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This page is for posts that extend the discussion beyond our lectures and discussions. Here, students may post follow-ups, responses, and critical reactions to the discussions we have in class.

This page is for the students in discussion group 1.

25 Responses to “Extended Discussion – Group 1”

  1. Patrick says:

    Kenneth Abbott’s article “International Relations Theory, International Law, and the Regime Governing Atrocities in Internal Conflicts” led me to question the realist explanation for the human rights movement. A realist would argue that “international rules and institutions have little, if any, independent effect on state behavior: they are mere artifacts of the underlying interest and power relationships, and will be changed or disregarded if those relationships change”(Abbott 365). How then might realists account for the across the board strengthening of the human rights agenda? How have states interests become increasingly tied to human rights? Realists would call the human rights movement cultural imperialism, just another way, now that the age of imperialism is over, that Western states attempt to strengthen their own grasp on the world power.

  2. Nejla Calvo says:

    As my classmates have pointed out, overpopulation and resource scarcity are pressing issues that will only become more and more detrimental as time goes on.

    The Problem: There is an exponential increase in birth rate, leading to questions concerning Earth’s carrying capacity.

    The Effects: (1) As birth rates climb, natural resources get used up faster than they can be replaced. This creates domestic economic pressures while the international standard of living decreases. (2) We have created global environmental problems including the depletion of resources and the destruction of biological diversity. (3) We are systemically polluting our air, water, and soil, and are experiencing symptoms of global warming.

    The Solution: Education. We need to think more about sustainability and less about population caps. Of course, decreasing population would automatically decrease consumption. But the problem goes beyond having too many people in the world, it is how we live destructively. I think that governments should promote sustainable living on all levels, including education on birth control- perhaps making it very expensive to have children and very cheap for obtaining birth control methods. However, coming from a Western point of view, legally limiting populations directly interferes with personal rights. So the best thing for governments and world organizations to do is to invest in restructuring human consumption at a structural level.

  3. Mila King-Musza says:

    As pointed out, overpopulation and resource scarcity tend to go hand in hand. Trying to figure out a solution (and who should administer that solution) is the issue at hand. Should people have less children or should people use less resources, pollute less? Or both? Should one problem have priority over the other? The more developed nations have a relatively stable population growth, but use 5-50 times the resources of the poorer countries. There is a delicate balance here: we want the poor countries to improve their economic situation and to improve the family’s quality of life. This has been know to lower the birth rate. But we want the rich countries to consume less, perhaps lower the quality of life. We need to balance the quality of life between the rich and the poor, at the same time, hoping to balance the family size between the rich and the poor. I agree with Kathryn that it is a tragedy of the commons, and a global problem. The tricky thing is, though, that I don’t think there can so easily be a global solution. Population and family size is something so rooted in specific culture that any blanket answer an international regime comes up with will ultimately clash with one or another states’ cultures. I think the issue of population ‘control’ will have to be handled by states, mainly, hopefully with international awareness. Since family ties and culture are so different from one country to another, I honestly feel that each individual government is (culturally, if not economically) best suited to handle the problem.

  4. Charlie Roberts says:

    Even though people may not have as many kids as possible, overpopulation is still an enormous problem. If every couple averages more than 2 children than our population increases. And, at least in the US, the population has steadily increased for the past couple hundred years. Also, like has been mentioned above, resource scarcity and overpopulation are problems that cannot be separated.
    With the upsurge in fears about global warming, the problem of overpopulation also becomes far more complicated. In addition to overpopulation and resource scarcity, over use threatens the world, and this threat is not limited to particular regions. Even if the world’s population started to decline, climate change would not necessarily be slowed. We definitely want to be extremely sensitive to population rates and we need to do our best to increase incentives that combat the tragedy of the commons that threatens the earth.

  5. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    I agree with Logan that overpopulation is a problem restricted to certain regions, although the effects are felt all over the globe. Because the effects are worldwide, international regimes must spearhead the efforts to tackle this problem.
    Nick pointed out that this does risk violating sovereignty, but overpopulation perfectly fits the framework of a contemporary issue that regimes should address. Overpopulation can be applied to the idea of the tragedy of the commons – the negative effects are neither immediate nor individual, and people who have too many children will assume others will compensate for them. Because of these delayed and distanced effects, I believe individuals cannot be counted on to solve the problem on their own. Even individual countries may hope that others will provide solutions, such as when developing countries provide aid (medical, economic, etc.) to poorer (and often overpopulated) nations. Countries and individuals lack sufficient incentives to solve the problem, and thus international regimes must address overpopulation.

