Monday, May 24, 2010

On the British Conservative and Liberal view on "Europe"

Sir Winston Churchill who argued after WWII in favor of a kind of US of Europe was a C0nservative/Tory ('24-'64) and a Liberal ('04-'24) and he is considered the most or one of the most important Britons ever by various UK public opinion polls!

On Europe's "Democratic Deficit"

One of the requirements of Democracy (see Ancient Athens) is that Citizens are well informed re civic/public affairs!

Civic/public affairs include political, economic, financial, commercial, social, environmental and many others, at local, national, regional and global level (not just local and national).

It is thus, IMO, high time that media, politicians, intellectuals, et al, in the 27 member states start informing the citizens of these 27 states of the real benefits of a Europe united Politically, Economically, Fiscally even in Military/Defense. A full Union and its necessity for the interest of all, given inter alia the world systemics, and the benefits of such union, especially for the so called "average" person and the micro and small firms.

And then let them decide. But they have to hear the full story first, and be offered an understand of sometimes "technical" matters (economic, financial, social, etc).

Arguing for the people to vote, after many years of anti-EU or EU-scapegoating (or scapegoating immigrants, other European countries, etc) brainwashing by many media, politicians and others, would not in essence satisfy the requirements of Democracy, at least in the Ancient Athenian way. IMHO of course.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In search of consistency in economic and political thinking

Since my last entry, May 19, the "plot" has thickened even further in daily, 24/24 "The Global Finance, Economics and Politics Show". The US Senate has passed after all a "sweeping" bill reforming financial regulation (I have yet to be convinced how sweeping the bill is, especially in covering all financial activities). A House of Reps bill exists already and now these two have to be reconciled and then voted on, to pass. We shall see.

The unilateral German ban on naked short selling of certain types of sovereign financial instruments has received many comments, all over the world, some quite critical (see eg "Germany Tries to Save the Euro — All by Itself" on on May 21st and "Angela Merkel's mistake: Battling the financial markets", a Washington Post editorial on May 22nd).
One should note that her speech at the German Lower House on either late hours of May 18 or morning of May 19 (I have not been able to exactly confirm when the speech took place or find a full text of her speech) includes mentions, some a tad rough/not detailed enough, to many policy initiatives that either the world (via G20 - but is that a world governance body?) or the EU or the Eurozone or Germany alone should do.

One of the criticisms that she has received is that she is wrong to describe things as a battle of the politicians against the markets. I happen to agree with Mrs Merkel on that account (see my guest article in New Europe on May 16).

Why (do I agree with Angela Merkel on the "battle" issue)? Because while the markets (financial & other) have a role to play in life, that does not include ruling or governing (ie Agorocracy instead of Democracy).

Because while there are many (even too many) "bad" (badly designed, too bureaucratic, too complex, etc) laws and policies produced by elected governments, I am not of the view (as a centrist) that they can be replaced by"the laws of the markets". In other words, while I studied applied decision sciences (at MIT and Northwestern, BS and MS) and have an MBA as well with emphasis on Finance (INSEAD 1990), I'm not a believer in "the markets know best" religion or dogma. The markets are merely a tool, an imperfect one, neither wise or rational in its behavior as a system.

I think that:

Economic globalisation has to be balanced with /checked by the globalisation of Democracy (that means a world parliament of elected reps of the people and world government). Of course this "world" would exclude a portion of the number of countries and people who do not wish such union, in spite of all the humanistic and other rationales for it (see previous posts of mine on globalisation and its pros and cons in this blog).

How about the nation-state?
I think that rationales that focus on national sovereignty, to be consistent, should also advocate full de-globalisation of trade, finance/capital, etc. That full package would make sense, ie be consistent (Note: Maybe even a return to city-states (as in Ancient Greece or Italian Renaissance, eg Athens, Sparta, Florence, Venice, etc)? Nah!).

An a la carte approach to either national sovereignty (see my posts on sovereignty) or globalisation happen to not only be rationally inconsistent; what is more, they undermine or underplay the rights of humans while they are in favor of the freedoms of capital and (in many cases of sovereignty rationales, goods as well).

