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EDITORIALS

Plugging defection
Leave the party, seek re-election
T
HE decision to give more teeth to anti-defection provisions has not come a day too soon. Had it been in force earlier, the country could have been spared the ugly sight of Aya Rams and Gaya Rams and sundry underhand deals. 

A symbol of hope
At least Lalita’s labour is not lost
L
IKE many other girls in Bihar, 18-year-old Lalita Kumari too would have been married off at 10 or so and condemned to a life of ignorance, exploitation and struggle. But this Sitamarhi girl happened to attend a day school meant for 9 to 15-year-olds from disadvantaged communities.


 

EARLIER ARTICLES

Unhealthy suspense
December 12, 2003
No bilateral deal
December 11, 2003
Not through acrimony
December 10, 2003
Jogi in the dustbin
December 9, 2003
After victory, hard grind
December 8, 2003
I am itching to get back to work, says Sheila Dikshit
December 7, 2003
Women on top
December 6, 2003
Mature verdict
December 5, 2003
Coping with AIDS
December 4, 2003
Keepers of the law?
December 3, 2003
 

Astounding admission
If drugs don't cure, what does?
T
HE admission by a senior vice-president of GlaxoSmithKline that 50 to 70 per cent of the drugs are ineffective in treating the ailment for which they are prescribed is simply astounding.

ARTICLE

Commonwealth at crossroads
52 heads failed to look beyond Zimbabwe!
by L.H. Naqvi
I
T is almost unbelievable that the heads of government of 52 Commonwealth countries wasted four precious days during the just concluded summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on deciding that Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation should continue. True, no individual or nation should be allowed to violate human rights and the democratic principles of fair governance. 

MIDDLE

Making business sense
by S. Zahur H. Zaidi
H
AVE you experienced the might of China? Silly question because all that you need to do is take a walk in any bazaar, in any part of the world. The markets are flooded with a variety of Chinese products. From toys to toiletries, we have a range of choice, good quality at extremely affordable prices. Consumers like me are certainly not complaining.

OPED

A monarch of all that he surveys
Phalke award comes to Dev Anand rather late
by Amar Chandel
F
ILM heroes are ex-officio demigods in India. Public adulation is showered on them by the oodles. None has enjoyed this privilege more than Dev Anand during his more than 50 years in filmdom. He holds particular sway on the female audience and can sweep them off their feet even at the age of 81 with his old-world charm, chivalry and geniality.

Haryana-born contesting for mayorship in US
by Ela Dutt
A
N Indian American woman politician seeking to become the mayor of a California county wants buses there to ply on compressed natural gas a la New Delhi. Suchita “Sue” Saigal (45) says she has three priorities if she gets into the office of Fresno mayor — job creation, clean air and beautifying the city.

 REFLECTIONS

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Plugging defection
Leave the party, seek re-election

THE decision to give more teeth to anti-defection provisions has not come a day too soon. Had it been in force earlier, the country could have been spared the ugly sight of Aya Rams and Gaya Rams and sundry underhand deals. It is good that the draft Bill takes care of several loopholes. Under the new law, any legislator or group of legislators that defects will automatically have to resign membership and seek re-election. Although having to vacate one’s seat was punishment enough, there was still scope for mischief, which too has now been plugged. The defector will have to win an election before becoming eligible for a ministerial or a remunerative political post. That means that a defector cannot be given a ministerial berth for six months – the maximum period for which a person can hold it without facing the electorate. Not only that, he cannot be rewarded by being made a member of the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of a State Legislature and of the Council of Ministers.

The provision that if one-third of the members leave a party, it should be treated as a split and not a defection was well-meaning, but that too was blatantly misused, what with friendly Speakers ruling that a split can be a continuous process. Under the circumstances, it is necessary to make a person ditching his party or defying the whip useless for any other party.

