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 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Republican Nightmares Come True As Customer Satisfaction With Obamacare Skyrockets

By: Jason Easley
Thursday, April, 23rd, 2015, 2:20 pm      

Republican nightmares have become reality as a new survey revealed that customer satisfaction with Obamacare has skyrocketed to the where it is now more popular than all other insurance options.

According to a new J.D Power survey, customer satisfaction has jumped 55 points in the last year:

Satisfaction with the Health Insurance Marketplace exchange enrollment process among new enrollees has significantly increased from 2014, and health plans obtained through the Marketplace exchange generate levels of member satisfaction equal to or higher than plans not obtained through the Marketplace exchange, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange Shopper and Re-Enrollment (HIX) StudySM released today.

According to the study, enrollment satisfaction among new enrollees has increased by a significant 55 points to 670 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 615 in 2014, when all enrollees were new to the Marketplace. Satisfaction with enrollment among new enrollees is driven by the variety of information available. Among members who re-enrolled, satisfaction with the enrollment processis 731, higher than new enrollees. Satisfaction with the re-enrollment process is higher among those who auto re-enrolled (744) than among those who did not (724).

“Marketplace shoppers are very cost-sensitive,” said Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power. “Unlike many traditional health plan members, who are often tied to a single employer benefit offering, Marketplace members have an option to switch plans annually, allowing them to shop for either the most affordable or the most valuable plan. Plan providers need to demonstrate the value of their plan by clearly communicating coverage and benefits. Additionally, auto re-enrollment is a great way to both ease the re-enrollment process and increase member retention.”

The results of this survey shatter the Republican myth that the people who have Obamacare plans hate them. The survey also devastated the Republican idea that Obamacare has made health care more expensive. Most importantly, this survey increased the pressure on Republicans to come with an Obamacare replacement plan that will be as cheap or cheaper for consumers than the plans that are offered on the health insurance exchanges.

Instead of wanted rid of Obamacare, people who have purchased plans are very satisfied. The high level of customer satisfaction means that Republicans will be facing 27 million outraged voters of they every get rid of the health insurance exchanges. These results could also impact the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare subsidies. The swing votes on the court might be reluctant to take away subsidies from a system that has demonstrated its popularity with consumers.

The reason Republicans worked so hard to kill the ACA before it was implemented was their fear that once consumers got a taste of Obamacare, they would never want to let it go. The worst Republican nightmare has always been that Obamacare becomes popular, and the American people would demand more health care.

Obamacare is more dangerous than a government program. The ACA has introduced the idea that every American should have access to affordable health care. Republicans could be setting themselves up for a serious thumping at the ballot box if they continue to insist on repealing Obamacare.


Vulnerable GOP Senators Move To Keep ObamaCare Subsidies Flowing Past 2016 Election

By Karoli
4/23/15 6:14pm

What will the repeal ObamaCare gang say about this? Republicans are readying a bill to keep subsidies flowing through 2017 into those states which don't currently have their own exchange, should the Supreme Court rule to strip subsidies in those states.

If they really wanted to fix it, they could simply add one line to the existing Act deeming federal exchanges to be the same as state-based exchanges. But they don't. They just want to duck accountability for the clusterf*ck that would ensue long enough to elect their candidate President, so they can repeal the whole damn thing. Never forget that.


    The legislation, offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of the most politically vulnerable Senate incumbents in 2016, would maintain the federal tax credits at stake in King v. Burwell through the end of August 2017.

    The bill was unveiled this week with 29 other cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his four top deputies, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). Another cosponsor is Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the chairman of the conference's electoral arm.

    Such a move would seek to protect the GOP from political peril in the 2016 elections when Democrats would try to blame the party for stripping subsidies — and maybe insurance coverage — from millions of Americans in three dozen states. A defeat for the Obama administration in a King ruling would likely create havoc across insurance markets and pose a huge problem for Republicans, many of whom have been pushing the Supreme Court to nix the subsidies.

    "This bill is a first step toward reversing the damage that Obamacare has inflicted on the American health care system," Johnson said.

    He recently explained the rationale for the legislation, warning that Democrats would swarm the GOP with attacks and horror stories about "individuals that have benefited from Obamacare" and lost their coverage.

That quote from Ron Johnson is GOP counterspeak. What he really means is that it's a first step toward preserving a system where millions are benefiting, alongside hospitals and other providers.

They know they're hosed, but they're not quite willing to admit it yet. This is the next best thing.


Frank Giustra Has A Message For American Media

By Karoli
4/24/15 12:22am

The New York Times' first mistake was agreeing to a 'partnership' with Koch shill Peter Schweizer. The second mistake they made was publishing a vague story suggesting that the Clinton Foundation engaged in something shady with Canadian businessman Frank Giustra.

Giustra has a message for the Times and a response to the few specifics in their story. They should listen.

    The facts do not comport with the story in the New York Times. The reporter, Jo Becker, wrote a similar piece in 2008, which was eventually debunked by Forbes.

        I began working on financing the purchase of mining stakes from a private Kazakh company in early 2005. The purchase was concluded in late 2005.
        In late 2005, I went to Kazakhstan to finish the negotiations of the sale. Bill Clinton flew to Almaty a few days after I arrived in the country on another person’s plane, not on my plane, as the Times reported. Bill Clinton had nothing to do with the purchase of private mining stakes by a Canadian company.
        I sold all of my stakes in the uranium company – Uranium One – in the fall of 2007, after it merged with another company. I would note that those were sold at least 18 months before Hillary Clinton became the Secretary of State. No one was speculating at that time that she would become the Secretary of State.
        Other media outlets have insinuated that I influenced the decision by the U.S. to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia. At one point, I was an investor in Pacific Rubiales, a Colombian energy company. I sold my shares in Pacific Rubiales several years before the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which, I will note, was approved by several U.S. agencies and the White House. To theorize that I had anything to do with that is sheer conjecture.

