Saturday, 31 October 2009

I am proud to be a member of the Knights of St Columba

I was honoured to be given an award last week for 25 years of service in the Knights of St Columba (KSC).  I am pictured here with John O'Brien, the Grand Knight of my local Council 295, Kenton and Harrow, at St Joseph's Church, Wealdstone and Harrow Weald, who presented the award.  Others honoured for 25 years' service were Des Kellett, Austin Boylan, Manuel Rodrigues and Michael O'Connor.

The award ceremony took place in St. Joseph's Church, Wealdstone and Harrow Weald, after a Mass celebrated by Fr Michael Doherty SDS.  Fr Michael spoke warmly about the Knights and the high regard in which this magnificent organization is held by priests up and down the country.  The priesthood can be lonely and the Knights are known for their down-to-earth, practical support of their priests in countless ways.  That support can also be personal - such as when Fr Michael's mother died and her funeral was attended by forty Knights in a parish 200 miles from his own.  Fr Michael said he was overwhelmed by their personal love and support.

The pro-life movement, like priests, has good reason to be thankful to the Knights of St. Columba who are second to none in their backing - not only for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, but for all groups seeking to uphold the value and inviolability of every human life.

The KSC runs in my family, with my father, grandfather, and great grandfather all members of the same Council in Whitechapel, London, in the early 1930s.

During the ceremony in St. Joseph's Church, in which a number of men were admitted to the KSC for the first time,  the membership officer addressed us in words which will strike a chord for many others who work in the pro-life movement which, of course, includes people of all faiths and none:
"I ask you to recall that day on Calvary, when our beloved Saviour, Jesus Christ, shed his precious blood on the Cross for our salvation.  Since that day the Cross has been the symbol of our faith and has been carried to the four corners of the earth by fearless missionaries.  The church in carrying out that duty has, like our crucified Lord, been subjected to many persecutions and , although we do not now face the barbarities of earlier times, we do face the great enemies of indifference or mockery or open hostility for those values which we as Christians hold as being essential ... "
I am proud to be part of an organization which works quietly and effectively to promote the Gospel of life, sometimes in the face of indifference, mockery or open hostility. No wonder it continues to attract the support when it holds so fast to timeless values.

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Catholic and Anglican united in protecting children with Down's syndrome

Two Christian leaders have delivered commentaries recently which defend magnificently children with Down's syndrome against today's pro-abortion culture of death. Those leaders are Charles Chaput, Catholic archbishop of Denver, and Revd Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

In a speech to Catholic doctors, Archbishop Chaput said:
  • "Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle. And the reason why it may decline illustrates, in a vivid way, a struggle within the American soul. That struggle will shape the character of our society in the decades to come."
  • "The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear," he said. That's the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that's the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not."
  • "How we treat these persons - whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste - shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation."
  • "Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics. God will demand an accounting."
  • "Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family. God will demand an accounting."
  • "And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation's life. God will demand an accounting."
Dr Fraser, in an article in The Church Times, wrote:
"[Choice] is the single most over-used, and misused, get-out-of-jail-free card in contemporary moral jargon ... [W]hat most of us want to see is an end to our culture’s damaging obsession with physical perfection, something driven by our own fear of inadequacy. The false logic of choice which blocks any challenge to this cult of perfection is profoundly harmful to us all."
It is truly refreshing when Christian leaders are united in strong, eloquent and loving defence of the most vulnerable. I strongly recommend reading both men's commentaries in full and sharing them widely.

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Friday, 30 October 2009

Honduras bans morning-after pills

Dan Zeidler, an expert on life-issues in Latin America, reports that Honduras in central America has banned morning-after pills. Spanish-speaking readers can see a slightly blurred copy of the decree here.

Dan writes: "In early June of this year, many of you very generously responded to the request of pro-life leadership in Honduras to send a letter to then president of the Congress of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, urging Honduras to prohibit the morning-after pill. I am writing to let you know that as of a few days ago ... the morning-after pill is prohibited in Honduras. Congratulations especially to Martha Casco who has spearheaded this effort in Honduras!"

I blogged about Ms Casco in April. A recent news-source describes her as the country's deputy foreign minister.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Second and final day of abortion case in Belfast high court

The Belfast high court has concluded the second and final day's hearing in the judicial review of government abortion guidance, brought by SPUC.

