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Luxembourg considers new church tax in debate over future of state support

Luxembourg is considering a church tax as part of a range of possible measures to replace direct state funding for religious organisations.

Renewed calls have been made for a national debate about the requirement on schools to hold acts of collective worship. The calls came during an Education Committee evidence session on extremism in schools.

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Many of you already know who Stephen Law is: an accomplished humanist philosopher, a senior lecturer at Heythrop College at the University
of London, and the author of several popular books on philosophy, in…

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The National Secular Society has criticised a decision by Central Bedfordshire Council to reinstate a Christian registrar who was previously dismissed after refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.

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Hundreds of thousands of German tax-payers are leaving their officially designated religions to avoid paying a ‘church tax’ levy on capital gains.

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Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.

The Main Events


HARRIS 170Sam Harris in Conversation on Point of Inquiry and with CFI–Washington, DC

Point of Inquiry, the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry, welcomed Sam Harris this week to discuss his efforts to claim “spirituality” and transcendence from the grip of religion. In his new book, Waking Up, Harris asserts that the exploration of altered states of consciousness in no way requires belief in the supernatural and that the examination of the mystical fills “one of the great holes of secularism.” He and host Josh Zepps cover a number of topics besides, including Harris’s take on secularism’s progress in the ten years since the publication of his first book, The End of Faith, which is credited with kicking off the “new atheism” phenomenon. 

If you’re anywhere near Washington, DC, next week, you’ll want to catch Sam Harris as he comes to CFI–DC on September 10 for a special on-stage conversation, interviewed by Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein.

 


10626399_10152370953615698_2073850941687388058_o-1.jpgVictor Stenger, 1935–2014

On August 27, the freethought community lost one of its boldest voices, as Dr. Victor Stenger died at age 79. A fellow of both CFI and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a contributor to both of our magazines, Stenger was best known as the author of numerous books on the some of humanity’s biggest questions, such as the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis and the just-released God and the Multiverse. He’s also the person who coined the antitheistic slogan, “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

“One thing I liked about Vic was his lack of pretense and posturing,” said CFI’s president and CEO Ron Lindsay. “He didn’t trim his arguments—or his beard—to please others. He was interested in determining the truth. Period. What others thought of his occasionally rumpled look or his refusal to soft-pedal his arguments was a matter of indifference to him.We’ll miss both his intellect and his intellectual integrity.”

 


paul_offit_II.pngPaul Offit Comes to CFI–WNY to Receive Balles Prize in Critical Thinking

Awarded yearly by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking honors an author whose work best exemplifies healthy skepticism and has the greatest potential to cut through myth and misinformation on crucial scientific issues. This year, that honor belongs to Dr. Paul Offit for exposing the dangers of alternative medicine and the anti-vaccine movement with his book Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. With his work in vaccinology and immunology, and perhaps most notably with the invention of the rotavirus vaccine, Dr. Offit has already proven to be a literal lifesaver. With the knowledge he imparts in his book, he may well save many more.

We’ll present the Balles Prize to Dr. Offit at CFI headquarters in Amherst, New York, on Saturday, September 6. Following the award presentation, Dr. Offit will deliver a talk on “The Philadelphia Measles Epidemic of 1991: Lessons from the Past” and be available for an audience Q&A. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

 


dan cTown of Greece’s Long Moment of Silence over Exclusionary Prayer Policy

The recent Supreme Court case of Greece v. Galloway paved the way for government assemblies such as city council and legislature meetings to open with sectarian prayers. Many nonreligious activists have taken up municipalities’ promises of inclusiveness by volunteering to offer secular invocations at many such meetings across the country, including in one town at the issue’s center, Greece, NY, itself. In July, atheist Dan Courtney delivered a moving invocation before Greece’s town board, and we were on hand to lend support

Now, however, the Town of Greece has suddenly issued new rules about who can and cannot offer such invocations, rules that seem to exclude the nonreligious. We responded, calling the move “a disappointing step backward.” Our disapproval was picked up by the media, and when confronted by Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service, town attorney Brian Marianetti could offer no explanations or clarifications. The news has also been covered by Raw Story, the Washington Times, and The Blaze, which says we’re “riled” by Greece’s guidelines. 