    I hope that the U.S. media can start to focus on the real challenges of the world and U.S. society. Focus on poverty, homelessness, infrastructure, health care, education, or fractious world politics. You are a great country. Don’t ruin it by letting those with political agendas take over your newspapers and your airwaves.

Too late. Until the Kochs and their billionaire pals are ejected from media, they're all bought.

By the way, you can learn about the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Fellowship here. Unlike many foundation websites I've visited lately, this one actually works to do good in the world.


Cash flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians gained U.S. uranium assets

Originally published April 23, 2015 at 8:55 pm Updated April 23, 2015 at 9:18 pm

The story behind the story of how the Russian atomic-energy agency became one of the world’s largest uranium producers involves not just the Russian President Vladimir Putin but also a former U.S. president and his wife, who would like to be the next one.

By Jo Becker
The New York Times

The headline on the website Pravda trumpeted President Vladimir Putin’s latest coup, its nationalistic fervor recalling an era when its precursor served as the official mouthpiece of the Kremlin: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.”

The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic-energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium-supply chain.

But the story behind that story involves not just the Russian president but also a former U.S. president and a woman who would like to be the next one.

At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium-production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of U.S. government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Hillary Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company also donated.

Soon after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

The New York Times’ examination of the Uranium One deal is based on dozens of interviews, and a review of public records and securities filings in Canada, Russia and the United States. Some connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The New York Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode illustrates the special challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets as his wife helped steer U.S. foreign policy as secretary of state.

In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.”

He emphasized that multiple U.S. agencies and the Canadian government had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary.

“To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless,” he added.
A private transaction

The path to a Russian acquisition of U.S. uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Bill Clinton at his side.

The two men had flown aboard Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections-monitoring group, undercutting U.S. foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human-rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.

Within days of the visit, Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy, signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency, Kazatomprom.

If the Kazakh deal was a major victory, UrAsia did not wait long before resuming the hunt. In 2007, it merged with Uranium One, a South African company with assets in Africa and Australia, in what was described as a $3.5 billion transaction. The new company, which kept the Uranium One name, was controlled by UrAsia investors including Ian Telfer, a Canadian who became chairman. Through a spokeswoman, Giustra, whose personal stake in the deal was estimated at $45 million, said he sold his stake in 2007.

Soon, Uranium One began to snap up mining companies with assets in the United States. In April 2007, it announced the purchase of a uranium mill in Utah and more than 38,000 acres of uranium-exploration properties in four Western states, followed quickly by the acquisition of Energy Metals and its uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas and Utah.

The company’s story was not front-page news in the United States — until early 2008, amid Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, when The New York Times published an article revealing the 2005 trip’s link to Giustra’s Kazakhstan mining deal. It also reported that several months later, Giustra had donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation, which was named the William J. Clinton Foundation when it was established in 2001.

In a statement released after this article appeared online, Giustra said he was “extremely proud” of his charitable work with Bill Clinton, and he urged the media to focus on poverty, health care and “the real challenges of the world.”

Although the Times article quoted the former head of Kazatomprom, Moukhtar Dzhakishev, as saying that the deal required government approval and was discussed at a dinner with Nazarbayev, Giustra insisted it was a private transaction, with no need for Bill Clinton’s influence with Kazakh officials. He described his relationship with the former U.S. president as motivated solely by a shared interest in philanthropy.

As if to emphasize the point, Giustra five months later held a fundraiser for the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, a project aimed at fostering progressive environmental and labor practices in the natural-resources industry, to which he had pledged $100 million.
Arrest and progress

By June 2009, Uranium One’s stock was in free-fall, down 40 percent. Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom, had just been arrested on charges that he illegally sold uranium deposits to foreign companies, including at least some of those won by Giustra’s UrAsia and now owned by Uranium One.

Privately, Uranium One officials were worried they could lose their joint mining ventures. U.S. diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks also reflect concerns that Dzhakishev’s arrest was part of a Russian power play for control of Kazakh uranium assets.

At the time, Russia was already eying a stake in Uranium One, Rosatom company documents show. Rosatom officials say they were seeking to acquire mines around the world because Russia lacks sufficient domestic reserves to meet its own industry needs.

It was against this backdrop that Uranium One, then based in Vancouver, B.C., pressed the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan and Canadian diplomats to take up its cause with Kazakh officials, according to the U.S. cables.

“We want more than a statement to the press,” Paul Clarke, a Uranium One executive vice president, told the embassy’s energy officer June 10, the officer reported in a cable. “That is simply chitchat.”

What the company needed, Clarke said, was official written confirmation that the licenses were still valid. The U.S. Embassy ultimately reported to the secretary of state, who by then was Hillary Clinton.

Although the Clarke cable was copied to her, it was given wide circulation, and it is unclear if she would have read it; the Clinton campaign did not address questions about the cable.

What is clear is that the embassy acted, with the cables showing that the unnamed energy officer met with Kazakh officials to discuss the issue on June 10 and 11.

Three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One. Within a year, the Russian government would substantially up the ante, with a generous offer to shareholders that would give it a 51 percent controlling stake. But first, Uranium One had to get the U.S. government to sign off on the deal.

