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Archive: December 2008
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RUMOR MILL
Ripping Down ISCI Placards in Shurta; Honking for Da'wa in Iskan
12/29/2008 8:59 PM ET
With little more than one month remaining before Iraq's provincial elections, slated for January 31 in most provinces, rumors are circulating in Baghdad that some political entities vying for votes in the Iraqi capital are paying young operatives to tear down the campaign posters of rival factions.

Locals say that Baghdad's major parties are rumored to employ local children in their neighborhood political strongholds to tear down elections posters of rival factions.

Meanwhile, other rumors in the capital maintain that leaders in some political trends have ordered their followers to take down posters of rival groups or to hang placards on top of them.

Eyewitnesses in the al-Shurta district of southwestern Baghdad spotted followers of the Sadrist Current removing posters of the Shahid al-Mihrab organization, affiliated with the rival Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, last week.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in the Iskan area of central Baghdad reported a vehicle traveling through the area over the weekend mounted with pictures and symbols promoting the "State of Law" list of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Da'wa Party, with the driver honking the horn continuously to draw the attention of bystanders.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the rumors mentioned above at this time.

RUMOR MILL
Everybody wants them!
12/25/2008 6:00 PM ET
There is a rumor circulating through Iraqi streets that the local factory that made the shoes which Al-Baghdadiya correspondent Montadar al-Zaidi famously hurled at President Bush shoes have received over 70,000 orders for identical pairs. More are pouring in, and several factories are claiming that thier shoes were, in fact, the ones used.

The Gulf Daily News reports that the factory is owned by Baghdad shoemaker Alaa Haddad, and an AFP report from Istanbul says that they were a Model 271, the black polyurethane-soled shoes, made by the Turkish company Baydan Shoes.
The Latest
Reports that Khalaf's House Surrounded by Army; Sadrists Blame Ba'th via Sahwa
12/18/2008 6:43 PM ET
Conflicting reports and rumors abound as details remain murky for the reasons behind a high-level raid at Iraqi security ministries yesterday in which dozens of officials, including officers, were reported detained.

While an Iraqi Interior ministry spokesman has denied reports that the dozens of detainees were involved in a coup plot against the Iraqi government, reports and speculation continue to swirl about the high-level raid and the aftermath, all citing "well-placed sources" who offer contradictory interpretations of the motivations and events.

Iraqi ministry spokesman Abd al-Karim Khalaf told journalists that the men were arrested for "breaking the law" and others for being in "inappropriate health conditions," adding that investigations were ongoing and that no detainee has yet been faced with any specific charges, and dismissing suggestions that the Interior ministry could have been subject to a coup plot, saying that the security forces are capable of defending themselves.

However, other reports in Arabic are emerging that Iraqi Army units have in fact surrounded the residence of the same Interior Ministry official, Abd al-Karim Khalaf. Details are sketchy on the reported reasons for this operation. One security source told Islam Memo that the deployment is likely related to the reported arrests at the Interior and Defense ministries, while Buratha News, affiliated with the pro-government Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq has reported that its sources confirm the deployment but deny any link with the earlier arrests in the alleged coup plot, linking the matter to "deceitful charges" against the Interior Ministry official by Iraqi MP Muhammad al-Dayni, related to security operations in Diyala province, without explaining further.

The Sadrist Nahrain Net says its sources in the security agencies link the arrests to the infiltration of Ba'thist elements into the security forces, which it in turn links to the integration of Sahwa elements into the security agencies. The Sadrist site also stresses a connection that it says its sources identified between two of the detainees and an American officer, with whom it says the men worked "in an earlier stage." Nahrain Net suggests in its reporting that its unidentified security sources suspect that the men were indeed involved in some form of "conspiracy," adding that the "elite force" that seized the men found "large sums" of money, and that interrogations are ongoing.

The Latest
New Doctors Protection Law Unimplemented; Some Docs Demand Self-Protection
12/16/2008 8:31 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A number of doctors in Kirkuk province have asked the government to put into effect a law passed earler permitting them to carry weapons to defend themselves.

