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Trump’s collapse in the polls has 'undeniably' made him more 'dangerous': psychiatrist

Dr. Judith Herman, the co-founder of the Victims of Violence Program at Cambridge Health Alliance and a longtime psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, has been warning about President Donald Trump's mental health since the 2016 election, when she called on then-President Barack Obama to request a "full medical and psychiatric evaluation" of the president-elect.

Since then, Trump's "grandiosity" has grown even worse, Herman said in an interview with Salon, and his supporters approach "cult behavior." With Trump's poll numbers plummeting and his attempts to sow doubt in the results of the election, the specter of violence amid calls for an uprising have made him even more "dangerous," she added.

Herman, who was among the dozens of mental health professionals who expressed concern about the president's mental health in "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" and spoke out at events hosted by psychiatrist Bandy Lee, spoke to Salon about Trump's "mental status" amid his electoral trouble and the dangers posed by his "cult"-like supporters.

Salon: Why did you decide to publicly speak out about the president's mental health?

Herman: Well, it started with the election of 2016, which I was kind of shocked and upset about like many people. And so what I did was I wrote a letter in November 2016 to President Obama, who was still president then. And a couple of my colleagues signed on, and it was a very short letter. It just basically said, "I'm worried about the mental instability of this president-elect — and for these reasons. And is there a way to require him to have a fitness evaluation that would involve the complete medical and psychiatric eval assessment by neutral professionals?"

And of course the answer was "no." There is no such mechanism. There is, actually, for high ranking military officers — except for the commander-in-chief. They have to go through a fitness evaluation every year. And I never did hear back from the president — Obama — but the letter . . . did go public. Huffington Post got hold, and it went viral. And Gloria Steinem read it at the Women's March and put it on her website, which was very exciting.

And so then Bandy Lee contacted me. She was putting together what she called a town hall meeting in March of 2017 . . . We basically said, "We have a duty to warn, or duty to be what Robert Lifton calls the "witnessing professionals," when we think someone is a danger to the country."

You've discussed the Goldwater rule, which prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures they have not examined, and the American Psychiatric Association has been very critical of mental health professionals that have spoken out. Have you experienced a backlash as a result of your decision to speak publicly?

No, not personally. I mean, I'm still a member of the American Psychiatric Association. Actually, I'm a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association — for what that's worth. When we were working on the book, Robert Lifton and I called ourselves "village elders." But some contributors to the book resigned from the APA either over this issue, or I think Bandy had resigned quite some time before. But, no. I mean, my attitude was if they wanted to kick me out of the organization, that was OK with me. But I haven't actually experienced any problems.

You said ahead of Trump's presidency that you were particularly worried about how Trump's "psychopathology might be amplified by his access to power." How have you seen that play out during his administration?

Oh, unfortunately it has been pretty much what we predicted. I mean, you have grandiosity, you have a tendency to deny reality and you have paranoia and attraction to violence. And it seemed to me that all of those things would be amplified by access to power. I mean, the grandiosity and the insistence on his own alternative facts — as one of his spokespeople put it so delicately — has been enabled by all of his courtiers and his sort of cult followers, particularly around denying reality during the coronavirus pandemic.

I mean, it does approach that kind of cult behavior — including the MAGA hats and the willingness to expose themselves to a lethal pathogen — because loyalty to the cult leader requires it. And his grandiosity is now . . . to the point where there is a sense that he is immortal or invulnerable or invincible. He could conquer the virus by being this Superman-great leader.

I think Tom Friedman had a column in The Times the other day that said, "Trump's not Superman. He's Superspreader." And it seems even worse now that he's out of the hospital and claiming that he feels great.He's claiming to have found a cure.

Yes. Well, I mean, now he's on dexamethasone, which is a steroid known to produce euphoria, and grandiosity and psychosis as a side effect for some patients. If you have a tendency in that direction in the first place, it probably doesn't help. But, yes, it's become more florid, certainly. as time has gone by.

