Showing posts with label Vigilance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vigilance. Show all posts

January 30, 2021

Faith and Fight in Defense of Israel


 Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, called "Faith and Fight in Defense of Israel."

From Amalek to Iran, Israel can never be caught off-guard again and this means both operationally as well as from mistaken assumptions and thinking. Operationally, we need to always have the best technology, intelligence, planning, and training, as well as continually test those with Red Teaming to simulate enemy attacks and our readiness to counter with winning defensive and offensive operations. Moreover, we need to be on our guard in our thinking, as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak says in his book, My Country, My Life, that when he became head of Aman (Defense Intelligence), he sought to address the problem of misperceptions, overconfidence, and groupthink by strengthening “a unit whose sole function was to play devil’s advocate.” They would begin “with the opposite conclusion, and through a competing analysis of data and logical argument, try to prove it.”

Just as when we left Egyptian servitude, we defeated Amalek through a combination of our faith and fight, so too we will be successful in defeating those that threaten the modern State of Israel. Like Moses we all must turn to Hashem, and like Joshua, the Israel Defense Forces must stand ready to defeat all our enemies, as many times as it takes, to achieve a secure and lasting peace.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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October 4, 2019

Celebrating With Security

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Celebrating With Security."

Take a look around you at the new security measures and people risking their lives for yours and your family. Take a moment to thank them. But also, recognize that the security isn't there just for show, it's there because the hatred and threats have tangibly increased along with the ever present means to carry them out. It is critical that we continue our vigilance and the strengthening of our security measures, because those that hate us for who we are and for our faith are not going away, and unfortunately, they may even continue to grow in numbers and resolve. However, none of us should live in fear and be forced to stay away from our religious institutions, our Torah study, and prayer, but rather to the contrary, we need to stand up strongly--in defiance and in faith!

While I don't know what specific security measures we will see next Rosh Hashanah, I can say with almost absolute certainty that it will be more and not less and that you should definitely be taking notice.

(Image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay)

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March 28, 2019

Who Is The Most Dangerous?

Recently, I started watching this show called "Billions."

I'm in the middle of Season 2, and it is a brilliant and mesmerizing show that depicts the battle between the CEO of a Wall Street Hedge Fund and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY.

Ands it is a true battle of wits, might, and it gets ugly in every way. 

(I won't spoil the show...)

But there is one line from the show that came out in the heat of an exchange between the two at the end of Season One that I wanted to share:
The only thing more dangerous than a person with unlimited resources is a person who has nothing to lose.

When you think about it, there is tremendous wisdom and truth in this, and a poignant lesson to be learned for every person, organization, and even nation of great power.

No matter how much money, people, and assets you may have to fight...

...if the other guy has nothing to lose and is willing to go do the unthinkable then we have a very big problem indeed. 
Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

From those desperate and willing to act as suicide bombers to those that would actually push the button on a nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological attack, there is no winning even if you are the last one left standing.

The other guy who feels he has already lost is willing to take you with him by any and all means. 

Therefore, we cannot and should not ever think that the battle against evil is won, because even when the opponent appears in all respects to be defeated that may be when they become even more dangerous to us than ever.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 11, 2018

17 Years Since 9/11

Today is the 17th anniversary since that fateful day of 9/11 when the terrorists brought down both World Trade Centers and ploughed another plane into the Pentagon.

One of the greatest acts of terrorism in history. 

With almost 3,000 dead and the center of our financial and military strength hit in a flash attack, we as a nation stood naked. 

We've gone after the terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and more, but still, there is the endless drone of world-wide terrorism. 

Yes, we are lucky that nothing major has happened in the U.S. since 2001.

At the same time, we know that anything could happen at any time--from another terror attack to a catastrophic cyber attack that takes out our critical infrastructure, bioterrorism that wipes out hundreds of millions with genetically engineered viruses, or even nuclear warheads wiping out entire cities or regions of the world. 