Mr James Dingemans QC, SPUC's barrister, reiterated that Northern Ireland law protected the unborn. He rejected claims by the health department that it was acceptable for physicians in the province to apply Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidance to cases in Northern Ireland.

He said that the right to non-participation in abortion was not addressed by the health department's document in the area of questionable cases where two doctors disagreed over the lawfulness of an abortion.

Mr Dingemans restated that the court of appeal had found that the health department had failed in its duty to issue guidance but, once that court had ruled, the guidance had to be proper guidance.

He added that abortion was always illegal; what was legal was an intervention to save a mother's life.

Mr Dingemans pointed out that the RCOG guidance on late term abortion said that the child must not be born alive, or the doctor risked prosecution if his actions after the delivery resulted in the child's death. It would be quite wrong to suggest that obstetricians and gynaecologists should read and apply this principle in Northern Ireland.

The hearing has concluded and judgement has been reserved.

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Artificial sperm creation is unethical and spurious

A claimed breakthrough towards the creation of artificial sperm is unethical and spurious. According to results published in Nature magazine online today, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine have turned embryonic stem cells, taken from surplus IVF embryos, into human germ cells, which are the precursors of sperm and ova.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communication manager, told the media this evening:
"This research is unethical, because human embryos - innocent, equal members of the human family - were killed to extract the embryonic stem cells used in the research. Even if the research hadn't involved embryo-killing, the creation of artificial gametes would enable even more human embryos to be created outside the human body, to be killed and abused. As with IVF, artificial insemination and the use of donor gametes, the use of artificial gametes in reproduction would distort and damage relations between family members.

"Just like cloning, the success rate for this research is very low; and just like cloning, this research is likely to result in a high rate of defective embryos and birth defects. The research provides yet another motivation for exploring the scientific dead-end which is embryonic stem cell research.

"The researchers are destroying life in a scientifically dubious quest to manufacture new lives. It is ironic that the institute which provided the funding for the research is named after Eunice Kennedy Shriver, as she was a vocal supporter of the pro-life movement. There are no instances of any major medical advance achieved by abandoning basic ethical principles such as safeguarding the right to life".
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

First day of abortion case in Belfast high court

The Belfast high court has concluded the first day's hearing in the judicial review of government abortion guidance, brought by SPUC.

Mr James Dingemans, SPUC's barrister, outlined to Lord Justice Girvan why the government's guidance was inadequate and needs to be withdrawn and re-examined so that it deals more adequately with the issues. He drew attention to the issue of informed consent. He also highlighted the lack of information in the guidance which doctors could pass on to their patients about the risks and other potential consequences of abortion, in particular the mental health impact.

Mr Dingemans also said that, despite the health department's claims, unborn children in Northern Ireland had rights. Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act and the 1945 Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Act both safeguard those rights. Abortion actually has been an offence in common law going back much further than that.

Mr Dingemans said that women were entitled to treatment which protected their lives, but it was wholly misleading for the health department to portray the law as allowing so-called termination of pregnancy services. He also pointed out that media commentators had mistakenly concluded that the government's guidance suggested that abortion had been liberalized in Northern Ireland.

The hearing continues tomorrow (28 October) and is expected to conclude then. 

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Are baboons more valuable than babies?

Michael Hill, chairman of SPUC's national executive committee and vice-chairman of SPUC, was listening this afternoon to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, and he sent me the following report:
"The first topic for discussion on Jeremy Vine’s radio show today was the news that research suggests the number of Down's syndrome pregnancies has risen by more than 70% over the last 20 years. This is largely a result of many women choosing to delay pregnancy and childbirth until later life, plus the use of improved screening techniques.

"I found the callers’ comments about living with Down's Syndrome very positive and encouraging, with parents saying they were now glad they hadn’t known their unborn child had the condition because they would have aborted, and others that it would be better not to have the tests rather than face that difficult decision. Little was said about the injustice of killing a child because it may have Down's Syndrome, or any other undesirable condition.

"The second item on the show, however, was about how A.A. Gill (pictured) had shot and killed a baboon whilst visiting Africa, just to experience what it might be like to kill a human being. This, in contrast, caused outrage and condemnation from all quarters, with one caller suggesting the man should shoot himself rather than the baboon."

