Category Archives: medicine and health

Who Called The Fat Police? Dame Davies, give in your badge

The Metro’s recent headline (10th October) was again angering. A British health minister wants to ban eating on public transport to combat obesity!! As a swansong, this former chief medical officer for England – worryingly dubbed Dame – has obviously used her leverage to get a front page of Britain’s most seen free rag to make her campaign. Is this what we should be knighting people for?

Sally Davies is concerned that ‘excess weight’ is now accepted as normal. What she means is that yes, bigger sizes are catered for in clothes shops; that advertising campaigns show curvy people as beautiful; that artists depict them in celebratory defiance to combat fatism and body fascism, for men and women.

And I say – amen! Who decides what’s normal and attractive?! It has varied over time and place.

The Body Mass Index is a tool to allow health services to back the attack on aesthetics that’s arbitrary and actually, modelling thinness is unhealthy. Many of us find larger figures appealing.

What is your real problem with big people, Sally? What size are you, and would I find you attractive?  Would I want to sit next to you on a bus, with or without permissible snacking?

My concern is that Fat Policing has also become normalised. Zoom lenses capture the ‘muffin tops’ of flesh sticking out of jeans by journalists to illustrate their point – which is against the diversity movement, against the anti abuse movement, against privacy. It’s not OK to rib and tell people off for their size, to make them so unhappy that they’ll conform to a standard set out by… who?….and why?

I say we call in the cards to allow citizens arrests of those whom we deem too large – and that especially means health professionals, who often don’t live up to their own didactic advice.

And the suggested snacking ban is more evidence of the Nanny State that we’re increasingly fed up with.

Eating on public transport is a good use of otherwise wasted time. For those on the go in all senses, this might be our best or only time to eat – and, as any good health chief would know – eating properly and regularly important. Only litter can possibly be a reason to curtail public eating. Curtail the mess – not the food. And the Dame’s not even wanting to ban just messy, smelly fatty foods on public transport – but everything save bottled water!

Many people eat to abate travel sickness. Do we want greater nausea to clear up, instead of food mess?

Many people have eat little and often metabolisms. Is a swaying, green, faint person more desirable?

You don’t know what people have also eaten, what their metabolism is, or their needs.

And no, don’t even start thinking of monitoring this and deciding who can eat on buses.

The Dame – now sounding very pantomime – went on to wish to push greater taxes on sugar and ban many adverts for foods she considers ‘fatty’.

I question the real issue behind sugar war and suspect this is about something somewhat darker.

I’m more concerned about purity of food, of added chemicals and modification. And that health foods and toiletry products are often not as pure as they’d claim. That’s where my concern lies.

Real health is about balance, and also natural foods. I support local, where possible, organic, unmodified with minimal ingredients and no chemicals. It’s more than what we eat: real health requires freedom.

The Metro – not the most balanced or progressive newspaper – did cede that Boris Johnson (not my favourite man) had for once made a good point: that ‘stealth sin taxes’ are counterproductive and controlling; the Food and Drink Federation worried that their work to promote health will be undone by these proposals.

I query amassing more for the treasury under the guise of what’s really a fine (thus continuing the ‘sin’ is in government interest), and that this very narrow view of ‘health’ is against more progressive and broader values, and the ‘life limiting’ that Davies speaks of is found in her own policies.

Rolling out these ‘punitive’ measures will also not attract people to work as bus drivers and train conductors.

So not a sensible legacy at all, Dame Davies – or one you would have to pick the pieces up of.

I’m off to the supermarket to buy unapproved foods for my next journey…

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The Danish Girl

This is a case in point of the trailer showing most of the film. But the two questions left remaining – what happens to Gerda and Einar’s marriage when he becomes Lili, and does Lili survive her treatments? – are answered sadly.

 

I was thinking how well crafted the film was, and how engaging the lead parts – Alicia Vikander is utterly charming and her pain infectious. I wanted the Wegener’s marriage to work, I wanted Einar to find happiness and acceptance as Lili. I was pleased that it seemed to ultimately be more The King’s Speech in tone [director Tom Hooper’s previous film], despite perhaps greater anguish and less laughs… but then, the end came suddenly.

