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A look at who is running Mark Kirk’s office in his absence

on 40 Comments

Mark Kirk’s recent legislation seeking to cut the number of recognized Palestinian refugees has brought new attention to the senator’s track record of being one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress (no small feat). But it is also well known that Sen. Kirk suffered a very serious stroke in January and has not made a public appearance since. I find it odd that Kirk would be sponsoring legislation during the early stages of his recovery process from a massive stroke. It simply does not make sense that in the course of months-long rehabilitation he would be focusing on the money Americans could save by slashing the funds paid out to UNRWA. Not logical.  Look at Gabrielle Gifford’s legislation during recovery. Projects for the people of Illinois? Yes. Our troops? Sure. Legislating the number of Palestinian refugees? I don’t get it.

To understand where this legislation is coming from, it’s helpful to look at who’s running the shop in Kirk’s absence. A quick review of some of Kirk’s key DC staff reveals that this bill shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The most immediately relevant staffer would seem to be foreign policy assistant Igor Khrestin. Khrestin was a researcher at the American Enterprise Institue (AEI) and has written about Israel and Iran for Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Quarterly, which would seem to be relevant as Pipes has been outspoken on the legislation. Khrestin has also written for the Kristol’s Weekly StandardNRO and the National Interest.

Kirk’s Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Goldberg also has deep ties to the lobby and is clearly a partisan looking to use his position to help Israel.

There’s this call for a Hasbara Fellowships AIPAC After Hours Events:

AIPAC After Hours Event
Sunday, March 4th 2012 8-11 PM
The Warehouse Theater @ The Passenger
1021 7th street, NW (between New York Ave & L street)
200 Young Jewish Professionals & Hasbara Fellowships alumni attended the Hasbara AIPAC After Hours cocktail event. Richard Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Kirk (R-IL) and Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve spoke about the Arab Spring & implications for Israel & a casual “no-holds” bar.

But more importantly this speech he gave to the Ida Crown Jewish Academy last year: Richard Goldberg Addresses Class of 2011

Graduates, when I think about how much has changed in the last 10 years, I am struck more by what has stayed the same.

In June 2001, we sat where you sit now. For us, our childhood memories were of a wall coming down, Scud missiles falling on Israel and a decade of peace and economic boon. On graduation day, as I stood here to deliver the Senior Class address, none of us could have imagined how our world would change in just three short months.

But for you, September 11th defined your childhood – your adolescence spent knowing only an America at war.

At the same time, when it comes to Israel, it’s amazing to think how much has remained the same.

Ten years ago, we watched the explosion of the second Intifida – we prayed for the safety of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped on the Lebanese border – and our parents trembled as we prepared to set out for Israel or college campuses to face unknown danger and persecution.

Today, we prepare for a political tsunami in September with the potential to spur a third Intifada – we pray for the safety of an Israeli soldier kidnapped in Gaza – and I’m certain your parents are feeling the same trepidation that ours felt before them.

This morning, I returned from a week-long Jewish Federation mission to Israel led by one of the greatest champions of the U.S.-Israel relationship in Washington, Senator Mark Kirk.

Our focus was on the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel – and the range of threats now facing the Jewish state.

After meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Gantz and many others, I can tell you one thing for certain – Israel needs you now more than ever.


Al tikra banaich ela bonaich. Do not call them your children, call them your builders. Take with you what you learned at the Academy – and together, build a life filled with Torah, chesed, yiddishkeit and an undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel. You are the builders now – and, together, you will succeed.

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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40 Responses

  1. philweiss on June 2, 2012, 9:58 am

    This is unbelievable, Annie. Thank you for digging this up. Every time I get over my shock over the pervasiveness of the pro-Israel forces in the Congress, I get a bigger shock. I dont doubt that Mark Kirk is completely “sincere” in sponsoring this legislation, whatever political sincerity means, but you’d hope that his constituents might call his office out for this….

    • annie on June 2, 2012, 10:13 am

      i about flipped when i read undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel.

      it’s so pervasive.