Humans deserve, by "birthright" the freedom to live and work (almost) anywhere on OUR planet they wish to as along as they abide to Constitution(s) and laws, pay taxes and social security contributions, etc. Being a citizen of the world is not a privilege for the rich, the political refugees and the PhDs (see eg US immigration policies, but these apply more or less (less as in eg PhDs and green card "lottery") in most countries that are nevertheless members of the WTO and thus "value" the freedom of goods and capital).

Now, back to the EU. IMO a full Union or US of Europe is the way forward, and if the EMU/Euro part of the existing treaty needs to be re-opened and negotiated to include some of Mrs Merkel's proposals re stricter fiscal discipline, one might as well go for a full union new Treaty: One that includes Economic and Fiscal, as well as Political and even military union (so that Greece and other members eg can feel safe from external threats and thus spend less on defense (thus make it more feasible to observe fiscal discipline)).

Because I have come to realise that the structural fault of the European integration process is that instead of starting with political integration leading to union, in the 1950s, they started with economic instead (in the form of the "European Economic Community - EEC or "Common Market").
That happened, back in the 50s, because, regrettably, of all countries, France (its Parliament, August 1954) blocked the creation of a European Defence Community (thus killing the the European Political Community project as well) leading instead to EEC (an economic one). The idea was I guess similar to that of the Bush Jr administration in that economic integration promotes Democracy and integration (or common standards in Bush's case) in other areas. It seems that this "model" has not worked too well, in any of its versions, the European or the Bush Jr. one!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The German market plunge: An episode in Agorocracy vs. Democracy

The "plunge" in the German market after the short selling ban (see DW English news report) is IMO but a new episode in the "war" between Democracy and Agorocracy that I described in my guest article in the New Europe magazine ("May 7-13, 2010: A Game Changer week?") last Monday (written May 14).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Parties in the developed economies 2010+ (#economy, #life)

Parties in the developed economies (USA, Europe, etc) in the post 2010 era:  Dust off the togas, stock on grapes, start writing poetry and philosophising, take the dumbbells out of the closet, get a new mattress, we are going back to basics! Party like it's Ancient Athens and Rome!

Posted via web from nickpthinking

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More thoughts on "national sovereignty"

National sovereignty sounds a great concept, vaguely put, but how is it achieved in 2010 reality?

For example, is it by taking back law making power from the EU as the new UK government plans to do?

While David Cameron wants to remove the application of the EU Working Time directive in the UK, Reuters reports "Memo to boss: 11-hour days are bad for the heart" (read the Reuters story here)

Does a sovereign nation allow inward investment that is controlled by foreign governments?

What does a sovereign nation do when another nation builds nuclear power plant near their border? What kind of walls does it erect to be safe (Turkey and Russia agreed today to build a nuclear powerplant in Turkey, near its Aegean coast)? Plus sick birds, CO2 pollution, volcanic ash, etc, do not have to have a passport or visa to cross borders, do they? How does that affect real national sovereignty?

Plus, dear PM of the UK, "sovereign nations" do not form governments under the pressure of what the "markets" will think, do they?

What I am trying to say is that one cannot be selective in one's sensitivities re "national sovereignty".



".... 9. Relations with the EU

We agree that the British Government will be a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty.

We agree that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament. We will examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.

We agree that we will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future Treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that Treaty – a ‘referendum lock’. We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any passerelle would require primary legislation.

We will examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament.

We agree that Britain will not join or prepare to join the Euro in this Parliament.

We agree that we will strongly defend the UK’s national interests in the forthcoming EU budget negotiations and that the EU budget should only focus on those areas where the EU can add value.

We agree that we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in Brussels.

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor ..."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Get a Tory-Lab grand alliance try to govern (a la Germany 2005-2009)!