The power to say no

When a company controlled by the Chinese government sought a 51 percent stake in a tiny Nevada gold-mining operation in 2009, it set off a secretive review process in Washington, D.C., where officials raised concerns about the mine’s closeness to a military installation but also about the potential for minerals at the site, including uranium, to come under Chinese control. U.S. officials killed the deal.

Such is the power of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The committee consists of some of the most powerful members of the Cabinet, including the attorney general, the secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Energy, and the secretary of state. They are charged with reviewing any deal that could result in foreign control of a U.S. business or asset deemed important to national security.

When ARMZ, an arm of Rosatom, took its first 17 percent stake in Uranium One in 2009, the two parties signed an agreement, found in securities filings, to seek the foreign investment committee’s review. But it was the 2010 deal, giving the Russians a controlling 51 percent stake, that set off alarm bells.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., where Uranium One’s largest U.S. operation was, wrote to President Obama, saying the deal “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.”

Uranium One’s shareholders were also alarmed and were “afraid of Rosatom as a Russian state giant,” Sergei Novikov, a company spokesman, recalled in an interview.

The ultimate authority to approve or reject the Russian acquisition rested with the Cabinet officials on the foreign investment committee, including Hillary Clinton, whose husband was collecting millions of dollars in donations from people associated with Uranium One.
Undisclosed donations

Before Clinton could assume her post as secretary of state in 2009, the White House demanded that she sign a memorandum of understanding placing limits on her husband’s foundation’s activities. To avoid the perception of conflicts of interest, beyond the ban on foreign government donations, the foundation was required to publicly disclose all contributors.

To judge from those disclosures — which list the contributions in ranges rather than precise amounts — the only Uranium One official to give to the Clinton Foundation was Telfer, the chairman, and the amount was relatively small: no more than $250,000, and that was in 2007, before talk of a Rosatom deal began percolating.

But a review of tax records in Canada, where Telfer has a family charity called the Fernwood Foundation, shows that he donated millions of dollars more, during and after the critical time when the foreign-investment committee was reviewing his deal with the Russians.

His donations through the Fernwood Foundation included $1 million reported in 2009, the year his company appealed to the U.S. Embassy to help it keep its mines in Kazakhstan; $250,000 in 2010, the year the Russians sought majority control; $600,000 in 2011; and $500,000 in 2012. Telfer said that his donations had nothing to do with his business dealings and that he had never discussed Uranium One with Bill or Hillary Clinton. He said he had given the money because he wanted to support Giustra’s charitable endeavors with Bill Clinton.

The Clinton campaign left it to the foundation to reply to questions about the Fernwood donations; the foundation did not provide a response.

Telfer’s undisclosed donations came in addition to between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in contributions, which were reported, from a constellation of people with ties to Uranium One or Ur­Asia, the company that originally acquired Uranium One’s most valuable asset: the Kazakhstan mines.

Amid this influx of Uranium One-connected money, Bill Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow in June 2010, the same month Rosatom struck its deal for a majority stake in Uranium One.

The $500,000 fee — among Clinton’s highest — was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin.
Diplomatic considerations

If doing business with Rosatom was good for those involved with the Uranium One deal, engaging with Russia was also a priority of the incoming Obama administration, which was hoping for a new era of cooperation.

It started out well. The two countries made progress on nuclear-proliferation issues and expanded use of Russian territory to resupply U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon was among the top U.S. priorities, and in June 2010, Russia signed off on a U.N. resolution imposing tough new sanctions on that country.

Two months later, the deal giving ARMZ a controlling stake in Uranium One was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for review. Because of the secrecy surrounding the process, it is hard to know whether the participants weighed the desire to improve bilateral relations against the potential risks of allowing the Russian government control over the biggest uranium producer in the United States. The deal was approved in October, after what two people involved in securing the approval said had been a relatively smooth process.

The Clinton campaign spokesman, Fallon, said that in general, these matters did not rise to the secretary’s level. He would not comment on whether Clinton had been briefed on the matter.

Fallon also noted that if any agency had raised national-security concerns about the Uranium One deal, it could have taken them directly to the president.

The renewed U.S.-Russia adversarial relationship has raised concerns about European dependency on Russian energy resources, including nuclear fuel. The unease reaches beyond diplomatic circles. In Wyoming, where Uranium One equipment is scattered across his 35,000-acre ranch, John Christensen is frustrated that repeated changes in corporate ownership over the years led to French, South African, Canadian and, finally, Russian control over mining rights on his property.

“I hate to see a foreign government own mining rights here in the United States,” he said.

Christensen, 65, noted that despite assurances by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that uranium could not leave the country without Uranium One or ARMZ obtaining an export license — which they do not have — yellowcake from his property was routinely packed into drums and trucked off to a processing plant in Canada.

The commission confirmed that Uranium One has, in fact, shipped yellowcake to Canada even though it does not have an export license. Instead, the transport company doing the shipping, RSB Logistic Services, has the license. A commission spokesman said that “to the best of our knowledge” most of the uranium sent to Canada for processing was returned for use in the U.S.


The Times Used Schweizer's Research On Hillary. Think Fox Will Use His Research On Jeb?


Bloomberg Politics says that Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, is targeting Jeb Bush next. I'm not sure I believe it, but here's the story:

    Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush’s finances that he expects to publish this summer.

    “What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with,” Schweizer told me on Wednesday. “We’ve found some interesting things.”

    Schweizer says he and a team of researchers have been poring over Bush’s financial life for about four months. Among other things, they’re scrutinizing various Florida land deals, an airport deal while Bush was governor that involved state funds, and Chinese investors in Bush’s private equity funds....

