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American Pie


The majority of Americans are oblivious to a crisis that has already begun.They are distracted by their latest text message and engrossed by the adventures of balloon boy. What will blindside them is the crisis' depth and ferocity.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

- Bertrand Russell

Don McLean was born in 1945 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. He was one of the earliest Baby Boomers. He was born at the beginning of America’s last High, as described by Strauss & Howe in their book, The Fourth Turning. America’s victory in World War II began a new 80 to 100 year cycle consisting of four turnings of 20 to 25 years. The four cycles are a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling and a Crisis. These cycles have been recurring throughout history due to the generational mood changes as people age.

Don McLean grew up during a High. This was an episode of safety and security. He basked in “Dr. Spock permissiveness, suburban conformism, Sputnik-era schooling, Beaver Cleaver friendliness, and Father Knows Best family order.” His idyllic life changed on the morning of February 3, 1959 when he read the headline in the newspaper he was about to deliver.

A long long time ago I can still remember How that music used to make me smileAnd I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And maybe they'd be happy for a while But February made me shiver With every paper I'd deliver Bad news on the doorstep I couldn't take one more step I can't remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside The day the music died So bye, bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye Singing this'll be the day that I die This'll be the day that I die

- “American Pie,” Don McLean

To everything there is a season

Don McLean was 14 years old in 1959 when he read the bad news on the doorstep. He didn’t realize it at the time, but the American High was coming to a conclusion. The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 marked the end of the High and the start of the Awakening. A stage of turmoil was about to erupt across America. Strauss & Howe describe the mood transition of the country from a High to an Awakening:

An Awakening arrives with a dramatic challenge against the High’s assumptions about benevolent reason and congenial institutions. The outer world now feels trivial compared to the inner world. New spiritual agendas and social ideals burst forth, along with utopian experiments seeking to reconcile total fellowship with total autonomy. The prosperity and security of a High are overtly disdained though covertly taken for granted. A society searches for soul over science, meanings over things. Youth-fired attacks break out against the established institutional order. As these attacks take their toll, society has difficulty coalescing around common goals. People stop believing that social progress requires social discipline. Any public effort that requires collective discipline encounters withering controversy. Wars are awkwardly fought and badly remembered afterward.

As the chart below shows, the progression of generations through the four cycles of life can be documented back to the 1400’s. I’ve always believed that George Santayana’s quote—Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it—was a profound statement. After examining Strauss & Howe’s generational theory, it may not matter whether you remember the past. You are condemned to repeat it. A generation that is 80 years removed from the last similar cycle is incapable of understanding or learning from that prior cycle. Individuals may study and understand the mood changes that shifted the country on a certain course, but they are helpless in changing the powerful force of a generational life transition. Every person born on this earth has a maximum stay of about 80 to 100 years. They hopefully will make it through the phases of childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elderhood. These phases can’t be reversed or rearranged. This is why the four cycles of High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis must occur in that order. When Don McLean was writing American Pie in 1970 at the age of 25, he wasn’t aware that he was capturing the Awakening mood of an entire generation in one song.

The turnings in Anglo-American history

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The Turnings

First (High)

Second (Awakening)

Third (Unraveling)

Fourth (Crisis)

Life Phase:











Young Adulthood











Late Medieval

Retreat from France


War of the Roses



Tudor Renaissance


Protestant Reformation


Intolerance & Martyrdom


Armada Crisis


New World

Merrie England


Puritan Awakening


Reaction & Restoration


Glorious Revolution



Augustan Age of Empire


Great Awakening


French & Indian Wars


American Revolution


Civil War

Era of Good Feelings


Transcendental Awakening


Mexican War & Sectionalism


Civil War


Great Power

Reconstruction & Gilded Age


Third Great Awakening


World War I & Prohibition


Great Depression & World War II



American High


Consciousness Revolution


Culture Wars


Millennial Crisis?


