Monday, October 30, 2006

Letter to Fox News on Duke rape case news - 10.30.2006.1

This is a copy of an email sent to Ms. Hill, and Fox News. Previous commentary on this subject can be found at Duke allegations part 1, part 2, part 3. The letter below is uneditied and unmodified as will be any response received.
October 30, 2006

Ms. Hill, Fox News, et. al.,

I just listened to your commentary on the news about the 2nd woman involved in the Duke rape case. I found it lacking and somewhat misleading.

The reason I say so is that it seems Fox News is presenting the information inaccurately. That is that while the woman did say the accuser said “put marks on me. That’s what I want” the context of that statement is in question. As reported by you it would sound as if the accuser was in a grocery store and made these statements to create a false accusation.

In fact, as reported by via Yahoo News ( ), what the situation was is that the accuser was “talking crazy” and would not get out of the car. The 2nd woman was pushing the accuser to get her out of the car when the quoted statement was made. In addition the 2nd woman mentioned that she was trying several ways to get thru to the accuser.

Given these detail we see a somewhat different view. While it could be a made up situation, as you clearly seemed to imply in my opinion, it can also be taken as a woman in a very unstable condition that could have been caused by a traumatic condition, such as being raped.

Also the fact that the statements made by the 2nd woman have changed multiple times, going from both women being together constantly to being apart several times throughout that night, and the details have been brought into question. Why this is the case, and why she would speak publicly is a question. But you also failed to note the 2nd woman’s concern over how her comments may affect the case. To quote the above mentioned release’ “It's going to solidify their opinions so much, that they're not going to want to hear the other aspects of the case, which I think are just as important.”

Based on your comments and in my opinion anger at the possible “damage to these young men’s lives,” the comments have done exactly what she feared might happen. This is not what I would call fair or balanced reporting. Considering that perhaps millions hear your words and determine the facts of the case based on your reporting, I feel you have done a disservice to this News event. The coverage of this matter demands more than 30 seconds of airtime. It also begs an impartial coverage of the facts as they exist and not a view that implies, presents, and influences thoughts to one side or another.

I, like everyone except those directly involved, do not know what happened. But I do not agree with any broadcaster or organization that directly misrepresents information that is found elsewhere. You should clarify your comments made on October 30, 2006 @ ~11:30. In addition any further reporting on the case should be modified to reflect accurately what was said and not just a catchy phrase and change of context of the information.

You should know better.

I should mention that I am a multiple blog site owner, and I will also post this letter on my blog ( in full. I look forward to your response, and will post that response, in full, if and when I receive it.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.


Michael Vass
President – M V Consulting, Inc.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Marriage, age and intellect - 10.18.2006.2

I was reading an opinion piece by Laura Vanderkam and I started to wonder a few things. Parts of what she spoke about apply to me and other men I know that are college educated, especially those that are African American. I have been told that some of her comments are true of African American women too. But there is a bit that I don’t agree with, and do not see at all. This could be a factor of where I have lived, or just being a man. I’m sure the ladies that are frequent readers will let me know.

I am constantly surprised when I hear women say they need to dumb themselves down to be with a man. In part I think that there is an assumption made commonly that presumes that this is what a guy wants. Kind of like the thought that men prefer women to look like models, or be similarly thin. That has never really been the case. Yes, many like a woman that is of a moderate build, but I’ve never known a single guy who wants a woman that looks anorexic or a bunch of sticks. Every man I know agrees that we prefer a woman with curves. In this same manner, every man I know prefers women who can hold a conversation.

There may be a difference when culture is added to this though. African American men these days do enjoy the ‘music video girl’ look. Having a girlfriend with those looks is nice, but none of them would hardly be described as a model. This has no bearing on intelligence though. Yet the guys I am aware of that prefer this look in their women, tend to also have great interest in the thug life. Those men tend to be less educated, but exercise a great deal. I’ve seen African American female lawyers and doctors who date these thug types. An odd mix at best. In every case I’ve known, the guy was about as intelligent as a brick. Often the woman with him had to jump into the conversation and did in fact, dumb it down, significantly. But that was due to her choice in a mate. To say that another man, African American or otherwise, would need her to disavow her intelligence is over-generalization.

