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After attending Mandela’s memorial, Knesset member’s blood rejected in gov’t drive because she is African

Israel/Palestine
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tamano-shata

The day after returning from anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s memorial in South Africa, Israel’s first Ethiopian-born Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid), had her blood refused in a government donation drive because she is African. Volunteers at a Magen David Adom (Red Star of David—Israel’s Red Cross) booth set up inside of Knesset told Tamano Shata that she could not give blood because she is has “the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood.”

Tamano-Shata explained that she is a member of Knesset, served in the Israeli army and asked to speak to a manager about her blood’s rejection. She was then told her credentials didn’t matter. The Heath Ministry has a policy against taking blood from people who live in Ethiopia, which they categorize as a high-HIV rate country. Tamano-Shata was born in Ethiopia and at the age of three, moved to Israel in 1984.

From Ynet News:

After pushing the matter further, Tamano-Shato was informed she could donate but that her blood would be frozen and not used.

In response, she told the MDA: ‘I’m good enough to serve the country in the Knesset, but for some reason, to donate blood, I’m not good enough… this is insulting.’

The supervisor responded by saying ‘sweetheart, don’t be insulted, your’re right but these are the Health Ministry’s directives.’ A man present at the scene, told Tamano-Shato as she was exiting, ‘what can you expect, this is a racist country.’ [sic]

Still in Israel there is an unfortunate history of medical institutions refusing blood donations from Africans, and Tamano-Shata has been at the helm of decades of protests to peel back these discriminatory regulations. When she was 16 she led demonstrations to integrate the blood bank’s donation policy, and again in 2006. That year Israeli Channel 2 aired a report exposing that Magen David Adom dumps blood donated by Ethiopians. From Ynet:

‘We fight and die in the army, go on to study, but that is not enough. It’s inconceivable that a person comes to donate blood and is tricked into thinking that he is saving another life,’ says Gadi Yevrakan, a member of the Ethiopian community from Rehovot.

‘He sits, a needle enters his body, a considerable amount of blood is drawn from him, and yet the minute he turns his head they toss his blood to the garbage.’

A few of Tamano-Shata’s colleagues condemned the blood blank’s racist policy. She even got a call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. From the Jerusalem Post:

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke to Tamano-Shata and expressed shock and displeasure at the incident.

‘I thought this was behind us, but now it turns out I was wrong. This unacceptable phenomenon that has no place in the Knesset,’ Edelstein said.

Several ministers and MKs called the Yesh Atid MK to express solidarity. Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said that she hopes that something good will come out of the story and change the ‘racist and humiliating policy.’

In addition to trashing blood donated from Ethiopians, last year two Tel Aviv hospitals adopted policies to segregate and African asylum seekers from the general public, and refuse treatment until tests for tuberculosis are completed. The pilot project began after one hospital quarantined a refugee and his ill infant in a locked nurses’ changing room, refusing the sick child treatment until blood was drawn and tested.

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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45 Responses

  1. Krauss
    Krauss
    December 11, 2013, 1:13 pm

    What’s next: measuring skulls?

  2. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    December 11, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Need we ask if Israel’s blood bank is polluted with the taint of Arab Israeli blood?

  3. stopaipac
    stopaipac
    December 11, 2013, 2:10 pm

    Israel is doing this 19th century thing quite well. Forced relocation of indigenous people? Check. now this. only we still have the most progressive members (certainly a relative term) of congress supporting more and more military aid. Barbara Lee, they may not take your blood, but they sure will take your consistent support of military aid to the outlaw regime.

  4. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    December 11, 2013, 2:24 pm

    Yeah. Basically Africans have tons of AIDs. They get US AID as a special program. That’s why they called it US Aid. Not only that, but African blood is different. NO,

    We Cannot test for HIV in blood samples. That is TOO much of a risk. The test can be wrong and then millions of Africans will get AIDs from one person. Therefore we cannot have blood transfusions. Anyway, it’s AFRICAN. That is DifFerENT.