Maybe a Tory-Lab gov is the "best" solution. As well as a Tory minority gov. Why a Tory-Lab government (like the grand coalition in Germany 2005-09)? Because in such an unlikely alliance both parties would have similar weights. And since Lib+Lab = 315 < 323 and Lab and SNP have incompatible views, then let Tories + Lab (564 seats) try to govern!! IMO the Tory and LibDem manifestos (aka policies) are non-compatible, including of course the issue of "Europe" (aka #EU). Bottom line, the way things are shaping, if I was Nick I would ally with neither Tories or Lab & tell them to go and try to form (and maintain) a grand coalition!

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Europe

"My Europe" is a single "playground" where ordinary people and small firms can create and prosper

Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9, 2010: The Day when ....

"We now see herd behavior in the markets which are wolfpack behaviours & if we will not stop these packs they will tear the weaker countries apart" - Swedish finance minister Anders Borg, May 9, 2010.

It seems that both Europe & US have decided to separate the wolves from the philosopher financiers (see comparison with Plato's "philosopher kings").

Europe's "reply" to the speculators, this weekend, is of historic proportions. Will it be enough to contain the wolves, the Gollums and the zombies and separate them from the healthy parts of the global Financial system? We shall see.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Democracy vs Agorocracy

Which are these forces and systemics that are referenced by the generic term "financial markets"?

IMO, "financial markets" are a complex system that does not have a "spokesperson" and its actions, that are in effect the "cumulative effect" from various different actions in different directions, do not constitute a "directive" for the social, political, policy and non-financial economic and business aspects of this world.

Unless we agree that Democracy has given its place to a new system of governance, Agorocracy (meaning "rule of the markers") and more specifically "Chrimatagorocracy" (rule of the financial markets). I do not think that we can agree to that.

No matter how imperfect politics and Democracy can be, politics cannot surrender their role to non-political forces.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Love Hystory - Act I

Love Hystory - Act I

I am never gonna leave you, he promised her
We will always be together, forever
Two souls in unison

Against time
Against aging
Away from the noise of the world
On a beach
Alone, together, for ever

Committed to each other, forever
Till the end of time and beyond

Never say never
Forever is too long
Love is an emotion
Devotion in a vacuum?

Daily realities
Enemies of love
Time passes by in cruel steps
Human nature against love
Love against the odds
Love against the rain

I am never gonna leave you, he had promised her
We will always be together, forever, she had said
Love they felt, genuine
Flowers need water
Hearts can be broken
Kisses cannot pay the rent
Two souls in unison
On a cold wintery beach

Body heat, together, against the cold
Against the big chill
The world outside
Reality kicks hard
The bubble is genuine, but how long can it last?

The externalities
Cruel daily realities
Together, running against time
Together, holding on against the wind
Sheltering each other against the rain

The chill factor
The windshield factor
The breeze
The freeze
The squeeze

The economic reactor
The bred and the butter
The cries of the baby
New realities
New pressures
The beach is deserted

On the road
Hiking for bread
Riding on hope
The rope still holds
The love persists

What a precious emotion
For such a cheap world
Where survival is so expensive

Can it last?
Emotion for devotion
Devotion to an emotion
Against fear

The love is always there
The lovers are gone
The parents are in
The baby needs

Where is the love?
Crying for milk
Bills, blown in
No time for thrills

The love is dead
The baby lives
The lovers turned to survivors
The survivors to knights
Protecting of precious flower of the love

Sacrifices are needed
Trade offs emerge
The two are three
They are not free
Committed to the fruit of love
But what about the love?

Against time
In spite of the days
Sun, rain, wind, heat

Is love natural?
Is love for ever?
Can emotions outgrow their fruits
Emotions sacrificed in the temple of life

Where is the love?
A life of its own
Where are the lovers?

Where is the love?
I am never gonna leave you, he had promised her
We will always be together, forever, she had pledged
Love, honest
The fruit of love has taken a life of its own
Two souls in unison protecting their love

Guardians of the fruit
Warriors of daily chores
Fighting in the world markets
For milk, bred and butter

Originally written: August 2005. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Knight in shiny (corporate) armour?

What is the ultimate meaning of business? Profits? No, think again! Shareholder value maximisation.