    As he did with the Clinton book, Schweizer is hoping to partner with media organizations interested in reporting on and advancing his examination of Bush’s finances....

Assuming he's telling the truth about this, rather than merely claiming to have an anti-Bush project in the works in order to maintain a posture of objectivity -- which media organizations do you think will partner with him?

Do you think one of them will be Fox?

Here's the way the so-called liberal media works: You dig up anti-Clinton dirt of this kind and The New York Times is as eager to run it as Fox is. But the conservative media has never worked that way, at least not in my experience. Sure, during the primary season a not-excessively-wingnutty Republican might get less-than-worshipful coverage on Fox -- Mitt Romney certainly did in late 2011 and early 2012 -- but Fox knows that the wagons must eventually be circled.

Even if no one at Fox is thrilled at the prospect of a Jeb candidacy, he could very well be the right's guy in 2016. So I think there's no way in hell Fox will work with Schweizer on this. And if it there really is Jeb dirt and Fox gives it a miss, that tells you all you need to know about the difference between the conservative media and the non-conservative media.

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:09 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
What is dark energy?

April 23, 2015
Susanna Pilny for – Your Universe Online

“Dark energy” used to only be a buzzword used by psychics. Now, though, it’s picking up steam in physics, too.

(And, no, it’s not “dark matter”. That’s something completely different.)

In 1998, two separate teams of scientists made a discovery that shocked the science world. Thanks to a Hubble discovery in 1929, they knew that the universe was still expanding, as it had been since the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. (Although the Big Bang might not have happened, according to a recent study.) They also knew that, thanks to gravity, the expansion was slowing, and that some day gravity might win and cause the universe to contract.

The only problem: Their facts were fiction.

The two teams were examining three supernovae, but neither could account for the fact that the supernovae were dimmer than they should be, as if they were farther away than estimated. Eventually they realized they were, because the universe wasn’t slowing down—its expansion was getting faster and faster, driving the supernovae beyond what they had calculated.

This obviously caused a fugue state amongst scientists—imagine how you would feel if one day you turned on the shower and watched the water fall up, or took a sip of your coffee only to find out you added salt instead of sugar.

The only explanation seemed to be something new called dark energy. No one knows exactly what it is, or how it came to be, but it’s either a force or substance that makes up 71.4% of the universe and acts as a sort of anti-gravity, pushing it apart. Like dark matter, it might even come from the Higgs boson, but at this point it’s just speculation.

In an interesting twist, Einstein somewhat predicted the existence of dark energy—and then nixed it as his “biggest blunder”. Einstein added something known as his cosmological constant to his theory of relativity. This constant represented a force that acted against gravity to keep the universe from collapsing inwards, until he decided it was wrong. And scientists today are just are divided as Einstein: in 2013, one study claimed that the mathematical models including dark energy didn’t fit and thus dark energy doesn’t exist; months later, another study claimed that the chance that dark energy exists is 99.996%. So the jury is out, because like with a lot of science, we what we know to be truth can change in an instant.

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:08 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
"We're going to resist': Brazil's indigenous groups fight to keep their land in face of new law

PEC 215, a proposed amendment to Brazil’s constitution, threatens to make worse the already fragile plight of the country’s impoverished indigenous communities

Claire Rigby in Tekoa Pyau
Thursday 23 April 2015 12.36 BST

From downtown São Paulo, the Pico do Jaraguá – the crest of a mountain ridge on the city’s north-western horizon – looks like a broken tooth, crowned by a towering TV antenna. Just beyond the rocky peak and down a steep, deeply rutted, unmade road, lies the nascent village of Tekoa Itakupe, one of the newest fronts in Brazil’s indigenous people’s struggle for land to call their own.

Once part of a coffee plantation, the idyllic 72-hectare plot is currently occupied by three families from the Guarani community who moved onto the land in July 2014 after it was recognised as traditional Guarani territory by Funai, the federal agency for Indian affairs.

Indian tribe in São Paulo faces eviction – in pictures

The group had hoped that would be a first step on the road to its eventual official demarcation as indigenous territory, but they now face eviction after a judge granted a court order to the landowner, Antônio “Tito” Costa, a lawyer and former local politician.

Ari Karai, the 74-year-old chief or cacique of Tekoa Ytu, one of two established Indian villages at the base of the peak, says the group intends to resist. “How can they evict us when this is recognised Indian land?” he asks.

The dispute comes at a crucial time for Brazil’s more than 300 indigenous peoples. Earlier this month, more than a thousand indigenous leaders met in Brasília to protest and organise against PEC 215, a proposed constitutional amendment that would shift the power to demarcate indigenous land from the executive to the legislature – that is, from Funai, the Ministry of Justice and the president, by decree, to Congress.

The Indians’ fierce opposition to placing demarcation in the hands of Congress is easy to understand: some 250 members of Congress are linked to the powerful “ruralist” congressional caucus, representing interests including agro-business and the timber, mining and energy industries. In contrast, there has been only one indigenous member of Congress in the entire history of Brazil: Mário Juruna, a Xavante cacique, who served from 1983-87 in Rio de Janeiro.

Fiona Watson, the research director for Survival International – the London-based charity which campaigns for indigenous people – said that if approved, PEC215 would “put the fox in charge of the hen-house”.

“Many Indians consider PEC 215 a move to legalise the theft and invasion of their lands by agri-business. It will cause further delays, wrangling and obstacles to the recognition of their land rights,” she said.

