A Perspective on War

Reading Rick Atkinson’s account of World War II on the European continent, titled The Guns at Last Light, I am struck by how different subsequent wars have been and how public attitudes on warfare have changed.  Given that the American people have apparently embraced the notion that sending American troops into battle is okay, so long as no one on our side gets hurt.  It’s almost as if John Douglas, the 9th Marques of Queensberry, came back to life and rewrote the rules of war.

This is not to say that The Korean War, the Vietnam War, and recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been sad affairs, with much heartbreak for the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children of those killed or wounded.  However, a comparison of the length of World War II and the number killed and wounded in that war, versus the duration of the Korean War and the Vietnam War and the number of Americans killed and wounded in those wars presents a sharp contrast.

For example, in the 3 years, 9 months, and 11 days of U.S. involvement in World War II, the U.S. suffered 1,078,160 casualties, with 407,320 dead and 670,840 wounded.  In the 3 years, 1 month, and 2 days of the Korean War, the U.S. suffered 157,530 casualties, with 54,250 dead and 103,280 wounded.  While in the 16 years, 4 months, and 29 days of the protracted Vietnam War, the U.S. suffered 211,450 casualties, with 58,150 dead and 153,300 wounded.  The Korean War produced casualties at the rate of 140 per day, the Vietnam War produced casualties at the rate of 35 per day, while World War II produced casualties at the rate of 800 per day.

World War II was a “meat grinder” of men and machines.  While allied ground forces were still slogging their way through eastern France, approaching the Rhine River, things were not going well in the skies above.  During the first three months of 1944, the United States lost nearly 800 heavy bombers to German anti-aircraft fire and fighter-interceptors.  During the summer of that year the U.S. Eighth Air Force lost another 900 heavy bombers.  During the first six months of 1944, out of every 1,000 bomber crewmen, the U.S. lost 712 killed or missing and 175 wounded… a casualty rate of 89 percent.

With the open fuselages necessary to accommodate waist gunners, temperatures inside the planes plunged to -60° F.  Frostbite was so prevalent that plastic surgeons learned to reconstruct burned-away faces and other body parts, sculpting new lips from grafted skin.  After the lips were tattooed red, the surgeons added tiny black dots to simulate mustache whiskers.

My father-in-law, Charles A. Jones, flew 51 missions over eastern European targets as a waist gunner on a B-17.  Of the 70 men of the 10 seven-man flight crews that started the war together, only he and two others survived the war, a 97 percent casualty rate.

In the spring of 1942, the U.S. bombing command undertook to inflict terror and chaos by burning German cities to the ground… cities populated by non-combatant men, women, and children.  Atkinson tells us that allied bombers would ultimately drop 80 million incendiary sticks: 22 inch hexagonal rods with magnesium-zinc cases, the contents of which burned for eight minutes at a temperature of 2,000ᵒ F upon striking the ground or penetrating a building.

According to Atkinson, one German writer characterized the fire-bombing of Hamburg in the summer of 1943… an air campaign in which 41,000 Germans were killed and the homes of nearly a million residents were destroyed… as “simulating the atmosphere of another planet… one incompatible with life.”  The massive bombing of Germany and France was an effective military tactic, one that military commanders of 2014 would be loathe to undertake, even when faced by a brutal enemy such as ISIS and the Taliban.

On the ground, the fighting was intense and unrelenting with staggering losses on both sides.  In September 1944 the Germans fired 70,000 tons of mortar rounds and artillery shells at allied forces.  In order to maintain an adequate fighting force, Adolph Hitler lowered the draft age to 16 and raised the top draft age to fifty.  Yet even that was insufficient to replace the roughly 50,000 Wehrmacht soldiers killed each month.  Atkinson reports that soldiers confined to hospital beds often tore open their wounds during the night in order to avoid being sent back to the front.

As the casualty figures mounted, young American men were no less averse to serving in the military.  Atkinson writes that, “… the War Department had predicted that the infantry losses would amount to 64 percent of all casualties.”  The forecast was much too conservative.  By December 1944, the actual figure was 83 percent… In January 1944, the Army had estimated a need for 300,000 replacement infantrymen worldwide that year.  The actual number was 535,000, nearly double the original estimate.

