HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Sunday, August 28, 2005

BIG BEAST BLASTS BIG QUEASY- WATERWORLD WIPEOUT

EASY SUFFERING AGAIN+ HOWSTON FLEES NOWHERE
my article on global warming
9-24 Although Hurricane RITA only came 150 miles or so from NO, that was enough to cause rains that rolled off the saturated ground and filled Ponchartrain to 7ft above normal- the same as the worst of Katrina. Surge did serious damage along middle and west La. shorelines, worse than Katrina. Predictably the shodilly repaired canal walls failed on the Industrial Canal, flooding the poor stinking city again, starting with the devastated Ninth Ward northeast of the Quarter. ("It will only flood the areas that were flooded before," said one official in what was supposed to be good news.). Corp of Engineers tried to minimize and deny problem at first. If power and pumps can keep pumping on 17th St. Canal and repairs raced to breaks, maybe flooding can be controlled. Levees can apparently often only be repaired when the flow has stopped- when both sides are equal and city has flooded, but the difference was, they had ability to block the entrance to the Canal, and they had the repair material, equipment, + people in place. They are optimistic, saying the latest water can be removed in a week, but probably more like 2-3. Nobody cares much about the Ninth Ward.
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The disastrous attempted evacuation of Houston shows how brilliant the 36 hr. evacuation of New Orleans was. This solid clog of cars was what was expected in a major city evacuation- and why one has never been attempted before, and was never considered a possibility in nuclear war planning. Houston does flood in places, but since it's not below sea level, such a massive evacuation wasn't called for- people die in evacuation- the fried elderly bus (with exploding oxygen tanks- the horror), heart attacks of people stuck in polluted traffic jams breathing exhaust. NYT: "The question is how many people will be gravely ill and die sitting on the side of the freeway," said State Representative Garnet Coleman, Democrat of Houston. "Dying not from the storm, but from the evacuation."

Some Houstonians went North to Lufkin, more into the actual path of the hurricane, which made landfall at 3:42am on the TX-LA border. Area has massive chemical and oil industry and also is the location of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in several huge salt caverns along the border. Interviewed director of that once.
Idiot Mayor-Gov. didn't order all lanes out, like Nagin did in NOLA, as they alarmed people with apocalyptic possibilities. Houston, at 5 million people, is 4 times bigger than NO, and it has only 2-3 main routes out: 45N and 10W (and 59W), whereas NOLA had 4 routes: 10W, 10W to 55N, Ponchartrain Causeway, 10E to 59N. From Galveston only route out was 45N- evacuation was justified there.

My solution for NOLA is clear a mile wide strip of city by Lake- the lowest parts, dig it up down to 100 ft.and use that to fill in rest of below sea level city to (all parts that are destroyed) 1 ft above sea level. Then move lakefront the mile in to new levees. Build huge flood gates at Gulf entrance to Ponchartrain. Alternatively build network of canals, and dig dirt from there, but that may increase flooding hazard. Either proposal would require wholesale destruction of parts of city, lest there be patchwork of high and low places. Alternatively, houses could all be raised by stilts or a concrete base the height below sea level. Since they don't have basements or real foundations, popping them loose is much easier.

KATRINA DROWNS BIG EASY- WATERWORLD WIPEOUT

9/15 WELL, thought onetime home N'Awlins dodged a bullet- only got 96mph winds (just barely Cat 2, 15mph less than Cat 3)- eyewall sort of broke after hit land and was 30 miles to east. Oh No- delayed breech of Lake levees- 2pm Teus- and NO is flooding!!! Typical- cable news dopes don't know what's important- haven't heard anything else about it- get the helicopter over the breech!! Instead of rescueing people one by one, rescue the city- PLUG the BREECH!! Ponchartrain is 7.5 ft higher than normal, so must add those numbers onto below sea level to get depth of flooding (29 ft max in northern zones by Lake). Incredible, had 100 years to (huge Times-Picayune series) prepare for this, but FEMA and Corp. of Engineers don't have sinkable barges and long metal or concrete panels to immediately be slapped onto levee ruptures!! They just watched dumbly for 54 hours as city filled with water, then encouragingly said water level isn't rising any more. BECAUSE IT IS SAME AS THE LAKE. $100,000 to stop breeches or $100 billion to rebuild city. (NO's historic battle between land and water).