The demarcation of Brazil’s indigenous territories, specified in the country’s 1988 constitution, was supposed to have been completed by 1993. Twenty-seven years on, the majority of territory has been demarcated, with 517,000 Indians living on registered land mainly in the Amazon region, but more than 200 applications are still in limbo.

Under President Dilma Rousseff, fewer demarcations have been decreed than under any government since 1988, despite the announcement last weekend of three long-awaited demarcations in the states of Amazonas and Pará.

That same day, at Tekoa Pyau – the larger of Jaraguá’s two established Indian communities – dogs sprawled beneath an overcast sky as children ran barefoot over packed earth studded with litter and bits of broken brick, or played football on the village’s diminutive pitch. Across the road at the second village, Tekoa Ytu, the natural pool where the children used to swim lay empty and silent, thanks to contamination from a stream running through a favela on the hillside above, polluting the waterfall, pool and river where the community once washed, fished and drew water with a steady stream of raw sewage.

Tekoa Ytu is Brazil’s smallest officially demarcated indigenous reserve, where some 600 Guarani Indians live on 1.7 hectares of land in squalid, insalubrious conditions. Tekoa Pyau, similarly impoverished, is still making slow, very uncertain progress through the demarcation process. The strain shows on the face of Tekoa Pyau’s young cacique, Victor F S Guaraní, 30, who says that without demarcation the community has no future. “It’s so complicated,” he says, grimacing.

It’s all they have, but the village is hardly the kind of the place they would live if they had a choice, says Guaraní. It’s cramped and extremely poor. Many of the village families are in receipt of the bolsa família, a federal benefits payment to those living on low incomes, but other than that, the community receives minimal assistance from the state, says Guaraní.

For Brazil’s indigenous community, a lack of representation in or by government is just the institutional face of the discrimination they encounter on a day-to-day basis.

“Some of the people who live around here say, ‘They’re not real Indians, they’re favelados’,” says Guaraní, using a pejorative term for slum-dwellers. In his petition to a local court calling for their eviction, Antônio Costa writes of the Guarani at Itakupe with scorn, calling them unemployed and unproductive, and describing the traditional dress they sometimes wear as “ridiculous fancy dress”. Confined to cramped villages and often dismissed as backward, the poverty of Brazil’s urban Indians, their inward-looking culture and a longstanding lack of political and social agency combines to make them invisible to many of their fellow Brazilians, even when they’re standing in plain sight. “When I go into the city centre,” says Guaraní, “people ask if I’m Bolivian.”

During the first of a series of anti-PEC 215 protests in São Paulo last year, he says, bystanders were asking why Indians had come all the way from the Amazon to protest, unaware of the Jaraguá reservation just 15km north of the city centre, or of the Guaraní living at Parelheiros, 40km to the south. “By the end of those protests, there were whites marching with us,” says Guaraní. “When I saw them painting their faces and chanting alongside us, it was very emotional.”

At Tekoa Itakupe, wearing a feathered headdress and a buriti-fibre skirt that he has put on to receive visitors, cacique Karai shows off his crops: the families are cultivating corn, manioc, sweet potato and mango. In contrast to the difficult conditions in the villages below, Itakupe has fresh water from dozens of springs, expanses of secondary growth Atlantic forest, a waterfall, and a set of 10-metre-tall mossy ruins buried deep in the valley, thought to be from the time of the bandeirantes, Brazil’s colonising pioneers. On the other side of the valley stands a long swathe of eucalyptus, a plantation kept by Costa.

Costa, 92, says the land has not been permanently inhabited by Indians, as the constitution states it must be in order to be eligible for the constitutional protection of indigenous culture and custom. “Indians have never lived on the land in question,” he told Brazil’s R7 news last week. “Or if there was ever an Indian village at Jaraguá, as they claim, those were other times. It’s over. This is absurd.”

Karai is worried that the children in the villages below are losing their connection to nature. “Our children have become afraid of the forest,” he says. “There are things we can teach them down there, but they know nothing about planting crops.” A number of the families from Tekoa Pyau and Tekoa Ytu plan to move to Itakupe, he says, if the right to remain can be established: “We don’t want anything from this land other than to live on it and take care of it.” His face crumples suddenly as he speaks. “There is no joy for us in any of this,” he says. “But we’re going to resist, whatever happens. What choice do we have? We have to guarantee the future survival of our people and our culture.”

Similar resistance is taking place all over Brazil, often in the face of extreme adversity and even violence. In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul in particular, impoverished Guarani Indians live in crowded reservations, crammed between immense soy, sugar and cattle farms, or clinging to the margins in squalid roadside camps. They suffer violent attacks, assassinations and a desperately high suicide rate, particularly among adolescents. “In São Paulo we don’t have any direct contact with farmers,” said Guaraní. “But in Mato Grosso and Espírito Santo, the struggle is dangerous: they kill caciques, they kill children.”

But Indian resistance is rapidly coalescing, he said. At street protests and online, alliances, strategies and a sense of empowerment are being forged between Brazil’s more than 300 indigenous groups, and with the quilombola communities whose members are descendants of escaped slaves, and whose right to a homeland is also threatened by PEC 215. “I’m speaking to people in Mato Grosso, Espírito Santo and Santa Catarina every day now,” says Guaraní, “and even to people in Argentina and Paraguay.”

The movement is going to need every bit of solidarity, support and motivation it can muster this coming year, which will almost certainly see a vote on PEC 215. If passed, as it seems will likely be the case, the amendment also allows for the review of previous demarcations, and introduces exceptions to the exclusive use of protected land, including leasing to non-Indians and the construction of infrastructure, “in the public interest”.