The associate director of health in Kirkuk, Husayn Ibrahim, said that "we demand the officials to implement a law to protect Iraqi doctors and work to permit them to carry licensed weapons in order to provide them with a bit of personal protection."

Sot al-Iraq reports that Ibrahim added that "The government had issued an order earlier permitting Iraqi doctors to carry one weapon to protect themselves from the dangers and attacks, but this decision has never been implemented."

For his part, another doctor, speaking anonymously, said that "Many doctors have left the country because of the deteriorating security situation. A segment of them has returned after the improvement of the security situation in Iraq but doctors are still in need of a law to protect them after many of them have fallen as casualties and victims."

The Iraqi government passed a law in September permitting doctors to carry a single firearm for their personal protection, but this law has not been implemented by the related authorities.

See it here
Photoshopping the President, with Tread Marks; Shoe-Toss Game Logs 1 Mil "Hits"
12/16/2008 3:15 PM ET

After the infamous incident on Sunday when Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, now in Iraqi custody, threw his two shoes at US President George Bush during a joint press conference in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, at least one Iraqi website known for its strong opposition to the policies of the two men has taken the shoe meme to the next level, showing images of Bush, Maliki, and other symbols, all digitally altered to celebrate the symbolism of the journalist's gesture.

The images shown here all appear on the Iraqi Rabita website, known for its strong opposition to the US presence in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi regime, which its editors frequently portray as representing Iranian and American interests in Iraq.

Rabita also carries a link to a newly created online flash video game, hosted on a Norwegian website, where visitors are challenged to lob digital shoes at an electronic caricature of the US president. As of the time of this posting, the game logged 1,106,390 successful shoe strikes, according to its internal counter.

Images: Iraqi Rabita.

See it here
Photo Gallery for "The Lion of Iraq" and Hundreds of Online Comments
12/15/2008 1:44 PM ET
Like its television broadcast, the website of al-Baghdadiya television has been dominated in the last 24 hours with commentary related to its correspondent Muntadhar al-Zaidi, currently in Iraqi custody after throwing his shoes at American President George Bush on Sunday at a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Also below is a photo gallery of al-Zaidi during previous assignments, which, like the statement features prominently on the al-Baghdadiya website, and a look at some commentary posted by website visitors.

Below is full text of a statement released by the administration of the al-Baghdadiya television channel:

Al-Baghdadiya channel demands the Iraqi authorities to immediately release its employee Muntadhar al-Zaidi, in line with the democracy and freedom of expression promised to the Iraqis by the new era, and by the American authorities.

Any measure taken against Muntadhar would recall the actions seen in the dictatorial age, random acts of violence and arrests, mass graves, and the violations of private and public freedom.

Al-Baghdadiya channel also demands that global, Arab, and Iraqi press and media institutions stand in solidarity with Muntadhar al-Zaidi for his release.

Executive committee Al-Baghdadiya Channel December 14, 2008

Here is the photo gallery of al-Zaidi on assignment, featured by al-Baghdadiya on its website.

Al-Baghdadiya.

Al-Baghdadiya.

Al-Baghdadiya.

Al-Baghdadiya.

Finally, in addition to viewers' on-the-air commentary on al-Zaidi's actions, the channel is also receiving hundreds of comments on its website from around Iraq, the Arab region, and from posters identified as Iraqi or Arab expatriates around the world.

The vast majority of the comments praise al-Zaidi's "heroism" and demand correspondent's release by Iraqi authorities. Writing in Arabic, English, and French, posters offer words of praise for al-Zaidi's "heroism" and "bravery," and demanding his release.

In Arabic, one poster says, "Bush says al-Zaidi does not represent the Iraqis -- no! I say he represents all Iraqis!" Another poster, writing in French, takes it a step further, saying Zaidi does not represent all Iraqis, rather he "represents all Arabs."

Another writes: "You have left a mark on history, Muntadhar, and we are with you. You have honored the Arabs and we are all honored by you."

Many posters have taken to calling the journalist "The Lion of Iraq," while one writes that Zaidi's show-throwing represents the "thousands of innocent Iraqi victims" and the "thousands of Iraqi displaced."

