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US Caribbean American Congresswoman tables legislation to protect immigrants

US Caribbean American Congresswoman tables legislation to protect immigrants

By Nelson A. King

WASHINGTON, Feb 17, CMC- Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has tabled a bill in the United States House of Representatives aimed at protecting undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants.

Just days into his presidency, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order stating that he would cut off funding to cities that do not cooperate with US federal immigration officials.

Yvette D. Clarke

Trump’s January 24 executive order targets what are known as sanctuary cities and counties, which generally do not comply with federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested on charges unrelated to their immigration status and turn them over to the federal authorities for possible deportation, according to the New York Times.

Clarke’s “Protect Our Sanctuary Cities Act” is intended to end Trump’s executive restrictions on sanctuary cities and prohibit the expenditure of funds to enforce these provisions.

In addition, the measure would require the US Department of Homeland Security to present a report to Congress within 30 days explaining how the agency could build trust with immigrant communities.

“During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to punish New York City and other communities that want to protect immigrants and their families. His executive order on immigration, by denying counter-terrorism funds to sanctuary cities, attempts to enforce that pledge with a threat,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) after introducing the bill on Thursday

“We are a sanctuary city because all people, regardless of their immigration status, should have the ability to access critical services, such as the protection of police and firefighters and the ability to send their children to school,” she added.

Without sanctuary in New York City, undocumented immigrants are forced to live with the fear that any contact with the government – even a call to the local police precinct to report a crime – could result in deportation.

“Nobody in New York City should have to live in fear of Donald Trump. As a result, this executive order undermines the safety of our entire community. We should build bridges, not walls, between Americans. I urge my colleagues to join me in resisting Donald Trump’s cynical efforts to divide our nation.”

Immediately after Trump signed the executive order on January 24, the mayors of large and small American cities reacted with outrage.

On January 25, Trump signed an executive order “vastly expanding who is considered a priority for deportation,” the New York Times said.

This has prompted further outrage from Caribbean American legislators in New York City, who have called for a very strong stance against the new president’s immigration policy.

Last Thursday, a United States federal appeals panel unanimously rejected Trump’s bid to reinstate his ban on travel into the US from seven Muslim countries, stating that the government showed that “no evidence” that anyone from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had committed terrorist acts in the United States.

Clarke had condemned Trump’s travel ban, warning that it would eventually affect the Caribbean.

Amid increased anxiety and apprehension in the Caribbean community in the United States, the head of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the department that oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, acknowledged that ICE has launched a series of targeted enforcement operations aimed at deporting Caribbean and other immigrants.

“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens [immigrants] and gang members, aswell as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in a statement earlier this week.

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CARICOM caption head feb 17-1333x394

Stirring opening to CARICOM Inter-Sessional

 

 

 

Stirring opening to CARICOM Inter-Sessional – Video highlights
(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     The Twenty-Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) opened Thursday morning at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana.
 
Speakers at the Opening included CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque,  Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, and CARICOM Chairman and President of Guyana, HE David Granger.

More in this video report:   https://vimeo.com/204469890
 
 

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Geothermal site

Millions to be spent on geothermal energy development

 
ROSEAU, Dominica, Feb 13, CMC – The Dominica government says it will spend an estimated EC$45 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) on the further development of the geothermal energy sector here.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, addressing a private sector forum here last weekend, said that the funds will come from the controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) through which foreign investors are provided with Dominican citizenship in return for making a significant investment in the socio-economic development of the country.

“We have invested millions thus far and will make a further investment of EC$45 million in the development of the geothermal plant. “I am sure you all look forward to the significant reduction in the cost of energy that will follow,” Skerrit said.

He said the audience the development of the plant “will be a positive impact on your businesses and this should also stimulate investments by others by establishing new businesses”.

Last December, Energy Minister Ian Douglas said Dominica was moving closer to harnessing geothermal energy.

He said the Dominica Geothermal Company had been registered, and planning of the power plant is progressing.

“We are moving ever closer to the vision of realizing power from our geothermal resources. The Dominica Geothermal Company has been duly registered, and plans for the construction of the power plant are progressing satisfactorily,” he stated.

“The government has invested further EC$15-million into this phase of the project. And we have commitments from our friends in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and the World Bank, to assist us with the completion of this project.”

