TBR News November 21, 2017

Nov 21 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 15, 2017:”We will be out of the country until the end of the month. Ed”


Table of Contents

  • Who’s A ‘Foreign Agent’?
  • On the Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
  • Life on Earth may already exist on alien planets, say scientists
  • The Dreamers: Doubts about Brexit on the Rise in Britain
  • In Crisis, Angela Merkel Prefers Elections to Minority Rule
  • Russian nuclear facility denies it is source of high radioactivity levels
  • Congressmen press the U.S Mint for action on counterfeit gold and silver coins 
  • With Fake American Silver Eagles on the Rise, How Can You Spot the Fakes?


Who’s A ‘Foreign Agent’?

In Washington, who isn’t?

November 21, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


You know life’s become a joke when the US Department of Justice starts requiring foreign media to register as foreign agents. Will the BBC be forced to issue a disclaimer with every broadcast and web posting: “Proceed with caution – British propaganda ahead”? Don’t bet the ranch on it.

Such distinctions are reserved for the current bogeyman of the moment, i.e. typically some marginal outlet with a small-to-minuscule audience, in this case RT, formerly Russia Today, and its companion web site Sputnik. Banned from advertising on Twitter, and the subject of an official investigation by both houses of Congress and a special counsel, these two relatively minor state-sponsored outlets are nonetheless credited with nearly single-handedly putting Donald Trump in the White House.

It didn’t take much to create the kind of atmosphere in which a direct assault on the First Amendment goes largely unnoticed and even implicitly supported. A mysterious Russian “troll farm” amplifying the perfidious “divisiveness” of RT/Sputnik “disinformation,” a few hundred thousand bucks in Facebook ads (mostly placed after the election), and the “expert” testimony of professional hysterics who traffic in the mythology of the new cold war. Such are the ingredients that go into the making of a new industry, or rather a revived one: Kremlinology.

Compared to the “experts” of yesteryear, today’s Kremlinologists are a crankish lot. Bereft of any real knowledge of either Russian politics or the language, their elaborate conspiracy theories are unanchored by observable facts. Instead, we are treated to a series of mysterious “links,” and seemingly ambiguous meetings, which add up to a monumental nothing. Twitter accounts that may or may not be real human beings retweet “fake news” generated and centrally directed by Vladimir Putin, and this – so they tell us – was a meaningful and even a decisive factor in the 2016 presidential election. Yes, this nonsense is now the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., where the foreign lobbies that matter, the ones with real power, rule the roost.

Since professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have done such a thorough job documenting the power and influence of Israel’s lobby in the US, the often decisive role played by AIPAC and allied groups is today largely acknowledged, even by the lobby’s partisans. If you have time or inclination, it’s worth looking into how AIPAC – surely not an insignificant force — and its predecessors were exempted from having to register under the terms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Senator William J. Fulbright and the lobby had quite a go-round during congressional hearings on the subject.

How many foreign-funded thinktanks in Washington are pushing an agenda dictated by the amount of cold hard cash flowing into their coffers from abroad? Shall we have the public pronouncements of the Alliance to Secure Democracy – funded by a bakers’ dozen of foreign governments – labeled with the requisite Department of Justice “disclaimer”? What about the sainted Brookings Institution, which is on the take from a couple of dubious sources? And if not, why not?

Ranked in terms of their real influence and reach, the Russians are on a par with Syria, Zimbabwe, and the office of the Orleanist Pretender to the French Throne. The lobbyists with real clout – the Saudis, the Israelis, the EU/Franco-Gerrman bloc, the China lobbies (Taiwan and the mainland), not to mention George Soros, who surely qualifies as a country – are given free rein. If the feds are now intent on strictly enforcing the FARA, there are an awful lot of folks in the Imperial City who are going to have to come out of the closet, so to speak, and admit they’re simply megaphones for foreign actors.

If we’re going to start prohibiting or even limiting the activities of foreign lobbyists, then groups like the Atlantic Council – flush with foreign cash — are going to be set back on their heels. Which is why a strict double standard is in place and will remain so.

Indeed, ordinary standards of all sort, including the rules of evidence, have been thrown underfoot in the Blame Russia stampede to such an extent that to express certain views — say, on NATO expansion, or the wisdom of carrying out provocative military exercises at the gates of Moscow – is to be labeled an “unconscious agent” of the Russian state. Which means, of course, that anyone who challenges the new cold war paradigm, and criticizes US foreign policy as hegemonist, not in our interests, and dangerous, is part of the alleged Russian conspiracy to “undermine our democracy.”

Like the Kremlinologists of the 1950s, our phony “experts” are shameless opportunists looking to cash in on the latest fad: unlike their predecessors, however, none of these people actually knows anything about Russia, foreign policy, or “Putinism,” so-called. The old school anti-Communist “experts” who solemnly testified before Congress that subversion was everywhere in our midst at least had some real experience: many of them were ex-Communists, who knew the ideology and its adherents inside out.

Not so this latest batch: their insubstantial visions of ghostly cyber-armies who somehow maneuvered not only the election of Donald Trump but also pulled off Brexit, are unconvincing. Yet propaganda, to be effective, needn’t be all that convincing: volume and the power of sheer repetition are often enough to achieve the desired result, which in this case is to demonize anyone who opposes the new cold war with Russia.

That’s why, time after time, we see the professional smear-mongers going after Antiwar.com, as well as any other “alternative” media that fails to go along with the “mainstream” script. Thus I was treated to the ridiculous spectacle of seeing the Russians blamed for the Catalonian secession movement on the grounds that I – being “reliably pro-Russian” – supported the Catalan cause!

The War Party wants to drive anyone who opposes their agenda out of the public square, and silence proponents of peace once and for all. The next phase of this witch-hunt is to go after Putin’s so-called “dupes” and “fellow travelers,” which means anyone who opposes our foreign policy of global intervention but can’t be directly tied to Russia.

