Archive for junho \30\UTC 2008

O que nós podemos fazer neste momento perigoso

junho 30, 2008

Os catastrofistas voltam a lançar suas profecias.  Eis aí o Prof. Lawrence Summers, da Harvard University, expondo as suas preocupações na sua coluna mensal do Financial Times!


What we can do in this dangerous moment
By Lawrence Summers

Financial Times: Published: June 29 2008 18:10 | Last updated: June 29 2008 18:10

It is quite possible that we are now at the most dangerous moment since the American financial crisis began last August. Staggering increases in the prices of oil and other commodities have brought American consumer confidence to new lows and raised serious concerns about inflation, thereby limiting the capacity of monetary policy to respond to a financial sector which – judging by equity values – is at its weakest point since the crisis began. With housing values still falling and growing evidence that problems are spreading to the construction and consumer credit sectors, there is a possibility that a faltering economy damages the financial system, which weakens the economy further.

After a period of intense activity at the beginning of the year with the passage of fiscal stimulus legislation, strong action by the Federal Reserve to cut rates and provide liquidity and the introduction of anti-foreclosure legislation, policy has again fallen behind the curve. The only important policy actions of the past several months have been those forced on the Fed by the Bear Stearns crisis. It would be a mistake to overstate the extent to which policy can forestall the gathering storm. But the prospects for a more favourable outcome would be enhanced if four actions were taken promptly.

First, the much debated housing bill should be passed immediately by Congress and signed into law. It provides some support for mortgage debt reduction and strengthens the government’s hand in its troubled relationship with the government-sponsored enterprises – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While it is an imperfect vehicle – too limited in the scope it provides for debt reduction, insufficiently aggressive in strengthening GSE regulation and failing to increase the leverage of homeowners in their negotiations with creditors through bankruptcy reform – it would contribute to the repair of the nation’s housing finance system. Failure to pass even this minimal measure would undermine confidence.

Second, Congress should move promptly to pass further fiscal measures to respond to our economic difficulties. The economy would be in a far worse state if fiscal stimulus had not come on line two months ago. The forecasting community is having increasing doubts about the fourth quarter of this year and beginning of the next as the impact of the current round of stimulus fades. With long-term unemployment at recession levels, there is a clear case for extending the duration of unemployment insurance benefits. There is now also a case for carefully designed support for infrastructure investment, as financial strains have distorted the municipal credit markets to the point where even the highest-quality municipal borrowers are, despite their tax advantage, paying more than the federal government to borrow. There are legitimate questions about how rapidly the impact of infrastructure spending will be felt. But with construction employment in free fall, there will be a need for stimulus tied to the needs of less educated male workers for quite some time. Fiscal stimulus measures must be coupled to budget process reform that provides reassurance that, once the crisis passes, the fiscal policy discipline of the 1990s will be re-established.

Third, policymakers need to make a clear commitment to addressing the non-monetary factors causing inflation concerns. Though this could change rapidly and vigilance is necessary, it does not now appear that there are embedded expectations of a continuing wage price spiral. Rather, the primary source of inflation concern is increases in the price of oil, food and other commodities. Even if structural measures to address these issues do not have an immediate impact on commodity prices, they may serve to address medium-term inflation expectations. Appropriate steps include reform of misguided ethanol subsidies that distort grain markets to minimal environmental benefit, allowing farm land now being conserved to be planted; measures to promote the use of natural gas; and reform of Strategic Petroleum Reserve Policy to encourage swaps at times when the market is indicating short supply. Major importance should be attached to encouraging the reduction or elimination of energy subsidies in the developing world.

Fourth, it needs to be recognised that in the months ahead there is the real possibility that significant financial institutions will encounter not just liquidity but solvency problems as the economy deteriorates and further writedowns prove necessary. Markets are anticipating further cuts in financial institution dividends; regulators should encourage this to happen sooner rather than later and more broadly to reduce stigma. They should also recognise that no one can afford to be too picky about the timing or source of capital infusions and rapidly complete the review of regulations that limit the ability of private equity capital to come into the banking system. Most important, regulators should do what is necessary, including possibly seeking new legislative authority, to assure that in the event of an institution becoming insolvent they can manage the resolution in a way that protects the system while also protecting taxpayers. It was fortunate that a natural merger partner was available when Bear Stearns failed – we may not be so lucky next time.