This follows a decision made by the Government to run the geothermal project as a company solely owned by the government and people of Dominica.

Skerrit said that the island should not also forget the “tremendous devastation” caused by Tropical Strom Erika in 2015 and that the rehabilitation efforts are being funded under the CBI.

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Argyle Airport SVD

St. Vincent and the Grenadines opens new multi-million dollar international airport

By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb 14, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Argyle International Airport was officially opened Monday evening with a flag raising ceremony in which Prime Minister Dr.  Ralph Gonsalves said that the facility is “a symbol, it is a metaphor of what is possible in us.

“Do not ever allow any people, any nation to impose on us limitations to our imagination,” he told the large crowd that turned out to the opening of the EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) facility, six years behind schedule.

“Only we, as a self-governing people under God, with our own individual sense of being; only we must impose limitations on ourselves. Any other notion is a colonial one, and it is debilitating and it will hold us back,” said Gonsalves, who in 2005 announced his administration’s plan to build an international airport at Argyle, on the eastern side of the island.

Gonsalves at agyle

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

“Whatever we set our minds to achieve, with patience and calm, we can achieve, as we have seen it here. This is a bridge to the world. And this plan didn’t just come from us. It is a combination of human intelligence and divine inspiration,” Gonsalves said and sang the chorus “I’m building a Bridge”.

Monday’s flag raising was one of two events to mark the opening of the airport, which begins operations later on Tuesday with scheduled flights by intra-regional carriers, LIAT and Grenadine Air Alliance.

A number of international chartered flights from North America and Cuba are also scheduled to land on Tuesday at the airport, which has contributed EC$400 million to the EC$1.6 billion national debt.

The airport has a runway that is 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. The terminal building has been designed to process 1.5 million passengers annually and 800 persons an hour at peak.

Gonsalves, who will also address Tuesday’s ceremony, said “today was supposed to be a very simple function and look at the thousands who are here.

“ (Tuesday) I believe we are going to see the largest crowd ever assembled at one place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And we are going to have a good time. We are going to have a good time because we have been blessed,” he said.

In his address, Gonsalves reiterated that the events on Monday and Tuesday are national ones.

“This is a not a party, political event; neither the one tomorrow (Tuesday). There is enough time, which we have spent on those arguments and we may well spend them on the arguments in the future, but today, now, and tomorrow (Tuesday), with our guests in our midst, I want to ensure that we have a national event, worthy of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.

“It is inevitable, in the nature of competitive politics, that this or that matter may be said; that something may creep in. But, as prime minister of the country, I want to reaffirm, yet again, that this is a national event,” Gonsalves said, using the event to thank the nations and institutions that contributed to the successful completion of the airport.

He thanked the CARICOM Development Fund, which, of its own resources and through resources from Turkey, contributed to the airport and thanked also the president and the government and the people of Taiwan, which donated the terminal building.

Friday at agyle

Opposition Leader Goodwin Friday at Monday’s ceremonial opening

He also recognised “very specially”, three other major partners, namely Venezuela, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, which will be featured during Tuesday’s celebratory rally.

President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro is slated to attend and speak at the event as well as Cuban Vice-President, Salvador Mesa.

Gonsalves paid a special tribute to the memory of his “dear friend and brother”, the late prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, whose widow, Hazel will speak during Tuesday’s rally.

Gonsalves also used the ceremony to recognise other representatives of countries that have assisted with the airport, namely, Austria, Mexico, Turkey, Libya, Georgia, and Iran.

“We have had contributions from countries; some of them do not have diplomatic relations with one another. And part of the creativity and skill of the government was to bring all of these countries together to assist the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Gonsalves also thanked the governments of Britain, Canada, and the United States of America, whose respective export credit guarantee systems assisted “with certain items of equipment which we purchased, but, because of the guarantee systems we got them on better interest terms”.

Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday, speaking to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) said the event had the pomp and ceremony that he expected.

“And I hope that the airport turns out to be what we expect as well.”

Friday did not give a clear answer as to whether opposition lawmakers would attend Tuesday’s event, saying “we will see. We will take it one day at a time.”

He said that decision would be informed by “what the nature of the exercise is.

“I think right now what we want to do is to show that commitment to people that this is a national project and whatever the criticisms are, we, in the opposition, we have to raise questions about things that we see in major projects or in government policy that raise concern.

