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Fighting for survival

Brian Taylor | 14:45 UK time, Tuesday, 10 June 2008

There is an opinion poll in this morning's Times which suggests that Gordon Brown's personal leadership standing now matches that of Iain Duncan Smith.

That's right: IDS, the quiet man himself, the scourge of the EU, the visiting friend of Easterhouse.

Lest you have forgotten those troubled times in the Tory party, it is not notably good news for GB to be compared with IDS.

It is against that background that one must judge the PM's problems over the issue of pre-charge detention - and the comments from Scotland's Lord Advocate, Eilish Angiolini.

Ms Angiolini's comments are widely reported in the papers this morning but were first carried by Newsnight Scotland last night (BBC Scotland first with the news, as ever).

She says, in a customarily cautious letter to an MP, that the case for extending pre-charge detention from 28 days to 42 is "not supported by prosecution experience to date."

In essence, that is a "not proven" verdict. It is, however, a judgement which may have considerable impact, especially as Ms Angiolini is echoing doubts already voiced by the director of public prosecutions in England, Sir Ken MacDonald.

Two worlds are colliding here. For Gordon Brown, this is now quite simply a matter of political survival. To be clear, the division in the Commons this week is not tantamount to a confidence vote in the PM.

But it will scarcely shore up confidence in his prospects, should he lose.

Mr Brown is in a curious position. Lose the vote and his leadership is further undermined.

Win the vote - and then what? Do you imagine that on the streets of, say, Crewe, their votes hinge on whether terrorism suspects are held in the slammer for four weeks or six?

All of which is, of course, purely a political calculation. By contrast, law officers are institutionally and intellectually obliged to consider the permanent legal framework of Scotland and the UK.

They have to judge what is right in the longer term for the judicial system, mostly disregarding the interests of a "here today, gone tomorrow" minister, to pinch Robin Day's splendid phrase.

In short, they have to consider future trials, not the current tribulations of a political leader, however senior.

Sometimes there can be cross-over. Witness the pressure upon the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in judging the legality or otherwise of the Iraq war.

On this occasion, albeit in cautiously framed language, Ms Angiolini feels she has to reflect the concerns of the legal and judicial system.

It must help, of course, that her loyalty is to the Crown - while she attends Alex Salmond's Cabinet, not Gordon Brown's.


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  • 1. At 3:36pm on 10 Jun 2008, BillBeattie56 wrote:

    New Labour, formerly under Blair and now under Brown have created a culture of fear in this country mimicing that found in the US. Increasing the detention period for "terrorist" suspects from 28 to 42 is yet another example of nanny Brown's state control.

    Our civil liberties have been compromised steadily over the years of New Labour Goverment. God knows what it will be like when they make ID cards compulsory.

    As a leader Brown seems totally bereft of producing any popular policies or legislation.

    Time for a change I think.

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  • 2. At 4:33pm on 10 Jun 2008, Wansanshoo wrote:

    It's no secret that the next Prime Minister will be David Cameron, to come from the position Labour currently find themselves would require a political miracle.

    Mr Cameron has promised to raise two issues that have direct implications for Scotland, the Barnett Formula and the West Lothian question, nothing less would satisfy middle England.

    Of course Mr Cameron will not budge an inch on North Sea Oil, claiming it's as british as Brigadier John himself.

    By this time the nationalist feeling in Scotland will have risen to new heights, upward and onward to an independent nuclear free Scotland.


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  • 3. At 4:44pm on 10 Jun 2008, DrKF77 wrote:

    Go to the website 'publicwhip' to see how your own MP votes on this crucial matter (and in any division - it's an invaluable resource for political anoracks of any hue).

    Detention without charge amounts, to my mind, to nothing but political posturing on the part of Brown - an attempt to demonstrate that labour is 'tougher on terrorism' than are the Tories. It is a stick with which to beat the Tories, rather than a useful tool in the nebulous 'war on terror'.

    Unfortunately, despite this, the introduction of 42-day detention (one small step from internment, to my mind) will have real effects for the body politic, for the permanent legal framework of the UK (as Brian so eloquently put it) and for society in general, as well as sending out a signal (probably quite at variance with what we - and even Brown - might wish about this country).

    As one poster has mentioned already, we need to look at this alongside other measures - not least of these being compulsory ID cards.