Equally significant is the proposed legislation limiting the strength of any Council of Ministers at the Central or State levels to only 15 per cent of the total number of members in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislature. That will make the jumbo-size ministries a thing of the past. Just look at the 14-strong Ministry of Mizoram which has only a 40-member House. Manipur is even worse with 32 Ministers in a House of 60. For such small states, the limit will be 12 per cent, thus reducing the size in Mizoram to four and in Manipur to seven. All parties should lend support to this much-needed provision and pass it in the winter session itself.
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A symbol of hope
At least Lalita’s labour is not lost

LIKE many other girls in Bihar, 18-year-old Lalita Kumari too would have been married off at 10 or so and condemned to a life of ignorance, exploitation and struggle. But this Sitamarhi girl happened to attend a day school meant for 9 to 15-year-olds from disadvantaged communities. That changed her fate. She became aware of her plight and potential. Overcoming obstacles put up by her family, steeped in poverty and illiteracy, she insisted on attending school, where she was given basic education and taught analytical skills to help her in personal and social situations. Her father initially opposed her going to school, but then relented, letting her daughter pursue her goal.

By putting Lalita Kumari on the cover of the report, ‘The State of World’s Children 2004’, UNICEF has not only highlighted the hardships that countless children of the world’s deprived sections face in acquiring education, but also sent out the message that, no matter what, the hurdles are not insurmountable. “I want all girls to go to school”, beams Lalita, now a picture of confidence and strength, having earned a blue belt in karate. A symbol of hope, she has been aptly described as a “role model”, who can inspire others to pursue their goals with grit and determination. There are many children, both boys and girls, in India who are not lucky enough to break their chains and remain tied to a life of abuse, humiliation and depravity.

Worldwide, some 121 million children are out of school. While the importance of education is being increasingly realised, governments of poor and even developing countries are not making adequate resources available for schooling. India has the largest number of children in the world at 375 million, but a large number is not attending school. Education being a state subject, provincial governments are not doing enough to fight illiteracy, barring a few like those in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh. They do not realise that the spread of education will have the side-benfit of keeping a check on the explosive population rise, besides effecting a decline in poverty and social backwardness.
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Astounding admission
If drugs don't cure, what does?

THE admission by a senior vice-president of GlaxoSmithKline that 50 to 70 per cent of the drugs are ineffective in treating the ailment for which they are prescribed is simply astounding. Was it a troublesome conscience that made Dr Allen Rose, in a manner of speaking, spill the pills? The disclosure is bound to shake the money-spinning pharmaceutical industry by its rotten roots. Poor countries are struggling to eliminate quacks from the business of putting patients' health to risk by giving them bogus potions, lotions and balms. Is there any difference between a major pharma company that floods the market with drugs that in most cases do not work and the charlatans who treat poor and ignorant patients because the latter cannot afford expensive branded drugs?

Ideally, independent agencies across the globe should treat the admission by Dr Rose as a warning. They should examine the effectiveness of drugs of other pharmaceutical firms in treating the ailments for which they are prescribed.

According to Dr Rose, the drugs for Alzheimer's disease work in fewer than one in three patients. The vast majority of the drugs — more than 90 per cent — only work on 30 to 50 per cent of the patients. He has a formidable reputation in the field of "pharmacogenomics", that studies the effect of human genetics in responding to specific drugs. He deserves praise for coming clean. But the disclosure means that most drug majors are guilty of deliberately and knowingly putting at risk the health, and in extreme cases even lives, of patients taking the ineffective medicines. The admission should result in the funding of research for producing gene-specific drugs for improving their rate of effectiveness.
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Thought for the day

Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.

— Henry Van DykeTop

 

Commonwealth at crossroads
52 heads failed to look beyond Zimbabwe!
by L.H. Naqvi

IT is almost unbelievable that the heads of government of 52 Commonwealth countries wasted four precious days during the just concluded summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on deciding that Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation should continue. True, no individual or nation should be allowed to violate human rights and the democratic principles of fair governance. However, only countries whose record is clean should be allowed to judge the misdeeds of others.