Alas in the last 24 years I have met too many people who confided in me that "Gekko" & "Wall St" were their inspiration for becoming executives.

In his famous/infamous "greed is good" speech in "Wall St." "Gordon Gekko" says a lot more "interesting" things than "greed is good". That seen from a 2010 point of view may prove either partly explanatory of what has happened in the last 24 years or insightful re what may happen in the next 24. Waiting for the sequel!

IMO (as an MBA) when a company doesn't perform well it should be the top management that gets the pink not the "foot soldiers" (like in soccer). In armies and in corporations there exists the bad habit of sacrificing the "foot-solders" instead of the brass, for tactical gains. IMO as an MBA, the managers are knights and as such they are supposed to be the ones to be "sacrificed" for the corporate "cause" (shareholder value maximisation), not the "ordinary" workers who work for a living and from monthly paycheck to monthly paycheck to pay the bills!

Note that the cumulative salaries + bonuses of the senior mgt in (many, most, all?) the companies you have invested in is equal to the sum of the salaries of many "simple" ("average") execs and other workers. Thus firing a senior exec will save as much money as firing dozens maybe hundreds of "workers" (but for the contract clauses many senior/top execs have that provide for a quite hefty severance ("divorce") fee).

Not that senior/top execs are not useful or valuable to a company. But how much more valuable than the average worker? And why should that value in any case be reflected in their pay and not their job satisfaction/sense of service?

I know, I know, "a knight in shiny armour".

Monday, May 3, 2010

Single Market? What Single Market? An open letter to the European Commissioner for the EU Single Market

Dear Single Market Commissioner,

Please go to your local branch in any of the very few banks that have branches throughout the EU and ask to move your account to another branch of the same bank in another member state of the EU.

Please repeat the same - similar process re your telephone, mobile telephone, internet, cable TV, electricity, water, mail, car insurance, health insurance, funds manager, lawyer, accountant, tax adviser, etc.

Then please open the newspaper or go online to try to get a job similar to the one you have now in another member state.

Then please consider how single is the market that was created on 1/1/1993, 17+ years later!

And then, please, do what you can to make the EU single market "single" for the average EU citizen.

Thank you (in advance).

Best regards

A (frustrated) EU citizen, living in a theoretical Single Market

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Notes and Thoughts, April 24-30

The "Party" (1):
Washington Post, April 24: "For nations living the good life, the party's over, IMF says"

The "Party" (2):
The "party's over" in Europe and the US says the IMF;
Thus back to basics, ie philosophy, symposia, poetry and other arts + etc

Euro crisis:
Was an "expensive" Euro in 2002-2008 a key source of intra Eurozone and #EU imbalances?

Unemployment in March: EU 9.6%, US 9.7%, Eurozone 10%

Strategic choices:
1) land capitalism, 2) financial capitalism, 3) human capitalism, 4) intellect capitalism


1) ideas about trade or 2) the trade of ideas?

The competitive advantage of thinking - can an economy rely mostly on exports of "intellectual products"?


Greece has to make exporting its new national sport

US Growth Rate in Q1 2010
Bureau of Economic Advisors:
US GDP growth in Q1 2010 (annual rate, "advance" estimate): +3.2%
(Q4 09 rate was +5.6%)
2nd estimate: May 27

US vs UK growth rates, Q1 2010
USA: 3.2%
UK: 0.2%

EU and Eurozone Unemployment in March

The Eurozone's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 10.0% in March 2010, the same as in February. It was 9.1% in March 2009.

The EU unemployment rate was 9.6% in March 2010, unchanged compared with February. It was 8.5% in March 2009.

Eurostat estimates that 23.130 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 15.808 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in March 2010.

Compared with February 2010, the number of persons unemployed increased by 123 000 in the EU27 and by 101 000 in the euro area. Compared with March 2009, unemployment went up by 2.546 million in the EU27 and by 1.389 million in the euro area.

These figures were published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in the Netherlands (4.1%) and Austria (4.9%), and the highest rates in Latvia (22.3%) and Spain (19.1%).