Forget natural disasters for the moment, man-made disasters are always just around the corner when it comes to planning and execution.

The FBI and our other dedicated law enforcement personnel try to stop them all, but no one and nothing human is perfect. 

So while we try to maintain an elevated security posture to protect this country and even maybe someday build a wall that doesn't leave us with porous borders for everyone and anyone to get in willy-nilly, many don't or barely remember 9/11 and what it meant. 

We said it changed everything forever, but did we mean it?

17 years and we've been fortunate--very fortunate--but are we ready for the next fateful blow to land in the ongoing war on terror. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 9, 2018

Why Can't People Be Genuine

Why all the phonies, users, shysters, and scammers out there?

It starts perhaps with that big, warm smile.

Maybe a handshake and hug. 

Perhaps, you even get a kiss or two (it's cultural, I think, LOL).

Colleagues, friends, you're just like family.

Sometimes it's real and you truly found something valuable in your life.

There are good people of soul and conscience out there. 

But other times it's an act, a sham, deception, you're the fool. 

The other person wants something--cash, control, connections.
Oh by the way, can I ask you for just a "little" favor?
You wouldn't mind if...?
Just do XYZ for me, I got your back. 
I see you know so and so, would you introduce me?
I have a great investment opportunity for you, let me tell you all about it.
Sure it's okay and actually wonderful in a real relationship for people to be there for each other and help each others..."that's what [real] friends are for!"

The problem is where the friendship is only about the ask for the benefit of the other and no care for you as a person. 

Then the smile isn't a genuine collegial or friendship one of happiness and outreach. but rather it's upside down to get you to do something legit or illegit for the person pressing their lips up and out into that smile you already know is all about the ask. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 25, 2018

In the Know Or Dark

So here is one way that some people can (try to) manipulate you--positively or negatively. 

They can help either to keep you "in the know" or "in the dark."

As we all know by now, information is power!

When you're in the know--you are a trusted agent and a valuable resource; you have more dots and more connections between the dots to make; you are able to analyze what's happening and make better decision going forward; you can lead with knowledge, wisdom, and hopefully understanding. People come to you for advice, guidance, and because you are a true asset to the team, your superiors, and the organization. 

When you're in the dark--you are untrusted and unvalued, you may actually be seen as the enemy who needs to be marginalized, put out or taken out! You are kept out of meetings, uninformed or misinformed, and so you become more and more intellectually worthless. Further, others are implicitly or explicitly told that you are poisonous and not to get caught up in the pending slaughter.  A colleague of mine put it this way: "Don't get between a man and his firing squad."   

So with others, there can be information alliances as well as information warfare. 

To a great extent, you are responsible for keeping yourself in the know. You need to build relationships, bridges, and networks. You need to read, observe, and talk to lots of people. You need time to digest and analyze what you learn.  And you must build your information store so that it is ready and actionable. 

But to another extent, there are others--superiors, competitors, bullies, abusers--who just might seek to keep you in the dark and bring you down. Not everyone is your friend...some maybe just the opposite. (Wouldn't it be nice, if we all were just friends!) But showing you the intellectual ass of the group is a powerful nut that once superimposed as an image, cannot be easily distilled. There is plenty of groupthink to go around. And taking out a perceived enemy diffuses their power to everyone else.  What a lousy coup by some nasty f*ckers!

Why some friend and others foe you--who the heck knows. Perhaps some is chemistry; some is tit for tat; some is personal bias and bigotry; and some just the crapshoot of fate. 

In the end, keep doing your part to enhance your value, your friendships, and your integrity. The rest, you have to be vigilant about and realize not everyone wants the lights kept on. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 25, 2017

The Trouble With Our Security

So the problem with our security is that we value our openness more than we do our security.

And perhaps, we fear war more than we desire true peace. 

This was a photo from Summer 2015 when the Pope was in DC.

