Sunday, August 9, 2020

"Executive Oder" Versus "Executive Action" Such As A Memorandum

 Most o the  news media has reported that President Donald J. Trump has signed four "executive orders" involving extending unemployment benefits at a $400 rate, deferring (or ending?) payroll taxes for Social Security (opposed by both parties in Congress), extending a ban on evicting renters, and extending student loan deferments.  An important detail not mentioned in most reports that of these three of them are not actual orders but rather memoranda, which can count as "acrtions," that essentially implore others to do something that requires Congressional action in order to be done, basically the first two of these, or is already happening (deferment of student loans, although this is complicated).  Only one of them is an actual order that must be followed, the one regarding evicting renters, although all this order does is to make HUD "consider" extending the ban on evicting renters.  The order itself does not actually do it.  In short, these orders amount to a campaign list of wannabe actions, no actual real actions.

This is all obviously the brainchild of the incompetent and brainless Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, who is apparently incapable of making any deals and totally focused on the reelection campaign.  So he "blew up" the two week negotiations with Congressional leaders by most accounts by making rigid demands.  I am not going into details, but there were obvious compromises available, just to pick one on the total size of the relief package.  The Dems were proposing $3 trillion based on what the House passed months ago while the White House and some GOPs held to $1 trillion. Reportedly the Dems offered the obvious compromise of $2 trillion, but that was blocked by Meadows who simply made demands and warned if they were not accepted, Trump would issue "executive orders" to do what he wants.  But, as careful analysis shows, only one of these is ab actual order, and even the one that is an order that only orders a department to consider doing something.

Reportedly the final sticking point in the negotiations on Friday involved aid to state and local governments, which was a third of the Obama fiscal stimulus in 2009. I have signed a petition by economists going around calling for more such aid.  There was some in the first aid package, but it is pretty much gone.  Apparently the GOP offered $150 billion while the Dems asked for $915 billion.  There were other issues on which they were divided, but reportedly that was one there was no budging on.  Apparently the Trumpists still think that only Blue states are being damaged by the coronavirus and the bad economy. There are also reports that a major reason Trump has done so little to combat the virus has been that he wants to blame all the problems on the governors, somehow thinking it will only be the Dem governors (and mayors).  Little does he seem to realize that for better or worse people will be holding him responsible for how this all turns out.

Barkley Rosser

24 comments:

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(The $400 unemployment payment only kicks in if a state can
come up with 25% first, which is said to be most unlikely.)

President Trump signs four executive orders after economic relief talks with Democrats collapsed

Washington Post via @BostonGlobe - August 8

Trump claims his orders will provide a supplement to
Americans' unemployment checks and defer payroll tax payments.

... Trump moved to continue paying a supplemental federal unemployment benefit for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak. However, his order called for up to $400 payments each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving. How many people would receive the benefit and how long it might take to arrive were open questions.

The previous unemployment benefit, which expired on Aug. 1, was fully funded by Washington, but Trump is asking states to now cover 25%. He is seeking to set aside $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to help states, but said it would be up to states to determine how much, if any of it, to fund, so the benefits could be smaller still. ...

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

The WaPo story on this, coauthored by my niece, Erica Werner, as a secondary author after Jeff Stein, is unfortunately murky about this distinction between actual executive orders that will be carried out rather than "actions" that are simply memoranda effectively calling for something as a desired outcome while not actually bringing it about, even if the memoranda contain the word "ordered" in them, as they do. Heck, I can write a memorandum ordering the sun to shine every day, but that does not mean it will happen.

2slugbaits said...

Barkley,

Your first paragraph says:

of these three of them are not actual orders but rather memoranda...

Your last sentence appears to be a typo because it contradicts your first paragraph:

..only three of these are actual orders...

I think you meant to repeat what you said in your first paragraph. Just want to clarify that.

Mark Meadows is out of his depth. It's hard to see how someone with only a 2-year AA degree could rise to position of WH Chief-of-Staff. Meadows gets pretty well trashed as an incompetent bungler in the book by Politico reporter Tim Alberta, American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. He will look long and hard for employment once Trump loses in November and (hopefully) the Trump fever breaks within the GOP.

Fred C. Dobbs said...


Trump’s Unilateral Moves on Economic Aid Draw Fire


NY Times - August 9

Officials struggled to explain President Trump’s attempts to
circumvent Congress’s stalemate on a coronavirus aid package.

Trump’s moves on economic aid draw fire on the Sunday news shows.

Administration officials struggled in television appearances on Sunday to explain President Trump’s attempts to circumvent Congress in the absence of an agreement on a coronavirus aid package, sowing further confusion over whether tens of millions of Americans will receive the promised relief.