Unfortunately we are in an economic environment where we have more to fear than fear itself. But this is no excuse for fatalism. The policy choices made in the next few months will matter to the lives of millions of Americans, to America’s economic strength and to the global economy.

The writer is Charles W. Eliot university professor at Harvard University and a managing director of D.E. Shaw & Co

A Agenda de Obama

junho 30, 2008

Eis o que escreveu hoje o Prof. Paul Krugman na sua coluna de The New York Times: A Agenda de Obama!


Op-Ed Columnist
The Obama Agenda
Published: June 30, 2008

It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton?

Current polls — not horse-race polls, which are notoriously uninformative until later in the campaign, but polls gauging the public mood — are strikingly similar to those in both 1980 and 1992, years in which an overwhelming majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the country’s direction.

So the odds are that this will be a “change” election — which means that it’s very much Mr. Obama’s election to lose. But if he wins, how much change will he actually deliver?

Reagan, for better or worse — I’d say for worse, but that’s another discussion — brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.

Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing “a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.

We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans’ health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: “The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”

So whom does Mr. Obama resemble more? At this point, he’s definitely looking Clintonesque.

Like Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama portrays himself as transcending traditional divides. Near the end of last week’s “unity” event with Hillary Clinton, he declared that “the choice in this election is not between left or right, it’s not between liberal or conservative, it’s between the past and the future.” Oh-kay.

Mr. Obama’s economic plan also looks remarkably like the Clinton 1992 plan: a mixture of higher taxes on the rich, tax breaks for the middle class and public investment (this time with a focus on alternative energy).

Sometimes the Clinton-Obama echoes are almost scary. During his speech accepting the nomination, Mr. Clinton led the audience in a chant of “We can do it!” Remind you of anything?

Just to be clear, we could — and still might — do a lot worse than a rerun of the Clinton years. But Mr. Obama’s most fervent supporters expect much more.

Progressive activists, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama during the Democratic primary even though his policy positions, particularly on health care, were often to the right of his rivals’. In effect, they convinced themselves that he was a transformational figure behind a centrist facade.

They may have had it backward.

Mr. Obama looks even more centrist now than he did before wrapping up the nomination. Most notably, he has outraged many progressives by supporting a wiretapping bill that, among other things, grants immunity to telecom companies for any illegal acts they may have undertaken at the Bush administration’s behest.

The candidate’s defenders argue that he’s just being pragmatic — that he needs to do whatever it takes to win, and win big, so that he has the power to effect major change. But critics argue that by engaging in the same “triangulation and poll-driven politics” he denounced during the primary, Mr. Obama actually hurts his election prospects, because voters prefer candidates who take firm stands.

In any case, what about after the election? The Reagan-Clinton comparison suggests that a candidate who runs on a clear agenda is more likely to achieve fundamental change than a candidate who runs on the promise of change but isn’t too clear about what that change would involve.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Mr. Obama really is a centrist, after all.

One thing is clear: for Democrats, winning this election should be the easy part. Everything is going their way: sky-high gas prices, a weak economy and a deeply unpopular president. The real question is whether they will take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to change the country’s direction. And that’s mainly up to Mr. Obama.


Como estão, e como estarão no futuro, sua cidade e sua região? (1)

junho 30, 2008

“Estamos em um ano eleitoral em que serão decididos no país os principais representantes da população para os poderes do executivo municipal (Prefeito e Vice-Prefeito) e do legislativo municipal (Vereadores das Câmaras Municipais).