    (Comic relief here guys)

  5. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    December 11, 2013, 2:25 pm

    Under apartheid in South Africa (if I recall correctly) members of all racial groups could give blood but the blood was stored separately, so that white people would only get “white” blood, etc. If Israel followed this model, they would accept “Ethiopian” blood and store it for use with Ethiopian patients. In this respect Israel is actually worse than apartheid South Africa.

  6. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    December 11, 2013, 2:34 pm

    The kind of racist the zionists practice is like wildfire; you can’t loose it and think you can contain it.

  7. Walker
    Walker
    December 11, 2013, 2:40 pm

    For once I sympathize with the Israeli government. Blood donation via the American Red Cross is likewise hedged with arbitrary exclusions. For years I wasn’t allowed to give blood because I had once had a hepatitis vaccination, and you aren’t allowed to give blood if you’ve even visited various countries.

    This sympathy does not extend to the “special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood” comment.

    • Daniel Rich
      Daniel Rich
      December 12, 2013, 11:22 pm

      @ Walker,

      I have to agree with you. Here in Japan I cannot donate blood because:

      a) I ate meat 35 odd years
      b) I’ve been to Africa
      c) I’ve had SE Asian female contacts

      Although it fits perfectly in the ‘keep our blood pure’ thesis, it also seeks to prevent the spread of disease/s.

  8. Balfour
    Balfour
    December 11, 2013, 2:45 pm

    The standards for accepting African blood in Israel are not dissimilar to the standards established for giving blood in the USA…neither country accepts blood donations from blood donors who have lived in specific African countries experiencing a high HIV rate.

    Israeli blood donations also prevent individuals who have resided in the UK from donating blood, presumable because of a fear of spreading Mad Cow Disease.

    • German Lefty
      German Lefty
      December 11, 2013, 3:07 pm

      The standards for accepting African blood in Israel are not dissimilar to the standards established for giving blood in the USA […] Israeli blood donations also prevent individuals who have resided in the UK from donating blood, presumable because of a fear of spreading Mad Cow Disease.

      Exactly! Nothing unusual. People who have lived in the UK for more than 6 months between the years 1980 and 1996 are excluded from donating blood in Germany and Switzerland, too. It’s the region that matters, not the race.

    • Theo
      Theo
      December 12, 2013, 8:02 am

      Balfour

      Great chucles, mad cow disease! Good point and funny!

    • gamal
      gamal
      December 12, 2013, 2:18 pm

      I have never been able to give blood, gave up years ago, have had Malaria and some other tropical diseases, but I had no idea about the CJD thing, I was in the UK then, ate no beef, but still seems I will have to keep my dirty blood to myself, though a touch swarthy I have no racial identity whatsoever, a pretty blurred ethnicity and a contradictory class identity, I barely exist at all, my closest friend died in 2004 in London from bilharzia, contracted in Sharkiya Egypt in the 60’s, I have a distinct memory of his giving blood, and can only presume he did not answer whatever screening questions were asked completely or comprehensively, and wonder if the bilharzia parasite would still be infective after being cooled and stored out of the body.

      I recall a line “Bilharzia has made us a nation of menstruating men” which I stole but now can not remember from where and from whom.

    • tree
      tree
      December 12, 2013, 4:20 pm

      The standards for accepting African blood in Israel are not dissimilar to the standards established for giving blood in the USA…neither country accepts blood donations from blood donors who have lived in specific African countries experiencing a high HIV rate.

      This is not true. There are no restrictions in the US against donating blood simply because someone lived in a specific African country. The only present US restriction by country is against those who lived a certain amount of time in countries with mod cow disease, because there is no blood test for CJD. There is a test for HIV which all donated blood undergoes.