Awakening through unraveling

In 8 minutes and 33 seconds, Don McLean captured the angst and turmoil of an entire generation moving from a High halfway through an Awakening. McLean was unhappy with the America of the late 1960’s. The Awakening cycle continued until 1984. The youthful enthusiasm and the attacks on the establishment dimmed as the country exited Vietnam and experienced the trauma of Watergate. Emotions cooled as the 1970s progressed. The 1970s and early 1980s are remembered for closure of the gold window by Nixon, Nixon’s resignation, stagflation, oil embargoes, even or odd gas days, the Ford Pinto, recessions, Saturday Night Fever, American hostages, Carter’s ineptitude, Reagan’s optimism, John Hinckley’s assassination attempt, John Lennon’s assassination, 18% interest rates, and 11% unemployment rates. This was not a cheerful time in America. The success of shows like Happy Days reflected America’s longing for the “better” days of the 1950s. The old cultural regime had been thoroughly discredited and institutions had been delegitimized. America’s mood was ready to change again, as 1984 approached. The Boomers entered their self actualization phase concentrating on wealth accumulation and personal fulfillment.

Strauss & Howe described the journey from Awakening to Unraveling:

The Tomorrowland of the 1950s had evolved through Space Odyssey in the 1960s to Star Wars in the 1970s and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the 1980s, a spiritual future in which human consciousness triumphs over machines. The visions alternated between perfection and disaster—between utopias celebrating "love" and dystopias annihilating everything. We no longer believed that progress required self-expression more than self-control&mdash;even if we still assumed that our nation must be advancing somewhere.

An Unraveling begins much like a High, with a renewed sense of purpose and spirit of optimism. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” and “Bear in the Woods” presidential ad campaign symbolized the new spirit:

It's morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?There is a bear in the woods. For some people the bear is easy to see. Others don't see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it's vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who is right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear...

An entrepreneurial force was unleashed with the re-election of Ronald Reagan. The economy soared as Reagan began a massive military buildup and slashed individual and corporate income taxes. The stock market skyrocketed as leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers dominated the business world. Reagan’s mantra of smaller government was good PR, but it never happened. He cut taxes, but never cut spending. Deficits became acceptable. The National Debt at the beginning of Reagan’s Presidency was $900 billion. Today it stands at $11.9 Trillion. The military buildup proved phenomenally successful as the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its war in Afghanistan and attempt to keep up with the U.S. military buildup. A “greed is good” attitude permeated Wall Street and spurred Boomers to seek riches at any cost. Fraud was rampant in business across the lands. Bankers led the charge. The S&L crisis led to the failure of over 1,000 banks. Citibank and Chrysler needed to be bailed out by the government for the 1st time. The last hurrah of good feelings occurred when General Schwarzkopf and his U.S. forces pulverized Sadaam Hussein’s invading army in Kuwait in 1991 losing 379 men versus 35,000 dead Iraqis.

The 1990s deteriorated into a series of culture wars as Pat Robertson’s Moral Majority and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition staked out their positions. The dissatisfaction with the status quo was made clear when populist Ross Perot was able to garner 18.9% of the national vote in 1992, leading to the election of Bill Clinton. Pessimism and gridlock marked the 1990’s. With a Republican Congress and a Democratic President, virtually no major legislation was passed between 1994 and 2000. This restricted government spending while tax revenue soared in the late 1990s with the stock bubble. The result was budget surpluses. Individual self-interest dominated personal life, and intractable national problems like Social Security and Medicare didn’t demand immediate action, so they were pushed off to the distant future. The public became disillusioned as the two parties degenerated into name calling, accusations and shrill rhetoric. Incivility in public discourse, a widening chasm between the haves and have-nots, all-encompassing distrust of financial and governmental institutions and leaders, and a debased media and public culture led to a national pessimism.

