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I was idly surfing YouTube last night...

...after following a link in a comment somewhere to a video of the biggest glacier calving event ever filmed. Saw more calving events, some icebergs flipping upside down in the water, stuff like that. Just clicking on the array of "videos you might like" that comes up whenever one video is done.

Ended up with a compilation video from the U.S. Army from 1961 about the creation of "Camp Century" in northwestern Greenland. It had everything - fancy big snow/ice chewers/blowers from Sweden to carve tunnels, Super-big SnoCats to haul megatons' worth of materiel from the Thule airbase, a Malamute mascot named "Mukluk," and a 2Mw 'semi-portable' nuclear reactor. The whole thing was under the ice of the Greenland ice sheet, covered over with new ice so it was invisible. Except for scattered emergency exits like Army green pipes sticking out of the ice. Jeez, guys. Why didn't you paint 'em white?

It's the usual newsreel style PR fluff piece from the good old Cold War days about a project "at the top of the world," and quite entertaining [28 minutes long, but you can get it in 4 parts]. So then I went Googling for more info on this "Camp Century." Sure enough, this innocuous (but impressive and expensive) effort to colonize the Greenland ice sheet wasn't so innocuous after all...

Project Iceworm was the code name for a US Army Top Secret proposal during the Cold War (a study was started in 1958), to build a network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. The ultimate objective of placing medium-range missiles under the ice - close enough to Moscow to strike targets within the Soviet Union - was kept secret from the Danish government. To study the feasibility of working under the ice, a highly publicized "cover" project, known as "Camp Century" was launched in 1960...
Watching the PR video, the sheer gumption of the project seems positively... patriotic. It doesn't hurt that the constantly reiterated 'under-theme' is of scientific research and experiments in the arctic environment, of course. Here's a description of the camp from the above Wiki link...
The "official purose" of Camp Century, as explained by the US Department of Defense to Danish government officials in 1960, was to test various construction techniques under Arctic conditions, explore practical problems with a semi-mobile nuclear reactor, as well as supporting scientific experiments on the Icecap. A total of 21 trenches were cut and covered with dome roofs within which prefabricated building[s] were erected. With a total length of 3,000 meters [3 kilometers] these tunnels also contained a hospital, a shop, a theater and a church. The total number of inhabitants was around 200. From 1960 until 1963 the electricity supply was provided by means of the world's first mobile/portable nuclear reactor, designated the PM-2A and designed by Alco for the US Army. Water was supplied by melting glaciers and tested to determine if germs such as the plague were present.
It was rather quickly discovered by the Corps of Engineers that the ice sheet is constantly moving outward from the center, so the Camp Century roofs and tunnels began listing and collapsing. The camp was abandoned in 1965 and the reactor removed, along with the Whack-a-Mole mobile missile project.

Just ruminating on how amazingly weird this world's Political/Military/Industrial complex has been in my lifetime. Those of us born after World War II - and its 'gift' of nuclear SuperWeapons [aka WMDs] actually used against civilian populations in war - are the first generations of humans born and raised in a world where the political will to make humanity extinct is as clear and present as the weapons designed to do so. Fortunately, that Sword of Damocles has had its hanging thread considerably strengthened in the decades since, to the point where our grandchildren are not spending their formative years constantly under the shadow of violent mass extinction meted out (ultimately) by stupendously wealthy oligarchs so soul-numbingly greedy that they'd rather wipe out civilization and/or humanity entirely than share with the rest of us.

Not really sure why I'm writing this diary. Maybe to remind us that we're all in this together and need each other if anything hopeful is ever to be done in this world.

Or maybe to point out that during 'interesting times' (usually involving war of hot or cold variety), government isn't necessarily concerned with what the people may think about their activities - and will lie with impunity whenever it determines for itself that we have no need to know what's really going on.

Possibly to suggest that critical thinking in light of past experience doesn't support blind faith in political parties, individual political leaders, or the political process itself to have our desires or our best interests in mind.

Who knows? What does this trip down memory lane (some of the details about these projects weren't released under FOIA until 2011, some remains classified) conjure in your mind that relates to where we find ourselves socio-politically at this 'interesting' juncture of history?