  9. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    December 11, 2013, 2:51 pm

    A few of Tamano-Shata’s colleagues condemned the blood blank’s racist policy.
    I have to disagree here: This is NOT a racist policy. The criterion is WHERE you lived, not WHAT race you are. Just because she’s black doesn’t mean that she was rejected for racist reasons.
    According to the German exclusion criteria, her blood donation would probably not be accepted either. The German Medical Association decided that the following people are excluded as blood donors:
    – people who were born in a malaria area
    – people who grew up in a malaria area (first five years of their lives)
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ausschlusskriterien_bei_der_Blutspende#Deutschland
    Ethiopia is marked as malaria area.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria#Epidemiology

    She told the MDA: ‘I’m good enough to serve the country in the Knesset, but for some reason, to donate blood, I’m not good enough… this is insulting.’
    No, it’s not insulting. These are two completely unrelated issues with different criteria. For example, there are HIV-positive politicians. Therefore, one can be a “good” politician and still have “bad” blood.
    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/leben-mit-hiv-diagnose-schatz-erster-offen-hiv-positiver-in-der-deutschen-politik-12552905.html

    Tamano-Shata explained that she is a member of Knesset, served in the Israeli army and asked to speak to a manager about her blood’s rejection.
    Having served in the Israeli army and being a member of a Zionist party is NOTHING to be proud of. Clearly, this woman lacks judgement.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      December 11, 2013, 3:09 pm

      “I have to disagree here: This is NOT a racist policy. The criterion is WHERE you lived, not WHAT race you are. Just because she’s black doesn’t mean that she was rejected for racist reasons.”

      But just because the criteria asserted is not facially racist does not mean it’s racist. It depends on whether the reason is valid or not. Here, the fact that today Ethiopia is a “high HIV” area does not seem to be relevant at all on whether to accept the blood of a person who has not been in Ethiopia since 1984 and then as a three-year old. If she’s not HIV positive by now, as a thirty-year old, then they need to accept the fact that she poses no threat, any more than someone who came from the USA in 1984, or Germany or anywhere else. It sounds a bit racist to me to have a blanket policy, especially coupled with the blatantly racist “special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood” comment.

      • Allison Deger
        Allison Deger
        December 11, 2013, 3:15 pm

        Even Netanyahu thought it was racist….just saying.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        December 11, 2013, 3:29 pm

        Even Netanyahu thought it was racist….just saying.

        Netanyahu is a politician and a populist. Expressing solidarity with his Yesh Atid colleague here was a no-brainer.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        December 11, 2013, 4:13 pm

        Even Netanyahu thought it was racist

        And you trust Netanyahu’s judgement? Seriously?
        Allison, usually I am on your side. But not in this case.
        Also, the woman’s reasoning that she must be allowed to donate blood because she’s a politician is just plain stupid. What does her job has to do with the quality of her blood? Does legislating magically make your blood healthy? Does being a politician make you a superior person with superior blood? Or what?

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        December 11, 2013, 4:00 pm

        But just because the criteria asserted is not facially racist does not mean it’s racist. It depends on whether the reason is valid or not.

        I disagree. It doesn’t matter whether the reason is valid or not. It depends on whether the criterion is the region or the race. Clearly, the criterion here is the region, i.e. Ethiopia.
        Of course, any non-racist policy can be applied in a racist way by racist people. For example, if my parents were Jewish, had moved to Ethiopia and gave birth to me there, then I assume that my blood donation would probably still be accepted by the above-mentioned volunteers due to my “Ashkenazi blood”. The volunteer’s comment about “the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood” indicates that he misinterpreted the policy and falsely applied it to the “Ethiopian ethnicity”, not to the “Ethiopian country”.
        Again: The problem is NOT the policy itself but a possibly selective application of the policy by racist volunteers. In other words: The problem is Zionism.

        Here, the fact that today Ethiopia is a “high HIV” area does not seem to be relevant at all on whether to accept the blood of a person who has not been in Ethiopia since 1984 and then as a three-year old.

        Right. One can certainly argue that the policy doesn’t make much sense in this case. However, just because it doesn’t make much sense doesn’t mean that it’s racist. Being ineffectual and being racist are two different things.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 11, 2013, 5:15 pm

        “I disagree. It doesn’t matter whether the reason is valid or not. It depends on whether the criterion is the region or the race.”