The militarists don’t want a foreign policy debate: their whole modus operandi is to shut down debate, to delegitimize dissent from the bipartisan interventionist status quo as a Russian covert operation. You’ll notice that their favorite argument these days is that such-and-such is “divisive.” Brazen and quite clever, actually, this openly censorious quasi-authoritarian tone is really an act of desperation. Faced with the public’s overwhelming opposition to new wars, the War Party has decided to simply outlaw the opposition – that is, to shut it down in the name of curbing “foreign influence.”

As we have seen, however, what’s really going on here is the fierce competition of foreign interests. It’s a question of which foreign interests will gain the favor of the Empire, and thus the upper hand, at any given moment. In the Washington casino, every conceivable country and would-be country is represented with cash on the table, hoping the Wheel of Fashion will turn in their direction. Every interest has a place at the table – with a singe exception. The lobby for America, the one pressure group that puts American interests first, is nowhere in evidence. I’m afraid it’s too much to expect that US government officials are and ought to be the front line defenders of American interests narrowly conceived.

If anyone is surprised that journalists haven’t been the first ones to protest the imposition of content regulations on “foreign” media, then they are being naïve. The “liberal” media has been agitating for some form of censorship, whether governmental edicts against “hate speech” or corporate conformity compacts, and Russia-gate has been their bread and butter. Perhaps this accounts for the tepid statement of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared “We’re uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda.”

An outright assault on the First Amendment is a mere discomfort: is that the Founders I hear weeping?

The Freedom of the Press Foundation worried that the DOJ decision “opens up serious risk of retaliation for many brave journalists who work in Russia – both independent reporters who may get funding from the US and the US government’s own Voice of America.” So their big worry is what this will do to US government propaganda efforts: no hint that a far more important principle is at stake.

What’s in store for us is a full-fledged no-holds-barred all-out witch hunt, with the reincarnation and rebranding of the ill-favored “House Un-American Activities Committee,” and, worse, the revival of the hysteria that made it possible. There can’t be any compromise in a fight of this kind: the enemy is out to illegalize us. They want to make dissent the equivalent of treason. We can’t let them succeed.


On the Rehabilitation of George W. Bush

Say It Again: The Enemy of Our Enemy Is Still a War Criminal

by Rebecca Gordon

Tom Dispatch

He received a prestigious award from the West Point Association of Graduates. He published a “runaway” bestselling autobiography. Last February, a lavishly produced book celebrating his paintings of Americans who served in the military was, as Time put it, “burning up the Amazon charts.”

Still, the liberal media wasn’t ready to embrace George W. Bush — not at least until he made some oblique criticisms of the current tenant of his old position, suggesting that, in the present political climate, “bigotry seems emboldened.” Seems? Have you been to Charlottesville lately, Mr. Bush?

The former president was less tentative on the main subject of his address to a conference on “democracy” he’d organized in New York City: the importance of free trade and the need for a large American footprint in the world. “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade,” he said, “forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.” More on that speech later.

Not the First Rehab Job

George W. Bush is hardly the first disgraced Republican president and war criminal to worm his way back into American esteem. Richard Nixon remains the leader in that department.  He spent his later years being celebrated as an elder statesman and a master of realpolitik in international relations. In the process, he managed to shake off the dust of Watergate.

In those years, few even remembered that his was the first administration in which both the president and vice president resigned. In 1973, that disgraced vice president, Spiro Agnew, pled guilty to a felony count of tax evasion, but not before he’d bequeathed the English language a few of its most mellifluous sobriquets, among them the “nattering nabobs of negativism” and the “effete corps of impudent snobs” (aimed at those who opposed the Vietnam War).

Nixon’s rehabilitation not only reduced the Watergate scandal in American memory, but also essentially obliterated his greater crimes, among which were these:

  • while still a presidential candidate in 1968, he opened a secret back channel to the South Vietnamese government to keep it out of peace talks with the North that might have benefited his Democratic opponent;
  • in the war itself, he oversaw the expansion of the CIA’s Phoenix Program of torture and assassination in which, as historian Alfred McCoy has described it, “the formalities of prosecution” of suspected Viet Cong were replaced “with pump and dump — pumping suspects of information by torture and then dumping the bodies, more than 20,000 of them between 1968 and 1971”;
  • he also oversaw an expansive, illegal, and undeclared war in Cambodia (which, when it was about to come to light, he described as a brief “incursion” into that country);
  • he oversaw the saturation or “carpet” bombing of the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, and that country’s major port, Haiphong;
  • and he presided over the “first 9/11,” the 1973 military coup that murdered Chile’s elected president, Salvador Allende, ushering in years of terror and torture under General Augusto Pinochet.

And don’t think that Richard Nixon is the only other example of such a post-presidential rehabilitation. Ronald Reagan is now remembered by friend and foe alike as a kind, folksy president and a wily strategist who ended the Cold War by forcing a cash-strapped Soviet Union to keep up with U.S. defense spending and then negotiated directly with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. When he died in June 2004, the New York Times was typical in the largely fawning obituary it ran, describing him as “the man who restored popular faith in the presidency and the American government.”

That obituary did at least mention the Iran-Contra conspiracy in which President Reagan approved the (illegal) sale of arms to Iran to fund his (illegal) support of the Nicaraguan Contras, the murderous rebel force that sought to overthrow that country’s leftist Sandinista government. “The deception and disdain for the law,” commented the obituary, “invited comparisons to Watergate, undermined Mr. Reagan’s credibility, and severely weakened his powers of persuasion with Congress.” An odd set of observations about a man being hailed for restoring faith in the presidency, but consistent with the contradictions inherent in any lionization of Reagan.

Lest we forget, he was also the president who began his first term by attacking unions, starting with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, a move which so many years later still results in regular flight delays, thanks to a 27-year low in the number of air controllers. Reagan also inaugurated the mania for deregulation that led to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and ultimately to the subprime mortgage crisis and financial meltdown of 2007-2008. His presidency reinforced what would become a never-ending slide in the value of real wages and his tax policies were the starting point for what has, in our own time, become not an inequality gap but an inequality chasm that has now left three men with the same amount of wealth as 160 million Americans. (Not surprisingly, depending on who’s calculating it, the United States either has the world’s highest or perhaps fourth-highest Gini score, a measurement of economic inequality.)