Atkinson tells us that, “To swell the ranks, the Selective Service exemption for fathers was belatedly abolished: one million would be drafted in 1944-45.”  The average age of draftees climbed from twenty-two in 1940, to twenty-six in 1944, and many new privates were over age thirty-five.  A ban on shipping eighteen-year-olds overseas was rescinded in August 1944, and induction standards for “physically imperfect men,” already loosened, were further reduced in October.  A three-page primer advised examiners how to detect malingering, including feigned epilepsy, bed-wetting, and tachycardia, “induced by ingestion of drugs such as thyroid extracts.”  The primer suggested that would-be draft dodgers “may shoot or cut off their fingers or toes, usually on the right side, and that some may put their hands under cars for this purpose.”                 

When I was called to take my pre-draft Army physical at age 18, during the closing months of the Korean War, three of the draftees who took their physicals on the same day held small bars of Ivory soap in their armpits for several hours before being examined.  As a result, they all developed low-grade fevers.  They were sent home and none were ever called to duty.

In the ground war in Europe, as Eisenhower’s troops fought their way across Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, they had no idea what was in store for them during the coming winter.

Atkinson writes that, on the morning of December 16, 1944, as American GIs on the front line dug in deeper using steel helmets and canteen cups as entrenching tools, their commanders thought that it was “just another day at the office.”  But it wasn’t “just like any other day;” the German bombardment with infantry and artillery fire represented the first day of the month-long Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes.  As Atkinson reports, “hours would elapse before American commanders realized that the opening barrage was more than a feint…”

Shortly before 6:00 AM on Sunday, December 16, German panzers rolled into Honsfeld, in Belgium, finding cold and exhausted American GIs asleep inside buildings, their vehicles parked in the road outside.  The atrocities began as eight GIs were rousted outside in their bare feet, dressed only in their underwear.  As Atkinson described the scene, the Americans shouted, “Kamerad, I surrender.”  Nevertheless, the eight were lined up in a street and gunned down with machine gun fire.  Five others emerged from a house with a white flag; four were shot and the fifth, pleading for mercy, was crushed beneath the tracks of a panzer tank.

At nearby Bullingen, a number of GIs “hiding in a cellar, strangled their pet dog to keep her from barking, but two hundred other men were rounded up.  Before being marched to prison cages in the rear, GIs were forced to fuel the German panzers with jerricans…”  Ten hours later, in the town of Malmedy, ten miles west of Bullingen, 140 men of Baker Battery, 285th Field Artillery Battalion, stopped for lunch.  After resuming their ordered retreat, at the crossroads hamlet of Baugnez, Baker Battery was confronted by the panzers of SS Colonel Joachim Peiper.  For two minutes, the Germans peppered the GIs with machine gun and tank fire.  A few GIs were killed, some ran and hid in the woods, but more than 100 were captured.

At approximately 2:15 PM, German machine guns fired on the captives as they stood with their hands still in the air.  As one survivor, PFC Homer D. Ford, described the massacre, “At the first outbursts of fire everyone fell to the ground, including myself.”  He went on to describe how, for two minutes, gunfire tore into the “writhing, bleating ranks.”  Then SS men stalked through the bloody pile, kicking groins and… with the fatal verdict, “Da kriegt nach einer Luft!” (This one’s still breathing)”… firing pistol shots into the skulls or hearts of those still alive.

It was the first day of fighting in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest single month in the history of modern warfare.  According to post-Bulge estimates, the number of U.S. battle casualties in the 41 days between December 16, 1944, and January 25, 1945, came to 105,000, with 19,246 dead.  Of all of the U.S. casualties in World War II, one in ten casualties were suffered in the Battle of the Bulge.

Although it is impossible to imagine all of the individual tragedies of World War II, a reading of Atkinson’s, The Guns at Last Light, should serve as a stark reminder of how truly horrible all-out war is.  Nevertheless, we cannot forget that there have always been, and always will be, men like Adolph Hitler, with dreams of world conquest.  The jihadists of radical Islam are such a force.