Of course the fact that there are fewer married people in the nation is another factor. In black culture today there is the fact that up to 60% of women are single parents. This would make it harder to get married, especially as the culture advocates not having the father involved with the children. [what I like to call the baby-momma syndrome.] It would also help explain why some get married later in life, intelligence is not a factor. But this is a bit specific to one culture.

Perhaps Ms. Vanderkam has grown up in a different time in NYC than I, or it’s the difference in culture (I grew up in the Bronx) but young women having children is not a new thing, nor attributable to any pop star. Especially the, in my opinion, marginally talented Mrs. Britney Spears. The need for nannies and/or $700 strollers might be though.

One thing that is related to this is the question of what age do college educated African American men get married? There are fewer men that fit in this criteria. Considering the estimates that Black males are dropping out of high school at a faster pace than ever before I really wonder about this. In just a cursory thought on the subject it would seem that Black women that are college educated might have to be older to get married, as the pool of Black men that are their intellectual equal is smaller and more difficult to find. This fact is not one that is changing quickly. Nor does it have a readily available answer.

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of this. But tell me what you think on this subject.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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New stock market highs - 10.18.2006.1

Just something I wanted to pause and think about. Today the Dow Jones broke past 12,000 which is a new intra-day high. Big cheers, the market must be doing well and it must mean that everyone is making money in their 401 k and mutual funds. Well I’m sure that is what the big six and a few others would like you to think. I think its just stupid, all the hype about this. [The big six are the leading, well-known brokerage houses. This includes Merrill, Lehman and the others, all of which I dislike.]

Why am I not interested in the hype? Why don’t I think that most people are making money today and that this new high has yet to impact Joe Average? Because during the week of January 10, 2000 the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 11908.5 and then continued to trend down to a low of 7422.27 on September 30, 2002. It’s taken the better part of a decade to reach a new high. That is significant. It means that many are just getting back to even.

Let me clarify what I’m thinking. I was a broker for many years (I left the industry, without ever being involved in a lawsuit, in 2001 for family reasons). Like all brokers I realize that the average investor does not know what they are doing. Average investors buy high, sell low, miss opportunities, and follow bandwagons on a regular basis. I have watched as former clients bought internet stocks, against my advice, because they were being bought and creating new highs – without being able to explain what the company did, and often with a company that had no history as it was a new IPO. For a while they made money, and then got killed. I’ve seen the same thing happen in biotechs, and various other industries. It wasn’t just the bubble that took down investors.

[For the record I did advise in one internet stock, AOL, and I did lose money during the downturn. But I did try to minimize losses and advised several 5 year plans to weather the crash, some were followed others not. I was not a genius for the market, but I was no fool either.]

Because so many were crushed in the crash, bad decisions were made. Most sold to make margin calls or just bailed out. Others never took the chance to buy when things were low. I recall the battles I had with multiple clients as the market opened after 9/11 and dropped to a low of 7926.93. Fear prevented a chance to regain funds lost from the bubble burst, primarily while others were frozen due to lack of capital. Many just had to hold on and wait for things to improve.

So if like many you owned GE Around Oct 2, 2000 (59.94) instead of around Feb 10, 2003 (21.30) today you would be down 24.38 (close was 35.56) or 40%. Maybe some liked Pharmaceuticals like Phfizer which was 48.13 around June 12, 2000 reached a low of 20.57 around Dec 5, 2005 and closed today at 28.10 for a grand return of a loss of 20.03 or 42% down. Maybe smaller companies were of interest like NITE which traded at 59.43 around March 20, 2000 dropped to 4 around Sept 30, 2002 and today had a close of 19.45 for a loss of 39.98 or 67%. Even if you like a story stock like SIRI you may have paid 69.44 around Feb 28, 2000 and not the .38 in the week of March 10, 2003 with a close today of 3.90 for a loss of 65.54 or 94%. [I did advise on positions with SIRI, NITE, GE, PFE, LEH and many other stocks. Former clients may have owned these stocks long term and had higher or lower cost averages than what is discussed.]

