Category Archives: Articles by IPS

¿Podrían las nuevas tecnologías ser parte de la respuesta a la crisis?

Una de las causas de la crisis económica española es la escasa capacidad de la economía para exportar bienes de alto valor agregado. El pionero sector de las energías renovables tiene potencial para llenar ese hueco. Mi nuevo artículo para IPS explora las posibiliades de este sector, en el que España destaca. Sigue leyendo sobre el tema.

El hombre que abría tumbas

ESPAÑA
Miren Gutiérrez entrevista al médico forense español FRANCISCO ETXEBERRIA

Francisco Etxeberria: La acusación a Garzón es “un retroceso en la conquista de las libertades”

SAN SEBASTIÁN, España, may (IPS) – El trabajo de Francisco Etxeberria levanta ampollas y provoca odios. Y cuando el famoso juez Baltasar Garzón fijó su atención en él, arreció la polémica. Este forense lleva 200 fosas comunes abiertas y 4.800 esqueletos exhumados en toda España desde 2000.

“Mientras los familiares lo quieran, nosotros buscaremos”, dijo Etxeberria en una conferencia en el marco del VIII Festival de Cine de Derechos Humanos de San Sebastián, donde se exhibió la película “Los caminos de la memoria”, que explora la amnesia existente para con la historia de los perdedores de la Guerra Civil Española (1936-1939).

“Los tres derechos de las víctimas son verdad, justicia y reparación, y esto no se ha cumplido” para unos 200.000 desaparecidos y asesinados de la guerra y la posterior dictadura de Francisco Franco, que terminó en 1975. “No creo que encontremos a todos, es imposible”, dice Etxeberria.

Con la aprobación de la ley de la memoria histórica de 2000, y la denuncia de un hijo que había perdido a su padre, Etxeberria comenzó a excavar en Priaranza del Bierzo, en la norteña provincia de León. Se desenterraron 13 civiles fusilados en los comienzos de la guerra. Era la primera excavación científica realizada en España, más de 70 años después de que empezara la contienda.

Casi sin apoyos políticos ni financieros, el equipo liderado por este profesor de medicina forense de la Universidad del País Vasco ha incluido a decenas expertos voluntarios de todas partes del mundo.

Según Etxeberria, con la ley se trataba de “pasar de la verdad a la reparación, pero nadie quiere meterse en la justicia”. Excepto el juez Garzón, quien se apoyó en esta investigación para su causa sobre la memoria histórica de Guerra Civil Española y el franquismo, la misma que le valió un pase al banquillo de los acusados.

Etxeberria habló con IPS de los retos de este proyecto.

IPS: ¿Cómo funciona?

FRANCISCO ETXEBERRIA: Siempre lo hacemos a solicitud de los familiares y excepcionalmente a petición de algunos ayuntamientos. En todos los casos notificamos a la autoridad judicial el deseo de los familiares de investigar. Y en general estas autoridades desestiman las reclamaciones bajo el argumento de que los hechos han prescrito.

De todos modos, en la investigación aplicamos los principios universales de la criminalística y generamos informes en formato de documento pericial que puedan tener una trascendencia administrativa.

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In English

Crédito: Íñigo Royo/IPS

Q&A: Africa – High On Political Empowerment, Low On Education

Miren Gutierrez interviews SAADIA ZAHIDI, co-author of Global Gender Gap report

Saadia Zahidi: The GGG index

Saadia Zahidi: The GGG index "looks at women as resources"

ROME, Dec 3 (IPS) – “It is clear that there are huge discrepancies within Sub-Saharan Africa, but overall the region is doing extremely well in terms of political empowerment,” says Saadia Zahidi, head of the Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in a telephone interview from Geneva. But what are the pending matters in the region?

The Global Gender Gap (GGG) index ranks 134 countries according to gender equality, and it is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the overall levels of the available resources in those countries. It looks at four factors: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; political empowerment; and health and survival of women.

Zahidi discusses concrete cases based on the data dug out for the GGG report, and comments on the emergence of South Africa as a country with one of the lowest gender gaps in the world and other trends in the Sub-Saharan region.

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Media: The Untold Stories of Violence Against Women

Robert Dijksterhuis, Jac SM Kee, Monia Azzalini,Paula Fray, Thenjiwe Mtintso and Laila Al-Shaik. / Credit:Miren Gutierrez/IPS

Robert Dijksterhuis, Jac SM Kee, Monia Azzalini, Paula Fray, Thenjiwe Mtintso and Laila Al-Shaik

By Miren Gutierrez* and Oriana Boselli

ROME, Nov 26 (IPS) – “You don’t need to go far, it is all around us,” said Robert Dijksterhuis, head of the gender division in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to a room mostly full of women. “Up to one in three women around the world has been abused in some way – most often by someone she knows,” he added, quoting UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) numbers.