Very few posters among the hundreds leaving comments on the al-Baghdadiya website have criticized al-Zaidi's shoe throwing, saying that the action was inaproppriate for a journalist. None seem to suggest that the American president was an inappropriate target for the shoe attack.

read it here
Rumors, Thoughts, and Some of the General Zeitgeist
By DANIEL W. SMITH 12/13/2008 6:21 PM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith


BAGHDAD – The following is a collection of some of the discussions which surround current events, in Baghdad and throughout the country.

PLOT AGAINST AL-MALIKI
With all the very public disaffection lately between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) recently, there is much talk of the three-member Presidential Council making moves to take over the government, and either oust Maliki, or at least severely limit his power. His popularity has taken quite a downturn, and several different political parties have accused him of trying to consolidate power, and alter his role as prime minister to be closer to a dictatorship.

The Council is made up of President Jalal al-Talabani and his two vice-presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi and Adil Abd al-Mahdi. There have been several meetings between them, including Wednesday’s high-profile meeting held in Sulaimaniya’s Dukan resort with Barzani, but again, with al-Maliki conspicuously absent, in the eyes of many.

This strengthened talk that they were trying to push al-Maliki out to the point where Kurdistan Coalition MP Mahmoud Othman appeared on al-Hurra, one of Iraq’s most highly-watched channels, and made the announcement that the meeting in Dukan “wasn’t against anybody”. He didn’t specify what his statement was in reaction to, but everyone who heard it understood. President Talabani’s unannounced return to Baghdad on Saturday afternoon (which Aswat al-Iraq called "sudden", without an explanation as to why) stoked the buzz even more.

US MILITARY
Rumors are going around that the US Army is hurriedly preparing for the December 31st deadline, while they're actions still go unchecked byt the Iraqi government. It says that American servicemen are building secret underground passageways under their bases, so they can go in and out of the bases, disguised and unnoticed. According to a similiar rumor, a force of Iraqi soldiers and civilians are being trained as American agents. Also, many trucks are reportedly being seen moving into American bases, secretly shipping in supplies, new weapons, surveillance equipment, and more “secret soldiers.”

SADRISTS
Last week and early this week, many were talking of the odd silence from the Sadrists, ever since the day they were loud enough to nearly drown out the parliament vote on the U.S. security agreement. After the three days of “mourning” which followed the vote, the only public statements which really came out were MP Fowzi Akram’s statements that the vote “leaves all options open” as far as resistance to a post-SOFA era of “humiliation”, and the other was MP Zainab Jabori al-Kinani denying reports that members of the Sadr party were attending a meeting in Beirut, aimed at replacing the current government of Iraq.

Other than that, there wasn’t much at all, which gave rise to speculation that something big was in the works – perhaps a return to past Mahdi Army activities or something more sinister. Sadrist rabble-rousing everyone is used to; silence can be eerie.

As this week continued, though, al-Sadr made demands to be the successor to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s position as Iraq’s senior-ranking Shi’a cleric, Mrs. al-Kinani accused the government of violating a pact it made with the Sadrists, and everything seemed to be back to normal.

ELECTIONS
Public disaffection with the election and the politicians who won last time is rampant and talk that the upcoming elections will be fixed is widespread. Depending on the region in which one asks, as well as the religious, racial, and political affiliation of the person being asked, theories against every possible group are possible to find. Popular would-be fixers are Maliki/Dawa, the KRG, America, and, of course, Iran.

IRAN
Much of Iraq’s south is said to be “Iranized”, meaning that Iran has a strong hand in all local politics, lawmaking and law enforcement. There is nothing new about this, but as the elections approach, it is causing many Iraqis to give up on the notion that a fair election is possible.

A high percentage of the fruits and vegetables sold in markets south of Baghdad are from Iran, and the Iranian government is said to currently be trying to stamp out as much Iraqi agriculture as possible. There are two reasons given for this... One is to make money for Iranian businessmen, and the other is to do harm to the Iraqi economy, thus not allowing it to gain a foothold, making people mistrust the government even more and causing additional instability.