Although the weather service and FEMA helicopter tour reported to Washington that the levees had failed Monday morning, it took 30 hours before media realized levees were ruptured (didn't even understand extensive canal and 350 mi. levee system), because blithering Brownie (now in charge of Girl Scouts) reissuringly stated, "I don't want to alarm anyone that New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That isn't happening." So people went to bed on Mon. night and woke to find 5-20 ft of water filling their house, or in horror- washing over their beds in the powerless dark.. Maps.google.com shows zoomable maps, satellite pics, and flooded Katrina satellite pics... down to house level. Compare the map and satellite size of lower delta to see the huge erosion (30 sq mil/yr) of the wetlands.

Now (9/16) levees are still breeched in three places and repair attempts continue (CNN map): combined current death toll over 1000. They've sandbagged one break- 17th Ave. levee, enough to pump out water in canal to finish a permanant repair and drain there, but really can't pump out city until all breeches are completely sealed (they seem to be pumping out city but only by blocked canal entrances on Lake- 2 breeches on London Ave. canal and one massive one from a loose barge canal on Industrial Canal- a ship channel that connects the River and Lake to the Gulf- remain)- but the 7.5 ft high surge has receded, causing much drying. Wildy hopeful claims now- dry by Oct 2nd, but even when pumped out, city will take months to really dry. Claim 40 pumps are working, but does that mean they have electricity?- the power station for the pumps themselves was underwater. After hurricane water was higher in city than Lake, and Corp. of Engineer head was talking of opening (BBC) more levee walls to allow water to escape. Ruptured canals on east and west usually drain pumped water north from 22 pumping stations (with 148 electric pumps) into the Lake, and were protected by only 2 ft thick flat concrete slabs anchored to a 15 ft verticle sheet of steel, instead of 3-6' of tapered reinforced concrete. $10-50 million of 3 ft square 25 ft deep concrete pillars could have reinforced canals levees+ prevented breeches, but these damn canals tripled or quadrupled levee exposure. Weren't there gates on the Lake that could have been closed when the canal walls failed????? We are Americans- it's simpler to ignore risk and pay 2000 times more. 3 explosive charges by terrorists could have achieved all the same results, since the power would have failed under flooding and there was no capability to repair breeches. Almost every other city in world has dealt with swamp by filling it in- Boston, San Fran, etc., usually by cutting down hills. Only NO and Holland (half country below sea level) did it on the cheap- by pumping water out and leaving it below sea level. My '98 Maui Time article on global warming predicted more and more devastating hurricanes.

Need huge self-powered water pumps- Navy dredging barges, ship bilge pumps- they needed 22 before to keep swamp from flooding and probably 2 times more to actually remove the 60-100 square miles of water- 66 new massive pumps brought into a city with almost no road connection (They have brought back 40 of the pumps). 3 months before city is actually dry; now nightmare stench of polluted warm corpse and disease ridden city bathtub water. City is going to stink so badly, nobody will stay or maybe return. Disease deaths could start wholesale by Sunday (yup, first reports Sun-350 people in center hospitalized w dysentery), when desperate people drink the contaminated sewage that's inundated city and get cholera, typhoid, dysentary; maybe even standard tropical plagues: malaria + yellow fever from mosquitoes; plague from millions of rats. Huge numbers of snakes, and few alligators reported too. Maybe 1000-2000 initial deaths and 2-5 times that from disease. New Orleans is hottest city in US, not literally (like Phoenix + Las Vegas), but always 90-100 degrees and 90-100% humidity.. and contaminated standing water soon becomes unspeakably foul. I remember showering there, drying off, and being soaked in sweat within 60 seconds. My roommate there got a little burn on his thumb from a hot beignet; they ended up carving off a third of his thumb after he got staph. They say 240 plants in MS+ LA made or used dioxanes, one of the most lethal substances known.