The audience, a group of committed women – and men -, had gathered in Rome to discuss this widespread emergency and the role media have in relation to it in a conference organised by the IPS news agency and supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the city of Rome.

The U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) reports in the paper “Violence against women worldwide” that up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime – the majority from husbands, partners or someone they know. Among women aged 15–44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

And violence against women is pervasive.

During the conference, IPS launched the handbook “Reporting Gender-Based Violence”.

Violence against women has presented particular challenges to the media and to society because of the way in which it has been consigned to the private sphere -dampening public discussions and stifling media debate. Yet, the media has the potential to play a lead role in changing perceptions that, in turn, can help galvanise a movement for change – says the introduction by IPS Africa, Director Paula Fray

The handbook deals with issues such as religious and harmful traditional practices, domestic violence, sexual gender-based violence, femicide, sex work and trafficking, sexual harassment, armed conflicts, HIV and AIDS, child abuse, the role of men, the criminal justice system, and the costs of gender-based violence, with real stories illustrating how these issues and trends can be tackled by the media, discussion points, fact checks and additional resources.

In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by someone she knows; in Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day. In São Paulo, Brazil, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds. Rape of women is widespread in armed conflicts such as those of Colombia and Darfur, Sudan.

This phenomenon affects not only developing countries, but also the developed world. In the U.S., 83 percent of girls aged 12–16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools, and one-third of women murdered each year are killed by partners; in the European Union between 40 and 50 percent of women experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.

However, according to UNFPA, civil society, media and politicians have begun only recently to join their efforts to change the perception of the phenomenon of violence against women, trying to knock down the wall of indifference and misconstruction that has always surrounded it.

And this is where the media comes in.

According to the Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Vincenzo Scotti, “communication can be one of the most powerful tools” in the fight against this type of violence.

In “Changing cultural and social norms that support violence”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms that media – which have been successful in addressing a wide range of health issues – could play a bigger role in fighting violence.

Meanwhile papers like “The influence of media violence on youth”, published by the American Physiological Society, show how female victimisation in storylines reduces the perceptions of violence in the reality.

This problem is exacerbated by the under-representation of women in media and misrepresentation of their role. Media Monitoring Africa – a watchdog organisation that promotes fair journalism – denounces the scarcity of women working in the media and the marginalised way in which they are portrayed, often limited to victims or someone’s relative.

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En español
In italiano

Gender-South Africa: ‘There Is A Sense Of Vindication’

There Is A Sense Of Vindication – Gender-South Africa

Miren Gutierrez* interviews THENJIWE MTINTSO, Ambassador of South Africa to Italy

'This is our time. We can avoid repeating mistakes and learn from other's experiences' / Credit:Victor Sokolowicz/ IPS

This is our time. We can avoid repeating mistakes and learn from other's experiences

ROME, Nov 26 (IPS) – Born in a squatter camp in Orlando East and raised by a single mother; working in a factory while completing secondary school by correspondence; arrested and banned by the apartheid government: South Africa’s ambassador to Italy is an example of the long road her country has travelled.

In the context of an international conference on gender violence and the role of media in Rome – organised by Inter Press Service and supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the City of Rome – Mtintso, a gender activist and former journalist, spoke with IPS about the story behind the scenes of the fight for gender equality in South Africa.

IPS: South Africa is in the sixth best position in the latest Global Gender Gap index by the World Economic Forum. “The latest data reveal that South Africa made significant improvements in female labour force participation in addition to gains for women in parliament and in ministerial positions in the new government. South Africa holds the top spot of the region in political empowerment.” Do you feel vindicated?

THENJIWE MTINTSO: There is a sense of vindication, yes. Also of awareness, in the sense that, when I was a journalist in the 1970s, (the issue of the discrimination against women) was sometimes considered out of place (within the struggle against apartheid), to the point that some women were wondering ‘are we talking foolish?’ The view among the people undertaking the social struggle against the apartheid regime was that, since women are part of the nation, there was no need to make a difference.

I consider this success story a direct effect of the struggle for equality for women (of that period). It is thanks to the women who were part of the struggle for national liberation and gender equality, women who formed the movement, who achieved a unity across races, that we are where we are.

In that in a particular political environment, in which women felt the pressure from different fronts, that it was possible that white and black women were united. White women were the wives and black women were the domestic help. Men in reality had two wives.

So women were driven closer in the environment previous to the first elections (in 1994). They got together and decided they weren’t going to let men speak on their behalf.