Such men cannot be permitted to live, and if we Americans are to fulfill our unique role as the last bastion of freedom on planet Earth, we must not hesitate to confront and destroy the forces of evil, such as the Islamic State in Iraq.  Like it or not, we have but two choices: we can either allow ourselves to be the victims of radical Islam, or we can choose to be their executioners.  It’s as simple as that.  In the present conflict the enemy has set the rule of engagement and they are not pretty.  So let us pray that our leaders of today and tomorrow will have the courage to do what must be done and the stomach to see it through.  Nothing less will do.

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The Roots of Black Anger

In the wake of the St. Louis County grand jury findings in the death of black teenager Michael Brown, international television audiences have been treated to a spectacle of mindless violence in numerous American cities  The demonstrators, rioters, and arsonists are largely African-American… aided and abetted by an assortment of misguided whites, some young, some old-style radical liberals… who apparently lack the ability to process the findings of the grand jury, showing that Officer Darren Wilson acted appropriately in shooting Michael Brown to death.

In the field of psychology, practitioners often use the terms “cognitive bias,” or “psycho bias” to describe irrational behavior.  “Cognitive bias” can be defined as “a pattern of deviant thinking in which inferences about people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.”  Individuals motivated by cognitive bias tend to create their own “subjective” reality from their own unique perception of events.  An individual’s subjective perception of reality, as opposed to what others see as “objective,” often dictates social behavior.  Not surprisingly, cognitive bias often leads to gross misperceptions, faulty judgment, illogical conclusions, or other forms of irrationality.

What better way to describe the violence and the vitriol following the public announcement of the findings of the grand jury in St. Louis County?  What the grand jury found is precisely what thinking Americans already knew.  In short, Michael Brown was not the “gentle giant” he was made out to be.  To the contrary, he was a street thug with a huge chip on his shoulder who apparently felt that he could go through life just taking whatever he wanted.

Michael Brown was shot to death after robbing a convenience store and after assaulting a police officer who confronted him on the street just minutes later.  According to eyewitnesses, Brown rushed the officer in a crouched position, much like a football player preparing to make a tackle.

So a white cop shot a black street thug who was trying to kill him.  That is the plain truth of the matter.  But what appears to get totally lost in the subsequent sound and fury is the fact that the St. Louis County grand jury sat to hear the case for one reason and one reason alone: the prosecutor took the case before the grand jury because he knew that, if he were to review all of the evidence, the autopsy reports, and the eyewitness testimony, he could not make the case for an indictment.  He would have been laughed out of court and the black community would have charged a cover-up.

To avoid antagonizing the black community, and out of an abundance of caution, the prosecutor took the case before a sitting grand jury where all of the hard evidence and all of the eyewitness testimony could be examined and the case could enjoy maximum transparency.  But that wasn’t good enough for those who screamed for “justice” while seeking only “revenge.”

Clearly, there is a great deal of “cognitive bias” involved in the riots that followed the Ferguson shooting, just as there was in the Rodney King riots and the Trayvon Martin shooting.  In each instance, “cognitive bias” was a symptom, not the cause.  To find the source of the black anger that seethes just beneath the surface in so many minorities we must dig a bit deeper.

A black man does not have to look far to see that he is different from Caucasians and Orientals.  And while other ethnic groups arriving in America… the Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, Polish, Mexicans, Chinese, and Japanese, to name just a few… were forced to endure racial epithets such as “Krauts,” “Micks,” “Wops,” “Dagos,” “Kikes,” “Polacks,” “Spicks,” “Chinks,” “Japs,” and “Slopes,” respectively, many white Caucasians with European roots were indistinguishable from other nationalities, as were many of those with Oriental roots.  These ethnic groups were readily assimilated into our multi-cultural society.   The black man, on the other hand, readily identifiable by the color of his skin, has found it more difficult to assimilate.