BLACKWATER
The Blackwater trials are said to be just a show trial, and even if the defendants are found guilty, they will be let go. Security companies like Blackwater are seen to have enough power to be almost part of the U.S. government, and it all seems like a big show to many Iraqis.

The Latest
Provincial Arab Leader Accuses "Foreign and Internal Agents" in Deadly Attack
12/12/2008 8:18 PM ET
Husayn Ali-Salih, head of the Arab Unity political bloc in Kirkuk province and president of the Hawija municipal council.
Newsmatique.
Husayn Ali-Salih, head of the Arab Unity political bloc in Kirkuk province and president of the Hawija municipal council.

As a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the circumstances of yesterday's deadly suicide bombing that killed over 50 people north of Kirkuk city, one local official who was present at the scene said that he was the intended target of the blast.

Husayn Ali Salih, the head of the Hawija municipal council and head of the Arab Unity Bloc in Kirkuk province, insisted in an interview Friday that he had been the intended target of the blast, Radio Sawa reports in Arabic.

The explosion at a restaurant on the road between Kirkuk and Arbil city targeted him personally, Salih said in the interview with the US-funded broadcaster.

The purpose of the meeting was to pursue rapprochement between the political forces in Kirkuk province, he said.

"Five of my guards were wounded as a result" of the blast the Hawija official said.

Salih accused "foreign and internal intelligence agents (mukhabarat) as lying behind the attack," without specifying further details

Hawija is a predominantly Sunni Arab district of Kirkuk province located about 30 miles southwest of Kirkuk city.

Only on Slogger
Images Making the Rounds by Email Point to Macabre, Bizarre Reality
12/08/2008 6:13 PM ET
Fishers of men: Iraqis remove an unidentified corpse out of the water, in an undated photo circulating in an email message in Iraq.
Fishers of men: Iraqis remove an unidentified corpse out of the water, in an undated photo circulating in an email message in Iraq.

A series of macabre photos are circulating in Iraq with the heading "Only in Iraq," showcasing the well-developed dark sense of humor that Iraqis have had ample opportunity to cultivate.

A selection of the undated, uncredited images in the email, obtained by IraqSlogger, are displayed here, with translations where necessary. The origins of the email message are unknown at this time.

Caption reads: An Australian journalist obtained an Iraqi passport of the repealed S-type, officially issued in a new name, after paying a sum of 110 US dollars.
Caption reads: An Australian journalist obtained an Iraqi passport of the repealed S-type, officially issued in a new name, after paying a sum of 110 US dollars.

Only in Iraq.
"Only in Iraq."

An Iraqi egg seller points to his national reconciliation eggs which he sells alongside such varieties as solar powered eggs and federalism eggs.
An Iraqi egg seller points to his "national reconciliation eggs" which he sells alongside such "varieties" as "solar powered eggs" and "federalism eggs."

A statue of Saddam Hussein gestures grandly before a burned-out building.
A statue of Saddam Hussein gestures grandly before a burned-out building.

Scanning a corpse with a metal detector.
Scanning a corpse with a metal detector.

Newspaper ad bills preparation of asylum stories for Iraqis, for the United Nations, Canada, and Australia.
Newspaper ad bills "preparation of asylum stories for Iraqis, for the United Nations, Canada, and Australia."

Only in Iraq.
"Only in Iraq."

Only on Slogger
U.S. forces block roads, sweep for VBIEDs: Signs of an early presidential visit?
By DANIEL W. SMITH 12/07/2008 9:36 PM ET
Many Roads Surrounding the Turkish Embassy were Blocked for Hours
Photo: Iraqslogger
Many Roads Surrounding the Turkish Embassy were Blocked for Hours

BAGHDAD – At about 3:00 PM on Sunday, a member of Iraqslogger’s Iraqi network witnessed American troops surrounded the area of the Turkish Embassy compound in Baghdad’s al-Waziriya neighborhood. Roads were blocked, and a nearly two hour, painstaking process of checking all parked vehicles for VBEIDs (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices), before turning the security of the area over to local Sons of Iraq to guard.