  6. Nicholas Libbey says:

    I personally believe that natural effects of overpopulation would do the work of international regimes by simply governments and people witnessing the effects of resource scarcity and informing the public of how to interpret and carry out changes such as birth control etc.. i believe the amount international regimes would actually affect world population are less than the concerns that would result over restricted state and individual sovereignty to make population/ reproductive decisions. While there are many areas that struggle with overpopulation that would benefit from population restriction and yet continue to grow in size, I do not think international regimes are the best way to confront the issue. Bringing these state and individual decisions to the international level could bring about much warranted unrest due to legitimacy concerns over international intervention that could be avoided by simply educating the public. As this is not as much of an issue in higher developed areas such as Western Europe (actually decreasing in population), I would suggest there is some connection between education concerning birth control and population rates. I think if the negative effects of overpopulation were more widely publicized and overpopulated countries were encouraged to educate about and more widely distribute birth control devices among the populace, the rate of increasing population would slow down, all without political intervention of international regimes. This could even help contain the problem of AIDS. While leaving the problem to state governments and restricting international regimes to advice and encouragement may yield slower results than a direct intervention in state affairs to avoid resource scarcity, I believe the avoided conflict and intrastate unrest that would result from direct intervention makes this method a more attractive option.

  7. Samantha Kaufman says:

    While I do think that the term “resource scarcity” is a subjective one, there are certainly other aspects of the population question that are not subjective. Specifically, do Hardin and Malthus correctly assert that if given the option, people will have as many children as possible? I agree with Logan on this count, that history has proven these men wrong. In fact, this is a nearly incontrovertible point: developed countries, those in which women (in particular) and men have control over reproduction, have lower birth rates.

    I also agree with Logan, development is the key factor in birth rates. I also think that China is an interesting case to look at in terms of population growth. While the policy does exist, it could very well be argued that many its effects have been rather unintentionally negative or exaggerated, particularly by way of the current gender imbalance that exists. More so, the one-child policy only impacts about 35% of the population, and many wealthy families are able to get away with paying fines for larger families. It can also be asserted that the lowered birth rate would have naturally progressed, and perhaps without the possible increases of female infanticide and abandonment, with development and similar emphasis on family planning.

    However, it is certainly a global problem, but I think that looking it at it as a potential issue for international regimes to take up may be the incorrect approach. Rather, I think an international emphasis on both development, but more specifically improving women’s health would be perhaps more effective than turning it into an international regulation or issue. Particularly in light of the fact that those countries who need population growth to be tamped down, would also find it the largest affront to their sovereignty by the international community. But, development and more so giving women the ability to undertake “family planning” would solve these problems more effectively and less intrusively.

  8. Robert LaMoy says:

    The terms “overpopulation” and “resource scarcity” really point to the same problem. An area is overpopulated when the resources needed to sustain the population cannot be found locally or cannot be imported from other areas. In this sense, Malthus’ larger concern seems not to be overpopulation within a specific geographical area, but overpopulation across the entire globe.

    At least right now, it seems that problems of overpopulation are confined to specific geographical regions. As Logan notes, overpopulation is not necessarily a problem in Western Europe, where the mortality rate actually exceeds the birth rate. It does seem to be a problem in portions of Asia and in parts of Africa, where the birth rate far surpasses the mortality rate.

    However, the way in which a country defines a “resource scarcity” is subjective. China would perhaps have as many as 300-400 million more people living within its borders today if it had not implemented its one-child policy. It is possible that with the proper adjustments China could support that many more people without a single person starving. But that many more people would also put a strain on China’s social services (such as health care), on the environment, and on the ecosystem. Thus, there are practical benefits that go along with keeping the population in check. Even if even if a high growth rate is technically sustainable, it might be in a country’s interest to keep the size of its population in check if the quality of living for its inhabitants will rise.

    The real problem here is that the increase of the global population will make it harder and harder for resource-scarce countries to import the materials they need to keep their population fed and clothed. Given the potentiality of world overpopulation and the practical benefits of population controls within a polity, I think that it is worthwhile to take these issues into concern.

