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The EU’s incompetent “Five Presidents”, and how Marine Le Pen is the only leader ready to deal with the EU’s failure

The EU has no viable future. From Grexit to Brexit and now Frexit…Brussels’ leaders are corrupt and power hungry to the core, and this will ultimately lead to their demise.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on the Automatic Earth Blog.

The only thing that would really go towards beginning to solve the problems with Greece is for Athens to NOT sign a deal. The short version of why that is so: it would leave the EU intact for longer. And the ECB.

Neither have any viable future, but as they go down, they can cause a lot of damage and pain. It’s mitigating that pain which should now be our priority no. 1, the pain that will result from the demise of Europe’s institutions. But we see precisely zero acknowledgment of this. Anywhere.

All that attention for whatever comes out of yesterday’s, and today’s, and tomorrow’s Troika vs Athens talks is very cute and nice and all, and putting on a ‘phantom summit’ is hilarious, but in reality it’s all based on a far too myopic picture.

Maybe that’s what you get when you’re only looking at life as exclusively consisting of things that can be either bought or sold, which seems to be the way the entire world press interprets the negotiations, the only way they have of interpreting anything. But this is not about money.

There’s more to life than money. That is to say, there’s a lot more going on than those talks and the deal-or-no-deal results that may or may not emanate from them. To wit: If the past 5 months or so have made anything clear, it’s that the eurozone has no future at all, and the EU as a whole has very little.

There is no trust left between Brussels and Greece, and therefore at the same time also not between Brussels and Rome, or Madrid. Italy and Spain could be the next to receive a five-month treatment like the one Greece has had, and the people there sense it. Even if their present governments do not.

As I said a few days ago:

None of these institutions, IMF, EU, ECB, has any raison d’être or any claim to fame unless there is explicit trust in what they represent. That trust is now gone, and it’s hard to see how it can ever be recovered.

Whatever happens to Greece going forward, that is perhaps the biggest gain its dramatic crisis will gift to the rest of Europe, and indeed the world. Which therefore owe it a debt of gratitude, and of solidarity.

You know, we’ve heard it said that politics is about seeing ahead. Well, that’s just too bad, because if there’s one thing European politicians, to a (wo)man, show us these days it’s that they lack the ability to see ahead, even just beyond the beam in their own eyes.

These people don’t see ahead, they project ahead. They are under the self-reinforcing collective illusion that the future will bring what they want it to bring. They honestly think they have the power to control history. And control all of Europe. Their vision of the future is one that they look good in.

And that can in turn only possibly bring about mayhem. Or actually, as the Greece crisis tells us, it already has. Something the leadership in Brussels, Paris and Berlin will flatly deny, because, as Paulo Coelho once said: “Collective madness is called sanity”.

The more power they seek to gather in Brussels, the harder the resistance against them, and against that power, will become. But that is not going to stop them. Just read the report issued last week by the “Five Presidents: Completing Europe’ Economic and Monetary Union.

Brussels sees, projects, solutions to its problems exclusively in more Brussels. But nobody in Europe wants more Brussels. Nobody wants to give up more sovereignty, people instead want back what has been given away. Still, the myopic Five Presidents come with this:

Economic Union: A new boost to convergence, jobs and growth

  • Creation of a euro area system of Competitiveness Authorities;
  • Strengthened implementation of the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure;
  • Greater focus on employment and social performance;
  • Stronger coordination of economic policies within a revamped European Semester.

Financial Union: Complete the Banking Union

  • Setting up a bridge financing mechanism for the Single Resolution Fund (SRF);
  • Implementing concrete steps towards the common backstop to the SRF;
  • Agreeing on a common Deposit Insurance Scheme;
  • Improving the effectiveness of the instrument for direct bank recapitalisation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Launch the Capital Markets Union
  • Reinforce the European Systemic Risk Board

Fiscal Union: A new advisory European Fiscal Board

  • The board would provide a public and independent assessment, at European level, of how budgets – and their execution – perform against the economic objectives and recommendations set out in the EU fiscal framework. Its advice should feed into the decisions taken by the Commission in the context of the European Semester.

Those “Five Presidents” (isn’t it telling enough that that Brussels counts five of them?) are Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Mario Draghi and Martin Schulz. Nice little team you got there. Politico referred to them as the “Five Horsemen Of The Euro’s Future”.

  • Juncker, president of the European Commission, was one of the main architects of the chaos we now see, in a long stint as president of the Eurogroup, 2005-2013. For causing the mayhem he was rewarded with his present seat. Not an unfamiliar chain of events in the musical chairs game for career politicians in Brussels.
  • Donald Tusk, president of the EC council, has only one claim to fame, but that still gifted him with his present position: he is a vocally rabid anti-Putin orator. They love that in the EU these days.
  • Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup who works hard to remain in that seat for another term, is an agricultural economist. Which is fine for telling us what strawberries should go for in winter, but not for defining policies with regards to for instance Greece. He’s so far outclassed by Varoufakis it can only lead to stupidity.
  • Mario Draghi, governor of the ECB, is a Goldman Sachs man, and that’s all we need to know. He’s also one of the global class of central bankers who feel omnipotent after discovering the printing press. They will instead bankrupt their economies.
  • Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, is just another career EU tool. After 20 years of loyal heel-licking and brown-nosing, he was rewarded with the seat he’s now in. Nobody should be allowed to be in Brussels any longer than perhaps 5 years at the most. It’s the worst of all possible worlds.