Nixon had to wait many years for his rehabilitation and Reagan’s was largely posthumous.  At a vigorous 71, however, Bush seems to be slipping effortlessly back onto the national stage only nine years after leaving office essentially in disgrace.  He will evidently have plenty of time to bask in history’s glow before the first of those nostalgic obituaries are written.  And for that, he can thank Donald Trump.

  1. Redux?

During that October 17th speech in which he criticized Trump without mentioning his name, George W. Bush touted the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World.” There, he bemoaned the degradation of political discourse by “casual cruelty,” noting that “bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.” Like the rest of his family, Bush does not share Trump’s aversion to immigrants, so he added that this country seems to be forgetting “the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”

Articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even the Guardian eagerly reported Bush’s implicit criticisms of the president as a hopeful sign of resistance to Trumpism from the “responsible” Republican right. Politico simply labeled the event a “George W. Bush speech on Trumpism,” although much of it was about the decline of democracy in Europe and the value of free trade.

It’s certainly true that his speech included oblique critiques of the man who repeatedly insulted his brother Jeb as “a very low-energy kind of guy” and knocked him out of the race to be the third Bush to sit in the Oval Office, but it’s worth reading the whole address. It’s vintage W. — that is, vintage W. as a war criminal. He began, for instance, by reprising the lie that “since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies.”

As Alfred McCoy demonstrates in his recent book, In the Shadows of the American Century, that is a particularly disingenuous description of a 70-year history in which Washington supported and, in a remarkable number of cases was directly involved in, the destruction of free societies. A list of examples would perhaps begin with the 1953 British and U.S.-backed coup against the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that would install the despotic Shah in power in that country.  It would certainly continue with the 1954 U.S. and United Fruit Company coup against Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala (an early instance of Washington’s post-World War II “encouragement” of anything-but-free-trade); the 1960 CIA-backed coup against, and the murder of, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba; and the 1973 military coup in Chile. An honest history would also include the active “encouragement” of societies that were anything but free, including those run by juntas, dictators, or military governments in Greece, Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Iraq, and South Korea, to name just a few.

Of course, George W. Bush is hardly the first president to lie about the post-World War II record of the United States.  Nor is he the first to suggest that “American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places,” which he attributed in his speech to the lack of the democracy Washington put so much effort into destroying in more than 70 countries across the planet.

And don’t forget that it was precisely the pretext of a direct threat to American security that led to the most criminal lie of his career: the insistence that Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the U.S. invasion of his country was justified by a (legally questionable) case of preemptive self-defense. By initiating a war of aggression, by loosing “shock and awe” on the capital of a nation that had not attacked ours, President Bush committed a war crime. Indeed, it was the first in the list of crimes for which the leaders of Nazi Germany were indicted at Nuremberg after World War II: the ultimate crime against peace.

Few Americans have ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but in 1928 the United States signed it and the Senate ratified it by a vote of 85-1. The 50 signatories of that treaty renounced war as a means of settling international disputes and, as the authors of The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World have argued, by implication made aggressive war a violation of international law. The U.S. Constitution states in Article 6 that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” By invading Iraq, Bush broke both international and U.S. law.

In addition to his crimes against peace, Bush and his administration were also the authors of such traditionally recognized war crimes as torture and the use of chemical weapons. One of the uglier aspects of the U.S. military’s battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah was its use of white phosphorus, an incendiary munition. Phosphorus ignites spontaneously when exposed to air.  If bits of the chemical attach to human beings, skin and flesh burn away. The burning continues as long as there is oxygen available, sometimes right into the bone.

In short, isn’t it a little early to begin rehabilitating the man responsible for indefinite detention at Guantánamo, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and at least 150,000 Afghans — not to mention the trillions of U.S. dollars shoved down the memory hole in pursuit of the futile wars that followed?

Leda and the Swan

The same year that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed, William Butler Yeats published a collection of poems called The Tower. It contains what many consider his masterpiece, the harrowing sonnet “Leda and the Swan.” In it, Yeats recreates the moment in Greek myth when Zeus, the ruling god of Olympus, having taken the form of a swan, rapes the helpless human woman Leda, leaving her pregnant with a daughter.  That daughter became Helen of Troy, whose abduction was the casus belli for the Trojan War.

The poet begins with the victim’s shock and awe:

“A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

In the final stanza, Yeats writes:

“A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.”

In those brief words can be read an entire history of war and death, recounted more fully in the 15,693 lines of the Iliad, all somehow encapsulated in that first act of violence.

In his poem, Yeats implies that Zeus knows full well the final outcome of his act. Similarly perhaps, the “swans” of Washington in 2003, which was at that time the planet’s own imperial Olympus, had more than an inkling of the broken walls, the burning roofs and towers their invasion of Iraq might engender. As early as 1996, future Vice President Dick Cheney’s fellow hawks Richard Perle and Douglas Feith — who would later join the Bush administration as adviser on the Defense Policy Board and under secretary of defense for policy — helped write a report for Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then running the Israeli government for the first time. Titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” it urged the leaders of Israel’s right-wing Likud party to leave behind the nation’s previous geopolitical strategy by abandoning peace negotiations with the Palestinians and using military means to actively restructure the Middle East in their favor.

“Israel,” the authors argued, “can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.” Such a campaign would begin by “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” The ultimate goal was a realignment of power in the region, with Syria destabilized, a monarchy in Iraq, and a new regional alliance among Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.