    Once again, we see a tension between state autonomy (sovereignty) and the amount of power delegated to international regimes. Should international regimes push states to limit their population growth, or should every state have the right to determine these matters on their own? Is overpopulation a global problem, or one that will remain confined to specific regions?

  9. Logan Gallogly says:

    We didn’t get to talk about this in discussion, but I was wondering what you guys thought about overpopulation. When I was reading the Tragedy of the Commons the thing that bothered me was that Hardin makes the assumption (Malthus makes this assumption too) that given the option, people would have as many kids as possible. In fact, I would argue that we observe the opposite. Developing countries tend to have higher birth rates, whether because of a lack of available birth control or because kids mean workers that the family needs to support itself. As a country’s GDP increases, we almost always see a fall in birth rate. Families in developed countries have the resources to support more kids better than families in poor countries, but for a myriad of reasons they choose to have less kids. In fact, a big problem for a lot of countries in Western Europe is that their birth rates are too low to replace the population. So what do you think, is overpopulation as big a problem as some people think? Or would concentration on development also solve that problem?

  10. Mirwais Hadel says:

    I found Kenneth Abbott’s argument very effective in summarizing the four principle theories of IR identified as “realist,” “institutionalist,” “liberalist” and “constructivist”. Abbott argues that Realist view states as the principal actors in international politics. He indicates that security and self-help is the main goals for realist states. International rules and institutions have very little importance for realist since the main motivating factor is domestic power and security. Second, the institutionalist view states as legal fictions that promote the interests and preferences of their citizens which is based on effective cooperation and unbiased information. Third, the liberals view private groups and individuals as key actors in international politics. They believe that states interest and preferences are defined by the domestic politics as it enters the international system. Finally, constructivist view that international actors operate within a social context of shared objective and norms which defines their identities, rules, and appropriate rule of conduct.

    The four principal theories of IR plays an effective role in the international law of which Abbott talks about more and how the two, IR and IL are interconnected.

  11. Samantha Kaufman says:

    I would argue with Robert that while there have been examples of positive interventionist and protective government policies, on the whole it is a tool that is too often used incorrectly and therefore should not be encouraged. Particularly in countries in which there may not be sufficient ability to root out corruption and inefficiency such policies would be highly ineffective.

    Moreover, I think there are other reasons that can account for the success of Japan’s economy in the post WWII era, name the willingness for unions and businesses to work so closely with the government and the inability for people to obtain loans that led to an extremely high savings rate for citizens. This coupled with the protectionist policies to create a situation with a very high trade surplus and an ability for the government to make the necessary capital investments that may have not been possible in another country’s economy.

    Overall, I think that Japan is really a unique situation. With the burst of a bubble in the early 90s and their current problems with deflation prove that while at times such policies can look attractive, protectionist policies do not always offer long term stability in a way that a free market alternative might. At least with a more integrated global economy, specialization and real competition can root out many problems of corruption that can exist in even the most well thought out government or best intentioned protectionist policies.

  12. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    I think Nick has a good point about extreme specialization – especially how it would be beneficial in terms of production, quality, and cost. However, it’s probably not achievable in true form. Aside from the negative aspects Nick lists above, such specialization would require countries to think totally holistically about trade. Countries would have to be willing to give up their individual comparative advantage to allow all nations to benefit more equally. In order to create such a level of cooperation, there would have to be an international regime strong enough to keep the stronger, developed economies in check. (Keohane proposes this idea, and I agree with him.) However, the current international trade regime, the WTO, is controlled by developed countries that benefit from the unequal distribution of specialization, and therefore they would work against making such extreme specialization a reality.

    So in summary, I guess I see it more as a problem with the international system, and not so much the individual countries themselves.

  13. Nicholas Libbey says:

    In Thursday’s discussion, we discussed the pros and cons of specialization between countries, for example Mexico creating clothing and the US creating computers. While obviously this is just an example and specialization is much more complex due to multinational corporations, tariff barriers, national law discrepancies, etc., the increasingly specialized world due to the economic benefits of trade potentially suggests an interesting image of future good production. As transportation and communication constantly improve, making specialization and large scale corporations much more viable, the idea of one country producing a single product and trading for all other necessities is actually a possibility. A possibility in which all of the production of the good is restricted to that one nation, thereby creating the most goods by the most efficient means (although the trading may not be environmentally friendly). While there are obvious negative aspects to this possibility such as international reliance, geographical difficulties, environmental effect of constant trade among others, this idea of extreme specialization divided by national borders is still intriguing as overall good production and quality could significantly increase.