For those that could afford to buy-in and average down, life may be good. Most investors don’t though, whatever the reason. So the reality is that many are down today, or even, and the highs bring them no joy. The hype is just that. Many corporations are in similar situations too. It just annoys me to hear the talking heads on various programs trying to get people happy when the news isn’t really great. Or ads on television saying that people should go and invest on their own when they don’t understand what is involved. I find it irresponsible.

The economy is better, things have improved. Barring events like 9/11, or Enron, the markets will continue to grow. But hype will never help mom & pop investors. It does help some institutions though, like LEH which was 15.68 around Feb 14, 2000 and continued HIGHER to 78.70 on Oct 16, 2006.

Just keep this stuff in mind as you watch the talking heads spout how great things are in the market. Or you see that ad saying that you should invest on your own.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Plane crash in Manhattan -

I am worried, as many are, about the plane crash in Manhattan today. I realize that so far there is no indication of a terrorist attack, and I don’t think it is one. But it does highlight a danger that has existed, and a reality. I’m glad that there have not been more deaths, but I give my condolences to the friends and families of those that have died.

The danger though is that there is no way to stop every aircraft that might be used in a suicide attack. I’ve mentioned before that I expect another attack on American soil. To think that it will not happen is to be lost in a daydream. Rose colored glasses cannot hide this danger. The nation is too large, with far too many targets and delivery means. We cannot stop all potential actions, and to try to do so would create an authoritarian government. The existence of such a government would be the win that terrorists are looking to create.

The sad alternative is the reality that accidents happen, and attacks will happen. Whether a car bomb in a crowded city, a plane crash, or a dozen other situations there is no way to protect against everything. That does not mean we give up. It also means that we should not succumb to the fear of attacks. Fear is the greatest weapon against any opponent. It effects every action and thought. It can cause immobility and irrationality. And there is no reason for it.

I have family in New York City. I have friends in Manhattan, one of which lives on the east side in the 70’s. Am I concerned for their safety? Of course, I’ve tried to get in touch and am waiting for an answer as I type this. But fear is not motivating me. I will not panic. To do so turns a bad situation worse.

I realize that the potential to do harm outweighs the ability to prevent it. I’ve realized it since I learned about biological and chemical weapons in the 80’s. But to cower, to change my life because of this knowledge is dangerous. It allows thoughtless actions that cause more harm than anything else. Whether that is a mob attacking ‘foreigners’ or race/religion based attacks or proposals to have certain Americans carry special identifications. We must act clear-headed. We must react in a calm manner.

If as reports I’m watching, on Fox news at 4:43pm, are speculating that a NY Yankee’s pitcher was the pilot, I send condolences to his family. I dispute Congressman Rangel when he says, live, that there is more we can do. Without restricting severely the freedoms of Americans, there is little more that can be done.

What we can do is be vigilant. Be aware of what is happening around us. When there is reason to be fearful, contact the authorities. Support our government in its attempts to protect us, and be responsive when it acts in a manner that impedes our daily lives. We must take the example that is the daily lives of those in England, France, Israel and other nations and cities around the world. The genie is out of the bottle and terrorism is a reality in America. The question is not can we prevent another attack, we cannot. The question is what will we do when there is an attack, both in response by rescue and emergency personnel and in the government.

I’m sorry for those who have lost their lives today. I’m glad to see that our nation is ready to react. I’m cautious about everything else. And if this post seems a bit rambling, I apologize as I’m writing as I am watching the live news.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Monday, October 09, 2006

As election 2006 looms near - 10.09.2006.1

Of late there has been a lot of politicing on issues that really aren’t political. The main item has been former Representative Mark Foley. The way the various talking heads have been going you would think that this was motivated by the political parties as opposed to an individual man’s actions. And as time goes by, it just gets bigger and worse.

I do not like that Mr. Foley has gone after pages. I’m disturbed by his attempts to sexually contact underage children, as the mounting information appears to state. I’m not surprised that this has been going on for potentially years. I definitely believe many in both parties were aware, to varying degrees, of what was happening. Neither party is innocent in there actions, but this has nothing to do with the general elections.