IPS: You have highlighted that fact that South Africa is in a better position than Italy (ranked 72 in the GGG index).

TM: There is a historical difference. We have undergone a huge crisis. The struggles that we went through created a different dynamic that made this possible.

IPS: However we are talking about a country that has the world’s highest number of rapes per capita (1.19538 per 1,000 people), according to Seventh U.N. Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998-2000. More than 25 percent of South African men questioned admitted to raping someone, according to a recent study conducted by the Medical Research Council (MRC). What are the main areas in which discrimination is still pervasive?

TM: This problem is very serious. With the improvements, there have been backlashes. What happened is that the faster we were going (in terms of gender equality), the more challenges men were facing. And some of them were not ready to be led by women, they were not ready to have their women earning more, they were not ready to transfer leadership roles to women.

Unfortunately, the violence was a response. We have young men beating young women. The economic strains are making things worse. Men are supposed to provide for their families (while the crisis is affecting their capacity to do so). Men’s frustrations combine against women.

But although the statistics are correct, there is now more reporting (in violence against women). So the increase in reporting is showing too in the statistics.

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En español
In italiano

LITERATURE/WOMEN: “When a Woman Wins, It is Still a Story”

Miren Gutierrez* interviews LOUISE DOUGHTY, novelist and critic

Louise Doughty signing her book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2008.  / Credit:Tim Duncan
Louise Doughty signing her book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2008.

Credit:Tim Duncan


ROME, Nov 25 (IPS) – The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 102 times to 106 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2009. Only 10 of those winners were women. Meanwhile, the Man Booker Prize has been awarded to 15 women in 40 years.
2009 will be remembered as the year when two women, Herta Müller and Hilary Mantel, were awarded two of the most prestigious literature prizes. But all things being equal, shouldn’t something like that happen more often?

After all, in most markets more women read novels than men. Industry statistics from the U.S. Bookseller Association and Book Industry Study Group indicate that Women’s Fiction comprises at least 40 percent of adult popular fiction sold in the U.S. and approximately 60 percent of adult popular fiction paperbacks. According to a Gallup Poll, we’re talking of a 24 billion dollar industry. There is a similar situation in other languages too.

Louise Doughty – a novelist, playwright and critic – spoke with IPS about women’s standing in literature and the role of literary awards and gender. Doughty has worked widely as a critic and broadcaster in Britain, and was a judge for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction.

IPS: Three women (Nadine Gordimer, Toni Morrison and Wislawa Szymborska) we awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature during the ’90s, and another three (Elfriede Jelinek, Doris Lessing and Herta Müller) so far since. Do you think the Nobel is getting closer to equal representation?

LOUISE DOUGHTY: Things are definitively improving. But the improvement is still very slow. I think we’ll all know we have reached equality in literature when nobody thinks it is remarkable when a woman wins a prize. But at the moment, when a woman wins a prize, it is still a story.

IPS: People were saying that women dominated this year’s awards because there were quite a few in the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize…

LD: That is very funny. I was on a radio show in Britain, and they were talking about women ‘dominating’ the shortlist. But actually there were three women and three men. Apparently that amounts to domination! As a Man Booker judge, I felt (this year) the press was ready and waiting for a controversy about gender. They were ready to manufacture it.

(Literary awards) seem to be more representative in recent years. But that is a recent development. If you remember, the Orange Prize for Fiction, which is for literature by women, was set up in response to a year in which the Man Booker Prize had no women at all in the shortlist. That is when a group of women said ‘this is ridiculous,’ and created the Orange Prize (in 1992, and launched in 1996).

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GENDER: “Truly Exciting If the U.S. Could Ratify CEDAW” – Part 2

Miren Gutierrez* interviews INES ALBERDI, executive director of UNIFEM

Security Council debates protection of civilians - and women - in armed conflict. / Credit:U.N.
Security Council debates protection of civilians – and women – in armed conflict.

Credit:U.N.


ROME, Nov 15 (IPS) – CEDAW or the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979.
On its 30th anniversary, just seven U.N. member states continue to refuse to accept the only international instrument that comprehensively addresses women’s rights within political, civil, cultural, economic and social life.

In the second of a two-part interview IPS talks to Ines Alberdi, executive director of UNIFEM, about the countries holding out, including the U.S., and the new agency for women that the General Assembly has decided to create.

IPS: The U.S. is the only developed nation that has not ratified CEDAW (although it has signed it); now it’s a priority of the Barack Obama administration…

On the New Agency for WomenIPS: The U.N. General Assembly adopted recently a resolution aimed at creating a new full-fledged U.N. agency for women, headed by an under-secretary-general. How do you envision the consolidation of the four existing U.N. women’s entities?