É um momento de reflexão importante, já que moramos nas cidades e convivemos com os seus atributos e problemas. Se pensamos somente no nosso comportamento individual urbano, temos uma enorme variedade de questões a lidar todos os dias: sair, e retornar, de casa para o trabalho ou levar os filhos para a escola, enfrentar os problemas do trânsito, procurar locais para refeições, locais para compras, locais para entretenimento, locais para proteção, enfim, costumes da vida urbana. Se pensamos em uma “fuga” para uma região mais calma, de preferência distante dos problemas da poluição ambiental e sonora, começamos a pensar em termos regionais, e não mais puramente urbanos.

“Pois bem! É sobre os destinos de nossas cidades (e sobre a melhoria das questões urbanas, com implicações regionais) que estaremos decidindo neste ano eleitoral. Mas qual conjunto de informações relevantes detemos (além da nossa mera experiência urbana) para refletir sobre estas questões, de modo a avaliar se os potenciais candidatos estão apresentando propostas consistentes?”

Esta é a introdução à newsletter da Creativante desta semana, que você pode acessar aqui!


Cinco coisas que aprendemos com Bill Gates

junho 30, 2008

Encerrada a era de Bill Gates e iniciada outra, começam a surgir as análises do seu legado.

O artigo abaixo é de Jason Hiner, da TechRepublic!

Five things we have learned from Bill Gates

  • Date: June 30th, 2008
  • Author: Jason Hiner
  • Category: Microsoft, Bill Gates
  • Tags: Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp., Computer, Productivity, Tools & Techniques, Strategy, Management, Jason Hiner
  • Whether or not you are a fan of Bill Gates, it is impossible to deny the impact he has made on the spread of computer technology across the planet during the past three decades. Since Friday was Gates’ last day as a full-time Microsoft employee, this is the perfect time to look back at five of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the meteoric, tumultuous, and lucrative career of the world’s most famous software engineer.

    5. Geeks can be businessmen, too

    Before Bill Gates, computer programmers were mostly considered to be a necessary evil for businesses. They were stereotyped as misanthropic weirdos that you stick in dark corners in the back office. However, Gates, became the most successful businessman on earth — if you judge business success by profits — and almost singlehandedly transformed the term “geek” from an insult to a badge of honor in the process.

    4. You don’t have to be first to win

    Gates and Microsoft rarely got to the party first with new technologies and innovations, but they were simply better at bringing technology products to the masses than anyone else in the industry. Internet Explorer is the most famous example, but Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel are also great examples. Microsoft was merely better at executing. It didn’t hurt that Microsoft often had the most resources, but Gates and Co. showed over and over again that they knew how to best take advantage of those resources.

    3. Computing will spread everywhere

    In the 1980s when the computer was still mostly a novelty, Gates expressed his vision that there would one day be “a computer on every desk and in every home.” That vision has nearly become a reality in the U.S. and it’s in the process of coming to fruition across the globe. Plus, Gates’ vision of the computing experience has continued to inspire the industry in general as well as Microsoft’s product plans — from the smartphone to the Tablet PC to speech recognition to the touch-based interface.

    2. Arrogance breeds failure

    In the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, the Bill Gates character says to Steve Ballmer, “Success is a menace. It fools smart people into thinking that they can’t lose.” He was referring to IBM and the fact that it let Microsoft sneak in and steal the thunder in the launch of the PC. A decade later, Microsoft’s own success and arrogance led to its anti-trust defeat to the U.S. government. But Microsoft also remained humble and paranoid enough to always be on the lookout for the next small company that might do to it what it had done to IBM. Some of the most popular targets in its cross hairs: Apple, Netscape, Linux, and Google.

    1. Software matters

    The one message that Bill Gates spent his career reiterating was that software matters. Gates and Microsoft always believed in the magic of software to create amazing digital experiences. When “Micros-Soft” (as it was originally known) first launched in the 1970s, the computer business was all about the hardware. It was Gates and his vision of what people could do with computers that moved software to the center of the computing experience.


    Um modelo simples para explicar as variações de preço do petróleo

    junho 29, 2008

    Eis aqui algo que é facilmente utilizado em qualquer curso de introdução à economia para explicar as variações de preço de um produto, tal como petróleo.  O post foi tirado do blog do Prof. Mark Thoma, do Depto. de Economia da University of Oregon, EUA.