  14. Robert LaMoy says:

    At the end of discussion, we talked about the pros and cons of free trade. Neoclassical economists point to the numerous problems encountered by regimes that practice import-substitution instead of export promotion. Import-oriented regimes attempt to protect domestic industry by implementing protectionist measures, either in the form of tariffs or through qualitative measures that simply ban certain goods from entering the country. According to Anne Krueger, an economic system with an expansive export market, despite the initial difficulties countries often run into when developing these sorts of systems, “is more likely to be self-sustaining and gather momentum.” (“Import Substitution Versus Export Promotion,” Finance and Development, 21). In this article, Krueger argues that import-oriented regimes actually hurt infant industries, whereas unregulated economies allow infant industries to develop beyond the confines of the domestic economy. Krueger also notes that policymakers receive much quicker feedback in export-oriented systems, since state intervention tends to inhibit an accurate depiction of market dynamics.

    However, interventionist policies in Japan and a few other East Asian countries (most notably Taiwan) experienced great success after World War II, suggesting that a well-managed economic policy can largely avoid the pitfalls of state-imposed regulations. Japan made economic development its top priority, allowing it to license private enterprises selectively, place management under state supervision, and foster cooperation between the public and private spheres in a legitimate manner. If used wisely, these strategies encourage a high degree of competition between domestic industries and allow the state to take precedence on economic issues. If used poorly, these strategies lead to monopolies and a lack of competition that encourage glaring economic inefficiencies.

    Also, countries that measure development performance according to the size of their economies may be overlooking equally important indicators of economic performance. A laissez faire system that achieves a high gross national product, for example, is not necessarily more desirable than an interventionist system with a comparably lower GNP. Income distribution, the cost of living, and the health of the population, among other indicators, form a more complete picture whether economic liberalization is desirable.

  15. Mirwais says:

    While I favor Libbey’s argument of embracing the many benefits a bilingual society has to offer such an easy access to constitution of the U.S. to non-English speakers and so forth, I disagree in some aspects considering Huntington’s fear of bilingual society. Huntington states that it will be almost an impossible task to convert every government documents, national archives, and state legislation into Spanish leaving along the conversion of bilingual education system and so forth. The costs of having a bilingual society is much greater compared to the benefits. Furthermore, the inclusion of a second language has the potential to undermine the political values of the United States considering the historical rivalry with Mexico. I think Huntington is looking far to the future when he presents his fear of a bilingual society which could result from the current illegal immigration of Spanish speakers.

  16. Nicholas Libbey says:

    Personally, I disagree with Huntington’s fear of a bilingual society. I believe that any hegemony or world power in general should make a sincere attempt at creating a multilingual society to better interact with the other nations of the world, supporting international trade and relations in general. Especially in today’s increasingly globalized world, everything is turning multilingual and there is no way or reason to stop it. A multilingual populace is much more aware and active in the global scene which will prove very important in our globalized world and resisting World War III (seeing as the last time we experienced such globalization was just years before WWI). As Robert said, just because more and more citizens speak Spanish, does not mean that the Constitution will be switched to that language. In fact a translation would only prove beneficial in providing spanish-speakers that are unaware of U.S. ideals with easier access to the Constitution and other important documents that define our country. I must agree that there exist certain undesired cultural and economic results from unrestricted immigration, however, a bilingual society is not one of them. As the world globalizes, the U.S. is becoming more and more multilingual and despite Huntington’s argument this is a good change and we should embrace it.

  17. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    Although I agree with Robert that “closing our borders for cultural reasons is always foolhardy,” from the perspective of Huntington, federal law would not be enough to preserve the country’s current values. Huntington’s fear is that the Hispanic population will become large enough and develop enough political power that their values would begin to shape federal law. US history has several examples of discriminatory religious and cultural beliefs superseding federal law – that slaves should be counted as 3/5 of a person was written into the U.S. constitution, one of the most important federal documents.