“Not even all the caciques understand the implications,” says Guaraní. “But once it’s explained to them, everyone becomes concerned, even the children.”

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:05 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Honduran judges throw out single-term limit on presidency

Ruling revives tensions that led to coup and ouster of Manuel Zelaya six years ago when he sought to change constitution so officeholders could stand again

Associated Press in Tegucigalpa
Friday 24 April 2015 05.22 BST
The supreme court in Honduras has voided a single-term limit for the country’s presidency — the issue at the heart of the political conflict that led to the ouster of socialist incumbent Manuel Zelaya six years ago when he sought to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.

The push by the governing National party to make the change, which would permit President Juan Orlando Hernandez to seek a second term, has drawn widespread criticism from the opposition, which notes the same politicians behind it were involved in the 2009 coup against Zelaya.

Forces that united to remove Zelaya from office, including some members of his own party, had contended he wanted to end the ban on second terms so he could remain in power.

The supreme court initially voted 5-0 on Thursday to strike down the prohibition on presidential re-election but judge Elmer Lizardo, a member of the opposition Liberal party, reversed his vote later in the day.

“The resolution makes clear that no law may restrict the rights of Hondurans,” a spokesman for the court, Melvin Duarte, said at a news conference.

The current Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, would be able to stand for a further term after judges threw out part of the country's constitution.

He said that once published imminently in the Official Gazette the ruling would take effect and annul the constitution’s Article 239, which says anyone who has served as president cannot hold the post again or serve as vice-president.

The ruling came in a petition filed in December by 17 legislators arguing that the prohibition was constitutional. Former president Rafael Leonardo Callejas, who held the post from 1990 to 1994, joined the appeal last month, saying the ban violated human rights.

After the court ruled, Callejas announced that he was looking to run for the presidency again.

Opposition members decried the change.

“The ruling opens the way to a dictatorship that would permit Hernandez to stay in power [indefinitely],” said Salvador Nasralla, an unsuccessful presidential candidate for the Anti-Corruption Party in the 2013 national elections.

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Former Argentina spy chief flees country in fear of his life, lawyer says

Antonio Stiuso, who had links to late prosecutor who accused president of cover-up, had been called to testify about 1994 terror bombing

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires and Jonathan Watts
Thursday 23 April 2015 18.36 BST

The former operations chief of Argentina’s spy agency failed to show up for a court hearing on Thursday amid reports that he has fled the country because he fears for his life.

Spies, cover-ups and the mysterious death of an Argentinian prosecutor

Antonio Stiuso was one of the most powerful men in the country until late last year, but his fortunes have changed dramatically as a result of a falling out with the president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and his involvement with prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died in mysterious circumstances in January.

He was called to testify this week about allegations that he and Nisman held up an investigation into the country’s deadliest terrorist attack: the 1994 bombing of the Amia Jewish community centre. He is also accused of tax evasion and running a contraband operation.

But his lawyer said he would not attend because he had left the country to escape threats against his life and attempts to sully his reputation.

“We believe [Stiuso] will continue to be a government target,” Santiago Blanco Bermúdez told the Associated Press without specifying the nature of the threats or his client’s location. He said his client denied all the charges against him.

The government said Stiuso was treating the Argentinian courts as a joke and warned that judicial authorities could order his arrest overseas if he did not return to Argentina to testify.

“Stiuso is a former intelligence agent with 42 years of service and there are things he will have to explain,” said the cabinet chief, Aníbal Fernández.

“If he continues to refuse to appear, it will be the judicial branch itself that will ask him to appear, and if he doesn’t, additional measures will have to be taken that might include an international arrest warrant.”

Stiuso, a former operations chief of the intelligence secretariat, ran a vast wire-tapping network that he built up under Férnandez and her predecessor and husband, Néstor Kirchner. Among his responsibilities was support for Nisman’s investigation into alleged Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Amia centre.

But he and the prosecutor became disillusioned with Férnandez when she signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran in 2013, that set up a joint truth commission to investigate the blast, undermining their own investigation.

Férnandez shook up the intelligence secretariat in December after it failed to alert her that Nisman was preparing to accuse the president of conspiring with Iran to cover up the bombing. Stiuso was sacked in December.

The prosecutor was found dead with a bullet in his brain on 18 January, the day before he was due to present his case to Congress. Investigators have yet to determine whether it was suicide or murder, but Férnandez has publicly blamed rogue agents from the spy agency, which she has vowed to replace.

Stiuso’s exact whereabouts remain unknown. At the time of Nisman’s death he was in Miami, according to a former head of the SIDE intelligence agency, Miguel Ángel Toma, who worked with Stiuso during 2002-03.

He is known to have made two phone calls to Nisman’s former wife, Sandra Arroyo Salgado, on 27 January to express his condolences. Stiuso was reportedly close to both Nisman and his ex-wife.

Argentina president: US 'vulture funds' backed Nisman before his death

Other reports said Stiuso had spent the southern summer holidays in January and February in neighbouring Uruguay, but he returned to Buenos Aires to testify on 17 February at the court investigation into Nisman’s death.

This month, however, he failed to show for two summons. Stiuso had been scheduled to appear before the federal intelligence agency on 6 April to answer questions in an internal inquiry into “dilatory and irregular” conduct.

The new agency chief, Oscar Parrilli, said Stiuso had failed to conduct sufficient inquiries into international calls in and out of Argentina between 1991 and 1996 in connection with the 1994 Amia blast.

After Stiuso failed to appear for that appointment, he was called to appear before the team of three new prosecutors appointed by Fernández to replace Nisman as investigator into the 1994 blast. He was again absent.