The real questions are whether those in the Republican party were aware and when, and most importantly to what degree, of Mr. Foley’s actions. If some knew of these actions and did nothing, then they need to be removed. As representatives of the public they have an obligation, higher than others, to protect the youth especially when they are in their charge. Given that this is the question, it has nothing to do with policy nor the ‘war on terror’ nor any other individual.

I don’t think that Gov. Schwarzenegger has anything to do with Mr. Foley, yet they are both Republican. Anyone choosing to vote one way or another based on this man’s actions solely is a fool and has sold their vote cheap. If a politician is not involved in this matter, as the overwhelming number of representatives do not, then the issues of their constituents should be the only factor.

The Democrats give me pause as well. As information is found the real question of what was known and when becomes more apparent. Anyone who knew and held this information based on the potential effect during elections needs to be removed as well. They are no better than someone covering up the situation. As I said, they have a higher obligation to protect the youth, not the party. I agree with many that the timing is odd.

This is not the first time that a politician has abused their position. Many throughout the decades, if not centuries, have committed abuses. I would say that just as many or more do not abuse their position. But there have been bounced check scandals, sexual misconduct, nepotism, and favoritism in each party. Power corrupts as the saying goes. But that has nothing to do with the work going on in state X, when an unconnected individual in state Y is caught. It has nothing to do with the President or international policy. To say it does is just purely smoke and mirrors. It’s a way to buy a vote cheaply, like showing up to a church but not being devout or religious at any other point besides election time.

Let’s not lose focus of certain things. We are fighting a war in Iraq. It did not stop when the President claimed it did years ago. We are actively trying to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation. We are weakening some constitutional rights to be able to ensure the general safety of the nation, but the nation will be attacked again given time; and we need to be aware of what we are willing to bend on before it snaps and is gone. We are trying to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in nations that have been preparing to fight a war with us for 50 years, or actively aiding those that would attempt to terrorize us. While some may disagree with the steps the nation is taking now, none have stated a clear and defined alternative. At the least I have yet to hear or read one, even when interviewed and asked that question directly.

These are some of the questions that any potential leader, of any political level, needs to answer to gain a position. At least that is how I vote. Blaming a party based on the actions of one person does not give answers. Hiding information does not do it. Saying that there needs to be a change will not do it. Claiming that its someone else’s fault does not improve the situation. My vote is not that cheap. Nor is yours.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Journalism and lawsuits - 10.06.2006.2

Does this make sense? Consider that there is a program that seeks to target minority children, to promote interest in a subject or career. Given these parameters, why would a non-minority apply to such a program? And if that individual was denied admission, wouldn’t it make sense based on the structure of the program. This seems logical to me, but not to some apparently.

Parents of a high school student are suing the Virginia Commonwealth University/Times-Dispatch because of just that reason. The program is the Urban Journalism Workshop which is comprised of a dozen students of ethnic and racial minorities. A google search under the name of the workshop brings up 20 sites with descriptions that clearly state the focus of the programs. With the addition of the word Virginia, where this took place, you get Virginia Commonwealth University. As far as I can tell there is no deception. In the VCU description of the program, the first paragraph makes the intentions clear.

So again I state why did this child apply? What is the reason? Perhaps, like many kids in high school, this child simply didn’t pay attention to the program description. Perhaps the child didn’t do a search. Of course that would be odd for a kid trying to get into a summer journalism course at a college, especially in this day and age of internet savvy kids.

So I’m left with one other thought. The parents wanted to have this denial, so that they could create a lawsuit and make waves on the subject. It’s not the first time. And it pisses me off. Life is hard enough as an African American. There are too many imbalances in education as is, and too few minority children get a real chance at higher education. People attacking the system, which is defined by flaws on various levels, for personal gain and further unbalancing of the scales is just wrong.

The dropout rate for African American males is quoted as between 50-70%. Inner city schools are notorious for overcrowding, under funding, and lack of adequate supplies. This says nothing of burnt out teachers, unqualified new teachers and cultural disdain. The few minority students, African Americans in particular, that do seek out a chance for better need help.