As a first principle, it is important to note the significance of heritage in social behavior.  Those of us who are able to trace our ancestry back six, eight, or ten generations and take pride in the accomplishments of our forebears, feel a self-imposed discipline that places a damper on any behavior that might dishonor the family name or the memory of those who’ve come before us.  This is true of most Caucasians and Orientals whose forebears came to America largely of their own free will, from cultures in which the Age of Enlightenment produced history’s greatest advances in human knowledge.

The same is not true of black men, whose forebears were taken forcibly from primitive cultures, bringing with them no written records of lineage.  They were captured by Muslims and other blacks, sold into slavery, and brought to America on slave ships.  As a result, many young blacks today are unable to trace their lineage beyond one or two generations.  In fact, because of the systematic and purposeful destruction of the black family unit by liberals and Democrats, many young blacks today do not know who their fathers are, let alone their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.  With no family name and no ancestral accomplishments to honor, is it any wonder that their behavior in the classroom and on the streets is so often anti-social?  They recognize no lasting consequences for their behavior.

What must young black children think when they see, every day, news film out of Africa in which blacks are shown living in Stone Age tribal cultures?  And what must they think when they come to understand that few, if any, of the great advances in medicine, science, and technology are products of Africa?  And what must they think when they realize that it is people of white European extraction who are always called upon to deal with major African disasters such as the AIDS and Ebola epidemics?  It is unimaginable to think that such things would not contribute to feelings of inferiority and helplessness among blacks… young and old.

Unfortunately, in modern times, the breakup of the black family unit has relegated black men primarily to the role of sperm donors, not fathers and role models.  The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, a major contributor to the breakup of the black family unit, was passed in 1935 by a Democrat-controlled Congress with a 72-23 majority in the Senate, a 322-103 majority in the House, and signed into law by a Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

However, in an effort to make themselves appear as common-sense stewards of the public purse, Democrats required that, in order for a family to be eligible for AFDC, the family must have had at least one dependent child, under age 18, who was “deprived of financial support from one of their parents due to the parent’s death, continued absence (emphasis added), or incapacity.”  In other words, if two able-bodied parents lived in the home the family was denied AFDC benefits.

Nothing… not drugs, not poverty, not urban decay, nor lack of educational opportunities… has contributed more to the disintegration of the black family unit than the restrictions of AFDC.  As an unintended consequence of AFDC, marriage was discouraged, fathers were forced out of their homes, and single-parent welfare mothers found they could increase their monthly income by simply having more babies.  As a consequence, we now have a society in which three out of four black babies are born out of wedlock; where black mothers, unable to discipline their fatherless children, find so many of their young men either imprisoned, addicted to drugs, or the victims of gang violence; and where a disproportionate number of young black men take advantage of every opportunity to mug, rob, loot, and burn as a means of assuaging their inner anger.

And finally, when an entire racial minority comes to the sudden realization that they’ve been played for fools for nearly sixty years, the only result can be crushing disappointment and a deep seething anger.  After raising the expectations of black Americans to the skies, Democrats have failed miserably on their promise to deliver social and economic parity with whites.  By offering nothing more than “free lunches,” in exchange for votes on Election Day, all Democrats have succeeded in doing has been to deal a crushing blow to the pride, the aspirations, and the self-respect of our African-American citizens.  Is it any wonder so many of them are angry?

In this, the land of opportunity, there are no fixed barriers to social or economic progress.  Every community in America provides teachers and classroom facilities, at taxpayer expense, that are among the best in the world.  Unfortunately, the African-American culture is far too often anti-intellectual.  Black students who do their homework, who behave themselves inside and outside the classroom, and who make good grades are often intimidated by other black students who insist that they are “too white.”  Many black students… men such as Dr. Ben Carson, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, and women such as former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice… are living proof that blacks who do not succumb to self-imposed limitations are capable of achieving whatever they wish to achieve.

With all of these factors as conditioning agents, what could we possibly expect from young black men, such as Michael Brown, when they have stepfathers like Louis Head, who took to a public platform, his trousers slung so low that they almost fell off his body, exhorting a riotous crowd of young blacks to “Burn this bitch down!  Burn this bitch down!?”  With Brown’s natural father absent from the home, Head was the young man’s primary role model.