Meanwhile Bush had been looting levee reconstruction money (diverted 50% since 2001+ FEMA lost 1/3 of funding in last year) - this is homeland security. June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished." Village Voice reports, "On August 15, just two weeks before Katrina slammed into the U.S., the Pentagon boasted of spending $6.4-billion -- so far -- on 2,705 Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Iraq, all but 200 of them started since June 2004." A levee contracter in MN says ACE cancelled the project in the middle, explaining they were flat broke.

As I said to RI Nat. Guard head year and half ago, "Time to bring these guys home from Iraq to do their job as real homeland security." He disagreed. 35-37% of LA + MS Nat. Guard troops were in Iraq with their vehicles. Homeland Security skull Chertoff showed his nerdy incompetence when he insisted people in Convention Center were being fed and watered and FEMA hack Michael Brown had no idea 20,000 people were there; later he was roasted by Ted the Kop-ple; Bush showed too much concern against looters (product rescuers), and not enough concern for sick thirsty hungry dying residents. One can't discount the fact that NOLA is vastly Democratic and Bush admin. has enjoyed punishing the "opposition", as he did when he allowed the Enron + electric utilities domestic terrorism against CA in 2000 (90-fold price increases that led to Ahhnold putsch + vastly enriched his greatest contributor). It's not blacks he doesn't care about, it's the poor and middle class. The Dick Cheney just put in a NO appearance, scouting more no-bid contracts for Halliburton, where emergency room Dr. Ben Marble, who had lost his Gulfport house to Kat, called out, "go fok yourself, Mr. Cheney," echoing the phrase Cheney had cursed Sen. Leahy with a year ago (video). He was handcuffed and detained by the SS for 20 minutes an hour later. Bush avoided that in Jackson Sq. TV address by sterilizing the square of residents.

Of course dopes who shot at emergency workers or helicopters should get Cobra treatment. Of the poor people remaining in NO had no cars or friends to leave with (in poorest big city in US-28% below poverty line, and 64% black- America will be shocked at the depth of poverty, infirmity, and ignorence), some were looters lusting for booty and others people worried about them. NOLA criminals are as bad as the worst anywhere, and friends there say gang viciousness and murders have vastly increased in last 20 years. Gunman thugs had supposedly taken over the Convention Center, with 25,000 people, and repulsed several efforts by 11 man teams of police to enter it. Up to 70% of police quit, confronted with the loss of their homes, city, and massive looting of guns; but I remember them one night marching in a 4 man phalanx down Bourbon St., beating anyone who didn't scurry out of the way with nightsticks, inc. people facing other way. Tourists describe brutal and callous treatment by police and sherrifs. Arrival of now 58,000 National Guard + Army troops was greeted wth great relief, but horrific tales of arbitrary killings, as well as rapes and murders have been reported. Lots of banks in NO and casinos (why didn't these sail away?) in Mississippi and no power or police for days. Good time to be scuba expert, and there's no doubt crews of professionals have robbed tens of millions of dollars while media obsessed about stolen TV's.

Chertoff's qualifications for being HSA director was that he was Republican Council to the Whitewater investigation which spent 5 years investigating a simple land deal that lost the Clintons a lot of money (and exonerated him 4 times). In 2001 FEMA director Joe Albaugh was Bush's campaign manager, and Brown was his college roomate - a political incompetent with no knowledge of his post (commissioner of International Arabian Horse Association). " Browny, you're doing a heck of a job," said Bush on TV to tearily grateful semiphore frat winks by Brown.
NYT: "As he watched a line snaking for blocks through ankle-deep waters, New Orleans' emergency operations chief Terry Ebbert blamed the inadequate response on FEMA. " I haven't seen a single FEMA guy," he said. He added: "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans." " Bumbling Brown finally took the fall, but NYT details Bush lawyers squabbling over legalistic juristictions while Rome drowned. In reality, I think Bush inexplicably tried to do a full power grab from Blanco, who refused to give up control of her Nat. Guard, and then was punished by 3 days of inaction. The Insurrection Act wasn't necessary to be invoked in such a massive disaster. No doubt Blanco and Nagin were also out of their depth, but a modern large city has NEVER BEEN EVACUATED before. One also can't ignore the massive corruption in La. + NO that has misspent, diverted, or stole unknown amounts of levee reinforcing monies- note 17th St. leve on Jefferson Co. side stayed dry, preserving the white suburbs of Metarie, et. al. NBC News had 9/14 story about levee board corruption.