It would prove to be the geopolitical equivalent of a movie preview. In the wake of 9/11, the same cast of characters would take a similar path in Washington and, in the end, that “rolling back” operation would shake or destroy country after country from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Yemen.  Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Syria has certainly been destabilized in ways almost impossible to imagine, through the rise of ISIS (born in an American military prison) and a vicious, multi-sided civil war that, by early 2016, had left more than a tenth of its population killed or injured.  In the process, more than 10 million people, including untold numbers of children, were turned into internal or external refugees.

Netanyahu, in fact, would reject the “clean break” proposal (perhaps because it also suggested that Israel make a clean break with its dependence on U.S. aid), but the neocons were undeterred. In 1998, they resurrected the plan as part of a new pressure group they formed, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and presented it to Bill Clinton in a letter encouraging him to direct “a full complement of diplomatic, political, and military efforts” to “remove Saddam Hussein from power.”

Nor were they overly concerned about the legality of such a move, writing that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the U.N. Security Council.” In other words, the country should not be “crippled” by adherence to the U.N. Charter, whose Article 51 prohibits unilateral war making without Security Council approval, except in cases of immediate “individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”

Like Netanyahu, Clinton ignored their suggestion. However, the signatories of the letter included many figures who would become key players in the Bush administration, among them Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Richard Armitage, Reagan hold-over Elliott Abrams, and Zalmay Khalilzad, who among other roles served as Bush’s special envoy and ambassador at large for free Iraqis. And it included, of course, Cheney adviser and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who had prepared a draft of a 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document for President George H.W. Bush in which he argued for the importance of U.S. readiness to take unilateral military action, whether approved by the United Nations or not.

In other words, the top officials of the Bush administration took office already planning to attack Iraq. It only awaited 19 mostly Saudi terrorists hijacking four American commercial airliners on September 11, 2001. That would be the pretext to launch what has become a “generational struggle” that would eventually destroy Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen (and almost as a side dish, Afghanistan), and which now threatens to engulf the entire Greater Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, in a set of never-ending wars and spreading terror movements.

All that suffering sprang from the actions of one feckless president and his crew. So what if — after 16 years of fruitless war, 16 years of disintegrating American infrastructure, 16 years of almost unprecedented inequality — George W. Bush does find Trump’s rhetorical style distasteful? Is that really any reason to turn a presidential war criminal into a liberal hero?


Life on Earth may already exist on alien planets, say scientists

November 21, 2017


Life forms on Earth may also exist on other planets, according to a theory on micro-organisms from our solar system. Scientists studying interplanetary dust have posited that the powdery matter is capable of transporting tiny organisms across the cosmos.

Edinburgh-based scientists claim bacteria and micro-animals called tardigrades can survive the hazardous journey, suggesting that alien bugs may have arrived on Earth in the same way. Even some plants can survive the ordeal of space travel.

Powerful streams of space dust can travel at up to 43.75 miles per second (70km/s). The two-way traffic would be able to send bio-particles spiralling out of Earth’s gravitational pull and beyond the atmosphere, according to the researchers.

“The proposition that space dust collisions could propel organisms over enormous distances between planets raises some exciting prospects of how life and the atmospheres of planets originated,” said study leader Professor Arjun Berera of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy.

“The streaming of fast space dust is found throughout planetary systems and could be a common factor in proliferating life.”

European Space Agency (ESA) scientists found traces of interstellar dust in one of Saturn’s ice rings, made of material that originated from its moon, Enceladus. The team examined 36 interstellar dust grains, which is more than five times the number previously detected. The grains were mainly made of calcium, iron, magnesium, silicon and oxygen

Previously, scientists have concluded that impacting asteroids and comets could import new life to earth, while researchers from Columbia University say life on Earth may have been transported from Mars.

Giovanni Cassini was the first astronomer to recognize this dust in interplanetary space, and its presence around the Sun, through telescopic observations in the 17th century.

The possibility of importing life, or the raw ingredients of life, to Earth has been considered in the past. The Panspermia theory, as it is known, was first proposed in 1871. Space enthusiasts have long debated the possibility.

“We can find pieces of Mars here on Earth and we suspect that there are pieces of Earth on Mars,” Columbia University’s Caleb Scharf told Business Insider.

“If that material can carry living organisms on it, it’s possible that we are Martian.”

The new research was part-funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and published in the journal Astrobiology.



The Dreamers: Doubts about Brexit on the Rise in Britain

It has often been said that Brexit means Brexit. But does it? With Prime Minister Theresa May showing weakness and the negotiations dragging, some are hoping that Britain’s departure from the EU can be warded off.

November 21, 2017

by Jörg Schindler


The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Bedfordshire is an extremely British institution. For the past 128 years it has dedicated itself to protecting endangered species such as the black-legged kittiwake, great crested grebe and the wood warbler. And now the society, with a membership of 1 million, has another mission: stopping Brexit

That at least, is the proposal from Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister and one-time leader of the Liberal Democrats, who is regarded as one of the most prominent pro-Europeans in the United Kingdom.

The 50-year-old has just published a 140-page handbook for civil disobedience, entitled “How to Stop Brexit.” He suggests that those who want to prevent the UK from exiting the European Union should join an existing large organization and persuade the other members that Brexit is a man-made disaster heading right for them. Bird enthusiasts, architectural conservationists and other volunteers and members of charities form a “ready-made army” of allies and supporters waiting to be mobilized, he writes in his manifesto.

Has he gone mad? Not at all. In fact, Clegg is just one of many prominent people working to stop the runaway train that is Brexit. Something that was unthinkable just a few months ago is now being discussed openly: Reversing Britain’s decision to exit the EU.

For the time being, they are just individual voices of opposition, but they are coming from all parties and groups in society. And they are making their pro-Brexit adversaries increasingly nervous. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently voiced their concerns in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May in which they said the government was not pursuing Brexit energetically enough. May, they insisted, had to do everything she could to make Great Britain “a fully independent self-governing country by the time of the next election.” There followed a list of demands, as though it was a ransom note from hostage takers rather than a memo from members of her cabinet. It’s no surprise that the supposedly secret missive was leaked. Another euro-skeptic, the UKIP politician Nigel Farage, has even gone so far as to warn pro-Europeans in the government against committing “treason.”