So is it any wonder that young black men, taught by white liberals to think of themselves as victims and burdened by a strong sense of hopelessness, would respond in a violent manner to the exhortations of such a man?  White people can understand the source of black anger, but can they do anything to assuage that anger?  Probably not; only blacks can do that.  What recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, tell us is that time is short; it’s time that the black community figured out what causes so much hatred and animosity among young blacks and took steps to counter it while we still have an outside chance for racial harmony.


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A Tipping-Point in Race Relations

Friday, November 21, 2014, my eighty-first birthday, was to have been a happy occasion, featuring a great dinner with friends at Tulsa’s finest German restaurant and many cards and letters from far-flung children and grandchildren.  But a late email printout detailing events in Geneva, Switzerland, took a bit of the luster off the day.

The email I received was a copy of a thirteen-page document filed with the 53rd Session of the United Nations Committee against Torture, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from November 3-28, 2014.  The title of the complaint was: “United States Compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment.”  It was subtitled, “Written Statement on the Police Shooting of Michael Brown and Ensuing Police Violence Against Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.”  It was hand delivered to Geneva by Michael Brown’s parents: Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden.  .

The cover page of the complaint asserts that the complaint was submitted by the Brown family, who hand-delivered it to Geneva, as well as organizations called HandsUpUnited, Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), and Missourians Organized for Reform and Empowerment (MORE).

In a CNN interview, Brown’s mother insisted that, “We need the world to know what’s going on in Ferguson and we need justice…  We need answers and we need action.  And we have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose it to the rest of the world, what’s going on in small town Ferguson.”

But, all emotion aside, what are the facts?  We know that, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, Jr. a 6 ft. 4 in. 292 lb. black teenager, was identified on videotape as the individual who engaged in the robbery of a convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.  In the video, Brown is seen taking a box of Swisher Sweet cigars (valued at approximately $49.00) from the checkout counter of the convenience store, a 2nd degree theft under Missouri law.

As he and a friend prepared to exit the store, Brown is challenged by a store employee who attempted to lock the door before the two could leave the premises.  However, Brown prevented the clerk from locking the door and as he and his accomplice walked out the door, he grabbed the store clerk by the lapels and shoved him backward into a display rack.  And when the store clerk continued to protest, Brown turned and approached him in a threatening manner.

Minutes later, Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, a fugitive from justice on a theft charge from Jefferson City, Missouri, were seen walking defiantly down the middle of a street near the convenience store they’d just robbed.  Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, on routine patrol, arrived on the scene and instructed Brown and Johnson to “get the [expletive] off the street.”

At that point one must assume that Brown, having just robbed a convenience store and assaulted a store clerk, feared that he was about to be taken into custody in connection with the robbery he’d committed just minutes before.  With that thought in mind, he decided that he would not allow himself to be arrested and taken into custody, with a potential jail term to follow.  Instead, when Officer Wilson prepared to exit his police cruiser, Brown attacked him and forced him back into the vehicle.  Having been physically assaulted by a young man, much younger and stronger than himself, Officer Wilson was then justified in the use of deadly force.  However, as the officer prepared to unholster his sidearm while seated inside his vehicle, Brown reached through the open window and attempted to wrest the weapon from the officer’s hand.  A struggle ensured during which two shots were fired, one of them striking Brown in the wrist.

According to Officer Wilson and several eye witnesses, Wilson then exited his vehicle and attempted to take Brown into custody.  At which time Brown, who had been walking away from the scene, turned and charged the officer.  Certain that he could not survive an attack by a man 6 ft. 4 in. tall and weighing nearly 300 lb., the officer fired four additional shots before Brown dropped to the pavement.

But this is not the story that Brown’s fugitive friend told police and the media.  According to his version, Brown was walking toward the officer with his hands in the air, attempting to surrender.  An autopsy showed that Brown had been shot six times in the front of his body.  What is not clear is the source of the unsubstantiated charge that Brown was shot in the back.