        Only if there is no correlation between the two.

        “Of course, any non-racist policy can be applied in a racist way by racist people.”

        A facially non-racist policy applied in a racist way by racist people is a racist policy.

        “indicates that he misinterpreted the policy”

        Or he didn’t feel the need to keep up the pretense.

        “Again: The problem is NOT the policy itself but a possibly selective application of the policy by racist volunteers. ”

        Perhaps. I’m not arguing that it is, only that it stinks of racism. There could be a reasonable (non-racist) explanation, but there is no reason to discount racism at this point.

        “However, just because it doesn’t make much sense doesn’t mean that it’s racist. Being ineffectual and being racist are two different things.”

        Unless it is purposefully ineffectual or it doesn’t make sense on purpose, and the reason for the ineffectual, senseless policy is because it brings about the racist result that is desired.

      • Theo
        Theo
        December 12, 2013, 8:08 am

        German Lefty

        You are being stubborn, no sense to keep pounding on a dead horse!
        Best solution, nobody can spend blood who was born! Period!

    • OlegR
      OlegR
      December 11, 2013, 4:00 pm

      Well this is a pleasant surprise.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 11, 2013, 4:40 pm

        It’s only a surprise if you unthinkingly buy into the lie that objections to israel’s crimes is an unthinking reaction, Oleg. To anyone who knows GermanLefty and has read her posts in the past, this is not really a surprise.

    • Erasmus
      Erasmus
      December 12, 2013, 12:31 pm

      Re German Superlefty:… The criterion is WHERE you lived, not WHAT race you are. Just because she’s black doesn’t mean that she was rejected for racist reasons…

      May i ask : How do you reconcile your statement with the fact that Mrs. Tamano-Shata was born in 1981, came to Israel as a 3yr old (1984) and has since lived in Israel for 30 years???????

  10. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    December 11, 2013, 3:26 pm

    MK Tamano-Shata does not have a “special kind” of blood, despite what an ignorant volunteer may have told her. She was born after 1977, in a country classified as an “endemic AIDS country”. Her blood (unlike that of her parents or her children), is thus considered by the Israeli blood services to be “unacceptable for transfusion”. The same rule would have applied had she lived in England for a period of at least 6 months between 1980 and 1996, or in Ireland or Portugal for at least 10 years since 1980.

    The big scandal with blood donations from Ethiopian-Israelis was that their blood was being taken anyway and discarded. That (along with other sorts of discrimination and a general lack of communication) was the cause of the protests a number of years ago. The ignorant explanation offered by the volunteer, and the “compromise” MK Tamano-Shata was offered (that her blood would be taken but not used) are thus disturbing, but talk of Mandela, military service and Knesset membership in this context are just so much populistic nonsense.

    • Shmuel
      Shmuel
      December 11, 2013, 3:52 pm

      Correction: MK Tamano-Shata’s parents would appear to have lived in Ethiopia for “over a year” after 1977, and would therefore also be ineligible to give blood.

  11. biorabbi
    biorabbi
    December 11, 2013, 3:59 pm

    Is Ethiopia circa 1977 really high risk? I believe Uganda was in certain regions. There was a high incidence in certain colonial villages/towns, then spread. There is perhaps a 6 day to 6 month(rarely this long)period of seroconversion where initial/screening HIV tests might yield a false negative, but the newer, two fold test does not make this mistake…. is much more sensitive and specific.

    The greatest danger is not a region, racial, or even sexual preference, it is the lack of testing at all. BTW, the first HIV test back in the GRID/gay cancer days was actually the Hepatitis B screen… many gays had Hepatitis B positive and were therefore excluded from donating blood/plasma if there Hepatitis B screen was positive.

    I do not understand most countries HIV rules/status. Keep in mind that HIV positivity was once grounds for not being allowed to stay in the US and become a citizen as was the plight of Andrew Sullivan. I believe Obama changed this rule.