 

PLOT SPOILER ALERT

 

I walked out of the cinema, numb, and looked to the net for solace. I was pleased that someone else had not only articulated some of my thoughts but could tell me that this wasn’t quite the true story. I particularly refer to Amy Nicholson’s piece which claims that the biopic formula undermines the real life story.

 

I’m less concerned about formula – I thought the article would talk about format and turning points – than in the ultimate portrayal. To become Lili, Einar must die; she negates the marriage shared (which was c20 years in real life, not just 6 as in the film). Curtains are drawn across the bed, a veil in every possible way. I had expected and hoped that Gerda and Lili found a way to continue to be together, but that’s not even discussed; when Einar transitions, Gerda is a widow. She doesn’t gain a wife, she loses a husband.

 

I admire the bisexual stance that sees people first, genders later, and therefore would see that the change in body is less of a radical change in person – for isn’t the point of transitioning becoming physically who you believe yourself to be inside? I have read a few times that Gerda was bisexual. Her paintings suggest it (especially the erotic ones we don’t see in the film) as does the intensified passion when Einar first starts dressing as a woman. Gerda’s modern and bohemian – enough to accept Einar’s true identity as a woman. They at last find friends and a doctor to support them – but only in Lili’s physical creation, not in a gay relationship. It almost felt a bit seesaw: trans up  – gay/bi down. It’s odd as that’s not apparently what happened with the Wegeners. And it seems to not be very LGB friendly.

 

Einar’s draw to becoming female does seem quite exterior, as Amy Nicholson observed. Eddie Redmayne’s performance recalled Billy Crudup’s in Stage Beauty, where the male impersonation of a woman involves high, unassertive voices and dainty stereotypical hand movements which neither actress playing opposite employed. Women aren’t like the drag versions of us; this felt like a theatrical farce of feminity.

 

The last film about a male to female transsexual I saw was Laurence Anyways, a Canadian French film starring Melville Poupard (how I love his name), and a similar issue – a heterosexual couple faces the transition of the man into another woman. It ran into a decade and 3 hours of screen time, but it wasn’t just the trans factor that sometimes made the couple separate. I couldn’t really see what killed the Wegener’s marriage. I didn’t feel happy that Gerda embarks on a new relationship and Lili, who did find a male partner in life, is not allowed to enjoy her new body in the film. Her identity is never known publically (it was in reality for 20 years). She doesn’t paint as Lili, although she does leave us a diary. We never see the family reaction, who are not in the film at all. Lili and Gera seem quite isolated, save lascivious artists, art dealers and the doctors.

 

Amy Nicholson comments that the doctors are the baddies of the film – and yes, they are. They radiate (something I don’t support as a cancer treatment), and they nearly lock Einar up as mentally ill – the manual for psychiatric disorders (DSM) has still not fully eradicated transgenderism from its pages. But it’s the kindly, maverick, hero faced professor played by Sebastian Koch who is also ultimately the most damaging of the doctors. None of them seems to have malice; all act out of what they considered professional duty and the patient’s interest. I note how often in the film – and in life – we are urged to seek out doctors when we encounter difficulty, though I often feel they are not the right door to knock on. The supposed good doctor is the one who takes away the life of Lili with intrusive medical procedure and (not clear in the film) an ill judged womb transplant.

 

I was and am concerned about what intimate parts the doctors were going to make for transwomen. They lacked – and some still do – true knowledge of female anatomy and that the major sexual part of a woman is not simply a passageway, but a whole mostly subterranean network, made for pleasure and not just obvious sex and birth. (From her paintings, Gerda clearly knew!) We see Einar look at himself naked as he is, and then as would like to be, but never a shot or discussion of what women actually have (and Lili acquires) – it is not simply an absence and an inversion. Nor do we ever hear that Lili gains breasts.

 

I hear that 40 year old actresses were considered for these parts, but those cast – excellent, sympathetic and watchable as they are – are around 30. But they are too young for the trajectory of the story. Lili/Einar was 48 at her death; Eddie Redmanye turned 34 at the film’s release.

 

So the bohemian effective three-way relation with two actual people is not explored in the film, nor what made this long open minded marriage break down. I was also confused by Lili’s sexuality – does she like other men? The film implies that Gerda can only be with real, actual men whilst for all her ground breaking, Einar wants a husband and children, and to give up her career – for being a woman is a job description in itself.