No one in this administration is able- La. Gov. hired respected former Clinton FEMA director to run show. Bush had gutted FEMA into patronage org: 11 of top 15 people were inexperienced political hacks. Amazingingly mayor Nagin said he will relieve all police and turn city over to Nat. Guard. This disaster and it's mishandling will do for vacationing bike-boy Bush what Andrew did for his father; erase what little popularity he has left. Think of him pressed to the window of Air Force One on low overflight of Gulf damage like a ten year old boy, saying "neat". Since, he's made 4 damage control trips to area (haunting NO- Dowd), lately staying on a Navy destroyer (Mission Accomplished). Bush was so out of touch as he flew in to NO on Sept. 2nd, that he had to watch a specially cut DVD of news broadcasts to understand how serious situation was (How Bush Blew It- Newsweek). Mother Barbara displayed her patrician sensitivity: “They all want to stay in Texas,” said the senior Mrs. Bush. “Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know [that is, the Houston Astrodome], were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." NO dopos thought, Superdome can hold 60,000, so people can stay there. Yeah for 3 or 4 hours, with functioning toilets, water, air-conditioning, lights. Without that, it's a hellhole in 24 hours because people are simply full of crap. Incredible FEMA or no one made a centralized website for refugees to find each other- I almost did it- norefugees.com- people had to hunt through 50 different sites for lost relatives. Times-Picayune site Nola.com is best.

Kudos to Houstonians, Texans, + Louisianans for their big hearted welcome of bedraggled NO refugees (took them to amusement parks!); sometimes Texans are really good people. Big mistake to force evacuation of dry healthy people in NO, renewal needs people and services, and why would anyone who can get water and food want to be miserable resented powerless refugees in an alien place. Worse, residents will be ejected by self-deputized carpetbagging cops and soldiers from distant states. Video shows them battering down doors and leveling multiple shotguns and automatic weapons at possible residents, as if attacking hostage holders. Once they break open the doors of these empty houses, rain, animals, looters will continue to trash them. A SF Chronicle reporter describes almost getting blown away by a dozen NO SWAT guys when he steps outside a rented house to make a cell call. The pool reporters had hired their own SEAL team as protection... from police and soldiers. Imagine a resident has a gun and thinks these invaders are looters- I guarantee homeowners are being killed by their "rescuers". Let some of these disaster tourists collect bodies rather than bully residents- it's an outrage that bodies are allowed to rot outside for 2 weeks- where is our humanity? Now the resulting meat is very hard to identify. 10,000 deaths was deliberate overestimate by mayor who wanted aid spigots cranked full open ($2 bil/day)- humans, like animals, will almost always flee slow water succesfully. Now they are bringing people back. Press aquitted themselves well- even FOX news was erupting with outrage (video).

As I said to people Tues (as filled up at $2.64), gas would be $3.50-4.00/ gal in 2 weeks, then 6 hour waits in another week. CBS showed one Atlanta station at $6/gal Wed. 20% of imported oil intake and 30% of refining initially shut down (now less), but at least imports should be restartable within 2 weeks or so, if they go into emergency mode, and if refineries have own generators- (9/11) 4 are still down for many weeks and some 500 of the thousands of off-shore wells had some damage- now operating at 60% capacity. Refineries are so stretched that they normally operate at 95% capacity, but they have been reaping $20/barrel profit. Much longer than Oct. and we are looking at the collapse of the US economy. NO is most economic strategic port in US (after NYC?). Maybe this is the shock that will detonate the debt-bomb, ceasing the inflow of foreign cash that sustains our heedless borrowing lifestyle, raising interest rates, popping the housing bubble, and cause widespread bancruptcy.