And despite a "massive" security apparatus set up to protect the Pope, the "largest security operation in U.S. history"...


Check out this photo of a colleague who was able to literally run up to the Fiat car where you can see the Pope waving from. 

Our security is full of holes--if this guy had a gun, molotov cocktail, or bomb then the top Christian leader in the world could've been taken out, just across the street from the U.S. State Department. 

As a democracy, we value openness and freedom to say what we want, do what we want, protest what we want, carry guns as we want, but when is open too open?

Again, whether it comes to cybersecurity or physical security, unless we start to get serious about what massive and large security really means, it is just a matter of time before something really terrible happens, G-d forbid. 

We've got to do a better job balancing security and openness. 

No one should be getting right up to the Pope's car like this!

No one should be smashing windows, burning cars, and attacking police and pedestrians in Washington, DC or anywhere.  

No one should be buzzing our battleships and jets!

No one should be hacking into our sensitive cyber systems, taking down and crippling them and stealing our secrets!

No one should be recruiting, plotting, and carrying out increasing and devastating terrorist attacks right under our noses in this country or elsewhere. 

No one should be using chemical weapons around our red lines in population centers or in airports!

No one (Iran, North Korea, Russia) should be developing, testing, and aiming nuclear ballistic missiles at the West!

War is a last resort, but this is not peace.

It is time to rethink our security posture...it is past time. ;-)

(Source Photo: A Colleague)
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November 15, 2016

Why Can't We Keep Our Secrets

Well after the now notorious email scandal and other information security mishaps galore, this advertisement in Washington, DC is really quite the rage. 
"Keeps classified data classified."

As parents tell their children about keeping private things private:
"If you can't keep it a secret, then how do you expect the other kids to keep it to themselves?"

There are lots of secrets in DC, but there are also a lot of big mouths, security negligence, and even corruption. 

This gives our adversaries the opportunities they need to get our countries vital information. 

We work too hard to develop the best intellectual property for national security and our economy as well as the critical policies for advancing human rights and democracy around the world to let it just be easy fodder for others to help themselves too. 

Technology won't solve the gap in certain big mouths and sloppy Joes around town. 

Only vigilant, smart people can protect the nations vital information that is the fuel for our success and survival. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 13, 2016

U-Haul Rental Truck Terrorism

So true story...

This week I was walking in Downtown, D.C.

I see something strange, not usually there. 

There is a U-Haul van parked in front of the GW University School of Science and Engineering. 

Literally in front of the main doors.

A couple of it's wheels are actually sloppily on the sidewalk and it is in front of a fire hydrant in front of the very doors to the school.

But that's not all. 

All around the vehicle are oddly taped on posters as you see above. 

On some of the posters are antagonistic words about DOJ (the Department of Justice) and some even use the word "terrorist."

Well, after the devastating terror attack in 1995 against the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building with a massive homemade bomb concealed in a rental truck that killed 168 people and wounded almost 700, I decided it's probably a good idea to call the police. 

In the time that it took them to come, I was able to walk to the market place and to coffee...I know they are busy, but it seemed like forever. 

Finally, two patrol cars pull up...that's good. 

I go outside to meet them. 

The officer after briefly looking around (and not in) the vehicle looks at me as I walk over to him. 

I said, "I called you about this suspicious vehicle."

He goes sternly, "Well, what's suspicious about it?"

I described the obvious...how it was parked with wheels on the sidewalk, at a fire hydrant, right in front of the main doors to the school, and with all those (crazy) posters all around it and uses the word "terrorist".

Surprisingly to me, the officer responds, "That's not suspicious!" Then he concedes, "but I will give it a ticket."

He must've seen my face go into this contorted questioning look, but I thought the better of the situation and said with deference to him, "Well Sir, you're the expert!"

I thank him for coming out and walk away feeling disheartened at this security response just 15 years after 9/11 and when we are still fighting a gruesome war with ISIS and against global terrorism. 