 

Apart from the charm of Alicia, the film’s real draw was Copenhagen, which this film has made me want to visit.

 

But I think the real story would have pushed that 15 cert (which is quite a mild one) and perhaps the wide accidence and award – or is that being mean? – because the truly pioneering story here is untold. I was unsure how a person who died due to being a world first guinea pig is inspiring for the “transsexual movement” as the end title cards state. I am learning more of the couple (or should I say, trio) but I’m feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the film. It felt the Daily Mail-ified, mainstream version, saying that difference leads to loss, not the exploration of an uncommon marriage, or the critique of surgery that this story really ought to be.

I haven’t forgotten Carol – I will review that soon

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US Things To Give Thanks For

I’m not American, but I wanted to use today as an excuse to reflect on all the things I do like about America. So here’s my favourite exports:

Wonder Woman

Clearly a much delayed role model, I talk about her on here. My favourite superhero, making hawks doves, though a little underdressed for this time of year

Sesame Street

The subversive kid’s show I didn’t appreciate till I had come of age. Witty, surreal, clever and hilarious. Milllllk!

Neale Donald Walsch

I have to acknowledge his place on my spiritual journey, turning the boat from the Mayflower to…this is where my boat knowledge lets down the metaphor… Magical Mystery Tour? Rainbow Warrior?… not quite either of those… but a ship willing to include a new path and wider crew, and some radical thoughts about the captain

Jo Dunning

My favourite spiritual speaker and healer right now. I love to tune into her monthly Quick Pulse seminar, even though it involves staying up til 2am due to time differences. Jo’s voice is calm and truthful and I’ve been very impressed with her – I’d not normally believe some of the things she offers, but something in my gut says I can trust her

Elaine Aron

Elaine represents a whole load of things that would only come out of America, but the rest of the world needs. Normally I would resist such a statement, but I’m only doing grateful today. I’m glad that America has identified things that some other cultures would never name or explore and champion. Elaine has a trait she has called Highly Sensitive Person, which she sees as neutral-positive that explains why some people can be overwhelmed. There are many things implicit in this about growth and acceptance that I think some of American culture can be good at encouraging and addressing.

The Constitution

Sadly not what it’s living by, but a beautiful and inspiring piece to nations everywhere – and I like being built, like Camelot (as per recent post) on an idea

Sasha Cagen

She who founded the Quirkyalone movement whose blog posts are wise and inspiring, celebratory of full personhood, of sensuality, of singleness, and seeking the very best of relationships

My US friends

My life has been touched by various Americans, I have some in particular in mind at present. They’ll get personal messages.

 

I shall eat sweet potatoes tonight in your honor with and without a U!

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CM week: Mad Pride day

I liked this idea – a celebration and claiming back of mental illness – but there’s a flip side. If it’s easier to war the label, is it easier to apply? And application can mean drugs (even forced prescription) and incarceration. Mental health can mean being in a system where you are not in control anymore. I am concerned that unlike disability or rainbow pride that the good sounding intentions of stigma reduction and visibility can lead to something else.

On this last day of CM week, I invite a look at this link: http://s4.zetaboards.com/Nikki_and_Helen/topic/10043872/1/ a post I started.

I think more maladjustment is needed.

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Creative Maladjustment Week

This is based on a Martin Luther King speech who said “Here is a list of horrible things in our world which I’m glad to be maladjusted to, and I won’t be changing that”. He resisted being “normal” as officially defined (especially by psychiatry) and said we need a new group to improve our world, the creatively maladjusted. This international week celebrates that spirit, and here’s its website.