Nor is it the story that Brown’s parents told in their testimony before the U.N. committee in Geneva.  According to their account, “Midday on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male, was walking down a small street in the middle of an apartment complex with a friend when they were approached by a white police officer.  According to his friend, the closest witness to the afternoon’s events, the officer approached them in his SUV police vehicle, told them to ‘get the [expletive] off the sidewalk,’ which then escalated into a confrontation.  After a struggle, the officer began to shoot the teen.  Brown ran away, as he was hit by the officer’s bullets.  The officer chased the teen on foot, and according to multiple witnesses, even after Michael Brown raised his hands to surrender and begged the officer not to shoot, the officer continued to fire.  No witness reported any orders given to Brown as these shots were fired.”

 Nowhere in their testimony is there a hint that Brown and his friend had just committed a strong-arm robbery of a business establishment.  Nowhere in their testimony do they speculate about their son’s state of mind… how he may have concluded that he and his friend were about to be arrested as suspects in a felony crime and, in an effort to avoid arrest, attacked and wounded a police officer.  Nowhere in their testimony do they mention that their son was first shot in a struggle over the police officer’s handgun.  Nowhere in their testimony do they mention that their son’s friend, Dorian Johnson, himself a fugitive from justice, may not be a credible witness.  And nowhere in their testimony do they suggest that the officer told the boys to “get the [expletive] off the street.”  Instead, they testified that the officer told the boys to “get the [expletive] off the sidewalk.”

The Browns testified that, “The teenager was hit by at least six shots, according to an autopsy performed by a pathologist not affiliated with the government.  The autopsy further revealed that the final shots included one that entered his eye, and another at the top of the head, which may have indicated his head was lowered as he collapsed or kneeled to surrender.  The intentional, arbitrary killing of Michael Brown, shot to death by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, amounts to torture under Article I of the Convention.”   

Was the pathologist “not affiliated with the government,” an expert hired by the Brown family, a credible witness?  And is it even within the realm of possibility that an experienced police officer would “execute” a teenager, in cold-blood, in broad daylight, as he knelt to surrender?  Is it not more reasonable to conclude that Brown was shot in the top of his head at close range as he lowered his head to charge the officer?

But now the nation is threatened with a massive outbreak of violence if the St. Louis County grand jury refuses to indict Officer Wilson.  The demonstrations and rioting that have followed the shooting are a blot on the black community.  And if the grand jury concludes that Officer Wilson acted in self-defense, which they likely will, we can expect unprecedented violence in the streets where the black community in and around St. Louis will loot neighborhood business establishments and burn many homes to the ground.

Brown’s mother told a CNN reporter in an interview, “We need the world to know what’s going on in Ferguson and we need justice…  We need answers and we need action.”

Justice?  Answers?  Action?  These are not what the professional race hustlers want.  What they want is revenge, not justice.  Nor are they going to like the answers they’re likely to get from the St. Louis County grand jury.  And while the “action” they want is the indictment of Officer Wilson, the only “action” they will get is a lot of grief raining down on the heads of black people across the country as they loot and burn many of the businesses where they work, and burn their own neighborhoods to the ground.

And while we can all empathize with the Brown family for the loss of a son, Brown’s parents should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be so blatantly used and taken advantage of by professional race agitators, the attorney general of the United States included.  But then, it’s not every day they’re treated to an all-expense-paid trip to Geneva.

If black people across the country are looking for something on which they can vent their anger and outrage, the killing of Michael Brown is a very poor choice.  They would be better advised to take a closer look at Barack Obama’s Chicago, where black-on-black murders spiked to 516 in 2012, the second time homicides have surpassed 500 since 2003.  And they might want to take a closer look at white liberals and Democrats who have raised their expectations to the skies and then did nothing of substance to help them achieve the promised social and economic progress.

At this writing, the St. Louis County grand jury has not handed down either an indictment of Officer Wilson, or a finding of self-defense.  And while it is understandable that members of the grand jury, whose names and home addresses are almost certainly known throughout the black community, are afraid to hand down a ruling that would exonerate Officer Wilson, the obvious jury nullification debacle of the O.J. Simpson trial and the violence that occurred in South Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King police beating is still far too fresh in the minds of the American people.  We are at a tipping point in race relations and we should all be very afraid.

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