IIT-B unruffled by criticism on Dow sponsorship row

Express India, July 15, 2008
Organisers of the IIT-Bombay Jubilee celebrations in New York apparently reacted with nonchalance – albeit anonymous nonchalance – when asked about the storm raised by IIT faculty and alumni over Dow’s sponsorship of the exclusive event. A typhoon of comments subsequently buffeted the website that posted the story – see below… ed.
New York, July 15: The organisers of the IIT-Bombay Golden Jubilee conference in Mumbai have rejected criticism by an organisation working with people affected by the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy for accepting a sponsorship from Dow Chemicals.
The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) had criticized the organisers — IIT Bombay Heritage Fund — for accepting gold sponsorship from Dow Chemicals, saying that the company which was responsible for the tragedy had failed to address concerns of the victims.
However, the Heritage Fund said accepting financial assistance did not amount to promoting the controversial company.
“By accepting sponsorship, the organisers are not promoting, sponsoring or advocating any product and it is a purely financial arrangement,” a spokesman said.
So far as legal issues are concerned, the organisers leave them for the courts to decide, he added. Union Carbide, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, had a pesticide plant in Bhopal which leaked in December 1984, killing thousands of people and leaving many with permanent damages.
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Comments – 24 Skip the lunch campaign
by Akshay Damarla on 18 Jul 2008
I took a look at the program schedule and noticed that lunch on Saturday July 19th at this event is being sponsored solely by DOW. Some of us are planning on requesting attendees to ‘Skip the Lunch’. If you or anyone you know are interested please join us at 45th street Times Square. Thank you.
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Their Salt
by Dushyant on 18 Jul 2008
Akshay, This is really a good idea to help these IITians save their last bits of self respect…Let the losers eat the salt…
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…Their salt
by dushyant on 18 Jul 2008
I meant ….eat Dow’s salt….
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Time
by Akshay Damarla on 18 Jul 2008
We will be assembling by around 4:30 for the above action.
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Akshay: Please send email address
by Nityanand Jayaraman on 18 Jul 2008
Dear Akshay:This is excellent. I’m circulating this call on the Bhopal listserves, and to the people who signed the petition, and on any alumni listserves. Please send me your email address.
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Financial arrangements
by Aquene Freechild on 16 Jul 2008
I am sure IBM’s sales of computers to better organize the murder of 11 million people was purely financial as well. Those who equivocate boycotting a country with boycotting a corporation are missing the point. Dow must clean up Bhopal NOW and face criminal charges today – there are specific things Dow can do to stop the poisoning and murder of Bhopal’s children. The fact that other corporations and nations like the US also use murder and poison is no excuse endorse Dow’s doing it too. To those who suggest action is impossible or futile, I am sure Gandhji had as many “practical’ detractors as well. To you I ask – What are you doing to stop injustice in the world? If you feel strongly about Guantanamo, then join the campaign to close it. Pick your battle and make a difference.
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Wrong questions lead to tendentious conclusions (continued from below)
by Tim Edwards on 16 Jul 2008
In reply to skep_tic: The two ‘legal processes’ attempting to bring accountability for the contamination in Bhopal (Jabalpur
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rest of the comment (the system would not accept an ampersand)
by Tim Edwards on 16 Jul 2008
… and New York) were both initiated by citizens of Bhopal, not by state or judiciary. These citizens are thereby showing a faith and belief in the rule of law that appears to be missing from their elected representatives. Bhopal survivors asserting Dow’s responsibility in public forums are no more pre-empting these legal processes than is Dow in publicly denying either the existence of the contamination or the criminal proceedings, or its responsibility for them. Besides, recent RTI discoveries reveal that the Indian Law Ministry agrees that “if there is any liability, it must be borne by Dow”. A better question to ask would be, how does a nation state bring the rule of law to bear upon a multinational company not headquartered within its borders and intent on conducting itself with utter impunity?
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Dow’s contempt for India and Indians
by Indra Sinha on 16 Jul 2008
Never forget the comment of a top Dow executive that “$500 is plenty good for an Indian”. This was $500 “compensation” for a lifetime of illness and pain. Dow also bribed govt officials to license as safe for domestic use in India a pesticide called Dursban which is banned for domestic use in the US. Dow paid an out-of-court settlement of $10,000,000 to the family of an American child damaged by Dursban. When deformed and brain damaged children start being born all over India as they are in Bhopal, then it won’t be $10,000,000 per child, because $500 is plenty good for an Indian. India doesn’t need Dow. India has enough resources and knowhow. Dow needs India, but to exploit. Kick Dow out of India. Kick hard. Kick now.