Here’s what I am proud to be maladjusted to:

– Benefits claimant hating, as incited by media and certain political parties; the belief that your worth comes from how much taxable income you generate

– Banks that can create theoretical money and make actual debts to chase you for, even or especially when you’re poor, and cause global crises that others both suffer and pay for

– a health system that’s as much about supply and demand and control as it really is about wellness, and which sees other forms of healing – often older and more universal – as a threat to be derided and blocked; a system that can make decisions on your behalf for ‘your good’ which affect your life and body and mind

– a world where governments and corporations try to own and control people and pry and don’t treat people as people and where other forms of life are only given value by what they profit other humans

– a world where we have judgment and fear, not acceptance, towards those who are different from us, whether that be due to nationhood, skin colour, beliefs, sexuality, gender, bodily ability

– a world where we are disseminated to and encouraged to ridicule or silence those who don’t agree with and expose and question the beliefs that those in control would like us to absorb

– a world of secrecy and control of the few, often masquerading as a people led open advanced society

– invasive customs control based on exaggerated threats; wars on terror justified through fear but which really have some hidden benefit for the few whilst causing more terror for those who we claim to protect

And campaigns to glorify and justify war, past and present

You know my flags by now – justice and liberty for all! And most important – Love.

Here is a big wave of them along with all those other CMs!

 

 

 

 

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Radiotherapy Rape

I wondered if that was a bit of a hard title – but it feels necessary.

If someone is forced to undergo bodily actions against their will, especially those that are harmful on a physical and mental level and that have altering affects, than that is rape. Rape is not purely for sexual abuse.

I refer to to the news around the Roberts family, where a court has forced a recalcitrant mother to let her son have an operation and therapy for a brain tumour that she doesn’t want – and to lose parental custody for a year, as well as banning her passport.

I cannot tell from reports quite how this got into the courts. Was it the estranged husband who raised the case, or that mother Sally took her soon away to stop him having the therapy? Did the authorities really come looking for her due to missed appointments?

I am incensed by the judge who really cannot call himself Justice anything.

Our bodies are our own, not the state’s, not the court’s, not the hospital’s. None of those places can make a decision on anyone’s behalf.

‘A mother’s choice’ in our society means she can choose not have a baby, but once born, that choice reverts to the state.

What really seems at stake here is that the mother, Sally, has defied the system. She has said no to submitting, as so many unquestioningly do, to the harsh treatments, and wanted time to explore other options. She is told that there are none and then forced to go to court. She is told by “experts” that these other treatments she considers are not “proven.” Truth – there is fear that doctors are losing their power and that the harm of traditional cancer treatments is becoming better known. And that “experts” and evidence are chosen to back up what those in power want us to know.

Sally is quite right to consider other options and query methods where damage has been done. Alternative healers often speak of the alarming statistics where the health professions harm, not cure. I don’t believe it is their way of getting our custom instead (I am wary of that); and nor do I believe that most allopathic medical staff intend harm; I am sure they are trying genuinely to assist.

But they have bought into their own medicine that there is one way – the established one – to deal with medical issues. When my own mum was dying of cancer, I found out that alternative health shops were legally unable to answer my query. I have discovered why – the 1939 Cancer Act, England, which has few search results on the net, but forbids the statement and advertisement of cancer cure other than via radio and chemotherapy.

You have to ask who made that law – people set to gain from these treatments, trying to have a legal as well as financial monopoly on cure. Donna Eden asks in her Energy Medicine book why such laws (also found in America) are there, as ultimately all genuine healers want to heal, and the prohibitions she found are not only curtailing patient choice (and her own gifts) but stopping that healing taking place.

I also discovered too the surprise of doctors when one does not simply go to the therapy rooms as prescribed, their almost anger at orders not being obeyed, at their plans not being followed. As an adult, my mother (encouraged by me) could freely choose not to have treatment – the little she did had precipitated illness, for despite having stage 4 cancer, she had looked very well til then. Yet Neon Roberts, Sally’s son, has not got that choice. No report speaks of what he wants and how much he can understand about the risks and treatments being foisted on him.

The medical profession also fears death as a sign of failure. But for those of us who see death as a passing from this to another, better world, it is not to be shunned at any cost. Perhaps we are worse at accepting child death now than when the mortality rate was higher and people were generally more religious. I think spirituality is returning, though not yet to the establishment. We feel a good life is a long one and that a shorter one, especially in children, is a life cheated. While desperately painful for loved ones, perhaps it is better to see that lives are of varying lengths and that growing into old age is not an automatic right and necessity. I believe we come into the world for a purpose and that sometimes that is fulfilled in a short time.