And then, of course, the incitements to violence and the paranoia have similarly become more explicit — more frequent. And now, he is retrieving wilder and wilder conspiracy theories and obsessing with particular enemies. So I would say that you can't really know his mental status without a direct examination, but what we see of his mental status looks more floridly disturbed as time has gone by.

You described him as a cult leader. What do you think pulls his supporters into that cult to begin with?

Oh, I wish I knew. I mean, let's not minimize misogyny and white supremacy . . . If he can be said to have principles, those are the only two he's got — and they're very consistent. And, I think, certainly there is a hardcore [following] for whom that is the most important thing. For others, I'm puzzled. I mean, I do think the politics of resentment clearly . . . not just the resentment of women and Black people who don't know their place anymore, but the resentment of people who feel disrespected and that their issues and their wellbeing are not reflected in ordinary politics. It needs an extraordinary leader to shake things up — change things.

I mean, I think those two ingredients by themselves would make maybe the kind of third party that we've had periodically right along . . . when various segregationists ran for president, for example. But I think the fact that there are very powerful and wealthy enablers is what transformed this into the takeover of a major political party, and the success of the Electoral College. And then, of course, the implementation of their program has nothing to do with the white male working-class and rural folks who feel left behind.

That's been a running theme in Republican politics, though. An aggrieved white base supports the candidate who mostly works to advance the interest of the rich.

Yeah, it has been. I mean, many of the things we're seeing in this presidency are not new at all. Certainly we've had demagogic leaders before. We've had this kind of alliance. I think that this particular configuration of the Republican Party began probably when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and said, "We shall overcome." And the solid South, which had been a Democratic one-party state became a Republican one-party state for a long time.

There's been a lot of talk lately about how Trump might not accept the results of the election. You've warned in articles that his narcissism just "can't bear" the thought of losing. How do you think he might respond to a loss? And does it even matter whether he loses by a little or a lot?

Oh, I think it matters a lot in terms of how successful his call for an uprising will be. I mean, he clearly has in mind . . . that his Proud Boys, a combination of militias, probably the armed folks that we saw in Washington when he tried to drive out the protesters, when he had to have a photo-op in front of the church with the Bible. They turned out to be from ICE, and other immigration enforcement and Park Police. And it was a mix of basically paramilitaries. And I've been thinking about the ICE people as, in some ways, the equivalent of the SA in Nazi Germany — the Sturmabteilung. And I think the call for an armed uprising should be taken very, very seriously. He doesn't kid around. When he says he would not be willing to accept the results of any election he lost, I think that does really need to be taken very seriously.

There was a report that the FBI busted up a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich.

Yes. Well, there have already been two armed incursions into the legislature in Michigan that closed down the legislature. I mean, this is not a joke.

But the question is: Are these going to be isolated, scattered bands that can be relatively easily contained or not? Or are they going to have an army of lawyers and other establishment enablers contesting every bit of the election? And I think the only way — it's that combination again that gives you fascism. And I think the only way to prevent that is to have a very clear cut result.

Are you worried that Trump may become even less restrained once he's out of the White House?

The problem is as soon as he's out of the White House, he faces multiple [possible] criminal charges, as well as civil liabilities. And that's not going to go anywhere — that's going to progress. And, I mean, I do have enough trust in our institutions. Or hope, I guess, might be a better word, to think that there will be a reckoning. Now, what will happen to his mental status under those circumstances? I think it's not going to be pretty. I mean, it's already not pretty.

But when do you say if someone veers over into psychosis, right? What's the judgment call? And that's not a judgment call that one can make from a distance. I mean, in that sense — I think most of the time the Goldwater rule is perfectly appropriate. Don't make diagnoses from a distance. Ordinarily, we have our patient's permission and all that, but what we can assess from a distance is dangerousness. And when the person in the most powerful office in the world is floridly and undeniably dangerous, I think we have to take it seriously. We also have to hope that any crazy military orders that he gives will not be followed.

This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

At least 9 COVID infections can be traced to Trump's MAGA rally in Minnesota

During the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of social distancing and protective face masks at President Donald Trump's events have made them giant Petri dishes — including a MAGA rally that was held in Bemidji, Minnesota on September 18. And according to WCCO-TV, a CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, state health officials are saying that at least nine COVID-19 infections "can be linked to" that event.