  12. dimadok
    dimadok
    December 11, 2013, 5:46 pm

    Nothing racist-
    Rather more strict guidelines as usual.

    http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-topic#travel
    Travel Outside the U.S., Immigration

    Wait 12 months after travel in an area where malaria is found. Wait 3 years after living in a country or countries where malaria is found. Learn more about malaria and blood donation.

    Wait 12 months after travel to Iraq. This requirement is related to concerns about Leishmanaisis. Those who have had Leishmanaisis are not eligible to donate. See In-Depth Discussion of Leishmanaisis and Blood Donation.

    Persons who have spent long periods of time in countries where “mad cow disease” is found are not eligible to donate. This requirement is related to concerns about variant Creutzfeld Jacob Disease (vCJD). Learn more about vCJD and blood donation.

    • tree
      tree
      December 12, 2013, 4:03 pm

      Nothing racist-

      Your link proves otherwise, dimadok. There is no restriction against people donating blood related to their having lived in African countries by the American Red Cross. The ARC restriction on blood donation by persons living long periods of time in countries where mad Cow disease is found is directly correlated to the fact that it has been found that variant CJD may possibly be transmitted through blood transfusions AND THERE IS NO TEST AT PRESENT THAT CAN DETERMINE IF DONATED BLOOD IS INFECTED WITH vCJD. There are tests that can determine if donated blood contains the HIV virus, and all American Red Cross donated blood is tested for HIV.

      Israel is an advanced technological country, as our hasbarists like to repeatedly remind us. They certainly have the capability of testing donated blood for this virus and my bet is that they do so, particularly since Israel also touts itself as gay friendly. Therefore, the blood donation restriction on those of Ethiopian background and other African backgrounds is purely a racist one, and the HIV threat is merely a ruse, and the rejection of the Knesset member’s blood merely because she lived from birth to 3 years in Ethiopia proves it.

  13. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    December 11, 2013, 6:30 pm

    Back in the mid to late 1980s, I lost five friends to AIDS. Two were gay, one was an IV drug user. But two were hemophiliacs, infected from the blood supply. In the wake of thousands of people, perhaps many more, being infected from blood transfusions, some countries have since adhered to better policies than others.

    As noted above, the travesty here is in the former practice of taking Ethiopians’ blood donations, and then discarding them.

    As someone who lost all his blood on a very scary occasion, I am glad my family didn’t have to worry about infected blood along with their other concerns.

  14. Eva Smagacz
    Eva Smagacz
    December 11, 2013, 6:41 pm

    Including or excluding donations is done by calculating risk through examining epidemiological data. This is then translated into easy to implement rules by further sharpening of the criteria. Whenether risk is difficult to quantify, the rule is to decide on the side of caution.

    Having said that, different ethnic groups have often distinct antigens ( minor blood groups) on their blood cells, and therefore when you have patients with atypical antibodies it can be quite difficult to find them a suitable blood donor – and that donor is invariably found within the same ethnic group.

    So it would be prudent for Israeli Blood Transfusion Service to have donations representative of all sections of it’s society.

  15. NormanF
    NormanF
    December 11, 2013, 11:02 pm

    The USA and Canada ban African blood donations to safeguard the blood supply against AIDS and other diseases.

    This doesn’t make them racist and neither is Israel for pursuing a similar policy. The Knesset MK’s offer had to be rejected on valid medical grounds.

    Anti-Zionists don’t want to be bothered by the facts, they want to find any negative to beat up Israel with. Pnina Tamano-Shata could have treated with more tact.

    But to jump to the conclusion “racism” was involved does a disservice to the truth and benefits no one.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      December 12, 2013, 8:38 am

      Oh, please, stop trying to make silly arguments to cover the racism of your apartheid state. There is no disease that this woman could have, by virtue of having lived in Ethiopia as a three-year-old, that presents her as a greater risk than the average non-African Jew in Israel. That fact, coupled with the “special” blood comment, clearly makes the conclusion that this policy is racist to be a extremely reasonable one.