I do feel for the family. But this piece is about a serious and frightening point that a mother is being overruled and our bodies are not our own.

It seems that this is using emotive talk to get the courts and public to side against a mother for being open minded. It’s easy to read Dec 22nd’s outcome as rewarding the conforming, malleable father with care of the son so that what the state wants can happen. I did not like what his defence lawyer said, hinting (as did the judge) that Sally is going off the rails and being wayward – and therefore not deserving of winning the case or having care of her child.

Obviously what’s hard is that the parents do not agree on what should happen.

What’s the real battle here?

I am aware some believe in the conventional system and that others may genuinely think that this method is the best to save a life. But as Sally points out – what kind of life? And what if the other methods can also save him and be safer and less horrific to go through?

Having already subjected a little boy to a long gruelling op, he is recalled to hospital because they missed some of the tumour. That to me is rectifying their failure, fear of suing for negligence.

This is clear: no state or doctor or judge can force anyone (human or animal) of any age or mental state to have treatment they don’t want. I am sure Neon’s mum is not wishing her son to die – the reverse – but it’s not a choice that others get to make for her.

And as for evidence for other healing methods and against radioactive ones, there is plenty, but it is being hidden and curtailed. We need to ask – what is the business of medicine really about? The only answer is to heal and assist, and if it’s not doing that, then it is wrong and those wanting anything other than to do that need to resign (judges included). It’s not about drug profits or supremacy, it’s about care. And justice is just that – not imposing the will of the powerful.

I am pleased that Sally is mounting another appeal (Jan 3rd), and I’m appalled by the tone of reporting and the comments posted. I am often appalled by the views of many readers – and we are supposed to be a ‘developed’ country!

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Dec 21st – a day for new beginnings

I am excited about today and hope that the shift in energy is apparent, even if it doesn’t manifest to everyone in an obvious way. I do not believe that this is the end of anything except an old way that not longer serves us.

Here are some of the changes I would like to see:

– And end to punitive measures which are really revenue making for the group in power, in the name of safety

– An end to harsh ideologies that make life harder for the poor

– An end to ideologies which erode our freedom and liberties

– An end to judgement of others due to their being different

– An end to hierarchies and justice systems built on fear and power

– An end to conformity to systems that don’t serve us and in cures and protections that actually cause harm

 

A beginning of

– Greater Consideration for others

– Fearlessness in facing our own problems and those of our world

– Greater skill in expressing ourselves

– Greater love in the world

– Closer relationships with each other and God

– the Courage to reassess our current systems and values, see that they are mostly not working, and restart

– Changes of heart for our leaders especially

 

We live in exciting times.

Warmest wishes and light to all over this Christmas and New Year – and to the dawning of this new age.

 

 

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Rust and Bone – a film of the heart and the stomach

Watching films in French brings back my high school language lessons. In my limited halting French, I imagined trying to explain what I thought of a film which had been powerful; sometimes tender, but also gut wrenching – and came up with the phrase “it is a film of the heart… and the stomach.”

DO NOT READ BEFORE WATCHING THE FILM

I’d hate to spoil those punches by hinting at them to anyone who’s not seen it – I always enjoy letting a film unfold with its surprises just as they should be – unknown. The reviews I read did not give it away, for once. So don’t let this. (I hadn’t seen the Telegraph who ruined it in the first line, and I can’t bear to comment on the Mail).

There are two main turning points which are shown from underwater, wonderfully stylised, one of which does not make full sense until the next scene, when our horror on discovery is also the character’s.

I’ve thought back to my post on Flickering Myth, Triumph or Tragedy, also about women who endure horrendous things in films. Which is this? Picturehouses brochure said that Rust and Bone’s director Jacques Audiard likes to ruminate on the randomness of casual fate to alter lives. But I do not believe that fate is arbitrary.

http://flickeringmyth.blogspot.com/2010/01/tragedy-or-triumph-amelia-and.html

Unlike the topics of my Flickering Myth post, this is not a true story. My way of making sense of it, real or not, would be to see what Marion Cotillard’s character Stephanie gains from the… orca episode. (Did anyone else wake up the next day and check they still had legs? Or want to make more fuss of them after seeing this?) Yes, you read right… I think one could gain from such a horror, though it’s easier to see when it’s not touching your life.