"Officials in Minnesota are worried about a spike in COVID-19 cases they're seeing in rural areas and communities that border other states," WCCO reports. "The (Minnesota) Health Department has been able to track some of those cases to Trump's campaign rally in Bemidji."

Those nine infections include "two hospitalizations," according to WCCO.

Dr. George Morris of CentraCare — a hospital group in Minnesota — told WCCO that he is worried about the safety of medical workers in his state. According to Morris, "This is a hard time…. We have the beds. We have the people, but as we get more of these exposures, what's going to happen to our availability? That's something to be worried about."

On October 9, the Duluth News Tribune reported that Minnesota's death count from COVID-19 had reached 2121. And a day earlier, according to the Tribune, health officials in Minnesota "reported the second-highest number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions in a single day in the pandemic."

States receiving 'little federal assistance' as they scramble to solve glaring problem with COVID vaccine

President Donald Trump is hoping that a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus will be available before Election Day; many health experts, however, have stressed that a COVID-19 vaccine needs to be thoroughly tested and should not be rushed. Reporter Emily Kopp, in an article published by Roll Call on October 13, examines one of the many challenges of developing COVID-19 vaccines: having enough places that are cold enough to store them.

"States are getting little federal assistance as they scramble to find medical-grade deep freezers or dry ice for one of the COVID-19 vaccines furthest along in development, which requires storage at much colder temperatures than found on an average winter day on the South Pole," Kopp explains. "The Trump Administration has earmarked billions in taxpayer dollars to vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer, but these vaccines require ultra-low temperatures — particularly Pfizer's, housed at an average of 103 degrees below zero Fahrenheit."

On Twitter, Kopp noted, "Pfizer's vaccine — the only one that could be available before the election — is EXTREMELY delicate. It has to be stored at -103 degrees(!) And Operation Warp Speed is doing nothing about it."

It is possible to, in the United States, store vaccines in temperatures that would be cold even for Antarctica's winter months — June, July and August — but Kopp notes, "The number of medical grade ultra-cold deep freezers in the United States is unknown. And it's up to states to locate them."

Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently explained, "Not all of those (vaccination sites) will have the ultra-cold deep freezers to be able to store vaccines, particularly the Pfizer product. So, that is an important part of the state planning effort to determine where that capacity is."

Similarly, Soumi Saha, senior director of advocacy at Premier, Inc. — a company that helps hospitals with medical supplies — told Roll Call, "Those freezers are like unicorns. They are few and far between in health care settings today." And Azra Behlim, who leads a coronavirus task force at the company Vizient, Inc., told Roll Call, "When you're going to buy a medical grade freezer, it's not like walking into Best Buy to buy a refrigerator and freezer for your home."

Texas Trump supporter regrets not taking COVID seriously: ‘I feel like a drunk driver that killed his family’

A supporter of President Donald Trump told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on Tuesday that he regrets following the president's example by blowing off warnings about the novel coronavirus.

While appearing on CNN, Texas resident Tony Green admitted that he used to think the pandemic was a hoax until 14 members of his family came down with the novel coronavirus after attending a gathering at his home.

Green himself wound up getting hospitalized after contracting the virus, and two members of his family died as a result.

"I feel like a drunk driver that killed his family," he said. "I know logically that, you know, we all came here on our own accord. We knew that there was a possible risk. But, you know, it's my home. I'm the one that hosted. And, you know, somebody got sick."

Green ended the interview by issuing a heartfelt mea culpa and urged supporters of the president to take the virus seriously.

"I'm falling on my sword," he said. "It's humiliating, embarrassing and hurtful and it's just reminding me constantly, you know, what our family's been through. So I'm doing that basically for awareness. I want to stop the spread."

Watch the video below.