In March last year Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth because President Robert Mugabe allegedly rigged the elections. The subsequent attacks on white settlements resulting in forced grabbing of surplus land by the impoverished black people was attributed to him. Had the zamindars and the jagirdars of India been white settlers, the zamindari abolition laws too may have been condemned with same vehemence that seeks to project Mr Mugabe as his country's enemy.

The Coolum summit had set up a three-member group comprising Australia, Nigeria and South Africa to review Zimbabwe's case for re-entry after one year. South Africa and Nigeria supported the lifting of the suspension. Australia said no.

At the Abuja summit India, Jamaica and Mozambique were included in the group for breaking the deadlock. Australia refused to budge. India could not speak too loudly in favour of Zimbabwe because of its position on Pakistan, which was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1999 after the military coup. It too has yet to pass the test of having restored genuine democracy.

Granted that Mr Mugabe's transgressions are unpardonable. But shouldn't the Commonwealth heads have asked British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard to explain the charge of having violated the same principles for which Mr Mugabe is being painted as a shade less dangerous to mankind than Osama and Saddam?

The white man has carried the burden of converting the so-called barbarians into civilised human beings for far too long. What he is practising today in forums like the Commonwealth and even the United Nations is a globalised version of India's regressive caste system that gave some people more power than they deserved.

The charge against Mr Mugabe is that he has subverted democracy and is refusing to seek national reconciliation as a condition for returning to the Commonwealth. Prime Minister Howard ignored the consensus in favour of Zimbabwe at the Group of Six meeting. Should he not be practising what he is preaching to the lesser nations? The Australian Prime Minister needs to be told that in the global village international reconciliation is as important as national reconciliation.

Britain is the symbolic head of the Commonwealth. Mr Blair as its Prime Minister should have been placed in the same dock from which Mr Mugabe walked out because of the rigid position taken by Australia, Britain and New Zealand. The Zimbabwean leader is charged with having trampled upon the human rights of his people. What about Mr Blair? He should have been asked to explain the circumstances that drove weapons scientist David Kelly to commit suicide.

Human rights violations should not be slave to the process of blind head count. An individual's right to a life of dignity and honour is as sacrosanct as that of whole societies. And pray where are the WMDs that made Mr Blair become a willing partner in US President George W. Bush's misadventure in Iraq? Are we to presume that the Commonwealth members should limit their concern to only who is doing what within the club and not question a member's acts of misconduct elsewhere?

It is not only Zimbabwe, but also the continent of Africa that needs help not reprimand. World leaders have pledged support for Africa's homegrown recovery plan, known as Nepad, in return for an African commitment to combat corruption and eradicate regional conflicts. Isolating Mr Mugabe within the Commonwealth and in other international forums is not going to help his country reap the benefit of the new strategy for economic regeneration.

Africa does not want to remain a white man's burden. Nigerian President Oleusegun Obasanjo articulated the sentiments of the continent when he said "Africa is seeking to lift itself by its own bootstraps". A kick from behind by the white nations is not going to help African leaders find their own solutions.

Since Australia led the initiative for Zimbabwe's continued isolation from the Commonwealth it may be pertinent to ask what was its position on the unhappy developments in Fiji in which people of Indian origin were at the receiving end?

Going by the larger definition of human rights Australia is guilty of having violated the basic right to clean air and safe environment of the entire mankind. It is the only Commonwealth country that has followed America and Russia in refusing to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

Zimbabwe is indeed guilty of violating the spirit of the Commonwealth. But so are most impoverished nations of Africa that qualify for membership on the strength of having had their sovereignty usurped by Britain! Democracy becomes a farce when it is forced on a people who are fighting hunger and disease.

The Abuja summit would have done a greater service to mankind had it given more importance to combating the spread of AIDS in most of Africa and the Indian sub-continent. The issue was discussed on the sideline while Zimbabwe hogged undeserved attention.

A transparent information-sharing regime is the practical answer to the Commonwealth's present search for deeper democracy and people-centered development. It is a workable shortcut to achieving the goals of poverty eradication and good governance that the Commonwealth wants members to achieve.