Looking at life like a story is a very helpful way of understanding it. Yes it does imply an author. When planning a story, the writer is always thinking about development. There must be an arc, even if it is a dipping , swirling one, to each character’s journey.

Ali’s character clearly benefits from meeting Stephanie. He’s irresponsible and accidentally brutal and a bit feckless. By the end, those prize fighting fists that once banged his son to shut him up have been damaged in fighting through the ice to pull that same disregarded son out of a frozen river. Ali learns to cry. He learns to tell a girl he loves her, instead of just having casual sex; he learns gentleness. He starts to learn about having a relationship and being a father.  I was about to add “financial responsibility” to that list, but realised it sounds the kind of conventional idea of growing up that I despise.

Ali’s benefits to Stephanie are also obvious: a woman who has lost any passion for living is persuaded to leave her disabled adapted home and enjoy swimming. She gains confidence and shines again physically. He allows her… I am not sure how I would term the sex. It seemed the most unappealing offer – “I’ll show you if it still works”… and without any intimacy or build up or affection, performs the minimal. Stephanie blossoms there too, and is later seen astride him, her thighs tattooed with “Left and right” in military stencil – an odd way of embracing those stumps. She goes back to Marineworld where her legs were last seen and even speaks with a killer whale and meets her old colleagues. She learns to walk, and then, kind of dance. She too gains a boyfriend… but her new finances come from his fighting and being made the betting organiser of illegal fights, a gap left by a criminal whose entrepreneurial activities sack Ali’s sister, Anna, who has been supporting Ali and his son.

But I have two queries: one is how far that arc for both of them really goes, because I’m not very satisfied that violent, ruleless fighting is a freeing career for either of them. And to see if Stephanie gains something from her unwitting Jaws incident, we have to know more about the life she left behind the day she work up in the hospital.

Tragedy is an opportunity, and it can be a way forward out of something (again easier to say hypothetically, but this is how I try to think). Stephanie’s erm, situation is well known – it hits national television (perhaps further) – but unlike Amy Eckhart or Christine from Changeling, her achievements are not not. Not everyone suffering (and that’ll be most of us) will became famed for what we do with it. Stephanie’s story is inspiring – to see her get out of bed and then have an active life again – but not to enter a demimonde with a lunk.

What little we do see of her full limbed previous life is her killer whale training, her not too nice seeming boyfriend, Simon, and that she goes to a nightclub alone and gets into a fight.  Picturehouses suggests that her family are stiflingly condescending . If that’s so (I was unsure I picked that up) then Ali’s presence not only gives her something she’s not getting elsewhere, but that perhaps her family and friendship circle was not strong. However, she seems to have little of it – so rather than strengthening it through her incident, she loses them more.

My gut feeling that I’d enjoy this film was right – though I did not know my gut would literally feel wrenched (but not in an upsetting, unwatchable way). I am intrigued to find out how the effects were done, as I presume that Marion still has feet… but now I’m reflecting more, I am a little unsatisfied. I didn’t fid the anatomy lesson voiceover epilogue from Ali very helpful, and I didn’t really rally for him or get into his Fight Club world. I suspect awards are looming, but felt this kind of role touts them by its very nature. I was impressed by Marion, but wondered if any illness or disability or other suffering makes us feel we are watching a better performance. Because I didn’t really see the full arc in Stephanie that I would have liked. But perhaps those who believe in randomness and lack of author  in life wouldn’t write it in fiction, and I think that is where I differed enough to  recommend but not rave about the film.

As a coda, I want to talk about intrusive medicine. I was unsure if the whale ate Stephanie’s legs or the hospital did. The BBC and the BBFC says they are amputated. Unconscious, she could have no way of allowing it. I would hate my sister if I realised she had given consent for it, as Stephanie’s has. How badly were the legs mangled? So often we don’t give parts of our bodies the chance to grow again, and we cut out instead of changing energy. We would be surprised by how much can heal itself – not just our bones (as the film’s epilogue mentions). I am sure the floating figure after the whale crash had full legs. The shock for me is not the whale skidding over the stage, but the actions of hospital and family, and the ugliness of artificial limbs.

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