George W. Bush assumed the Presidency in a Supreme Court contested election in 2000. His mandate was smaller government and a no-nation-building foreign policy. When he took office, the U.S. had a budget surplus, was involved in no wars, and had a National Debt of $5.7 trillion. Today, the country has budget deficits approaching $2 trillion, is still involved in two wars of choice that have cost $900 billion to wage, and the National Debt stands at $11.9 trillion.

United States National Debt

Source: Treasury Department

In the last nine years the politicians running the United States have managed to increase our National Debt by $6.2 trillion dollars, when it took 211 years to accumulate $5.7 trillion of debt. This may explain why Congress’ approval rating is 21%, an all-time low. The 9/11 terrorist attack marked the beginning of the end of the Unraveling period. It set in motion the over-reactions that would insure a future Crisis of epic proportions. The combination of easy money from the Fed, complete lack of enforcement of existing rules and regulations on the financial industry, reckless and fraudulent lending by the financial industry, waging of two wars of choice in the Middle East, the President urging citizens to borrow, spend and buy houses, multiple tax rebates, the addition of trillions in unfunded Medicare liabilities, trillion dollar bank bailouts, trillion dollar stimulus programs, national healthcare, and complete lack of energy strategy have created a perfect storm that has only just begun. The country grows more pessimistic by the day as intractable problems that have been ignored or shunned for decades now must be addressed. Strauss and Howe describe the mood:

Cynical alienation has hardened into a brooding pessimism. During a High, obliging individuals serve a purposeful society, and even bad people get harnessed to socially constructive tasks; during an Unraveling, an obliging society serves purposeful individuals, and even good people find it hard to connect with their community. The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy that would have been unthinkable half a saeculum earlier. People can now feel, but collectively can no longer do. Think-tank luminaries have exulted over the history-bending changes of the Information Age, while the public has glazed at expertise, cynically disregarded the good news, and dwelled on the negative.

The rock band Green Day captures the angst of the Unraveling era. We have been waging a war and losing the fight.

Sing us a song of the centuryThat's louder than bombsAnd eternityThe era of static and contrabandThat's leading us to the promised landTell us a story that's by candlelightWaging a war and losing the fightThey're playing the song of the centuryOf panic and promise and prosperityTell me a story into that goodnightSing us a song for me

- “Song of the Century,” Green Day

Millennial Crisis: The fourth turning has arrivedA Crisis arises in response to sudden threats that previously would have been ignored or deferred, but which are now perceived as dire. Great worldly perils boil off the clutter and complexity of life, leaving behind one simple imperative: The society must prevail. This requires a solid public consensus, aggressive institutions, and personal sacrifice.

- Strauss & Howe, The Fourth Turning

The current Crisis era began with the housing bubble that peaked in 2005 and the subsequent collapse of the financial system in 2008. The government response to a Crisis caused by thirty years of debt accumulation by consumers has been to spectacularly increase the amount of debt in the financial system. Since consumers won’t spend and banks won’t lend, the Federal Government and the Federal Reserve have decided to spend our grandchildren’s money today to prop up a corrupt evil empire. As White House lackeys and Federal Reserve shysters parade on TV day after day assuring the American public that the crisis is over and crowing that their wisdom prevented a 2nd Great Depression, the truth is they have planted the seeds of a far worse Crisis. The government actions taken so far, along with legislation chugging along in Congress will add $13 trillion to the National Debt by 2019. That would put the National Debt at $25 trillion in 2019. If interest rates are 5% in 2019, the interest on the debt would be $1.25 trillion per year. Realistically, interest rates would likely by 10% or higher in 2019. At that rate, the interest bill would be $2.5 trillion per year. The United States generated $2.1 trillion of total revenue in 2009.

Obama Budgt Agenda Would Bring Annual Budget Deficits to Nearly $2 Trillion

Source: Heritage Foundation

Government debt as a percentage of GDP will reach 99% in 2019 versus 24% in 1974. The Paul Krugmans of the world will point out that Japan has a debt to GDP of 170% today and they are doing OK. What he won’t point out is that they have endured a two-decade-long-recession and started it with the benefit of huge trade surpluses and personal savings rates exceeding 10% by consumers. The U.S. has neither of these attributes.