 

Action Alert!


shutterstock_123381388.jpgDon’t Let Religious Discrimination Keep Kids in Need from Loving Homes

We recently alerted you to the introduction of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, a deceptively named bill that actually seeks to allow adoption and foster care agencies that receive taxpayer funding to discriminate based on the religious beliefs of their proprietors. This means that these operations could deny adoption and foster services to same-sex married couples, unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples, and individuals who belong to other religions, or none at all—and still continue to receive government funds. Apart from the stark problem of taxpayer dollars subsidizing discrimination, this bill would also keep children in need from having a better life with loving families because of religious disapproval of nontraditional relationships. 

This week, we joined a coalition of groups opposing this bill and supporting a new one, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. In the coming weeks, you’ll see more efforts from us on this issue, leading up to November, which is National Adoption Month. But you can have an impact right now by contacting your congressional representatives and telling them you oppose the discriminatory Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act. 

 

News from HQ and the CFI Community


Benton.jpgAdia Benton on Point of Inquiry: the Human Side of the Ebola Outbreak

Recent reports are warning that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is becoming harder for medical officials to control. On Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein explores the panic surrounding the outbreak with Dr. Adia Benton, professor of medical anthropology at Brown University. Dr. Benton explains not just the medical facts about the disease but how affected communities cope with its emergence, what real people believe—rightly or wrongly—about how it’s transmitted, and how best to communicate the best prevention methods. 



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$5000 Raised for Ugandan Humanists

Last month, we activated our Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort (SHARE) program to come to the assistance of Uganda’s Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability. Burglars took everything of value from HALEA’s offices and severely beat the security guards. Happily, the global secular community has rallied, and through the SHARE program alone, over $5000 was raised to help HALEA rebuild. HALEA has been doing inspiring work in Uganda, and we’re delighted that our community has been able to lend a hand, so they can continue their important efforts.

 


AF_Blu-ray_Box_1024x1024.pngFreethought Documentary Shown at Woodstock

American Freethought is a documentary film series, delivering a long-overdue chronicle of the history of secularism and censorship in the United States. It was produced in association with the Council for Secular Humanism and features our own Tom Flynn, Council’s executive director and editor of Free Inquiry. Historical figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Robert Green Ingersoll, and Thomas Paine feature prominently in the film. This past weekend, American Freethought was shown as part of the Woodstock Museum Film Festival. You can purchase DVDs or Blu-rays of the series here

 


9407194_orig[1].jpgHigh School Students Present Original Documentary on Vaccinations

CFI–Los Angeles’s monthly Café Inquiry event featured a 42-minute documentary, Invisible Threat, which focuses on the necessity of vaccinations and criticizes parents who deny the science and exempt their children. Making the film all the more remarkable is the fact that it was made by 16 students from Carlsbad High School. The film features extensive interviews with top medical experts, including Paul Offit. Notably, this past Wednesday, the L.A. Times featured a front-page article on the frightening drop in vaccination rates among children in California due to the exemptions claimed by so many parents.

 

CFI on the Web and in the Media


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●   Ron Lindsay takes to Huffington Post to suggest a “third way” of addressing the church-state problem of the Pledge of Allegiance (particularly in regard to schoolchildren): make “under God” optional. He writes, “The coercion to take part, the pressure on nonreligious students to say something they don’t believe, is undeniable.”

●   At our Free Thinking blog, CFI Education Director David Koepsell says that skepticism and humanism should be thought of less as “stances” and more as “projects” or ongoing endeavors.

●   The September issue of Church & State, the magazine of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, includes two articles featuring CFI: One on the invocation in Greece, NY, and another on our major victory for Secular Celebrants in Indiana.

●   Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Brian D. Engler at Skeptical Inquirer expose the waste of taxpayer dollars on alternative medicines and therapies, which amounts to an “inconceivable focus on non-science-based medicine.”  

●   Tom Flynn offers a detailed recap of the recent weekend conference, Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative, held in Amherst, NY, and other locations in Western New York.

●   Kenneth L. Feder encounters a creature he can’t explain—in a Whole Foods parking lot no less!—and uses this as a lesson about how sightings of the paranormal are “a reflection of the demand placed on our brains.”