      • braciole on June 2, 2012, 10:48 am

        It’s largely thanks to the Muslims that there are still people of the Jewish faith. With Israel continuing down the path it’s chosen and the possibility of the Christian Zionists demanding their pound of flesh will Muslims be as supporting of Judaism in the future?

      • Ellen on June 2, 2012, 11:00 am

        True, it was Muslim communities and leaders who offered Jews refuge and even patronage at various times in history. Yet for political purpose and to demonize a people that memory has been erased .

      • CloakAndDagger on June 2, 2012, 11:18 am

        @ braciole

        Thank you for the link to that fascinating article! It is amazing how much historical understanding would improve our present.

      • annie on June 2, 2012, 11:22 am

        thanks for the historical link braciole, appreciated

      • Fredblogs on June 2, 2012, 7:52 pm

        And Germany was at one time very hospitable to Jews. Why in 1913, it was a fine place to be a Jew. Times change. Also, the ancient Muslim world was a relatively good place to be a Jew. Relative to parts of Europe where being Jewish was punishable by death. In absolute terms, well, they didn’t have equal rights and they were taxed extra for not being Muslim.

      • eljay on June 2, 2012, 10:00 pm

        >> … in 1913, [Germany] was a fine place to be a Jew. … Also, the ancient Muslim world was a relatively good place to be a Jew.

        And there you have it: The goal of Zio-supremacists in the 21st Century is to be at least as good as the ancient Muslim world, or 1913 Germany.

        They win on technology, for sure, and maybe even on hygiene (except for when they spit on people). But when it comes to justice, morality, equality and human rights, the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” has a lot of work left to do.

        But, yeah, I know, it’s not as bad as the worst. And, hey, it’s better than “the ancient Muslim world”!

      • tree on June 2, 2012, 10:40 pm

        And, hey, it’s better than “the ancient Muslim world”!

        No, its not. The ancient Muslim world didn’t put Jews under closure and curfew, they didn’t have checkpoints, they didn’t ethnically cleanse, they didn’t prevent Jews from practicing their religion nor convert their synagogues to cafes, or prevent Jews from attending their schools, and they didn’t strangle Jewish economic growth and then blame the Jews for their lack of economic progress.

        Israel’s still got a long way to progress to the ancient Muslim world. Unfortunately they seem to have confused their direction and are regressing instead.

      • traintosiberia on June 3, 2012, 12:30 am

        It is easy to look back through a modern prism and judge the past scrutinizing if it met the current criteria to be included in the “hall of Fame” of the western democracy. It did not.It did not for its citizen irrespective of the religion. Jews men rose to high postion in muslim Baghdad,in Spain,in Morocco and muslim Egypt.In 730 AD an enclave of jewish population was carved out of southern France by betrayal and covert fight against muslim Spain which was nurturing the Jewish subjects in Spain in its darkest hour This enclave survived for 30 -50 odd years.It was eventually absorbed by Carolinginas. Pogrom ( like todays periodic air attack against Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon to deflect attention away from peace proces and to gain more lands) prevalent in Europe was never a feature of Muslim rules .The only “massacre” that was harped on repeatedly by Jewish figures was at the tme of Islam’s birth .A certain number of jewish males were killed after being judged by their own jurisprudence conduted by jewish figures.Rest were allowed to go free .
        Taxation on non-muslim population is another area. But back then Jews and Christians were not included in any defensive or offensive military activities. there was no taxation to support the adminsitration.Muslim used to pay Zakat. Jewish and Christain for protection were levied taxation like todya’s practice of supporting a standing army for protection. Sure this was abused by corrupt leaders.Its worst practice later emerged in many place including in Morish Spain that was under jewish admisnistration in many respects. The viciousness with which Spain unleashed its colonial war against Phillipnes, Goa, Latin America and parts of africa could be rooted in the deep hatred the Christian felt agaisnt muslim for “double whammy” subjugation . politically by muslim and economically,culturally by arrogant Jewish power of Spain.

      • Fredblogs on June 3, 2012, 1:03 am

        Doesn’t that kind of depend on when you are talking about? As I recall, Mohammed did more than his share of butchering Jews and ethnically cleansing them.