The developed nations within the Commonwealth will have to take the lead in providing the have-nots — and Zimbabwe is one of them — the means to stand on their feet. This is essential for helping the poor earn their daily bread with dignity and thereafter walk to the polling booth for nursing democracy that in turn would ensure the evolution of transparent governance.

Unfortunately, the right to access information remains undervalued in the Commonwealth both by member states and the Secretariat. Only a handful of member countries promote and protect this right. The institutions of the Commonwealth do not yet have disclosure policies. This situation needs to change.

An executive session at the Abuja summit did manage to do some meaningful business while the media's focus remained largely on Zimbabwe. It emphasised that "opening up government requires complementary systems that support administrative reform, protect whistleblowers and encourage wide consultation. Removing obstructions to open government needs independent arbiters to monitor performance, adjudicate conflict, educate the public and promote good practice and training within bureaucracies. Most of all open government needs political will to overcome long-standing cultures of government secrecy because experience shows that changing mind-sets has proved very difficult, even in places that have long established laws."

Satyendra Dubey was murdered for blowing the whistle on acts of wrongdoing in the Golden Quadrilateral Highway Project. His soul will rest in peace if India reports implementation of the recommendation of the executive session, which discussed the need to protect whistleblowers, to the 2005 CHOGM in Malta.n

The writer covered the Commonwealth Summit meeting at Abuja for The Tribune
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Making business sense
by S. Zahur H. Zaidi

HAVE you experienced the might of China? Silly question because all that you need to do is take a walk in any bazaar, in any part of the world. The markets are flooded with a variety of Chinese products. From toys to toiletries, we have a range of choice, good quality at extremely affordable prices. Consumers like me are certainly not complaining. However the same cannot be said for manufacturers from the rest of the world.

During a visit to an engineering unit in Memphis (Tennessee) USA, I stumbled upon a neatly packed carton placed on a prominent platform, right outside the CEO’s office. It bore an interesting sticker, which read “Bad product. Do not open. Ship to China.” If some American businessmen hope to get even with China by sticking funny stickers, I am afraid they won’t go too far. To them I extend a hearty welcome to India.

Travel 20,000 km across the globe and you are in India. This is the country where a few decades ago a slogan “Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai” was coined. We still believe firmly in this. But I have twisted it just a bit without really affecting our foreign policy. I believe Hindi Cheeni Bhai Bhai all right but Hindi Businessman Cheeni Ka Bada Bhai.

Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion. I assure you it was not done in haste. You know about my experience in Memphis. Now let me tell you one that happened in Mandi (Himachal Pradesh).

A friend had been travelling in Europe. While in Berlin he picked up a wonderful souvenir for me — a piece of the Berlin Wall. I was thrilled to receive this gift. He told me that little relics of this symbol of the gory history of mankind were being sold in Berlin for $2 a piece, packed in small plastic bags along with a certificate from the Mayor of Berlin as proof of its authenticity.

It was suggested by another friend that I must have this historic piece of concrete mounted on a stand and encased in a glass box. I contacted the best mistry in Mandi town. He saw the piece and quoted a price. We negotiated and finally he agreed to do it for Rs 200. The deal was struck.

Before he left he wanted to know why I wanted to waste my money over a piece of stone. In about 10 minutes I tried to tell him about the world wars, the division of Germany and how the wall came into existence and was later pulled down — which was a historic moment. Hence I thought it was important to give this piece of concrete a more presentable form.

Somehow the wily businessman in him still could not quite figure why money was being spent on a piece of stone, history notwithstanding.

When history failed, I switched to plain economics. I told him that after a decade this piece of concrete would probably be worth a few thousand rupees. Now that made good business sense. His eyes blinked but it takes a bit more to convince an incredulous businessman. He asked me, “How can you be sure that this piece is from that valuable wall?”

Good question. I showed him the certificate from the Mayor of Berlin. He was convinced.

To settle similar doubts before they arose in the minds of suspecting friends, I requested him to fix the certificate at the base of the wooden pedestal on which the piece would be placed.