Then just a few days later, look at the article I came across with a homeland security warning:

"ISIS Guide: Rent a U-Haul As A Weapon, Target Thanksgiving Day Parade or Political Rallies."

In the ISIS instructions, there is a picture of a U-Haul truck with the caption, "An Affordable Weapon" and the statement that "low security" gatherings "are fair game and more devastating to Crusader nations."

With all due respect for our esteemed law enforcement, perhaps we need to take these terrorist warnings more seriously, and frankly even without the explicit warning, a suspicious U-Haul in downtown DC in front of a major university probably deserves more than just a parking ticket! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 5, 2016

A Matter Of Vigilance

Getting around town, I have noticed a stark and scary hands-off absence of security. 

So different than the immediate vigilance after the attacks of 9/11 is the sleepiness of our security establishment now. 

Recently, I noticed a security guard not on lookout, but rather on video games on his smartphone while standing post. 

And then again coming down the street today, another guard (no child that is) was putting up handprints on the fogged up glass instead of having their hands safely on (or off) their trigger. 

What was even more frightening was that the guard abruptly turns around while handprinting the windows, as if I did something wrong just walking by, and says to me, "You scared me!"

To which I promptly replied, "Really, you're the one with the gun!"

It's incredible how far we have fallen security-wise after the attacks from New York to Paris and Orlando to Kiryat Arba.

In the Wall Street Journal today, Bret Stephens writes, "It's depressing to think that the only way the world might understand the truth about terrorism is to have some experience of it." 

Why do we have to be lazy and lackadaisical, playing around with people's lives, instead of with it and ready to prevent the next one and the next one?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 5, 2015

Climbing The Tower, Remembering 9/11






It's the weekend before the anniversary of 9/11, and today in full gear, about 100 firefighters and police officers climbed the 28-story tower in Rockville 4 1/2 times today equaling the 2,000 stairs in the World Trade Centers.

This to remember the 343 firefighter and 71 police officer heroes that fell that fateful day.

Also, to raise funds for the firefighter burn fund. 

While some are war weary and would rather forget or pretend it never even happened...

It is so important that we not forget the devastating terrorist attack by Islamic extremists on 9/11 that took us by surprise and cost this nation so dearly. 

Reckless pacifism, appeasement, cowardice, and running from the fight without defeating the enemy and restoring societal order will only bring the fight to us. 

We need ongoing vigilance, investment and improvements to homeland security and our national defense, and the spread of freedom and human rights across the globe.


(The interview with the firefighter was narrated by me, Andy Blumenthal)

(Source Photos: Me as well). 

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June 22, 2014

Why We Expect Nothing

I took this photo of a sign at the Metro station to the Reagan National Airport by Washington, D.C. 

"Expect The Unexpected" is the warning.


Don't be complacent--anything can happen--be vigilant--is the message. 


It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about people going to the beach and hiding their wallets in their shoes.


Like, a criminal would never think to check your shoe!


Oh, push the wallet all the way down to the toes, under the tongue, that way the bad guys will never be able to get to it. 


Here, it's more a case of of why don't we expect the darn expected. 


Everybody knows that people "hide" their valuables at the beach in their shoes!


In modern times, we seem blind though to any expectations at all.


- Arab Spring and civil war spreading into Syria and Iraq--after Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and more--who would've thought?


- Russia taking over Crimea and agitating in Eastern Ukraine--after their little excursions into Georgia and Chechnya--who would expect that?  


- Financial meltdowns and major recession after the dot com and housing bubbles--even my barber was talking about retiring and buying a mansion in the Caribbean--where are these coming from?


The question then is are we really unable to see past our noses or do we just hold steadfast to principle that ignorance is bliss?