    In Huntington’s nightmare, the values of the American political system – a system in which the people are granted the power to create the laws – would work against white America by allowing the new Hispanic majority to implement their values at the federal level. Therefore, I disagree with Robert that federal law can protect from cultural discrimination, although I definitely agree that preventing immigration is not a good solution to this potential problem.

  18. Nejla Calvo says:

    I posted in the wrong section again, the above is in response to the reading questions. My apologies.

  19. Nejla Calvo says:

    One of the functions of money is as a unit of account in order to simplify accounting and calculations. States need a common medium of exchange within their economies. Similarly, exchange rates are in place in order to provide medium of exchanges between economies, by determining relationships between currencies. Exchange rate regime is a set of rules that determine the relationship between domestic currency and foreign currencies (Lec 18 Slide 16). According to Greico and Ikenberry, there are two types of exchange rate regimes, flexible or fixed. Governments are assumed to have monetary sovereignty, so exchange rates are needed to regulate value amounts between currency. In a floating regime, the government allows market forces to determine the exchange rate. In a pegged regime, the currency will trade at a government-specified rate and the government uses financial interventions into the foreign-exchange market in order to keep rates in place. The intervention to maintain stability is high in fixed regimes such as the Gold Standard and Hong Kong Dollar and low in floating regimes such as the US Dollar, Yen, and Euro. With flexible exchange rates, the value of the currency in terms of another currency changes according to the demand and supply of the currency. Governments choose exchange rate regimes,in favor of fixed-rates, despite the risk of exhausting foreign-exchange reserves, in order to maintain an official peg that forces holders of the currency balance to keep their holdings in times of short-term economic shock. This promotes economic growth for a country with a low rate of inflation.

  20. Robert LaMoy says:

    One of the major assumptions underlying Huntington’s argument is that Protestant Anglo-Saxons are entitled to retain their political and cultural dominance in American discourse. When Huntington critiques Spanish-American leaders, it is essentially for their unwillingness to completely assimilate into what we called the “Anglo-Saxon ideal” in discussion. Complete assimilation is probably impossible anyway, given that Mexicans are ethnically different than most Americans (i.e., not Anglo-Saxon). The problems that Huntington poses only create troubles for American society when we define America’s culture and creed as he does. Even though white Protestants founded the nation with a certain set of beliefs, the acceptance of diversity has had a considerable presence in the American mindset ever since the Civil Rights era, if not before.

    The main fear here, I think, is that allowing lenient immigration over the Mexican-American border will deprive white Americans of their ability to shape America’s political, economic, and cultural landscape. We have all heard culturalist arguments against immigration before; what is surprising here is that an academic decided to organize them into a cohesive argument. Not all of Huntington’s points are without merit. Illegal immigration might be economically harmful, given the domestic services that are expended (albeit rarely) for persons who are not paying taxes. If we legalize immigration, however, and “recruit” workers who are skilled, then this problem can easily be solved. One has accept the political and cultural repercussions of relaxed immigration policies before economic arguments can be offered in favor of restrictions on immigration.

    Huntington’s other arguments are not particularly salient. Over time, it is not completely out of the question that America will become a bilingual nation, with a majority of citizens speaking both English and Spanish. This does not necessarily mean that important historical documents will be rewritten in Spanish, but it does mean that Mexican-Americans will have greater access to the American political system. Unfortunately for Huntington, this is not necessarily a positive development, because it would deprive whites of political power. In any case, English speakers and Spanish speakers will have to meet halfway to narrow the language gap. As a white American, it is somewhat petty to critique Spanish-Americans for not learning English while simultaneously refusing to learn Spanish.

    I’d like to share some quick thoughts on Prof. Morrison’s theoretical group of immigrants from the Middle East. Federal law has always superseded religious and cultural beliefs when they are found to be harmful or discriminatory. Admittedly, there is a lot of gray area- consider France’s policies toward Muslim women on the subject of the burka, for example. The solution to these and other problems might not be agreed upon by all, but it seems counterproductive to simply halt immigration altogether instead of trying to confront these issues. While economic arguments can have some merit, closing our borders for cultural reasons is always foolhardy.