Trump fan regrets not taking COVID seriously: 'I feel like a drunk driver that killed his family'

Schadenfreude: Feeling guilty about wishing Trump ill? Therapists say it's 'normal'

When President Donald Trump tweeted that he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the internet reacted with a mix of sympathy, shock, and other less savory emotions. The New York Times wished Trump well in the name of American unity. Presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was praying for the "health and safety" of Trump and his family.

Many others struggled to feel sorry for Trump.

As my Midwestern aunt said: "The Christian in me is struggling; I find it very hard to have sympathy for him." She said the calculus of sympathy was affected by Trump's unresponsiveness towards the pandemic and its victims: after months of downplaying the coronavirus — which has taken over 200,000 Americans' lives, ruined the economy, and left millions of people out of work with minimal federal government relief — the news about Trump's health, to my aunt and millions of others, appeared to be karmic retribution; or poetic justice; or maybe just what happens when you don't listen to scientists.

That schadenfreude was, it seems, a common emotion among the public — and also, a rancorous reaction that plagued many with guilt, and sparked discussions over decorum. "There's something downright poetic about the possibility that — after years of being forced to watch Trump's every move on TV — we might be getting to watch him die," Carlos Maza opined on Twitter. Meanwhile, many right-wing pundits and news sites, including Breitbart and the Washington Times, scolded prominent figures who had wished death upon Trump. Twitter itself said it would take down any tweets wishing him death.

Some on Twitter qualified that they don't wish Trump ill; they merely want him to go away, or suffer the consequences of his actions for once. "I don't want Donald Trump to die. I want him to go to jail. Get better soon," wrote author Emma Kennedy.

Various religious texts, including the Bible, promote forgiveness as a pillar of a healthy human existence. Western culture, which draws heavily on Christian notions of morality, is deeply influenced by this notion of forgiveness. Yet many, clearly, find it hard to forgive those who have deeply wronged or hurt us, whether physically or psychologically. That's led to complicated public emotions as we watch Trump grapple with a deadly virus while infecting other people around him.

Hence, many are torn between figuring out the "right" or "wrong way" to respond. Yet therapists tell Salon this could be an opportunity for society to have a bigger conversation around emotional health.

"When we talk about emotions we can have multiple emotions at once and all parts can be true," therapist Amalia Miralrío, LCSW, LMSW, M.Ed, told Salon. "So we can be really happy that he's sick, and we can also hold this value that we don't like to wish ill on people — both parts can be true."

Mel Schwartz, a psychotherapist and author of "The Possibility Principle," told Salon that "either/or thinking" — meaning when we believe something is either right or wrong, or good or bad and there's no nuance in between it — can be harmful.

"In Western culture, our minds have been trained to think reality exists in these two separate compartments," Schwartz said, adding that in therapy he often encourages his clients to reach a point of "authenticity" which involves "complexity." "Authenticity shouldn't be confused with the truth, but authenticity is more about my truth, and my truth should be open to reconsideration and reevaluation, and that's the process I take my clients through."

Schwartz said he's had clients who have struggled with their responses to Trump getting sick, to which he self-disclosed his own process around the situation.

"My first instinct was 'Ah there is a God, how just,'" Schwartz said about when he first learned Trump had the coronavirus. "As heinous as I find [Trump], he was a victim of his father's emotional and psychological tyranny.... then I tried to get in touch with a higher level of compassion and try to find an underbelly here."

Schwartz provided an example of how a person could communicate that they are struggling with having sympathy for Trump, and acknowledging the truth of their emotions.

"A part of me feels good and affirmed that he fell prey to this virus, but do I wish him harm? It's a tough question, I struggle with that, I'd like to say I wish him a recovery because I'd know it would be the right thing or the virtuous thing to do," Schwartz said. He noted that, from politicians on both sides, we only hear these straightforward "right" responses. "We're not genuine in our communication, which requires complexity," he added.

As many experts have pointed out, Trump's leadership behavior mimics that of an emotional abuser — from gaslighting to name-calling to blame-shifting and lying. In a way, there are parallels between the public grappling with complicated emotions around feeling sorry or not feeling sorry (or feeling both) for Trump, and what survivors of abuse can face.