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Comment Preferences

  •  It reminds me that we are just (9+ / 0-)

    toddlers in a crib, playing with grenades.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:35:09 AM PST

  •  Yeah, except for that climate change thing. (8+ / 0-)
    Fortunately, that Sword of Damocles has had its hanging thread considerably strengthened in the decades since, to the point where our grandchildren are not spending their formative years constantly under the shadow of violent mass extinction meted out (ultimately) by stupendously wealthy oligarchs so soul-numbingly greedy that they'd rather wipe out civilization and/or humanity entirely than share with the rest of us
    It's going to fuck us over more than a nuclear war would have.
    •  I doubt it. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, Sandino, Dvalkure, Lujane

      Depending of course on how hot it eventually gets. Civilization will fall well before it gets all the way to universally fatal. Which would be an issue with the sun, not gases in the atmosphere. Predicted over the next ~300-500 years of already supposedly irreversible human contribution. From models that are weighted with climate extremes we [think we] know from geo-historical evidence. Unless our planet's orbiting radius gets a lot smaller, we are never going to be Venus (where the surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead).

      A few hefty volcanoes could cool things down considerably, in lieu of which I'm sticking with what's predicted - with a fast-forward they neglected to account for in the models.

      Unless the sun decides to expand or contract all of a sudden, this planet won't get THAT hot. However hot it gets, we'll have to adapt. All of the humans I've ever known are smart enough to go to higher ground as the water rises (or have someone lead them to higher ground). Sea level rise is a few centimeters a year. Coastal cities will move uphill when they have to. If the cities don't, the people who used to live in them will. I promise.

      Biggest threats are intensified storms. Quite apart from that but possibly linked to what's happening system-wide (even Saturn is experiencing global warming, it seems), tectonic movement seems to have reached a higher average magnitude. Which will eventually translate to those volcanic forces, but we'll ignore that...

      Climate change is not the same kind of threat, by magnitude or by immediacy. It's something we can use to unite humanity rather than divide it, if we so choose. It's a potential, but one that hints something relatively 'good' in human relations could be made of it. If we tried hard. You never know.

      •  Except for political boundaries being an issue (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, Dvalkure, Lujane

        To get this part out of the way, nuclear war and climate change are not comparable in that their reasons for being and both the size and scope of their respective damage is not going to be quantified so similarly.

        All of the humans I've ever known are smart enough to go to higher ground as the water rises (or have someone lead them to higher ground). Sea level rise is a few centimeters a year. Coastal cities will move uphill when they have to. If the cities don't, the people who used to live in them will. I promise.
        In order to assess the scale of catastrophe associated with climate change, we should take into consideration our standing in human history. We're only about 100 years forward from a time when empires and colonies still very much ran political boundaries. Prior to that, the Old World of Europe and Asia stood juxtaposed to continents with majorities of the populations as indigenous people, for a grand total world population of an eighth less than present day.

        Prior to that, before feudalism and empires and civilization in general, you could say that nomadic people were freer to escape to higher lands and had the ability to glean the particular knowledge of the natural world that comes with centuries of learning and teaching during a relatively stable climate that isn't happening today. The change is far too dramatic now and the system is only beginning to adjust in response to our dramatic change to the atmosphere. Secondly, the natural world doesn't adjust with the same autonomy or "flexibility" as human adjustment, and the very threat of mass extinction alone can stymie our hubris. Dangers in migration 150,000 years ago were largely secluded to hardship from the elements. Human encounters less frequent. Now, we have hardship from the elements to combine with ubiquitous human contact. We have environmental catastrophes like Chernobyl, slavery, tribal warfare and terrorism, on a scale never before seen.

        We're a world now divided into over 210 sovereign countries. Each one is experiencing climate change in unique, but similar, ways. What do you do if you live in Maldives? With what do you replace New York? Obviously, these are abstract, rhetorical scenarios. But again, it's not the best exercise to compare nuclear war with climate change.

        I would agree climate change is not the same kind of threat. But it's a form we're seeing for the first time in recorded history with 7 billion souls living about. Volcanoes are a threat in their own right, but I disagree that they are not taken to consideration. The reality is that volcanoes like Krakatoa and Pinatubo are the most memorable in the past several centuries, yet have not dramatically cooled the climate over the long term. In my view, they are simply not frequent enough to be a major part of a risk assessment on a time scale lasting a couple hundred years, which is the crux of the major warming period we're entering. It's like doubting the likelihood that every box of crayons will have a red one, because of the chance that some goof up in the factory left it out in one box. Volcanoes may be stochastic, but then the change in the atmosphere predicts something of very high probability in terms of physics. If you extend the time scale by tens of thousands of years, yes, volcanic events like Toba would begin to appear more likely.