The president announced executive steps on Saturday that he said were intended to address lapsed unemployment benefits, reinstate an eviction ban, provide relief for student borrowers and suspend collection of payroll taxes. They came after crucial benefits provided under earlier aid bills had lapsed, and after two weeks of talks between congressional Democrats and administration officials failed to yield an agreement on a broader relief package.

But Mr. Trump’s steps appeared unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the sputtering economy, raising questions about whether Mr. Trump had taken them mainly to gain more leverage in his face-off with Congress.

Democrats criticized the actions on Sunday as executive overreach, and warned that the nation’s social safety net could be jeopardized. ...

Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers were on the defensive Sunday about whether the president had the authority to bypass Congress, which retains the constitutional power of the purse, and redirect billions of dollars in spending. But there was some acknowledgment that the measures were not as potent as congressional action would be.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Thanks, 2slug. Will fix post and add more. Was in kind of a hurry when I did it.

Anonymous said...

My son has a 2 year degree and would do a hell of alot better then Meadows.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Mnuchin says he’ll listen to Democrats

Bloomberg via @BostonGlobe - August 9

and Pelosi hopes talks will resume

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would listen to any proposal offered by Democrats on coronavirus relief, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes negotiations with the White House resume soon.

Neither gave a firm date, however, for talks to restart during interviews on Sunday political talk shows, a day after President Donald Trump took executive actions on relief to work around the Congressional impasse. As of late Sunday morning, there was no scheduled resumption of in-person talks between Pelosi, Schumer and White House negotiators, according to Pelosi’s office.

“We have to come to an agreement. We have to meet half-way,” Pelosi said on “Fox News Sunday.” Separately, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” she said that “of course there’s room for compromise.”

Democrats and Republicans are trillions of dollars apart on overall spending and on key issues, including on aid to state and local governments and the amount of supplementary unemployment benefits.

On Fox, Mnuchin chided Democrats for their intransigence over weeks of talks, particularly on state and local government funding, which some Republicans have termed a bailout for Democratic states. He urged Pelosi to help pass a bill on “things we agree on” before returning to some of the most contentious issues. ...

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Fred C. Dobbs said...

What will Trump’s new executive order mean for unemployed workers...?

via @BostonGlobe - August 10

Massachusetts officials declined to say Monday whether they would accept new funding from the federal government that could boost unemployment benefits by $400 a week, as states scrambled to understand the controversial maneuver President Trump announced over the weekend. ...

Trump would use federal disaster funding to provide $300 a week in additional unemployment benefits, beyond what states already provide. But the executive action also indicated that state governments would be required to contribute $100 a week, bringing the total benefit to $400.

Several state leaders had complained that the $100 requirement would place even greater strain on resources that Congress has failed to boost in the face of opposition from Senate Republicans.

In Massachusetts, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 17.4 percent, the pool of money that funds unemployment benefits has already gone into the red by more than $350 million, said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. The state is borrowing money from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, and employers will eventually be called on to contribute more, she said. ...

But new developments Monday suggested that states may not necessarily be responsible for the $100 benefit after all.

States that are paying at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits could count that spending to unlock the $300 in additional federal assistance, according to Wayne Vroman, an unemployment expert with the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., who reviewed federal guidance sent to states detailing the policy.

The rule would apply to vast numbers of recipients in Massachusetts, which has among the most generous unemployment policies in the country. But while it would lend states some financial relief, it would also limit additional payments to $300 a week, less than the $400 announced by Trump and half of the prior $600 benefit. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Long-term financial damage may be greater than that of the last recession for states, economists say.

NY Times - August 14

The Senate formally adjourned on Thursday until early September, leaving undone any package of pandemic relief. House members had already left Washington.

Democrats and the Trump administration remain far apart on the stimulus, including how much to spend and where the money would go. The House, which is controlled by Democrats passed a $3 trillion dollar package in May. Republicans, who control the Senate, want to stay in the $1 trillion range.

A major sticking point, aside from how much more to help unemployed Americans, was providing more aid to state and local governments. With tax revenues plummeting, states could face a cumulative budget gap of at least $555 billion through the 2022 fiscal year, according to one estimate. Economists warn that, unless Congress intervenes, the long-term financial damage might be greater than after the recession of 2007-9.

President Trump and top Republicans warn that providing more money to states could simply bail out fiscally irresponsible governments that did not manage their budgets and their public pension plans prudently in good times.

Democrats insist that states need more money and have proposed as much as $1 trillion, saying it would support needed services and help the economy recover more quickly.