Compared with a year ago, one Member State recorded a fall in the unemployment rate and twenty-six an increase. The fall was observed in Germany (7.4% to 7.3%), and the smallest increases in Luxembourg (5.4% to 5.6%) and Malta (6.7% to 6.9%).

The highest increases were registered in Latvia (14.3% to 22.3%), Estonia (7.6% to 15.5% between the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2009) and Lithuania (8.1% to 15.8% between the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2009).

Between March 2009 and March 2010, the unemployment rate for males rose from 8.9% to 10.0% in the euro area and from 8.6% to 9.8% in the EU. The female unemployment rate increased from 9.3% to 10.1% in the euro area and from 8.5% to 9.4% in the EU.

In March 2010, the youth unemployment rate (under-25s) was 19.9% in the euro area and 20.6% in the EU. In March 2009 it was 19.0% and 18.9% respectively. The lowest rate was observed in the Netherlands (7.4%), and the highest rates in Latvia (44.9% in the first quarter of 2010) and Spain (41.2%).

In the USA, the unemployment rate was 9.7% in March 2010. In Japan it was 4.8% in February 2010. (Eurostat, April 30)

Compare the EU budget and the Federal US budget as a % of their GDPs

What the Eurozone needs
The Eurozone needs not a one-fits-all economic & competitiveness model but one that capitalises on diverse "skills" & "assets" of constituents its monetary, fiscal and other policies must "serve" this diversity based economic and competitiveness model. A systemic question is: How does the Eurozone economic, monetary and competitiveness model correlate with the EU one?

EC Consultation on Smart Regulation
This stakeholder consultation aims to collect input for a Communication which the European Commission will produce on Smart Regulation this autumn.

Eurozone Inflation in April

Eurozone's annual inflation is expected to be 1.5% in April 2010 according to a flash estimate issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It was 1.4% in March. (April 30)

Household Savings in the EU and Eurozone, Q4 2009
Quarterly Sector Accounts: fourth quarter of 2009
Household saving rate at 15.1% in the Eurozone and 13.3% in the EU as a whole.
Household real disposable income fell by 0.2% in the euro area (Eurostat, April 30)

UK Immigration

Leaders Debate: Nick Clegg says 80% of immigrants are intra - EU.

UK Leaders Debate
* Re-industrialisation via Science? Did being a uni & #research superpower prevent the US from losing industry to Asia?
* Which of the 3 will dare propose the EU leaving the WTO instead of the UK leaving the EU, in order to revive #manufacturing?

Economic Fortresses:

You may think that the option for the EU and the US (and others) to become "economic fortresses" is "sci-fi", but wait a few years.

EU Single Market:
The EU Single Market must urgently become a market that works primarily for micros, SMEs, self-employed, workers, job seekers and consumers

Current Affairs
Ooops, the mike is still on!

Modern Economic Mythology
Some headlines are like going through the titles of movies at the Adventure/Horror section at a video store
Europa was abducted by a white #bull!!! The bull was Zeus is disguise!
The Greek crisis: God from the machine (Deus ex machina). Which one? Zeus? Apollo? Athena? Poseidon? Hermes?

Make or break year for a real European Union?

* Most events do not have a single cause but a combination of causes that lead to the event (or outcome). A lot of people seek single causes. Too many times we assume that a situation is under control, that someone must be "running the show" when actually that is not so
* The US is complicated, the EU is very complicated, the Euro is too complicated, the world is ..... our "home"


"The things you own wind up owning you" (The Fight Club) ... and the people you owe to wind up owning you too, so owe to no one & own as little as you can! Your health, your mind, your memories as well as empathy for the world are good "possessions"

Should I unfollow my dreams and friend some friends or should I unfriend my dreams and follow some friends?

Show me a country where the child of an immigrant can reasonably dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur and .I will agree with you that that country has indeed a genuine free market.

Human birth-right
In principle, a human should have a "birthright" to legally live & work anywhere on this planet he/she pleases. Immigration should be free, in principle at least between WTO member countries; humans deserve more freedom than goods and capital, right?