A plan for a one day visit bu Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül was reported last week by Turkish English-language newspaper Today’s Zaman. The meeting in Baghdad was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Turkey’s special envoy to Iraq, Murat Özçelik, and the visit is stated to be oart of ongoing diplomacy intended to strengthen the ties between the two countries, and most notable, between Turkey and North Iraq’s Kurdish government.

The article in Today’s Zaman says that President Gül will go to Iraq “before the end of the year; however, Ankara has not yet set an exact date for the prospective visit.” Some Iraqi papers had said it would take place in late December.

The extended American search operations in the proximity of the Turkish Embassy started the rumor in at least the al-Waziriya and Sheikh Omar neighborhoods, that President Gül was arriving on Sunday.

Speculation of high government visits are not uncommon in Baghdad, after sudden heightened security, or when a VIP convoy passes. There is no reason to believe that President Gül would seek accommodation at his nation’s embassy, instead of a more centrally-located (and better-secured) area, such as a hotel (likely the al-Rasheed) in the fortified Green Zone.

Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

Only on Slogger
What Status for Iraq's Administrative Center, and Who Should Decide?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 12/04/2008 7:35 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

With news of today's ratification of the Status of Forces Agreement by the Iraqi presidential council comes renewed speculation in Baghdad as to the status of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified central Baghdad area where many US and Iraqi agencies are housed, according to IraqSlogger sources in the Green Zone.

According to the text of a SOFA draft, released earlier, Article 28 of the pact specifies that "When this agreement takes effect the Iraqi government undertakes complete responsibility of the Green Zone," adding:

The Iraqi government may request limited, temporary support from the U.S. forces for the Iraqi authorities regarding the mission of securing the Green Zone and when submitting such a request the related Iraqi authorities are to work in collaboration with the U.S. forces regarding security in the Green Zone during a time period determined by Iraq government.

Baghdad is rife with speculation what the future of this central section of the capital might be, residents tell IraqSlogger.

Green Zone sources tell IraqSlogger that one possibility under discussion could include administratively separating off the Green Zone from the rest of Baghdad, possibly according to the Iraqi constitution's provisions for creating federal areas, such as the northern Kurdistan autonomous region, or the controversial proposed federal regions in southern Iraq.

This model would create a separate federal capital zone, akin to Washington, DC in the United States, although this separate status for an autonomous national capital zone would be unprecedented in Iraq.

Some ideas circulating in Iraqi government circles include redrawing the borders of the capital zone, with some suggesting that the current Green Zone would be reduced in area. Other possibilities might include expanding the current Green Zone to include government ministries that are currently located outside the zone, although intervening residential areas could complicate such proposals.

Slogger sources also report disputes between various branches of the Iraqi government over who should decide the future of the Green Zone. Under the pre-2003 system, the presidency would have been responsible for such matters, but backers of the prime minister say that since executive power now largely rests with that office, the PM should be in charge of shaping the future of the Iraqi administrative zone.

Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

RUMOR MILL
In Baghdad, Whispered Concern as Sahwas Enter into Politcal Contest
12/04/2008 6:24 PM ET
The attempt by Iraq's locally organized irregular Sahwa forces to transform themselves into political parties with national standing by competing in the upcoming provincial elections in Iraq has led to grumbling in Baghdad over what the electoral bid might mean for the political neutrality of the forces.

Slogger sources in Baghdad, especially in predominantly Shi'a areas of the capital, report that some residents view the move by Sahwa groups to enter the political contest as contradictory to the Sahwa claim of being a parallel security force that represents the interest of all Iraqis.

Iraq's Shi'a community has had a tenuous relationship with the predominantly Sunni Sahwas, with some Iraqi Shi'a viewing them as a counterweight to radical Sunni groups that have attacked the Shi'a community of Iraq, while at the same time fearing that the Sahwa groups may be a stalking horse for political forces in the Sunni community that might eventually threaten various Shi'a interests.

Sahwa forces have lobbied for their irregular forces to be folded into Iraq's uniformed security services, but these moves have met resistance from Iraq's Shi'a-dominated federal government.

