other two were convicted on Monday.
However, they have reportedly been freed on bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($282; £211) each pending an appeal.
The verdict for the 17th man on trial in the same case has been delayed.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) says at least 75 people have been arrested since rainbow flags were raised at a concert in the capital on 22 September, provoking a public outcry in the socially conservative country.
Only 10 of the arrests are believed to have been related to the flag-raising. Most of the others were entrapped through online dating apps, according to the EIPR. At least five men were subjected to anal examinations.  
Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalized under Egyptian law. Instead, the authorities have relied on a 1961 prostitution law to charge people suspected of engaging in consensual homosexual conduct with "habitual debauchery".
The bill defines "homosexuality" for the first time and sets penalties of up to five years imprisonment. "Promoting or inciting homosexuality" is also punishable by up to five years in prison. But someone convicted on multiple charges under different provisions of the law could face up to 15 years in prison.
The public promotion or advertising of any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) gatherings or parties would also be punished by up to three years in prison, as would the display, promotion, sale or marketing of LGBT signs.
The bill also includes a clause that licenses the authorities to publicly "shame" individuals convicted of a related offense by publishing their names and sentences in national newspapers.
"This deeply discriminatory bill would be a huge setback for human rights and another nail in the coffin for sexual rights in Egypt," warned Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa campaigns director.
The draft bill is expected to be reviewed and discussed by parliament during its current session and if voted for, it would be sent to the president for sign-off.
BBC

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