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Austen Ivereigh's clarification regarding Michael Moore's Catholicism

Austen Ivereigh writes:
"In my piece for The Guardian which John Smeaton refers to, I never call Moore a “committed Catholic”. Those words were added by the editor in the standfirst. What I say in the piece is that Moore goes to Mass each Sunday. When I questioned whether this was true in a post for America magazine I received an emphatic message from his office which led me to apologise for questioning the fact. As for failing to mention that Leo XIII in the same year as Rerum Novarum spoke out against abortion, mea culpa– but I don’t see anything worth apologising for. I have a strong record of speaking out against abortion, and I deplore Moore’s failure to do so.”
I am grateful for Austen Ivereigh’s clarification. Whilst of course accepting the explanation for the description in The Guardian of Michael Moore, the film director, as “a committed Catholic”, I do think Austen painted an incomplete picture. His article in The Guardian, in my opinion, portrayed Michael Moore as a man fired up with a wholly admirable zeal for social justice, a zeal he gets from Catholic social teaching. As I pointed out in my blogpost, Michael Moore ardently supports abortion and it’s a matter of very serious concern whenever pro-abortion people in public life have their Catholicism put on a pedestal for others’ edification. Archbishop Burke put it rather more strongly than this, recently, when he wrote:
“To ignore the fact that Catholics in public life, for example, who persistently violate the moral law regarding the inviolability of innocent human life or the integrity of the marital union, lead many into confusion or even error regarding the most fundamental teachings of the moral law, in fact, contributes to the confusion and error, redounding to the gravest harm to our brothers and sisters, and, therefore, to the whole nation."
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Lobby committee to stop radical European abortion reports

On 29 September we asked you to lobby the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which was due to debate a radical pro-abortion report authored by Christine McCafferty, the veteran anti-life British MP. The vote was postponed, thanks to your efforts. Further amendments to the report will now be considered by the assembly's Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Mrs McCafferty, at a meeting in Paris on 13 November. Many pro-life amendments have been tabled by Luca Volonte (pictured), an Italian parliamentarian. Please email the committee-members to urge them to support Mr Volonte's amendments (specifically amendments 10 to 15, 17 & 18, and 20 to 29), and to vote against the report as a whole if the committee rejects the amendments. The title of the report is "Fifteen years since the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action".

Also, Christine McCafferty is now proposing a second report entitled "Women's access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection". This second report is being promoted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm, and Christian Fiala, Austria's most notorious abortion doctor. The report's aim is to attack doctors who refuse to provide or refer women for abortions. In your email to the committee-members about McCafferty's first report (mentioned above), please also urge them to reject Mrs McCafferty's second report too.

Please:

Points from the ECLJ's briefing on Mrs McCafferty's first report:
  • "The ECLJ is particularly concerned about the [report's] underlying promotion of abortion as a means of family planning and population control."
  • "The Council of Europe has no authority or competency to promote abortion."
  • "[T]he [report is] based upon unsupportable concerns regarding the need for greater population control in developing countries."
  • "Promoting abortion violates the core values upon which the Council of Europe was built by greatly offending the protection of human life and dignity, and respect for national sovereignty."
  • "International law does not provide a so called 'right' to abortion ... Only the right to life is recognized."
  • "The European Convention on Human Rights explicitly contains a provision guaranteeing the right to life. The Parliamentary Assembly cannot infer from the Convention that the right to life does not extend to the unborn, and cannot lower the degree of protection afforded by the State to human life."
  • "Attacking the legitimacy of any country's abortion laws is not within the competency of the Council of Europe."
  • "The Explanatory Memorandum's recommendations are premised in large part on unfounded assertions about the need for population control and advance the cause of the neomalthusianism philosophy."
  • "[I]improving agricultural technology has allowed food production to more than keep pace with population growth."
  • "Indeed, in 1995, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that by fully employing present agricultural technology, the world could feed 30 to 35 billion people."
  • "Malthus's theories eventually gave rise to the eugenics movement of the late 19th and 20th Centuries that divided human beings into 'superior' and 'inferior' races and called for the segregation or elimination of the 'inferior' races."
  • "[T]he population control movement has also been used as an instrument of imperialism against less-developed countries."
  • "The money to be spent on population control in less developed countries can be better spent on basic health care needs and economic development in those countries."
  • "[T]he availability of abortion as a component of population control programs coupled with the widespread availability of technology that allows parents to learn the sex of their unborn child has led to a disproportionate number of abortions of unborn girls."
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SPUC to use research to combat abortion for disability

The Daily Telegraph reports that three babies are aborted in this country every day because it is thought that they have Down's syndrome. We have, of course, long been aware of widespread abortion for suspected disability and, as Janet Thomas of No Less Human told me, every abortion of a Down's child is a tragedy. She says that statistics can sometimes get in the way of the human beings involved, and that parents tend to be told of the negative aspects of having a Down's child rather than the positive ones.