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  • 4. At 4:50pm on 10 Jun 2008, Blackivar wrote:

    I'm still confused as to what the actual case for the extension is.

    Yes, I heard Gordon say it will make us safer and apparently the police are asking for this, but why?

    Why will 42 days prevent more acts of terrorism than 28?

    What would these extra days allow?

    And how is it that countries like Turkey, who are not exactly praised for their human rights laws, seem to get by with less than our current 28 days detention?

    It would be a nice change if someone would actually explain the reasoning behind these plans rather than pulling out the tired and quite franly these days unbelievable "but, but the terrorists will get you if you don't!"

    Strange how we didn't need this legislation to deal with the IRA but somehow we do to tackle "al-qaeda" or whoever it is we are meant to be so scared of.

    Which raises another point - is the threat of terror so imminent as we are continually told?

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  • 5. At 4:55pm on 10 Jun 2008, GrandfatherFlump wrote:

    What a terrible error of judgement by the PM to risk his entire career over an issue like this. There is just nothing whatsoever for him to gain even if he gets it through. The current proposal is such a watered down version of the original 90 day policy that it hardly toughens the law at all. And even if it gets through the Commons, the Lords will send it back for another vote so the whole issue will be around for a while yet. I cannot see for the life of me why he thinks it is worth all the hassle.

    However, to be fair, Ms Angiolini's quotation is not really out of line with what Government Ministers have been saying. She said "the requirement for an extension to the current 28 day is not supported by prosecution experience to date." The Government do not dispute that. They have been arguing that while that is true, they believe there may well be cases in the future that will require a longer period of detention before charge.

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  • 6. At 5:11pm on 10 Jun 2008, inmykip wrote:

    Gordon Brown’s career as PM versus personal liberty? Pack your bags Gordon you can go anytime and don’t slam the door on the way out..

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  • 7. At 7:25pm on 10 Jun 2008, Wansanshoo wrote:

    A check through history will confirm that you cannot win an election from the unenviable position which Labour finds itself.

    Mr David Cameron and his band of Old Etonians (13,I think) will make the move from opposition to goverment.

    Mr Cameron has of course promised to raise two questions in respect of devol, namely The Barnett Formula and the West Lothian Question, nothing else would satisfy middle England.

    Lets hope Mr Cameron turns the thumbsrew enough to shift the fence sitters in the direction of indepence.


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  • 8. At 7:31pm on 10 Jun 2008, brigadierjohn wrote:

    Huge number of issues here. Firstly, I tend to admire Ms Angiolini. She has been a good Lord Advocate, and I trust her on an issue in which I have no special knowledge.

    Blackvicar: The suposed reason for 42 days is the time and complexity involved in unravelling carefully disguised computer records, something the IRA didn't normally have.

    I don't think it's particularly state control Brown is after, although he is a bit of a control freak. It's more about polls and popularity, and he's under the mistaken impression that "toughness" will help him survive.

    There is also the element of creating a climate of fear, which has both short and long-term objectives in introducing further restrictive legislation.

    On the other hand, does anyone seriously doubt that some very determined and evil terrorists are indeed plotting "to get us" every minute of the day?

    People are taking positions according to their own prejudices, quite naturally. But the issue of balancing security with freedom is not resolved by one person's bias taking precedence over another's politics.

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  • 9. At 8:23pm on 10 Jun 2008, need4reality wrote:


    Stop dreaming up unnecessary legislation and bring our children home from the Middle East.


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  • 10. At 10:14pm on 10 Jun 2008, rog_rocks wrote:

    :) :)

    Is the answer 42

    or is it :)

    Scotland the Free???

    :) :)


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  • 11. At 10:25pm on 10 Jun 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    The sooner we break direct links with Westminster the better before we are all classed as terrorists from these control freaks. When did all this start, when TB took us into an illegal war to satisfy his own ego trip with his master over the pond. It is a sad day when a parties political agenda takes precedence over the populations basic human rights, the fast road to total dictatorship is were the UK is going.

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  • 12. At 10:36pm on 10 Jun 2008, U11769947 wrote:

    How will this period in time play out?will there be some form of sharia law?will 42 days detention lead to 60 days detention?so many question and so little answers,politically its a very difficult time,religiously,it could be the start of a world wide reformation that has the potential to last for centuries.Fighting for survival,yes Brian,it may well be a position many adopt.