  21. Samantha Kaufman says:

    I have to agree with Favorite Charlie on this point. I think in class there was an attempt to separate what he was saying from his obvious cultural prejudice and xenophobia to determine if his arguments themselves had credits. But, in my own opinion, that distinction was largely irrelevant. In reality, I think that his arguments were without merit, even when looking at them through an ‘objective’ and ‘non-prejudicial’ lens. For me, his the major failure in his paper was that he didn’t address other immigrant groups who do not fall into the “anglo-saxon” mindset or culture that have successfully and gradually integrated into the population. Moreover, he did not address those immigrant groups, such as Chinese, that are still in the process of acculturation and live in enclaves all over the country in which they maintain very strong connections to their homeland, native language and non-American culture. I understand that one of major elements that he cites is the scope of Hispanic immigration into the country, but I have to challenge his ideal that the lack of assimilation into “mainstream American culture” is due to their own desire, but rather a lack of infrastructure as it exists currently. I would argue that with better immersion programs and outreach to the new immigrant populations, the country might not have such a bifurcation between the two cultures as exists today.

    On a side note, I found his reference to the Bosnian genocide pretty disgusting. Those types of scare tactics along with his obvious and unmerited prejudices were frustrating to say the least and should have been called out for the complete irrelevance and dramatization meant to induce a panic.

  22. Charlie Roberts says:

    Regardless of whether or not Samuel Huntington is a racist, I don’t think his thesis is correct. His major shortcoming, in my opinion, is that he fails to prove that modern Latin Americans are different from past immigrants. Huntington cites “contiguity,” “scale,” “illegality,” “regional concentration,” “persistence,” “historical presence,” “Spanglish,” blood being “thicker than borders” and other concepts as unique characteristics of the Mexican or Latin migration to America, and he’s correct that they’re unique. However, none of these characteristics make it impossible for Latin Americans to successfully integrate into American culture. Additionally, the incentives to integrate into mainstream American culture remain to exist. Someone living in America who cannot speak English is clearly privy to fewer opportunities economically and socially. Latin Americans will act as previous American immigrants–they will start speaking their own language and feeling more connected to their ancestors and old culture. But over time, progeny will attend American schools, be enveloped by American media and culture and transition to become fully American.

  23. Patrick says:

    Mueller’s opinions about nuclear weapons in his “The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons” might be sensible for a post-Cold War word landscape, but as a general theory about nuclear weapons, might need to be revised amidst today’s growing threats of terrorism. As recent international discussions highlight (like the 47-nation nuclear summit last week, where major nations like the US and Russia would reduce their nuclear stockpiles), the perception of “nuclear terrorism” is a very real and tangible threat to international stability, whereas it wasn’t in the immediate post war world. While Mueller might claim nuclear weapons a non-factor in the international security in the second half of the 20th century, a similar claim could not be made about today.

  24. Logan Gallogly says:

    Kathryn, I agree when you say that the “mere threat of action becomes equivalent to action itself” but I don’t think that this situation is unique to WMD’s. Military buildup of conventional weapons, even when done for professed defensive reasons, may not look that way to potential enemies. We talked about this a little before, mostly with Jervis and the security dilemma. You can only increase your security at the expense of others and the only thing that matters is perception – an increase in military spending looks aggressive regardless of the reasons for which it is undertaken. This is true for conventional as well as nuclear weapons.

    As for the offensive or defensive advantage, I think it depends how you look at it but I’m leaning toward offense. Both the US and the USSR focused mostly on offensive capabilities, yes the US eventually started working on SDI but that was by no means reliable and as we talked about in discussion it may have had less of an effect on the Cold War than some believe. As far as taking territory goes, I see containment as defensive because its about keeping the status quo, and the USSR arguably had more success spreading communism than the US did spreading democracy.

  25. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    At the end of discussion on Thursday, Professor Morrison introduced the topic of how WMD’s are changing the nature of military offensive and defensive actions. I’d like to suggest that WMD’s have created a situation in which offense and defense have become the same thing.

    A country often develops WMD’s or adds on to their current supply under the pretext of defense. However, in a world where outright war could mean total destruction, the mere threat of action becomes equivalent to action itself. Thus, other states perceive this presumably defensive proliferation as an offensive move.

    This is essentially how the Cold War played out. Considering this, does that mean the Cold War had an offensive or defensive advantage?

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