Everyone was so happy NO was spared, but didn't worry about Gulfport-Biloxi, which got scoured clean by 150mph NE wall and 30 ft storm surge. Miracle NO was successfully 92% evacuated- I thought thousands would be caught on gridlocked freeways and be tossed like a Tonka trucks. All models of city evacuation (in nuclear attack) said it would take 4-7 days for a major city; 1 1/2 days was impossible, and mayor made huge decision relatively early. Chunks of highly eroded 100 miles of delta below NO disappeared into Gulf. Nobody is talking about it, but delta area 40 miles southeast and east of NO got annihilated by worse winds than hit Gulfport: Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Jefferson Parrishes must have many hundreds of fatalities. The normally 80% water St. Bernard P. was totally flooded by the miles long failure of levees of the Mississippi shipping canal that cuts off 40 delta miles between River and Gulf. President of Jefferson P. gave sobbing tremendously effecting blast at FEMA on MSNBC: "bureaucrats are committing murder! "(video) Terrible story about a Chalmette nursing home (20 mi. E near river): 34 drowned in upper floor out of 60 elderly as water reached ceiling, after they had nailed shut windows and barricaded doors, blocking their own escape.

2 pipelines or wells, and oil tank 60 miles south on Mississippi were leaking, which may become environmental catastrophe (not to mention gas and oil from 1/2 million flooded cars and trucks + gas stations:
NYT: "when Hurricane Ivan hit the gulf last September, it created underwater mud slides that uprooted crucial underwater pipelines, delaying the return of full production for six months. In all, that storm cut oil production by 43.8 million barrels.
---So far, there is no indication of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the gulf's 33,000 miles of underwater pipelines, a seabed grid that links thousands of offshore platforms to refiners and storage tanks on the coast.

Take away power, clean water, and add foul heat and flood water, and 1st world collapses to 3rd in 4 days- we are all not that far from the jungle. Only consolation is if there had been direct hit and no evacuations- old, moldering wood houses would have been eradicated, main levees of higher river and lake would have breeched fast.. and hundreds of thousands would have died.

HOW TO SAVE NO: Move hospital and military ships up the Mississippi and build tent city (what Pam exercizes recommended) on the higher ground of river levees adjacent to ships- use them for food and toilets and water. Or house people in upper floors of higher buildings near river. Or evacuate them with those ships to recently empty military bases that have vacant housing. Get large hovercrafts into city that can carry hundreds and cross water, land, levees and rescue the peoples trapped in high water houses. Take charge of convention center with Nat. guard and disarm gun-toters, shoot hostile ones. Airdrop camping membrane water filter/pumps, empty 5 gallon jugs, and little bottles of Chlorox so people can purify large amounts of water. Transporting mass quantities of heavy water in a flooded city is idiotic. Also airdrop floating packs of 5 or 10 MRE's by the hundreds of thousands. Heavy metal wrapper is total protection from water. Think rather than totally evacuate, they should make some large place, like maybe a hospital, habitable, pull circuit breakers and run it on big generators, pumped external water for toilets, and large Navy water purifying system... . New Orleans must not die.

New Orleans is a wonder, a foreign city in the middle of America where people from different riches, races, and rationales would meet in acceptance and brotherhood. Nowhere would you see a suited businessman slapping five with a shirtless tattoed chained motorcycle guy, or a lush society woman warmly chatting with a half-toothless uneducated black man, or people in exquiste finery cutting loose with such abandon. Even the garbage stench that assails one as he walks the streets is so rank it is sweet, and one learns to appreciate the perfumes.