Well let's just test the "expect nothing doctrine" that we seem to all be living by these days and see how you feel about these:

  • North Korea--they would never invade the South again.
  • Iran--sure, they are going to give up their nuclear weapons and their greater Middle Eastern Caliphate ambitions. 
  • China--Yeah, we'll just pin them in the South China Sea and they'll never get out.
  • The national deficit--it's not and will never be too big for us to handle because we're rich. 
  • Terrorism in a major American city--not after 9/11 and all that Homeland Security.
  • Environmental catastrophe--we will build a big bubble over ourselves, so no problem.
  • Economic inequity--the top 1% deserves to control 43% of the Nation's wealth and everyone else just sit down and shut up.
  • The Singularity--how could a machine ever be smarter than us; we've got all the technology fully under our control. 

Well, if you are blind or dumb enough to believe these, just keep putting your money in your shoes at the beach, because there is no reason to expect that anyone would ever think to look for it there. ;-)

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February 17, 2014

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

No this is not an alert, but some strategic thinking about alerts. 

As a kid, we get our first alerts usually from the fire alarm going off in school and practicing the buddy system and safely evacuating. 

As adults, we are used to get so many types of alerts:

- Homeland Security threat alerts
- Breaking news alerts
- Emergency/Disaster alerts
- Severe weather alerts
- Smog alerts
- Transportation delay alerts
- Accident alerts
- Fraud alerts
- Economic and financial alerts
- Amber missing child alerts
- Internet security alerts
- Power loss alerts
- Home or business intruder alerts
- Fire alerts
- Carbon Monoxide alerts
- Medical/health alerts
- Chemical spill alerts
- Product safety or recall alerts
- Unsafe drinking water alerts
- Active shooter alerts
- Work closure alerts
- Parking garage alerts
- Dangerous marine life alerts
- Dangerous current or undertow alerts
- Air raid siren alerts
- Solar eclipse alerts
- Meteorite or falling space debris alerts
- Special sale or promotional event alerts

With the arrival of highly successful, mass social media applications like Twitter, we have alerts aggregated for us and listed chronologically as things are happening real-time. 

The brilliance of the current Twitter-type alerting is that we can sign up to follow whatever alerts we are interested in and then have a streaming feed of them.  

The alerts are short--up to 140 characters--so you can quickly see the essence of what is happening or ignore what is irrelevant to you. 

When more space is needed to explain the details behind an alert, typically a (shortened) URL is included, which if you click on it takes you to a more in depth explanation of the event or item. 

So alerts are a terrific balance between short, attention grabbing headlines and links to more detail, as needed. 

What is also great about the current alerting mechanism is that you can provide concise alert information, including:

- Message source (for ensuring reliability)
- Guidance (for providing immediate instruction on response). 
- Hazard (for specifying the type of incident)
- Location (for identifying geographic or mapping locality)
- Date/time (for implications as to its currency)
- Importance (for determining severity such as catastrophic, critical, etc.)

While we remain ever, hyper-vigilant, we need to be careful not to become anxiety-ridden, or at some point, simply learn to tune it all out, so we can actually live life and get stuff done.

It's good to know what's going on out there, but can too much information ever become a bad thing? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 1, 2011

Vigilance on a Wrist

I just wanted to share this product with readers of my blog.


At the press of a button, you activate a piercing alarm (up to 30 minutes) and flashing locator lights right from this wrist band.

While I am not endorsing any particular vendor or product, this type of self-defense product can really be important.

This could potentially save the lives of loved ones about to be violently attacked, abducted, or even raped, G-d forbid.

From the Amazon site, I was impressed also to see that a portion of each sale is even donated to missing children's funds.

At a price of only $16.99 per wrist alarm, how much is there really to think about?

Stay safe out there!

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March 6, 2010

Overcoming the Obstacles to Cyber Security

There continues to be a significant shortfall in our cyber security capabilities, and this is something that needs our determined efforts to rectify.