A ‘Political Decision’

Ahead of the crucial EU summit in mid-December, the lines are hardening in British politics. There’s less talk of “soft,” “hard,” “extreme,” or “glorious” Brexits. Instead it is now a choice between a full Brexit with all the ensuing consequence or no Brexit at all. Both sides are making their positions clear. And caught in the middle is Theresa May. No one can be sure if the besieged prime minister has the strength to really lead the country. And the fact that the EU has effectively given her an ultimatum to come up with 60 billion euros as part of the Brexit settlement doesn’t exactly make her position any more comfortable.

Earlier this month, Lord John Kerr gave a speech not far from Downing Street in which he explained that Brexit was reversible. “At any stage, we can change our minds if we want to”, he told the assembled guests. The 75-year-old former diplomat should know. After all, the former UK ambassador to the EU was one of the authors of Article 50, the clause in the European treaties that allows a member state to leave the union.

Kerr said that the government was misleading the British people regarding Article 50, with May acting as if Brexit was irreversible from the moment she told the European Commission in March 2017 that Britain was leaving. “It is always possible at a later stage to decide that we want to do something different,” he said. To claim the opposite was a “political decision.” His intervention left the hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative Party seething.

It shows that on the pro-Leave side, nerves are on edge, according to Clegg. The Brexit campaign has repeatedly resorted to false promises, he said. “They have lied and they are still lying. Their narcissism won’t allow them to admit mistakes,” he told DER SPIEGEL.

Clegg, on the other hand, has had no other choice but to confront his own mistakes. In 2010, he was one of the most talented and popular politicians in the country. But that was destroyed by his decision to lead the Liberal Democrats into coalition with the Conservatives. Five years later, he was severely punished by the electorate for that government’s brutal austerity policies. He stepped down as party leader and then, in this June’s snap election, he lost his seat. He is now an author and speaker, but in his office in South London, he still exudes the self confidence that brought him to the upper echelons of the British political system. He isn’t done with politics and wants to use his influence to reverse what he sees as the most disastrous decision of recent British history.

Brexit is too important to leave to a Conservative Party which is increasingly spirally into chaos, he argues. And Boris Johnson should not be in a position of power. The foreign secretary has openly backed leaving the EU with no deal if the other member states do not give in to British demands. That, Clegg says, would be a catastrophe for Britain.

“Johnson’s ego is so insatiable that he would prefer to drive the car into the wall than make any kind of compromise,” Clegg says. That is why it is so important to make it clear to the British that it’s still possible to stop Brexit, he continues.

Door Is Still Open

And there’s a growing number of Brexit opponents who share this view. Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, said recently that Britain could reach a “crisis point” by next summer. He suggested that there could be “scope for a reassessment,” as people begin to realize that many of the Leave campaign’s promises cannot be fulfilled. Those within May’s own party who oppose Brexit are also becoming more vociferous. The Daily Telegraph featured 15 Conservative rebels last week on its front page beneath the headline: “The Brexit Mutineers.”

Activists are now planning a social media campaign in which young people are asked to call their grandparents to warn them about the dangers of Brexit. They are following the example of the Irish “Ring a Granny” campaign that formed part of the successful push for equal marriage in that country in 2015.

Many of these “Remainers” feel emboldened by the steady stream of politicians in the other 27 member states who have said that Britain could still change its mind. One of the most prominent is Donald Tusk of Poland, the president of the European Council, who said in late October that it was now “up to London how this will end, with a good deal, no deal or no Brexit.” He also quoted John Lennon: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

For the British government and its cheerleaders in the tabloid press, these are dangerous signals. Even before Brexit has become a reality, it is increasingly clear that it will cause serious damage to the British economy. The business community is fast losing patience and has demanded a recognizable plan by the end of the year. They say they cannot continue to delay decisions on whether to relocate some of their operations outside of the UK, though several banks have already made the decision and shifted many jobs away from London.

‘The Will of the People’

But the Brexit hardliners in the government are sticking to their guns. The people have spoken, they insist. And the “will of the people” expressed in the June 2016 referendum has to be respected no matter what. Any attempt to torpedo the decision of the 52 percent of voters would be “undemocratic.”

The response from Labour politician Chuka Umunna, one of the most Europhile members of parliament, is that the British people were lied to. “You can’t tell people they are getting a new Audi with all the extras and then, after they sign on the dotted line, deliver a piece of junk and claim a deal is a deal.” Umunna is convinced that if the British public had known in the summer of 2016 what they know now, they would never have voted for Brexit.

But it’s hard to tell from the current polls. On the one hand, there’s a growing number of people who are not happy with the way the government is handling – or rather, not handling – Brexit. On the other hand, there is no majority for another referendum. And if there were to be a new vote, it would likely still be extremely close.

Among those who backed Leave, almost two-thirds are prepared to accept “significant damage” to the economy in the event of Brexit. Meanwhile, 20 percent of those who wanted to stay in the EU would be happy to see Brexit end in chaos in order “to teach a lesson” to the other side.

One completely confusing survey found that a significant majority of British people wanted to essentially remain EU citizens after Brexit, with all the rights to travel and work wherever they want in the European Union.

Some people, it would seem, still don’t fully understand the implications of their country’s decision.


In Crisis, Angela Merkel Prefers Elections to Minority Rule

November 20, 2017

by Melssa Eddy and Kartin Bennhold

New York Times

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany faced the greatest crisis of her career on Monday after negotiations to form a new government collapsed, shaking a country that is Europe’s political and economic anchor.

The breakdown abruptly raised the prospect of new elections in Germany. It came less than two months after the last elections seemed to assure that Ms. Merkel, an icon of Western democracy and values, would remain Germany’s leader for a fourth term.

The chancellor said she remained hopeful about forming a majority government. But if forced to choose, Ms. Merkel said, she would prefer to go through new elections rather than try to lead a minority government.