With the best food, best music, best clubs, in America and maybe the world; romantic NO is a steaming gumbo of cultures, passions, senses, and fantasies. It will rise again.
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Aug 27 Sat nt: Don't believe the reports about 6 ft below sea level (that's average)- when I lived there in ' 70's the number generally used was 12 ft below and it varies from 1-20 ft. This may well be the worst disaster in US history with over 10,000 casualties (1900 Galveston hurricane was worst w ~6000) - no way 1.3 million people can get out in a day and a half (wrong). The most amazing thing was you couldn't see the Mississippi from anywhere in city, unless you climbed 10-15 ft high levies- it's much higher than the city. Levies 5 miles north block the vast shallow (15ft max) obscenely warm (90 deg) Lake Ponchartrain from flooding the other side- it has the longest bridge in world- a 26 mile Key like stilt bridge that's so long you can't see land from the middle. The water table is 1 ft below surface and bodies float to surface, so people are buried in above ground crypts. Home to trillions of skettering 2 inch cockroaches (palmetto bugs) that infest sidewalks and homes. 22 drainage pumping stations operate continuously to keep city from flooding so it is already in flood equilibrium, but these stations will fail during hurricane hit. City could become 350 sq. mi. abandoned destroyed bathtub filled with warm toxic chemicals from vast chemical/oil industry, sewage, 1000's of businesses. Wished I'd visited it recently.

With 1/3 of nations refining and dozens of oil rigs affected, look for oil to reach $80 barrel. Offshore rigs produce 1.5 million barrels/day, about same as imports from Saudi Arabia; and maybe 20% of foreign oil is off-loaded at NO off-shore/pipeline docks. Total in gulf is 112 rigs and 15,000? workers, read oil thing that 21 rigs and/ or 1068 workers were evacuated. One floating rig (anchored with chains and weights, was dragged in concentric circle around another rig.

WIKIPEDIA: Until the early 20th century, construction was largely limited to the slightly higher ground along old natural river levees and bayous, since much of the rest of the land was swampy and subject to frequent flooding. This gave the 19th century city the shape of a crescent along a bend of the Mississippi, the origin of the nickname The Crescent City. In the 1910s engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood enacted his ambitious plan to drain the city, including large pumps of his own design which are still used. All rain water must be pumped up to the canals which drain into Lake Pontchartrain. Wood's pumps and drainage allowed the city to expand greatly in area. However, pumping of groundwater from underneath the city has resulted in subsidence, which has greatly increased the flood risk, should the levees be breached or precipitation is in excess of pumping capacity, as could happen during a hurricane. A major hurricane could create a lake in the central city as much as 30 feet deep, which could take months (years) to pump dry.

Since the city is located at an average of 6 feet under sea level, flooding in the region could be disastrous, especially if the storm surge exceeds 14 feet, the maximum height of the protective levees [1]. (It will rupture them)

New Orleans is on the banks of the Mississippi River about 100 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico at 30.07°N, 89.93°W. New Orleans is a unique city because some areas of the city range from 1 to 20 feet (0.3 to 6 m) below sea level, and rain-water must be pumped out as fast as it falls to prevent flooding. In addition to the urban areas of the city, New Orleans includes undeveloped wetland, especially in the east. Suffice to say, New Orleans is very flood-prone. If it rains more than 1 inch (25 mm) there is usually some form of area flooding, which due to the climate can be a fairly regular occurrence. Because of this, nearly all of New Orleans' cemeteries use above ground crypts rather than underground burial.

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  • At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anonymous:

    Is Lake Ponchartrain a man-made lake? If not, what is the explanation for its origin?

     
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  • At 11:19 PM, Blogger Michael Hammerschlag said…

    It is lower than the water table/sea level- not many of hundreds of thousands of lakes are man-made. It is about 2/3 fresh and 1/3 salty, and open to the Gulf on the East.

    The lake is an estuary having a connection to the ocean and experiences small tidal changes. It receives fresh water from the Tangipahoa River, Tchefuncte River, Tickfaw River, Amite River, Bogue Falaya River, and from Lacombe Bayou. It receives saltwater through the Chef Menteur and Rigolets Passes. The salinity of the lake varies from neglible on the far north to nearly half the level of seawater near Chef Menteur and Rigolets.

    In general, Lake Pontchartrain is wide but not very deep, averaging some 12 to 14 feet (3.65 to 4.26 m). Some shipping channels are kept deeper through dredging.

    The lake was formed 4000-2600 years ago as the Mississippi River Delta formed the southern and eastern shorelines with alluvial deposits dropped from the evolving Mississippi River.

     
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