    É para isso que serve modelagem econômica! Logo, não se deixe influenciar por achismos ou tentativas de opiniões de muitos (principalmente na imprensa) que não têm fundamentação econômica. 

    Conselho: simplesmente modele o fenômeno! As ferramentas são simples: leis da demanda e da oferta!


    An Increase in Worldwide Demand for Oil

    Another round on the oil market model, this time to show what happens when there is an increase in the world demand for oil due to some factor such as increased demand from developing economies. The point is to show that, in this simple model, the increase in demand would increase in the long-run equilibrium price, but it would not change the level of inventories in the long-run. There are also other results to note, e.g. the possibility of overshooting the new long-run equilibrium and mimicking a bubble.

    Case 1: An Increase in the Expected Future Price of Oil

    First, the continuous time version of an increase in the expected price. I did a discrete time-version of this yesterday, but the continuous time version of this case Paul Krugman did yesterday is much simpler, so let’s use that. Here’s a quick review of that case:


    In this model, the initial equilibrium is at point a. Then, there is an increase in the expected future price or a drop in the interest rate that increases the stock demand, Nd, and the equilibrium moves to point b. At this point, the spot price is above the equilibrium value in the flow market shown on diagram on the right, and there is excess supply as indicated by the red line. This excess supply increases the stock so, as shown by the arrow, the stock supply curve begins shifting out. Eventually, the economy settles at the new equilibrium shown at point c.

    Summarizing the results for an expected increase in the future price:

    1. The spot price, p, rises in the short-run, but is unchanged in the long-run.
    2. The stock of inventories, N, rises.
    3. The long-run flow equilibrium is unaltered.
    4. The change in inventories depends upon the horizontal shift in the stock demand curve. This can be related to the slope of the stock demand curve, but it is not necessarily the case that a steeper demand curve leads to a smaller horizontal shift.
    5. Steeper flow supply and demand curves affect the size of the change in the spot price during the transition (and the slopes can affect the transition path for inventories), but this does not change the ultimate size of the inventory change since this depends only upon the size of the shift in the stock demand curve.

    Case 2: An Increase in Worldwide Demand for Oil

    Moving to the next case, what happens if there is an increase in the world demand for oil due to worldwide economic growth. This shifts the flow demand curve outward:


    Starting at the equilibrium a, as the flow demand curve shifts out, this causes an excess demand for oil as shown by the red line on the diagram. This excess demand is met by reducing stocks, so the stock supply curve begins shifting left and the economy moves to point b. Thus, so far there is an increase in price, and a decline in inventories.

    But this isn’t the end of the story. Because the increase in flow demand is permanent, the increase in price is permanent, and this will increase the expected future price. The increase in the expected future price will shift the demand curve out as shown in the next diagram:


    As the demand curve shifts out to reflect the higher expected future price, the price moves up to point c. At point c, the flow market has excess supply as shown by the orange line segment, and this pushes the stock supply curve outward as the excess flow supply is absorbed as new stocks. Eventually, the economy reaches point d which, compared to point a, reflects a higher price but no change at all in inventories. Notice that the spot price overshoots its long-run value as it moves from b to c, then back down to b.

    Why does the demand curve go through the same point for inventories as before? Recall from Krugman’s post that  Nd = N(i-(pe-p)/p), where i is the interest rate, p is the spot price, and pe is the expected future price. At the initial long-run equilibrium, it must be that pe-p, otherwise there would be a tendency for something to change (and hence it wouldn’t be a long-run equilibrium). Thus, at the long-run equilibrium, the stock demand is just N(i). That means that the long-run equilibrium for stocks is independent of the spot price and its expected future value. Thus, the inventory level will be the same as its initial value after the offsetting changes in p and pe.