      • RoHa on June 3, 2012, 2:09 am

        “As I recall, Mohammed did more than his share of butchering Jews and ethnically cleansing them.”

        Bearing in mind that the stories of Muhammad and the start of Islam were probably cooked up about a hundred years after Muhammad’s alleged time, could you support that by reference to the standard version of history?

      • Ellen on June 3, 2012, 4:57 am

        Fredblogs, the more you write, the more you show that you have been fed a poor education.

        Non Muslims were taxes separately because they did not send their sons into armies.

        It was not a discrimatory tax, and fitting the social structures of the time — strange as it may seem to our modern understanding .

      • Woody Tanaka on June 2, 2012, 11:54 am

        I can see why. It is pervasive and perverse.

    • American on June 2, 2012, 1:20 pm

      This is nothing unusual. There are a lot of Jewish staffers and aides on capitol hill…. a lot of them former AIPAC’ers. AIPAC runs a “intern’ program that puts AIPAC’ers in intern positions in senate and congressional offices. Interning is a good way into a permanent job on the hill. I read an article about it long ago and there is site that list all the aides and staffers of each politician…will see if I can find it again.
      Some of the most well know zios kicked off their Israel careers as aides to politicians….Richard Perle and numerous others. From AIPAC intern to aide to appointment to other gov jobs is how it goes for a lot of them.

      • annie on June 2, 2012, 1:22 pm

        i know, it’s just so transparent when kirk can’t even make a public appearance months after his stroke, and he’s sponsoring the legislation. no breather, right on israel’s schedule.

      • American on June 2, 2012, 2:41 pm

        “i know, it’s just so transparent when kirk can’t even make a public appearance months after his stroke, and he’s sponsoring the legislation. no breather, right on israel’s schedule.”..annie

        Right, but he probably would have done it anyway…Kirk has received over $1,340,000 in campaign money from Jewish orgs during his time in office.

      • annie on June 2, 2012, 1:34 pm

        and they try to hide it. the stroke was not hardly mentioned during all this. april 24th it was reported “Kirk is participating in a research trial at RIC that will last several weeks” which i read is code for “don’t expect him around for another month”, and then whoops, the article is updated to read May 26th. they’ve released a video
        but he’s mostly offline when he’s talking.

        my mom had a stroke in march, not nearly as debilitating as his..i just find it inconceivable he had anything to do with this while in recovery. it’s so transparent these guys do not even need to exist and this likud show marches on.

        the cut a 4×8 inch section out of his scull to relieve the pressue. this was a very intense stroke.

      • CloakAndDagger on June 2, 2012, 2:29 pm


        AIPAC runs a “intern’ program that puts AIPAC’ers in intern positions in senate and congressional offices. Interning is a good way into a permanent job on the hill.

        And look at how many scandals involve interns and pages – both on the hill and in the WH. All the better to blackmail.

        Monica Lewinsky comes to mind.

  2. CloakAndDagger on June 2, 2012, 10:59 am

    It is obvious that the lobby backs up its offensive on the US by not only corrupting a politician, it makes sure to surround him/her with enough sayanim to ensure that they do not waver from their obeisance to Israel’s interests. Most of us were shocked when Obama was elected, and immediately declared his cabinet, replete with Israel sympathizers like Rahm. Romney looks like he is going to make John Bolton his Secretary of State.

    So, it won’t be enough to displace each politician, we will need to sever all the heads of the hydra – a Herculean task, indeed! Maybe, that’s why the French invented the guillotine – to literally sever the heads of the ruling class.

  3. Kathleen on June 2, 2012, 11:21 am

    Annie what a dig. Thanks. The I lobby driving Kirks office. Which seems like the case before and after the stroke. Thanks for digging up those names Goldberg and Kreshtin and what they have been up to.