We at SPUC are responding to this news by proposing two pieces of research. We must find out whether pre-abortion counselling includes a warning that women are more likely to suffer psychologically if they abort a child because of his or her disability.

We'll also carry out research among politicians. We'll ask them whether they support abortion on the grounds of gender or race. I hope that few of them will. We'll then ask them if they support abortion because of disability. If they do, we'll ask how they can reconcile that with opposing abortion because of the baby's sex or skin colour.

The research among politicians will begin with questionnaires to UK MPs but will be extended to other elected representatives.

The increased likelihood of psychological problems among women who abort because of their babies' disability is described in The psychosocial sequelae of a second-trimester termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality by M C A White-Van Mourik, J M Connor and M A Ferguson-Smith, published in Prenatal diagnosis in 1992.

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Monday, 26 October 2009

Welcome failure of Alderdice assisted suicide amendment

SPUC Pro-Life tonight welcomed the withdrawal of Lord Alderdice's amendment to the Coroners and Justice bill. The amendment, which would have allowed assisted suicide, was opposed by a majority of those Lords who spoke in the debate.

Anthony Ozimic of SPUC Pro-Life commented:
"The idea of allowing assisted suicide was condemned tonight as discriminatory, highly dangerous and threatening. Lords were offended by Lord Alderdice's suggestion that coroners should decide who may live or die under his amendment. His amendment was described as 'dismal', a 'travesty' and surrounded by 'weasal words'. We congratulate those Lords who so firmly opposed the amendment, and the many members of the public who lobbied Lords prior to tonight's debate. The director of public prosecutions should read tonight's debate closely as he drafts his policy on prosecuting assisted suicide."
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We must move quickly to resist the growing attacks on conscientious objection

In a recent speech, Wellington Webb, appointed by Barack Obama as special adviser to the US mission to the United Nations, confirmed that the Obama administration will be promoting legalised abortion throughout the world, targeting adolescents in a worldwide abortion drive. The ambassador was speaking at the UN's 15th anniversary commemoration of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). His speech expressly committed the US government to promoting
"access to reproductive health commodities and services for adolescents"
and he stated
"President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice have all underscored the strong support of the United States for human rights, women’s rights and reproductive rights as well as universal access to reproductive health and family planning".
Hillary Clinton, Obama's appointee as US Secretary of State, has made it clear that when her government speaks of reproductive health, it's a term which includes access to abortion.

We must understand that it's the intention of the Obama administration not to allow health professionals' conscientious objection to abortion to get in the way. "Universal access" to "reproductive health", to which the Obama government declares itself to be committed, cannot be "universal" if troublesome pro-life health professionals object in conscience to participating in abortion cases or referring them to colleagues.

Actions speak louder than words - especially for Barack Obama on abortion.  In his infamous speech at Notre Dame University , he declared: “Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause”. In his 9 September address to Congress on health care reform legislation that he promised that "federal conscience laws would remain in place". He has, in fact, taken action to reverse a regulation that allows health care providers the right to refuse perform services to which they object.

The attack on conscientious objection to abortion has become a top priority for the pro-abortion lobby elsewhere. At a Council of Europe meeting in Paris next month, one of the items on the agenda is "Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection". Forcing conscientiously objecting doctors to refer women to other doctors for abortion is another way in which pro-life ethics are being suppressed. And immediately on the horizon is the Brown government's anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent.

There are many people who support or are sympathetic to pro-life values, but who do little to express that support or sympathy. We need to inform people that failing to defend the right to life of unborn children results in the erosion of the right of conscientious objection. Defending the right to life defends all other rights. Let's encourage as many people as possible to join the pro-life resistance revolution today!