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  • 13. At 10:52pm on 10 Jun 2008, YetAnotherNickname wrote:

    One thing of note (other than my previous post still hasn't appeared grrr) is the general lack of posts. Brian posted this 8 hours ago and there are only 12 posts (ok 13 if you include my disappearing one). Now mention oil revenues or a chance to laugh at Bendy Wendy (and there are certainly plenty of opportunities) and the number of posts would fill a webite of their own.

    Come on folks, you may think "oh this is only for dodgy looking person that we never talk to because they dress a bit different". We are all as citizens subject to this, imagine trying to explain to your kids why you had been locked up just because one of your friends turned out to be an al-qaeda sympathiser? If you think things can't go that wrong try asking the Birmingham Six or the Maguire 7.

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  • 14. At 11:22pm on 10 Jun 2008, YetAnotherNickname wrote:

    BTW - my previous post was about the old argument that 42 days are needed scan encrypted hard drives, etc. The Regulatory Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) allows you to be charged for not giving passwords to the police with a potential jail term of 2 years. Discuss :)

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  • 15. At 11:34pm on 10 Jun 2008, Tom wrote:

    42 detention is the way forward.

    In the future we may come across an occasion where terrorists must be held for a longer time.Can we risk allowing the terrorists to be back on our streets and disappear?

    If your family were caught in an explosion and died would you then back a longer detention?

    We have to start asking ourselves "What if?" and attempt to guess what may happen in the future because if do not back the bill now you may find it very costly in future.

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  • 16. At 11:45pm on 10 Jun 2008, rog_rocks wrote:

    "What if" You were retained, because you wore a kilt? And pink knickers!!! :0

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  • 17. At 11:57pm on 10 Jun 2008, Tom wrote:


    The Government would only use the power to detain you for longer on 'reasonable' grounds.

    If not, then I am sure there are lawyers who would challenge the Government because of power being abused.

    While we change the detention limit we shoudl also change the way the system works.

    Preachers who are Pro-Terrorism should be deported or dropped into the sea and other figures who are suspected of Terrorism but we simply do not have 'enough' evidence to jail them should be deported or dropped into the sea.

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  • 18. At 00:12am on 11 Jun 2008, rog_rocks wrote:


    "If not, then I am sure there are lawyers who would challenge the Government because of power being abused"

    I didnt intentionaly break the law

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  • 19. At 02:43am on 11 Jun 2008, pwni01 wrote:

    It's a witch! A witch! Why don't we do what they did in medieval times - tie them up and duck them underwater under threat of death until they confess, then kill them anyway.

    Oh wait - they just call it waterboarding and the death penalty these days.

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  • 20. At 06:48am on 11 Jun 2008, YetAnotherNickname wrote:

    Thomas_Porter: I come from NI, and even we didn't use the "what if" argument. Once the government learned the lessons of internment - and this is a rizla's that from that - they invested in intelligence gathering and curing the social deprivation in the areas suffering the worst alienation.

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  • 21. At 07:05am on 11 Jun 2008, Wansanshoo wrote:

    I'm hoping this bill is not only passed but actually given more scope, this would allow the police to hold a politician up to forty two (42) days without charge whilst investigating fraudulent expense claims.

    We could authorise rendition flights from Brussels and hold MEP's in bright orange overalls in a secret base on the Western Isles.

    Lets be fair, It was Labour who coined the phrase, ''Tough On Crime And Tough On The Causes Of Crime'' it' s a pity it didn't apply to it's own party members.

    On a serious note, I was in London on 7/7, I wont bother you with the detail, however I truly hope this bill survives, many of the commuters did not.



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  • 22. At 08:55am on 11 Jun 2008, jacquesmac wrote:

    Have you been taking your tablets as per the prescription? It seems to be working as you posted a very sensible post, for once.

    However, why do the Police just not charge the "usual suspects" with some holding charge and then be permitted to question them afterwards, that is to say, after they are remanded.

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  • 23. At 09:02am on 11 Jun 2008, Garfield wrote:

    42 days without charge. Allegedly only to be used if you are a terrorist suspect. How many offences could be construed to come under the terrorism legislation? Quite a lot I would imagine.

    I heard this morning that Canada allows one day, the US (the US for God's sake) two days and Australia fourteen days for people to be held without charge. We want 42 days.