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        December 12, 2013, 9:32 am

        Political correctness self awareness Test: If your child needed blood, which neighborhood blood drive would you visit first?

        Miami’s Little Haiti, the West Village, or a West Bank settlement?

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 12, 2013, 12:16 pm

        That’s a completely nonsensical argument. A better one would be: would you take blood from a person who lived in Miami’s Little Haiti in 1984 when she was 3, the West Villiage in 1984 when she was 3, or a West Bank settlement in 1984 when she was 3? And unless one is a racist or homophobe, there is absolutely no basis, on the information given, to believe that any one of these people is a riskier donor than the others.

        The fact that this woman lived in Ethiopia when she was 3 years provides no rational basis for the denial. Thus, we are left with two conclusions: the policy is irrational because it is not in keeping with scientific reality or it is irrational because of systemic racism.

      • Kathleen
        Kathleen
        December 12, 2013, 3:41 pm
    • tree
      tree
      December 12, 2013, 4:25 pm

      The USA and Canada ban African blood donations to safeguard the blood supply against AIDS and other diseases.

      No, that is false. Read above.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    December 11, 2013, 11:59 pm

    RE: “The day after returning from anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s memorial in South Africa, Israel’s first Ethiopian-born Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid), had her blood refused in a government donation drive because she is African. “ ~ Deger

    MY COMMENT: I believe I saw her at Mandela’s memorial (on the television news) proudly saying she had come all the way from Israel for the memorial!

  17. Ira Glunts
    Ira Glunts
    December 12, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Here is something interesting. Today, Ynet says that Israel is the only country that does not take blood from people born in Ethiopia. The article has not been translated into English, but you can right click the page and click translate to get the idea in the Google Chrome brower.

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4464570,00.html

    According to Ynet, no European country has a blanket prohibition against people born in any African country.

    The prohibitions in other countries relate basically relate to visiting a country with a high infectious disease rate or having sexual relations with someone from that country. And to personal health history.

    An example that the article mentions is visiting countries with a high incidence of HIV. However, Ynet notes that Ethiopia is not among the countries listed with a high rate of HIV.

    Ynet broke the story about Tamano-Shata so they have a vested interest in interpreting the evidence. Even so it seems that their take is worth noting.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen
      December 12, 2013, 3:45 pm
      • Ira Glunts
        Ira Glunts
        December 12, 2013, 4:12 pm

        An Ha’aretz article by Ronny Ganz backs the decision to not take blood from Ethiopians because they have high incidence and HIV and hepatitis B. The story does not give any statistics.

        It also calls out the hypocrisy of the politicians who claimed they did not know about the prohibition.

        The article says the Minister of Health reviewed the limitations on who could give blood just months ago.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        December 12, 2013, 4:32 pm

        Thanks for the extra research, Ira. I took a quick look at the criteria in a few “western” countries, and even where (e.g. Canada) the “born in” rule is applied to some African countries, Ethiopia is not one of them. The type of testing also seems to be an issue, and where such bans have been lifted (e.g. France), no problems have been identified with the blood supply.

        The hypocrisy of the politicians in question goes without saying.

  18. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    December 13, 2013, 9:49 am

    Am I going to have to do the unthinkable and kinda sorta defend Israel here?

    In this country (Ireland) there are very strict rules on who can and cannot give blood. Anyone who lived in, or even visited, the UK over a certain time period (can’t remember the exact years) cannot give blood because of the risk of ‘mad cow disease’. Anyone who’s been in a ‘malarial area’ (very broadly defined) also can’t give for a year after their visit. Neither can gay men. And so on and so forth.

    Ireland is particularly strict about blood donations because there was a serious scandal some years back about pregnant women being given contaminated blood. However, I don’t think the above story is necessarily evidence of institutionalised racism, though god knows there’s plenty of that in Israel.

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