Often I hear a refrain from IT specialists that we can’t wait with security until the end of a project, but rather we need to “bake it into it” from the beginning. And while this is good advice, it is not enough to address the second-class status that we hold for IT security versus other IT disciplines such as applications development or IT infrastructure provision. Cyber Security must be elevated to safeguard our national security interests.

Here are some recent statements from some our most respected leaders in our defense establishment demonstrating the dire strait of our IT security posture:

· “We’re the most vulnerable, we’re the most connected, we have the most to lose, so if we went to war today in a cyber war, we would lose.”- Retired Vice Admiral Mike Mullen (Federal Computer Week 24 February 2010)

· The United States is "under cyber-attack virtually all the time, every day” - Defense Secretary Robert Gates: (CBS, 21 April 2009)

· “The globally-interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure known as “cyberspace” underpins almost every facet of modern society and provides critical support for the U.S. economy, civil infrastructure, public safety, and national security. This technology has transformed the global economy and connected people in ways never imagined. Yet, cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st Century.” (White House CyberSpace Policy Review, 2009)

Further, the number of attacks is increasing; for example, SC Magazine 20 November 2009 reported that the number of cyber attacks against the Department of Defense was increasing year-over-year 2009 to 2008 by some 60%!

And the penetration of our critical systems spans our industrial, civilian, and defense establishment and even crosses international boundaries. Most recently reported, these included the following:

· F-35 Joint Strike Fighter $300B program at Lockheed Martin,

· The Space Shuttle designs at NASA

· The joint U.S. South Korean defense strategy

· The Predator feeds from Iraq and Afghanistan and more.

Thankfully, these events have not translated down en-masse and with great pain to the individuals in the public domain. However this is a double-edged sword, because on one had, as citizens we are not yet really “feeling the pain” from these cyber attacks. On the other hand, the issue is not taking center stage to prevent further and future damage.

This past week, I had the honor to hear Mr. James Gossler, a security expert from Sandia National Labs speak about the significant cyber security threats that we face at MeriTalk Innovation Nation 2010 on the Edge Computing panel that I was moderating.

For example, Mr. Gossler spoke about how our adversaries were circumventing our efforts to secure our critical cyber security infrastructure by being adept and agile at:

· Playing strength to weakness

· Developing surprising partners (in crime/terror)

· Changing the rules (“of the game”)

· Attacking against our defenses that are “na├»ve or challenged”

In short, Mr. Gossler stated that “the current state-of-the-art in information assurance [today] is significantly outmatched” by our adversaries.

And with all the capabilities that we have riding on and depending on the Internet now a days from financial services to health and transportation to defense, we do not want to be outgunned by cyber criminals, terrorists, or hostile nation states threatening and acting in ways to send us back to the proverbial “stone-age.”

Unfortunately, as a nation we are not moving quickly enough to address these concerns as retired Navy vice admiral Mike McConnell was quoted in Federal Computer Week: “We’re not going to do what we need to do; we’re going to have a catastrophic event [and] the government’s role is going to change dramatically and then we’re going to go to a new infrastructure.”

Why wait for a cyber Pearl Harbor to act? We stand forewarned by our experts, so let us act now as a nation to defend cyber space as a free and safe domain for us to live and thrive in.

There are a number of critical obstacles that we need to overcome:

1) Culture of CYA—we wait for disaster, because no one wants to come out first—it’s too difficult to justify.

2) Security is seen as an impediment, rather than a facilitator—security is often viewed by some as annoying and expensive with a undefined payback, and that it “gets in our way” of delivering for our customers, rather than as a necessity for our system to work

3) We’ve become immune from being in a state of perpetual bombardment—similar to after 9-11, we tire as human beings to living in a state of fear and maintaining a constant state of vigilance.

Moreover, to increase our cyber security capabilities, we need to elevate the role of cyber security by increasing our commitment to it, funding for it, staffing of it, training in it, tools to support it, and establishing aggressive, but achievable goals to advance our capabilities and conducting ongoing performance measurement on our initiatives to drive results.


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