“And if we do that, that doesn’t mean that we are rejecting entirely or we are unpatriotic, as some people might say. We are doing our job. When the project is completed, we hope that, based on the input we have given, that it becomes a better project.”

Friday said opposition lawmakers were at the event to show that they want the project to succeed.

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Bermuda parli

House approves airport project after marathon debate

By Ivan Clifford

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Feb 11, CMC  — The opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) has urged the public to flood senators with their concerns after the House of Assembly early on Saturday approved legislation paving the way for government’s controversial airport redevelopment project,

Despite vociferous opposition from the PLP, after almost 14 hours of debate,  the Airport Authority Act 2017, was passed by 18 votes to 16.

MPs voted along party lines with independent MP Shawn Crockwell, a former One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) Tourism and Transport Minister, supporting the bill.

Legislators went on to consider a second piece of legislation, the Airport Redevelopment Concession Act 2017, which was also approved early Saturday morning.

Bermuda parli

Parliament gives green light to airport bill

An expected protest outside the House of Assembly building against the airport plan failed to materialise on Friday morning.

The ruling OBA  announced in late 2014 it had agreed a 30-year public-private partnership (PPP) deal with the Canadian government through Canadian Commercial Corporation and Aecon, the Canadian contractor, to build a new airport terminal with a then estimated price tag of US$250 million.

The two political parties have been engaged in a bitter wrangle over its pros and cons ever since.

The OBA has repeatedly said its PPP deal with Aecon will give the island a desperately needed new airport without adding to its debt, while the PLP has aggressively attacked the move as privatisation, saying it will see airport revenues disappear overseas, and touting renovations as an alternative.

At the time, Finance Minister Bob Richards said Bermuda needed a new terminal — the current one leaks during storms — at the L.F. Wade International Airport but could not afford one because of the island’s unhealthy financial position, hence the decision to go for the PPP deal.

Opposition Leader David Burt said in a statement on Saturday “we are disappointed, yet not surprised, that the OBA government acted against the best interests of Bermudians by voting to privatise our airport for 30 years.

“This deal will send $2.4 billion of revenue to a Canadian company, while Bermudian taxpayers are burdened with a $586 million bill. This deal has been marked with questions and controversy from the very start.

“The Senate now has a chance to weigh in and vote against the OBA’s airport privatisation bill that will weaken the country’s finances,” Burt said, adding “we urge all Bermudians opposed to the transfer of $2.4 billion in tax revenue to a Canadian company to contact senators to encourage them to bring a pause to the privatisation of our airport.”

The heated debate in the House came after Bermuda Industrial Union President Chris Furbert had opted to send union members back to work when only 150 to 200 showed up on Friday morning at Union Square.

Disappointed by the turnout, Furbert declared that it was impossible to ask “the minority to carry the majority forward”.

On December 2, more than 1,000 demonstrators prevented legislators from entering the House of Assembly to debate the airport plan and police in riot gear used pepper spray in a bid to disperse the crowd. House Speaker Randy Horton adjourned proceedings until this month.

Finance Minister Richards told the House on Friday that the airport project would cost $302 million and take 40 months to complete.

He said Bermudians and local firms would be given priority when it came to jobs created by the project.

“More information, over 1,000 pages, has been disclosed to the public in this project than any other project in the history of Bermuda,” he said.

Pointing to the findings of an independent panel, which this week described the deal as “commercially sound”, Richards concluded: “This transaction represents the best way forward given the atrocious hand left to us by the former government.”

The OBA inherited a national debt of $1.4 billion after it ousted the PLP in the December 2012 general election. The debt has grown to $2.4 billion.

An opinion poll commissioned by the Royal Gazette newspaper, and published on Friday, showed that almost two-thirds of Bermuda voters approved the airport plan.

The 11-member Upper House — made up of five senators from the OBA, three from the PLP and three independent members — is due to meet again on Monday  but is unlikely to discuss the airport plan because it has a raft of other legislation to deal with after being put on hold following the House disruption in early December.

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Skerrit at forum

PM urges private sector to get on board CBI programme

ROSEAU, Dominica, Feb 10, CMC – The Dominica government Friday urged the private sector to get more involved in the controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) describing it as a “winner” in the regional push to attract foreign direct investments (FDI).