“I don’t want to say never, but I am very skeptical, and believe that new elections would be the better way forward,” the chancellor told the public broadcaster ARD.

At a time when the European Union is facing a host of pressing problems, from Brexit negotiations with Britain, to the rise of right-wing populism, to separatism in Spain’s Catalonia region, the possibility of political instability in a normally reliable Germany sent tremors through the Continent.

The collapse of talks reflected the deep reluctance of Ms. Merkel’s conservative bloc and prospective coalition partners — the ecologist-minded Greens and pro-business Free Democrats — to compromise over key positions. The Free Democrats quit the talks late Sunday, citing what they called an atmosphere of insincerity and mistrust.

“There is no coalition of the willing to form a government,” said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund. “This is uncharted territory since 1949. We’re facing a protracted period of political immobility. Not only is this not going to go away soon, there is no clear path out.”

Calling new elections is not a straightforward procedure in Germany. Written with the unstable governments of the 1920s and 1930s and collapse of the Weimar Republic in mind, the German Constitution includes several procedural hurdles that would ensure a prolonged and difficult process.

Some were quick to link Germany’s disorder to a broader crisis of democracy in the West. “The unthinkable has happened,” said Christiane Hoffmann, deputy head of the Berlin bureau of Der Spiegel, a German magazine. In that sense, she said, “This is Germany’s Brexit moment, its Trump moment.”

Others said Germany’s troubles were in many ways just a sign that the country was becoming more normal, not less. Having had only four chancellors since 1982, the country has known only a string of centrist governments that governed by consensus.

The crisis erupted seven weeks after the last election, which brought the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, into Parliament, and in some ways represented the return of politics to a country long deprived of debate and policy disagreements.

“It’s just another step in the long learning of democracy of Germany since World War II, going from a very stable proportional system to something more messy,” said Henrik Enderlein, dean of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin

The bigger question, he said, was whether Ms. Merkel’s pragmatic governing style had reached its limit in an era where people crave the clash of a wider spectrum of policies. “Her über-pragmatism is reaching its end,” he said. “It’s hard to see a scenario where she returns to her previous position of power.”

Ms. Merkel met in private on Monday with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who as head of state is charged with trying to break the deadlock in coalition talks. He could appoint a chancellor to lead a minority government or, failing that, set in motion the process for new elections.

The potential for instability in Germany would be a major blow to the European Union. Ms. Merkel has been the region’s dominant political figure of the past decade, credited with guiding the bloc through the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and, more recently, providing a powerful counterpoint to populists across the Continent and beyond.

Financial markets reacted calmly to the turmoil in Berlin, calculating that the German economy could power through the uncertainty. After opening lower, the DAX index of major stocks closed the day higher. The euro fell slightly.

But some economists warned that the longer-term effects could be more severe. A weak government might be unable to agree on needed improvements to infrastructure and the education system, for example.

“The economic situation is very good,” Christoph M. Schmidt, chairman of the German Council of Economic Experts, said in a statement. “But over the mid and long term there are big challenges, especially the demographic shift, digitalization, sensible development of the European Union, and climate change.”

The political instability stems from the elections in Germany on Sept. 24, when Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats finished first. But their share of the overall vote dropped significantly, while the far-right Alternative for Germany scored a record vote, entering Parliament for the first time as the third-biggest grouping.

Even so, political analysts had expected Ms. Merkel to form a new coalition government that would have allowed her to remain as chancellor. That may still happen, but it will be harder now, and it is unlikely to happen soon, experts say.

Elsewhere in Europe, the possibility of a weakened Ms. Merkel and of an inward-looking Germany alarmed some leaders. The chancellor canceled a meeting in Berlin with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. In Paris, President Emmanuel Macron of France said that Ms. Merkel’s difficulties were a serious hurdle to the partnership between their two countries.

France has “no interest in a worsening of the situation” in Germany, Mr. Macron said in a statement on Monday. “Our wish is that our main partner, for the sake of Germany and Europe, remains strong and stable, so that we can move forward together,” he added.

Even if Ms. Merkel’s problems leave Mr. Macron as Europe’s de facto strongest leader — with weak domestic opposition in France, a strengthening economy, and a good record so far on driving through economic overhauls — the French president had been counting on Ms. Merkel as an ally in his push to make changes to the European Union.

Mr. Macron will be aware that his agenda for the bloc, which includes a common defense force, a strengthened euro, and a joint finance minister, stands no chance without German backing.

Ms. Merkel had originally set Friday as the deadline for reaching an agreement with the Free Democrats, the Greens, and the Christian Social Union, which forms a conservative bloc with the chancellor’s Christian Democrats. From the outset, all of those parties had differed markedly on key issues, notably migration and climate policies, resulting in strained talks that led to open sniping.

After they agreed to take talks into overtime, negotiators and party leaders failed to produce any breakthroughs over the weekend, and the Free Democrats quit the talks.

Ms. Merkel could try to approach the Social Democrats about forming another grand coalition. But the center-left party has served as the junior coalition partner to the Christian Democrats since 2013 and on Monday, the party’s leader, Martin Schulz, said his group had no interest in another round.

As for new elections, the president can set the process in motion by proposing Ms. Merkel as chancellor, which would be put to a vote in Parliament.

If Ms. Merkel were to win a majority in the first round of voting, the president could then name her as chancellor. If not, lawmakers would vote again, within 14 days.

If Ms. Merkel failed to win a majority in a second vote, then lawmakers would vote a third time and the candidate with the most votes would win. At that point, the president could name that person chancellor or simply dissolve the Parliament and order new elections, which would take place within 60 days.But there is no guarantee that elections would improve the situation: Recent opinion polls predict that a new vote would bring little change, compared to the result in September. A Forsa poll released last week showed Ms. Merkel’s conservatives at 32 percent, the Social Democrats on 20 percent, the Free Democrats at 12 percent, the Greens 10 percent and the AfD 12 percent.