    This is nothing but a complete and utter breach of civil liberties. It's all for the "War on terror". Such draconian practice was barely used in the second world war. But I guess it's nice for the politicians for us to be in a "war" with no foreseeable end.

    The never ending "wars' in the book 1984 spring to mind. It is quite simply wrong. You do not fight those who wish to remove your countries freedoms and liberties by removing those very freedoms and liberties yourself.

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  • 24. At 10:25am on 11 Jun 2008, X_Sticks wrote:



    This is what the goverment want you to believe. Keep the population in fear and you can use that to push through any legislation that you want. It is all about extending their own power over us all. We are heading for a police state in the UK, and at a breakneck speed. Don't think for a minute that a change of government will change this, it won't.

    At least in Scotland we still have one other option..if we aren't TOO AFRAID.

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  • 25. At 11:08am on 11 Jun 2008, invisibleGordon wrote:

    Gordy Brown is not the most unpopular leader this generation has had.

    Actually he has some way to go before he earns that accolade.

    And he has been pipped at the post to become worst leader by Wendy Alexander.

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  • 26. At 11:30am on 11 Jun 2008, thistleman wrote:

    It seems hard to believe that it is a Labour government that has already presided over huge intrusions into civil liberties with CCTV on every street corner . Now along with proposals for ID cards they want to detain 'terror suspects' for 42 days . it seems times are truly Orwellian.

    What happened to 'innocent until proved guilty' the premise which our entire legal system is based on ? Its worked for us for a long time I see no need to change things now .

    I for one dont want to live in a police state . Hopefully , if this bill goes through it will drive Scotland one step closer to a 'Yes ' vote in the referendum.

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  • 27. At 11:51am on 11 Jun 2008, gorgonn wrote:

    As more deaths in the UK are caused by drug dealers than by any terrorists, could we not bring in a '42 days' legislation to temporarily/permanently remove that scum from our streets?

    We all know who they are, as do the media and police.

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  • 28. At 11:52am on 11 Jun 2008, Darkisland wrote:

    According to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: "42 is the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything"

    I think for Big Gordon its more likely to be the end of everything!

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  • 29. At 11:56am on 11 Jun 2008, gorgonn wrote:

    Pointing out that drugs are more of a threat to the UK way of life than terrorism - and it is public knowledge who the dealers are.

    I therefore think similar legal processes should be used against those people.

    Even if no charges are brought, at least the dealers will be 'incommunicado' for 42 days, causing disruption to there activities.

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  • 30. At 12:37pm on 11 Jun 2008, freedjmac wrote:

    No 21 WanSS,

    Think you are right on this one.

    This is one of the occasions where the civil libertarians have pushed too far, as opposed to the general good of the people taking precedence.

    The government has a duty to create a stable and safe state environment in which the population can live safely and, to my view, the government is singularly failing in this respect. But they are not the first to do that by a long way.

    Ordinary citizens in the UK are finding it increasingly difficult, even dangerous, to go about their business in the UK (witness the area of Birmingham that now has a Muslim police aide telling visitors that this is a no-go area for non-Muslims!!).

    If this legislation gets approved, I trust that the Government will then make a concerted effort to address the appalling development of the knife culture that is now a major threat to the peaceful daily living of each citizen.

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  • 31. At 12:45pm on 11 Jun 2008, Tom wrote:


    You are from Northern Ireland?

    Then you know your history. Now, please tell me how the situation in Ireland/Northern Ireland is similar to the radical Islamists we face today.

    I may have a radical solution but I would not allow someone to walk away who poses a danger to my friends and family.

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  • 32. At 1:12pm on 11 Jun 2008, U9461192 wrote:

    We don't deserve freedom. The fact that any government would even dare to propose a 42 day detention without trial outside wartime is surely the final warning.

    This legislation (if passed) will be abused way beyond its original purpose. Remember the extradition treaty we had with the US. Introduced on the understanding it would be used for terrorist suspects? Before you know it we're sending ex-RBS employees over to be tried in some partisan kangaroo court.

    Likewise the phone-tapping and surveillance legislation. Intended for serious crimes like, oh, murder or rape or at least drug-dealing but now routinely used to spy on where people live so they don't dare to send their child to a school outside their income bracket.

    Likewise late term abortion guidelines. When they were first debated in parliament MP's were assured that late term abortions would only be entertained if there was serious health issues for the foetus or mother. Now they're used to top kids with a cleft pallet.