Summarized: it’s incredible and insane that such a set of clowns can actually present a paper about Europe’s future. They all come with a huge agenda, and their own future is far more important to them than doing what’s best for Europe. As the Greeks know better than anyone.

A structure such as the EU, we’ve said it before, selects for the exact wrong people. Power is accumulated is non-transparent and only pseudo-democratic ways, and the accumulation continues unabated if left unchecked. A certain class of wannabe ‘leaders’ feeds on just that.

And now the only conclusion is that the EU as an experiment has failed. There is nothing anyone can do anymore to repair it, there is nothing that can be done to undo the damage. Trust is broken, and will never return. Pushing one nation into utter misery, for everyone to see. is all it took.

The only remaining question now is how to dissolve the union. But that of course is not what those whose income and status depend on that union want to even contemplate, let alone discuss. So who’s going to do it? Who’s going to do it for them? People in the street, that’s who. They’re the only option there is. National governments are not willing to perform that function for them.

To do what everyone should be able to see, should be done. Because if you look hard enough, it’s awfully obvious that the euro is finished. Perhaps not the EU, but that can only continue to exist if the entire structure built around and on top of it is thrown out the window, and if European countries start again from scratch to organize their ‘channels’ of cooperation.

If they stick to the present structure, that can only lead to nasty ugliness, because they are tied together in a union that constraints their freedom and their cultures far more than people are comfortable with.

Something that could always only ever have become clear in less prosperous times. Well, we have those. And with them the gaping cracks in the political edifice. As any builder will tell you, cracks in a foundation are a death sentence.

And those times have made painfully obvious that monetary union without fiscal union, or even political union, can not work. It never could. But a political union would never be accepted. European countries want to remain sovereign.

Anything else is unacceptable. The only reason the euro was ever accepted is that hardly anyone understood at the time that it would imply handing over a substantial part of sovereign powers to increasingly dodgy bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg (well, Britain sort of understood).

In the Greek case, what we’ve seen is that the troika did not go into the negotiations on an equal partners basis. Although the EU is an equal partners union, that’s its very foundation. But it still could have worked, and the problems worked out, though only temporarily, if Brussels had resisted the temptation to turn the EU into a power game. Then again, a structure such as the EU exclusively selects for ‘leaders’ drawn to power games, removed from the everyday public scrutiny national leaders have.

The national leaders, it should be obvious, have also fallen into the power game trap. It is not hard to go out and play bully to a country like Greece, and kick it while it’s down. It’s not even hard to lure such a country, a small player when it comes to population and economy, into yet another trap: that of unpayable debts.

Certainly not if and when you can nominate technocrats to lead nations. Which Brussels has done in Greece, in Italy and in Spain. The problem with that is it’s a blind and unwinnable game in a set-up like the EU. Because the nations you attempt to force into submission, politically and economically, will always remain sovereign nations.

It’s a game you can’t win, because you can’t take over power forever in foreign sovereign nations. The EU has 29 of those. One day an election will take place in which the people will elect a government that seeks to protect the people’s personal and sovereign interests. And until you take away that option, you will never win the game, you will only cause a lot of misery. Again, in Greece this is duly noted.

We’re not entirely comfortable with the far right being the only side that thoroughly understands this, but we’ll take it; we have no choice. Besides, what happens on the left in Greece, Spain, and Portugal may yet balance this out. The crucial mistake the left makes is that so far it’s seeking to remain part of the Europe that Brussels is seeking to construct. Not a wise idea.

So we have Marine Le Pen who speaks most clearly about Europe, and who understands best of everyone in public office what is going on, or at least expresses it best:

Marine Le Pen: Just Call Me Madame Frexit

Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner in France’s 2017 presidential election, says a Greek exit from the euro is inevitable. And if it’s up to her, France won’t be far behind. “We’ve won a few months’ respite but the problem will come back,” Le Pen said of Greece[..]. “Today we’re talking about Grexit, tomorrow it will be Brexit, and the day after tomorrow it will be Frexit.”

Le Pen, 46, is leading first-round presidential election polls in France, ahead of President Francois Hollande, ex-leader Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Manuel Valls. She’s the only one of the four calling for France to exit the euro, banking on people’s exasperation with the Greek crisis and Britain’s proposed referendum on the European Union to win over voters.

“I’ll be Madame Frexit if the European Union doesn’t give us back our monetary, legislative, territorial and budget sovereignty,” Le Pen said. She’s calling for an orderly breakup of the common currency, with France and Germany sitting around the table to dismantle the 15-year-old monetary union. [..]

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concern about the level of support Le Pen will receive in 2017 and how that power might weigh on French economic policy. “She knows perfectly well that if France leaves, there’s no more euro,” Le Pen said. Although Le Pen hasn’t given a full, detailed plan of how she would lead her country out of the euro, she says she doesn’t believe France would be shut out of the borrowing market or rejected by investors as a result.

We shouldn’t need Le Pen to voice the obvious. But that no other ‘leader’, save for Nigel Farage, puts it into these crystal clear terms, does tell us a lot about all other European leaders. And unfortunately that includes Alexis Tsipras. Though we hold out some hope for him yet.

Here’s hoping he will not sign that deal, whichever it may be in the end, and thereby set in motion the disintegration of the unholy Union.

References:

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/2015/06/the-only-good-deal-for-greece-is-no-deal/

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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