Some worry that the AfD could benefit from the current chaos and increase its share of the vote. But even if it did, that share remains far below that of populist movements in other countries.

“Germany is not leaving the E.U. and it did not elect Donald Trump,” said Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff. “It was unable to form a government on its first attempt. That’s bad. It causes instability. But it’s not the end of the world.”


Russian nuclear facility denies it is source of high radioactivity levels

Greenpeace calls for investigation after levels of ruthenium-106 in atmosphere near Urals site found to be 986 times norm

November 21,2017

by Shaun Walker in Moscow and Hannah Devlin

The Guardian

A secretive Russian nuclear facility has denied it was behind high atmospheric concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106, after Russia’s meteorological service confirmed levels several hundred times the norm were found in several locations in the country during tests in late September.

Greenpeace has called for an investigation into a potential cover-up of a nuclear accident after Russia’s nuclear agency had denied European reports of increased ruthenium-106 levels. Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, released test data on Monday that showed levels were indeed much higher than normal. The most potent site was Argayash in the south Urals, where levels were 986 times the norm.

Argayash is about 20 miles from Mayak, a facility that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel. The plant facility issued a denial on Tuesday. “The contamination of the atmosphere with ruthenium-106 isotope registered by Rosgidromet is not linked to the activity of Mayak,” a statement said.

It went on to reassure people that the measurements were well below dangerous levels: “The measurements which Rosgidromet has released suggest that the dose people might have received is 20,000 times less than the allowed annual dose and presents no threat at all to health.”

Nuclear experts also said there was no evidence to suggest the leak posed a significant hazard to human health or the environment.

A report this month from France’s Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) said ruthenium-106 had been detected in France between 27 September and 13 October.

In mid-October, the state nuclear agency Rosatom issued a statement saying that samples from across Russia during the same period showed no trace of ruthenium-106 after European agencies had reported levels that were higher than usual.

Greenpeace Russia called on Rosatom to open “an in-depth inquiry and publish the results about the incidents at Mayak”, and the group also said it would ask prosecutors to look into the potential concealment of a nuclear incident.

Later on Tuesday, Rosatom released a statement saying the scare had been down to a “misreading” of the data.

“Rosatom categorically confirms there have been no unreported accidents or reportable events on any of its nuclear sites. It also confirms that the recent Ru-106 emission which is being reported is not linked to any Rosatom site,” the nuclear agency said.

Rosatom said the high readings in Argayash were still lower than those taken elsewhere in Europe, such as in Bucharest, suggesting the emission did not take place on Russian territory.

Neil Hyatt, professor of nuclear materials chemistry at the University of Sheffield, said: “This isotope comes from recycling of nuclear fuel or medical isotope targets. It’s quite short-lived so that means it must be relatively young fuel. It must have come out of a reactor recently and been reprocessed recently.”

Ilya Yarmoshenko, a scientist, told a Russian news agency that the high levels of ruthenium-106 were harmless, and levels 10 times higher of other radioactive substances could be found inside normal homes. He said there was no need to evacuate any of the residents of the affected areas but added that the most important thing now was to identify the source of the radiation.

Hyatt agreed: “It’s certainly not a major health concern based on what we know at the moment. If it’s concentrated you would certainly want to limit access to that area. If it’s not ingested then the hazard is going to be lower.”

Prof Paddy Reagan, a nuclear expert at the University of Surrey, said: “When they say this was 900 times the background level it’s a surprising number, but the background level is basically zero. I don’t think there’s any radiological danger from it.

“The measurement of this highlights how sensitive radiation detectors are. It’s basically impossible to hide a leak. If it was a weapon explosion or a reactor leak there’d be other radioisotopes, so it looks like a leak from waste reprocessing.”

Hyatt said it was unusual that other radioisotopes had not been detected as normally waste fuel would contain a mix of different nuclear materials. One possibility is that the fuel was being processed and concentrated for use in nuclear batteries, which are used in satellites.

“If the plant that’s making those has sprung a leak it might explain why they’ve detected that and nothing else,” he said.

Evgeny Savchenko, the top health and safety official in Chelyabinsk region, where the Mayak facility is located, dismissed health fears as “hysteria” and said the fact that the information came from abroad was suspicious, noting that France also has a nuclear fuel processing site “that competes with our Mayak”.Savchenko said there was absolutely no reason for the population to fear health effects. “Note that officials and their families don’t have injections against radiation … so you’d have to be a total fool to hide dangerous information and not take steps to save people,” he said.A

In 1957 Mayak was the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, which at the time was covered up by the Soviet regime. This year shipments of spent nuclear submarine fuel that had been left at an Arctic naval base since the Soviet period began to be shipped to Mayak, where it will be reprocessed and repurposed for use in civilian nuclear reactors. Much of the plant’s operations remain shrouded in secrecy.


Congressmen press the U.S Mint for action on counterfeit gold and silver coins 

House members include fake American Eagle gold coin with letter to Mint, Secret Service

October 30, 2017

Coin World

The following is a press release from Congress:

Washington, DC (October 29, 2017) — Congressmen Alex Mooney (R-WV) and Frank Lucas (R-OK) delivered a formal letter to the United States Mint and Secret Service on Friday, urging aggressive action on the growing problem of high-quality counterfeits of U.S. precious metals coins entering the country from China and elsewhere.

“Enclosed herewith is a 1995 1 oz. Gold American Eagle coin, carrying a face value $50 and ostensibly minted by the U.S. Mint,” Mooney and Lucas wrote. “You are free to keep it, as it’s a worthless tungsten fake.”

As members of the House Financial Services subcommittee which oversees the U.S. Mint, Congressmen Mooney and Lucas are seeking information from the government institution responsible for the production of coinage for the United States, such as “the nature and quantity of complaints – and resulting investigations – regarding counterfeit U.S. gold, silver, and platinum coins within the last two years,” and “what anti-counterfeiting programs, if any, are in place to protect the integrity of U.S. coins minted specifically of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.”