        But back to politics, I can't even comprehend the xenophobic hostilities and wars that will likely come to pass against this backdrop. El Nino episodes alone have been associated with sharp increases in civil conflict. There's not a good alternative to a situation in which sea level rises and depressed economic output push people, literally, to boundaries and the flashpoints that would develop. If anything to make this all relevant, I'd argue that climate change makes nuclear war far more likely, and that's how climate change is inherently more dangerous.

        "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

        by rovertheoctopus on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:04:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To be honest, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rovertheoctopus, Dvalkure, Lujane

          the debateable (on scientific levels) scale of climate change over centuries really isn't that big a deal for me. What is a big deal is doing what I can while I'm still here to stop human contributions to it, and teaching the younger generations that it's important to keep on engaging that fight. I'd love nothing better than to go with the old Native American (was it just Souix?) weighing of current desires against the likely ramifications 7 generations down the line. It's not likely short-sighted and terminally greedy humans - er, white guys - will ever be able to accomplish that, though.

          This planet has experienced some radical climate changes in the totality of its existence, not all of them amenable to the survival of human (or other) life. Granted that there's microbes around who can survive most anything. It's livability for humans we are most concerned about.

          Our perpetual internecine warfare makes us blind to the bigger picture, where very survivability is concerned. But since in the movies it's always the greater outside threat that unites us in the end, we could be taking global warming that way. We could at least determine amongst ourselves that we shouldn't keep pushing the envelope with filth. Less filth is good for all, for however long that lasts.

          If it's fated in the stars that this planet become uninhabitable by the forms of life it has evolved so far, then there's nothing we can do to stop it. The universe won't miss us when we're gone. But if it's anything less than that, it's one of the more significant tests of our adaptability ("Crown of Creation" and/or Evolution). I hope we pass, but we might not. No skin of any individual's teeth, since we're all mortal by design or happenstance anyway.

          Challenge and hardship is the story of our existence. We either survive or we don't - it's an adventure writ large, constantly renewing cast of characters. As is the nature of life and its evolution. If we can't get past our thirst for the blood of our own kind, we deserve to be extinct.

          The world will do what it does. We can't stop it from turning, we cant stop it from shrugging us off as a failed experiment if that's the luck of the draw on cosmic billiards (or something less dramatic). We can at least attend to our own filth, the stoopid tendency to foul our own nest. The effort can bring us together. And if any generation is to be "the last," isn't it best that we atone for our sins as best we can before we go into the night?

          Thanks for the thoughtful post.

          •  No shit. (0+ / 0-)
            To be honest, (0+ / 0-)
            the debateable (on scientific levels) scale of climate change over centuries really isn't that big a deal for me.
            It's never been a big deal for you.
            If it's fated in the stars that this planet become uninhabitable by the forms of life it has evolved so far, then there's nothing we can do to stop it.
            Bullshit. We still have a chance to beat climate change, and we had an even better chance back when you started campaigning against nuclear power.
            •  May I respectfully ask (0+ / 0-)

              why the personal animosity? I honestly don't get it. You act as if I am solely responsible for anthropogenic global climate change, and I know for a fact I'm not. Since I don't think we've ever met in real life, I'm wondering where that comes from. Because it's so bizarre on its face.

              Can you help me out here?

      •  Climate change is going to set off a series (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, Lujane

        of catastrophes. Warming and rising sea levels is only the beginning.

        A model put forward by Lee Kump, Alexander Pavlov and Michael Arthur in 2005 suggests that oceanic anoxic events may have been characterized by upwelling of water rich in highly toxic hydrogen sulfide gas, which was then released into the atmosphere. This phenomenon would likely have poisoned plants and animals and caused mass extinctions. Furthermore, it has been proposed that the hydrogen sulfide rose to the upper atmosphere and attacked the ozone layer, which normally blocks the deadly ultraviolet radiation of the Sun. The increased UV radiation caused by this ozone depletion would have amplified the destruction of plant and animal life. Fossil spores from strata recording the Permian extinction show deformities consistent with UV radiation. This evidence, combined with fossil biomarkers of green sulfur bacteria, indicates that this process could have played a role in that mass extinction event, and possibly other extinction events. The trigger for these mass extinctions appears to be a warming of the ocean caused by a rise of carbon dioxide levels to about 1000 parts per million.
        link
        •  Sure, that's entirely possible. (0+ / 0-)

          So is the likelihood we end up as a target of the cosmic billiards game from "The Oort-Thing Cometh." We could go on indefinitely describing possible Armageddons. None of it would change anything real.