●   Joe Nickell takes on the myth of the “incorruptible” corpse of St. Cecilia and reminds us that while this is a sign of holiness to Catholics, to Slavic countries it’s evidence of vampirism!

●   Alejandro Borgo updates us on the many activities of CFI–Argentina.

●   Aaron Friel of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers (UNIFI) offers tips on coalition-building on campus, which turns out to be a less-than-formal process than it sometimes sounds.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

 

Upcoming CFI Events


September 10:

     •  Greta Christina talks to CFI–Michigan in Grand Rapids about her book Coming Out Atheist.

September 11:

     •  Greta Christina is with CFI–Michigan again, this time in Farmington Hills.

September 13:

     •  Greta Christina brings Coming Out Atheist to CFI–Western New York

September 14:

     •  Glenn Branch comes to CFI–Los Angeles to talk about the aftermath of the Dover “Intelligent Design” trial.

     •  CFI–Indiana holds its annual picnic.

September 17:

     •  Greta Christina comes to CFI–Indiana.

September 20:

     •  CFI–Michigan holds a service day cleaning up the Grand River.

September 21:

     •  Ed Buckner and Jim Underdown will take a critical look at the revisionist history peddled by science deniers in an event at CFI–Los Angeles.

Don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for CFI’s 2015 National Conference! Mark June 11–14, 2015, on your calendars—it’s time to come home. Join us in Amherst, New York, next summer for our biggest conference of the year, a reunion of skeptics, seculars, humanists, and atheists, all coming together where it all began—the headquarters of the CFI family of organizations, where Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer were launched thirty-five and (almost) forty years ago. Stay tuned for more details.


Thank you!


Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


I Support Reason, Science, and Freedom of InquiryFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter
is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in
Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a
secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.

 

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Prominent freethought author and physicist Dr. Victor Stenger died on August 27 at the age of 79. Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, offered these thoughts:

* * * 

With…

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Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.

The Main Events


20140817_155218 copy.jpgCFI Wraps Up a Summer of Incredible Events

Since the last edition of Cause & Effect, CFI has put on three very different freethought events, each one uniquely enlightening and showcasing so much of what is great about our community. Here’s a wrap-up of a very exciting couple of weeks.

What happens when ninety people get together to honor some of the most remarkable reformers of the nineteenth century? You get perhaps the most uplifting and hopeful event of the year! This past weekend CFI hosted a unique conference celebrating Robert Green Ingersoll and three other radical freethinkers who called Central New York home: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglass. Among many highlights, Saturday’s events included presentations by Susan Jacoby, Sally Roesch Wagner, and Christopher Cameron. Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself even spoke, thanks to the fantastic in-costume work of historian Melinda Grube

20140817_154826 copy.jpgOn Sunday the entire crew hit the road via tour bus to visit the newly renovated Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, New York, followed by an afternoon at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls. Attendees enjoyed two ranger talks and visited three sites there: the restored home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Wesleyan Chapel (site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848), and the park museum/visitors center. The whole weekend was exhausting, but everyone left renewed and inspired to carry on the work of these incredible reformers. Click here for pictures from the conference and stay tuned for videos of the lectures!

DSC_00955.jpgFor the younger set we had Camp Inquiry 2014 in Holland, New York. This year’s Do-It-Yourself theme took the term “hands-on” to the next level with opportunities for the campers to cooperatively write this year’s code of conduct, lead self-designed workshops for their peers, and take genuine ownership of their own camp experiences. In addition to cracking cases with experts like Joe Nickell, new special guests this year included “mathemagician” Ethan Brown and youth activist Jessica Ahlquist

10313420_751028671602420_2497392122093014797_n.jpgAs the campers were being introduced to new ways of thinking critically, grownups were honing their skills in Eugene, Oregon, with the 22nd Skeptic’s Toolbox, a weekend-long workshop providing skeptics the tools and experience they need to evaluate claims we run into in our everyday lives. This year the Toolbox focused on case-based skepticism, which used real-life journal articles to study such subjects as homeopathy, “Clever Hans” the allegedly brilliant horse, and the ideomotor effect. Toolbox faculty Ray Hyman, Lindsay Beyerstein, James Alcock, Loren Pankratz, and Harriet Hall directed attendees through a series of workshops, with a Sunday recap from attendees on what they had learned. This year’s “In the Trenches” award winner was longtime attendee and Independent Investigation Group member Jerry Schwarz. Check out photos from the event here.