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:02 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mexico Arrests Nine Cartel Suspects after Gunfight

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 April 2015, 06:53

Mexican marines have detained nine drug cartel suspects and seized an arsenal that included an anti-personnel mine and grenade launchers after gunfights that killed a police officer, authorities said Thursday.

The troops also confiscated 24 assault rifles when they arrested the suspects late Wednesday in the northern state of Tamaulipas, a regional security task force said in a statement.

The suspects are accused of participating in an assault by the Gulf cartel earlier on Wednesday in Altamira, near the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Authorities say the gang opened fire in the town and blocked roads with burning vehicles in an attempt to rescue a leader who had just been arrested by authorities.

One police officer was killed and two were wounded. Officials had previously reported no fatalities.

The mayhem in Altamira came just five days after a similar bout of violence in Reynosa, a city bordering Texas.

Last Friday, dozens of Gulf gunmen tried to rescue a captured drug lord in a day of violence that left three suspects dead in the border city.

The Gulf cartel has been weakened and mired in internal power struggles following the arrests of several leaders in recent years.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 06:01 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Three Members of U.N. Mission Kidnapped in Eastern DR Congo

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 April 2015, 08:24

Three members of the United Nation's peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo were kidnapped Thursday in the eastern North Kivu province, a U.N. source said.

"Three members of MONUSCO (the 20,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force)... have been kidnapped in Kibumba", some 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the provincial capital Goma, the source told AFP.

Two of those seized were Congolese members of a demining team and the other was part of the international U.N. team, the source added.

A Congolese army officer said a U.N. vehicle had been recovered near the presumed site of their abduction.

"The motor was turning and the car was empty," he added.

According to the U.N. source, the circumstances around the abduction were unclear. They were seized at around 5:30 pm (1530 GMT), but no details were given on who had abducted the trio or where they had been taken.

The incident came as U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous was in DR Congo seeking to iron out differences between the U.N. mission and the government in Kinshasa.

The U.N. and the Congolese military were planning a joint offensive against a rebel group at the start of the year, but DR Congo later declared it would fight alone.

DR Congo's armed forces say they also face incursions onto their territory by Rwandan troops, with one Congolese soldier wounded on Wednesday in an exchange of fire close to the border.

"We have been informed of the infiltration of hundreds of Rwandan troops," confirmed Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu province.

Rwandan authorities refused to comment on the claims when contacted by AFP.

DR Congo, a vast central African country, has been struggling through a political crisis since President Joseph Kabila's 2011 re-election, which was marred by major voting irregularities.

The U.N. on Sunday called on the government to respect its citizens' civil liberties as the political climate has turned tense ahead of key elections next year.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 05:59 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Yemeni refugees fleeing Saudi air strikes find peace but little else in Somaliland

‘It is driving people crazy,’ says one of hundreds arriving across the Gulf of Aden in Berbera. ‘The air raids are destroying more houses than the fighting’

Johnny Magdaleno in Berbera
24 April 2015 18.38 BST

It was just after midnight when the livestock ship carrying nearly 200 people fleeing Yemen’s civil war docked at the port in the Somaliland city of Berbera.

As aid workers set up registration tables in the light of Red Crescent ambulance headlights, the migrants slowly filed on to land across a plank the size of a door. Families sat in circles on the gravel, attending to crying children or staring blankly at the stacks of cargo containers surrounding them. They looked dazed and exhausted, but they were happy to be alive.

This was the fourth – and most crowded – shipload of refugees fleeing Yemen to reach Berbera since late March, when a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began a bombing campaign against Shia Houthi rebels who forced President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi into exile.

It is an exodus that seems unlikely to end any time soon, despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement on Tuesday night that it had ended its bombing campaign. Saudi warplanes launched new air strikes against rebel positions in Aden and Taez on Wednesday and aid workers have warned that the humanitarian situation in Yemen remains “catastrophic” after months of fighting.

International airports such as the one in Sana’a have been demolished, and fleeing overland is risky as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula continues to control swaths of territory in the east.

So far more than 2,000 people have made the journey across the Gulf of Aden to the coast of Somaliland, and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, expects that over the next six months as many as 100,000 more will follow.

“The reason people are coming here is because of the planes,” said Mohammed, 21, one of the boat’s passengers. “It is driving people crazy. The air raids are destroying more houses than the fighting.”

Another man pulled out his mobile phone and showed pictures of the destruction. One showed the body of a man lying on the street – charred beyond recognition except for its leg, which was just a stretch of clean white bone.

The current flow of refugees reverses an earlier migration across the Gulf of Aden which began in the late 1980s when civil war forced hundreds of thousands to flee Somalia.

Of the 246,000 refugees registered in Yemen, nearly 95% are Somali. Now many of these are trying to return home, some even making their way to Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, despite continuing attacks by the militant group al-Shabaab.

Somaliland – a self-declared independent state which is viewed by the international community as a territory within Somalia – has largely escaped civil war violence, but is not currently equipped to receive large numbers of refugees.

The new arrivals were accommodated in a warehouse where they described a Yemen that is sinking further into crisis every day. Food, water and electricity shortages are crippling humanitarian camps and major cities like Sana’a. Families are living in basements beneath their levelled houses, unable to purchase petrol, which this group says has reached $100 for 20 litres in some places, to escape to humanitarian camps.

Within the medical facilities that haven’t been reduced to rubble, people are dying because of a lack of necessary medicine. One young woman raised her voice in anger as she explained that more aid organisations appeared to be leaving Yemen than trying to get in.