    Summarizing the results for an increase in flow demand:

    1. The long-run spot price rises.
    2. In the short-run, the spot price can overshoot in the new long-run equilibrium. The model doesn’t predict overshooting, the a-b-c-d progression shown in the diagram is just for exposition, the actual path can be different (e.g. there’s no reason for the expected spot price to increase only after the economy reaches point b). But the model is consistent with overshooting, and therefore the change in the spot price can look like a bubble that is inflating, then deflating even though the change is driven purely by fundamentals, i.e. by a shift in world demand.
    3. The level of inventories can change in the short-run, but is unchanged in the long-run. (However, in a more general model, there might be a change in, say, the interest rate or convenience yield and this would cause an additional shift in the stock demand curve and change inventory levels. But it’s still possible for the variation in inventories to be small.)

    Finally, this is just a “vintage” Branson-style exchange rate model applied to commodities, so if you are familiar with those models and the bells and whistles that can be added to them, or with alternative models, for the most part the results and intuition ought to carry through to this case.

    Taxas de desemprego por nível escolar (nos EUA)

    junho 29, 2008

    Os especialistas em economia da educação gostam muito de comentar indicadores de desempenho da educação versus oportunidades de trabalho (o mais citado é o dos retornos por anos adicionais de escolaridade).

    Mas pouco percebemos isto quando se trata de associar a educação às efetivas oportunidade de emprego (ou das oportunidades perdidas com o desemprego).  O gráfico abaixo (de hoje do blog do Prof. Mark Perry) mostra, para o caso dos EUA, a evidência da dinâmica do mercado de trabalho americano em função da escolaridade!

    O gráfico é mais um indicativo do que se denomina hoje de “skilled biased technical change” (mudança tecnológica voltada para os mais capacitados).  Ou seja, quem está mais capacitado sofre menos as variações do desemprego (principalmente no mercado de trabalho mais flexível do mundo, como é o dos EUA).  Ele mostra como o desemprego vinha caindo nos EUA até o estouro da bolha das empresas e aumentou logo em seguida, e como ele está subindo novamente desde 2007, em função do estouro da bolha do mercado imobiliário de lá!.


    Chart of the Day: Finish High School, Finish College


    The chart above displays unemployment rates by education level from 1993 to 2005, and shows the averages over this period on the right side of the chart. It’s interesting that there are big differences between a) no high school and high school (3.4% difference in averages), and b) some college and college grads (1.5% difference), and a pretty small difference between high school and some college (0.90%).

    Bottom Line: In terms of reducing unemployment over one’s lifetime, finishing high school and finishing college have big payoffs. Stay in school.

    Não culpem os especuladores!

    junho 28, 2008


    Published: June 27, 2008
    Congress has always had a soft spot for “experts” who tell members what they want to hear, whether it’s supply-side economists declaring that tax cuts increase revenue or climate-change skeptics insisting that global warming is a myth.  

    Right now, the welcome mat is out for analysts who claim that out-of-control speculators are responsible for $4-a-gallon gas.

    Back in May, Michael Masters, a hedge fund manager, made a big splash when he told a Senate committee that speculation is the main cause of rising prices for oil and other raw materials. He presented charts showing the growth of the oil futures market, in which investors buy and sell promises to deliver oil at a later date, and claimed that “the increase in demand from index speculators” — his term for institutional investors who buy commodity futures — “is almost equal to the increase in demand from China.”

    Many economists scoffed: Mr. Masters was making the bizarre claim that betting on a higher price of oil — for that is what it means to buy a futures contract — is equivalent to actually burning the stuff.

    But members of Congress liked what they heard, and since that testimony much of Capitol Hill has jumped on the blame-the-speculators bandwagon.

    Somewhat surprisingly, Republicans have been at least as willing as Democrats to denounce evil speculators. But it turns out that conservative faith in free markets somehow evaporates when it comes to oil. For example, National Review has been publishing articles blaming speculators for high oil prices for years, ever since the price passed $50 a barrel.

    And it was John McCain, not Barack Obama, who recently said this: “While a few reckless speculators are counting their paper profits, most Americans are coming up on the short end — using more and more of their hard-earned paychecks to buy gas.”

    Why are politicians so eager to pin the blame for oil prices on speculators? Because it lets them believe that we don’t have to adapt to a world of expensive gas.