Less than 10 seconds later the entrepreneur in him could not hold back for long. He said, “May I borrow this certificate from you?” On being asked why for heavens sake his answer was, “I want to make some photocopies. As far as the bits of stones are concerned, I can find numerous in the Beas River!!”

I am a proud owner of a piece of the Berlin Wall. It adorns my living room, encased in a beautiful glass box. But, am I the only one in this part of the world?? 

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A monarch of all that he surveys
Phalke award comes to Dev Anand rather late
by Amar Chandel

The Dev of yore
The Dev of yore

Happy as ever
Happy as ever

FILM heroes are ex-officio demigods in India. Public adulation is showered on them by the oodles. None has enjoyed this privilege more than Dev Anand during his more than 50 years in filmdom. He holds particular sway on the female audience and can sweep them off their feet even at the age of 81 with his old-world charm, chivalry and geniality.

This lover boy image from the Surraiya era to circa 2003 has been his strength as well his cocoon. He has remained happily ensconced in it, never wanting to rise to the potential that he could have easily achieved if he dared to break the template.

Now that he is a proud recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievements, perhaps one can express the feeling of disappointment that one felt when the Dev of yore succumbed to the inanity of the past few years.

Though never rated very high as an actor, Dev Anand ruled the heart of the Indian cinegoers in ’50s and ’60s, along with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, the famous Trimurthi. Others might have been talented but as far as fan following was concerned, there was nothing to beat Dev Anand. Whether it is oversized collars or singsong dialogue delivery, every excess that he committed became a style statement.

With so much of public affection impelling him, it was but natural for him to become a producer-director. How one wishes that had not happened. Perhaps then the hero of “Guide” could have scaled greater heights.

His limited talent required an accomplished director to showcase it properly. The job was done admirably by Raj Khosla in “Kaala Pani” and younger brother Vijay Anand in “Guide”, both of which fetched him the Filmfare Best Actor Award.

But when he himself took over the megaphone, things started going haywire. From “Prem Pujari” to “Des Pardes”, there was a binding force that held his films together, but then the glue simply gave way and the films started falling apart. It was embarrassing to see some of his later offerings.

He was too engrossed in his own glamour world to bother about suggestions and requests for rethinking his directorial ventures. Being the master of all that he surveyed proved to be his undoing.

It was not about the success or failure of his films. After all, some of the most sensitive films made in India have had to bite the dust. It is just that the stuff he was churning out was too outdated and chaotic to appeal either to the masses or the classes.

This is not to deny him the place in the hall of fame for his other contributions. It is just to express the sincere wish that if he had concentrated more on acting and left direction and other responsibilities to others, he might have been an even taller star.

In cineworld, one’s screen presence matters the most. Dev Saab has that in such abundance that even today he can be a scene-stealer. All that he requires are scenes scripted and enacted in keeping with his stature and capability.

As a person, his never-say-die spirit should be the envy of every actor. The way he pressed on regardless of successes and failures is a testimony to his evolved senses. “I never give myself a chance to get depressed. I think ahead,” he says. That is amazing enough to make people one-fourth his age go green with envy.

His mischievous romantic roles may not qualify to be called a sterling contribution but the synergy that he gave to film-making and the careers that he launched — including those of Zeenat Aman, Tina Munim, Natasha Singh and Ekta — perhaps do. What a pity that he could not use the same magic wand on his son Suneil whom he launched in “Anand Aur Anand”.

Couldn’t the national recognition have been given to him when he was yet to lend his name to some of the most puerile films ever made in India?
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Refreshingly unchanged

Dev Anand was born on September 26, 1923 in Gurdaspur. Before joining films, he worked in the Army’s correspondence censor department on a salary of Rs 60 per month.

Since his debut-making Hum Ek Hain, it’s been a big haul for Dev Anand. He hasn’t given a hit after Johnny Mera Naam. But his films like Baazi, C.I.D, Kala Bazar, Hum Dono, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne and Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai projected Anand’s romantic hero image.