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Pseudo Patriotism
by Partha Sarathy on 16 Jul 2008
Why is no one protesting against IITians choosing USA to celebrate their Golden Jubilee? After all it was USA which pioneered the atom bomb which killed countless in Japan. If DOW is unacceptable then USA is also not acceptable. All IITians should stop working in USA. Will they?
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Organisers fail IIT students
by Rohit on 16 Jul 2008
In accepting the sponsorship from Dow, I think the organisers would be failing the students and faculty of IIT who rejected Dow from their campuses in unison last year. I think it is an opportunity for the organisers to cure their myopia and show that they can think beyond ‘a purely financial arrangement’. The insensitivity shown by the organisers quite resembles the Indian Prime Minister’s willingness to be subservient to American dollars rather than address the issues of his own countrymen. While the fund itself is called IIT Bombay Heritage Fund, I wonder if the key people involved have ever given a thought to what legacy they would leave, when they accept Dow’s blood money. No wonder the men involved are hiding behind un-named spokesmen.
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IIT-B: Dow sponsorship row
by anomani on 16 Jul 2008
The organizers must withdraw themselves from receiving any sort of funds from DOW chemical company. This is an ethical issue and hence cannot be decided in any court. Even if the authorities are not doing any sort of advertizing for the sponsors, the outcome will be nothing but promoting the company, DOW. And if the company is that much interested in doing social service, if that is the reason they are providing the sponsorship, let them do clean the polluted Bhopal environment and give proper compensation to the affected people. I strongly protest against the unethical actions of the organizers who are purposefully forgetting the horrible situation of a helpless community.
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Eveready is ready, Is Dow?Dear
by Nityanand Jayaraman on 16 Jul 2008
Dear Skep-tic:You are right that the management of Union Carbide India Ltd (now Eveready Industries) is also jointly responsible for the disaster, and the environmental fallouts. You have missed out that besides Eveready, the Indian Government and the Madhya Pradesh Government are also responsible. The campaign for justice in Bhopal has not targeted only Dow Chemical. For the last 4 months, the Bhopalis have been camped out in Jantar Mantar — on a sidewalk in New Delhi — demanding the Indian Government to act responsibly. Further, the only reason you see Dow projected as big, bad corporation is that it is not letting the law take its course. There are two key cases — criminal and for environmental liability. In both Dow is one of several defendants/respondents/accused named. In all cases, Eveready is named. In all cases, Eveready is appearing. In all cases, Dow and Union Carbide are absconding. How will law take its course, when Dow and Carbide behave like there is no rule of law.
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Leadership comes hand-in-hand responsibility
by Anuj Grover on 16 Jul 2008
Dow, Eveready and others are leaders in their domain… However, with leadership also comes responsibility.Dow “has” to be held responsible for the disaster in Bhopal, because when you acquire assets of some other company, you also acquire its liabilities.Also, letting Dow go scot-free will set a terrible precedent… Any company – Indian or transnational – will blatantly refute safety provisions and then abscond – finally sell its assets to someone else – and the hopes of people looking for relief getting dashed…We have to set a culture of corporate responsibility. While this can start with acts of responsibility proactively taken up by corporates, in their absence, it has to be ensured that we demand this responsibility from them.So, Dow IS responsible for Bhopal. And, if we do not by-cott them for all purposes at all events, we are FAILING to demand right corporate conduct standards from Dow and other organizations working with hazardous material.
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Shame on Heritage Organizers
by Somu K on 16 Jul 2008
Shame on you IIT-B heritage organizers and alums to be remotely associated with DOw chemicals, forget funding or not.DOW chemicals has still not accepted Bhopal liability and cheating all Indians and its ridiculous for you to join hands with them.Please don’t forget poor Indians, including Bhopalis, have subsidized your IIT education. Please show them atleast half the loyalty you show this rich corporates.
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Legitimising Dow’s Stand
by Just another reader on 16 Jul 2008
This act on the part of the IIT-B heritage fund will give some legitimacy to DOW’s stand that it cannot be held responsible for UC’s criminal conduct. It will set a very bad precedent.The time is probably ripe to take this opportunity to conduct a major soul-searching debate within the IIT’s themselves so that they can come to a unified position as to where they stand with respect to DOW.