 


paul_offit_II.pngPaul Offit to Receive Critical Thinking Award at CFI HQ

Each year, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry honors an author whose work best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science. The Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking recognizes work that has the greatest potential to create positive reader awareness of important scientific issues. This year we are pleased to present the Balles Prize to Dr. Paul Offit for his exemplary advocacy exposing the dangers of alternative medicine and the anti-vaccine movement with his book Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. He’ll receive the award at CFI headquarters in Amherst, New York, on Saturday, September 6. Following the award presentation, Dr. Offit will deliver a presentation on “The Philadelphia Measles Epidemic of 1991: Lessons from the Past” and be available for an audience Q&A. Late last year, Dr. Offit was a guest on our flagship podcast Point of Inquiry, and this past week we re-broadcast the episode

 

News from HQ and the CFI Community


1795635_10152340376310698_1622855106392948133_n.jpg

Students Gain Skills and Confidence at the CFI Leadership Conference

Student and community freethought leaders who attended the 2014 CFI Leadership Conference last month are still feeling the glow from the skills honed and the connections made over those four exciting days at CFI headquarters in Amherst, New York. Over the past couple of weeks, five of those student leaders have written about their own personal feelings and observations about the conference at the CFI On Campus blog, The Course of Reason. Their positive experiences are deeply encouraging and motivating for all of us at CFI, and we’d like to share some with you.

  • Kristen Murdaugh of Furman University shared how the conference gave her a sense of personal resolve, writing, “Not only did I walk away with the confidence and motivation to improve my college’s secular organization exponentially, but I walked away with the confidence to once and for all not be afraid to truly be myself—atheist and all.” 
  • Also from Furman, Ashton Nicewonger found a similar boost, declaring, “Today I am more confident in who I am and eager to share this confidence and support with those who have none.” 
  • Lance Menard of Kettering University’s Kettering Secular Skeptics wrote, “Thanks to the incredible energy and love and passion of the people I found in Amherst, I now have a direction and meaning to apply, not only to our club, but to my life as a whole.” 
  • Broadway Jackson III of Elon University said the conference was “an amazing experience” that “re-energized” his brain for secular activism. 
  • Jonathan Solis of the Secular Students at the University of Iowa said, “I left the conference feeling more invigorated, more connected, and more empowered to help do that.” 

Our sincere thanks to the students who shared these observations and to everyone who took part in such a meaningful and invigorating conference…and we’ll see you again in 2015!



ferguson-michael-brown-photos-ftr.jpg

CFI Addresses the Crisis in Ferguson, Missouri 

On August 14, we at CFI weighed in on the days-long conflict in Ferguson, Missouri between police and protesters. What was a secular humanist and skeptic organization doing talking about an event like this? One of our core missions is to defend free expression wherever it is threatened or stifled. “Given that the demonstrations in Ferguson have thus far been largely peaceful,” we wrote in our statement, “available evidence indicates that the severity of the police department’s actions – which includes a massive display of military-grade weaponry, the detention of journalists without charge, and damage to people’s homes – outweighs any threat posed by protesters.”

Our president and CEO, Ronald Lindsay, expanded on our official statement to put forward some of his personal observations, including concerns about the way the U.S. arms its local police forces and the way our own community should exercise critical thinking when dealing with this issue. “As persons who pride themselves on basing claims on evidence,” writes Ron, “I believe statements by skeptics and humanists about this tragic killing should be measured and should not indulge in characterizations that, at this stage, lack sufficient evidentiary support.”

 


2a5e48449dca4a488e4d25e3212ab594-097dc4cc944e402fb0b53f73b7dTown of Greece, NY Puts Forward Prayer Guidelines

When atheist Dan Courtney delivered a historic secular invocation before the town council of Greece, New York, we at CFI were there to support the inclusion of the nonreligious after the troubling Greece v. Galloway Supreme Court decision. This week, the town council released a new policy for these invocations, and as we noted in a statement, the guidelines they’ve put forward are troubling, as they appear to exclude the nonreligious from participating. “If this policy does, in effect, bar the nonreligious from delivering invocations, it would represent a disappointing step backward for the Town of Greece,” said Ron Lindsay. We’ll be keeping our eye on this policy to see how it is actually carried out.