          We can only do about the ramifications of what's coming what we have the power to do. About our own contributions to the processes. Beyond that it's just extinction porn. A rather depressing exercise in doomsday thinking. The sun is going to go all red giant one of these days, you know. Talk about deep-fried!!! So what? You and I and everyone we'll ever know will be so long gone by then that the universe not noticing will be absurdly anticlimactic, to say the least. No one will care. Least of all the impersonal mechanics of the universe we've had the privilege of inhabiting for a blink of time. In time.

          We are currently enmeshed in a mass extinction event, largely of our own making. The only point in noticing it would be to see if there's something we could possibly do to stop it. If so, we need to get busy. If not, we should enjoy what's left.

      •  recced for optimism (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau
        It's a potential, but one that hints something relatively 'good' in human relations could be made of it. If we tried hard. You never know.
        Which we sorely need. Tx !

        “Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who agitate!” Julian Bond

        by Dvalkure on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:03:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Methane is what's going to fry us (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, Lorinda Pike, tacet, Dvalkure, Lujane

      There are some major, dramatic anomalies in methane levels over the Barents Sea at the moment. Not sure how the winter darkness will mitigate it, but I suppose if it hovers over the atmosphere long enough by the time the sun comes to melt down the Arctic, the heat this year could get biblical.

      http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/...

      UAH already announcing that January 2013 was (in eyeballing this chart) the 2nd hottest on record after 2010.

      http://www.drroyspencer.com/...

      The dark undertones in all this--the general state of the climate so to speak--is the persistent, repeated bouts of heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes, and diseases that have come with just 0.7 degrees C of warming, never mind the 6 degrees on the fat tail of this.

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

      by rovertheoctopus on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:13:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't see us as toddlers anymore. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, randallt, Dvalkure

    Adolescents fits. The problem is that a lot of us know playing with the explosive devices is asking for death. We don't have the power to fight the ones in power who do, and like this situation, we usually don't even have accurate information to know what is going on. The real story is covered by official lies and misinformation.

    We are getting access to a lot of that information. Thanks to declassification and the INTERNET. :)  

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:09:08 PM PST

  •  I Disagree There's Ever Been Will To Make ALL of (4+ / 0-)

    humanity extinct.

    In both global nuclear war and climate change, I think the elites expect to survive just fine with a sufficient support population after a mass dieoff.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:17:18 PM PST

    •  Huh. Now that you mention it... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lorinda Pike, Dvalkure

      they probably did/do. Though by the time I was well past the Cuban Missile Crisis (when I determined not to be afraid because I didn't believe they REALLY wanted to make us extinct), the counter-subject of Nuclear Winter came along from the scientific community. We'd all freeze in the dark.

      Because it was after the crisis and before global warming, it cannot have been the reason the oligarchy backed down.* Honestly, global politics are terminally deceptive at all times, it's almost like us and the 'bad guys' (Communists) were just playing a board game, not truly intended to result in The End Of Us All...

      It's a dynamic. They pushed the envelope so severely in 1962 that they learned better than to push it that hard ever again. So they don't, apart from notable propaganda efforts the public knows to take with a grain of salt. Global warming is an existential threat over hundreds of years. Nobody knows if that scenario will get shifted into overdrive, but lately it seems to be looking likely.

      *I know someone who spent a career in the State Dept. Through the years, I've asked when I see him, "How's the state of the world today?" He has always answered...

      "Desperate, as usual."

      As it is designed to be, IMO.

    •  "greenhouses could preserve plant life, animals... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, Simplify

      could be bred and slaughtered..."

      "...the prevailing feeling would be one of nostalgia for those left behind, combined with a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead!"

      --Dr Strangelove

  •  Nuclear Weapons were a boon to global peace. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    And I'm not being snarky.

    Think of this: as scary as MAD might have been, it stopped our generation from having to live through another World War. (And I'm not just speaking of Americans, here, I especially mean Europeans.)

    Our parents' generation had to live through WWII, the greatest conflict the globe has ever seen; Our grandparents' generation had to live through WWI, the second greatest conflict the world has ever seen.

    Without thermonuclear weapons, there would have been a WWIII, probably fought between the USA and the USSR, with casualties that certainly would have exceeded those in WWII. Europe, the likely war zone, would have been stomped flatter than it already had been. Strategic conventional bombing would likely have come to US cities, etc.

    None of this took place because Thermonuclear weapons were just too dangerous to use. Thank god.

    "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

    by Wheever on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:43:20 PM PST

    •  It's easy to believe we never had WWIII (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau

      but I think that's because we've been living in a sort of intellectual, consumer-blinded bubble in the US for a couple of generations now.