Schools may not be racially segregated today, but to say there is no separation based on economic status is to be ignorant. And that economic disparity is highest in inner cities and among minorities. Frivolous lawsuits that benefit no one, except the individuals filing it, detract from the real issues. I would be hard pressed to feel bad for non-minority children being declined from a program for minority students.

The advantage, as a generalization, is in their favor. It was when I went to college and it was when my youngest sister (14 years my junior) graduated. And unless real reforms take place they will continue to be. So while it may not be nice for one individual child, the greater good makes it necessary. To those that would try to personally benefit from this I say, get over it. You deserve no more than what you have, and that is far more than I or my family or friends have gotten.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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A good reason for social darwinism - 10.06.2006.1

I’ve heard some odd things over the years. I’ve probably seen even more. Yet I do not think I’ve heard anything quite as stupid as what this one mother did to her child. There was no direct physical violence, and I bet that the mother was sure she was doing nothing wrong. But this is a case where Social Darwinism would have been useful.

Basically the mother let her 18-month-old daughter take hits off of a bong. On more than one occasion. Yes, the mother gave the baby drugs. It seems this improved the baby’s appetite and calmed her down. Let me be clear on my thoughts, the woman should never have had children. She needs to have her child taken away, never be allowed to have children again and jailed.

On the point of jail, courts in Montana agreed with me and gave her a sentence of 5 years. Sadly this was more than the law allowed and it was later reduced; and that is a shame that this was the only penalty allowed by law. I presume that the state has taken the child. I can only hope there was no permanent damage, but that may well be unlikely. As for the mother, her defective genes should be excluded from the world gene pool. Preventing her from continuing to introduce her genes to the world is a benefit to mankind, in my opinion. I find her similar to the various fools that wind up killing themselves through acts of intense idiocy. Occasionally the television show Mythbusters deals with situations that reportedly happened with these types of individuals. A recent program detailed how a man killed himself via a lava lamp he placed on a stove.

My reaction may be extreme. Given. Any fool that would give a baby drugs, even one as debatably benign as marijuana, should not be allowed to have children. It’s a violation on multiple levels. I have no tolerance for an individual like this. No matter what an adult may do, I feel it’s a genetic imperative of the human race to protect children. I feel sad that there is no law in place to properly punish individuals of this nature. I feel worse that it would seem that a law dealing with this is needed.

I only hope that this woman never has another child. There are more than enough problems in the world, more than enough threats to children. This shouldn’t have to be another.

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So you dropped out because? - 10.04.2006.1

I was speaking with my best friend and we were discussing the fact that the dropout rate is currently in the realm of 50-70%. In discussing this we were both enraged at the complaints we’ve heard from some young African American students. Comments have been that school is too hard, or unfair, or that it’s not worth it. How such statements could be made verges on the incredulous. And it is insulting to those who have come before these students.

The current generation of kids in high school have the easiest time ever. There is just no excuse. While there is some risk lately from deranged individuals on a rampage, the same could be said of working in the post office in the 1990’s. Considering the number of schools in the nation, and the number of events, the risk is negligible and thankfully precautions do exist in many places to help minimize that risk further.

Taking out the random effect of a couple of sick people, what other excuse is there? Back in the 1980’s, in New York City – the Bronx in particular, several schools were teaching classes with books that were older than the students. I’ve mentioned how I had classes with books 3 years older than I was at the time, and this was in the advanced college bound classes. In the 1970’s and 80’s there were several instances of race riots between high schools based solely on race. In the 1960’s and 70’s there were frequent multiple instances of beatings and attacks motivated by race alone.

Inner city schools had worse conditions in virtually every aspect. And yes there were gangs. This is not a new thing, whether you are speaking of the Bald Meanies or Zulu Nation and the 5 percenters. I recall the chains and knives that were part of school in my day (Does that make me sound old? It was only 20+ years ago). Older burnt out teachers, suffering from little pay and class sizes of 40+ students for decades were also not a sudden new creation of the current decade.