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Sunday, 25 October 2009

John Henry Newman cause website censures Blair and Tablet on conscience

Placing "Newman and conscience in the company of Tony Blair amounts to a provocative juxtaposition", says the official website of the cause for the canonisation of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in response to this weekend's Tablet editorial.
"However many times it is refuted as an interpretation of Newman, the idea that he is the patron of ‘conscientious’ dissent shows a stubborn tendency to resurface.

"It is in this context that The Tablet’s having placed Newman and conscience in the company of Tony Blair amounts to a provocative juxtaposition."
The Newman cause website continues:
"Since becoming a Catholic, Mr Blair has refused every invitation to disown and repent of these things. Although they are simply incompatible with the Catholic Faith and were pursued by him, before he was a Catholic, with every appearance of conviction, Mr Blair has refused since entering the Church to say whether in these respects he has undergone a change of mind and heart. In refusing to clarify his position, he implies that he still believes that they were the right things to do.

"If this implication is correct, some commentators, including Catholics, have sought to justify it by saying that Mr Blair’s silence is because his support for abortion, embryo experimentation, civil partnerships and gay adoption has always been for him, and remains now, a matter of conscience. Now this is the danger in The Tablet’s association of Newman and conscience with the case of Tony Blair. If as a Catholic Mr Blair thinks that his conscience directs him to support such positions, to invoke Newman in defence of his stance would be a travesty. For Newman, no Catholic can be in good conscience in supporting the positions Mr Blair espoused. The impossibility of conscience, enlightened by Faith, justifying adherence to evil is one of the most important of Newman’s lessons for our times."
What is The Tablet trying to achieve by exalting Tony Blair into Newman's company? Not only has Tony Blair refused to repudiate his anti-life and anti-family political record, since being received into the Catholic Church, he has extended it with open attacks on Catholic teaching on sexual ethics.

Remember: This is the man favoured by the British government to become president of the European Union (EU). An Obama-Blair alliance imposing its so-called pro-choice culture of death worldwide has been described thus by Monsignor Michel Schooyans, a leading Vatican scholar :
“What the analysis of Barack Obama's decisions and Tony Blair's project reveals is that an alliance is coming between two converging intentions, one aimed at subjugating law and the other at subjugating religion. This is the new version of the two-headed eagle. Law and religion are exploited to 'legitimize' anything at all.”
Is this what The Tablet wants?  Surely rather than using their editorial to promote Tony Blair, who remains one of the world's leading anti-life/anti-family politicians, The Tablet should be briefing its readers to oppose the Brown government's anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent?

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It's vital that Cardinal Turkson reiterates papal teaching on condoms

It's been reported that Peter Cardinal Turkson (pictured) has been appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Cardinal Turkson's conspicuous failure to condemn the use of condoms. I said that this was "disturbing", not least in the light of Pope Benedict's ringing endorsement of the teaching of Humanae vitae earlier this year:
“The truth expressed in Humanae vitae does not change; rather, in light of the new scientific findings, its teaching becomes even more up to date and induces reflection upon its intrinsical value ... The concern for human life and the safeguard of the dignity of the person impose upon us not to leave anything untried so that it may be shared with all people the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law written in the heart of every person.”
I have been actively involved in the pro-life movement for 36 years. In my experience, the deafening silence of so many church leaders on the wrongfulness of the separation of the unitive significance and procreative significance of the conjugal act is the greatest obstacle we now face in the battle against abortion, IVF practices and euthanasia - for reasons I have explained elsewhere on this blog.

Pope Paul VI predicted that once contraception became “regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty” (HV, 17), brute power would be used by governments to impose birth control policies on their populations. Nowhere is this more true than in Britain where we face the prospect of the Brown government's final anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent.

According to Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the "supreme court" of the Catholic Church), Pope Benedict has emphasised in his latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate that the message of Humanae vitae is fundamental to achieving authentic human development:
"It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent encyclical letter on the Church's social doctrine, makes special reference to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, underscoring its importance "for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes" (Caritas in veritate, no. 15). Pope Benedict XVI makes clear that the teaching in Humanae vitae was not simply a matter of "individual morality," declaring: 'Humanae vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II's Encyclical Evangelium vitae' (Caritas in veritate, no. 15).
" ... The respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the context for the advancement of the culture of life", said Archbishop Burke.
In the light of his appointment as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it's all the more vital that Cardinal Turkson, inspired by the example of Archbishop Burke, reiterates clearly papal teaching on condoms - "which is not simply a matter of 'individual morality'".

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