However, residents of the Iraqi capital report to IraqSlogger that the move to form Sahwa-based political parties to challenge other groups for political dominance in the Sunni community has undercut the standing of Sahwa groups among some Baghdad Shi'a, who suggest that the move clashes with the claimed political neutrality of the Sahwa forces.

Iraqi Sahwa groups have entered political lists to contest the upcoming elections in Iraqi provinces, slated for January 31, primarily to challenge the parties that have represented Iraqi Sunnis since the 2005 elections, when many Iraqi Sunnis boycotted the contest.

This fall, Iraq's government assumed responsibility for the Sahwa groups from the American military, who were involved in setting up and paying the Sahwa forces since their emergence in late 2006, but has not taken the step of integrating Sahwa forces into more secure regular positions in the security forces at the national level, although fighters linked to the Sahwa staff much of the local security agencies in Anbar Province.

A power struggle has smoldered in Anbar Province between the Iraqi Islamic Party, the most successful predominantly Sunni party to contest the 2005 elections, and Sahwa elements, but Sahwa-linked lists are in position to contest the provincial elections in other provinces as well. The "Tribes of Iraq" list includes the Anbar Salvation Council, one of the earliest Sahwa formations, but appears to be poised to compete for votes in Baghdad and other provinces as well.

In addition, rival Sahwa groupings have entered competing electoral lists in Anbar Province.

Only on Slogger
Eyewitnesses: Security Beefed up After SOFA Passes Parliament
12/03/2008 7:47 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Residents of the southern Iraqi city of Samawa tell IraqSlogger that security has been visibly increased in the city, the capital of Muthanna province, since the Iraqi Parliament approved a controversial security pact with the United States last week.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), approved on Thursday by Iraqi MPs, has been a lightening rod for groups opposed to the presence of US forces in Iraq, including the Sadrist Current, which enjoys a strong base of support in areas of southern Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist trend, had threatened to launch new armed initiatives if the SOFA were to pass.

Locals say that checkpoint inspections have been intensified around the governorate, including full searches of vehicles for weapons, and routine inspections of vehicle occupants' identification papers and auto registration papers.

Moreover, police have been observed traveling with heavier weapons, including mortar launchers and heavier cannons, according to eyewitness accounts. Locals say this suggests that the security situation in the province remains unsettled in the view of the local authorities.

Civil defense forces defused IEDs in several areas in the province last week, security sources told IraqSlogger, including in the al-Khidr area, the al-Majid area, and the al-Maqali' area.

RUMOR MILL
Rumors in the Capital: Forces Inspect Drivers' Music to Determine Sympathies
12/02/2008 6:04 PM ET
Rumors are spreading in the Iraqi capital about a possible coordinated effort by US and Iraqi forces to inspect cassette tapes in vehicles to determine the political sympathies of drivers, especially, the rumors say, to identify supporters of the Mahdi Army militia and the powerful Shi'a Sadrist Current, to which the militia is affiliated.

A taxi driver in Baghdad told IraqSlogger that Iraqi and American forces inspected his vehicle at a checkpoint last week.

While the taxi had no weapons or contraband inside, the driver told Slogger that the Iraqi translator, working with the American forces did something unusual: He inspected the driver's personal cassette tapes in what the driver says was an attempt to determine if he was a supporter of the Mahdi Army militia.

The driver told IraqSlogger that, in his experience, it was common for taxi drivers to carry cassettes with them containing anthems that praise the deeds of the Mahdi Army, particularly extolling the Sadrist militia's combat operations against American forces.

Other residents explain that in certain areas of the capital, many taxi drivers are known to have sympathies for the positions of the Sadrist Current, and by extension, the deeds of the Mahdi Army militia in combat.

The Sadrist Current and its Mahdi Army militia, currently under stand-down orders, are not only opposed to the foreign presence in Iraq but also to the current Iraqi government.

As the rumors spread, locals report that young men with Sadrist sympathies are growing fearful that they may be targeted for arrest on the basis of the music that they carry.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

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