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bad precedent for what ?
by Sudipta N. Sinha on 16 Jul 2008
Why don’t you use your real name ? While you seem to be aware about UC’s criminal conduct, are you aware that DOW has been ignoring summons to appear in court ? Dear ‘Just another reader’ and IITians, does it really require soul-searching to realize whats going on ? As for your statement ‘It will set a very bad precedent’ — can you please explain what you mean.
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Re: Legitimising Dow’s stand
by Just another reader on 16 Jul 2008
‘bad precedent’ for doing business with a company that’s blatantly evading corporate responsibility. I guess what needs to be done is to make this evasion more expensive for the players involved than it currently is. If Bhopal were in USA they could not have gotten away like this because it would have been very expensive for them to do so. They would have had to shut their shop down and clamped with billion dollar class action lawsuits. The most effective pressure group for a corporation is its shareholders. If they can be made to force the leadership to take notice ( for example by a concerted campaign by Bhopal sympathizers aimed at Dow’s stock ), then probably Dow will come to Indian courts to give its attendance or agree to a proper out of court settlement, as it would have become too expensive to ignore the issue anymore.
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yes i agree
by Sudipta on 16 Jul 2008
Sorry I misunderstood you earlier, didn’t read carefully. I agree with you whole-heartedly.
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Eveready
by skep_tic on 16 Jul 2008
Just curious as to why only Dow is in everyone’s cross-hairs and not Eveready et al. Also, can anyone explain as to why the legal process in India should be pre-empted by those who are absolutely convinced that Dow (and only Dow and not Eveready et al) is guilty? If we must override the Indian court system and the Indian Govt., then the only conclusion is that there is no rule of law in India.
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How about Khaitan Group and Eveready Industries?
by skep_tic on 16 Jul 2008
Shana – before indicting Dow by acting as judge, jury and executioner, do you even know that the Union Carbide plant in India was bought by the Eveready Industries and the Khaitan Group. Why aren’t you and other activists insisting that the Indian company that actually bought the company that caused the tragedy is made to pay? Why isnt there a boycott of Eveready batteries, one of India’s most popular brands? Do facts matter or is it just about showing sympathy, without regard to who is legally responsible?
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Dow bought the polluter, not Eveready
by Tim Edwards on 16 Jul 2008
Skep_tic, there’s a substantial fallacy within your assertions concerning Eveready. EIIL bought Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) subsidiary UCIL, true enough, but no court still handling the fall out of Bhopal (in Bhopal, Jabalpur or New York) has considered UCIL either singly or substantially responsible for either the disaster or the contamination. That’s because UCIL was subject to the overarching control of majority owner UCC throughout its occupation of the Bhopal plant site. UCC was the controlling entity at the time the vast majority of the pollution was incurred; UCC designed the methods for handling waste at the plant; UCC oversaw the inadequate remediation efforts at the plant prior to 1994; UCC’s trained manager continued the work after 1994. See here for details. Who bought the controlling corporate entity substantially responsible for both the disaster and contamination? Dow, not Eveready. Ergo, the entity succeeding UCIL, Eveready, may be partly responsible, but Dow is substantially so.
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The polluter who must pay is Dow
by Tim Edwards on 16 Jul 2008
Here’s the link to Union Carbide documents detailing the contamination history, which leave no doubt about the primarily culpable party: bhopal.net/oldsite/poisonpapers.html
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legal responsibility
by Sudipta N. Sinha on 16 Jul 2008
Dear Skep_tic, wonder why you had to use an alias for your post. Are you aware that the Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate in January 2005, summoned Dow to produce Union Carbide in the ongoing criminal case. Why do you think DOW continues to abscond from the court ? If they are innocent, why don’t they appear in court.This is not about ‘who is to pay’ — this is outrage against a corporation which believes in hiding its own trade-secrets on medical information which could have been used to save lives AFTER the tragedy, a corporation which promises clean drinking water for thousands but does nothing about its liabilities in Bhopal.