Nearly all states are required to balance their budgets, meaning officials will need to plug shortfalls by tapping rainy-day funds, raising taxes or cutting costs, including by eliminating jobs.

That worries economists and Federal Reserve officials. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chairman, regularly warns that state job cuts could hurt the economy’s ability to recover, and his colleagues say that public-sector budget trouble is one of the country’s primary vulnerabilities.

“It will hold back the economic recovery if they continue to lay people off and if they continue to cut essential services,” Mr. Powell said during congressional testimony in June. “In fact, that’s kind of what happened post the global financial crisis.”

With unemployment high and many businesses expected to close, states are bracing for more safety net costs on top of the public health expenses they are already incurring. They spend a large chunk of their budgets on Medicaid payments and services for low-income residents. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

State and local budget pain looms over the economy.

The U.S. economy struggled to shake off the last recession, with historically slow growth and a labor market that took more than six years to recover its earlier employment levels. A big part of the reason: state and local governments, which cut spending and fired workers amid widespread budget shortfalls.

The same dynamic poses one of the biggest threats to America’s recovery from the pandemic downturn. State governments are again experiencing extreme budget problems as they pay out increasing sums to cover unemployment and health costs caused by the coronavirus crisis while revenues from sales taxes and corporate and personal income tax payments plummet. States could face a gap of at least $555 billion through the 2022 fiscal year, according to one estimate.

Economists warn that the long-term risk coming from struggling states could prove even more damaging this time than the recession of 2007-9 unless Congress steps in. Yet providing more aid to state and local governments has become one of the biggest political battles in the fight over another pandemic rescue package.

The Senate formally adjourned on Thursday until early September, all but ending any chance that an agreement could be reached soon. House members had already left Washington.

While many governments entered the downturn with solid tax revenues and billions of dollars in their rainy-day funds, those coffers are quickly dwindling. State revenues “could fall as much as or more than they did in the worst year of the Great Recession and remain depressed in following years,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

US retail sales rose 1.2 percent in July.

Even as coronavirus infections continued to spread, in-person school re-openings were scrapped and unemployment stayed near historic levels, Americans kept shopping in July with retail sales rising 1.2 percent from June, reflecting a rare bright spot in the battered economy.

The jump in sales reported on Friday by the Commerce Department, though smaller than the increases in the previous two months, showed that the bounce back in spending to pre-pandemic levels was not a fluke. Sales are now back at the level they were in February. It was instead a sign that consumerism, buoyed by government support, remains resilient even as many other facets of American life are increasingly bleak. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump hasn’t ‘won the day’ all summer. It’s unclear when he might again

via @BostonGlobe - August 13

If you look back on it, there wasn’t a single day that President Trump “won” over his Democratic opponent Joe Biden all summer. And going forward it is hard to see how Trump will win that many of the remaining 82 days.

And given that polling puts him behind by 10 points nationally and even higher in some critical swing states, Trump will need a series of good days to regain his footing in the race.

Winning the day may sound like an odd concept, but it is the metric that Trump’s campaign manager set for himself. When he took the job a month ago, manager Bill Stepien stated, “our goal is clear — to win each day we have left until election day. If we win more days than Joe Biden wins, President Trump will be re-elected.”

Since that statement, there hasn’t been a day that Trump has won. There hasn’t been a day when a neutral observer might say the broad 24-hour narrative for Trump has been more positive than for Biden. Even if a Trump supporter wanted to argue that Trump won on some marginal weekend day, there is no evidence that it has changed the polls.

A new Monmouth University poll out Thursday found that Trump’s 41 percent approval rating hasn’t budged since June. And an important number to gauge voters sitting on the fence in this election might be this one: only 22 percent of Americans think the country is on the right track, while 72 percent say it is on the wrong track. This wrong track number has been above 70 percent in the Monmouth poll of adults nationwide all summer. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(In other news...)

NH Governor blasts Massachusetts effort to tax telecommuters from New Hampshire during pandemic

During normal times, roughly 15 percent of all New Hampshire commuters headed south to Massachusetts for work.

And even though the COVID-19 pandemic means that many of those interstate commuters remain north of the border teleworking from home, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration thinks they should still pay Massachusetts state income tax. ...

---

No Pajama Pants Allowed While Learning From Home, Illinois District Says

Students in the capital of Illinois are not allowed to wear hats, bandannas, sunglasses, pajama pants or slippers in school buildings. And that dress code now extends to their bedrooms and kitchen tables.

“We don’t need students in pajamas and all those other things while on their Zoom conferences,” Jason Wind, the district’s director of student support, explained during an online board meeting of Springfield Public Schools this week. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

New Covid-19 Cases Top 50,000 in US for Second Straight Day

WSJ via @MSN - August 14

New coronavirus cases in the U.S. topped 50,000 for the second day in a row, as countries around the world struggled to curb the virus’s spread.