Many had spent the last of their savings to pay the $100 passage for the journey from the port of Mocha and across the Gulf of Aden. “All my money is finished here,” said Miriam, 20, who had travelled alone.

UNHCR has said it may begin coordinating travel to Mogadishu and other locations as more migrants show up. For now, though, migrants must fend for themselves to find a way out of their temporary stay in Berbera, where reception facilities have yet to be completed.

The local government and aid organizations plan to expand their assistance as more refugees arrive. UNHCR has put in place additional toilets and improved access to water, to replace the single, dirty bathroom behind the warehouse.

Still, those like 14-year-old Safwan Hasan, who is accompanied by every member of his family, are happy to make a new home out of the old one they fled so many years ago.

“All the people [on the boat] were happy,” he said, “because they were coming to their second country.”

• This article was amended on 23 April 2015 to clarify UNHCR’s position on assisting Somalis wishing to return home, by replacing the word “will” with “may”.

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 05:55 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
China Leaders to Meet Taiwan Ruling Party Chief

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 April 2015, 11:27

Leaders of China's Communist Party will meet the chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party early next month, state media said Friday, amid improving relations between the political foes.

Mainland officials, who were not named, will meet Eric Chu, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing Ma Xiaoguang, of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party Central Committee.

The two split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, and Beijing still regards Taiwan as a province awaiting reunification.

Chu is leading a delegation that will attend a cross-strait forum in Shanghai on Sunday week and then travel to Beijing.

The Taiwanese politician said earlier that "a plan for a meeting of the two party leaders is being arranged", implying he would sit down with Xi Jinping, the head of the Communist Party and China's president.

China's foreign ministry did not confirm whether Chu would meet Xi.

"The leaders of the KMT and CPC will exchange views on party-to-party exchanges and cross-strait relations, which will be a significant event in high-level exchanges between the two parties," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.

The meeting comes in the wake of Taipei's application to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank being rejected, with Beijing saying the island could join later under a "appropriate name".

In 2005 Lien Chan made the first trip to the mainland by a KMT chief since 1949.

The landmark visit and the ensuing annual forum paved the way for relations to warm after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012.

Wu Po-hsiung was the last KMT chairman to visit the mainland, in 2008.

In June 2010 the two sides signed a trade pact known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, widely seen as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation.

But public sentiment in Taiwan has turned against the Beijing-friendly approach, with voters saying trade deals have been agreed in secret and not benefited ordinary citizens.

In March last year around 200 students occupied parliament for more than three weeks to demonstrate against a controversial services trade pact, while thousands rallied in support of what became known as the "Sunflower Movement".

The KMT suffered its worst-ever showing in local polls in November -- seen as a barometer for presidential elections in 2016.

Despite the setback, Ma said earlier this month that ties with Beijing were "back to normal", and that government surveys showed opposition to the pace of  rapprochement was declining.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Apr 24, 2015, 05:54 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Tears and Anger as Survivors Mark Bangladesh Factory Disaster

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 April 2015, 11:33

Tearful and angry survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster gathered at the factory site Friday to protest against poor compensation on the two-year anniversary of the tragedy that claimed more than 1,100 lives.

About 2,000 survivors, some on crutches, and families of victims held hands in a show of solidarity at the ruins of the factory complex which imploded in 2013 in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

From early morning, the crowd, many clutching photos of loved ones, gathered at a makeshift memorial at the site to protest a range of concerns including poor factory safety standards and a lack of compensation.

"I only got one million taka ($12,900) from the prime minister's fund, but nothing from the trust fund created to help the victims," Rehana Akhter, whose leg was amputated after she become trapped under tonnes of debris, said.

The trust fund was set up by retailers and labour groups in the wake of the tragedy.

"I can't now work. I need expensive medicines and I have a family to look after," the 24-year-old told Agence France Presse, supporting herself with a crutch, at the site in Savar outside the capital Dhaka.

The collapse triggered international outrage and put pressure on European and U.S. brands who had placed orders at the nine-storey complex to improve the woeful pay and conditions at Bangladesh's 4,500 garment factories.

Western retailers linked to the disaster include Spanish brand Mango, Italian brand Benetton, British retailer Primark and French retailer Auchan.

Two years on, nearly $25 million in compensation has been paid out to survivors and relatives of the dead.

Many wept openly as they placed flowers and wreaths at the memorial and some sat silently on the rubble, but others angrily shouted slogans against Western retailers.

"We had high hopes that the Rana Plaza collapse would be a wake-up call for the government and the retailers," union leader Taslim Akhter told AFP.

"Two years on, many factories are far from safe. We have had several deadly factory fires since Rana Plaza. Millions of workers still don't have enough labour rights," Akhter, who leads the Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity, said.

Some 2,500 factories have been inspected since the tragedy, but global labour group IndustriALL said on the eve of the anniversary that safety upgrades were running behind schedule and none were considered "100 percent safe".

For others, the anniversary was a chance to protest against a failure to find some 135 workers, presumed killed in the disaster, but whose bodies have never been recovered.

"I want to know where my daughter is buried. For two years I've been asking this question but nobody has any answer," said Jaheda Begum, 55, holding a photograph of her 35-year-old daughter Saleha Begum.

The sporadic discovery of remains has fuelled the anger of relatives who say authorities were too quick to send in the bulldozers to shovel up most of the debris.

By the time the three-week rescue operation ended, a total of 1,129 bodies had been recovered.

Bangladesh's garment industry, the world's second largest after China, has bounced back since the tragedy, with shipments last year standing at $25 billion. 

Source: Agence France Presse

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