INES ALBERDI: Well, there is now general agreement on a plan to merge the four gender-specific entities of the U.N. into a new ‘composite’ entity, taking into account each of their existing mandates. The adoption of the GA resolution in mid-September in this regard was an extremely important step in moving this forward. The Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) are committed to ensuring that the U.N. does its utmost to turn this promise into reality and there is momentum now for strengthening the UN system in the areas of women’s rights and gender equality.

UNIFEM strongly welcomes the resolution for the establishment of the entity that promises to address the gaps and challenges in the U.N. gender architecture and has taken an active part in the discussions that the DSG has held among all of the gender-specific entities about how best to do this.

INES ALBERDI: It is very encouraging to see that the U.S. government is expressing receptiveness to ratifying the treaty; CEDAW now has almost universal ratification, which is a sign of a global consensus. It would be truly exciting if the U.S. could ratify the Convention in this anniversary year, but whenever this happens it will send a wonderful message on the importance of advancing women’s rights.

IPS: States ratifying the Convention are required to weave gender equality into their legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women. But in many cases there is a gap between legislation and real action.

IA: CEDAW creates not only obligations for legal reform, but also more broadly for the full range of measures that are actually required for women to enjoy their human rights. So to meet the CEDAW requirements there is a need to integrate gender equality into laws and policies, the operation of legal and institutional structures, the allocation of budget resources, the attitudes of judicial and police authorities and so on as well as to change media and cultural stereotypes about women.

Real action also requires resources, and here of course women must compete with many more powerful groups and interests. This is why it is important to build the organising and advocacy capacity of women and gender equality advocates both inside and outside of government.

IPS: Several countries have ratified the Convention subject to certain declarations, reservations and objections. What are the commonest reservations and objections? Why?

IA: There are a wide range of reservations. One of the common areas for reservations is where a country sees a conflict between its existing legislation and the requirements of the Convention. What’s really encouraging to see in recent years is a trend towards states removing their reservations, after conducting successful law reform initiatives – in the areas of for example, nationality laws, or family codes.

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GENDER: Laws, Budgets and Pigeonholes – Part 1

Miren Gutierrez* interviews INES ALBERDI, executive director of UNIFEM

Ines Alberdi:
Ines Alberdi: “CEDAW is the means by which governments (can) advance gender equality”

Credit:U.N.


ROME, Nov 15 (IPS) – The fight for women’s rights came about hand in hand with the struggle for democracy, civil rights and national liberation in different countries and periods, says Ines Alberdi, executive director of UNIFEM.

The time has now come for action on the effect of the global financial crisis on women, and other problems such as stereotyping, gender-based violence, unfair budgeting, lack of work opportunities and social protection for women, and the plight of women migrants.

On the eve of its 30th anniversary, Alberdi spells out the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for IPS. The first of a two-part interview.

IPS: How would you explain CEDAW to someone who has not heard about it?

INES ALBERDI: Across the globe, women confront manifold violations of their human rights – when they cannot articipate in the decisions that affect their lives or claim fair political representation, when they face discrimination in employment, when they are denied entitlement to land and property, or when they suffer violence within their own home.

CEDAW is the means by which governments around the world have undertaken legal human rights obligations to combat these violations, and advance gender equality. It is the core international agreement on women’s human rights.

Ratified by 186 U.N. member states, CEDAW encompasses a global consensus on the changes that need to take place. Under CEDAW, states are required to eliminate the many different forms of gender-based discrimination women confront, not only by making sure that there are no existing laws that directly discriminate against women, but also by ensuring that all necessary arrangements are put in place that will allow women to experience equality.

IPS: It probably means a lot to a whole generation of women who fought for women’s rights. Could you mention some of the challenges faced at the time it was adopted?

IA: This varied of course from country to country. In my own country, Spain, the struggle for women’s rights was part of the broader struggle for democratisation in the country.

Under the dictatorship, women had almost no rights, we couldn’t vote, or work outside the house without our husband’s permission for example. Reproductive rights were extremely limited, as they were in the vast majority of countries. This was very similar in countries in Latin America, where women’s rights movements emerged in the context of democratisation movements.

In the U.S., this movement came out of, and in connection with the civil rights movement, and later it was very much identified with the struggle for reproductive rights, while in many other places the women’s movement was linked to a movement for national liberation.

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Q&A: Italian Women At A Loss

Miren Gutierrez* and Oriana Boselli interview IVANKA CORTI, former president of the CEDAW Committee

ROME, Oct 21 (IPS) – On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Italy is far from attaining gender equality.