Total cases in the U.S. exceeded 5.2 million, about a quarter of the world-wide total, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The nation’s death toll rose by about 1,000 to more than 167,000. That was down from the previous day’s tally, which was the highest daily total since May 27.

The seven-day average of new infections topped the 14-day average in 13 states and Washington, D.C., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data, suggesting that cases were rising in those areas. When a seven-day average is higher than a 14-day average it suggests an increase. Looking at averages also helps smooth out data anomalies. ...

New details emerged Thursday about how hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccines will be distributed in the U.S. and who will bear the cost. The U.S. government will pay for the vaccines and their distribution, and is working with commercial health insurers to offer the shots free of charge and without a copay, according to Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A collaboration between the federal government and the health-care industry would handle distribution, Mr. Mango said. ...

---

This Is Where I Stand

NY Times - David Brooks - August 14

Radicals are not my cup of tea, but I’m grateful for them. The radicals who brought us Occupy Wall Street and the Bernie Sanders campaign gave the problem of income inequality a prominence it wouldn’t have had without them. ...

When they are making big change — the American Revolution, busting the trusts — these conservative radicals channel revolutionary impulses into reformist action. Lincoln had to slowly bring a whole nation around to the abolition of slavery. He had to compromise and gather a broad coalition to pass the 13th Amendment.

Today, we’re in the middle of another historic transition when dramatic change is necessary if we are to preserve what we love about America. The crises tearing our society are well known: economic inequality, racial injustice, dissolving families and communities, a crisis of legitimacy. ...

During crises like these, each of us has to take a stand, to be clear on which causes we champion and which position we occupy on the political landscape. This is hard, because we’re in a period of flux. ...


Fred C. Dobbs said...

One can only imagine the protests which will
ensue if there are voting irregularities from
vote-suppression/polling-station unavailability/
post-office mishandling on the upcoming Election Day.

Barack Obama pointedly criticizes Trump administration over moves to starve Postal Service

via @BostonGlobe - August 14

Barack Obama on Friday slammed the Trump administration for caring more about “suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus,” as he decried recent moves to starve the United States Postal Service ahead of a presidential election in which millions are expected to vote by mail.

Obama, who generally avoids wading into political battles in his post-presidency but has been vocal about voter suppression efforts in recent weeks, made the comments in a series of tweets on Friday morning.

“Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open. They can’t be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus,” the former president tweeted. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(Okay, protest demonstrations
may begin sooner. Next week?)

Postal Service warns 46 states their voters could be disenfranchised by delayed mail-in ballots

Washington Post via @BostonGlobe - August 14

Anticipating an avalanche of absentee ballots, the U.S. Postal Service recently sent detailed letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted - adding another layer of uncertainty ahead of the high-stakes presidential contest.

The letters sketch a grim possibility for the tens of millions of Americans eligible for a mail-in ballot this fall: Even if people follow all of their state's election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes.

The Postal Service's warnings of potential disenfranchisement came as the agency undergoes a sweeping organizational and policy overhaul amid dire financial conditions. Cost-cutting moves have already delayed mail delivery by as much as a week in some places, and a new decision to decommission 10 percent of the Postal Service's sorting machines sparked widespread concern the slowdowns will only worsen. Rank-and-file postal workers say the move is ill-timed and could sharply diminish the speedy processing of flat mail, including letters and ballots. ...

Some states anticipate 10 times the normal volume of election mail. Six states and D.C. received warnings that ballots could be delayed for a narrow set of voters. But the Postal Service gave 40 others - including the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida - more-serious warnings that their long-standing deadlines for requesting, returning or counting ballots were "incongruous" with mail service and that voters who send ballots in close to those deadlines may become disenfranchised. ...

Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail ballots lead to widespread voter fraud and in the process politicized the USPS. This week, he said he opposes emergency funding for the agency - which has repeatedly requested more resources - because of Democratic efforts to expand mail voting.

The Postal Service's structural upheaval alone has led experts and lawmakers from both parties to worry about timely delivery of prescription medications and Social Security checks, as well as ballots.

"The slowdown is another tool in the toolbox of voter suppression," said Celina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. "That's no secret. We do think this is a voter-suppression tactic." ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

USPS backtracks on removing collection boxes
USPS backtracks on removing collection boxes

Newsweek - August 14

he U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has reportedly backtracked on a decision to remove public postal collection boxes, the iconic blue steel mailboxes where people can drop off their mail, in the lead up to the November elections.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden commented on the boxes' removal as officials claim that they been removed from areas within New York, Oregon, Montana and Indiana.