Dominica is one of several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that has a CBI programme providing citizenship to foreign investors in return for a significant investment in the socio-economic development of the island.

Skerrit at forum

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addressing private sector forum

The other countries with such a programme include Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitts-Nevis.

But in recent weeks the CBI here has come under close scrutiny leading to the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and the smaller Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) staging a protest march calling for Skerrit’s resignation and that of his entire Cabinet.

“We have created a product that is internationally competitive. A winner and a leader in the regional push to attract foreign and direct investment and stimulate job creation,” Skerrit told a private sector forum here.

“Moreover, unlike that which obtained in the banana industry, the CBI is a product which is owned by us, is marketed by us and from which the direct benefits go into our treasury and our economy”.

He said it is in the interest of the private sector “to do all that is possible to ensure that the CBI succeeds,” noting that its success “is a guarantor of success of the private sector”.

He said currently there is a heavy focus on hotel construction under the CBI with projects planned to come on stream this year “should result in a dramatic increase in five star quality rooms within the next two to three years.

“These new investments will stimulate demand in the economy and support expansion of the private enterprises as a supply chain to the sector grows and diversifies.”

He said that his administration has already approved financing to be loaned to a local investor to support the purchase of the Dominica Coconut product (DCP) plant from Colgate Palmolive for the resuming the manufacture of soap products here.

“I am sure all Dominicans would be happy to witness the re-commencement of the production of soaps and other products at this facility”.

In November 2015, the Dominica government said it had submitted a proposal to take over the local operations of Colgate-Palmolive, following the company’s decided to close its doors, putting an estimated 94 people on the breadline.

Prime Minister Skerrit said then that his government wants to enter a private treaty with Colgate-Palmolive to take over the DCP property, located in the western community of Belfast, and keep the operations going.

This is not the first time the Dominica government had made a move to acquire the company and that the new proposals had been submitted in November 2015.

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Gonsalves-at-AIA

PM says several dignatires coming for ceremonial opening of international airport

 
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb 10, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the list of invitees to next week’s ceremonial opening of the multi-million dollar Argyle International Airport will include “a couple of presidents” and “a vice-president”.

But Gonsalves, who has in the past described the EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) airport as one of his major political achievements, would not disclose the names of the foreign heads of government besides saying that one of them is Guyana’s President David Granger, who is also chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping.

Gonsalves-at-AIA

Prime Minister Dr. ralph Gonsalves (center) at a visit to the airport on Wednesday

“I don’t think there is any overwhelming security issue attached to President Granger,” Gonsalves told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), adding later that the Cuban and Venezuelan governments will be represented at the event.

“A member of the Cuban government is coming. I ain’t telling you who. A member of the Venezuelan government is coming. I am not telling you who. Because I have to say thanks to them,” Gonsalves said.

Venezuela and Cuba have contributed significantly to the construction of the airport, which is opening six years behind schedule with a further EC$400 million added to the national debt.

Gonsalves said he is also hoping to bring back to St. Vincent for Tuesday’s event 60 of the Cubans who worked on the airport.

“You had, at various times, over 220 Cubans that came here and at one time, you had up to 112, but we are bringing back 60 of them to thank them, like we are thanking you,” the Prime Minister told the former property owners.

Gonsalves said all heads of government of the 15-member CARICOM have been invited to attend. But he said  Grenada Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and the Premier of Montserrat, Donaldson Romeo, have indicated that they have prior engagements, and so too “a couple of fellas”.

Gonsalves was especially hopeful that Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, whose country is the only independent CARICOM state without an international airport, would be able to attend the ceremonial opening on Tuesday.

“I hope Roosevelt will be able to come because I would like Roosevelt to come and see because he has the mind and he has a vision for an international airport so I want him to come and see it and be part of it.”

Gonsalves said that Hazel Manning, the widow of  former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Patrick Manning, will also attend the event.

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Stephen Wedderburn

Regional officers being trained in CARICOM consumer protection system

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb. 9, CMC – Regional consumer protection officers and standard officers are benefitting from advanced training in the upgraded Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Rapid Alert Exchange System (CARREX) for hazardous, unsafe and defective goods.

The three-day workshop got underway on Wednesday in the business district of New Kingston.

CARICOM launched CARREX in 2012 in response to concerns expressed by consumer representatives over the years about the need to provide greater protection from unsafe products.