    Oh yeah,double jeopardy. Where they swept aside 800 years of legal precedent. Double jeopardy was there for a reason. It's to stop a vengeful state from trying you and retrying you and tying you and your money up in court on trumped-up charges. So when they abolished double jeopardy they made sure their first 'success' was to retry a man acquitted of murder. Hard to disagree with that - which is why they did it. Then promptly tried and retried Nick Griffin of the BNP for allegedly saying something unkind about immigrants. Thought crime for the left-wingers you see.

    Same with this 42 day thing. Sneak it in by claiming it'll 'only' be used on terrorists. Then expand its remit afterwards. Murder (well who could argue - if you're not for banging up potential murderers you're as guilty as the murderer), rape (well who could argue....), drugs, paedophiles, burglars, fly-tippers, speeders, thought-criminals.

    This government is the most mendacious administration in history and every bite they try to take out of our ancient hard-won rights should be met with a vicious kick in the teeth. It's the only language they understand.

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  • 33. At 2:11pm on 11 Jun 2008, ConcernedSR wrote:

    The extension of detention without charge is another erosion of civil liberties using the fear of terrorism as an excuse. I am just appalled at the reactionary measures being introduced by a supposed Labour government, headed by a fellow Scot - shame on him!

    This measure does not deserve to succeed, particularly in light of the well-considered views of the chief law officers of Scotland and England that there is no need to extend the current 28 day limit, but if enough Labour MPs vote with their self-interest at heart rather than their consciences it will no doubt pass tonight.

    Detention without charge for 42 days. What have we become by being so thralled to the bogey of terrorism that it can be used to justify such blatant disregard for personal freedoms?

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  • 34. At 6:42pm on 11 Jun 2008, DisgustedDorothy wrote:

    Re 42 days, now passed by the lily livered,Guido Fawkes says, they have got it in the bag and are trying to set the ground for the "Gordon Wins" stories for which the Brownies think it is well worth tearing up the Magna Carta.

    Congratulations are due to the honourable member for Glasgow central, Mohammed Sarwar, who has secured, as the price for his voting for 42 days detention, assurances that he can pass his seat down to his son. It seems the Labour Party was only against hereditary peers, but are more than happy with family seats for MPs..

    UPDATE : Punters on Betfair reckon the bill has a 90% chance of passing.

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  • 35. At 8:41pm on 11 Jun 2008, YetAnotherNickname wrote:

    What is the similarity between the Republicans and Islamic radicals? None. Both want their own way at everyone else's expense. But something to note: Omagh, largest single bombing on UK soil - no warning, Remembrance Day Massacre - again no warning and to my knowledge no Islamic terrorists have forced an innocent civilian to drive a bomb at gun point.

    The fundamental (excuse the pun) issue is that home grown terrorism has its roots in the disenfranchised and disaffected. Some one once said to me give them all something worth living for and they won't need something to die for.

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  • 36. At 8:42pm on 11 Jun 2008, cynicalHighlander wrote:

    Democracy as we have known it in the UK is now firmly dead when bullying labour back benchers and bribing NI Mps with cash just goes to show how low politicians will go to stay in power at our expense. Next will be ID cards, roll on the referendum or to quote BW "bring it on".

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  • 37. At 11:53pm on 11 Jun 2008, Tom wrote:


    The only way that son could get a hold of that seat is if they won it fair and sqaure during a by-election or something.

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  • 38. At 12:47pm on 12 Jun 2008, SuperJulianR wrote:

    42 days detention without a charge being brought (let alone a trial)... and some people still think it is the EU that is taking away our liberty!!

    In fact, the EU may be our only hope of remaining free people (oh, but Gordon Brown has arranged an opt out from the Charter of Human Rights - no surprise there then!!)

    The public may think this law is to protect us all from murderous bombers. In fact, it is probably more likely to be used against a group of truckers blockading a refinery in an attempt to save their livelihoods (and our mobility) from a greedy Government intent on using every scam in the book to raise tax from us...

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  • 39. At 10:27pm on 28 Dec 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Fighting for survival is very important to the Labour government; But, they could lose in the next general elections...Since, they have been in power for so long; and most people want a changed in government...

    {PS: i am not recommending or requesting an general elections or predicting the outcome of any vote...}

    ~Dennis Junior~

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