Miralrío said that a reaction of joyful schadenfreude to Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis could be a way for some to reclaim power in an otherwise powerless relationship dynamic.

"It's a way of reclaiming that sense of power, a way of feeling like someone who has exerted abuse of power and control over you and when that person suddenly loses some of that, you feel that you are gaining a greater sense of equality in the dynamic," Miralrío said. "It's normal to have this emotional response when you are feeling really disempowered in a relationship and feeling that someone is actually trying to harm you."

Finally, David Grammer, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist said that he doesn't believe people are responsible for their immediate reactions.

"We have our animal instincts that are like 'Take him down,'" Grammer said, adding he wasn't pleased with his own initial response to learning about Trump's diagnosis. "It's more about how we overcome those responses. For me it brought up some work around 'How can I let go of some of my own personal feelings about what he's done?' Because beyond voting, I can't do anything to change his choices and how he's handled things, so it's a bit of letting go of what we can't control."

Here's what we know about Dexamethasone, the COVID-19 drug that can cause delirium and hallucinations

In order to help treat COVID-19, President Donald Trump is taking a steroid that can cause mood swings, confusion, depression, delirium and nervousness.

Trump was prescribed the drug, known as dexamethasone, after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and staying at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for four days. Despite being released on Monday, there is no indication that Trump will stop taking dexamethasone, which can cause a number of psychological side effects. The more common psychological side effects include mood swings, nervousness and insomnia, according to WebMD. Less common side effects include hallucinations, delirium, confusion, depression and paranoia. The medical website also says that the mood swings are the only common psychological side effect that can express itself severely.

Though rare, WebMD reports that paranoia, delirium and hallucinations "tend to have a Severe expression" when exhibited by dexamethasone users.

Scrutiny over Trump's drug regimen increased yesterday after the president returned to the White House after being treated for COVID-19 in Walter Reed Medical Center. After returning to the White House, the president said he felt "better than (I) did 20 years ago." Earlier on Monday between and 6:47 AM and 7:14 AM Eastern Time, when he was still in the hospital, the president issued 16 tweet missives in all capital letters of varying degrees of comprehensibility.

The International Myeloma Foundation says that dexamethasone can lead to difficulty thinking and personality changes, according to Reuters. An infectious disease expert who spoke to the wire service, Dr. Edward Jones-Lopez of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said that "steroids are always very dangerous medications to use. That is why it (dexamethasone) is used in severe to critical patients... There can be neuropsychiatric side effects. These are medications that we use very, very carefully."

In addition to the potential psychological complications, there are also serious potential physical complications from using dexamethasone. Although the drug has reduced death rates by roughly one third among people with severe cases of COVID-19, it can also harm people who are not as sick by artificially suppressing their natural immune responses. Common physical side effects include infection, water retention and weight gain.

"Dexamethasone is only approved for patients with very severe disease mechanically ventilated in the hospital, so the President does not fit the criteria for dexamethasone by the statements coming from his doctors, and this drug can cause harm in more mild disease," Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California–San Francisco, told Salon by email on Monday.

Gandhi also told Salon that there was a contradiction between the White House's rosy statements on Trump's health and the cocktail of medications he has received so far, which also include remdesivir and an experimental drug called REGN-COV2 from the biotechnology company Regeneron. Dexamethasone, for example, is prescribed for COVID-19 cases when doctors are concerned about severely lowered oxygen levels and need to stop a patient's immune system from fatally overreacting to the disease. Remdesivir is prescribed to patients to help them recover at a faster rate and REGN-COV2 is prescribed, according to Regeneron, "in patients who had not mounted their own effective immune response prior to treatment."

"The drugs the President got are not given to ordinary Americans, especially the antibody cocktail which has not been approved and is still under study," Gandhi wrote to Salon. "Similarly, a patient of his description would not be given medications for severe disease (Remdesivir, dexamethasone) since the steroids can be harmful and the anti-viral is of uncertain efficacy in that situation."