    I have been thinking about how the I/P issue and the I lobby owning the U.S. congress on U.S. foreign policy in the middle east was talked about and dealt with before Carter’s book “Palestine Peace..Not Apartheid” , Walt and Mearsheimer’s book “Israel Lobby” and Mondoweiss. I know U.S. citizens who have been lobbying(and many other efforts) their Reps to base their decisions on the I/P issue on facts for decades. But there was a distinct shift in the conversation on the internet B.M (before Mondoweiss) and A.M. (after Mondoweiss). You could go to Al Jazeera and hunt around for articles about the issue. Now all you have to do is come to Mondoweiss and still hunt around but not as necessary. David Corn did try to break through this about 10 years ago on his first website. Great conversations were taking place. But his site was really attacked by trolls etc. But now we have Mondoweiss and Al Jazeera. If only we could push the MSM outlets to take down their wall of silence on these issues. Dylan Ratigan and Chris Hayes are getting close. We need to keep pushing.
    I want to thank Phil, Adam and their Mondoweiss team once again for all they are doing for human rights and justice on these critical issues!

    • annie on June 2, 2012, 11:24 am

      The I lobby driving Kirks office

      they don’t really need kirk there. he could have had a lobotomy instead of a stroke and they still could have sponsored the legislation. no one wonders why he has made no public appearances since january, and for months no one even mentions this stroke in the national news. the show must go on and this is the legislation israel wanted next, so him having a debilitating stroke didn’t hold that up.

      • justicewillprevail on June 2, 2012, 12:17 pm

        True, most senators do indeed act and vote as if they have had a lobotomy, and are the Manchurian candidates for Israel.

      • MRW on June 2, 2012, 3:07 pm


        I second all the praise for this report. No shit that “they don’t really need kirk there.” In fact, they are making hay while he’s at home recuperating.

        But here is the most telling comment: “Richard Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Kirk (R-IL) and Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve.”

        Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey asked for a full report on the anti-Islam training throughout the military delivered to him on May 24th. We’ve heard nothing about it because I’ll bet he’s cleaning house (I read one report that there would be a military-wide house-cleaning, but that was all). You probably recall that it was both and Al-Jazeera that tracked those courses down. They both claimed it was the tip of the iceberg.

        For a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve to be making these comments, and to use his US military rank as a reason to be listening to him succor support for a foreign country is highly questionable.

        I suggest everyone forward this to the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs asking if our military is defending the US or Israel. This borders on sedition.

        BTW, when I worked in DC as a consultant I learned a valuable lesson. It’s the unelected worker-bees who run the place. Complaining about the official is useless. Complaining to the official about the allegiances of their DC staff is the issue, and it gets noticed in DC if you complain to your local district, in writing.

      • MRW on June 2, 2012, 3:21 pm

        General Martin E Dempsey has a Facebook page; only way you can contact him. I don’t (refuse to) have a Facebook account. Perhaps someone here who does have one could highlight Annie’s report on his page, and ask him who our military is defending, the US or Israel, and why our military is involved in making policy statements for Israel that appear to have the backing of the military. In every instance when a military person makes a personal statement, he or she makes clear that the statements are the utterer’s own and do not represent the US military. So what gives with Goldberg adding anything other than he is Kirk’s chief of staff, or whatever he is (not interested in scrolling up).

      • annie on June 2, 2012, 4:33 pm

        mrw, kirk is in the navy reserves too. and check this out:

        “their job is to look after israel, our job is to look after them”

        grosses me out.

        I suggest everyone forward this to the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs asking if our military is defending the US or Israel. This borders on sedition.

        they are so embedded

      • annie on June 3, 2012, 2:41 am

        mrw, i am not on facebook. this post, so far, has 4 ‘shares’. chances are no one has contacted Dempsey’s facebook page. the main story (a great one) has over 2000 in less than a day. the phenomena of the israel firsters is amazing/appalling. all we need is one. one person letting him know.