“I think that something is changing…however, the Convention is still not very well known in Italy, and what has been ratified hasn’t been implemented yet,” says Ivanka Corti, former president of the CEDAW Committee.

According to the latest global gap report index, in Europe only the Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have bigger gender gaps than Italy. Italy ranks 67 among the 130 countries in the index.

CEDAW was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979, and Italy ratified it in 1985. Italian women are 51.4 percent of the population and 55.8 percent of university students, but their political and economic power is way below equality.

Politics shows the biggest gap, but discrimination can also be found in the workplace, according to the report Education at a Glance 2009, published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). According to the report, having a university degree pays off 2.36 times as much for men than for women in Italy. The average for the OECD, which includes 30 of the most developed countries, is 1.4.

A quarter of a century after signing the Convention, Italy is worse off than, say, Uganda (ranked 43) or Lesotho (16).

In its combined fourth and fifth report on Italy published in 2004, the U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women points to “low participation of women in public and political life, (and) the lack of programmes to combat stereotypes through the formal education system and to encourage men to undertake their fair share of domestic responsibilities.”

The CEDAW Committee, whose main responsibility is to support implementation of the convection, has called on Italy “to adopt a large-scale, comprehensive and coordinated programme to combat the widespread acceptance of stereotypical roles of men and women.”

It has also recommended that “the media and advertising agencies be specifically targeted and encouraged to project an image of women as equal partners in all spheres of life and that concerted efforts be made to change the perception of women as sex objects, and primarily responsible for child- rearing.”

So what has been done, and what remains to be done? IPS talks to Ivanka Corti -who was in the CEDAW Committee for 16 years, four of them as chair – about the status of women in Italy.

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DEVELOPMENT: Rome, Food Capital of the World – Part 1

By Miren Gutierrez* and Oriana Boselli

A farmer harvests sorghum seeds in Sudan. The price of the seeds has doubled over the last two years. / Credit:U.N.
A farmer harvests sorghum seeds in Sudan. The price of the seeds has doubled over the last two years.

Credit:U.N.


ROME, Oct 3 (IPS) – It was once true that all roads led to this ancient capital. Today it is the furrows of maize, wheat and rice fields that take you to Rome, where the biggest global food organisations are headquartered, and the World Summit on Food Security (Nov. 16-18) is being organised.

The situation couldn’t be more momentous.

“The global food insecurity situation has worsened and continues to represent a serious threat for humanity,” says the summit website. According to the latest U.N. projections, the world population will rise from 6.8 billion to 9.1 billion in 2050 – a third more mouths to feed. Most population growth will occur in developing countries.

High food prices in developing countries, a global economic crisis affecting jobs, deepening poverty, and more hungry people combine to paint a bleak picture.

So, what are the expectations of the food organisations present in Rome?

Kostas Stamoulis, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) agricultural development economics division, says this summit “is not a fund- raising exercise…the original position is that we eliminate hunger, preferably by 2025, although I am not sure if this will be the summit’s objective, because the countries have yet to agree on the targets…”

One of the concrete issues on the table, he says, is “reform of the global governance of food security. It has to be better coordinated, because so far every crisis turns into a big disaster. Also, despite all the wealth in the world, we have seen chronically hungry people increasing since 1996.”

A recent paper by FAO says that “producing 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050 while at the same time combating poverty and hunger, using scarce natural resources more efficiently, and adapting to climate change are the main challenges world agriculture will face in the coming decades.”

For Stamoulis, in order to produce more food, “we have to make sure that farmers are properly supported in the developed and developing countries, not at the expense of each other.” So far we are not doing a good job, he says. “Developed countries support farmers tremendously, while developing countries do not have the means.

“Part of the objective too is to make sure that countries realise that a lot more resources have to be devoted to agriculture. Not necessarily during the summit…this is not a pledge summit. That happened in July, when the G8 pledged 20 billion dollars to support agriculture. This is a summit where countries, at the highest level, reconfirm their support.”

At the summit of the Group of Eight (G8) most powerful countries, held in July in the Italian city of L’Aquila, they decided to mobilise 20 billion dollars over three years to fight the food crisis, and it was said the money could be used to promote agriculture rather than as aid. But people like Paolo di Croce, secretary-general of Slow Food International, were sceptical. “We have to change the model that caused this situation (of food crisis), not patch up the gaps with some crisis money,” he said in an earlier interview with IPS.

For Stamoulis, this is a good point. The money should be invested primarily on small farmers, he says. Investments should be made too in infrastructure – roads, ports, storage facilities. “In terms of technology and access to markets, we have to make sure small holders take a fair share of this allocation, so they increase their productivity.”

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