But as director flops started falling into his lot. Awal Number, Pyar Ka Tarana, Gangster, Return Of Jewel Thief are the few among the many. Jewel Thief was a super hit movie which had melodious song numbers. Guide had altogether a different story and his performance even fetched him an award.

Though in love with his leading lady Suraiya, he settled for marriage with another of his leading ladies Kalpana Kartik, who retired after marriage.

Devsaab is not one to rest on his laurels. For him tomorrow is always brighter, more inviting. He’s never stuck in a groove, constantly changing with the times, yet remaining refreshingly unchanged himself.

— Culled from the Net
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Haryana-born contesting for mayorship in US
by Ela Dutt

AN Indian American woman politician seeking to become the mayor of a California county wants buses there to ply on compressed natural gas (CNG) a la New Delhi.

Suchita “Sue” Saigal (45) says she has three priorities if she gets into the office of Fresno mayor — job creation, clean air and beautifying the city.

And for clean air, the Haryana-born Saigal insists there can be no better example than the Indian Capital where all buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws ply on the green fuel CNG, dramatically lowering the city’s pollution levels.

“I want to mirror New Delhi with its natural gas for vehicles campaign. I want our 1,800 vehicles to be turned over to CNG where only 11 of them are,” she says.

Saigal has already started an aggressive campaign for primaries that are due in March. Saigal filed her papers on November 10, the first day that papers could be filed for the primaries due on March 2, because she wants to be ahead of others who may join the race. The elections are in November next year.

Saigal has run her husband, Harsh’s medical practice (Silicon Valley Medical Group) for 23 years and feels she needs to give back to the Fresno community.

If she qualifies, she will be the first Indian American woman to run in a mayoral race for a city of half a million people.

“I feel a deep sense of commitment. I wanted to be a 24/7 mayor. The current one is hardly ever there,” Saigal told IANS.

She is already on the offensive campaign trail against incumbent mayor Alan Autry, who has indicated he will not run for re-election. “I also feel I will be the first ‘action-and-no-talk’ mayor,” she declares.

She continues: “Fresno has 14 per cent unemployment. And if we don’t significantly clear the air we are pretty soon going to be the worst air basin in the country. And I want more parks and trees.”

She wants to tap the business community to help tackle the city’s $900 million debt. For job creation, she says she is going to build “shovel-ready” industrial parks with all the infrastructure, and give incentives to companies to relocate here because Fresno has very affordable housing.

“Second, I want to tap the 80 per cent youth who don’t go to higher education and encourage them to go to vocational schools. There are jobs available but we can’t seem to find qualified people.”

She hopes to reduce traffic by building a shuttle-service from uptown to downtown so people don’t have to use their cars.

The city has a concentration of Indian Americans, Saigal says, “a few hundred families” but “most of them don’t vote or are not citizens, or registered, or don’t care”.

She expects women in Fresno to rally behind her candidature. And she hopes physicians and the Indians who vote will cast their ballots for her as well as the business community.

Fresno’s voting population numbers around 50,000 to 60,000, Saigal calculates, and even when she was a novice running for the School Board, she garnered 10,000 votes spending merely $300 back in 1998. Now she is aiming to raise $100,000 for the primaries.

“My first fundraiser raised about $12,000. I have a few more in the pipeline. I already have my own radio ads.”

She has lived in Fresno for 25 years with her husband and has two children.

“We have voted in every election. I am a Republican but this is a non-partisan election and I am reaching out to all parties.” — IANS 
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For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil doers, for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age.

— Lord Shri Krishna

Salutations to Sree Dakshinamoorty, the abode of all learning, the healer of all those afflicted with the disease of wordly existence, the teacher of the whole world.

— Shri Adi Shankaracharya

Becaue of mammon, faith is lost.

— Guru Nanak

The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them.

— Swami Vivekananda

All that you need to do is to employ your present faculties to progress gradually in the path of knowledge. The way to more light is the faithful use of what you have.

— Swami Parthasarathy
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