 


Daniel Pearl Fellows.JPGComing Out Atheist and Press Freedom at CFI–Los Angeles

At “Feed Your Brain” lectures for CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Costa Mesa this past Sunday, author and blogger Greta Christina gave practical tips about coming out as an atheist based on her new book. 

The week before, in CFI–LA’s Steve Allen Theater, the L.A. Press Club, which makes its home at the Center, held a reception and panel discussion for three Daniel Pearl Fellows from Tunisia, Pakistan, and Egypt that was moderated by Rob Eshman, the Jewish Journal publisher and editor. Attending for the eighth year of the event at the Center were Judea and Ruth Pearl, parents of the journalist kidnapped and brutally murdered by Pakistani militants in 2002.

 

CFI on the Web and in the Media


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●   One hundred years after the start of World War I, Josh Zepps talks to historian Christopher Capozzola on Point of Inquiry about how supposedly rational world leaders could allow such a catastrophe to happen, examining the role of reason—or lack thereof—in the Great War’s inception. (Lindsay Beyerstein was off this week.)

●   HuffPost Live hosted a panel discussion on the unique challenges faced by atheists and humanists in the military, hosted by Josh Zepps and featuring CFI’s senior policy analyst Ed Beck, himself a former U.S. Marine.

●   Our Center Stage podcast has a couple great talks from last year’s CFI Summit: Cara Santa Maria’s discussion of her own journey away from religion and toward science communication, and physicist Leonard Mlodinow on the unconscious mind

●   CFI–DC’s Simon Davis talks with Josh Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, about the myths that abound in the death industry, at VICE.  

●   Robert Ingersoll did not have a deathbed conversion, though some tried to make that rumor stick. One result was this book from our rare book collection, highlighted by CFI’s Tim Binga: The Death-Bed Conversion of Robert G. Ingersoll.

●   Ben Radford cautions against generalized criticisms of “the media” as a monolith that doesn’t actually exist. Ben also appeared this week on KASA TV in New Mexico to talk about his new book Mysterious New Mexico.

●   Sharon Hill points out the perils of faking scientific credentials at conventions: “Paranormalists get pretty peeved at me for calling them out when playing pretend scientist.”

●   Gurmukh Mongia interviews skeptic YouTuber Kenny Biddle about his video rants against paranormalists. “If I see bulls***, that’s how I call it—then I explain why,” says Biddle. “Yeah, I curse a lot.”

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

 

Upcoming CFI Events


August 23:

     •  CFI–Michigan holds a service day, doing maintenance work at the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding in Rockford.

August 27:

     •  Henry Pollack, professor of geophysics, delivers a presentation to CFI–Michigan on “Ice, Water, and Climate.”

September 10:

     •  Sam Harris gives a talk on his upcoming book Waking Up and is interviewed by the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein with CFI–DC. 

September 13:

     •  Greta Christina talks to CFI–Western New York about her book Coming Out Atheist.

September 14:

     •  Glenn Branch comes to CFI–Los Angeles to talk about the aftermath of the Dover “Intelligent Design” trial.

Don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for CFI’s 2015 National Conference! Mark June 11–14, 2015, on your calendars—it’s time to come home. Join us in Amherst, New York, next summer for our biggest conference of the year, a reunion of skeptics, seculars, humanists, and atheists, all coming together where it all began—the headquarters of the CFI family of organizations, where Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer were launched thirty-five and (almost) forty years ago. Stay tuned for more details.


Thank you!


Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


I Support Reason, Science, and Freedom of InquiryFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 


Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter
is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in
Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a
secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.

 

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The National Secular Society has expressed concern that a school linked to a controversial Pentecostal Nigerian ‘witch hunter’ pastor is set to open in England.

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Non-religious parents in St Albans have been told by the local authority that the only state education they can offer their children is at a faith school.

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