      I'm way too distracted to look it up now, but I've seen well-made arguments that WWIII, the Cold War, went on quite violently after WWII.

      Look at the wars and civil wars in Korea, Afghanistan (the Soviet One), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia.... there's a few million casualties right there, and only in Asia. Then the various rightist regimes we raised and aided in South America; Marcos in the Philippines...

      All told, war-deaths in the millions; maimed at a higher number; impoverished and made refugees even more so.

      World War III was never officially declared, but there's sure as hell been a lot of murders for a "Cold" war. It looks slight in comparison to WWII. Probably not so slight in comparison to WWI.


      Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

      by Jim P on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:06:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a matter of scale (0+ / 0-)

        Combine all the post-WWII conflicts together and it doesn't begin to add up to the first world war, never mind the second. Not in fatalities, not in material, not in scope.

        "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

        by Wheever on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:28:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not buying it, (0+ / 0-)

      but thanks for commenting.

      During WWII there was a considerable "Arms Race" on to be the first to develop this application of poor Einstein's E=mc^2 [it was inevitable, alas]. Which, after said development, both Einstein and Oppenheimer spoke out vehemently against (and rued their roles). You do know that at Trinity there was a betting pool on whether or not the yield would ignite the atmosphere and wipe out life on earth, don't you? It's kind of like experiments going on right now with the theoretical potential to create black holes that might swallow the earth, or cause an instantaneous phase change in the state of 'reality' to make it impossible for life ever to have existed in the first place. They don't care what the risks are. They're Boys With Toys.

      They indeed did risk life on earth in toto, and that's exactly what the public was led to believe would happen. They did it anyway, while stoking the public's fear of just that. Really.

  •  All sorts of wackadoodle Cold War projects; (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Dvalkure

    I'm currently watching a cheerful 'patriotic' circa 1960 video on the Nike Hercules program, touting this anti-aircraft missile system as a "good neighbor" to suburbanite civilians behind their white picket fences. Since there were >200 Nike bases built all around America's metropolitan areas, the Army was very eager to make them seem as part of the community as the baseball field and the public school.

    The thing is, the Nike base in your backyard had nuclear warheads. Yep; to be sure of destroying that formation of incoming Soviet bombers, most bases had at least a handful of nuclear warheads ready and waiting. Mounted at the tip of a missile loaded with highly explosive rocket fuel. In at least one case, a Nike base suffered an accidental (conventional) explosion that killed about a dozen people and made a major mess of the place. And with the rise of ICBM's, they were obsolete overnight.

    Good neighbors!  

  •  It's not a question of adaptation. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    We can adapt to hot temperatures. We can't adapt to crop failure and starvation.

    Tell me a story of deep delight. - Robert Penn Warren

    by bisleybum on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:42:21 PM PST

    •  True. (0+ / 0-)

      That doesn't mean a few wouldn't survive. We've excellent hydroponic, artificial lighting systems these days, developed and perfected for growing marijuana. Imagine that! Sure, you need electricity, but despite what you may have heard from your electric company, electrons aren't all that hard to come by. There are scenarios where humans survive, though not enough of them to matter.

  •  LOL (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    As a geologist, I couldn't help laughing at the ignorance of the Corps of Engineers.

    It was rather quickly discovered by the Corps of Engineers that the ice sheet is constantly moving outward from the center, so the Camp Century roofs and tunnels began listing and collapsing.
    They were only about 100 years behind in their science.
    •  I know, right? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Harm, Simplify

      They of course knew that glaciers move, actually 'flow' downhill from the high country where they accumulate to the ocean where they calve into icebergs. Yet another gravity related incident.

      They probably figured the Greenland sheet was stable because it covers the entirety of the 'island' to a fairly even depth - isn't flowing from mountains to sea. But it wouldn't have taken too much time, energy or money to test the stability of the ice cap for a few years before they went hog wild with this nutty idea. Which occurred to them in 1958, and wasn't finished until 1961. By then surely the first tunnel was showing signs of ice movement.

      Reminds me of the sloppy siting of nuclear plants in places like the US and Japan. They ignored the amassing evidence of plate tectonics, only to "discover" some 40 years later (when they were seeking license renewals and plate tectonics had become accepted geoscience) that there's faults everywhere. Why, one of 'em runs right through the reactor pad of the North Anna I plant - I got to see it and laugh at their solution while digging the pit. Just wire the earth together with rebar, that's the ticket! And yes, the NRC approved it.

      These folks are no Einsteins... §;o)

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