The good news is that we will never reach the $25 billion National Debt. The bad news is that the country will collapse well before 2019. As a gang of marauding starving homeless former Goldman Sachs investment bankers beat Mr. Krugman about the head with his Nobel Prize, he can try to explain to them how another trillion of stimulus would have done the trick. Every decision made by our “leaders” in the last year has been a short-term solution without worrying about future consequences. This has been the politicians’ response for decades. Amazingly, the people that inhabit the halls of Washington and live in the ivory towers of academia actually believe that debt will cure a disaster created by too much debt.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

- Bertrand Russell

Obama Budget Agenda Would Drive the Publicly Held Debt to Nearly 100 Percent of GDP

Source: Heritage Foundation

During World War II the United States was self-reliant in terms of oil — producing almost 1.8 billion barrels per year. U.S. production rose to an all-time high of approximately 3.4 billion barrels per year in 1972. Thereafter, the drop in U.S. production began, and we are now back below the 1946-level of oil production when the population of the United States was 141 million. Today, the U.S. population exceeds 308 million. Worldwide total liquids production peaked at 86 million barrels in 2008. All of the easily extractable oil and gas in the world has been found. Additional supplies will be found deep below the ocean, in challenging arctic regions, in tar sands, and shale. It will be dramatically more expensive to extract oil from these sources.

The United States is dependent on 600 million barrels of oil from Mexico every year. By 2012 Mexico will become a net importer of oil, so 600 million barrels of oil will need to be supplanted. Iran’s oil production is in decline as capital investment has been ignored for years. Russia’s production has peaked. Saudi Arabia continues to lie about its ability to ramp up production. Their oil fields are 40 years old and in terminal decline. By 2012, the world will only be able to produce 80 million barrels per day. There is no doubt that demand in 2012 will be higher than today’s 85 million barrels per day as China, India and other developing countries continue to grow. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but use 25% of the world’s energy. There is no doubt that $5 a gallon or higher gasoline will be seen in our near term future.

We have had a Department of Energy since 1979. Over this time we have become more dependent on foreign oil. No nuclear power plants or oil refineries have been built in the U.S. in 30 years. Pipelines and energy infrastructure rusts away, while we twiddle our thumbs and agonize over the health of the planet. Doing nothing is a decision. It is a decision which will have dire consequences. Ethanol, solar, and wind will not save us now. It is too late. The United States depends on oil, natural gas, and coal to supply 87% of its energy, with nuclear power providing another 7%. The beloved solar, wind and geothermal sources supply 1.5% of our energy needs. The onset of peak oil will devastate the suburban American way of life.

United States Annual Oil Supply

Source: Perot Charts

The ignored hurricane sized threats that will now morph into a dire Crisis are:

- Unsustainable budget deficits leading to a $25 trillion National Debt

- $100 trillion of unfunded future Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid liabilities

- Peak oil leading to $200 barrel oil

Marc Faber, famed investor, acknowledges the inevitability of collapse due to the bastardization of our capitalistic system:

It's a total and complete disaster and the crisis we had is just the appetizer to the big total breakdown of financial markets and of governments in five or 10 years time when the whole system goes bust. The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today, wars, massive government debt defaults and the impoverishment of large segments of Western society. Unless the system is cleaned out of losses, the way communism collapsed, capitalism will collapse. The best way to deal with any economic problem is to let the market work it through.