EU - Japan trade stats. 2000-2009
Between 2000 and 2009, EU exports of goods to Japan fell in value by around 20%, from 45 bn euro to 36 bn, while EU27 imports from Japan decreased by almost 40%, from 92 bn to 56 bn. As a result, the EU27 deficit in trade with Japan decreased from 47 bn in 2000 to 20 bn in 2009 and the share of Japan in the EU's total external trade in goods fell significantly.

In 2009, Japan accounted for 3% of EU27 exports and 5% of EU27 imports, and was the EU27's sixth most important trading partner.

Among the EU Member States, Germany (10.8 bn euro or 30% of the total) was by far the largest exporter to Japan in 2009, followed by France (4.8 bn or 13%), the United Kingdom (3.8 bn or 10%) and Italy (3.7 bn or 10%).

Germany (13.8 bn or 25%) was also the largest importer, followed by the Netherlands1 (8.7 bn or 16%) and the United Kingdom (7.0 bn or 12%).

Most Member States recorded trade deficits with Japan in 2009. The largest were observed in the Netherlands1 (-6.2 bn), Belgium (-4.3 bn), the United Kingdom (-3.2 bn), Germany (-3.0 bn) and Spain (-1.2 bn).

The highest surpluses were registered in Ireland (+1.3 bn) and Denmark (+1.0 bn).

Nearly a third of EU exports to Japan in 2009 were machinery and vehicles. Other manufactured articles2 and chemicals each accounted for around a quarter of EU exports. Machinery and vehicles accounted for two thirds of imports and other manufactured articles for almost a fifth. At the detailed level, the main EU exports to Japan were medicine, motor cars and parts and pork meat, while the main imports were motor cars and parts, printers and parts and digital cameras (source: Eurostat, April 27)

EU - Japan surplus in Services:

Almost half of EU surplus in services comes from financial services!!

In 2009, the EU exported 16.5 bn euro of services to Japan, while imports of services from Japan amounted to 12.7 bn, meaning that the EU had a surplus of 3.8 bn in trade in services with Japan. This surplus was mainly due to financial services (+1.7 bn), travel (+1.0 bn) and computer & information services (+0.9 bn). Japan accounted for more than 3% of total extra-EU27 trade in services. (Eurostat, April 27)

EU - Japan Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows between the EU and Japan show large variations, with EU27 investment in Japan of 5.9 bn in 2007, 2.6 bn in 2008 and 0.1 bn in 2009. On the other hand, Japan recorded investment of 18.5 bn in the EU27 in 2007 and 6.6 bn in 2008 and a disinvestment of 2.3 bn in 2009 (Eurostat, April 27)

Too many decision makers are becoming more & more risk averse & bureaucratic in an increasingly risk averse & bureaucratic world (systemics).


Volcan Economics?

History - Mythology:
Helen "of Troy" was actually from Sparta (always according to Homer, no CNN or BBC back then)

Turns out that the Matrix trilogy was prophetic! (world #economy). Waiting for Neo! Is Nicolas Sarkozy the "Neo" who will save us humans from the "Matrix"? Or or is it Nick Clegg?

Food for Thought: EU - EMU/Euro, US, WTO, etc

In 1990 at INSEAD, my American Economics prof explained that a currency union in absence of a strong federal budget is doomed by design. What has been the effect on Eurozone exports to the world from POR, GR, SP, FR, BEL, FIN, IRL etc of ECB int rate policy in last 10 years. In 90s were firms frm SP, POR, GR, FR, BEL, IRL etc warned they would have 2 become "German" in order 2 b able 2 export after 1999/2002? Is departure from the WTO the only viable way for the US & EU to regain manufacturing and for the EU to make the Euro viable? Is the main divergence of interests in the EU (currency, single market, trade policy, etc) a) between national economies or b) between multinationals and large international exporters and micros-SMEs? To what extent is the Euro 2002-2008 a "victim" of a) China's 2001 WTO entry and b) ECB Euro parity policy 2002-2008?

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