    • American on June 2, 2012, 3:52 pm

      “I have been thinking about how the I/P issue and the I lobby owning the U.S. congress on U.S. foreign policy in the middle east was talked about and dealt with before”…kathleen

      I have thought a lot about that too….looking at how it was able to grow and also how from the very beginning there was direct zionist influence on Truman for Israel…..and from the beginning also, many Americans in government who were opposed to the zionist political influence from the beginning.
      Opposition to this influence has always been there,……. the 60’s senate hearings on the Zionist org., the Paul Findleys and a dozen more politicians who warned and warned about it.
      So opponents to too much Jewish and zionist political influence have existed since the influence began. But it never really got to very much of the public until the net became what it is today because critics and criticism of Israel was blocked by the msm.
      And I think in the end Israelis may find that the US 9-11 wasn’t as good for them as they think it has been. My observation is it kicked off a lot more interest in Israel and a lot more critics writing publically about all aspects of US-Isr. And the scrutiny has been on almost everything to do with Israel.

      A few examples of how wide ranging the examination of Jewish/Zionist influence & the US -Isr scheme has been by critics ….and just a few…almost every aspect of Isr-USA has been written about but much more so publically since 9-11:

      *Global Media Moguls. The Nation, November 29, 1999
      At least four of nine featured “Global Media Moguls” in The Nation magazine are Jewish: Michael Eisner (Disney-ABC), Edgar Bronfman, Jr. (Seagram), Gerald Levin (Time-Warner), and Sumner Redstone (Viacom-CBS).

      *Bonds of Affection. Multinational Monitor, April 1988
      “In the mid-1970s, the Teamsters Union, under fire for its alleged ties to organized crime, was looking to brush up its public image. As part of that effort, the Teamsters became a major purchaser of Israeli government bonds, eventually investing more than $26 million in the low-interest securities. The bonds had ‘great PR value’ for the Teamsters.

      *No Schmooze with the Jews,
      The Economist (UK), April 6, 2002,
      “Forget about infirmity of purpose. The most troubling criticism of America’s Middle East policy is that it is driven not by national interest but by a domestic lobby — the Jewish lobby. This criticism is an article of faith in the Arab world. It has been whispered in European chancelleries for years. Now a respectful American pundit, Michael Lind, has tried to detail the case in a respectable British magazine, Prospect.

      *Why Bush Dances to [Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon’s Tune, Toronto Sun, April 14, 2002
      “Who really is running America’s Mideast policy? Last week, the astounded world saw the grotesque spectacle of President George W. Bush pleading in vain with Ariel Sharon, leader of a nation of only 6.3 million people which receives almost $5 billion in annual U.S. aid, to cease laying waste the Occupied West Bank.

      *Maureen Dowd: ‘Influential Jews’ Pushing Iraq War,
      Newsmax, Monday, Oct. 7, 2002
      “New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was on the hot seat Monday morning for a paragraph buried deep in her Sunday column where she seemed to blame ‘influential Jewish conservatives’ for persuading President Bush to go to war in Iraq. ‘Influential Jewish conservatives inside and outside the administration have been fierce in supporting a war on Saddam, thinking it could help Israel by scrambling the Middle East map and encouraging democracy,’ contended the Irish Catholic liberal. Dowd’s suggestion that Jews in the Bush administration were putting Israel’s interests over the U.S.’s raised eyebrows on the ‘Imus in the Morning’ program. Asked about the Times columnist’s ‘influential Jewish conservatives’ reference, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, a Dowd soulmate, insisted, ‘Maureen Dowd doesn’t have an anti-Semitic bone in her body.’ But moments later, when NBC Pentagon reporter Jim Miklaszewski was asked to explain what he thought Dowd meant by the remark, he said she was talking about a ‘what many would call a cabal within the administration.'”

      I don’t know if you will ever break the zionist hold on the US msm until some major upheavel in the US. But the fact is, even without the msm tellling the real story on Israel and US zionist political control, it has seeped into the public now and it’s growing without the help of the msm.

      Every time some politician declares his undying loyalty to Israel, every time Iran/Israel is mentioned it seeps into the public consciousness or unconsciousness and gets filed away to be later connected to something else they hear on Israel or US aid or Iran.
      And all this is presented by the msm and press, because they can’t ‘avoid’ covering public political statements and campaigns. They can avoid mentioning Israel with Iran and spin and spin, but they can’t control the seepage and drip, drip, drip into the public.