Apocalypse or glory

Those who believe our Crisis has passed need to study the past. It is unlikely that this Crisis comes to a climactic conclusion before 2025. As with the song American Pie, music is currently reflecting the Crisis mood that has engulfed the nation. Match Box Twenty’s “How Far We’ve Come” and Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy” reveal a foreboding about the future. A song that has risen up the charts recently captures the essence of the Crisis. The song is “Uprising” by the group Muse:

The paranoia is in bloom, the PRThe transmissions will resumeThey'll try to push drugsKeep us all dumbed down and hope thatWe will never see the truth around(So come on!)Another promise, another scene, anotherA package not to keep us trapped in greedWith all the green belts wrapped around our mindsAnd endless red tape to keep the truth confined(So come on!)They will not force usThey will stop degrading usThey will not control usWe will be victoriousInterchanging mind controlCome let the revolution take its toll if you couldFlick the switch and open your third eye, you'd see thatWe should never be afraid to die(So come on!)Rise up and take the power back, it's time thatThe fat cats had a heart attack, you know thatTheir time is coming to an endWe have to unify and watch our flag ascend

The song captures the fundamental nature of what has occurred in this country. The ruling class, through the public education system; by allowing cheap drugs in the poor communities; by public relations misinformation; and the entertainment media, have been able to withhold the truth from the ignorant masses. The society is consumed by personal wealth and attaining that wealth. Those who attain wealth through any means are admired. “Greed is good” still thrives today. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of greed gone wild. The non-wealthy are left to deal with the endless red tape of getting anything done, from doctor visits, to cell phone billing plans, to 1040 tax returns, and obtaining handouts from the government. The song is a call to revolution. We are tired of being degraded and trivialized by the politicians and fat cat bankers that run this country. There is a growing army of angry citizens who know they are being manipulated and controlled. The time is approaching when violence will be required to take the power back from the fat cats. When people lose everything they have worked their whole lives for, there is nothing left to lose. Once the financial system implodes, government will be helpless to print more worthless currency. The uprising that will occur during this Crisis will be bloody, as those in power will not relinquish control without a fight. The flag of the righteous and unified will ascend. Thinking Americans are what the ruling elite fear most.

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth--more than ruin--more even than death...Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

- Bertrand Russell

This is the fourth Crisis period in American history. The prior three were the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War II. We’ve experienced two revolutions and one world war that killed 65 million people. There is no way to avoid what awaits us. Like the seasons, we must go through Winter before we can experience Spring again. The only question is what events will transpire to generate the public fury that always occurs during the Crisis era. Will it be a foreign conflict over oil that transforms into a World War? Will it be a nuclear missile exchange in the Middle East? Will it be a nuclear device detonated within the U.S. borders? Or, will it be a domestic civil war due to a total collapse of our economic system? The conflict is likely to be triggered by natural resources or lack thereof.

When society approaches the climax of a Crisis, it reaches a point of maximum civic power. Where the new values regime had once justified individual fury, it now justifies public fury. Wars become more likely and are fought with efficiency and finality. The risk of revolution is high — as is the risk of civil war, since the community that commands the greatest loyalty does not necessarily coincide with political (or geographic) boundaries.

- Strauss & Howe, The Fourth Turning

We are years from a final resolution. The cast of characters who will decide our fate is unknown today. Barack Obama will not be a major player in the climax of this Crisis. He will go down in history as the James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover figure that only insured that the Crisis would grow bigger and more painful through his actions. The country is likely to turn to an aging Boomer to lead the country through the violent phase of this Crisis. The initial phase of this Crisis has passed, much like the stock market crash in 1929 and the appearance of a recovery in 1930. The “solutions” that have been implemented thus far will drive our deficits skyward, drive the dollar downward, and ultimately push the economy into a depression. The confluence of a deepening depression with the onset of peak oil shortages in supplies and soaring prices between 2010 and 2014 will plunge the country into chaos. As the world loses confidence in the leadership of our country, they will exit our debt and our dollar. The collapse of the U.S. currency could result in a number of calamitous scenarios.