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Answer the post please
by skep_tic on 16 Jul 2008
Instead of answering the post about Eveready batteries – and I bet you use them every day! – you are off on a fishing expedition about “hiding trade secrets or medical information”. This is the kind of sensational “let’s blame the big bad American corporation” approach instead of actually dealing calmly with facts. Dow is not a saint, but neither is any corporation, including any number of Indian companies including Reliance. I wonder what would happen if you applied the Dow test to each and every product or service you use in India today – one would practically have to live in a cave in the Himalayas! Let’s hold Dow responsible but not use one-sided and biased boycotts against some but not all the culprits (e.g. MP Govt., Eveready Group etc.)
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answer
by Taru on 16 Jul 2008
No one is avoiding your question i feel.Every ready is also questioned and definetly not let out of the legal battle.And it is more important to emphasis on the “hiding trade secrets or medical information” because that is causing the elongated suffering amongst the Bhopalis.True, if we take the same test many or most things in this world would have to be banned. The more we strive for the perfect solution the more we bring out a worser chemical/product/… but we can live without them? Try is urself??and about the non use of Evryready.. do u do it your self?Cause many who stand for the cause don’t use it..
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regarding suppression of medical information
by Sudipta N. Sinha on 16 Jul 2008
Dear Skep_tic, thanks to you and Nityanand, I learnt about the involvement of Eveready group. No corporation should get away with mass murder of 23,000 dead and 100,000 chronically ill (Source:ICMR). Regarding the actions of central and the state governments, their inaction and silence is shameful. But that does not reduce the responsibility of the corporation any bit. As for the crime of suppressing medical information, please see Chapter 9, The Bhopal Reader, Apex Press 2005 for the facts.
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disgrace
by Shana on 16 Jul 2008
There is no such thing as “purely a financial arrangement.” Especially when one of the partners in the arrangement is so clearly unpure. Dow has made it clear that they think that poisoning Indian people and leaving them poisoned for decades is a forgivable and forgettable act. Remember Dow’s statement “$500 is plenty good for an Indian”? Well what is the price IITB Heritage Fund is willing to accept to help Dow acquire flawed legitimacy? Is it a few thousand?IITB Heritage Fund Organizers: is it worth your tarnished reputation among hundreds of IIT alums and faculty? It is worth selling out to the murderers of fellow Indians?
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my message continued
by Sudipta N. Sinha on 15 Jul 2008
Till one month ago, I knew little about what had happened in Bhopal. My history books in school didn’t tell me, neither did the grown-ups. No one asked me to do anything for Bhopal and I was busy with my own stuff. Its quite likely that many of you are in the position I was in a month ago – unaware of the real facts and unable to separate ‘fact’ from ‘fiction’. I request you to pick up a copy of ‘The Bhopal Reader – Apex Press 2005 and find out for yourself the magnitude of the crime committed, the degree of greed and inaction that has happened in Bhopal. Find out about the people who say ‘they want justice, not money’. When you see their faces, its easier to relate to what this is all about. If you do so, the voice within you will urge you to do the right thing. I sincerely hope that this happens. As for those calling you ‘shameful’, ‘sold out’, they will forget you eventually – but you will not forget your own ‘financial arrangement’ with the perpetrator of this inhumane crime.
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A reminder for those who made ‘this purely financial arrangement’
by Sudipta N. Sinha on 15 Jul 2008
Suketa Mehta wrote in Village Voice, Dec 3,96:[Big people like you have snatched the peace and happiness of us poor people. You are living it up in big palaces and mansions. Moving around in cars. Have you ever thought that you have wiped away the marriage marks from our foreheads, emptied our laps of children, bathed us in poison, and we are sobbing, but death doesn’t come. Like a living, walking corpse you have left us. At least tell us what our crime was, for which such a punishment has been given. If with the strength of your money you had shot us all at once with bullets, then we wouldn’t have to die such miserable sobbing deaths.You put your hand on your heart and think, if you are a human being: if this happened to you, how would your wife and children feel ? ….]- Sajida Bano’s husband was the first victim of Carbide in 1981. On that 1984 night, she lost her son too.Carbide had their own financial arrangements. You have yours. Organizers, hope you sleep well at night.
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IITB disgraceful to sell out
by Jasbir on 15 Jul 2008
This is the sad pattern in India now. Groups like IITB chasing money so blindly that they sell out their own people in favor of a US corporation. Indians should stop making US companies their deity and start to improve their own country. But IITB will never see the light through their greed filled eyes.