Their removal coincides with recent USPS slowdowns, a lack of funding and a decommissioning of 10 percent of all its mail-sorting machines which threaten to potentially disenfranchise at least 226 million voters in 46 states who may largely use mail-in voting as a way to avoid COVID-19 exposure at polling places on Election Day during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Many states have laws requiring ballots to be thrown out if not counted on or shortly after Election Day. ...

(On good authority - Mrs Fred - the USPS is removing signs on collection boxes
specifying when mail is to be collected, probably to indicate that it won't
be collected from these boxes henceforth, but feel free to drop items in.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Newsweek:

... In a statement, Kim Frum, a Senior USPS Public Relations Representative said that the removal of the collection boxes was a cost-saving measure.

"When a collection box consistently receives very small amounts of mail for months on end, it costs the Postal Service money in fuel and workhours for letter carriers ... The decision to remove a mail box is made on a case-by-case basis and if, for example, that mail box is the only means for sending a letter or other correspondence in a neighborhood... the Postal Service could decide to keep it there," Frum wrote.

Anyone with a residential or business mailbox can use it to send outgoing mail, Frum added.

Newsweek contacted USPS for further information. ...

In Portland, Oregon, after a photo of several USPS collection boxes being removed from city streets went viral, USPS spokesperson David Rupert told KOIN 6 News that the boxes were to be replaced "with newer, more secure models" after being vandalized.

"Every location that had a collection box will keep a collection box," Rupert added.

In a Thursday interview on Fox Business Network, Republican President Donald Trump said that the stalemate over the next coronavirus stimulus bill could hold up funds requested by congressional Democrats to help the USPS process mail-in votes during the November elections.

"If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money," Trump said. "That means they can't have universal mail-in voting; they just can't have it." He later clarified that he supports the USPS funding, if Democrats drop additional provisions in the stimulus bill seeking funds for "poorly managed" cities and states economically impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Trump Denies Postal Service Threats, Says Democrats Can Negotiate Funding

On the same day, the USPS sent letters notifying that 46 different states that recent USPS slowdowns could cause mail-in ballots to arrive too late to be counted on or shortly after Election Day on November 3.

"Cost-cutting moves have already delayed mail delivery by as much as a week in some places, and a new decision to decommission 10 percent of the Postal Service's sorting machines sparked widespread concern the slowdowns will only worsen," The Washington Post reported.

This would potentially disenfranchise 226 million voters or more as many Americans may choose to vote by mail to avoid possible COVID-19 exposure at polling places.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Hmmm.

'Big Belly' technology is called for!

Collection boxes could use sensors to broadcast when they do not
need to be visited because they are empty.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

not ... visited because they are empty.

I take it all back. Too easy to abuse this.

The rule must be to visit them anyway, because
such sensors might be defective or faulty or
(maybe?) just ignored, so boxes must be visited
regardless.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

'This is a political calculation'

Romney criticizes Trump's mail-in voting attacks

USA Today via @MSN - August 15

During an interview with the Sutherland Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank, Romney referenced evidence that mail-in voting as a system does not increase the likelihood of voter fraud, despite Trump's recent attacks on its legitimacy, for which he offers no evidence.

"In the case of voting by mail, the good news is if there was some allegation of impropriety, you'd be able to get the ballots and look at them," Romney said.

"This is a political calculation," the former presidential candidate said in addressing the claim that Trump doesn't want Americans to vote by mail because he thinks "polls show that people who want to vote by mail tend to vote for Vice President Biden." ...

"When politicians attack a judicial system, attack a voting system ... attack of free press, these things threaten the foundation upon which not only our own democracy but democracies around the world," he said. ...

This comes on the heels of congressional Democratic leaders calling for an intelligence report on foreign interference in the 2020 election to be made public. ...

Trump has received widespread blowback — and accusations of voter suppression — for his targeting of the USPS.

“Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open,” former President Barack Obama said on Twitter Friday night in response to Trump's recent moves.

“They can’t be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus," Obama wrote.

Trump admitted this month that he wants to cut funding from the USPS to squash mail-in voting.

"They want $25 billion for the post office," Trump said on the Fox Business Network on Thursday, referring to a coronavirus relief package proposed by Democrats.

"Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump told Fox Business, "but if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting."

Trump has threatened Nevada with legal action and Michigan with halted federal funding this month because of their plans to expand mail-in voting access.

The USPS has also warned that recent internal changes mean that ballots requested by their deadlines and promptly mailed back may not be delivered in time to be counted for the November election.

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