When governments are confronted with dreadful domestic problems and faced with lack of oil supply, a foreign enemy will materialize who just happens to have vast amounts of oil. Since the supply of oil will be just as restricted for China and other Far East countries, there is likely to be armed conflict. Once war begins, no one can predict which direction it will go. If it spirals out of control, nuclear annihilation is a possibility. The collapse of the U.S. dollar would result in millions of Americans being financially wiped out. Millions of angry Americans with no gasoline and no money might get unruly. The possibility of civil war will be high. Will the American military fire on American citizens? The ruling elite will order the military to attack the riff-raff, but they risk the military turning their guns on them. The greatest risk in this scenario is that Americans turn to a strong leader who assumes dictatorial power in the guise of safety and security.

The Crisis climax is human history’s equivalent to nature’s raging typhoon, the kind that sucks all surrounding matter into a single swirl of ferocious energy. Anything not lashed down goes flying; anything standing in the way gets flattened. Normally occurring late in the Fourth Turning, the climax gathers energy from an accumulation of unmet needs, unpaid bills, and unresolved problems. It then spends that energy on an upheaval whose direction and dimension were beyond comprehension during the prior Unraveling era. The climax shakes a society to its roots, transforms its institutions, redirects its purposes, and marks its people (and its generations) for life. The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both. Whatever the event and whatever the outcome, a society passes through a great gate of history, fundamentally altering the course of civilization. Soon thereafter, this great gate is sealed by the Crisis resolution, when victors are rewarded and enemies punished; when empires or nations are forged or destroyed; when treaties are signed and boundaries redrawn; and when peace is accepted, troops repatriated, and life begun anew. One large chapter of history ends, and another starts. In a very real sense, one society dies — and another is born.

- Strauss & Howe, The Fourth Turning

Our current Crisis could end in apocalypse or glory, triumph or tragedy. America has exited every prior Crisis stronger and infused with a new vitality. In each case a strong leader (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt) guided the country successfully through the Crisis. There are no guarantees that this Crisis will lead to a stronger more vital America. Has the corruption of public officials and their utter contempt for the U.S. Constitution gone so far that we can no longer get back to our founding principles? This is a question that will be answered over the next fifteen years. The American dream can be restored or destroyed forever.

Bye bye Miss American Pie

History offers no guarantees. Obviously, things could go horribly wrong — the possibilities ranging from a nuclear exchange to incurable plagues, from terrorist anarchy to high-tech dictatorship. We should not assume that Providence will always exempt our nation from the irreversible tragedies that have overtaken so many others: not just temporary hardship, but debasement and total ruin. Losing in the next Fourth Turning could mean something incomparably worse. It could mean a lasting defeat from which our national innocence – perhaps even our nation – might never recover.

- Strauss & Howe, The Fourth Turning

My sole purpose one and a half years ago when I started writing about what I saw happening in this country was to convince enough people that the fiscal and foreign policies of our political leaders would lead to disaster, so that we could change our path and I could leave my three sons a future brighter than my own. I have come to the conclusion that less than 1% of Americans or 3 million people really care about the path of destruction we are on. Approximately 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth in the country. The actual number of people in control of the country is quite small. There are maybe a couple thousand people who control the reins of power (100 people in the White House, 535 Congressmen, 50 bankers, 20 people in the Federal Reserve, nine Supreme Court justices, 100 people in power at governmental agencies, 50 media titans, 100 corporate CEOs, and maybe 200 rich influential people such as Gates, Soros and Buffett).

The majority of Americans are oblivious to the Crisis that has already begun. They are distracted by their latest text message, shopping at the mall, worried about the next credit card bill, engrossed by the adventures of balloon boy, and trusting that their elected officials know what is best for them. What will blind side them is the depth and ferocity of the next stage in the Crisis. They will need to choose sides when the time comes. I will choose the side of truth, freedom, liberty, and adherence to the U.S. Constitution as it was written. This old man will join his three sons at the barricades when the time comes. The fools and fanatics who run this country are certain. I am not certain of the final outcome, but I know which side I’ll choose. Do you?

Please join me at to seek the truth.

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