    Indeed, this past Monday Mr. Masters assured a House subcommittee that a return to the days of cheap oil is more or less there for the asking. If Congress passed legislation restricting speculation, he said, gasoline prices would fall almost 50 percent in a matter of weeks.

    O.K., let’s talk about the reality.

    Is speculation playing a role in high oil prices? It’s not out of the question. Economists were right to scoff at Mr. Masters — buying a futures contract doesn’t directly reduce the supply of oil to consumers — but under some circumstances, speculation in the oil futures market can indirectly raise prices, encouraging producers and other players to hoard oil rather than making it available for use.

    Whether that’s happening now is a subject of highly technical dispute. (Readers who want to wonk themselves out can go to my blog,, and follow the links.) Suffice it to say that some economists, myself included, make much of the fact that the usual telltale signs of a speculative price boom are missing. But other economists argue, in effect, that absence of evidence isn’t solid evidence of absence.

    What about those who argue that speculative excess is the only way to explain the speed with which oil prices have risen? Well, I have two words for them: iron ore.

    You see, iron ore isn’t traded on a global exchange; its price is set in direct deals between producers and consumers. So there’s no easy way to speculate on ore prices. Yet the price of iron ore, like that of oil, has surged over the past year. In particular, the price Chinese steel makers pay to Australian mines has just jumped 96 percent. This suggests that growing demand from emerging economies, not speculation, is the real story behind rising prices of raw materials, oil included.

    In any case, one thing is clear: the hyperventilation over oil-market speculation is distracting us from the real issues.

    Regulating futures markets more tightly isn’t a bad idea, but it won’t bring back the days of cheap oil. Nothing will. Oil prices will fluctuate in the coming years — I wouldn’t be surprised if they slip for a while as consumers drive less, switch to more fuel-efficient cars, and so on — but the long-term trend is surely up.

    Most of the adjustment to higher oil prices will take place through private initiative, but the government can help the private sector in a variety of ways, such as helping develop alternative-energy technologies and new methods of conservation and expanding the availability of public transit.

    But we won’t have even the beginnings of a rational energy policy if we listen to people who assure us that we can just wish high oil prices away.

    Inflação global

    junho 28, 2008

    Nestes últimos dias temos falado muito sobre inflação. A questão do momento, todavia, é que o mundo inteiro também está falando.

    Vejam só as taxas de inflação que estão rolando no mundo!

    ( UPDATE June 27, 2008 9:26am

    The Bespoke Boys have this spot on table of global inflation rates:


    Capitalismo Criativo

    junho 27, 2008

    Como reportei em post recente, a saída de Bill Gates da Microsoft neste mês de junho representa o fim de uma era e o início de outra. 

    Hoje percebi que algumas pessoas identificaram no próprio Bill Gates a transição para esta outra era.  Elas perceberam que Gates pavimentou o caminho desta transição ao fazer um discurso no início deste ano no World Economic Forum em Davos, na Suíça.  E o que foi destaque, além do discurso, foi o fato dele ter cunhado a expressão “Capitalismo Criativo“.

    Pois bem! Alguns autores pegaram esta idéia e estão propondo um livro com uma série de artigos sobre este assunto. Se você estiver interessado é só entar no seguinte blog:

    Introduzindo GigaOM Briefings (e uma ajuda de Nicholas Carr)

    junho 26, 2008

    No blog de Om Malik foi anunciado hoje que no dia de ontem, na sua Structure08 conference, eles lançaram um novo esforço, o GigaOM Briefings. Eles lançaram o primeiro briefing em Cloud Computing (abaixo), que foi escrito por Alistair Croll, que você pode adquirir aqui (pagando US$250,00).


    Mas o mais interessante do lançamento foi o reforço que Nicholas Carr, autor de “Does IT Matter” e “The Big Switch,” deu com uma breve mensagem sobre a mudança para cloud computing e porque nós precisamos pensar sobre ética da infraestrutura. Ele também apontou que a Structure08 conference estava acontecendo na semana que Bill Gates se aposenta da Microsoft. Carr vê este fato  como o fim de uma era da computação e o início de outra.  A mensagem está no vídeo abaixo:

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