      Even the dumbest, most uneducated person knows when he “is confused” about different things he hears on a subject. Being ‘confused’ about what you are told or hear results in some people just ignoring the subject because it’s not immediately affecting them and some other people will try to unconfuse themselves by looking for the facts.

    • annie on June 3, 2012, 2:17 am

      kathleen, i read your comment again, this time less absorbed with my specific train of thought/anger over the recent legislation. you make a lot of good points. i wasn’t really poking around about israel back then, it was off my radar. but it reminds me of the utter frustration i felt over ohio in the second stolen election. it was so hard to find anything in the news about it when conyers was holding the congressional hearings in the basement, when ohio was having the recount (that wasn’t)..just not in the msm, total blackout. a very dark time for me..i realized how the press controled our narrative in a way i had never before.

      and i really do think times are changing. the tradjectory of israel’s ‘deligitimization’ is directly linked to the rise of the internet and social media. for decades they remained largely undetected by the masses. that is no longer the case.

      thank you very much, very much. it takes all of us. we have to just keep plugging away and trust truth will set us free and .. set palestine free.

      • flyod on June 3, 2012, 3:01 pm

        excellent investigation. somewhere i have my copy of donald neff’s “wariors at suez” published early 80’s if i recall. a real eye opener for me, as well as paul findleys’ “they dare to speak out”. anyway, yes the internet is making a huge difference. here is neff’s 1995 piece on the beginnings of our present dilemma. a must read;

  4. justicewillprevail on June 2, 2012, 11:33 am

    A great symbol of how Congress is represented by faceless and integrity-free figureheads, whilst owned and run by networks of special interests, and of course in particular the pernicious, subversive Israel lobby. There can’t be democracy under these circumstances. This epitomises the irrelevance of the senators to the decisions that are made in their name, bought and sold to special interests.

  5. HRK on June 2, 2012, 11:38 am

    I’ve continually been thinking about what this “Jewish” thing all means. . . . That basic question: What is it?

    It seems that, at least for many in the organized Jewish community, being Jewish is loving other Jews and showing love for Jews by actively helping or aiding the Jewish community.

    “Ten years ago, we watched the explosion of the second Intifida – we prayed for the safety of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped on the Lebanese border – and our parents trembled as we prepared to set out for Israel or college campuses to face unknown danger and persecution.”


    “Take with you what you learned at the Academy – and together, build a life filled with Torah, chesed, yiddishkeit and an undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel.

    But the intensity of the love and commitment that some have for their fellow ethnics begs the question: Okay, they love there fellow Jews, but do they love the gentiles around them as much as they should? Why are we second best?

    If I have two brothers but I proclaim that I love one more (and here I’m not simply talking about natural affinity but rather a will to love one more), is the brother I love less really a brother at all?

    And for those who don’t like this question being asked: Would you really, really be able to respect me if I didn’t ask it?

  6. gazacalling on June 2, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Wow, great post! Very informative, thanks for that.

    I can’t believe that is such a thing called the “Hasbara Fellowship.”

  7. annie on June 2, 2012, 12:30 pm

    i recommend people opening goldberg’s address to the graduating seniors and reading it in full.

    • Bumblebye on June 2, 2012, 1:26 pm

      Is it doable without throwing up over the keyboard?
      Must ask, cos i’ve ‘jubileed’ with goat curry! (UK an’ all that, y’know.)

      • annie on June 2, 2012, 1:32 pm

        it wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t deputy chief of staff for a US senator. but heck, you kind of expect the staff to at least have the appearance they put the US first. i guess not.

  8. dbroncos on June 2, 2012, 2:23 pm

    Nice catch, Annie. Wow! An illuminating window into how the office of an Israel firster operates.

  9. dbroncos on June 2, 2012, 2:31 pm

    I can picture Kirk with a million mile stare, drooling on his shirt, being coached through the motions of putting his signature on the UNRWA legislation.

  10. lysias on June 2, 2012, 3:06 pm

    Anybody know whether the Illinois Senate seat now occupied by Kirk is the one that once belonged to Chuck Percy (whom AIPAC drove out of office)?

    I know it’s the seat that belonged to Obama.

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