There were drugs of course. Not the crack, addicted and ruined for life in one hit, kind of drugs but the up for 3 days, lucy in the sky with diamonds, nodding off wherever you may be kind of drugs. A bit more expensive but they did the trick well enough to screw up a decent portion of the generation. And easily the cause of the death of around a third of the friends I grew up with, whether from dealing or taking. I mean making it to 25 has always been a challenge, though the further back you go the more likely it was to be because of a lynching, or other racially motivated action. If you think the plunger abuses of the last decade was bad, you don’t want to think about the police dogs, fire hoses and more that were done by the authorities with impunity on a daily basis.

So when kids say that school is too hard, I don’t know if I should laugh or smack them upside their heads. It’s not like we had computers that could make ENIAC look like Pong, or the internet to look up even the most obscure historical, mathematical or scientific facts. The only channel of discovery I recall was going to the library and picking up a book (not an eBook, or audio book, or a downloadable .pdf).

The complaints today, and the surge in dropouts is sad, stupid and painful. It’s taking all the strides and efforts, made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Mr. Malcolm X, and the various men and women that were beaten or killed, and throwing it into the sewer. There is virtually nothing that a kid in school encounters now, that was not more difficult 20, 30 or more years ago. So I can’t understand what in the world they are talking about. As I mentioned, there is no excuse. I’m reminded of an old television commercial (back when there were only 3 networks and cable was what you used to tie things) by the NAACP, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

This is what I think, what do you think?

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Do you qualify to be black? - 10.01.2006.1

In a recent conversation I had with a friend, I was told that “no disrespect, but you’re not black.” Now this is a friend and I understood the context in which he was speaking, so I wasn’t upset. But it’s not the first time that I’ve been told this. Considering my Puerto Rican, Irish, Native American Indian and Taino Indian background, I agree that I’m not just an African American. But that isn’t what was meant. It was more in reference to the fact that I do not live in a thug lifestyle, speak proper English, and dress in suits more often than jeans.

But that got me thinking. What is it to be Black, or African American. I mean there is a huge economy based on just that thought. Music videos, rap songs, clothing lines, billions are spent world wide to capture an image that is “black” and “keeping it real”, whatever that means. But can that really be all there is to being black? Is the culture that superficial these days?

Mr. Juan Williams wrote an interesting opinion piece recently, Missing: A black voice for economic equality, that addressed the fact that many are asking about the next Dr. Martin Luther King. In that opinion he mentions the fact that 100 years ago prominent Black African Americans, such as Mr. Booker T. Washington, stated the key to improving the quality of life is self-help. This same message was repeated by Dr. King and Mr. Malcolm X.

Yet those messages have been mostly discarded. What else can be said when the chances of a young Black African American male being killed or jailed by 25 are greater than the chance to graduate high school. That the chance of a young Black African American woman having a child, out of wedlock, by 25 is higher than her chance of getting thru college. Obviously there are problems and they aren’t getting answered.

The insistence within the Black culture on living as thugs is a self-limiting expression. The fact that the youth of today want to be pimps and hoes, criminals by any other terms would make the fore-fathers spin in their graves. I cannot imagine that Dr. King or Malcolm X, envisioned a day were equality was considered the ability to father children without the attempt to take care of them, or the inability to communicate socially with others. In fact by the standards of today both of these men would not be considered black either.

At least in that respect I’m in good company. So what is being black today? Is a rapper black? Is a thug black? What about a stockbroker or a doctor, a sanitation worker or a teacher? Must any professional also be ill-spoken and brutish or risk being a sell-out? Can a person like other genres of music, or styles of dress and still be what they obviously are by birth.

Without opening my mouth, I am Black and Puerto Rican. I look in the mirror and I am just that, so why do some presume that I must also act, speak and look a certain way to confirm what I am. I understand when friends say I don’t match the popular norms associated with being African American. But why should anyone have to match a set of criteria? Is this an isolated thing? I’ve never heard anyone tell a White person that they aren’t White. The same with Asians. So why does this division exist?

This is what I think, what do you think?

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