Because of Trump's age, weight and sex, he is at an advanced risk of terminal complications from COVID-19. One recent compilation of COVID-19 studies reported in Nature noted that among patients in their mid-seventies and older who tested positive for COVID-19, roughly 116 out of 1,000 (meaning 11.6%) wound up dying.

CDC report shows millions of Americans were losing health insurance before COVID-19

During last night's debate, one of the places where Joe Biden was able to cut through the strange excitable barking that was going on to his right was during the somehow interminable, somehow brief, debate question surrounding the health insurance. During that section, Biden attempted to explain the need to rebuild the Affordable Care Act and improve upon it while Donald Trump literally just barked out words like "socialist," and lied about making insulin as "cheap as water."

The most glaring point, something that even moderator Chris Wallace wasn't able to hide, was that Donald Trump continues to have zero plans or ideas for replacing the health insurance that will be lost if the ACA is fully dismantled. As it is, the problem of high health insurance coverage wasn't fixed by the first iteration of the ACA and a lot more work needs to be done. The Republican Party and Trump are not up for that task and after almost four years in office, matters have only gotten worse. Biden pointed that out that Trump and his Republicans have no interest in creating affordable health care. In fact, they have been doing quite the opposite. Trump would "never look you in the eye and tell you he wants to take it away. He wants to take it away."

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit our shores and spread due to corrupt and impotent federal policy makers, people were losing their health insurance. The CDC released a report this month, which looked into rising numbers of uninsured Americans. Here's what they found: "In 2019, 14.5% of adults aged 18–64 were uninsured in the United States." The Hill reports that this is up from the previous year's number of 13.3%. In total, between 2018 and 2019 at least 2.5 million people became uninsured under Trump and the Republican Party's magical thinking, nonexistent plan. The number one reason people were losing their insurance was because it had become unaffordable.

Some other awful numbers the CDC released is that under Trump the people who have lost their insurance because of cost increased based on age, "from 66.8% among those aged 18–29 to 80.9% among those aged 50–64." And, of course, as Biden pointed out, Trump's activities as president have disproportionately hurt communities of color more than anyone else, with "Hispanic adults" being more than 30 percent more likely to lose their insurance than their white counterparts due to their ineligibility.

As with the rising rate of children under six without insurance, these awful numbers were before COVID-19. This was before tens of millions of people became unemployed, losing their work-subsidized healthcare insurance. In 2014, a Gallup poll showed that the numbers of uninsured Americans was consistently dropping under the Affordable Care Act. A lot of work needed to be done. Instead, Republicans fought and continue to fight to claw back public healthcare options, while offering up zilch to replace it.

The bottom line is that affordable health care is possible but not under Trump. As Biden said while Trump rattle off lies in the background, "He doesn't know how to do that. He has not done a single thing."

The EPA allows continued use of a neurotoxin found to harm kids' brains

Dismissing extensive scientific evidence showing that even low levels of chlorpyrifos damage children's brains, the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a risk assessment calling the toxic pesticide's effects "unresolved" and allowing its continued use in a wide variety of agricultural products pending a future final decision on its use.

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Internal government watchdog report shows Trump still has no 'coherent' COVID-19 response: Top Democrat

As the U.S. Covid-19 death toll passed 200,000 on Monday, the Government Accountability Office published a report arguing that "timely and concerted federal leadership will be required" to respond to the challenges posed by the combination of an already-strained public health system, the current hurricane season, and the upcoming flu season—an urgent wake-up call coming hours after President Donald Trump gave his pandemic response a "perfect grade."

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death means Obamacare may be doomed — even if Trump doesn’t get another Supreme Court pick

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death may drastically affect the fate of a lawsuit seeking to strike down Obamacare — even if President Donald Trump fails to replace her with a more conservative justice.

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Does wearing glasses protect you from coronavirus?

Simon Kolstoe, University of Portsmouth

Researchers in China have found that people who wear glasses appear to be at lower risk of catching COVID-19. The authors of the study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, noticed that since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, few patients with spectacles were admitted to hospital suffering from COVID-19. To investigate further, they collected data on the wearing of glasses from all patients with COVID-19 as part of their medical history.

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