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Shame on IITB for forgetting Bhopal
by Mona on 15 Jul 2008
What kind of example is IITB setting in highlighting DOW as a sponsor and thus forgetting the injustices of Bhopal. Shame on Anil Kshirsagar, Sunil Shenoy and Nandan Nilekani (alum organizers) for forgetting Bhopal and putting DOW as part of its celebrations and washing their hands with the tears and suffering of the Bhopal survivors. Shame on them! I am really disgusted to see that IITB, which should be paving the way for future leaders is stepping on the hearts and minds of hundred and thousands of Bhopali survivors by this deed.
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disgusting
by Raj on 15 Jul 2008
We all knew that IIT’s were merely serving as SEZs for talented minds, trained at low cost. But this is new that now they are even joining hands and accepting funding with the corporation that has blood of poor Indian/Bhopalis stained on its hands…Several US universities have denied to accept million of dollars from Dow for thsi reason. It is absolutely digusting that IIT is accepting this money for the sake of doing this Golden Jubilee tamasha…!! I think IITs have no right to have that first I on their name.. they should just be Institutes of Technologies… thats it.!!
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Is there a Difference?
by Aashish Gupta on 15 Jul 2008
24 years ago, thgousands died, and many more suffered incurable damage, because a corporation decided that it wanted to save some money on its plant. Today, the country’s leading institue of technical education has decided to overlook completely unethical and anti-people strategies of the same company, so that the institute can celebrate 50 years of being. Arent we supposed to do good deeds on our birthdays? But the heritage funds, wants to earn money. I hope i am wrong, but i see little difference between the managers of union carbide then, and the organisers of this golden jubilee conference. Just a question? in stead of Gold sponsorship, can the iitb chaps call it poison sponsorships?
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IITB Alumni have lost their ability to differentiate between right and wrong
by Shweta Narayan on 15 Jul 2008
Its amazing to see that while the students of IITB last year had refused to work for Dow Chemicals for its pending liability in Bhopal the Alumni has decided to shake hands with the very same Criminal of Bhopal. IITB Alumni’s decision to accept money has clearly exhibited that they have left their ethics, morals and their sense of differentiating between right and wrong back in their classrooms for corporate greed and profit. Accepting blood money from Dow is also sending a message that corporate profits do not care for humanity and IITB Alumni is clearly making this statement. Shame on you IITB Alumni!
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Shame Shame IITB alumni assocn
by Nityanand Jayaraman on 15 Jul 2008
The criticism was not targeted at IITB, but at Anil Kshirsagar, Sunil Shenoy and the likes of Nandan Nilekani, who are alumni organisers of the IITB Golden Jubilee celebrations in New York. I’m not surprised that the spokesman for the organisers chose to keep his identity a secret. I would too if I were forced to make insensitive and inane statements that say that accepting sponsorship is nothing but a financial agreement. If that were the case, would the organisers accept money from the Bin Laden Group, a legitimate corporation, or from the Medellin Drug Cartel? Many IIT alumni and students and faculty have shown remarkable sensitivity and high ethical standards when they demand that institutions carefully screen who they associate with. Shame on the organisers. These are the modern-day Mir Zafars, the turn-coats who will sell India for a purely financial arrangement.
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Soul Curry
by Partha Sarathy on 15 Jul 2008
Money got by selling fish does not stink. What if Union Carbide had been owned by one of the weighty and mighty of the Indian Business group in Fortune list and who becomes member of the parliament of India?
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disingenuous denial
by Tim Edwards on 15 Jul 2008
The IIT Bombay Heritage Fund spokesman misses the point by a rather wide margin. The strong objections made by IIT faculty, students and alumni do not concern the marketing of Dow products: they concern the fact that a prestigious Indian technological institution has allowed itself to accept lucre from a thoroughly dicredited, apparently remorseless serial offender against Indian citizens. By associating with Dow, and by implictly legitimising its presence in India, the IIT Bombay heritage fund simultaneously dishonours itself and its members and conveys the message that it’s fine to kill and maim Indian people, just so long as palms are sufficiently greased. There is no such thing as a ‘purely financial arrangement’ in this instance: Dow knows full well what it is paying for.
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Misleading headline and article
by Abhinav on 15 Jul 2008
HiIIT Bombay and Alumni has been the one opposing the DOW’s Sposorship from tarnishing the brand name of IIT’s. IIT Heritage should not accept any kind of money from DOW which refuses to take responsibility of cleaning of Bhopal plant.

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