The congressmen request information as to whether, and to what extent, the U.S. Mint has taken proactive steps to protect the integrity of America’s minted coins, including reviewing and implementing the anti-counterfeiting measures already put in place by certain foreign government and private mints.

And they seek clarification regarding the “expected roles of the Secret Service, U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement, and other federal law enforcement agencies in detecting and investigating counterfeits of U.S. coins minted of precious metals and the extent of their coordination with the U.S. Mint.”

The congressmen also raised concerns about a Secret Service decision not to investigate the origin of a counterfeit batch of Gold American Eagle coins when the matter was recently brought to its attention.

“We commend Representative Mooney and Representative Lucas for their actions in defending sound money and for beginning to exercise Congressional oversight duties in accordance with Article I, Section 8, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution,” said Stefan Gleason, director of the Sound Money Defense League.

“We look forward to a meaningful explanation from the U.S. Mint and the Secret Service for what appears to be a lackadaisical attitude toward protecting the only constitutional currency that is currently even produced by the federal government,” said Gleason.


With Fake American Silver Eagles on the Rise, How Can You Spot the Fakes?

JM Bullion

In any economy with any product, once a particular item reaches maximum popularity and demand, there are bound to be knockoffs. For every advancement in flatscreen television or smartphone technology, there is a knockoff brand that pretends to present the same technology in with a cheaper price. In reality, you get the same thing every time, an inferior product for a cheaper price.

The American Silver Eagle is no exception to this fundamental of economics. As the world’s single most popular silver coin program, it was inevitable that counterfeiters would work to produce look-alike American Silver Eagle coins in an effort to take advantage of the immense demand for these coins. After sales of 44.1 million 2014 and 47.3 million in 2015, the United States Mint has already seen a record pace for demand in 2016.

With so much attention on the coins, counterfeiters are working hard to develop fake American Silver Eagle coins that grab attention with low prices and look, for all intents and purposes, legitimate. The question you should ask yourself now is, “how can I spot the fakes?”

Lack of Reeded Edges

The United States Mint always strikes the American Silver Eagle coin, bullion, proof, and uncirculated versions, with a reeded edge. If you are shopping a brick-and-mortar location or receive an American Silver Eagle coin without a reeded edge, this should be your first sign that the coin is a fake.

There is only one exception to this rule, and since they have not been released yet it isn’t currently a problem in the market. However, the 2016 American Silver Eagle 30th Anniversary coins will not have the reeded edge on the proof and uncirculated versions. Again though, these coins haven’t even been released, which means you wouldn’t see any legitimate versions of this coin yet.

Know Your American Silver Eagle History

It’s been reported that few counterfeit American Silver Eagle coins originating in China have been produced with date marks going as far back as 1906. This is either egregious oversight or a complete lack of intelligence, but any seasoned coin collector or investor likely already knows this is impossible. The American Silver Eagle originated in 1986, some 80 years after those Chinese fake Silver Eagles.

Look for Specific Features

Counterfeited American Silver Eagles, especially those from China, are not crafted with attention to detail and time in mind. The goal of counterfeiters is to create a high volume of fakes and make money on the sales as quickly as possible. The result of this effort is a variety of flaws that you can catch with a keen eye.

There is an in-depth breakdown of the specific feature flaws that often exist on fraudulent American Silver Eagles on SilverCoins.com, but we have a breakdown here:

  • Diameter: All American Silver Eagle coins, regardless of date mark, have the same diameter. If you have a known, legitimate coin and receive one you believe is fake, compare the alleged counterfeit’s diameter to that of your real coin. In many cases, the counterfeits have a smaller diameter.
  • Rim & Edge: The United States Mint uses the latest technology to strike American Silver Eagle coins, and follows very specific dimensions for all facets of the coin’s design. A lot of fake American Silver Eagle coins have larger rims and edges.
  • Font issues: There are many font issues you’ll find highlighted by SilverCoins.com, but the date mark is one quick place to check. Legitimate US Mint coins have straight-edge tops (for example, 3) to the numbers in the date mark, while most counterfeits have a curved top on letters (for example, 3).

Get Down to the Details

In the event you run across an extremely accurate counterfeit American Silver Eagle, you can always measure the specifications of the coin in questions. The greatest benefit of American Silver Eagles from the United States Mint is the adherence to strict specifications. Every American Silver Eagle produced by the US Mint has the following specifications year after year:

  • Content: .999 silver, .001 copper
  • 1 Troy oz weight, or 31.103 grams
  • Diameter of 40.6 mm, or 1.598 inches
  • Thickness of 2.98 mm, or .1193 inches

A digital electronic scale will help you measure the weight of your coin to within two decimal points in grams. If you have a set of calipers, you can measure the diameter and thickness of the coin to ensure your American Silver Eagle measures up to the standards of the United States Mint.

A good magnifying tool might be useful, as well. Though less common, some of the original American Silver Eagle fakes were struck mostly with copper at its core and a thin layer of silver plating to cover the copper. However, many fakes were identified during grading because the silver plating did not extend all the way to the exact edge, allowing certifiers to see copper around the edges under magnification.

If All Else Fails

There are a few simple tactics that can help you determine the legitimacy of a silver coin or bar, American Silver Eagle or otherwise, without sophisticated tools are a great deal of time. For example, you could consider the magnetic test. Silver and gold are non-magnetic precious metals, so if you are able to stick a magnet to your coin that is a dead giveaway that you have a fake American Silver Eagle in your hand.

Other tests are a little riskier for your coins, especially if you are uncertain as to the legitimacy of the coin in questions. The bleach test is recommended by some as a way to spot fake silver coins. Silver tarnishes extremely quickly when exposed to an oxidizing agent such as bleach. One small droplet of bleach will tell you immediately if you have a real or fake product. The downside to this is, of course, that you’ll lose any numismatic value in that coin if it is real and you tarnish the surface with bleac

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