The web-based system, developed with assistance from the European Union (EU), allows consumers in CARICOM member states to alert authorities on dangerous products that are detected in the market. It covers all goods with the exception of food items, pharmaceuticals and tobacco products.

Stephen Wedderburn

Stephen Wedderburn

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Industry, Stephen Wedderburn, said the Ministry is the gatekeeper in ensuring that substandard and unsafe goods do not enter the marketplace.

He cited the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Bureau of Standards Jamaica and the National Compliance Regulatory Authority as the agencies at the forefront of this effort. The CAC is the lead organisation for CARREX in Jamaica.

Wedderburn said that once fully activated, “CARREX will help regulatory authorities across the region to act expeditiously to inform those at risk in order to avoid any potential health risk, injury or financial loss not just in Jamaica but across the region.”

In her remarks, Coordinator for Hemispheric and Bilateral Negotiations, CARICOM Secretariat, Michelle Lowe, said she hoped the workshop will be successful.

“We trust that the information and the skills acquired over these next three days will prove useful and will be put into practice when you return to your respective countries.”

She said all member states must work together to ensure that the CARREX regional and national networks are in place to fully implement and operationalise the system.

The workshop involves collaboration among the CARICOM Secretariat, the Organization of American States (OAS) Consumer Health and Safety Network and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Thirty-four participants and consultants from the 15 member states of CARICOM are attending the workshop.

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Assot Michael

Government orders probe into processing of passports under CIP

by STAFF WRITER

 ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Feb 10, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government has ordered a re-examination of the applications of 19 passport holders on suspicion that there was “political interference” in the decision to have them processed, Minister of Economic Investment Asot Michael, has said.

Michael, speaking at the weekly Cabinet news conference, said someone had contacted Prime Minister Gaston Browne and himself while they were on a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates.

Michael said the review by the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of the approved applications for 17 Iranians and two Yemenis has already started.

Assot Michael

Asot Michael (File Photo)

“There was a very reputable businessman who was given a contract by the former administration to develop the entire port and to have exclusivity of the management for the port. He brought to light certain evidence about these Iranian passports,” Michael said.

“We have no evidence that there were any nefarious activities or that any of these applicants were involved in any terrorist or money laundering activities, “ Michael said, noting that out of an “abundance of caution” the application files are to be vetted through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC).

He told reporters “any evidence that the CIU will provide…will be turned over to the police for investigation,” adding that the probe was “not a case of this government going on any political witch-hunt”.

He said it was simply a reaction to “evidence” that there may have been “intervention on their behalf by high-ranking United Progressive Party officials”.

Michael said that the 19 persons applied for citizenship under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) “prior to June of 2014” when the present Browne administration came into office.

Michael did not specify when the applications were approved.

Antigua and Barbuda is among several Caribbean countries that provides citizenship to foreign investors in return for them making significant investments in the socio-eceonomic development of the country.

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Assot Michael

Government orders probe into processing of passports under CIP

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Feb 10, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government has ordered a re-examination of the applications of 19 passport holders on suspicion that there was “political interference” in the decision to have them processed, Minister of Economic Investment Asot Michael, has said.

Michael, speaking at the weekly Cabinet news conference, said someone had contacted Prime Minister Gaston Browne and himself while they were on a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates.

Michael said the review by the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) of the approved applications for 17 Iranians and two Yemenis has already started.

Assot Michael

Asot Michael (File Photo)

“There was a very reputable businessman who was given a contract by the former administration to develop the entire port and to have exclusivity of the management for the port. He brought to light certain evidence about these Iranian passports,” Michael said.

“We have no evidence that there were any nefarious activities or that any of these applicants were involved in any terrorist or money laundering activities, “ Michael said, noting that out of an “abundance of caution” the application files are to be vetted through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC).

He told reporters “any evidence that the CIU will provide…will be turned over to the police for investigation,” adding that the probe was “not a case of this government going on any political witch-hunt”.

He said it was simply a reaction to “evidence” that there may have been “intervention on their behalf by high-ranking United Progressive Party officials”.

Michael said that the 19 persons applied for citizenship under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) “prior to June of 2014” when the present Browne administration came into office.

Michael did not specify when the applications were approved.

Antigua and Barbuda is among several Caribbean countries that provides citizenship to foreign investors in return for them making significant investments in the socio-eceonomic development of the country.

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